worthy or criminal, and to prescribe punishments or rewards.
Such is law as man has made it. It is powerless to prevent
evil-doing ; powerless no less to prevent offenders who have
been punished from offending again.
" Philanthropy is a sublime error. Philanthropy vainly
applies severe discipline to the body, while it cannot find the
balm which heals the soul. Philanthropy conceives projects,
sets forth theories, and leaves mankind to carry them out by
means of silence, work, and discipline dumb methods, with
no virtue in them. Religion knows nought of these imperfec-
tions ; for her, life extends beyond this world ; for religion, we
are all of us fallen creatures in a state of degradation, and it
MADAME GRASLIN AT MONT&GNAC. 145
is this very view of mankind which opens out to us an
inexhaustible treasure of indulgence. All of us are on the
way to our complete regeneration, some of us are farther
advanced, and some less, but none of us are infallible; the
church is prepared for sins, aye, and even for crimes. In
a criminal, society sees an individual to be cut off from its
midst, but the church sees in him a soul to be saved. And
more, far more ! Inspired by God, whose dealings with
man she watches and ponders, the church admits our inequal-
ity as human beings, and takes the disproportionate burden
into account, and we who are so unequal in heart, in body or
mind, in courage or aptitude, are made equal by repentance.
In this, madame, equality is no empty word ; we can be, and
are, all equal through our sentiments.
" One idea runs through all religions, from the uncouth
fetichism of the savage to the graceful imaginings of the
Greek and the profound and ingenious doctrines of India
and Egypt, an idea that finds expression in all cults joyous
or gloomy, a conviction of man's fall and of his sin, whence,
everywhere, the idea of sacrifice and redemption.
"The death of the Redeemer, who died for the whole
human race, is for us a symbol ; this, too, we must do for our-
selves ; we must redeem our errors ! redeem our sins ! re-
deem our crimes ! There is no sin beyond redemption all
Catholicism lies in that. It is the wherefore of the holy
sacraments which assist in the work of grace and sustain the
repentant sinner. And though one should weep, madame,
and sigh like the Magdalen in the desert, this is but the begin-
ning an action is the end. The monasteries wept, but acted
too ; they prayed, but they civilized ; they were the active
practical spreaders of our divine religion. They built, and
planted, and tilled Europe ; they rescued the treasures of
learning for us ; to them we owe the preservation of our juris-
prudence, our traditions of statecraft and art. The sites of
those centres of light will be for ever remembered in Europe
146 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
with gratitude. Most modern towns sprang up about a mon-
"If you believe that God is to judge you, the church,
using my voice, tells you that there is no sin beyond redemp-
tion through the good works of repentance. The evil we
have wrought is weighed against the good that we have done
by the great hands of God. Be yourself a monastery here ;
it is within your power to work miracles once more. For you,
work must be prayer. Your work should be to diffuse happi-
ness among those above whom you have been set by your
fortune and your intellect, and in all ways, even by your
natural position, for the height of your chateau above the
village is a visible expression of your social position."
They were turning towards the plains as he spoke, so that
the cure could point out the village on the lower slopes of
the hill and the chateau towering above it. It was half-past
four in the afternoon. A shaft of yellow sunlight fell across
the terrace and the gardens ; it lighted up the chateau and
brought out the pattern of the gleaming gilt scroll-work on
the corner balconies high up on the towers; it lit the plain
which stretched into the distance divided by the road, a sober
gray ribbon with no embroidery of trees as yet to outline a
waving green border on either side. Veronique and M. Bon-
net passed the end of the chateau and came into the court-
yard, beyond which the stables and barn buildings lay in
sight, and farther yet, the forest of Montegnac ; the sunlight
slid across the landscape like a lingering caress. Even when
the last glow of the sunset had faded except from the highest
hills, it was still light enough in the plain below to see all the
chance effects of color in the splendid tapestry of an autumn
forest spread between Montegnac and the first peak of the
chain of the Correze. The oak trees stood out like masses
of Florentine bronze among the verdigris greens of the walnuts
and chestnuts ; the leaves of a few trees, the first to change,
shone like gold among the others; and all these different
MADAME GRASLIN AT MONT&GNAC. 147
shades of color were emphasized by the gray patches of bare
earth. The trunks of leafless trees looked like pale columns ;
and every tint, red, tawny, and gray, picturesquely blended in
the pale October sunshine, made a harmony of color with the
fertile lowland, where the vast fallows were green as stagnant
water. Not a tree stirred, not a bird death in the plain,
silence in the forest ; a thought in the priest's mind, as yet
unuttered, was to be the sole comment on that dumb beauty.
A streak of smoke rose here and there from the thatched roofs
of the village. The chateau seemed sombre as its mistress'
mood, for there is a mysterious law of uniformity, in virtue
of which the house takes its character from the dominant
nature within it, a subtle presence which hovers throughout.
The sense of the cure's words had reached Mme. Graslin's
brain ; they had gone to her heart with all the force of con-
viction \ the angelic resonance of his voice had stirred her
tenderness ; she stopped suddenly short. The cure stretched
his arm out towards the forest ; Veronique looked at him.
" Do you not see a dim resemblance between this and the
life of humanity ? His own fate for each of us ! And what
unequal lots there are among that mass of trees. Those on
the highest ground have poorer soil and less water; they are
the first to die "
" And some are cut down in the grace of their youth by some
woman gathering wood ! " she said bitterly.
" Do not give way to those feelings again," he answered
firmly, but with indulgence in his manner. " The forest has
not been cut down, and that has been its ruin. Do you see
something yonder there among the dense forest ? "
Veronique could scarcely distinguish between the usual and
unusual in a forest, but she obediently looked in the required
direction, and then timidly at the cure.
" Do you not observe," he said, seeing in that glance that
Veronique did not understand, " that there are strips where
all the trees of every kind are still green ? "
148 THE COUNTRY PARSON,
" Oh, so there are ! " she cried. " How is it ? "
" In those strips of green lies a fortune for Montegnac and
for you a vast fortune, as I pointed out to M. Graslin.
You can see three furrows ; those are three valleys, the
streams there are lost in the torrent-bed of the Gabou. The
Gabou is the boundary line between us and the next commune.
All through September and October it is dry, but when
November comes it will be full. All that water runs to waste ;
but it would be easy to make one or two weirs across from side
to side of the valley to keep back the water (as Riquet did at
Saint-Ferreol, where there are huge reservoirs which supply
the Languedoc canal); and it would be easy to increase the
volume of the water by turning several little streams in the
forest into the river. Wisely distributing it as required, by
means of sluices and irrigation trenches, the whole plain can
be brought into cultivation, and the overflow, besides, could
be turned into our little river.
"You will have fine poplars along all the channels, and
you will raise cattle in the finest possible meadows. What is
grass but water and sun? You could grow corn in the plain,
there is quite enough depth of earth ; with so many trenches
there will be moisture to enrich the soil ; the poplar trees will
flourish along the channels and attract the rain-clouds, and the
fields will absorb the principles of the rain : these are the
secrets of the luxuriant greenness of the valleys. Some
day you will see life and joy and stir instead of this prevail-
ing silence and barren dreariness. Will not this be a noble
prayer? Will not these things occupy your idleness better
than melancholy broodings? "
Veronique grasped the cure's hand, and made but a brief
answer, but that answer was grand
"It shall be done, monsieur."
"You have a conception of this great thing," he began
again, "but you will not carry it out yourself. Neither you
nor I have knowledge enough for the realization of a thought
MADAME GRASLIN AT MONTEGNAC. 149
which might occur to any one, but that raises immense prac-
tical difficulties; for simple and almost invisible as those diffi-
culties are, they call for the most accurate skill of science.
So to-morrow begin your search for the human instruments
which, in a dozen years' time, will contrive that the six
thousand acres thus brought into cultivation shall yield you
an income of six or seven thousand louis d'or. The under-
taking will make Montegnac one of the richest communes in
the department some day. The forest brings in nothing as
yet ; but sooner or later buyers will come here for the splendid
timber, treasures slowly accumulated by time, the only treas-
ures which man cannot procure save by patient waiting,
and cannot do without. Perhaps some day (who knows)
the government will take steps to open up ways of transporting
timber grown here to its dockyards ; but the government will
wait until Montegnac is ten times its present size before giving
its fostering aid; for the government, like fortune, gives only
to those who have. By that time this estate will be one of
the finest in France ; it will be the pride of your grandson,
who may possibly find the chateau too small in proportion to
"That is a future for me to live for," said Veronique.
" Such a work might redeem many errors," said the cur6.
Seeing that he was understood, he endeavored to send a
last shaft home by way of her intelligence ; he had divined
that in the woman before him the heart could only be reached
through the brain ; whereas, in other women, the way to the
brain lies through the heart.
"Do you know what a great mistake you are making?"
he asked, after a pause.
She looked at him with frightened eyes.
" Your repentance as yet is only the consciousness of a
defeat. If there is anything fearful, it is the despair of Satan ;
and perhaps man's repentance was like this before Jesus Christ
came on earth. But for us Catholics, repentance is the horror
150 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
which seizes on a soul hurrying on its downward course, and
in that shock God reveals Himself. You are like a Pagan
Orestes; become a Saint Paul ! "
"Your words have just wrought a complete change in me,"
she cried. " Now, oh ! I want to live ! "
"The spirit has overcome," the humble priest said to him-
self, as he went away, glad at heart. He had found food for
the secret despair which was gnawing Mme. Graslin, by giv-
ing to her repentance the form of a good and noble deed.
The very next day, therefore, Veronique wrote to M. Gros-
setete, and in answer to her letter three saddle-horses arrived
from Limoges for her in less than a week. M. Bonnet made
inquiries, and sent the postmaster's son to the chateau ; the
young fellow, Maurice Champion by name, was only too
pleased to put himself at Mme. Graslin's disposal, with a
chance of earning some fifty crowns. Veronique took a liking
for the lad round-faced, black-eyed, and black-haired, short,
and well built and he was at once installed as groom ; he
was to ride out with his mistress and to take charge of the
The head forester at Montegnac was a native of Limoges,
an old quartermaster in the Royal Guard. He had been
transferred from another estate when the Due de Navarreins
began to think of selling the Montegnac lands, and wanted
information to guide him in the matter; but in Montegnac
forest Jerome Colorat only saw waste land, never likely to
come under cultivation, timber valueless for lack of means of
transport, gardens run wild, and a castle in ruins, calling for
a vast outlay if it was to be set in order and made habitable.
He saw wide rock-strewn spaces and conspicuous gray patches
of granite even in the forest, and the honest but unintelligent
servant took fright at these things. This was how the property
had come into the market.
Mme. Graslin sent for this forester.
"Colorat," she said, "I shall most probably ride out to-
MADAME GRASLlAV AT MONT&GNAC. 151
morrow morning and every following day. You should know
the different bits of outlying land which M. Graslin added to
the estate, and you must point them out to me ; I want to see
everything for myself."
The servants at the chateau were delighted at this change
in Veronique's life. Aline found out her mistress' old black
riding habit, and mended it, without being told to do so, and
next morning, with inexpressible pleasure, Mme. Sauviat saw
her daughter dressed for a riding excursion. With Champion
and the forester as her guides, Mme. Graslin set herself first
of all to climb the heights. She wanted to understand the
position of the slopes and the glens, the natural roadways
cleft in the long ridge of the mountain. She would measure
her task, study the course of the streams, and see the rough
material of the cure's schemes. The forester and Champion
were often obliged to consult their memories, for the moun-
tain paths were scarcely visible in that wild country. Colorat
went in front, and Champion followed a few paces from
So long as they kept in the denser forest, climbing and
descending the continual undulations of a French mountain
district, its wonders filled Veronique's mind. The mighty
trees which had stood for centuries amazed her, until she saw
so many that they ceased to be a surprise. Then others suc-
ceeded, full grown and ready for felling ; or in a forest clear-
ing some single pine risen to giant height ; or, stranger still,
some common shrub, a dwarf growth elsewhere, here risen,
under some unusual conditions, to the height of a tree nearly
as old as the soil in which it grew. The wreaths of mist
rolling over the bare rocks filled her with indescribable feel-
ings. Higher yet, pale furrows cut by the melting snows
looked like scars far up on the mountain sides ; there were
bleak ravines in which no plant grew, hillside slopes where
the soil had been washed away, leaving bare the rock-clefts,
where the hundred-year-old chestnuts grew straight and tall as
152 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
pines in the Alps ; sometimes they went by vast shifting sands,
or boggy places where the trees are few ; by fallen masses of
granite, overhanging crags, dark glens, wide stretches of burnt
grass or moor, where the heather was still in bloom, arid and
lonely spots where the caper grows and the juniper, then
through meadows covered with fine short grass, where the rich
alluvial soil had been brought down and deposited century
after century by the mountain torrents ; in short, this rapid
ride gave her something like a bird's-eye view of the land, a
glimpse of the dreariness and grandeur, the strength and
sweetness of nature's wilder moods in the mountain country
of midland France. And by dint of gazing at these pictures
so various in form, but instinct with the same thought, the
deep sadness expressed by the wild ruined land in its barren-
ness and neglect passed into her own thoughts, and found a
response in her secret soul. As, through some gap in the
woods, she looked down on the gray stretch of plain below, or
when their way led up some parched ravine where a few
stunted shrubs starved among the boulders and the sand, by
sheer reiteration of the same sights she fell under the influence
of this stern scenery; it called up new ideas in her mind,
stirred to a sense of the significance underlying these outward
and visible forms. There is no spot in a forest but has this
inner sense, not a clearing, not a thicket, but has an analogy
in the labyrinth of the human thought.
Who is there with a thinking brain or a wounded heart
that can pass through a forest and find the forest dumb ? Be-
fore you are aware its voice is in your ears, a soothing or an
awful voice, but more often soothing than awful. And if
you were to examine very closely into the causes of this sensa-
tion, this solemn, incomplex, subduing, and mysterious forest-
influence that comes over you, perhaps you will find its source
in the sublime and subtle effect of the presence of so many
creatures all obedient to their destinies, immovable in sub-
mission. Sooner or later the overwhelming sense of the abid-
MADAME GRASLIN AT MONTEGNAC. 153
ingness of nature fills your heart and stirs deeper feelings,
until at length you grow restless to find God in it. And so it
was that the silence of the mountain heights about her, out
in the pure clear air with the forest scents in it, Veronique
recovered, as she told M. Bonnet in the evening, the certainty
of Divine mercy. She had glimpses of the possibility of an
order of things above and beyond that in which her musings
had hitherto revolved. She felt something like happiness.
For a long time past she had not known such peace. Could
it have been that she was conscious of a certain likeness be-
tween this country and the waste and dried-up places in her
own soul? Did she look with a certain exultation on the
troubles of nature with some thought that matter was punished
here for no sin ? Certain it is that her inner self was strongly
More than once Colorat and Champion looked at her, and
then at each other, as if for them she was transfigured. One
spot in particular that they reached in the steep bed of a dry
torrent seemed to Veronique to be unspeakably arid. It was
with a certain surprise that she found herself longing to hear
the sound of falling water in those scorching ravines.
" Always to love ! " she thought. The words seemed like
a reproach spoken aloud by a voice. In confusion she urged
her horse blindly up towards the summit of the mountain of
the Correze, and in spite of her guides dashed up to the top
(called the Living Rock), and stood there alone. For several
moments she scanned the whole country below her. She had
heard the secret voices of so many existences asking to live,
and now something took place within her that determined her
to devote herself to this work with all the perseverance which
she had already displayed to admiration. She tied her horse's
bridle to a tree and sat down on a slab of rock. Her eyes
wandered over the land where nature showed herself so harsh
a step-dame, and felt within her own heart something of the
mother's yearning which she had felt over her child. Her
154 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
half-unconscious meditations, which, to use her own beautiful
metaphor, " had sifted her heart," had prepared her to receive
the sublime teaching of the scene that lay before her.
"It was then," she told the cur6, " that I understood that
our souls need to be tilled quite as much as the land."
The pale November sunlight shone over the wide landscape,
but already a few gray clouds were gathering, driven across
the sky by a cold west wind. It was now about three o'clock.
Veronique had taken four hours to reach the point ; but, as is
the wont of those who are gnawed by profound inward misery,
she gave no heed to anything without. At that moment her
life shared the sublime movement of nature and dilated within
"Do not stay up there any longer, madame," said a man's
voice, and something in its tone thrilled her. " You cannot
reach home again in any direction if you do, for the nearest
house lies a couple of leagues away, and it is impossible to
find your way through the forest in the dark. And even those
risks are nothing compared with the risk you are running
where you are ; in a few moments it will be deadly cold on
the peak ; no one knows the why or wherefore, but it has
been the death of many a one before now."
Mme. Graslin, looking down, saw a face almost black with
sunburn, and two eyes that gleamed from it like tongues of
fire. A shock of brown hair hung on either side of the face,
and a long pointed beard wagged beneath it. The owner of
the face respectfully raised one of the great broad-brimmed
hats which the peasantry wear in the midland districts of
France, and displayed a bald but magnificent brow, such as
sometimes in a poor man compels the attention of passers-by.
Veronique felt not the slightest fear ; for a woman in such a
position as hers, all the petty considerations which cause
feminine tremors have ceased to exist.
" How did you come there ? " she asked him.
" I live here, hard by," the stranger answered.
MADAME GRASLIN AT MONTEGNAC. 155
"And what do you do in this out-of-the-way place?" asked
"I live in it."
"But how, and on what do you live?"
"They pay me a trifle for looking after this part of the
forest," he said, pointing to the slopes of the peak opposite
the plains of Montegnac. As he moved, Mine. Graslin caught
sight of a game-bag and the muzzle of a gun, and any mis-
givings she might have entertained vanished forthwith.
' ' Are you a keeper ? ' '
" No, madame. You can't be a keeper until you have been
sworn, and you can't take the oath unless you have all your
civic rights "
" Then, who are you ? "
"I am Farrabesche," said the man, in deep humility, with
his eyes on the ground.
The name told Mme. Graslin nothing. She looked at the
man before her. In an exceedingly kindly face there were
signs of latent savagery; the uneven teeth gave an ironical
turn, a suggestion of evil hardihood to the mouth and blood-
red lips. In person he was of middle height, broad in the
shoulders, short in the neck, which was very full and deeply
sunk. He had the large hairy hands characteristic of violent-
tempered people capable of abusing their physical advantages.
His last words suggested some mystery, and his bearing, face,
and figure all combined to give to that mystery a terrible
"So you are in my employ?" Veronique said gently.
"Then have I the honor of speaking to Mme. Graslin ?"
"Yes, my friend," said she.
Farrabesche vanished with the speed of some wild creature
after a frightened glance at his mistress. Veronique hastily
mounted and went down to her two servants ; the men were
growing uneasy about her, for the inexplicable unwholesome-
156 THE COUNTRY PARSON.
ness of the Living Rock was well known in the country.
Colorat begged her to go down a little valley into the plain.
"It would be dangerous to return by the higher ground," he
said ; " the tracks were hard to find, and crossed each other,
and in spite of his knowledge of the country, he might lose
Once in the plain, Veronique slackened the pace of her
"Who is this Farrabesche whom you employ?" she asked,
turning to the head forester.
" Did madame meet him ? " exclaimed Colorat.
"Yes, but he ran away."
"Poor fellow! Perhaps he does not know how kind
" But, after all, what has he done ? "
"Why, madame, Farrabesche is a murderer," Champion
"Then, of course, he was pardoned, was he not?" Veron-
ique asked in a tremulous voice.
"No, madame," Colorat answered. "Farrabesche was
tried at the assizes, and condemned to ten years' penal ser-
vitude ; but he only did half his time, for they let him off the
rest of the sentence; he came back from the hulks in 1827.
He owes his life to M. le Cur6, who persuaded him to give
himself up. Judged by default, and sentenced to death, they
would have caught him sooner or later, and he would have
been in a bad way. M. Bonnet went out to look for him at
the risk of his life. Nobody knows what he said to Farra-
besche ; they were alone for a couple of days ; on the third
he brought Farrabesche back to Tulle, and there he gave him-
self up. M. Bonnet went to see a clever lawyer, and got him
to take up Farrabesche's case ; and Farrabesche came off with
ten years in jail. M. le Cur6 used to go to see him while he
was in prison ; and that fellow yonder, who was a terror to