M. de Solivet promised that I should, but we had long to wait, for the saintly Abbe de Paul would not postpone the poor to the rich; nor could my grief claim the precedence, for I was not the only broken-hearted young widow in France, nor even in that little village.
I cannot be grateful enough to my brother that he put up with all the inconveniences of sleeping at this little village, that I might carry out what he though a mere woman’s enthusiastic fancy: but in truth it was everything to me. After vespers the holy man was able to give me an hour in the church, and verily it was the opening of new life to me. Since my light had been taken from me, all had been utter desolate darkness before me. He put a fresh light before me, which now, after fifty years, I know to have been the dawn of better sunshine than even that which had brightened my youth—and I thank my good God, who has never let me entirely lose sight of it.
Very faint, almost disappointing, it seemed to me then. I came away from my interview feeling as if it had been vain to think there could be any balm for a crushed heart, and yet when I awoke the next morning, and dressed myself to hear mass before resuming my journey, it was with the sense that there I should meet a friend and comforter. And when I looked at my little son, it was not only with dreary passionate pity for the unconscious orphan, but with a growing purpose to bring him up as his father’s special charge,—nay, as that from even a greater and nearer than my Philippe.
While, as we journeyed on, I gradually dwelt less on how piteous my arrival would be for myself, and thought more and more of its sadness for the poor old Marquis who had loved his nephew so much, till, instead of merely fearing to reach Nid de Merle, I began to look forward to it, and consider how to comfort the poor old man; for had not my husband begged me to be the staff of his old age, and to fill a daughter’s place to him?
WIDOW AND WIFE
We had avoided Paris, coming through Troyes and Orleans, and thus our sad strange journey lasted a full month. Poor old M. de Nidemerle had, of course, been prepared for our coming, and he came out in his coach to meet us at the cross-roads. My brother saw the mourning liveries approaching, and gave me notice. I descended from my carriage, intending to go to him in his, but he anticipated me; and there, in the middle of the road, the poor old man embraced me, weeping floods of passionate tears of grief. He was a small man, shrunk with age, and I found him clinging to me so like a child that I felt an almost motherly sense of protection and tenderness towards his forlorn old age; but my English shyness was at the moment distressed at the sense of all the servants staring at such a meeting, and I cried out: ‘Oh, sir! you should not have come thus.’ ’What can I do, but show all honour to the heroic wife of