But the next day, the Abbe, who had loved his pupil like a son, could talk of him to me, and it was a comfort I cannot express to my aching heart to converse with him. Everything had settled into an ordinary course. People fancied me consoled; I had attended to other things, and I could not obtrude my grief on the Marquis or on Cecile; but on! My sick yearning for my Philippe only grew the more because I might not mention him or hear his name. However, the Abbe only longed to listen to all I could tell him of the last three years, and in return to tell me much that I should never otherwise have known of the boyhood and youth of my dear one.
I felt as if the good man must never leave us, and I entreated M. de Nidemerle to retain him at once as governor to little Gaspard. The Marquis laughed at securing a tutor for a child not yet three years old; but he allowed that the boy could not be in better hands, and, moreover, he was used to the Abbe, and liked to take his arm and to have him to make up the party at cards, which he played better than the cure.
So the Abbe remained as chaplain and as tutor, and, until Gaspard should be old enough to profit by his instructions, Cecile and I entreated him to accept us as pupils. I had begun to feel the need of some hard and engrossing work to take off my thoughts alike from my great sorrow and my pressing anxieties about my English home, so that I wished to return to my Latin studies again, and the Abbe helped me to read Cicero de Officiis again, and likewise some of the writings of St. Gregory the Great. He also read to both of us the Gospels and Mezeray’s history of France, which I did not know as an adopted Frenchwoman ought to know it, and Cecile knew not at all; nay, the nuns had scarcely taught her anything, even about religion, nor the foundations of the faith.
No, I can never explain what we, both of us, owe to the Abbe Bonchamp. You, my eldest grandchild, can just recollect the good old man as he sat in his chair and blessed us ere he passed to his rest and the reward of his labours.
The firebrand of the Bocage.
Yes, the life at Nid de Merle was very peaceful. Just as exquisitely happy it was in spite of alarms, anxieties, perplexities, and discomforts, so when I contemplate my three years in Anjou I see that they were full of peace, though the sunshine of my life was over and Cecile had never come.
We had our children about us, for we took little Maurice d’Aubepine home as soon as possible; we followed the course of devotion and study traced for us by the Abbe; we attended to the wants of the poor, and taught their children the Catechism; we worked and lived like sisters, and I thought all that was life to me was over. I forgot that at twenty-two there is much life yet to come, and that one may go through many a vicissitude of feeling even though one’s heart be in a grave.