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Nona

Nona image
Parent Issue
Day
5
Month
July
Year
1895
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

Some years a;;o I passed several weeks at a fishing vi llago on tho coast of Brittany. What a hole it was 1 But how picturesquo ! A miserable anchorage, for ten boats at the ruost, a single stony street, which I can compare to nothing better than a mouutain torrent. On top of the hill a church, a veritable gothic toy, which stood in the middle of a ceinetery from which a inagnificent view of the ocean was obtained. Finding myself in the vein for work, I lingered in this out of the way corner until the end of the month of September, which by a rare chance in rainy Finistere, was that year exceptionally mild and clear. But one cannot always compose verses and write, and a walk was iny hygiëne and my distraction. My most frequent promenade was along the beach, haring on my right the bleak and rocky cliffs and on my left the uncovered stretches of sand - an immense des-ert of suud left bare by the outgoing tide. Two or three times I had exchauged civilities with some custom house officer going his rounds, his gun slung over his shoulder. I was so regular and peaceful a promenader that the sea swallows were no longer afraid of me and hopped in front of me, leaving the print of tlieir star shaped feet in the wet sand. I walked six or eight kilometers a day and returned home with my pocketsfllled with those dainty shells which are found by burying the hand deep down in the damp pebbles. This was my favorito excursión. However, on the days wben a strong breeze was blowing and the tide was very high I abandoued the seashore, and climbing the village street I strolled along the sandy moor, or else I settled myself with a book on a bench in a corner of the cemetery, which was shelter - ed by the church tower from the west end. It. was a lovelyspot, conduciré to sadness and revery. The church tower gtood'Ottt.against thft' autumn sky.over syhich da'rfc clouds were scurrying. Crows, whose nests were in the steëple, flew out with tlieir hoarse cawing, and the shadow of their large wings glided over the scattered tombstones, aimost hidden in the grass. In the evening more than at any-otber time, the last rays of the setting sun batbing the sea as though with blood, the ragged bïanchës of the skeleton of an old apple tree silhouetted against the crirnson sky and the deep intense stillness of the wild home of the dead fiooded my soul with melanc'holy. It was on stích an evening as I have just tJescribed tbat, waiidering arbong the tprntasv manycf whióli bore under the sailor's name this möurnful legend, "Died at sea,"I rëad on a new cross the following words, which astonished and puzzled me: "Here reposes Nona Le Maguet. Died at sea Oct. 26, 1ÉPZ8, at the age of 19'." Died at sea t A young girl ! Women hardly ever go out in the fishing boats. How did this happen? "Well, monsieur," said agruff voice behind me suddenly, "you are looking at poor Nona's torub?" Iturnedaround and recognized an old sailor, with a wooden leg, whose good graces I had acquired by the aid of a few glasses of brandy, which I had given him in the taprooin at the inn. "Yes," I replied. "But I thought that you fishemeu never permitted women to go out with you. I havo even been told that they bring you misfartune. ' ' "And that is the truth, " responded the good man. "Besides, Nona never went into a boat. Vvould you like to know how the poor little one died? Well, I will teil you. "First of all, I must teil you that Pierre, her father, was a topman, like myself, and an old comrade. At Bourget, when Admiral La Rouciere raised his golden heimet on the poiut of his saber, and we flung ourselves, hatchet in hand, on the embattled houses, we marched elbow to elbow, Pierre and I, and it was he who received me in his arms when those cursed Prussians put a ball in iny thigh. That same evening in the ambulance at the fort Pierre held my hand to give me courage while the surgeou amputated my limb, and he was there at my bedside when the admiral brought me my medal. But those rascally Prussians got the best of us, and we were sent home. I, with my wooden leg, was practically helpless. But Pierre, who was uninjurcrt, hired on board a flshing smack. Very soon afterward his wife died from an intermittent fever, leaving hirn the care of little Nona, who was going on 10 years of age. "Naturally while the widówerwas at sea it was I, his comrade, I, the old bachelor, who cared for the little one. She was a good and pretty child, monsieur; courageons and sweet tempered. We very often went to the rocks at low tide to gather turtles, shrimps, prawn, and sometimes we were fortúnate enough to find a lobster. Ah, but we were good f riends ! "This went on for about two years. Nona had made her first communion, grown and shot up like a thistle in the sand. But one day thev Amelia, Le Maguet's boat, was overtaken in a storm and wrecked. The skipper did not haul in his sail soon enough, and the boat 8trnck on that reef you can see over there - just a little more to the starboard. Thera were f onr men in the crew - the skipper, two sailors and my poor Pierre. But the sea ouly gave up three of the drowned men aud retained my oomráde. Nona became au orphan. It goes without saying that I did my best to replace her father. But the child, even alter the first sorrow passed away, did not seeru to console herself. And do yon Unow why, monsieur? Becanse of au idea all the wcfoaen around here have They believe that a soul must remain in p;iiu unto the judgment lay unless it reposes in consecrated gronnd. We men do not bolieve in all this nonsense when we know what happens when there is a death on board ship. But Nona could not be forced to beiieve other than the women had taught her and cont.iuned to burn candles at all the pardons in tho ni'ihboring towns for the repose .of her father 's soul. "However, in spite of everythiug, time is a f ameras me.rchant of forgetfnlness, and Nona after a few years appeared to me to become somewhat reconciled. Besides, her grief had not preven ted her f rom growing handsomer aud taking a pride in herself, and it is uot because I loved her like a father, bnt, apon my honor, she was the freshest and prettiest young girl in the parish. We livedso happily together. We were not rieh, to be sure, but we lived, and we enjoed ourselves all the same. I had my peusion and my medal, aud then we used to go together to hunt for lobsters in the rooks. The trade is a paying one, and there is only one danger, that of being overtaken by the tide. Ah, unfortunately that was how she met her death, poor little one ! "One day when my rheumatism confined me to the house she went fishing, alone. It was just such a day as today, the sky clear, the wind high. When the rock searchers gathered together with full baskets, they perceived that Nona failed to respond to their calis. There was no possible doub. Great God, she had been delayed and surrounded by the rising tide ! She had been drowned I Ah, what a night I passed, monsienr ! At my age, yes, a hard hearted man like me, I sobbed like a woman. And the remembrance came to me of the poor child's belief that to go to heaven she must be interred in consecrated ground. Therefore as soon as the tide went down I went to the shore, and, with the others, searched for the body. "And we fouud poor Nona," continued the oíd sai lor in a trembling voice. "We found her on a rock covered with seaweed, where, knowing that she was going to die, the poor little one had prepared herself for death. Yes, monsieur, she had tied her skirts below the knees with her fichu, through modesty, and with her oíd idea npperinost hart attached herself to the seaweed by her hair.her beautifnl black hair, certain that. she would thus found and interred in consecrated And ï can say, I, who know what bravery is, that there is perhapsnot a man brave enongh to do likewise. " The old man was silent. By the last gleam of the twilight I saw two great tears rolling down his weather beaten eheeks. We descended to the village side by side in sileuce. I was profoundly touched by this simple girl's courage, who, even in the agonies of death, had retained the. modesty of her sex and the piety of her race, and bef ore me in the distant immensity, in solitudes of the and the sea, gleaanea out the beacon lights and the stars. Oh, brave men of the sea! Oh, noble Brittany ! - Froin the French of Francais Coppee For Romance.

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Subjects
Ann Arbor Argus
Old News