Christmas Eve at the des Cieux residence started off with breakfast. The presence of all four members of the family was a sign that normality was returning. Madeleine was the last to come to the table. Still moving slowly, she eased herself into her seat and said grace as the rest of the family followed along. After this they started into the usual delicious feast that Yveline set before them.
“Is it possible for me to go to confession this evening before Midnight Mass?” Madeleine asked, breaking the rather trivial conversation that preceded it.
“You only went a couple of weeks ago,” Yveline observed. “You have been ill much of the time since. How is it possible for you to have committed mortal sin during that time?”
“I don’t know. . .I feel I need to,” Madeleine replied vaguely.
“It is her Baptist friend,” Raymond chimed in. “They have spent a lot of time together. Baptists believe that, once you have been ‘saved,’ to use their expression, that your state of grace cannot change, that you will go to heaven. It is far better than the opinions probables of the reverends pères jesuites. There is no telling what kind of influence she has been.”
“He is too proud of his term paper on Les Provinciales,” Madeleine sourly observed.
“Much too proud,” Yveline added. “All we have heard about since he has been home are Mohatra contracts and how you can defend your honour in a duel.”
“He has already tried the latter,” Pierre said. “I found out that he turned his aerosol deodorant into a flame thrower. But his aim wasn’t so good, and he singed the curtains in his dormitory room. He spent more time at detention than he has admitted.”
“Serves him right,” Madeleine added, giving her younger brother an imperious look. Raymond looked sheepish at this revelation; once again, his father’s connections had pierced his adolescent secrecy.
“I think that it is reasonable to say that Carla is much the janseniste. Were it otherwise, she would not be having the problems with the school that she has had.”
“Papa is right,” Madeleine agreed. “We played tennis the weekend after she was forbidden to stand for Student Council. She played rather poorly, then broke down in tears. It was very sad for her.”
“And she is a very faithful friend too,” Yveline observed. “I was shocked when she refused to leave Madeleine in the hospital. She has been very helpful to us.”
“So what about confession?” Madeleine interrupted.
“Are you able to go to Midnight Mass?” Yveline asked. “You are still very weak.”
“I must go,” Madeleine replied.
“Then you must use my grandfather’s cane,” Pierre insisted. “You are not steady enough on your feet, especially getting around the Cathedral. If you agree, we can go early for confession. Perhaps Raymond will feel the need for absolution after his semester at Alemara Academy.”
“Maybe,” Raymond said. “But why go early for confession? You do not commit mortal sin unless you arrive at Mass after the elevation of the host.”
Madeleine rolled her eyes in disgust. “Very well, Papa, I will use the cane. But, before I confess, I may use it for more than steadying my feet. My forehand was doing well before my illness.”
Raymond resumed his breakfast in silence.