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Title: The Three Cities Trilogy: Paris, Volume 1
Author: Zola, Émile
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Three Cities Trilogy: Paris, Volume 1" ***

                          THE THREE CITIES



                            EMILE ZOLA


                               BOOK I

                        TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

WITH the present work M. Zola completes the "Trilogy of the Three
Cities," which he began with "Lourdes" and continued with "Rome"; and
thus the adventures and experiences of Abbe Pierre Froment, the doubting
Catholic priest who failed to find faith at the miraculous grotto by the
Cave, and hope amidst the crumbling theocracy of the Vatican, are here
brought to what, from M. Zola's point of view, is their logical
conclusion. From the first pages of "Lourdes," many readers will have
divined that Abbe Froment was bound to finish as he does, for, frankly,
no other finish was possible from a writer of M. Zola's opinions.

Taking the Trilogy as a whole, one will find that it is essentially
symbolical. Abbe Froment is Man, and his struggles are the struggles
between Religion, as personified by the Roman Catholic Church, on the one
hand, and Reason and Life on the other. In the Abbe's case the victory
ultimately rests with the latter; and we may take it as being M. Zola's
opinion that the same will eventually be the case with the great bulk of
mankind. English writers are often accused of treating subjects from an
insular point of view, and certainly there may be good ground for such a
charge. But they are not the only writers guilty of the practice. The
purview of French authors is often quite as limited: they regard French
opinion as the only good opinion, and judge the rest of the world by
their own standard. In the present case, if we leave the world and
mankind generally on one side, and apply M. Zola's facts and theories to
France alone, it will be found, I think, that he has made out a
remarkably good case for himself. For it is certain that Catholicism, I
may say Christianity, is fast crumbling in France. There may be revivals
in certain limited circles, efforts of the greatest energy to prop up the
tottering edifice by a "rallying" of believers to the democratic cause,
and by a kindling of the most bitter anti-Semitic warfare; but all these
revivals and efforts, although they are extremely well-advertised and
create no little stir, produce very little impression on the bulk of the
population. So far as France is concerned, the policy of Leo XIII. seems
to have come too late. The French masses regard Catholicism or
Christianity, whichever one pleases, as a religion of death,--a religion
which, taking its stand on the text "There shall always be poor among
you," condemns them to toil and moil in poverty and distress their whole
life long, with no other consolation than the promise of happiness in
heaven. And, on the other hand, they see the ministers of the Deity,
"whose kingdom is not of this world," supporting the wealthy and
powerful, and striving to secure wealth and power for themselves. Charity
exists, of course, but the masses declare that it is no remedy; they do
not ask for doles, they ask for Justice. It is largely by reason of all
this that Socialism and Anarchism have made such great strides in France
of recent years. Robespierre, as will be remembered, once tried to
suppress Christianity altogether, and for a time certainly there was a
virtually general cessation of religious observances in France. But no
such Reign of Terror prevails there to-day. Men are perfectly free to
believe if they are inclined to do so; and yet never were there fewer
religious marriages, fewer baptisms or smaller congregations in the
French churches. I refer not merely to Paris and other large cities, but
to the smaller towns, and even the little hamlets of many parts. Old
village priests, men practising what they teach and possessed of the most
loving, benevolent hearts, have told me with tears in their eyes of the
growing infidelity of their parishioners.

I have been studying this matter for some years, and write without
prejudice, merely setting down what I believe to be the truth. Of course
we are all aware that the most stupendous efforts are being made by the
Catholic clergy and zealous believers to bring about a revival of the
faith, and certainly in some circles there has been a measure of success.
But the reconversion of a nation is the most formidable of tasks; and, in
my own opinion, as in M. Zola's, France as a whole is lost to the
Christian religion. On this proposition, combined with a second one,
namely, that even as France as a nation will be the first to discard
Christianity, so she will be the first to promulgate a new faith based on
reason, science and the teachings of life, is founded the whole argument
of M. Zola's Trilogy.

Having thus dealt with the Trilogy's religious aspects, I would now speak
of "Paris," its concluding volume. This is very different from "Lourdes"
and "Rome." Whilst recounting the struggles and fate of Abbe Froment and
his brother Guillaume, and entering largely into the problem of Capital
and Labour, which problem has done so much to turn the masses away from
Christianity, it contains many an interesting and valuable picture of the
Parisian world at the close of the nineteenth century. It is no
guide-book to Paris; but it paints the city's social life, its rich and
poor, its scandals and crimes, its work and its pleasures. Among the
households to which the reader is introduced are those of a banker, an
aged Countess of the old _noblesse_, a cosmopolitan Princess, of a kind
that Paris knows only too well, a scientist, a manufacturer, a working
mechanician, a priest, an Anarchist, a petty clerk and an actress of a
class that so often dishonours the French stage. Science and art and
learning and religion, all have their representatives. Then, too, the
political world is well to the front. There are honest and unscrupulous
Ministers of State, upright and venal deputies, enthusiastic and cautious
candidates for power, together with social theoreticians of various
schools. And the _blase_, weak-minded man of fashion is here, as well as
the young "symbolist" of perverted, degraded mind. The women are of all
types, from the most loathsome to the most lovable. Then, too, the
journalists are portrayed in such life-like fashion that I might give
each of them his real name. And journalism, Parisian journalism, is
flagellated, shown as it really is,--if just a few well-conducted organs
be excepted,--that is, venal and impudent, mendacious and even petty.

The actual scenes depicted are quite as kaleidoscopic as are the
characters in their variety. We enter the banker's gilded saloon and the
hovel of the pauper, the busy factory, the priest's retired home and the
laboratory of the scientist. We wait in the lobbies of the Chamber of
Deputies, and afterwards witness "a great debate"; we penetrate into the
private sanctum of a Minister of the Interior; we attend a fashionable
wedding at the Madeleine and a first performance at the Comedie
Francaise; we dine at the Cafe Anglais and listen to a notorious vocalist
in a low music hall at Montmartre; we pursue an Anarchist through the
Bois de Boulogne; we slip into the Assize Court and see that Anarchist
tried there; we afterwards gaze upon his execution by the guillotine; we
are also on the boulevards when the lamps are lighted for a long night of
revelry, and we stroll along the quiet streets in the small hours of the
morning, when crime and homeless want are prowling round.

And ever the scene changes; the whole world of Paris passes before one.
Yet the book, to my thinking, is far less descriptive than analytical.
The souls of the principal characters are probed to their lowest depths.
Many of the scenes, too, are intensely dramatic, admirably adapted for
the stage; as, for instance, Baroness Duvillard's interview with her
daughter in the chapter which I have called "The Rivals." And side by
side with baseness there is heroism, while beauty of the flesh finds its
counterpart in beauty of the mind. M. Zola has often been reproached for
showing us the vileness of human nature; and no doubt such vileness may
be found in "Paris," but there are contrasting pictures. If some of M.
Zola's characters horrify the reader, there are others that the latter
can but admire. Life is compounded of good and evil, and unfortunately it
is usually the evil that makes the most noise and attracts the most
attention. Moreover, in M. Zola's case, it has always been his purpose to
expose the evils from which society suffers in the hope of directing
attention to them and thereby hastening a remedy, and thus, in the course
of his works, he could not do otherwise than drag the whole frightful
mass of human villany and degradation into the full light of day. But if
there are, again, black pages in "Paris," others, bright and comforting,
will be found near them. And the book ends in no pessimist strain.
Whatever may be thought of the writer's views on religion, most readers
will, I imagine, agree with his opinion that, despite much social
injustice, much crime, vice, cupidity and baseness, we are ever marching
on to better things.

In the making of the coming, though still far-away, era of truth and
justice, Paris, he thinks, will play the leading part, for whatever the
stains upon her, they are but surface-deep; her heart remains good and
sound; she has genius and courage and energy and wit and fancy. She can
be generous, too, when she chooses, and more than once her ideas have
irradiated the world. Thus M. Zola hopes much from her, and who will
gainsay him? Not I, who can apply to her the words which Byron addressed
to the home of my own and M. Zola's forefathers:--

     "I loved her from my boyhood; she to me
      Was as a fairy city of the heart."

Thus I can but hope that Paris, where I learnt the little I know, where I
struggled and found love and happiness, whose every woe and disaster and
triumph I have shared for over thirty years, may, however dark the clouds
that still pass over her, some day fully justify M. Zola's confidence,
and bring to pass his splendid dream of perfect truth and perfect

E. A. V.


Feb. 5, 1898.


                               BOOK I



THAT morning, one towards the end of January, Abbe Pierre Froment, who
had a mass to say at the Sacred Heart at Montmartre, was on the height,
in front of the basilica, already at eight o'clock. And before going in
he gazed for a moment upon the immensity of Paris spread out below him.

After two months of bitter cold, ice and snow, the city was steeped in a
mournful, quivering thaw. From the far-spreading, leaden-hued heavens a
thick mist fell like a mourning shroud. All the eastern portion of the
city, the abodes of misery and toil, seemed submerged beneath ruddy
steam, amid which the panting of workshops and factories could be
divined; while westwards, towards the districts of wealth and enjoyment,
the fog broke and lightened, becoming but a fine and motionless veil of
vapour. The curved line of the horizon could scarcely be divined, the
expanse of houses, which nothing bounded, appeared like a chaos of stone,
studded with stagnant pools, which filled the hollows with pale steam;
whilst against them the summits of the edifices, the housetops of the
loftier streets, showed black like soot. It was a Paris of mystery,
shrouded by clouds, buried as it were beneath the ashes of some disaster,
already half-sunken in the suffering and the shame of that which its
immensity concealed.

Thin and sombre in his flimsy cassock, Pierre was looking on when Abbe
Rose, who seemed to have sheltered himself behind a pillar of the porch
on purpose to watch for him, came forward: "Ah! it's you at last, my dear
child," said he, "I have something to ask you."

He seemed embarrassed and anxious, and glanced round distrustfully to
make sure that nobody was near. Then, as if the solitude thereabouts did
not suffice to reassure him, he led Pierre some distance away, through
the icy, biting wind, which he himself did not seem to feel. "This is the
matter," he resumed, "I have been told that a poor fellow, a former
house-painter, an old man of seventy, who naturally can work no more, is
dying of hunger in a hovel in the Rue des Saules. So, my dear child, I
thought of you. I thought you would consent to take him these three
francs from me, so that he may at least have some bread to eat for a few

"But why don't you take him your alms yourself?"

At this Abbe Rose again grew anxious, and cast vague, frightened glances
about him. "Oh, no, oh, no!" he said, "I can no longer do that after all
the worries that have befallen me. You know that I am watched, and should
get another scolding if I were caught giving alms like this, scarcely
knowing to whom I give them. It is true that I had to sell something to
get these three francs. But, my dear child, render me this service, I
pray you."

Pierre, with heart oppressed, stood contemplating the old priest, whose
locks were quite white, whose full lips spoke of infinite kindliness, and
whose eyes shone clear and childlike in his round and smiling face. And
he bitterly recalled the story of that lover of the poor, the
semi-disgrace into which he had fallen through the sublime candour of his
charitable goodness. His little ground-floor of the Rue de Charonne,
which he had turned into a refuge where he offered shelter to all the
wretchedness of the streets, had ended by giving cause for scandal. His
_naivete_ and innocence had been abused; and abominable things had gone
on under his roof without his knowledge. Vice had turned the asylum into
a meeting-place; and at last, one night, the police had descended upon it
to arrest a young girl accused of infanticide. Greatly concerned by this
scandal, the diocesan authorities had forced Abbe Rose to close his
shelter, and had removed him from the church of Ste. Marguerite to that
of St. Pierre of Montmartre, where he now again acted as curate. Truth to
tell, it was not a disgrace but a removal to another spot. However, he
had been scolded and was watched, as he said; and he was much ashamed of
it, and very unhappy at being only able to give alms by stealth, much
like some harebrained prodigal who blushes for his faults.

Pierre took the three francs. "I promise to execute your commission, my
friend, oh! with all my heart," he said.

"You will go after your mass, won't you? His name is Laveuve, he lives in
the Rue des Saules in a house with a courtyard, just before reaching the
Rue Marcadet. You are sure to find it. And if you want to be very kind
you will tell me of your visit this evening at five o'clock, at the
Madeleine, where I am going to hear Monseigneur Martha's address. He has
been so good to me! Won't you also come to hear him?"

Pierre made an evasive gesture. Monseigneur Martha, Bishop of Persepolis
and all powerful at the archiepiscopal palace, since, like the genial
propagandist he was, he had been devoting himself to increasing the
subscriptions for the basilica of the Sacred Heart, had indeed supported
Abbe Rose; in fact, it was by his influence that the abbe had been kept
in Paris, and placed once more at St. Pierre de Montmartre.

"I don't know if I shall be able to hear the address," said Pierre, "but
in any case I will go there to meet you."

The north wind was blowing, and the gloomy cold penetrated both of them
on that deserted summit amidst the fog which changed the vast city into a
misty ocean. However, some footsteps were heard, and Abbe Rose, again
mistrustful, saw a man go by, a tall and sturdy man, who wore clogs and
was bareheaded, showing his thick and closely-cut white hair. "Is not
that your brother?" asked the old priest.

Pierre had not stirred. "Yes, it is my brother Guillaume," he quietly
responded. "I have found him again since I have been coming occasionally
to the Sacred Heart. He owns a house close by, where he has been living
for more than twenty years, I think. When we meet we shake hands, but I
have never even been to his house. Oh! all is quite dead between us, we
have nothing more in common, we are parted by worlds."

Abbe Rose's tender smile again appeared, and he waved his hand as if to
say that one must never despair of love. Guillaume Froment, a savant of
lofty intelligence, a chemist who lived apart from others, like one who
rebelled against the social system, was now a parishioner of the abbe's,
and when the latter passed the house where Guillaume lived with his three
sons--a house all alive with work--he must often have dreamt of leading
him back to God.

"But, my dear child," he resumed, "I am keeping you here in this dark
cold, and you are not warm. Go and say your mass. Till this evening, at
the Madeleine." Then, in entreating fashion, after again making sure that
none could hear them, he added, still with the air of a child at fault:
"And not a word to anybody about my little commission--it would again be
said that I don't know how to conduct myself."

Pierre watched the old priest as he went off towards the Rue Cartot,
where he lived on a damp ground-floor, enlivened by a strip of garden.
The veil of disaster, which was submerging Paris, now seemed to grow
thicker under the gusts of the icy north wind. And at last Pierre entered
the basilica, his heart upset, overflowing with the bitterness stirred up
by the recollection of Abbe Rose's story--that bankruptcy of charity, the
frightful irony of a holy man punished for bestowing alms, and hiding
himself that he might still continue to bestow them. Nothing could calm
the smart of the wound reopened in Pierre's heart--neither the warm
peacefulness into which he entered, nor the silent solemnity of the
broad, deep fabric, whose new stonework was quite bare, without a single
painting or any kind of decoration; the nave being still half-barred by
the scaffoldings which blocked up the unfinished dome. At that early hour
the masses of entreaty had already been said at several altars, under the
grey light falling from the high and narrow windows, and the tapers of
entreaty were burning in the depths of the apse. So Pierre made haste to
go to the sacristy, there to assume his vestments in order that he might
say his mass in the chapel of St. Vincent de Paul.

But the floodgates of memory had been opened, and he had no thought but
for his distress whilst, in mechanical fashion, he performed the rites
and made the customary gestures. Since his return from Rome three years
previously, he had been living in the very worst anguish that can fall on
man. At the outset, in order to recover his lost faith, he had essayed a
first experiment: he had gone to Lourdes, there to seek the innocent
belief of the child who kneels and prays, the primitive faith of young
nations bending beneath the terror born of ignorance; but he had rebelled
yet more than ever in presence of what he had witnessed at Lourdes: that
glorification of the absurd, that collapse of common sense; and was
convinced that salvation, the peace of men and nations nowadays, could
not lie in that puerile relinquishment of reason. And afterwards, again
yielding to the need of loving whilst yet allowing reason, so hard to
satisfy, her share in his intellect, he had staked his final peace on a
second experiment, and had gone to Rome to see if Catholicism could there
be renewed, could revert to the spirit of primitive Christianity and
become the religion of the democracy, the faith which the modern world,
upheaving and in danger of death, was awaiting in order to calm down and
live. And he had found there naught but ruins, the rotted trunk of a tree
that could never put forth another springtide; and he had heard there
naught but the supreme rending of the old social edifice, near to its
fall. Then it was, that, relapsing into boundless doubt, total negation,
he had been recalled to Paris by Abbe Rose, in the name of their poor,
and had returned thither that he might forget and immolate himself and
believe in them--the poor--since they and their frightful sufferings
alone remained certain. And then it was too, that for three years he came
into contact with that collapse, that very bankruptcy of goodness itself:
charity a derision, charity useless and flouted.

Those three years had been lived by Pierre amidst ever-growing torments,
in which his whole being had ended by sinking. His faith was forever
dead; dead, too, even his hope of utilising the faith of the multitudes
for the general salvation. He denied everything, he anticipated nothing
but the final, inevitable catastrophe: revolt, massacre and
conflagration, which would sweep away a guilty and condemned world.
Unbelieving priest that he was, yet watching over the faith of others,
honestly, chastely discharging his duties, full of haughty sadness at the
thought that he had been unable to renounce his mind as he had renounced
his flesh and his dream of being a saviour of the nations, he withal
remained erect, full of fierce yet solitary grandeur. And this
despairing, denying priest, who had dived to the bottom of nothingness,
retained such a lofty and grave demeanour, perfumed by such pure
kindness, that in his parish of Neuilly he had acquired the reputation of
being a young saint, one beloved by Providence, whose prayers wrought
miracles. He was but a personification of the rules of the Church; of the
priest he retained only the gestures; he was like an empty sepulchre in
which not even the ashes of hope remained; yet grief-stricken weeping
women worshipped him and kissed his cassock; and it was a tortured mother
whose infant was in danger of death, who had implored him to come and ask
that infant's cure of Jesus, certain as she felt that Jesus would grant
her the boon in that sanctuary of Montmartre where blazed the prodigy of
His heart, all burning with love.

Clad in his vestments, Pierre had reached the chapel of St. Vincent de
Paul. He there ascended the altar-step and began the mass; and when he
turned round with hands spread out to bless the worshippers he showed his
hollow cheeks, his gentle mouth contracted by bitterness, his loving eyes
darkened by suffering. He was no longer the young priest whose
countenance had glowed with tender fever on the road to Lourdes, whose
face had been illumined by apostolic fervour when he started for Rome.
The two hereditary influences which were ever at strife within him--that
of his father to whom he owed his impregnable, towering brow, that of his
mother who had given him his love-thirsting lips, were still waging war,
the whole human battle of sentiment and reason, in that now ravaged face
of his, whither in moments of forgetfulness ascended all the chaos of
internal suffering. The lips still confessed that unquenched thirst for
love, self-bestowal and life, which he well thought he could nevermore
content, whilst the solid brow, the citadel which made him suffer,
obstinately refused to capitulate, whatever might be the assaults of
error. But he stiffened himself, hid the horror of the void in which he
struggled, and showed himself superb, making each gesture, repeating each
word in sovereign fashion. And gazing at him through her tears, the
mother who was there among the few kneeling women, the mother who awaited
a supreme intercession from him, who thought him in communion with Jesus
for the salvation of her child, beheld him radiant with angelic beauty
like some messenger of the divine grace.

When, after the offertory, Pierre uncovered the chalice he felt contempt
for himself. The shock had been too great, and he thought of those things
in spite of all. What puerility there had been in his two experiments at
Lourdes and Rome, the _naivete_ of a poor distracted being, consumed by
desire to love and believe. To have imagined that present-day science
would in his person accommodate itself to the faith of the year One
Thousand, and in particular to have foolishly believed that he, petty
priest that he was, would be able to indoctrinate the Pope and prevail on
him to become a saint and change the face of the world! It all filled him
with shame; how people must have laughed at him! Then, too, his idea of a
schism made him blush. He again beheld himself at Rome, dreaming of
writing a book by which he would violently sever himself from Catholicism
to preach the new religion of the democracies, the purified, human and
living Gospel. But what ridiculous folly! A schism? He had known in Paris
an abbe of great heart and mind who had attempted to bring about that
famous, predicted, awaited schism. Ah! the poor man, the sad, the
ludicrous labour in the midst of universal incredulity, the icy
indifference of some, the mockery and the reviling of others! If Luther
were to come to France in our days he would end, forgotten and dying of
hunger, on a Batignolles fifth-floor. A schism cannot succeed among a
people that no longer believes, that has ceased to take all interest in
the Church, and sets its hope elsewhere. And it was all Catholicism, in
fact all Christianity, that would be swept away, for, apart from certain
moral maxims, the Gospel no longer supplied a possible code for society.
And this conviction increased Pierre's torment on the days when his
cassock weighed more heavily on his shoulders, when he ended by feeling
contempt for himself at thus celebrating the divine mystery of the mass,
which for him had become but the formula of a dead religion.

Having half filled the chalice with wine from the vase, Pierre washed his
hands and again perceived the mother with her face of ardent entreaty.
Then he thought it was for her that, with the charitable leanings of a
vow-bound man, he had remained a priest, a priest without belief, feeding
the belief of others with the bread of illusion. But this heroic conduct,
the haughty spirit of duty in which he imprisoned himself, was not
practised by him without growing anguish. Did not elementary probity
require that he should cast aside the cassock and return into the midst
of men? At certain times the falsity of his position filled him with
disgust for his useless heroism; and he asked himself if it were not
cowardly and dangerous to leave the masses in superstition. Certainly the
theory of a just and vigilant Providence, of a future paradise where all
these sufferings of the world would receive compensation, had long seemed
necessary to the wretchedness of mankind; but what a trap lay in it, what
a pretext for the tyrannical grinding down of nations; and how far more
virile it would be to undeceive the nations, however brutally, and give
them courage to live the real life, even if it were in tears. If they
were already turning aside from Christianity was not this because they
needed a more human ideal, a religion of health and joy which should not
be a religion of death? On the day when the idea of charity should
crumble, Christianity would crumble also, for it was built upon the idea
of divine charity correcting the injustice of fate, and offering future
rewards to those who might suffer in this life. And it was crumbling; for
the poor no longer believed in it, but grew angry at the thought of that
deceptive paradise, with the promise of which their patience had been
beguiled so long, and demanded that their share of happiness should not
always be put off until the morrow of death. A cry for justice arose from
every lip, for justice upon this earth, justice for those who hunger and
thirst, whom alms are weary of relieving after eighteen hundred years of
Gospel teaching, and who still and ever lack bread to eat.

When Pierre, with his elbows on the altar, had emptied the chalice after
breaking the sacred wafer, he felt himself sinking into yet greater
distress. And so a third experiment was beginning for him, the supreme
battle of justice against charity, in which his heart and his mind would
struggle together in that great Paris, so full of terrible, unknown
things. The need for the divine still battled within him against
domineering intelligence. How among the masses would one ever be able to
content the thirst for the mysterious? Leaving the _elite_ on one side,
would science suffice to pacify desire, lull suffering, and satisfy the
dream? And what would become of himself in the bankruptcy of that same
charity, which for three years had alone kept him erect by occupying his
every hour, and giving him the illusion of self-devotion, of being useful
to others? It seemed, all at once, as if the ground sank beneath him, and
he heard nothing save the cry of the masses, silent so long, but now
demanding justice, growling and threatening to take their share, which
was withheld from them by force and ruse. Nothing more, it seemed, could
delay the inevitable catastrophe, the fratricidal class warfare that
would sweep away the olden world, which was condemned to disappear
beneath the mountain of its crimes. Every hour with frightful sadness he
expected the collapse, Paris steeped in blood, Paris in flames. And his
horror of all violence froze him; he knew not where to seek the new
belief which might dissipate the peril. Fully conscious, though he was,
that the social and religious problems are but one, and are alone in
question in the dreadful daily labour of Paris, he was too deeply
troubled himself, too far removed from ordinary things by his position as
a priest, and too sorely rent by doubt and powerlessness to tell as yet
where might be truth, and health, and life. Ah! to be healthy and to
live, to content at last both heart and reason in the peace, the certain,
simply honest labour, which man has come to accomplish upon this earth!

The mass was finished, and Pierre descended from the altar, when the
weeping mother, near whom he passed, caught hold of a corner of the
chasuble with her trembling hands, and kissed it with wild fervour, as
one may kiss some relic of a saint from whom one expects salvation. She
thanked him for the miracle which he must have accomplished, certain as
she felt that she would find her child cured. And he was deeply stirred
by that love, that ardent faith of hers, in spite of the sudden and yet
keener distress which he felt at being in no wise the sovereign minister
that she thought him, the minister able to obtain a respite from Death.
But he dismissed her consoled and strengthened, and it was with an ardent
prayer that he entreated the unknown but conscious Power to succour the
poor creature. Then, when he had divested himself in the sacristy, and
found himself again out of doors before the basilica, lashed by the keen
wintry wind, a mortal shiver came upon him, and froze him, while through
the mist he looked to see if a whirlwind of anger and justice had not
swept Paris away: that catastrophe which must some day destroy it,
leaving under the leaden heavens only the pestilential quagmire of its

Pierre wished to fulfil Abbe Rose's commission immediately. He followed
the Rue des Norvins, on the crest of Montmartre; and, reaching the Rue
des Saules, descended by its steep slope, between mossy walls, to the
other side of Paris. The three francs which he was holding in his
cassock's pocket, filled him at once with gentle emotion and covert anger
against the futility of charity. But as he gradually descended by the
sharp declivities and interminable storeys of steps, the mournful nooks
of misery which he espied took possession of him, and infinite pity wrung
his heart. A whole new district was here being built alongside the broad
thoroughfares opened since the great works of the Sacred Heart had begun.
Lofty middle-class houses were already rising among ripped-up gardens and
plots of vacant land, still edged with palings. And these houses with
their substantial frontages, all new and white, lent a yet more sombre
and leprous aspect to such of the old shaky buildings as remained, the
low pot-houses with blood-coloured walls, the _cites_ of workmen's
dwellings, those abodes of suffering with black, soiled buildings in
which human cattle were piled. Under the low-hanging sky that day, the
pavement, dented by heavily-laden carts, was covered with mud; the thaw
soaked the walls with an icy dampness, whilst all the filth and
destitution brought terrible sadness to the heart.

After going as far as the Rue Marcadet, Pierre retraced his steps; and in
the Rue des Saules, certain that he was not mistaken, he entered the
courtyard of a kind of barracks or hospital, encompassed by three
irregular buildings. This court was a quagmire, where filth must have
accumulated during the two months of terrible frost; and now all was
melting, and an abominable stench arose. The buildings were half falling,
the gaping vestibules looked like cellar holes, strips of paper streaked
the cracked and filthy window-panes, and vile rags hung about like flags
of death. Inside a shanty which served as the door-keeper's abode Pierre
only saw an infirm man rolled up in a tattered strip of what had once
been a horse-cloth.

"You have an old workman named Laveuve here," said the priest. "Which
staircase is it, which floor?"

The man did not answer, but opened his anxious eyes, like a scared idiot.
The door-keeper, no doubt, was in the neighbourhood. For a moment the
priest waited; then seeing a little girl on the other side of the
courtyard, he risked himself, crossed the quagmire on tip-toe, and asked:
"Do you know an old workman named Laveuve in the house, my child?"

The little girl, who only had a ragged gown of pink cotton stuff about
her meagre figure, stood there shivering, her hands covered with
chilblains. She raised her delicate face, which looked pretty though
nipped by the cold: "Laveuve," said she, "no, don't know, don't know."
And with the unconscious gesture of a beggar child she put out one of her
poor, numbed and disfigured hands. Then, when the priest had given her a
little bit of silver, she began to prance through the mud like a joyful
goat, singing the while in a shrill voice: "Don't know, don't know."

Pierre decided to follow her. She vanished into one of the gaping
vestibules, and, in her rear, he climbed a dark and fetid staircase,
whose steps were half-broken and so slippery, on account of the vegetable
parings strewn over them, that he had to avail himself of the greasy rope
by which the inmates hoisted themselves upwards. But every door was
closed; he vainly knocked at several of them, and only elicited, at the
last, a stifled growl, as though some despairing animal were confined
within. Returning to the yard, he hesitated, then made his way to another
staircase, where he was deafened by piercing cries, as of a child who is
being butchered. He climbed on hearing this noise and at last found
himself in front of an open room where an infant, who had been left
alone, tied in his little chair, in order that he might not fall, was
howling and howling without drawing breath. Then Pierre went down again,
upset, frozen by the sight of so much destitution and abandonment.

But a woman was coming in, carrying three potatoes in her apron, and on
being questioned by him she gazed distrustfully at his cassock. "Laveuve,
Laveuve? I can't say," she replied. "If the door-keeper were there, she
might be able to tell you. There are five staircases, you see, and we
don't all know each other. Besides, there are so many changes. Still try
over there; at the far end."

The staircase at the back of the yard was yet more abominable than the
others, its steps warped, its walls slimy, as if soaked with the sweat of
anguish. At each successive floor the drain-sinks exhaled a pestilential
stench, whilst from every lodging came moans, or a noise of quarrelling,
or some frightful sign of misery. A door swung open, and a man appeared
dragging a woman by the hair whilst three youngsters sobbed aloud. On the
next floor, Pierre caught a glimpse of a room where a young girl in her
teens, racked by coughing, was hastily carrying an infant to and fro to
quiet it, in despair that all the milk of her breast should be exhausted.
Then, in an adjoining lodging, came the poignant spectacle of three
beings, half clad in shreds, apparently sexless and ageless, who, amidst
the dire bareness of their room, were gluttonously eating from the same
earthen pan some pottage which even dogs would have refused. They barely
raised their heads to growl, and did not answer Pierre's questions.

He was about to go down again, when right atop of the stairs, at the
entry of a passage, it occurred to him to make a last try by knocking at
the door. It was opened by a woman whose uncombed hair was already
getting grey, though she could not be more than forty; while her pale
lips, and dim eyes set in a yellow countenance, expressed utter
lassitude, the shrinking, the constant dread of one whom wretchedness has
pitilessly assailed. The sight of Pierre's cassock disturbed her, and she
stammered anxiously: "Come in, come in, Monsieur l'Abbe."

However, a man whom Pierre had not at first seen--a workman also of some
forty years, tall, thin and bald, with scanty moustache and beard of a
washed-out reddish hue--made an angry gesture--a threat as it were--to
turn the priest out of doors. But he calmed himself, sat down near a
rickety table and pretended to turn his back. And as there was also a
child present--a fair-haired girl, eleven or twelve years old, with a
long and gentle face and that intelligent and somewhat aged expression
which great misery imparts to children--he called her to him, and held
her between his knees, doubtless to keep her away from the man in the

Pierre--whose heart was oppressed by his reception, and who realised the
utter destitution of this family by the sight of the bare, fireless room,
and the distressed mournfulness of its three inmates--decided all the
same to repeat his question: "Madame, do you know an old workman named
Laveuve in the house?"

The woman--who now trembled at having admitted him, since it seemed to
displease her man--timidly tried to arrange matters. "Laveuve, Laveuve?
no, I don't. But Salvat, you hear? Do you know a Laveuve here?"

Salvat merely shrugged his shoulders; but the little girl could not keep
her tongue still: "I say, mamma Theodore, it's p'raps the Philosopher."

"A former house-painter," continued Pierre, "an old man who is ill and
past work."

Madame Theodore was at once enlightened. "In that case it's him, it's
him. We call him the Philosopher, a nickname folks have given him in the
neighbourhood. But there's nothing to prevent his real name from being

With one of his fists raised towards the ceiling, Salvat seemed to be
protesting against the abomination of a world and a Providence that
allowed old toilers to die of hunger just like broken-down beasts.
However, he did not speak, but relapsed into the savage, heavy silence,
the bitter meditation in which he had been plunged when the priest
arrived. He was a journeyman engineer, and gazed obstinately at the table
where lay his little leather tool-bag, bulging with something it
contained--something, perhaps, which he had to take back to a work-shop.
He might have been thinking of a long, enforced spell of idleness, of a
vain search for any kind of work during the two previous months of that
terrible winter. Or perhaps it was the coming bloody reprisals of the
starvelings that occupied the fiery reverie which set his large, strange,
vague blue eyes aglow. All at once he noticed that his daughter had taken
up the tool-bag and was trying to open it to see what it might contain.
At this he quivered and at last spoke, his voice kindly, yet bitter with
sudden emotion, which made him turn pale. "Celine, you must leave that
alone. I forbade you to touch my tools," said he; then taking the bag, he
deposited it with great precaution against the wall behind him.

"And so, madame," asked Pierre, "this man Laveuve lives on this floor?"

Madame Theodore directed a timid, questioning glance at Salvat. She was
not in favour of hustling priests when they took the trouble to call, for
at times there was a little money to be got from them. And when she
realised that Salvat, who had once more relapsed into his black reverie,
left her free to act as she pleased, she at once tendered her services.
"If Monsieur l'Abbe is agreeable, I will conduct him. It's just at the
end of the passage. But one must know the way, for there are still some
steps to climb."

Celine, finding a pastime in this visit, escaped from her father's knees
and likewise accompanied the priest. And Salvat remained alone in that
den of poverty and suffering, injustice and anger, without a fire,
without bread, haunted by his burning dream, his eyes again fixed upon
his bag, as if there, among his tools, he possessed the wherewithal to
heal the ailing world.

It indeed proved necessary to climb a few more steps; and then, following
Madame Theodore and Celine, Pierre found himself in a kind of narrow
garret under the roof, a loft a few yards square, where one could not
stand erect. There was no window, only a skylight, and as the snow still
covered it one had to leave the door wide open in order that one might
see. And the thaw was entering the place, the melting snow was falling
drop by drop, and coming over the tiled floor. After long weeks of
intense cold, dark dampness rained quivering over all. And there, lacking
even a chair, even a plank, Laveuve lay in a corner on a little pile of
filthy rags spread upon the bare tiles; he looked like some animal dying
on a dung-heap.

"There!" said Celine in her sing-song voice, "there he is, that's the

Madame Theodore had bent down to ascertain if he still lived. "Yes, he
breathes; he's sleeping I think. Oh! if he only had something to eat
every day, he would be well enough. But what would you have? He has
nobody left him, and when one gets to seventy the best is to throw
oneself into the river. In the house-painting line it often happens that
a man has to give up working on ladders and scaffoldings at fifty. He at
first found some work to do on the ground level. Then he was lucky enough
to get a job as night watchman. But that's over, he's been turned away
from everywhere, and, for two months now, he's been lying in this nook
waiting to die. The landlord hasn't dared to fling him into the street as
yet, though not for want of any inclination that way. We others sometimes
bring him a little wine and a crust, of course; but when one has nothing
oneself, how can one give to others?"

Pierre, terrified, gazed at that frightful remnant of humanity, that
remnant into which fifty years of toil, misery and social injustice had
turned a man. And he ended by distinguishing Laveuve's white, worn,
sunken, deformed head. Here, on a human face, appeared all the ruin
following upon hopeless labour. Laveuve's unkempt beard straggled over
his features, suggesting an old horse that is no longer cropped; his
toothless jaws were quite askew, his eyes were vitreous, and his nose
seemed to plunge into his mouth. But above all else one noticed his
resemblance to some beast of burden, deformed by hard toil, lamed, worn
to death, and now only good for the knackers.

"Ah! the poor fellow," muttered the shuddering priest. "And he is left to
die of hunger, all alone, without any succour? And not a hospital, not an
asylum has given him shelter?"

"Well," resumed Madame Theodore in her sad yet resigned voice, "the
hospitals are built for the sick, and he isn't sick, he's simply
finishing off, with his strength at an end. Besides he isn't always easy
to deal with. People came again only lately to put him in an asylum, but
he won't be shut up. And he speaks coarsely to those who question him,
not to mention that he has the reputation of liking drink and talking
badly about the gentle-folks. But, thank Heaven, he will now soon be

Pierre had leant forward on seeing Laveuve's eyes open, and he spoke to
him tenderly, telling him that he had come from a friend with a little
money to enable him to buy what he might most pressingly require. At
first, on seeing Pierre's cassock, the old man had growled some coarse
words; but, despite his extreme feebleness, he still retained the pert
chaffing spirit of the Parisian artisan: "Well, then, I'll willingly
drink a drop," he said distinctly, "and have a bit of bread with it, if
there's the needful; for I've lost taste of both for a couple of days

Celine offered her services, and Madame Theodore sent her to fetch a loaf
and a quart of wine with Abbe Rose's money. And in the interval she told
Pierre how Laveuve was at one moment to have entered the Asylum of the
Invalids of Labour, a charitable enterprise whose lady patronesses were
presided over by Baroness Duvillard. However, the usual regulation
inquiries had doubtless led to such an unfavourable report that matters
had gone no further.

"Baroness Duvillard! but I know her, and will go to see her to-day!"
exclaimed Pierre, whose heart was bleeding. "It is impossible for a man
to be left in such circumstances any longer."

Then, as Celine came back with the loaf and the wine, the three of them
tried to make Laveuve more comfortable, raised him on his heap of rags,
gave him to eat and to drink, and then left the remainder of the wine and
the loaf--a large four-pound loaf--near him, recommending him to wait
awhile before he finished the bread, as otherwise he might stifle.

"Monsieur l'Abbe ought to give me his address in case I should have any
news to send him," said Madame Theodore when she again found herself at
her door.

Pierre had no card with him, and so all three went into the room. But
Salvat was no longer alone there. He stood talking in a low voice very
quickly, and almost mouth to mouth, with a young fellow of twenty. The
latter, who was slim and dark, with a sprouting beard and hair cut in
brush fashion, had bright eyes, a straight nose and thin lips set in a
pale and slightly freckled face, betokening great intelligence. With
stern and stubborn brow, he stood shivering in his well-worn jacket.

"Monsieur l'Abbe wants to leave me his address for the Philosopher's
affair," gently explained Madame Theodore, annoyed to find another there
with Salvat.

The two men had glanced at the priest and then looked at one another,
each with terrible mien. And they suddenly ceased speaking in the bitter
cold which fell from the ceiling. Then, again with infinite precaution,
Salvat went to take his tool-bag from alongside the wall.

"So you are going down, you are again going to look for work?" asked
Madame Theodore.

He did not answer, but merely made an angry gesture, as if to say that he
would no longer have anything to do with work since work for so long a
time had not cared to have anything to do with him.

"All the same," resumed the woman, "try to bring something back with you,
for you know there's nothing. At what time will you be back?"

With another gesture he seemed to answer that he would come back when he
could, perhaps never. And tears rising, despite all his efforts, to his
vague, blue, glowing eyes he caught hold of his daughter Celine, kissed
her violently, distractedly, and then went off, with his bag under his
arm, followed by his young companion.

"Celine," resumed Madame Theodore, "give Monsieur l'Abbe your pencil,
and, see, monsieur, seat yourself here, it will be better for writing."

Then, when Pierre had installed himself at the table, on the chair
previously occupied by Salvat, she went on talking, seeking to excuse her
man for his scanty politeness: "He hasn't a bad heart, but he's had so
many worries in life that he has become a bit cracked. It's like that
young man whom you just saw here, Monsieur Victor Mathis. There's another
for you, who isn't happy, a young man who was well brought up, who has a
lot of learning, and whose mother, a widow, has only just got the
wherewithal to buy bread. So one can understand it, can't one? It all
upsets their heads, and they talk of blowing up everybody. For my part
those are not my notions, but I forgive them, oh! willingly enough."

Perturbed, yet interested by all the mystery and vague horror which he
could divine around him, Pierre made no haste to write his address, but
lingered listening, as if inviting confidence.

"If you only knew, Monsieur l'Abbe, that poor Salvat was a forsaken
child, without father or mother, and had to scour the roads and try every
trade at first to get a living. Then afterwards he became a mechanician,
and a very good workman, I assure you, very skilful and very painstaking.
But he already had those ideas of his, and quarrelled with people, and
tried to bring his mates over to his views; and so he was unable to stay
anywhere. At last, when he was thirty, he was stupid enough to go to
America with an inventor, who traded on him to such a point that after
six years of it he came back ill and penniless. I must tell you that he
had married my younger sister Leonie, and that she died before he went to
America, leaving him little Celine, who was then only a year old. I was
then living with my husband, Theodore Labitte, a mason; and it's not to
brag that I say it, but however much I wore out my eyes with needlework
he used to beat me till he left me half-dead on the floor. But he ended
by deserting me and going off with a young woman of twenty, which, after
all, caused me more pleasure than grief. And naturally when Salvat came
back he sought me out and found me alone with his little Celine, whom he
had left in my charge when he went away, and who called me mamma. And
we've all three been living together since then--"

She became somewhat embarrassed, and then, as if to show that she did not
altogether lack some respectable family connections, she went on to say:
"For my part I've had no luck; but I've another sister, Hortense, who's
married to a clerk, Monsieur Chretiennot, and lives in a pretty lodging
on the Boulevard Rochechouart. There were three of us born of my father's
second marriage,--Hortense, who's the youngest, Leonie, who's dead, and
myself, Pauline, the eldest. And of my father's first marriage I've still
a brother Eugene Toussaint, who is ten years older than me and is an
engineer like Salvat, and has been working ever since the war in the same
establishment, the Grandidier factory, only a hundred steps away in the
Rue Marcadet. The misfortune is that he had a stroke lately. As for me,
my eyes are done for; I ruined them by working ten hours a day at fine
needlework. And now I can no longer even try to mend anything without my
eyes filling with water till I can't see at all. I've tried to find
charwoman's work, but I can't get any; bad luck always follows us. And so
we are in need of everything; we've nothing but black misery, two or
three days sometimes going by without a bite, so that it's like the
chance life of a dog that feeds on what it can find. And with these last
two months of bitter cold to freeze us, it's sometimes made us think that
one morning we should never wake up again. But what would you have? I've
never been happy, I was beaten to begin with, and now I'm done for, left
in a corner, living on, I really don't know why."

Her voice had begun to tremble, her red eyes moistened, and Pierre could
realise that she thus wept through life, a good enough woman but one who
had no will, and was already blotted out, so to say, from existence.

"Oh! I don't complain of Salvat," she went on. "He's a good fellow; he
only dreams of everybody's happiness, and he doesn't drink, and he works
when he can. Only it's certain that he'd work more if he didn't busy
himself with politics. One can't discuss things with comrades, and go to
public meetings and be at the workshop at the same time. In that he's at
fault, that's evident. But all the same he has good reason to complain,
for one can't imagine such misfortunes as have pursued him. Everything
has fallen on him, everything has beaten him down. Why, a saint even
would have gone mad, so that one can understand that a poor beggar who
has never had any luck should get quite wild. For the last two months he
has only met one good heart, a learned gentleman who lives up yonder on
the height, Monsieur Guillaume Froment, who has given him a little work,
just something to enable us to have some soup now and then."

Much surprised by this mention of his brother, Pierre wished to ask
certain questions; but a singular feeling of uneasiness, in which fear
and discretion mingled, checked his tongue. He looked at Celine, who
stood before him, listening in silence with her grave, delicate air; and
Madame Theodore, seeing him smile at the child, indulged in a final
remark: "It's just the idea of that child," said she, "that throws Salvat
out of his wits. He adores her, and he'd kill everybody if he could, when
he sees her go supperless to bed. She's such a good girl, she was
learning so nicely at the Communal School! But now she hasn't even a
shift to go there in."

Pierre, who had at last written his address, slipped a five-franc piece
into the little girl's hand, and, desirous as he was of curtailing any
thanks, he hastily said: "You will know now where to find me if you need
me for Laveuve. But I'm going to busy myself about him this very
afternoon, and I really hope that he will be fetched away this evening."

Madame Theodore did not listen, but poured forth all possible blessings;
whilst Celine, thunderstruck at seeing five francs in her hand, murmured:
"Oh! that poor papa, who has gone to hunt for money! Shall I run after
him to tell him that we've got enough for to-day?"

Then the priest, who was already in the passage, heard the woman answer:
"Oh! he's far away if he's still walking. He'll p'raps come back right

However, as Pierre, with buzzing head and grief-stricken heart, hastily
escaped out of that frightful house of suffering, he perceived to his
astonishment Salvat and Victor Mathis standing erect in a corner of the
filthy courtyard, where the stench was so pestilential. They had come
downstairs, there to continue their interrupted colloquy. And again, they
were talking in very low tones, and very quickly, mouth to mouth,
absorbed in the violent thoughts which made their eyes flare. But they
heard the priest's footsteps, recognised him, and suddenly becoming cold
and calm, exchanged an energetic hand-shake without uttering another
word. Victor went up towards Montmartre, whilst Salvat hesitated like a
man who is consulting destiny. Then, as if trusting himself to stern
chance, drawing up his thin figure, the figure of a weary, hungry toiler,
he turned into the Rue Marcadet, and walked towards Paris, his tool-bag
still under his arm.

For an instant Pierre felt a desire to run and call to him that his
little girl wished him to go back again. But the same feeling of
uneasiness as before came over the priest--a commingling of discretion
and fear, a covert conviction that nothing could stay destiny. And he
himself was no longer calm, no longer experienced the icy, despairing
distress of the early morning. On finding himself again in the street,
amidst the quivering fog, he felt the fever, the glow of charity which
the sight of such frightful wretchedness had ignited, once more within
him. No, no! such suffering was too much; he wished to struggle still, to
save Laveuve and restore a little joy to all those poor folk. The new
experiment presented itself with that city of Paris which he had seen
shrouded as with ashes, so mysterious and so perturbing beneath the
threat of inevitable justice. And he dreamed of a huge sun bringing
health and fruitfulness, which would make of the huge city the fertile
field where would sprout the better world of to-morrow.



THAT same morning, as was the case nearly every day, some intimates were
expected to _dejeuner_ at the Duvillards', a few friends who more or less
invited themselves. And on that chilly day, all thaw and fog, the regal
mansion in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy near the Boulevard de la Madeleine
bloomed with the rarest flowers, for flowers were the greatest passion of
the Baroness, who transformed the lofty, sumptuous rooms, littered with
marvels, into warm and odoriferous conservatories, whither the gloomy,
livid light of Paris penetrated caressingly with infinite softness.

The great reception rooms were on the ground-floor looking on to the
spacious courtyard, and preceded by a little winter garden, which served
as a vestibule where two footmen in liveries of dark green and gold were
invariably on duty. A famous gallery of paintings, valued at millions of
francs, occupied the whole of the northern side of the house. And the
grand staircase, of a sumptuousness which also was famous, conducted to
the apartments usually occupied by the family, a large red drawing-room,
a small blue and silver drawing-room, a study whose walls were hung with
old stamped leather, and a dining-room in pale green with English
furniture, not to mention the various bedchambers and dressing-rooms.
Built in the time of Louis XIV. the mansion retained an aspect of noble
grandeur, subordinated to the epicurean tastes of the triumphant
_bourgeoisie_, which for a century now had reigned by virtue of the
omnipotence of money.

Noon had not yet struck, and Baron Duvillard, contrary to custom, found
himself the first in the little blue and silver _salon_. He was a man of
sixty, tall and sturdy, with a large nose, full cheeks, broad, fleshy
lips, and wolfish teeth, which had remained very fine. He had, however,
become bald at an early age, and dyed the little hair that was left him.
Moreover, since his beard had turned white, he had kept his face
clean-shaven. His grey eyes bespoke his audacity, and in his laugh there
was a ring of conquest, while the whole of his face expressed the fact
that this conquest was his own, that he wielded the sovereignty of an
unscrupulous master, who used and abused the power stolen and retained by
his caste.

He took a few steps, and then halted in front of a basket of wonderful
orchids near the window. On the mantel-piece and table tufts of violets
sent forth their perfume, and in the warm, deep silence which seemed to
fall from the hangings, the Baron sat down and stretched himself in one
of the large armchairs, upholstered in blue satin striped with silver. He
had taken a newspaper from his pocket, and began to re-peruse an article
it contained, whilst all around him the entire mansion proclaimed his
immense fortune, his sovereign power, the whole history of the century
which had made him the master. His grandfather, Jerome Duvillard, son of
a petty advocate of Poitou, had come to Paris as a notary's clerk in
1788, when he was eighteen; and very keen, intelligent and hungry as he
was, he had gained the family's first three millions--at first in
trafficking with the _emigres'_ estates when they were confiscated and
sold as national property, and later, in contracting for supplies to the
imperial army. His father, Gregoire Duvillard, born in 1805, and the real
great man of the family--he who had first reigned in the Rue
Godot-de-Mauroy, after King Louis Philippe had granted him the title of
Baron--remained one of the recognized heroes of modern finance by reason
of the scandalous profits which he had made in every famous thieving
speculation of the July Monarchy and the Second Empire, such as mines,
railroads, and the Suez Canal. And he, the present Baron, Henri by name,
and born in 1836, had only seriously gone into business on Baron
Gregoire's death soon after the Franco-German War. However, he had done
so with such a rageful appetite, that in a quarter of a century he had
again doubled the family fortune. He rotted and devoured, corrupted,
swallowed everything that he touched; and he was also the tempter
personified--the man who bought all consciences that were for
sale--having fully understood the new times and its tendencies in
presence of the democracy, which in its turn had become hungry and
impatient. Inferior though he was both to his father and his grandfather,
being a man of enjoyment, caring less for the work of conquest than the
division of the spoil, he nevertheless remained a terrible fellow, a
sleek triumpher, whose operations were all certainties, who amassed
millions at each stroke, and treated with governments on a footing of
equality, able as he was to place, if not France, at least a ministry in
his pocket. In one century and three generations, royalty had become
embodied in him: a royalty already threatened, already shaken by the
tempest close ahead. And at times his figure grew and expanded till it
became, as it were, an incarnation of the whole _bourgeoisie_--that
_bourgeoisie_ which at the division of the spoils in 1789 appropriated
everything, and has since fattened on everything at the expense of the
masses, and refuses to restore anything whatever.

The article which the Baron was re-perusing in a halfpenny newspaper
interested him. "La Voix du Peuple" was a noisy sheet which, under the
pretence of defending outraged justice and morality, set a fresh scandal
circulating every morning in the hope of thereby increasing its sales.
And that morning, in big type on its front page, this sub-title was
displayed: "The Affair of the African Railways. Five Millions spent in
Bribes: Two Ministers Bought, Thirty Deputies and Senators Compromised."
Then in an article of odious violence the paper's editor, the famous
Sagnier, announced that he possessed and intended to publish the list of
the thirty-two members of Parliament, whose support Baron Duvillard had
purchased at the time when the Chambers had voted the bill for the
African Railway Lines. Quite a romantic story was mingled with all this,
the adventures of a certain Hunter, whom the Baron had employed as his
go-between and who had now fled. The Baron, however, re-perused each
sentence and weighed each word of the article very calmly; and although
he was alone he shrugged his shoulders and spoke aloud with the tranquil
assurance of a man whose responsibility is covered and who is, moreover,
too powerful to be molested.

"The idiot," he said, "he knows even less than he pretends."

Just then, however, a first guest arrived, a man of barely four and
thirty, elegantly dressed, dark and good looking, with a delicately
shaped nose, and curly hair and beard. As a rule, too, he had laughing
eyes, and something giddy, flighty, bird-like in his demeanour; but that
morning he seemed nervous, anxious even, and smiled in a scared way.

"Ah! it's you, Duthil," said the Baron, rising. "Have you read this?" And
he showed the new comer the "Voix du Peuple," which he was folding up to
replace it in his pocket.

"Why yes, I've read it. It's amazing. How can Sagnier have got hold of
the list of names? Has there been some traitor?"

The Baron looked at his companion quietly, amused by his secret anguish.
Duthil, the son of a notary of Angouleme, almost poor and very honest,
had been sent to Paris as deputy for that town whilst yet very young,
thanks to the high reputation of his father; and he there led a life of
pleasure and idleness, even as he had formerly done when a student.
However, his pleasant bachelor's quarters in the Rue de Suresnes, and his
success as a handsome man in the whirl of women among whom he lived, cost
him no little money; and gaily enough, devoid as he was of any moral
sense, he had already glided into all sorts of compromising and lowering
actions, like a light-headed, superior man, a charming, thoughtless
fellow, who attached no importance whatever to such trifles.

"Bah!" said the Baron at last. "Has Sagnier even got a list? I doubt it,
for there was none; Hunter wasn't so foolish as to draw one up. And then,
too, it was merely an ordinary affair; nothing more was done than is
always done in such matters of business."

Duthil, who for the first time in his life had felt anxious, listened
like one that needs to be reassured. "Quite so, eh?" he exclaimed.
"That's what I thought. There isn't a cat to be whipped in the whole

He tried to laugh as usual, and no longer exactly knew how it was that he
had received some ten thousand francs in connection with the matter,
whether it were in the shape of a vague loan, or else under some pretext
of publicity, puffery, or advertising, for Hunter had acted with extreme
adroitness so as to give no offence to the susceptibilities of even the
least virginal consciences.

"No, there's not a cat to be whipped," repeated Duvillard, who decidedly
seemed amused by the face which Duthil was pulling. "And besides, my dear
fellow, it's well known that cats always fall on their feet. But have you
seen Silviane?"

"I just left her. I found her in a great rage with you. She learnt this
morning that her affair of the Comedie is off."

A rush of anger suddenly reddened the Baron's face. He, who could scoff
so calmly at the threat of the African Railways scandal, lost his balance
and felt his blood boiling directly there was any question of Silviane,
the last, imperious passion of his sixtieth year. "What! off?" said he.
"But at the Ministry of Fine Arts they gave me almost a positive promise
only the day before yesterday."

He referred to a stubborn caprice of Silviane d'Aulnay, who, although she
had hitherto only reaped a success of beauty on the stage, obstinately
sought to enter the Comedie Francaise and make her _debut_ there in the
part of "Pauline" in Corneille's "Polyeucte," which part she had been
studying desperately for several months past. Her idea seemed an insane
one, and all Paris laughed at it; but the young woman, with superb
assurance, kept herself well to the front, and imperiously demanded the
_role_, feeling sure that she would conquer.

"It was the minister who wouldn't have it," explained Duthil.

The Baron was choking. "The minister, the minister! Ah! well, I will soon
have that minister sent to the rightabout."

However, he had to cease speaking, for at that moment Baroness Duvillard
came into the little drawing-room. At forty-six years of age she was
still very beautiful. Very fair and tall, having hitherto put on but
little superfluous fat, and retaining perfect arms and shoulders, with
speckless silky skin, it was only her face that was spoiling, colouring
slightly with reddish blotches. And these blemishes were her torment, her
hourly thought and worry. Her Jewish origin was revealed by her somewhat
long and strangely charming face, with blue and softly voluptuous eyes.
As indolent as an Oriental slave, disliking to have to move, walk, or
even speak, she seemed intended for a harem life, especially as she was
for ever tending her person. That day she was all in white, gowned in a
white silk toilette of delicious and lustrous simplicity.

Duthil complimented her, and kissed her hand with an enraptured air. "Ah!
madame, you set a little springtide in my heart. Paris is so black and
muddy this morning."

However, a second guest entered the room, a tall and handsome man of five
or six and thirty; and the Baron, still disturbed by his passion,
profited by this opportunity to make his escape. He carried Duthil away
into his study, saying, "Come here an instant, my dear fellow. I have a
few more words to say to you about the affair in question. Monsieur de
Quinsac will keep my wife company for a moment."

The Baroness, as soon as she was alone with the new comer, who, like
Duthil, had most respectfully kissed her hand, gave him a long, silent
look, while her soft eyes filled with tears. Deep silence, tinged with
some slight embarrassment, had fallen, but she ended by saying in a very
low voice: "How happy I am, Gerard, to find myself alone with you for a
moment. For a month past I have not had that happiness."

The circumstances in which Henri Duvillard had married the younger
daughter of Justus Steinberger, the great Jew banker, formed quite a
story which was often recalled. The Steinbergers--after the fashion of
the Rothschilds--were originally four brothers--Justus, residing in
Paris, and the three others at Berlin, Vienna, and London, a circumstance
which gave their secret association most formidable power in the
financial markets of Europe. Justus, however, was the least wealthy of
the four, and in Baron Gregoire Duvillard he had a redoubtable adversary
against whom he was compelled to struggle each time that any large prey
was in question. And it was after a terrible encounter between the pair,
after the eager sharing of the spoils, that the crafty idea had come to
Justus of giving his younger daughter Eve in marriage, by way of
_douceur_, to the Baron's son, Henri. So far the latter had only been
known as an amiable fellow, fond of horses and club life; and no doubt
Justus's idea was that, at the death of the redoubtable Baron, who was
already condemned by his physicians, he would be able to lay his hands on
the rival banking-house, particularly if he only had in front of him a
son-in-law whom it was easy to conquer. As it happened, Henri had been
mastered by a violent passion for Eve's blond beauty, which was then
dazzling. He wished to marry her, and his father, who knew him,
consented, in reality greatly amused to think that Justus was making an
execrably bad stroke of business. The enterprise became indeed disastrous
for Justus when Henri succeeded his father and the man of prey appeared
from beneath the man of pleasure and carved himself his own huge share in
exploiting the unbridled appetites of the middle-class democracy, which
had at last secured possession of power. Not only did Eve fail to devour
Henri, who in his turn had become Baron Duvillard, the all-powerful
banker, more and more master of the market; but it was the Baron who
devoured Eve, and this in less than four years' time. After she had borne
him a daughter and a son in turn, he suddenly drew away from her,
neglected her, as if she were a mere toy that he no longer cared for. She
was at first both surprised and distressed by the change, especially on
learning that he was resuming his bachelor's habits, and had set his
fickle if ardent affections elsewhere. Then, however, without any kind of
recrimination, any display of anger, or even any particular effort to
regain her ascendency over him, she, on her side, imitated his example.
She could not live without love, and assuredly she had only been born to
be beautiful, to fascinate and reap adoration. To the lover whom she
chose when she was five and twenty she remained faithful for more than
fifteen years, as faithful as she might have been to a husband; and when
he died her grief was intense, it was like real widowhood. Six months
later, however, having met Count Gerard de Quinsac she had again been
unable to resist her imperative need of adoration, and an intrigue had

"Have you been ill, my dear Gerard?" she inquired, noticing the young
man's embarrassment. "Are you hiding some worry from me?"

She was ten years older than he was; and she clung desperately to this
last passion of hers, revolting at the thought of growing old, and
resolved upon every effort to keep the young man beside her.

"No, I am hiding nothing, I assure you," replied the Count. "But my
mother has had much need of me recently."

She continued looking at him, however, with anxious passion, finding him
so tall and aristocratic of mien, with his regular features and dark hair
and moustaches which were always most carefully tended. He belonged to
one of the oldest families of France, and resided on a ground-floor in
the Rue St. Dominique with his widowed mother, who had been ruined by her
adventurously inclined husband, and had at most an income of some fifteen
thousand francs* to live upon. Gerard for his part had never done
anything; contenting himself with his one year of obligatory military
service, he had renounced the profession of arms in the same way as he
had renounced that of diplomacy, the only one that offered him an opening
of any dignity. He spent his days in that busy idleness common to all
young men who lead "Paris life." And his mother, haughtily severe though
she was, seemed to excuse this, as if in her opinion a man of his birth
was bound by way of protest to keep apart from official life under a
Republic. However, she no doubt had more intimate, more disturbing
reasons for indulgence. She had nearly lost him when he was only seven,
through an attack of brain fever. At eighteen he had complained of his
heart, and the doctors had recommended that he should be treated gently
in all respects. She knew, therefore, what a lie lurked behind his proud
demeanour, within his lofty figure, that haughty _facade_ of his race. He
was but dust, ever threatened with illness and collapse. In the depths of
his seeming virility there was merely girlish _abandon_; and he was
simply a weak, good-natured fellow, liable to every stumble. It was on
the occasion of a visit which he had paid with his mother to the Asylum
of the Invalids of Labour that he had first seen Eve, whom he continued
to meet; his mother, closing her eyes to this culpable connection in a
sphere of society which she treated with contempt, in the same way as she
had closed them to so many other acts of folly which she had forgiven
because she regarded them as the mere lapses of an ailing child.
Moreover, Eve had made a conquest of Madame de Quinsac, who was very
pious, by an action which had recently amazed society. It had been
suddenly learnt that she had allowed Monseigneur Martha to convert her to
the Roman Catholic faith. This thing, which she had refused to do when
solicited by her lawful husband, she had now done in the hope of ensuring
herself a lover's eternal affection. And all Paris was still stirred by
the magnificence exhibited at the Madeleine, on the occasion of the
baptism of this Jewess of five and forty, whose beauty and whose tears
had upset every heart.

  * About 3000 dollars.

Gerard, on his side, was still flattered by the deep and touching
tenderness shown to him; but weariness was coming, and he had already
sought to break off the connection by avoiding any further assignations.
He well understood Eve's glances and her tears, and though he was moved
at sight of them he tried to excuse himself. "I assure you," said he, "my
mother has kept me so busy that I could not get away." But she, without a
word, still turned her tearful glance on him, and weak, like herself, in
despair that he should have been left alone with her in this fashion, he
yielded, unable to continue refusing. "Well, then," said he, "this
afternoon at four o'clock if you are free."

He had lowered his voice in speaking, but a slight rustle made him turn
his head and start like one in fault. It was the Baroness's daughter
Camille entering the room. She had heard nothing; but by the smile which
the others had exchanged, by the very quiver of the air, she understood
everything; an assignation for that very day and at the very spot which
she suspected. Some slight embarrassment followed, an exchange of anxious
and evil glances.

Camille, at three and twenty, was a very dark young woman, short of
stature and somewhat deformed, with her left shoulder higher than the
right. There seemed to be nothing of her father or mother in her. Her
case was one of those unforeseen accidents in family heredity which make
people wonder whence they can arise. Her only pride lay in her beautiful
black eyes and superb black hair, which, short as she was, would, said
she, have sufficed to clothe her. But her nose was long, her face
deviated to the left, and her chin was pointed. Her thin, witty, and
malicious lips bespoke all the rancour and perverse anger stored in the
heart of this uncomely creature, whom the thought of her uncomeliness
enraged. However, the one whom she most hated in the whole world was her
own mother, that _amorosa_ who was so little fitted to be a mother, who
had never loved her, never paid attention to her, but had abandoned her
to the care of servants from her very infancy. In this wise real hatred
had grown up between the two women, mute and frigid on the one side, and
active and passionate on the other. The daughter hated her mother because
she found her beautiful, because she had not been created in the same
image: beautiful with the beauty with which her mother crushed her. Day
by day she suffered at being sought by none, at realising that the
adoration of one and all still went to her mother. As she was amusing in
her maliciousness, people listened to her and laughed; however, the
glances of all the men--even and indeed especially the younger ones--soon
reverted to her triumphant mother, who seemingly defied old age. In part
for this reason Camille, with ferocious determination, had decided that
she would dispossess her mother of her last lover Gerard, and marry him
herself, conscious that such a loss would doubtless kill the Baroness.
Thanks to her promised dowry of five millions of francs, the young woman
did not lack suitors; but, little flattered by their advances, she was
accustomed to say, with her malicious laugh: "Oh! of course; why for five
millions they would take a wife from a mad-house." However, she, herself,
had really begun to love Gerard, who, good-natured as he was, evinced
much kindness towards this suffering young woman whom nature had treated
so harshly. It worried him to see her forsaken by everyone, and little by
little he yielded to the grateful tenderness which she displayed towards
him, happy, handsome man that he was, at being regarded as a demi-god and
having such a slave. Indeed, in his attempt to quit the mother there was
certainly a thought of allowing the daughter to marry him, which would be
an agreeable ending to it all, though he did not as yet acknowledge this,
ashamed as he felt and embarrassed by his illustrious name and all the
complications and tears which he foresaw.

The silence continued. Camille with her piercing glance, as sharp as any
knife, had told her mother that she knew the truth; and then with another
and pain-fraught glance she had complained to Gerard. He, in order to
re-establish equilibrium, could only think of a compliment: "Good
morning, Camille. Ah! that havana-brown gown of yours looks nice! It's
astonishing how well rather sombre colours suit you."

Camille glanced at her mother's white robe, and then at her own dark
gown, which scarcely allowed her neck and wrists to be seen. "Yes," she
replied laughing, "I only look passable when I don't dress as a young

Eve, ill at ease, worried by the growth of a rivalry in which she did not
as yet wish to believe, changed the conversation. "Isn't your brother
there?" she asked.

"Why yes, we came down together."

Hyacinthe, who came in at that moment, shook hands with Gerard in a weary
way. He was twenty, and had inherited his mother's pale blond hair, and
her long face full of Oriental languor; while from his father he had
derived his grey eyes and thick lips, expressive of unscrupulous
appetites. A wretched scholar, regarding every profession with the same
contempt, he had decided to do nothing. Spoilt by his father, he took
some little interest in poetry and music, and lived in an extraordinary
circle of artists, low women, madmen and bandits; boasting himself of all
sorts of crimes and vices, professing the very worst philosophical and
social ideas, invariably going to extremes, becoming in turn a
Collectivist, an Individualist, an Anarchist, a Pessimist, a Symbolist,
and what not besides; without, however, ceasing to be a Catholic, as this
conjunction of Catholicity with something else seemed to him the supreme
_bon ton_. In reality he was simply empty and rather a fool. In four
generations the vigorous hungry blood of the Duvillards, after producing
three magnificent beasts of prey, had, as if exhausted by the contentment
of every passion, ended in this sorry emasculated creature, who was
incapable alike of great knavery or great debauchery.

Camille, who was too intelligent not to realise her brother's
nothingness, was fond of teasing him; and looking at him as he stood
there, tightly buttoned in his long frock coat with pleated skirt--a
resurrection of the romantic period, which he carried to exaggeration,
she resumed: "Mamma has been asking for you, Hyacinthe. Come and show her
your gown. You are the one who would look nice dressed as a young girl."

However, he eluded her without replying. He was covertly afraid of her,
though they lived together in great intimacy, frankly exchanging
confidences respecting their perverse views of life. And he directed a
glance of disdain at the wonderful basket of orchids which seemed to him
past the fashion, far too common nowadays. For his part he had left the
lilies of life behind him, and reached the ranunculus, the flower of

The two last guests who were expected now arrived almost together. The
first was the investigating magistrate Amadieu, a little man of five and
forty, who was an intimate of the household and had been brought into
notoriety by a recent anarchist affair. Between a pair of fair, bushy
whiskers he displayed a flat, regular judicial face, to which he tried to
impart an expression of keenness by wearing a single eyeglass behind
which his glance sparkled. Very worldly, moreover, he belonged to the new
judicial school, being a distinguished psychologist and having written a
book in reply to the abuses of criminalist physiology. And he was also a
man of great, tenacious ambition, fond of notoriety and ever on the
lookout for those resounding legal affairs which bring glory. Behind him,
at last appeared General de Bozonnet, Gerard's uncle on the maternal
side, a tall, lean old man with a nose like an eagle's beak. Chronic
rheumatism had recently compelled him to retire from the service. Raised
to a colonelcy after the Franco-German War in reward for his gallant
conduct at St. Privat, he had, in spite of his extremely monarchical
connections, kept his sworn faith to Napoleon III. And he was excused in
his own sphere of society for this species of military Bonapartism, on
account of the bitterness with which he accused the Republic of having
ruined the army. Worthy fellow that he was, extremely fond of his sister,
Madame de Quinsac, it seemed as though he acted in accordance with some
secret desire of hers in accepting the invitations of Baroness Duvillard
by way of rendering Gerard's constant presence in her house more natural
and excusable.

However, the Baron and Duthil now returned from the study, laughing
loudly in an exaggerated way, doubtless to make the others believe that
they were quite easy in mind. And one and all passed into the large
dining-room where a big wood fire was burning, its gay flames shining
like a ray of springtide amid the fine mahogany furniture of English make
laden with silver and crystal. The room, of a soft mossy green, had an
unassuming charm in the pale light, and the table which in the centre
displayed the richness of its covers and the immaculate whiteness of its
linen adorned with Venetian point, seemed to have flowered miraculously
with a wealth of large tea roses, most admirable blooms for the season,
and of delicious perfume.

The Baroness seated the General on her right, and Amadieu on her left.
The Baron on his right placed Duthil, and on his left Gerard. Then the
young people installed themselves at either end, Camille between Gerard
and the General, and Hyacinthe between Duthil and Amadieu. And forthwith,
from the moment of starting on the scrambled eggs and truffles,
conversation began, the usual conversation of Parisian _dejeuners_, when
every event, great or little, of the morning or the day before is passed
in review: the truths and the falsehoods current in every social sphere,
the financial scandal, and the political adventure of the hour, the novel
that has just appeared, the play that has just been produced, the stories
which should only be retailed in whispers, but which are repeated aloud.
And beneath all the light wit which circulates, beneath all the laughter,
which often has a false ring, each retains his or her particular worry,
or distress of mind, at times so acute that it becomes perfect agony.

With his quiet and wonted impudence, the Baron, bravely enough, was the
first to speak of the article in the "Voix du Peuple." "I say, have you
read Sagnier's article this morning? It's a good one; he has _verve_ you
know, but what a dangerous lunatic he is!"

This set everybody at ease, for the article would certainly have weighed
upon the _dejeuner_ had no one mentioned it.

"It's the 'Panama' dodge over again!" cried Duthil. "But no, no, we've
had quite enough of it!"

"Why," resumed the Baron, "the affair of the African Railway Lines is as
clear as spring water! All those whom Sagnier threatens may sleep in
peace. The truth is that it's a scheme to upset Barroux's ministry. Leave
to interpellate will certainly be asked for this afternoon. You'll see
what a fine uproar there'll be in the Chamber."

"That libellous, scandal-seeking press," said Amadieu gravely, "is a
dissolving agent which will bring France to ruin. We ought to have laws
against it."

The General made an angry gesture: "Laws, what's the use of them, since
nobody has the courage to enforce them."

Silence fell. With a light, discreet step the house-steward presented
some grilled mullet. So noiseless was the service amid the cheerful
perfumed warmth that not even the faintest clatter of crockery was heard.
Without anyone knowing how it had come about, however, the conversation
had suddenly changed; and somebody inquired: "So the revival of the piece
is postponed?"

"Yes," said Gerard, "I heard this morning that 'Polyeucte' wouldn't get
its turn till April at the earliest."

At this Camille, who had hitherto remained silent, watching the young
Count and seeking to win him back, turned her glittering eyes upon her
father and mother. It was a question of that revival in which Silviane
was so stubbornly determined to make her _debut_. However, the Baron and
the Baroness evinced perfect serenity, having long been acquainted with
all that concerned each other. Moreover Eve was too much occupied with
her own passion to think of anything else; and the Baron too busy with
the fresh application which he intended to make in tempestuous fashion at
the Ministry of Fine Arts, so as to wrest Silviane's engagement from
those in office. He contented himself with saying: "How would you have
them revive pieces at the Comedie! They have no actresses left there."

"Oh, by the way," the Baroness on her side simply remarked, "yesterday,
in that play at the Vaudeville, Delphine Vignot wore such an exquisite
gown. She's the only one too who knows how to arrange her hair."

Thereupon Duthil, in somewhat veiled language, began to relate a story
about Delphine and a well-known senator. And then came another scandal,
the sudden and almost suspicious death of a lady friend of the
Duvillards'; whereupon the General, without any transition, broke in to
relieve his bitter feelings by denouncing the idiotic manner in which the
army was nowadays organised. Meantime the old Bordeaux glittered like
ruby blood in the delicate crystal glasses. A truffled fillet of venison
had just cast its somewhat sharp scent amidst the dying perfume of the
roses, when some asparagus made its appearance, a _primeur_ which once
had been so rare but which no longer caused any astonishment.

"Nowadays we get it all through the winter," said the Baron with a
gesture of disenchantment.

"And so," asked Gerard at the same moment, "the Princess de Harn's
_matinee_ is for this afternoon?"

Camille quickly intervened. "Yes, this afternoon. Shall you go?"

"No, I don't think so, I shan't be able," replied the young man in

"Ah! that little Princess, she's really deranged you know," exclaimed
Duthil. "You are aware that she calls herself a widow? But the truth, it
seems, is that her husband, a real Prince, connected with a royal house
and very handsome, is travelling about the world in the company of a
singer. She with her vicious urchin-like face preferred to come and reign
in Paris, in that mansion of the Avenue Hoche, which is certainly the
most extraordinary Noah's ark imaginable, with its swarming of
cosmopolitan society indulging in every extravagance!"

"Be quiet, you malicious fellow," the Baroness gently interrupted. "We,
here, are very fond of Rosemonde, who is a charming woman."

"Oh! certainly," Camille again resumed. "She invited us; and we are going
to her place by-and-by, are we not, mamma?"

To avoid replying, the Baroness pretended that she did not hear, whilst
Duthil, who seemed to be well-informed concerning the Princess, continued
to make merry over her intended _matinee_, at which she meant to produce
some Spanish dancing girls, whose performance was so very indecorous that
all Paris, forewarned of the circumstance, would certainly swarm to her
house. And he added: "You've heard that she has given up painting. Yes,
she busies herself with chemistry. Her _salon_ is full of Anarchists
now--and, by the way, it seemed to me that she had cast her eyes on you,
my dear Hyacinthe."

Hyacinthe had hitherto held his tongue, as if he took no interest in
anything. "Oh! she bores me to death," he now condescended to reply. "If
I'm going to her _matinee_ it's simply in the hope of meeting my friend
young Lord George Eldrett, who wrote to me from London to give me an
appointment at the Princess's. And I admit that hers is the only _salon_
where I find somebody to talk to."

"And so," asked Amadieu in an ironical way, "you have now gone over to

With his air of lofty elegance Hyacinthe imperturbably confessed his
creed: "But it seems to me, monsieur, that in these times of universal
baseness and ignominy, no man of any distinction can be other than an

A laugh ran round the table. Hyacinthe was very much spoilt, and
considered very entertaining. His father in particular was immensely
amused by the notion that he of all men should have an Anarchist for a
son. However, the General, in his rancorous moments, talked anarchically
enough of blowing up a society which was so stupid as to let itself be
led by half a dozen disreputable characters. And, indeed, the
investigating magistrate, who was gradually making a specialty of
Anarchist affairs, proved the only one who opposed the young man,
defending threatened civilisation and giving terrifying particulars
concerning what he called the army of devastation and massacre. The
others, while partaking of some delicious duck's-liver _pate_, which the
house-steward handed around, continued smiling. There was so much misery,
said they; one must take everything into account: things would surely end
by righting themselves. And the Baron himself declared, in a conciliatory
manner: "It's certain that one might do something, though nobody knows
exactly what. As for all sensible and moderate claims, oh! I agree to
them in advance. For instance, the lot of the working classes may be
ameliorated, charitable enterprises may be undertaken, such, for
instance, as our Asylum for the Invalids of Labour, which we have reason
to be proud of. But we must not be asked for impossibilities."

With the dessert came a sudden spell of silence; it was as if, amidst the
restless fluttering of the conversation, and the dizziness born of the
copious meal, each one's worry or distress was again wringing the heart
and setting an expression of perturbation on the countenance. The nervous
unconscientiousness of Duthil, threatened with denunciation, was seen to
revive; so, too, the anxious anger of the Baron, who was meditating how
he might possibly manage to content Silviane. That woman was this sturdy,
powerful man's taint, the secret sore which would perhaps end by eating
him away and destroying him. But it was the frightful drama in which the
Baroness, Camille and Gerard were concerned that flitted by most visibly
across the faces of all three of them: that hateful rivalry of mother and
daughter, contending for the man they loved. And, meantime, the
silver-gilt blades of the dessert-knives were delicately peeling choice
fruit. And there were bunches of golden grapes looking beautifully fresh,
and a procession of sweetmeats, little cakes, an infinity of dainties,
over which the most satiated appetites lingered complacently.

Then, just as the finger-glasses were being served, a footman came and
bent over the Baroness, who answered in an undertone, "Well, show him
into the _salon_, I will join him there." And aloud to the others she
added: "It's Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, who has called and asks most
particularly to see me. He won't be in our way; I think that almost all
of you know him. Oh! he's a genuine saint, and I have much sympathy for

For a few minutes longer they loitered round the table, and then at last
quitted the dining-room, which was full of the odours of viands, wines,
fruits and roses; quite warm, too, with the heat thrown out by the big
logs of firewood, which were falling into embers amidst the somewhat
jumbled brightness of all the crystal and silver, and the pale, delicate
light which fell upon the disorderly table.

Pierre had remained standing in the centre of the little blue and silver
_salon_. Seeing a tray on which the coffee and the liqueurs were in
readiness, he regretted that he had insisted upon being received. And his
embarrassment increased when the company came in rather noisily, with
bright eyes and rosy cheeks. However, his charitable fervour had revived
so ardently within him that he overcame this embarrassment, and all that
remained to him of it was a slight feeling of discomfort at bringing the
whole frightful morning which he had just spent amid such scenes of
wretchedness, so much darkness and cold, so much filth and hunger, into
this bright, warm, perfumed affluence, where the useless and the
superfluous overflowed around those folks who seemed so gay at having
made a delightful meal.

However, the Baroness at once came forward with Gerard, for it was
through the latter, whose mother he knew, that the priest had been
presented to the Duvillards at the time of the famous conversion. And as
he apologised for having called at such an inconvenient hour, the
Baroness responded: "But you are always welcome, Monsieur l'Abbe. You
will allow me just to attend to my guests, won't you? I will be with you
in an instant."

She thereupon returned to the table on which the tray had been placed, in
order to serve the coffee and the liqueurs, with her daughter's
assistance. Gerard, however, remained with Pierre; and, it so chanced,
began to speak to him of the Asylum for the Invalids of Labour, where
they had met one another at the recent laying of the foundation-stone of
a new pavilion which was being erected, thanks to a handsome donation of
100,000 francs made by Baron Duvillard. So far, the enterprise only
comprised four pavilions out of the fourteen which it was proposed to
erect on the vast site given by the City of Paris on the peninsula of
Gennevilliers*; and so the subscription fund remained open, and, indeed,
no little noise was made over this charitable enterprise, which was
regarded as a complete and peremptory reply to the accusations of those
evilly disposed persons who charged the satiated _bourgeoisie_ with doing
nothing for the workers. But the truth was that a magnificent chapel,
erected in the centre of the site, had absorbed two-thirds of the funds
hitherto collected. Numerous lady patronesses, chosen from all the
"worlds" of Paris--the Baroness Duvillard, the Countess de Quinsac, the
Princess Rosemonde de Harn, and a score of others--were entrusted with
the task of keeping the enterprise alive by dint of collections and fancy
bazaars. But success had been chiefly obtained, thanks to the happy idea
of ridding the ladies of all the weighty cares of organisation, by
choosing as managing director a certain Fonsegue, who, besides being a
deputy and editor of the "Globe" newspaper, was a prodigious promoter of
all sorts of enterprises. And the "Globe" never paused in its propaganda,
but answered the attacks of the revolutionaries by extolling the
inexhaustible charity of the governing classes in such wise that, at the
last elections, the enterprise had served as a victorious electoral

  * This so-called peninsula lies to the northwest of Paris, and
    is formed by the windings of the Seine.--Trans.

However, Camille was walking about with a steaming cup of coffee in her
hand: "Will you take some coffee, Monsieur l'Abbe?" she inquired.

"No, thank you, mademoiselle."

"A glass of Chartreuse then?"

"No, thank you."

Then everybody being served, the Baroness came back and said amiably:
"Come, Monsieur l'Abbe, what do you desire of me?"

Pierre began to speak almost in an undertone, his throat contracting and
his heart beating with emotion. "I have come, madame, to appeal to your
great kindness of heart. This morning, in a frightful house, in the Rue
des Saules, behind Montmartre, I beheld a sight which utterly upset me.
You can have no idea what an abode of misery and suffering it was; its
inmates without fire or bread, the men reduced to idleness because there
is no work, the mothers having no more milk for their babes, the children
barely clad, coughing and shivering. And among all these horrors I saw
the worst, the most abominable of all, an old workman, laid on his back
by age, dying of hunger, huddled on a heap of rags, in a nook which a dog
would not even accept as kennel."

He tried to recount things as discreetly as possible, frightened by the
very words he spoke, the horrors he had to relate in that sphere of
superlative luxury and enjoyment, before those happy ones who possessed
all the gifts of this world; for--to use a slang expression--he fully
realised that he sang out of tune, and in most uncourteous fashion. What
a strange idea of his to have called at the hour when one has just
finished _dejeuner_, when the aroma of hot coffee flatters happy
digestion. Nevertheless he went on, and even ended by raising his voice,
yielding to the feeling of revolt which gradually stirred him, going to
the end of his terrible narrative, naming Laveuve, insisting on the
unjust abandonment in which the old man was left, and asking for succour
in the name of human compassion. And the whole company approached to
listen to him; he could see the Baron and the General, and Duthil and
Amadieu, in front of him, sipping their coffee, in silence, without a

"Well, madame," he concluded, "it seemed to me that one could not leave
that old man an hour longer in such a frightful position, and that this
very evening you would have the extreme goodness to have him admitted
into the Asylum of the Invalids of Labour, which is, I think, the proper
and only place for him."

Tears had moistened Eve's beautiful eyes. She was in consternation at so
sad a story coming to her to spoil her afternoon when she was looking
forward to her assignation with Gerard. Weak and indolent as she was,
lacking all initiative, too much occupied moreover with her own person,
she had only accepted the presidency of the Committee on the condition
that all administrative worries were to fall on Fonsegue. "Ah! Monsieur
l'Abbe," she murmured, "you rend my heart. But I can do nothing, nothing
at all, I assure you. Moreover, I believe that we have already inquired
into the affair of that man Laveuve. With us, you know, there must be the
most serious guarantees with regard to every admission. A reporter is
chosen who has to give us full information. Wasn't it you, Monsieur
Duthil, who was charged with this man Laveuve's affair?"

The deputy was finishing a glass of Chartreuse. "Yes, it was I. That fine
fellow played you a comedy, Monsieur l'Abbe. He isn't at all ill, and if
you left him any money you may be sure he went down to drink it as soon
as you were gone. For he is always drunk; and, besides that, he has the
most hateful disposition imaginable, crying out from morning till evening
against the _bourgeois_, and saying that if he had any strength left in
his arms he would undertake to blow up the whole show. And, moreover, he
won't go into the asylum; he says that it's a real prison where one's
guarded by Beguins who force one to hear mass, a dirty convent where the
gates are shut at nine in the evening! And there are so many of them like
that, who rather than be succoured prefer their liberty, with cold and
hunger and death. Well then, let the Laveuves die in the street, since
they refuse to be with us, and be warm and eat in our asylums!"

The General and Amadieu nodded their heads approvingly. But Duvillard
showed himself more generous. "No, no, indeed! A man's a man after all,
and should be succoured in spite of himself."

Eve, however, in despair at the idea that she would be robbed of her
afternoon, struggled and sought for reasons. "I assure you that my hands
are altogether tied. Monsieur l'Abbe does not doubt my heart or my zeal.
But how call I possibly assemble the Committee without a few days' delay?
And I have particular reasons for coming to no decision, especially in an
affair which has already been inquired into and pronounced upon, without
the Committee's sanction." Then, all at once she found a solution: "What
I advise you to do, Monsieur l'Abbe, is to go at once to see Monsieur
Fonsegue, our managing director. He alone can act in an urgent case, for
he knows that the ladies have unlimited confidence in him and approve
everything he does."

"You will find Fonsegue at the Chamber," added Duthil smiling, "only the
sitting will be a warm one, and I doubt whether you will be able to have
a comfortable chat with him."

Pierre, whose heart had contracted yet more painfully, insisted on the
subject no further; but at once made up his mind to see Fonsegue, and in
any event obtain from him a promise that the wretched Laveuve should be
admitted to the Asylum that very evening. Then he lingered in the saloon
for a few minutes listening to Gerard, who obligingly pointed out to him
how he might best convince the deputy, which was by alleging how bad an
effect such a story could have, should it be brought to light by the
revolutionary newspapers. However, the guests were beginning to take
their leave. The General, as he went off, came to ask his nephew if he
should see him that afternoon at his mother's, Madame de Quinsac, whose
"day" it was: a question which the young man answered with an evasive
gesture when he noticed that both Eve and Camille were looking at him.
Then came the turn of Amadieu, who hurried off saying that a serious
affair required his presence at the Palace of Justice. And Duthil soon
followed him in order to repair to the Chamber.

"I'll see you between four and five at Silviane's, eh?" said the Baron as
he conducted him to the door. "Come and tell me what occurs at the
Chamber in consequence of that odious article of Sagnier's. I must at all
events know. For my part I shall go to the Ministry of Fine Arts, to
settle that affair of the Comedie; and besides I've some calls to make,
some contractors to see, and a big launching and advertisement affair to

"It's understood then, between four and five, at Silviane's," said the
deputy, who went off again mastered by his vague uneasiness, his anxiety
as to what turn that nasty affair of the African Railway Lines might

And all of them had forgotten Laveuve, the miserable wretch who lay at
death's door; and all of them were hastening away to their business or
their passions, caught in the toils, sinking under the grindstone and
whisked away by that rush of all Paris, whose fever bore them along,
throwing one against another in an ardent scramble, in which the sole
question was who should pass over the others and crush them.

"And so, mamma," said Camille, who continued to scrutinise her mother and
Gerard, "you are going to take us to the Princess's _matinee_?"

"By-and-by, yes. Only I shan't be able to stay there with you. I received
a telegram from Salmon about my corsage this morning, and I must
absolutely go to try it on at four o'clock."

By the slight trembling of her mother's voice, the girl felt certain that
she was telling a falsehood. "Oh!" said she, "I thought you were only
going to try it on to-morrow? In that case I suppose we are to go and
call for you at Salmon's with the carriage on leaving the _matinee_?"

"Oh! no my dear! One never knows when one will be free; and besides, if I
have a moment, I shall call at the _modiste's_."

Camille's secret rage brought almost a murderous glare to her dark eyes.
The truth was evident. But however passionately she might desire to set
some obstacle across her mother's path, she could not, dared not, carry
matters any further. In vain had she attempted to implore Gerard with her
eyes. He was standing to take his leave, and turned away his eyes.
Pierre, who had become acquainted with many things since he had
frequented the house, noticed how all three of them quivered, and divined
thereby the mute and terrible drama.

At this moment, however, Hyacinthe, stretched in an armchair, and
munching an ether capsule, the only liqueur in which he indulged, raised
his voice: "For my part, you know, I'm going to the Exposition du Lis.
All Paris is swarming there. There's one painting in particular, 'The
Rape of a Soul,' which it's absolutely necessary for one to have seen."

"Well, but I don't refuse to drive you there," resumed the Baroness.
"Before going to the Princess's we can look in at that exhibition."

"That's it, that's it," hastily exclaimed Camille, who, though she
harshly derided the symbolist painters as a rule, now doubtless desired
to delay her mother. Then, forcing herself to smile, she asked: "Won't
you risk a look-in at the Exposition du Lis with us, Monsieur Gerard?"

"Well, no," replied the Count, "I want to walk. I shall go with Monsieur
l'Abbe Froment to the Chamber."

Thereupon he took leave of mother and daughter, kissing the hand of each
in turn. It had just occurred to him that to while away his time he also
might call for a moment at Silviane's, where, like the others, he had his
_entrees_. On reaching the cold and solemn courtyard he said to the
priest, "Ah! it does one good to breathe a little cool air. They keep
their rooms too hot, and all those flowers, too, give one the headache."

Pierre for his part was going off with his brain in a whirl, his hands
feverish, his senses oppressed by all the luxury which he left behind
him, like the dream of some glowing, perfumed paradise where only the
elect had their abode. At the same time his reviving thirst for charity
had become keener than ever, and without listening to the Count, who was
speaking very affectionately of his mother, he reflected as to how he
might obtain Laveuve's admission to the Asylum from Fonsegue. However,
when the door of the mansion had closed behind them and they had taken a
few steps along the street, it occurred to Pierre that a moment
previously a sudden vision had met his gaze. Had he not seen a workman
carrying a tool-bag, standing and waiting on the foot pavement across the
road, gazing at that monumental door, closed upon so much fabulous
wealth--a workman in whom he fancied he had recognised Salvat, that
hungry fellow who had gone off that morning in search of work? At this
thought Pierre hastily turned round. Such wretchedness in face of so much
affluence and enjoyment made him feel anxious. But the workman, disturbed
in his contemplation, and possibly fearing that he had been recognised,
was going off with dragging step. And now, getting only a back view of
him, Pierre hesitated, and ended by thinking that he must have been



WHEN Abbe Froment was about to enter the Palais-Bourbon he remembered
that he had no card, and he was making up his mind that he would simply
ask for Fonsegue, though he was not known to him, when, on reaching the
vestibule, he perceived Mege, the Collectivist deputy, with whom he had
become acquainted in his days of militant charity in the poverty-stricken
Charonne district.

"What, you here? You surely have not come to evangelise us?" said Mege.

"No, I've come to see Monsieur Fonsegue on an urgent matter, about a poor
fellow who cannot wait."

"Fonsegue? I don't know if he has arrived. Wait a moment." And stopping a
short, dark young fellow with a ferreting, mouse-like air, Mege said to
him: "Massot, here's Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, who wants to speak to your
governor at once."

"The governor? But he isn't here. I left him at the office of the paper,
where he'll be detained for another quarter of an hour. However, if
Monsieur l'Abbe likes to wait he will surely see him here."

Thereupon Mege ushered Pierre into the large waiting-hall, the Salle des
Pas Perdus, which in other moments looked so vast and cold with its
bronze Minerva and Laocoon, and its bare walls on which the pale mournful
winter light fell from the glass doors communicating with the garden.
Just then, however, it was crowded, and warmed, as it were, by the
feverish agitation of the many groups of men that had gathered here and
there, and the constant coming and going of those who hastened through
the throng. Most of these were deputies, but there were also numerous
journalists and inquisitive visitors. And a growing uproar prevailed:
colloquies now in undertones, now in loud voices, exclamations and bursts
of laughter, amidst a deal of passionate gesticulation, Mege's return
into the tumult seemed to fan it. He was tall, apostolically thin, and
somewhat neglectful of his person, looking already old and worn for his
age, which was but five and forty, though his eyes still glowed with
youth behind the glasses which never left his beak-like nose. And he had
a warm but grating voice, and had always been known to cough, living on
solely because he was bitterly intent on doing so in order to realise the
dream of social re-organisation which haunted him. The son of an
impoverished medical man of a northern town, he had come to Paris when
very young, living there during the Empire on petty newspaper and other
unknown work, and first making a reputation as an orator at the public
meetings of the time. Then, after the war, having become the chief of the
Collectivist party, thanks to his ardent faith and the extraordinary
activity of his fighting nature, he had at last managed to enter the
Chamber, where, brimful of information, he fought for his ideas with
fierce determination and obstinacy, like a _doctrinaire_ who has decided
in his own mind what the world ought to be, and who regulates in advance,
and bit by bit, the whole dogma of Collectivism. However, since he had
taken pay as a deputy, the outside Socialists had looked upon him as a
mere rhetorician, an aspiring dictator who only tried to cast society in
a new mould for the purpose of subordinating it to his personal views and
ruling it.

"You know what is going on?" he said to Pierre. "This is another nice
affair, is it not? But what would you have? We are in mud to our very

He had formerly conceived genuine sympathy for the priest, whom he had
found so gentle with all who suffered, and so desirous of social
regeneration. And the priest himself had ended by taking an interest in
this authoritarian dreamer, who was resolved to make men happy in spite
even of themselves. He knew that he was poor, and led a retired life with
his wife and four children, to whom he was devoted.

"You can well understand that I am no ally of Sagnier's," Mege resumed.
"But as he chose to speak out this morning and threaten to publish the
names of all those who have taken bribes, we can't allow ourselves to
pass as accomplices any further. It has long been said that there was
some nasty jobbery in that suspicious affair of the African railways. And
the worst is that two members of the present Cabinet are in question, for
three years ago, when the Chambers dealt with Duvillard's emission,
Barroux was at the Home Department, and Monferrand at that of Public
Works. Now that they have come back again, Monferrand at the Home
Department, and Barroux at that of Finance, with the Presidency of the
Council, it isn't possible, is it, for us to do otherwise than compel
them to enlighten us, in their own interest even, about their former
goings-on? No, no, they can no longer keep silence, and I've announced
that I intend to interpellate them this very day."

It was the announcement of Mege's interpellation, following the terrible
article of the "Voix du Peuple," which thus set the lobbies in an uproar.
And Pierre remained rather scared at this big political affair falling
into the midst of his scheme to save a wretched pauper from hunger and
death. Thus he listened without fully understanding the explanations
which the Socialist deputy was passionately giving him, while all around
them the uproar increased, and bursts of laughter rang out, testifying to
the astonishment which the others felt at seeing Mege in conversation
with a priest.

"How stupid they are!" said Mege disdainfully. "Do they think then that I
eat a cassock for _dejeuner_ every morning? But I beg your pardon, my
dear Monsieur Froment. Come, take a place on that seat and wait for

Then he himself plunged into all the turmoil, and Pierre realised that
his best course was to sit down and wait quietly. His surroundings began
to influence and interest him, and he gradually forgot Laveuve for the
passion of the Parliamentary crisis amidst which he found himself cast.
The frightful Panama adventure was scarcely over; he had followed the
progress of that tragedy with the anguish of a man who every night
expects to hear the tocsin sound the last hour of olden, agonising
society. And now a little Panama was beginning, a fresh cracking of the
social edifice, an affair such as had been frequent in all parliaments in
connection with big financial questions, but one which acquired mortal
gravity from the circumstances in which it came to the front. That story
of the African Railway Lines, that little patch of mud, stirred up and
exhaling a perturbing odour, and suddenly fomenting all that emotion,
fear, and anger in the Chamber, was after all but an opportunity for
political strife, a field on which the voracious appetites of the various
"groups" would take exercise and sharpen; and, at bottom, the sole
question was that of overthrowing the ministry and replacing it by
another. Only, behind all that lust of power, that continuous onslaught
of ambition, what a distressful prey was stirring--the whole people with
all its poverty and its sufferings!

Pierre noticed that Massot, "little Massot," as he was generally called,
had just seated himself on the bench beside him. With his lively eye and
ready ear listening to everything and noting it, gliding everywhere with
his ferret-like air, Massot was not there in the capacity of a gallery
man, but had simply scented a stormy debate, and come to see if he could
not pick up material for some occasional "copy." And this priest lost in
the midst of the throng doubtless interested him.

"Have a little patience, Monsieur l'Abbe," said he, with the amiable
gaiety of a young gentleman who makes fun of everything. "The governor
will certainly come, for he knows well enough that they are going to heat
the oven here. You are not one of his constituents from La Correze, are

"No, no! I belong to Paris; I've come on account of a poor fellow whom I
wish to get admitted into the Asylum of the Invalids of Labour."

"Oh! all right. Well, I'm a child of Paris, too."

Then Massot laughed. And indeed he was a child of Paris, son of a chemist
of the St. Denis district, and an ex-dunce of the Lycee Charlemagne,
where he had not even finished his studies. He had failed entirely, and
at eighteen years of age had found himself cast into journalism with
barely sufficient knowledge of orthography for that calling. And for
twelve years now, as he often said, he had been a rolling stone wandering
through all spheres of society, confessing some and guessing at others.
He had seen everything, and become disgusted with everything, no longer
believing in the existence of great men, or of truth, but living
peacefully enough on universal malice and folly. He naturally had no
literary ambition, in fact he professed a deliberate contempt for
literature. Withal, he was not a fool, but wrote in accordance with no
matter what views in no matter what newspaper, having neither conviction
nor belief, but quietly claiming the right to say whatever he pleased to
the public on condition that he either amused or impassioned it.

"And so," said he, "you know Mege, Monsieur l'Abbe? What a study in
character, eh? A big child, a dreamer of dreams in the skin of a terrible
sectarian! Oh! I have had a deal of intercourse with him, I know him
thoroughly. You are no doubt aware that he lives on with the everlasting
conviction that he will attain to power in six months' time, and that
between evening and morning he will have established that famous
Collectivist community which is to succeed capitalist society, just as
day follows night. And, by the way, as regards his interpellation to-day,
he is convinced that in overthrowing the Barroux ministry he'll be
hastening his own turn. His system is to use up his adversaries. How many
times haven't I heard him making his calculations: there's such a one to
be used up, then such a one, and then such a one, so that he himself may
at last reign. And it's always to come off in six months at the latest.
The misfortune is, however, that others are always springing up, and so
his turn never comes at all."

Little Massot openly made merry over it. Then, slightly lowering his
voice, he asked: "And Sagnier, do you know him? No? Do you see that
red-haired man with the bull's neck--the one who looks like a butcher?
That one yonder who is talking in a little group of frayed frock-coats."

Pierre at last perceived the man in question. He had broad red ears, a
hanging under-lip, a large nose, and big, projecting dull eyes.

"I know that one thoroughly, as well," continued Massot; "I was on the
'Voix du Peuple' under him before I went on the 'Globe.' The one thing
that nobody is exactly aware of is whence Sagnier first came. He long
dragged out his life in the lower depths of journalism, doing nothing at
all brilliant, but wild with ambition and appetite. Perhaps you remember
the first hubbub he made, that rather dirty affair of a new Louis XVII.
which he tried to launch, and which made him the extraordinary Royalist
that he still is. Then it occurred to him to espouse the cause of the
masses, and he made a display of vengeful Catholic socialism, attacking
the Republic and all the abominations of the times in the name of justice
and morality, under the pretext of curing them. He began with a series of
sketches of financiers, a mass of dirty, uncontrolled, unproved
tittle-tattle, which ought to have led him to the dock, but which met, as
you know, with such wonderful success when gathered together in a volume.
And he goes on in the same style in the 'Voix du Peuple,' which he
himself made a success at the time of the Panama affair by dint of
denunciation and scandal, and which to-day is like a sewer-pipe pouring
forth all the filth of the times. And whenever the stream slackens, why,
he invents things just to satisfy his craving for that hubbub on which
both his pride and his pocket subsist."

Little Massot spoke without bitterness; indeed, he had even begun to
laugh again. Beneath his thoughtless ferocity he really felt some respect
for Sagnier. "Oh! he's a bandit," he continued, "but a clever fellow all
the same. You can't imagine how full of vanity he is. Lately it occurred
to him to get himself acclaimed by the populace, for he pretends to be a
kind of King of the Markets, you know. Perhaps he has ended by taking his
fine judge-like airs in earnest, and really believes that he is saving
the people and helping the cause of virtue. What astonishes me is his
fertility in the arts of denunciation and scandalmongering. Never a
morning comes but he discovers some fresh horror, and delivers fresh
culprits over to the hatred of the masses. No! the stream of mud never
ceases; there is an incessant, unexpected spurt of infamy, an increase of
monstrous fancies each time that the disgusted public shows any sign of
weariness. And, do you know, there's genius in that, Monsieur l'Abbe; for
he is well aware that his circulation goes up as soon as he threatens to
speak out and publish a list of traitors and bribe-takers. His sales are
certain now for some days to come."

Listening to Massot's gay, bantering voice, Pierre began to understand
certain things, the exact meaning of which had hitherto escaped him. He
ended by questioning the young journalist, surprised as he was that so
many deputies should be in the lobbies when the sitting was in progress.
Oh! the sitting indeed. The gravest matters, some bill of national
interest, might be under discussion, yet every member fled from it at the
sudden threat of an interpellation which might overturn the ministry. And
the passion stirring there was the restrained anger, the growing anxiety
of the present ministry's clients, who feared that they might have to
give place to others; and it was also the sudden hope, the eager hunger
of all who were waiting--the clients of the various possible ministries
of the morrow.

Massot pointed to Barroux, the head of the Cabinet, who, though he was
out of his element in the Department of Finances, had taken it simply
because his generally recognised integrity was calculated to reassure
public opinion after the Panama crisis. Barroux was chatting in a corner
with the Minister of Public Instruction, Senator Taboureau, an old
university man with a shrinking, mournful air, who was extremely honest,
but totally ignorant of Paris, coming as he did from some far-away
provincial faculty. Barroux for his part was of decorative aspect, tall,
and with a handsome, clean-shaven face, which would have looked quite
noble had not his nose been rather too small. Although he was sixty, he
still had a profusion of curly snow-white hair completing the somewhat
theatrical majesty of his appearance, which he was wont to turn to
account when in the tribune. Coming of an old Parisian family,
well-to-do, an advocate by profession, then a Republican journalist under
the Empire, he had reached office with Gambetta, showing himself at once
honest and romantic, loud of speech, and somewhat stupid, but at the same
time very brave and very upright, and still clinging with ardent faith to
the principles of the great Revolution. However, his Jacobinism was
getting out of fashion, he was becoming an "ancestor," as it were, one of
the last props of the middle-class Republic, and the new comers, the
young politicians with long teeth, were beginning to smile at him.
Moreover, beneath the ostentation of his demeanour, and the pomp of his
eloquence, there was a man of hesitating, sentimental nature, a good
fellow who shed tears when re-perusing the verses of Lamartine.

However, Monferrand, the minister for the Home Department, passed by and
drew Barroux aside to whisper a few words in his ear. He, Monferrand, was
fifty, short and fat, with a smiling, fatherly air; nevertheless a look
of keen intelligence appeared at times on his round and somewhat common
face fringed by a beard which was still dark. In him one divined a man of
government, with hands which were fitted for difficult tasks, and which
never released a prey. Formerly mayor of the town of Tulle, he came from
La Correze, where he owned a large estate. He was certainly a force in
motion, one whose constant rise was anxiously watched by keen observers.
He spoke in a simple quiet way, but with extraordinary power of
conviction. Having apparently no ambition, affecting indeed the greatest
disinterestedness, he nevertheless harboured the most ferocious
appetites. Sagnier had written that he was a thief and a murderer, having
strangled two of his aunts in order to inherit their property. But even
if he were a murderer, he was certainly not a vulgar one.

Then, too, came another personage of the drama which was about to be
performed--deputy Vignon, whose arrival agitated the various groups. The
two ministers looked at him, whilst he, at once surrounded by his
friends, smiled at them from a distance. He was not yet thirty-six. Slim,
and of average height, very fair, with a fine blond beard of which he
took great care, a Parisian by birth, having rapidly made his way in the
government service, at one time Prefect at Bordeaux, he now represented
youth and the future in the Chamber. He had realised that new men were
needed in the direction of affairs in order to accomplish the more
urgent, indispensable reforms; and very ambitious and intelligent as he
was, knowing many things, he already had a programme, the application of
which he was quite capable of attempting, in part at any rate. However,
he evinced no haste, but was full of prudence and shrewdness, convinced
that his day would dawn, strong in the fact that he was as yet
compromised in nothing, but had all space before him. At bottom he was
merely a first-class administrator, clear and precise in speech, and his
programme only differed from Barroux's by the rejuvenation of its
formulas, although the advent of a Vignon ministry in place of a Barroux
ministry appeared an event of importance. And it was of Vignon that
Sagnier had written that he aimed at the Presidency of the Republic, even
should he have to march through blood to reach the Elysee Palace.

"_Mon Dieu_!" Massot was explaining, "it's quite possible that Sagnier
isn't lying this time, and that he has really found a list of names in
some pocket-book of Hunter's that has fallen into his hands. I myself
have long known that Hunter was Duvillard's vote-recruiter in the affair
of the African Railways. But to understand matters one must first realise
what his mode of proceeding was, the skill and the kind of amiable
delicacy which he showed, which were far from the brutal corruption and
dirty trafficking that people imagine. One must be such a man as Sagnier
to picture a parliament as an open market, where every conscience is for
sale and is impudently knocked down to the highest bidder. Oh! things
happened in a very different way indeed; and they are explainable, and at
times even excusable. Thus the article is levelled in particular against
Barroux and Monferrand, who are designated in the clearest possible
manner although they are not named. You are no doubt aware that at the
time of the vote Barroux was at the Home Department and Monferrand at
that of Public Works, and so now they are accused of having betrayed
their trusts, the blackest of all social crimes. I don't know into what
political combinations Barroux may have entered, but I am ready to swear
that he put nothing in his pocket, for he is the most honest of men. As
for Monferrand, that's another matter; he's a man to carve himself his
share, only I should be much surprised if he had put himself in a bad
position. He's incapable of a blunder, particularly of a stupid blunder,
like that of taking money and leaving a receipt for it lying about."

Massot paused, and with a jerk of his head called Pierre's attention to
Duthil, who, feverish, but nevertheless smiling, stood in a group which
had just collected around the two ministers. "There! do you see that
young man yonder, that dark handsome fellow whose beard looks so

"I know him," said Pierre.

"Oh! you know Duthil. Well, he's one who most certainly took money. But
he's a mere bird. He came to us from Angouleme to lead the pleasantest of
lives here, and he has no more conscience, no more scruples, than the
pretty finches of his native part, who are ever love-making. Ah! for
Duthil, Hunter's money was like manna due to him, and he never even
paused to think that he was dirtying his fingers. You may be quite sure
he feels astonished that people should attach the slightest importance to
the matter."

Then Massot designated another deputy in the same group, a man of fifty
or thereabouts, of slovenly aspect and lachrymose mien, lanky, too, like
a maypole, and somewhat bent by the weight of his head, which was long
and suggestive of a horse's. His scanty, straight, yellowish hair, his
drooping moustaches, in fact the whole of his distracted countenance,
expressed everlasting distress.

"And Chaigneux, do you know him?" continued Massot, referring to the
deputy in question. "No? Well, look at him and ask yourself if it isn't
quite as natural that he, too, should have taken money. He came from
Arras. He was a solicitor there. When his division elected him he let
politics intoxicate him, and sold his practice to make his fortune in
Paris, where he installed himself with his wife and his three daughters.
And you can picture his bewilderment amidst those four women, terrible
women ever busy with finery, receiving and paying visits, and running
after marriageable men who flee away. It's ill-luck with a vengeance, the
daily defeat of a poor devil of mediocre attainments, who imagined that
his position as a deputy would facilitate money-making, and who is
drowning himself in it all. And so how can Chaigneux have done otherwise
than take money, he who is always hard up for a five-hundred-franc note!
I admit that originally he wasn't a dishonest man. But he's become one,
that's all."

Massot was now fairly launched, and went on with his portraits, the
series which he had, at one moment, dreamt of writing under the title of
"Deputies for Sale." There were the simpletons who fell into the furnace,
the men whom ambition goaded to exasperation, the low minds that yielded
to the temptation of an open drawer, the company-promoters who grew
intoxicated and lost ground by dint of dealing with big figures. At the
same time, however, Massot admitted that these men were relatively few in
number, and that black sheep were to be found in every parliament of the
world. Then Sagnier's name cropped up again, and Massot remarked that
only Sagnier could regard the French Chambers as mere dens of thieves.

Pierre, meantime, felt most interested in the tempest which the threat of
a ministerial crisis was stirring up before him. Not only the men like
Duthil and Chaigneux, pale at feeling the ground tremble beneath them,
and wondering whether they would not sleep at the Mazas prison that
night, were gathered round Barroux and Monferrand; all the latters'
clients were there, all who enjoyed influence or office through them, and
who would collapse and disappear should they happen to fall. And it was
something to see the anxious glances and the pale dread amidst all the
whispered chatter, the bits of information and tittle-tattle which were
carried hither and thither. Then, in a neighbouring group formed round
Vignon, who looked very calm and smiled, were the other clients, those
who awaited the moment to climb to the assault of power, in order that
they, in their turn, might at last possess influence or office. Eyes
glittered with covetousness, hopeful delight could be read in them,
pleasant surprise at the sudden opportunity now offered. Vignon avoided
replying to the over-direct questions of his friends, and simply
announced that he did not intend to intervene. Evidently enough his plan
was to let Mege interpellate and overthrow the ministry, for he did not
fear him, and in his own estimation would afterwards simply have to stoop
to pick up the fallen portfolios.

"Ah! Monferrand now," little Massot was saying, "there's a rascal who
trims his sails! I knew him as an anti-clerical, a devourer of priests,
Monsieur l'Abbe, if you will allow me so to express myself; however, I
don't say this to be agreeable to you, but I think I may tell you for
certain that he has become reconciled to religion. At least, I have been
told that Monseigneur Martha, who is a great converter, now seldom leaves
him. This is calculated to please one in these new times, when science
has become bankrupt, and religion blooms afresh with delicious mysticism
on all sides, whether in art, literature, or society itself."

Massot was jesting, according to his wont; but he spoke so amiably that
the priest could not do otherwise than bow. However, a great stir had set
in before them; it was announced that Mege was about to ascend the
tribune, and thereupon all the deputies hastened into the assembly hall,
leaving only the inquisitive visitors and a few journalists in the Salle
des Pas Perdus.

"It's astonishing that Fonsegue hasn't yet arrived," resumed Massot;
"he's interested in what's going on. However, he's so cunning, that when
he doesn't behave as others do, one may be sure that he has his reasons
for it. Do you know him?" And as Pierre gave a negative answer, Massot
went on: "Oh! he's a man of brains and real power--I speak with all
freedom, you know, for I don't possess the bump of veneration; and, as
for my editors, well, they're the very puppets that I know the best and
pick to pieces with the most enjoyment. Fonsegue, also, is clearly
designated in Sagnier's article. Moreover, he's one of Duvillard's usual
clients. There can be no doubt that he took money, for he takes money in
everything. Only he always protects himself, and takes it for reasons
which may be acknowledged--as payment or commission on account of
advertising, and so forth. And if I left him just now, looking, as it
seemed to me, rather disturbed, and if he delays his arrival here to
establish, as it were, a moral alibi, the truth must be that he has
committed the first imprudent action in his life."

Then Massot rattled on, telling all there was to tell about Fonsegue. He,
too, came from the department of La Correze, and had quarrelled for life
with Monferrand after some unknown underhand affairs. Formerly an
advocate at Tulle, his ambition had been to conquer Paris; and he had
really conquered it, thanks to his big morning newspaper, "Le Globe," of
which he was both founder and director. He now resided in a luxurious
mansion in the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, and no enterprise was launched
but he carved himself a princely share in it. He had a genius for
"business," and employed his newspaper as a weapon to enable him to reign
over the market. But how very carefully he had behaved, what long and
skilful patience he had shown, before attaining to the reputation of a
really serious man, who guided authoritatively the most virtuous and
respected of the organs of the press! Though in reality he believed
neither in God nor in Devil, he had made this newspaper the supporter of
order, property, and family ties; and though he had become a Conservative
Republican, since it was to his interest to be such, he had remained
outwardly religious, affecting a Spiritualism which reassured the
_bourgeoisie_. And amidst all his accepted power, to which others bowed,
he nevertheless had one hand deep in every available money-bag.

"Ah! Monsieur l'Abbe," said Massot, "see to what journalism may lead a
man. There you have Sagnier and Fonsegue: just compare them a bit. In
reality they are birds of the same feather: each has a quill and uses it.
But how different the systems and the results. Sagnier's print is really
a sewer which rolls him along and carries him to the cesspool; while the
other's paper is certainly an example of the best journalism one can
have, most carefully written, with a real literary flavour, a treat for
readers of delicate minds, and an honour to the man who directs it. But
at the bottom, good heavens! in both cases the farce is precisely the

Massot burst out laughing, well pleased with this final thrust. Then all
at once: "Ah! here's Fonsegue at last!" said he.

Quite at his ease, and still laughing, he forthwith introduced the
priest. "This is Monsieur l'Abbe Froment, my dear _patron_, who has been
waiting more than twenty minutes for you--I'm just going to see what is
happening inside. You know that Mege is interpellating the government."

The new comer started slightly: "An interpellation!" said he. "All right,
all right, I'll go to it."

Pierre was looking at him. He was about fifty years of age, short of
stature, thin and active, still looking young without a grey hair in his
black beard. He had sparkling eyes, too, but his mouth, said to be a
terrible one, was hidden by his moustaches. And withal he looked a
pleasant companion, full of wit to the tip of his little pointed nose,
the nose of a sporting dog that is ever scenting game. "What can I do for
you, Monsieur l'Abbe?" he inquired.

Then Pierre briefly presented his request, recounting his visit to
Laveuve that morning, giving every heart-rending particular, and asking
for the poor wretch's immediate admittance to the Asylum.

"Laveuve!" said the other, "but hasn't his affair been examined? Why,
Duthil drew up a report on it, and things appeared to us of such a nature
that we could not vote for the man's admittance."

But the priest insisted: "I assure you, monsieur, that your heart would
have burst with compassion had you been with me this morning. It is
revolting that an old man should be left in such frightful abandonment
even for another hour. He must sleep at the Asylum to-night."

Fonsegue began to protest. "To-night! But it's impossible, altogether
impossible! There are all sorts of indispensable formalities to be
observed. And besides I alone cannot take such responsibility. I haven't
the power. I am only the manager; all that I do is to execute the orders
of the committee of lady patronesses."

"But it was precisely Baroness Duvillard who sent me to you, monsieur,
telling me that you alone had the necessary authority to grant immediate
admittance in an exceptional case."

"Oh! it was the Baroness who sent you? Ah! that is just like her,
incapable of coming to any decision herself, and far too desirous of her
own quietude to accept any responsibility. Why is it that she wants me to
have the worries? No, no, Monsieur l'Abbe, I certainly won't go against
all our regulations; I won't give an order which would perhaps embroil me
with all those ladies. You don't know them, but they become positively
terrible directly they attend our meetings."

He was growing lively, defending himself with a jocular air, whilst in
secret he was fully determined to do nothing. However, just then Duthil
abruptly reappeared, darting along bareheaded, hastening from lobby to
lobby to recruit absent members, particularly those who were interested
in the grave debate at that moment beginning. "What, Fonsegue!" he cried,
"are you still here? Go, go to your seat at once, it's serious!" And
thereupon he disappeared.

His colleague evinced no haste, however. It was as if the suspicious
affair which was impassioning the Chamber had no concern for him. And he
still smiled, although a slight feverish quiver made him blink. "Excuse
me, Monsieur l'Abbe," he said at last. "You see that my friends have need
of me. I repeat to you that I can do absolutely nothing for your

But Pierre would not accept this reply as a final one. "No, no,
monsieur," he rejoined, "go to your affairs, I will wait for you here.
Don't come to a decision without full reflection. You are wanted, and I
feel that your mind is not sufficiently at liberty for you to listen to
me properly. By-and-by, when you come back and give me your full
attention, I am sure that you will grant me what I ask."

And, although Fonsegue, as he went off, repeated that he could not alter
his decision, the priest stubbornly resolved to make him do so, and sat
down on the bench again, prepared, if needful, to stay there till the
evening. The Salle des Pas Perdus was now almost quite empty, and looked
yet more frigid and mournful with its Laocoon and its Minerva, its bare
commonplace walls like those of a railway-station waiting-room, between
which all the scramble of the century passed, though apparently without
even warming the lofty ceiling. Never had paler and more callous light
entered by the large glazed doors, behind which one espied the little
slumberous garden with its meagre, wintry lawns. And not an echo of the
tempest of the sitting near at hand reached the spot; from the whole
heavy pile there fell but death-like silence, and a covert quiver of
distress that had come from far away, perhaps from the entire country.

It was that which now haunted Pierre's reverie. The whole ancient,
envenomed sore spread out before his mind's eye, with its poison and
virulence. Parliamentary rottenness had slowly increased till it had
begun to attack society itself. Above all the low intrigues and the rush
of personal ambition there certainly remained the loftier struggle of the
contending principles, with history on the march, clearing the past away
and seeking to bring more truth, justice, and happiness in the future.
But in practice, if one only considered the horrid daily cuisine of the
sphere, what an unbridling of egotistical appetite one beheld, what an
absorbing passion to strangle one's neighbour and triumph oneself alone!
Among the various groups one found but an incessant battle for power and
the satisfactions that it gives. "Left," "Right," "Catholics,"
"Republicans," "Socialists," the names given to the parties of twenty
different shades, were simply labels classifying forms of the one burning
thirst to rule and dominate. All questions could be reduced to a single
one, that of knowing whether this man, that man, or that other man should
hold France in his grasp, to enjoy it, and distribute its favours among
his creatures. And the worst was that the outcome of the great
parliamentary battles, the days and the weeks lost in setting this man in
the place of that man, and that other man in the place of this man, was
simply stagnation, for not one of the three men was better than his
fellows, and there were but vague points of difference between them; in
such wise that the new master bungled the very same work as the previous
one had bungled, forgetful, perforce, of programmes and promises as soon
as ever he began to reign.

However, Pierre's thoughts invincibly reverted to Laveuve, whom he had
momentarily forgotten, but who now seized hold of him again with a quiver
as of anger and death. Ah! what could it matter to that poor old wretch,
dying of hunger on his bed of rags, whether Mege should overthrow
Barroux's ministry, and whether a Vignon ministry should ascend to power
or not! At that rate, a century, two centuries, would be needed before
there would be bread in the garrets where groan the lamed sons of labour,
the old, broken-down beasts of burden. And behind Laveuve there appeared
the whole army of misery, the whole multitude of the disinherited and the
poor, who agonised and asked for justice whilst the Chamber, sitting in
all pomp, grew furiously impassioned over the question as to whom the
nation should belong to, as to who should devour it. Mire was flowing on
in a broad stream, the hideous, bleeding, devouring sore displayed itself
in all impudence, like some cancer which preys upon an organ and spreads
to the heart. And what disgust, what nausea must such a spectacle
inspire; and what a longing for the vengeful knife that would bring
health and joy!

Pierre could not have told for how long he had been plunged in this
reverie, when uproar again filled the hall. People were coming back,
gesticulating and gathering in groups. And suddenly he heard little
Massot exclaim near him: "Well, if it isn't down it's not much better
off. I wouldn't give four sous for its chance of surviving."

He referred to the ministry, and began to recount the sitting to a fellow
journalist who had just arrived. Mege had spoken very eloquently, with
extraordinary fury of indignation against the rotten _bourgeoisie_, which
rotted everything it touched; but, as usual, he had gone much too far,
alarming the Chamber by his very violence. And so, when Barroux had
ascended the tribune to ask for a month's adjournment of the
interpellation, he had merely had occasion to wax indignant, in all
sincerity be it said, full of lofty anger that such infamous campaigns
should be carried on by a certain portion of the press. Were the shameful
Panama scandals about to be renewed? Were the national representatives
going to let themselves be intimidated by fresh threats of denunciation?
It was the Republic itself which its adversaries were seeking to submerge
beneath a flood of abominations. No, no, the hour had come for one to
collect one's thoughts, and work in quietude without allowing those who
hungered for scandal to disturb the public peace. And the Chamber,
impressed by these words, fearing, too, lest the electorate should at
last grow utterly weary of the continuous overflow of filth, had
adjourned the interpellation to that day month. However, although Vignon
had not personally intervened in the debate, the whole of his group had
voted against the ministry, with the result that the latter had merely
secured a majority of two votes--a mockery.

"But in that case they will resign," said somebody to Massot.

"Yes, so it's rumoured. But Barroux is very tenacious. At all events if
they show any obstinacy they will be down before a week is over,
particularly as Sagnier, who is quite furious, declares that he will
publish the list of names to-morrow."

Just then, indeed, Barroux and Monferrand were seen to pass, hastening
along with thoughtful, busy mien, and followed by their anxious clients.
It was said that the whole Cabinet was about to assemble to consider the
position and come to a decision. And then Vignon, in his turn, reappeared
amidst a stream of friends. He, for his part, was radiant, with a joy
which he sought to conceal, calming his friends in his desire not to cry
victory too soon. However, the eyes of the band glittered, like those of
a pack of hounds when the moment draws near for the offal of the quarry
to be distributed. And even Mege also looked triumphant. He had all but
overthrown the ministry. That made another one that was worn out, and
by-and-by he would wear out Vignon's, and at last govern in his turn.

"The devil!" muttered little Massot, "Chaigneux and Duthil look like
whipped dogs. And see, there's nobody who is worth the governor. Just
look at him, how superb he is, that Fonsegue! But good-by, I must now be

Then he shook hands with his brother journalist unwilling as he was to
remain any longer, although the sitting still continued, some bill of
public importance again being debated before the rows of empty seats.

Chaigneux, with his desolate mien, had gone to lean against the pedestal
of the high figure of Minerva; and never before had he been more bowed
down by his needy distress, the everlasting anguish of his ill-luck. On
the other hand, Duthil, in spite of everything, was perorating in the
centre of a group with an affectation of scoffing unconcern; nevertheless
nervous twitches made his nose pucker and distorted his mouth, while the
whole of his handsome face was becoming moist with fear. And even as
Massot had said, there really was only Fonsegue who showed composure and
bravery, ever the same with his restless little figure, and his eyes
beaming with wit, though at times they were just faintly clouded by a
shadow of uneasiness.

Pierre had risen to renew his request; but Fonsegue forestalled him,
vivaciously exclaiming: "No, no, Monsieur l'Abbe, I repeat that I cannot
take on myself such an infraction of our rules. There was an inquiry, and
a decision was arrived at. How would you have me over-rule it?"

"Monsieur," said the priest, in a tone of deep grief, "it is a question
of an old man who is hungry and cold, and in danger of death if he be not

With a despairing gesture, the director of "Le Globe" seemed to take the
very walls as witnesses of his powerlessness. No doubt he feared some
nasty affair for his newspaper, in which he had abused the Invalids of
Labour enterprise as an electoral weapon. Perhaps, too, the secret terror
into which the sitting of the Chamber had just thrown him was hardening
his heart. "I can do nothing," he repeated. "But naturally I don't ask
better than to have my hands forced by the ladies of the Committee. You
already have the support of the Baroness Duvillard, secure that of some

Pierre, who was determined to fight on to the very end, saw in this
suggestion a supreme chance. "I know the Countess de Quinsac," he said,
"I can go to see her at once."

"Quite so! an excellent idea, the Countess de Quinsac! Take a cab and go
to see the Princess de Harn as well. She bestirs herself a great deal,
and is becoming very influential. Secure the approval of these ladies, go
back to the Baroness's at seven, get a letter from her to cover me, and
then call on me at the office of my paper. That done, your man shall
sleep at the Asylum at nine o'clock!"

He evinced in speaking a kind of joyous good nature, as though he no
longer doubted of success now that he ran no risk of compromising
himself. And great hope again came back to the priest: "Ah! thank you,
monsieur," he said; "it is a work of salvation that you will accomplish."

"But you surely know that I ask nothing better. Ah! if we could only cure
misery, prevent hunger and thirst by a mere word. However, make haste,
you have not a minute to lose."

They shook hands, and Pierre at once tried to get out of the throng.
This, however, was no easy task, for the various groups had grown larger
as all the anger and anguish, roused by the recent debate, ebbed back
there amid a confused tumult. It was as when a stone, cast into a pool,
stirs the ooze below, and causes hidden, rotting things to rise once more
to the surface. And Pierre had to bring his elbows into play and force a
passage athwart the throng, betwixt the shivering cowardice of some, the
insolent audacity of others, and the smirchings which sullied the greater
number, given the contagion which inevitably prevailed. However, he
carried away a fresh hope, and it seemed to him that if he should save a
life, make but one man happy that day, it would be like a first
instalment of redemption, a sign that a little forgiveness would be
extended to the many follies and errors of that egotistical and
all-devouring political world.

On reaching the vestibule a final incident detained him for a moment
longer. Some commotion prevailed there following upon a quarrel between a
man and an usher, the latter of whom had prevented the former from
entering on finding that the admission ticket which he tendered was an
old one, with its original date scratched out. The man, very rough at the
outset, had then refrained from insisting, as if indeed sudden timidity
had come upon him. And in this ill-dressed fellow Pierre was astonished
to recognise Salvat, the journeyman engineer, whom he had seen going off
in search of work that same morning. This time it was certainly he, tall,
thin and ravaged, with dreamy yet flaming eyes, which set his pale
starveling's face aglow. He no longer carried his tool-bag; his ragged
jacket was buttoned up and distended on the left side by something that
he carried in a pocket, doubtless some hunk of bread. And on being
repulsed by the ushers, he walked away, taking the Concorde bridge,
slowly, as if chancewise, like a man who knows not whither he is going.



IN her old faded drawing-room--a Louis Seize _salon_ with grey
woodwork--the Countess de Quinsac sat near the chimney-piece in her
accustomed place. She was singularly like her son, with a long and noble
face, her chin somewhat stern, but her eyes still beautiful beneath her
fine snowy hair, which was arranged in the antiquated style of her youth.
And whatever her haughty coldness, she knew how to be amiable, with
perfect, kindly graciousness.

Slightly waving her hand after a long silence, she resumed, addressing
herself to the Marquis de Morigny, who sat on the other side of the
chimney, where for long years he had always taken the same armchair. "Ah!
you are right, my friend, Providence has left us here forgotten, in a
most abominable epoch."

"Yes, we passed by the side of happiness and missed it," the Marquis
slowly replied, "and it was your fault, and doubtless mine as well."

Smiling sadly, she stopped him with another wave of her hand. And the
silence fell once more; not a sound from the streets reached that gloomy
ground floor at the rear of the courtyard of an old mansion in the Rue
St. Dominique, almost at the corner of the Rue de Bourgogne.

The Marquis was an old man of seventy-five, nine years older than the
Countess. Short and thin though he was, he none the less had a
distinguished air, with his clean-shaven face, furrowed by deep,
aristocratic wrinkles. He belonged to one of the most ancient families of
France, and remained one of the last hopeless Legitimists, of very pure
and lofty views, zealously keeping his faith to the dead monarchy amidst
the downfall of everything. His fortune, still estimated at several
millions of francs, remained, as it were, in a state of stagnation,
through his refusal to invest it in any of the enterprises of the
century. It was known that in all discretion he had loved the Countess,
even when M. de Quinsac was alive, and had, moreover, offered marriage
after the latter's death, at the time when the widow had sought a refuge
on that damp ground floor with merely an income of some 15,000 francs,
saved with great difficulty from the wreck of the family fortune. But
she, who adored her son Gerard, then in his tenth year, and of delicate
health, had sacrificed everything to the boy from a kind of maternal
chasteness and a superstitious fear that she might lose him should she
set another affection and another duty in her life. And the Marquis,
while bowing to her decision, had continued to worship her with his whole
soul, ever paying his court as on the first evening when he had seen her,
still gallant and faithful after a quarter of a century had passed. There
had never been anything between them, not even the exchange of a kiss.

Seeing how sad she looked, he feared that he might have displeased her,
and so he asked: "I should have liked to render you happy, but I didn't
know how, and the fault can certainly only rest with me. Is Gerard giving
you any cause for anxiety?"

She shook her head, and then replied: "As long as things remain as they
are we cannot complain of them, my friend, since we accepted them."

She referred to her son's culpable connection with Baroness Duvillard.
She had ever shown much weakness with regard to that son whom she had had
so much trouble to rear, for she alone knew what exhaustion, what racial
collapse was hidden behind his proud bearing. She tolerated his idleness,
the apathetic disgust which, man of pleasure that he was, had turned him
from the profession of diplomacy as from that of arms. How many times had
she not repaired his acts of folly and paid his petty debts, keeping
silent concerning them, and refusing all pecuniary help from the Marquis,
who no longer dared offer his millions, so stubbornly intent she was on
living upon the remnants of her own fortune. And thus she had ended by
closing her eyes to her son's scandalous love intrigue, divining in some
measure how things had happened, through self-abandonment and lack of
conscience--the man weak, unable to resume possession of himself, and the
woman holding and retaining him. The Marquis, however, strangely enough,
had only forgiven the intrigue on the day when Eve had allowed herself to
be converted.

"You know, my friend, how good-natured Gerard is," the Countess resumed.
"In that lie both his strength and weakness. How would you have me scold
him when he weeps over it all with me? He will tire of that woman."

M. de Morigny wagged his head. "She is still very beautiful," said he.
"And then there's the daughter. It would be graver still if he were to
marry her--"

"But the daughter's infirm?"

"Yes, and you know what would be said: A Quinsac marrying a monster for
the sake of her millions."

This was their mutual terror. They knew everything that went on at the
Duvillards, the affectionate friendship of the uncomely Camille and the
handsome Gerard, the seeming idyll beneath which lurked the most awful of
dramas. And they protested with all their indignation. "Oh! that, no, no,
never!" the Countess declared. "My son in that family, no, I will never
consent to it."

Just at that moment General de Bozonnet entered. He was much attached to
his sister and came to keep her company on the days when she received,
for the old circle had gradually dwindled down till now only a few
faithful ones ventured into that grey gloomy _salon_, where one might
have fancied oneself at thousands of leagues from present-day Paris. And
forthwith, in order to enliven the room, he related that he had been to
_dejeuner_ at the Duvillards, and named the guests, Gerard among them. He
knew that he pleased his sister by going to the banker's house whence he
brought her news, a house, too, which he cleansed in some degree by
conferring on it the great honour of his presence. And he himself in no
wise felt bored there, for he had long been gained over to the century
and showed himself of a very accommodating disposition in everything that
did not pertain to military art.

"That poor little Camille worships Gerard," said he; "she was devouring
him with her eyes at table."

But M. de Morigny gravely intervened: "There lies the danger, a marriage
would be absolutely monstrous from every point of view."

The General seemed astonished: "Why, pray? She isn't beautiful, but it's
not only the beauties who marry! And there are her millions. However, our
dear child would only have to put them to a good use. True, there is also
the mother; but, _mon Dieu_! such things are so common nowadays in Paris

This revolted the Marquis, who made a gesture of utter disgust. What was
the use of discussion when all collapsed? How could one answer a
Bozonnet, the last surviving representative of such an illustrious
family, when he reached such a point as to excuse the infamous morals
that prevailed under the Republic; after denying his king, too, and
serving the Empire, faithfully and passionately attaching himself to the
fortunes and memory of Caesar? However, the Countess also became
indignant: "Oh! what are you saying, brother? I will never authorize such
a scandal, I swore so only just now."

"Don't swear, sister," exclaimed the General; "for my part I should like
to see our Gerard happy. That's all. And one must admit that he's not
good for much. I can understand that he didn't go into the Army, for that
profession is done for. But I do not so well understand why he did not
enter the diplomatic profession, or accept some other occupation. It is
very fine, no doubt, to run down the present times and declare that a man
of our sphere cannot possibly do any clean work in them. But, as a matter
of fact, it is only idle fellows who still say that. And Gerard has but
one excuse, his lack of aptitude, will and strength."

Tears had risen to the mother's eyes. She even trembled, well knowing how
deceitful were appearances: a mere chill might carry her son off, however
tall and strong he might look. And was he not indeed a symbol of that
old-time aristocracy, still so lofty and proud in appearance, though at
bottom it is but dust?

"Well," continued the General, "he's thirty-six now; he's constantly
hanging on your hands, and he must make an end of it all."

However, the Countess silenced him and turned to the Marquis: "Let us put
our confidence in God, my friend," said she. "He cannot but come to my
help, for I have never willingly offended Him."

"Never!" replied the Marquis, who in that one word set an expression of
all his grief, all his affection and worship for that woman whom he had
adored for so many years.

But another faithful friend came in and the conversation changed. M. de
Larombiere, Vice-President of the Appeal Court, was an old man of
seventy-five, thin, bald and clean shaven but for a pair of little white
whiskers. And his grey eyes, compressed mouth and square and obstinate
chin lent an expression of great austerity to his long face. The grief of
his life was that, being afflicted with a somewhat childish lisp, he had
never been able to make his full merits known when a public prosecutor,
for he esteemed himself to be a great orator. And this secret worry
rendered him morose. In him appeared an incarnation of that old royalist
France which sulked and only served the Republic against its heart, that
old stern magistracy which closed itself to all evolution, to all new
views of things and beings. Of petty "gown" nobility, originally a
Legitimist but now supporting Orleanism, he believed himself to be the
one man of wisdom and logic in that _salon_, where he was very proud to
meet the Marquis.

They talked of the last events; but with them political conversation was
soon exhausted, amounting as it did to a mere bitter condemnation of men
and occurrences, for all three were of one mind as to the abominations of
the Republican _regime_. They themselves, however, were only ruins, the
remnants of the old parties now all but utterly powerless. The Marquis
for his part soared on high, yielding in nothing, ever faithful to the
dead past; he was one of the last representatives of that lofty obstinate
_noblesse_ which dies when it finds itself without an effort to escape
its fate. The judge, who at least had a pretender living, relied on a
miracle, and demonstrated the necessity for one if France were not to
sink into the depths of misfortune and completely disappear. And as for
the General, all that he regretted of the two Empires was their great
wars; he left the faint hope of a Bonapartist restoration on one side to
declare that by not contenting itself with the Imperial military system,
and by substituting thereto obligatory service, the nation in arms, the
Republic had killed both warfare and the country.

When the Countess's one man-servant came to ask her if she would consent
to receive Abbe Froment she seemed somewhat surprised. "What can he want
of me? Show him in," she said.

She was very pious, and having met Pierre in connection with various
charitable enterprises, she had been touched by his zeal as well as by
the saintly reputation which he owed to his Neuilly parishioners.

He, absorbed by his fever, felt intimidated directly he crossed the
threshold. He could at first distinguish nothing, but fancied he was
entering some place of mourning, a shadowy spot where human forms seemed
to melt away, and voices were never raised above a whisper. Then, on
perceiving the persons present, he felt yet more out of his element, for
they seemed so sad, so far removed from the world whence he had just
come, and whither he was about to return. And when the Countess had made
him sit down beside her in front of the chimney-piece, it was in a low
voice that he told her the lamentable story of Laveuve, and asked her
support to secure the man's admittance to the Asylum for the Invalids of

"Ah! yes," said she, "that enterprise which my son wished me to belong
to. But, Monsieur l'Abbe, I have never once attended the Committee
meetings. So how could I intervene, having assuredly no influence

Again had the figures of Eve and Gerard arisen before her, for it was at
this asylum that the pair had first met. And influenced by her sorrowful
maternal love she was already weakening, although it was regretfully that
she had lent her name to one of those noisy charitable enterprises, which
people abused to further their selfish interests in a manner she

"But, madame," Pierre insisted, "it is a question of a poor starving old
man. I implore you to be compassionate."

Although the priest had spoken in a low voice the General drew near.
"It's for your old revolutionary that you are running about, is it not,"
said he. "Didn't you succeed with the manager, then? The fact is that
it's difficult to feel any pity for fellows who, if they were the
masters, would, as they themselves say, sweep us all away."

M. de Larombiere jerked his chin approvingly. For some time past he had
been haunted by the Anarchist peril. But Pierre, distressed and
quivering, again began to plead his cause. He spoke of all the frightful
misery, the homes where there was no food, the women and children
shivering with cold, and the fathers scouring muddy, wintry Paris in
search of a bit of bread. All that he asked for was a line on a visiting
card, a kindly word from the Countess, which he would at once carry to
Baroness Duvillard to prevail on her to set the regulations aside. And
his words fell one by one, tremulous with stifled tears, in that mournful
_salon_, like sounds from afar, dying away in a dead world where there
was no echo left.

Madame de Quinsac turned towards M. de Morigny, but he seemed to take no
interest in it all. He was gazing fixedly at the fire, with the haughty
air of a stranger who was indifferent to the things and beings in whose
midst an error of time compelled him to live. But feeling that the glance
of the woman he worshipped was fixed upon him he raised his head; and
then their eyes met for a moment with an expression of infinite
gentleness, the mournful gentleness of their heroic love.

"_Mon Dieu_!" said she, "I know your merits, Monsieur l'Abbe, and I won't
refuse my help to one of your good works."

Then she went off for a moment, and returned with a card on which she had
written that she supported with all her heart Monsieur l'Abbe Froment in
the steps he was taking. And he thanked her and went off delighted, as if
he carried yet a fresh hope of salvation from that drawing-room where, as
he retired, gloom and silence once more seemed to fall on that old lady
and her last faithful friends gathered around the fire, last relics of a
world that was soon to disappear.

Once outside, Pierre joyfully climbed into his cab again, after giving
the Princess de Harn's address in the Avenue Kleber. If he could also
obtain her approval he would no longer doubt of success. However, there
was such a crush on the Concorde bridge, that the driver had to walk his
horse. And, on the foot-pavement, Pierre again saw Duthil, who, with a
cigar between his lips, was smiling at the crowd, with his amiable
bird-like heedlessness, happy as he felt at finding the pavement dry and
the sky blue on leaving that worrying sitting of the Chamber. Seeing how
gay and triumphant he looked, a sudden inspiration came to the priest,
who said to himself that he ought to win over this young man, whose
report had had such a disastrous effect. As it happened, the cab having
been compelled to stop altogether, the deputy had just recognized him and
was smiling at him.

"Where are you going, Monsieur Duthil?" Pierre asked.

"Close by, in the Champs Elysees."

"I'm going that way, and, as I should much like to speak to you for a
moment, it would be very kind of you to take a seat beside me. I will set
you down wherever you like."

"Willingly, Monsieur l'Abbe. It won't inconvenience you if I finish my

"Oh! not at all."

The cab found its way out of the crush, crossed the Place de la Concorde
and began to ascend the Champs Elysees. And Pierre, reflecting that he
had very few minutes before him, at once attacked Duthil, quite ready for
any effort to convince him. He remembered what a sortie the young deputy
had made against Laveuve at the Baron's; and thus he was astonished to
hear him interrupt and say quite pleasantly, enlivened as he seemed by
the bright sun which was again beginning to shine: "Ah, yes! your old
drunkard! So you didn't settle his business with Fonsegue? And what is it
you want? To have him admitted to-day? Well, you know I don't oppose it?"

"But there's your report."

"My report, oh, my report! But questions change according to the way one
looks at them. And if you are so anxious about your Laveuve I won't
refuse to help you."

Pierre looked at him in astonishment, at bottom extremely well pleased.
And there was no further necessity even for him to speak.

"You didn't take the matter in hand properly," continued Duthil, leaning
forward with a confidential air. "It's the Baron who's the master at
home, for reasons which you may divine, which you may very likely know.
The Baroness does all that he asks without even discussing the point; and
this morning,--instead of starting on a lot of useless visits, you only
had to gain his support, particularly as he seemed to be very well
disposed. And she would then have given way immediately." Duthil began to
laugh. "And so," he continued, "do you know what I'll do? Well, I'll gain
the Baron over to your cause. Yes, I am this moment going to a house
where he is, where one is certain to find him every day at this time."
Then he laughed more loudly. "And perhaps you are not ignorant of it,
Monsieur l'Abbe. When he is there you may be certain he never gives a
refusal. I promise you I'll make him swear that he will compel his wife
to grant your man admission this very evening. Only it will, perhaps, be
rather late."

Then all at once, as if struck by a fresh idea, Duthil went on: "But why
shouldn't you come with me? You secure a line from the Baron, and
thereupon, without losing a minute, you go in search of the Baroness. Ah!
yes, the house embarrasses you a little, I understand it. Would you like
to see only the Baron there? You can wait for him in a little _salon_
downstairs; I will bring him to you."

This proposal made Duthil altogether merry, but Pierre, quite scared,
hesitated at the idea of thus going to Silviane d'Aulnay's. It was hardly
a place for him. However, to achieve his purpose, he would have descended
into the very dwelling of the fiend, and had already done so sometimes
with Abbe Rose, when there was hope of assuaging wretchedness. So he
turned to Duthil and consented to accompany him.

Silviane d'Aulnay's little mansion, a very luxurious one, displaying,
too, so to say, the luxury of a temple, refined but suggestive of
gallantry, stood in the Avenue d'Antin, near the Champs Elysees. The
inmate of this sanctuary, where the orfrays of old dalmaticas glittered
in the mauve reflections from the windows of stained-glass, had just
completed her twenty-fifth year. Short and slim she was, of an adorable,
dark beauty, and all Paris was acquainted with her delicious, virginal
countenance of a gentle oval, her delicate nose, her little mouth, her
candid cheeks and artless chin, above all which she wore her black hair
in thick, heavy bands, which hid her low brow. Her notoriety was due
precisely to her pretty air of astonishment, the infinite purity of her
blue eyes, the whole expression of chaste innocence which she assumed
when it so pleased her, an expression which contrasted powerfully with
her true nature, shameless creature that she really was, of the most
monstrous, confessed, and openly-displayed perversity; such as, in fact,
often spring up from the rotting soil of great cities. Extraordinary
things were related about Silviane's tastes and fancies. Some said that
she was a door-keeper's, others a doctor's, daughter. In any case she had
managed to acquire instruction and manners, for when occasion required
she lacked neither wit, nor style, nor deportment. She had been rolling
through the theatres for ten years or so, applauded for her beauty's
sake, and she had even ended by obtaining some pretty little successes in
such parts as those of very pure young girls or loving and persecuted
young women. Since there had been a question, though, of her entering the
Comedie Francaise to play the _role_ of Pauline in "Polyeucte," some
people had waxed indignant and others had roared with laughter, so
ridiculous did the idea appear, so outrageous for the majesty of classic
tragedy. She, however, quiet and stubborn, wished this thing to be, was
resolved that it should be, certain as she was that she would secure it,
insolent like a creature to whom men had never yet been able to refuse

That day, at three o'clock, Gerard de Quinsac, not knowing how to kill
the time pending the appointment he had given Eve in the Rue Matignon,
had thought of calling at Silviane's, which was in the neighbourhood. She
was an old caprice of his, and even nowadays he would sometimes linger at
the little mansion if its pretty mistress felt bored. But he had this
time found her in a fury; and, reclining in one of the deep armchairs of
the _salon_ where "old gold" formed the predominant colour, he was
listening to her complaints. She, standing in a white gown, white indeed
from head to foot like Eve herself at the _dejeuner_, was speaking
passionately, and fast convincing the young man, who, won over by so much
youth and beauty, unconsciously compared her to his other flame, weary
already of his coming assignation, and so mastered by supineness, both
moral and physical, that he would have preferred to remain all day in the
depths of that armchair.

"You hear me, Gerard!" she at last exclaimed, "I'll have nothing whatever
to do with him, unless he brings me my nomination."

Just then Baron Duvillard came in, and forthwith she changed to ice and
received him like some sorely offended young queen who awaits an
explanation; whilst he, who foresaw the storm and brought moreover
disastrous tidings, forced a smile, though very ill at ease. She was the
stain, the blemish attaching to that man who was yet so sturdy and so
powerful amidst the general decline of his race. And she was also the
beginning of justice and punishment, taking all his piled-up gold from
him by the handful, and by her cruelty avenging those who shivered and
who starved. And it was pitiful to see that feared and flattered man,
beneath whom states and governments trembled, here turn pale with
anxiety, bend low in all humility, and relapse into the senile, lisping
infancy of acute passion.

"Ah! my dear friend," said he, "if you only knew how I have been rushing
about. I had a lot of worrying business, some contractors to see, a big
advertisement affair to settle, and I feared that I should never be able
to come and kiss your hand."

He kissed it, but she let her arm fall, coldly, indifferently, contenting
herself with looking at him, waiting for what he might have to say to
her, and embarrassing him to such a point that he began to perspire and
stammer, unable to express himself. "Of course," he began, "I also
thought of you, and went to the Fine Arts Office, where I had received a
positive promise. Oh! they are still very much in your favour at the Fine
Arts Office! Only, just fancy, it's that idiot of a minister, that
Taboureau,* an old professor from the provinces who knows nothing about
our Paris, that has expressly opposed your nomination, saying that as
long as he is in office you shall not appear at the Comedie."

  * Taboureau is previously described as Minister of Public
    Instruction. It should be pointed out, however, that
    although under the present Republic the Ministries of
    Public Instruction and Fine Arts have occasionally been
    distinct departments, at other times they have been
    united, one minister, as in Taboureau's case, having
    charge of both.--Trans.

Erect and rigid, she spoke but two words: "And then?"

"And then--well, my dear, what would you have me do? One can't after all
overthrow a ministry to enable you to play the part of Pauline."

"Why not?"

He pretended to laugh, but his blood rushed to his face, and the whole of
his sturdy figure quivered with anguish. "Come, my little Silviane," said
he, "don't be obstinate. You can be so nice when you choose. Give up the
idea of that _debut_. You, yourself, would risk a great deal in it, for
what would be your worries if you were to fail? You would weep all the
tears in your body. And besides, you can ask me for so many other things
which I should be so happy to give you. Come now, at once, make a wish
and I will gratify it immediately."

In a frolicsome way he sought to take her hand again. But she drew back
with an air of much dignity. "No, you hear me, my dear fellow, I will
have nothing whatever to do with you--nothing, so long as I don't play

He understood her fully, and he knew her well enough to realise how
rigorously she would treat him. Only a kind of grunt came from his
contracted throat, though he still tried to treat the matter in a jesting
way. "Isn't she bad-tempered to-day!" he resumed at last, turning towards
Gerard. "What have you done to her that I find her in such a state?"

But the young man, who kept very quiet for fear lest he himself might be
bespattered in the course of the dispute, continued to stretch himself
out in a languid way and gave no answer.

But Silviane's anger burst forth. "What has he done to me? He has pitied
me for being at the mercy of such a man as you--so egotistical, so
insensible to the insults heaped upon me. Ought you not to be the first
to bound with indignation? Ought you not to have exacted my admittance to
the Comedie as a reparation for the insult? For, after all, it is a
defeat for you; if I'm considered unworthy, you are struck at the same
time as I am. And so I'm a drab, eh? Say at once that I'm a creature to
be driven away from all respectable houses."

She went on in this style, coming at last to vile words, the abominable
words which, in moments of anger, always ended by returning to her
innocent-looking lips. The Baron, who well knew that a syllable from him
would only increase the foulness of the overflow, vainly turned an
imploring glance on the Count to solicit his intervention. Gerard, with
his keen desire for peace and quietness, often brought about a
reconciliation, but this time he did not stir, feeling too lazy and
sleepy to interfere. And Silviane all at once came to a finish, repeating
her trenchant, severing words: "Well, manage as you can, secure my
_debut_, or I'll have nothing more to do with you, nothing!"

"All right! all right!" Duvillard at last murmured, sneering, but in
despair, "we'll arrange it all."

However, at that moment a servant came in to say that M. Duthil was
downstairs and wished to speak to the Baron in the smoking-room.
Duvillard was astonished at this, for Duthil usually came up as though
the house were his own. Then he reflected that the deputy had doubtless
brought him some serious news from the Chamber which he wished to impart
to him confidentially at once. So he followed the servant, leaving Gerard
and Silviane together.

In the smoking-room, an apartment communicating with the hall by a wide
bay, the curtain of which was drawn up, Pierre stood with his companion,
waiting and glancing curiously around him. What particularly struck him
was the almost religious solemnness of the entrance, the heavy hangings,
the mystic gleams of the stained-glass, the old furniture steeped in
chapel-like gloom amidst scattered perfumes of myrrh and incense. Duthil,
who was still very gay, tapped a low divan with his cane and said: "She
has a nicely-furnished house, eh? Oh! she knows how to look after her

Then the Baron came in, still quite upset and anxious. And without even
perceiving the priest, desirous as he was of tidings, he began: "Well,
what did they do? Is there some very bad news, then?"

"Mege interpellated and applied for a declaration of urgency so as to
overthrow Barroux. You can imagine what his speech was."

"Yes, yes, against the _bourgeois_, against me, against you. It's always
the same thing--And then?"

"Then--well, urgency wasn't voted, but, in spite of a very fine defence,
Barroux only secured a majority of two votes."

"Two votes, the devil! Then he's down, and we shall have a Vignon
ministry next week."

"That's what everybody said in the lobbies."

The Baron frowned, as if he were estimating what good or evil might
result to the world from such a change. Then, with a gesture of
displeasure, he said: "A Vignon ministry! The devil! that would hardly be
any better. Those young democrats pretend to be virtuous, and a Vignon
ministry wouldn't admit Silviane to the Comedie."

This, at first, was his only thought in presence of the crisis which made
the political world tremble. And so the deputy could not refrain from
referring to his own anxiety. "Well, and we others, what is our position
in it all?"

This brought Duvillard back to the situation. With a fresh gesture, this
time a superbly proud one, he expressed his full and impudent confidence.
"We others, why we remain as we are; we've never been in peril, I
imagine. Oh! I am quite at ease. Sagnier can publish his famous list if
it amuses him to do so. If we haven't long since bought Sagnier and his
list, it's because Barroux is a thoroughly honest man, and for my part I
don't care to throw money out of the window--I repeat to you that we fear

Then, as he at last recognised Abbe Froment, who had remained in the
shade, Duthil explained what service the priest desired of him. And
Duvillard, in his state of emotion, his heart still rent by Silviane's
sternness, must have felt a covert hope that a good action might bring
him luck; so he at once consented to intervene in favour of Laveuve's
admission. Taking a card and a pencil from his pocket-book he drew near
to the window. "Oh! whatever you desire, Monsieur l'Abbe," he said, "I
shall be very happy to participate in this good work. Here, this is what
I have written: 'My dear, please do what M. l'Abbe Froment solicits in
favour of this unfortunate man, since our friend Fonsegue only awaits a
word from you to take proper steps.'"

At this moment through the open bay Pierre caught sight of Gerard, whom
Silviane, calm once more, and inquisitive no doubt to know why Duthil had
called, was escorting into the hall. And the sight of the young woman
filled him with astonishment, so simple and gentle did she seem to him,
full of the immaculate candour of a virgin. Never had he dreamt of a lily
of more unobtrusive yet delicious bloom in the whole garden of innocence.

"Now," continued Duvillard, "if you wish to hand this card to my wife at
once, you must go to the Princess de Harn's, where there is a

"I was going there, Monsieur le Baron."

"Very good. You will certainly find my wife there; she is to take the
children there." Then he paused, for he too had just seen Gerard; and he
called him: "I say, Gerard, my wife said that she was going to that
_matinee_, didn't she? You feel sure--don't you?--that Monsieur l'Abbe
will find her there?"

Although the young man was then going to the Rue Matignon, there to wait
for Eve, it was in the most natural manner possible that he replied: "If
Monsieur l'Abbe makes haste, I think he will find her there, for she was
certainly going there before trying on a corsage at Salmon's."

Then he kissed Silviane's hand, and went off with the air of a handsome,
indolent man, who knows no malice, and is even weary of pleasure.

Pierre, feeling rather embarrassed, was obliged to let Duvillard
introduce him to the mistress of the house. He bowed in silence, whilst
she, likewise silent, returned his bow with modest reserve, the tact
appropriate to the occasion, such as no _ingenue_, even at the Comedie,
was then capable of. And while the Baron accompanied the priest to the
door, she returned to the _salon_ with Duthil, who was scarcely screened
by the door-curtain before he passed his arm round her waist.

When Pierre, who at last felt confident of success, found himself, still
in his cab, in front of the Princess de Harn's mansion in the Avenue
Kleber, he suddenly relapsed into great embarrassment. The avenue was
crowded with carriages brought thither by the musical _matinee_, and such
a throng of arriving guests pressed round the entrance, decorated with a
kind of tent with scallopings of red velvet, that he deemed the house
unapproachable. How could he manage to get in? And how in his cassock
could he reach the Princess, and ask for a minute's conversation with
Baroness Duvillard? Amidst all his feverishness he had not thought of
these difficulties. However, he was approaching the door on foot, asking
himself how he might glide unperceived through the throng, when the sound
of a merry voice made him turn: "What, Monsieur l'Abbe! Is it possible!
So now I find you here!"

It was little Massot who spoke. He went everywhere, witnessed ten sights
a day,--a parliamentary sitting, a funeral, a wedding, any festive or
mourning scene,--when he wanted a good subject for an article. "What!
Monsieur l'Abbe," he resumed, "and so you have come to our amiable
Princess's to see the Mauritanians dance!"

He was jesting, for the so-called Mauritanians were simply six Spanish
dancing-girls, who by the sensuality of their performance were then
making all Paris rush to the Folies-Bergere. For drawing-room
entertainments these girls reserved yet more indecorous dances--dances of
such a character indeed that they would certainly not have been allowed
in a theatre. And the _beau monde_ rushed to see them at the houses of
the bolder lady-entertainers, the eccentric and foreign ones like the
Princess, who in order to draw society recoiled from no "attraction."

But when Pierre had explained to little Massot that he was still running
about on the same business, the journalist obligingly offered to pilot
him. He knew the house, obtained admittance by a back door, and brought
Pierre along a passage into a corner of the hall, near the very entrance
of the grand drawing-room. Lofty green plants decorated this hall, and in
the spot selected Pierre was virtually hidden. "Don't stir, my dear
Abbe," said Massot, "I will try to ferret out the Princess for you. And
you shall know if Baroness Duvillard has already arrived."

What surprised Pierre was that every window-shutter of the mansion was
closed, every chink stopped up so that daylight might not enter, and that
every room flared with electric lamps, an illumination of supernatural
intensity. The heat was already very great, the atmosphere heavy with a
violent perfume of flowers and _odore di femina_. And to Pierre, who felt
both blinded and stifled, it seemed as if he were entering one of those
luxurious, unearthly Dens of the Flesh such as the pleasure-world of
Paris conjures from dreamland. By rising on tiptoes, as the drawing-room
entrance was wide open, he could distinguish the backs of the women who
were already seated, rows of necks crowned with fair or dark hair. The
Mauritanians were doubtless executing their first dance. He did not see
them, but he could divine the lascivious passion of the dance from the
quiver of all those women's necks, which swayed as beneath a great gust
of wind. Then laughter arose and a tempest of bravos, quite a tumult of

"I can't put my hand on the Princess; you must wait a little," Massot
returned to say. "I met Janzen and he promised to bring her to me. Don't
you know Janzen?"

Then, in part because his profession willed it, and in part for
pleasure's sake, he began to gossip. The Princess was a good friend of
his. He had described her first _soiree_ during the previous year, when
she had made her _debut_ at that mansion on her arrival in Paris. He knew
the real truth about her so far as it could be known. Rich? yes, perhaps
she was, for she spent enormous sums. Married she must have been, and to
a real prince, too; no doubt she was still married to him, in spite of
her story of widowhood. Indeed, it seemed certain that her husband, who
was as handsome as an archangel, was travelling about with a vocalist. As
for having a bee in her bonnet that was beyond discussion, as clear as
noonday. Whilst showing much intelligence, she constantly and suddenly
shifted. Incapable of any prolonged effort, she went from one thing that
had awakened her curiosity to another, never attaching herself anywhere.
After ardently busying herself with painting, she had lately become
impassioned for chemistry, and was now letting poetry master her.

"And so you don't know Janzen," continued Massot. "It was he who threw
her into chemistry, into the study of explosives especially, for, as you
may imagine, the only interest in chemistry for her is its connection
with Anarchism. She, I think, is really an Austrian, though one must
always doubt anything she herself says. As for Janzen, he calls himself a
Russian, but he's probably German. Oh! he's the most unobtrusive,
enigmatical man in the world, without a home, perhaps without a name--a
terrible fellow with an unknown past. I myself hold proofs which make me
think that he took part in that frightful crime at Barcelona. At all
events, for nearly a year now I've been meeting him in Paris, where the
police no doubt are watching him. And nothing can rid me of the idea that
he merely consented to become our lunatic Princess's lover in order to
throw the detectives off the scent. He affects to live in the midst of
_fetes_, and he has introduced to the house some extraordinary people,
Anarchists of all nationalities and all colours--for instance, one
Raphanel, that fat, jovial little man yonder, a Frenchman he is, and his
companions would do well to mistrust him. Then there's a Bergaz, a
Spaniard, I think, an obscure jobber at the Bourse, whose sensual,
blobber-lipped mouth is so disquieting. And there are others and others,
adventurers and bandits from the four corners of the earth! . . . Ah! the
foreign colonies of our Parisian pleasure-world! There are a few spotless
fine names, a few real great fortunes among them, but as for the rest,
ah! what a herd!"

Rosemonde's own drawing-room was summed up in those words: resounding
titles, real millionaires, then, down below, the most extravagant medley
of international imposture and turpitude. And Pierre thought of that
internationalism, that cosmopolitanism, that flight of foreigners which,
ever denser and denser, swooped down upon Paris. Most certainly it came
thither to enjoy it, as to a city of adventure and delight, and it helped
to rot it a little more. Was it then a necessary thing, that
decomposition of the great cities which have governed the world, that
affluxion of every passion, every desire, every gratification, that
accumulation of reeking soil from all parts of the world, there where, in
beauty and intelligence, blooms the flower of civilisation?

However, Janzen appeared, a tall, thin fellow of about thirty, very fair
with grey, pale, harsh eyes, and a pointed beard and flowing curly hair
which elongated his livid, cloudy face. He spoke indifferent French in a
low voice and without a gesture. And he declared that the Princess could
not be found; he had looked for her everywhere. Possibly, if somebody had
displeased her, she had shut herself up in her room and gone to bed,
leaving her guests to amuse themselves in all freedom in whatever way
they might choose.

"Why, but here she is!" suddenly said Massot.

Rosemonde was indeed there, in the vestibule, watching the door as if she
expected somebody. Short, slight, and strange rather than pretty, with
her delicate face, her sea-green eyes, her small quivering nose, her
rather large and over-ruddy mouth, which was parted so that one could see
her superb teeth, she that day wore a sky-blue gown spangled with silver;
and she had silver bracelets on her arms and a silver circlet in her pale
brown hair, which rained down in curls and frizzy, straggling locks as
though waving in a perpetual breeze.

"Oh! whatever you desire, Monsieur l'Abbe," she said to Pierre as soon as
she knew his business. "If they don't take your old man in at our asylum,
send him to me, I'll take him, I will; I will sleep him somewhere here."

Still, she remained disturbed, and continually glanced towards the door.
And on the priest asking if Baroness Duvillard had yet arrived, "Why no!"
she cried, "and I am much surprised at it. She is to bring her son and
daughter. Yesterday, Hyacinthe positively promised me that he would

There lay her new caprice. If her passion for chemistry was giving way to
a budding taste for decadent, symbolical verse, it was because one
evening, whilst discussing Occultism with Hyacinthe, she had discovered
an extraordinary beauty in him: the astral beauty of Nero's wandering
soul! At least, said she, the signs of it were certain.

And all at once she quitted Pierre: "Ah, at last!" she cried, feeling
relieved and happy. Then she darted forward: Hyacinthe was coming in with
his sister Camille.

On the very threshold, however, he had just met the friend on whose
account he was there, young Lord George Eldrett, a pale and languid
stripling with the hair of a girl; and he scarcely condescended to notice
the tender greeting of Rosemonde, for he professed to regard woman as an
impure and degrading creature. Distressed by such coldness, she followed
the two young men, returning in their rear into the reeking, blinding
furnace of the drawing-room.

Massot, however, had been obliging enough to stop Camille and bring her
to Pierre, who at the first words they exchanged relapsed into despair.
"What, mademoiselle, has not madame your mother accompanied you here?"

The girl, clad according to her wont in a dark gown, this time of
peacock-blue, was nervous, with wicked eyes and sibilant voice. And as
she ragefully drew up her little figure, her deformity, her left shoulder
higher than the right one, became more apparent than ever. "No," she
rejoined, "she was unable. She had something to try on at her
dressmaker's. We stopped too long at the Exposition du Lis, and she
requested us to set her down at Salmon's door on our way here."

It was Camille herself who had skilfully prolonged the visit to the art
show, still hoping to prevent her mother from meeting Gerard. And her
rage arose from the ease with which her mother had got rid of her, thanks
to that falsehood of having something to try on.

"But," ingenuously said Pierre, "if I went at once to this person Salmon,
I might perhaps be able to send up my card."

Camille gave a shrill laugh, so funny did the idea appear to her. Then
she retorted: "Oh! who knows if you would still find her there? She had
another pressing appointment, and is no doubt already keeping it!"

"Well, then, I will wait for her here. She will surely come to fetch you,
will she not?"

"Fetch us? Oh no! since I tell you that she has other important affairs
to attend to. The carriage will take us home alone, my brother and I."

Increasing bitterness was infecting the girl's pain-fraught irony. Did he
not understand her then, that priest who asked such naive questions which
were like dagger-thrusts in her heart? Yet he must know, since everybody
knew the truth.

"Ah! how worried I am," Pierre resumed, so grieved indeed that tears
almost came to his eyes. "It's still on account of that poor man about
whom I have been busying myself since this morning. I have a line from
your father, and Monsieur Gerard told me--" But at this point he paused
in confusion, and amidst all his thoughtlessness of the world, absorbed
as he was in the one passion of charity, he suddenly divined the truth.
"Yes," he added mechanically, "I just now saw your father again with
Monsieur de Quinsac."

"I know, I know," replied Camille, with the suffering yet scoffing air of
a girl who is ignorant of nothing. "Well, Monsieur l'Abbe, if you have a
line from papa for mamma, you must wait till mamma has finished her
business. You might come to the house about six o'clock, but I doubt if
you'll find her there, as she may well be detained."

While Camille thus spoke, her murderous eyes glistened, and each word she
uttered, simple as it seemed, became instinct with ferocity, as if it
were a knife, which she would have liked to plunge into her mother's
breast. In all certainty she had never before hated her mother to such a
point as this in her envy of her beauty and her happiness in being loved.
And the irony which poured from the girl's virgin lips, before that
simple priest, was like a flood of mire with which she sought to submerge
her rival.

Just then, however, Rosemonde came back again, feverish and flurried as
usual. And she led Camille away: "Ah, my dear, make haste. They are
extraordinary, delightful, intoxicating!"

Janzen and little Massot also followed the Princess. All the men hastened
from the adjoining rooms, scrambled and plunged into the _salon_ at the
news that the Mauritanians had again begun to dance. That time it must
have been the frantic, lascivious gallop that Paris whispered about, for
Pierre saw the rows of necks and heads, now fair, now dark, wave and
quiver as beneath a violent wind. With every window-shutter closed, the
conflagration of the electric lamps turned the place into a perfect
brazier, reeking with human effluvia. And there came a spell of rapture,
fresh laughter and bravos, all the delight of an overflowing orgy.

When Pierre again found himself on the footwalk, he remained for a moment
bewildered, blinking, astonished to be in broad daylight once more.
Half-past four would soon strike, but he had nearly two hours to wait
before calling at the house in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy. What should he
do? He paid his driver; preferring to descend the Champs Elysees on foot,
since he had some time to lose. A walk, moreover, might calm the fever
which was burning his hands, in the passion of charity which ever since
the morning had been mastering him more and more, in proportion as he
encountered fresh and fresh obstacles. He now had but one pressing
desire, to complete his good work, since success henceforth seemed
certain. And he tried to restrain his steps and walk leisurely down the
magnificent avenue, which had now been dried by the bright sun, and was
enlivened by a concourse of people, while overhead the sky was again
blue, lightly blue, as in springtime.

Nearly two hours to lose while, yonder, the wretched Laveuve lay with
life ebbing from him on his bed of rags, in his icy den. Sudden feelings
of revolt, of well-nigh irresistible impatience ascended from Pierre's
heart, making him quiver with desire to run off and at once find Baroness
Duvillard so as to obtain from her the all-saving order. He felt sure
that she was somewhere near, in one of those quiet neighbouring streets,
and great was his perturbation, his grief-fraught anger at having to wait
in this wise to save a human life until she should have attended to those
affairs of hers, of which her daughter spoke with such murderous glances!
He seemed to hear a formidable cracking, the family life of the
_bourgeoisie_ was collapsing: the father was at a hussy's house, the
mother with a lover, the son and daughter knew everything; the former
gliding to idiotic perversity, the latter enraged and dreaming of
stealing her mother's lover to make a husband of him. And meantime the
splendid equipages descended the triumphal avenue, and the crowd with its
luxury flowed along the sidewalks, one and all joyous and superb,
seemingly with no idea that somewhere at the far end there was a gaping
abyss wherein everyone of them would fall and be annihilated!

When Pierre got as far as the Summer Circus he was much surprised at
again seeing Salvat, the journeyman engineer, on one of the avenue seats.
He must have sunk down there, overcome by weariness and hunger, after
many a vain search. However, his jacket was still distended by something
he carried in or under it, some bit of bread, no doubt, which he meant to
take home with him. And leaning back, with his arms hanging listlessly,
he was watching with dreamy eyes the play of some very little children,
who, with the help of their wooden spades, were laboriously raising
mounds of sand, and then destroying them by dint of kicks. As he looked
at them his red eyelids moistened, and a very gentle smile appeared on
his poor discoloured lips. This time Pierre, penetrated by disquietude,
wished to approach and question him. But Salvat distrustfully rose and
went off towards the Circus, where a concert was drawing to a close; and
he prowled around the entrance of that festive edifice in which two
thousand happy people were heaped up together listening to music.



AS Pierre was reaching the Place de la Concorde he suddenly remembered
the appointment which Abbe Rose had given him for five o'clock at the
Madeleine, and which he was forgetting in the feverishness born of his
repeated steps to save Laveuve. And at thought of it he hastened on, well
pleased at having this appointment to occupy and keep him patient.

When he entered the church he was surprised to find it so dark. There
were only a few candles burning, huge shadows were flooding the nave, and
amidst the semi-obscurity a very loud, clear voice spoke on with a
ceaseless streaming of words. All that one could at first distinguish of
the numerous congregation was a pale, vague mass of heads, motionless
with extreme attention. In the pulpit stood Monseigneur Martha, finishing
his third address on the New Spirit. The two former ones had re-echoed
far and wide, and so what is called "all Paris" was there--women of
society, politicians, and writers, who were captivated by the speaker's
artistic oratory, his warm, skilful language, and his broad, easy
gestures, worthy of a great actor.

Pierre did not wish to disturb the solemn attention, the quivering
silence above which the prelate's voice alone rang out. Accordingly he
resolved to wait before seeking Abbe Rose, and remained standing near a
pillar. A parting gleam of daylight fell obliquely on Monseigneur Martha,
who looked tall and sturdy in his white surplice, and scarcely showed a
grey hair, although he was more than fifty. He had handsome features:
black, keen eyes, a commanding nose, a mouth and chin of the greatest
firmness of contour. What more particularly struck one, however, what
gained the heart of every listener, was the expression of extreme
amiability and anxious sympathy which ever softened the imperious
haughtiness of the prelate's face.

Pierre had formerly known him as Cure, or parish priest, of Ste.
Clotilde. He was doubtless of Italian origin, but he had been born in
Paris, and had quitted the seminary of St. Sulpice with the best possible
record. Very intelligent and very ambitious, he had evinced an activity
which even made his superiors anxious. Then, on being appointed Bishop of
Persepolis, he had disappeared, gone to Rome, where he had spent five
years engaged in work of which very little was known. However, since his
return he had been astonishing Paris by his brilliant propaganda, busying
himself with the most varied affairs, and becoming much appreciated and
very powerful at the archiepiscopal residence. He devoted himself in
particular, and with wonderful results, to the task of increasing the
subscriptions for the completion of the basilica of the Sacred Heart. He
recoiled from nothing, neither from journeys, nor lectures, nor
collections, nor applications to Government, nor even endeavours among
Israelites and Freemasons. And at last, again enlarging his sphere of
action, he had undertaken to reconcile Science with Catholicism, and to
bring all Christian France to the Republic, on all sides expounding the
policy of Pope Leo XIII., in order that the Church might finally triumph.

However, in spite of the advances of this influential and amiable man,
Pierre scarcely liked him. He only felt grateful to him for one thing,
the appointment of good Abbe Rose as curate at St. Pierre de Montmartre,
which appointment he had secured for him no doubt in order to prevent
such a scandal as the punishment of an old priest for showing himself too
charitable. On thus finding and hearing the prelate speak in that
renowned pulpit of the Madeleine, still and ever pursuing his work of
conquest, Pierre remembered how he had seen him at the Duvillards' during
the previous spring, when, with his usual _maestria_, he had achieved his
greatest triumph--the conversion of Eve to Catholicism. That church, too,
had witnessed her baptism, a wonderfully pompous ceremony, a perfect gala
offered to the public which figures in all the great events of Parisian
life. Gerard had knelt down, moved to tears, whilst the Baron triumphed
like a good-natured husband who was happy to find religion establishing
perfect harmony in his household. It was related among the spectators
that Eve's family, and particularly old Justus Steinberger, her father,
was not in reality much displeased by the affair. The old man sneeringly
remarked, indeed, that he knew his daughter well enough to wish her to
belong to his worst enemy. In the banking business there is a class of
security which one is pleased to see discounted by one's rivals. With the
stubborn hope of triumph peculiar to his race, Justus, consoling himself
for the failure of his first scheme, doubtless considered that Eve would
prove a powerful dissolving agent in the Christian family which she had
entered, and thus help to make all wealth and power fall into the hands
of the Jews.

However, Pierre's vision faded. Monseigneur Martha's voice was rising
with increase of volume, celebrating, amidst the quivering of the
congregation, the benefits that would accrue from the New Spirit, which
was at last about to pacify France and restore her to her due rank and
power. Were there not certain signs of this resurrection on every hand?
The New Spirit was the revival of the Ideal, the protest of the soul
against degrading materialism, the triumph of spirituality over filthy
literature; and it was also Science accepted, but set in its proper
place, reconciled with Faith, since it no longer pretended to encroach on
the latter's sacred domain; and it was further the Democracy welcomed in
fatherly fashion, the Republic legitimated, recognised in her turn as
Eldest Daughter of the Church. A breath of poetry passed by. The Church
opened her heart to all her children, there would henceforth be but
concord and delight if the masses, obedient to the New Spirit, would give
themselves to the Master of love as they had given themselves to their
kings, recognising that the Divinity was the one unique power, absolute
sovereign of both body and soul.

Pierre was now listening attentively, wondering where it was that he had
previously heard almost identical words. And suddenly he remembered; and
could fancy that he was again at Rome, listening to the last words of
Monsignor Nani, the Assessor of the Holy Office. Here, again, he found
the dream of a democratic Pope, ceasing to support the compromised
monarchies, and seeking to subdue the masses. Since Caesar was down, or
nearly so, might not the Pope realise the ancient ambition of his
forerunners and become both emperor and pontiff, the sovereign, universal
divinity on earth? This, too, was the dream in which Pierre himself, with
apostolic naivete, had indulged when writing his book, "New Rome": a
dream from which the sight of the real Rome had so roughly roused him. At
bottom it was merely a policy of hypocritical falsehood, the priestly
policy which relies on time, and is ever tenacious, carrying on the work
of conquest with extraordinary suppleness, resolved to profit by
everything. And what an evolution it was, the Church of Rome making
advances to Science, to the Democracy, to the Republican _regimes_,
convinced that it would be able to devour them if only it were allowed
the time! Ah! yes, the New Spirit was simply the Old Spirit of
Domination, incessantly reviving and hungering to conquer and possess the

Pierre thought that he recognised among the congregation certain deputies
whom he had seen at the Chamber. Wasn't that tall gentleman with the fair
beard, who listened so devoutly, one of Monferrand's creatures? It was
said that Monferrand, once a devourer of priests, was now smilingly
coquetting with the clergy. Quite an underhand evolution was beginning in
the sacristies, orders from Rome flitted hither and thither; it was a
question of accepting the new form of government, and absorbing it by
dint of invasion. France was still the Eldest Daughter of the Church, the
only great nation which had sufficient health and strength to place the
Pope in possession of his temporal power once more. So France must be
won; it was well worth one's while to espouse her, even if she were
Republican. In the eager struggle of ambition the bishop made use of the
minister, who thought it to his interest to lean upon the bishop. But
which of the two would end by devouring the other? And to what a _role_
had religion sunk: an electoral weapon, an element in a parliamentary
majority, a decisive, secret reason for obtaining or retaining a
ministerial portfolio! Of divine charity, the basis of religion, there
was no thought, and Pierre's heart filled with bitterness as he
remembered the recent death of Cardinal Bergerot, the last of the great
saints and pure minds of the French episcopacy, among which there now
seemed to be merely a set of intriguers and fools.

However, the address was drawing to a close. In a glowing peroration,
which evoked the basilica of the Sacred Heart dominating Paris with the
saving symbol of the Cross from the sacred Mount of the Martyrs,*
Monseigneur Martha showed that great city of Paris Christian once more
and master of the world, thanks to the moral omnipotence conferred upon
it by the divine breath of the New Spirit. Unable to applaud, the
congregation gave utterance to a murmur of approving rapture, delighted
as it was with this miraculous finish which reassured both pocket and
conscience. Then Monseigneur Martha quitted the pulpit with a noble step,
whilst a loud noise of chairs broke upon the dark peacefulness of the
church, where the few lighted candles glittered like the first stars in
the evening sky. A long stream of men, vague, whispering shadows, glided
away. The women alone remained, praying on their knees.

  * Montmartre.

Pierre, still in the same spot, was rising on tip-toes, looking for Abbe
Rose, when a hand touched him. It was that of the old priest, who had
seen him from a distance. "I was yonder near the pulpit," said he, "and I
saw you plainly, my dear child. Only I preferred to wait so as to disturb
nobody. What a beautiful address dear Monseigneur delivered!"

He seemed, indeed, much moved. But there was deep sadness about his
kindly mouth and clear childlike eyes, whose smile as a rule illumined
his good, round white face. "I was afraid you might go off without seeing
me," he resumed, "for I have something to tell you. You know that poor
old man to whom I sent you this morning and in whom I asked you to
interest yourself? Well, on getting home I found a lady there, who
sometimes brings me a little money for my poor. Then I thought to myself
that the three francs I gave you were really too small a sum, and as the
thought worried me like a kind of remorse, I couldn't resist the impulse,
but went this afternoon to the Rue des Saules myself."

He lowered his voice from a feeling of respect, in order not to disturb
the deep, sepulchral silence of the church. Covert shame, moreover,
impeded his utterance, shame at having again relapsed into the sin of
blind, imprudent charity, as his superiors reproachfully said. And,
quivering, he concluded in a very low voice indeed: "And so, my child,
picture my grief. I had five francs more to give the poor old man, and I
found him dead."

Pierre suddenly shuddered. But he was unwilling to understand: "What,
dead!" he cried. "That old man dead! Laveuve dead?"

"Yes, I found him dead--ah! amidst what frightful wretchedness, like an
old animal that has laid itself down for the finish on a heap of rags in
the depths of a hole. No neighbours had assisted him in his last moments;
he had simply turned himself towards the wall. And ah! how bare and cold
and deserted it was! And what a pang for a poor creature to go off like
that without a word, a caress. Ah! my heart bounded within me and it is
still bleeding!"

Pierre in his utter amazement at first made but a gesture of revolt
against imbecile social cruelty. Had the bread left near the unfortunate
wretch, and devoured too eagerly, perhaps, after long days of abstinence,
been the cause of his death? Or was not this rather the fatal
_denouement_ of an ended life, worn away by labour and privation?
However, what did the cause signify? Death had come and delivered the
poor man. "It isn't he that I pity," Pierre muttered at last; "it is
we--we who witness all that, we who are guilty of these abominations."

But good Abbe Rose was already becoming resigned, and would only think of
forgiveness and hope. "No, no, my child, rebellion is evil. If we are all
guilty we can only implore Providence to forget our faults. I had given
you an appointment here hoping for good news; and it's I who come to tell
you of that frightful thing. Let us be penitent and pray."

Then he knelt upon the flagstones near the pillar, in the rear of the
praying women, who looked black and vague in the gloom. And he inclined
his white head, and for a long time remained in a posture of humility.

But Pierre was unable to pray, so powerfully did revolt stir him. He did
not even bend his knees, but remained erect and quivering. His heart
seemed to have been crushed; not a tear came to his ardent eyes. So
Laveuve had died yonder, stretched on his litter of rags, his hands
clenched in his obstinate desire to cling to his life of torture, whilst
he, Pierre, again glowing with the flame of charity, consumed by
apostolic zeal, was scouring Paris to find him for the evening a clean
bed on which he might be saved. Ah! the atrocious irony of it all! He
must have been at the Duvillards' in the warm _salon_, all blue and
silver, whilst the old man was expiring; and it was for a wretched corpse
that he had then hastened to the Chamber of Deputies, to the Countess de
Quinsac's, to that creature Silviane's, and to that creature Rosemonde's.
And it was for that corpse, freed from life, escaped from misery as from
prison, that he had worried people, broken in upon their egotism,
disturbed the peace of some, threatened the pleasures of others! What was
the use of hastening from the parliamentary den to the cold _salon_ where
the dust of the past was congealing; of going from the sphere of
middle-class debauchery to that of cosmopolitan extravagance, since one
always arrived too late, and saved people when they were already dead?
How ridiculous to have allowed himself to be fired once more by that
blaze of charity, that final conflagration, only the ashes of which he
now felt within him? This time he thought he was dead himself; he was
naught but an empty sepulchre.

And all the frightful void and chaos which he had felt that morning at
the basilica of the Sacred Heart after his mass became yet deeper,
henceforth unfathomable. If charity were illusory and useless the Gospel
crumbled, the end of the Book was nigh. After centuries of stubborn
efforts, Redemption through Christianity failed, and another means of
salvation was needed by the world in presence of the exasperated thirst
for justice which came from the duped and wretched nations. They would
have no more of that deceptive paradise, the promise of which had so long
served to prop up social iniquity; they demanded that the question of
happiness should be decided upon this earth. But how? By means of what
new religion, what combination between the sentiment of the Divine and
the necessity for honouring life in its sovereignty and its fruitfulness?
Therein lay the grievous, torturing problem, into the midst of which
Pierre was sinking; he, a priest, severed by vows of chastity and
superstition from the rest of mankind.

He had ceased to believe in the efficacy of alms; it was not sufficient
that one should be charitable, henceforth one must be just. Given
justice, indeed, horrid misery would disappear, and no such thing as
charity would be needed. Most certainly there was no lack of
compassionate hearts in that grievous city of Paris; charitable
foundations sprouted forth there like green leaves at the first warmth of
springtide. There were some for every age, every peril, every misfortune.
Through the concern shown for mothers, children were succoured even
before they were born; then came the infant and orphan asylums lavishly
provided for all sorts of classes; and, afterwards, man was followed
through his life, help was tendered on all sides, particularly as he grew
old, by a multiplicity of asylums, almshouses, and refuges. And there
were all the hands stretched out to the forsaken ones, the disinherited
ones, even the criminals, all sorts of associations to protect the weak,
societies for the prevention of crime, homes that offered hospitality to
those who repented. Whether as regards the propagation of good deeds, the
support of the young, the saving of life, the bestowal of pecuniary help,
or the promotion of guilds, pages and pages would have been needed merely
to particularise the extraordinary vegetation of charity that sprouted
between the paving-stones of Paris with so fine a vigour, in which
goodness of soul was mingled with social vanity. Still that could not
matter, since charity redeemed and purified all. But how terrible the
proposition that this charity was a useless mockery! What! after so many
centuries of Christian charity not a sore had healed. Misery had only
grown and spread, irritated even to rage. Incessantly aggravated, the
evil was reaching the point when it would be impossible to tolerate it
for another day, since social injustice was neither arrested nor even
diminished thereby. And besides, if only one single old man died of cold
and hunger, did not the social edifice, raised on the theory of charity,
collapse? But one victim, and society was condemned, thought Pierre.

He now felt such bitterness of heart that he could remain no longer in
that church where the shadows ever slowly fell, blurring the sanctuaries
and the large pale images of Christ nailed upon the Cross. All was about
to sink into darkness, and he could hear nothing beyond an expiring
murmur of prayers, a plaint from the women who were praying on their
knees, in the depths of the shrouding gloom.

At the same time he hardly liked to go off without saying a word to Abbe
Rose, who in his entreaties born of simple faith left the happiness and
peace of mankind to the good pleasure of the Invisible. However, fearing
that he might disturb him, Pierre was making up his mind to retire, when
the old priest of his own accord raised his head. "Ah, my child," said
he, "how difficult it is to be good in a reasonable manner. Monseigneur
Martha has scolded me again, and but for the forgiveness of God I should
fear for my salvation."

For a moment Pierre paused under the porticus of the Madeleine, on the
summit of the great flight of steps which, rising above the railings,
dominates the Place. Before him was the Rue Royale dipping down to the
expanse of the Place de la Concorde, where rose the obelisk and the pair
of plashing fountains. And, farther yet, the paling colonnade of the
Chamber of Deputies bounded the horizon. It was a vista of sovereign
grandeur under that pale sky over which twilight was slowly stealing, and
which seemed to broaden the thoroughfares, throw back the edifices, and
lend them the quivering, soaring aspect of the palaces of dreamland. No
other capital in the world could boast a scene of such aerial pomp, such
grandiose magnificence, at that hour of vagueness, when falling night
imparts to cities a dreamy semblance, the infinite of human immensity.

Motionless and hesitating in presence of the opening expanse, Pierre
distressfully pondered as to whither he should go now that all which he
had so passionately sought to achieve since the morning had suddenly
crumbled away. Was he still bound for the Duvillard mansion in the Rue
Godot-de-Mauroy? He no longer knew. Then the exasperating remembrance,
with its cruel irony, returned to him. Since Laveuve was dead, of what
use was it for him to kill time and perambulate the pavements pending the
arrival of six o'clock? The idea that he had a home, and that the most
simple course would be to return to it, did not even occur to him. He
felt as if there were something of importance left for him to do, though
he could not possibly tell what it might be. It seemed to him to be
everywhere and yet very far away, to be so vague and so difficult of
accomplishment that he would certainly never be in time or have
sufficient power to do it. However, with heavy feet and tumultuous brain
he descended the steps and, yielding to some obstinate impulse, began to
walk through the flower-market, a late winter market where the first
azaleas were opening with a little shiver. Some women were purchasing
Nice roses and violets; and Pierre looked at them as if he were
interested in all that soft, delicate, perfumed luxury. But suddenly he
felt a horror of it and went off, starting along the Boulevards.

He walked straight before him without knowing why or whither. The falling
darkness surprised him as if it were an unexpected phenomenon. Raising
his eyes to the sky he felt astonished at seeing its azure gently pale
between the slender black streaks of the chimney funnels. And the huge
golden letters by which names or trades were advertised on every balcony
also seemed to him singular in the last gleams of the daylight. Never
before had he paid attention to the motley tints seen on the
house-fronts, the painted mirrors, the blinds, the coats of arms, the
posters of violent hues, the magnificent shops, like drawing-rooms and
boudoirs open to the full light. And then, both in the roadway and along
the foot-pavements, between the blue, red or yellow columns and kiosks,
what mighty traffic there was, what an extraordinary crowd! The vehicles
rolled along in a thundering stream: on all sides billows of cabs were
parted by the ponderous tacking of huge omnibuses, which suggested lofty,
bright-hued battle-ships. And on either hand, and farther and farther,
and even among the wheels, the flood of passengers rushed on incessantly,
with the conquering haste of ants in a state of revolution. Whence came
all those people, and whither were all those vehicles going? How
stupefying and torturing it all was.

Pierre was still walking straight ahead, mechanically, carried on by his
gloomy reverie. Night was coming, the first gas-burners were being
lighted; it was the dusk of Paris, the hour when real darkness has not
yet come, when the electric lights flame in the dying day. Lamps shone
forth on all sides, the shop-fronts were being illumined. Soon, moreover,
right along the Boulevards the vehicles would carry their vivid starry
lights, like a milky way on the march betwixt the foot-pavements all
glowing with lanterns and cordons and girandoles, a dazzling profusion of
radiance akin to sunlight. And the shouts of the drivers and the jostling
of the foot passengers re-echoed the parting haste of the Paris which is
all business or passion, which is absorbed in the merciless struggle for
love and for money. The hard day was over, and now the Paris of Pleasure
was lighting up for its night of _fete_. The cafes, the wine shops, the
restaurants, flared and displayed their bright metal bars, and their
little white tables behind their clear and lofty windows, whilst near
their doors, by way of temptation, were oysters and choice fruits. And
the Paris which was thus awaking with the first flashes of the gas was
already full of the gaiety of enjoyment, already yielding to an unbridled
appetite for whatsoever may be purchased.

However, Pierre had a narrow escape from being knocked down. A flock of
newspaper hawkers came out of a side street, and darted through the crowd
shouting the titles of the evening journals. A fresh edition of the "Voix
du Peuple" gave rise, in particular, to a deafening clamour, which rose
above all the rumbling of wheels. At regular intervals hoarse voices
raised and repeated the cry: "Ask for the 'Voix du Peuple'--the new
scandal of the African Railway Lines, the repulse of the ministry, the
thirty-two bribe-takers of the Chamber and the Senate!" And these
announcements, set in huge type, could be read on the copies of the
paper, which the hawkers flourished like banners. Accustomed as it was to
such filth, saturated with infamy, the crowd continued on its way without
paying much attention. Still a few men paused and bought the paper, while
painted women, who had come down to the Boulevards in search of a dinner,
trailed their skirts and waited for some chance lover, glancing
interrogatively at the outside customers of the cafes. And meantime the
dishonouring shout of the newspaper hawkers, that cry in which there was
both smirch and buffet, seemed like the last knell of the day, ringing
the nation's funeral at the outset of the night of pleasure which was

Then Pierre once more remembered his morning and that frightful house in
the Rue des Saules, where so much want and suffering were heaped up. He
again saw the yard filthy like a quagmire, the evil-smelling staircases,
the sordid, bare, icy rooms, the families fighting for messes which even
stray dogs would not have eaten; the mothers, with exhausted breasts,
carrying screaming children to and fro; the old men who fell in corners
like brute beasts, and died of hunger amidst filth. And then came his
other hours with the magnificence or the quietude or the gaiety of the
_salons_ through which he had passed, the whole insolent display of
financial Paris, and political Paris, and society Paris. And at last he
came to the dusk, and to that Paris-Sodom and Paris-Gomorrah before him,
which was lighting itself up for the night, for the abominations of that
accomplice night which, like fine dust, was little by little submerging
the expanse of roofs. And the hateful monstrosity of it all howled aloud
under the pale sky where the first pure, twinkling stars were gleaming.

A great shudder came upon Pierre as he thought of all that mass of
iniquity and suffering, of all that went on below amid want and crime,
and all that went on above amid wealth and vice. The _bourgeoisie_,
wielding power, would relinquish naught of the sovereignty which it had
conquered, wholly stolen, while the people, the eternal dupe, silent so
long, clenched its fists and growled, claiming its legitimate share. And
it was that frightful injustice which filled the growing gloom with
anger. From what dark-breasted cloud would the thunderbolt fall? For
years he had been waiting for that thunderbolt which low rumbles
announced on all points of the horizon. And if he had written a book full
of candour and hope, if he had gone in all innocence to Rome, it was to
avert that thunderbolt and its frightful consequences. But all hope of
the kind was dead within him; he felt that the thunderbolt was
inevitable, that nothing henceforth could stay the catastrophe. And never
before had he felt it to be so near, amidst the happy impudence of some,
and the exasperated distress of others. And it was gathering, and it
would surely fall over that Paris, all lust and bravado, which, when
evening came, thus stirred up its furnace.

Tired out and distracted, Pierre raised his eyes as he reached the Place
de l'Opera. Where was he then? The heart of the great city seemed to beat
on this spot, in that vast expanse where met so many thoroughfares, as if
from every point the blood of distant districts flowed thither along
triumphal avenues. Right away to the horizon stretched the great gaps of
the Avenue de l'Opera, the Rue du Quatre-Septembre, and the Rue de la
Paix, still showing clearly in a final glimpse of daylight, but already
starred with swarming sparks. The torrent of the Boulevard traffic poured
across the Place, where clashed, too, all that from the neighbouring
streets, with a constant turning and eddying which made the spot the most
dangerous of whirlpools. In vain did the police seek to impose some
little prudence, the stream of pedestrians still overflowed, wheels
became entangled and horses reared amidst all the uproar of the human
tide, which was as loud, as incessant, as the tempest voice of an ocean.
Then there was the detached mass of the opera-house, slowly steeped in
gloom, and rising huge and mysterious like a symbol, its lyre-bearing
figure of Apollo, right aloft, showing a last reflection of daylight
amidst the livid sky. And all the windows of the house-fronts began to
shine, gaiety sprang from those thousands of lamps which coruscated one
by one, a universal longing for ease and free gratification of each
desire spread with the increasing darkness; whilst, at long intervals,
the large globes of the electric lights shone as brightly as the moons of
the city's cloudless nights.

But why was he, Pierre, there, he asked himself, irritated and wondering.
Since Laveuve was dead he had but to go home, bury himself in his nook,
and close up door and windows, like one who was henceforth useless, who
had neither belief nor hope, and awaited naught save annihilation. It was
a long journey from the Place de l'Opera to his little house at Neuilly.
Still, however great his weariness, he would not take a cab, but retraced
his steps, turning towards the Madeleine again, and plunging into the
scramble of the pavements, amidst the deafening uproar from the roadway,
with a bitter desire to aggravate his wound and saturate himself with
revolt and anger. Was it not yonder at the corner of that street, at the
end of that Boulevard, that he would find the expected abyss into which
that rotten world, whose old society he could hear rending at each step,
must soon assuredly topple?

However, when Pierre wished to cross the Rue Scribe a block in the
traffic made him halt. In front of a luxurious cafe two tall,
shabbily-clad and very dirty fellows were alternately offering the "Voix
du Peuple" with its account of the scandals and the bribe-takers of the
Chamber and the Senate, in voices so suggestive of cracked brass that
passers-by clustered around them. And here, in a hesitating, wandering
man, who after listening drew near to the large cafe and peered through
its windows, Pierre was once again amazed to recognise Salvat. This time
the meeting struck him forcibly, filled him with suspicion to such a
point that he also stopped and resolved to watch the journeyman engineer.
He did not expect that one of such wretched aspect, with what seemed to
be a hunk of bread distending his old ragged jacket, would enter and seat
himself at one of the cafe's little tables amidst the warm gaiety of the
lamps. However, he waited for a moment, and then saw him wander away with
slow and broken steps as if the cafe, which was nearly empty, did not
suit him. What could he have been seeking, whither had he been going,
since the morning, ever on a wild, solitary chase through the Paris of
wealth and enjoyment while hunger dogged his steps? It was only with
difficulty that he now dragged himself along, his will and energy seemed
to be exhausted. As if quite overcome, he drew near to a kiosk, and for a
moment leant against it. Then, however, he drew himself up again, and
walked on further, still as it were in search of something.

And now came an incident which brought Pierre's emotion to a climax. A
tall sturdy man on turning out of the Rue Caumartin caught sight of
Salvat, and approached him. And just as the new comer without false pride
was shaking the workman's hand, Pierre recognised him as his brother
Guillaume. Yes, it was indeed he, with his thick bushy hair already white
like snow, though he was but seven and forty. However, his heavy
moustaches had remained quite dark without one silver thread, thus
lending an expression of vigorous life to his full face with its lofty
towering brow. It was from his father that he had inherited that brow of
impregnable logic and reason, similar to that which Pierre himself
possessed. But the lower part of the elder brother's countenance was
fuller than that of his junior; his nose was larger, his chin was square,
and his mouth broad and firm of contour. A pale scar, the mark of an old
wound, streaked his left temple. And his physiognomy, though it might at
first seem very grave, rough, and unexpansive, beamed with masculine
kindliness whenever a smile revealed his teeth, which had remained
extremely white.

While looking at his brother, Pierre remembered what Madame Theodore had
told him that morning. Guillaume, touched by Salvat's dire want, had
arranged to give him a few days' employment. And this explained the air
of interest with which he now seemed to be questioning him, while the
engineer, whom the meeting disturbed, stamped about as if eager to resume
his mournful ramble. For a moment Guillaume appeared to notice the
other's perturbation, by the embarrassed answers which he obtained from
him. Still, they at last parted as if each were going his way. Then,
however, almost immediately, Guillaume turned round again and watched the
other, as with harassed stubborn mien he went off through the crowd. And
the thoughts which had come to Guillaume must have been very serious and
very pressing, for he all at once began to retrace his steps and follow
the workman from a distance, as if to ascertain for certain what
direction he would take.

Pierre had watched the scene with growing disquietude. His nervous
apprehension of some great unknown calamity, the suspicions born of his
frequent and inexplicable meetings with Salvat, his surprise at now
seeing his brother mingled with the affair, all helped to fill him with a
pressing desire to know, witness, and perhaps prevent. So he did not
hesitate, but began to follow the others in a prudent way.

Fresh perturbation came upon him when first Salvat and then Guillaume
suddenly turned into the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy. What destiny was thus
bringing him back to that street whither a little time previously he had
wished to return in feverish haste, and whence only the death of Laveuve
had kept him? And his consternation increased yet further when, after
losing sight of Salvat for a moment, he saw him standing in front of the
Duvillard mansion, on the same spot where he had fancied he recognised
him that morning. As it happened the carriage entrance of the mansion was
wide open. Some repairs had been made to the paving of the porch, and
although the workmen had now gone off, the doorway remained gaping, full
of the falling night. The narrow street, running from the glittering
Boulevard, was steeped in bluish gloom, starred at long intervals by a
few gas-lamps. Some women went by, compelling Salvat to step off the
foot-pavement. But he returned to it again, lighted the stump of a cigar,
some remnant which he had found under a table outside a cafe, and then
resumed his watch, patient and motionless, in front of the mansion.

Disturbed by his dim conjectures, Pierre gradually grew frightened, and
asked himself if he ought not to approach that man. The chief thing that
detained him was the presence of his brother, whom he had seen disappear
into a neighbouring doorway, whence he also was observing the engineer,
ready to intervene. And so Pierre contented himself with not losing sight
of Salvat, who was still waiting and watching, merely taking his eyes
from the mansion in order to glance towards the Boulevard as though he
expected someone or something which would come from that direction. And
at last, indeed, the Duvillards' landau appeared, with coachman and
footman in livery of green and gold--a closed landau to which a pair of
tall horses of superb build were harnessed in stylish fashion.

Contrary to custom, however, the carriage, which at that hour usually
brought the father and mother home, was only occupied that evening by the
son and daughter, Hyacinthe and Camille. Returning from the Princess de
Harn's _matinee_, they were chatting freely, with that calm immodesty by
which they sought to astonish one another. Hyacinthe, influenced by his
perverted ideas, was attacking women, whilst Camille openly counselled
him to respond to the Princess's advances. However, she was visibly
irritated and feverish that evening, and, suddenly changing the subject,
she began to speak of their mother and Gerard de Quinsac.

"But what can it matter to you?" quietly retorted Hyacinthe; and, seeing
that she almost bounded from the seat at this remark, he continued: "Are
you still in love with him, then? Do you still want to marry him?"

"Yes, I do, and I will!" she cried with all the jealous rage of an
uncomely girl, who suffered so acutely at seeing herself spurned whilst
her yet beautiful mother stole from her the man she wanted.

"You will, you will!" resumed Hyacinthe, well pleased to have an
opportunity of teasing his sister, whom he somewhat feared. "But you
won't unless _he_ is willing--And he doesn't care for you."

"He does!" retorted Camille in a fury. "He's kind and pleasant with me,
and that's enough."

Her brother felt afraid as he noticed the blackness of her glance, and
the clenching of her weak little hands, whose fingers bent like claws.
And after a pause he asked: "And papa, what does he say about it?"

"Oh, papa! All that he cares about is the other one."

Then Hyacinthe began to laugh.

But the landau, with its tall horses trotting on sonorously, had turned
into the street and was approaching the house, when a slim fair-haired
girl of sixteen or seventeen, a modiste's errand girl with a large
bandbox on her arm, hastily crossed the road in order to enter the arched
doorway before the carriage. She was bringing a bonnet for the Baroness,
and had come all along the Boulevard musing, with her soft blue eyes, her
pinky nose, and her mouth which ever laughed in the most adorable little
face that one could see. And it was at this same moment that Salvat,
after another glance at the landau, sprang forward and entered the
doorway. An instant afterwards he reappeared, flung his lighted cigar
stump into the gutter; and without undue haste went off, slinking into
the depths of the vague gloom of the street.

And then what happened? Pierre, later on, remembered that a dray of the
Western Railway Company in coming up stopped and delayed the landau for a
moment, whilst the young errand girl entered the doorway. And with a
heart-pang beyond description he saw his brother Guillaume in his turn
spring forward and rush into the mansion as though impelled to do so by
some revelation, some sudden certainty. He, Pierre, though he understood
nothing clearly, could divine the approach of some frightful horror. But
when he would have run, when he would have shouted, he found himself as
if nailed to the pavement, and felt his throat clutched as by a hand of
lead. Then suddenly came a thunderous roar, a formidable explosion, as if
the earth was opening, and the lightning-struck mansion was being
annihilated. Every window-pane of the neighbouring houses was shivered,
the glass raining down with the loud clatter of hail. For a moment a
hellish flame fired the street, and the dust and the smoke were such that
the few passers-by were blinded and howled with affright, aghast at
toppling, as they thought, into that fiery furnace.

And that dazzling flare brought Pierre enlightenment. He once more saw
the bomb distending the tool-bag, which lack of work had emptied and
rendered useless. He once more saw it under the ragged jacket, a
protuberance caused, he had fancied, by some hunk of bread, picked up in
a corner and treasured that it might be carried home to wife and child.
After wandering and threatening all happy Paris, it was there that it had
flared, there that it had burst with a thunder-clap, there on the
threshold of the sovereign _bourgeoisie_ to whom all wealth belonged. He,
however, at that moment thought only of his brother Guillaume, and flung
himself into that porch where a volcanic crater seemed to have opened.
And at first he distinguished nothing, the acrid smoke streamed over all.
Then he perceived the walls split, the upper floor rent open, the paving
broken up, strewn with fragments. Outside, the landau which had been on
the point of entering, had escaped all injury; neither of the horses had
been touched, nor was there even a scratch on any panel of the vehicle.
But the young girl, the pretty, slim, fair-haired errand girl, lay there
on her back, her stomach ripped open, whilst her delicate face remained
intact, her eyes clear, her smile full of astonishment, so swiftly and
lightning-like had come the catastrophe. And near her, from the fallen
bandbox, whose lid had merely come unfastened, had rolled the bonnet, a
very fragile pink bonnet, which still looked charming in its flowery

By a prodigy Guillaume was alive and already on his legs again. His left
hand alone streamed with blood, a projectile seemed to have broken his
wrist. His moustaches moreover had been burnt, and the explosion by
throwing him to the ground had so shaken and bruised him that he shivered
from head to feet as with intense cold. Nevertheless, he recognised his
brother without even feeling astonished to see him there, as indeed often
happens after great disasters, when the unexplained becomes providential.
That brother, of whom he had so long lost sight, was there, naturally
enough, because it was necessary that he should be there. And Guillaume,
amidst the wild quivers by which he was shaken, at once cried to him
"Take me away! take me away! To your house at Neuilly, oh! take me away!"

Then, for sole explanation, and referring to Salvat, he stammered: "I
suspected that he had stolen a cartridge from me; only one, most
fortunately, for otherwise the whole district would have been blown to
pieces. Ah! the wretched fellow! I wasn't in time to set my foot upon the

With perfect lucidity of mind, such as danger sometimes imparts, Pierre,
neither speaking nor losing a moment, remembered that the mansion had a
back entrance fronting the Rue Vignon. He had just realised in what
serious peril his brother would be if he were found mixed up in that
affair. And with all speed, when he had led him into the gloom of the Rue
Vignon, he tied his handkerchief round his wrist, which he bade him press
to his chest, under his coat, as that would conceal it.

But Guillaume, still shivering and haunted by the horror he had
witnessed, repeated: "Take me away--to your place at Neuilly--not to my

"Of course, of course, be easy. Come, wait here a second, I will stop a

In his eagerness to procure a conveyance, Pierre had brought his brother
down to the Boulevard again. But the terrible thunderclap of the
explosion had upset the whole neighbourhood, horses were still rearing,
and people were running demented, hither and thither. And numerous
policemen had hastened up, and a rushing crowd was already blocking the
lower part of the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, which was now as black as a pit,
every light in it having been extinguished; whilst on the Boulevard a
hawker of the "Voix du Peuple" still stubbornly vociferated: "The new
scandal of the African Railway Lines! The thirty-two bribe-takers of the
Chamber and the Senate! The approaching fall of the ministry!"

Pierre was at last managing to stop a cab when he heard a person who ran
by say to another, "The ministry? Ah, well! that bomb will mend it right

Then the brothers seated themselves in the cab, which carried them away.
And now, over the whole of rumbling Paris black night had gathered, an
unforgiving night, in which the stars foundered amidst the mist of crime
and anger that had risen from the house-roofs. The great cry of justice
swept by amidst the same terrifying flapping of wings which Sodom and
Gomorrah once heard bearing down upon them from all the black clouds of
the horizon.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The Three Cities Trilogy: Paris, Volume 1" ***

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