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friendship, became the marvel of the city where they dwelt. One was never seen without the other; for they studied, walked, ate, and slept together.
Antoine and Emile were preparing to enter the Church; indeed, they had taken the preliminary steps, when a circumstance occurred which changed the color of their lives.
A foreign lady, from some far-off island in the Pacific, had a few months before moved into their neighborhood. The lady died suddenly, leaving a girl of sixteen or seventeen entirely friendless and unprovided for. The young men had been kind to the woman during her illness, and at her death, melting with pity at the forlorn situation of Anglice, the daughter, swore between themselves to love and watch over her as if she were their sister.
Now Anglice had a wild, strange beauty that made other women seem tame beside her; and in the course of time the young men found themselves regarding their ward not so much like brothers as at first. They struggled with their destiny manfully, for the holy orders which they were about to assume precluded the idea of love.
But every day taught them to be more fond of her. So they drifted on. The weak like to temporize.
One night Emile Jardin and Anglice were not to be found. They had flown — but whither, nobody knew, and nobody, save Antoine, cared.
It was a heavy blow to Antoine — for he had half made up his mind to run away with her himself.
A strip of paper slipped from a volume on Antoine's desk, and fluttered to his feet.
“Do not be angry,” said the bit of paper, piteously; "forgive us, for we love."
Three years went by. Antoine had entered the Church, and was already looked upon as a rising man; but his face was pale and his heart leaden, for there was no sweetness in life for him.
Four years had elapsed, when a letter, covered with outlandish stamps, was brought to the young priest — a letter from Anglice. She was dying; would he forgive her? Emile, the year previous, had fallen a victim to the fever that raged on the island; and their child, little Anglice, was likely to follow him. In pitiful terms she begged Antoine to take charge of the child until she was old enough to enter a convent. The epistle was finished by another hand, informing Antoine of Madame Jardin's death; it also told him that Anglice had been placed on a vessel shortly to leave the island for some Western port.
The letter was hardly read and wept over, when little Anglice arrived. On beholding her, Antoine uttered a cry of joy and surprise — she was so like the woman he had worshiped.
As a man's tears are more pathetic than a woman's, so is his love more intense - not more enduring, or half so subtile, but more intense.
The passion that had been crowded down in his heart broke out and lavished its richness on this child, who was to him, not only the Anglice of years ago, but his friend Émile Jardin also.
Anglice possessed the wild, strange beauty of her mother — the bending, willowy form, the rich tint of
skin, the large tropical eyes, that had almost made Antoine's sacred robes a mockery to him.
For a month or two Anglice was wildly unhappy in her new home. She talked continually of the bright country where she was born, the fruits and flowers and blue skies. Antoine could not pacify her. By-and-by she ceased to weep, and went about the cottage with a dreary, disconsolate air that cut Antoine to the heart. Before the year ended, he noticed that the ruddy tinge had fled from her cheek, that her eyes had grown languid, and her slight figure more willowy than ever.
A physician was called. He could discover nothing wrong with the child, except this fading and drooping. He failed to account for that. It was some vague disease of the mind, he said, beyond his skill.
So Anglice faded day after day. She seldom left the room now. Antoine could not shut out the fact that the child was passing away. He had learned to love her so!
“Dear heart,” he said once, “what is 't ails thee?" “Nothing, mon père," for so she called him.
The winter passed, the balmy spring air had come, and Anglice seemed to revive. In her little bamboo chair, on the porch, she swayed to and fro in the fragrant breeze, with a peculiar undulating motion, like a graceful tree.
At times something seemed to weigh upon her mind. Antoine noticed it, and waited. At length she spoke.
“Near our house,” said little Anglice, “near our house, on the island, the palm trees are waving under the blue sky. Oh, how beautiful! I seem to lie beneath them all day long. I am very, very happy. I yearned
for them until I
sick don't you think so, mon père ?"
“Mon Dieu, yes!” exclaimed Antoine, suddenly. “Let us hasten to those pleasant islands where the palms are waving.”
Ay, indeed. A week from that evening the wax candles burned at her feet and forehead, lighting her on the journey.
All was over. Now was Antoine's heart empty. He had nothing to do but to lay the blighted flower away.
Père Antoine made a shallow grave in his garden, and heaped the fresh brown mould over his idol.
In the genial spring evenings the priest was seen sitting by the mound, his finger closed in the unread prayer-book.
The summer broke on that sunny land; and in the cool morning twilight, and after nightfall, Antoine lingered by the grave. He could never be with it enough.
One morning he observed a delicate stem, with two curiously shaped emerald leaves, springing up from the centre of the mound. At first he merely noticed it casually; but at length the plant grew so tall, and was so strangely unlike anything he had ever seen before, that he examined it with care.
How straight and graceful and exquisite it was! When it swung to and fro with the summer wind, in the twilight, it seemed to Antoine as if little Anglice were standing there in the garden!
The days stole by, and Antoine tended the fragile shoot, wondering what sort of blossom it would unfold,
white, or scarlet, or golden. One Sunday, a stranger, with a bronzed, weather-beaten face like a sailor's, leaned over the garden-rail, and said to him:
“What a fine young date-palm you have there, sir!” “Mon Dieu!” cried Père Antoine, “and is it a palm?”
“Yes, indeed,” returned the man. “I had no idea the tree would flourish in this climate."
“Mon Dieu !” was all the priest could say.
If Père Antoine loved the tree before, he worshiped it now. He watered it, and nurtured it, and could have clasped it in his arms. Here were Emile and Anglice and the child, all in one!
The years flew by, and the date-palm and the priest grew together — only one became vigorous and the other feeble. Père Antoine had long passed the meridian of life. The tree was in its youth. It no longer stood in an isolated garden, for homely brick and wooden houses had clustered about Antoine's cottage. They looked down scowling on the humble thatched roof. The city was edging up, trying to crowd him off his land. But he clung to it, and would n't sell. Speculators piled gold on his doorstep, and he laughed at them. Sometimes he was hungry, but he laughed none the less.
“Get thee behind me, Satan!” said the old priest's smile.
Père Antoine was very old now, scarcely able to walk; but he could sit under the pliant, caressing leaves of his tree, and there he sat until the grimmest of speculators came to him. But even in death Père Antoine was faithful to his trust. The owner of that land loses it, if he harms the date-tree.
And there it stands in the narrow, dingy street, a