" My father and mother, while at Rouen, were under
the ministry of M. Guillebert, Doctor of the Sorbonne,
a very holy and discreet man. He counseled my
mother, who was then twenty-six years old, to lay
aside all her ornaments and wear no trimmings on
her dresses, which she cheerfully did. When she was
obliged to return to Clermont, M. Guillebert told her
that he had an important piece of advice to give her,
and it was this : That ladies whose piety prevented
them from wearing ornaments often took pleasure in
decorating their children, and that she must be care-
ful to avoid doing so, gay dress being far more inju-
rious to children, who are naturally fond of it, than to
grown persons, who, knowing its frivolity, care nothing
114 Sister and Saint.
for it. Accordingly, on her return to Clermont, where
she had left my sister, then a little over four years
old, and myself, then not quite three, she found that
my grandmother, who had charge of us in her absence,
had dressed us both in frocks embroidered with silver
and fully trimmed with ribbons and laces, as was then
the fashion. My mother took everything off and
clad us in gray camlet without lace or ribbon. She
forbade our nurse to let us play with two little girls
of our own age in the neighborhood, whom we had
been in the habit of seeing every day, lest we should
acquire a love for the gay garments they usually wore.
She was so particular on this point that, in 165 1, when
my grandfather Pascal died, and she was obliged to
be present in Paris at the settlement of the estate,
she chose to incur the expense of taking us with her
for fear that my grandmother would make us dress
in finer clothes, if we were left under her care. She
always taught us to wear the most simple and modest
clothing, and I can say with truth, that since I was
between two and three years old I have never worn
either gold, silver, colored ribbons, curls, or laces."
" Which she cheerfully did ! " That is the key-note.
Madame Perier, and, as we know quite well, Jacque-
line and the whole family, are far too much in earnest
to mind such trifles as these.
It is expected of them that they shall lay aside
their ornaments, and they do so, as naturally and eas-
ilyas some simple-hearted princess puts on her jewels,
because that is expected of her. In either case the
ornaments or the want of them are nothing.
Neither Gilberte nor Jacqueline ever allude to
anything they have given up or write in a way that
suggests sacrifice. It was not sacrifice to them. As
Mrs. Charles has so well said in regard to another
noble woman : " Not that she painfully denied herself
luxuries. In the coinage of the kingdom where she
dwelt they were simply valueless,"
But when the question of giving up came to Blaise,
then, indeed, it became a vital and a painful thing.
Those words of Jansen's which we have quoted are
but a sample of what was to be found in many 6ther
of the best books of the day, and the young disciple
heard on all sides the call to sacrifice mind and heart
and soul and strength for Christ's sake and the Gos-
pel's. The Roman Catholic Church has always re-
garded human nature not as a servant to be trained
for the Master's use, but as a foe, to be subdued and
crushed. There are other Christians who act upon
the same theory. It is a terribly dangerous theory,
for it results in the majority of men and women
living in opposition to conscience, and nothing can be
so blighting as that to all true growth of soul.
The struggle in Pascal's mind is evident in many
A^ays. About this time he composed fifteen prayers
for use in sickness. " Lord," he cries out in one of
ii6 Sister and Samt.
them, " I know myself to be certain of but this one
thing. It is good to follow Thee. It is evil to offend
Thee. Beyond this I am ignorant of what is best or
worst for me." It is a glimpse into his secret heart â€”
perplexed and troubled, yet making sure of the one
main truth in which alone is safety.
The account of the atmospherical experiments was
followed quickly by two treatises on hydrostatics.
Then the physicians took sides with conscience and
forbade all scientific studies â€” forbade, indeed, all men-
tal exertion â€” and there followed an effort at self-
annihilation more painful than all the struggles.
Surely, at this time, if ever, Blaise Pascal needed his
twin sister !
The brother and sister, apparently, never returned
to Rouen, for in May, 1648, M. Pascal was appointed
Councillor of State, and returned to make his home
During the winter they became better acquainted
with their new friends, and regularly attended church
at the convent chapel of Port Royal.
Port Royal was no common convent, as all of us
know who have read the lives of that noble band of
v/omen who worked and worshiped within its walls.
" My sister came to the conclusion," says Madame
Perier, " that here, to use her own expression, one
might reasonably be a nun.
" She perceived from M. Singlin's preaching that
his ideas of a Christian's Hfe were in accordance with
those she had formed since God .first touched her
" She imparted her thoughts to my brother, who,
far from dissuading her, encouraged her, for he was
imbued with similar views. His approbation so
strengthened lief that thenceforth she never wavered
in the design of devoting herself to God."
" My brother," Gilberte says again, '' who loved her
with especial tenderness, was delighted with her proj-
ect, and thought of nothing but how he should aid
her to accomplish it My sister visited Port
Royal as often as the great distance of her dwelling
would permit, and the Abbesses told her to place
herself under the charge of M. Singlin, in order that
he might judge if she were truly called to a cloFstered
life. She did not fail to obey, and from the very first
time that M. Singlin saw her, he told my brother that
he had never known so strongly-marked a vocation.
This testimony was a great comfort to my brother,
and it made him doubly anxious for the success of a
design which he had every reason to believe was of
God. All this occurred in the early part of the year
1648, when my brother and sister were at Paris and
my father at Rouen."
The brother's unselfish love comes out nobly here,
and his genuine sympathy with the highest and best
in his sister. True unity of spirit is that when each
Ii8 Sister and Saint.
can rejoice in the sacrifice the other makes ! True
love is that which can allow the beloved one to re-
Because "he loved her with an especial tender-
ness," therefore " he was delighted with her project "
of dying to the world, to her home, to her youth, to
her fame, to himself forever. He was, in fact, one
with her in the matter ; he saw it through her eyes
and felt it through her heart.
And Jacqueline herself? How was it with her?
Was there no conflict in her heart ? Was there no
pain to her in this wrench from a life which had been
so pleasant and a home which had been so dear ? It
can scarcely have been otherwise with such a girl as
she ; yet we have no hint of any such thing. From
the first she seems to have thrown into this project
the same enthusiasm which she threw into her childish
play-acting and versifying.
It seems to have been Pleasure that beckoned, not
Duty that called. Her letters are full of it. She can
speak of little else, and she prays for grace to restrain
her ardor, not for grace to endure the trial. The
whole current of her desires, in fact, has changed its
course. She is filled, as Cousin says, with " an in-
vincible passion for solitude and the monastic life."
We have said there was no hint of a regret. There
is, among Jacqueline Pascal's collected verses, a little
poem, without date, which Reuchlin (her German
^ Climbing, 119
Diographer) thinks must have been written about
this time. He calls it the " Swan-song of the poetess
ere she laid her gift on the altar of her God."
Here are the verses :
' O, ye dark forests, in whose sombre shades
Night finds a noonday lair.
Silence a sacred refuge ! to your glades
A stranger, worn with care
And weary of life's jostle, would repair.
He asks no medicine for his fond heart's pain ;
He breaks j^our stillness with no piercing cry;
He comes not to complain,
He only comes to die !
* To die among the busy haunts of men
Were to betray his woe ;
But these thick woods and this sequester'd glen
No trace of suffering show.
Here would he die that none his wound may know.
Ye need not dread his weeping â€” tears are vain â€”
Here let him perish and unheeded lie ;
He comes not to complain.
He only comes to die ! "
It is one of the prettiest poems she ever wrote,
but it must always be a matter of mere conjecture
whether Reuchlin's theory is correct. If this is an
expression of her own feelings, certainly not another
line of all she ever wrote, not a word of her brother's
letters, or her sister's *' Memoirs," or Margaret
Perier's " Recollections," gives us any reason to think
of her as, at any time, "worn with care," or "weary
of life's jostle." Moreover, after the " Stanzas thank-
I20 Sister and Sqmt.
ing God for recovery from the Small-pox," written
in her childhood, there are none of her verses which
have a personal bearing. They are all Sonnets, Songs,
Serenades, To a Lady, To the Queen, to St. Cecilia,
For an Album, etc., etc., according to the fashion of
Many a girl of poetic temperament might easily
find herself in the mood to write such a song as this,
who yet would not wish to have it regarded .as an
expression of personal feeling. And more than all,
Cousin, who is probably Jacqueline Pascal's most
thorough student and critic, makes no allusion to
such a theory, and places the poem among those of
In a nature like hers, it seems to us the internal
strife would not have been heralded in verse ; and if
it had been, something like this would more likely
have been her song :
" Sweet is the smile of home : the mutual look
When hearts are of each other sure ;
Sweet all the joys that crowd the household nook,
The haunt of all affections pure ;
Yet in the world even these abide, and we
Above the %vorld our calling boast ;
Once gain the mountain-top and thou art free,
Till then, who rest, presume ; who turn to look are lost." â™¦
Whatever the conflict that did go on in Jacqueline
* " Keble's Christian Year." First Sunday in Lent.
Pascal's heart, it was almost immediately forgotten â€”
swallowed up â€” in victory.
Vinet, in a fine essay on her character, compares
her Christian course to the military life of the great
Prince of Conde, who leaped at once to fame by in-
sisting on his own plans, against the advice of older
generals, and carrying them out successfully in his
first battle, Rocroy. " It is not the fate," says Vinet,
" of ever^' gallant spirit to begin its career with a
Rocroy that shall at once put its greatness beyond
the pale of doubt forever. What was Jacqueline
Pascal's Rocroy ? An internal victory witnessed by
God alone, and owing more than half its grandeur to
the clouds in which it was enshrouded. To annihi-
late self, and then to efface the most minute traces
of that very annihilation â€” that was the task of this
And because her enthusiasm was the enthusiasm
of victory, we see it lasting through her whole life
and rising superior to every discouragement and
obstacle. It was no mere short-lived ardor, the
first warm outflow of a loving nature, gradually quiet-
ing and cooling as time went on. She had abun-
dance of time to reconsider, as we shall see, and she
had every encouragement to do so. But there is
no evidence of a moment's shrinking from the life
she had chosen. From her brother we have mournful
confessions of a relapse into what he considered world-
122 Sister and Saint.
liness, and Madame Perier's letters in later years
show an occasional interest in earthly and secular
matters. But in Jacqueline there is, from beginning
to end, the same calm, equable flow of assurance of
her high vocation and sacred joy in it.
In May M. Pascal arrived in Paris, and now it be-
came necessary to inform him of Jacqueline's resolu-
Evidently everybody dreaded this duty. " M.
Singlin thought he ought to be told," says Gilberte,
and again, " My brother undertook to tell him. There
was no one else who could." " The proposal," she
continues, " surprised and strangely agitated my
father. On the one hand, having begun to love the
principles of a pure Christianity, he was glad to have
his children like-minded ; but, on the other, his affection
for my sister was so deep and tender that he could
not resolve to give her up forever. These conflicting
thoughts made him at first, answer that he would see
and think about it. But finally, after some vacilla-
tions, he said plainly that he would never give his
consent, and even complained that my brother had
encouraged the plan without knowing v/hether it
would meet his approval. This consideration made
him so angry with my brother and sister, that he lost
his confidence in thcni, and ordered an old waiting-
woman who had brought them both up, to watch
their movements. This was a great restraint upon
my sister, for she could not go to Port Royal except
by stealth, nor see M. Singlin without some contriv-
ance or dexterous excuse."
Here, then, was a sad state of things between this
daughter, hitherto so faithful, and the father who
" loved her v/ith unusual tenderness."
But Jacqueline thought herself justified in secretly
evading his will, though she would not openly dis-
obey him. " Though under many restrictions she
did not give up her occasional visits to Port Royal,
nor her correspondence with its inmates, ivJiich she
managed zvith much tact ! "
Our fancy follows the plainly-robed figure, quickly
threading the narrow streets of the old *' Latin
Quarter " for some brief appointment with her con-
fessor, fearful, perhaps, at every corner, of meeting
her father or seeing the face of the old waiting-
woman peering at her from behind some little shop-
window. She passes the Hotel Cluny, where a few
years before she might have found the M^re Angel-
ique and some of her nuns. She passes the Sor-
bonne, and it frowns upon her. At last she is " quite
in the country" and stops before "a noble house with
magnificent gardens." Church, school-house, infirm-
aries, storehouses, and offices cluster about it. This
is Port Royal de Paris, now " La Maternite," one of
the largest hospitals of Paris.
The dear Mothers Ang61ique and Agnes loved verv
124 Sister and Saini.
tenderly this warm-hearted young disciple. Yet they
were far too true and upright to urge her coming to
them till she could obtain her father's full permis-
" I am as truly, dear child, your spiritual mother,"
says Angelique, '' as if you were already within the
convent walls." And Agnes writes to her: "You are
already a nun, my dear sister, because you have de-
termined to obey the call which God has given you ;
but you will cease to be one. if you wish to forestall
the precise moment of your profession which God
has put in His own power." " It is your duty to fol-
low God's guidance and to endure with meekness the
delays occasioned by His providence. There is quite
as much sin in wishing to anticipate the will of God
as there would be in not obeying it at the proper
Toward the end of this year, 1648, we find the last
of the joint letters from Blaise and Jacqueline to
their sister. It is much too long to give entire, but
some extracts will serve to show its tenor :
"And now we have a little private scolding for
yourself. What made you say that you had learned
everything in your letter from me ? For I have no
recollection of having spoken to you on the subject.
And were what you say true, I should fear that you
had learned the lesson in a wrong spirit, or you would
have lost the thought of the human teacher in think-
ing of God, who alone who can make the truth
effectual Not that we are to be ungrateful or
forgetful of those who have instructed us when
duly authorized, as priests, bishops, and confessors
are. They are teachers and other men are their
disciples. But it is very different in our case, and
as the angel refused to be worshiped by one who
was his fellow-servant, so we must beg you not to
pay us such compliments again, nor to use expres-
sions of human gratitude, since we are but learners
like yourself." ....
" The perseverance of the saints is neither more
nor less than God's grace perpetually imparted, and
not given once for all, in a mass that is to last for-
ever. This teaches us how completely we are de-
pendent on God's mercy ; for if He should for a
moment withhold the sap of His grace we should
wither away." ....
" Fear not to remind us of things we already know.
They need to sink deeper into our hearts, and your
discourse will be more likely to fix them there. And
besides, divine grace is given in answer to prayer,
and your love for us is one of those prayers ivJiicJi go
up without ceasing before the Throned
M. Perier was at that time building a country-
seat, which still stands at Bienassis, near the gates of
Clermont. The brother and sister refer to it in this
126 Sister and Saint.
" We have nothing special to say to you unless
about the plan of your house. We know that M.
Perier is too earnest in what he undertakes to be able
to give full attention to two things at once ; and the
whole plan is so extensive that if he carry it out it
must engross his thoughts for a long time So
we have advised him to build on a more moderate
scale, and only that which is absolutely necessary.
.... We beg you to think seriously of this and to
second our advice, lest he should be more prudent
and take more pains in the erection of a house which
he is not obliged to rear than in the building of that
mystic tower whereof St. Augustine speaks in one of
his letters, which he is solemnly pledged to finish.
Adieu. B. P. J. P."
Then follows a postscript by Jacqueline :
" I hope soon to write about my own concerns, and
give you full particulars ; meantime, pray to God for
my success." And after that a line in her brother's,
handwriting: ''If you know any charitable souls, be-
speak their prayers for me, too." Poor Blaise ! An-
other glimpse into his troubled heart !
By her " own concerns," Jacqueline, of course,
means her plan of going into the convent. She let
slip no opportunity of announcing her determination
to take the veil, and, though yielding literal obedi-
ence to her father in not leaving his house, she
thought it right to prove to him by her manner of
life that she was immovable in her decision. If she
could not be a nun at Port Royal, she would be a
nun at home. Her sister says :
" The difficulties she met with did not lessen her
zeal, and having renounced the world in heart, she
no longer took the same delight as formerly in
amusements. So that, although for a while she con-
cealed her intention of devoting herself to God, it
was easily perceived, and she then withdrew from
society and broke off suddenly from all her acquaint-
ance. For this a favorable opportunity was offered
by my father's changing his residence. She made no
acquaintances in her new neighborhood, and escaped
from her old ones by never visiting them. Thus she
found herself at liberty to live in solitude, which be-
came so pleasant to her that she gradually retired
even from the family circle, and sometimes spent the
whole day alone in her chamber. It is impossible to
say how she employed herself in this perfect soli-
tude, but each day it could be perceived that she was
visibly growing in grace."
Her determination was not without its effect on
her father. Madame Perier says again :
" My father was well persuaded that she ,had
chosen the better part, and parental tenderness alone
made him oppose her project. Finding, therefore,
that each day only strengthened her resolve, he told
her that he saw plainly the world had no interest for
128 Sister and Saint.
her, that he fully approved her design and would
promise never to listen to any proposals for her set-
tlement in marriage, however advantageous, but that
he begged of her not to leave him, that his life would
not be very long, and that if she would only be
patient till its close, he would allow her to live as she
chose at home. She thanked him, but made no posi-
tive answer to his entreaty that she would not leave
him, promising, however, that he should never have
any reason to complain of her disobedience."
Some time after she had entered on this way of
life, the father, brother, and sister made a visit to-
gether at Clermont.
" She greatly dreaded this journey," says Madame
Perier, "because of the influx of relatives and com-
pany to which one is exposed in a little country
town, and accordingly she wrote me that in order to
avoid this probable embarrassment, she thought I
had better publicly announce her determination, to
take the veil, and that her profession was only de-
ferred out of respect for my father's wishes. I did
not fail to fulfill my commission, and it succeeded so
well that on her arrival no one was surprised to see
her dressed like an old woman, with great simplicity,
nor that after having returned the first calls of civil-
ity, she shut herself up, not merely in the house, but
in her room, which she left only to go to church or
to take her meals, and into which none ever intruded.
So that even in my own case, if I had anything to
tell her, I used to make a little memorandum or some
kind of mark, that I might remember it when she
came to table or on our way to church, whither we
always went together. This was my best opportunity
of speaking to her, though very short, as we had not
far to go. Not that she forbade me or any one else
to enter her room, nor that she refused to listen, but
that we saw whenever her thoughts were called off
in order to talk on subjects not absolutely necessary,
it evidently tired and wearied her so much that we
tried to avoid giving her the annoyance."
This was the state of things in the family for the
next three years, while M. Pascal appears to have
been vibrating between Paris, Rouen, and Clermont,
and Blaise was fulfilling, as best he could, that wise
prescription of the doctors, to think of nothing, have
no cares, and lead a" happy life.
PORT ROYAL AND THE MfeRE
PORT ROYAL AND THE M^RE ANG^LIQUE.
.^P^ORT ROYAL is another of those charmed
I ^ names of history. And it is worth noticing
that its charm is simply the pure halo of good-
ness â€” goodness so thorough and direct that the world
has called it heroism.
No famous battles, visible to the eye of flesh, were
ever fought in that narrow valley of Chevreuse, and
few stirring events took place there till the very last
years of the convent's five centuries of life.
Neither is tljere anything imposing or strikingly
beautiful in the natural features of the place. The
nuns came to love it as we all love our homes, and
some c'f them, in their letters affectionately refer to
the peaceful, church-like vale, with its walls of wooded
hills and its high, blue, starry roof.
But Madame de Sevigne, who looked at it through
quite other, though not unfriendly, eyes, speaks of it
as " un desert .affreux." And in reality it was an ill-
T34 Sister and Saint.
drained (rather an un-drained), marshy spot, full of
confined and noxious airs, and owing its very name to
the corrupt Latin word porra, which means " a hol-
low, overgrown with brambles, containing stagnant
This valley, the site of the original convent, known
as Port Royal des Champs, lies about eighteen miles
from Paris, on the road between Versailles and Chev-
reuse. From the restored splendors of Louis Four-
teenth's court one may drive in about an hour to this
neglected spot. There, a recent visitor tells us, " noth-
ing of interest remains to-day but a ruined fragment
of wall to which has been built a rough, shed-like
structure, surmounted by a wooden cross." Under
this shelter there have been collected a few portraits,
among them those of Agnes Arnauld, Jansen, St.
Cyran, Racine, and Pascal.
The history of Port Royal, from its foundation in
1208 till the close of the sixteenth century, does not
concern us. It is but the common and painful stoiy