Grandmas Story

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Grandma was born into a Catholic French family in 1870. She was christened Rose Louise. Her family were poor and already had nine children. When the Sisters from a nearby convent offered to take the child, her family were greatly relieved.

Rose Louise was something of a miracle child, born when her mother was nearing fifty she seemed destined for the Church.

Rose had a sweet and gentle nature and was never happier than when she was in charge of the convent orphans. She never questioned her destiny and at sixteen she took her first vows.

As a postulate nun her hair was hidden by the veil but although she knew vanity to be a sin she dreaded the day her beautiful hair would be snaved off. Perhaps, she thought, by the time she was eighteen she would have outgrown this childish vanity.

Each morning Rose Louise, Sister Therese and Sister Marie walked the crocodile of children through the streets to the school. The babies were convent taught but from seven years of age the9attended school along with the local children. The school was about a kilometre away from the convent.

Each morninig the orderly black and white crocodile drew to one side while a small contingent of soldiers marched by. The girls folded their hands on their starched white pinafores, their black dresses touching the outer convent wall. All dropped their eyes- at least all but one very wayward child;

"Sister Rose did you see that soldier's moustache?" she demanded. "It was brignt red."

Caught unawares, for one second, Rose-Louise lifted her eyes and met a pair of the bluest eyes she had ever seen.

The handsome young heutenent smiled as he passed and Rose-Louise's heart hammered in her breast.

Of course she would make confession, she told herself, and ask for penance. Butt when the time came she could not. How could she? For by then she had met the eyes of her dashing young soldier twice more. Instead she made a confident of Sister Marie who was elderly and very wise.

"Better to tend tne garden instead of taking your reading hour. This penance may bring peace to your heart" Sister Marie advised.

Little did sne guess where this penance would lead.

It was with mixed feelings tnat Rose Louise undertook her penance for although she did not mind the gardening too much, for weeds distressed her orderly mind, she missed her reading hour. She loved to read. The stories of the saints and their sacrifices for the love of Jesus held her spell bound.

Whilst gardening unbidden thougnts of Jeanne D'Arc came to her mind and with them the face of a soldier. Was she having a vision or was that a face smiling at her over the convent wall?

"I must speak with you." he wnispered urgently.

"Indeed sir, you must not." she hastily replied. And yet she did not turn away.

"Tomorrow, on your way back with les enfants linger by the bake-house. I will join you, please." he added as he dropped from signt.

Rose Louise felt the red flush of her cneeks, heard the wayward heart beating in her breast and wondered 'was this tne devil tempting her?'

By the bake-house the followinb day, a small ragged urchin ran full tilt into Rose Louise, fell on the cobbled road and cried piteously, clinging to her long skirts. She was obliged to stop and give comfort.

The child lived a street away, it would be uncharitable not to take him. On this Sister Marie agreed.

As they turned the corner they met the blue eyed soldier.

"I will escort you," he insisted. "You should not walk here unattended."

The urchin left Rose Louise's side and tugged the hand of Marie and whilst her back was turned the young soldier took Rose Louise's hands and raised them to nis lips, kissing them passionately.

Rose Louise should nave fainted, but did not, for althougn her body was slight, it was strong.

"Tomorrow," he said as he took his farewell.

"Mother Superior wishes to see you." Sister Marie told her as they left the long table where they had eaten yesterday's croissants, supplied free by the bakery down the road.

Rose Louise started, the colour stained her cheeks and then receded leaving her white and trembling.

"I have said nothing," Sister Marie answered the question in her eyes. "you must make your own confession." her voice was grave and her old eyes troubled.

The corridor to Mother Superior's room was cold and full of snadows. Rose Louise heard the extra loud echo of her boots on the rough stone floor almost muffling the beat of her heart. She reached the door all too soon.

Mother Superior was not alone. With her was Father Paul.

"Have you something to tell us child?" Mother Superior's voice was sweet and sad.

Rose Louise hung her head. "I wanted to tell you but I did not kwow how" she faltered.

"What do you wish to tell us?" Father Paul's voice was stern.

"I am not fit to be a nun," sne whispered.

"Do you love this man?" Father Paul tapped a letter he held in his hand.

Rose Louise lifted her face and looked at him bewildered... "I don"t know," she stammered, "I only know I cannot take my trial vow."

"You must go into seclusion until your future is decided. Lieutenant Jean Brutah is of a good family but he is not of the faith."

A gasp of dismay escaped her lips.

"Ah! You did not know? Go now. I will speak witn you later. Pray child, pray."

For tnree weeks Rose Louise prayed, alone and with father Paul. For three more weeks she received instruction on the perils of mixed marr1ages.

It was her father who accepted her suitor. If there was to be no place for her in the convent sne must marry, for he could not keep her.

Jean was now allowed to walk witn her each day in the grounds of tne convent. Sister Marie followed a few paces behind. Jean too was taking instruction on the faith and although he would never be converted he agreed to the conditions laid down for a mixed marriage. He would bring up the children in the faith. His wife and children would attend regular mass. he would not make any demands upon his wife not allowed by her Church.

All it seemed would be well until Jean was not there at the appointed hour. Sister Therese came hurrying towards tne two nuns and drew Sister Marie aside. Rose Louise could not hear what was said and for a moment she feared him dead, for what else could keep him from her side?

"You are to return to seclusion," Sister Marie told her. "Father Paul will come to you."

"What is it? Has Jean met with an accident?" Rose Louise cried out in alarm. Until that moment she had not known what her feelings for her handsome soldier were but now, suddenly, she knew she could not face life without him

The seclusion cell was cold, the iron bedstead hard and uninviting. She felt the ice in ner veins. She was being punished, but for what?

Father Paul came and questioned her over and over again. Had she ever been alone with Jean? Had he touohed her body? She was bewildered by his questioning - what had happened to put an end to her happiness?

At last Father Paul left the cell and Mother Superior came in with a stranger. "This is Sister Aloise, she will examine you."

No explanation was given for the examination which was of the most intimate kind.

"When you have composed yourself you will come to my room," the Reverend Mother instructed. Her gown swished the floor as she left.

It was some time before Rose Louise gained sufficient control to present nerself to Motner Superior. Her reddened eyes and swollen cheeks betrayed how deeply disturbed she was.

Father Paul had his back towards her. "You must give him up, he is an evil man." he said.

She felt the blow like a knife in her stomach. "Evil?" What has he done?"

'It is not for you to question the Father, Reverend Mother chided. "Can you not accept our judgement?"

She knew then that questioning would be useless. Perhaps Sister Marie would reveal the truth to her.

"What is to nappen to me," she asked, her voice trembling.

"We will find a good family to take you in. You must serve them well and pray the Lord to keep you safe. Go back to the cell. Sister Marie will bring your valise."

For several days Rose Louise saw no one but Sister Marie who swore sne knew nothing of the events which had led to the rejection o£ Jean Brutah.

Sister, as you love me, promise me you will let Jean know I have not willingly deserted him."

Sister Marie drew her breath. "I cannot promise any such thing. If this man is evil."

"He is not evil," Rose Louise sobbed. "How can you say such a thing to me?"

So great was Rose Louise's misery she could not eat. For two days not a morsel passed her lips. The tender hearted Sister Marie could bear her suffering no longer, £or hadn't she tended this child from an infant? How could she stand by and see her so unhappy?

"Eat and I will give your message to your soldier. Mother o£ Jesus forgive me," she added, as she crossed her breast.

The charrette was to take ner to Ville de Saint-Quentin where she was to serve as maid of all work to a farming family. She sat on the bare boards jolted and bruised by the ruts in the dusty road. She paid little attention to the voiture approaching in a cloud of dust. Her misery drowned any natural curiosity she might have had.

The carriage drew up beside them, slowing almost to a halt when a man jumped out and before she could protest he had lifted her bodily from the cart and swept her into the carriage which then carreered forward with all speed.

"Do not be afraid," the man said. "I am taking you to Jean."

"Blessed Mary be praised," Rose Louise said, her hands clasped in prayer.

Jean did not tell her why he had been banished and it was not for her to question her husband to be.

They were married by the state but without the blessing of the Church. Rose Louise knew the enormity of the step she took and soon she was to learn of the secret in Jean's life.

As they left the mairie they were met by a shower, not of rice but o£ stones.

Jean picked her up in his arms and ran to the waiting carriage. The jeers and stones delivered by the painted harlots speeded them on there way.

Only now did Jean reveal to her the events that had caused them such trouble.

As was quite normal for a young and healthy soldier Jean had been a customer of one of the maison close. But not so usually he had become attached to one particular girl and had contracted for her release. He had intended to set up a home with her but when he met Rose Louise he had lost interest in the other girl and had broken his contract. The girl and her companions in vice, were incensed by his betrayal and had sought revenge, first by approaching the convent and secondly by stoning the newly wed couple.

Rose Louise was not unduly shocked by this revelation. She had not beem so cut off from her own family that she was not aware of the ways of men. Indeed, had not her own father taken a mistress after her birth when her mother had become so frail? It was, she knew, a wife's duty to so please her husband so that he would not need to turn to other women for comfort. Had Jean accepted the Catnolic faith and confessed and repented all would have been forgiven.

In her prayers, that night Rose Louise remembered the other unhappy girl and asked !he Blessed Virgin to comfort and guide her.

Jean resigned his commision from the army and his father supported them both in a small house in Calais while Jean learned the trade o£ lace designer.

They were very happy throughout their lives. Eventually, through the intermediation a grand-daughter, Rose Louise received a Papal pardon.

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Joan Mary Fulford
Fulord Consulting Ltd
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Clifford W Fulford
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