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The Man and the Moment

CHAPTER VIII
H ÉRONAC was basking in the sun of an August morning, like some huge sea monster
which had clambered upon the wet rocks.
The sea was intensely blue without a ripple upon it, and only the smallest white line
marked where its waters caressed the shore.
Nature slumbered in the heat and was silent, and Sabine Howard, the châtelaine of this
quaint château, stood looking out of the deep windows in her great sitting-room. It was a
wonderful room. She had collected dark panelling and tapestry to hide the grim stone
walls, and had managed to buy a splendidly carved and painted roof, while her sense of
color had run riot in beautiful silks for curtains. It was a remarkable achievement for one
so young, and who had begun so ignorantly. Her mother's family had been decently
enough bred, and her maternal grandfather had been a fair artist, and that remarkable
American adaptability which she had inherited from her father had helped her in many
ways. Her sitting-room at Héronac was, of course, not perfect; and to the trained eye of
Henry Fordyce would present many anomalies; but no one could deny that it was a
charming apartment, or that it was a glowing frame of rich tints for her youthful
freshness.
She had really studied in these years of her residence there, and each month put
something worth having into the storehouse of her intelligent mind. She was as
immeasurably removed from the Sabine Delburg of convent days as light from darkness,
and her companion had often been Monsieur le Curé, an enchanting Jesuit priest, who
had the care of the souls of Héronac village. A great cynic, a pure Christian and a man of
parts—a distant connection of the original family—Gaston d'Héronac had known the
world in his day; and after much sorrow had found a hermitage in his own village—a
consolation in the company of this half-French, half-American heiress, who had
incorporated herself with the soil. He was now seventy years of age and always a
gentleman, with few of the tiresome habits of the old.
What joy he had found in opening the mind of his young Dame d'Héronac!
It was frankly admitted that there were to be no discussions upon religion.
"I am a pagan, cher père," Sabine had said, almost immediately, "leave me!—and let me
enjoy your sweet church and your fisherfolks' faith. I will come there every Sunday and
say my prayers—mes prières à moi—and then we can discuss philosophy afterwards
or—what you will."
And the priest had replied:
 
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