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THE LAST EFFORT OF CONSCIENCE.

119

I awoke in affright; but, recovering, the remembrance of the poor girl saddened my soul.”

“ Poor Lucille! Will you not perform your promise, and tell me that episode of your life ?”

“I will, my friend; but I wish I could see my way through the interpretation of that dream. I certainly was thinking of Lucille when I retired. Dreams are but waking thoughts reproduced; and yet, though perfectly convinced of the cause, how comes it that I cannot shake off the effectmy painful foreboding ?"

“ I have heard it remarked that the anxiety produced by dreams may be the last effort of conscience."

“Much obliged for the hint, my friend; perhaps I shall profit by it. But to the episode.

“I am now eight-and-thirty; the last eighteen years of my life have been spent in one determined effort to wrench my heart from the sweetest memory that the heart can cherish. Alas! 't was a bitter thing to see the brightest hope of my soul vanish for ever, at the very moment the certainty of possession seemed most certain. An infernal Jesuit was the wretch appointed to scorch my heart to its present ashes !”

“ Christophe Bramand ?- The same.

I have avenged myself. I have made revenge the study of my life.

life. I have succeeded : but my wretchedness—my inner wretchedness my heart's desolation that agony which prompts so many disguises for its pangs—striving to prove a falsehood- the so-called pleasure of revenge

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THE EFFECTS OF SECLUSION.

-that agony is eternal—for ever increasing: it does not, cannot diminish!

At the age of twenty, I left — the celebrated college of the Jesuits.

“ Secluded as I had been from the grosser temptations of the world, I left the Jesuits in possession of what is called “innocence;' that is, the ripeness of the heart just about to be culled by temptation. For, in that seclusion, how often and ardently was my curiosity excited; how my mind was tormented with the desire to know the meaning of certain allusions so delicately worded, hints so finely insinuated by my father-confessor in the confessional. Many of his questions I remember to this day; the more keenly, because I soon learnt their import when I entered the world, and had ceased to be innocent.' The discovery was most gratifying. Of course I feel obliged to that seclusion, for checking my passions at a time when to have indulged them would have nipped their sweetest pleasure-buds ere they reached maturity. But to most men that seclusion—that very seclusion is utter destruction. You understand

me.

“ The Jesuits trained me from my twelfth to my twentieth year. I strove to do them credit. I made a figure in their public exhibitions—those cunning nets of the wily fishermen. I learnt their celestial morality, and, following their example, I strove to attain perfection in human arts as well. I have found both immensely useful in accomplishing my revenge. Pious aspirations often succeed with wo

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men, when profane whispers produce hysterics. You'll understand my meaning by-and-by.

“I did not become a Jesuit, though the pious thought did occur to me; in fact, I was ' moved towards that 'vocation' by more than one of the confraternity. What a preacher you would make!' • What an apostle!' Read the life of Holy Father Ignatius !' You resemble St. Francis Xavierthe same destiny is offered to you!' Such were the flattering hints that once or twice gave me an extraordinary fit of devotion. But I was constantly dreaming of the beautiful world. I had formed theories to myself. I longed to apply them.

“I left the fathers. They wept-I wept : but I had more reason to weep afterwards.

“Oh! how beautiful the visions of bliss that filled my soul when I returned to my home! Blessed with the approving eyes and impassioned greetings of a father; blessed with the gentle caresses of a mother-her calm, sweet look of approval; and yet the joy of that welcome was swallowed up by one whelming emotion—the sight of Lucille !

“Her beauty ravished my heart, as a new sun hurled in the path of a system of planets, with greater attraction to bear them away :-such was that angel to my mind and heart !

“ The first moment of meeting was the first moment of love. In the gushing candour of my young heart, I urged my love that very evening. Oh! I have not forgotten the artless smile with which she blessed my confession. I have not forgotten the

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AN OMINOUS SIGH.

gentle sigh and the shade of sadness that instantly succeeded. I embraced her : she smiled again, and again looked sad. I was happy ; but I could not forget that ominous sigh and sadness, which dimmed the light of my heart in its happiest moment.

Need I affirm that every successive day-nay moment, redoubled my love? How sweet it was to tell her how intensely I loved her—and see her smile--and feel the thrilling touch as she pressed my trembling hand and weptas I thought for joy at being so beloved. Ah! my friend, I lived even in the swoon of those moments; since then, I have been dead in life.

THE SECRET.

123

CHAPTER XI.

THE SAME CONTINUED.

“ My parents approved of the match. I hastened to rejoice my Lucille with the announcement-to urge the immediate completion of our bliss.

“ • Idol of my heart!' I exclaimed, thou art mine-I am thine. My parents consent; name but the day—the hour-and lead me to bliss!'

" She burst into tears.

“Grieved by such a result to my announcement, I dropped her hand and stepped back.

"How, Lucille!' I exclaimed, is it thus that you greet the tidings I bring?'

“Oh, reproach me not. I am wretched enough. Oh! why was I born ?'

“She fell on my breast, and pressed my hand to her lips, uttering, amid sobbings, and convulsively, these words :—* They wish to marry me to another. I detest him ; but they have forced me to promise. Oh! do not frown on me so ? You I would marry -you only

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