“Oh, what is it?—what is it?” cried I. My mother’s lips moved, but she could not make herself heard. Having succeeded in lighting the lamp, she came close to me, and said—
“They seem to have put one of the bulls of La Camargue into the adjoining den for the next bull-baiting, and to have lashed it to frenzy with their goads. The noise is terrific, but I do not suppose the animal can break loose.”
La Croissette now appeared among us, suffocating with laughter. “Are you frightened out of your lives?” said he. “’Tis nothing.”
“Nay, sir,” said my mother, “’tis something, I think, to be raised up in the middle of the night by such a dreadful noise.”
“Night? ’tis broad daylight! No wonder you were frightened. I can hardly hear myself speak; but I felt impelled to come and see how you took it. They have put an enormous bull in the adjoining den; and if you don’t like his company, you will have to change your quarters, which I advise you to do at any rate; for the Basques who have him in charge are brutal fellows, whose jargon I don’t understand. Ten to one they will discover you before the day’s out; and then what will you do?”
“Truly, our case is hard,” said my mother, looking wistfully at my father.
“It is so, my dear wife,” replied he; “and I do not see my way clearly. Let us ask God to make it a little clearer to us.”
La Croissette looked amazed when he saw the whole family kneel down, and made a movement to go, but paused at the entrance and looked back on us. Though the bellowing still continued, it was neither so loud nor so frequent; but still only snatches of my father’s voice could be heard. But his very look and attitude was a prayer; and there were the two sweet sisters, with their clasped hands and bent heads, and the little ones crowded about my mother. Now and then such broken sentences were heard as—“Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another—Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance—The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the air, and the flesh of thy saints to the beasts of the land—We are become an open shame to our enemies, and a very scorn to them that hate us. Return, O Lord! how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants—Oh, satisfy us with thy mercy, and that soon; so will we rejoice, and give thanks to thee all the days of our life—Make thy way plain before us, O Lord, because of our enemies.”
I could not help furtively watching the workings of La Croissette’s face as he listened to these words of the Psalmist, so appropriate and pathetic. He started as if shot when touched by some one behind; and the next instant M. Bourdinave stood among us.
Persecuted, yet not forsaken.
“My father!” exclaimed the girls, and flew into his arms. The next instant the bellowing recommenced.