Julien was unlike the rest of the students in the little country seminary. Most of them were strapping farmer’s sons applying themselves to their vocation with an agricultural fervour. Julien, the only son of a widowed teacher, was a delicate lad. Pallid and withdrawn, he cultivated an exclusively interior landscape. Father Bernard, the seminary’s director, was well aware of Julien’s prodigious intellectual gifts, but it was perhaps to offset such an intensity of self reflection, that he allocated the young priest the early morning tasks in the Seminary’s rigorous schedule.
Every day at five, Julien would tiptoe past his snoring classmates down to the kitchen, where he would set fresh logs upon the banked embers within the massive stove. Then he would cross the yard to feed the chickens and break the ice on the horse trough, which served both the Seminary’s mule and any passing traffic from the village.
Following that, his most agreeable duty was to make his way inside the village bakery to fill his basket with crisply crusted baguettes hot from the oven. The warmth from the ovens, the aroma and Therese’s dazzling smile would carry him through to Matins in a benign haze that bordered on the mystical.
Therese, the baker’s daughter, was petite and full-figured with hair continually unpinning itself around her face. She wore an apron over her chemise to tend the ovens, but that hardly concealed the film of sweat that glistened on her fair skin. She always greeted Julien with an open-hearted grin and a twinkle of the eye, as she helped him load the cumbersome basket for his oafish brothers in the Lord.
Julien has his own place now in Nantes. His patisseries are the talk of the region.
Father Bernard believes God moves in mysterious ways.