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A Simple Heart
by [?]

The principal amusement was the homecoming of the ships. As soon as they had passed the buoys they began to tack. Their sails dropped to two-thirds of the masts: and the foresail swelling like a balloon they came on, gliding in the plashing of the waves, to the middle of the harbour, where the anchor suddenly fell. Then the boat drew up beside the quay. The sailors threw over the edge the quivering fish; a row of carts was waiting, and women in cotton bonnets ran forward to take the baskets and embrace their men.

One of the women one day accosted Felicity, who a little while afterwards came into the room full of joy. She had refound a sister: and Nastasie Barette, wife of Leroux, appeared, holding a baby at her breast, another child clinging to her right hand, and at her left a little fellow with his fists on his hips, and his beret over one ear.

At the end of a quarter of an hour Madame Aubain dismissed her.

They were always to be met hanging about the kitchen, or on the walks they took. The husband did not show himself.

Felicity took a liking to them. She bought them bedclothes, shirts, a cooking stove; evidently they were exploiting her. This weakness irritated Madame Aubain, who, besides, didn’t like the familiarities of the nephew, for he talked to her son as to an equal; and, as Virginia had a cough, and the weather was no longer good, she returned to Pont-l’Évêque.

Monsieur Bourais gave her advice on the choice of a school. The one at Caen was considered the best. Paul was sent there, and said good-bye stoutly, pleased to go and live in a house where he would have comrades.

Madame Aubain resigned herself to the separation from her son because it was indispensable. Virginia thought of it less and less. Felicity missed the noise he made. But an occupation came along to distract her. Starting at Christmas, she took the little girl every day to Catechism.


When she had made a genuflexion at the door she walked on under the high nave between the double row of chairs, opened Madame Aubain’s pew, sat down, and looked all round her. The boys on the right, the girls on the left, filled the stalls of the choir; the priest stood near the lectern; on a stained-glass window in the apse the Holy Ghost hovering over the virgin; another showed her on her knees before the Infant Jesus, and behind the ciborium a group carved in wood represented Saint Michael subduing the dragon.

The priest gave them first a short account of Sacred History. She thought she saw Paradise, the deluge, the tower of Babel, cities in flames, peoples dying, idols overthrown; and she retained from this state of amazement respect for the Most High, and fear of His wrath. Then she wept, listening to the Passion. Why had they crucified Him, this One who loved the children, who fed the multitudes, who cured the blind, and had desired, in His gentleness, to be born amid the poor, on the dung of a stable? Seed time, harvest, the winepress, all the familiar things of which the Gospel speaks, existed in her life; the passage of Godhad sanctified them; andshe loved the lambs more tenderly for love of the Lamb of God, the doves because of the Holy Ghost.

She had trouble in imagining its shape; for it was not only a bird, but besides that, a fire, and at other times a breath. Maybe it was its light that flickered at nights on the edge of the marshes, its breath that pushed the clouds, its voice that made the bells ring sweetly; and she stayed in adoration, enjoying the freshness of the walls and the tranquillity of the church.