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CHAPTER XVI.

MISS ST. YVES CONSULTS A JESUIT.


No sooner was the beautiful and disconsolate Miss St. Yves with her holy confessor than she told him that "a powerful, voluptuous man had proposed to her to set at liberty the man whom she intended making her lawful husband, and that he required a great price for his service; that she held such infidelity in the highest detestation, and that if her life only had been required she would much sooner have sacrificed it than to have submitted."

"This is a most abominable sinner," said Father Tout-a-tous. "You should tell me the name of this vile man. He must certainly be some Jansenist. I will inform against him to his reverence, Father de la Chaise, who will place him in the situation of your dear beloved intended bridegroom."

The poor girl, after much hesitation and embarrassment, at length mentioned St. Pouange.

"My lord St. Pouange!" cried the Jesuit, "ah! my child, the case is quite different. He is cousin to the greatest minister we have ever had; a man of worth, a protector of the good cause, a good Christian. He could not entertain such a thought. You certainly must have misunderstood him."

"Oh! father, I did but understand him too well. I am lost on whichever side I turn. The only alternative I have to choose is misery or shame; either my lover must be buried alive, or I must make myself unworthy of living. I cannot let him perish, nor can I save him."

Father Tout-a-tous endeavored to console her with these gentle expressions:

"In the first place, my child, never use the word 'lover.' It intimates something worldly, which may offend God. Say 'my husband.' You consider him as such, and nothing can be more decent.

"Secondly: Though he be ideally your husband, and you are in hopes he will be such eventually, yet he is not so in reality; consequently you are still free and the mistress of your own conduct.

"Thirdly: Actions are not maliciously culpable when the intention is virtuous; and nothing can be more virtuous than to procure your husband his liberty.

"Fourthly: You have examples in holy antiquity that miraculously serve you for a guide. St. Augustine relates that under the proconsulate of Septimius Acyndius, in the thirty-fourth year of our salvation, a poor man could not pay unto Cæsar what belonged to Cæsar, and was justly condemned to die, notwithstanding the maxim, 'Where there is nothing the king must lose his right.' The object in question was a pound of gold. The culprit had a wife in whom God had united beauty and prudence.

"You may assure yourself, my child, that when a Jesuit quotes St. Augustine, that saint must certainly have been in the right. I advise you to nothing. You are prudent, and it is to be presumed that you will do your husband a service. My lord St. Pouange is an honest man. He will not deceive you. This is all I can say. I will pray to God for you, and I hope everything will take place for His glory."

The beautiful Miss St. Yves, who was no less terrified with the Jesuit's discourse than with the proposals of the deputy minister, returned in despair to her friend. She was tempted to deliver herself by death from the horror of her situation.