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Poor gray sisters of the brook that I find on the plain, you are tarnished stones, on you falls the shower of rain that the sparrow may drink, you are struck by the foot of the she-ass, you are the guardians that form the inclosures of miserable gardens, it is you who are the concave threshold and the stone at the edge of the well worn smooth by the chain of the bucket, you are servants, poor things become shiny like the blades of implements of husbandry, you are heated in the hearth of the poor to warm the feet of old women, you are hollowed out for mean needs and become the humble table for the dog and the sow, you are pierced so that the singing harvest may be ground beneath the millstone, you are cut, you are taken, you are tossed aside, on you the wanderer will sleep, Oh, you under whom I shall sleep....
You have not guarded your independence like your alpine companions. But, Oh my friends, I do not despise you for that. You are beautiful like the things which are in the shadow.
Then, behold me on my return to this old parlor where I look upon the least object with tenderness. This shawl belonged to my paternal grandmother whom I never knew and who rests amid flowers in a humble cemetery of the Antilles. May the humming-birds glitter and cry above her deserted grave, and the tobacco-plants with their rosy bells delight her memory ... I have never seen the portrait which represents her. But I know she had a reputation for goodness and beauty. I have read admirable letters that she wrote from there to my father when he was a child. He had been brought back to France to be educated here, and had remained here.
How often have I dreamed of reviving this past. How beautiful it would be if God gave us, once a year, the festival of seeing our dear departed return. I love to imagine it as occurring on Twelfth Night during a season of snow. The modest dining-room would be opened at the stroke of eight, and seated about the enlarged table, adorned with Christmas roses, I would find all those for whom my soul mourns beneath the cheery light of the lamps.
It seems to me that this meeting would be entirely natural with little of the uncanny, and not at all like a fairy tale. My paternal grandfather, the doctor of medicine who died at Guadeloupe, would occupy the place of honor, and about his shoulders would be a little traveling cloak on which grains of frost were shining. His steely blue eyes behind the enormous gold-rimmed spectacles, which he wore and which my mother uses to-day, would make him appear as he was, at the same time severe and good. In a grave and melodious voice he would speak of the Great Crossing, of the wind of the Eternal Ocean, of earthquakes in unexplored countries, of shipwrecked men whom he had saved.
And all would listen; and, death being eternal, it would be wonderful to see each one again at the particular age which we with singular obstinacy always attribute to our dear departed.