This Virgin had never distressed him. She was not a mother yet; she did not offer Jesus to him, her figure did not yet present the rounded outlines of maternity. She was not the Queen of Heaven descending, crowned with gold and clothed in gold like a princess of the earth, borne in triumph by a flight of cherubim. She had never assumed an awesome mien; had never spoken to him with the austere severity of an all-powerful mistress, the very sight of whom must bow all foreheads to the dust. He could dare to look on her and love her, without fear of being moved by the gentle wave of her chestnut hair; her bare feet alone excited his affection, those feet of love which blossomed like a garden of chastity in too miraculous a manner for him to seek to cover them with kisses. She scented his room with lily-like fragrance. She was indeed the silver lily planted in a golden vase, she was precious, eternal, impeccable purity. Within the white veil, so closely drawn round her, there could be nothing human—only a virgin flame, burning with ever even glow. At night when he went to bed, in the morning when he woke, he could see her there, still and ever wearing that same ecstatic smile.
‘Mother most pure, Mother most chaste, Mother ever-virgin, pray for me!’ he stammered in his fear, pressing close to the Virgin’s feet, as if he could hear Albine’s sonorous footfalls behind him. ’You are my refuge, the source of my joy, the seat of my wisdom, the tower of ivory in which I have shut up my purity. I place myself in your spotless hands, I beseech you to take me, to cover me with a corner of your veil, to hide me beneath your innocence, behind the hallowed rampart of your garment —so that no fleshly breath may reach me. I need you, I die without you, I shall feel for ever parted from you, if you do not bear me away in your helpful arms, far hence into the glowing whiteness wherein you dwell. O Mary, conceived without sin, annihilate me in the depths of the immaculate snow that falls from your every limb. You are the miracle of eternal chastity. Your race has sprung from a very beam of grace, like some wondrous tree unsown by any germ. Your son, Jesus, was born of the breath of God; you yourself were born without defilement of your mother’s womb, and I would believe that this virginity goes back thus from age to age in endless unwittingness of flesh. Oh! to live, to grow up outside the pale of the senses! Oh! to perpetuate life solely by the contact of a celestial kiss!’
This despairing appeal, this cry of purified longing, calmed the young priest’s fears. The Virgin—wholly white, with eyes turned heavenward, appeared to smile more tenderly with her thin red lips. And in a softened voice he went on: