University of Virginia Library


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Father Francesco sat leaning his head on his hand
by the window of his cell, looking out upon the sea as it rose
and fell, with the reflections of the fast coming stars glittering
like so many jewels on its breast. The glow of evening
had almost faded, but there was a wan, tremulous light from
the moon, and a clearness produced by the reflection of such
an expanse of water, which still rendered objects in his cell
quite discernible.

In the terrible denunciations and warnings just uttered, he
had been preaching to himself, striving to bring a force on
his own soul by which he might reduce its interior rebellion
to submission; but, alas! when was ever love cast out by
fear? He knew not as yet the only remedy for such sorrow,
— that there is a love celestial and divine, of which earthly
love in its purest form is only the sacramental symbol and
emblem, and that this divine love can by God's power so
outflood human affections as to bear the soul above all
earthly idols to its only immortal rest. This great truth
rises like a rock amid stormy seas, and many is the sailor
struggling in salt and bitter waters who cannot yet believe
it is to be found. A few saints like Saint Augustin had
reached it, — but through what buffetings, what anguish!

At this moment, however, there was in the heart of the
father one of those collapses which follow the crisis of some
mortal struggle. He leaned on the window-sill, exhausted
and helpless.


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Suddenly, a kind of illusion of the senses came over him,
such as is not infrequent to sensitive natures in severe crises
of mental anguish. He thought he heard Agnes singing, as
he had sometimes heard her when he had called in his pastoral
ministrations at the little garden and paused awhile
outside that he might hear her finish a favorite hymn, which,
like a shy bird, she sung all the more sweetly for thinking
herself alone.

Quite as if they were sung in his ear, and in her very
tones, he heard the words of Saint Bernard, which we have
already introduced to our reader: —

“Jesu dulcis memoria,
Dans vera cordi gaudia:
Sed super mel et omnia
Ejus dulcis præsentia.
“Jesu, spes pœnitentibus,
Quam pius es petentibus,
Quam bonus te quærentibus,
Sed quis invenientibus!”
Soft and sweet and solemn was the illusion, as if some spirit
breathed them with a breath of tenderness over his soul;
and he threw himself with a burst of tears before the crucifix.

“O Jesus, where, then, art Thou? Why must I thus
suffer? She is not the one altogether lovely; it is Thou, —
Thou, her Creator and mine! Why, why cannot I find
Thee? Oh, take from my heart all other love but Thine

Yet even this very prayer, this very hymn, were blent
with the remembrance of Agnes; for was it not she who first
had taught him the lesson of heavenly love? Was not she
the first one who had taught him to look upward to Jesus


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other than as an avenging judge? Michel Angelo has
embodied in a fearful painting, which now deforms the Sistine
Chapel, that image of stormy vengeance which a religion
debased by force and fear had substituted for the
tender, good shepherd of earlier Christianity. It was only
in the heart of a lowly maiden that Christ had been made
manifest to the eye of the monk, as of old he was revealed
to the world through a virgin. And how could he, then,
forget her, or cease to love her, when every prayer and
hymn, every sacred round of the ladder by which he must
climb, was so full of memorials of her? While crying and
panting for the supreme, the divine, the invisible love, he
found his heart still craving the visible one, — the one so
well known, revealing itself to the senses, and bringing with
it the certainty of visible companionship.

As he was thus kneeling and wrestling with himself, a
sudden knock at his door startled him. He had made it a
point, never, at any hour of the day or night, to deny himself
to a brother who sought him for counsel, however disagreeable
the person and however unreasonable the visit.
He therefore rose and unbolted the door, and saw Father
Johannes standing with folded arms and downcast head, in
an attitude of composed humility.

“What would you with me, brother?” he asked, calmly.

“My father, I have a wrestling of mind for one of our
brethren whose case I would present to you.”

“Come in, my brother,” said the Superior. At the same
time he lighted a little iron lamp, of antique form, such as
are still in common use in that region, and seating himself
on the board which served for his couch, made a motion to
Father Johannes to be seated also.

The latter sat down, eying, as he did so, the whole interior


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of the apartment, so far as it was revealed by the glimmer
of the taper.

“Well, my son,” said Father Francesco, “what is it?”

“I have my doubts of the spiritual safety of Brother Bernard,”
said Father Johannes.

“Wherefore?” asked the Superior, briefly.

“Holy father, you are aware of the history of the brother,
and of the worldly affliction that drove him to this blessed

“I am,” replied the Superior, with the same brevity.

“He narrated it to me fully,” said Father Johannes.
“The maiden he was betrothed to was married to another
in his absence on a long journey, being craftily made to suppose
him dead.”

“I tell you I know the circumstances,” said the Superior.

“I merely recalled them, because, moved doubtless by
your sermon, he dropped words to me to-night which led me
to suppose that this sinful, earthly love was not yet extirpated
from his soul. Of late the woman was sick and nigh
unto death, and sent for him.”

“But he did not go?” interposed Father Francesco.

“No, he did not, — grace was given him thus far, — but
he dropped words to me to the effect, that in secret he still
cherished the love of this woman; and the awful words
your Reverence has been speaking to us to-night have
moved me with fear for the youth's soul, of the which I, as
an elder brother, have had some charge, and I came to consult
with you as to what help there might be for him.”

Father Francesco turned away his head a moment and
there was a pause; at last he said, in a tone that seemed
like the throb of some deep, interior anguish, —

“The Lord help him!”


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“Amen!” said Father Johannes, taking keen note of the
apparent emotion.

“You must have experience in these matters, my father,”
he added, after a pause, — “so many hearts have been laid
open to you. I would crave to know of you what you think
is the safest and most certain cure for this love of woman, if
once it hath got possession of the heart.”

Death!” said Father Francesco, after a solemn pause.

“I do not understand you,” said Father Johannes.

“My son,” said Father Francesco, rising up with an air
of authority, “you do not understand, — there is nothing in
you by which you should understand. This unhappy brother
hath opened his case to me, and I have counselled him all I
know of prayer and fastings and watchings and mortifications.
Let him persevere in the same; and if all these fail,
the good Lord will send the other in His own time. There
is an end to all things in this life, and that end shall certainly
come at last. Bid him persevere and hope in this. — And
now, brother,” added the Superior, with dignity, “if you
have no other query, time flies and eternity comes on, —
go, watch and pray, and leave me to my prayers, also.”

He raised his hand with a gesture of benediction, and
Father Johannes, awed in spite of himself, felt impelled to
leave the apartment.

“Is it so, or is it not?” he said. “I cannot tell. He did
seem to wince and turn away his head when I proposed the
case; but then he made fight at last. I cannot tell whether
I have got any advantage or not; but patience! we shall