« 上一頁繼續 »
and when he had finished his short narrative, he began to ply him with questions much to this purpose:"Whence originates the Bible?"
"By whom was it written?"
"What is its age?"
"In what language was it first composed?"
"In whose hands has it been from the time it was first put together, till it was spread abroad in the world?" "On what subjects does it treat?"
"How can it make us better?"
To all these questions the baron answered methodically.
"The Bible," said he, "consists of a number of volumes, written in different ages of the world by holy men; the words and matter of each book having been inspired into the minds of these persons by the Holy Spirit of God.
"Some of these books were written by men who lived above 3000 years ago, and others at different times, until the last was completed by St. John, who had been the beloved companion of our Saviour on earth, and survived him about fifty years.
"The several books of the Bible are divided into two parts, namely, the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament was written in one of the most ancient of languages, namely, Hebrew; and the New in a language spoken at that time over a great part of the earth, called Greek. The Bible has been translated into all languages; and thus has been in the hands of almost every civilized nation under the sun, from the time of our Saviour to the present day.
"The Bible also gives us a history of the creation of the world; of the destruction of the world by the flood; and of the church of God, from the beginning of time until the coming of our Lord. It also gives us an account of the birth, the life, and the death of our Lord, and of his resurrection from the grave, and ascension into heaven.
"It is also full of wonderful prophecies, some as old almost as the world itself; some of which are already fulfilled, some are daily fulfilling in the view of the faithful at the present time, and others remain to be fulfilled in the last days.
"Moreover, the Bible teaches us all that is needful
for us to know of the nature of God, and of all that he has done for our salvation. It shows us, what we never could understand by mere human reason, how we are lost and undone by sin, and how we may be saved and recovered from our lost estate through the death and merits of the Lord our Christ, and be restored to our original holiness by the power of the Lord the Spirit.
"In short, this holy book contains the sum of all di、 vine and human wisdom, and from beginning to end abounds with proofs of the love of God for his creatures."
The baron having thus answered all the queries of his grandson, ceased to speak; and Florentin, looking upon the sacred volume, which he still held in his hand, said; "Would it be possible, monsieur, do you think, for me to obtain a copy of this book?" at the same moment he put his hand into his pocket, and drew out a small leather bag, containing a crown and a few coppers, being his whole stock of money. He perhaps had some idea, by this action, that the person whom he took for a peasant might be tempted to sell his Bible; yet he was evidently afraid to make the proposal, though he held his bag for a while in his hand.
The baron saw all this, and, having considered a moment how to procure for the young man that which he saw he so earnestly desired, said to him; "I think it will be in my power, my young friend, to procure you a copy of the Scriptures in a few days, if you desire to possess it."
Florentin thanked the stranger with strong marks of gratitude; and now no longer scrupled to offer his bag and its contents.
The stranger refused the bag, saying, it would at least be time enough to think of payment when the book was procured.
The sun was now beginning to dip his golden beams behind the western skirts of the forest. Florentin arose, and, taking Lucie by the hand, invited the stranger to accompany them to their cottage; offering him such a supper and such a lodging as the place would afford.
The baron hesitated: he was unwilling to lose sight of this interesting brother and sister before he had ascertained who they were; and he at the same time feared lest they should take him to some place where he might be recognised before he wished to be so; for,
until he had received the answer of his friend, he did not know whether he was to be considered as a criminal in his native country, or be allowed to repossess some parts of the estates and honours of his ancestors.
"Is your cottage far from this place ?" said the baron. "A very little way," replied Florentin; "near the head of yonder brook."
The baron recollected the place: it was the little banqueting-house which he had often visited with his guests in the days of youthful gayety: he remembered, also, that Agnace du Bois had occupied it when he left the country; and he judged that it would be best for him to decline the invitation.
He therefore told Florentin that he must now part from them: "To-morrow," he said, "I go to a neighbouring town, and shall have an opportunity to procure you the book you require; but in two days more I shall return, and you shall hear of me in this place or at your cottage.
"But in the mean time," he added, "grant me this favour do not mention the stranger whom you have seen to-day, to any one, till you see me again."
Florentin instantly made the promise the baron required, and also undertook to guaranty the silence of Lucie: which being done, they parted; Lucie and Florentin leading the cow down the steep bank and over the wooden bridge, while the baron stood gazing on them with eyes not free from tears, till the little group was lost in the shade of the dark woods.
Florentin and Lucie being no longer within view of the baron, he lifted up his eyes and heart in prayer. Nature worked powerfully within him, and his feelings induced him to exclaim, "Oh that I might find these to be my children, and that I might have a home to offer them!" But religion, still more powerful than nature in the breast of the baron, enabled him also to add these words: "O Lord! thy will be done. Do with me, O my God, that which thou thinkest best."
The baron returned to his humble lodging, which was in a village at some small distance from the forest of Land in a line of the country in which he had been but little known. He there slept as usual; and in the mornIng walking on foot till he met with a diligence, in which he procured a place, he proceeded to the post-town, where he hoped to receive the long-expected letters. The
first day he was disappointed with respect to these letters; but he was enabled, though with some difficulty, to procure the Bible for Florentin.
The second day, while waiting near the place where the letters from Paris are received, he saw a chaise and post-horses drive into the town, and in a few moments the very friend from whom he expected letters sprang from the carriage and pressed him in his embraces.
"I have obtained all for you which you could possibly desire," said this gentleman: 66 you are restored, my friend, to your titles, and to the greater part of your estates. You are at liberty to return to your château, and to make your tenantry happy by the presence of their ancient lord."
The baron was for some moments unable to speak or to reflect after having received this joyful news. For a moment he seemed abstracted from the present scene, his heart being lifted up in gratitude to God, and drawn out in secret prayer for that same direction and assistance which had supported and comforted him through the long years of trial which he had endured.
The baron's friend was not a man of like sentiments with himself: he therefore could not understand his emotions on the occasion; but, following the dictates of his own feelings, he ordered four horses to be put to his carriage, and making his companion step in with him, they drove with the utmost rapidity to the forest of L
This was the day on which the baron had appointed to meet Florentin and his sister; and now that he had the prospect of recovering his patrimony, his anxiety to have his doubts removed with respect to Florentin and his sister would have been utterly overwhelming had not that strength of mind which religion only can give enabled him to preserve a degree of calmness and resignation of which irreligious persons, unless possessed of much natural coldness and apathy, seldom give an example on occasions of strong trial.
During the drive from the town to the forest, the baron had leisure to express his gratitude to his friend for the proofs he had given him of his zeal and kindness, which he did in a manner the most warm and affectionate.
He also made him acquainted with his adventure in the wood, and his extreme anxiety to ascertain whether
his daughter's son was living, or whether he must give up all hope of being blessed in such a son as Florentin; it was however apparent that all his desires were under such subservience to the Divine will, that he would soon be reconciled to whatever the Almighty chose to ordain.
The pious sentiments of the baron were however little understood by his companion, who having carried a point on which he felt himself much interested, was resolved to enjoy his triumph in a way more suited to the ordinary feelings of mankind than that which his more pious companion would have chosen.
It was the day of the village fête, and the hour was about five in the afternoon, when the chaise containing the baron and his friend entered the forest of LThey passed for some time beneath the shade of the woods uninterrupted; but coming nearer the village, which is near the centre of the wood, they saw the peasants assembled in groups, and preparing to dance, while fruit and cakes, and a variety of such ware as country people use, were displayed in booths and stalls beneath the trees.
The baron would have gladly passed on to the cottage of Agnace du Bois, but his friend was by no means so disposed. He ordered the carriage to stop in the midst of the crowd: he caused the door to be opened, and, springing out upon the ground, he called upon the peasants to behold and receive their ancient lord.
For a moment amazement seemed to fix every person to the spot on which he stood, and to tie every tongue in silence; but when, after a short explanation, the friend of the baron repeated the call upon the peasants to receive and acknowledge their former lord, loud shouts burst from the multitude. The name of Florentin, Baron de L, resounded from every mouth. All hailed his return, and invoked blessings upon him; and many of the old people, who remembered him best, thronged round him, welcoming him again to his home. The scene was affecting. The baron wiped his eyes, and said aloud," My old friends, may the Almighty grant that my return may really be blessed to you! But tell me where are Agnace du Bois, and the young peasants Florentin and Lucie ?".
Scarcely had the words passed the mouth of the baron, when a cry was heard of, "Make way, make way! let me pass to my lord." At the same moment,