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Jasmin: Barber, Poet, Philanthropistt by Samuel Smiles

Part 6 out of 6

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Nay, were it true, as lying rumour says,
An evil spirit ruled you o'er,
I'd rather die with you, than live bereaved days!"

When life is at its bitterest,
The voice of love aye rules us best;
Instantly rose the girl above her mortal dread,
And on the crowd advancing straight,
"Because I love Pascal, alone I'd meet my fate!
Howbeit his will is law," she said,
"Wherefore together let our souls be sped."
Then was Pascal in heav'n, and Marcel in the dust laid low;
Then Pascal sought his gallant rival, saying,
"I am more blest than thou! Forgive! thou'rt brave, I know,
Some squire[9] should follow me to death; then wilt thou not
Serve me? I have no other friend!" Marcel seemed dreaming;
And now he scowled with wrath, and now his eyes were kindling;
Terrible was the battle in his mind;
Till his eye fell on Franconnette, serene and beaming,
But with no word for him; then pale, but smilingly,
"Because it is her will," he said, "I follow thee."

Two weeks had passed away, and a strange nuptial train,
Adown the verdant hill went slowly to the plain;
First came the comely pair we know, in all their bloom,
While gathered far and wide, three deep on either side,
The ever-curious rustics hied,
Shudd'ring at heart o'er Pascal's doom.
Marcel conducts their march, but pleasures kindly true,
Glows not upon th' unmoving face he lifts to view.
And something glances from his eye,
That makes men shudder as they pass him by;

Yet verily his mien triumphant is, at least
Sole master is he of this feast,
And gives his rival, for bouquet,
A supper and a ball to-day.
But at the dance and at the board
Alike, scarce one essayed a word;
None sung a song, none raised a jest,
For dark forebodings everyone oppressed.

And the betrothed, by love's deep rapture fascinated,
Silent and sweet, though near the fate she sad awaited,
No sound their dream dispelled, yet hand in hand did press,
Their eyes looked ever in a visioned happiness;
And so, at last, the evening fell.
But one affrighted woman straightway broke the spell;
She fell on Pascal's neck and "Fly, my son!" she cried.
"I from the Sorcerer come! Fly, fly from thy false bride
The fatal sieve[10] hath turned; thy death decree is spoken!
There's sulphur fume in bridal room, and by the same dread token,
Enter it not; for if thou liv'st thou'rt lost," she sadly said;
"And what were life to me, my son, if thou wert dead?"
Then Pascal felt his eyes were wet,
And turned away, striving to hide his face, where on
The mother shrieked, "Ingrate! but I will save thee yet.

Thou wilt not dare!"--falling before her stricken son.
"Thou shalt now o'er my body pass, even as thou goest forth!
A wife, it seems, is all; and mother nothing worth!
Unhappy that I am! "The crowd alas! their heavy tears ran down!

"Marcel," the bridegroom said, "her grief is my despair;
But love, thou knowest, 's stronger yet; indeed 'tis time to go!
Only, should I perish, let my mother be thy care."

"I can no more," cried Marcel, "thy mother's conquered here."
And then the valiant soldier from his eyelids brushed a tear.
"Take courage, Pascal, friend of mine
Thy Franconnette is good and pure.
That hideous tale was told, of dark design;
But give thy mother thanks; but for her coming, sure
This night might yet have seen my death and thine."
"What say'st thou?" "Hush! now I will tell thee all;
Thou knowest that I lov'd this maid, Pascal.
For her, like thee, I would have shed my blood;
I dreamt that I was loved again; she held me in her thrall.
Albeit my prayer was aye withstood;
Her elders promised her to me;
And so, when other suitors barr'd my way, In spite,
Saying, in love or war, one may use strategy,
I gave the wizard gold, my rival to affright,
Therefore, my chance did everything, insomuch that I said,
My treasure is already won and made.
But when, in the same breath, we two our suit made known,
And when I saw her, without turn of head,
Choose thee, to my despair, it was not to be borne.
And then I vow'd her death and thine, before the morrow morn!
I thought to lead you forth to the bridal bower ere long,
And then, the bed beside which I had mined with care,
That they might say no prince or power of th' air
Is here. That I might burn you for my wrong;
Ay, cross yourselves, thought I, for you shall surely die!
But thy mother, with her tears, has made my vengeance fly
I thought of my own, Pascal, who died so long ago.
Care thou for thine! And now fear nought from me, I trow,
Eden is coming down to earth for thee, no doubt,
But I, whom henceforth men can only hate and flout,
Will to the wars away! For in me something saith
I may recover from my rout,
Better than by a crime! Ay! by a soldier's death!"
Thus saying, Marcel vanished, loudly cheered on every side;
And then with deepening blushes the twain each other eyed,
For now the morning stars in the dark heavens shone
But now I lift my pencil suddenly.
Colours for strife and pain have I,
But for such perfect rapture--none!

And so the morning came, with softly-dawning light,
No sound, no stir as yet within the cottage white,
At Estanquet the people of the hamlets gathered were,
To wait the waking of the happy married pair.
Marcel had frankly told th' unhappy truth; Nathless,
The devil had an awful power,
And ignorance was still his dower.
Some feared for bride and bridegroom yet; and guess
At strange mischance. "In the night cries were heard,"
Others had seen some shadows on the wall, in wondrous ways.
Lives Pascal yet? None dares to dress
The spicy broth,[11] to leave beside the nuptial door;
And so another hour goes o'er.
Then floats a lovely strain of music overhead,
A sweet refrain oft heard before,
'Tis the aoubado[12] offered to the newly-wed.

So the door opes at last, and the young pair was seen,
She blushed before the folk, but friendly hand and mien,
The fragments of her garter gives,
And every woman two receives;
Then winks and words of ruth from eye and lip are passed,
And luck of proud Pascal makes envious all at last,
For the poor lads, whose hearts are healed but slightly,
Of their first fervent pain,
When they see Franconnette, blossoming rose-light brightly,
All dewy fresh, so sweet and sightly,
They cry aloud, "We'll ne'er believe a Sorcerer again!"

Footnotes to FRANCONNETTE.

[1] Blaise de Montluc, Marshal of France, was one of the
bitterest persecutors of the Hugueuots. Towards the end of the
sixteenth century, Agen was a centre of Protestantism. The town
was taken again and again by the contending religious factions.
When Montluc retook the place, in 1562, from Truelle, the
Huguenot captain, he found that the inhabitants had fled, and
there was no one to butcher (Gascogne et Languedoc, par Paul
Joanne, p. 95). Montluc made up for his disappointment by laying
waste the country between Fumel and Penne, towns to the north of
Agen, and slaying all the Huguenots--men, women, and children--on
whom he could lay his hands. He then returned to his castle of
Estillac, devoted himself to religious exercises, and "took the
sacrament," says Jasmin, "while his hands were dripping with
fraternal blood." Montluc died in 1577, and was buried in the
garden of Estillac, where a monument, the ruins of which still
exist', was erected over his remains.

[2] Jour de Dieu!

[3] Wehr-wolves, wizard wolves--loup-garou. Superstitions
respecting them are known in Brittany and the South of France.

[4] Miss Harriett W. Preston, in her article on Jasmin's
Franconnette in the Atlantic Monthly for February, 1876, says:
"The buscou, or busking, was a kind of bee, at which the young
people assembled, bringing the thread of their late spinning,
which was divided into skeins of the proper size by a broad thin
plate of steel or whalebone called a busc. The same thing, under
precisely the same name, figured in the toilets of our
grandmothers, and hence, probably, the Scotch use of the verb to
busk, or attire." Jamieson (Scottish Dictionary) says: "The term
busk is employed in a beautiful proverb which is very commonly
used in Scotland, 'A bonny bride is soon busked.'"

[5] Miss Preston says this was a custom which prevailed in
certain parts of France. It was carried by the French emigrants
to Canada, where it flourished in recent times. The Sacramental
Bread was crowned by one or more frosted or otherwise ornamented
cakes, which were reserved for the family of the Seigneur,
or other communicants of distinction.

[6] At Notre Dame de Bon Encontre, a church in the suburbs of
Agen, celebrated for its legends, its miracles, and the numerous
pilgrimages which are usually made to it in the month of May.

[7] The Angels walked in procession, and sang the Angelos at the
appropriate hours.

[8] The ancient parish church of Roquefort, whose ruins only now
remain. See text for the effects of the storm.

[9] Dounzel is the word used by Jasmin. Miss H. W. Preston says
of this passage: "There is something essentially knightly in
Pascal's cast of character, and it is singular that, at the
supreme crisis of his fate, he assumes, as if unconsciously, the
very phraseology of chivalry. 'Some squire (dounzel) should
follow me to death,' &c., and we find it altogether natural and
burning in the high-hearted smith. There are many places where
Jasmin addresses his hearers directly as 'Messieurs,' where the
context also makes it evident that the word is emphatic, that he
is distinctly conscious of addressing those who are above him in
rank, and that the proper translation is 'gentles,' or even
'masters'; yet no poet ever lived who was less of a sycophant."

[10] Low sedas (the sieve) is made of raw silk, and is used for
sifting flour. It has also a singular use in necromancy.
When one desires to know the name of the doer of an act--a theft
for instance--the sieve is made to revolve, but woe to him whose
name is spoken just as the sieve stops!

[11] An ancient practice. Lou Tourrin noubial, a highly-spiced
onion soup, was carried by the wedding guests to the bridegroom
at a late hour of the night.

[12] The aoubado--a song of early morning, corresponding to the
serenade or evening song.

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