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the people, dividing to the right and the left, formed an avenue, through which the faithful Agnace made her way, leaning on the arm of the young Florentin, and leading Lucie by the hand.
She drew near every eye was upon her; and the peasants, who had hitherto had no idea of the family of the orphans whom Agnace had reared, heard her with astonishment utter these words, as she presented the children to her lord :
"These, my lord, are the children of your daughter: they were entrusted to me at the hour of her death, and I have reared them till now in the best way I was able. My ability indeed was small, but my affection was strong. I now deliver them to you, as to their natural parent and protector, and I desire only to be permitted to witness your happiness at a distance."
While Agnace spoke, Florentin and Lucie fell on their knees before their grandfather; and the baron, utterly overcome by the excess of his joy in finding his best hopes thus confirmed, sank almost senseless on the necks of his children.
It was some minutes before the baron recovered himself. His first motion was to lift up his eyes and united hands in expression of his gratitude to God; and it was to be remarked, that, in his address to Heaven, he particularly professed his sense of his own unworthiness, and of the free and unmerited favour of God towards him.
Having thus offered his thanks where they were first due, he turned to Agnace. He gave her his hand, and would have spoken; but his voice was interrupted, and his eyes overrunning with tears.
He then looked at his children, and broke out in the following exclamation: "Oh, my children," he said, "my Florentin and my little Lucie, what was it but nature which spoke so eloquently for you when we first met in the forest? Why did the voice of this beloved infant," he added, laying his hand on the head of the little girl, "strike to my heart, when in her infantine distress she made the woods resound with the name of Florentin?" He could say no more for a moment; his tears prevented him: neither was there any one present who was not almost equally affected.
The baron, however, was the first to recover him
self: he looked up, and having requested the attention of those around him, he thus spoke :
"My friends and my children, I take this first moment of my restoration to you and to the dwelling of my fathers, to entreat you to unite with me in humble thanks to that God whose peculiar mercies followed me through all my days of trial and affliction.
"When I formerly resided among you, I was proud, insolent, vindictive, living without God in the world; neither respecting that mode of Christian worship in which I was brought up, nor seeking to know another. In this state of mind I lived, and in this I should have assuredly died, had not the Lord met me in my mad career of sin and infidelity. He first brought me down by affliction heaped on affliction; and then, gradually dispersing the dark clouds of misery with which he had covered my whole horizon, he gradually revealed his mercies unto me.
"Through the power of his Holy Spirit, and by the instrumentality of certain poor pious persons with whom I became acquainted in my banishment, he first made me sensible of the depravity of my nature, and especially convinced me of the heinous sin of unbelief, in which I had dwelt from early infancy.
"I had been accustomed from infancy to see the visible resemblance of the Saviour hanging upon the cross. I had met this object on every occasion, and had been taught to bend my knees to it by my nurse; but it was not till the Almighty began himself to deal with me in my affliction, that I spiritually beheld the Saviour, or formed the slightest conception of what we owe to him.
"As soon, however, as our crucified Redeemer was shown to me by the power of the blessed Spirit of God, a marvellous light broke in upon my soul, and I was compelled to see all that God has done for sinful man.
"I was then made to feel my own extreme depravity, helplessness, and insufficiency, and the wonderful condescension of God the Son, who is one with God, and equal with God, in assuming man's nature, in order to become the representative of our fallen race.
"My own ingratitude to the Almighty, and that of my country and my father's house, next struck to my heart; and I earnestly prayed, that if it should please the Lord ever to restore me to that beloved country, and once again to place me in the seat of my fathers, I might do all that in me lay to lead my countrymen to that light
and joy which rendered my days of banishment and poverty a period of sweeter peace and contentment than the hours of youth and prosperity.
"O my friends," continued the baron, "it is now my most ardent desire for you, that whereas we have now found peace from our enemies, we may devote the time of rest which the Lord has given us, to seek that peace of the soul which passeth all understanding.
"And thou, my Florentin, my son," continued the venerable father, "receive this my first and best gift; receive this Bible, which I procured for you before I knew that I should have the happiness of calling you my son." Thus speaking, he held out the Bible he had brought for his grandson; and the young Florentin received it with gratitude and respect, at the same time kissing the venerable hand which offered it.
And now the cries and shouts of the people filled the air, and they led the way towards the château; the friend of the baron having thrown a purse among them, and ordered them to bring such viands as they had in hand, in order to prepare a hasty feast for the whole assembly in the ancient hall.
It is not in the nature of the people of this country to spend their joy without a song, a dance, or a fête in the open air.
Agreeably to this national humour, the woods of Lresounded for some days after the return of the baron with the voice of merriment, with the song and the violin, and the young peasants appeared with their high caps and long lappets, their short jackets and full petticoats, mixing in the dance with a grace which the court dames of another country might imitate in vain.
The baron allowed this paroxysm of gayety to pass; and then, when all things had settled in their usual routine, he set himself earnestly to consult and promote the real good of all who depended upon him.
Having recovered a considerable part of his property, he repaired his château, and furnished it in a plain and neat fashion. He established Agnace du Bois in a convenient apartment, as director of his female servants, having supplied her with such a wardrobe as suited the superintendent of an ancient family. He procured a tutor, such as a pious and intelligent Christian would desire for his grandson, and a governess of the same description for his little Lucie; and himself devoted his
time to the establishment and promotion of such works of charity and piety as he thought would tend to the improvement and happiness of those who depended upon him.
Through the interest of his friend with the government he obtained permission to adopt his grandson as the heir of his titles and estates; and he labours to direct the mind of that promising youth into those holy and blessed ways which will render him a blessing to all with whom he may hereafter have connexion.
Lucie has laid aside her blue petticoat, her coarse jacket, and her peasant's cap; but with her robe of levantin and necklace of pearls, she still retains the sweet simplicity of the little peasant of Normandy. Neither do we anticipate the loss of that simplicity, inasmuch as the lessons of piety given her by her grandfather, have, by the Divine blessing, sunk deeply into her heart.
END OF THE ORPHANS OF NORMANDY.