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The Real Fathers








By The Editor.

_Of a woman who on her death-bed, in the absence of her husband, made
over her children to those to whom they belonged, and how one of the
youngest of the children informed his father._


There formerly lived in Paris, a woman who was married to a good and
simple man--he was one of our friends and it would have been impossible
to have had a better. This woman was very beautiful and complaisant,
and, when she was young, she never refused her favours to those who
pleased her, so that she had as many children by her lovers as by her
husband--about twelve or thirteen in all.

When at last she was very ill, and about to die, she thought she would
confess her sins and ease her conscience. She had all her children
brought to her, and it almost broke her heart to think of leaving them.
She thought it would not be right to leave her husband the charge of
so many children, of some of which he was not the father, though he
believed he was, and thought her as good a woman as any in Paris.

By means of a woman who was nursing her, she sent for two men who in
past times had been favoured lovers. They came to her at once, whilst
her husband was gone away to fetch a doctor and an apothecary, as she
had begged him to do.

When she saw these two men, she made all her children come to her, and
then said;

"You, such an one, you know what passed between us two in former days. I
now repent of it bitterly, and if Our Lord does not show me the mercy
I ask of Him, it will cost me dear in the next world. I have committed
faults, I know, but to add another to them would be to make matters
worse. Here are such and such of my children;--they are yours, and my
husband believes that they are his. You cannot have the conscience to
make him keep them, so I beg that after my death, which will be very
soon, that you will take them, and bring them up as a father should, for
they are, in fact, your own."

She spoke in the same manner to the other man, showing him the other
children:

"Such and such are, I assure you, yours. I leave them to your care,
requesting you to perform your duty towards them. If you will promise me
to care for them, I shall die in peace."

As she was thus distributing her children, her husband returned home,
and was met by one of his little sons, who was only about four years
old. The child ran downstairs to him in such haste that he nearly lost
his breath, and when he came to his father, he said,

"Alas, father! come quickly, in God's name!"

"What has happened?" asked his father. "Is your mother dead?"

"No, no," said the child, "but make haste upstairs, or you will have no
children left. Two men have come to see mother, and she is giving them
most of my brothers and sisters. If you do not make haste, she will give
them all away."

The good man could not understand what his son meant, so he hastened
upstairs, and found his wife very ill, and with her the nurse, two of
his neighbours, and his children.

He asked the meaning of the tale his son had told him about giving away
his children.

"You will know later on," she said; so he did not trouble himself
further, for he never doubted her in the least.

The neighbours went away, commending the dying woman to God, and
promising to do all she had requested, for which she thanked them.

When the hour of her death drew near, she begged her husband to pardon
her, and told him of the misdeeds she had committed during the years she
had lived with him, and how such and such of the children belonged to
a certain man, and such to another--that is to say those
before-mentioned--and that after her death they would take charge of
their own children.

He was much astonished to hear this news, nevertheless he pardoned her
for all her misdeeds, and then she died, and he sent the children to the
persons she had mentioned, who kept them.

And thus he was rid of his wife and his children, and felt much
less regret for the loss of his wife than he did for the loss of the
children.


*****





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