“Most assuredly not. God accepts no prayers that do not spring from a lowly and contrite heart: and they may be offered by a poor man as well as a rich one.”
“But does not a poor man’s soul require those purgatorial fires?”
“Oh no, my dear La Croissette! The Son of God told of no purgatory—only of heaven and hell. And He was so truthful that He would not have told of a hell if there had not been one—nor have failed to tell of a purgatory if there had been one. The end would not have been commensurate with the means, had He laid down his life to save us from anything short of condign punishment, or to save us only incompletely. If there were a purgatory to endure at any rate, where would be the all-sufficiency of his sacrifice once offered?”
He bade us believe in him and be saved. He did not say, ’believe also in my mother, and my brethren, and my apostles, and ask them to ask me to save you.’ He said, ’Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’”
“No! did he, though?” said La Croissette, suddenly checking his horse.
At the same moment, a woman sprang from the hedge and laid her hand on the shaft, saying:
“Good sir, save us! we perish!”
“What is the matter?” said he, starting.
“We are fugitives from Nismes; we were beaten, we were burnt, we were pillaged.”
“My poor good woman, there are numbers in like case.”
“But we starve,” said she, bursting into tears. “My aged mother and my little ones.”
“I am very sorry for you, but I am a poor man myself—here, take this trifle.”
“Alas, we cannot eat money!” in a tone of such mournful reproach.
“No, true; it will buy a little bread—but there are no shops. Jean,” in a lower voice to me, “I’ve a loaf in the cart, shall we part with it?”
“Give it to her by all means,” said I.
Before he did so, he said to her, “True, you cannot eat money, but money will buy you bread in Nismes. Why not return there? The authorities are welcoming all that conform.”
“Death rather than that!” said she, clasping her hands to her heart, and turning away.
“Stay, stay. Here is bread for you. It is all we have.”
“Ah! bless—.” She could say no more, but sobbed bitterly. La Croissette turned his face away.
“There are many of us, many!” sobbed she. “We shall so bless you. We will pray for you.”
“Do so; do,” said he, affecting composure, and whipping on.
Cast down, but not destroyed.