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Pere Antoine’s Date-Palm
by [?]

“Helas, yes!” exclaimed Antoine, suddenly. “Let us hasten to those pleasant islands where the palms are waving.”

Anglice smiled.

“I am going there, mon pere.”

A week from that evening the wax candles burned at her feet and forehead, lighting her on the journey.

All was over. Now was Antoine’s heart empty. Death, like another Emile, had stolen his new Anglice. He had nothing to do but to lay the blighted flower away.

Pere Antoine made a shallow grave in his garden, and heaped the fresh brown mould over his idol.

In the tranquil spring evenings, the priest was seen sitting by the mound, his finger closed in the unread breviary.

The summer broke on that sunny land; and in the cool morning twilight, and after nightfall, Antoine lingered by the grave. He could never be with it enough.

One morning he observed a delicate stem, with two curiously shaped emerald leaves, springing up from the centre of the mound. At first he merely noticed it casually; but presently the plant grew so tall, and was so strangely unlike anything he had ever seen before, that he examined it with care.

How straight and graceful and exquisite it was! When it swung to and fro with the summer wind, in the twilight, it seemed to Antoine as if little Anglice were standing there in the garden.

The days stole by, and Antoine tended the fragile shoot, wondering what manner of blossom it would unfold, white, or scarlet, or golden. One Sunday, a stranger, with a bronzed, weather-beaten face like a sailor’s, leaned over the garden rail, and said to him,

“What a fine young date-palm you have there, sir!”

“Mon Dieu!” cried Pere Antoine starting, “and is it a palm?”

“Yes, indeed,” returned the man. “I did n’t reckon the tree would flourish in this latitude.”

“Ah, mon Dieu!” was all the priest could say aloud; but he murmured to himself, “Bon Dieu, vous m’avez donne cela!”

If Pere Antoine loved the tree before, he worshipped it now. He watered it, and nurtured it, and could have clasped it in his arms. Here were Emile and Anglice and the child, all in one!

The years glided away, and the date-palm and the priest grew together–only one became vigorous and the other feeble. Pere Antoine had long passed the meridian of life. The tree was in its youth. It no longer stood in an isolated garden; for pretentious brick and stucco houses had clustered about Antoine’s cottage. They looked down scowling on the humble thatched roof. The city was edging up, trying to crowd him off his land. But he clung to it like lichen and refused to sell.

Speculators piled gold on his doorsteps, and he laughed at them. Sometimes he was hungry, and cold, and thinly clad; but he laughed none the less.

“Get thee behind me, Satan!” said the old priest’s smile.

Pere Antoine was very old now, scarcely able to walk; but he could sit under the pliant, caressing leaves of his palm, loving it like an Arab; and there he sat till the grimmest of speculators came to him. But even in death Pere Antoine was faithful to his trust.

The owner of that land loses it if he harm the date-tree.

And there it stands in the narrow, dingy street, a beautiful, dreamy stranger, an exquisite foreign lady whose grace is a joy to the eye, the incense of whose breath makes the air enamored. May the hand wither that touches her ungently!

Because it grew from the heart of little Anglice,” said Miss Blondeau tenderly.