~ from the archives – and especially for my friend Hope at Worthwhile Books ~
This morning I grabbed a book to read while I worked out on the elliptical machine. The biggest requirement was that it would lay flat on the little stand. A hardback would do better, especially one with a loose binding. A quick check of the stacks of books waiting to be read made Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather my choice. It is set in Quebec in 1697. The main characters so far are the widowed apothecary and his daughter.
Many of you know that I lost my mom suddenly when I was 10 years old. I read this passage with tender emotion. I’ve abridged it here and there.
After she began to feel sure that she would never be well enough to return to France, her chief care was to train her little daughter so that she would be able to carry on this life and this order after she was gone.
Madame Auclair never spoke of her approaching death, but would say something like this:
“After a while, when I am too ill to help you, you will perhaps find it fatiguing to do all these things alone, over and over. But in time you will come to love your duties, as I do. You will see that your father’s whole happiness depends on order and regularity, and you will come to feel a pride in it. Without order our lives would be disgusting.”
She would think fearfully of how much she was entrusting to that little head; something so precious, so intangible; a feeling about life that had come down to her through so many centuries and that she had brought with her across the ocean. The sense of “our way,” –that was what she longed to leave with her daughter.
The individuality, the character, of M.Auclair’s house, though it appeared to be made up of wood and cloth and glass and a little silver, was really made up of very fine moral qualities in two women: the mother’s unswerving fidelity to certain traditions, and the daughter’s loyalty to her mother’s wish.
Isn’t that wonderful? The last paragraph is so lovely. Have any of you read Willa Cather? My Antonia is my favorite, but this is perhaps the fifth book of hers that I’ve read.