“My parishioners!” exclaimed the Cure, all at once recovering speech, movement, life, everything which for some moments had completely abandoned him. “My parishioners! Pardon me, Madame, Mademoiselle, I am so agitated. You will be—you are Catholics?”
“Certainly we are Catholics.”
“Catholics! Catholics!” repeated the Cure.
“Catholics! Catholics!” echoed old Pauline.
Mrs. Scott looked from the Cure to Pauline, from Pauline to the Cure, much surprised that a single word should produce such an effect, and, to complete the tableau, Jean appeared carrying the two little travelling bags.
The Cure and Pauline saluted him with the same words:
“Ah! I begin to understand,” said Mrs. Scott, laughing. “It is our name, our country; you must have thought that we were Protestants. Not at all. Our mother was a Canadian, French and Catholic by descent; that is why my sister and I both speak French, with an accent, it is true, and with certain American idioms, but yet in such a manner as to be able to express nearly all we want to say. My husband is a Protestant, but he allows me complete liberty, and my two children are Catholics. That is why, Monsieur l’Abbe, we wished to come and see you the very first day.”
“That is one reason,” continued Bettina, “but there is also another; but for that reason we shall want our little bags.”
“Here they are,” said Jean.
While the two little bags passed from the hands of the officer to those of Mrs. Scott and Bettina, the Cure introduced Jean to the two Americans, but his agitation was so great that the introduction was not made strictly according to rule. The Cure only forgot one thing, it is true, but that was a thing tolerably essential in an introduction—the family name of Jean.
“It is Jean,” said he, “my godson, lieutenant of artillery, now quartered at Souvigny. He is one of the family.”
Jean made two deep bows, the Americans two little ones, after which they foraged in their bags, from which each drew a ‘rouleau’ of 1,000 francs, daintily inclosed in green sheaths of serpent-skin, clasped with gold.
“I have brought you this for your poor,” said Mrs. Scott.
“And I have brought this,” said Bettina.
“And besides that, Monsieur le Cure, I am going to give you five hundred francs a month,” said Mrs. Scott.
“And I will do like my sister.”
Delicately they slipped their offerings into the right and left hands of the Cure, who, looking at each hand alternately, said:
“What are these little things? They are very heavy; there must be money in them. Yes, but how much, how much?”
The Abbe Constantin was seventy-two, and much money had passed through his hands, but this money had come to him in small sums, and the idea of such an offering as this had never entered his head. Two thousand francs! Never had he had so much in his possession—no, not even one thousand. He stammered: