One day the souls of the charity children cried out to God. It was on a stormy evening when their fevers and wounds made them suffer more than ever. They lay white with grief in their rows of beds, above which ignoble science had hung the placards of their maladies.
They were sad, very sad, for it was a day of festival. Their tiny arms were stretched out on the coverlets, and with their transparent hands they touched the meager toys that pious grand ladies had brought them. They did not even know what to do with these playthings. A President of the Republic had visited them, but they had not understood what it meant.
Their souls cried out toward God. They said:
“We are the daughters of misery, of scrofula, and of syphilis. We are the daughters of daughters of shame.”
“I,” said one, “was dragged out of a cesspool where in her distraction my mother, the servant of an inn, had thrown me.” Another said: “I was born of a child with an enormous head that had a red gap in the forehead. My father killed my mother, and he killed himself.”
Still others said:
“We are the survivors of abortions and infanticides. Our mothers are on the lists. Our fathers, cigar in mouth, saunter smiling amid the tumult of business and the markets. We are born like kings with a crown on our heads, a crown of red rash.”
And God, hearing their cry, came down toward these souls. He entered the hospital of more than human sorrows. At his approach the fumes rose from the medicaments which the good sisters had prepared, as though from censers by the side of the child martyrs, who sat up in their narrow cots like white, weary flowers.
The sovereign Master said to them:
“Here I am. I heard your call, and am waiting to condemn those that caused you to be born. What torment do you implore for them?”
Then the souls of the children sang like the bindweed of the hedges.
“Glory to God! Glory to God! Pardon those who gave us birth. Lead us some day to Heaven by their side.”
Once upon a time there was a young man who had a new pipe. He was smoking peacefully in the shade of an arbor hung with blue grapes. His wife was young and pretty; she had rolled up her sleeves as far as her elbows and was drawing water from the well. The wooden bucket bounded against the edge, and shed tears like a rainbow. The young man was happy smoking his pipe, because he saw the birds flying hither and thither, because his dear old mother was still among the living, because his old father was hale, and because he loved with all his heart his young wife, and was proud of her lithesomeness and her firm and smooth breasts that were like two ripe apples.
The young man, as I have said, was smoking a new pipe.
His mother fell very ill. They had to operate, and it made her cry out aloud, until after thirty-four days of horrible suffering she died. His father, who was always so hale, was talking one day with a workman at the door of the little village church, which was undergoing repair, when a stone became detached from the arch and crushed his head. The devoted son wept for these, his best and oldest friends, and, at night, he sobbed in the arms of his pretty wife.