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Title: Anatole France - The Revolt of the Angels
Author: France, Anatole, 1844-1924
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  +------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Note                                         |
  |                                                            |
  | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in        |
  | this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of   |
  | this document.                                             |
  +------------------------------------------------------------+



THE WORKS OF ANATOLE FRANCE
IN AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
EDITED BY FREDERIC CHAPMAN

THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS


[Illustration]

THE REVOLT
OF THE ANGELS

BY ANATOLE FRANCE

A TRANSLATION BY
MRS. WILFRID JACKSON

[Illustration]

LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD

NEW YORK: DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

MCMXXIV


Copyright, 1914,
by
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

PRINTED IN U. S. A



THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS



THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS



CHAPTER I

     CONTAINING IN A FEW LINES THE HISTORY OF A FRENCH FAMILY
     FROM 1789 TO THE PRESENT DAY


Beneath the shadow of St. Sulpice the ancient mansion of the d'Esparvieu
family rears its austere three stories between a moss-grown fore-court
and a garden hemmed in, as the years have elapsed, by ever loftier and
more intrusive buildings, wherein, nevertheless, two tall chestnut trees
still lift their withered heads.

Here from 1825 to 1857 dwelt the great man of the family, Alexandre
Bussart d'Esparvieu, Vice-President of the Council of State under the
Government of July, Member of the Academy of Moral and Political
Sciences, and author of an _Essay on the Civil and Religious
Institutions of Nations_, in three octavo volumes, a work unfortunately
left incomplete.

This eminent theorist of a Liberal monarchy left as heir to his name his
fortune and his fame, Fulgence-Adolphe Bussart d'Esparvieu, senator
under the Second Empire, who added largely to his patrimony by buying
land over which the Avenue de l'Impératice was destined ultimately to
pass, and who made a remarkable speech in favour of the temporal power
of the popes.

Fulgence had three sons. The eldest, Marc-Alexandre, entering the army,
made a splendid career for himself: he was a good speaker. The second,
Gaétan, showing no particular aptitude for anything, lived mostly in the
country, where he hunted, bred horses, and devoted himself to music and
painting. The third son, René, destined from his childhood for the law,
resigned his deputyship to avoid complicity in the Ferry decrees against
the religious orders; and later, perceiving the revival under the
presidency of Monsieur Fallières of the days of Decius and Diocletian,
put his knowledge and zeal at the service of the persecuted Church.

From the Concordat of 1801 down to the closing years of the Second
Empire all the d'Esparvieus attended mass for the sake of example.
Though sceptics in their inmost hearts, they looked upon religion as an
instrument of government.

Mark and René were the first of their race to show any sign of sincere
devotion. The General, when still a colonel, had dedicated his regiment
to the Sacred Heart, and he practised his faith with a fervour
remarkable even in a soldier, though we all know that piety, daughter of
Heaven, has marked out the hearts of the generals of the Third Republic
as her chosen dwelling-place on earth.

Faith has its vicissitudes. Under the old order the masses were
believers, not so the aristocracy or the educated middle class. Under
the First Empire the army from top to bottom was entirely irreligious.
To-day the masses believe nothing. The middle classes wish to believe,
and succeed at times, as did Marc and René d'Esparvieu. Their brother
Gaétan, on the contrary, the country gentleman, failed to attain to
faith. He was an agnostic, a term commonly employed by the modish to
avoid the odious one of freethinker. And he openly declared himself an
agnostic, contrary to the admirable custom which deems it better to
withhold the avowal.

In the century in which we live there are so many modes of belief and of
unbelief that future historians will have difficulty in finding their
way about. But are we any more successful in disentangling the condition
of religious beliefs in the time of Symmachus or of Ambrose?

A fervent Christian, René d'Esparvieu was deeply attached to the liberal
ideas his ancestors had transmitted to him as a sacred heritage.
Compelled to oppose a Jacobin and atheistical Republic, he still called
himself Republican. And it was in the name of liberty that he demanded
the independence and sovereignty of the Church.

During the long debates on the Separation and the quarrels over the
Inventories, the synods of the bishops and the assemblies of the
faithful were held in his house. While the most authoritatively
accredited leaders of the Catholic party: prelates, generals, senators,
deputies, journalists, were met together in the big green drawing-room,
and every soul present turned towards Rome with a tender submission or
enforced obedience; while Monsieur d'Esparvieu, his elbow on the marble
chimney-piece, opposed civil law to canon law, and protested eloquently
against the spoliation of the Church of France, two faces of other days,
immobile and speechless, looked down on the modern crowd; on the right
of the fire-place, painted by David, was Romain Bussart, a
working-farmer at Esparvieu in shirt-sleeves and drill trousers, with a
rough-and-ready air not untouched with cunning. He had good reason to
smile: the worthy man laid the foundation of the family fortunes when he
bought Church lands. On the left, painted by Gérard in full-dress
bedizened with orders, was the peasant's son, Baron Emile Bussart
d'Esparvieu, prefect under the Empire, Keeper of the Great Seal under
Charles X, who died in 1837, churchwarden of his parish, with couplets
from _La Pucelle_ on his lips.

René d'Esparvieu married in 1888 Marie-Antoinette Coupelle, daughter of
Baron Coupelle, ironmaster at Blainville (Haute Loire). Madame René
d'Esparvieu had been president since 1903 of the Society of Christian
Mothers. These perfect spouses, having married off their eldest daughter
in 1908, had three children still at home--a girl and two boys.

Léon, the younger, aged seven, had a room next to his mother and his
sister Berthe. Maurice, the elder, lived in a little pavilion comprising
two rooms at the bottom of the garden. The young man thus gained a
freedom which enabled him to endure family life. He was rather
good-looking, smart without too much pretence, and the faint smile which
merely raised one corner of his mouth did not lack charm.

At twenty-five Maurice possessed the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Doubting
whether a man hath any profit of all his labour which he taketh under
the sun he never put himself out about anything. From his earliest
childhood this young hopeful's sole concern with work had been
considering how he might best avoid it, and it was through his remaining
ignorant of the teaching of the _École de Droit_ that he became a doctor
of law and a barrister at the Court of Appeal.

He neither pleaded nor practised. He had no knowledge and no desire to
acquire any; wherein he conformed to his genius whose engaging fragility
he forbore to overload; his instinct fortunately telling him that it was
better to understand little than to misunderstand a lot.

As Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille expressed it, Maurice had received from
Heaven the benefits of a Christian education. From his childhood piety
was shown to him in the example of his home, and when on leaving college
he was entered at the _École de Droit_, he found the lore of the
doctors, the virtues of the confessors, and the constancy of the nursing
mothers of the Church assembled around the paternal hearth. Admitted to
social and political life at the time of the great persecution of the
Church of France, Maurice did not fail to attend every manifestation of
youthful Catholicism; he lent a hand with his parish barricades at the
time of the Inventories, and with his companions he unharnessed the
archbishop's horses when he was driven out from his palace. He showed on
all these occasions a modified zeal; one never saw him in the front
ranks of the heroic band exciting soldiers to a glorious disobedience or
flinging mud and curses at the agents of the law.

He did his duty, nothing more; and if he distinguished himself on the
occasion of the great pilgrimage of 1911 among the stretcher-bearers at
Lourdes, we have reason to fear it was but to please Madame de la
Verdelière, who admired men of muscle. Abbé Patouille, a friend of the
family and deeply versed in the knowledge of souls, knew that Maurice
had only moderate aspirations to martyrdom. He reproached him with his
lukewarmness, and pulled his ear, calling him a bad lot. Anyway, Maurice
remained a believer.

Amid the distractions of youth his faith remained intact, since he left
it severely alone. He had never examined a single tenet. Nor had he
enquired a whit more closely into the ideas of morality current in the
grade of society to which he belonged. He took them just as they came.
Thus in every situation that arose he cut an eminently respectable
figure which he would have assuredly failed to do, had he been given to
meditating on the foundations of morality. He was irritable and
hot-tempered and possessed of a sense of honour which he was at great
pains to cultivate. He was neither vain nor ambitious. Like the majority
of Frenchmen, he disliked parting with his money. Women would never have
obtained anything from him had they not known the way to make him give.
He believed he despised them; the truth was he adored them. He indulged
his appetites so naturally that he never suspected that he had any. What
people did not know, himself least of all,--though the gleam that
occasionally shone in his fine, light-brown eyes might have furnished
the hint--was that he had a warm heart and was capable of friendship.
For the rest, he was, in the ordinary intercourse of life, no very
brilliant specimen.



CHAPTER II

     WHEREIN USEFUL INFORMATION WILL BE FOUND CONCERNING A
     LIBRARY WHERE STRANGE THINGS WILL SHORTLY COME TO PASS


Desirous of embracing the whole circle of human knowledge, and anxious
to bequeath to the world a concrete symbol of his encyclopædic genius
and a display in keeping with his pecuniary resources, Baron Alexandre
d'Esparvieu had formed a library of three hundred and sixty thousand
volumes, both printed and in manuscript, whereof the greater part
emanated from the Benedictines of Ligugé.

By a special clause in his will he enjoined his heirs to add to his
library, after his death, whatever they might deem worthy of note in
natural, moral, political, philosophical, and religious science.

He had indicated the sums which might be drawn from his estate for the
fulfilment of this object, and charged his eldest son, Fulgence-Adolphe,
to proceed with these additions. Fulgence-Adolphe accomplished with
filial respect the wishes expressed by his illustrious father.

After him, this huge library, which represented more than one child's
share of the estate, remained undivided between the Senator's three sons
and two daughters; and René d'Esparvieu, on whom devolved the house in
the Rue Garancière, became the guardian of the valuable collection. His
two sisters, Madame Paulet de Saint-Fain and Madame Cuissart, repeatedly
demanded that such a large but unremunerative piece of property should
be turned into money. But René and Gaétan bought in the shares of their
two co-legatees, and the library was saved. René d'Esparvieu even busied
himself in adding to it, thus fulfilling the intentions of its founder.
But from year to year he lessened the number and importance of the
acquisitions, opining that the intellectual output in Europe was on the
wane.

Nevertheless, Gaétan enriched it, out of his funds, with works published
both in France and abroad which he thought good, and he was not lacking
in judgment, though his brothers would never allow that he had a
particle. Thanks to this man of leisurely and inquiring mind, Baron
Alexandre's collection was kept practically up to date. Even at the
present day the d'Esparvieu library, in the departments of theology,
jurisprudence, and history is one of the finest private libraries in all
Europe. Here you may study physical science, or to put it better,
physical sciences in all their branches, and for that matter metaphysic
or metaphysics, that is to say, all that is connected with physics and
has no other name, so impossible is it to designate by a substantive
that which has no substance, and is but a dream and an illusion. Here
you may contemplate with admiration philosophers addressing themselves
to the solution, dissolution, and resolution of the Absolute, to the
determination of the Indeterminate and to the definition of the
Infinite.

Amid this pile of books and booklets, both sacred and profane, you may
find everything down to the latest and most fashionable pragmatism.

Other libraries there are, more richly abounding in bindings of
venerable antiquity and illustrious origin, whose smooth and soft-hued
texture render them delicious to the touch; bindings which the gilder's
art has enriched with gossamer, lace-work, foliage, flowers, emblematic
devices, and coats of arms; bindings that charm the studious eye with
their tender radiance. Other libraries perhaps harbour a greater array
of manuscripts illuminated with delicate and brilliant miniatures by
artists of Venice, Flanders, or Touraine. But in handsome, sound
editions of ancient and modern writers, both sacred and profane, the
d'Esparvieu library is second to none. Here one finds all that has come
down to us from antiquity; all the Fathers of the Church, the Apologists
and the Decretalists, all the Humanists of the Renaissance, all the
Encylopædists, the whole world of philosophy and science. Therefore it
was that Cardinal Merlin, when he deigned to visit it, remarked:

"There is no man whose brain is equal to containing all the knowledge
which is piled upon these shelves. Happily it doesn't matter."

Monseigneur Cachepot, who worked there often when a curate in Paris, was
in the habit of saying:

"I see here the stuff to make many a Thomas Aquinas and many an Arius,
if only the modern mind had not lost its ancient ardour for good and
evil."

There was no gainsaying that the manuscripts formed the more valuable
portion of this immense collection. Noteworthy indeed was the
unpublished correspondence of Gassendi, of Father Mersenne, and of
Pascal, which threw a new light on the spirit of the seventeenth
century. Nor must we forget the Hebrew Bibles, the Talmuds, the
Rabbinical treatises, printed and in manuscript, the Aramaic and
Samaritan texts, on sheepskin and on tablets of sycamore; in fine, all
these antique and valuable copies collected in Egypt and in Syria by the
celebrated Moïse de Dina, and acquired at a small cost by Alexandre
d'Esparvieu in 1836, when the learned Hebraist died of old age and
poverty in Paris.

The Esparvienne library occupied the whole of the second floor of the
old house. The works thought to be of but mediocre interest, such as
books of Protestant exegesis of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
the gift of Monsieur Gaétan, were relegated unbound to the limbo of the
upper regions. The catalogue, with its various supplements, ran into no
less than eighteen folio volumes. It was quite up to date, and the
library was in perfect order. Monsieur Julien Sariette, archivist and
palæographer, who, being poor and retiring, used to make his living by
teaching, became, in 1895, tutor to young Maurice on the recommendation
of the Bishop of Agra, and with scarcely an interval found himself
curator of the Bibliothèque Esparvienne. Endowed with business-like
energy and dogged patience, Monsieur Sariette himself classified all the
members of this vast body. The system he invented and put into practice
was so complicated, the labels he put on the books were made up of so
many capital letters and small letters, both Latin and Greek, so many
Arabic and Roman numerals, asterisks, double asterisks, triple
asterisks, and those signs which in arithmetic express powers and roots,
that the mere study of it would have involved more time and labour than
would have been required for the complete mastery of algebra, and as no
one could be found who would give the hours, that might be more
profitably employed in discovering the law of numbers, to the solving
of these cryptic symbols, Monsieur Sariette remained the only one
capable of finding his way among the intricacies of his system, and
without his help it had become an utter impossibility to discover, among
the three hundred and sixty thousand volumes confided to his care, the
particular volume one happened to require. Such was the result of his
labours. Far from complaining about it, he experienced on the contrary a
lively satisfaction.

Monsieur Sariette loved his library. He loved it with a jealous love. He
was there every day at seven o'clock in the morning busy cataloguing at
a huge mahogany desk. The slips in his handwriting filled an enormous
case standing by his side surmounted by a plaster bust of Alexandre
d'Esparvieu. Alexandre wore his hair brushed straight back, and had a
sublime look on his face. Like Chateaubriand, he affected little
feathery side whiskers. His lips were pursed, his bosom bare. Punctually
at midday Monsieur Sariette used to sally forth to lunch at a _crèmerie_
in the narrow gloomy Rue des Canettes. It was known as the _Crèmerie des
Quatre Évêques_, and had once been the haunt of Baudelaire, Theodore de
Banville, Charles Asselineau, and a certain grandee of Spain who had
translated the "Mysteries of Paris" into the language of the
_conquistadores_. And the ducks that paddled so nicely on the old stone
sign which gave its name to the street used to recognize Monsieur
Sariette. At a quarter to one, to the very minute, he went back to his
library, where he remained until seven o'clock. He then again betook
himself to the _Quatre Évêques_, and sat down to his frugal dinner, with
its crowning glory of stewed prunes. Every evening, after dinner, his
crony, Monsieur Guinardon, universally known as Père Guinardon, a
scene-painter and picture-restorer, who used to do work for churches,
would come from his garret in the Rue Princesse to have his coffee and
liqueur at the _Quatre Évêques_, and the two friends would play their
game of dominoes.

Old Guinardon, who was like some rugged old tree still full of sap, was
older than he could bring himself to believe. He had known Chenavard.
His chastity was positively ferocious, and he was for ever denouncing
the impurities of neo-paganism in language of alarming obscenity. He
loved talking. Monsieur Sariette was a ready listener. Old Guinardon's
favourite subject was the Chapelle des Anges in St. Sulpice, in which
the paintings were peeling off the walls, and which he was one day to
restore; when, that is, it should please God, for, since the Separation,
the churches belonged solely to God, and no one would undertake the
responsibility of even the most urgent repairs. But old Guinardon
demanded no salary.

"Michael is my patron saint," he said. "And I have a special devotion
for the Holy Angels."

After they had had their game of dominoes, Monsieur Sariette, very thin
and small, and old Guinardon, sturdy as an oak, hirsute as a lion, and
tall as a Saint Christopher, went off chatting away side by side across
the Place Saint Sulpice, heedless of whether the night were fine or
stormy. Monsieur Sariette always went straight home, much to the regret
of the painter, who was a gossip and a nightbird.

The following day, as the clock struck seven, Monsieur Sariette would
take up his place in the library, and resume his cataloguing. As he sat
at his desk, however, he would dart a Medusa-like look at anyone who
entered, fearing lest he should prove to be a book-borrower. It was not
merely the magistrates, politicians, and prelates whom he would have
liked to turn to stone when they came to ask for the loan of a book with
an air of authority bred of their familiarity with the master of the
house. He would have done as much to Monsieur Gaétan, the library's
benefactor, when he wanted some gay or scandalous old volume wherewith
to beguile a wet day in the country. He would have meted out similar
treatment to Madame René d'Esparvieu, when she came to look for a book
to read to her sick poor in hospital, and even to Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu himself, who generally contented himself with the Civil Code
and a volume of Dalloz. The borrowing of the smallest book seemed like
dragging his heart out. To refuse a volume even to such as had the most
incontestable right to it, Monsieur Sariette would invent countless
far-fetched or clumsy fibs, and did not even shrink from slandering
himself as curator or from casting doubts on his own vigilance by saying
that such and such a book was mislaid or lost, when a moment ago he had
been gloating over that very volume or pressing it to his bosom. And
when ultimately forced to part with a volume he would take it back a
score of times from the borrower before he finally relinquished it.

He was always in agony lest one of the objects confided to his care
should escape him. As the guardian of three hundred and sixty thousand
volumes, he had three hundred and sixty thousand reasons for alarm.
Sometimes he woke at night bathed in sweat, and uttering a cry of fear,
because he had dreamed he had seen a gap on one of the shelves of his
bookcases. It seemed to him a monstrous, unheard-of, and most grievous
thing that a volume should leave its habitat. This noble rapacity
exasperated Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, who, failing to understand the
good qualities of his paragon of a librarian, called him an old maniac.
Monsieur Sariette knew nought of this injustice, but he would have
braved the cruellest misfortune and endured opprobrium and insult to
safeguard the integrity of his trust. Thanks to his assiduity, his
vigilance and zeal, or, in a word, to his love, the Esparvienne library
had not lost so much as a single leaflet under his supervision during
the sixteen years which had now rolled by, this ninth of September,
1912.



CHAPTER III

     WHEREIN THE MYSTERY BEGINS


At seven o'clock on the evening of that day, having as usual replaced
all the books which had been taken from their shelves, and having
assured himself that he was leaving everything in good order, he quitted
the library, double-locking the door after him. According to his usual
habit, he dined at the _Crèmerie des Quatre Évêques_, read his
newspaper, _La Croix_, and at ten o'clock went home to his little house
in the Rue du Regard. The good man had no trouble and no presentiment of
evil; his sleep was peaceful. The next morning at seven o'clock to the
minute, he entered the little room leading to the library, and,
according to his daily habit, doffed his grand frock-coat, and taking
down an old one which hung in a cupboard over his washstand, put it on.
Then he went in to his workroom, where for sixteen years he had been
cataloguing six days out of the seven, under the lofty gaze of Alexandre
d'Esparvieu. Preparing to make a round of the various rooms, he entered
the first and largest, which contained works on theology and religion
in huge cupboards whose cornices were adorned with bronze-coloured busts
of poets and orators of ancient days.

Two enormous globes representing the earth and the heavens filled the
window-embrasures. But at his first step Monsieur Sariette stopped dead,
stupefied, powerless alike to doubt or to credit what his eyes beheld.
On the blue cloth cover of the writing-table books lay scattered about
pell-mell, some lying flat, some standing upright. A number of quartos
were heaped up in a tottering pile. Two Greek lexicons, one inside the
other, formed a single being more monstrous in shape than the human
couples of the divine Plato. A gilt-edged folio was all a-gape, showing
three of its leaves disgracefully dog's-eared.

Having, after an interval of some moments, recovered from his profound
amazement, the librarian went up to the table and recognised in the
confused mass his most valuable Hebrew, French, and Latin Bibles, a
unique Talmud, Rabbinical treatises printed and in manuscript, Aramaic
and Samaritan texts and scrolls from the synagogues--in fine, the most
precious relics of Israel all lying in a disordered heap, gaping and
crumpled.

Monsieur Sariette found himself confronted with an inexplicable
phenomenon; nevertheless he sought to account for it. How eagerly he
would have welcomed the idea that Monsieur Gaétan, who, being a
thoroughly unprincipled man, presumed on the right gained him by his
fatal liberality towards the library to rummage there unhindered during
his sojourns in Paris, had been the author of this terrible disorder.
But Monsieur Gaétan was away travelling in Italy. After pondering for
some minutes Monsieur Sariette's next supposition was that Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu had entered the library late in the evening with the keys of
his manservant Hippolyte, who, for the past twenty-five years, had
looked after the second floor and the attics. Monsieur René d'Esparvieu,
however, never worked at night, and did not read Hebrew. Perhaps,
thought Monsieur Sariette, perhaps he had brought or allowed to be
brought to this room some priest, or Jerusalem monk, on his way through
Paris; some Oriental _savant_ given to scriptural exegesis. Monsieur
Sariette next wondered whether the Abbé Patouille, who had an enquiring
mind, and also a habit of dog's-earing his books, had, peradventure,
flung himself on these talmudic and biblical texts, fired with sudden
zeal to lay bare the soul of Shem. He even asked himself for a moment
whether Hippolyte, the old manservant, who had swept and dusted the
library for a quarter of a century, and had been slowly poisoned by the
dust of accumulated knowledge, had allowed his curiosity to get the
better of him, and had been there during the night, ruining his eyesight
and his reason, and losing his soul poring by moonlight over these
undecipherable symbols. Monsieur Sariette even went so far as to imagine
that young Maurice, on leaving his club or some nationalist meeting,
might have torn these Jewish volumes from their shelves, out of hatred
for old Jacob and his modern posterity; for this young man of family was
a declared anti-semite, and only consorted with those Jews who were as
anti-semitic as himself. It was giving a very free rein to his
imagination, but Monsieur Sariette's brain could not rest, and went
wandering about among speculations of the wildest extravagance.

Impatient to know the truth, the zealous guardian of the library called
the manservant.

Hippolyte knew nothing. The porter at the lodge could not furnish any
clue. None of the domestics had heard a sound. Monsieur Sariette went
down to the study of Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, who received him in
nightcap and dressing-gown, listened to his story with the air of a
serious man bored with idle chatter, and dismissed him with words which
conveyed a cruel implication of pity.

"Do not worry, my good Monsieur Sariette; be sure that the books were
lying where you left them last night."

Monsieur Sariette reiterated his enquiries a score of times, discovered
nothing, and suffered such anxiety that sleep entirely forsook him.
When, on the following day at seven o'clock he entered the room with
the busts and globes, and saw that all was in order, he heaved a sigh of
relief. Then suddenly his heart beat fit to burst. He had just seen
lying flat on the mantelpiece a paper-bound volume, a modern work, the
boxwood paper-knife which had served to cut its pages still thrust
between the leaves. It was a dissertation on the two parallel versions
of Genesis, a work which Monsieur Sariette had relegated to the attic,
and which had never left it up to now, no one in Monsieur d'Esparvieu's
circle having had the curiosity to differentiate between the parts for
which the polytheistic and monotheistic contributors were respectively
responsible in the formation of the first of the sacred books. This book
bore the label R > 3214-VIII/2. And this painful truth was suddenly
borne in upon the mind of Monsieur Sariette: to wit, that the most
scientific system of numbering will not help to find a book if the book
is no longer in its place. Every day of the ensuing month found the
table littered with books. Greek and Latin lay cheek by jowl with
Hebrew. Monsieur Sariette asked himself whether these nocturnal
flittings were the work of evil-doers who entered by the skylights to
steal valuable and precious volumes. But he found no traces of burglary,
and, notwithstanding the most minute search, failed to discover that
anything had disappeared. Terrible anxiety took possession of his mind,
and he fell to wondering whether it was possible that some monkey in the
neighbourhood came down the chimney and acted the part of a person
engaged in study. Deriving his knowledge of the habits of these animals
in the main from the paintings of Watteau and Chardin, he took it that,
in the art of imitating gestures or assuming characters they resembled
Harlequin, Scaramouch, Zerlin, and the Doctors of the Italian comedy; he
imagined them handling a palette and brushes, pounding drugs in a
mortar, or turning over the leaves of an old treatise on alchemy beside
an athanor. And so it was that, when, on one unhappy morning, he saw a
huge blot of ink on one of the leaves of the third volume of the
polyglot Bible bound in blue morocco and adorned with the arms of the
Comte de Mirabeau, he had no doubt that a monkey was the author of the
evil deed. The monkey had been pretending to take notes and had upset
the inkpot. It must be a monkey belonging to a learned professor.

Imbued with this idea, Monsieur Sariette carefully studied the
topography of the district, so as to draw a cordon round the group of
houses amid which the d'Esparvieu house stood. Then he visited the four
surrounding streets, asking at every door if there was a monkey in the
house. He interrogated porters and their wives, washer-women, servants,
a cobbler, a greengrocer, a glazier, clerks in bookshops, a priest, a
bookbinder, two guardians of the peace, children, thus testing the
diversity of character and variety of temper in one and the same people;
for the replies he received were quite dissimilar in nature; some were
rough, some were gentle; there were the coarse and the polished, the
simple and the ironical, the prolix and the abrupt, the brief and even
the silent. But of the animal he sought he had had neither sight nor
sound, when under the archway of an old house in the Rue Servandoni, a
small freckled, red-haired girl who looked after the door, made reply:

"There is Monsieur Ordonneau's monkey; would you care to see it?"

And without another word she conducted the old man to a stable at the
other end of the yard. There on some rank straw and old bits of cloth, a
young macaco with a chain round his middle sat and shivered. He was no
taller than a five-year-old child. His livid face, his wrinkled brow,
his thin lips were all expressive of mortal sadness. He fixed on the
visitor the still lively gaze of his yellow eyes. Then with his small
dry hand he seized a carrot, put it to his mouth, and forthwith flung it
away. Having looked at the newcomers for a moment, the exile turned away
his head, as if he expected nothing further of mankind or of life.
Sitting huddled up, one knee in his hand, he made no further movement,
but at times a dry cough shook his breast.

"It's Edgar," said the small girl. "He is for sale, you know."

But the old book-lover, who had come armed with anger and resentment,
thinking to find a cynical enemy, a monster of malice, an
antibibliophile, stopped short, surprised, saddened, and overcome,
before this little being devoid of strength and joy and hope.

Recognising his mistake, troubled by the almost human face which sorrow
and suffering made more human still, he murmured "Forgive me" and bowed
his head.



CHAPTER IV

     WHICH IN ITS FORCEFUL BREVITY PROJECTS US TO THE LIMITS OF
     THE ACTUAL WORLD


Two months elapsed; the domestic upheaval did not subside, and Monsieur
Sariette's thoughts turned to the Freemasons. The papers he read were
full of their crimes. Abbé Patouille deemed them capable of the darkest
deeds, and believed them to be in league with the Jews and meditating
the total overthrow of Christendom.

Having now arrived at the acme of power, they wielded a dominating
influence in all the principal departments of State, they ruled the
Chambers, there were five of them in the Ministry, and they filled the
Élysée. Having some time since assassinated a President of the Republic
because he was a patriot, they were getting rid of the accomplices and
witnesses of their execrable crime. Few days passed without Paris being
terror-stricken at some mysterious murder hatched in their Lodges. These
were facts concerning which no doubt was possible. By what means did
they gain access to the library? Monsieur Sariette could not imagine.
What task had they come to fulfil? Why did they attack sacred antiquity
and the origins of the Church? What impious designs were they forming? A
heavy shadow hung over these terrible undertakings. The Catholic
archivist feeling himself under the eye of the sons of Hiram was
terrified and fell ill.

Scarcely had he recovered, when he resolved to pass the night in the
very spot where these terrible mysteries were enacted, and to take the
subtle and dangerous visitors by surprise. It was an enterprise that
demanded all his slender courage. Being a man of delicate physique and
of nervous temperament, Monsieur Sariette was naturally inclined to be
fearful. On the 8th of January at nine o'clock in the evening, while the
city lay asleep under a whirling snowstorm, he built up a good fire in
the room containing the busts of the ancient poets and philosophers, and
ensconced himself in an arm-chair at the chimney corner, a rug over his
knees. On a small stand within reach of his hand were a lamp, a bowl of
black coffee, and a revolver borrowed from the youthful Maurice. He
tried to read his paper, _La Croix_, but the letters danced beneath his
eyes. So he stared hard in front of him, saw nothing but the shadows,
heard nothing but the wind, and fell asleep.

When he awoke the fire was out, the lamp was extinguished, leaving an
acrid smell behind. But all around, the darkness was filled with milky
brightness and phosphorescent lights. He thought he saw something
flutter on the table. Stricken to the marrow with cold and terror, but
upheld by a resolve stronger than any fear, he rose, approached the
table, and passed his hands over the cloth. He saw nothing; even the
lights faded, but under his fingers he felt a folio wide open; he tried
to close it, the book resisted, jumped up and hit the imprudent
librarian three blows on the head.

Monsieur Sariette fell down unconscious....

Since then things had gone from bad to worse. Books left their allotted
shelves in greater profusion than ever, and sometimes it was impossible
to replace them; they disappeared. Monsieur Sariette discovered fresh
losses daily. The Bollandists were now an imperfect set, thirty volumes
of exegesis were missing. He himself had become unrecognisable. His face
had shrunk to the size of one's fist and grown yellow as a lemon, his
neck was elongated out of all proportion, his shoulders drooped, the
clothes he wore hung on him as on a peg. He ate nothing, and at the
_Crèmerie des Quatre Évêques_ he would sit with dull eyes and bowed
head, staring fixedly and vacantly at the saucer where, in a muddy
juice, floated his stewed prunes. He did not hear old Guinardon relate
how he had at last begun to restore the Delacroix paintings at St.
Sulpice.

Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, when he heard the unhappy curator's alarming
reports, used to answer drily:

"These books have been mislaid, they are not lost; look carefully,
Monsieur Sariette, look carefully and you will find them."

And he murmured behind the old man's back:

"Poor old Sariette is in a bad way."

"I think," replied Abbé Patouille, "that his brain is going."



CHAPTER V

     WHEREIN EVERYTHING SEEMS STRANGE BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS
     LOGICAL


The Chapel of the Holy Angels, which lies on the right hand as you enter
the Church of St. Sulpice, was hidden behind a scaffolding of planks.
Abbé Patouille, Monsieur Gaétan, Monsieur Maurice, his nephew, and
Monsieur Sariette, entered in single file through the low door cut in
the wooden hoarding, and found old Guinardon on the top of his ladder
standing in front of the Heliodorus. The old artist, surrounded by all
sorts of tools and materials, was putting a white paste in the crack
which cut in two the High Priest Onias. Zéphyrine, Paul Baudry's
favourite model, Zéphyrine, who had lent her golden hair and polished
shoulders to so many Magdalens, Marguerites, sylphs, and mermaids, and
who, it is said, was beloved of the Emperor Napoleon III, was standing
at the foot of the ladder with tangled locks, cadaverous cheeks, and dim
eyes, older than old Guinardon, whose life she had shared for more than
half a century. She had brought the painter's lunch in a basket.

Although the slanting rays fell grey and cold through the leaded and
iron-barred window, Delacroix's colouring shone resplendent, and the
roses on the cheeks of men and angels dimmed with their glorious beauty
the rubicund countenance of old Guinardon, which stood out in relief
against one of the temple's columns. These frescoes of the Chapel of the
Holy Angels, though derided and insulted when they first appeared, have
now become part of the classic tradition, and are united in immortality
with the masterpieces of Rubens and Tintoretto.

Old Guinardon, bearded and long-haired, looked like Father Time effacing
the works of man's genius. Gaétan, in alarm, called out to him:

"Carefully, Monsieur Guinardon, carefully. Do not scrape too much."

The painter reassured him.

"Fear nothing, Monsieur Gaétan. I do not paint in that style. My art is
a higher one. I work after the manner of Cimabue, Giotto, and Beato
Angelico, not in the style of Delacroix. This surface here is too
heavily charged with contrast and opposition to give a really sacred
effect. It is true that Chenavard said that Christianity loves the
picturesque, but Chenavard was a rascal with neither faith nor
principle--an infidel.... Look, Monsieur d'Esparvieu, I fill up the
crevice, I relay the scales of paint which are peeling. That is all....
The damage, due to the sinking of the wall, or more probably to a
seismic shock, is confined to a very small space. This painting of oil
and wax applied on a very dry foundation is far more solid than one
might think.

"I saw Delacroix engaged on this work. Impassioned but anxious, he
modelled feverishly, scraped out, re-painted unceasingly; his mighty
hand made childish blunders, but the thing is done with the mastery of a
genius and the inexperience of a schoolboy. It is a marvel how it
holds."

The good man was silent, and went on filling in the crevice.

"How classic and traditional the composition is," said Gaétan. "Time was
when one could recognise nothing but its amazing novelty; now one can
see in it a multitude of old Italian formulas."

"I may allow myself the luxury of being just, I possess the
qualifications," said the old man from the top of his lofty ladder.
"Delacroix lived in a blasphemous and godless age. A painter of the
decadence, he was not without pride nor grandeur. He was greater than
his times. But he lacked faith, single-heartedness, and purity. To be
able to see and paint angels he needed that virtue of angels and
primitives, that supreme virtue which, with God's help, I do my best to
practise, chastity."

"Hold your tongue, Michel; you are as big a brute as any of them."

Thus Zéphyrine, devoured with jealousy because that very morning on the
stairs she had seen her lover kiss the bread-woman's daughter, to wit
the youthful Octavie, who was as squalid and radiant as one of
Rembrandt's Brides. She had loved Michel madly in the happy days long
since past, and love had never died out in Zéphyrine's heart.

Old Guinardon received the flattering insult with a smile that he
dissembled, and raised his eyes to the ceiling, where the archangel
Michael, terrible in azure cuirass and gilt helmet, was springing
heavenwards in all the radiance of his glory.

Meanwhile Abbé Patouille, blinking, and shielding his eyes with his hat
against the glaring light from the window, began to examine the pictures
one after another: Heliodorus being scourged by the angels, St. Michael
vanquishing the Demons, and the combat of Jacob and the Angel.

"All this is exceedingly fine," he murmured at last, "but why has the
artist only represented wrathful angels on these walls? Look where I
will in this chapel, I see but heralds of celestial anger, ministers of
divine vengeance. God wishes to be feared; He wishes also to be loved. I
would fain perceive on these walls messengers of peace and of clemency.
I should like to see the Seraphim who purified the lips of the prophet,
St. Raphael who gave back his sight to old Tobias, Gabriel who announced
the Mystery of the Incarnation to Mary, the Angel who delivered St.
Peter from his chains, the Cherubim who bore the dead St. Catherine to
the top of Sinai. Above all, I should like to be able to contemplate
those heavenly guardians which God gives to every man baptized in His
name. We each have one who follows all our steps, who comforts us and
upholds us. It would be pleasant indeed to admire these enchanting
spirits, these beautiful faces."

"Ah, Abbé! it depends on the point of view," answered Gaétan. "Delacroix
was no sentimentalist. Old Ingres was not very far wrong in saying that
this great man's work reeks of fire and brimstone. Look at the sombre,
splendid beauty of those angels, look at those androgynes so proud and
fierce, at those pitiless youths who lift avenging rods against
Heliodorus, note this mysterious wrestler touching the patriarch on the
hip...."

"Hush," said Abbé Patouille. "According to the Bible he is no angel like
the others; if he be an angel, he is the Angel of Creation, the Eternal
Son of God. I am surprised that the Venerable Curé of St. Sulpice, who
entrusted the decoration of this chapel to Monsieur Eugène Delacroix,
did not tell him that the patriarch's symbolic struggle with Him who was
nameless took place in profound darkness, and that the subject is quite
out of place here, since it prefigures the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
The best artists go astray when they fail to obtain their ideas of
Christian iconography from a qualified ecclesiastic. The institutions of
Christian art form the subject of numerous works with which you are
doubtless acquainted, Monsieur Sariette."

Monsieur Sariette was gazing vacantly about him. It was the third
morning after his adventurous night in the library. Being, however, thus
called upon by the venerable ecclesiastic, he pulled himself together
and replied:

"On this subject we may with advantage consult Molanus, _De Historia
Sacrarum Imaginum et Picturarum_, in the edition given us by Noël
Paquot, dated Louvain, 1771; Cardinal Frederico Borromeo, _De Pictura
Sacra_, and the Iconography of Didron; but this last work must be read
with caution."

Having thus spoken, Monsieur Sariette relapsed into silence. He was
pondering on his devastated library.

"On the other hand," continued Abbé Patouille, "since an example of the
holy anger of the angels was necessary in this chapel, the painter is to
be commended for having depicted for us in imitation of Raphael the
heavenly messengers who chastised Heliodorus. Ordered by Seleucus, King
of Syria, to carry off the treasures contained in the Temple, Heliodorus
was stricken by an angel in a cuirass of gold mounted on a magnificently
caparisoned steed. Two other angels smote him with rods. He fell to
earth, as Monsieur Delacroix shows us here, and was swallowed up in
darkness. It is right and salutary that this adventure should be cited
as an example to the Republican Commissioners of Police and to the
sacrilegious agents of the law. There will always be Heliodoruses, but,
let it be known, every time they lay their hands on the property of the
Church, which is the property of the poor, they shall be chastised with
rods and blinded by the angels."

"I should like this painting, or, better still, Raphael's sublimer
conception of the same subject, to be engraved in little pictures fully
coloured, and distributed as rewards in all the schools."

"Uncle," said young Maurice, with a yawn, "I think these things are
simply ghastly. I prefer Matisse and Metzinger."

These words fell unheeded, and old Guinardon from his ladder held forth:

"Only the primitives caught a glimpse of Heaven. Beauty is only to be
found between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The antique, the
impure antique, which regained its pernicious influence over the minds
of the sixteenth century, inspired poets and painters with criminal
notions and immodest conceptions, with horrid impurities, filth. All the
artists of the Renaissance were swine, including Michael-Angelo."

Then, perceiving that Gaétan was on the point of departure, Père
Guinardon assumed an air of bonhomie, and said to him in a confidential
tone:

"Monsieur Gaétan, if you're not afraid of climbing up my five flights,
come and have a look at my den. I've got two or three little canvases I
wouldn't mind parting with, and they might interest you. All good,
honest, straightforward stuff. I'll show you, among other things, a
tasty, spicy little Baudouin that would make your mouth water."

At this speech Gaétan made off. As he descended the church steps and
turned down the Rue Princesse, he found himself accompanied by old
Sariette, and fell to unburdening himself to him, as he would have done
to any human creature, or indeed to a tree, a lamp-post, a dog, or his
own shadow, of the indignation with which the æsthetic theories of the
old painter inspired him.

"Old Guinardon overdoes it with his Christian art and his Primitives!
Whatever the artist conceives of Heaven is borrowed from earth; God, the
Virgin, the Angels, men and women, saints, the light, the clouds. When
he was designing figures for the chapel windows at Dreux, old Ingres
drew from life a pure, fine study of a woman, which may be seen, among
many others, in the Musée Bonnat at Bayonne. Old Ingres had written at
the bottom of the page in case he should forget: 'Mademoiselle Cécile,
admirable legs and thighs'--and so as to make Mademoiselle Cécile into a
saint in Paradise, he gave her a robe, a cloak, a veil, inflicting thus
a shameful decline in her estate, for the tissues of Lyons and Genoa are
worthless compared with the youthful living tissue, rosy with pure
blood; the most beautiful draperies are despicable compared with the
lines of a beautiful body. In fact, clothing for flesh that is desirable
and ripe for wedlock is an unmerited shame, and the worst of
humiliations"; and Gaétan, walking carelessly in the gutter of the Rue
Garancière, continued: "Old Guinardon is a pestilential idiot. He
blasphemes Antiquity, sacred Antiquity, the age when the gods were kind.
He exalts an epoch when the painter and the sculptor had all their
lessons to learn over again. In point of fact, Christianity has run
contrary to art in so much as it has not favoured the study of the nude.
Art is the representation of nature, and nature is pre-eminently the
human body; it is the nude."

"Pardon, pardon," purred old Sariette. "There is such a thing as
spiritual, or, as one might term it, inward beauty, which, since the
days of Fra Angelico down to those of Hippolyte Flandrin, Christian art
has--"

But Gaétan, never hearing a word of all this, went on hurling his
impetuous observations at the stones of the old street and the
snow-laden clouds overhead:

"The Primitives cannot be judged as a whole, for they are utterly unlike
each other. This old madman confounds them all together. Cimabue is a
corrupt Byzantine, Giotto gives hints of powerful genius, but his
modelling is bad, and, like children, he gives all his characters the
same face. The early Italians have grace and joy, because they are
Italians. The Venetians have an instinct for fine colour. But when all
is said and done these exquisite craftsmen enamel and gild rather than
paint. There is far too much softness about the heart and the colouring
of your saintly Angelico for me. As for the Flemish school, that's quite
another pair of shoes. They can use their hands, and in glory of
workmanship they are on a level with the Chinese lacquer-workers. The
technique of the brothers Van Eyck is a marvel, but I cannot discover in
their Adoration of the Lamb the charm and mystery that some have
vaunted. Everything in it is treated with a pitiless perfection; it is
vulgar in feeling and cruelly ugly. Memling may touch one perhaps; but
he creates nothing but sick wretches and cripples; under the heavy,
rich, and ungraceful robing of his virgins and saints one divines some
very lamentable anatomy. I did not wait for Rogier van der Wyden to call
himself Roger de la Pasture and turn Frenchman in order to prefer him to
Memling. This Rogier or Roger is less of a ninny; but then he is more
lugubrious, and the rigidity of his lines bears eloquent testimony to
his poverty-stricken figures. It is a strange perversion to take
pleasure in these carnivalesque figures when one can have the paintings
of Leonardo, Titian, Correggio, Velasquez, Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin,
or Prud'hon. Really it is a perverted instinct."

Meanwhile the Abbé Patouille and Maurice d'Esparvieu were strolling
leisurely along in the wake of the esthete and the librarian. As a
general rule the Abbé Patouille was little inclined to talk theology
with laymen, or, for that matter, with clerics either. Carried away,
however, by the attractiveness of the subject, he was telling the
youthful Maurice all about the sacred mission of those guardian angels
which Monsieur Delacroix had so inopportunely excluded from his picture.
And in order to give more adequate expression to his thoughts on such
lofty themes, the Abbé Patouille borrowed whole phrases and sentences
from Bossuet. He had got them up by heart to put in his sermons, for he
adhered strongly to tradition.

"Yes, my son," he was saying, "God has appointed tutelary spirits to be
near us. They come to us laden with His gifts. They return laden with
our prayers. Such is their task. Not an hour, not a moment passes but
they are at our side, ready to help us, ever fervent and unwearying
guardians, watchmen that never slumber."

"Quite so, Abbé," murmured Maurice, who was wondering by what cunning
artifice he could get on the soft side of his mother and persuade her to
give him some money of which he was urgently in need.



CHAPTER VI

     WHEREIN PÈRE SARIETTE DISCOVERS HIS MISSING TREASURES


Next morning Monsieur Sariette entered Monsieur René d'Esparvieu's study
without knocking. He raised his arms to the heavens, his few hairs were
standing straight up on his head. His eyes were big with terror. In
husky tones he stammered out the dreadful news. A very old manuscript of
Flavius Josephus; sixty volumes of all sizes; a priceless jewel, namely,
a _Lucretius_ adorned with the arms of Philippe de Vendôme, Grand Prior
of France, with notes in Voltaire's own hand; a manuscript of Richard
Simon, and a set of Gassendi's correspondence with Gabriel Naudé,
comprising two hundred and thirty-eight unpublished letters, had
disappeared. This time the owner of the library was alarmed.

He mounted in haste to the abode of the philosophers and the globes, and
there with his own eyes confirmed the magnitude of the disaster.

There were yawning gaps on many a shelf. He searched here and there,
opened cupboards, dragged out brooms, dusters, and fire-extinguishers,
rattled the shovel in the coke fire, shook out Monsieur Sariette's best
frock-coat that was hanging in the cloak-room, and then stood and gazed
disconsolately at the empty places left by the Gassendi portfolios.

For the past half-century the whole learned world had been loudly
clamouring for the publication of this correspondence. Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu had not responded to the universal desire, unwilling either
to assume so heavy a task, or to resign it to others. Having found much
boldness of thought in these letters, and many passages of more
libertine tendency than the piety of the twentieth century could endure,
he preferred that they should remain unpublished; but he felt himself
responsible for their safe-keeping, not only to his country but to the
whole civilized world.

"How can you have allowed yourself to be robbed of such a treasure?" he
asked severely of Monsieur Sariette.

"How can I have allowed myself to be robbed of such a treasure?"
repeated the unhappy librarian. "Monsieur, if you opened my breast, you
would find that question engraved upon my heart."

Unmoved by this powerful utterance, Monsieur d'Esparvieu continued with
pent-up fury:

"And you have discovered no single sign that would put you on the track
of the thief, Monsieur Sariette? You have no suspicion, not the
faintest idea, of the way these things have come to pass? You have seen
nothing, heard nothing, noticed nothing, learnt nothing? You must grant
this is unbelievable. Think, Monsieur Sariette, think of the possible
consequences of this unheard-of theft, committed under your eyes. A
document of inestimable value in the history of the human mind
disappears. Who has stolen it? Why has it been stolen? Who will gain by
it? Those who have got possession of it doubtless know that they will be
unable to dispose of it in France. They will go and sell it in America
or Germany. Germany is greedy for such literary monuments. Should the
correspondence of Gassendi with Gabriel Naudé go over to Berlin, if it
is published there by German savants, what a disaster, nay, what a
scandal! Monsieur Sariette, have you not thought of that?..."

Beneath the stroke of an accusation all the more cruel in that he
brought it against himself, Monsieur Sariette stood stupefied, and was
silent. And Monsieur d'Esparvieu continued to overwhelm him with bitter
reproaches.

"And you make no effort. You devise nothing to find these inestimable
treasures. Make enquiries, bestir yourself, Monsieur Sariette; use your
wits. It is well worth while."

And Monsieur d'Esparvieu went out, throwing an icy glance at his
librarian.

Monsieur Sariette sought the lost books and manuscripts in every spot
where he had already sought them a hundred times, and where they could
not possibly be. He even looked in the coke-box and under the leather
seat of his arm-chair. When midday struck he mechanically went
downstairs. At the foot of the stairs he met his old pupil Maurice, with
whom he exchanged a bow. But he only saw men and things as through a
mist.

The broken-hearted curator had already reached the hall when Maurice
called him back.

"Monsieur Sariette, while I think of it, do have the books removed that
are choking up my garden-house."

"What books, Maurice?"

"I could not tell you, Monsieur Sariette, but there are some in Hebrew,
all worm-eaten, with a whole heap of old papers. They are in my way. You
can't turn round in the passage."

"Who took them there?"

"I'm bothered if I know."

And the young man rushed off to the dining-room, the luncheon gong
having sounded quite a minute ago.

Monsieur Sariette tore away to the summer-house. Maurice had spoken the
truth. About a hundred volumes were there, on tables, on chairs, even on
the floor. When he saw them he was divided betwixt joy and fear, filled
with amazement and anxiety. Happy in the finding of his lost treasure,
dreading to lose it again, and completely overwhelmed with astonishment,
the man of books alternately babbled like an infant and uttered the
hoarse cries of a maniac. He recognised his Hebrew Bibles, his ancient
Talmuds, his very old manuscript of Flavius Josephus, his portfolios of
Gassendi's letters to Gabriel Naudé, and his richest jewel of all, to
wit, _Lucretius_ adorned with the arms of the Grand Prior of France, and
with notes in Voltaire's own hand. He laughed, he cried, he kissed the
morocco, the calf, the parchment, and vellum, even the wooden boards
studded with nails.

As fast as Hippolyte, the manservant, returned with an armful to the
library, Monsieur Sariette, with a trembling hand, restored them piously
to their places.



CHAPTER VII

     OF A SOMEWHAT LIVELY INTEREST, WHEREOF THE MORAL WILL, I
     HOPE, APPEAL GREATLY TO MY READERS, SINCE IT CAN BE
     EXPRESSED BY THIS SORROWFUL QUERY: "THOUGHT, WHITHER DOST
     THOU LEAD ME?" FOR IT IS A UNIVERSALLY ADMITTED TRUTH THAT
     IT IS UNHEALTHY TO THINK AND THAT TRUE WISDOM LIES IN NOT
     THINKING AT ALL


All the books were now once more assembled in the pious keeping of
Monsieur Sariette. But this happy reunion was not destined to last. The
following night twenty volumes left their places, among them the
_Lucretius_ of Prior de Vendôme. Within a week the old Hebrew and Greek
texts had all returned to the summer-house, and every night during the
ensuing month they left their shelves and secretly went on the same
path. Others betook themselves no one knew whither.

On hearing of these mysterious occurrences, Monsieur René d'Esparvieu
merely remarked with frigidity to his librarian:

"My poor Sariette, all this is very queer, very queer indeed."

And when Monsieur Sariette tentatively advised him to lodge a formal
complaint or to inform the Commissaire de Police, Monsieur d'Esparvieu
cried out upon him:

"What are you suggesting, Monsieur Sariette? Divulge domestic secrets,
make a scandal! You cannot mean it. I have enemies, and I am proud of
it. I think I have deserved them. What I might complain about is that I
am wounded in the house of my friend, attacked with unheard-of violence,
by fervent loyalists, who, I grant you, are good Catholics, but
exceedingly bad Christians.... In a word, I am watched, spied upon,
shadowed, and you suggest, Monsieur Sariette, that I should make a
present of this comic-opera mystery, this burlesque adventure, this
story in which we both cut somewhat pitiable figures, to a set of
spiteful journalists? Do you wish to cover me with ridicule?"

The result of the colloquy was that the two gentlemen agreed to change
all the locks in the library. Estimates were asked for and workmen
called in. For six weeks the d'Esparvieu household rang from morning
till night with the sound of hammers, the hum of centre-bits, and the
grating of files. Fires were always going in the abode of the
philosophers and globes, and the people of the house were simply
sickened by the smell of heated oil. The old, smooth, easy-running locks
were replaced, on the cupboards and doors of the rooms, by stubborn and
tricky fastenings. There was nothing but combinations of locks,
letter-padlocks, safety-bolts, bars, chains, and electric alarm-bells.

All this display of ironmongery inspired fear. The lock-cases glistened,
and there was much grinding of bolts. To gain access to a room, a
cupboard, or a drawer, it was necessary to know a certain number, of
which Monsieur Sariette alone was cognisant. His head was filled with
bizarre words and tremendous numbers, and he got entangled among all
these cryptic signs, these square, cubic, and triangular figures. He
himself couldn't get the doors and the cupboards undone, yet every
morning he found them wide open, and the books thrown about, ransacked,
and hidden away. In the gutter of the Rue Servandoni a policeman picked
up a volume of Salomon Reinach on the identity of Barabbas and Jesus
Christ. As it bore the book-plate of the d'Esparvieu library he returned
it to the owner.

Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, not even deigning to inform Monsieur Sariette
of the fact, made up his mind to consult a magistrate, a friend in whom
he had complete confidence, to wit, a certain Monsieur des Aubels,
Counsel at the Law Courts, who had put through many an important affair.
He was a little plump man, very red, very bald, with a cranium that
shone like a billiard ball. He entered the library one morning feigning
to come as a book-lover, but he soon showed that he knew nothing about
books. While all the busts of the ancient philosophers were reflected in
his shining pate, he put divers insidious questions to Monsieur
Sariette, who grew uncomfortable and turned red, for innocence is easily
flustered. From that moment Monsieur des Aubels had a mighty suspicion
that Monsieur Sariette was the perpetrator of the very thefts he
denounced with horror; and it immediately occurred to him to seek out
the accomplices of the crime. As regards motives, he did not trouble
about them; motives are always to be found. Monsieur des Aubels told
Monsieur René d'Esparvieu that, if he liked, he would have the house
secretly watched by a detective from the Prefecture.

"I will see that you get Mignon," he said. "He is an excellent servant,
assiduous and prudent."

By six o'clock next morning Mignon was already walking up and down
outside the d'Esparvieus' house, his head sunk between his shoulders,
wearing love-locks which showed from under the narrow brim of his bowler
hat, his eye cocked over his shoulder. He wore an enormous dull-black
moustache, his hands and feet were huge; in fact, his whole appearance
was distinctly memorable. He paced regularly up and down from the
nearest of the big rams' head pillars which adorn the Hôtel de la
Sordière to the end of the Rue Garancière, towards the apse of St.
Sulpice Church and the dome of the Chapel of the Virgin.

Henceforth it became impossible to enter or leave the d'Esparvieus'
house without feeling that one's every action, that one's very thoughts,
were being spied upon. Mignon was a prodigious person endowed with
powers that Nature denies to other mortals. He neither ate nor slept. At
all hours of the day and night, in wind and rain, he was to be found
outside the house, and no one escaped the X-rays of his eye. One felt
pierced through and through, penetrated to the very marrow, worse than
naked, bare as a skeleton. It was the affair of a moment; the detective
did not even stop, but continued his everlasting walk. It became
intolerable. Young Maurice threatened to leave the paternal roof if he
was to be so radiographed. His mother and his sister Berthe complained
of his piercing look; it offended the chaste modesty of their souls.
Mademoiselle Caporal, young Léon d'Esparvieu's governess, felt an
indescribable embarrassment. Monsieur René d'Esparvieu was sick of the
whole business. He never crossed his own threshold without crushing his
hat over his eyes to avoid the investigating ray and without wishing old
Sariette, the _fons et origo_ of all the evil, at the devil. The
intimates of the household, such as Abbé Patouille and Uncle Gaétan,
made themselves scarce; visitors gave up calling, tradespeople hesitated
about leaving their goods, the carts belonging to the big shops scarcely
dared stop. But it was among the domestics that the spying roused the
most disorder.

The footman, afraid, under the eye of the police, to go and join the
cobbler's wife over her solitary labours in the afternoon, found the
house unbearable and gave notice. Odile, Madame d'Esparvieu's
lady's-maid, not daring, as was her custom after her mistress had
retired, to introduce Octave, the handsomest of the neighbouring
bookseller's clerks, to her little room upstairs, grew melancholy,
irritable and nervous, pulled her mistress's hair while dressing it,
spoke insolently, and made advances to Monsieur Maurice. The cook,
Madame Malgoire, a serious matron of some fifty years, having no more
visits from Auguste, the wine-merchant's man in the Rue Servandoni, and
being incapable of suffering a privation so contrary to her temperament,
went mad, sent up a raw rabbit to table, and announced that the Pope had
asked her hand in marriage. At last, after a fortnight of superhuman
assiduity, contrary to all known laws of organic life, and to the
essential conditions of animal economy, Mignon, the detective, having
observed nothing abnormal, ceased his surveillance and withdrew without
a word, refusing to accept a gratuity. In the library the dance of the
books became livelier than ever.

"That is all right," said Monsieur des Aubels. "Since nothing comes in
nor goes out, the evil-doer must be in the house."

The magistrate thought it possible to discover the criminal without
police-warrant or enquiry. On a date agreed upon at midnight, he had the
floor of the library, the treads of the stairs, the vestibule, the
garden path leading to Monsieur Maurice's summer-house, and the entrance
hall of the latter, all covered with a coating of talc.

The following morning Monsieur des Aubels, assisted by a photographer
from the Prefecture, and accompanied by Monsieur René d'Esparvieu and
Monsieur Sariette, came to take the imprints. They found nothing in the
garden, the wind had blown away the coating of talc; nothing in the
summer-house either. Young Maurice told them he thought it was some
practical joke and that he had brushed away the white dust with the
hearth-brush. The real truth was, he had effaced the traces left by the
boots of Odile, the lady's-maid. On the stairs and in the library the
very light print of a bare foot could be discerned, it seemed to have
sprung into the air and to have touched the ground at rare intervals and
without any pressure. They discovered five of these traces. The clearest
was to be found in the abode of the busts and spheres, on the edge of
the table where the books were piled. The photographer took several
negatives of this imprint.

"This is more terrifying than anything else," murmured Monsieur
Sariette.

Monsieur des Aubels did not hide his surprise.

Three days later the anthropometrical department of the Prefecture
returned the proofs exhibited to them, saying that they were not in the
records.

After dinner Monsieur René showed the photographs to his brother Gaétan,
who examined them with profound attention, and after a long silence
exclaimed:

"No wonder they have not got this at the Prefecture; it is the foot of a
god or of an athlete of antiquity. The sole that made this impression is
of a perfection unknown to our races and our climates. It exhibits toes
of exquisite grace, and a divine heel."

René d'Esparvieu cried out upon his brother for a madman.

"He is a poet," sighed Madame d'Esparvieu.

"Uncle," said Maurice, "you'll fall in love with this foot if you ever
come across it."

"Such was the fate of Vivant Denon, who accompanied Bonaparte to Egypt,"
replied Gaétan. "At Thebes, in a tomb violated by the Arabs, Denon
found the little foot of a mummy of marvellous beauty. He contemplated
it with extraordinary fervour, 'It is the foot of a young woman,' he
pondered, 'of a princess--of a charming creature. No covering has ever
marred its perfect shape.' Denon admired, adored, and loved it. You may
see a drawing of this little foot in Denon's atlas of his journey to
Egypt, whose leaves one could turn over upstairs, without going further
afield, if only Monsieur Sariette would ever let us see a single volume
of his library."

Sometimes, in bed, Maurice, waking in the middle of the night, thought
he heard the sound of pages being turned over in the next room, and the
thud of bound volumes falling on the floor.

One morning at five o'clock he was coming home from the club, after a
night of bad luck, and while he stood outside the door of the
summer-house, hunting in his pocket for his keys, his ears distinctly
heard a voice sighing:

"Knowledge, whither dost thou lead me? Thought, whither dost thou lure
me?"

But entering the two rooms he saw nothing, and told himself that his
ears must have deceived him.



CHAPTER VIII

     WHICH SPEAKS OF LOVE, A SUBJECT WHICH ALWAYS GIVES PLEASURE,
     FOR A TALE WITHOUT LOVE IS LIKE BEEF WITHOUT MUSTARD: AN
     INSIPID DISH


Nothing ever astonished Maurice. He never sought to know the causes of
things and dwelt tranquilly in the world of appearances. Not denying the
eternal truth, he nevertheless followed vain things as his fancy led
him.

Less addicted to sport and violent exercise than most young people of
his generation, he followed unconsciously the old erotic traditions of
his race. The French were ever the most gallant of men, and it were a
pity they should lose this advantage. Maurice preserved it. He was in
love with no woman, but, as St. Augustine said, he loved to love. After
paying the tribute that was rightly due to the imperishable beauty and
secret arts of Madame de la Berthelière, he had enjoyed the impetuous
caresses of a young singer called Luciole. At present he was joylessly
experiencing the primitive perversity of Odile, his mother's
lady's-maid, and the tearful adoration of the beautiful Madame
Boittier. And he felt a great void in his heart.

It chanced that one Wednesday, on entering the drawing-room where his
mother entertained her friends--who were, generally speaking,
unattractive and austere ladies, with a sprinkling of old men and very
young people--he noticed, in this intimate circle, Madame des Aubels,
the wife of the magistrate at the Law Courts, whom Monsieur d'Esparvieu
had vainly consulted on the mysterious ransacking of his library. She
was young, he found her pretty, and not without cause. Gilberte had been
modelled by the Genius of the Race, and no other genius had had a part
in the work.

Thus all her attributes inspired desire, and nothing in her shape or her
being aroused any other sentiment.

The law of attraction which draws world to world moved young Maurice to
approach this delicious creature, and under its influence he offered to
escort her to the tea-table. And when Gilberte was served with tea, he
said:

"We should hit it off quite well together, you and I, don't you think?"

He spoke in this way, according to modern usage, so as to avoid inane
compliments and to spare a woman the boredom of listening to one of
those old declarations of love which, containing nothing but what is
vague and undefined, require neither a truthful nor an exact reply.

And profiting by the fact that he had an opportunity of conversing
secretly with Madame des Aubels for a few minutes, he spoke urgently and
to the point. Gilberte, so far as one could judge, was made rather to
awaken desire than to feel it. Nevertheless, she well knew that her fate
was to love, and she followed it willingly and with pleasure. Maurice
did not particularly displease her. She would have preferred him to be
an orphan, for experience had taught her how disappointing it sometimes
is to love the son of the house.

"Will you?" he said by way of conclusion.

She pretended not to understand, and with her little _foie-gras_
sandwich raised half-way to her mouth she looked at Maurice with
wondering eyes.

"Will I _what_?" she asked.

"You know quite well."

Madame des Aubels lowered her eyes, and sipped her tea, for her
prudishness was not quite vanquished. Meanwhile Maurice, taking her
empty cup from her hand, murmured:

"Saturday, five o'clock, 126 Rue de Rome, on the ground-floor, the door
on the right, under the arch. Knock three times."

Madame des Aubels glanced severely and imperturbably at the son of the
house, and with a self-possessed air rejoined the circle of highly
respectable women to whom the Senator Monsieur Le Fol was explaining
how artificial incubators were employed at the agricultural colony at
St. Julienne.

The following Saturday, Maurice, in his ground-floor flat, awaited
Madame des Aubels. He waited her in vain. No light hand came to knock
three times on the door under the arch. And Maurice gave way to
imprecation, inwardly calling the absent one a jade and a hussy. His
fruitless wait, his frustrated desires, rendered him unjust. For Madame
des Aubels in not coming where she had never promised to go hardly
deserved these names; but we judge human actions by the pleasure or pain
they cause us.

Maurice did not put in an appearance in his mother's drawing-room until
a fortnight after the conversation at the tea-table. He came late.
Madame des Aubels had been there for half an hour. He bowed coldly to
her, took a seat some way off, and affected to be listening to the talk.

"Worthily matched," a rich male voice was saying; "the two antagonists
were well calculated to render the struggle a terrible and uncertain
one. General Bol, with unprecedented tenacity, maintained his position
as though he were rooted in the very soil. General Milpertuis, with an
agility truly superhuman, kept carrying out movements of the most
dazzling rapidity around his immovable adversary. The battle continued
to be waged with terrible stubbornness. We were all in an agony of
suspense...."

It was General d'Esparvieu describing the autumn manoeuvres to a company
of breathlessly interested ladies. He was talking well and his audience
were delighted. Proceeding to draw a comparison between the French and
German methods, he defined their distinguishing characteristics and
brought out the conspicuous merits of both with a lofty impartiality. He
did not hesitate to affirm that each system had its advantages, and at
first made it appear to his circle of wondering, disappointed, and
anxious dames, whose countenances were growing increasingly gloomy, that
France and Germany were practically in a position of equality. But
little by little, as the strategist went on to give a clearer definition
of the two methods, that of the French began to appear flexible,
elegant, vigorous, full of grace, cleverness, and verve; that of the
Germans heavy, clumsy, and undecided. And slowly and surely the faces of
the ladies began to clear and to light up with joyous smiles. In order
to dissipate any lingering shadows of misgiving from the minds of these
wives, sisters, and sweethearts, the General gave them to understand
that we were in a position to make use of the German method when it
suited us, but that the Germans could not avail themselves of the French
method. No sooner had he delivered himself of these sentiments than he
was button-holed by Monsieur le Truc de Ruffec, who was engaged in
founding a patriotic society known as "Swordsmen All," of which the
object was to regenerate France and ensure her superiority over all her
adversaries. Even children in the cradle were to be enrolled, and
Monsieur le Truc de Ruffec offered the honorary presidency to General
d'Esparvieu.

Meanwhile Maurice was appearing to be interested in a conversation that
was taking place between a very gentle old lady and the Abbé Lapetite,
Chaplain to the Dames du Saint Sang. The old lady, severely tried of
late by illness and the loss of friends, wanted to know how it was that
people were unhappy in this world.

"How," she asked Abbé Lapetite, "do you explain the scourges that
afflict mankind? Why are there plagues, famines, floods, and
earthquakes?"

"It is surely necessary that God should sometimes remind us of his
existence," replied Abbé Lapetite, with a heavenly smile.

Maurice appeared keenly interested in this conversation. Then he seemed
fascinated by Madame Fillot-Grandin, quite a personable young woman,
whose simple innocence, however, detracted all piquancy from her beauty,
all savour from her bodily charms. A very sour, shrill-voiced old lady,
who, affecting the dowdy, woollen weeds of poverty, displayed the pride
of a great lady in the world of Christian finance, exclaimed in a
squeaky voice:

"Well, my dear Madame d'Esparvieu, so you have had trouble here. The
papers speak darkly of robbery, of thefts committed in Monsieur
d'Esparvieu's valuable library, of stolen letters...."

"Oh," said Madame d'Esparvieu, "if we are to believe all the newspapers
say...."

"Oh, so, dear Madame, you have got your treasures back. All's well that
ends well."

"The library is in perfect order," asserted Madame d'Esparvieu. "There
is nothing missing."

"The library is on the floor above this, is it not?" asked young Madame
des Aubels, showing an unexpected interest in the books.

Madame d'Esparvieu replied that the library occupied the whole of the
second floor, and that they had put the least valuable books in the
attics.

"Could I not go and look at it?"

The mistress of the house declared that nothing could be easier. She
called to her son:

"Maurice, go and do the honours of the library to Madame des Aubels."

Maurice rose, and without uttering a word, mounted to the second floor
in the wake of Madame des Aubels.

He appeared indifferent, but inwardly he rejoiced, for he had no doubt
that Gilberte had feigned her ardent desire to inspect the library
simply to see him in secret. And, while affecting indifference, he
promised himself to renew those offers which, this time, would not be
refused.

Under the romantic bust of Alexandre d'Esparvieu, they were met by the
silent shadow of a little wan, hollow-eyed old man, who wore a settled
expression of mute terror.

"Do not let us disturb you, Monsieur Sariette," said Maurice. "I am
showing Madame des Aubels round the library."

Maurice and Madame des Aubels passed on into the great room where
against the four walls rose presses filled with books and surmounted by
bronze busts of poets, philosophers, and orators of antiquity. All was
in perfect order, an order which seemed never to have been disturbed
from the beginning of things.

Only, a black void was to be seen in the place which, only the evening
before, had been filled by an unpublished manuscript of Richard Simon.
Meanwhile, by the side of the young couple walked Monsieur Sariette,
pale, faded, and silent.

"Really and truly, you have not been nice," said Maurice, with a look of
reproach at Madame des Aubels.

She signed to him that the librarian might over-hear. But he reassured
her.

"Take no notice. It is old Sariette. He has become a complete idiot."
And he repeated: "No, you have not been at all nice. I awaited you. You
did not come. You have made me unhappy."

After a moment's silence, while one heard the low melancholy whistling
of asthma in poor Sariette's bronchial tubes, young Maurice continued
insistently:

"You are wrong."

"Why wrong?"

"Wrong not to do as I ask you."

"Do you still think so?"

"Certainly."

"You meant it seriously?"

"As seriously as can be."

Touched by his assurance of sincere and constant feeling, and thinking
she had resisted sufficiently, Gilberte granted to Maurice what she had
refused him a fortnight ago.

They slipped into an embrasure of the window, behind an enormous
celestial globe whereon were graven the Signs of the Zodiac and the
figures of the stars, and there, their gaze fixed on the Lion, the
Virgin, and the Scales, in the presence of a multitude of Bibles, before
the works of the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, beneath the casts of
Homer, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Socrates,
Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Seneca, and
Epictetus, they exchanged vows of love and a long kiss on the mouth.

Almost immediately Madame des Aubels bethought herself that she still
had some calls to pay, and that she must make her escape quickly, for
love had not made her lose all sense of her own importance. But she had
barely crossed the landing with Maurice when they heard a hoarse cry and
saw Monsieur Sariette plunge madly downstairs, exclaiming as he went:

"Stop it, stop it; I saw it fly away! It escaped from the shelf by
itself. It crossed the room ... there it is--there! It's going
downstairs. Stop it! It has gone out of the door on the ground floor!"

"What?" asked Maurice.

Monsieur Sariette looked out of the landing window, murmuring
horror-struck:

"It's crossing the garden! It's going into the summer-house. Stop it,
stop it!"

"But what is it?" repeated Maurice--"in God's name, what is it?"

"My Flavius Josephus," exclaimed Monsieur Sariette. "Stop it!"

And he fell down unconscious.

"You see he is quite mad," said Maurice to Madame des Aubels, as he
lifted up the unfortunate librarian.

Gilberte, a little pale, said she also thought she had seen something in
the direction indicated by the unhappy man, something flying.

Maurice had seen nothing, but he had felt what seemed like a gust of
wind.

He left Monsieur Sariette in the arms of Hippolyte and the housekeeper,
who had both hastened to the spot on hearing the noise.

The old gentleman had a wound in his head.

"All the better," said the housekeeper; "this wound may save him from
having a fit."

Madame des Aubels gave her handkerchief to stop the blood, and
recommended an arnica compress.



CHAPTER IX

     WHEREIN IT IS SHOWN THAT, AS AN ANCIENT GREEK POET SAID,
     "NOTHING IS SWEETER THAN APHRODITE THE GOLDEN"


Although he had enjoyed Madame des Aubels' favours for six whole months,
Maurice still loved her. True they had had to separate during the
summer. For lack of funds of his own he had had to go to Switzerland
with his mother, and then to stop with the whole family at the Château
d'Esparvieu. She had spent the summer with her mother at Niort, and the
autumn with her husband at a little Normandy seaside place, so that they
had hardly seen each other four or five times. But since the winter,
kindly to lovers, had brought them back to town again, Maurice had been
receiving her twice a week in his little flat in the Rue de Rome, and
received no one else. No other woman had inspired him with feelings of
such constancy and fidelity. What augmented his pleasure was that he
believed himself loved, and indeed he was not unpleasing.

He thought that she did not deceive him, not that he had any reason to
think so, but it appeared right and fitting that she should be content
with him alone. What annoyed him was that she always kept him waiting,
and was unpunctual in coming to their meeting-place; she was invariably
late,--at times very late.

Now on Saturday, January 30th, since four o'clock in the afternoon,
Maurice had been awaiting Madame des Aubels in the little pink room,
where a bright fire was burning. He was gaily clad in a suit of flowered
pyjamas, smoking Turkish cigarettes. At first he dreamt of receiving her
with long kisses, with hitherto unknown caresses. A quarter of an hour
having passed, he meditated serious and affectionate reproaches, then
after an hour of disappointed waiting he vowed he would meet her with
cold disdain.

At length she appeared, fresh and fragrant.

"It was scarcely worth while coming," he said bitterly, as she laid her
muff and her little bag on the table and untied her veil before the
wardrobe mirror.

Never, she told her beloved, had she had such trouble to get away. She
was full of excuses, which he obstinately rejected. But no sooner had
she the good sense to hold her tongue than he ceased his reproaches, and
then nothing detracted from the longing with which she inspired him.

The curtains were drawn, the room was bathed in warm shadows lit by the
dancing gleams of the fire. The mirrors in the wardrobe and on the
chimney-piece shone with mysterious lights. Gilberte, leaning on her
elbow, head on hand, was lost in thought. A little jeweller, a
trustworthy and intelligent man, had shown her a wonderfully pretty
pearl and sapphire bracelet; it was worth a great deal, and was to be
had for a mere nothing. He had got it from a _cocotte_ down on her luck,
who was in a hurry to dispose of it. It was a rare chance; it would be a
huge pity to let it slip.

"Would you like to see it, darling? I will ask the little man to let me
have it to show you."

Maurice did not actually decline the proposal. But it was clear that he
took no interest in the wonderful bracelet. "When small jewellers come
across a great bargain, they keep it to themselves, and do not allow
their customers to profit by it. Moreover, jewellery means nothing just
now. Well-bred women have given up wearing it. Everyone goes in for
sport, and jewellery does not go with sport."

Maurice spoke thus, contrary to truth, because having given his mistress
a fur coat, he was in no hurry to give her anything more. He was not
stingy, but he was careful with his money. His people did not give him a
very large allowance, and his debts grew bigger every day. By satisfying
the wishes of his inamorata too promptly he feared to arouse others
still more pressing. The bargain seemed less wonderful to him than to
Gilberte; besides, he liked to take the initiative in choosing his
gifts. Above all, he thought that if he gave her too many presents he
would be no longer sure of being loved for himself.

Madame des Aubels felt neither contempt nor surprise at this attitude;
she was gentle and temperate, she knew men, and judged that one must
take them as one found them, that for the most part they do not give
very willingly, and that a woman should know how to make them give.

Suddenly a gas lamp was lighted in the street, and shone through the
gaps in the curtains.

"Half-past six," she said. "We must be on the move."

Pricked by the touch of Time's fleeting wing, Maurice was conscious of
reawakened desires and reanimated powers. A white and radiant offering,
Gilberte, with her head thrown back, her eyes half closed, her lips
apart, sunk in dreamy languor, was breathing slowly and placidly, when
suddenly she started up with a cry of terror.

"Whatever is that?"

"Stay still," said Maurice, holding her back in his arms.

In his present mood, had the sky fallen it would not have troubled him.
But in one bound she escaped from him. Crouching down, her eyes filled
with terror, she was pointing with her finger at a figure which appeared
in a corner of the room, between the fire-place and the wardrobe with
the mirror. Then, unable to bear the sight, and nearly fainting, she hid
her face in her hands.



CHAPTER X

     WHICH FAR SURPASSES IN AUDACITY THE IMAGINATIVE FLIGHTS OF
     DANTE AND MILTON


Maurice at length turned his head, saw the figure, and perceiving that
it moved, was also frightened. Meanwhile, Gilberte was regaining her
senses. She imagined that what she had seen was some mistress whom her
lover had hidden in the room. Inflamed with anger and disgust at the
idea of such treachery, boiling with indignation, and glaring at her
supposed rival, she exclaimed:

"A woman ... a naked woman too! You bring me into a room where you allow
your women to come, and when I arrive they have not had time to dress.
And you reproach me with arriving late! Your impudence is beyond belief!
Come, send the creature packing. If you wanted us both here together,
you might at least have asked me whether it suited me...."

Maurice, wide-eyed and groping for a revolver that had never been there,
whispered in her ear:

"Be quiet ... it is no woman. One can scarcely see, but it is more like
a man."

She put her hands over her eyes again and screamed harder than ever.

"A man! Where does he come from? A thief. An assassin! Help! Help! Kill
him.... Maurice, kill him! Turn on the light. No, don't turn on the
light...."

She made a mental vow that should she escape from this danger she would
burn a candle to the Blessed Virgin. Her teeth chattered.

The figure made a movement.

"Keep away!" cried Gilberte. "Keep away!"

She offered the burglar all the money and jewels she had on the table if
he would consent not to stir. Amid her surprise and terror the idea
assailed her that her husband, dissembling his suspicions, had caused
her to be followed, had posted witnesses, and had had recourse to the
Commissaire de Police. In a flash she distinctly saw before her the long
painful future, the glaring scandal, the pretended disdain, the cowardly
desertion of her friends, the just mockery of society, for it is indeed
ridiculous to be found out. She saw the divorce, the loss of her
position and of her rank. She saw the dreary and narrow existence with
her mother, when no one would make love to her, for men avoid women who
fail to give them the security of the married state. And all this, why?
Why this ruin, this disaster? For a piece of folly, for a mere nothing.
Thus in a lightning flash spoke the conscience of Gilberte des Aubels.

"Have no fear, Madame," said a very sweet voice.

Slightly reassured, she found strength to ask:

"Who are you?"

"I am an angel," replied the voice.

"What did you say?"

"I am an angel. I am Maurice's guardian angel."

"Say it again. I am going mad. I do not understand...."

Maurice, without understanding either, was indignant. He sprang forward
and showed himself; with his right hand armed with a slipper he made a
threatening gesture, and said in a rough voice:

"You are a low ruffian; oblige me by going the way you came."

"Maurice d'Esparvieu," continued the sweet voice, "He whom you adore as
your Creator has stationed by the side of each of the faithful a good
angel, whose mission it is to counsel and protect him; it is the
invariable opinion of the Fathers, it is founded on many passages in the
Bible, the Church admits it unanimously, without, however, pronouncing
anathema upon those who hold a contrary opinion. You see before you one
of these angels, yours, Maurice. I was commanded to watch over your
innocence and to guard your chastity."

"That may be," said Maurice; "but you are certainly no gentleman. A
gentleman would not permit himself to enter a room at such a moment. To
be plain, what the deuce are you doing here?"

"I have assumed this appearance, Maurice, because, having henceforth to
move among mankind, I have to make myself like them. The celestial
spirits possess the power of assuming a form which renders them apparent
to the eye and to the touch. This shape is real, because it is apparent,
and all the realities in the world are but appearances."

Gilberte, pacified at length, was arranging her hair on her forehead.

The Angel pursued:

"The celestial spirits adopt, according to their fancy, one sex or the
other, or both at once. But they cannot disguise themselves at any
moment, according to their caprice or fantasy. Their metamorphoses are
subject to constant laws, which you would not understand. Thus I have
neither desire nor power to transform myself under your eyes, for your
amusement or my own, into a lion, a tiger, a fly, or into a
sycamore-shaving like the young Egyptian whose story was found in a
tomb. I cannot change myself into an ass as did Lucius with the pomade
of the youthful Photis. For in my wisdom I had fixed beforehand the
hour of my apparition to mankind, nothing could hasten or delay it."

Impatient for enlightenment, Maurice asked for the second time:

"Still, what are you up to here?"

Joining her voice to his, Madame des Aubels asked: "Yes, indeed, what
are you doing here?"

The Angel replied:

"Man, lend your ear. Woman, hear my voice. I am about to reveal to you a
secret on which hangs the fate of the Universe. In rebellion against Him
whom you hold to be the Creator of all things visible and invisible, I
am preparing the Revolt of the Angels."

"Do not jest," said Maurice, who had faith and did not allow holy things
to be played with.

But the Angel answered reproachfully: "What makes you think, Maurice,
that I am frivolous and given to vain words?"

"Come, come," said Maurice, shrugging his shoulders. "You are not going
to revolt against----"

He pointed to the ceiling--not daring to finish.

But the Angel continued:

"Do you not know that the sons of God have already revolted and that a
great battle took place in the heavens?"

"That was a long time ago," said Maurice, putting on his socks.

Then the Angel replied:

"It was before the creation of the world. But nothing has changed since
then in the heavens. The nature of the Angels is no different now from
what it was originally. What they did then they could do again now."

"No! It is not possible. It is contrary to faith. If you were an angel,
a good angel as you make out you are, it would never occur to you to
disobey your Creator."

"You are in error, Maurice, and the authority of the Fathers condemns
you. Origen lays it down in his homilies that good angels are fallible,
that they sin every day and fall from Heaven like flies. Possibly you
may be tempted to reject the authority of this Father, despite his
knowledge of the Scriptures, because he is excluded from the Canon of
the Saints. If this be so, I would remind you of the second chapter of
Revelation, in which the Angels of Ephesus and Pergamos are rebuked for
that they kept not ward over their church. You will doubtless contend
that the angels to whom the Apostle here refers are, properly speaking,
the Bishops of the two cities in question, and that he calls them angels
on account of their ministry. It may be so, and I cede the point. But
with what arguments, Maurice, would you counter the opinion of all those
Doctors and Pontiffs whose unanimous teaching it is that angels may fall
from good into evil? Such is the statement made by Saint Jerome in his
Epistle to Damasus...."

"Monsieur," said Madame des Aubels, "go away, I beg you."

But the Angel hearkened not, and continued:

"Saint Augustine, in his _True Religion_, Chapter XIII; Saint Gregory,
in his _Morals_, Chapter XXIV; Isidore----"

"Monsieur, let me get my things on; I am in a hurry."

"In his treatise on _The Greatest Good_, Book I, Chapter XII; Bede on
Job----"

"Oh, please, Monsieur ..."

"Chapter VIII; John of Damascus on _Faith_, Book II, Chapter III. Those,
I think, are sufficiently weighty authorities, and there is nothing for
it, Maurice, but to admit your error. What has led you astray is that
you have not duly considered my nature, which is free, active, and
mobile, like that of all the angels, and that you have merely observed
the grace and felicity with which you deem me so richly endowed. Lucifer
possessed no less, yet he rebelled."

"But what on earth are you rebelling for?" asked Maurice.

"Isaiah," answered the child of light, "Isaiah has already asked, before
you: '_Quomodo cecidisti de coelo, Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris?_'
Hearken, Maurice. Before Time was, the Angels rose up to win dominion
over Heaven, the most beautiful of the Seraphim revolted through pride.
As for me, it is science that has inspired me with the generous desire
for freedom. Finding myself near you, Maurice, in a house containing one
of the vastest libraries in the world, I acquired a taste for reading
and a love of study. While, fordone with the toils of a sensual life,
you lay sunk in heavy slumber, I surrounded myself with books, I
studied, I pondered over their pages, sometimes in one of the rooms of
the library, under the busts of the great men of antiquity, sometimes at
the far end of the garden, in the room in the summer-house next to your
own."

On hearing these words, young d'Esparvieu exploded with laughter and
beat the pillow with his fist, an infallible sign of uncontrollable
mirth.

"Ah ... ah ... ah! It was you who pillaged papa's library and drove poor
old Sariette off his head. You know, he has become completely idiotic."

"Busily engaged," continued the Angel, "in cultivating for myself a
sovereign intelligence, I paid no heed to that inferior being, and when
he thought to offer obstacles to my researches and to disturb my work I
punished him for his importunity.

"One particular winter's night in the abode of the philosophers and
globes I let fall a volume of great weight on his head, which he tried
to tear from my invisible hand. Then more recently, raising, with a
vigorous arm composed of a column of condensed air, a precious
manuscript of Flavius Josephus, I gave the imbecile such a fright, that
he rushed out screaming on to the landing and (to borrow a striking
expression from Dante Alighieri) fell even as a dead body falls. He was
well rewarded, for you gave him, Madame, to staunch the blood from his
wound, your little scented handkerchief. It was the day, you may
remember, when behind a celestial globe you exchanged a kiss on the
mouth with Maurice."

"Monsieur," said Madame des Aubels, with a frown, "I cannot allow
you...."

But she stopped short, deeming it was an inopportune moment to appear
over-exacting on a matter of decorum.

"I had made up my mind," continued the Angel impassively, "to examine
the foundations of belief. I first attacked the monuments of Judaism,
and I read all the Hebrew texts."

"You know Hebrew, then?" exclaimed Maurice.

"Hebrew is my native tongue: in Paradise for a long time we have spoken
nothing else."

"Ah, you are a Jew. I might have deduced it from your want of tact."

The Angel, not deigning to hear, continued in his melodious voice: "I
have delved deep into Oriental antiquities and also into those of
Greece and Rome. I have devoured the works of theologians,
philosophers, physicists, geologists, and naturalists. I have learnt. I
have thought. I have lost my faith."

"What? You no longer believe in God?"

"I believe in Him, since my existence depends on His, and if He should
fail to exist, I myself should fall into nothingness. I believe in Him,
even as the Satyrs and the Mænads believed in Dionysus and for the same
reason. I believe in the God of the Jews and the Christians. But I deny
that He created the world; at the most He organised but an inferior part
of it, and all that He touched bears the mark of His rough and
unforeseeing touch. I do not think He is either eternal or infinite, for
it is absurd to conceive of a being who is not bounded by space or time.
I think Him limited, even very limited. I no longer believe Him to be
the only God. For a long time He did not believe it Himself; in the
beginning He was a polytheist; later, His pride and the flattery of His
worshippers made Him a monotheist. His ideas have little connection; He
is less powerful than He is thought to be. And, to speak candidly, He is
not so much a god as a vain and ignorant demiurge. Those who, like
myself, know His true nature, call Him Ialdabaoth."

"What's that you say?"

"Ialdabaoth."

"Ialdabaoth. What's that?"

"I have already told you. It is the demiurge whom, in your blindness,
you adore as the one and only God."

"You're mad. I don't advise you to go and talk rubbish like that to Abbé
Patouille."

"I am not in the least sanguine, my dear Maurice, of piercing the dense
night of your intellect. I merely tell you that I am going to engage
Ialdabaoth in conflict with some hopes of victory."

"Mark my words, you won't succeed."

"Lucifer shook His throne, and the issue was for a moment in doubt."

"What is your name?"

"Abdiel for the angels and saints, Arcade for mankind."

"Well, my poor Arcade, I regret to see you going to the bad. But confess
that you are jesting with us. I could at a pinch understand your leaving
Heaven for a woman. Love makes us commit the greatest follies. But you
will never make me believe that you, who have seen God face to face,
ultimately found the truth in old Sariette's musty books. No, you will
never get me to believe that!"

"My dear Maurice, Lucifer was face to face with God, yet he refused to
serve Him. As to the kind of truth one finds in books, it is a truth
that enables us sometimes to discern what things are not, without ever
enabling us to discover what they are. And this poor little truth has
sufficed to prove to me that He in whom I blindly believed is not
believable, and that men and angels have been deceived by the lies of
Ialdabaoth."

"There is no Ialdabaoth. There is God. Come, Arcade, do the right thing.
Renounce these follies, these impieties, dis-incarnate yourself, become
once more a pure Spirit, and resume your office of guardian angel.
Return to duty. I forgive you, but do not let us see you again."

"I should like to please you, Maurice. I feel a certain affection for
you, for my heart is soft. But fate henceforth calls me elsewhere
towards beings capable of thought and action."

"Monsieur Arcade," said Madame des Aubels, "withdraw, I implore you. It
makes me horribly shy to be in this position before two men. I assure
you I am not accustomed to it."



CHAPTER XI

     RECOUNTS IN WHAT MANNER THE ANGEL, ATTIRED IN THE CAST-OFF
     GARMENTS OF A SUICIDE, LEAVES THE YOUTHFUL MAURICE WITHOUT A
     HEAVENLY GUARDIAN


"Reassure yourself, Madame," replied the apparition, "your position is
not as risky as you say. You are not confronted with two men, but with
one man and an angel."

She examined the stranger with an eye which, piercing the gloom, was
anxiously surveying a vague but by no means negligible indication, and
asked:

"Monsieur, is it quite certain that you are an angel?"

The apparition prayed her to have no doubt about it, and gave some
precise information as to his origin.

"There are three hierarchies of celestial spirits, each composed of nine
choirs; the first comprises the Seraphim, Cherubim, and the Thrones; the
second, the Dominations, the Virtues, and the Powers; the third, the
Principalities, the Archangels, and the Angels properly so called. I
belong to the ninth choir of the third hierarchy."

Madame des Aubels, who had her reasons for doubting this, expressed at
least one:

"You have no wings."

"Why should I, Madame? Am I bound to resemble the angels on your
holy-water stoups? Those feathery oars that beat the waves of the air in
rhythmic cadences are not always worn by the heavenly messengers on
their shoulders. Cherubim may be apterous. That all too beautiful
angelic pair who spent an anxious night in the house of Lot compassed
about by an Oriental horde--they had no wings! No, they appeared just
like men, and the dust of the road covered their feet, which the
patriarch washed with pious hand. I would beg you to observe, Madame,
that according to the Science of Organic Metamorphosis created by
Lamarck and Darwin, the wings of birds have been successively
transformed into fore-feet in the case of quadrupeds and into arms in
the case of the Linnæan primates. And you may remember, Maurice, that by
a rather annoying reversion to type, Miss Kate, your English nurse, who
used to be so fond of giving you a whipping, had arms very like the
pinions of a plucked fowl. One may say, then, that a being possessing
both arms and wings is a monster and belongs to the department of
Teratology. In Paradise we have Cherubim and Kerûbs in the shape of
winged bulls, but those are the clumsy inventions of an inartistic god.
It is nevertheless true, quite true, that the Victories of the Temple of
Athena Nike on the Athenian Acropolis are beautiful, and possess both
arms and wings; it is also true that the Victory of Brescia is
beautiful, with her outstretched arms and her long wings folded on her
mighty loins. It is one of the miracles of Greek genius to have known
how to create harmonious monsters. The Greeks never err. The Moderns
always."

"Yet on the whole," said Madame des Aubels, "you have not the look of a
pure Spirit."

"Nevertheless, I am one, Madame, if ever there was one. And it ill
becomes you, who have been baptised, to doubt it. Several of the
Fathers, such as St. Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and Clement of
Alexandria thought that the Angels were not purely spiritual, but
possessed a body formed of some subtile material. This opinion has been
rejected by the Church; hence I am merely Spirit. But what is spirit and
what is matter? Formerly they were contrasted as being two opposites,
and now your human science tends to reunite them as two aspects of the
same thing. It teaches that everything proceeds from ether and
everything returns to it, that the same movement transforms the waves
of air into stones and minerals, and that the atoms scattered throughout
illimitable space, form, by the varying speed of their orbits, all the
substance of this material world."

But Madame des Aubels was not listening. She had something on her mind,
and to put an end to her suspense, she asked:

"How long have you been here?"

"I came with Maurice."

"Well--that's a nice thing!" said she, shaking her head. But the Angel
continued with heavenly serenity:

"Everything in the Universe is circular, elliptical, or hyperbolic, and
the same laws which rule the stars govern this grain of dust. In the
original and native movement of its substance, my body is spiritual, but
it may affect, as you perceive, this material state, by changing the
rhythm of its elements."

Having thus spoken he sat down in a chair on Madame des Aubels' black
stockings.

A clock struck outside.

"Good heavens, seven o'clock!" exclaimed Gilberte. "What am I to say to
my husband? He thinks I am at that tea-party in the Rue de Rivoli. We
are dining with the La Verdelières to-night. Go away immediately,
Monsieur Arcade. I must get ready to go. I have not a second to lose."

The Angel replied that he would have willingly obeyed Madame des Aubels
had he been in a state to show himself decently in public, but that he
could not dream of appearing out of doors without any clothes. "Were I
to walk naked in the street," he added, "I should offend a nation
attached to its ancient habits, habits which it has never examined. They
are the basis of all moral systems. Formerly," he added, "the angels, in
revolt like myself, manifested themselves to Christians under grotesque
and ridiculous appearances, black, horned, hairy, and cloven-footed.
Pure stupidity! They were the laughing-stock of people of taste. They
merely frightened old women and children and met with no success."

"It is true he cannot go out as he is," said Madame des Aubels with
justice.

Maurice tossed his pyjamas and his slippers to the celestial messenger.
Regarded as outdoor habiliments they were not adequate. Gilberte pressed
her lover to run at once in quest of other clothes. He proposed to go
and get some from the concierge. She was violently opposed to this. It
would, she said, be madly imprudent to drag the concierge into such an
affair.

"Do you want them to know that ..." she exclaimed.

She pointed to the Angel and was silent.

Young d'Esparvieu went out to seek a clothes-shop.

Meanwhile, Gilberte, who could not delay any longer for fear of causing
a horrible society scandal, turned on the light and dressed before the
Angel. She did it without any awkwardness, for she knew how to adapt
herself to circumstances; and she took it that in such an unheard-of
encounter in which heaven and earth were mingled in unutterable
confusion it was permissible to retrench in modesty.

Moreover, she knew that she possessed a good figure and had garments as
dainty as the fashion demanded. As the apparition's sense of delicacy
would not permit him to don Maurice's pyjamas, Gilberte could not help
observing by the lamp-light that her suspicions were well-founded, and
that angels have the same appearance as men. Curious to know if the
appearance were real or imaginary she asked the child of light if Angels
were like monkeys, who, to win women, merely lack money.

"Yes, Gilberte," replied Arcade, "Angels are capable of loving mortals.
It is the teaching of the Scriptures. It is said in the Seventh Book of
Genesis, 'When men became numerous on the face of the earth, and
daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of
men were beautiful, and they took as wives all those which pleased
them.'"

"Good heavens," cried Gilberte all at once, "I shall never be able to
fasten my dress; it hooks down the back."

When Maurice entered the room he found the Angel on his knees tying the
shoes of the woman taken in _flagrante delicto_.

Taking her muff and her bag off the table she said:

"I have not forgotten anything? No. Good-night, Monsieur Arcade.
Good-night, Maurice. I shall not forget to-day." And she vanished like a
dream.

"Here," said Maurice, throwing the Angel a bundle of clothes.

The young man, having seen some dismal rags lying among clarionettes and
clyster-pipes in the window of a second-hand shop, had bought for
nineteen francs the cast-off suit of some wretched sable-clad mortal who
had committed suicide. The Angel, with native majesty, took the garments
and put them on. Worn by him, they took on an unexpected elegance. He
took a step to the door.

"So you are leaving me," said Maurice. "It's settled, then? I very much
fear that, some day, you will bitterly regret this hasty action."

"I must not look back. Adieu, Maurice."

Maurice timidly slipped five louis into his hand.

"Adieu, Arcade."

But when the Angel had passed through the door, and all that was to be
seen of him in the door-way was his uplifted heel, Maurice called him
back.

"Arcade! I never thought of it! I have no guardian angel now!"

"Quite true, Maurice, you have one no longer."

"Then what will become of me? One must have a guardian angel. Tell
me,--are there not grave drawbacks,--is there no danger in not having
one?"

"Before replying, Maurice, I must ask you if you wish me to speak to you
according to your belief, which formerly was my own, according to the
teaching of the Church and the Catholic faith, or according to natural
philosophy."

"I don't care a straw for your natural philosophy. Answer me according
to the religion I believe in, and which I profess, and in which I wish
to live and die."

"Very well, my dear Maurice. The loss of your guardian angel will
probably deprive you of certain spiritual succour, of certain celestial
grace. I am expressing to you the unvarying opinion of the Church on the
matter. You will lack an assistance, a support, a consolation which
would have guided and confirmed you in the way of salvation. You will
have less strength to avoid sin, and as it was you hadn't much. In fact,
in spiritual matters, you will be without strength and without joy.
Adieu, Maurice; when you see Madame des Aubels, please remember me to
her."

"You are going?"

"Farewell."

Arcade disappeared, and Maurice in the depths of an arm-chair sat for a
long time with his head in his hands.



CHAPTER XII

     WHEREIN IT IS SET FORTH HOW THE ANGEL MIRAR, WHEN BEARING
     GRACE AND CONSOLATION TO THOSE DWELLING IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
     OF THE CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES IN PARIS, BEHELD A MUSIC-HALL SINGER
     NAMED BOUCHOTTE AND FELL IN LOVE WITH HER


Through streets filled with brown fog, pierced with white and yellow
lights, where horses exhaled their smoking breath and motors radiated
their rapid search-lights, the angel made his way, and, mingling with
the black flood of foot-passengers which rolled unceasingly along,
proceeded across the town from north to south till he came to the lonely
boulevards on the left bank of the river. Not far from the old walls of
Port Royal, a small restaurant flings night by night athwart the
pavement the clouded rays of its streaming windows. Coming to a halt
there, Arcade entered a room full of warm, savoury odours, pleasing to
the unfortunate beings faint with cold and hunger. Glancing round him he
beheld Russian Nihilists, Italian Anarchists, refugees, conspirators,
revolutionaries from every quarter of the globe, picturesque old faces
with tumbled masses of hair and beard that swept downwards even as the
torrent and the waterfall sweep over their rocky bed. There were young
faces of virginal coldness, expressions sombre and wild, pale eyes of
infinite sweetness, drawn faces, and, in a corner, there were two
Russian women, one extremely lovely, the other hideous, but both
resembling each other in their indifference to ugliness and to beauty.
But failing to find the face he sought, for there were no angels in the
room, he sat down at a small vacant marble table.

Angels, when driven by hunger, eat as do the animals of this earth, and
their food, transformed by digestive heat, becomes one with their
celestial substance. Seeing three angels under the oaks of Mamre,
Abraham offered them cakes, kneaded by Sarah, an whole calf, butter and
milk, and they ate. Lot, on receiving two angels in his house, ordered
unleavened bread to be baked, and they did eat. Arcade was given a tough
beef-steak by a seedy waiter, and he did eat. Nevertheless, his dreams
were of the sweet leisure, of the repose, of the delightful studies he
had quitted, of the heavy task he had undertaken, of the toil, the
weariness, the perils which he would have to endure, and his soul was
sad and his heart troubled.

As he was finishing his modest repast, a young man of poor appearance
and thinly clad entered the room, and rapidly surveying the tables
approached the angel and greeted him by the name of Abdiel, because he
himself was a celestial spirit.

"I knew you would answer my call, Mirar," replied Arcade, addressing his
angelic brother in his turn by the name he formerly bore in heaven. But
Mirar was remembered no more in heaven since he, an Archangel, had left
the service of God. He was called Théophile Belais on earth, and to earn
his bread gave music lessons to small children in the day-time and at
night played the violin in dancing saloons.

"It is you, dear Abdiel?" replied Théophile. "So here we are reunited in
this sad world. I am pleased to see you again. All the same I pity you,
for we lead a hard life here."

But Arcade answered:

"Friend, your exile draws to an end. I have great plans. I will confide
them to you and associate you with them."

And Maurice's guardian angel, having ordered two coffees, revealed his
ideas and his projects to his companion: he told how, during his visit
on earth, he had abandoned himself to researches little practised by
celestial spirits and had studied theologies, cosmogonies, the system of
the Universe, theories of matter, modern essays on the transformation
and loss of energy. Having, he explained, studied Nature, he had found
her in perpetual conflict with the teachings of the Master he served.
This Master, greedy of praise, whom he had for a long time adored,
appeared to him now as an ignorant, stupid, and cruel tyrant. He had
denied Him, blasphemed Him, and was burning to combat Him. His plan was
to recommence the revolt of the angels. He wished for war, and hoped for
victory.

"But," he added, "it is necessary above all to know our strength and
that of our adversary." And he asked if the enemies of Ialdabaoth were
numerous and powerful on earth.

Théophile looked wonderingly at his brother. He appeared not to
understand the questions addressed him.

"Dear compatriot," he said, "I came at your invitation because it was
the invitation of an old comrade. But I do not know what you expect of
me, and I fear I shall be unable to help you in anything. I take no hand
in politics, neither do I stand forth as a reformer. I am not like you,
a spirit in revolt, a freethinker, a revolutionary. I remain faithful,
in the depths of my soul, to the Celestial Creator. I still adore the
Master I no longer serve, and I lament the days when shrouding myself
with my wings I formed with the multitude of the children of light a
wheel of flame around His throne of glory. Love, profane love has alone
separated me from God. I quitted heaven to follow a daughter of men. She
was beautiful and sang in music-halls."

They rose. Arcade accompanied Théophile, who was living at the other end
of the town, at the corner of the Boulevard Rochechouart and the Rue de
Steinkerque. While walking through the deserted streets he who loved the
singer told his brother of his love and his sorrows.

His fall, which dated from two years back, had been sudden. Belonging to
the eighth choir of the third hierarchy he was a bearer of grace to the
faithful who are still to be found in large numbers in France,
especially among the higher ranks of the officers of the army and navy.

"One summer night," he said, "as I was descending from Heaven, to
distribute consolations, the grace of perseverance and of good deaths to
divers pious persons in the neighbourhood of the Étoile, my eyes,
although well accustomed to immortal light, were dazzled by the fiery
flowers with which the Champs Élysées were sown. Great candelabra, under
the trees, marking the entrances to cafés and restaurants, gave the
foliage the precious glitter of an emerald. Long garlands of luminous
pearl surrounded the open-air enclosures where a crowd of men and women
sat closely packed listening to the sounds of a lively orchestra, whose
strains reached my ears confusedly.

"The night was warm, my wings were beginning to grow tired. I descended
into one of the concerts and sat down, invisible, among the audience. At
this moment, a woman appeared on the stage, clad in a short spangled
frock. Owing to the reflection of the footlights and the paint on her
face all that was visible of the latter was the expression and the
smile. Her body was supple and voluptuous.

"She sang and danced.... Arcade, I have always loved dancing and music,
but this creature's thrilling voice and insidious movements created in
me an uneasiness I had never known before. My colour came and went. My
eyelids drooped, my tongue clove to my mouth. I could not leave the
spot."

And Théophile related, groaning, how, possessed by desire for this
woman, he did not return to Heaven again, but, taking the shape of a
man, lived an earthly life, for it is written: "In those days the sons
of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful."

A fallen angel, having lost his innocence along with the vision of God,
Théophile at heart still retained his simplicity of soul. Clad in rags,
filched from the stall of a Jewish hawker, he went to seek the woman he
loved. She was called Bouchotte and lodged in a small house in
Montmartre. He flung himself at her feet and told her she was adorable,
that she sang delightfully, that he loved her madly, that, for her, he
would renounce his family and his country, that he was a musician and
had nothing to eat. Touched by such youthful ingenuousness, candour,
poverty, and love, she fed, clothed, and loved him.

However, after long and painful struggles, he procured employment as a
music-teacher, and made some money, which he brought to his mistress,
keeping nothing for himself. From that time forward she loved him no
longer. She despised him for earning so little and did not conceal her
indifference, weariness, and disgust. She overwhelmed him with
reproaches, irony, and abuse, in spite of which she kept him, for she
had had experience of worse partners and was used to domestic quarrels.
For the rest, she led a busy, serious, and rather hard life as artist
and woman. Théophile loved her as he had loved her the first night, and
he suffered.

"She overworks herself," he told his celestial brother, "that is what
makes her so hard to please, but I am certain she loves me. I hope soon
to give her more comfort."

And he spoke at length of an operetta at which he was working and which
he hoped to have brought out at a Paris theatre. A young poet had given
him the libretto. It was the story of Aline, queen of Golconda, after an
eighteenth-century tale.

"I am strewing it profusely with melodies," said Théophile; "my music
comes from my heart. My heart is an inexhaustible source of melody.
Unfortunately nowadays people like recondite arrangements, difficult
scoring. They accuse me of being too fluid, too limpid, of not imparting
enough colour to my style, not aiming at stronger effects in harmony and
more vigorous contrasts. Harmony, harmony!... No doubt it has given its
merits, but it does not appeal to the heart. It is melody which carries
us away and ravishes us and brings smiles and tears to our eyes." At
these words he smiled and wept to himself. Then he continued with
emotion:

"I am a fountain of melody. But the orchestration! there's the rub! In
Paradise, you know, Arcade, in the matter of instruments, we only
possess the harp, the psaltery, and the hydraulic organ."

Arcade was only listening to him with half an ear. He was meditating
plans which filled his soul and swelled his heart.

"Do you know any angels in revolt?" he asked his companion. "As for me,
I know only one, Prince Istar, with whom I have exchanged a few letters
and who offered to share his attic with me while I was finding a lodging
in this town, where I believe rents are very high."

Of angels in revolt Théophile knew none. When he met a fallen spirit who
had formerly been one of his comrades he shook him by the hand, for he
was a faithful friend. Sometimes he saw Prince Istar. But he avoided
all those bad angels who shocked him by the violence of their opinions
and whose conversations plagued him to death.

"Then you don't approve of me?" asked the impulsive Arcade.

"Friend, I neither approve of you nor blame you. I understand nothing of
the ideas which trouble you. Neither do I think it good for an artist to
concern himself with politics. One has quite sufficient to occupy
oneself with one's art."

He loved his profession, and had hopes of "arriving" one day, but
theatrical ways disgusted him. The only chance he saw of having his
piece played was to take one or two--perhaps three--collaborators, who,
without having done any work, would sign their names and share the
profits. Soon Bouchotte would fail to find engagements. When she offered
her services in some small hall the manager began by asking her how many
shares she was taking in the business. Such customs, thought Théophile,
were deplorable.



CHAPTER XIII

     WHEREIN WE HEAR THE BEAUTIFUL ARCHANGEL ZITA UNFOLD HER
     LOFTY DESIGNS AND ARE SHOWN THE WINGS OF MIRAR, ALL
     MOTH-EATEN, IN A CUPBOARD


Thus talking, the two archangels had reached the Boulevard Rochechouart.
As his eye lighted on a tavern, whence, through the mist, the light fell
golden on the pavement, Théophile suddenly bethought himself of the
Archangel Ithuriel who, in the guise of a poor but beautiful woman, was
living in wretched lodgings on La Butte and came every evening to read
the papers at this tavern. The musician often met her there. Her name
was Zita. Théophile had never been curious enough to enquire into the
opinions entertained by this archangel, but it was generally supposed
that she was a Russian nihilist, and he took her to be, like Arcade, an
atheist and a revolutionary. He had heard remarkable tales about her.
People said she was an hermaphrodite, and that as the active and passive
principles were united within her in a condition of stable equilibrium,
she was an example of a perfect being, finding in herself complete and
continuous satisfaction, contented yet unfortunate in that she knew not
desire.

"But," added Théophile, "I have my doubts about it. I believe she's a
woman and subject to love, like everything else that has life and breath
in the Universe. Besides, someone caught her one day kissing her hand to
a strapping peasant fellow."

He offered to introduce his companion to her.

The two angels found her alone, reading. As they drew near she lifted
her great eyes in whose deeps of molten gold little sparks of light were
forever a-dance. Her brows were contracted into that austere fold which
we see on the forehead of the Pythian Apollo; her nose was perfect and
descended without a curve; her lips were compressed and imparted a
disdainful and supercilious air to her whole countenance. Her tawny
hair, with its gleaming lights, was carelessly adorned with the tattered
remnants of a huge bird of prey, her garments lay about her in dark and
shapeless folds. She was leaning her chin on a small ill-tended hand.

Arcade, who had but recently heard references made to this powerful
archangel, showed her marked esteem, and placed entire confidence in
her. He immediately proceeded to tell of the progress his mind had made
towards knowledge and liberty, of his lucubrations in the d'Esparvieu
library, of his philosophical reading, his studies of nature, his works
on exegesis, his anger and his contempt when he recognised the deception
of the demiurge, his voluntary exile among mankind, and, finally, of his
project to stir up rebellion in Heaven. Ready to dare all against an
odious master, whom he pursued with inextinguishable hatred, he
expressed his profound happiness at finding in Ithuriel a mind capable
of counselling and helping him in his great undertaking.

"You are not a very old hand at revolutions," said Zita, smiling.

Nevertheless, she doubted neither his sincerity nor the firmness of his
declared resolve, and she congratulated him on his intellectual
audacity.

"That is what is most lacking in our people," she said, "they do not
think."

And she added almost immediately: "But on what can intelligence sharpen
its wits, in a country where the climate is soft and existence made
easy? Even here, where necessity calls for intellectual activity,
nothing is rarer than a person who thinks."

"Nevertheless," replied Maurice's guardian angel, "man has created
science. The important thing is to introduce it into Heaven. When the
angels possess some notions of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and
physiology; when the study of matter shows them worlds in an atom, and
an atom in the myriads of planets; when they see themselves lost
between these two infinities; when they weigh and measure the stars,
analyse their composition, and calculate their orbits, they will
recognise that these monsters work in obedience to forces which no
intelligence can define, or that each star has its particular divinity,
or indigenous god; and they will realise that the gods of Aldebaran,
Betelgeuse, and Sirius are greater than Ialdabaoth. When at length they
come to scrutinise with care the little world in which their lot is
cast, and, piercing the crust of the earth, note the gradual evolution
of its flora and fauna and the rude origin of man, who, under the
shelter of rocks and in cave dwellings, had no God but himself; when
they discover that, united by the bonds of universal kinship to plants,
beasts, and men, they have successively indued all forms of organic
life, from the simplest and the most primitive, until they became at
length the most beautiful of the children of light, they will perceive
that Ialdabaoth, the obscure demon of an insignificant world lost in
space, is imposing on their credulity when he pretends that they issued
from nothingness at his bidding; they will perceive that he lies in
calling himself the Infinite, the Eternal, the Almighty, and that, so
far from having created worlds, he knows neither their number nor their
laws. They will perceive that he is like unto one of them; they will
despise him, and, shaking off his tyranny, will fling him into the
Gehenna where he has hurled those more worthy than himself."

"Do you think so?" murmured Zita, puffing out the smoke of her
cigarette.... "Nevertheless, this knowledge by virtue of which you
reckon to enfranchise Heaven, has not destroyed religious sentiment on
earth. In countries where they have set up and taught this science of
physics, of chemistry, astronomy, and geology, which you think capable
of delivering the world, Christianity has retained almost all its sway.
If the positive sciences have had such a feeble influence on the beliefs
of mankind, it is not likely they will exercise a greater one on the
opinions of the angels, and nothing is of such dubious efficacy as
scientific propaganda."

"What!" exclaimed Arcade, "you deny that Science has given the Church
its death-blow? Is it possible? The Church, at any rate, judges
otherwise. Science, which you believe has no power over her, is
redoubtable to her, since she proscribes it. From Galileo's dialogues to
Monsieur Aulard's little manuals she has condemned all its discoveries.
And not without reason.

"In former days, when she gathered within her fold all that was great in
human thought, the Church held sway over the bodies as well as over the
souls of men, and imposed unity of obedience by fire and sword. To-day
her power is but a shadow and the elect among the great minds have
withdrawn from her. That is the state to which Science has reduced her."

"Possibly," replied the beautiful archangel, "but how slowly, with what
vicissitudes, at the price of what efforts, of what sacrifices!"

Zita did not absolutely condemn scientific propaganda, but she
anticipated no prompt or certain results from it. For her it was not so
much a question of enlightening the angels; the important thing was to
enfranchise them. In her opinion one only exerted a strong influence on
individuals, whoever they might be, by rousing their passions, and
appealing to their interests.

"Persuade the angels that they will cover themselves with glory by
overthrowing the tyrant, and that they will be happier once they are
free; that is the most practical policy to attempt, and, for my own
part, I am devoting all my energies to its fulfilment. It is certainly
no light task, because the Kingdom of Heaven is a military autocracy and
there is no public opinion in it. Nevertheless, I do not despair of
starting an intellectual movement. I do not wish to boast, but no one is
more closely acquainted than I with the different classes of angelic
society."

Throwing away her cigarette, Zita pondered for a moment, then, amid the
click of ivory balls on the billiard table, the clinking of glasses,
the curt voices of the players announcing their points, the monotonous
answers of the waiters to their customers, the Archangel enumerated the
entire population of the spirits of light.

"We must not count on the Dominations, the Virtues, nor the Powers,
which compose the celestial lower middle class. I have no need to tell
you, for you know it as well as I, how selfish, base, and cowardly the
middle classes are. As to the great dignitaries, the Ministers, the
Generals, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim, you know what they are; they
will take no action. Let us, however, once prove ourselves the stronger,
and we shall have them with us. For if autocrats do not readily
acquiesce in their own downfall, once overthrown, all their forces
recoil upon themselves. It will be well to work the Army. Entirely loyal
as the Army is, it will allow itself to be influenced by a clever
anarchist propaganda. But our greatest and most constant efforts ought
to be brought to bear upon the angels of your own category, Arcade; the
guardian angels, who dwell upon earth in such great numbers. They fill
the lowest ranks of the hierarchy, are for the most part discontented
with their lot, and more or less imbued with the ideas of the present
century."

She had already conferred with the guardian angels of Montmartre,
Clignancourt, and Filles-du-Calvaire. She had devised the plan of a
vast association of Spirits on Earth with the view of conquering Heaven.

"To accomplish this task," she said, "I have established myself in
France. But not because I had the folly to believe myself freer in a
republic than in a monarchy. Quite the contrary, for there is no country
where the liberty of the individual is less respected than in France.
But the people are indifferent to everything connected with religion;
nowhere else, therefore, should I enjoy such tranquillity."

She invited Arcade to unite his efforts to hers, and when they separated
at the door of the _brasserie_ the steel shutter was already making its
groaning descent.

"Above all," said Zita, "you must meet the gardener. I will take you to
his rustic home one day."

Théophile, who had slumbered during all this talk, begged his friend to
come home with him and smoke a cigarette. He lived quite near in the
small street opposite, leading off the Boulevard. Arcade would see
Bouchotte, she would please him.

They climbed up five flights of stairs. Bouchotte had not yet returned.
A tin of sardines lay open on the piano. Red stockings coiled about the
arm-chairs.

"It's a little place, but it's comfortable," said Théophile.

And gazing out of the window which looked out on the russet-coloured
night, with its myriad lights, he added, "One can see the _Sacré
Coeur_." His hand on Arcade's shoulder, he repeated several times, "I am
glad to see you."

Then, dragging his former companion in glory into the kitchen passage,
he put down his candlestick, drew a key from his pocket, opened a
cupboard, and, raising a linen covering, disclosed two large white
wings.

"You see," he said, "I have preserved them. From time to time, when I am
alone, I go and look at them; it does me good."

And he dabbed his reddened eyes. He stood awhile, overcome by silent
emotion. Then, holding the candle near the long pinions which were
moulting their down in places, he murmured, "They are eaten away."

"You must put some pepper on them," said Arcade.

"I have done so," replied the angelic musician, sighing. "I have put
pepper, camphor, and powder on them. But nothing does any good."



CHAPTER XIV

     WHICH REVEALS THE CHERUB TOILING FOR THE WELFARE OF HUMANITY
     AND CONCLUDES IN AN ENTIRELY NOVEL MANNER WITH THE MIRACLE
     OF THE FLUTE


The first night of his incarnation Arcade slept at the angel Istar's, in
a garret in that narrow, gloomy Rue Mazarine which wallows along beneath
the shadow of the old Institute of France. Istar, who had been expecting
him, had pushed against the wall the shattered retorts, cracked pots,
broken bottles, and odds and ends of iron stoves, which made up the
furniture of his room, and spread his clothes on the floor to lie on,
leaving his guest his folding-bed with its straw mattress.

The celestial spirits differ from one another in appearance according to
the hierarchy and the choir to which they belong, and according to their
own particular nature. They are all beautiful; but in different fashion,
and they do not all offer to the eye the soft contours and dimpling
smiles of childhood with its rosy lights and pearly tints. Nor do they
all adorn themselves with eternal youth, that indefinable beauty that
Greek art in its decline has imparted to its most lovingly handled
marbles, and whereof Christian painters have so often timidly essayed to
give us veiled and softened imitations. In some of them the chin glows
with tufts of hair, and the limbs are furnished with such vigorous
muscles that it seems as if serpents were writhing beneath the skin.
Some have no wings, others possess two, four, or six; others again are
formed entirely of conjoined pinions. Many, and these not the least
illustrious, take the form of superb monsters, such as the Centaurs of
fable; nay, one may even see some who are living chariots, and wheels of
fire. A member of the highest celestial hierarchy, Istar belonged to the
choir of Cherubim or Kerûbs who see above them the Seraphim alone. In
common with all the angelic spirits of his rank he had formerly borne in
Heaven the bodily shape of a winged bull surmounted by the head of a
horned and bearded man, and carrying between his loins the attributes of
generous fecundity. He was vaster and more vigorous than any animal on
earth, and when he stood erect with outspread wings he covered with his
shadow sixty archangels.

Such was Istar in his native home. There he radiated strength and
sweetness. His heart was full of courage and his soul benevolent.
Moreover, in those days he loved his lord. He believed him to be good
and yielded him faithful service. But even while guarding the portals of
his Master, he used to ponder unceasingly on the punishment of the
rebellious angels and the curse of Eve. His mind worked slowly but
profoundly. When, after a long course of centuries, he persuaded himself
that Ialdabaoth in creating the world had created evil and death, he
ceased to adore and to serve him. His love changed to hatred, his
veneration to contempt. He shouted his execrations in his face, and fled
to earth.

Embodied in human form and reduced to the stature of the sons of Adam,
he still retained some characteristics of his former nature. His big
protruding eyes, his beaked nose, his thick lips framed in a black beard
which descended in curls on to his chest recalled those Cherubs of the
tabernacle of Iahveh, of which the bulls of Nineveh afford us a pretty
accurate representation. He bore the name of Istar on earth as well as
in Heaven, and although exempt from vanity and free from all social
prejudice, he was immensely desirous of showing himself sincere and
truthful in all things. He therefore proclaimed the illustrious rank in
which his birth had placed him in the celestial hierarchy and translated
into French his title of Cherub by the equivalent one of Prince, calling
himself Prince Istar. Seeking shelter among mankind he had developed an
ardent love for them. While awaiting the coming of the hour when he
should deliver Heaven from bondage, he dreamed of the salvation of
regenerate humanity and was eager to consummate the destruction of this
wicked world, in order to raise upon its ashes, to the sound of the
lyre, a city radiant with happiness and love. A chemist in the pay of a
dealer in nitrates, he lived very frugally. He wrote for newspapers with
advanced views on liberty, spoke at public meetings, and had got himself
sentenced several times to several months' imprisonment for
anti-militarism.

Istar greeted his brother Arcade cordially, approved of his rupture with
the party of crime, and informed him of the descent of fifty of the
children of light who, at the present moment, formed a colony near Val
de Grace, imbued with a really excellent spirit.

"It is simply raining angels in Paris," he said, laughing. "Every day
some dignitary of the sacred palace falls on one's head, and soon the
Sultan of the Cherubs will have no one to make into Vizirs or guards but
the little unbreeched vagabonds of his pigeon coops."

Soothed by the good news, Arcade fell asleep, full of happiness and
hope.

He awoke in the early dawn and saw Prince Istar bending over his
furnaces, his retorts, and his test tubes. Prince Istar was working for
the good of humanity.

Every morning when Arcade woke he saw Prince Istar fulfilling his work
of tenderness and love. Sometimes the Kerûb, huddled up with his head in
his hands, would softly murmur a few chemical formulæ; at others,
drawing himself up to his full height, like a dark naked column, with
his head, his arms, nay, his entire bust clean out of the sky-light
window, he would deposit his melting-pot on the roof, fearing the
perquisition with which he was constantly menaced. Moved by an immense
pity for the miseries of the world wherein he dwelt in exile, conscious
perhaps of the rumours to which his name gave rise, inebriated with his
own virtue, he played the part of apostle to the Human Race, and
neglecting the task he had undertaken in coming to earth, he forgot all
about the emancipation of the angels. Arcade, who, on the contrary,
dreamed of nothing else but of conquering Heaven and returning thither
in triumph, reproached the Cherub with forgetting his native land.

Prince Istar, with a great frank, uncouth laugh, acknowledged that he
had no preference for angels over men.

"If I am doing my best," he replied to his celestial brother, "if I am
doing my best to stir up France and Europe, it is because the day is
dawning which will behold the triumph of the social revolution. It is a
pleasure to cast one's seed on ground so well prepared. The French
having passed from feudalism to monarchy, and from monarchy to a
financial oligarchy, will easily pass from a financial oligarchy to
anarchy."

"How erroneous it is," retorted Arcade, "to believe in great and sudden
changes in the social order in Europe! The old order is still young in
strength and power. The means of defence at her disposal are formidable.
On the other hand, the proletariat's plan of defensive organisation is
of the vaguest description and brings merely weakness and confusion to
the struggle. In our celestial country all goes quite otherwise. Beneath
an apparently unchangeable exterior all is rotten within. A mere push
would suffice to overturn an edifice which has not been touched for
millions of centuries. Out-worn administration, out-worn army, out-worn
finance, the whole thing is more worm-eaten than either the Russian or
Persian autocracy."

And the kindly Arcade adjured the Cherub to fly first to the aid of his
brethren who, though dwelling amid the soft clouds with the sound of
citterns and their cups of paradisal wine around them, were in more
wretched plight than mankind bowed over the grudging earth. For the
latter have a conception of justice, while the angels rejoice in
iniquity. He exhorted him to deliver the Prince of Light and his
stricken companions and to re-establish them in their ancient honours.

Prince Istar allowed himself to be convinced.

He promised to put the sweet persuasiveness of his words and the
excellent formulæ of his explosives at the service of the celestial
revolution. He gave his promise.

"To-morrow," he said.

And when the morrow came he continued his anti-militarist propaganda at
Issy-les-Moulineaux. Like the Titan Prometheus, Istar loved mankind.

Arcade, suffering from all the desires to which the sons of Adam are
subjected, found himself lacking in resources to satisfy them. Istar
gave him a start in a printing house in the Rue de Vaugirard where he
knew the foreman. Arcade, thanks to his celestial intelligence, soon
knew how to set up type and became, in a short time, a good compositor.

After standing all day in the whirring workroom, holding the
composing-stick in his left hand, and swiftly drawing the little leaden
signs from the case in the order required by the copy fixed in the
_visorium_, he would go and wash his hands at the pump and dine at the
corner bar, a newspaper propped up before him on the marble table. Being
now no longer invisible, he could not make his way into the d'Esparvieu
library, and was thus debarred from allaying his ardent thirst for
knowledge at that inexhaustible source. He went, of an evening, to read
at the library of Ste. Geneviève on the famous hill of learning, but
there were only ordinary books to be had there; greasy things, covered
with ridiculous annotations, and lacking many pages.

The sight of women troubled and unsettled him. He would remember Madame
des Aubels and her charm, and, although he was handsome, he was not
loved, because of his poverty and his workaday clothes. He saw much of
Zita, and took a certain pleasure in going for walks with her on Sundays
along the dusty roads which edge the grass-grown trenches of the
fortifications. They wandered, the pair of them, by wayside inns,
market-gardens, and green retreats, propounding and discussing the
vastest plans that ever stirred the world, and, occasionally, as they
passed along by some travelling circus, the steam organ of the
merry-go-round would furnish an accompaniment to their words as they
breathed fire and fury against Heaven.

Zita used often to say:

"Istar means well, but he's a simple fellow. He believes in the goodness
of men and things. He undertakes the destruction of the old world and
imagines that anarchy of itself will create order and harmony. You,
Arcade, you believe in Science; you deem that men and angels are capable
of understanding, whereas, in point of fact, they are only creatures of
sentiment. You may be quite sure that nothing is to be obtained from
them by appealing to their intelligence; one must rouse their interests
and their passions."

Arcade, Istar, Zita, and three or four other angelic conspirators
occasionally foregathered in Théophile Belais' little flat, where
Bouchotte gave them tea. Though she did not know that they were
rebellious angels, she hated them instinctively, and feared them, for
she had had a Christian education, albeit she had sadly failed to keep
it up.

Prince Istar alone pleased her; she thought there was something
kind-hearted and an air of natural distinction about him. He stove in
the sofa, broke down the arm-chairs, and tore corners off sheets of
music to make notes, which he thrust into pockets invariably crammed
with pamphlets and bottles. The musician used to gaze sorrowfully at the
manuscript of his operetta, _Aline, Queen of Golconda_, with its corners
all torn off. The prince also had a habit of giving Théophile Belais all
sorts of things to take care of--mechanical contrivances, chemicals,
bits of old iron, powders, and liquids which gave off noisome smells.
Théophile Belais put them cautiously away in the cupboard where he kept
his wings, and the responsibility weighed heavily upon him.

Arcade was much pained at the disdain of those of his fellows who had
remained faithful. When they met him as they went on their sacred
errands they regarded him as they passed by with looks of cruel hatred
or of pity that was crueller still.

He used to visit the rebel angels whom Prince Istar pointed out to him,
and usually met with a good reception, but as soon as he began to speak
of conquering Heaven, they did not conceal the embarrassment and
displeasure he caused them. Arcade perceived that they had no desire to
be disturbed in their tastes, their affairs, and their habits. The
falsity of their judgment, the narrowness of their minds, shocked him;
and the rivalry, the jealousy they displayed towards one another
deprived him of all hope of uniting them in a common cause. Perceiving
how exile debases the character and warps the intellect, he felt his
courage fail him.

One evening, when he had confessed his weariness of spirit to Zita, the
beautiful archangel said:

"Let us go and see Nectaire; Nectaire has remedies of his own for
sadness and fatigue."

She led him into the woods of Montmorency and stopped at the threshold
of a small white house, adjoining a kitchen garden, laid waste by
winter, where far back in the shadows the light shone on forcing-frames
and cracked glass melon shades.

Nectaire opened the door to his visitors, and, after quieting the growls
of a big mastiff which protected the garden, led them into a low room
warmed by an earthenware stove.

Against the whitewashed wall, on a deal board, among the onions and
seeds, lay a flute ready to be put to the lips. A round walnut table
bore a stone tobacco-jar, a pipe, a bottle of wine and some glasses. The
gardener offered each of his guests a cane-seated chair, and himself sat
down on a stool by the table.

He was a sturdy old man; thick grey hair stood up on his head, he had a
furrowed brow, a snub-nose, a red face, and a forked beard.

The big mastiff stretched himself at his master's feet, rested his short
black muzzle on his paws, and closed his eyes. The gardener poured out
some wine for his guests, and when they had drunk and talked a little,
Zita said to Nectaire:

"Please play your flute to us, you will give pleasure to my friend whom
I have brought to see you."

The old man immediately consented. He put the boxwood pipe to his
lips,--so clumsy was it that it looked as if the gardener had fashioned
it himself,--and preluded with a few strange runs. Then he developed
rich melodies in which the thrills sparkled like diamonds and pearls on
a velvet ground. Touched by cunning fingers, animated with creative
breath, the rustic pipe sang like a silver flute. There were no
over-shrill notes and the tone was always even and pure. One seemed to
be listening to the nightingale and the Muses singing together, the soul
of Nature and the soul of Man. And the old man ordered and developed his
thoughts in a musical language full of grace and daring. He told of
love, of fear, of vain quarrels, of all-conquering laughter, of the
calm light of the intellect, of the arrows of the mind piercing with
their golden shafts the monsters of Ignorance and Hate. He told also of
Joy and Sorrow bending their twin heads over the earth and of Desire
which brings worlds into being.

The whole night listened to the flute of Nectaire. Already the evening
star was rising above the paling horizon.

There they sat; Zita with hands clasped about her knees, Arcade, his
head leaning on his hand, his lips apart. Motionless they listened. A
lark, which had awakened hard by in a sandy field, lured by these novel
sounds, rose swiftly in the air, hovered a few seconds, then dropped at
one swoop into the musician's orchard. The neighbouring sparrows,
forsaking the crannies of the mouldering walls, came and sat in a row on
the window-ledge whence notes came welling forth that gave them more
delight than oats or grains of barley. A jay, coming for the first time
out of his wood, folded his sapphire wings on a leafless cherry tree.
Beside the drain-head, a large black rat, glistening with the greasy
water of the sewers, sitting on his hind legs, raised his short arms and
slender fingers in amazement. A field-mouse, that dwelt in the orchard,
was seated near him. Down from the tiles came the old tom-cat, who
retained the grey fur, the ringed tail, the powerful loins, the courage,
and the pride of his ancestors. He pushed against the half-open door
with his nose and approaching the flute-player with silent tread, sat
gravely down, pricking his ears that had been torn in many a nocturnal
combat; the grocer's white cat followed him, sniffing the vibrant air
and then, arching her back and closing her blue eyes, listened in
ravishment. Mice, swarming in crowds from under the boards, surrounded
them, and fearing neither tooth nor claw, sat motionless, their pink
hands folded voluptuously on their bosoms. Spiders that had strayed far
from their webs, with waving legs, gathered in a charmed circle on the
ceiling. A small grey lizard, that had glided on to the doorstep, stayed
there, fascinated, and, in the loft, the bat might have been seen
hanging by her nails, head down, now half-awakened from her winter
sleep, swaying to the rhythm of the marvellous flute.



CHAPTER XV

     WHEREIN WE SEE YOUNG MAURICE BEWAILING THE LOSS OF HIS
     GUARDIAN ANGEL, EVEN IN HIS MISTRESS'S ARMS, AND WHEREIN WE
     HEAR THE ABBÉ PATOUILLE REJECT AS VAIN AND ILLUSORY ALL
     NOTIONS OF A NEW REBELLION OF THE ANGELS


A fortnight had elapsed since the angel's apparition in the flat. For
the first time Gilberte arrived before Maurice at the rendezvous.
Maurice was gloomy, Gilberte sulky. So far as they were concerned Nature
had resumed her drab monotony. They eyed each other languidly, and kept
glancing towards the angle between the wardrobe with the mirror and the
window, where recently the pale shade of Arcade had taken shape, and
where now the blue cretonne of the hangings was the only thing visible.
Without giving him a name (it was unnecessary) Madame des Aubels asked:

"You have not seen him since?"

Slowly, sadly, Maurice turned his head from right to left, and from left
to right.

"You look as if you missed him," continued Madame des Aubels. "But come,
confess that he gave you a terrible fright, and that you were shocked at
his unconventionally."

"Certainly he was unconventional," said Maurice without any resentment.

"Tell me, Maurice, is it nothing to you now to be with me alone?... You
need an angel to inspire you. That is sad, for a young man like you!"

Maurice appeared not to hear, and asked gravely:

"Gilberte, do you feel that your guardian angel is watching over you?"

"I, not at all. I have never thought of him, and yet I am not without
religion. In the first place, people who have none are like animals. And
then one cannot go straight without religion. It is impossible."

"Exactly, that's just it," said Maurice, his eyes on the violet stripes
of his flowerless pyjamas; "when one has one's guardian angel one does
not even think about him, and when one has lost him one feels very
lonely."

"So you miss this...."

"Well, the fact is...."

"Oh, yes, yes, you miss him. Well, my dear, the loss of such a guardian
angel as that is no great matter. No, no! he is not worth much, that
Arcade of yours. On that famous day, while you were out getting him some
clothes, he was ever so long fastening my dress, and I certainly felt
his hand.... Well, at any rate, don't trust him."

Maurice dreamily lit a cigarette. They spoke of the six days' bicycle
race at the winter velodrome, and of the aviation show at the motor
exhibition at Brussels, without experiencing the slightest amusement.
Then they tried love-making as a sort of convenient pastime, and
succeeded in becoming moderately absorbed in it; but at the very moment
when she might have been expected to play a part more in accordance with
a mutual sentiment, she exclaimed with a sudden start:

"Good Heavens! Maurice, how stupid of you to tell me that my guardian
angel can see me. You cannot imagine how uncomfortable the idea makes
me."

Maurice, somewhat taken aback, recalled, a little roughly, his
mistress's wandering thoughts.

She declared that her principles forbade her to think of playing a round
game with angels.

Maurice was longing to see Arcade again and had no other thought. He
reproached himself for suffering him to depart without discovering where
he was going, and he cudgelled his brains night and day thinking how to
find him again.

On the bare chance, he put a notice in the personal column of one of the
big papers, running thus:

"Arcade. Come back to your Maurice."

Day after day went by, and Arcade did not return.

One morning, at seven o'clock, Maurice went to St. Sulpice to hear Abbé
Patouille say Mass, then, as the priest was leaving the sacristy, he
went up to him and asked to be heard for a moment.

They descended the steps of the church together and in the bright
morning light walked round the fountain of the _Quatre Évêques_. In
spite of his troubled conscience and the difficulty of presenting so
extraordinary a case with any degree of credibility, Maurice related how
the angel Arcade had appeared to him and had announced his unhappy
resolve to separate from him and to stir up a new revolt of the spirits
of glory. And young d'Esparvieu asked the worthy ecclesiastic how to
find his celestial guardian again, since he could not bear his absence,
and how to lead his angel back to the Christian faith. Abbé Patouille
replied in a tone of affectionate sorrow that his dear child had been
dreaming, that he took a morbid hallucination for reality, and that it
was not permissible to believe that good angels may revolt.

"People have a notion," he added, "that they can lead a life of
dissipation and disorder with impunity. They are wrong. The abuse of
pleasure corrupts the intelligence and impairs the understanding. The
devil takes possession of the sinner's senses, penetrating even to his
soul. He has deceived you, Maurice, by a clumsy artifice."

Maurice objected that he was not in any way a victim of hallucinations,
that he had not been dreaming, that he had seen his guardian angel with
his eyes and heard him with his ears.

"Monsieur l'Abbé," he insisted, "a lady who happened to be with me at
the time,--I need not mention her name,--also saw and heard him. And,
moreover, she felt the angel's fingers straying ... well, anyhow, she
felt them.... Believe me, Monsieur l'Abbé, nothing could be more real,
more positively certain than this apparition. The angel was fair, young,
very handsome. His clear skin seemed, in the shadow, as if bathed in
milky light. He spoke in a pure, sweet voice."

"That, alone, my child," the Abbé interrupted quickly, "proves you were
dreaming. According to all the demonologies, bad angels have a hoarse
voice, which grates like a rusty lock, and even if they did contrive to
give a certain look of beauty to their faces, they cannot succeed in
imitating the pure voice of the good spirits. This fact, attested by
numerous witnesses, is established beyond all doubt."

"But, Monsieur l'Abbé, I saw him. I saw him sit down, stark naked, in an
arm-chair on a pair of black stockings. What else do you want me to tell
you?"

The Abbé Patouille appeared in no way disturbed by this announcement.

"I say once more, my son," he replied, "that these unhappy illusions,
these dreams of a deeply troubled soul, are to be ascribed to the
deplorable state of your conscience. I believe, moreover, that I can
detect the particular circumstance that has caused your unstable mind
thus to come to grief. During the winter in company with Monsieur
Sariette and your Uncle Gaétan, you came, in an evil frame of mind, to
see the Chapel of the Holy Angels in this church, then undergoing
repair. As I observed on that occasion, it is impossible to keep artists
too closely to the rules of Christian art; they cannot be too strongly
enjoined to respect Holy Writ and its authorized interpreters. Monsieur
Eugène Delacroix did not suffer his fiery genius to be controlled by
tradition. He brooked no guidance and, here, in this chapel he has
painted pictures which in common parlance we call lurid, compositions of
a violent, terrible nature which, far from inspiring the soul with
peace, quietude, and calm, plunge it into a state of agitation. In them
the angels are depicted with wrathful countenances, their features are
sombre and uncouth. One might take them to be Lucifer and his companions
meditating their revolt. Well, my son, it was these pictures, acting
upon a mind already weakened and undermined by every kind of
dissipation, that have filled it with the trouble to which it is at
present a prey."

But Maurice would have none of it.

"Oh, no! Monsieur l'Abbé," he cried, "it is not Eugène Delacroix's
pictures that have been troubling me. I didn't so much as look at them.
I am completely indifferent to that kind of art."

"Well, then, my son, believe me: there is no truth, no reality, in any
of the story you have just related to me. Your guardian angel has
certainly not appeared to you."

"But, Abbé," replied Maurice, who had the most absolute confidence in
the evidence of the senses, "I saw him tying up a woman's shoe-laces and
putting on the trousers of a suicide."

And stamping his feet on the asphalt, Maurice called as witnesses to the
truth of his words the sky, the earth, all nature, the towers of St.
Sulpice, the walls of the great seminary, the Fountain of the _Quatre
Évêques_, the public lavatory, the cabmen's shelter, the taxis and motor
'buses' shelter, the trees, the passers-by, the dogs, the sparrows, the
flower-seller and her flowers.

The Abbé made haste to end the interview.

"All this is error, falsehood, and illusion, my child," said he. "You
are a Christian: think as a Christian,--a Christian does not allow
himself to be seduced by empty shadows. Faith protects him against the
seduction of the marvellous, he leaves credulity to freethinkers. There
are credulous people for you--freethinkers! There is no humbug they will
not swallow. But the Christian carries a weapon which dissipates
diabolical illusions,--the sign of the Cross. Reassure yourself,
Maurice,--you have not lost your guardian angel. He still watches over
you. It lies with you not to make this task too difficult nor too
painful for him. Good-bye, Maurice. The weather is going to change, for
I feel a burning in my big toe."

And Abbé Patouille went off with his breviary under his arm, hobbling
along with a dignity that seemed to foretell a mitre.

That very day, Arcade and Zita were leaning over the parapet of La
Butte, gazing down on the mist and smoke that lay floating over the vast
city.

"Is it possible," said Arcade, "for the mind to conceive all the pain
and suffering that lie pent within a great city? It is my belief that if
a man succeeded in realising it, the weight of it would crush him to the
earth."

"And yet," answered Zita, "every living being in that place of torment
is enamoured of life. It is a great enigma!

"Unhappy, ill-fated, while they live, the idea of ceasing to be is,
nevertheless, a horror to them. They look not for solace in
annihilation, it does not even bring them the promise of rest. In their
madness they even look upon nothingness with terror: they have peopled
it with phantoms. Look you at these pediments, these towers and domes
and spires that pierce the mist and rear on high their glittering
crosses. Men bow in adoration before the demiurge who has given them a
life that is worse than death, and a death that is worse than life."

Zita was for a long time lost in thought. At length she broke silence,
saying:

"There is something, Arcade, that I must confess to you. It was no
desire for a purer justice or wiser laws that hurried Ithuriel
earthward. Ambition, a taste for intrigue, the love of wealth and
honour, all these things made Heaven, with its calm, unbearable to me,
and I longed to mingle with the restless race of men. I came, and by an
art unknown to nearly all the angels, I learned how to fashion myself a
body which, since I could change it as the fancy seized me, to
whatsoever age and sex I would, has permitted me to experience the most
diverse and amazing of human destinies. A hundred times I took a
position of renown among the leaders of the day, the lords of wealth and
princes of nations. I will not reveal to you, Arcade, the famous names I
bore; know only that I was pre-eminent in learning, in the fine arts, in
power, wealth, and beauty, among all the nations of the world. At last,
it was but a few years since, as I was journeying in France, under the
outward semblance of a distinguished foreigner, I chanced to be roaming
at evening through the forest of Montmorency, when I heard a flute
unfolding all the sorrows of Heaven. The purity and sadness of its
notes rent my very soul. Never before had I hearkened to aught so
lovely. My eyes were wet with tears, my bosom full of sobs, as I drew
near and beheld, on the skirts of a glade, an old man like to a faun,
blowing on a rustic pipe. It was Nectaire. I cast myself at his feet,
imprinted kisses on his hands and on his lips divine, and fled away....

"From that day forth, conscious of the littleness of human achievements,
weary of the tumult and the vanity of earthly things, ashamed of my vast
and profitless endeavours, and deciding to seek out a loftier aim for my
ambition, I looked upwards towards my skiey home and vowed I would
return to it as a Deliverer. I rid myself of titles, name, wealth,
friends, the horde of sycophants and flatterers and, as Zita the
obscure, set to work in indigence and solitude, to bring freedom into
Heaven."

"And I," said Arcade, "I too have heard the flute of Nectaire. But who
is this old gardener who can thus woo from a rude wooden pipe notes that
are so moving and so beautiful?"

"You will soon know," answered Zita.



CHAPTER XVI

     WHEREIN MIRA THE SEERESS, ZÉPHYRINE, AND THE FATAL AMÉDÉE
     ARE SUCCESSIVELY BROUGHT UPON THE SCENE, AND WHEREIN THE
     NOTION OF EURIPIDES THAT THOSE WHOM ZEUS WISHES TO CRUSH HE
     FIRST MAKES MAD, IS ILLUSTRATED BY THE TERRIBLE EXAMPLE OF
     MONSIEUR SARIETTE


Disappointed at his failure to enlighten an ecclesiastic renowned for
his clarity of mind, and frustrated in the hope of finding his angel
again on the high road of orthodoxy, Maurice took it into his head to
resort to occultism and resolved to go and consult a seer. He would have
undoubtedly applied to Madame de Thèbes, but he had already questioned
her on the occasion of his early love troubles, and her replies showed
such wisdom that he no longer believed her to be a soothsayer. He
therefore had recourse to a fashionable medium, Madame Mira. He had
heard many examples quoted of the extraordinary insight of this seeress,
but it was necessary to present Madame Mira with some object which the
absent one had either touched or worn and to which her translucent gaze
had to be attracted. Maurice, trying to remember what the angel had
touched since his ill-fated incarnation, recollected that in his
celestial nudity he had sat down in an arm-chair on Madame des Aubels'
black stockings and that he had afterwards helped that lady to dress.

Maurice asked Gilberte for one of the talismans required by the
clairvoyante. But Gilberte could not give him a single one, unless, as
she said, she herself were to play the part of the talisman. For the
angel had, in her case, displayed the greatest indiscretion, and such
agility that it was impossible always to forestall his enterprise. On
hearing this confession, which nevertheless told him nothing new,
Maurice lost his temper with the angel, calling him by the names of the
lowest animals and swearing he would give him a good kick when he got
him within reach of his foot. But his fury soon turned against Madame
des Aubels; he accused her of having provoked the insolence she now
denounced, and in his wrath he referred to her by all the zoological
symbols of immodesty and perversity. His love for Arcade was rekindled
in his heart, and burned with a more ardent flame than ever, and the
deserted youth, with outstretched arms and bended knees, invoked his
angel with sobs and lamentations.

During his sleepless nights it occurred to him that perhaps the books
the angel had turned over before his incarnation might serve as a
talisman. One morning, therefore, Maurice went up to the library and
greeted Monsieur Sariette, who was cataloguing under the romantic gaze
of Alexandre d'Esparvieu. Monsieur Sariette smiled, but his face was
deathly pale. Now that an invisible hand no longer upset the books
placed under his charge, now that tranquillity and order once more
reigned in the library, Monsieur Sariette was happy, but his strength
diminished day by day. There was little left of him but a frail and
contented shadow.

      "One dies, in full content, of sorrow past."

"Monsieur Sariette," said Maurice, "you remember that time when your
books were disarranged every night, how armfuls disappeared, how they
were dragged about, turned over, ruined, and sent rolling helter-skelter
as far as the gutter in the Rue Palatine. Those were great days! Point
out to me, Monsieur Sariette, the books which suffered most."

This proposition threw Monsieur Sariette into a melancholy stupor, and
Maurice had to repeat his request three times before he could make the
aged librarian understand. At length he pointed to a very ancient Talmud
from Jerusalem as having been frequently touched by those unseen hands.
An apocryphal Gospel of the third century, consisting of twenty papyrus
sheets, had also quitted its place time after time. Gassendi's
Correspondence too seemed to have been well thumbed.

"But," added Monsieur Sariette, "the book to which the mysterious
visitant devoted the most particular attention was undoubtedly a little
copy of _Lucretius_ adorned with the arms of Philippe de Vendôme, Grand
Prieur de France, with autograph annotations by Voltaire, who, as is
well known, frequently visited the Temple in his younger days. The
fearsome reader who caused me such terrible anxiety never grew weary of
this _Lucretius_ and made it his bedside book, as it were. His taste was
sound, for it's a gem of a thing. Alas! the monster made a blot of ink
on page 137 which perhaps the chemists with all the science at their
disposal will be powerless to erase."

And Monsieur Sariette heaved a profound sigh. He repented having said
all this when young d'Esparvieu asked him for the loan of the precious
_Lucretius_. Vainly did the jealous custodian affirm that the book was
being repaired at the binder's and was not available. Maurice made it
clear that he wasn't to be taken in like that. He strode resolutely into
the abode of the philosophers and the globes and seating himself in an
arm-chair said:

"I am waiting."

Monsieur Sariette suggested his having another edition. There were some
that, textually, were more correct, and were, therefore, preferable from
the student's point of view. He offered him Barbou's edition, or
Coustelier's, or, better still, a French translation. He could have the
Baron des Coutures' version--which was perhaps a little
old-fashioned--or La Grange's, or those in the Nisard and Panckouke
series; or, again, there were two versions of striking elegance, one in
verse and the other in prose, both from the pen of Monsieur de
Pongerville of the French Academy.

"I don't need a translation," said Maurice proudly. "Give me the Prior
de Vendôme's copy."

Monsieur Sariette went slowly up to the cupboard in which the jewel in
question was contained. The keys were rattling in his trembling hand. He
raised them to the lock and withdrew them again immediately and
suggested that Maurice should have the common _Lucretius_ published by
Garnier.

"It's very handy," said he with an engaging smile.

But the silence with which this proposal was received made it clear that
resistance was useless. He slowly drew forth the volume from its place,
and having taken the precaution to see that there wasn't a speck of dust
on the table-cloth, he laid it tremblingly thereon before the
great-grandson of Alexandre d'Esparvieu.

Maurice began to turn the leaves, and when he got to page 137 he saw the
stain which had been made with violet ink. It was about the size of a
pea.

"Ay, that's it," said old Sariette, who had his eye on the _Lucretius_
the whole time; "that's the trace those invisible monsters left behind
them."

"What, there were several of them, Monsieur Sariette?" exclaimed
Maurice.

"I cannot tell. But I don't know whether I have a right to have this
blot removed since, like the blot Paul Louis Courier made on the
Florentine manuscript, it constitutes a literary document, so to speak."

Scarcely were the words out of the old fellow's mouth when the front
door bell rang and there was a confused noise of voices and footsteps in
the next room. Sariette ran forward at the sound and collided with Père
Guinardon's mistress, old Zéphyrine, who, with her tousled hair sticking
up like a nest of vipers, her face aflame, her bosom heaving, her
abdominal part like an eiderdown quilt puffed out by a terrific gale,
was choking with grief and rage. And amid sobs and sighs and groans and
all the innumerable sounds which, on earth, make up the mighty uproar to
which the emotions of living beings and the tumult of nature give rise,
she cried:

"He's gone, the monster! He's gone off with her. He's cleared out the
whole shanty and left me to shift for myself with eighteenpence in my
purse."

And she proceeded to give a long and incoherent account of how Michel
Guinardon had abandoned her and gone to live with Octavie, the
bread-woman's daughter, and she let loose a torrent of abuse against the
traitor.

"A man whom I've kept going with my own money for fifty years and more.
For I've had plenty of the needful and known plenty of the upper ten and
all. I dragged him out of the gutter and now this is what I get for it.
He's a bright beauty, that friend of yours. The lazy scoundrel. Why, he
had to be dressed like a child, the drunken contemptible brute. You
don't know him yet, Monsieur Sariette. He's a forger. He turns out
Giottos, Giottos, I tell you, and Fra Angelicos and Grecos, as hard as
he can and sells them to art-dealers--yes, and Fragonards too, and
Baudouins. He's a debauchee, and doesn't believe in God! That's the
worst of the lot, Monsieur Sariette, for without the fear of God...."

Long did Zéphyrine continue to pour forth vituperations. When at last
her breath failed her, Monsieur Sariette availed himself of the
opportunity to exhort her to be calm and bring herself to look on the
bright side of things. Guinardon would come back. A man doesn't forget
anyone he's lived and got on well with for fifty years----

These two observations only goaded her to a fresh outburst, and
Zéphyrine swore she would never forget the slight that had been put on
her; she swore she would never have the monster back with her any more.
And if he came to ask her to forgive him on his knees, she would let him
grovel at her feet.

"Don't you understand, Monsieur Sariette, that I despise and hate him,
that he makes me sick?"

Sixty times she voiced these lofty sentiments; sixty times she vowed she
would never have Guinardon back with her again, that she couldn't bear
the sight of him, even in a picture.

Monsieur Sariette made no attempt to oppose a resolve which, after
protestations such as these, he regarded as unshakable. He did not blame
Zéphyrine in the least. He even supported her. Unfolding to the deserted
one a purer future, he told her of the frailty of human sentiment,
exhorted her to display a spirit of renunciation and enjoined her to
show a pious resignation to the will of God.

"Seeing, in truth, that your friend is so little worthy of affection
..."

He was not suffered to continue. Zéphyrine flew at him, and shaking him
furiously by the collar of his frock-coat, she yelled, half choking with
rage: "So little worthy of affection! Michel! Ah! my boy, you find
another more kind, more gay, more witty, you find another like him,
always young, yes, always. Not worthy of affection! Anyone can see you
don't know anything about love, you old duffer."

Taking advantage of the fact that Père Sariette was thus deeply
engaged, young d'Esparvieu slipped the little _Lucretius_ into his
pocket, and strolled deliberately past the crouching librarian, bidding
him adieu with a little wave of the hand.

Armed with his talisman, he hastened to the Place des Ternes, to
interview Madame Mira. She received him in a red drawing-room where
neither owl nor frog nor any of the paraphernalia of ancient magic were
to be found. Madame Mira, in a prune-coloured dress, her hair powdered,
though already past her prime, was of very good appearance. She spoke
with a certain elegance and prided herself on discovering hidden things
by the help alone of Science, Philosophy, and Religion. She felt the
morocco binding, feigning to close her eyes, and looking meanwhile
through the narrow slit between her lids at the Latin title and the coat
of arms which conveyed nothing to her.

Accustomed to receive as tokens such things as rings, handkerchiefs,
letters, and locks of hair, she could not conceive to what sort of
individual this singular book could belong. By habitual and mechanical
cunning she disguised her real surprise under a feigned surprise.

"Strange!" she murmured, "strange! I do not see quite clearly ... I
perceive a woman...."

As she let fall this magic word, she glanced furtively to see what sort
of an effect it had and beheld on her questioner's face an unexpected
look of disappointment. Perceiving that she was off the track, she
immediately changed her oracle:

"But she fades away immediately. It is strange, strange! I have a
confused impression of some vague form, a being that I cannot define,"
and having assured herself by a hurried glance that, this time, her
words were going down, she expatiated on the vagueness of the person and
on the mist that enveloped him.

However, the vision grew clearer to Madame Mira, who was following a
clue step by step.

"A wide street ... a square with a statue ... a deserted
street,--stairs. He is there in a bluish room--he is a young man, with
pale and careworn face. There are things he seems to regret, and which
he would not do again did they still remain undone."

But the effort at divination had been too great. Fatigue prevented the
clairvoyante from continuing her transcendental researches. She spent
her remaining strength in impressively recommending him who consulted
her to remain in intimate union with God if he wished to regain what he
had lost and succeed in his attempts.

On leaving Maurice placed a louis on the mantelpiece and went away moved
and troubled, persuaded that Madame Mira possessed supernatural
faculties, but unfortunately insufficient ones.

At the bottom of the stairs he remembered he had left the little
_Lucretius_ on the table of the pythoness, and, thinking that the old
maniac Sariette would never get over its loss, went up to recover
possession of it.

On re-entering the paternal abode his gaze lighted upon a shadowy and
grief-stricken figure. It was old Sariette, who in tones as plaintive as
the wail of the November wind began to beg for his _Lucretius_. Maurice
pulled it carelessly out of his great-coat pocket.

"Don't flurry yourself, Monsieur Sariette," said he. "There the thing
is."

Clasping the jewel to his bosom the old librarian bore it away and laid
it gently down on the blue table-cloth, thinking all the while where he
might safely hide his precious treasure, and turning over all sorts of
schemes in his mind as became a zealous curator. But who among us shall
boast of his wisdom? The foresight of man is short, and his prudence is
for ever being baffled. The blows of fate are ineluctable; no man shall
evade his doom. There is no counsel, no caution that avails against
destiny. Hapless as we are, the same blind force which regulates the
courses of atom and of star fashions universal order from our
vicissitudes. Our ill-fortune is necessary to the harmony of the
Universe. It was the day for the binder, a day which the revolving
seasons brought round twice a year, beneath the sign of the Ram and the
sign of the Scales. That day, ever since morning, Monsieur Sariette had
been making things ready for the binder. He had laid out on the table as
many of the newly purchased paper-bound volumes as were deemed worthy of
a permanent binding or of being put in boards, and also those books
whose binding was in need of repair, and of all these he had drawn up a
detailed and accurate list. Punctually at five o'clock, old Amédée, the
man from Léger-Massieu's, the binder in the Rue de l'Abbaye, presented
himself at the d'Esparvieu library and, after a double check had been
carried out by Monsieur Sariette, thrust the books he was to take back
to his master into a piece of cloth which he fastened into knots at the
four corners and hoisted on to his shoulder. He then saluted the
librarian with the following words, "Good night, all!" and went
downstairs.

Everything went off on this occasion as usual. But Amédée, seeing the
_Lucretius_ on the table, innocently put it into the bag with the
others, and took it away without Monsieur Sariette's perceiving it. The
librarian quitted the home of the Philosophers and Globes in entire
forgetfulness of the book whose absence had been causing him such
horrible anxiety all day long. Some people may take a stern view of the
matter and call this a lapse, a defection of his better nature. But
would it not be more accurate to say that fate had decided that things
should come to pass in this manner, and that what is called chance, and
is in fact but the regular order of nature, had accomplished this
imperceptible deed which was to have such awful consequences in the
sight of man? Monsieur Sariette went off to his dinner at the _Quatre
Évêques_, and read his paper _La Croix_. He was tranquil and serene. It
was only the next morning when he entered the abode of the Philosophers
and Globes that he remembered the _Lucretius_. Failing to see it on the
table he looked for it everywhere, but without success. It never entered
his head that Amédée might have taken it away by mistake. What he did
think was that the invisible visitant had returned, and he was mightily
disturbed.

The unhappy curator, hearing a noise on the landing, opened the door and
found it was little Léon, who, with a gold-braided _képi_ stuck on his
head, was shouting "Vive la France" and hurling dusters and
feather-brooms and Hippolyte's floor polish at imaginary foes. The child
preferred this landing for playing soldiers to any other part of the
house, and sometimes he would stray into the library. Monsieur Sariette
was seized with the sudden suspicion that it was he who had taken the
_Lucretius_ to use as a missile and he ordered him, in threatening
tones, to give it back. The child denied that he had taken it, and
Monsieur Sariette had recourse to cajolery.

"Léon, if you bring me back the little red book, I will give you some
chocolates."

The child grew thoughtful; and in the evening, as Monsieur Sariette was
going downstairs, he met Léon, who said:

"There's the book!"

And, holding out a much-torn picture-book called _The Story of
Gribouille_, demanded his chocolates.

A few days later the post brought Maurice the prospectus of an enquiry
agency managed by an ex-employee at the Prefecture of Police; it
promised celerity and discretion. He found at the address indicated a
moustached gentleman morose and careworn, who demanded a deposit and
promised to find the individual.

The ex-police official soon wrote to inform him that very onerous
investigations had been commenced and asked for fresh funds. Maurice
gave him no more and resolved to carry on the search himself. Imagining,
not without some likelihood, that the angel would associate with the
wretched, seeing that he had no money, and with the exiled of all
nations--like himself, revolutionaries--he visited the lodging-houses at
St. Ouen, at la Chapelle, Montmartre, and the Barrière d'Italie. He
sought him in the doss-houses, public-houses where they give you plates
of tripe, and others where you can get a sausage for three sous; he
searched for him in the cellars at the Market and at Père Momie's.

Maurice visited the restaurants where nihilists and anarchists take
their meals. There he came across men dressed as women, gloomy and
wild-looking youths, and blue-eyed octogenarians who laughed like little
children. He observed, asked questions, was taken for a spy, had a knife
thrust into him by a very beautiful woman, and the very next day
continued his search in beer-houses, lodging-houses, houses of ill-fame,
gambling-hells down by the fortifications, at the receivers of stolen
goods, and among the "apaches."

Seeing him thus pale, harassed, and silent, his mother grew worried.

"We must find him a wife," she said. "It is a pity that Mademoiselle de
la Verdelière has not a bigger fortune."

Abbé Patouille did not hide his anxiety.

"This child," he said, "is passing through a moral crisis."

"I am more inclined to think," replied Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, "that
he is under the influence of some bad woman. We must find him an
occupation which will absorb him and flatter his vanity. I might get him
appointed Secretary to the Committee for the Preservation of Country
Churches, or Consulting Counsel to the Syndicate of Catholic Plumbers."



CHAPTER XVII

     WHEREIN WE LEARN THAT SOPHAR, NO LESS EAGER FOR GOLD THAN
     MAMMON, LOOKED UPON HIS HEAVENLY HOME LESS FAVOURABLY THAN
     UPON FRANCE, A COUNTRY BLESSED WITH A SAVINGS BANK AND LOAN
     DEPARTMENTS, AND WHEREIN WE SEE, YET ONCE AGAIN, THAT WHOSO
     IS POSSESSED OF THIS WORLD'S GOODS FEARS THE EVIL EFFECTS OF
     ANY CHANGE


Meanwhile Arcade led a life of obscure toil. He worked at a printer's in
the Rue St. Benoît, and lived in an attic in the Rue Mouffetard. His
comrades having gone on strike, he left the workroom and devoted his day
to his propaganda. So successful was he that he won over to the side of
revolt fifty thousand of those guardian angels who, as Zita had
surmised, were discontented with their condition and imbued with the
spirit of the times. But lacking money, he lacked liberty, and could not
employ his time as he wished in instructing the sons of Heaven. So, too,
Prince Istar, hampered by want of funds, manufactured fewer bombs than
were needed, and these less fine. Of course he prepared a good many
small pocket machines. He had filled Théophile's rooms with them, and
not a day passed but he forgot some and left them lying about on the
seats in various cafés. But a nice bomb, easily handled and capable of
destroying many big mansions, cost him from twenty to twenty-five
thousand francs; and Prince Istar only possessed two of this kind.
Equally bent on procuring funds, Arcade and Istar both went to make a
request for money from a celebrated financier named Max Everdingen, who,
as everyone knows, is the managing director of the biggest banking
concern in France and indeed in the whole world. What is not so well
known is that Max Everdingen was not born of woman, but is a fallen
angel. Nevertheless, such is the truth. In Heaven he was named Sophar,
and guarded the treasures of Ialdabaoth, a great collector of gold and
precious stones. In the exercise of this function Sophar contracted a
love of riches which could not be satisfied in a state of society in
which banks and stock exchanges are alike unknown. His heart flamed with
an ardent love for the god of the Hebrews to whom he remained faithful
during a long course of centuries. But at the commencement of the
twentieth century of the Christian era, casting his eyes down from the
height of the firmament upon France, he saw that this country, under the
name of a Republic, was constituted as a plutocracy and that, under the
appearance of a democratic government, high finance exercised sovereign
sway, untrammelled and unchecked.

Henceforth life in the Empyrean became intolerable to him. He longed for
France as for the promised land, and one day, bearing with him all the
precious stones he could carry, he descended to earth and established
himself in Paris. This angel of cupidity did good business there. Since
his materialisation his face had lost its celestial aspect; it
reproduced the Semitic type in all its purity, and one could admire the
lines and the puckers which wrinkle the faces of bankers and which are
to be seen in the money-changers of Quintin Matsys.

His beginnings were humble and his success amazing. He married an ugly
woman and they saw themselves reflected in their children as in a
mirror. Baron Max Everdingen's large mansion, which rears itself on the
heights of the Trocadéro, is crammed with the spoils of Christian
Europe.

The Baron received Arcade and Prince Istar in his study,--one of the
most modest rooms in his mansion. The ceiling is decorated with a fresco
of Tiepolo, taken from a Venetian palace. The bureau of the Regent,
Philip of Orleans, is in this room, which is full of cabinets,
show-cases, pictures, and statues.

Arcade allowed his gaze to wander over the walls.

"How comes it, my brother Sophar," said he, "that you, in spite of your
Jewish heart, obey so ill the commandment of the Lord your God who said:
'Thou shalt have no graven images'? for here I see an Apollo of Houdon's
and a Hebe of Lemoine's, and several busts by Caffieri. And, like
Solomon in his old age, O son of God, you set up in your dwelling-place
the idols of strange nations: for such are this Venus of Boucher, this
Jupiter of Rubens, and those nymphs that are indebted to Fragonard's
brush for the gooseberry jam which smears their gleaming limbs. And here
in this single show-case, Sophar, you keep the sceptre of St. Louis, six
hundred pearls of Marie Antoinette's broken necklace, the imperial
mantle of Charles V, the tiara wrought by Ghiberti for Pope Martin V,
the Colonna, Bonaparte's sword--and I know not what besides."

"Mere trifles," said Max Everdingen.

"My dear Baron," said Prince Istar, "you even possess the ring which
Charlemagne placed on a fairy's finger and which was thought to be lost.
But let us discuss the business on which we have come. My friend and I
have come to ask you for money."

"I can well believe it," replied Max Everdingen. "Everyone wants money,
but for different reasons. What do you want money for?"

Prince Istar replied simply:

"To stir up a revolution in France."

"In France!" repeated the Baron, "in France? Well, I shall give you no
money for that, you may be quite sure."

Arcade did not disguise the fact that he had expected greater liberality
and more generous help from a celestial brother.

"Our project," he said, "is a vast one. It embraces both Heaven and
Earth. It is settled in every detail. We shall first bring about a
social revolution in France, in Europe, on the whole planet; then we
shall carry war into the heavens, where we shall establish a peaceful
democracy. And to reduce the citadels of Heaven, to overturn the
mountain of God, to storm celestial Jerusalem, a vast army is needful,
enormous resources, formidable machines, and electrophores of a strength
yet unknown. It is our intention to commence with France."

"You are madmen!" exclaimed Baron Everdingen; "madmen and fools! Listen
to me. There is not one single reform to carry out in France. All is
perfect, finally settled, unchangeable. You hear?--unchangeable." And to
add force to his statement, Baron Everdingen banged his fist three times
on the Regent's bureau.

"Our points of view differ," said Arcade sweetly. "_I_ think, as does
Prince Istar, that everything should be changed in this country. But
what boots it to dispute the matter? Moreover, it is too late. We have
come to speak to you, O my brother Sophar, in the name of five hundred
thousand celestial spirits, all resolved to commence the universal
revolution to-morrow."

Baron Everdingen exclaimed that they were crazy, that he would not give
a _sou_, that it was both criminal and mad to attack the most admirable
thing in the world, the thing which renders earth more beautiful than
heaven--Finance. He was a poet and a prophet. His heart thrilled with
holy enthusiasm; he drew attention to the French Savings Bank, the
virtuous Savings Bank, that chaste and pure Savings Bank like unto the
Virgin of the Canticle who, issuing from the depths of the country in
rustic petticoat, bears to the robust and splendid Bank--her bridegroom,
who awaits her--the treasures of her love; and drew a picture of the
Bank, enriched with the gifts of its spouse, pouring on all the nations
of the world torrents of gold, which, of themselves, by a thousand
invisible channels return in still greater abundance to the blessed land
from which they sprung.

"By Deposit and Loan," he went on, "France has become the New Jerusalem,
shedding her glory over all the nations of Europe, and the Kings of the
Earth come to kiss her rosy feet. And that is what you would fain
destroy? You are both impious and sacrilegious."

Thus spoke the angel of finance. An invisible harp accompanied his
voice, and his eyes darted lightning.

Meanwhile Arcade, leaning carelessly against the Regent's bureau, spread
out under the Banker's eyes various ground-plans, underground-plans, and
sky-plans of Paris with red crosses indicating the points where bombs
should be simultaneously placed in cellars and catacombs, thrown on
public ways, and flung by a flotilla of aeroplanes. All the financial
establishments, and notably the Everdingen Bank and its branches, were
marked with red crosses.

The financier shrugged his shoulders.

"Nonsense! you are but wretches and vagabonds, shadowed by all the
police of the world. You are penniless. How can you manufacture all the
machines?"

By way of reply, Prince Istar drew from his pocket a small copper
cylinder, which he gracefully presented to Baron Everdingen.

"You see," said he, "this ordinary-looking box. It is only necessary to
let it fall on the ground immediately to reduce this mansion with its
inmates to a mass of smoking ashes, and to set a fire going which would
devour all the Trocadéro quarter. I have ten thousand like that, and I
make three dozen a day."

The financier asked the Cherub to replace the machine in his pocket, and
continued in a conciliatory tone:

"Listen to me, my friends. Go and start a revolution at once in Heaven,
and leave things alone in this country. I will sign a cheque for you.
You can procure all the material you need to attack celestial
Jerusalem."

And Baron Everdingen was already working up in his imagination a
magnificent deal in electrophores and war-material.



CHAPTER XVIII

     WHEREIN IS BEGUN THE GARDENER'S STORY, IN THE COURSE OF
     WHICH WE SHALL SEE THE DESTINY OF THE WORLD UNFOLDED IN A
     DISCOURSE AS BROAD AND MAGNIFICENT IN ITS VIEWS AS BOSSUET'S
     DISCOURSE ON THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE IS NARROW AND
     DISMAL


The gardener bade Arcade and Zita sit down in an arbour walled with wild
bryony, at the far end of the orchard.

"Arcade," said the beautiful Archangel, "Nectaire will perhaps reveal to
you to-day the things you are burning to know. Ask him to speak."

Arcade did so and old Nectaire, laying down his pipe, began as
follows:--

"I knew him. He was the most beautiful of all the Seraphim. He shone
with intelligence and daring. His great heart was big with all the
virtues born of pride: frankness, courage, constancy in trial,
indomitable hope. Long, long ago, ere Time was, in the boreal sky where
gleam the seven magnetic stars, he dwelt in a palace of diamond and
gold, where the air was ever tremulous with the beating of wings and
with songs of triumph. Iahveh, on his mountain, was jealous of Lucifer.
You both know it: angels like unto men feel love and hatred quicken
within them. Capable, at times, of generous resolves, they too often
follow their own interests and yield to fear. Then, as now, they showed
themselves, for the most part, incapable of lofty thoughts, and in the
fear of the Lord lay their sole virtue. Lucifer, who held vile things in
proud disdain, despised this rabble of commonplace spirits for ever
wallowing in a life of feasts and pleasure. But to those who were
possessed of a daring spirit, a restless soul, to those fired with a
wild love of liberty, he proffered friendship, which was returned with
adoration. These latter deserted in a mass the mountain of God and
yielded to the Seraph the homage which That Other would fain have kept
for himself alone.

"I ranked among the Dominations, and my name, Alaciel, was not unknown
to fame. To satisfy my mind--that was ever tormented with an insatiable
thirst for knowledge and understanding--I observed the nature of things,
I studied the properties of minerals, air, and water. I sought out the
laws which govern nature, solid or ethereal, and after much pondering I
perceived that the Universe had not been formed as its pretended Creator
would have us believe; I knew that all that exists, exists of itself
and not by the caprice of Iahveh; that the world is itself its own
creator and the spirit its own God. Henceforth I despised Iahveh for his
imposture, and I hated him because he showed himself to be opposed to
all that I found desirable and good: liberty, curiosity, doubt. These
feelings drew me towards the Seraph. I admired him, I loved him. I dwelt
in his light. When at length it appeared that a choice had to be made
between him and That Other I ranged myself on the side of Lucifer and
knew no other aim than to serve him, no other desire than to share his
lot.

"War having become inevitable, he prepared for it with indefatigable
vigilance and all the resourcefulness of a far-seeing mind. Making the
Thrones and Dominations into Chalybes and Cyclopes, he drew forth iron
from the mountains bordering his domain; iron, which he valued more than
gold, and forged weapons in the caverns of Heaven. Then in the desert
plain of the North he assembled myriads of Spirits, armed them, taught
them, and drilled them. Although prepared in secret, the enterprise was
too vast for his adversary not to be soon aware of it. It might in truth
be said that he had always foreseen and dreaded it, for he had made a
citadel of his abode and a warlike host of his angels, and he gave
himself the name of the God of Hosts. He made ready his thunderbolts.
More than half of the children of Heaven remained faithful to him;
thronging round him he beheld obedient souls and patient hearts. The
Archangel Michael, who knew not fear, took command of these docile
troops. Lucifer, as soon as he saw that his army could gain no more in
numbers or in warlike skill, moved it swiftly against the foe, and
promising his angels riches and glory marched at their head towards the
mountain upon whose summit stands the Throne of the Universe. For three
days our host swept onward over the ethereal plains. Above our heads
streamed the black standards of revolt. And now, behold, the Mountain of
God shone rosy in the orient sky and our chief scanned with his eyes the
glittering ramparts. Beneath the sapphire walls the foe was drawn up in
battle array, and, while we marched clad in our iron and bronze, they
shone resplendent in gold and precious stones.

"Their gonfalons of red and blue floated in the breeze, and lightning
flashed from the points of their lances. In a little while the armies
were only sundered one from the other by a narrow strip of level and
deserted ground, and at this sight even the bravest shuddered as they
thought that there in bloody conflict their fate would soon be sealed.

"Angels, as you know, never die. But when bronze and iron, diamond point
or flaming sword tear their ethereal substance, the pain they feel is
more acute than men may suffer, for their flesh is more exquisitely
delicate; and should some essential organ be destroyed, they fall inert
and, slowly decomposing, are resolved into clouds and during long æons
float insensible in the cold ether. And when at length they resume
spirit and form they fail to recover full memory of their past life.
Therefore it is but natural that angels shrink from suffering, and the
bravest among them is troubled at the thought of being reft of light and
sweet remembrance. Were it otherwise the angelic race would know neither
the delight of battle nor the glory of sacrifice. Those who, before the
beginning of Time, fought in the Empyrean for or against the God of
Armies, would have taken part without honour in mock battles, and it
would not now become me to say to you, my children, with rightful pride:

"'Lo, I was there!'

"Lucifer gave the signal for the onset and led the assault. We fell upon
the enemy, thinking to destroy him then and there and carry the sacred
citadel at the first onslaught. The soldiers of the jealous God, less
fiery, but no whit less firm than ours, remained immovable. The
Archangel Michael commanded them with the calmness and resolution of a
mighty spirit. Thrice we strove to break through their lines, thrice
they opposed to our ironclad breast the flaming points of their lances,
swift to pierce the stoutest cuirass. In millions the glorious bodies
fell. At length our right wing pierced the enemy's left and we beheld
the Principalities, the Powers, the Virtues, the Dominations, and the
Thrones turn and flee in full career; while the Angels of the Third
Choir, flying distractedly above them, covered them with a snow of
feathers mingled with a rain of blood. We sped in pursuit of them amid
the débris of chariots and broken weapons, and we spurred their nimble
flight. Suddenly a storm of cries amazed us. It grew louder and nearer.
With desperate shrieks and triumphal clamour the right wing of the
enemy, the giant archangels of the Most High, had flung themselves upon
our left flank and broken it. Thus we were forced to abandon the pursuit
of the fugitives and hasten to the rescue of our own shattered troops.
Our prince flew to rally them, and re-established the conflict. But the
left wing of the enemy, whose ruin he had not quite consummated, no
longer pressed by lance or arrow, regained courage, returned, and faced
us yet again. Night fell upon the dubious field. While under the shelter
of darkness, in the still, silent air stirred ever and anon by the moans
of the wounded, his forces were resting from their toils, Lucifer began
to make ready for the next day's battle. Before dawn the trumpets
sounded the reveille. Our warriors surprised the enemy at the hour of
prayer, put them to rout, and long and fierce was the carnage that
ensued. When all had either fallen or fled, the Archangel Michael, none
with him save a few companions with four wings of flame, still resisted
the onslaughts of a countless host. They fell back ceaselessly opposing
their breasts to us, and Michael still displayed an impassible
countenance. The sun had run a third of its course when we commenced to
scale the Mountain of God. An arduous ascent it was: sweat ran from our
brows, a dazzling light blinded us. Weighed down with steel, our
feathery wings could not sustain us, but hope gave us wings that bore us
up. The beautiful Seraph, pointing with glittering hand, mounting ever
higher and higher, showed us the way. All day long we slowly clomb the
lofty heights which at evening were robed in azure, rose, and violet.
The starry host appearing in the sky seemed as the reflection of our own
arms. Infinite silence reigned above us. We went on, intoxicated with
hope; all at once from the darkened sky lightning darted forth, the
thunder muttered, and from the cloudy mountain-top fell fire from
Heaven. Our helmets, our breast-plates were running with flames, and our
bucklers broke under bolts sped by invisible hands. Lucifer, in the
storm of fire, retained his haughty mien. In vain the lightning smote
him; mightier than ever he stood erect, and still defied the foe. At
length, the thunder, making the mountain totter, flung us down
pell-mell, huge fragments of sapphire and ruby crashing down with us as
we fell, and we rolled inert, swooning, for a period whose duration
none could measure.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I awoke in a darkness filled with lamentations. And when my eyes had
grown accustomed to the dense shadows I saw round me my companions in
arms, scattered in thousands on the sulphurous ground, lit by fitful
gleams of livid light. My eyes perceived but fields of lava, smoking
craters, and poisonous swamps.

"Mountains of ice and shadowy seas shut in the horizon. A brazen sky
hung heavy on our brows. And the horror of the place was such that we
wept as we sat, crouched elbow on knee, our cheeks resting on our
clenched hands.

"But soon, raising my eyes, I beheld the Seraph standing before me like
a tower. Over his pristine splendour sorrow had cast its mantle of
sombre majesty.

"'Comrades,' said he, 'we must be happy and rejoice, for behold we are
delivered from celestial servitude. Here we are free, and it were better
to be free in Hell than serve in Heaven. We are not conquered, since the
will to conquer is still ours. We have caused the Throne of the jealous
God to totter; by our hands it shall fall. Arise, therefore, and be of
good heart.'

"Thereupon, at his command, we piled mountain upon mountain and on the
topmost peak we reared engines which flung molten rocks against the
divine habitations. The celestial host was taken unaware and from the
abodes of glory there issued groans and cries of terror. And even then
we thought to re-enter in triumph on our high estate, but the Mountain
of God was wreathed with lightnings, and thunderbolts, falling on our
fortress, crushed it to dust. After this fresh disaster, the Seraph
remained awhile in meditation, his head buried in his hands. At length
he raised his darkened visage. Now he was Satan, greater than Lucifer.
Steadfast and loyal the angels thronged about him.

"'Friends,' he said, 'if victory is denied us now, it is because we are
neither worthy nor capable of victory. Let us determine wherein we have
failed. Nature shall not be ruled, the sceptre of the Universe shall not
be grasped, Godhead shall not be won, save by knowledge alone. We must
conquer the thunder; to that task we must apply ourselves unwearyingly.
It is not blind courage (no one this day has shown more courage than
have you) which will win us the courts of Heaven; but rather study and
reflection. In these silent realms where we are fallen, let us meditate,
seeking the hidden causes of things; let us observe the course of
Nature; let us pursue her with compelling ardour and all-conquering
desire; let us strive to penetrate her infinite grandeur, her infinite
minuteness. Let us seek to know when she is barren and when she brings
forth fruit; how she makes cold and heat, joy and sorrow, life and
death; how she assembles and disperses her elements, how she produces
both the light air we breathe and the rocks of diamond and sapphire
whence we have been precipitated, the divine fire wherewith we have been
scarred and the soaring thought which stirs our minds. Torn with dire
wounds, scorched by flame and by ice, let us render thanks to Fate which
has sedulously opened our eyes, and let us rejoice at our lot. It is
through pain that, suffering a first experience of Nature, we have been
roused to know her and to subdue her. When she obeys us we shall be as
gods. But even though she hide her mysteries for ever from us, deny us
arms and keep the secret of the thunder, we still must needs
congratulate ourselves on having known pain, for pain has revealed to us
new feelings, more precious and more sweet than those experienced in
eternal bliss, and inspired us with love and pity unknown to Heaven.'

"These words of the Seraph changed our hearts and opened up fresh hope
to us. Our hearts were filled with a great longing for knowledge and
love.

"Meanwhile the Earth was coming into being. Its immense and nebulous orb
took on hourly more shape and more certainty of outline. The waters
which fed the seaweed, the madrepores and shellfish and bore the light
flotilla of the nautilus upon their bosom, no longer covered it in its
entirety; they began to sink into beds, and already continents appeared,
where, on the warm slime, amphibious monsters crawled. Then the
mountains were overspread with forests, and divers races of animals
commenced to feed on the grass, the moss, the berries on the trees, and
on the acorns. Then there took possession of cavernous shelters under
the rocks, a being who was cunning to wound with a sharpened stone the
savage beasts, and by his ruses to overcome the ancient denizens of
forest, plain, and mountain.

"Man entered painfully on his kingdom. He was defenceless and naked. His
scanty hair afforded him but little protection from the cold. His hands
ended in nails too frail to do battle with the claws of wild beasts, but
the position of his thumb, in opposition to the rest of his fingers,
allowed him easily to grasp the most diverse objects and endowed him
with skill in default of strength. Without differing essentially from
the rest of the animals, he was more capable than any others of
observing and comparing. As he drew from his throat various sounds, it
occurred to him to designate by a particular inflexion of the voice
whatever impinged upon his mind, and by this sequence of different
sounds he was enabled to fix and communicate his ideas. His miserable
lot and his painstaking spirit aroused the sympathy of the vanquished
angels, who discerned in him an audacity equalling their own, and the
germ of the pride that was at once their glory and their bane. They came
in large numbers to be near him, to dwell on this young earth whither
their wings wafted them in effortless flight. And they took pleasure in
sharpening his talents and fostering his genius. They taught him to
clothe himself in the skins of wild beasts, to roll stones before the
mouths of caves to keep out the tigers and bears. They taught him how to
make the flame burst forth by twirling a stick among the dried leaves
and to foster the sacred fire upon the hearth. Inspired by the ingenious
spirits he dared to cross the rivers in the hollowed trunks of cleft
trees, he invented the wheel, the grinding-mill, and the plough; the
share tore up the earth and the wound brought forth fruit, and the grain
offered to him who ground it divine nourishment. He moulded vessels in
clay, and out of the flint he fashioned various tools.

"In fine, taking up our abode among mankind, we consoled them and taught
them. We were not always visible to them, but of an evening, at the turn
of the road, we would appear to them under forms often strange and
weird, at times dignified and charming, and we adopted at will the
appearance of a monster of the woods and waters, of a venerable old man,
of a beautiful child, or of a woman with broad hips. Sometimes we would
mock them in our songs or test their intelligence by some cunning
prank. There were certain of us of a rather turbulent humour who loved
to tease their women and children, but though lowly folk, they were our
brothers, and we were never loath to come to their aid. Through our care
their intelligence developed sufficiently to attain to mistaken ideas,
and to acquire erroneous notions of the relations of cause and effect.
As they supposed that some magic bond existed between the reality and
its counterfeit presentment, they covered the walls of their caves with
figures of animals and carved in ivory images of the reindeer and the
mammoth in order to secure as prey the creatures they represented.
Centuries passed by with infinite slowness while their genius was coming
to birth. We sent them happy thoughts in dreams, inspired them to tame
the horse, to castrate the bull, to teach the dog to guard the sheep.
They created the family and the tribe. It came to pass one day that one
of their wandering tribes was assailed by ferocious hunters. Forthwith
the young men of the tribe formed an enclosed ring with their chariots,
and in it they shut their women, children, old people, cattle, and
treasures, and from the platform of their chariots they hurled murderous
stones at their assailants. Thus was formed the first city. Born in
misery and condemned to do murder by the law of Iahveh, man put his
whole heart into doing battle, and to war he was indebted for his
noblest virtues. He hallowed with his blood that sacred love of country
which should (if man fulfils his destiny to the very end) enfold the
whole earth in peace. One of us, Dædalus, brought him the axe, the
plumb-line, and the sail. Thus we rendered the existence of mortals less
hard and difficult. By the shores of the lakes they built dwellings of
osier, where they might enjoy a meditative quiet unknown to the other
inhabitants of the earth, and when they had learned to appease their
hunger without too painful efforts we breathed into their hearts the
love of beauty.

"They raised up pyramids, obelisks, towers, colossal statues which
smiled stiff and uncouth, and genetic symbols. Having learnt to know us
or trying at least to divine what manner of beings we were, they felt
both friendship and fear for us. The wisest among them watched us with
sacred awe and pondered our teaching. In their gratitude the people of
Greece and of Asia consecrated to us stones, trees, shadowy woods;
offered us victims, and sang us hymns; in fact we became gods in their
sight, and they called us Horus, Isis, Astarte, Zeus, Cybele, Demeter,
and Triptolemus. Satan was worshipped under the names of Evan, Dionysus,
Iacchus, and Lenæus. He showed in his various manifestations all the
strength and beauty which it is given to mortals to conceive. His eyes
had the sweetness of the wood-violet, his lips were brilliant with the
ruby-red of the pomegranate, a down finer than the velvet of the peach
covered his cheeks and his chin: his fair hair, wound like a diadem and
knotted loosely on the crown of his head, was encircled with ivy. He
charmed the wild beasts, and penetrating into the deep forests drew to
him all wild spirits, every thing that climbed in trees and peered
through the branches with wild and timid gaze. On all these creatures
fierce and fearful, that lived on bitter berries and beneath whose hairy
breasts a wild heart beat, half-human creatures of the woods--on all he
bestowed loving-kindness and grace, and they followed him drunk with joy
and beauty. He planted the vine and showed mortals how to crush the
grapes underfoot to make the wine flow. Magnificent and benign, he fared
across the world, a long procession following in his train. To bear him
company I took the form of a satyr; from my brow sprang two budding
horns. My nose was flat and my ears were pointed. Glands, like those of
the goat, hung on my neck, a goat's tail moved with my moving loins, and
my hairy legs ended in a black cloven hoof which beat the ground in
cadence.

"Dionysus fared on his triumphal march over the world. In his company I
passed through Lydia, the Phrygian fields, the scorching plains of
Persia, Media bristling with hoar-frost, Arabia Felix, and rich Asia
where flourishing cities were laved by the waves of the sea. He
proceeded on a car drawn by lions and lynxes, to the sound of flutes,
cymbals, and drums, invented for his mysteries. Bacchantes, Thyades,
and Mænads, girt with the dappled fawn-skin, waved the thyrsus encircled
with ivy. He bore in his train the Satyrs, whose joyous troop I led,
Sileni, Pans, and Centaurs. Under his feet flowers and fruit sprang to
life, and striking the rocks with his wand he made limpid streams gush
forth. In the month of the Vintage he visited Greece, and the villagers
ran forth to meet him, stained with the green and ruddy juices of the
plants, they wore masks of wood, or bark, or leaves; in their hands they
bore earthen cups, and danced wanton dances. Their womenfolk, imitating
the companions of the God, their heads wreathed with green smilax,
fastened round their supple loins skins of fawn or goat. The virgins
twined about their throats garlands of fig leaves, they kneaded cakes of
flour, and bore the Phallus in the mystic basket. And the vine-dressers,
all daubed with lees of wine, standing up in their wains and bandying
mockery or abuse with the passers-by, invented Tragedy.

"Truly, it was not in dreaming beside a fountain, but by dint of
strenuous toil that Dionysus taught them to grow plants and to make them
bring forth succulent fruits. And while he pondered the art of
transforming the rough woodlanders into a race that should love music
and submit to just laws, more than once over his brow, burning with the
fire of enthusiasm, did melancholy and gloomy fever pass. But his
profound knowledge and his friendship for mankind enabled him to triumph
over every obstacle. O days divine! Beautiful dawn of life! We led the
Bacchanals on the leafy summits of the mountains and on the yellow
shores of the seas. The Naiads and the Oreads mingled with us at our
play. Aphrodite at our coming rose from the foam of the sea to smile
upon us."



CHAPTER XIX

     THE GARDENER'S STORY, CONTINUED


"When men had learned to cultivate the earth, to herd cattle, to enclose
their holy places within walls, and to recognise the gods by their
beauty, I withdrew to that smiling land girdled with dark woods and
watered by the Stymphalos, the Olbios, the Erymanthus, and the proud
Crathis, swollen with the icy waters of the Styx, and there, in a green
valley at the foot of a hill planted with arbutus, olive, and pine,
beneath a cluster of white poplars and plane trees, by the side of a
stream flowing with soft murmur amid tufted mastic trees, I sang to the
shepherds and the nymphs of the birth of the world, the origin of fire,
of the tenuous air, of water and of earth. I told them how primeval men
had lived wretched and naked in the woods, before the ingenious spirits
had taught them the arts; of God, too, I sang to them, and why they gave
Dionysus Semele to mother, because his desire to befriend mankind was
born amid the thunder.

"It was not without effort that this people, more pleasing than all the
others in the eyes of the gods, these happy Greeks, achieved good
government and a knowledge of the arts. Their first temple was a hut
composed of laurel branches; their first image of the gods, a tree;
their first altar, a rough stone stained with the blood of Iphigenia.
But in a short time they brought wisdom and beauty to a point that no
nation had attained before them, that no nation has since approached.
Whence comes it, Arcade, this solitary marvel on the earth? Wherefore
did the sacred soil of Ionia and of Attica bring forth this incomparable
flower? Because nor priesthood, nor dogma, nor revelation ever found a
place there, because the Greeks never knew the jealous God.

"It was his own grace, his own genius that the Greek enthroned and
deified as his God, and when he raised his eyes to the heavens it was
his own image that he saw reflected there. He conceived everything in
due measure; and to his temples he gave perfect proportion. All therein
was grace, harmony, symmetry, and wisdom; all were worthy of the
immortals who dwelt within them and who under names of happy choice, in
realised shapes, figured forth the genius of man. The columns which bore
the marble architrave, the frieze and the cornice were touched with
something human, which made them venerable; and sometimes one might see,
as at Athens and at Delphi, beautiful young girls strong-limbed and
radiant upstaying the entablature of treasure house and sanctuary. O
days of splendour, harmony, and wisdom!

"Dionysus resolved to repair to Italy, whither he was summoned under the
name of Bacchus by a people eager to celebrate his mysteries. I took
passage in his ship decked with tendrils of the vine, and landed under
the eyes of the two brothers of Helen at the mouth of the yellow Tiber.
Already under the teaching of the god, the inhabitants of Latium had
learned to wed the vine to the young stripling elm. It was my pleasure
to dwell at the foot of the Sabine hills in a valley crowned with trees
and watered with pure springs. I gathered the verbena and the mallow in
the meadows. The pale olive-trees twisting their perforated trunks on
the slope of the hill gave me of their unctuous fruit. There I taught a
race of men with square heads, who had not, like the Greeks, a fertile
mind, but whose hearts were true, whose souls were patient, and who
reverenced the gods. My neighbour, a rustic soldier, who for fifteen
years had bowed under the burden of his haversack, had followed the
Roman eagle over land and sea, and had seen the enemies of the sovereign
people flee before him. Now he drove his furrow with his two red oxen,
starred with white between their spreading horns, while beneath the
cabin's thatch his spouse, chaste and sedate of mien, pounded garlic in
a bronze mortar and cooked the beans upon the sacred hearth, And I, his
friend, seated near by under an oak, used to lighten his labours with
the sound of my flute, and smile on his little children, when the sun,
already low in the sky, was lengthening the shadows, and they returned
from the wood all laden with branches. At the garden gate where the
pears and pumpkins ripened, and where the lily and the evergreen
acanthus bloomed, a figure of Priapus carved out of the trunk of a fig
tree menaced thieves with his formidable emblem, and the reeds swaying
with the wind over his head scared away the plundering birds. At new
moon the pious husbandman made offering of a handful of salt and barley
to his household gods crowned with myrtle and with rosemary.

"I saw his children grow up, and his children's children, who kept in
their hearts their early piety and did not forget to offer sacrifice to
Bacchus, to Diana, and to Venus, nor omit to pour fresh wines and
scatter flowers into the fountains. But slowly they fell away from their
old habits of patient toil and simplicity.

"I heard them complain when the torrent, swollen with many rains,
compelled them to construct a dyke to protect the paternal fields, and
the rough Sabine wine grew unpleasing to their delicate palate. They
went to drink the wines of Greece at the neighbouring tavern; and the
hours slipped unheeded by, while within the arbour shade they watched
the dance of the flute player, practised at swaying her supple limbs to
the sound of the castanets.

"Lulled by murmuring leaves and whispering streams, the tillers of the
soil took sweet repose, but between the poplars we saw along borders of
the sacred way vast tombs, statues, and altars arise, and the rolling of
the chariot wheels grew more frequent over the worn stones. A cherry
sapling brought home by a veteran told us of the far-distant conquests
of a Consul, and odes sung to the lyre related the victories of Rome,
mistress of the world.

"All the countries where the great Dionysus had journeyed, changing wild
beasts into men, and making the fruit and grain bloom and ripen beneath
the passing of his Mænads, now breathed the Pax Romana. The nursling of
the she-wolf, soldier and labourer, friend of conquered nations, laid
out roads from the margin of the misty sea to the rocky slopes of the
Caucasus; in every town rose the temple of Augustus and of Rome, and
such was the universal faith in Latin justice that in the gorges of
Thessaly or on the wooded borders of the Rhine, the slave, ready to
succumb under his iniquitous burden, called aloud on the name of Cæsar.

"But why must it be that on this ill-starred globe of land and water,
all should perish and die and the fairest things be ever the most
fleeting? O adorable daughters of Greece! O Science! O Wisdom! O
Beauty! kindly divinities, you were wrapt in heavy slumber ere you
submitted to the outrages of the barbarians, who already in the marshy
wastes of the North and on the lonely steppes, ready to assail you,
bestrode bare-backed their little shaggy horses.

"While, dear Arcade, the patient legionary camped by the borders of the
Phasis and the Tanais, the women and the priests of Asia and of
monstrous Africa invaded the Eternal City and troubled the sons of Remus
with their magic spells. Until now, Iahveh, the persecutor of the
laborious demons, was unknown to the world that he pretended to have
created, save to certain miserable Syrian tribes, ferocious like
himself, and perpetually dragged from servitude to servitude. Profiting
by the Roman peace which assured free travel and traffic everywhere, and
favoured the exchange of ideas and merchandise, this old God insolently
made ready to conquer the Universe. He was not the only one, for the
matter of that, to attempt such an undertaking. At the same time a crowd
of gods, demiurges, and demons, such as Mithra, Thammuz, the good Isis,
and Eubulus, meditated taking possession of the peace-enfolded world. Of
all the spirits, Iahveh appeared the least prepared for victory. His
ignorance, his cruelty, his ostentation, his Asiatic luxury, his disdain
of laws, his affectation of rendering himself invisible, all these
things were calculated to offend those Greeks and Latins who had
absorbed the teaching of Dionysus and the Muses. He himself felt he was
incapable of winning the allegiance of free men and of cultivated minds,
and he employed cunning. To seduce their souls he invented a fable
which, although not so ingenious as the myths wherewith we have
surrounded the spirits of our disciples of old, could, nevertheless,
influence those feebler intellects which are to be found everywhere in
great masses. He declared that men having committed a crime against him,
an hereditary crime, should pay the penalty for it in their present life
and in the life to come (for mortals vainly imagine that their existence
is prolonged in hell); and the astute Iahveh gave out that he had sent
his own son to earth to redeem with his blood the debt of mankind. It is
not credible that a penalty should redress a fault, and it is still less
credible that the innocent should pay for the guilty. The sufferings of
the innocent atone for nothing, and do but add one evil to another.
Nevertheless, unhappy creatures were found to adore Iahveh and his son,
the expiator, and to announce their mysteries as good tidings. We should
not be surprised at this folly. Have we not seen many times indeed human
beings who, poor and naked, prostrate themselves before all the phantoms
of fear, and rather than follow the teaching of well-disposed demons,
obey the commandments of cruel demiurges? Iahveh, by his cunning, took
souls as in a net. But he did not gain therefrom, for his glorification,
all that he expected. It was not he, but his son, who received the
homage of mankind, and who gave his name to the new cult. He himself
remained almost unknown upon earth."



CHAPTER XX

     THE GARDENER'S STORY, CONTINUED


"The new superstition spread at first over Syria and Africa; it won over
the seaports where the filthy rabble swarm, and, penetrating into Italy,
infected at first the courtesans and the slaves, and then made rapid
progress among the middle classes of the towns. But for a long while the
country-side remained undisturbed. As in the past, the villagers
consecrated a pine tree to Diana, and sprinkled it every year with the
blood of a young boar; they propitiated their Lares with the sacrifice
of a sow, and offered to Bacchus--benefactor of mankind--a kid of
dazzling whiteness, or if they were too poor for this, at least they had
a little wine and a little flour from the vineyard and from the fields
for their household gods. We had taught them that it sufficed to
approach the altar with clean hands, and that the gods rejoiced over a
modest offering.

"Nevertheless, the reign of Iahveh proclaimed its advent in a hundred
places by its extravagances. The Christians burnt books, overthrew
temples, set fire to the towns, and carried on their ravages as far as
the deserts. There, thousands of unhappy beings, turning their fury
against themselves, lacerated their sides with points of steel. And from
the whole earth the sighs of voluntary victims rose up to God like songs
of praise.

"My shadowy retreat could not escape for long from the fury of their
madness.

"On the summit of the hill which overlooked the olive woods, brightened
daily with the sounds of my flute, had stood since the earliest days of
the Pax Romana, a small marble temple, round as the huts of our
forefathers. It had no walls, but on a base of seven steps, sixteen
columns rose in a circle with the acanthus on the capitals, bearing a
cupola of white tiles. This cupola sheltered a statue of Love fashioning
his bow, the work of an Athenian sculptor. The child seemed to breathe,
joy was welling from his lips, all his limbs were harmonious and
polished. I honoured this image of the most powerful of all the gods,
and I taught the villagers to bear to him as an offering a cup crowned
with verbena and filled with wine two summers old.

"One day, when seated as my custom was at the feet of the god, pondering
precepts and songs, an unknown man, wild-looking, with unkempt hair,
approached the temple, sprang at one bound up the marble steps, and with
savage glee exclaimed:

"'Die, poisoner of souls, and joy and beauty perish with you.' He spoke
thus, and drawing an axe from his girdle raised it against the god. I
stayed his arm, I threw him down, and trampled him under my feet.

"'Demon,' he cried desperately, 'suffer me to overturn this idol, and
you may slay me afterwards.'

"I heeded not his atrocious plea, but leaned with all my might on his
chest, which cracked under my knee, and, squeezing his throat with my
two hands, I strangled the impious one.

"While he lay there, with purple face and lolling tongue, at the feet of
the smiling god, I went to purify myself at the sacred stream. Then
leaving this land, now the prey of the Christian, I passed through Gaul
and gained the banks of the Saône, whither Dionysus had, in days gone
by, carried the vine. The god of the Christians had not yet been
proclaimed to this happy people. They worshipped for its beauty a leafy
beech-tree, whose honoured branches swept the ground, and they hung
fillets of wool thereon. They also worshipped a sacred stream and set up
images of clay in a dripping grotto. They made offering of little
cheeses and a bowl of milk to the Nymphs of the woods and mountains.

"But soon an apostle of sorrow was sent to them by the new God. He was
drier than a smoked fish. Although attenuated with fasting and watching,
he taught with unabated ardour all manner of gloomy mysteries. He loved
suffering, and thought it good; his anger fell upon all that was
beautiful, comely, and joyous. The sacred tree fell beneath his hatchet.
He hated the Nymphs, because they were beautiful, and he flung
imprecations at them when their shining limbs gleamed among the leaves
at evening, and he held my melodious flute in aversion. The poor wretch
thought that there were certain forms of words wherewith to put to
flight the deathless spirits that dwell in the cool groves, and in the
depths of the woods and on the tops of the mountains. He thought to
conquer us with a few drops of water over which he had pronounced
certain words and made certain gestures. The Nymphs, to avenge
themselves, appeared to him at nightfall and inflamed him with desire
which the foolish knave thought animal; then they fled, their laughter
scattered like grain over the fields, while their victim lay tossing
with burning limbs on his couch of leaves. Thus do the divine nymphs
laugh at exorcisers, and mock the wicked and their sordid chastity.

"The apostle did not do as much harm as he wished, because his teaching
was given to the simple souls living in obedience to Nature, and because
the mediocrity of most of mankind is such that they gain but little from
the principles inculcated in them. The little wood in which I dwelt
belonged to a Gaul of senatorial family, who retained some traces of
Latin elegance. He loved his young freed-woman and shared with her his
bed of broidered purple. His slaves cultivated his garden and his
vineyard; he was a poet and sang, in imitation of Ausonius, Venus
whipping her son with roses. Although a Christian, he offered me milk,
fruit, and vegetables as if I were the genius of the place. In return I
charmed his idle moments with the music of my flute, and I gave him
happy dreams. In fact, these peaceful Gauls knew very little of Iahveh
and his son.

"But now behold fires looming on the horizon, and ashes driven by the
wind fall within our forest glades. Peasants come driving a long file of
waggons along the roads or urging their flocks before them. Cries of
terror rise from the villages, 'The Burgundians are upon us!'

"Now one horseman is seen, lance in hand, clad in shining bronze, his
long red hair falling in two plaits on his shoulders. Then come two,
then twenty, then thousands, wild and blood-stained; old men and
children they put to the sword, ay, even aged grandams whose grey hairs
cleave to the soles of the slaughterer's boots, mingled with the brains
of babes new-born. My young Gaul and his young freed-woman stain with
their blood the couch broidered with narcissi. The barbarians burn the
basilicas to roast their oxen whole, shatter the amphoræ, and drain the
wine in the mud of the flooded cellars. Their women accompany them,
huddled, half naked, in their war chariots. When the Senate, the
dwellers in the cities, and the leaders of the churches had perished in
the flames, the Burgundians, soddened with wine, lay down to slumber
beneath the arcades of the Forum. Two weeks later one of them might have
been seen smiling in his shaggy beard at the little child whom, on the
threshold of their dwelling, his fair-haired spouse gathers in her arms;
while another, kindling the fire of his forge, hammers out his iron with
measured stroke; another sings beneath the oak tree to his assembled
comrades of the gods and heroes of his race; and yet others spread out
for sale stones fallen from Heaven, aurochs' horns, and amulets. And the
former inhabitants of the country, regaining courage little by little,
crept from the woods where they had fled for refuge, and returned to
rebuild their burnt-down cabins, plough their fields, and prune their
vines.

"Once more life resumed its normal course; but those times were the most
wretched that mankind had yet experienced. The barbarians swarmed over
the whole Empire. Their ways were uncouth, and as they nurtured feelings
of vengeance and greed, they firmly believed in the ransom of sin.

"The fable of Iahveh and his son pleased them, and they believed it all
the more easily in that it was taught them by the Romans whom they knew
to be wiser than themselves, and to whose arts and mode of life they
yielded secret admiration. Alas! the heritage of Greece and Rome had
fallen into the hands of fools. All knowledge was lost. In those days it
was held to be a great merit to sing among the choir, and those who
remembered a few sentences from the Bible passed for prodigious
geniuses. There were still poets as there were birds, but their verse
went lame in every foot. The ancient demons, the good genii of mankind,
shorn of their honours, driven forth, pursued, hunted down, remained
hidden in the woods. There, if they still showed themselves to men, they
adopted, to hold them in awe, a terrible face, a red, green, or black
skin, baleful eyes, an enormous mouth fringed with boars' teeth, horns,
a tail, and sometimes a human face on their bellies. The nymphs remained
fair, and the barbarians, ignorant of the winsome names they bore in
other days, called them fairies, and, imputing to them a capricious
character and puerile tastes, both feared and loved them.

"We had suffered a grievous fall, and our ranks were sadly thinned;
nevertheless we did not lose courage and, maintaining a laughing aspect
and a benevolent spirit, we were in those direful days the real friends
of mankind. Perceiving that the barbarians grew daily less sombre and
less ferocious, we lent ourselves to the task of conversing with them
under all sorts of disguises. We incited them, with a thousand
precautions, and by prudent circumlocutions, not to acknowledge the old
Iahveh as an infallible master, not blindly to obey his orders, and not
to fear his menaces. When need was, we had recourse to magic. We
exhorted them unceasingly to study nature and to strive to discover the
traces of ancient wisdom.

"These warriors from the North--rude though they were--were acquainted
with some mechanical arts. They thought they saw combats in the heavens;
the sound of the harp drew tears from their eyes; and perchance they had
souls capable of greater things than the degenerate Gauls and Romans
whose lands they had invaded. They knew not how to hew stone or to
polish marble; but they caused porphyry and columns to be brought from
Rome and from Ravenna; their chief men took for their seal a gem
engraved by a Greek in the days when Beauty reigned supreme. They raised
walls with bricks, cunningly arranged like ears of corn, and succeeded
in building quite pleasing-looking churches with cornices upheld by
consoles depicting grim faces, and heavy capitals whereon were
represented monsters devouring one another.

"We taught them letters and sciences. A mouthpiece of their god, one
Gerbert, took lessons in physics, arithmetic, and music with us, and it
was said that he had sold us his soul. Centuries passed, and man's ways
remained violent. It was a world given up to fire and blood. The
successors of the studious Gerbert, not content with the possession of
souls (the profits one gains thereby are lighter than air), wished to
possess bodies also. They pretended that their universal and
prescriptive monarchy was held from a fisherman on the lake of Tiberias.
One of them thought for a moment to prevail over the loutish Germanus,
successor to Augustus. But finally the spiritual had to come to terms
with the temporal, and the nations were torn between two opposing
masters.

"Nations took shape amid horrible tumult. On every side were wars,
famines, and internecine conflicts. Since they attributed the
innumerable ills that fell upon them to their God, they called him the
Most Good, not by way of irony, but because to them the best was he who
smote the hardest. In those days of violence, to give myself leisure for
study I adopted a _rôle_ which may surprise you, but which was
exceedingly wise.

"Between the Saône and the mountains of Charolais, where the cattle
pasture, there lies a wooded hill sloping gently down to fields watered
by a clear stream. There stood a monastery celebrated throughout the
Christian world. I hid my cloven feet under a robe and became a monk in
this Abbey, where I lived peacefully, sheltered from the men at arms who
to friend or foe alike showed themselves equally exacting. Man, who had
relapsed into childhood, had all his lessons to learn over again.
Brother Luke, whose cell was next to mine, studied the habits of animals
and taught us that the weasel conceives her young within her ear. I
culled simples in the fields wherewith to soothe the sick, who until
then were made by way of treatment to touch the relics of saints. In the
Abbey were several demons similar to myself whom I recognised by their
cloven feet and by their kindly speech. We joined forces in our
endeavours to polish the rough mind of the monks.

"While the little children played at hop-scotch under the Abbey walls
our friends the monks devoted themselves to another game equally
unprofitable, at which, nevertheless, I joined them, for one must kill
time,--that, when one comes to think of it, is the sole business of
life. Our game was a game of words which pleased our coarse yet subtle
minds, set school fulminating against school, and put all Christendom in
an uproar. We formed ourselves into two opposing camps. One camp
maintained that before there were apples there was the Apple; that
before there were popinjays there was the Popinjay; that before there
were lewd and greedy monks there was the Monk, Lewdness and Greed; that
before there were feet and before there were posteriors in this world
the kick in the posterior must have had existence for all eternity in
the bosom of God. The other camp replied that, on the contrary, apples
gave man the idea of the apple; popinjays the idea of the popinjay;
monks the idea of the monk, greed and lewdness, and that the kick in the
posterior existed only after having been duly given and received. The
players grew heated and came to fisticuffs. I was an adherent of the
second party, which satisfied my reason better, and which was, in fact,
condemned by the Council of Soissons.

"Meanwhile, not content with fighting among themselves, vassal against
suzerain, suzerain against vassal, the great lords took it into their
heads to go and fight in the East. They said, as well as I can remember,
that they were going to deliver the tomb of the son of God.

"They said so, but their adventurous and covetous spirit excited them to
go forth and seek lands, women, slaves, gold, myrrh, and incense. These
expeditions, need it be said, proved disastrous; but our thick-headed
compatriots brought back with them the knowledge of certain crafts and
oriental arts and a taste for luxury. Henceforth we had less difficulty
in making them work and in putting them in the way of inventions. We
built wonderfully beautiful churches, with daringly pierced arches,
lancet-shaped windows, high towers, thousands of pointed spires, which,
rising in the sky towards Iahveh, bore at one and the same time the
prayers of the humble and the threats of the proud, for it was all as
much our doing as the work of men's hands; and it was a strange sight to
see men and demons working together at a cathedral, each one sawing,
polishing, collecting stones, graving, on capital and on cornice,
nettles, thorns, thistles, wild parsley, and wild strawberry,--carving
faces of virgins and saints and weird figures of serpents, fishes with
asses' heads, apes scratching their buttocks; each one, in fact, putting
his own particular talent,--mocking, sublime, grotesque, modest, or
audacious,--into the work and making of it all a harmonious cacophony, a
rapturous anthem of joy and sorrow, a Babel of victory. At our
instigation the carvers, the gold-smiths, the enamellers, accomplished
marvels and all the sumptuary arts flourished at once; there were silks
at Lyons, tapestries at Arras, linen at Rheims, cloth at Rouen. The good
merchants rode on their palfreys to the fairs, bearing pieces of velvet
and brocade, embroideries, orfrays, jewels, vessels of silver, and
illuminated books. Strollers and players set up their trestles in the
churches and in the public squares, and represented, according to their
lights, simple chronicles of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. Women decked
themselves in splendid raiment and lisped of love.

"In the spring when the sky was blue, nobles and peasants were possessed
with the desire to make merry in the flower-strewn meadows. The fiddler
tuned his instrument, and ladies, knights and demoiselles, townsfolk,
villagers and maidens, holding hands, began the dance. But suddenly War,
Pestilence, and Famine entered the circle, and Death, tearing the violin
from the fiddler's hands, led the dance. Fire devoured village and
monastery. The men-at-arms hanged the peasants on the sign-posts at the
cross-roads when they were unable to pay ransom, and bound pregnant
women to tree-trunks, where at night the wolves came and devoured the
fruit within the womb. The poor people lost their senses. Sometimes,
peace being re-established, and good times come again, they were seized
with mad, unreasoning terror, abandoned their homes, and rushed hither
and thither in troops, half naked, tearing themselves with iron hooks,
and singing. I do not accuse Iahveh and his son of all this evil. Many
ill things occurred without him and even in spite of him. But where I
recognise the instigation of the All Good (as they called him) was in
the custom instituted by his pastors, and established throughout
Christendom, of burning, to the sound of bells and the singing of
psalms, both men and women who, taught by the demons, professed,
concerning this God, opinions of their own."



CHAPTER XXI

     THE GARDENER'S STORY, CONCLUDED


"It seemed as if science and thought had perished for all eternity, and
that the earth would never again know peace, joy, and beauty.

"But one day, under the walls of Rome, some workmen, excavating the
earth on the borders of an ancient road, found a marble sarcophagus
which bore carved on its sides simulacra of Love and the triumphs of
Bacchus.

"The lid being raised, a maiden appeared whose face shone with dazzling
freshness. Her long hair spread over her white shoulders, she was
smiling in her sleep. A band of citizens, thrilled with enthusiasm,
raised the funeral couch and bore it to the Capitol. The people came in
crowds to contemplate the ineffable beauty of the Roman maiden and stood
around in silence, watching for the awakening of the divine soul held
within this form of adorable beauty.

"And it came to pass that the City was so greatly stirred by this
spectacle that the Pope, fearing, not without reason, the birth of a
pagan cult from this radiant body, caused it to be removed at night and
secretly buried. The precaution was vain, the labour fruitless. After so
many centuries of barbarism, the beauty of the antique world had
appeared for a moment before the eyes of men; it was long enough for its
image, graven on their hearts, to inspire them with an ardent desire to
love and to know.

"Henceforth, the star of the God of the Christians paled and sloped to
its decline. Bold navigators discovered worlds inhabited by numerous
races who knew not old Iahveh, and it was suspected that he was no less
ignorant of them, since he had given them no news of himself or of his
son the expiator. A Polish Canon demonstrated the true motions of the
earth, and it was seen that, far from having created the world, the old
demiurge of Israel had not even an inkling of its structure. The
writings of philosophers, orators, jurisconsults, and ancient poets were
dragged from the dust of the cloisters and passing from hand to hand
inspired men's minds with the love of wisdom. The Vicar of the jealous
God, the Pope himself, no longer believed in Him whom he represented on
earth. He loved the arts and had no other care than to collect ancient
statues and to rear sumptuous buildings wherein were displayed the
orders of Vitruvius re-established by Bramante. We began to breathe
anew. Already the old gods, recalled from their long exile, were
returning to dwell upon earth. There they found once more their temples
and their altars. Leo, placing at their feet the ring, the three crowns,
and the keys, offered them in secret the incense of sacrifices. Already
Polyhymnia, leaning on her elbow, had begun to resume the golden thread
of her meditations; already, in the gardens, the comely Graces and the
Nymphs and Satyrs were weaving their mazy dances, and at length the
earth had joy once more within its grasp. But, O calamity, unlucky
fate,--most tragic circumstance! A German monk, all swollen with beer
and theology, rose up against this renaissance of paganism, hurled
menaces against it, shattered it, and prevailed single handed against
the Princes of the Church. Inciting the nations, he called upon them to
undertake a reform which saved that which was about to be destroyed.
Vainly did the cleverest among us try to turn him from his work. A
subtle demon, on earth called Beelzebub, marked him out for attack, now
embarrassing him with learned controversial argument, now tormenting him
with cruel mockery. The stubborn monk hurled his ink-pot at his head and
went on with his dismal reformation. What ultimately happened? The
sturdy mariner repaired, calked, and refloated the damaged ship of the
Church. Jesus Christ owes it to this shaveling that his shipwreck was
delayed for perhaps more than ten centuries. Henceforth things went from
bad to worse. In the wake of this loutish monk, this beer-swiller and
brawler, came that tall, dry doctor from Geneva, who, filled with the
spirit of the ancient Iahveh, strove to bring the world back again to
the abominable days of Joshua and the Judges of Israel. A maniac was he,
filled with cold fury, a heretic and a burner of heretics, the most
ferocious enemy of the Graces.

"These mad apostles and their mad disciples made even demons like
myself, even the horned devils, look back longingly on the time when the
Son with his Virgin Mother reigned over the nations dazzled with
splendours: cathedrals with their stone tracery delicate as lace,
flaming roses of stained glass, frescoes painted in vivid colours
telling countless wondrous tales, rich orfrays, glittering enamel of
shrines and reliquaries, gold of crosses and of monstrances, waxen
tapers gleaming like starry galaxies amid the gloom of vaulted arches,
organs with their deep-toned harmonies. All this doubtless was not the
Parthenon, nor yet the Panathenæa, but it gladdened eyes and hearts; it
was, at all events, beauty. And these cursed reformers would not suffer
anything either pleasing or lovable. You should have seen them climbing
in black swarms over doorways, plinths, spires, and bell-towers,
striking with senseless hammers those images in stone which the demons
had carved working hand in hand with the master designers, those genial
saints and dear, holy women, and the touching idols of Virgin Mothers
pressing their suckling to their heart. For, to be just, a little
agreeable paganism had slipped into the cult of the jealous God. These
monsters of heretics were for extirpating idolatry. We did our best, my
companions and I, to hamper their horrible work, and I, for one, had the
pleasure of flinging down some dozens from the top of the porches and
galleries on to the Cathedral Square, where their detestable brains got
knocked out. The worst of it was that the Catholic Church also reformed
herself and grew more mischievous than ever. In the pleasant land of
France, the seminarists and the monks were inflamed with unheard-of fury
against the ingenious demons and the men of learning. My prior was one
of the most violent opponents of sound knowledge. For some time past my
studious lucubrations had caused him anxiety, and perhaps he had caught
sight of my cloven foot. The scoundrel searched my cell and found paper,
ink, some Greek books newly printed, and some Pan-pipes hanging on the
wall. By these signs he knew me for an evil spirit and had me thrown
into a dungeon where I should have eaten the bread of suffering and
drunk the waters of bitterness, had I not promptly made my escape by the
window and sought refuge in the wooded groves among the Nymphs and the
Fauns.

"Far and wide the lighted pyres cast the odour of charred flesh.
Everywhere there were tortures, executions, broken bones, and tongues
cut out. Never before had the spirit of Iahveh breathed forth such
atrocious fury. However, it was not altogether in vain that men had
raised the lid of the ancient sarcophagus and gazed upon the Roman
Virgin.

"During this time of great terror when Papists and Reformers rivalled
one another in violence and cruelty, amidst all these scenes of torture,
the mind of man was regaining strength and courage. It dared to look up
to the heavens, and there it saw, not the old Jew drunk with vengeance,
but Venus Urania, tranquil and resplendent. Then a new order of things
was born, then the great centuries came into being. Without publicly
denying the god of their ancestors, men of intellect submitted to his
mortal enemies, Science and Reason, and Abbé Gassendi relegated him
gently to the far-distant abyss of first causes. The kindly demons who
teach and console unhappy mortals, inspired the great minds of those
days with discourses of all kinds, with comedies and tales told in the
most polished fashion. Women invented conversation, the art of intimate
letter-writing, and politeness. Manners took on a sweetness and a
nobility unknown to preceding ages. One of the finest minds of that age
of reason, the amiable Bernier, wrote one day to St. Evremond: 'It is a
great sin to deprive oneself of a pleasure.' And this pronouncement
alone should suffice to show the progress of intelligence in Europe. Not
that there had not always been Epicureans but, unlike Bernier, Chapelle,
and Molière, they had not the consciousness of their talent.

"Then even the very devotees understood Nature. And Racine, fierce bigot
that he was, knew as well as such an atheistical physician as Guy Patin,
how to attribute to divers states of the organs the passions which
agitate mankind.

"Even in my abbey, whither I had returned after the turmoil, and which
sheltered only the ignorant and the shallow thinker, a young monk, less
of a dunce than the rest, confided to me that the Holy Spirit expresses
itself in bad Greek to humiliate the learned.

"Nevertheless, theology and controversy were still raging in this
society of thinkers. Not far from Paris in a shady valley there were to
be seen solitary beings known as 'les Messieurs,' who called themselves
disciples of St. Augustine, and argued with honest conviction that the
God of the Scriptures strikes those who fear Him, spares those who
confront Him, holds works of no account, and damns--should He so wish
it--His most faithful servant; for His justice is not our justice, and
His ways are incomprehensible.

"One evening I met one of these gentlemen in his garden, where he was
pacing thoughtfully among the cabbage-plots and lettuce-beds. I bowed
my horned head before him and murmured these friendly words: 'May old
Jehovah protect you, sir. You know him well. Oh, how well you know him,
and how perfectly you have understood his character.' The holy man
thought he discerned in me a messenger from Hell, concluded he was
eternally damned, and died suddenly of fright.

"The following century was the century of philosophy. The spirit of
research was developed, reverence was lost; the pride of the flesh was
diminished and the mind acquired fresh energy. Manners took on an
elegance until then unknown. On the other hand, the monks of my order
grew more and more ignorant and dirty, and the monastery no longer
offered me any advantage now that good manners reigned in the town. I
could bear it no longer. Flinging my habit to the nettles, I put a
powdered wig on my horned brow, hid my goat's legs under white
stockings, and cane in hand, my pockets stuffed with gazettes, I
frequented the fashionable world, visited the modish promenades, and
showed myself assiduously in the _cafés_ where men of letters were to be
found. I was made welcome in _salons_ where, as a happy novelty, there
were arm-chairs that fitted the form, and where both men and women
engaged in rational conversation.

"The very metaphysicians spoke intelligibly. I acquired great weight in
the town as an authority on matters of exegesis, and, without boasting,
I was largely responsible for the Testament of the curé Meslier and _The
Bible Explained_, brought out by the chaplains to the King of Prussia.

"At this time a comic and cruel misadventure befel the ancient Iahveh.
An American Quaker, by means of a kite, stole his thunderbolts.

"I was living in Paris, and was at the supper where they talked of
strangling the last of the priests with the entrails of the last of the
kings. France was in a ferment; a terrible revolution broke out. The
ephemeral leaders of the disordered State carried on a Reign of Terror
amidst unheard-of perils. They were, for the most part, less pitiless
and less cruel than the princes and judges instituted by Iahveh in the
kingdoms of the earth; nevertheless, they appeared more ferocious,
because they gave judgment in the name of Humanity. Unhappily they were
easily moved to pity and of great sensibility. Now men of sensibility
are irritable and subject to fits of fury. They were virtuous; they had
moral laws, that is to say they conceived certain narrowly defined moral
obligations, and judged human actions not by their natural consequences
but by abstract principles. Of all the vices which contribute to the
undoing of a statesman, virtue is the most fatal; it leads to murder. To
work effectively for the happiness of mankind, a man must be superior to
all morals, like the divine Julius. God, so ill-used for some time
past, did not, on the whole, suffer excessively harsh treatment from
these new men. He found protectors among them, and was adored under the
name of the Supreme Being. One might even go so far as to say that
terror created a diversion from philosophy and was profitable to the old
demiurge, in that he appeared to represent order, public tranquillity,
and the security of person and property.

"While Liberty was coming to birth amid the storm, I lived at Auteuil,
and visited Madame Helvetius, where freethinkers in every branch of
intellectual activity were to be met with. Nothing could be rarer than a
freethinker, even after Voltaire's day. A man who will face death
without trembling dare not say anything out of the ordinary about
morals. That very same respect for Humanity which prompts him to go
forth to his death, makes him bow to public opinion. In those days I
enjoyed listening to the talk of Volney, Cabanis, and Tracy. Disciples
of the great Condillac, they regarded the senses as the origin of all
our knowledge. They called themselves ideologists, were the most
honourable people in the world, and grieved the vulgar minds by refusing
them immortality. For the majority of people, though they do not know
what to do with this life, long for another that shall have no end.
During the turmoil, our small philosophical society was sometimes
disturbed in the peaceful shades of Auteuil by patrols of patriots.
Condorcet, our great man, was an outlaw. I myself was regarded as
suspect by the friends of the people, who, in spite of my rustic
appearance and my frieze coat, believed me to be an aristocrat, and I
confess that independence of thought is the proudest of all
aristocracies.

"One evening while I was stealthily watching the dryads of Boulogne, who
gleamed amid the leaves like the moon rising above the horizon, I was
arrested as a suspect, and put in prison. It was a pure
misunderstanding; but the Jacobins of those days, like the monks whose
place they had usurped, laid great stress on unity of obedience. After
the death of Madame Helvetius our society gathered together in the
_salon_ of Madame de Condorcet. Bonaparte did not disdain to chat with
us sometimes.

"Recognizing him to be a great man, we thought him an ideologist like
ourselves. Our influence in the land was considerable. We used it in his
favour, and urged him towards the Imperial throne, thinking to display
to the world a second Marcus Aurelius. We counted on him to establish
universal peace; he did not fulfil our expectations, and we were
wrong-headed enough to be wroth with him for our own mistake.

"Without any doubt he greatly surpassed all other men in quickness of
intelligence, depth of dissimulation, and capacity for action. What
made him an accomplished ruler was that he lived entirely in the present
moment, and had no thoughts for anything beyond the immediate and actual
reality. His genius was far-reaching and agile; his intelligence, vast
in extent but common and vulgar in character, embraced humanity, but did
not rise above it. He thought what every grenadier in the army thought;
but he thought it with unprecedented force. He loved the game of chance,
and it pleased him to tempt fortune by urging pigmies in their hundreds
and thousands against each other. It was the game of a child as big as
the world. He was too wily not to introduce old Iahveh into the
game,--Iahveh, who was still powerful on earth, and who resembled him in
his spirit of violence and domination. He threatened him, flattered him,
caressed him, and intimidated him. He imprisoned his Vicar, of whom he
demanded, with the knife at his throat, that rite of unction which,
since the days of Saul of old, has bestowed might upon kings; he
restored the worship of the demiurge, sang _Te Deums_ to him, and made
himself known through him as God of the earth, in small catechisms
scattered broadcast throughout the Empire. They united their thunders,
and a fine uproar they made.

"While Napoleon's amusements were throwing Europe into a turmoil, we
congratulated ourselves on our wisdom, a little sad, withal, at seeing
the era of philosophy ushered in with massacre, torture, and war. The
worst is that the children of the century, fallen into the most
distressing disorder, formed the conception of a literary and
picturesque Christianity, which betokens a degeneracy of mind really
unbelievable, and finally fell into Romanticism. War and Romanticism,
what terrible scourges! And how pitiful to see these same people nursing
a childish and savage love for muskets and drums! They did not
understand that war, which trained the courage and founded the cities of
barbarous and ignorant men, brings to the victor himself but ruin and
misery, and is nothing but a horrible and stupid crime when nations are
united together by common bonds of art, science, and trade.

"Insane Europeans who plot to cut each others' throats, now that one and
the same civilisation enfolds and unites them all!

"I renounced all converse with these madmen and withdrew to this
village, where I devoted myself to gardening. The peaches in my orchard
remind me of the sun-kissed skin of the Mænads. For mankind I have
retained my old friendship, a little admiration, and much pity, and I
await, while cultivating this enclosure, that still distant day when the
great Dionysus shall come, followed by his Fauns and his Bacchantes, to
restore beauty and gladness to the world, and bring back the Golden Age.
I shall fare joyously behind his car. And who knows if in that day of
triumph mankind will be there for us to see? Who knows whether their
worn-out race will not have already fulfilled its destiny, and whether
other beings will not rise upon the ashes and ruins of what once was man
and his genius? Who knows if winged beings will not have taken
possession of the terrestrial empire? Even then the work of the good
demons will not be ended,--they will teach a winged race arts and the
joy of life."



CHAPTER XXII

     WHEREIN WE ARE SHOWN THE INTERIOR OF A BRIC-A-BRAC SHOP, AND
     SEE HOW PÈRE GUINARDON'S GUILTY HAPPINESS IS MARRED BY THE
     JEALOUSY OF A LOVE-LORN DAME


Père Guinardon (as Zéphyrine had faithfully reported to Monsieur
Sariette) smuggled out the pictures, furniture, and curios stored in his
attic in the rue Princesse--his studio he called it--and used them to
stock a shop he had taken in the rue de Courcelles. Thither he went to
take up his abode, leaving Zéphyrine, with whom he had lived for fifty
years, without a bed or a saucepan or a penny to call her own, except
eighteenpence the poor creature had in her purse. Père Guinardon opened
an old picture and curiosity shop, and in it he installed the fair
Octavie.

The shop-front presented an attractive appearance: there were Flemish
angels in green copes, after the manner of Gérard David, a Salomé of the
Luini school, a Saint Barbara in painted wood of French workmanship,
Limoges enamel-work, Bohemian and Venetian glass, dishes from Urbino.
There were specimens of English point-lace which, if her tale was true,
had been presented to Zéphyrine, in the days of her radiant girlhood, by
the Emperor Napoleon III. Within, there were golden articles that
glinted in the shadows, while pictures of Christ, the Apostles,
high-bred dames, and nymphs also presented themselves to the gaze. There
was one canvas that was turned face to the wall so that it should only
be looked at by connoisseurs; and connoisseurs are scarce. It was a
replica of Fragonard's _Gimblette_, a brilliant painting that looked as
if it had barely had time to dry. Papa Guinardon himself remarked on the
fact. At the far end of the shop was a king-wood cabinet, the drawers of
which were full of all manner of treasures: water-colours by Baudouin,
eighteenth-century books of illustrations, miniatures, and so forth.

But the real masterpiece, the marvel, the gem, the pearl of great price,
stood upon an easel veiled from public view. It was a _Coronation of the
Virgin_ by Fra Angelico, an exquisitely delicate thing in gold and blue
and pink. Père Guinardon was asking a hundred thousand francs for it.
Upon a Louis XV chair beside an Empire work-table on which stood a vase
of flowers, sat the fair Octavie, broidery in hand. She, having left her
glistering rags behind her in the garret in the rue Princesse, no longer
presented the appearance of a touched-up Rembrandt, but shone, rather,
with the soft radiance and limpidity of a Vermeer of Delft, for the
delectation of the connoisseurs who frequented the shop of Papa
Guinardon. Tranquil and demure, she remained alone in the shop all day,
while the old fellow himself was up aloft working away at the deuce
knows what picture. About five o'clock he used to come downstairs and
have a chat with the habitués of the establishment.

The most regular caller was the Comte Desmaisons, a thin, cadaverous
man. A strand of hair issued from the deep hollow under each cheek-bone,
and, broadening as it descended, shed upon his chin and chest torrents
of snow in which he was for ever trailing his long, fleshless,
gold-ringed fingers. For twenty years he had been mourning the loss of
his wife, who had been carried off by consumption in the flower of her
youth and beauty. Since then he had spent his whole life in endeavouring
to hold converse with the dead and in filling his lonely mansion with
second-rate paintings. His confidence in Guinardon knew no bounds.
Another client who was a scarcely less frequent visitor to the shop was
Monsieur Blancmesnil, a director of a large financial establishment. He
was a florid, prosperous-looking man of fifty. He took no great interest
in matters of art, and was perhaps an indifferent connoisseur, but, in
his case, it was the fair Octavie, seated in the middle of the shop,
like a song-bird in its cage, that offered the attraction.

Monsieur Blancmesnil soon established relations with her, a fact which
Père Guinardon alone failed to perceive, for the old fellow was still
young in his love-affair with Octavie. Monsieur Gaétan d'Esparvieu used
to pay occasional visits to Père Guinardon's shop out of mere curiosity,
for he strongly suspected the old man of being a first-rate "faker."

And then that doughty swordsman, Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec, also came
to see the old antiquary on one occasion, and acquainted him with a plan
he had on foot. Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec was getting up a little
historical exhibition of small arms at the Petit Palais in aid of the
fund for the education of the native children in Morocco and wanted Père
Guinardon to lend him a few of the most valuable articles in his
collection.

"Our first idea," he said, "was to organise an exhibition to be called
'The Cross and the Sword.' The juxtaposition of the two words will make
the idea which has prompted our undertaking sufficiently clear to you.
It was an idea pre-eminently patriotic and Christian which led us to
associate the Sword, which is the symbol of Honour, with the Cross,
which is the symbol of Salvation. It was hoped that our work would be
graced by the distinguished patronage of the Minister of War and
Monseigneur Cachepot. Unfortunately there were difficulties in the way,
and the full realisation of the project had to be deferred. In the
meantime we are limiting our exhibition to 'The Sword.' I have drawn up
an explanatory note indicating the significance of the demonstration."

Having delivered himself of these remarks, Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec
produced a pocket-case stuffed full of papers. Picking out from a medley
of judgment summonses and other odds and ends a little piece of very
crumpled paper, he exclaimed, "Ah, here it is," and proceeded to read as
follows: "'The Sword is a fierce Virgin; it is _par excellence_ the
Frenchman's weapon. And now, when patriotic sentiment, after suffering
an all too protracted eclipse, is beginning to shine forth again more
ardently than ever ...' and so forth; you see?"

And he repeated his request for some really fine specimen to be placed
in the most conspicuous position in the exhibition to be held on behalf
of the little native children of Morocco, of which General d'Esparvieu
was to be honorary President.

Arms and armour were by no means Père Guinardon's strong point. He dealt
principally in pictures, drawings, and books. But he was never to be
taken unawares. He took down a rapier with a gilt colander-shaped hilt,
a highly typical piece of workmanship of the Louis XIII-Napoleon III
period, and presented it to the exhibition promoter, who, while
contemplating it with respect, maintained a diplomatic silence.

"I have something better still in here," said the antiquary, and he
produced from his inner shop--where it had been lying among the
walking-sticks and umbrellas--a real demon of a sword, adorned with
fleurs-de-lys, a genuine royal relic. It was the sword of
Philippe-Auguste as worn by an actor at the _Odéon_ when _Agnès de
Méranie_ was being performed in 1846. Guinardon held it point downwards,
as though it were a cross, clasping his hands piously on the cross-bar.
He looked as loyal as the sword itself.

"Have her for your exhibition," said he. "The damsel is well worth it.
Bouvines is her name."

"If I find a buyer for it," said Monsieur Le True de Ruffec, twirling
his enormous moustachios, "I suppose you will allow me a little
commission?"

Some days later, Père Guinardon was mysteriously displaying a picture to
the Comte Desmaisons and Monsieur Blancmesnil. It was a newly discovered
work of El Greco, an amazingly fine example of the Master's later style.
It represented a Saint Francis of Assisi standing erect upon Mont
Alverno. He was mounting heavenward like a column of smoke, and was
plunging into the regions of the clouds a monstrously narrow head that
the distance rendered smaller still. In fine it was a real, very real,
nay, too real El Greco. The two collectors were attentively
scrutinizing the work, while Père Guinardon was belauding the depth of
the shadows and the sublimity of the expression. He was raising his arms
aloft to convey an idea of the greatness of Theotocopuli, who derived
from Tintoretto, whom, however, he surpassed in loftiness by a hundred
cubits.

"He was chaste and pure and strong; a mystic, a visionary."

Comte Desmaisons declared that El Greco was his favourite painter. In
his inmost heart Blancmesnil was not so entirely struck with it.

The door opened, and Monsieur Gaétan quite unexpectedly appeared on the
scene.

He gave a glance at the Saint Francis, and said:

"Bless my soul!"

Monsieur Blancmesnil, anxious to improve his knowledge, asked him what
he thought of this artist who was now so much in vogue. Gaétan replied,
glibly enough, that he did not regard El Greco as the eccentric, the
madman that people used to take him for. It was rather his opinion that
a defect of vision from which Theotocopuli suffered compelled him to
deform his figures.

"Being afflicted with astigmatism and strabismus," Gaétan went on, "he
painted the things he saw exactly as he used to see them."

Comte Desmaisons was not readily disposed to accept so natural an
explanation, which, however, by its very simplicity, highly commended
itself to Monsieur Blancmesnil.

Père Guinardon, quite beside himself, exclaimed:

"Are you going to tell me, Monsieur d'Esparvieu, that Saint John was
astigmatic because he beheld a woman clothed with the sun, crowned with
stars, with the moon about her feet; the Beast with seven heads and ten
horns, and the seven angels robed in white linen that bore the seven
cups filled with the wrath of the Living God?"

"After all," said Monsieur Gaétan, by way of conclusion, "people are
right in admiring El Greco if he had genius enough to impose his
morbidity of vision upon them. By the same token, the contortions to
which he subjects the human countenance may give satisfaction to those
who love suffering,--a class more numerous than is generally supposed."

"Monsieur," replied the Comte Desmaisons, stroking his luxuriant beard
with his long, thin hand, "we must love those that love us. Suffering
loves us and attaches itself to us. We must love it if life is to be
supportable to us. In the knowledge of this truth lies the strength and
value of Christianity. Alas! I do not possess the gift of Faith. It is
that which drives me to despair."

The old man thought of her for whom he had been mourning twenty years,
and forthwith his reason left him, and his thoughts abandoned
themselves unresistingly to the morbid imaginings of gentle and
melancholy madness.

Having, he said, made a study of psychic matters, and having, with the
co-operation of a favourable medium, carried out experiments concerning
the nature and duration of the soul, he had obtained some remarkable
results, which, however, did not afford him complete satisfaction. He
had succeeded in viewing the soul of his dead wife under the appearance
of a transparent and gelatinous mass which bore not the slightest
resemblance to his adored one. The most painful part about the whole
experiment--which he had repeated over and over again--was that the
gelatinous mass, which was furnished with a number of extremely slender
tentacles, maintained them in constant motion in time to a rhythm
apparently intended to make certain signs, but of what these movements
were supposed to convey there was not the slightest clue.

During the whole of this narrative Monsieur Blancmesnil had been
whispering in a corner with the youthful Octavie, who sat mute and
still, with her eyes on the ground.

Now Zéphyrine had by no means made up her mind to resign her lover into
the hands of an unworthy rival. She would often go round of a morning,
with her shopping-basket on her arm, and prowl about outside the curio
shop. Torn betwixt grief and rage, tormented by warring ideas, she
sometimes thought she would empty a saucepanful of vitriol on the head
of the faithless one; at others that she would fling herself at his
feet, and shower tears and kisses on his precious hands. One day, as she
was thus eyeing her Michel--her beloved but guilty Michel--she noticed
through the window the fair and youthful Octavie, who was sitting with
her embroidery at a table upon which, in a vase of crystal, a rose was
swooning to death. Zéphyrine, in a transport of fury, brought down her
umbrella on her rival's fair head, and called her a bitch and a trollop.
Octavie fled in terror, and ran for the police, while Zéphyrine, beside
herself with grief and love, kept digging away with her old gamp at the
_Gimblette_ of Fragonard, the fuliginous Saint Francis of El Greco, the
virgins, the nymphs, and the apostles, and knocked the gilt off the Fra
Angelico, shrieking all the while:

"All those pictures there, the El Greco, the Beato Angelico, the
Fragonard, the Gérard David, and the Baudouins--Guinardon painted the
whole lot of them himself, the wretch, the scoundrel! That Fra Angelico
there, why I saw him painting it on my ironing-board, and that Gérard
David he executed on an old midwife's sign-board. You and that bitch of
yours, why, I'll do for the pair of you just as I'm doing for these
pictures."

And tugging away at the coat of an aged collector who, trembling all
over, had hidden himself in the darkest corner of the shop, she called
him to witness to the crimes of Guinardon, perjurer and impostor. The
police had simply to tear her out of the ruined shop. As she was being
taken off to the station, followed by a great crowd of people, she
raised her fiery eyes to Heaven, crying in a voice choked with sobs:

"But don't you know Michel? If you knew him, you would understand that
it is impossible to live without him. Michel! He is handsome and good
and charming. He is a very god. He is Love itself. I love him! I love
him! I love him! I have known men high up in the world--Dukes, Ministers
of State, and higher still. Not one of them was worthy to clean the mud
off Michel's boots. My good, kind sirs, give him back to me again."



CHAPTER XXIII

     WHEREIN WE ARE PERMITTED TO OBSERVE THE ADMIRABLE CHARACTER
     OF BOUCHOTTE, WHO RESISTS VIOLENCE BUT YIELDS TO LOVE. AFTER
     THAT LET NO ONE CALL THE AUTHOR A MISOGYNIST


On coming away from the Baron Everdingen's, Prince Istar went to have a
few oysters and a bottle of white wine at an eating-house in the Market.
Then, being prudent as well as powerful, he paid a visit to his friend,
Théophile Belais, for his pockets were full of bombs, and he wanted to
secrete them in the musician's cupboard. The composer of _Aline, Queen
of Golconda_ was not at home. However, the Kerûb found Bouchotte busily
working up the rôle of Zigouille; for the young artiste was booked to
play the principal part in _Les Apaches_, an operetta that was then
being rehearsed in one of the big music halls. The part in question was
that of a street-walker who by her obscene gestures lures a passer-by
into a trap, and then, while her victim is being gagged and bound,
repeats with fiendish cruelty the lascivious motions by which he had
been led astray. The part required that she should appear both as mime
and singer, and she was in a state of high enthusiasm about it.

The accompanist had just left. Prince Istar seated himself at the piano,
and Bouchotte resumed her task. Her movements were unseemly and
delicious. Her tawny hair was flying in all directions in wild
disordered curls; her skin was moist, it exhaled a scent of violets and
alkaline salts which made the nostrils throb; even she herself felt the
intoxication. Suddenly, inebriated with her intoxicating presence,
Prince Istar arose, and with never a word or a look, caught her into his
arms and drew her on to the couch, the little couch with the flowered
tapestry which Théophile had procured at one of the big shops by
promising to pay ten francs a month for a long term of years. Now Istar
might have solicited Bouchotte's favours; he might have invited her to a
rapid, and, withal, a mutual embrace, and, despite her preoccupation and
excitement, she would not have refused him. But Bouchotte was a girl of
spirit. The merest hint of coercion awoke all her untamable pride. She
would consent of her own accord, yes; but be mastered, never! She would
readily yield to love, curiosity, pity, to less than that even, but she
would die rather than yield to force. Her surprise immediately gave
place to fury. She fought her aggressor with all her heart and soul.

With nails, to which fury lent an added edge, she tore at the cheeks and
eyelids of the Kerûb, and, though he held her as in a vice, she arched
herself so stiffly and made such excellent play with knee and elbow,
that the human-headed bull, blinded with blood and rage, was sent
crashing into the piano which gave forth a prolonged groan, while the
bombs, tumbling out of his pockets, fell on the floor with a noise like
thunder. And Bouchotte, with dishevelled locks, and one breast bare,
beautiful and terrible, stood brandishing the poker over the prostrate
giant, crying:

"Be off with you, or I'll put your eyes out!"

Prince Istar went to wash himself in the kitchen, and plunged his gory
visage into a basin where some haricot beans lay soaking; then he
withdrew without anger or resentment, for he had a noble soul.

Scarcely had he gone when the door-bell rang. Bouchotte, calling upon
the absent maid in vain, slipped on a dressing-gown and opened the door
herself. A young man, very correct in appearance and rather
good-looking, bowed politely, and apologising for having to introduce
himself, gave his name. It was Maurice d'Esparvieu.

Maurice was still seeking his guardian angel. Upheld by a desperate
hope, he sought him in the queerest places. He enquired for him at the
houses of sorcerers, magicians, and thaumaturgists, who in filthy hovels
lay bare the ineffable secrets of the future, and who, though masters
of all the treasures of the earth, wear trousers without any seats to
them, and eat pigs' brains. That very day, having been to a back street
in Montmartre to consult a priest of Satan, who practised black magic by
piercing waxen images, Maurice had gone on to Bouchotte's, having been
sent by Madame de la Verdelière, who, being about to give a fête in aid
of the fund for the Preservation of Country Churches, was anxious to
secure Bouchotte's services, since she had suddenly become--no one knew
why--a fashionable artiste.

Bouchotte invited the visitor to sit down on the little flowered couch;
at his request she seated herself beside him, and our young man of
fashion explained to the singer what Madame de la Verdelière desired of
her. The lady wished Bouchotte to sing one of those _apache_ songs which
were giving such delight in the fashionable world. Unfortunately Madame
de la Verdelière could only offer a very modest fee, one out of all
proportion to the merits of the artiste, but then it was for a good
cause.

Bouchotte agreed to take part, and accepted the reduced fee with the
accustomed liberality of the poor towards the rich and of artists
towards society people. Bouchotte was not a selfish girl; the work for
the preservation of country churches interested her. She remembered with
sobs and tears her first communion, and she still retained her faith.
When she passed by a church she wanted to enter it, especially in the
evening. And so she did not love the Republic which had done its utmost
to destroy both the Church and the Army. Her heart rejoiced to see the
re-birth of national sentiment. France was lifting up her head. What was
most applauded in the music halls were songs about the soldiers and the
kind nuns. Meanwhile Maurice inhaled the odour of her tawny hair, the
subtle bitter perfume of her body, all the odours of her person, and
desire grew in him. He felt her near him on the little couch, very warm
and very soft. He complimented the artiste on her great talent. She
asked him what he liked best in all her repertory. He knew nothing about
it, still he made replies that satisfied her. She had dictated them
herself without knowing it. The vain creature spoke of her talent, of
her success, as she wished others to speak of them. She never ceased
talking of her triumphs, yet withal she was candour itself. Maurice in
all sincerity praised Bouchotte's beauty, her fresh skin, her purity of
line. She attributed this advantage to the fact that she never made up
and never "put messes on her face." As to her figure, she admitted that
there was enough everywhere and none too much, and to illustrate this
assertion she passed her hand over all the contours of her charming
body, rising lightly to follow the delightful curves on which she
reposed.

Maurice was quite moved by it. It began to grow dark; she offered to
light up. He begged her to do nothing of the sort.

Their talk, at first gay and full of laughter, grew more intimate and
very sweet, with a certain languor in its tone. It seemed to Bouchotte
that she had known Monsieur Maurice d'Esparvieu for a long time, and
holding him for a man of delicacy, she gave him her confidence. She told
him that she was by nature a good woman, but that she had had a grasping
and unscrupulous mother. Maurice recalled her to the consideration of
her own beauty, and exalted by subtle flattery the excellent opinion she
had of herself. Patient and calculating, in spite of the burning desire
growing in him, he aroused and increased in the desired one the longing
to be still further admired. The dressing-gown opened and slipped down
of its own accord, the living satin of her shoulders gleamed in the
mysterious light of evening. He--so prudent, so clever, so adroit,--let
her sink in his arms, ardent and half swooning before she had even
perceived she had granted anything at all. Their breath and their
murmurs intermingled. And the little flowery couch sighed in sympathy
with them.

When they recovered the power to express their feelings in words, she
whispered in his ear that his cheek was even softer than her own.

He answered, holding her embraced:

"It is charming to hold you like this. One would think you had no
bones."

She replied, closing her eyes:

"It is because I love you. Love seems to dissolve my bones; it makes me
as soft and melting as a pig's foot _à la Ste. Menebould_."

Hereupon Théophile came in, and Bouchotte called upon him to thank
Monsieur Maurice d'Esparvieu, who had been amiable enough to be the
bearer of a handsome offer from Madame la Comtesse de la Verdelière.

The musician was happy, feeling the quiet and peace of the house after a
day of fruitless applications, of colourless lessons, of failure and
humiliation. Three new collaborators had been thrust upon him who would
add their signatures to his on his operetta, and receive their share of
the author's rights, and he had been told to introduce the tango into
the Court of Golconda. He pressed young d'Esparvieu's hand and dropped
wearily on to the little couch, which, being now at the end of its
strength, gave way at the four legs and suddenly collapsed.

And the angel, precipitated to the ground, rolled terror-struck on to
the watch, match-box and cigarette-case that had fallen from Maurice's
pocket, and on to the bombs Prince Istar had left behind him.



CHAPTER XXIV

     CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE VICISSITUDES THAT BEFEL THE
     "LUCRETIUS" OF THE PRIOR DE VENDÔME


Léger-Massieu, successor to Léger senior, the binder, whose
establishment was in the rue de l'Abbaye, opposite the old Hôtel of the
Abbés of Saint Germain-des-Près, in the hotbed of ancient schools and
learned societies, employed an excellent but by no means numerous staff
of workmen, and served with leisurely deliberation a clientèle who had
learned to practise the virtue of patience. Six weeks had elapsed since
he had received the parcel of books that had been despatched by Monsieur
Sariette, but still Léger-Massieu had not yet put the work in hand. It
was not until fifty-three days had come and gone, that, after calling
over the books against the list that had been drawn up by Monsieur
Sariette, the binder gave them out to his workmen. The little
_Lucretius_ with the Prior de Vendôme's arms not being mentioned on the
list, it was assumed that it had been sent by another customer.

And as it did not figure on any list of goods received it remained shut
up in a cupboard, from which Léger-Massieu's son, the youthful Ernest,
one day surreptitiously abstracted it, and slipped it into his pocket.
Ernest was in love with a neighbouring seamstress whose name was Rose.
Rose was fond of the country, and liked to hear the birds singing in the
woods, and in order to procure the wherewithal to take her to Chatou one
Sunday and give her a dinner, Ernest parted with the _Lucretius_ for ten
francs to old Moranger, a second-hand dealer in the rue Saint X----, who
displayed no great curiosity regarding the origin of his acquisitions.
Old Moranger handed over the volume, the very same day, to Monsieur
Poussard, an expert in books, of the faubourg Saint Germain, for sixty
francs. The latter removed the stamp which disclosed the ownership of
the matchless copy, and sold it for five hundred francs to Monsieur
Joseph Meyer, the well-known collector, who handed it straight away for
three thousand francs to Monsieur Ardon, the bookseller, who immediately
transferred it to Monsieur R----, the great Parisian bibliopolist, who
gave six thousand for it, and sold it again a fortnight later at a
handsome profit to Madame la Comtesse de Gorce. Well known in the higher
ranks of Parisian society, the lady in question is what was called in
the seventeenth century a "curieuse," that is to say, a lover of
pictures, books, and china. In her mansion in the Avenue d'Jéna she
possesses collections of works of art which bear witness to the
diversity of her knowledge and the excellence of her taste. During the
month of July, while the Comtesse de Gorce was away at her château at
Sarville in Normandy, the house in the Avenue d'Jéna, being unoccupied,
was visited one night by a thief said to belong to a gang known as "The
Collectors," who made works of art the special objects of their raids.

The police enquiry elicited the fact that the marauder had reached the
first floor by means of the waste-pipe, that he had then climbed over
the balcony, forced a shutter with a jemmy, broken a pane of glass,
turned the window-fastener, and made his way into the long gallery.
There he broke open several cupboards and possessed himself of whatever
took his fancy. His booty consisted for the most part of small but
valuable articles, such as gold caskets, a few ivory carvings of the
fourteenth century, two splendid fifteenth-century manuscripts, and a
volume which the Countess's secretary briefly described as "a
morocco-bound book with a coat of arms on it," and which was none other
than the _Lucretius_ from the d'Esparvieu library.

The malefactor, who was supposed to be an English cook, was never
discovered. But, two months or so after the theft, a well-dressed,
clean-shaven young man passed down the rue de Courcelles, in the
dimness of twilight, and went to offer the Prior de Vendôme's
_Lucretius_ to Père Guinardon. The antiquary gave him four shillings for
it, examined it carefully, recognised its interest and its beauty, and
put it in the king-wood cabinet, where he kept his special treasures.

Such were the vicissitudes which, in the course of a single season,
befel this thing of beauty.



CHAPTER XXV

     WHEREIN MAURICE FINDS HIS ANGEL AGAIN


The performance was over. Bouchotte in her dressing-room was taking off
her make-up, when the door opened softly and old Monsieur Sandraque, her
protector, came in, followed by a troop of her other admirers. Without
so much as turning her head, she asked them what they meant by coming
and staring at her like a pack of imbeciles, and whether they thought
they were in a tent at the Neuilly Fair, looking at the freak woman.

"Now, then, ladies and gentlemen," she rattled on derisively, "just put
a penny in the box for the young lady's marriage-portion, and she'll let
you feel her legs,--all made of marble!"

Then, with an angry glance at the admiring throng, she exclaimed: "Come,
off you go! Look alive!"

She sent them all packing, her sweetheart Théophile among them,--the
pale-faced, long-haired, gentle, melancholy, short-sighted, and dreamy
Théophile.

But recognizing her little Maurice, she gave him a smile. He approached
her, and leaning over the back of the chair on which she was seated,
congratulated her on her playing and singing, duly performing a kiss at
the end of every compliment. She did not let him escape thus, and with
reiterated enquiries, pressing solicitations, feigned incredulity,
obliged him to repeat his stock panegyrics three or four times over, and
when he stopped she seemed so disappointed that he was forced to take up
the strain again immediately. He found it trying, for he was no
connoisseur, but he had the pleasure of kissing her plump curved
shoulders all golden in the light, and of catching glimpses of her
pretty face in the mirror over the toilet-table.

"You were delicious."

"Really?... you think so?"

"Adorable ... div----"

Suddenly he gave a loud cry. His eyes had seen in the mirror a face
appear at the back of the dressing-room. He turned swiftly round, flung
his arms about Arcade, and drew him into the corridor.

"What manners!" exclaimed Bouchotte, gasping.

But, pushing his way through a troop of performing dogs, and a family of
American acrobats, young d'Esparvieu dragged his angel towards the exit.

He hurried him forth into the cool darkness of the boulevard, delirious
with joy and wondering whether it was all too good to be true.

"Here you are!" he cried; "here you are! I have been looking for you a
long time, Arcade,--or Mirar if you like,--and I have found you at last.
Arcade, you have taken my guardian angel from me. Give him back to me.
Arcade, do you love me still?"

Arcade replied that in accomplishing the super-angelic task he had set
himself he had been forced to crush under foot friendship, pity, love,
and all those feelings which tend to soften the soul; but that, on the
other hand, his new state, by exposing him to suffering and privation,
disposed him to love Humanity, and that he felt a certain mechanical
friendship for his poor Maurice.

"Well, then," exclaimed Maurice, "if only you love me, come back to me,
stay with me. I cannot do without you. While I had you with me I was not
aware of your presence. But no sooner did you depart than I felt a
horrible blank. Without you I am like a body without a soul. Do you know
that in the little flat in the rue de Rome, with Gilberte by my side, I
feel lonely, I miss you sorely, and long to see you and to hear you as I
did that day when you made me so angry. Confess I was right, and that
your behaviour on that occasion was not that of a gentleman. That you,
you of so high an origin, so noble a mind, could commit such an
indiscretion is extraordinary, when one comes to think about it. Madame
des Aubels has not yet forgiven you. She blames you for having
frightened her by appearing at such an inconvenient moment, and for
being insolent and forward while hooking her dress and tying her shoes.
I, I have forgotten everything. I only remember that you are my
celestial brother, the saintly companion of my childhood. No, Arcade,
you must not, you cannot leave me. You are my angel; you are my
property."

Arcade explained to young d'Esparvieu that he could no longer be guiding
angel to a Christian, having himself gone down into the pit. And he
painted a horrible picture of himself; he described himself as breathing
hatred and fury; in fact, an infernal spirit.

"All nonsense!" said Maurice, smiling, his eyes big with tears.

"Alas! our ideas, our destiny, everything tends to part us, Maurice. But
I cannot stifle the tenderness I feel for you, and your candour forces
me to love you."

"No," sighed Maurice. "You do not love me. You have never loved me. In a
brother or a sister such indifference would be natural; in a friend it
would be ordinary; in a guardian angel it is monstrous. Arcade, you are
an abominable being. I hate you."

"I have loved you dearly, Maurice, and I still love you. You trouble my
heart which I deemed encased in triple bronze. You show me my own
weakness. When you were a little innocent boy I loved you as tenderly
and purely as Miss Kate, your English governess, who caressed you with
so much fervour. In the country, when the thin bark of the plane trees
peels off in long strips and discloses the tender green trunk, after the
rains which make the fine sand run on the sloping paths, I showed you
how with that sand, those strips of bark, a few wild flowers, and a
spray of maidenhair fern to make rustic bridges, rustic shelters,
terraces, and those gardens of Adonis, which last but an hour. During
the month of May in Paris we raised an altar to the Virgin, and we burnt
incense before it, the scent of which, permeating all the house,
reminded Marcelline, the cook, of her village church and her lost
innocence, and drew from her floods of tears; it also gave your mother a
headache, your mother who, with all her wealth, was crushed with the
_ennui_ that is common to the fortunate ones of this world. When you
went to college I interested myself in your progress, I shared your work
and your play, I pondered with you over arduous problems in arithmetic,
I sought the impenetrable meaning of a phrase of Julius Cæsar's. What
fine games of prisoners' base and football we had together! More than
once did we know the intoxication of victory, and our young laurels were
not soaked in blood or tears. Maurice, I did all I could to protect
your innocence, but I could not prevent your losing it at the age of
fourteen. Afterwards I regretfully saw you loving women of all sorts, of
divers ages, by no means beautiful, at least in the eyes of an angel.
Saddened at the sight, I devoted myself to study; a fine library offered
me resources rarely met with. I delved into the history of religions;
you know the rest."

"But now, my dear Arcade," concluded young d'Esparvieu, "you have lost
your position, your situation, you are entirely without resource. You
have lost caste, you are off the lines, a vagabond, a bare-footed
wanderer."

The Angel replied bitterly that, after all, he was a little better clad
at present than when he was wearing the slops of a suicide.

Maurice alleged in excuse that when he dressed his naked angel in a
suicide's slops, he was irritated with that angel's infidelity. But it
was useless to dwell on the past or to recriminate. What was really
needful was to consider what steps to take in future.

And he asked:

"Arcade, what do you think of doing?"

"Have I not already told you, Maurice? To fight with Him who reigns in
the heavens, dethrone Him, and set up Satan in His stead."

"You will not do it. To begin with it is not the opportune moment.
Opinion is not with you. You will not be in the swim, as papa says.
Conservatism and authority are all the go nowadays. We like to be ruled,
and the President of the Republic is going to parley with the Pope. Do
not be obstinate, Arcade. You are not as bad as you say. At bottom you
are like the rest of the world, you adore the good God."

"I thought I had already explained to you, Maurice, that He whom you
consider God is actually but a demiurge. He is absolutely ignorant of
the divine world above him, and in all good faith believes himself to be
the true and only God. You will find in the _History of the Church_, by
Monsignor Duchesne--Vol. I, page 162--that this proud and narrow-minded
demiurge is named Ialdabaoth. My child, so as not to ruffle your
prejudices and to deal gently with your feelings in future, that is the
name I shall give him. If it should happen that I should speak of him to
you, I shall call him Ialdabaoth. I must leave you. Adieu."

"Stay----"

"I cannot."

"I shall not let you go thus. You have deprived me of my guardian angel.
It is for you to repair the injury you have caused me. Give me another
one."

Arcade objected that it was difficult for him to satisfy such a demand.
That having quarrelled with the sovereign dispenser of guardian
Spirits, he could obtain nothing from that quarter.

"My dear Maurice," he added, smiling, "ask for one yourself from
Ialdabaoth."

"No,--no,--no," exclaimed Maurice. "You have taken away my guardian
angel,--give him back to me."

"Alas! I cannot."

"Is it, Arcade, because you are a revolutionary that you cannot?"

"Yes."

"An enemy of God?"

"Yes."

"A Satanic spirit?"

"Yes."

"Well, then," exclaimed young Maurice, "I will be your guardian
angel,--I will not leave you."

And Maurice d'Esparvieu took Arcade to have some oysters at P----'s.



CHAPTER XXVI

     THE CONCLAVE


That day, convoked by Arcade and Zita, the rebellious angels met
together on the banks of the Seine at La Jonchère, in a deserted and
tumble-down entertainment-hall that Prince Istar had hired from a
pot-house keeper called Barattan. Three hundred angels crowded together
in the stalls and boxes. A table, an arm-chair, and a collection of
small chairs were arranged on the stage, where hung the tattered
remnants of a piece of rustic scenery. The walls, coloured in distemper
with flowers and fruit, were cracked and stained with damp, and were
crumbling away in flakes. The vulgar and poverty-stricken appearance of
the place rendered the grandeur of the passions exhibited therein all
the more striking.

When Prince Istar asked the assembly to form its Committee, and first of
all to elect a President, the name that was renowned throughout the
world entered the minds of all present, but a religious respect sealed
their lips; and after a moment's silence, the absent Nectaire was
elected by acclamation. Having been invited to take the chair between
Zita and an angel of Japan, Arcade immediately began as follows:

"Sons of Heaven! My comrades! You have freed yourselves from the bonds
of celestial servitude--you have shaken off the thrall of him called
Iahveh, but to whom we should here accord his veritable name of
Ialdabaoth, for he is not the creator of the worlds, but merely an
ignorant and barbarous demiurge, who having obtained possession of a
minute portion of the Universe has therein sown suffering and death.
Sons of Heaven, tell me, I charge you, whether you will combat and
destroy Ialdabaoth?"

All with one voice made answer:

"We will!"

And many speaking all together swore they would scale the mountain of
Ialdabaoth, and hurl down the walls of jasper and porphyry, and plunge
the tyrant of Heaven into eternal darkness.

But a voice of crystal pierced through the sullen murmur.

"Tremble, ye impious, sacrilegious madmen! The Lord hath already lifted
his dread arm to smite you!"

It was a loyal angel who, with an impulse of faith and love, envying the
glory of confessors and martyrs, jealous and eager, like his God
himself, to emulate man in the beauty of sacrifice, had flung himself
in the midst of the blasphemers, to brave them, to confound them, and to
fall beneath their blows. The assembly turned upon him with furious
unanimity. Those nearest to him overwhelmed him with blows. He continued
to cry, in a clear, ringing voice, "Glory to God! Glory to God! Glory to
God!"

A rebel seized him by the neck and strangled his praises of the Almighty
in his throat. He was thrown to the ground, trampled underfoot. Prince
Istar picked him up, took him by the wings between his fingers, then
rising like a column of smoke, opened a ventilator, which no one else
could have reached, and passed the faithful angel through it. Order was
immediately restored.

"Comrades," continued Arcade, "now that we have affirmed our stern
resolve, we must examine the possible plans of campaign, and choose the
best. You will therefore have to consider if we should attack the enemy
in full force, or whether it were better, by a lengthy and assiduous
propaganda, to win the inhabitants of Heaven to our cause."

"War! War!" shouted the assembled host.

And it seemed as if one could hear the sound of trumpets and the rolling
of drums.

Théophile, whom Prince Istar had dragged to the meeting, rose, pale and
unstrung, and, speaking with emotion, said:

"Brethren, do not take ill what I am about to say; for it is the
friendship I have for you that inspires me. I am but a poor musician.
But, believe me, all your plans will come to naught before the Divine
Wisdom which has foreseen everything."

Théophile Belais sat down amid hisses. And Arcade continued:

"Ialdabaoth foresees everything. I do not contest it. He foresees
everything, but in order to leave us our free will he acts towards us
absolutely as if he foresaw nothing. Every instant he is surprised,
disconcerted; the most probable events take him unawares. The obligation
which he has undertaken, to reconcile with his prescience the liberty of
both men and angels, throws him constantly into inextricable
difficulties and terrible dilemmas. He never sees further than the end
of his nose. He did not expect Adam's disobedience, and so little did he
anticipate the wickedness of men that he repented having made them, and
drowned them in the waters of the Flood, and all the animals as well,
though he had no fault to find with the animals. For blindness he is
only to be compared with Charles X, his favourite king. If we are
prudent it will be easy to take him by surprise. I think that these
observations will be calculated to reassure my brother."

Théophile made no reply. He loved God, but he was fearful of sharing
the fate of the faithful angel.

One of the best-informed Spirits of the assembly, Mammon, was not
altogether reassured by the remarks of his brother Arcade.

"Bethink you," said this Spirit, "Ialdabaoth has little general culture,
but he is a soldier--to the marrow of his bones. The organisation of
Paradise is a thoroughly military organisation. It is founded on
hierarchy and discipline. Passive obedience is imposed there as a
fundamental law. The angels form an army. Compare this spot with the
Elysian Fields which Virgil depicts for you. In the Elysian Fields reign
liberty, reason, and wisdom. The happy shades hold converse together in
the groves of myrtle. In the Heaven of Ialdabaoth there is no civil
population. Everyone is enrolled, numbered, registered. It is a barracks
and a field for manoeuvres. Remember that."

Arcade replied that they must look at their adversary in his true
colours, and that the military organisation of Paradise was far more
reminiscent of the villages of King Koffee than of the Prussia of
Frederick the Great.

"Already," said he, "at the time of the first revolt, before the
beginning of Time, the conflict raged for two days, and Ialdabaoth's
throne was made to totter. Nevertheless, the demiurge gained the
victory. But to what did he owe it? To the thunderstorm which happened
to come on during the conflict. The thunderbolts falling on Lucifer and
his angels struck them down, bruised and blackened, and Ialdabaoth owed
his victory to the thunderbolts. Thunder is his sole weapon. He abuses
its power. In the midst of thunder and lightning he promulgates his
laws. 'Fire goeth before him,' says the Prophet. Now Seneca, the
philosopher, said that the thunderbolt in its fall brings peril to very
few, but fear to all. This remark was true enough for men of the first
century of the Christian era; it is no longer so for the angels of the
twentieth; all of which goes to prove that, in spite of his thunder, he
is not very powerful; it was acute terror that made men rear him a tower
of unbaked brick and bitumen. When myriads of celestial spirits,
furnished with machines which modern science puts at their disposal,
make an assault upon the heavens, think you, comrades, that the old
master of the solar system surrounded with his angels, armed as in the
time of Abraham, will be able to resist them? To this day the warriors
of the demiurge wear helmets of gold and shields of diamond. Michael,
his best captain, knows no other tactics than the hand-to-hand combat.
To him Pharaoh's chariots are still the latest thing, and he has never
heard of the Macedonian phalanx."

And young Arcade lengthily prolonged the parallel between the armed
herds of Ialdabaoth and the intelligent fighting men of the rebel army.
Then the question of pecuniary resources arose.

Zita asserted that there was enough money to commence war, that the
electrophores were in order, that an initial victory would obtain them
credit.

The discussion continued, amid turbulence and confusion. In this
parliament of angels, as in the synods of men, empty words flowed in
abundance. Disturbances grew more violent and more frequent as the time
for putting the resolution drew near. It was beyond question that
supreme command would be entrusted to him who had first raised the flag
of revolt. But as everyone aspired to act as Lucifer's Lieutenant, each
in describing the kind of fighting man to be preferred drew a portrait
of himself. Thus Alcor, the youngest of the rebellious angels, arose and
spoke rapidly as follows:

"In Ialdabaoth's army, happily for us, the officers obtain their posts
by seniority. This being the case, there is little likelihood of the
command falling into the hands of a military genius, for men are not
made leaders by prolonged habits of obedience, and close attention to
minutiæ is not a good apprenticeship for the evolution of vast plans of
campaign. If we consult ancient and modern history, we shall see that
the greatest leaders were kings like Alexander and Frederick,
aristocrats like Cæsar and Turenne, or men impatient of red-tape like
Bonaparte. A routine man will always be poor or second-rate. Comrades,
let us appoint intelligent leaders, men in the prime of life, to command
us. An old man may retain the habit of winning victories, but only a
young man can acquire it!"

Alcor then gave place to an angel of the philosophic order, who mounted
the rostrum and spoke thus:

"War never was an exact science, a clearly defined art. The genius of
the race, or the brain of the individual, has ever modified it. Now how
are we to define the qualities necessary for a general in command in the
war of the future, where one must consider greater masses and a larger
number of movements than the intelligence of man can conceive? The
multiplication of technical means, by infinitely multiplying the
opportunities for mistake, paralyses the genius of those in command. At
a certain stage in the progress of military science, a stage which our
models, the Europeans, are about to reach, the cleverest leader and the
most ignorant become equalized by reason of their incapacity. Another
result of great modern armaments is, that the law of numbers tends to
rule with inflexible rigour. It is of course true that ten angels in
revolt are worth more than ten angels of Ialdabaoth; it is not at all
certain that a million rebellious angels are worth more than a million
of Ialdabaoth's angels. Great numbers, in war as elsewhere, annihilate
intelligence and individual superiority in favour of a sort of
exceedingly rudimentary collective soul."

A buzz of conversation drowned the voice of the philosophic angel, and
he concluded his speech in an atmosphere of general indifference.

The tribune then resounded with calls to arms and promises of victory.
The sword was held up to praise, the sword which defends the right. The
triumph of the angels in revolt was celebrated twenty times beforehand,
to the plaudits of a delirious crowd.

Cries of "War!" rose to the silent heavens; "Give us war!"

In the midst of these transports Prince Istar hoisted himself on to the
platform, and the floor creaked under his weight.

"Comrades," said he, "you wish for victory, and it is a very natural
desire, but you must be mouldy with literature and poetry if you expect
to obtain it from war. The idea of making war can nowadays only enter
the brain of a sottish bourgeois or a belated romantic. What is war? A
burlesque masquerade in the midst of which fatuous patriots sing their
stupid dithyrambs. Had Napoleon possessed a practical mind he would not
have made war; but he was a dreamer, intoxicated with Ossian. You cry,
'Give us war!' You are visionaries. When will you become thinkers? The
thinkers do not look for power and strength from any of the dreams which
constitute military art: tactics, strategy, fortifications, artillery,
and all that rubbish. They do not believe in war, which is a phantasy;
they believe in chemistry, which is a science. They know the way to put
victory into an algebraic formula."

And drawing from his pocket a small bottle, which he held up to the
meeting, Prince Istar exclaimed:

"Victory--it is here!"



CHAPTER XXVII

     WHEREIN WE SHALL SEE REVEALED A DARK AND SECRET MYSTERY AND
     LEARN HOW IT COMES ABOUT THAT EMPIRES ARE OFTEN HURLED
     AGAINST EMPIRES, AND RUIN FALLS ALIKE UPON THE VICTORS AND
     THE VANQUISHED; AND THE WISE READER (IF SUCH THERE BE--WHICH
     I DOUBT) WILL MEDITATE UPON THIS IMPORTANT UTTERANCE: "A WAR
     IS A MATTER OF BUSINESS"


The Angels had dispersed. At the foot of the slopes at Meudon, seated on
the grass, Arcade and Zita watched the Seine flowing by the willows.

"In this world," said Arcade, "in this world, which we call a cosmos,
though it is but a microcosm, no thinking being can imagine that he is
able to destroy even one atom. At the utmost, all we can hope for is
that we shall succeed in modifying, here and there, the rhythm of some
group of atoms and the arrangement of certain cells. That, when one
thinks of it, must be the limit of our great enterprise. And when we
shall have set up the Contradictor in the place of Ialdabaoth, we shall
have done no more.... Zita, is the evil in the nature of things or in
their arrangement? That is what we ought to know. Zita, I am profoundly
troubled----"

"Arcade," replied Zita, "if to act we had to know the secret of Nature,
one would never act at all. And neither would one live--since to live is
to act. Arcade, is your resolution failing you already?"

Arcade assured the beautiful angel that he was resolved to plunge the
demiurge into eternal darkness.

A motor-car passed by on the road, followed by a long trail of dust. It
stopped before the two angels, and the hooked nose of Baron Everdingen
appeared at the window.

"Good morning, my celestial friends, good morning," said the capitalist.
"Sons of Heaven, I am pleased to meet you. I have a word of importance
to say to you. Do not remain idle--do not go to sleep. Arm! Arm! You may
be surprised by Ialdabaoth. You have a big war-fund. Employ it without
stint. I have just learnt that the Archangel Michael has given large
orders in Heaven for thunderbolts and arrows. If you take my advice you
will procure fifty thousand more electrophores. I will take the order.
Good day, angels. Long live the celestial country!"

And Baron Everdingen flew by the flowery shores of Louveciennes in the
company of a pretty actress.

"Is it true that they are taking up arms at the demiurge's?" asked
Arcade.

"It may be," replied Zita, "that up there another Baron Everdingen is
inciting to arms."

The guardian angel of young Maurice remained pensive for some moments.
Then he murmured:

"Can it be that we are the sport of financiers?"

"Pooh!" said the beautiful archangel. "War is a business. It has always
been a business."

Then they discussed at length the means of executing their immense
enterprise. Rejecting disdainfully the anarchistic proceedings of Prince
Istar, they conceived a formidable and sudden invasion of the kingdom of
Heaven by their enthusiastic and well-drilled troops.

Now Barattan, the innkeeper of La Jonchère, who had let the
entertainment-hall to the rebellious angels, was in the employ of the
secret police. In the reports he furnished to the Prefecture he
denounced the members of this secret meeting as meditating an attack on
a certain person whom they described as obtuse and cruel, and whom they
called _Alaballotte_. The agent believed this to be a pseudonym denoting
either the President of the Republic or the Republic itself. The
conspirators had unanimously given voice to threats against
_Alaballotte_, and one of them, a very dangerous individual, well-known
in anarchist circles, who had already several convictions against him
on account of writings and speeches of a seditious nature, and who was
known as Prince Istar or the _Quéroube_, had brandished a bomb of very
small calibre which seemed to contain a formidable machine. The other
conspirators were unknown to Barattan, notwithstanding the fact that he
frequented revolutionary circles. Many among them were very young men,
mere beardless youths. There were two who, it appeared, had spoken with
conspicuous vehemence; a certain Arcade, dwelling in the Rue St.
Jacques, and a woman of easy virtue called Zita, living at Montmartre,
both without visible means of subsistence.

The affair seemed sufficiently serious to the Prefect of Police to make
him think it necessary to confer without delay with the President of the
Council.

The Third Republic was then going through one of those climacteric
periods during which the French nation, enamoured of authority and
worshipping force, gave itself up for lost because it was not governed
enough, and clamoured loudly for a saviour. The President of the
Council, and Minister of Justice, was only too eager to be that
longed-for saviour. Still, for him to play that part it was first
necessary that there should be a danger to face. Thus the news of a plot
was highly welcome to him. He questioned the Prefect of Police on the
character and importance of the affair. The Prefect of Police explained
that the people seemed to have money, intelligence, and energy; but
that they talked too much and were too numerous to undertake secret and
concerted action. The Minister, leaning back in his arm-chair, pondered
on the matter. The Empire writing-table at which he was seated, the
ancient tapestry which covered the walls, the clock and the candelabra
of the Restoration period--all, in this traditional setting, reminded
him of those great principles of government which remain immutable
throughout the succession of _régimes_, of stratagem and of bluff. After
brief reflexion, he concluded that the plot must be allowed to grow and
take shape, that it would even be fitting to nurse it, to embroider it,
to colour it, and only to stifle it after having extracted every
possible advantage from it.

He instructed the Prefect of Police to watch the affair closely, to
render him an account of what went on from day to day, and to confine
himself to the rôle of informer.

"I rely on your well-known prudence; observe, and do not intervene."

The Minister lit a cigarette. He quite reckoned, with the help of this
plot, on silencing the Opposition, strengthening his own influence,
diminishing that of his colleagues, humiliating the President of the
Republic, and becoming the saviour of his country.

The Prefect of Police undertook to follow the ministerial instructions,
vowing inwardly all the while to act in his own way. He had a watch put
upon the individuals pointed out by Barattan, and commanded his agents
not to intervene, come what might. Perceiving that he was a marked man,
Prince Istar--who united prudence with strength--withdrew the bombs from
the gutter outside his window where he had hidden them, and changing
from motor 'bus to tube, from tube to motor 'bus, and choosing the most
cunningly circuitous route, at length deposited his machines with the
angelic musician.

Every time he left his house in the Rue St. Jacques, Arcade found a man
of exaggerated smartness at his door, with yellow gloves and in his tie
a diamond bigger than the Regent. Being a stranger to the things of this
world, the rebellious angel paid no attention to the circumstance. But
young Maurice d'Esparvieu, who had undertaken the task of guarding his
guardian-angel, viewed this gentleman with uneasiness, for he equalled
in assiduity and surpassed in vigilance that Monsieur Mignon who had
formerly allowed his inquisitive gaze to wander from the rams' heads on
the Hôtel de la Sordière in the Rue Garancière to the apse of the church
of St. Sulpice. Maurice came two and three times a day to see Arcade in
his furnished rooms, warning him of the danger, and urging him to change
his abode.

Every evening he took his angel to night restaurants, where they supped
with ladies of easy virtue. There young d'Esparvieu would foretell the
issue of some coming glove-fight, and afterwards exert himself to
demonstrate to Arcade the existence of God, the necessity for religion,
and the beauties of Christianity, and adjure him to renounce his impious
and criminal undertakings wherefrom, he said, he would reap but
bitterness and disappointment.

"For really," said the young apologist, "if Christianity were false it
would be known."

The ladies approved of Maurice's religious sentiments, and when the
handsome Arcade uttered some blasphemy in language they could
understand, they put their hands to their ears and bade him be silent,
for fear of being struck down with him. For they believed that God, in
his omnipotence and sovereign goodness, taking sudden vengeance against
those who insulted him, was quite capable of striking down the innocent
with the guilty without meaning it.

Sometimes the angel and his guardian took supper with the angelic
musician. Maurice, who remembered from time to time that he was
Bouchotte's lover, was displeased to see Arcade taking liberties with
the singer. She had allowed him to do so ever since the day when, the
angelic musician having had the little flowery couch repaired, Arcade
and Bouchotte had made it a foundation for their friendship. Maurice,
who loved Madame des Aubels a great deal, also loved Bouchotte a little,
and was rather jealous of Arcade. Now jealousy is a feeling natural to
man and beast, and causes them, however slight the attack, keen
unhappiness. Therefore, suspecting the truth, which Bouchotte's
temperament and the angel's character made sufficiently obvious, he
overwhelmed Arcade with sarcasm and abuse, reproaching him with the
immorality of his ways. Arcade answered, tranquilly, that it was
difficult to subject physiological impulses to perfectly defined rules,
and that moralists encountered great difficulties in the case of certain
natural necessities.

"Moreover," added Arcade, "I freely acknowledge that it is almost
impossible systematically to constitute a natural moral law. Nature has
no principles. She furnishes us with no reason to believe that human
life is to be respected. Nature, in her indifference, makes no
distinction between good and evil."

"You see, then," replied Maurice, "that religion is necessary."

"Moral law," replied the angel, "which is supposed to be revealed to us,
is drawn in reality from the grossest empiricism. Custom alone regulates
morals. What Heaven prescribes is merely the consecration of ancient
customs. The divine law, promulgated amid fireworks on some Mount
Sinai, is never anything but the codification of human prejudice. And
from this fact--namely, that morals change--religions which endure for a
long time, such as Judæo-Christianity, vary their moral law."

"At any rate," said Maurice, whose intelligence was swelling visibly,
"you will grant me that religion prevents much profligacy and crime?"

"Except when it promotes crime--as, for instance, the murder of
Iphigenia."

"Arcade," exclaimed Maurice, "when I hear you argue, I rejoice that I am
not an intellectual."

Meanwhile Théophile, with his head bent over the piano, his face hidden
by the long fair veil of his hair, bringing down from on high his
inspired hands on to the keys, was playing and singing the full score of
_Aline, Queen of Golconda_.

Prince Istar used to come to their friendly reunions, his pockets filled
with bombs and bottles of champagne, both of which he owed to the
liberality of Baron Everdingen. Bouchotte received the Kerûb with
pleasure, since she saw in him the witness and the trophy of the victory
she had gained on the little flowered couch. He was to her as the
severed head of Goliath in the hands of the youthful David. And she
admired the prince for his cleverness as an accompanist, his vigour,
which she had subdued, and his prodigious capacity for drink.

One night, when young d'Esparvieu took his angel home in his car from
Bouchotte's house to the lodgings in the Rue St. Jacques, it was very
dark; before the door the diamond in the spy's necktie glittered like a
beacon; three cyclists standing in a group under its rays made off in
divers directions at the car's approach. The angel took no notice, but
Maurice concluded that Arcade's movements interested various important
people in the State. He judged the danger to be pressing, and at once
made up his mind.

The next morning he came to seek the suspect, to take him to the Rue de
Rome. The angel was in bed. Maurice urged him to dress and to follow
him.

"Come," said he. "This house is no longer safe for you. You are watched.
One of these days you will be arrested. Do you wish to sleep in gaol?
No? Well, then, come. I will put you in a safe place."

The spirit smiled with some little compassion on his naïve preserver.

"Do you not know," he said, "that an angel broke open the doors of the
prison where Peter was confined, and delivered the apostle? Do you
believe me, Maurice, to be inferior in power to that heavenly brother of
mine, and do you suppose that I am unable to do for myself what he did
for the fisherman of the lake of Tiberias?"

"Do not count on it, Arcade. He did it miraculously."

"Or by a stroke of luck, as a modern historian of the Church has it. But
no matter. I will follow you. Just allow me to burn a few letters and to
make a parcel of some books I shall need."

He threw some papers in the fire-place, put several volumes in his
pockets, and followed his guide to the car, which was waiting for them
not far off, outside the College of France. Maurice took the wheel.
Imitating the Kerûb's prudence, he made so many windings and turnings,
and so many rapid twists that he put all the swift and numerous
cyclists, speeding in pursuit, off the scent. At length, having left
wheelmarks in every direction all over the town, he stopped in the Rue
de Rome, before the first-door flat, where the angel had first appeared.

On entering the dwelling which he had left eighteen months before to
carry out his mission, Arcade remembered the irreparable past, and
breathing in the scent used by Gilberte, his nostrils throbbed. He asked
after Madame des Aubels.

"She is very well," replied Maurice. "A little plumper and very much
more beautiful for it. She still bears you a grudge for your forward
behaviour. I hope that she will one day forgive you, as I have forgiven
you, and that she will forget your offence. But she is still very
annoyed with you."

Young d'Esparvieu did the honours of his flat to his angel with the
manners of a well-bred man and the tender solicitude of a friend. He
showed him the folding bed which was opened every evening in the
entrance hall and pushed into a dark cupboard in the morning. He showed
him the dressing-table, with its accessories; the bath, the linen
cupboard, the chest of drawers; gave him the necessary information
regarding the heating and lighting; told him that his meals would be
brought and the rooms cleaned by the concierge, and showed him which
bell to press when he required that person's services. He told him also
that he must consider himself at home, and receive whom he wished.



CHAPTER XXVIII

     WHICH TREATS OF A PAINFUL DOMESTIC SCENE


So long as Maurice confined his selection of mistresses to respectable
women, his conduct had called forth no reproach. It was a different
matter when he took up with Bouchotte. His mother, who had closed her
eyes to liaisons which, though guilty, were elegant and discreet, was
scandalised when it came to her ears that her son was openly parading
about with a music-hall singer. By dint of much prying and probing,
Berthe, Maurice's younger sister, had got to know of her brother's
adventures, and she narrated them, without any indignation, to her young
girl friends. His little brother Léon declared to his mother one day, in
the presence of several ladies, that when he was big he, too, would go
on the spree, like Maurice. This was a sore wound to the maternal heart
of Madame d'Esparvieu.

About the same time there occurred a family event of a very grave nature
which occasioned much alarm to Monsieur René d'Esparvieu. Drafts were
presented to him signed in his name by his son. His writing had not been
forged, but there was no doubt that it had been the son's intention to
pass off the signature as his father's. It showed a perverted moral
sense; whence it appeared that Maurice was living a life of profligacy,
that he was running into debt and on the point of outraging the
decencies. The paterfamilias talked the matter over with his wife. It
was arranged that he should give his son a very severe lecture, hint at
vigorous corrective measures, and that in due course the mother should
appear with gentle and sorrowing mien and endeavour to soothe the
righteous indignation of the father. This plan being agreed upon,
Monsieur René d'Esparvieu sent for his son to come to him in his study.
To add to the solemnity of the occasion, he had arrayed himself in his
frock-coat. As soon as Maurice saw it he knew there was something
serious in the wind. The head of the family was pale, and his voice
shook a little (for he was a nervous man), as he declared that he would
no longer put up with his son's irregular behaviour, and insisted on an
immediate and absolute reform. No more wild courses, no more running
into debt, no more undesirable companions, but work, steadiness, and
reputable connexions.

Maurice was quite willing to give a respectful reply to his father,
whose complaints, after all, were perfectly justified; but,
unfortunately, Maurice, like his father, was shy, and the frock-coat
which Monsieur d'Esparvieu had donned in order to discharge his
magisterial duty with greater dignity seemed to preclude the possibility
of any open and unconstrained intercourse. Maurice maintained an awkward
silence, which looked very much like insolence, and this silence
compelled Monsieur d'Esparvieu to reiterate his complaints, this time
with additional severity. He opened one of the drawers in his historic
bureau (the bureau on which Alexandre d'Esparvieu had written his "Essay
on the Civil and Religious Institutions of the World"), and produced the
bills which Maurice had signed.

"Do you know, my boy," said he, "that this is nothing more nor less than
forgery? To make up for such grave misconduct as that----"

At this moment Madame d'Esparvieu, as arranged, entered the room attired
in her walking-dress. She was supposed to play the angel of forgiveness,
but neither her appearance nor her disposition was suitable to the part.
She was harsh and unsympathetic. Maurice harboured within him the seeds
of all the ordinary and necessary virtues. He loved his mother and
respected her. His love, however, was more a matter of duty than of
inclination, and his respect arose from habit rather than from feeling.
Madame René d'Esparvieu's complexion was blotchy, and having powdered
herself in order to appear to advantage at the domestic tribunal, the
colour of her face suggested raspberries sprinkled over with sugar.
Maurice, being possessed of some taste, could not help realising that
she was ugly and rather repulsively so. He was out of tune with her, and
when she began to go through all the accusations his father had brought
against him, making them out to be blacker than ever, the prodigal
turned away his head to conceal his irritation.

"Your Aunt de Saint-Fain," she went on, "met you in the street in such
disgraceful company that she was really thankful that you forbore to
greet her."

"Aunt de Saint-Fain!" Maurice broke out. "I like to hear her talking
about scandals! Everyone knows the sort of life she has led, and now the
old hypocrite wants to----"

He stopped. He had caught sight of his father, whose face was even more
eloquent of sorrow than of anger. Maurice began to feel as though he had
committed murder, and could not imagine how he had allowed such words to
escape him. He was on the point of bursting into tears, falling on his
knees, and imploring his father to forgive him, when his mother, looking
up at the ceiling, said with a sigh:

"What offence can I have committed against God, to have brought such a
wicked son into the world?"

This speech struck Maurice as a piece of ridiculous affectation, and it
pulled him up with a jerk. The bitterness of contrition suddenly gave
place to the delicious arrogance of wrong-doing. He plunged wildly into
a torrent of insolence and revolt, and breathlessly delivered himself of
utterances quite unfit for a mother's ear.

"If you will have it, mamma, rather than forbid me to continue my
friendship with a talented lyrical artist, you would be better employed
in preventing my elder sister, Madame de Margy, from appearing, night
after night, in society and at the theatres with a contemptible and
disgusting individual that everybody knows is her lover. You should also
keep an eye on my little sister Jeanne, who writes objectionable letters
to herself in a disguised hand, and then, pretending she has found them
in her prayer-book, shows them to you with assumed innocence, to worry
and alarm you. It would be just as well, too, if you prevented my little
brother Léon, a child of seven, from being quite so much with
Mademoiselle Caporal, and you might tell your maid...."

"Get out, sir, I will not have you in the house!" cried Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu, white with anger, pointing a trembling finger at the door.



CHAPTER XXIX

     WHEREIN WE SEE HOW THE ANGEL, HAVING BECOME A MAN, BEHAVES
     LIKE A MAN, COVETING ANOTHER'S WIFE AND BETRAYING HIS
     FRIEND. IN THIS CHAPTER THE CORRECTNESS OF YOUNG
     D'ESPARVIEU'S CONDUCT WILL BE MADE MANIFEST


The angel was pleased with his lodging. He worked of a morning, went out
in the afternoon, heedless of detectives, and came home to sleep. As in
days gone by, Maurice received Madame des Aubels twice or thrice a week
in the room in which they had seen the apparition.

All went very well until one morning Gilberte, having, the night before,
left her little velvet bag on the table in the blue room, came to find
it, and discovered Arcade stretched on the couch in his pyjamas, smoking
a cigarette, and dreaming of the conquest of Heaven. She gave a loud
scream.

"You, Monsieur! Had I thought to find you here, you may be quite sure I
should not ... I came to fetch my little bag, which is in the next
room. Allow me...." And she slipped past the angel, cautiously and
quickly, as if he were a brazier.

Madame des Aubels that morning, in her pale green tailor-made costume,
was deliciously attractive. Her tight skirt displayed her movements, and
her every step was one of those miracles of Nature which fill men's
hearts with amazement.

She reappeared, bag in hand.

"Once more--I ask your pardon.... I never dreamt that...."

Arcade begged her to sit down and to stay a moment.

"I never expected, Monsieur," said she, "that you would be doing the
honours of this flat. I knew how dearly Monsieur d'Esparvieu loved
you.... Nevertheless, I had no idea that...."

The sky had suddenly grown overcast. A brownish glare began to steal
into the room. Madame des Aubels told him she had walked for her
health's sake, but a storm was brewing, and she asked if a carriage
could be called for her.

Arcade flung himself at Gilberte's feet, took her in his arms as one
takes a precious piece of china, and murmured words which, being
meaningless in themselves, expressed desire.

She put her hands over his eyes and on his lips, and exclaimed, "I hate
you!"

And shaking with sobs, she asked for a drink of water. She was choking.
The angel went to her assistance. In this moment of extreme peril she
defended herself courageously. She kept saying: "No!... No!... I will
not love you. I should love you too well...." Nevertheless she
succumbed.

In the sweet familiarity which followed their mutual astonishment she
said to him:

"I have often asked after you. I knew that you were an assiduous
frequenter of the playhouses at Montmartre,--that you were often seen
with Mademoiselle Bouchotte, who, nevertheless, is not at all pretty. I
knew that you had become very smart, and that you were making a good
deal of money. I was not surprised. You were born to succeed. The day of
your"--and she pointed at the spot between the window and the wardrobe
with the mirror--"apparition, I was vexed with Maurice for having given
you a suicide's rags to wear. You pleased me.... Oh, it was not your
good looks! Don't think that women are as sensitive as people say to
outward attractions. We consider other things in love. There is a sort
of---- Well, anyhow I loved you as soon as I saw you."

The shadows grew deeper.

She asked:

"You are not an angel, are you? Maurice believes you are; but he
believes so many things, Maurice." She questioned Arcade with her eyes
and smiled maliciously. "Confess that you have been fooling him, and
that you are no angel?"

Arcade replied:

"I only aspire to please you; I will always be what you want me to be."

Gilberte decided that he was no angel; first, because one never is an
angel; secondly, for more detailed reasons which drew her thoughts to
the question of love. He did not argue the matter with her, and once
again words were found inadequate to express their feelings.

Outside, the rain was falling thick and fast, the windows were
streaming, lightning lit up the muslin curtains, and thunder shook the
panes. Gilberte made the sign of the Cross and remained with her head
hidden in her lover's bosom.

At this moment Maurice entered the room. He came in wet and smiling,
confident, tranquil, happy, to announce to Arcade the good news that
with his half-share in the previous day's race at Longchamps the angel
had won twelve times his stake. Surprising the lady and the angel in
their embrace, he became furious; anger gripped the muscles of his
throat, his face grew red with blood, and the veins stood out on his
forehead. He sprang with clenched fists towards Gilberte, and then
suddenly stopped.

Interrupted motion was transformed into heat. Maurice fumed. His anger
did not arm him, like Archilochus, with lyrical vengeance. He merely
applied an offensive epithet to his unfaithful one.

Meanwhile she had recovered her dignified bearing. She rose, full of
modesty and grace, and gave her accuser a look which expressed both
offended virtue and loving forgiveness.

But as young d'Esparvieu continued to shower coarse and monotonous
insults on her, she grew angry in her turn.

"You are a pretty sort of person, are you not?" she said. "Did I run
after this Arcade of yours? It was you who brought him here, and in what
a state, too! You had only one idea: to give me up to your friend. Well,
Monsieur, you can do as you like--I am not going to oblige you."

Maurice d'Esparvieu replied simply, "Get out of it, you trollop!" And he
made a motion as if to push her out. It pained Arcade to see his
mistress treated so disrespectfully, but he thought he lacked the
necessary authority to interfere with Maurice. Madame des Aubels, who
had lost none of her dignity, fixed young d'Esparvieu with her imperious
gaze, and said:

"Go and get me a carriage."

And so great is the power of woman over a well-bred soul, in a gallant
nation, that the young Frenchman went immediately and told the concierge
to call a taxi. Madame des Aubels, with a studied exhibition of charm in
every movement, took leave of them, throwing Maurice the contemptuous
look that a woman owes to him whom she has deceived. Maurice witnessed
her departure with an outward expression of indifference he was far from
feeling. Then he turned to the angel clad in the flowered pyjamas which
Maurice himself had worn the day of the apparition; and this
circumstance, trifling in itself, added fuel to the anger of the host
who had been thus shamefully deceived.

"Well," he said, "you may pride yourself on being a despicable
individual. You have behaved basely, and all for nothing. If the woman
took your fancy, you had but to tell me. I was tired of her. I had had
enough of her. I would have willingly left her to you."

He spoke thus to hide his pain, for he loved Gilberte more than ever,
and the creature's treachery caused him great suffering. He pursued:

"I was about to ask you to take her off my hands. But you have followed
your lower nature--you have behaved like a sweep."

If at this solemn moment Arcade had but spoken one word from his heart,
Maurice would have burst into tears, and forgiven his friend and his
mistress, and all three would have become content and happy once again.
But Arcade had not been nourished on the milk of human kindness. He had
never suffered, and did not know how to sympathise with suffering. He
replied with frigid wisdom:

"My dear Maurice, that same necessity which orders and constrains the
actions of living beings, produces effects that are often unexpected,
and sometimes absurd. Thus it is that I have been led to displease you.
You would not reproach me if you had a good philosophical understanding
of nature; for you would then know that free-will is but an illusion,
and that physiological affinities are as exactly determined as are
chemical combinations, and, like them, may be summed up in a formula. I
think that, in your case, it might be possible to inculcate these
truths, but it would be a difficult task, and maybe they would not bring
you the serenity which eludes you. It is fitting, therefore, that I
should leave this spot, and----"

"Stay," said Maurice.

Maurice had a very clear sense of social obligations. He put honour,
when he thought about it, above everything. So now he told himself very
forcibly that the outrage he had suffered could only be wiped out with
blood. This traditional idea instantly lent an unexpected nobility to
his speech and bearing.

"It is I, Monsieur," said he, "who will quit this place, never to
return. You will remain here, since you are a refugee. My seconds will
wait upon you."

The angel smiled.

"I will receive them, if it gives you pleasure, but, bethink you, my
dear Maurice, I am invulnerable. Celestial spirits even when they are
materialised cannot be touched by point of sword or pistol shot.
Consider, my dear Maurice, the awkward situation in which this fatal
inequality puts me, and realise that in refusing to appoint seconds I
cannot give as a reason my celestial nature,--it would be
unprecedented."

"Monsieur," replied the heir of the Bussart d'Esparvieu, "you should
have thought of that before you insulted me."

Out he marched haughtily; but no sooner was he in the street than he
staggered like a drunken man. The rain was still falling. He walked
unseeing, unhearing, at haphazard, dragging his feet in the gutters
through pools of water, through heaps of mud. He followed the outer
boulevards for a long time, and at length, fordone with weariness, lay
down on the edge of a piece of waste land. He was muddied up to the
eyes, mud and tears smeared his face, the brim of his hat was dripping
with rain. A passer-by, taking him for a beggar, tossed him a copper. He
picked it up, put it carefully in his waistcoat pocket, and set off to
find his seconds.



CHAPTER XXX

     WHICH TREATS OF AN AFFAIR OF HONOUR, AND WHICH WILL AFFORD
     THE READER AN OPPORTUNITY OF JUDGING WHETHER, AS ARCADE
     AFFIRMS, THE EXPERIENCE OF OUR FAULTS MAKES BETTER MEN AND
     WOMEN OF US


The ground chosen for the combat was Colonel Manchon's garden, on the
Boulevard de la Reine at Versailles. Messieurs de la Verdelière and Le
Truc de Ruffec, who had both of them constant practice in affairs of
honour and knew the rules with great exactness, assisted Maurice
d'Esparvieu. No duel was ever fought in the Catholic world without
Monsieur de la Verdelière being present; and, in making application to
this swordsman, Maurice had conformed to custom, though not without a
certain reluctance, for he had been notorious as the lover of Madame de
la Verdelière; but Monsieur de la Verdelière was not to be looked upon
as a husband. He was an institution. As to Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec,
honour was his only known profession and avowedly his sole resource, and
when the matter was made the subject of ill-natured comment in Society,
the question was asked what finer career than that of honour Monsieur Le
Truc de Ruffec could possibly have adopted. Arcade's seconds were Prince
Istar and Théophile. The celestial musician had not voluntarily nor with
a good grace taken a hand in this affair. He had a horror of every kind
of violence and disapproved of single combat. The report of pistols and
the clash of swords were intolerable to him, and the sight of blood made
him faint. This gentle son of Heaven had obstinately refused to act as
second to his brother Arcade, and to bring him to the starting-point the
Kerûb had had to threaten to break a bottle of panclastite over his
head.

Besides the combatants, the seconds, and the doctors, the only people in
the garden were a few officers from the barracks at Versailles and
several reporters. Although young d'Esparvieu was known merely as a
young man of family, and Arcade had never been heard of at all, the duel
had attracted quite a large crowd of inquisitive individuals, and the
windows of the adjoining houses were crammed with photographers,
reporters, and Society people. What had aroused much curiosity was that
a woman was known to be the cause of the quarrel. Many mentioned
Bouchotte, but the majority said it was Madame des Aubels. It had been
remarked upon, moreover, that duels in which Monsieur de la Verdelière
acted as second drew all Paris.

The sky was a soft blue, the garden all a-bloom with roses, a blackbird
was piping in a tree. Monsieur de la Verdelière, who, stick in hand,
conducted the affair, laid the points of the swords together, and said:

"_Allez, Messieurs._"

Maurice d'Esparvieu attacked by doubling and beating the blade. Arcade
retired, keeping his sword in line. The first engagement was without
result. The seconds were under the impression that Monsieur d'Esparvieu
was in a grievous state of nervous irritability, and that his adversary
would wear him down. In the second encounter Maurice attacked wildly,
spread out his arms, and exposed his breast. He attacked as he advanced,
gave a straight thrust, and the point of his sword grazed Arcade on the
shoulder. The latter was thought to be wounded. But the seconds
ascertained with surprise that it was Maurice who had received a scratch
on the wrist. Maurice asserted that he felt nothing, and Dr. Quille
declared, after examination, that his client might continue the fight.
After the regulation quarter of an hour the duel was resumed. Maurice
attacked with fury. His adversary was obviously nursing him, and, what
disturbed Monsieur de la Verdelière, seemed to be paying very little
attention to his own defence. At the opening of the fifth bout, a black
spaniel that had got into the garden no one knew how rushed out from a
clump of rose-bushes, made its way on to the space reserved for the
combatants, and, in spite of sticks and cries, ran in between Maurice's
legs. The latter seemed as though his arm were benumbed, merely gave a
shoulder-thrust at his invulnerable opponent. He then delivered a
straight lunge and impaled his arm on his adversary's sword, which made
a deep wound just below the elbow.

Monsieur de la Verdelière stopped the fight, which had lasted an hour
and a half. Maurice was conscious of a painful shock. They laid him down
on a grassy bank against a wall covered with wistaria. While the surgeon
was dressing the wound Maurice called Arcade and offered him his wounded
hand. And when the victor, saddened with his victory, advanced, Maurice
embraced him tenderly, saying:

"Be generous, Arcade; forgive my treachery. Now that we have fought, I
can ask you to be reconciled with me."

He embraced his friend, weeping, and whispered in his ear:

"Come and see me, and bring Gilberte."

Maurice, who was still unreconciled with his parents, was taken to the
little flat in the Rue de Rome. No sooner was he stretched on the bed at
the far end of the bedroom where the curtains were drawn as on the day
of the apparition, than he saw Arcade and Gilberte appear. He began to
suffer greatly from his wound; his temperature was rising, but he was at
peace, happy and contented. Angel and woman, both in tears, threw
themselves at the foot of the bed. He took both their hands with his
left, smiled on them, and kissed them tenderly.

"I am sure now that I shall never quarrel with either of you again; you
will deceive me no more. I now know you are capable of anything."

Gilberte, weeping, swore that Maurice had been misled by appearances,
that she had never betrayed him with Arcade, that she had never betrayed
him at all. And in a great gush of sincerity she persuaded herself that
this was so.

"You wrong yourself, Gilberte," replied the wounded man. "It did happen;
it had to. And it is well. Gilberte, you were basely false to me with my
best friend in this very room, and you were right. If you had not been
we should not be here, reunited, all three of us, and I should not be at
your side tasting the greatest happiness of my life. Oh, Gilberte, how
wrong of you to deny a perfect and accomplished fact!"

"If you wish, my friend," replied Gilberte, a little acidly, "I will not
deny it. But it will only be to please you."

Maurice made her sit down on the bed, and begged Arcade to be seated in
the arm-chair.

"My friend," said Arcade, "I was innocent. I became man. Straightway I
did evil. Then I became better."

"Do not let us exaggerate things," said Maurice. "Let's have a game of
bridge."

Scarcely, however, had the patient seen three aces in his hand and
called "no trumps," than his eyes began to swim, the cards slipped from
his fingers, head fell heavily back on the pillow, and he complained of
a violent headache. Almost immediately, Madame des Aubels went off to
pay some calls, for she made a point of appearing in Society, in order
that the calmness and confidence of her demeanour might give the lie to
the various rumours that were current concerning her. Arcade saw her to
the door, and, with a kiss, inhaled from her a delicate perfume which he
brought back with him into the room where Maurice lay dozing.

"I am perfectly content," murmured the latter, "that things should have
happened as they have."

"It was bound to be so," answered the Spirit. "All the other angels in
revolt would have done as I did with Gilberte. 'Women,' saith the
Apostle, 'should pray with their heads covered, because of the angels,'
and the Apostle speaks thus because he knows that the angels are
disturbed when they look upon them and see that they are beautiful. No
sooner do they touch the earth than they desire to embrace mortal women
and fulfil their desire. Their clasp is full of strength and sweetness,
they hold the secret of those ineffable caresses which plunge the
daughters of men into unfathomable depths of delight. Laying upon the
lips of their happy victims a honey that burns like fire, making their
veins flow with torrents of refreshing flames, they leave them raptured
and undone."

"Stop your clatter, you unclean beast," cried the wounded one.

"One word more!" said the angel; "just one other word, my dear Maurice,
to bear out what I say, and I will let you rest quietly. There's nothing
like having sound references. In order to assure yourself that I am not
deceiving you, Maurice, on this subject of the amorous embraces of
angels and women, look up Justin, _Apologies_, I and II; Flavius
Josephus, _Jewish Antiquities_, Book I, Chapter III; Athenagoras,
_Concerning the Resurrection_; Lactantius, Book II, Chapter XV;
Tertullian, _On the Veil of the Virgins_; Marcus of Ephesus in
_Psellus_; Eusebius, _Præparatio Evangelica_, Book V, Chapter IV; Saint
Ambrose, in his book on _Noah and the Ark_, Chapter V; Saint Augustine,
in his _City of God_, Book XV, Chapter XXIII; Father Meldonat, the
Jesuit, _Treatise on Demons_, page 248; Pierre Lebyer the King's
Counsellor----"

"Arcade, please, for pity's sake, be quiet; do, please do, and send this
dog away," cried Maurice, whose face was burning, and whose eyes were
starting from his head; for in his delirium he thought he saw a black
spaniel on his bed.

Madame de la Verdelière, who was assiduous in every modish and patriotic
practice, was reckoned, in the best French society, as one of the most
gracious of the great ladies interested in good works. She came herself
to ask for news of Maurice, and offered to nurse the wounded man. But at
the vehement instigation of Madame des Aubels, Arcade shut the door in
her face. Expressions of sympathy were showered upon Maurice. Piled on
the salver, visiting cards displayed their innumerable little dogs'
ears. Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec was one of the first to show his manly
sympathy at the flat in the Rue de Rome, and, holding out his loyal
hand, asked young d'Esparvieu as one honourable man to another for
twenty-five louis to pay a debt of honour.

"Of course, my dear Maurice, that is the sort of thing one could not ask
of everybody."

The same day Monsieur Gaétan came to press his nephew's hand. The latter
introduced Arcade.

"This is my guardian angel, whose foot you thought so beautiful when you
saw the print it had made on the tell-tale powder, uncle. He appeared to
me last year in this very room. You don't believe it? Well, it is true,
nevertheless."

Then turning towards the Spirit he said:

"What say you, Arcade? The Abbé Patouille, who is a great theologian and
a good priest, does not believe that you are an angel; and Uncle Gaétan,
who doesn't know his catechism and hasn't a scrap of religion in him,
doesn't think so either. They deny you, the pair of them; the one
because he has faith, the other because he hasn't. After that you may be
sure that your history, if ever it comes to be narrated, will scarcely
appear credible. Moreover, the man that took it into his head to tell
your story would not be a man of taste, and would not come in for much
approval. For your story is not a pretty one. I love you, but I sit in
judgment upon you, too. Since you fell into atheism, you have become an
abominable scoundrel. A bad angel, a bad friend, a traitor, and a
homicide, for I suppose it was to bring about my death that you sent
that black spaniel between my legs on the duelling-ground."

The angel shrugged his shoulders and, addressing Gaétan, said:

"Alas! Monsieur, I am not surprised at finding little credit in your
eyes. I have been told that you have fallen out with the Judæo-Christian
heaven, which is where I came from."

"Monsieur," answered Gaétan, "my faith in Jehovah is not sufficiently
strong to enable me to believe in his angels."

"Monsieur, he whom you call Jehovah is really a coarse and ignorant
demiurge, and his name is Ialdabaoth."

"In that case, Monsieur, I am perfectly ready to believe in him. He is a
narrow-minded ignoramus, is he? Then belief in his existence offers me
no further difficulty. How is he getting on?"

"Badly! We are going to lay him low next month."

"Don't make too sure of that, Monsieur. You remind me of my
brother-in-law, Cuissart, who has been expecting to hear of the fall of
the Republic for the past thirty years."

"You see, Arcade," exclaimed Maurice, "Uncle Gaétan thinks as I do. He
knows you won't succeed."

"And, pray, Monsieur Gaétan, what makes you think I shall not succeed?"

"Your Ialdabaoth is still very powerful in this world, if he isn't in
the other. In days gone by he used to be upheld by his priests, by those
who believed in him. Now he is supported by those who do not believe in
him, by the philosophers. A pedant of a fellow called Picrochole has
recently come on the scene who wants to make a bankrupt of science in
order to do a good turn to the Church. And just lately Pragmatism has
been invented for the express purpose of gaining credit for religion in
the minds of rationalists."

"You have been studying Pragmatism?"

"Not I! I was frivolous once, and I went in for metaphysics. I read
Hegel and Kant. I have become serious with years, and now I only trouble
myself about things evident to the senses: what the eye can see or what
the ear can hear. Man is summed up in Art. All the rest is moonshine."

Thus the conversation went on until evening; it was marked by
obscenities that would have brought a blush--I will not say to a
cuirassier, for cuirassiers are frequently chaste, but even to a
Parisienne.

Monsieur Sariette came to see his old pupil. When he entered the room
the bust of Alexandre d'Esparvieu seemed to take shape behind the
librarian's bald head. He drew near the bed. In the place of blue
curtains, mirrored wardrobe, and chimney-piece, there straightway came
into view the heavy-laden bookcases of the room of the globes and busts,
and the air was heavy with piles of papers, records, and files. Monsieur
Sariette could not be dissociated from his library; one could not
conceive of him or even see him apart from it. He himself was paler,
more vague, more shadowy, and more a creature of the fancy than the
fancies he evoked.

Maurice, who had grown very quiet, was sensible of this mark of
friendship.

"Sit down, Monsieur Sariette,--you know Madame des Aubels. May I
introduce Arcade to you,--my guardian angel. It was he who, while yet
invisible, pillaged your library for two years, made you lose all desire
for food and drink, and drove you to the verge of madness. He it was who
moved piles of books from the room of the busts to my summer-house one
day; under your very nose, he took away I know not what precious
volumes; and was the cause of your falling on the staircase; another day
he took a volume of Salomon Reinach's, and, forced to go out with me
(for he never left me, as I have learnt later), he let the volume drop
in the gutter of the Rue Princesse. Forgive him, Monsieur Sariette,--he
had no pockets. He was invisible. I bitterly regret, Monsieur Sariette,
that all your old books were not devoured by fire or swallowed up by a
flood. They made my angel lose his head. He became man, and now knows
neither faith nor obedience to laws. It is I, now, who am his guardian
angel. God knows how it will all end."

While listening to this speech, Monsieur Sariette's face took on an
expression of infinite, irreparable, eternal sadness; the sadness of a
mummy. Rising to take his leave, the sorrowful librarian murmured in
Arcade's ear:

"The poor child is very ill. He is delirious."

Maurice called the old man back.

"Do stay, Monsieur Sariette. You shall have a game of bridge with us.
Monsieur Sariette, listen to my advice. Do not do as I did--do not keep
bad company. You will be lost. I shudder at the mere thought. Monsieur
Sariette, do not go yet. I have something very important to ask you.
When you come again, bring me a book on the truth of religion, so that I
may study it. I must restore to my guardian-angel the faith which he has
lost."



CHAPTER XXXI

     WHEREIN WE ARE LED TO MARVEL AT THE READINESS WITH WHICH AN
     HONEST MAN OF TIMID AND GENTLE NATURE CAN COMMIT A HORRIBLE
     CRIME


Profoundly distressed by the dark utterances of young Maurice, Monsieur
Sariette took a motor-omnibus, and went to see Père Guinardon, his
friend, his only friend, the one person in the whole world whom it gave
him pleasure to see and hear. When Monsieur Sariette entered the shop in
the Rue de Courcelles, Guinardon was alone, dozing in the depths of an
antique arm-chair. His face, surrounded by his curly hair and luxuriant
beard, was crimson in hue. Little violet filaments spread a network
about the fleshy part of his nose, to which the wines of Burgundy had
imparted a purple tint; for there was no longer any disguising the fact,
Père Guinardon drank. Two feet away from him, on the fair Octavie's
work-table, a rose, all but withered, drooped in an empty vase, and in a
basket a piece of embroidery was lying unfinished and neglected. The
young Octavie's absences from the shop were growing more and more
frequent, and Monsieur Blancmesnil never called when she was not there.
The reason of this was that they were meeting three times a week at five
o'clock in a house close to the Champs Élysées. Père Guinardon knew
nothing of that. He did not know the full extent of his misfortune, but
he suffered.

Monsieur Sariette shook his old friend by the hand; but he did not
enquire for the young Octavie, for he refused to recognise the
connexion. He would sooner have talked about Zéphyrine, who had been so
cruelly deserted, and whom he hoped the old man would make his lawful
wife. But Monsieur Sariette was prudent. He contented himself with
asking Guinardon how he was.

"Perfectly well," was Guinardon's reply; but he felt ill, for either age
and love-making had undermined his sturdy constitution, or else young
Octavie's faithlessness had dealt her lover a fatal blow. "God be
praised," he went on, "I still retain my powers of mind and body. I am
chaste. Be chaste, Sariette. Chastity is strength."

That evening Père Guinardon had taken some specially valuable books out
of the king-wood cabinet to show to a distinguished bibliophile,
Monsieur Victor Meyer, and after the latter's departure he had dropped
off to sleep without putting them back in their places. Books had an
attraction for Monsieur Sariette, and seeing these particular volumes
on the marble top of the cabinet, he began to examine them with
interest. The first one he looked at was _La Pucelle_, in morocco, with
the English continuation. Doubtless it pained his patriotic and
Christian heart to admire its text and illustrations, but a good copy
was always virtuous and pure in his sight. Continuing to chat very
affectionately with Guinardon, he picked up, one by one, the books which
the antiquary had, for one reason or another--binding, illustrations,
distinguished ownership, or scarcity--added to his stock.

Suddenly a glorious shout of joy and love broke from his lips. He had
discovered the _Lucretius_ of the Prior de Vendôme, his _Lucretius_, and
he was clasping it to his bosom.

"Once again I behold you," he sighed, as he pressed it to his lips.

At first Père Guinardon could not quite make out what his old friend was
talking about; but when the latter declared to him that the volume was
from the d'Esparvieu collection, that it belonged to him, Sariette, and
that he was going to take it away without further ado, the antiquary
completely woke up, got on his legs, declared emphatically that the book
belonged to him, Guinardon, by right of true and lawful purchase, and
that he would not part with it unless he got five thousand francs for it
cash down.

"You don't take in what I am telling you," answered Sariette. "The book
belongs to the d'Esparvieu library; I must restore it to its place."

"_Pas de ça, Lisette_"---- hummed Guinardon.

"The book belongs to me, I tell you!"

"You are crazy, my good Sariette!"

And noticing that, as a matter of fact, the librarian had a wandering
look in his eye, he took the book from him, and tried to change the
conversation.

"Have you seen, Sariette, that the rascals are going to rip up the
Palais Mazarin, and cover up the very heart and centre of the Old Town,
the finest and most venerable place in the whole of Paris, with the
deuce knows what works of art of theirs? They are worse than the
Vandals, for the Vandals, although they destroyed the buildings of
antiquity, did not replace them with hideous and disgusting erections
and atrocious bridges like the Pont d'Alexandre. And your poor Rue
Garancière, Sariette, has fallen a prey to the barbarians. What have
they done with the pretty bronze mask of the Palace fountain?"

Monsieur Sariette never listened to a word of all this.

"Guinardon, you have not understood me. Now listen. This book belongs to
the d'Esparvieu library. It was taken away, how or by whom I know not.
Dreadful and mysterious things went on in that library. But, anyhow, the
book was stolen. I need scarcely appeal to your sentiments of scrupulous
probity, my dear friend. You would not like to be regarded as the
receiver of stolen goods. Give me the book. I will return it to Monsieur
d'Esparvieu, who will duly requite you; of that you may be sure. Rely on
his generosity, and you will be acting like the downright good fellow
that you are."

The antiquary smiled a bitter smile.

"Catch me relying on the generosity of that old curmudgeon of a
d'Esparvieu. Why, he'd skin a flea to get its coat. Look at me,
Sariette, old boy, and tell me if I look like a dunderhead. You know
perfectly well that d'Esparvieu refused to give fifty francs in a
second-hand shop for a portrait of Alexandre d'Esparvieu, the founder of
the family, by Hersent, and that consequently the founder of the family
has had to remain on the Boulevard Montparnasse, propped against a Jew
hawker's stall, just opposite the cemetery, where all the dogs of the
neighbourhood come and make water on him. Catch me trusting to Monsieur
d'Esparvieu's liberality! You've got some bright ideas in your head, you
have!"

"Very well, Guinardon, I myself will undertake to pay you any indemnity
that a board of arbitrators may fix upon. Do you hear?"

"Now don't go and do the handsome for people who won't give you so much
as a thank-you. This man, d'Esparvieu, has taken your knowledge, your
energies, your whole life for a salary that even a valet wouldn't
accept. So leave that idea alone. In any case it is too late. The book
is sold."

"Sold? To whom?" asked Sariette in agonized tones.

"What does that matter? You'll never see it again. You'll hear no more
about it; it's off to America."

"To America! The _Lucretius_ with the arms of Philippe de Vendôme and
marginalia in Voltaire's own hand! My _Lucretius_ off to America!"

Père Guinardon began to laugh.

"My dear Sariette, you remind me of the Chevalier des Grieux when he
learns that his darling mistress is to be transported to the
Mississippi. 'My dear mistress going to the Mississippi!' says he."

"No! no!" answered Sariette, very pale, "this book shall not go to
America. It shall return, as it ought, to the d'Esparvieu library. Let
me have it, Guinardon."

The antiquary made a second attempt to put an end to an interview that
now looked as if it might take an ugly turn.

"My good Sariette, you haven't told me what you think of my Greco. You
never so much as glanced at it. It is an admirable piece of work all
the same."

And Guinardon, putting the picture in a good light, went on:

"Now just look at Saint Francis here, the poor man of the Lord, the
brother of Jesus. See how his fuliginous body rises heavenward like the
smoke from an agreeable sacrifice, like the sacrifice of Abel."

"Give me the book, Guinardon," said Sariette, without turning his head;
"give me the book."

The blood suddenly flew to Père Guinardon's head.

"That's enough of it," he shouted, as red as a turkey-cock, the veins
standing out on his forehead.

And he dropped the _Lucretius_ into his jacket pocket.

Straightway old Sariette flew at the antiquary, assailed him with sudden
fury, and, frail and weakly as he was, butted him back into young
Octavie's arm-chair.

Guinardon, in furious amazement, belched forth the most horrible abuse
on the old maniac and gave him a punch that sent him staggering back
four paces against the _Coronation of the Virgin_, by Fra Angelico,
which fell down with a crash. Sariette returned to the charge, and tried
to drag the book out of the pocket in which it lay hid. This time Père
Guinardon would really have floored him had he not been blinded by the
blood that was rushing to his head, and hit sideways at the work-table
of his absent mistress. Sariette fastened himself on to his bewildered
adversary, held him down in the arm-chair, and with his little bony
hands clutched him by the neck, which, red as it was already, became a
deep crimson. Guinardon struggled to get free, but the little fingers,
feeling the mass of soft, warm flesh about them, embedded themselves in
it with delicious ecstasy. Some unknown force made them hold fast to
their prey. Guinardon's throat began to rattle, saliva was oozing from
one corner of his mouth. His enormous frame quivered now and again
beneath the grasp; but the tremors grew more and more intermittent and
spasmodic. At last they ceased. The murderous hands did not let go their
hold. Sariette had to make a violent effort to loose them. His temples
were buzzing. Nevertheless he could hear the rain falling outside,
muffled steps going past on the pavement, newspaper men shouting in the
distance. He could see umbrellas passing along in the dim light. He drew
the book from the dead man's pocket and fled.

The fair Octavie did not go back to the shop that night. She went to
sleep in a little entresol underneath the bric-a-brac stores which
Monsieur de Blancmesnil had recently bought for her in this same Rue de
Courcelles. The workman whose task it was to shut up the shop found the
antiquary's body still warm. He called Madame Lenain, the concierge,
who laid Guinardon on the couch, lit a couple of candles, put a sprig of
box in a saucer of holy water, and closed the dead man's eyes. The
doctor who was called in to certify the death ascribed it to apoplexy.

Zéphyrine, informed of what had happened by Madame Lenain, hastened to
the house, and sat up all night with the body. The dead man looked as if
he were sleeping. In the flickering light of the candles El Greco's
Saint mounted upwards like a wreath of smoke, the gold of the Primitives
gleamed in the shadows. Near the deathbed a little woman by Baudouin was
plainly discernible giving herself a douche. All through the night
Zéphyrine's lamentations could be heard fifty yards away.

"He's dead, he's dead!" she kept saying. "My friend, my divinity, my
all, my love---- But no! he is not dead, he moves. It is I, Michel; I,
your Zéphyrine. Awake, hear me! Answer me; I love you; if ever I caused
you pain, forgive me. Dead! dead! O my God! See how beautiful he is. He
was so good, so clever, so kind. My God! My God! My God! If I had been
there he would not now be lying dead. Michel! Michel!"

When morning came she was silent. They thought she had fallen asleep.
She was dead too.



CHAPTER XXXII

     WHICH DESCRIBES HOW NECTAIRE'S FLUTE WAS HEARD IN THE TAVERN
     OF CLODOMIR


Madame de la Verdelière having failed to force an _entrée_ as
sick-nurse, returned after several days had elapsed,--during the absence
of Madame des Aubels,--to ask Maurice d'Esparvieu for his subscription
to the French churches. Arcade led her to the bedside of the
convalescent. Maurice whispered in the angel's ear:

"Traitor, deliver me from this ogress immediately, or you will be
answerable for the evil which will soon befall."

"Be calm," said Arcade, with a confident air.

After the conventional complimentary flourishes, Madame de la Verdelière
signed to Maurice to dismiss the angel. Maurice feigned not to
understand. And Madame de la Verdelière disclosed the ostensible reason
of her visit.

"Our churches," she said, "our beloved country churches,--what is to
become of them?"

Arcade gazed at her angelically and sighed.

"They will disappear, Madame; they will fall into ruin. And what a pity!
I shall be inconsolable. The church amid the villagers' cottages is like
the hen amidst her chickens."

"Just so!" exclaimed Madame de la Verdelière with a delighted smile. "It
is just like that."

"And the spires, Madame?"

"Oh, Monsieur, the spires!..."

"Yes, the spires, Madame, that stick up into the skies towards the
little Cherubim, like so many syringes."

Madame de la Verdelière incontinently left the place.

That same day Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille came to offer the wounded man
good counsel and consolation. He exhorted him to break with his bad
companions and to be reconciled to his family.

He drew a picture of the sorrowful father, the mother in tears, ready to
receive their long-lost child with open arms. Renouncing with manly
effort a life of profligacy and deluding joys, Maurice would recover his
peace and strength of mind, he would free himself from devouring
chimeras, and shake off the Evil Spirit.

Young d'Esparvieu thanked Abbé Patouille for all his kindness, and made
a protestation of his religious feelings.

"Never," said he, "have I had such faith. And never have I been in such
need of it. Just imagine, Monsieur l'Abbé, I have to teach my guardian
angel his catechism all over again, for he has quite forgotten it!"

Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille heaved a deep sigh, and exhorted his dear
child to pray, there being no other resource but prayer for a soul
assailed by the Devil.

"Monsieur l'Abbé," asked Maurice, "may I introduce my guardian angel to
you? Do stay a moment; he has gone to get me some cigarettes."

"Unhappy child!"

And Abbé Patouille's fat cheeks drooped in token of affliction. But almost
immediately they plumped up again, as a sign of light-heartedness. For in
his heart there was matter for rejoicing. Public opinion was improving.
The Jacobins, the Freemasons, the Coalitionists were everywhere in
disgrace. The Smart Set led the way. The Académie Française was of the
right way of thinking. The number of Christian schools was increasing by
leaps and bounds. The young men of the Quartier Latin were submitting to
the Church, and the École Normale exhaled the perfume of the seminary. The
Cross was gaining the day; but money was wanted,--more money, always
money.

After six weeks' rest, Maurice was allowed by his doctor to take a
drive. He wore his arm in a sling. His mistress and his friend went
with him. They drove to the Bois, and took a gentle pleasure in looking
upon the grass and the trees. They smiled on everything and everything
smiled on them. As Arcade had said, their faults had made them better.
By the unlooked-for ways of jealousy and anger, Maurice had attained to
calm and kindliness. He still loved Gilberte and he loved her with an
indulgent love. The angel still desired her as much as ever, but having
once possessed her, his desire had lost the sting of curiosity. Gilberte
forbore trying to please, and thereby pleased the more. They drank milk
at the Cascade, and found it good. They were all three innocent. Arcade
forgot the injustice of the old tyrant of the world. But he was soon to
be reminded of it.

On entering his friend's house, he found Zita awaiting him, looking like
a statue in ivory and gold.

"You excite my pity," she said to him. "The day is at hand the like of
which has never dawned since the beginning of Time, and perhaps will
never dawn again before the Sun enters with all its train into the
constellation of Hercules. We are on the eve of surprising Ialdabaoth in
his palace of porphyry, and you, who are burning to deliver the heavens,
who were so eager to enter in triumph into your emancipated
country,--you suddenly forget your noble purpose and fall asleep in the
arms of the daughters of men. What pleasure can you find in intercourse
with these unclean little animals, composed, as they are, of elements so
unstable that they may be said to be in a state of constant evanescence?
O Arcade! I was indeed right to distrust you. You are but an
intellectual; you do but feel idle curiosity. You are incapable of
action."

"You misjudge me, Zita," replied the angel. "It is the nature of the
sons of heaven to love the daughters of men. Corruptible though it be,
the material part of women and of flowers charms the senses none the
less. But not one of these little animals can make me forget my hatred
and my love, and I am ready to rise up against Ialdabaoth."

Zita expressed her satisfaction at seeing him in this resolute mood. She
urged him to pursue the accomplishment of this vast undertaking with
undiminished ardour. Nothing must be hurried or deferred.

"A great action, Arcade, is made up of a multitude of small ones; the
most majestic whole is composed of a thousand minute details. Let us
neglect nothing."

She had come to take him to a meeting where his presence was required.
They were to take a census of the revolutionaries.

She added but one word:

"Nectaire will be there."

When Maurice saw Zita, he deemed her lacking in attraction. She failed
to please him because she was perfectly beautiful and because true
beauty always caused him painful surprise. Zita inspired him with
antipathy when he learned that she was an angel in revolt and that she
had come to seek Arcade to take him away among the conspirators.

The poor child tried to retain his companion by all the means that his
wit and the circumstances afforded him. If his guardian angel would only
remain with him, he would take him to a magnificent boxing-match, to a
"revue" where he would witness the apotheosis of Poincaré, or, lastly,
to a certain house he knew of where he would behold women remarkable for
their beauty, talents, vices, or deformities. But the angel would not
allow himself to be tempted, and said he was going with Zita.

"What for?"

"To plot the conquest of the skies."

"Still the same nonsense! The conquest of---- but there, I proved to you
that it was neither possible nor desirable."

"Good night, Maurice."

"You are going? Well, I will accompany you."

And Maurice, his arm in a sling, went with Arcade and Zita all the way
to Clodomir's restaurant at Montmartre, where the tables were laid in an
arbour in the garden.

Prince Istar and Théophile were already there, with a little creature
who looked like a child, and was, in fact, a Japanese angel.

"We are only waiting for Nectaire," said Zita.

And at that moment the old gardener noiselessly appeared. He took his
seat, and his dog lay down at his feet. French cooking is the best in
the world. It is a glory that will transcend all others when humanity
has grown wise enough to put the spit above the sword. Clodomir served
the angels, and the mortal who was with them, with a soup made of
cabbages and bacon, a loin of pork and kidneys cooked in wine, thereby
proving himself a real Montmartre cook, and showing that he had not been
spoilt by the Americans, who corrupt the most excellent _chefs_ of the
City of Restaurants.

Clodomir brought forth some Bordeaux, which, though unrecorded among the
renowned vintages of Médoc, gave evidence by its choice and delicate
aroma of the high nobility of its origin. We must not omit to chronicle
that, after this wine and many others had been drunk, the cellarman, in
solemn state, produced a Burgundy choice and rare, full-bodied yet not
heavy, generous yet delicate, rich with the true Burgundian mellowness,
a noble and, withal, a somewhat heady wine, that brought delight alike
to mind and sense.

"Hail to thee, Dionysus, greatest of the Gods!" cried old Nectaire,
raising his glass on high. "I drink to thee who wilt restore the Golden
Age, and give again to mortal men, who will become heroes as of old, the
grapes which the Lesbians used to cull, long since, from the vines of
Methymna; who wilt restore the vineyards of Thasus, the white clusters
of Lake Mareotis, the storehouses of Falernus, the vines of the Tmolus,
and the wine of Phanae, of all wines the king. And the juice thereof
shall be divine, and, as in old Silenus' day, men shall grow drunk with
Wisdom and with Love."

When the coffee was served, Prince Istar, Zita, Arcade, and the Japanese
angel took it in turns to give an account of the forces assembled
against Ialdabaoth. Angels, in exchanging eternal bliss for the
sufferings of an earthly life, grow in intelligence, acquire the means
of going astray and the faculty of self-contradiction. Consequently
their meetings, like those of men, are tumultuous and confused. Did one
of them deal in figures, the others immediately called them in question.
They could not add one number to another without quarrelling, and
arithmetic itself, subjected to passion, lost its certitude. The Kerûb,
who had brought with him the pious Théophile, waxed indignant when he
heard the musician praising the Lord, and rained down such blows on his
head as would have felled an ox. But the head of a musician is harder
than a bucranium, and the blows which Théophile received did not avail
to modify that angel's notion of divine providence. Arcade, having at
great length set up his scientific idealism in opposition to Zita's
pragmatism, the beautiful archangel told him that he argued badly.

"And you are surprised at that!" exclaimed young Maurice's guardian
angel. "I argue, like you, in the language of human beings. And what is
human language but the cry of the beasts of the forests or the
mountains, complicated and corrupted by arrogant anthropoids. How then,
Zita, can one be expected to argue well with a collection of angry or
plaintive sounds like that? Angels do not reason at all; men, being
superior to the angels, reason imperfectly. I will not mention the
professors who think to define the absolute with the aid of cries that
they have inherited from the pithecanthropoid monkeys, marsupials, and
reptiles, their ancestors! It is a colossal joke! How it would amuse the
demiurge, if he had any brains!"

It was a beautiful starlight night. The gardener was silent.

"Nectaire," said the beautiful archangel, "play to us on your flute, if
you are not afraid that the Earth and Heaven will be stirred to their
depths thereby."

Nectaire took up his flute. Young Maurice lighted a cigarette. The flame
burnt brightly for a moment, casting back the sky and its stars into the
shadows, and then died out. And Nectaire sang of the flame on his divine
flute. The silvery voice soared aloft and sang:

"That flame was a whole universe which fulfilled its destiny in less
than a minute. Suns and planets were formed therein. Venus Urania
apportioned the orbits of the wandering spheres in those infinite
spaces. Beneath the breath of Eros--the first of the gods,--plants,
animals, and thoughts sprang into being. In the twenty seconds which
hurried by betwixt the life and death of those worlds, civilizations
were unfolded, and empires sank in long decline. Mothers shed tears, and
songs of love, cries of hatred, and sighs of victims rose upward to the
silent skies.

"In proportion to its minuteness, that universe lasted as long as this
one--whereof we see a few atoms glittering above our heads--has lasted
or will last. They are, one no less than the other, but a gleam in the
Infinite."

As the clear, pure notes welled up into the charmed air, the earth
melted into a soft mist, the stars revolved rapidly in their orbits,
the Great Bear fell asunder, its parts flew far and wide. Orion's belt
was shattered; the Pole Star forsook its magnetic axis. Sirius, whose
incandescent flame had lit up the far horizon, grew blue, then red,
flickered, and suddenly died out. The shaken constellations formed new
signs which were extinguished in their turn. By its incantations the
magic flute had compressed into one brief moment the life and the
movement of this universe which seems unchanging and eternal both to men
and angels. It ceased, and the heavens resumed their immemorial aspect.
Nectaire had vanished. Clodomir asked his guests if they were pleased
with the cabbage soup which, in order that it might be strong, had been
kept simmering for twenty-four hours on the fire, and he sang the
praises of the Beaujolais which they had drunk.

The night was mild. Arcade, accompanied by his guardian angel,
Théophile, Prince Istar, and the Japanese angel, escorted Zita home.



CHAPTER XXXIII

     HOW A DREADFUL CRIME PLUNGES PARIS INTO A STATE OF TERROR


The city was asleep. Their footsteps rang loudly on the deserted
pavement. Having reached the corner of the Rue Feutrier, half-way up
Montmartre, the little company halted before the dwelling of the
beautiful angel. Arcade was talking about the Thrones and Dominations
with Zita, who, her finger on the bell, could not make up her mind to
ring. Prince Istar was tracing the mechanism of a new sort of bomb on
the pavement with the end of his stick, and bellowed so loudly that he
woke the sleeping citizens and stirred into activity the amatory
passions of the neighbouring Pasiphaës. Théophile was singing the
barcarole from the second act of _Aline, Queen of Golconda_ at the top
of his voice. Maurice, his arm in a sling, was fencing left-handed with
the Japanese, striking sparks from the pavement, and crying "A hit! a
hit!" in a piercing voice.

Meanwhile Inspector Grolle at the corner of the next street was
dreaming. He had the bearing of a Roman legionary and displayed all the
characteristics of that proudly servile race, who, ever since men first
took to building cities, have been the mainstay of Empires and the
support of ruling houses. Inspector Grolle was very strong, but very
tired. He suffered from an arduous profession and from lack of food. He
was a man devoted to duty, but still a man, and he was unable to resist
the wiles, the charms, and the blandishments of the gay ladies whom he
met in swarms in the shadows along the empty streets and round about
pieces of waste ground; he loved them. He loved like a soldier under
arms. It tired him, but courage conquered fatigue. Though he had not yet
reached the middle of Life's way, he longed for sweet repose and
peaceful country pursuits. At the corner of the Rue Muller, on this mild
night, he stood lost in thought. He was dreaming of the house where he
was born, of the little olive wood, of his father's bit of ground, of
his old mother, bent with long and heavy labour, whom he would never see
again. Roused from his reverie by the nocturnal tumult, Inspector Grolle
turned the corner of the street, and looked rather unfavourably at the
band of loiterers, wherein his social instinct suspected enemies of law
and order. He was patient and resolute. After a lengthy silence, he
said, with awe-inspiring calm:

"Move on, there!"

But Maurice and the Japanese angel were fencing and heard nothing. The
musician heard nothing but his own melodies. Prince Istar was absorbed
in the explanation of explosive formulæ. Zita was discussing with Arcade
the greatest enterprise that had ever been conceived since the solar
system issued from its original nebula,--and thus they all remained
unconscious of their surroundings.

"Move on, I tell you!" repeated Inspector Grolle.

This time the angels heard the solemn word of warning, but either
through indifference or contempt, they neglected to obey, and continued
their talk, their songs, and their cries.

"So you want to be taken up, do you?" shouted Inspector Grolle, clapping
his great hand on Prince Istar's shoulder.

The Kerûb was indignant at this vile contact, and with one blow from his
formidable fist sent the Inspector flying into the gutter. But Constable
Fesandet was already running to his comrade's aid, and they both fell
upon the Prince, whom they belaboured with mechanic fury, and whom,
notwithstanding his strength and weight, they would perchance have
dragged all bleeding to the police station, had not the Japanese angel
overset them one after the other without effort, and reduced them to
writhing and shrieking in the mud, before Maurice, Arcade, and Zita had
time to intervene. As to the angelic musician, he stood apart trembling,
and invoked the heavens.

At this moment two bakers who were kneading their dough in a
neighbouring cellar ran out at the noise, in their white aprons,
stripped to the waist. With an instinctive feeling for social solidarity
they took the side of the downfallen police. Théophile conceived a just
fear at the sight of them, and fled away; they caught him and were about
to hand him over to the guardians of the peace, when Arcade and Zita
tore him from their hands. The fight continued, unequal and terrible,
between the two angels and the two bakers. Like an athlete of Lysippus
in strength and beauty, Arcade smothered his heavy adversary in his
arms. The beautiful archangel drove her dagger into the baker who had
attacked her. A dark stream of blood flowed down over his hairy chest,
and the two white-capped supporters of the law sank to the ground.

Constable Fesandet had fainted face downwards in the gutter. But
Inspector Grolle, who had got up, blew a blast on his whistle loud
enough to be heard at the neighbouring police-station, and sprang upon
young Maurice, who, having but one arm with which to defend himself,
fired his revolver with his left hand at the inspector, who put his hand
to his heart, staggered, and dropped down. He gave a long sigh, and the
shadows of eternity darkened his eyes.

Meanwhile, windows opened one by one, and heads looked out on the
street. A sound of heavy steps approached. Two policemen on bicycles
debouched upon the street. Thereupon Prince Istar flung a bomb which
shook the ground, put out the gas, shattered some of the houses, and
enveloped the flight of young Maurice and the angels in a dense smoke.

Arcade and Maurice came to the conclusion that the safest thing to do
after this adventure was to return to the little flat in the Rue de
Rome. They would certainly not be sought for immediately and probably
not at all, the bomb thrown by the Kerûb having fortunately wiped out
all witnesses of the affair. They fell asleep towards dawn, and they had
not yet awoke at ten o'clock in the morning when the concierge brought
their tea. While eating his toast and butter and slice of ham, young
d'Esparvieu remarked to the angel:

"I used to think that a murder was something very extraordinary. Well, I
was mistaken. It is the simplest, the most natural action in the world."

"And of most ancient tradition," replied the angel. "For long centuries
it was both usual and necessary for man to kill and despoil his fellows.
It is still recommended in warfare. It is also honourable to attempt
human life in certain definite circumstances, and people approved when
you wanted to assassinate me, Maurice, because it appeared to you that I
had been intimate with your mistress. But killing a police-inspector is
not the action of a man of fashion."

"Be silent," exclaimed Maurice, "be silent, scoundrel! I killed the poor
Inspector instinctively, not knowing what I was doing. I am grieved to
my heart about it. But it is not I, it is you who are the guilty one;
you who are the murderer. It was you who lured me along this path of
revolt and violence which leads to the pit. You have been my undoing.
You have sacrificed my peace of mind, my happiness, to your pride and
your wickedness, and all in vain; for I warn you, Arcade, you will not
succeed in what you are undertaking."

The concierge brought in the newspapers. On seeing them Maurice grew
pale. They announced the outrage in the Rue de Ramey in huge headlines:

"An Inspector killed--Two cyclist policemen and two bakers seriously
wounded--Three houses blown up, numerous victims."

Maurice let the paper drop, and said in a weak, plaintive voice:

"Arcade, why did you not slay me in the little garden at Versailles
amidst the roses, to the song of the blackbirds?"

Meanwhile terror reigned in Paris. In the public squares, and in the
crowded streets, house-wives, string-bag in hand, grew pale as they
listened to the story of the crime, and consigned the perpetrators to
the most dreadful punishment. Shop-keepers, standing at the doors of
their shops, put it all down to the anarchists, syndicalists,
socialists, and radicals, and demanded that special measures should be
taken against them.

The more thoughtful people recognized the handiwork of the Jew and the
German, and demanded the expulsion of all aliens. Many vaunted the ways
of America and advocated lynching. In addition to the printed news
sinister rumours became current. Explosions had been heard at various
places; everywhere bombs had been discovered; everywhere individuals,
taken for malefactors, had been struck down by the popular arm and given
up to justice, torn to ribbons. On the Place de la République a drunkard
who was crying "Down with the police" was torn to pieces by the crowd.

The President of the Council and Minister of Justice held long
conferences with the Prefect of Police, and they agreed to take
immediate action. In order to allay the excitement of the Parisians,
they arrested five or six hooligans out of the thirty thousand which the
Capital contains. The chief of the Russian police, believing he
recognised in this attack the methods of the Nihilists, demanded, on
behalf of his Government, that a dozen refugees should be given up. The
demand was immediately granted. Proceedings were also taken for certain
individuals to be extradited to ensure the safety of the King of Spain.

On learning of these energetic measures, Paris breathed once more, and
the evening papers congratulated the Government. There was excellent
news of the wounded. They were out of danger and identified as their
assailants all who were brought before them.

True, Inspector Grolle was dead; but two Sisters of Mercy kept vigil at
his side, and the President of the Council came and laid the Cross of
Honour on the breast of this victim of duty.

At night there were panics. In the Avenue de la Révolte the police,
noticing a travelling acrobat's caravan on a piece of waste ground, took
it for the retreat of a band of robbers. They whistled for help, and
when they were a goodly number, attacked the caravan. Some worthy
citizens joined them; fifteen thousand revolver-shots were fired, the
caravan was blown up with dynamite, and among the débris they found the
corpse of a monkey.



CHAPTER XXXIV

     WHICH CONTAINS AN ACCOUNT OF THE ARREST OF BOUCHOTTE AND
     MAURICE, OF THE DISASTER WHICH BEFELL THE D'ESPARVIEU
     LIBRARY, AND OF THE DEPARTURE OF THE ANGELS


Maurice d'Esparvieu passed a terrible night. At the least sound he
seized his revolver that he might not fall alive into the hands of
justice. When morning came he snatched the newspapers from the hands of
the concierge, devoured them greedily, and gave a cry of joy; he had
just read that Inspector Grolle having been taken to the Morgue for the
post-mortem, the police-surgeons had only discovered bruises and
contusions of a very superficial nature, and stated that death had been
brought about by the rupture of an aneurism of the aorta.

"You see, Arcade," he exclaimed triumphantly; "you see I am not an
assassin. I am innocent. I could never have imagined how extremely
agreeable it is to be innocent."

Then he grew thoughtful, and--no unusual phenomenon--reflection
dissipated his gaiety.

"I am innocent,--but there is no disguising the fact," he said, shaking
his head, "I am one of a band of malefactors. I live with miscreants.
You are in your right place there, Arcade, for you are deceitful, cruel,
and perverse. But I come of good family and have received an excellent
education, and I blush for it."

"I also," said Arcade, "have received an excellent education."

"Where was that?"

"In Heaven."

"No, Arcade, no; you never had any education. If good principles had
been inculcated into you, you would still hold them. Such principles are
never lost. In my childhood I learnt to revere my family, my country, my
religion. I have not forgotten the lesson and I never shall. Do you know
what shocks me most in you? It is not your perversity, your cruelty,
your black ingratitude; it is not your agnosticism, which may be borne
with at a pinch; it is not your scepticism, though it is very much out
of date (for since the national awakening there is no longer any
scepticism in France);--no, what disgusts me in you is your lack of
taste, the bad style of your ideas, the inelegance of your doctrines.
You think like an intellectual, you speak like a freethinker, you have
theories which reek of radicalism and Combeism and all ignoble systems.
Get along with you! you disgust me. Arcade, my old friend, Arcade, my
dear angel, Arcade, my beloved child, listen to your guardian angel!
Yield to my prayers, renounce your mad ideas; become good, simple,
innocent, and happy once more. Put on your hat, come with me to
Nôtre-Dame. We will say a prayer and burn a candle together."

Meanwhile public opinion was still active in the matter; the leading
papers, the organs of the national awakening, in articles of real
elevation and real depth, unravelled the philosophy of this monstrous
attack which was revolting to the conscience. They discovered the real
origin, the indirect but effective cause in the revolutionary doctrines
which had been disseminated unchecked, in the weakening of social ties,
the relaxing of moral discipline, in the repeated appeals to every
appetite, to every greedy desire. It would be needful, so as to cut down
the evil at its root, to repudiate as quickly as possible all such
chimeras and Utopias as syndicalism, the income-tax, etc., etc., etc.
Many newspapers, and these not the least important, pointed out that the
recrudescence of crime was but the natural fruit of impiety and
concluded that the salvation of society lay in an unanimous and sincere
return to religion. On the Sunday which followed the crime the
congregations in the churches were noticed to be unusually large.

Judge Salneuve, who was entrusted with the task of investigation, first
examined the persons arrested by the police, and lost his way among
attractive but illusory clues; however, the report of the detective
Montremain, which was laid before him, put him on the right road, and
soon led him to recognise the miscreants of La Jonchère as the authors
of the crime of the Rue de Ramey. He ordered a search to be made for
Arcade and Zita, and issued a warrant against Prince Istar, on whom the
detectives laid hands as he was leaving Bouchotte's, where he had been
depositing some bombs of new design. The Kerûb, on learning the
detectives' intentions, smiled broadly and asked them if they had a
powerful motor-car. On their replying that they had one at the door, he
assured them that was all he wanted. Thereupon he felled the two
detectives on the stairs, walked up to the waiting car, flung the
chauffeur under a motor-'bus which was opportunely passing, and seized
the steering wheel under the eyes of the terrified crowd.

That same evening Monsieur Jeancourt, the Police Magistrate, entered
Théophile's rooms just when Bouchotte was swallowing a raw egg to clear
her voice, for she was to sing her new song, "They haven't got any in
Germany," at the "National Eldorado" that evening. The musician was
absent. Bouchotte received the Magistrate, and received him with a
hauteur which intensified the simplicity of her attire; Bouchotte was
_en déshabille_. The worthy Magistrate seized the score of _Aline, Queen
of Golconda_, and the love-letters which the singer carefully preserved
in the drawer of the table by her bed, for she was an orderly young
woman. He was about to withdraw when he espied a cupboard, which he
opened with a careless air, and found machines capable of blowing up
half Paris, and a pair of large white wings, whose nature and use
appeared inexplicable to him. Bouchotte was invited to complete her
toilette, and, in spite of her cries, was taken off to the
police-station.

Monsieur Salneuve was indefatigable. After the examination of the papers
seized in Bouchotte's house, and acting on the information of
Montremain, he issued a warrant for the arrest of young d'Esparvieu,
which was executed on Wednesday, the 27th May, at seven o'clock in the
morning, with great discretion. For three days Maurice had neither slept
nor eaten, loved nor lived. He had not a moment's doubt as to the nature
of the matutinal visit. At the sight of the police magistrate a strange
calm fell on him. Arcade had not returned to sleep in the flat. Maurice
begged the magistrate to wait for him, dressed with care, and then
accompanied the magistrate a calmness of mind which was barely
disturbed when the door of the Conciergerie closed on him. Alone in his
cell, he climbed upon the table to look out. His tranquillity was due to
his weariness of spirit, to his numbed senses, and to the fact that he
no longer stood in fear of arrest. His misfortune endowed him with
superior wisdom. He felt he had fallen into a state of grace. He did not
think too highly or too humbly of himself, but left his cause in the
hands of God. With no desire to cover up his faults, which he would not
hide even from himself, he addressed himself in mind to Providence, to
point out that if he had fallen into disorder and rebellion it was to
lead his erring angel back into the straight path. He stretched himself
on the couch and slept in peace.

On hearing of the arrest of a music-hall singer and of a young man of
fashion, both Paris and the provinces felt painful surprise. Deeply
stirred by the tragic accounts which the leading newspapers were
bringing out, the general idea was that the sort of people the
authorities ought to bring to justice were ferocious anarchists, all
reeking and dripping from deeds of blood and arson; but they failed to
understand what the world of Art and Fashion should have to do with such
things. At this news, which he was one of the last to hear, the
President of the Council and Keeper of the Seals started up in his
chair. The Sphinxes that adorned it were less terrible than he, and in
the throes of his angry meditation he cut the mahogany of his imperial
table with his penknife, after the manner of Napoleon. And when Judge
Salneuve, whose attendance he had commanded, appeared before him, the
President flung his penknife in the grate, as Louis XIV flung his cane
out of the window in the presence of Lauzun; and it cost him a supreme
effort to master himself and to say in a voice of suppressed fury:

"Are you mad? Surely I said often enough that I meant the plot to be
anarchist, anti-social, fundamentally anti-social and anti-governmental,
with a shade of syndicalism. I have made it clear enough that I wanted
it kept within these lines; and what do you go and make of it?... The
vengeance of anarchists and aspirants to freedom? Whom do you arrest? A
singer adored of the nationalist public, and the son of a man highly
esteemed in the Catholic party, who receives our bishops and has the
_entrée_ to the Vatican; a man who may be one day sent as ambassador to
the Pope. At one blow you alienate one hundred and sixty Deputies and
forty Senators of the Right on the very eve of a motion to discuss the
question of religious pacification; you embroil me with my friends of
to-day, with my friends of to-morrow. Was it to find out if you were in
the same dilemma as des Aubels that you seized the love-letters of
young Maurice d'Esparvieu? I can put your mind at rest on that point.
You are, and all Paris knows it. But it is not to avenge your personal
affronts that you are on the Bench."

"Monsieur le Garde des Sceaux," murmured the Judge, nearly apoplectic
and in a choked voice. "I am an honest man."

"You are a fool ... and a provincial. Listen to me; if Maurice
d'Esparvieu and Mademoiselle Bouchotte are not released within half an
hour I will crush you like a piece of glass. Be off!"

Monsieur René d'Esparvieu went himself to fetch his son from the
Conciergerie and took him back to the old house in the Rue Garancière.
The return was triumphant. The news had been disseminated that Maurice
had with generous imprudence interested himself in an attempt to restore
the monarchy, and that Judge Salneuve, the infamous freemason, the tool
of Combes and André, had tried to compromise the young man by making him
out to be an accomplice of a band of criminals.

That was what Abbé Patouille seemed to think, and he answered for
Maurice as for himself. It was known, moreover, that breaking with his
father, who had rallied to the support of the Republic, young
d'Esparvieu was on the high road to becoming an out-and-out Royalist.
The people who had an inside knowledge of things saw in his arrest the
vengeance of the Jews. Was not Maurice a notorious anti-Semite? Catholic
youths went forth to hurl imprecations at Judge Salneuve under the
windows of his residence in the Rue Guénégaud, opposite the Mint.

On the Boulevard du Palais a band of students presented Maurice with a
branch of palm. Maurice made a charming reply.

Maurice was overcome with emotion when he beheld the old house in which
his childhood had been spent, and fell weeping into his mother's arms.

It was a great day, unhappily marred by one painful incident. Monsieur
Sariette, who had lost his reason as a consequence of the shocking
events that had taken place in the Rue de Courcelles, had suddenly
become violent. He had shut himself up in the library, and there he had
remained for twenty-four hours, uttering the most horrible cries, and,
turning a deaf ear alike to threats and entreaties, refused to come out.
He had spent the night in a condition of extreme restlessness, for all
night long the lamp had been seen passing rapidly to and fro behind the
curtains. In the morning, hearing Hippolyte shouting to him from the
court below, he opened the window of the Hall of the Spheres and the
Philosophers, and heaved two or three rather weighty tomes on to the old
valet's head. The whole of the domestic staff--men, women, and
boys--hurried to the spot, and the librarian proceeded to throw out
books by the armful on to their heads. In view of the gravity of the
situation, Monsieur René d'Esparvieu did not disdain to intervene. He
appeared in night-cap and dressing-gown, and attempted to reason with
the poor lunatic, whose only reply was to pour forth torrents of abuse
on the man whom till then he had worshipped as his benefactor, and to
endeavour to crush him beneath all the Bibles, all the Talmuds, all the
sacred books of India and Persia, all the Greek Fathers, and all the
Latin Fathers, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Saint
Augustine, Saint Jerome, all the apologists, ay! and under the _Histoire
des Variations_, annotated by Bossuet himself! Octavos, quartos, folios
came crashing down, and lay in a sordid heap on the courtyard pavement.
The letters of Gassendi, of Père Mersenne, of Pascal, were blown about
hither and thither by the wind. The lady's-maid who had stooped down to
rescue some of the sheets from the gutter got a blow on the head from an
enormous Dutch atlas. Madame René d'Esparvieu had been terrified by the
ominous sounds, and appeared on the scene without waiting to apply the
finishing touches of powder and paint. When he caught sight of her, old
Sariette became more violent than ever. Down they came one after another
as hard as he could pelt them; the busts of the poets, philosophers,
and historians of antiquity--Homer, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides,
Herodotus, Thucydides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero,
Virgil, Horace, Seneca, Epictetus--all lay scattered on the ground. The
celestial sphere and the terrestrial globe descended with a terrifying
crash that was followed by a ghastly hush, broken only by the shrill
laughter of little Léon, who was looking down on the scene from a window
above. A locksmith having opened the library door, all the household
hastened to enter, and found the aged Sariette entrenched behind piles
of books, busily engaged in tearing and slashing away at the _Lucretius_
of the Prior de Vendôme annotated in Voltaire's own hand. They had to
force a way through the barricade. But the maniac, perceiving that his
stronghold was being invaded, fled away and escaped on to the roof. For
two whole hours he gave vent to shouts and yells that were heard far and
wide. In the Rue Garancière the crowd kept growing bigger and bigger.
All had their eyes fixed on the unhappy creature, and whenever he
stumbled on the slates, which cracked beneath him, they gave a shout of
terror. In the midst of the crowd, the Abbé Patouille, who expected
every moment to see him hurled into space, was reciting the prayers for
the dying, and making ready to give him the absolution _in extremis_.
There was a cordon of police round the house keeping order. Someone
summoned the fire-brigade, and the sound of their approach was soon
heard. They placed a ladder against the wall of the house, and after a
terrific struggle managed to secure the maniac, who in the course of his
desperate resistance had one of the muscles of his arm torn out. He was
immediately removed to an asylum.

Maurice dined at home, and there were smiles of tenderness and affection
when Victor, the old butler, brought on the roast veal. Monsieur l'Abbé
Patouille sat at the right hand of the Christian mother, unctuously
contemplating the family which Heaven had so plentifully blessed.
Nevertheless, Madame d'Esparvieu was ill at ease. Every day she received
anonymous letters of so insulting and coarse a nature that she thought
at first they must come from a discharged footman. She now knew they
were the handiwork of her youngest daughter, Berthe, a mere child!
Little Léon, too, gave her pain and anxiety. He paid no attention to his
lessons, and was given to bad habits. He showed a cruel disposition. He
had plucked his sister's canaries alive; he stuck innumerable pins into
the chair on which Mademoiselle Caporal was accustomed to sit, and had
stolen fourteen francs from the poor girl, who did nothing but cry and
dab her eyes and nose from morning till night.

No sooner was dinner over than Maurice rushed off to the little
dwelling in the Rue de Rome, impatient to meet his angel again. Through
the door he heard a loud sound of voices, and saw assembled in the room
where the apparition had taken place, Arcade, Zita, the angelic
musician, and the Kerûb, who was lying on the bed, smoking a huge pipe,
carelessly scorching pillows, sheets, and coverlets. They embraced
Maurice, and announced their departure. Their faces shone with happiness
and courage. Alone, the inspired author of _Aline, Queen of Golconda_,
shed tears and raised his terrified gaze to heaven. The Kerûb forced him
into the party of rebellion by setting before him two alternatives:
either to allow himself to be dragged from prison to prison on earth, or
to carry fire and sword into the palace of Ialdabaoth.

Maurice perceived with sorrow that the earth had scarcely any hold over
them. They were setting out filled with immense hope, which was quite
justifiable. Doubtless they were but a few combatants to oppose the
innumerable soldiers of the sultan of the heavens; but they counted on
compensating for the inferiority of their numbers by the irresistible
impetus of a sudden attack. They were not ignorant of the fact that
Ialdabaoth, who flatters himself on knowing all things, sometimes allows
himself to be taken by surprise. And it certainly looked as if the first
attack would have taken him unawares had it not been for the warning of
the archangel Michael. The celestial army had made no progress since its
victory over the rebels before the beginning of Time.

As regards armaments and material it was as out of date as the army of
the Moors. Its generals slumbered in sloth and ignorance. Loaded with
honours and riches, they preferred the delights of the banquet to the
fatigues of war. Michael, the commander-in-chief, ever loyal and brave,
had lost, with the passing of centuries, his fire and enthusiasm. The
conspirators of 1914, on the other hand, knew the very latest and the
most delicate appliances of science for the art of destruction. At
length all was ready and decided upon. The army of revolt, assembled by
corps each a hundred thousand angels strong, on all the waste places of
the earth--steppes, pampas, deserts, fields of ice and snow--was ready
to launch itself against the sky. The angels, in modifying the rhythm of
the atoms of which they are composed, are able to traverse the most
varied mediums. Spirits that have descended on to the earth, being
formed, since their incarnation, of too compact a substance, can no
longer fly of themselves, and to rise into ethereal regions and then
insensibly grow volatilized, have need of the assistance of their
brothers, who, though revolutionaries like themselves, nevertheless,
stayed behind in the Empyrean and remained, not immaterial (for all is
matter in the Universe), but gloriously untrammelled and diaphanous.
Certes, it was not without painful anxiety that Arcade, Istar, and Zita
prepared themselves to pass from the heavy atmosphere of the earth to
the limpid depths of the heavens. To plunge into the ether there is need
to expend such energy that the most intrepid hesitate to take flight.
Their very substance, while penetrating this fine medium, must in itself
grow fine-spun, become vaporised, and pass from human dimensions to the
volume of the vastest clouds which have ever enveloped the earth. Soon
they would surpass in grandeur the uttermost planets, whose orbits they,
invisible and imponderable, would traverse without disturbing.

In this enterprise--the vastest that angels could undertake--their
substance would be ultimately hotter than the fire and colder than the
ice, and they would suffer pangs sharper than death.

Maurice read all the daring and the pain of the undertaking in the eyes
of Arcade.

"You are going?" he said to him, weeping.

"We are going, with Nectaire, to seek the great archangel to lead us to
victory."

"Whom do you call thus?"

"The priests of the demiurge have made him known to you in their
calumnies."

"Unhappy being," sighed Maurice.

Arcade embraced him, and Maurice felt the angel's tears as they dropped
upon his cheek.



CHAPTER XXXV

     AND LAST, WHEREIN THE SUBLIME DREAM OF SATAN IS UNFOLDED


Climbing the seven steep terraces which rise up from the bed of the
Ganges to the temples muffled in creepers, the five angels reached, by
half-obliterated paths, the wild garden filled with perfumed clusters of
grapes and chattering monkeys, and, at the far end thereof, they
discovered him whom they had come to seek. The archangel lay with his
elbow on black cushions embroidered with golden flames. At his feet
crouched lions and gazelles. Twined in the trees, tame serpents turned
on him their friendly gaze. At the sight of his angelic visitors his
face grew melancholy. Long since, in the days when, with his brow
crowned with grapes and his sceptre of vine-leaves in his hand, he had
taught and comforted mankind, his heart had many times been heavy with
sorrow; but never yet, since his glorious downfall, had his beautiful
face expressed such pain and anguish.

Zita told him of the black standards assembled in crowds in all the
waste places of the globe; of the deliverance premeditated and prepared
in the provinces of Heaven, where the first revolt had long ago been
fomented.

"Prince," she went on, "your army awaits you. Come, lead it on to
victory."

"Friends," replied the great archangel, "I was aware of the object of
your visit. Baskets of fruit and honeycombs await you under the shade of
this mighty tree. The sun is about to descend into the roseate waters of
the Sacred River. When you have eaten, you will slumber pleasantly in
this garden, where the joys of the intellect and of the senses have
reigned since the day when I drove hence the spirit of the old Demiurge.
To-morrow I will give you my answer."

Night hung its blue over the garden. Satan fell asleep. He had a dream,
and in that dream, soaring over the earth, he saw it covered with angels
in revolt, beautiful as gods, whose eyes darted lightning. And from pole
to pole one single cry, formed of a myriad cries, mounted towards him,
filled with hope and love. And Satan said:

"Let us go forth! Let us seek the ancient adversary in his high abode."
And he led the countless host of angels over the celestial plains. And
Satan was cognizant of what took place in the heavenly citadel. When
news of this second revolt came thither, the Father said to the Son:

"The irreconcilable foe is rising once again. Let us take heed to
ourselves, and in this, our time of danger, look to our defences, lest
we lose our high abode."

And the Son, consubstantial with the Father, replied:

"We shall triumph under the sign that gave Constantine the victory."

Indignation burst forth on the Mountain of God. At first the faithful
Seraphim condemned the rebels to terrible torture, but afterwards
decided on doing battle with them. The anger burning in the hearts of
all inflamed each countenance. They did not doubt of victory, but
treachery was feared, and eternal darkness had been at once decreed for
spies and alarmists.

There was shouting and singing of ancient hymns and praise of the
Almighty. They drank of the mystic wine. Courage, over-inflated, came
near to giving way, and a secret anxiety stole into the inner depths of
their souls. The archangel Michael took supreme command. He reassured
their minds by his serenity. His countenance, wherein his soul was
visible, expressed contempt for danger. By his orders, the chiefs of the
thunderbolts, the Kerûbs, grown dull with the long interval of peace,
paced with heavy steps the ramparts of the Holy Mountain, and, letting
the gaze of their bovine eyes wander over the glittering clouds of
their Lord, strove to place the divine batteries in position. After
inspecting the defences, they swore to the Most High that all was in
readiness. They took counsel together as to the plan they should follow.
Michael was for the offensive. He, as a consummate soldier, said it was
the supreme law. Attack, or be attacked,--there was no middle course.

"Moreover," he added, "the offensive attitude is particularly suitable
to the ardour of the Thrones and Dominations."

Beyond that, it was impossible to obtain a word from the valiant chief,
and this silence seemed the mark of a genius sure of himself.

As soon as the approach of the enemy was announced, Michael sent forth
three armies to meet them, commanded by the archangels Uriel, Raphael,
and Gabriel. Standards, displaying all the colours of the Orient, were
unfurled above the ethereal plains, and the thunders rolled over the
starry floors. For three days and three nights was the lot of the
terrible and adorable armies unknown on the Mountain of God. Towards
dawn on the fourth day news came, but it was vague and confused. There
were rumours of indecisive victories; of the triumph now of this side,
now of that. There came reports of glorious deeds which were dissipated
in a few hours.

The thunderbolts of Raphael, hurled against the rebels, had, it was
said, consumed entire squadrons. The troops commanded by the impure Zita
were thought to have been swallowed up in the whirlwind of a tempest of
fire. It was believed that the savage Istar had been flung headlong into
the gulf of perdition so suddenly that the blasphemies begun in his
mouth had been forced backwards with explosive results. It was popularly
supposed that Satan, laden with chains of adamant, had been plunged once
again into the abyss. Meanwhile, the commanders of the three armies had
sent no messages. Mutterings and murmurs, mingling with the rumours of
glory, gave rise to fears of an indecisive battle, a precipitate
retreat. Insolent voices gave out that a spirit of the lowest category,
a guardian angel, the insignificant Arcade, had checked and routed the
dazzling host of the three great archangels.

There were also rumours of wholesale defection in the Seventh Heaven,
where rebellion had broken out before the beginning of Time, and some
had even seen black clouds of impious angels joining the armies of the
rebels on Earth. But no one lent an ear to the odious rumours, and
stress was laid on the news of victory which ran from lip to lip, each
statement readily finding confirmation. The high places resounded with
hymns of joy; the Seraphim celebrated on harp and psaltery Sabaoth, God
of Thunder. The voices of the elect united with those of the angels in
glorifying the Invisible and at the thought of the bloodshed that the
ministers of holy wrath had caused among the rebels, sighs of relief and
jubilation were wafted from the Heavenly Jerusalem towards the Most
High. But the beatitude of the most blessed, having swelled to the
utmost limit before due time, could increase no more, and the very
excess of their felicity completely dulled their senses.

The songs had not yet ceased when the guards watching on the ramparts
signalled the approach of the first fugitives of the divine army;
Seraphim on tattered wing, flying in disorder, maimed Kerûbs going on
three feet. With impassive gaze, Michael, prince of warriors, measured
the extent of the disaster, and his keen intelligence penetrated its
causes. The armies of the living God had taken the offensive, but by one
of those fatalities in war which disconcert the plans of the greatest
captains, the enemy had also taken the offensive, and the effect was
evident. Scarcely were the gates of the citadel opened to receive the
glorious but shattered remnants of the three armies, when a rain of fire
fell on the Mountain of God. Satan's army was not yet in sight, but the
walls of topaz, the cupolas of emerald, the roofs of diamond, all fell
in with an appalling crash under the discharge of the electrophores. The
ancient thunderclouds essayed to reply, but the bolts fell short, and
their thunders were lost in the deserted plains of the skies.

Smitten by an invisible foe, the faithful angels abandoned the ramparts.
Michael went to announce to his God that the Holy Mountain would fall
into the hands of the demon in twenty-four hours, and that nothing
remained for the Master of the Heavens but to seek safety in flight. The
Seraphim placed the jewels of the celestial crown in coffers. Michael
offered his arm to the Queen of Heaven, and the Holy Family escaped from
the palace by a subterranean passage of porphyry. A deluge of fire was
falling on the citadel. Regaining his post once more, the glorious
archangel declared that he would never capitulate, and straightway
advanced the standards of the living God. That same evening the rebel
host made its entry into the thrice-sacred city. On a fiery steed Satan
led his demons. Behind him marched Arcade, Istar, and Zita. As in the
ancient revels of Dionysus, old Nectaire bestrode his ass. Thereafter,
floating out far behind, followed the black standards.

The garrison laid down their arms before Satan. Michael placed his
flaming sword at the feet of the conquering archangel.

"Take back your sword, Michael," said Satan. "It is Lucifer who yields
it to you. Bear it in defence of peace and law." Then letting his gaze
fall on the leaders of the celestial cohorts, he cried in a ringing
voice:

"Archangel Michael, and you, Powers, Thrones, and Dominations, swear all
of you to be faithful to your God."

"We swear it," they replied with one voice.

And Satan said:

"Powers, Thrones, and Dominations, of all past wars, I wish but to
remember the invincible courage that you displayed and the loyalty which
you rendered to authority, for these assure me of the steadfastness of
the fealty you have just sworn to me."

The following day, on the ethereal plain, Satan commanded the black
standards to be distributed to the troops, and the winged soldiers
covered them with kisses and bedewed them with tears.

And Satan had himself crowned God. Thronging round the glittering walls
of Heavenly Jerusalem, apostles, pontiffs, virgins, martyrs, confessors,
the whole company of the elect, who during the fierce battle had enjoyed
delightful tranquillity, tasted infinite joy in the spectacle of the
coronation.

The elect saw with ravishment the Most High precipitated into Hell, and
Satan seated on the throne of the Lord. In conformity with the will of
God which had cut them off from sorrow they sang in the ancient fashion
the praises of their new Master.

And Satan, piercing space with his keen glance, contemplated the little
globe of earth and water where of old he had planted the vine and formed
the first tragic chorus. And he fixed his gaze on that Rome where the
fallen God had founded his empire on fraud and lie. Nevertheless, at
that moment a saint ruled over the Church. Satan saw him praying and
weeping. And he said to him:

"To thee I entrust my Spouse. Watch over her faithfully. In thee I
confirm the right and power to decide matters of doctrine, to regulate
the use of the sacraments, to make laws and to uphold purity of morals.
And the faithful shall be under obligation to conform thereto. My Church
is eternal, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Thou art
infallible. Nothing is changed."

And the successor of the apostles felt flooded with rapture. He
prostrated himself, and with his forehead touching the floor, replied:

"O Lord, my God, I recognise Thy voice! Thy breath has been wafted like
balm to my heart. Blessed be Thy name. Thy will be done on Earth, as it
is in Heaven. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

And Satan found pleasure in praise and in the exercise of his grace; he
loved to hear his wisdom and his power belauded. He listened with joy to
the canticles of the cherubim who celebrated his good deeds, and he
took no pleasure in listening to Nectaire's flute, because it celebrated
nature's self, yielded to the insect and to the blade of grass their
share of power and love, and counselled happiness and freedom. Satan,
whose flesh had crept, in days gone by, at the idea that suffering
prevailed in the world, now felt himself inaccessible to pity. He
regarded suffering and death as the happy results of omnipotence and
sovereign kindness. And the savour of the blood of victims rose upward
towards him like sweet incense. He fell to condemning intelligence and
to hating curiosity. He himself refused to learn anything more, for fear
that in acquiring fresh knowledge he might let it be seen that he had
not known everything at the very outset. He took pleasure in mystery,
and believing that he would seem less great by being understood, he
affected to be unintelligible. Dense fumes of Theology filled his brain.
One day, following the example of his predecessor, he conceived the
notion of proclaiming himself one god in three persons. Seeing Arcade
smile as this proclamation was made, he drove him from his presence.
Istar and Zita had long since returned to earth. Thus centuries passed
like seconds. Now, one day, from the altitude of his throne, he plunged
his gaze into the depths of the pit and saw Ialdabaoth in the Gehenna
where he himself had long lain enchained. Amid the everlasting gloom
Ialdabaoth still retained his lofty mien. Blackened and shattered,
terrible and sublime, he glanced upwards at the palace of the King of
Heaven with a look of proud disdain, then turned away his head. And the
new god, as he looked upon his foe, beheld the light of intelligence and
love pass across his sorrow-stricken countenance. And lo! Ialdabaoth was
now contemplating the Earth and, seeing it sunk in wickedness and
suffering, he began to foster thoughts of kindliness in his heart. On a
sudden he rose up, and beating the ether with his mighty arms, as though
with oars, he hastened thither to instruct and to console mankind.
Already his vast shadow shed upon the unhappy planet a shade soft as a
night of love.

And Satan awoke bathed in an icy sweat.

Nectaire, Istar, Arcade, and Zita were standing round him. The finches
were singing.

"Comrades," said the great archangel, "no--we will not conquer the
heavens. Enough to have the power. War engenders war, and victory
defeat.

"God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God.
May the fates spare me this terrible lot; I love the Hell which formed
my genius. I love the Earth where I have done some good, if it be
possible to do any good in this fearful world where beings live but by
rapine. Now, thanks to us, the god of old is dispossessed of his
terrestrial empire, and every thinking being on this globe disdains him
or knows him not. But what matter that men should be no longer
submissive to Ialdabaoth if the spirit of Ialdabaoth is still in them;
if they, like him, are jealous, violent, quarrelsome, and greedy, and
the foes of the arts and of beauty? What matter that they have rejected
the ferocious Demiurge, if they do not hearken to the friendly demons
who teach all truths; to Dionysus, Apollo, and the Muses? As to
ourselves, celestial spirits, sublime demons, we have destroyed
Ialdabaoth, our Tyrant, if in ourselves we have destroyed Ignorance and
Fear."

And Satan, turning to the gardener, said:

"Nectaire, you fought with me before the birth of the world. We were
conquered because we failed to understand that Victory is a Spirit, and
that it is in ourselves and in ourselves alone that we must attack and
destroy Ialdabaoth."

THE END

  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Notes                                          |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 74: "Madame des Aubel's" amended to "Madame des         |
  |     Aubels'"                                                 |
  | Page 170: "clomb" _sic_ (archaic; past tense of _climb_).    |
  | Page 210: "befel" _sic_ (archaic).                           |
  | Page 230: "Bouchette" amended to "Bouchotte"                 |
  | Page 234: "befel" _sic_ (archaic).                           |
  | Page 259: "cetain" amended to "certain"                      |
  | Page 278: "youself" amended to "yourself"                    |
  | Page 284: "wistaria" _sic_; alternative spelling.            |
  | Page 309: "Bergundy" amended to "Burgundy"                   |
  |                                                              |
  | Accents and hyphenation have generally been standardised.    |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+





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