France, 1827, at the height of the same time period Les Misérables was set.
A young servant girl was working in a household ’til such time as her employers moved to Paris and took her with them. She had such a strong devotion to the holy souls that every month without fail she used a portion of her meager earnings to have a Mass offered for the holy souls.
The servant girl fell prey to a devastating illness, and had a long sojourn in hospital. So long was she away from scrubbing floors that her employers fired her. The girl’s plight is reminiscent of that of Fantine’s, the chief female character from Les Misérables. In France of the 1800s, Fantine slaved to feed herself and the daughter she bore out of wedlock, and resorted to selling her front teeth and becoming a street-walker.
Fantine’s life of unmitigated hardship was fiction, but a true portrait of the time, yet the case of the servant girl is a genuine account. The servant girl feared for her future; she was newly out of hospital, she had no where to live and no job.
She had occasion to go to the church of St Eustache, that awe-inspiring gothic church. Inside the church where the long thin stone pillars seem to reach Heaven, she remembered her devotion to the holy souls and she considered being faithful to her custom of having a Mass offered for them. But she only had one franc left, and were she to part with it, she had nothing to buy food. Dying to self, she summoned the nerve to request a Mass be offered for the holy souls and she parted with the last of her money to pay for it.
That same day, the Mass she requested was offered, and she assisted at it with great love for the suffering souls. After mass, she roamed the streets, her mind was pierced with anxiety as to how she was to find her way. A young man with a pale face, thin build and noble bearing came up to her and abruptly told her she would find a job at a certain address, and he added that she would be happy there. With that, the pale-faced man disappeared into the crowd.
The servant girl hastened through the streets of Paris and found the house. She was greeted by a chaotic scene; a bitter, obnoxious servant was leaving the house for the last time in a huff, and she rudely announced she was never coming back. She was welcomed in by a kindly old lady. “Madame,” she addressed the old lady, “I learned this morning that you are in need of a servant, and I came to offer my services. I was assured that you would received me kindly.” The old lady was flabbergasted, “What you tell me is very extraordinary. This morning I had no need of a servant, it is only within the last half-hour that I have discharged an insolent domestic, and there is not a soul in the world except her and myself who know it. Who sent you, then?” The girl replied guilelessly, “It was a gentleman,, a young gentleman whom I met on the street. And it is absolutely necessary for me to find a place today because I have not a penny in my pocket.” The servant girl revealed she had spent her last on a Mass for the holy souls before she met the pale-faced gentleman.
The old lady was lost in thought; how could a young gentleman have known she needed a servant and have sought out this girl on the busy Paris streets? Suddenly the servant girl’s attention was seized by a portrait that hung on the wall, “Wait, Madame, do not puzzle yourself anymore. This is the exact picture of the young man who spoke to me. It is on his account that I am come.” The second that the servant girl said these words, the old lady shrieked in emotion and almost fainted. But she recovered strength and threw her arms around the girl. The old lady exclaimed, “You shall not be my servant, you are my daughter! It is my son, my only son whom you saw, dead for the past two years, who owes to you his deliverance, whom God directed to send you here.”
A certain F. Rossignoli received the account above, but as of now, I do not know more about Rossignoli.