The Sybil's Prediction by Rev. Horatio Alger, Jr.
Author: Alger, Horatio, 1832-1899.
Title: The Sybil's Prediction.
In: Gleason's Literary Companion. Boston : F. Gleason. Vol. 6, no. 46 (November 18, 1865)
Format: 4 columns ; 28 cm.
Horatio Alger Collection.
Other Title: Gleason's Literary Companion
Location: AP 2 .L546a (Special Collections)
Optically scanned and encoded by Mark A. Williams
Horatio Alger Digital Serials Project, Northern llinois University Libraries
La Vinette is a beautiful village. You might search through France, and hardly find a prettier. How indeed could it be otherwise, with its fruitful vineyards, its substantial white farm houses, and its streets lined on either side with varieties of fruit trees? Everything looks so comfortable and homelike, so expressive of peaceful plenty, that it is no wonder that the traveller, as he passes through the village, permits his eye to rest with pleasure upon its neat appearance, and exclaims, "Surely, it is a little paradise!"
After all, I have not named its chief recommendation. No where will you find prettier maidens than those of La Vinette. To be sure, they are not high born, nor versed in the elegant accomplishments, since there is not one amongst them of higher rank than a farmer's daughter. Fortunately, however, beauty and high birth are not always inseparable, nor do they always go together. At least, there is many a countess who would count no price too great by which she might purchase the charms of Marie Maillard, who outshone all the other maidens of La Vinette as the sun does the stars. For all that, Marie was a great favorite with all her companions. Unconscious of her own superiority, she did not obtrude it offensively upon others.
One afternoon it chanced that Marie and several of her companions were returning merrily from the vineyard whither they had been to estimate the probable amount of the coming vintage. All at once, one of them espied in the road an old woman, walking along the road by the help of a staff which she held in her right hand. She turned towards them, and awaited their coming.
"What can we do for you, good mother?" inquired Marie.
"Cross my hand with a silver piece, my pretty maid, and I will tell you your fortune."
"You are a sybil, then!"
"You may call me so. It is given to me to see ere they arrive, the chances which fortune may have in store."
They looked at her with growing reverence, despite her tattered garments and unprepossessing face, but none spoke at first. However much one may wish to know what is to happen to him or her, he cannot avoid feeling a little reluctanceâ€”a little disposition to defer the eventful moment.
"Here, mother," at length said Lizette, one of the gayest of the party, holding out her hand to the old crone, "you may tell me my fortune. But I must tell you beforehand, that you need not take the trouble to provide me with a husband, as I have vowed to be an old maid."
The sybil took the hand of the laughing maiden, and, after a single glance, fixed her penetrating eyes upon her. "I see," she said slowly, "a bridal train marching slowly to the village church. Flowers are strewn along the way, over which pass the bridal pair. Need I mention the name of the bride?"
Lizette drew back with a blush; the sybil was right, for on that day week she was to stand at the altar. Another took her place, and still another, till Marie alone remained.
"Come, Marie," said the girls, impatiently; "don't keep us waiting. We want to know what your fortune will be. It should be a good one."
Marie came forward and submitted her hand to the interpreter of fate. The sybil started, as if suspicious that her art had failed her. But a moment's survey dissipated her doubts and she murmured, as if to herself.
"Maiden, a brilliant destiny awaits you. You will wed a title, and become the mistress of a fair estate. Servants shall be in waiting to do your bidding, and wealth will pour its choicest offerings at your feet. Such is the decree of destiny."
"Mother," said Marie, in extreme astonishment, "you have certainly read wrong for once. Such a fate is not for me, and I would not that it were. Enough for me that I settle down in the same position that I now occupy, surrounded by my friends and acquaintances."
"No matter," said the sybil composedly; "you cannot change the course of events. Wait patiently for their unfolding. Be not apprehensive of evil, for this line," and she placed her withered finger on Marie's palm, "betokens a long life and a happy one."
"I am much obliged to you, mother." said the latter laughingly, "for your favorable prediction, and when I become a countess, I will take care that you are provided for."
"You owe me nothing," was the reply. "I am but the mouth piece of fate. I may demand the fulfilment of your promise sooner than you think."
"Be it so, mother. When you are entitled to make it, be sure that I shall not withdraw from my engagement."
When the sybil had hobbled away, richer by some francs than before, Marie was bantered not a little by her companions on the destiny which had been marked out fur her.
"Which shall it be, Madame La Duchess, or Madame La Comtesse?" inquired Lizette, gaily.
"I have a good mind," said Marie," in return for your malice, to steal away your Philip, and marry him myself. In that case, at least, the predictionâ€”"
Lizette, who would have been very unwilling for Marie to attempt in earnest what she threatened in jest, thought it best to drop the bantering tone she had at first assumed. As for Marie, she thought little of the prediction. To her mind it was so altogether improbable that she did not think it worth while to waste a thought upon it.
The soil of La Vinette is somewhat uneven, though it contains no very high hills. In the northern part there is a little brook flowing over a rocky bed, with considerable impetuosity. Over this stream, which is, however, too shallow to be dangerous, there is a narraw foot bridge for the accommodation of passengers.
It so chanced that about a week after the events above described, Marie, who was just returning from a visit to a neighbor, on the other side of the stream, had occasion to pass over the bridge. Doubtless her thoughts were preoccupied, or she would have been more careful. As it was, her foot slipped when half way across, and she fell in. It was not a very serious affair, but she felt awkward enough, and vexed at the necessity which compelled her to wade through the water. She had hardly picked herself up, when a pleasant voice was heard at her side, saying, "Mademoiselle, permit me to escort you to the other side."
Marie looked up, and encountered the respectful gaze of a young man dressed in working attire, with a broad brimmed straw hat upon his head. She had time, though it was but a moment, to perceive that he had fine black eyes, and a prepossessing countenance. Not being disposed to prudishness or coquetry, she accepted without hesitation the proffered aid, and was soon upon the bank.
"I am much indebted to you for your kind assistance," said she casting down her eyes, for she could not avoid noticing that those of the young man were fixed upon her in admiration.
"There is no need, mademoiselle. The obligation is all on my side," was the reply.
"Will you be kind enough to inform me," he added, after a pause, "whether there is any one in the village who would be likely to employ me upon his farm? Pardon my troubling you, but I am a stranger, and know no one here."
"I think," said Marie, after some hesitation, "that I heard my father say lately that he wished to secure additional assistance. If you would like to inquire, you can accompany me."
"Thank you," said the young man, "nothing would please me better."
They walked along together, conversing sociably. Marie learned incidentally that her companion's name was Henrique Armand, and that he was the only son of a widowed mother, living in a village some twenty miles away, and that it was for the purpose of relieving her necessities and placing her in a more comfortable situation that he was now about to hire himself out. This information led her to regard Henrique with still greater favor, and she could not help wishing that her father might engage him.
Farmer Maillard was also prepossessed in favor of Henrique, and as he really wished to hire some one to gather in the vintage, and aid in other farm-work, it was not long before a bargain was struck, and the new comer was installed as a member of the household. Henrique's after course did not belie these impressions. It was not long before he became a general favorite. When the labors of the day were over, he would get his flute or guitar, for he was versed in the use of both instruments; and play for the entertainment of those who were attracted to him. Occasionally he would accompany himself on the guitar, in a peculiarly rich and melodious voice. These songs were so pleasing that a repetition would often be demanded. On one occasion, having rehearsed a popular song to the general satisfaction, he was pressed to sing it through once more.
"No," said he, "I will not do that, but if you like, I will sing you one of my own composition."
This proposal was received with evident pleasure, and after a moment's pause he commenced.
Know'st thou my love? Her dark blue eyes;
Shine with a soft and pleasant glow,
as if the color of the skies
Had found its way to earth below.
Know'st thou my love? When morning comes,
And sunbeams on her pathway fall,
She trips along the flowery meads,
Herself the fairest flower of all.
Know'st thou my love? Full well I know
No fairer dwells beneath the sun;
Ah! would that our divided lives
Might in one peaceful current run.
The rich voice of the singer lent much sweetness to the simple words of the song. All applauded the effort--all except Marie. She stood apart from the rest with a pensive and abstracted air, and said nothing.
"Don't, you like it, Maria? asked one of her companions.
"It was very pretty," she replied in a constrained voice. "M. Armand is a good singer." So saying, she went into the house, Henrique not appearing to notice the movement.
"But are the words true? Have you really a lady love, M. Armand? said a lively maiden of fifteen. "Come, describe her. What does she look like? What is her name?"
"You are altogether too fast," said the young man, smiling. "Don't you know that we poets are not obliged to adhere strictly to the truth. In fact I have usually noticed that those who are in love, are the very last to write songs about it. How do you know but it may be so with me?"
"I don't believe it at all," said the young girl shaking her head. "You sing with too much feeling for that. Depend upon it I will find out who it isâ€”this love of yoursâ€”if I can."
"It is well accepted," said Henrique. "I defy you to the discovery."
From this time Marie treated Henrique with less familiarity and more coolness than she had been accustomed. Her spirit became less buoyant and more sedate. One afternoon, Henrique, in passing through the garden, saw her sitting in an arbor at its foot, with her eyes fixed musingly on the ground.
"It is a fine day, Mademoiselle Marie," said he, approaching her.
She started, for she had not been aware of his approach, and murmured an affirmative. He laid down his pruning knife, and stepping into the arbor, sat down on a rustic bench at her side. It was now his turn to look embarrassed.
"Marie," said he, after a pause, "there is a question I wish to ask you, "but I hardly know how to set about it. Will you promise not to be offended?"
"I do not think you would ask any question that would render it necessary."
"Tell me then why for some days past you have seemed to avoid me, and, when in my presence, have shown a reserve and constraint altogether different from the friendly familiarity you used to evince. Have I offended in any way? If so, I will gladly make reparation, for I value your regard and good opinion highly."
"There is nothing in which you have offended me," said Marie, in a tremulous voice.
"I am glad of it," said Henrique, his face brightening, for it enboldens me to make still another request. I love you Marie," he added, impulsively. "I love you most devotedly. You must have noticed it in my looks, and every action. Do you remember the evening when I sang by request a song, "Know'st thou my love?" It was of my own composition, as I said. Did you not divine, dear Marie, that it was of you I was singing?"
Marie started with surprise, and a blush of pleasure mantled her features.
"Was it indeed of me that you were singing? I thoughtâ€”that is, I did not knowâ€”"
Marie did not finish the sentence. Henrique perceived at a glance that herein lay the secret of her apparent estrangement, but with true delicacy he forbore to speak of it.
"May I hope," he asked timidly, "that I am not wholly indifferent to you? I am poor, it is true, but the recent legacy of a relative has given me the means of supporting you in comfort."
"If you think me worth taking," said Marie, with engaging frankness, "you may have me."
When the engagement of Henrique and Marie became known, it was universally pronounced to he an excellent match. It was a mooted question which was the more fortunate, the bridegroom or the bride.
"I shall never more believe in fortune-telling," said Marie one day to Henrique, as she sat busily employed in preparations for her approaching marriage.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because," was the reply, "it was foretold of me that I should wed a title, and become mistress of a fair estate."
"Was that the prediction?" he asked, in surprise. "Who told you?"
"A sybil who was passing through, the village. But I put no credit in it. I told her that if ever it would come to pass I would provide for her."
"And are you sure that you do not regret the non fulfilment of the prediction?"
"Can you ask?" said she, reproachfully.
It was the bridal morning. The sun shone out with more than ordinary splendor, as if to do honor to the occasion. Before the altar of the humble village church stood reverently Henrique and Marie, and the white haired priest pronounced with trembling voice the sacred words which united them. The nuptial blessing was scarcely over when an old woman bent with infirmity passed up the aisle and stood before the bride.
"I have come to claim your promise," said she.
It was the old soothsayer.
"But," said Marie, in a low voice, "it was dependent on my marrying a title. You see I have not done so. You were wrong."
"Rather," said the old woman, raising her voice, "it is you who are wrong, Madam La Contesse."
"What can she mean?" asked Marie, looking towards her husband with surprise.
"She is right, Marie," said he, gently. "In me behold not Henrique Armand simply, but Count Henrique D'Armand, the possessor of much wealth, but of none more precious than yourself. Listen, and I will explain all. Being desirous of seeing country life, in its varieties, and mingling in it without being known, I found my way to your pleasant village. The rest you know. "Will you forgive me?"
It is needless to say that pardon was accorded, and that Marie graced the high station to which she had been elevated. Her promise to the sybil was fulfilled to the letter.