Jean Nicolas Bouilly.

The juvenile scrap-book and youth's annual online

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chosen your nurse. Providence be thanked, it
begins to form a shady walk, where I often go, of
a pleasant afternoon, arm in arm with my husband,



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 27

your kind foster father, to chat of you." "And I,
my darling," added the green grocer, "to thank
you for having procured me the pleasure of seeing
my good cousin, have brought you the best pine-
apple that was in the market I may say that, 1
assure you ; but it is on condition that you permit
me to embrace you, for you are a pretty little girl,
truly;" and she clumsily closed Helena in her
arms, and gave her two loud kisses.

This merry and sentimental scene threw Helena
into a state of embarrassment and confusion which
she vainly strove to hide. The vulgar caresses
she received, and the laughing of the boarders
who happened to be in the room, tended altogether
to disturb her to such a degree that she blushed
deeply, and received disdainfully the blunt but
sincere compliments of the green grocer and her
two cousins, who were almost stupified with amaze-
ment and mortification. But what grieved Susan
most, was, that Helena would never once call her
sister. "Am I then no longer your foster sister?"
she exclaimed. "If you knew what pangs your
treatment causes me!" "I think, however," add-
ed Mary, with pride, "I nursed and attended you,
rocked, caressed, and fondled you so much, that
you could not well forget it." "What !" said the



28 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

green grocer, " is this the way you reward her for
treating you as her own child? Is this the way
you receive her? Come, cousin, let us leave the
young miss, who already fancies herself a great
lady, and is ashamed of her nurse. Mind, I say,
the ungrateful never prosper !" With these words,
she dragged away Mary, who was almost breath-
less; and Susan, who, melting in tears, turned
round repeatedly to see whether Helena would
not call her back. But the latter saw them leave
the house with a culpable joy, which was visible
in her altered features.

The mistress of the boarding-school entered the
parlor just at the time when the green grocer was
making her observations to Helena. When they
had retired, she requested an explanation of the
remark, which being given, she rebuked Helena
for her shameful conduct, and punished her se-
verely for her ingratitude. But selfishness and
pride had taken such a hold of Helena's heart,
that the idea of having afforded a laughing scene
to the boarders, was the only one that caused her
pain.

When she had attained her fifteenth year, He-
lena was uncommonly handsome; and notwith-
standing her bad qualities, she possessed some



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 29

brilliant acquirements, and was particularly distin-
guished for her skill in the art of painting. She
excelled in drawing portraits of the most perfect
likeness, and her father, blinded by his affection,
and fancying that her education was completely
finished, took her again to his house, and intro-
duced her to the most brilliant companies of Paris,
in which city he had permanently taken up his
abode.

From a remaining sense of regard and tender-
ness, Mary and her daughter did not acquaint Mrs.
Clermont, who was old and infirm, with the un-
pleasant reception they had met with ; but they
never more visited Helena at school. A few
months after Helena's removal from school, Mrs.
Clermont's habitual disease took a dangerous turn,
and, after a short illness, she died in her castle,
surrounded by the mourning villagers, to whose
happiness she had so greatly contributed. She
breathed her last in the arms of Susan, to whom
she confided her portrait, set in diamonds, to give
to Helena. Her fortune, which was considerable,
devolved to her nephews.

Susan hastened to send the portrait to Helena,
who was grieved at the death of her who had been
her second mother, and immediately suspended
3



30 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

it over the mantel-piece of her fire-place, resolving
to keep it, as a memento, while she lived. Susan,
at the same time, had sent her a letter, written by
the schoolmaster of the village, in the following
terms:

" Miss Helen for I can no longer call you
sister I send you herewith the portrait of the
lady to whom you owe your first education. I
should have brought it you myself, with my moth-
er, if you had no? behaved so unkind to us three
years ago, when we went to see you.

" Nevertheless, I pray Heaven to watch over
you, and call myself your humble servant, and still
your foster sister, whatever you may say to it.

" SUSAN."

" P. S. My father and mother are well, Heav-
en be thanked ! Your two doves are still cooing,
and your white goat yields a dozen cheeses a week,
but they are not for you."

Though Helena indulged in a disdainful smile
on perusing this letter, she could not help feeling
a secret discontent in her heart, while she thought
how much she had been to blame. She wrote Su-
san a short but expressive letter, and sent her her



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 31

miniature portrait, one of the best paintings she
had done till then, requesting her to give it to
Mary, her dear nurse, whose care and affection
she should never forget.

This present was rapturously received : Mary
hung it about her neck, protesting it was as if she
again felt her dear little Helena at her breast.
Susan kissed, over and over again, the dear por-
trait, and repeatedly said, looking at it, "What
a pretty face! Who could believe that she has a
bad heart!" Her eyes, however, were swimming
in tears, and in her emotion she exclaimed "Yet
you are still my sister : they have spoiled you in
Paris in the great world ; but we shall meet,
we shall see each other again yes, something
tells me that we shall again embrace each other."

Two years passed away. Helena was in the full
bloom of youth and beauty. She was on the point
of forming a matrimonial union, with a young gen-
tleman of talents and wealth one who was sup-
posed to be every way worthy of her. But severe
trials awaited her. Her father's health, which had
been impaired by the incessant labors and fatiguing
journeys, performed during the last fifteen years of
his life, suddenly failed; and he died, without
leaving anything for the maintenance of Helena,



32 T^E FOSTER SISTERS.

as his wealth consisted only in pensions from the
government, which ceased with him, and out of
which he had saved nothing.

It was not long before Helena experienced that
the loss of rank and fortune keeps flatterers, and
even friends, at a distance. She soon found her-
self in the most cruel and least expected solitude.
Her beauty served only to beset her with dangers;
but strengthening herself with the principles of
virtue which she had imbibed in her childhood,
she resolved to retire from the great world, and
endeavor to support herself by painting. As she
had, while in affluence, cultivated her talent in
this art with great success, she found no difficulty
in procuring business enough to afford her a com-
fortable support.

Mary and her husband had been as lucky and
prosperous as Helena was unfortunate. As they
were owners of a pretty extensive farm, they mar-
ried Susan, who was then nineteen years of age,
to the only son of a wealthy farmer. The worthy
woman had been made acquainted with the pain-
ful situation to which Helena was reduced, and
secretly contrived with her friend, the green gro-
cer at Paris, to soften its severity. Sometimes
she sent the young recluse an ample provision of



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 33

fruit and vegetables, sometimes a basket of game,
at others a stock of sugar and coffee, but always
at the dawn of day, and by an unknown porter.
Having suspected many individuals, to whom her
father had rendered services particularly as she
found at the bottom of the last basket which she
received, ten louis d'ors in a little leather bag
the fair orphan determined to discover the generous
hand that assisted her so mysteriously. She pass-
ed a whole night at her window, and at the break
of day she observed a woman, whose head was
covered with a large handkerchief, holding a bas-
ket on her arm, and stationing herself opposite the
house until it was opened. Helena went quickly
down stairs, and waited for the porter getting up.
When he opened the door, she saw the stranger
leaving the basket on the threshold, and running
away, as usual. Helena ran after her, laid hold
of her arm, and lifting up the large handkerchief
which hid her face, she recognized the good green
grocer, who revealed the whole mystery, saying,
"As long as you was happy and proud, we did not
care for you, and that was right; but when we
heard that you was in want, Mary and I resolved
to forget what had passed, and to act as parents
towards you." The orphan pressed the worthy
3*



34 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

woman to her bosom. "You are now what we
wished you to be," resumed the green grocer.
" How greatly does misfortune alter us. in a little
time ! But you owe me my commission ; and I
insist on your sending every morning to get your
provisions at my stall : I shall be reasonable, you
may depend upon it ; your good nurse has supplied
me with a stock that will last a long while : come
and see me." With these words, the good crea-
ture tore herself away from Helena, who gave her
a last kiss for Mary.

A few days after this occurrence, another ad-
venture happened to the fair orphan, which had
no less effect upon her heart. One morning when
she was at work in her painting-room, she heard
a rap at the door. On opening it, she beheld a
countryman, who from his dress, his frank and
jovial countenance, his healthy appearance, and
uncouth accent, seemed one of those rich farmers
who conceal their wealth under the exterior of
good nature and simplicity. He entered the room
without any ceremony, and said "Are you Miss
Courtney?" "I am," answered Helena. "I have
heard a great deal of you/' said the stranger, look-
ing at her from head to foot. " You may render
me a very great service ; I will pay you well for



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 35

it, you need not fear. I want you to make me a
large family picture I married the prettiest
woman in our country : I could wish you to repre-
sent me sitting on one of my ploughshares, resting
joyfully, and as if I were saying ' I've done sow-
ing.' Neac me my wife, who has just brought me
my dinner, and looks at me with an expression
which seems to say ' I am happy to be your's.'
On the other side, my wife's mother, whom I love
as my own, still fresh and amiable, and who, look-
ing alternately at us both, seems to say ' That
is right, my children; love each other, and be dili-
gent ; that is the way to prosper, and be happy.'"
"I like your idea, very much," answered Helena,
who was amazed at the energy with which the
stranger expressed himself: " but it is a complete
historical picture which you want I am afraid
it is above my reach." " Oh, no !" replied the
countryman, " I am of opinion that you will do it
better than any one else ; and to give you a proof
of the sincerity of my belief, take these five-and-
twenty louis d'ors beforehand ; and when the pic-
ture is done, if it be worth more, you need only
say so." With this observation, he sat down on a
chair, and insisted upon her commencing imme-
diately,



36 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

Miss Courtney smiled, and concealed her
amazement at the open generosity of the stran-
ger. She refused the five and twenty Jouis d'ors,
as being greatly above what her picture would
be worth, and added, "When it is done, you
may pay me, but I cannot begin immediately ;
I want a proper canvass, and I must prepare my
colors." "Well!" replied the stranger, bluntly,
rising from his seat, " whilst you are going to
make the necessary preparations, I will fetch my
wife and her mother from the irrn, and you shall
see that they are well worth painting." Where-
upon he rushed out of the room, placing the five-
and-twenty louis d'ors on a table, and leaving
Helena perplexed at this singular adventure. In
the mean time she prepared a canvass and a
palette, firmly resolved to paint a piece in her
best way, which she intended to call 'Rural
Happiness.' She had hardly finished the prepa-
rations, when she heard several persons coming
up stairs, and a voice which made her start. She
thought it was that of her nurse. It was indeed
her nurse, with her daughter and her son-in-law ;
he had been sent before to prepare Helena for
this affecting interview ; the good green grocer
was also with them. When Susan entered the



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 37

room of the young artist, the latter uttered a
piercing cry, threw herself into her arms, and
shed a flood of tears. Susan, whom she had not
seen for seven years, and who was grown one of
the handsomest women in the country, supported
the dismayed and trembling Helena. The three
females, caressing each other, and blending their
joy, their sighs, and their tears, formed the most
delicious picture, the expression of which would
infallibly have been caught by Helena, had she
not been one of the group.

At length Mary broke the general silence, and
exclaimed, "I may then once more press you
against that breast which fed you ! " " And I,"
answered Helena, "I am at last permitted to
resume my place in the heart of my second
mother." " You never lost that place, nor were
you ever out of my heart," said Susan, in her
turn, embracing her again." " But how hand-
some you are grown ! " observed Helena. " It
is because she is happy," replied Mary. " This
is her husband ; she has not made a bad choice,
has she 1 I may say, without vanity, they are
the handsomest couple in the province. Come,
James, embrace our Helena, she is one of the
family." The young farmer hastened to comply



38 THE POSTER SISTERS.

with his mother-in-law's request, and imprinted
on Helena's cheeks two good kisses, that dissi-
pated their usual paleness, the effect of sorrow
and excessive application. " Is the errand-woman
to go empty-handed?" exclaimed the green
grocer. " Oh ! I '11 embrace you with all my
heart," said Helena ; " you were my second
foster mother. My worthy, excellent friends,
how shall I ever be able to efface my injustice,
and reward you for what you have done for me? "
"I will tell you how," replied Mary, eagerly.
" Come to pass a few months with us j it will do
you good and us too ; your health seems out of
order, you want rest, you must recruit your
strength ; the air of the country where you were
brought up, the sight of Mrs. Clermont's castle,
which now belongs to one of her nephews, whole-
some food, a little exercise', our endearments and
attentions, all these will invigorate your health
and recall that blooming complexion which be-
came you so well. We can then partake, at
pleasure, of the cakes and cream cheese which
you were so fond of; and if our assiduities should
fatigue, and our prattle tire you, my dear, you
shall have a private room where you may amuse
yourself with painting." " And I," added Susan .



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 39

** I promise to walk with you every day to revisit
the places where we passed our childhood ; and
if it please Heaven I should become a nurse in a
few months' time, you shall be godmother to my
child." " Come, my good sister, oh ! yes, come
with us, miss," exclaimed James, " you will be
better enabled to execute the family picture which
I ordered." "Come," said Mary, again, "your
foster father expects you ; nothing is wanting
but you to render your nurse the happiest of
women." Helena, who was affected beyond ex-
pression, yielded to the entreaties of the respect-
able family, and accepted, without hesitation,
offers, the sincerity of which she was convinced
of. She prepared every thing necessary for her
journey, and returned to the generous James the
five and twenty louis d'ors he had left on a table.
Mary and her daughter eagerly assisted her,
whilst James fetched his covered cart with three
good horses. He placed in it whatever Helena
had packed up for her journey. Mary proposed
to set off instantly. " No, no, not so hastily,"
said the greengrocer, you shall not leave me
thus. 1 insist upon my goody and her children,
for now you are one of them," said she to Helena,
" yes, I insist upon your coming, all four, to par-



40 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

take in my stall of the finest turkey in market.
I must have the pleasure of giving you the first
family dinner. Come along, all of you, and after
dinner you shall be at liberty to leave me, and
hasten to the country."

Mary and her daughter took Helena between
them ; James carried her writing-desk, which
contained all her treasures ; and the green grocer
set before them the most splendid repast Helena
had partaken of for a long time ; she enjoyed it
with the most heartfelt pleasure she ever expert
enced in her life.

On the following day the happy travellers
reached the place of their destination, where
Mary's husband received them most cordially.
Helena leaped for joy on seeing the cottage in
which she had been reared, the castle of Mrs.
Clermont, where she had been brought up, and
all the delicious spots which reminded her of the
days of her childhood. The happiness which
she enjoyed recalled upon her noble and regular
features the freshness and brightness of youth,
and, together with her beauty, she recovered her
cheerfulness and her gayety. In a few days she
felt her spirits so revived that she intended to
begin the family picture James had ordered of
her.



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 41

But Mary's house had not a room fit for the
execution of the project ; its small casements did
not give sufficient light for the work. She there-
fore resolved to obtain in the castle a place where
she might execute on the canvass all the ideas
which she intended to realize.

The castle was at that time occupied by the
new owner, a nephew of Mrs. Clermont. Hav-
ing been a widower for the last twelvemonth, he
devoted his whole time to the education of two
children, whom the happiness he had enjoyed
with their mother, rendered most dear to him.
A passionate admirer of the arts, yet simple in
his taste, he applied the greater part of his fortune
to assist the unfortunate. Hence the inhabitants
of the village considered him as a father, whom
Mrs. Clermont had bequeathed to them at her
death, to perpetuate her benevolence and do
honor to her memory.

Mr. Saville, this was the name of Mrs. Cler-
rnont's nephew, received Helena with the liveliest
interest. He shared the emotion she felt on revi-
siting the mansion where she had imbibed the
first precepts of virtue. He could not refrain
from tears on beholding the fair orphan weeping
before Mrs. Clermont's portrait in the parlor ; and
4



42 THE FOSTER BISTERS.

when Helena asked him for a room favorable to
painting, " Select which you like," said Mr.
Saville; "I am overjoyed to see it embellished
by your presence, adorned by your talents."

Helena chose the chamber where she had been
brought up, and the very next day, having got her
canvass and every thing ready, she sketched the
picture which shortly after represented happy
James sitting on the ploughshare; she soon
grouped Mary and Susan around him, as he
desired ; but in order to throw more interest and
truth into the composition, she represented her-
self in one of the corners, sitting mournfully on
a hillock, contemplating Mrs. Clermont's minia-
ture portrait, with an air of gratitude and respect,
and holding in the other hand a volume of the
"Annals of Virtue." This striking contrast
placed the joyous group, which formed the centre
of the picture, in a better light ; every thing in
it was true, finely conceived ; in short, worthy of
the pencil of the greatest master. Mary and her
family, who every day came to sit for their
picture, could not recover from their surprise on
seeing their most perfect likeness. Mr. Saville,
who was not less amazed than the good country
folks, encouraged Helena by the most flattering



THE FOSTER SISTERS.



praises ; but his emotion was equal to his aston-
ishment, when, at the end of a few days, during
which he was from home, he recognised himself
on the other side of the group which represented
James and his family. Helena had painted him
showing this group to his two children, to whom
he seemed to say, " See how happy they are ! be
always employed, and continue united ! from
your own exertions expect happiness, and you
will never know misfortune."

To collect in the picture all the sentiments
which filled her heart, Helena placed in another
corner, the tomb of Mrs. Clermont, in face of
which several country people were kneeling, in
the attitude of prayer, while two young girls
were depositing flowers on it. On the frontis-
piece of the tomb was inscribed, " To the mem-
ory of my second mother ! "

When the picture was finished, Mr. Saville
would not consent to its being taken from the
castle. In vain did James with his five-and-
twenty louis d'ors in his hand protest that it was
his. " It is worth infinitely more," exclaimed Mr.
Saville ; " your fortune is not sufficient to pay for
it, and I declare I will never part from it."

Then addressing himself to Helena, he added,



44 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

" And you, who join to so many talents a feeling
heart, improved by misfortune, condescend to
assist me in preserving and embellishing the
sacred deposite which my consort left me at her
death : my two children, whose innocent features
you have so faithfully delineated, want a second
mother. I cannot give them a better one than
by choosing her who in this picture has shown
herself so worthy to guide and instruct them,
and, above all, to guide them in the path of
virtue."

On laying a particular stress on the last words,
Mr. Saville pointed at the book which Helena
had previously introduced in her picture. At the
same time his children seizing each a hand of
Helena's, and eagerly kissing it, exclaimed, " Be
our mamma, and we will love you dearly ! "
Moved and surprised, Helena was some moments
before she could utter a word. At length, press-
ing Mr. Saville's pretty children to her bosom,
she said to them in the most expressive man-
ner, " Yes, yes, Heaven has again given you a
mother." And instantly Mary, her daughter, and
her son-in-law, fell at her knees, exclaiming, " You
will also be the mother of the whole village.'
Helena, whose feeling heart was overpowered by



THE FOSTER SISTERS. 45

so many soft emotions, could hardly support her-
self. Mr. Saville caught her in his arms, and
declared that he would not have the marriage
ceremony delayed beyond three days.

These happy tidings being soon circulated in
the village caused so great a joy, that, on the day
fixed for the wedding, Helena, when she rose
from her bed, found the outside of her window
ornamented with garlands of flowers and foliage.
The instant she opened it, all the inhabitants of
the village cheered her with rural music, and
expressed the most fervent wishes for her happi-
ness. James was at the head of the young men,
Mary at that of the matrons, and Susan at that
of the young girls. It was from the midst of
this joyous crowd, and under a thunder of ap-
plauses, that Mr. Saville, attended by his two
children, fetched his bride, and took her to the
castle, where their nuptials were celebrated,
without pomp and magnificence, but among the
joyful acclamations of the good country folks.
Helena insisted upon Mary's sitting near her at
table, and paid her the same respectful attention
which she would have had for her mother ; she
treated Susan as her sister, and to console James
for the picture which he purposely came to Paris



46 THE FOSTER SISTERS.

to order of her, she promised to copy the middle
group which represented him sitting on a plough-
share; and, to add to it, instead of the dinner
which Susan was bringing him, the fine little
child which his wife would present him very
soon. And as a companion to the great picture,
she engaged to draw a faithful representation of
the memorable moment when Mr. Saville, choos-
ing her for his consort, she received the first
caresses of his children, and promised to replace
their mother.

Helena faithfully performed all her engage-
ments. Her unalterable tenderness made her
husband happy; she bestowed on his children
the most constant affection ; intrusted Mary with
the principal concerns of her household, and
stood sp9nsor to Susan's child. She also sent
for the good green grocer, who passed a few
days with them, and shared in their joy. She


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Online LibraryJean Nicolas BouillyThe juvenile scrap-book and youth's annual → online text (page 2 of 8)