It was into a real theatre that I looked. She had transformed the whole level of the bed into a miniature stage, with buildings of cardboard, cleverly painted, and gardens cut out of silk and velvet and laid down, and rose-trees gummed on little sticks, and a fish-pond and brook of looking-glass, with embroidered flowers stuck along their edges, and along the paths (of real sand) a score of little dolls walking, all dressed in the uniform of the Grey Nuns. I declare it was so real, you could almost hear the fountain playing, with its jet d’eau of transparent beads strung on an invisible wire.
“But how pretty, mademoiselle!” I cried.
She clasped her hands nervously. “But is it like, Yann? It is so long ago that I may have forgotten. Tell me if it is like; or if there is anything wrong. I promise not to be offended.”
“It is exactly like, mademoiselle.”
“See, here is the Mother Superior; and this is Soeur Gabrielle. I have to make the dresses full and stiff, or they wouldn’t stand up. And that, with the blue eyes, is Soeur Hyacinthe. She walks with me— this is I—as she always did. And what do you think? With the fifteen dolls that you have brought I am going to have a real Pardon, and townspeople and fisher people to stand and worship at the altar of the Virgin, there in the corner. I made it of wax, and stamped the face with a seal that Charles gave me. He was to have been my husband when I left the school.”
“Yes, but the soldiers burnt his house. It was but a week after I left the school, and the Chateau Sant-Ervoan lay but a mile from my mother’s house. He fled to us, wounded; and we carried him to the coast—there was a price on his head, and we, too, had to flee—and escaped over to England. He died on this bed, Yann. Look—”
She lifted a candle, and there on the bed’s ledge I read, in gilt lettering, some words I have never forgotten, though it was not until years after that I got a priest to explain them to me. They were “C. DE. R. COMES ET ECSUL. MDCCXCIII.”
While I stared, she set the candle down again and gently drew the curtains round the bed.
“Rise now and dress, dear child, or your supper will be cold and the farmer impatient. You have done me good. Although I have written the farmer’s letters for him, it never seemed to me that I wrote to living people: for all I used to know in Brittany, ten years ago, are dead. For the future I shall write to you.”
She turned at the door as she said this, and that was the last I ever saw of her. For when I passed out of the room, dressed and ready for my journey, it was quite dark on the landing, where she met and kissed me. Then she slipped a little packet into my hand.
“For the dolls,” she said.
In the kitchen I slipped it out of my pocket and examined it under the table’s edge. It was a little silver crucifix, and I have kept it to this day.