One morning in May, Rosalie ran in from the kitchen, dish-cloth in hand, screaming out in the familiar fashion of a favorite servant: “Oh, madame, come quick! His reverence the Abbe is digging the ground down in the doctor’s garden.”
Helene made no responsive movement, but Jeanne had already rushed to have a look. On her return, she exclaimed:
“How stupid Rosalie is! he is not digging at all. He is with the gardener, who is putting some plants into a barrow. Madame Deberle is plucking all her roses.”
“They must be for the church,” quietly said Helene, who was busy with some tapestry-work.
A few minutes later the bell rang, and Abbe Jouve made his appearance. He came to say that his presence must not be expected on the following Tuesday. His evenings would be wholly taken up with the ceremonies incident to the month of Mary. The parish priest had assigned him the task of decorating the church. It would be a great success. All the ladies were giving him flowers. He was expecting two palm-trees about fourteen feet high, and meant to place them to the right and left of the altar.
“Oh! mamma, mamma!” murmured Jeanne, listening, wonderstruck.
“Well,” said Helene, with a smile, “since you cannot come to us, my old friend, we will go to see you. Why, you’ve quite turned Jeanne’s head with your talk about flowers.”
She had few religious tendencies; she never even went to mass, on the plea that her daughter’s health suffered from the shivering fits which seized her when she came out of a church. In her presence the old priest avoided all reference to religion. It was his wont to say, with good-natured indulgence, that good hearts carve out their own salvation by deeds of loving kindness and charity. God would know when and how to touch her.
Till the evening of the following day Jeanne thought of nothing but the month of Mary. She plagued her mother with questions; she dreamt of the church adorned with a profusion of white roses, filled with thousands of wax tapers, with the sound of angels’ voices, and sweet perfumes. And she was very anxious to go near the altar, that she might have a good look at the Blessed Virgin’s lace gown, a gown worth a fortune, according to the Abbe. But Helene bridled her excitement with a threat not to take her should she make herself ill beforehand.
However, the evening came at last, and they set out. The nights were still cold, and when they reached the Rue de l’Annonciation, where the church of Notre-Dame-de-Grace stands, the child was shivering all over.
“The church is heated,” said her mother. “We must secure a place near a hot-air pipe.”