A CONVENT FLOWER
One of Jacqueline’s first walks, after she had recovered, was to see her cousin Giselle at her convent. She did not seek this friend’s society when she was happy and in a humor for amusement, for she thought her a little straightlaced, or, as she said, too like a nun; but nobody could condole or sympathize with a friend in trouble like Giselle. It seemed as if nature herself had intended her for a Sister of Charity—a Gray Sister, as Jacqueline would sometimes call her, making fun of her somewhat dull intellect, which had been benumbed, rather than stimulated, by the education she had received.
The Benedictine Convent is situated in a dull street on the left bank of the Seine, all gardens and hotels—that is, detached houses. Grass sprouted here and there among the cobblestones. There were no street-lamps and no policemen. Profound silence reigned there. The petals of an acacia, which peeped timidly over its high wall, dropped, like flakes of snow, on the few pedestrians who passed by it in the springtime.
The enormous porte-cochere gave entrance into a square courtyard, on one side of which was the chapel, on the other, the door that led into the convent. Here Jacqueline presented herself, accompanied by her old nurse, Modeste. She had not yet resumed her German lessons, and was striving to put off as long as possible any intercourse with Fraulein Schult, who had known of her foolish fancy, and who might perhaps renew the odious subject. Walking with Modeste, on the contrary, seemed like going back to the days of her childhood, the remembrance of which soothed her like a recollection of happiness and peace, now very far away; it was a reminiscence of the far-off limbo in which her young soul, pure and white, had floated, without rapture, but without any great grief or pain.
The porteress showed them into the parlor. There they found several pupils who were talking to members of their families, from whom they were separated by a grille, whose black bars gave to those within the appearance of captives, and made rather a barrier to eager demonstrations of affection, though they did not hinder the reception of good things to eat.
“Tiens! I have brought you some chocolate,” said Jacqueline to Giselle, as soon as her cousin appeared, looking far prettier in her black cloth frock than when she wore an ordinary walking-costume. Her fair hair was drawn back ‘a la Chinoise’ from a white forehead resembling that of a German Madonna; it was one of those foreheads, slightly and delicately curved, which phrenologists tell us indicate reflection and enthusiasm.