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The Master-Christian   By: (1855-1924)

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Karol Pietrzak, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




"Thelma," "Ardath," "Innocent," "The Treasure of Heaven," etc.


The Master Christian.


All the bells were ringing the Angelus. The sun was sinking; and from the many quaint and beautiful grey towers which crown the ancient city of Rouen, the sacred chime pealed forth melodiously, floating with sweet and variable tone far up into the warm autumnal air. Market women returning to their cottage homes after a long day's chaffering disposal of their fruit, vegetable, and flower wares in the town, paused in their slow trudge along the dusty road and crossed themselves devoutly, a bargeman, lazily gliding down the river on his flat unwieldly craft, took his pipe from his mouth, lifted his cap mechanically, and muttered more from habit than reflection "Sainte Marie, Mere de Dieu, priez pour nous!" and some children running out of school, came to a sudden standstill, listening and glancing at each other, as though silently questioning whether they should say the old church formula among themselves or no? Whether, for example, it might not be more foolish than wise to repeat it? Yes; even though there was a rumour that the Cardinal Archbishop of a certain small, half forgotten, but once historically famed Cathedral town of France had come to visit Rouen that day, a Cardinal Archbishop reputed to be so pure of heart and simple in nature, that the people of his far off and limited diocese regarded him almost as a saint, would it be right or reasonable for them, as the secularly educated children of modern Progress, to murmur an "Angelus Domini," while the bells rang? It was a doubtful point; for the school they attended was a Government one, and prayers were neither taught nor encouraged there, France having for a time put God out of her national institutions. Nevertheless, the glory of that banished Creator shone in the deepening glow of the splendid heavens, and from the silver windings of the Seine which, turning crimson in the light, looped and garlanded the time honoured old city as with festal knots of rosy ribbon, up to the trembling tops of the tall poplar trees fringing the river banks, the warm radiance palpitated with a thousand ethereal hues of soft and changeful colour, transfusing all visible things into the misty semblance of some divine dwelling of dreams. Ding dong ding dong! The last echo of the last bell died away upon the air the last words enunciated by devout priests in their cloistered seclusion were said "In hora mortis nostrae! Amen!" the market women went on their slow way homeward, the children scampered off in different directions, easily forgetful of the Old World petition they had thought of, yet left unuttered, the bargeman and his barge slipped quietly away together down the windings of the river out of sight; the silence following the clangour of the chimes was deep and impressive and the great Sun had all the heaven to himself as he went down. Through the beautiful rose window of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, he flashed his parting rays, weaving bright patterns of ruby, gold and amethyst on the worn pavement of the ancient pile which enshrines the tomb of Richard the Lion Hearted, as also that of Henry the Second, husband to Catherine de Medicis and lover of the brilliant Diane de Poitiers, and one broad beam fell purpling aslant into the curved and fretted choir chapel especially dedicated to the Virgin, there lighting up with a warm glow the famous alabaster tomb known as "Le Mourant" or "The Dying One." A strange and awesome piece of sculpture truly, is this same "Mourant"! showing, as it does with deft and almost appalling exactitude, the last convulsion of a strong man's body gripped in the death agony. No delicate delineator of shams and conventions was the artist of olden days whose ruthless chisel shaped these stretched sinews, starting veins, and swollen eyelids half closed over the tired eyes! he must have been a sculptor of truth, truth downright and relentless, truth divested of all graceful coverings, and nude as the "Dying One" thus realistically portrayed... Continue reading book >>

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