Marcel, the son of that Dr. Reynaud, was finishing his medical studies in Paris. He possessed great industry, and an elevation of sentiment and mind extremely rare. He passed his examinations with great distinction, and had decided to fix his abode in Paris and tempt fortune there, and everything seemed to promise him the most prosperous and brilliant career, when, in 1852, he received the news of his father’s death—he had been struck down by a fit of apoplexy. Marcel hurried to Longueval, overwhelmed with grief, for he adored his father. He spent a month with his mother, and then spoke of the necessity of returning to Paris.
“That is true,” said his mother; “you must go.”
“What! I must go! We must go, you mean. Do you think that I would leave you here alone? I shall take you with me.”
“To live in Paris; to leave the place where I was born, where your father lived, where he died? I could never do it, my child, never! Go alone; your life, your future, are there. I know you; I know that you will never forget me, that you will come and see me often, very often.”
“No, mother,” he answered; “I shall stay here.”
And he stayed.
His hopes, his ambitions, all in one moment vanished. He saw only one thing—duty—the duty of not abandoning his aged mother. In duty, simply accepted and simply discharged, he found happiness. After all, it is only thus that one does find happiness.
Marcel bowed with courage and good grace to his new existence. He continued his father’s life, entering the groove at the very spot where he had left it. He devoted himself without regret to the obscure career of a country doctor. His father had left him a little land and a little money; he lived in the most simple manner possible, and one half of his life belonged to the poor, from whom he would never receive a penny.
This was his only luxury.
He found in his way a young girl, charming, penniless, and alone in the world. He married her. This was in 1855, and the following year brought to Dr. Reynaud a great sorrow and a great joy—the death of his old mother and the birth of his son Jean.
At an interval of six weeks, the Abby Constantin recited the prayers for the dead over the grave of the grandmother, and was present in the position of godfather at the baptism of the grandson.
In consequence of constantly meeting at the bedside of the suffering and dying, the priest and the doctor had been strongly attracted to each other. They instinctively felt that they belonged to the same family, the same race—the race of the tender, the just, and the benevolent.
Year followed year—calm, peaceful, fully occupied in labor and duty. Jean was no longer an infant. His father gave him his first lessons in reading and writing, the priest his first lessons in Latin. Jean was intelligent and industrious. He made so much progress that the two professors—particularly the Cure—found themselves at the end of a few years rather cast into the shade by their pupil. It was at this moment that the Countess, after the death of her husband, came to settle at Lavardens. She brought with her a tutor for her son Paul, a very nice, but very lazy little fellow. The two children were of the same age; they had known each other from their earliest years.