“But,” I rejoined, “why did not his friends send him to sea? that would have made him more regular in his ways.”
“That could never have been, for he was so popular that all his friends would have run after him and fetched him back. You have no idea how full of fun he was. Poor Peter! with all his faults I could not help liking him, for he was charming at times. He could set you off into a fit of laughter with a word. He had a knack of his own for springing a joke upon you in the most unexpected way. I shall never forget the evening when they came to tell me that he had been found dead on the road to Langoat. I went and had him properly laid out. He was buried, and the priest spoke in consoling terms about the death of these poor waifs whose heart is not always so far from God as some people may imagine.”
Poor Uncle Pierre! I have often thought of him. This tardy esteem will be his sole recompense. The metaphysical paradise would be no place for him. His lively imagination, his high spirits, and his keen sense of enjoyment constituted him for a distinct individualism in his own sphere. My father’s character was just the opposite, for he was inclined to be sentimental and melancholy. It was when he was advanced in years and upon his return from a long voyage that he gave me birth. In the early dawn of my existence I felt, the cold sea mist, shivered under the cutting morning blast and passed my bitter and gloomy watch on the quarter-deck.
I was related on my maternal grandmother’s side to a much more prim class of people. My grandmother was a very good specimen of the middle-classes of former days. She had been excessively pretty. I can remember her towards the close of her life, and she was always dressed in the fashion which prevailed at the time of her being left a widow. She was very particular about her class, never altered her head-dress, and would not allow herself to be addressed except as “Mademoiselle.” The ladies of noble birth had a great respect for her. When they met my sister Henrietta they used to kiss her and say, “My dear, your grandmother was a very respectable person, we were very fond of her. Try to be like her.” And as it happened my sister did like her very much and took her as a pattern, but my mother, always laughing and full of wit, differed from her very much. Mother and daughter were in all respects a marked contrast.
The worthy burghers of Lannion and their families were models of simplicity, honour, and respectability. Several of my aunts never married, but they were very light-spirited and cheerful, thanks to the innocence of their hearts. Families dwelt together in unity, animated by the same simple faith. My aunts’ sole amusement on Sundays after mass was to send a feather up into the air, each blowing at it in turn to prevent it from falling to the ground. This afforded them amusement enough to last until the following Sunday. The piety of my grandmother, her urbanity, her regard for the established order of things are graven in my heart as the best pictures of that old-fashioned society based upon God and the king—two props for which it may not be easy to find substitutes.