On the evening following the burial of poor Pat McGrath, Mrs. Dubois sat in this apartment, engaged in embroidering a fancy piece of dress for Adele. That young lady was reclining upon a sofa, and was looking earnestly at a painting of the Madonna, a copy from some old master, hanging nearly opposite to her. It was now bathed in the yellow moonlight, which heightened the wonderfully saintly expression in the countenances of the holy mother and child.
“See! ma bonne mere, the blessed Marie looks down on us with a sweet smile to-night”.
“She always looks kindly upon us, chere, when we try to do right”, said Mrs. Dubois, smiling. “Doubtless you have tried to be good to-day and she approves your effort”.
“Now, just tell me, ma chere mere, how she would regard me to-night if I had committed one wicked deed to-day”.
“This same Marie looks sad and wistful sometimes, my Adele”.
“True. But not particularly at such times. It depends on which side the light strikes the picture, whether she looks sad or smiling. Just that, and nothing more. Now the moonlight gives her a smiling expression. And please listen, chere mere. I have heard that there is, somewhere, a Madonna, into whose countenance the old painter endeavored to throw an air of profoundest repose. He succeeded. I have heard that that picture has a strange power to soothe. Gazing upon it the spirit grows calm and the voice unconsciously sinks into a whisper. Our priests would tell the common people that it is a miraculous influence exerted upon them by the Virgin herself, whereas it is only the effect produced by the exquisite skill of the artist. Eh, bien! our church is full of superstitions”.
“We will talk no more of it, ma fille. You do not love the holy Marie as you ought, I fear”.
“Love her! indeed I do. She is the most blest and honored among women,—the mother of the Saviour. But why should we pray to her, when Jesus is the only intercessor for our sins with the Father? Why, ma chere mere?”
"Helas! ma fille. You learned to slight the intercession of the holy saints while you were at the convent. It is strange. I thought I could trust you there”.
“Do not think it the fault of the sisters, chere mere. They did their duty. This way of thinking came to me. I did not seek it, indeed”.
“How did it come to you, ma pauvre fille?”
“I will tell you. The first time I went into the convent parlor, Sister Adrienne, thinking to amuse me, took me around the room and showed me its curiosities. But I was filled, with an infinite disgust. I did not distinctly know then why I was so sickened, but I understand it all now”.
“What did you see, Adele?”
“Eh! those horrid relics of saints,—those teeth, those bones, those locks of hair in the cabinet. Then that awful skeleton of sister Agnes, who founded the convent and was the first Abbess, covered with wax and preserved in a crystal case! I thought I was in some charnel-house. I could hardly breathe. Do you like such parlor ornaments as those, ma chere mere?”