A Simple Soul
After she had made a curtsey at the threshold, she would walk up the aisle between the
double lines of chairs, open Madame Aubain's pew, sit down and look around.
Girls and boys, the former on the right, the latter on the left-hand side of the church, filled
the stalls of the choir; the priest stood beside the reading-desk; on one stained window of
the side-aisle the Holy Ghost hovered over the Virgin; on another one, Mary knelt before
the Child Jesus, and behind the alter, a wooden group represented Saint Michael felling
The priest first read a condensed lesson of sacred history. Felicite evoked Paradise, the
Flood, the Tower of Babel, the blazing cities, the dying nations, the shattered idols; and
out of this she developed a great respect for the Almighty and a great fear of His wrath.
Then, when she had listened to the Passion, she wept. Why had they crucified Him who
loved little children, nourished the people, made the blind see, and who, out of humility,
had wished to be born among the poor, in a stable? The sowings, the harvests, the wine-
presses, all those familiar things which the Scriptures mention, formed a part of her life;
the word of God sanctified them; and she loved the lambs with increased tenderness for
the sake of the Lamb, and the doves because of the Holy Ghost.
She found it hard, however, to think of the latter as a person, for was it not a bird, a
flame, and sometimes only a breath? Perhaps it is its light that at night hovers over
swamps, its breath that propels the clouds, its voice that renders church-bells harmonious.
And Felicite worshipped devoutly, while enjoying the coolness and the stillness of the
As for the dogma, she could not understand it and did not even try. The priest discoursed,
the children recited, and she went to sleep, only to awaken with a start when they were
leaving the church and their wooden shoes clattered on the stone pavement.
In this way, she learned her catechism, her religious education having been neglected in
her youth; and thenceforth she imitated all Virginia's religious practices, fasted when she
did, and went to confession with her. At the Corpus-Christi Day they both decorated an
She worried in advance over Virginia's first communion. She fussed about the shoes, the
rosary, the book and the gloves. With what nervousness she helped the mother dress the
During the entire ceremony, she felt anguished. Monsieur Bourais hid part of the choir
from view, but directly in front of her, the flock of maidens, wearing white wreaths over
their lowered veils, formed a snow-white field, and she recognised her darling by the
slenderness of her neck and her devout attitude. The bell tinkled. All the heads bent and
there was a silence. Then, at the peals of the organ the singers and the worshippers struck