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

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Libraries.)



THE WORKS OF ANATOLE FRANCE

    IN AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
    EDITED BY FREDERIC CHAPMAN

    THE AMETHYST RING

    [Illustration]



    THE AMETHYST RING
    BY ANATOLE FRANCE

    A TRANSLATION BY
    B. DRILLIEN

    [Illustration]

    LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
    NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY MCMXIX


    PRINTED BY WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD., PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND



THE AMETHYST RING

CHAPTER I


True to her word, Madame Bergeret quitted the conjugal roof and betook
herself to the house of her mother, the widow Pouilly.

As the time for her departure drew near, she had half a mind not to
go, and with a little coaxing would have consented to forget the past
and resume the old life with her husband, at the same time vaguely
despising M. Bergeret as the injured party.

She was quite ready to forgive and forget, but the unbending esteem
in which she was held by the circle in which she moved did not allow
of such a course. Madame Dellion had made it clear to her that any
such weakness on her part would be judged unfavourably; all the
drawing-rooms in the place were unanimous upon that score. There was
but one opinion among the tradespeople: Madame Bergeret _must_ return
to her mother. In this way did they uphold the proprieties and, at
the same time, rid themselves of a thoughtless, common, compromising
person, whose vulgarity was apparent even to the vulgar, and who was
a burden on everybody about her. They made her believe there was
something heroic in her conduct.

“I have the greatest admiration for you, my child,” said old Madame
Dutilleul from the depths of her easy chair, she who had survived four
husbands, and was a truly terrible woman. People suspected her of
everything, except of ever having loved, and in her old age she was
honoured and respected by all.

Madame Bergeret was delighted at having inspired sympathy in Madame
Dellion and admiration in Madame Dutilleul, and still she could not
finally make up her mind to go, for she was of a homely disposition and
accustomed to regular habits and quite content to live on in idleness
and deceit. Having grasped this fact, M. Bergeret redoubled his efforts
to ensure his deliverance. He stoutly upheld Marie, the servant, who
kept every one in the house in a state of wretchedness and trepidation,
was suspected of harbouring thieves and cut-throats in her kitchen, and
only brought herself into prominence by the catastrophes she caused.

Four days before the time appointed for Madame Bergeret’s departure,
this girl, who was drunk as usual, upset a lighted lamp in her
mistress’s room and set fire to the blue chintz bed-curtains. Madame
Bergeret was spending the day with her friend, Madame Lacarelle. She
returned and, amid the dreadful stillness of the house, beheld on
entering her room the evidences of the disaster. She called and called
in vain for her stony-hearted husband and her besotted maid, then
stood gazing at the smoke-blackened ceiling and the dismal ravages
of the fire. This commonplace accident assumed in her eyes a mystic
significance that frightened her. But presently as the candle began
to flicker she lay down, tired out and very cold, upon her bed under
the skeleton of the charred canopy whose black shreds fluttered like
the wings of a bat. The next morning, on waking, she wept for her
blue curtains, the souvenir and symbol of her youth; bare-footed,
with dishevelled hair, smothered with blacks and clad only in her
nightdress, she ran desperately about the rooms, crying and moaning. M.
Bergeret took no notice of her; for him she had ceased to exist.

That evening, with the help of the girl Marie, she drew her bed into
the middle of the dreary room. But now she realized that this room
could never again be a resting-place for her, and that she must leave
the home where for fifteen years she had fulfilled the duties of daily
life.

Moreover, the ingenious Bergeret, having taken rooms for his daughter
Pauline and himself in a little house in the Place Saint-Exupère, was
busy moving out and moving in.

He went backwards and forwards ceaselessly between the two houses,
keeping close to the walls, and trotting along with the agility of a
mouse suddenly unearthed in a heap of debris. His heart was glad within
him, but he concealed his joy, for he was a prudent man.

Having been told that, at an early date, she must hand over the keys
of the house to the landlord, Madame Bergeret in like manner set about
despatching her furniture to her mother, who lived in a maisonnette on
the ramparts of a little northern town. She made bundles of clothes and
of linen, pushed the furniture about, gave orders to the men, sneezed
in the dusty atmosphere, and wrote out labels addressed to “Madame
Veuve Pouilly.”

From her labours Madame Bergeret derived moral assistance, for it
is good for mankind to work. It takes a man’s mind off his own life
and turns him away from dreadful self-examination; it keeps him from
that which makes solitude unbearable, the contemplation of that other
being, his real self. It is the sovereign remedy for moral and æsthetic
obsessions. Work is also excellent, in that it panders to our vanity,
hides from us our impotence, and flatters us with the hope of something
good to come. We imagine that it enables us to steal a march on Fate.
Failing to realize the necessary relation between individual endeavour
and the mechanism of the universe, we fondly imagine that our efforts
are directed to our own advantage against the rest of the machine. Work
gives us illusory determination, strength and independence, and makes
us as gods in our own eyes. We appear to ourselves as so many heroes,
genii, demons, demiurges, gods--yes, as God Himself. And, in fact, man
has always conceived of God as a worker. Thus it was that the removal
restored Madame Bergeret’s natural gaiety and the joyous energy of her
physical strength. She sang songs as she tied up parcels; the rapid
flow of blood in her veins made her content, and she looked forward to
a happy future.

She painted in glowing colours her life in the little Flemish town
where she would live with her mother and her two younger daughters.
There she hoped to grow young again, to be brilliant and admired,
to have attention offered her, and to find sympathy. Who could say
whether, once the decree _nisi_ was granted in her favour, a second and
wealthy marriage were not awaiting her in her native town? Was it not
quite possible that she might marry a good-tempered, sensible man, a
country gentleman, an agriculturist or a Government official, somebody
quite different from M. Bergeret?

The packing-up also afforded her peculiar satisfaction, for from it
she derived some solid advantages in the way of gain. Not satisfied
with the appropriation of what she had brought as her marriage portion,
and a large share of the common property, she heaped into her trunks
things which she ought in ordinary fairness to have left to others.
In this way she packed among her underclothes a silver cup which had
belonged to M. Bergeret’s maternal grandmother. Again, she added to
her own jewels which, be it said, were of no great value, the watch
and chain of M. Bergeret’s father, a professor at the University, who,
having refused in 1852 to swear fidelity to the Empire, had died in
1873, poor and forgotten.

Madame Bergeret interrupted her packing only to go and pay her farewell
calls, visits both sad and triumphant. Public opinion was in her
favour. Men’s judgments are diverse, and there is no place in the world
where there is undivided and unanimous opinion on any single subject.
_Tradidit mundum disputationibus eorum._ Madame Bergeret herself was
the subject of polite discussion and of secret dissent. The greater
number of the ladies of her acquaintance considered her irreproachable,
otherwise they would not have received her at their houses. There were
a few, however, who suspected that her adventure with M. Roux had not
been quite blameless; some of them even went so far as to say so. One
blamed her, another excused her, a third approved of her, casting all
the blame upon M. Bergeret, as being a spiteful man.

That point, too, was open to doubt. Some people declared M. Bergeret to
be a nice, quiet man, the only thing to dislike in him being his too
subtle mind, which was at variance with public opinion.

M. de Terremondre said that M. Bergeret was a very nice sort of man; to
which Madame Dellion replied that if he were really a good man he would
have stood by his wife, however wicked she was.

“There would be some merit in that,” she said. “There is nothing noble
in putting-up with a charming woman.”

Another opinion of Madame Dellion’s was: “M. Bergeret is doing his
utmost to keep his wife, but she is leaving him, and quite right too!
It serves M. Bergeret right.”

Thus did Madame Dellion express opinions which were inconsistent,
for human thought has ever depended not upon force of reason but on
violence of feeling.

Although the world is known to be uncertain in its judgment, Madame
Bergeret would have gone from the town in possession of a good
reputation, if on the very eve of her departure, when paying her
farewell visit to Madame Lacarelle, she had not met M. Lacarelle alone
in the drawing-room.

M. Gustave Lacarelle, chief clerk at the _préfecture_, had a long,
thick, fair moustache, which, while the chief characteristic of his
countenance, was also destined to determine his character. In his
student days at the Law Schools, his comrades had discovered in him
a resemblance to the ancient Gauls, as depicted in the sculpture and
paintings of the later romanticists. Other more careful observers,
remarking that the long strands of hair were situated under a snub nose
and placid eyes, gave Lacarelle the name of “The Seal.” The latter,
however, did not prevail against that of “The Gaul.” Lacarelle became
“The Gaul” to his companions, who consequently made up their minds
that he ought to be a great drinker, a great fighter, and a devil with
the women, in order that he might conform in reality to the Frenchman
of immemorial tradition. At the Corps dinners he was forced to drink
far more than he wanted, and he could never go into a _brasserie_
with his friends without being pushed up against some tray-laden
waitress. When he married and returned to his native town, and, by what
was a great stroke of fortune in those days, obtained a post in the
Central Administration of the department from which he hailed, Gustave
Lacarelle continued to be called “The Gaul” by the most important of
the magistrates, lawyers, and Government officials who frequented
his house. The ignorant mob, however, did not bestow this name upon
him until 1895, in which year a statue to Eporedorix was erected and
unveiled on the Pont National.

Twenty-two years previously, under the presidency of M. Thiers, it had
been decided that subscriptions should be invited for the erection
of a statue to the Gaulish chief Eporedorix, who, in the year 52
B.C., led the river tribes against Cæsar, and imperilled the
small Roman garrison by cutting down the wooden bridge built by them to
ensure communication with the rest of the Army. The archæologists of
the little county town firmly believed that this feat of arms had been
accomplished in their town, founding their belief on a passage in the
_Commentaries_ which all the learned societies of the district quoted
as a proof of the fact that the wooden bridge cut down by Eporedorix
was situated in _their_ particular town. There is a great deal of
uncertainty with regard to Cæsar’s geography, and local patriotism
is both fierce and jealous. The chief town of the department, three
_sous-préfectures_, and four smaller towns quarrelled for the glory of
having slaughtered the Romans by the hand of Eporedorix.

Competent authority decided the question in favour of the capital
town of the department. It was an unfortified town, which much to its
sorrow and anger had been forced in 1870 after one hour’s bombardment
to allow the enemy to enter its walls, walls which in the time of Louis
XI had been crumbling to pieces, and now lay concealed beneath the ivy
that had overgrown them.

The town had undergone the hardships and privations of military
occupation. It had suffered and atoned. The project of erecting
a monument to the memory of the Gaulish chief was received with
enthusiasm by the townspeople, who were experiencing the humiliation of
defeat, and were all the more grateful to their long-dead compatriot
for providing them with something of which they could be proud.
Resuscitated after fifteen hundred years of oblivion, Eporedorix united
all the citizens in a bond of filial devotion. The name of the hero
roused no distrust in any of the different political parties which
were then dividing France. Opportunists, Radicals, Constitutionalists,
Royalists, Orleanists, Bonapartists, they all gave to the scheme; half
the cost was subscribed within the year, and deputies of the department
obtained from the Government what was wanting to make up the required
sum.

The order for the statue of Eporedorix was given to Mathieu Michel,
David d’Angers’ youngest pupil, he whom the Master had called his
Benjamin. Mathieu Michel, who was then in his fiftieth year, at
once set to work, and attacked the clay with a generous, if somewhat
cramped, hand, for the republican sculptor had done but little work
during the Empire. In less than two years, however, he finished the
figure, a plaster model of which was exhibited in the Salon of 1873,
among many other Gaulish chiefs gathered together among the palms and
begonias under the huge glass dome. Owing to the endless formalities
insisted upon by the authorities, the statue was not finally completed
in marble for another five years. After this, so many administrative
difficulties, so many disputes arose, between the town and the
Government, that it looked as though the statue of Eporedorix would
never be erected upon the Pont National.

In 1895, however, the work was accomplished, and the statue, arriving
from Paris, was received by the _préfet_, who solemnly handed it over
to the mayor of the town. Mathieu Michel accompanied his work. He was
then over seventy, and the whole town turned out to look at the old man
with his lion-like head and long, flowing, white hair.

The inauguration took place on the 7th of June, when M. Dupont was
Minister of Public Instruction, M. Worms-Clavelin _préfet_ of the
department, and M. Trumelle mayor of the town. Doubtless the enthusiasm
was not what it would have been on the morrow of the invasion,
when indignation was at its height, but at any rate everybody was
satisfied. The speeches and also the uniforms of the officers met with
applause, and when the green veil which hid Eporedorix from view was
withdrawn the whole town cried as with one voice, “Lacarelle! it is
Lacarelle! it is the image of Lacarelle!”

This, to tell the truth, was by no means correct. Mathieu Michel, the
pupil and emulator of David d’Angers, he whom the venerable master
called the child of his old age, the republican sculptor and patriot,
insurgent in ’48, volunteer in ’70, had not portrayed M. Gustave
Lacarelle in this marble hero. No, indeed! This chief, with his shy and
gentle look, clasping his lance, and seeming, under his wide-winged
helmet, to be meditating upon the poetry of Chateaubriand and the
historic philosophy of Henri Martin, this warrior, steeped in romantic
melancholy, was not, in spite of what the people cried, the true
portrait of M. Lacarelle.

The _préfet’s_ secretary had big, prominent eyes, a short, snub nose,
flabby cheeks, and a double chin. Mathieu Michel’s Eporedorix gazed
with deep-set orbs into the distance. His nose was Grecian, and the
contour of his face pure and classical. But, like M. Lacarelle, he
had a tremendous moustache, the long, curving branches of which were
visible from every point of view.

Struck by this resemblance, the crowd unanimously bestowed upon M.
Lacarelle the glorious name of Eporedorix, and from that time the
secretary of the _préfet_ found himself compelled to personate in
public the popular idea of the Gaul, and to conform to it by word and
deed under all circumstances. Lacarelle was fairly successful, for he
had had plenty of practice since his student days, and all that was
required of him was to be hail-fellow-well-met with everybody, keen
on the Army, and a teller of broad stories when necessary. He was
considered to be an adept at kissing women, and so he became a great
embracer. He kissed them all and he kissed them always. It did not
matter who they were: women, young girls, and little girls, pretty ones
and plain, old and young, he embraced them out of pure Gaulishness, and
with no evil intentions, for he was a moral man.

And that is why, coming unexpectedly upon Madame Bergeret waiting in
the drawing-room for his wife, he immediately embraced her. Madame
Bergeret was not ignorant of M. Lacarelle’s little habit, but her
vanity, which was great, confounded her judgment, which was scanty. She
thought he kissed her because he loved her, and straightway fell into
so great an emotion that her bosom heaved stormily, her legs gave way
beneath her, and she sank panting into the arms of M. Lacarelle. The
latter was both surprised and embarrassed, but his amour-propre was
flattered. He placed Madame Bergeret as comfortably as he could upon
the couch, and, bending over her, said in a voice filled with sympathy:

“Poor lady! So charming and so unhappy! And so you are leaving us? You
are going to-morrow?”

And he imprinted upon her brow a chaste kiss. But Madame Bergeret,
whose nerves were all unstrung, burst into a fit of sobs and tears;
then slowly, solemnly, and sorrowfully she returned his kiss at the
very moment that Madame Lacarelle entered the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day the whole town sat in judgment upon Madame Bergeret, who
had remained among them just one day too long.



CHAPTER II


That day the Duc de Brécé was entertaining General Cartier de Chalmot,
Abbé Guitrel, and Lerond, the ex-deputy, at Brécé. They had visited the
stables, the kennels, the pheasantry, and had been talking, all the
time, about the Affair.

As the twilight fell, they commenced to stroll slowly along the great
avenue of the park. Before them the château rose up, in the dapple grey
sky, with its heavy façade laden with pediments and crowned with the
high-pitched roofs of the Empire period.

“I am convinced,” said M. de Brécé, “as I said before, that the fuss
made over this affair is, and can only be, some abominable plot
instigated by the enemies of France.”

“And of religion,” gently added Abbé Guitrel. “It is impossible to be a
good Frenchman without being a good Christian. And it is clear that the
scandal was started in the first place by freethinkers and freemasons,
by Protestants.”

“And Jews,” went on M. de Brécé, “Jews and Germans. What unheard-of
audacity to question the decision of a court martial! For, when all is
said and done, it is quite impossible for seven French officers to have
made a mistake.”

“No, of course, that is not to be thought of,” said the Abbé Guitrel.

“Generally speaking,” put in M. Lerond, “a miscarriage of justice is a
most improbable thing. I would even go so far as to say an impossible
thing, inasmuch as the law protects the accused in so many ways. I am
speaking of civil law, and I say the same of martial law. As far as
courts martial are concerned, even supposing the prisoner’s interest to
be less thoroughly safeguarded owing to the comparatively summary form
of procedure, he finds all necessary security in the character of his
judges. To my mind it is an insult to the Army, to doubt the legality
of a verdict delivered by a court martial.”

“You are quite correct,” replied the Duke. “Besides, can anyone
really believe seven French officers to be mistaken? Is such a thing
conceivable, General?”

“Hardly,” replied General Cartier de Chalmot. “It would take a great
deal to make me believe it.”

“A syndicate of treachery!” cried M. de Brécé. “The thing is unheard
of!”

Conversation flagged and fell. The Duke and the General had just caught
sight of some pheasants in a clearing, and, smitten simultaneously with
the burning and instinctive desire to kill, mentally recorded a regret
at having no guns with them.

“You have the finest coverts in the district,” said the General to the
Duc de Brécé.

The Duke was deep in thought.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” he remarked, “the Jews will never be
any good to France.”

The Duc de Brécé, eldest son of the late Duke--who had cut a dash among
the light-horse at the Assemblée de Versailles--had entered public life
after the death of the Comte de Chambord. He had never known the days
of hope, the hours of ardent struggle, of monarchical enterprises as
exciting as a conspiracy and as impassioned as an act of faith. He had
never seen the tapestried bed offered to the Prince by noble ladies,
nor the banners, the flags and the white horses which were to bring the
King to his own again. By right of birth as a Brécé he took his place
as deputy at the Palais-Bourbon, nourishing a secret enmity against the
Comte de Paris, and a hidden wish never to see the restoration, if it
were to be in favour of the younger branch of the Royal Family. With
this one exception he was a loyal and faithful Royalist. He was drawn
into intrigues which he did not understand, made a hopeless muddle of
his votes, spent his money freely in Paris, and when the elections took
place found himself defeated at Brécé by Dr. Cotard.

From that day onward he devoted his time to farming, to his family
and to religion. All that remained of his hereditary domain, which
in 1789 was composed of one hundred and twelve parishes, comprising
one hundred and seventy “Hommages,” four “Terres titrés,” and
eighteen manors, was about two thousand acres of land and forest
around the historic castle of Brécé. In his department the Brécé
coverts invested him with a lustre that he had never enjoyed at the
Palais-Bourbon. The forests of Brécé and La Guerche, in which Francis I
had hunted, were also celebrated in the ecclesiastical history of the
district, for in these woods was situated the time-honoured chapel of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles.

“Now mark what I tell you,” repeated the Duc de Brécé, “the Jews will
bring misfortune upon France. Why don’t we get rid of them? Nothing
would be easier!”

“It would be a great thing,” replied the magistrate, “but not so easy
as you imagine, M. le Duc. In the first place, if you wish in any way
to affect the position of the Jews in this country, you must make new
laws on naturalization. Now it is always difficult to make a law which
will satisfactorily fulfil the intentions of the legislator, and laws
such as these would affect the whole of our legal system, and would,
moreover, be extremely difficult to draft. Then, unfortunately, we
could never be certain of finding a Government ready to propose or
support them, nor a Parliament to carry them. The Senate is no good.
As history unrolls itself before our eyes we make the discovery that
the eighteenth century is one huge error of the human understanding,
and that social as well as religious truths are to be found in their
full completeness only in the traditions of the Middle Ages. By and by
France will find it necessary--as Russia has done with regard to the
Jews--to revert to the procedure adopted in those feudal times which
offer the best example of the typical Christian state.”

“Naturally,” said the Duke, “Christian France should belong to
Frenchmen and Christians, not to Jews and Protestants.”

“Bravo!” cried the General.

“There was a younger son in our family,” went on the Duke, “called
Nez-d’Argent--I don’t know why--who fought in the provinces during
the reign of Charles IX. On that tree whose leafless top you see over
there, he hanged six hundred and thirty-six Huguenots. Well, I must
confess I am proud of being a descendant of Nez-d’Argent. I have
inherited his hatred of heretics, and I hate Jews in the same way that
he hated Protestants.”

“Such sentiments are most praiseworthy, M. le Duc,” remarked the
Abbé, “most laudable, and worthy of the great name you bear. But,
if you will allow me, I will make a comment on just one point. In
the Middle Ages the Jews were not considered heretics, and, properly
speaking, they are not heretics. The heretic is a man who, having been
baptized, and instructed in the doctrines of the faith, misrepresents
or denies them. Such are, or rather were, the Arians, the Albigenses,
the Novatians, the Montanists, the Priscillianists, the Waldenses,
the Anabaptists, and the Calvinists, so cleverly disposed of by your
illustrious ancestor, Nez-d’Argent; not to mention many other sects
who upheld doctrines contrary to the beliefs of the Church. The number
of them is very great, for variety is a characteristic of error. There
is no stopping on the downward path of heresy; and schism reproduces
and multiplies itself _ad infinitum_. All that one finds opposing the
true Church is the dust and ashes of churches. The other day, when
reading Bossuet, I came across an admirable definition of a heretic.
‘A heretic,’ says Bossuet, ‘is one who holds an opinion of his own;
one who acts according to his own ideas and his own feelings.’ Now the
Jew, who has never received baptism nor been instructed in the truth,
cannot rightly be called a heretic.

“And again we see that the Inquisition never chastised a Jew as such,
and if a Jew was handed over to earthly justice it was because he was a
blasphemer, a profane person, or a corrupter of the faithful. A better
name for the Jew would be infidel, because that is the name we give
to those who, being unbaptized, do not believe in the truths of the
Christian religion. Again, we must not, strictly speaking, look upon
the Jew as an infidel, in the same way as we should a Mohammedan or an
idolater. The Jews occupy a unique and singular position in the economy
of the eternal verities. Theology bestows upon them a designation
conformable to their rôle in history. They were called ‘witnesses’ in
the Middle Ages, and we must admire the force and precision of such a
term. The reason why God allows them to live is that they may serve as
witnesses and sureties for the words and deeds upon which our religion
is founded. We must not go so far as to say that God purposely makes
the Jews obstinate and blind to serve as living proofs of Christianity;
but He utilizes their free and voluntary stubbornness to confirm us in
our belief. It is for that reason that He allows them a place among the
nations.”

“But in the meanwhile,” put in the Duke, “they rob us of our money and
destroy our national energy.”

“And they insult the Army,” said General Cartier de Chalmot. “Or rather
it is insulted by the wretches in their pay.”

“And that is a crime,” remarked the Abbé gently. “The salvation of
France depends upon the alliance of the Church and the Army.”

“Well, then, M. l’Abbé, why do you defend the Jews?” demanded the Duc
de Brécé.

“Far from defending them,” replied the Abbé Guitrel, “I condemn their
unpardonable sin, which is to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. On
this point their obstinacy is invincible. Their own belief is rational
enough, but they do not believe all that they should, and that is why
they have drawn so heavy a blame upon themselves. This blame rests upon
the Jews as a nation, and not as individuals, and cannot touch any who
have been converted to Christianity.”

“For my part,” said the Duke, “converted Jews are just as odious to me,
more odious even, than other Jews. It is the race I dislike.”

“Allow me to say I do not believe you, M. le Duc,” said the Abbé. “For
that would be to sin against charity and the teaching of the Church. I
am sure that, like myself, you are grateful to a certain extent to some
unconverted Jews for their liberal donations towards our charities.
It is impossible to deny, for instance, that families like the R----
and the F---- have, in this respect, shown an example which might well
be followed by all Christian families. I will go so far as to say that
Madame Worms-Clavelin, although not openly converted to Catholicism,
has on several occasions given proof of truly divine inspiration. It
is to the _préfet’s_ wife that we owe the tolerance with which in the
midst of general persecution our Church schools are regarded in this
department. As for Madame de Bonmont, who is a Jewess by birth, she is
a true Christian indeed, and takes pattern to a certain extent by those
holy widows who in centuries past gave a part of their riches to the
churches and the poor.”

“The Bonmonts’ real name is Gutenberg,” put in M. Lerond. “They are
of German extraction. The grandfather amassed his riches by the
manufacture of the two poisons, absinth and vermuth, and was imprisoned
no less than three times for infringement and adulteration. The father,
who was a manufacturer and a financier, made a scandalous fortune
through speculation and monopoly. Subsequently his widow presented a
golden ciborium to Monseigneur Charlot. That sort of people always
makes me think of the two attorneys who, after listening to a sermon
by good Father Maillard, said to each other at the church door, ‘Well,
neighbour, have we got to disgorge?’”

“It is an extraordinary thing,” said M. Lerond, “that the Semitic
question has never arisen in England.”

“That is because the English are not made the same as we are,” said the
Duke. “Their blood is not so hot as ours.”

“True,” said M. Lerond. “I fully appreciate that remark; but it may
arise from the fact that the English engage all their capital in trade,
while our hard-working population save theirs for speculation; in other
words, for the Jews. The whole trouble arises from having to submit
to the laws and customs of the Revolution. Salvation lies in a speedy
return to the old regime.”

“That’s true,” said the Duc de Brécé thoughtfully.

They walked along, chatting as they went. Suddenly a char-à-banc passed
them, bowling along the road thrown open to the inhabitants of the town
by the late Duke. Filled with laughing, noisy people, it went swiftly
past them; amongst the countrywomen with their flower-bedecked hats,
and the farmers in blouses, sat a jovial red-bearded fellow smoking a
pipe. He was pretending to aim at imaginary pheasants with his cane
as they passed by. It was Dr. Cotard, member for the Brécé district,
member for the ancient seigniory of Brécé.

“That, at any rate, is a strange sight,” said M. Lerond, brushing off
the dust raised by the char-à-banc, “to see Cotard, the medical officer
of health, representing this district, upon which your ancestors, M.
le Duc, showered benefits and glories for eight hundred years. Only
yesterday I was rereading in M. de Terremondre’s book the letter which
your great-great-grandfather, the Duc de Brécé, wrote in 1787 to his
steward, and which proves how kind-hearted he was. You remember the
letter, do you not?”

The Duke replied that he remembered the letter in question, but could
not be sure of the precise terms employed.

M. Lerond immediately began to recite by heart the principal phrases of
this touching letter. “I have learned,” wrote the Good Duke, “that the
inhabitants of Brécé are forbidden to gather strawberries in the woods.
People are evidently doing their best to make me disliked, and that
would be a terrible grief to me.”

“I have also found,” continued M. Lerond, “some interesting details on
the life of the good Duc de Brécé in M. de Terremondre’s summary. The
Duke spent the worst days of the Revolution here on his estate without
being in any way molested, for his good deeds gained him the love and
respect of his old retainers. In exchange for the titles of which by
a decree of the National Assembly he was deprived he received that of
Commander of the National Guard of Brécé. M. de Terremondre goes on to
tell us that on the 20th of September, 1792, the municipality of Brécé
assembled in the courtyard of the castle, and there planted a tree to
Liberty, to which was suspended this inscription, ‘Hommage à la vertu!’”

“M. de Terremondre,” returned the Duke, “drew his information from
the archives of my family. I myself asked him to go into them, for,
unfortunately, I have never had the time to do so. Duke Louis de Brécé,
of whom you were speaking, surnamed ‘the Good Duke,’ died of grief
in 1794. He was gifted with a kindness of disposition which even the
Revolutionists themselves delighted to honour. Every one recognizes the
fact that he distinguished himself by his loyalty to his King; that he
was a good master, a good father, and a good husband. You must take
no notice of the so-called revelations of a man called Mazure, who is
keeper of the departmental archives. According to him the ‘Good Duke’s’
benevolence was confined to his prettiest vassals, on whom he liked to
exercise his ‘droit de jambage.’ As far as that goes, this particular
right to which I allude is of a very problematical nature, and I have
never been able to discover a trace of it among the Brécé archives,
which, by the way, have been in part destroyed.”

“This right,” said M. Lerond, “if it ever did exist at all, was nothing
more nor less than a payment in meat or wine which serfs were called
upon to bring to their lord before contracting marriage. If I remember
rightly, there were certain localities where this tax existed, and was
paid in ready money to the value of three halfpence.”

“With regard to that,” went on the Duke, “I consider my ancestor
entirely exonerated from the accusations brought against him by this M.
Mazure, who, I am told, is a dangerous man. Unfortunately----” The Duke
heaved a slight sigh, and continued in a lower and mysterious voice:
“Unfortunately, the Good Duke was in the habit of reading pernicious
books. Whole editions of Voltaire and Rousseau, bound in morocco and
stamped with the Brécé coat of arms, have been discovered in the castle
library. He fell, to a certain extent, under the detestable influence
of the philosophical thought that was rampant among all classes of
people towards the end of the eighteenth century, even among those in
the highest society. He was possessed of a mania for writing, and was
the author of certain Memoirs, the manuscript of which is still in my
possession. Both the Duchess and M. de Terremondre have glanced through
it. It is surprising to find there traces of the Voltairian spirit, and
the Duke now and then shows his partiality for the Encyclopædists. He
used, in fact, to correspond with Diderot. That is why I have thought
it wise to withhold my consent to the publication of these Memoirs, in
spite of the request of some of the savants of the district, and of M.
de Terremondre himself.

“The Good Duke could turn a rhyme quite prettily, and he filled
whole books with madrigals, epigrams, and stories. That is
quite excusable. A far more serious matter, however, is that he
sometimes permitted himself to jeer at the ceremonies of our holy
religion, and even at the miracles performed by the intervention
of Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles. I beg, gentlemen, that you will
say nothing of all this; it must remain strictly between ourselves.
I should be very sorry to hand over anecdotes such as these to
feed the unhealthy curiosity of men like M. Mazure, and the malice
of the public in general. The Duc de Brécé in question was my
great-great-grandfather, and my family pride is great. I am sure you
will not blame me for this.”

“Much valuable instruction and great consolations are to be derived
from what you have just related to us, Monsieur,” said the Abbé. “The
conclusion we arrive at is that France, which in the eighteenth century
had turned away from Christianity, and was so steeped in wickedness,
even to the very greatest in the land, that good men, such as your
noble great-great-grandfather, pandered to the false philosophy;
France, I say, punished for her crimes by a terrible revolution, is
now amending her evil ways, and witnessing the return to piety of all
classes of the nation, especially in the highest circles. Examples
such as yours, Monsieur, are not to be ignored, and if the eighteenth
century, taken altogether, appears as the century of crime, the
nineteenth, judging by the attitude of the aristocracy, may, if I
mistake not, be called the century of public penance.”

“God grant that you are right,” sighed M. Lerond. “But I dare not allow
myself to hope. My profession as a man of law brings me into contact
with the masses, and I invariably find them indifferent, and even
hostile to religion. Let me tell you, M. l’Abbé, that my experience of
the world leads me to share in the deep sorrow of the Abbé Lantaigne,
and not in your optimistic view of things. Now, without going further
afield, do you not see that this Christian land of Brécé has become the
fief of the atheist and freemason, Dr. Cotard?”

“And who can say,” demanded the General, “whether the Duke will not
unseat Dr. Cotard at the next elections? I am told that a contest is
more than probable, and that a good number of electors are in favour of
the château.”

“My decision is unalterable,” replied the Duke, “and nothing can
make me change it. I shall not stand again. I have not the necessary
qualifications to represent the electors of Brécé, and the electors of
Brécé have not the necessary qualifications for me to wish to represent
them.”

This speech had been composed by his secretary, M. Lacrisse, at the
time of his electoral reverse, and since then he had made a point of
quoting it on every possible occasion.

Just at that moment three ladies, descending the terrace steps, came
along the great drive towards them.

They were the three Brécé ladies, the mother, wife, and daughter of the
present Duke. They were all tall, massive, and freckled, with smooth
hair tightly plastered back, and clad in black dresses and thick boots.
They were on their way to the church of Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles,
situated by the side of a well half-way between the town and the
château.

The General suggested that they should accompany the ladies.

“Nothing could be more delightful,” said M. Lerond.

“True,” assented the Abbé, “and all the more so because the sacred
edifice, which has lately been restored and richly redecorated by the
care of the Duke, is most delightful to see.”

The Abbé Guitrel took a special interest in the chapel of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles, of which, in archæological and pious
vein, he had written a history, for the purpose of attracting pilgrims
to the shrine. According to him the church dated from the reign of
Clotaire II. “At this period,” wrote the historian, “St. Austrégisile,
full of years and good works, and exhausted by his apostolic labours,
built with his own hands in this desert spot a hut, where he could pass
his days in meditation, and await the approach of blessed death; he
also erected an oratory, in which he placed a miraculous statue of the
Blessed Virgin.”

This assertion had been vigorously contested by M. Mazure in the
_Phare_. The keeper of the departmental archives maintained that the
worship of Mary came well after the sixth century, and that at the
time in which St. Austrégisile was supposed to have lived there were
no statues of the Virgin. To which the Abbé Guitrel replied in the
_Semaine Religieuse_ that before the birth of Jesus Christ the Druids
themselves worshipped the image of the Virgin who was to bear a son,
and thus our old earth that was to witness the remarkable spread of
the worship of Mary contained her altars and images, prophetic in
significance as the warnings of the sibyls, to herald her appearance
upon it. Therefore, argued he, there was nothing strange in St.
Austrégisile’s possessing an image of the Blessed Virgin as early as
the reign of Clotaire II. M. Mazure had treated the arguments of the
Abbé as idle fancies, and no one, save M. Bergeret, whose curiosity was
unbounded, had read the record of this logomachy.

“The sanctuary erected by the holy apostle,” went on the Abbé Guitrel’s
pamphlet, “was rebuilt with great magnificence in the thirteenth
century. At the time of the wars of religion that devastated the
country during the sixteenth century, the Protestants fired the chapel,
without, however, being able to destroy the statue, which by a miracle
escaped the flames. The church was rebuilt at the behest of King
Louis XIV and his pious mother, but during the Reign of Terror was
totally destroyed by the commissioners of the Convention, who carried
the miraculous statue, together with the furniture of the chapel, into
the courtyard at Brécé and made a bonfire of the whole. Fortunately,
however, one of the Virgin’s feet was saved from the flames by a good
peasant-woman, who wrapped it carefully in old rags and hid it in a
cauldron, where it was discovered in 1815. This foot was included in a
new statue which, thanks to the generosity of the Duke, was executed in
Paris in 1852.”

The Abbé Guitrel went on to enumerate the miracles accomplished from
the sixth century up to the present time by the intervention of
Notre-Dames-des-Belles-Feuilles, who was in particular request for
the cure of diseases of the respiratory organs and the lungs. And he
further affirmed that in 1871 she had turned the Germans aside from the
town and miraculously healed of their wounds two soldiers quartered at
the château of Brécé, which had been turned into a hospital.

       *       *       *       *       *

They reached the bottom of a narrow valley with a stream
flowing between moss-grown stones. On an irregular platform of
sandstone, surrounded by dwarf oak trees, rose the oratory of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles, newly constructed from the plans of M.
Quatrebarbe, the diocesan architect, in that modern namby-pamby style
which people fondly imagine to be Gothic.

“This oratory,” said the Abbé Guitrel, “was burned down in 1559 by
the Calvinists, and again in 1793 by the revolutionaries, and nothing
remained but a mass of ruins. Like another Nehemiah, the Duc de Brécé
has rebuilt the sanctuary. The Pope, this year, has granted to it
numerous indulgences, no doubt with the object of quickening the
worship of the Blessed Virgin in this country. Monseigneur Charlot
himself celebrated the Holy Eucharist here, and since then pilgrims
have flocked to the shrine. They come from all parts of the diocese,
and even farther. There is no doubt that such co-operation and zeal
must draw special blessings on the country. I myself had the felicity
of bringing to the feet of la Vierge des Belles-Feuilles several
respectable families of the Tintelleries. And, with the permission of
the Duke, I have more than once celebrated Mass at this favoured altar.”

“That is true,” said the Duchess. “And it is noticeable that the Abbé
takes more interest in our chapel than the Curé of Brécé himself.”

“Good M. Traviès!” said the Duke. “He is an excellent priest, but an
inveterate sportsman, and all he thinks of is shooting. The other day,
on returning from the administration of extreme unction to a dying man,
he brought down three partridges.”

“Now that the branches are devoid of leaves,” said the Abbé, “you can
see the chapel, which, in the summer, is entirely hidden by the thick
foliage.”

“One of the reasons which made me determine to rebuild the chapel of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles,” said the Duke, “was that on examining
the family archives, I found that the battle-cry of the Brécés was
‘Brécé Notre-Dame!’”

“How very strange!” remarked General Cartier de Chalmot.

“Is it not?” replied Madame de Brécé.

Just as the ladies, followed by M. Lerond, were crossing the rustic
bridge that spans the stream, a ragged girl of thirteen or fourteen,
with hair of the same dirty white colour as her face, slipping from a
copse on the opposite side of the hollow, ran up the steps and rushed
into the oratory.

“There’s Honorine,” said Madame de Brécé.

“I’ve been wanting to see her for a long time,” said M. Lerond, “and I
must thank you, Madame, for being the means of satisfying my curiosity.
I have heard so much about her!”

“Yes, indeed,” said General Cartier de Chalmot. “The young girl in
question has been subjected to many and searching inquiries.”

“M. de Goulet,” put in the Abbé, “comes regularly to the sanctuary of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles. It is his pleasure and delight to spend
long hours in adoration of her whom he calls his mother.”

“We are very fond of M. de Goulet,” said Madame de Brécé. “What a pity
it is that he should be so delicate.”

“Yes, alas!” replied the Abbé. “His strength diminishes from day to
day!”

“He ought to take more care of himself,” went on the Duchess, “and rest
as much as possible.”

“How can he, Madame?” asked the Abbé. “The management of the diocese
fills up every moment of his time.”

As the three ladies, the General, M. Guitrel, M. Lerond, and the Duke
entered the chapel, they saw Honorine, as in an ecstasy, kneeling at
the foot of the altar.

With clasped hands, and uplifted head, the child knelt there
motionless. Out of respect for her mysterious condition, they crossed
themselves silently with holy water, letting their gaze wander from the
Gothic tabernacle and fall upon the stained-glass windows, in which the
Comte de Chambord appeared in the guise of St. Henry, while the faces
of St. John the Baptist and St. Guy were executed from photographs of
Comte Jean, who died in 1867, and the late Comte Guy, who, in 1871, was
a member of the Bordeaux Assembly.

The miraculous statue was covered by a veil, and stood just over the
altar. But above the holy-water stoup, painted in bright colours upon
the wall was a full-length figure of Notre-Dame de Lourdes, girdled
with blue.

The General looked at her with a set expression derived from fifty
years of mechanical respect, and gazed at her blue scarf as though it
had been the flag of a friendly nation. He had always been looked upon
as something of a mystic, and had considered a belief in the future
life to be the very base and foundation-stone of military regulations.
Age and ill-health were making a devotee of him. For some days past,
though he did not betray it, he had been, if not worried, at any rate
grieved, by the recent scandals. His simple-mindedness had taken fright
at such a tumult of words and passions, and he was obsessed by vague
misgivings. He sent up a voiceless prayer to Notre-Dame de Lourdes,
imploring her protection for the French Army.

All of them, the women, the Duke, the lawyer, and the priest, had by
this time riveted their gaze upon the worn shoes of the motionless
Honorine, and these sombre, solemn, solid folk fell into an ecstasy of
admiration at the sight of the lithe young body, now stiff and rigid;
M. Lerond, who prided himself on being very observant, made sundry
observations.

At last, however, Honorine came out of her trance. She rose to her
feet, bowed to the altar, and turned round; then, as though astonished
at the sight of so many people, stood stock still and brushed away with
both hands the hair that had fallen over her eyes.

“Well, my child, did you see the Blessed Virgin to-day?” asked Madame
de Brécé.

In the shrill sing-song voice of a child in the catechism class
answering by rote, Honorine replied:

“Yes, Madame. The good Virgin remained for one moment, then rolled up
like a piece of calico, and I didn’t see her any more.”

“Did she speak to you?”

“Yes, Madame.”

“What did she say?”

“She said, ‘There is much misery in your home.’”

“Is that all she said?”

“She said, ‘There will be much misery in the country over the harvests
and the cattle.’”

“Did she not tell you to be good?”

“‘Pray continually,’ she said to me, and then she said like this, ‘I
greet you. There is much misery in your home.’”

And the words of the child rang out in the imposing silence.

“Was the Blessed Virgin very beautiful?” again questioned Madame de
Brécé.

“Yes, Madame. But one eye and one cheek were missing, because I had not
prayed long enough.”

“Had she a crown upon her head?” asked M. Lerond, who, as an ex-member
of the magistracy, was inquisitive and fond of asking questions.

Honorine hesitated, and then, with a cunning look, replied:

“Her crown was on one side.”

“Right or left?” asked M. Lerond.

“Right and left,” answered Honorine.

Madame de Brécé intervened:

“What do you mean, my child, that it was first on the right and then on
the left? Isn’t that what you mean?” But Honorine would not answer.

She was in the habit sometimes of indulging in obstinate silences,
standing, as now, with lowered eyes, rubbing her chin on her shoulder
and fidgeting. They stopped questioning her, and she slipped out and
away, when the Duke began forthwith to explain her case.

Honorine Porrichet, the daughter of a small farmer who had lived all
his life at Brécé and had fallen into the direst poverty, had always
been a sickly child. Her intelligence had developed so slowly and
tardily, that at first she was looked upon as an idiot. The Curé
used to reproach her for her wild disposition and the habit she had
of hiding in the woods; he did not like her. But some enlightened
priests who saw and questioned her could find in her nothing evil. She
frequented churches, and would linger there lost in dreams unusual
in a child of her age. Her zeal grew at the approach of her first
communion. At that time she fell a victim to consumption, and the
doctors gave her up. Dr. Cotard, among others, said there was no hope
for her. When the new oratory of Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles was
inaugurated by Monseigneur Charlot, Honorine assiduously frequented
it. She fell into ecstasies when there, and saw visions. She saw the
Blessed Virgin, who said to her, “I am Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles!”
One day Mary approached her, and, laying a finger upon her throat, told
her she was cured.

“It was Honorine herself who came back with this remarkable story,”
added the Duke, “and she related it several times with the utmost
simplicity. People have said that her story was never twice the same;
what is certain, however, is that any inconsistency on her part only
concerned the minor details of the narrative. What is also certain is
that she suddenly ceased to suffer from the disease that was killing
her. The doctors who examined and sounded her immediately after the
miraculous apparition found nothing wrong either with the bronchial
tubes or the lungs. Dr. Cotard himself confessed that he could make
nothing of the cure.”

“What do you think of these facts?” said M. Lerond to the Abbé.

“They are worthy of attention,” replied the priest, “and give rise, in
all honest observers, to more than one reflexion. It would certainly be
impossible to study them too assiduously. I can say no more. I should
certainly never put aside such interesting and consoling facts with
bold contempt like M. Lantaigne, neither should I dare, like M. de
Goulet, to call them miracles. I reserve my opinion.”

“In Honorine Porrichet’s case,” said the Duke, “we must consider
both the remarkable cure, which I am right in saying was directly
opposed to medical knowledge, and the visions which she declares
to be vouchsafed to her. Now you are aware, M. l’Abbé, that when
the girl’s eyes were photographed, during one of her trances, the
negatives obtained by the photographer, of whose good faith there is
not the shadow of a doubt, contained the figure of the Blessed Virgin,
imprinted upon the pupil of the eye. Certain persons whose evidence
can be relied on swear to having seen the photographs, and to having
distinguished, with the aid of a strong magnifying-glass, the statue of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles.”

“These facts are worthy of notice,” repeated the Abbé, “worthy of the
most careful attention. But one must be able to suspend judgment, and
not rush to premature conclusions. Let us not, like the unbelievers,
form hasty conclusions, prompted by passion. In the matter of
miracles, the Church exercises the greatest caution; she requires
proofs, indisputable proofs.”

M. Lerond asked whether it were possible to obtain the photographs
which portrayed the image of the Blessed Virgin in the eyes of little
Honorine Porrichet, and the Duke promised to write on the subject
to the photographer, whose studio, he thought, was in the Place
Saint-Exupère.

“Anyhow,” put in Madame de Brécé, “little Honorine is a very good, nice
little girl. She must be under the special protection of Providence,
for her parents, who are overcome with illness and want, have abandoned
her. I have made inquiries, and understand that her conduct is good.”

“That is more than can be said of all the village girls of her age,”
added the dowager duchess.

“That is only too true,” said the Duke. “The peasant classes are
growing more and more demoralized. I will tell you of some terrible
instances, General, but as for little Honorine, she is innocence
itself.”

       *       *       *       *       *

While the foregoing conversation was being held on the threshold of the
church, Honorine had rejoined Isidore in the copses of La Guerche. He
was lying on a bed of dead leaves, waiting impatiently, partly because
he thought she would bring him something to eat, or some coppers,
partly because he loved her, for she was his sweetheart. It was he who
had seen the ladies and gentlemen from the château on their way to the
church, and had immediately sought out Honorine, to give her time to
reach the church before them, and to fall into a trance.

“What have they given you?” he demanded. “Let me see.”

And, as she had brought nothing, he struck her, but without hurting her
very much. In return she scratched and bit him, then said:

“What’s that for?”

“Swear that they didn’t give you anything!” he said.

She swore, and, having sucked away the blood that was trickling down
their thin arms, they were reconciled. Then, for the want of something
better to do, they fell back upon the pleasure that each was able to
bestow upon the other.

Isidore, whose mother was a widow, a bad woman given to drink, had
no recognized father. He spent all his time in the woods, and nobody
bothered about him. Although he was two years younger than Honorine,
he was well versed in the practices of love, about the only need in
his life of which he found no lack, under the trees of La Guerche,
Lénonville, and Brécé. His love-making with Honorine was only by way
of killing time, and for want of something better to do. Occasionally
Honorine would be roused to a certain amount of interest, but she could
not attach much importance to such commonplace, everyday actions, and a
rabbit, a bird, or an uncommon-looking insect, would often be enough to
change the entire current of their thoughts.

       *       *       *       *       *

M. de Brécé returned to the château with his guests. The cold walls
of the hall bristled with the evidences of massacre; antlers of deer,
heads of young stags and of old veterans, which, in spite of the
taxidermist’s care, were moth-eaten, and retained in their staring
glass eyes something of the agonized sweat of a creature at bay,
equivalent to human tears.

Horns, antlers, bleached bones, severed heads, trophies, by means of
which the victims honoured their illustrious slayers, the noblemen of
France, and Bourbons of Naples and Spain. Under the great staircase
stood a sort of amphibious chariot, shaped like a boat, the body of
which could be removed, and was used for the purpose of crossing rivers
when hunting. It was looked upon as sacred, because it had once been
used by exiled kings.

The Abbé Guitrel carefully placed his big cotton umbrella beneath the
black visage of a ferocious wild boar, and led the way through a door
on the left, flanked by two tortured-looking caryatides by Ducereau, to
a drawing-room, where the three Brécé ladies, who had been the first to
return, were already sitting with their friend and neighbour, Madame de
Courtrai.

Dressed in black, owing to the interminable series of deaths in their
own and the Royal Family, they sat there, nunlike and rustic in their
extreme simplicity, chatting of marriages and deaths, of illnesses and
their remedies.

On the painted ceiling above them, and on the panelled walls, amid
the sombre rows of portraits, one caught an occasional glimpse of a
grey-bearded Henri IV in the embrace of a full-bosomed Minerva; or the
pale face of Louis XIII in close juxtaposition to the heavy Flemish
figures of Victory and Mercy in loosely flowing robes; or, again, the
naked body, brick-red in hue, of an old man, Father Time, sparing the
fleurs de lis; and anywhere and everywhere the dimpled legs of little
boys supporting the Brécé coat of arms with the three golden torches.

All the while the dowager duchess was busy knitting black woollen
scarves for the poor. Since those far off days when she had embroidered
a counterpane for the bed at Chambord on which the king was to sleep,
she had knitted continuously, occupying her hands, and satisfying her
heart withal.

The tables and consoles were covered with photographs, in frames of
all colours and sizes, some resembling easels, some of porcelain or
plush, others of crystal, nickel, shagreen, carved wood or stamped
leather-work. There were some, again, like gilded horse-shoes, others
like palettes covered with colours and brushes, some shaped like
chestnut leaves or butterflies.

In this assortment of frames were portraits of men, women, and
children, relations by blood or by marriage; of princes belonging
to the house of Bourbon, of Church dignitaries, of the Comte de
Chambord, and Pope Pius IX. On the right of the fire-place in the
middle of an old console supported by gilded Turks, like a spiritual
father, Monseigneur Charlot smiled all over his broad face at the
young soldiers grouped closely around him, officers, brigadiers, and
privates, wearing upon their heads, their necks, and their breasts all
the martial decoration allowed by a democratic army to her cavalry. He
smiled at young men dressed in cycling or polo kit; he smiled at young
girls. Ladies covered the folding tables, ladies of all ages, some
of them with the decided features of men, but a few among them quite
pretty.

“‘Mame’ de Courtrai!” cried M. de Brécé, as he entered the room behind
the General. “How are you, dear ‘Mame’?”

He then returned to the conversation he had commenced with M. Lerond
in the park, and, drawing him aside to one of the corners of the huge
room, he concluded:

“For, when all’s said and done, the Army is all that is left us. All
that formerly made up the glory and strength of France has vanished,
leaving us the Army alone. The Republican Parliament has overthrown the
Government, compromised the magistracy, and corrupted public life. The
Army alone rears its head above the ruins. That is why I insist that to
meddle with it is nothing short of sacrilege.”

He stopped. He was never in the habit of grappling with any question,
and usually contented himself with generalities. The nobility of his
sentiments was contested by none.

Madame de Courtrai, who until then had been lost in reflection as to
the best way of preparing cooling draughts, suddenly looked up, turning
her old gamekeeper’s face to the Duke, and remarked:

“I do trust you have written to the proprietors of that paper which
is in league with the enemies of France and the Army, saying that you
intend to discontinue it. My husband sent back the number containing
that article. You know the one I mean--that disgraceful article.”

“My nephew writes to me,” replied the Duke, “that a notice has been
posted up at his club, insisting that the subscription to it shall be
given up, and I hear that signatures are coming in thick and fast.
Nearly all the members fall in with the suggestion, reserving the right
to buy any single number.”

“The Army is above all attack,” said M. Lerond.

General Cartier de Chalmot at length broke the silence, in which, until
then, he had been wrapped:

“I like to hear you say that. And if, like myself, you had spent the
greater part of your life among soldiers, you would be agreeably
surprised to note the qualities of endurance, good discipline, and good
temper, which make of the French trooper a first-class implement of
war. I never tire of repeating it: such units are equal to any task.
With the authority of an officer whose life’s career is drawing to a
close, I maintain that anyone who takes the trouble to inquire into
the spirit which animates the French Army will find it worthy of the
highest praise. In the same way, it is a pleasure to me to testify to
the persevering effort of several officers of high standing and great
capacity who have devoted much time and thought to the organization
of the Army, and I declare that their efforts have been crowned with
brilliant success.”

In a lower and more serious voice he added:

“All that now remains for me to say is, that as far as the men are
concerned, quality is to be preferred to quantity, and what should
be aimed at is the formation of crack corps. I feel certain that no
capable officer would contradict such an assertion. My last military
will and testament is contained in this formula: ‘Quantity is
nothing, quality is everything.’ I might add that unity of command is
indispensable to an army, and that a great body of men must obey one
unique, sovereign, and immutable will, and one only.”

He ceased speaking, his pale eyes full of tears. Confused, inexplicable
feelings filled the soul of the honest, simple-minded old man, who in
former days had been the most dashing captain of the Imperial Guard.
His health was failing, his strength exhausted, and he felt himself
lost amongst the officers of the modern school, whom he could not
understand.

Madame de Courtrai, who did not care for theories, turned her fierce,
masculine old face towards the General:

“Well, General, as, thank God, the Army is respected by every one, as
you say it is the only force that keeps us together, why should it not
also rule us? Why not send a colonel with his regiment to the Palais
Bourbon and the Élysée----?”

She stopped short, as she saw the clouded brow of the General.

The Duke beckoned to M. Lerond.

“You have never seen the library, have you, M. Lerond? I will show
it to you. You are fond of old books, and I am sure you will be
interested.”

Traversing a long, bare gallery, the ceiling of which was covered with
clumsy painting, depicting Louis XIII and Apollo destroying the enemies
of the kingdom, as represented by Furies and Hydras, they arrived at
a door through which the Duke ushered the counsel for the defence
of the religious communities into the room where, in 1605, Duc Guy,
Grand-Marshal of France and governor of the province, had founded the
library for the solace of his declining years and fortunes.

It was a square room, occupying the whole of the ground floor of the
west wing, lighted on the north, west, and south, by three uncurtained
windows, offering three charming and magnificent pictures to the eye.
Stretching away to the south was the lawn, in the centre of which was a
marble vase, with a pair of ring-doves perching upon it. The trees of
the park were visible, bared by the winter of their leaves, and in the
purple depths of the dark walk glimmered the white statues of the pool
of Galatea. To the west was a stretch of flat country, a wide expanse
of sky, and the setting sun, which, like a mythological egg of light
and of gold, had broken and spread its glory over the clouds. To the
north were the ploughed red earth of the hills, the slate roofs and
distant smoke of Brécé, and the delicate pointed steeple of the little
church standing out in the cold, clear light.

A Louis XIV table, two chairs, and a seventeenth-century globe with a
wind-rose relating to the unexplored regions of the Pacific comprised
the only furniture of this severe-looking room, the walls of which
were lined from floor to ceiling with bookcases, enclosed by wire
gratings. Even upon the red marble mantelpiece the grey-painted shelves
encroached, and through the mesh of gilded wire peeped the richly
decorated backs of ancient volumes.

“The library was founded by the Marshal,” said M. de Brécé. “His
grandson, Duc Jean, added many treasures to it during the reign of
Louis XIV, and it was he who fitted it up as you see it to-day. It has
not been much altered since.”

“Have you a catalogue?” inquired M. Lerond.

The Duke said that he had not, that M. de Terremondre, who was a great
lover of valuable books, had warmly recommended him to have them
catalogued, but he had never yet found time to have it done.

He opened one of the cases, and M. Lerond drew out several volumes
in succession, octavo, quarto, and folio, bound in marbled, stippled
or tree-calf, parchment, and red and blue morocco, all bearing on
their covers the coat of arms with the three torches surmounted by
a ducal crown. M. Lerond was not a keen book-lover, but on opening
a beautifully written manuscript on Royal Tithes, presented to the
Marshal by Vauban, his astonishment and admiration knew no bounds.

The manuscript was further embellished with a frontispiece, besides
several vignettes and tail-pieces.

“Are these original drawings?” asked M. Lerond.

“Very probably,” replied M. de Brécé.

“They are signed,” went on M. Lerond, “and I think I can decipher the
name of Sebastian Leclerc.”

“Maybe,” answered M. de Brécé.

These priceless shelves contained, as M. Lerond remarked, books
by Tillemont on Roman and Church history, the statute book of the
province, and innumerable _Fœdera_ by old doctors at law; he
unearthed works on theology, on controversy, and on hagiology, long
genealogical histories, old editions of Greek and Latin classics,
and some of those enormous books, bigger than atlases, written on the
occasion of the marriage of a king or his entry into Paris, or to
celebrate his convalescence or his victories.

“This is the oldest part of the library,” said M. de Brécé, “the
Marshal’s collection. Here,” he added, opening two or three other
cases, “are the additions of Duc Jean.”

“Louis XVI’s minister, surnamed the ‘Good Duke’?” asked M. Lerond.

“Just so,” replied M. de Brécé.

Duc Jean’s collection took up all that side of the wall containing
the mantelpiece and also the side looking out upon the little town.
M. Lerond read out the titles stamped in gold between two bands,
that decorated the backs of the volumes: _Encyclopédie méthodique_;
_Œuvres de Montesquieu_; _Œvres de Voltaire_; _Œuvres de Rousseau,
de l’abbé Mably, de Condillac_; and _Histoire des Établissements
Européens dans les Indes_, by Raynal. He then glanced through the
lesser poets and romancers with the vignettes of Grécourt, Dorat,
and Saint-Lambert; the Boccaccio illustrated by Marillier, and
the edition of La Fontaine, published by the “Fermiers Généraux.”

“The pictures are rather free,” remarked the Duke. “I have been
compelled to destroy certain works of the same period, the
illustrations of which were really licentious.”

M. Lerond, however, discovered, side by side with these frivolous
books, a lengthy series of political and philosophical works, essays
on slavery, printed accounts of the American War of Independence. He
opened _Vœux d’un solitaire_, and saw that the margins were covered
with notes in Duc Jean’s handwriting. He read aloud:

“The author is right; man is naturally good, and the mistaken social
laws alone are responsible for his evil deeds.”

“That,” he added, “is what your great-great-grandfather wrote in 1790.”

“How very curious!” remarked the Duke, replacing the book upon its
shelf. Then, opening the cases upon the north side of the room, he said:

“These are the books collected by my grandfather, who was page to
Charles X.”

Here M. Lerond discovered, bound in sombre sheepskin, tan calf and
black shagreen, the works of Chateaubriand, a series of “Mémoires”
on the Revolution, the Histories of Anquetil, Guizot, and Augustin
Thierry; La Harpe’s _Cours de littérature_, Marchangy’s _Gaule
poétique_, and the _Discours_ of Lainé.

Close to this literature dealing with the Restoration, and the
Government of July, was a shelf on which lay two or three tattered
papers on Pope Pius IX and temporal power, a few dilapidated novels, a
pamphlet in praise of Joan of Arc, which had been read by Monseigneur
Charlot in the church of Saint-Exupère on the 8th of June, 1890, and
a few religious books written for ladies of high degree. This was the
contribution of the late Duke, member of the National Assembly in 1871,
and of the present Duc de Brécé, to the library created by the marshal
in 1605.

“I must lock up these books,” said M. de Brécé. “I cannot be too
careful, for my sons are growing up, and at any moment may be seized
with the desire to come and examine the library for themselves. There
are books among these which should never fall into the hands of any
young man, nor of any self-respecting woman, no matter what her age may
be.”

And so, in his honest zeal for doing good, and in the happy conviction
that he was imprisoning lust, doubt, impiety, and evil thoughts, he
turned his key upon them; and this sentiment, which, when analysed, had
its share of simple complacency and the secret jealousy of an ignorant
man, was not without its beauty and purity also.

Having thrust the bunch of keys into his pocket again, the Duke turned
a satisfied countenance to M. Lerond.

“Overhead,” he said, “is the King’s room. The old inventories give this
name to all the upper story. The room properly so-called, however,
contains the bed in which Louis XIII slept, and it is still hung with
the same silk embroidery. It is well worth a visit.”

M. Lerond was so tired that he could hardly stand. His legs, accustomed
all the year round to be tucked away under a desk, had had hard work
to carry him through the walk on the slippery paths of the park, the
tramp round the stables, and the stroll along the woods to the church;
they felt limp and weak, and his feet were hot and painful, for the
poor man, anxious to do the right thing, had, unfortunately, put on
patent-leather boots. Casting an uneasy glance at the ceiling, he
stammered:

“It grows late. Would it not be better to join the ladies in the
drawing-room?”

M. de Brécé was only adamant with regard to the visit to the stables;
as far as the remainder of his property was concerned he was reasonable
enough.

“Yes, the light is going,” he said. “We will see the rest another time.
To the right, M. Lerond; to the right, please.”

“What walls!” cried the ex-deputy, as he reached the doorway. “What
tremendously thick walls!”

His thin face, the calm and cold expression of which had not altered
one whit at the sight of the hunting trophies in the hall, the
historic paintings in the drawing-room, the rich tapestries, the
magnificent ceiling of the gallery, and the beautiful books with their
tooled morocco bindings, now grew animated, interested, and full of
admiration. He had at last discovered something to stir and amaze
him, something which afforded him both food for thought and mental
satisfaction--a wall! His legal mind, struck down in its flower at the
time of the new regulations, and his heart, too soon bereaved of the
joy of administering punishment, rejoiced at the sight of a wall, a
deaf, dumb, sombre thing, which recalled to his eager mind thoughts of
prison cells, of sentences and public prosecutions, of codes, laws,
justice, and morals--a wall!

“Yes,” replied the Duke, “the wall at this particular spot between the
gallery and the next wing is tremendously thick. It is the outer wall
of the old castle, built in 1405.”

M. Lerond gazed lingeringly at the wall, measured it with his eyes,
felt it with his little, crooked, yellow hands, studied, worshipped,
loved, and possessed it.

“Mesdames,” he said to the ladies on his return to the drawing-room,
“the Duke has very kindly shown me his wonderful library. On my way
back I noticed the remarkable wall that separates the gallery from the
wing. I don’t think there is anything to equal it even at Chambord.”

But neither the Brécé ladies nor Madame de Courtrai was listening;
their united attention was given to another matter.

“Jean,” cried the Duchess to her husband, “Jean, look at this!” And she
pointed to a red leather case lying on the table near the lamp which a
servant had just brought in. The case was round in shape, topped with a
kind of knob like a thimble, and divided at the base in the shape of a
clover leaf. A visiting card lay beside it. All around the table were
heaps of tissue paper, that made one think of little white dogs tied up
with pale blue ribbon.

“Do look, Jean!”

The Abbé Guitrel, who was standing near the table, opened the case with
reverent hands, and displayed a golden ciborium.

“Who sent it?” asked M. de Brécé.

“Look at the card. I am horribly worried--I don’t know what to do.”

M. de Brécé put on his glasses, picked up the card, and read aloud:

                       BARONNE JULES DE BONMONT.
                  For Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles.

He replaced the card upon the table, took off his glasses and murmured:

“How very annoying!”

“A ciborium, a beautiful ciborium,” said the Abbé.

“When I used to sing in the choir as a boy,” said the General, “I
always heard the Fathers call it a custodial.”

“Yes, you can call it either a custodial or a ciborium,” replied the
Abbé. “These are the names given to the receptacles which hold the
reserved Eucharist. But the custodial is formed like a cylinder and has
a conical cover.”

With frowning brow M. de Brécé stood wrapped in thought; then with a
deep sigh he said:

“Why should Madame de Bonmont, who is a Jewess, give a ciborium to
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles? Why have these people a mania for
forcing themselves into our churches?”

The Abbé Guitrel, with his fingers thrust into the sleeves of his coat,
moistened his lips and said gently:

“Allow me to point out, Monsieur, that Madame Jules de Bonmont is a
Catholic.”

“Nonsense!” cried the Duke. “She is an Austrian Jewess, and her maiden
name was Wallstein. The real name of her late husband, the Baron de
Bonmont, was Gutenberg.”

“Allow me, Monsieur,” said the Abbé. “I do not deny that the Baronne
de Bonmont is of Jewish descent. What I mean is that she has been
converted and baptized, and is therefore a Christian. She is a good
Christian, I might add, and gives largely to our charities, in fact,
she is an example to----”

“I am acquainted with your ideas,” interrupted the Duke, “and I respect
them as I respect your cloth. But to me a converted Jew remains a Jew;
I cannot make any distinction between the two.”

“Neither can I,” said Madame de Brécé.

“To a certain extent your feelings are legitimate, Madame la Duchesse,”
replied the Abbé. “But you cannot be unaware of the teaching of the
Church, that the curse pronounced against the Jews was inspired by
their crime, and not their race, and that therefore the attendant
results cannot affect them if----”

“It _is_ heavy,” said the Duke, lifting the ciborium from its case, and
holding it out.

“I am most annoyed,” said the Duchess.

“It is _very_ heavy!” repeated the Duke.

“And, what is more,” added the Abbé, “it is a beautiful piece of work,
and possesses the refined characteristics which are, so to speak,
the seal and stamp of the work of Rondonneau the younger. None but
the Archbishop’s goldsmith could have displayed such judgment in the
selection of a model from traditional Christian art, or have reproduced
the shape and decoration with such skill and fidelity. This ciborium
is a work of the highest merit, and is in the style of the thirteenth
century.”

“The bowl and cover are in solid gold,” said M. de Brécé.

“According to liturgical regulations the bowl of the ciborium must be
of gold, or, at any rate, of silver, gilded inside,” said the Abbé.

M. de Brécé, who was holding it upside down, remarked:

“The foot is hollow.”

“That’s a good thing!” cried the Duchess.

The Abbé Guitrel looked lovingly at the work of Rondonneau the younger.

“There is no doubt about it,” he said, “it is thirteenth century, and
a better period could not have been selected. The thirteenth century
is the golden age of this particular kind of work. At that epoch the
ciborium was made in the beautiful shape of a pomegranate, which you
recognize in this delicious example. The firm, strong foot is further
enriched with enamels and inset with precious stones.”

“Mercy upon us! precious stones!” cried the Duchess.

“Figures of angels and prophets are finely chased on the lozenge-shaped
panels, giving the most delightful effect to the whole.”

“That Bonmont was a rogue,” said Madame de Courtrai suddenly. “He was a
thief; and his widow has not yet made restitution.”

“You see that she is beginning to do so, however,” said the Duke,
pointing to the shining ciborium.

“What shall we do?” asked the Duchess.

“We cannot return her gift,” said the Duke.

“Why not?” asked his mother.

“Well, mother, because it is impossible.”

“Then we’ve got to keep it?” asked the Duchess.

“Well--yes, I suppose so.”

“And thank her?”

“What else can we do?”

“Don’t you agree with me, General?”

“It would have been fitter,” said the General, “if this lady, who is a
stranger to you, had refrained from making you a present. But there is
no reason to respond to her civility with an insult.”

Taking the ciborium in his venerable hands, the Abbé Guitrel said:

“Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles will, I feel sure, look with kindness
upon this gift, presented by a pious soul to the tabernacle of her
altar.”

“But, hang it all,” put in the Duke, “I am
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles in this case. If Madame de Bonmont and
young Bonmont want to be invited to my house--and they certainly will
want to--I shall be obliged to receive them now.”



CHAPTER III


In their efforts to escape the sudden shower that had overtaken them
outside the ramparts of the castle, Madame Jules de Bonmont and Madame
Hortha ran along the sentry path up to the gate house, upon the debased
vault of which could be seen the peacock, emblem of the extinct house
of Paves. M. de Terremondre and Baron Wallstein soon caught them up,
and the four of them stood still, trying to regain their breath.

“Where is the Abbé?” asked Madame de Bonmont. “Arthur, did you leave
the Abbé sheltering by the hedge?”

Baron Wallstein told his sister that the Abbé was coming along behind
them.

And soon they saw the Abbé Guitrel walking up the stone steps, damp
but cheerful. He alone had managed to display a perfect dignity at the
sudden alarm, and had preserved the calm suitable to his years and his
corpulence; he had, in fact, maintained a truly episcopal solemnity.

The race had deepened the roses in Madame de Bonmont’s cheeks; her
full bosom rose and fell under her light blouse, as she stood drawing
her skirts tightly around her plump hips. In her rich maturity, with
her disordered hair, lustrous eyes, and ripe lips--a sort of Viennese
Erigone--she reminded one of a golden cluster of juicy grapes.

“Are you wet, M. l’Abbé?” she inquired, in that rather coarse voice of
hers, so much less sweet than her lips.

The Abbé removed his wide-brimmed hat, the dusty pile of which was
spotted with rain, looked with his little grey eyes at each member of
the breathless group scared by a few drops of rain, and replied, not
without a certain gentle slyness:

“I am wet, but not out of breath,” adding, “It’s nothing but a harmless
shower, the rain has not even penetrated my coat.”

“Let us go in,” said Madame de Bonmont.

This was her home, this château of Montil, built in 1508 by Bernard
de Paves, Grand-Master of Artillery, for Nicolette de Vaucelles, his
fourth wife.

“The house of Paves flourished for nine hundred years,” writes Perrin
du Verdier, in the first volume of his _Trésor des généalogies_.
“And the Royal Families of Europe were all connected by marriage at
some time or other with the said house, more especially the kings
of Spain, England, Sicily and Jerusalem, the dukes of Brittany,
Alençon, Vendôme, and others, as well as the Orsini, the Colonnas and
the Cornaros.” And Perrin du Verdier discourses both lengthily and
complacently on the celebrity of this “tant inclite maison” which gave
to the Church eighteen cardinals and two popes, and to the throne of
France three constables, six marshals and a king’s mistress.

From the reign of Louis XII down to the Revolution the heads of the
elder branch of Paves had resided at the château of Montil. Philippe
VIII, prince of Paves, lord of Montil, Toche, Les Ponts, Rougeain, La
Victoire, Berlogue, and other places, first Lord in Waiting to the
King, was the last of that branch of the family. He died in 1795,
in London, whither he had emigrated, to set up as a perruquier in a
little shop in Whitecross Street. His estates, which had been totally
neglected during his lifetime, were, at the time of the Directoire,
sold as national property, and divided among a number of peasants
who lived there, and founded a line of bourgeois. The rogues who had
acquired the château in exchange for a mere handful of paper money,
decided in 1813 to demolish it. However, soon after the destruction of
the Galerie des Faunes, their work of demolition was interrupted and
never completed. For two years the country people helped themselves,
when so inclined, to the lead roofing of the château. In 1815 M. de
Reu, an old officer of the King’s navy and a secret agent of the Comte
de Provence in Holland--it is said that he was also an accomplice of
George in the affair of the Rue Saint-Nicaise--desirous of ending his
days in his native country, managed to extort a few hundred crowns from
the ungrateful Prince, and purchased the château of Montil.

There, poor and unsociable, he with his eleven children, both
legitimate and illegitimate, lived within the walls which threatened
to fall in and bury them all beneath the ruins. After his death, one
of his daughters, who never married, lived there, and filled those
halls of beauty and glory with plums picked in the castle gardens,
which she placed there to dry. In the year 1875 Mademoiselle Reu, aged
ninety-nine years and three months, was found one winter’s morning
lying dead upon a torn and rotting mattress, in the room adorned with
monograms, devices, and emblems in the honour of Nicolette de Vaucelles.

At this time Baron Jules de Bonmont, son of Nathan, son of Seligmann,
son of Simon, came over from Austria, where he had negotiated the loans
during the dark days of the Empire. He now made France the headquarters
of his financial operations, bringing to the Republic the benefit of
his financial genius. M. Laprat-Teulet, a member of Parliament, who
at that time represented the district of Montil, became one of the
first and surest of his friends and allies. He discovered that, the
era of ideas and strife having gone by, the time had come for big
business deals. He bestowed upon the Baron his warmest sympathy and his
extremely useful devotion, and the Baron, on his side, was always ready
to commend Laprat-Teulet as a clever fellow.

It was by the advice of Laprat-Teulet that Baron Jules bought the
château of Montil. It was then a dignified and beautiful ruin, well
worth restoring and preserving. The task of its restoration was
confided to a pupil of Viollet-le-Duc, M. Quatrebarbe, the diocesan
architect. He removed all the old stone and replaced it with new. In
the new building the Baron, who astonished his political friends by his
taste in art, promptly installed his collection of pictures, furniture,
and armoury, all of which were of enormous value.

“And thus the château of Montil,” to use the words of M. de
Terremondre, “was preserved to the lovers of our national art, and
transformed into a marvellous museum by the care and generosity of a
great seignior, who, at the same time, was a great connoisseur.”

The Baron was not long permitted to enjoy the proud possession of
Montil, with its towers ornamented with medallions, its tracery
staircase, and the delicately carved woodwork of its interior. After
reaching the zenith of his financial prosperity, he died suddenly of an
attack of apoplexy, just on the eve of all the ruin and scandal that
followed. He died in possession of all his wealth, leaving behind him a
gay young widow, and a boy, who, with his short, squat figure, lowering
brows, and already pitiless heart, closely resembled his father. Madame
de Bonmont had kept Montil, of which she was very fond.

She led Madame Hortha to the spiral staircase, the interlacing
stonework of which repeated interminably in its intertwinings the
emblematic peacock of Bernard de Paves tied by the foot to the lute
of Nicolette de Vaucelles. Then, picking up her skirts with a sudden,
abrupt gesture, not without a charm of its own, she followed her. M.
de Terremondre, President of the Archæological Society, and formerly
a great lady-killer, came closely behind her with an eye upon the
rhythmic movement of her engaging figure.

At the age of forty she had retained the wish and the capacity to
please, and M. de Terremondre thoroughly appreciated this, for he
was a susceptible man; yet he did not attempt to make love to her,
knowing that she herself was greatly infatuated with Raoul Marcien, a
handsome, choleric man who had fallen into disrepute.

“Let us go into the armoury,” said Madame de Bonmont, pushing open the
door. “It is warmed with hot-air pipes.”

It was true that the armoury was so heated. Amidst the grotesque
encaustic tiles of M. Quatrebarbe, designed after the manner of the old
paving he had torn up, the hot-air gratings opened their bright brazen
mouths.

Madame de Bonmont was careful to invite the Abbé Guitrel to a seat near
one of the radiators, and to ask him if his feet were damp, and whether
he would not have a glass of something hot.

Under the ribbed vault of its roof, the huge room glittered with a
display of iron and steel such as not even the Armeria in Madrid
could boast. One or two of the financier’s brilliant business coups
had resulted in a collection of armour not to be equalled by that of
Spitzer himself.

Examples of the three centuries of plate armour were there in every
form known to Europe. On the gigantic chimney-piece, guarded by two
Brabançons in magnificent cuisses, a condottiere’s suit of mail
bestrode that of a horse, with open chamfron, horse muzzle, mane-guard,
tail-guard, and poitrel. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling
with dazzling suits of armour, casques, basinets, helmets, salades,
morions, skull caps, iron hats, hauberks, coats of armour, brigantines,
greaves, solerets, and spurs.

From the shields, bucklers, and targes, of all descriptions, radiated
flambergs, Konigsmark swords, partizans, gisarmes, war-scythes,
two-edged swords, Toledo rapiers, poniards, stylets, and daggers.

All around the room stood phantom figures clothed in polished and
unpolished steel; in steel, engraved, inlaid, chased, and damascened.
Maximiliennes with fluted and bowed cuirasses, puffed and bell-shaped
suits of armour, the “polichinelle” of Henri III, and the “écrevisse”
of Louis XIII. Panoplies of war that had adorned French, Spanish,
Italian, German, and English princes; coats of mail worn by knights,
captains, sergeants, crossbowmen, reiters, veterans, by soldiers of
fortune from every country in Europe, by mercenaries and Switzers.

Here was steel armour that had figured at the Field of the Cloth of
Gold; at the jousts and tourneys of England, France, and Germany;
armour from Poitiers, Verneuil, Granson, Fornovo, Ceresole, Pavia,
Ravenna, Pultava, and Culloden; worn by nobles or mercenaries, by
knights or caitiffs, by victor or vanquished, by friend or foe--all
collected by the Baron and displayed in this room.

After dinner, while pouring out the coffee, Madame de Bonmont offered
no sugar to the Abbé, who always took it, and gave it to Baron
Wallstein, who suffered from diabetes and had to be very careful in
his diet. She did not do this with any malice aforethought, but her
mind was full of other matters that engaged her undivided attention.
Her depression, which, simple soul that she was, she was incapable of
hiding, was caused by a telegram from Paris, worded with a twofold
meaning; one literal and commonplace, obvious to all, referring to a
delay in forwarding some plants; the other, the real and ingenious one,
understood, to her unhappiness, by herself alone, indicated that her
lover could not come to Montil but was in dire straits and forced to
remain in Paris.

It was nothing new for Raoul Marcien to be in need of money. Since he
attained his majority, fifteen years previously, he had just managed
to keep himself going by a series of bold and clever _coups_. But this
year, his difficulties, which had continued to increase and multiply,
were positively appalling.

Madame de Bonmont was nearly always worried and depressed about him and
his affairs, for she loved him truly and tenderly with all her soul and
with all her body.

“Two lumps for you, M. de Terremondre?”

Yes, she adored her Raoul, her Rara, with all the strength of her
placid soul. She would have liked him to be loving and faithful,
pure-minded and studious. He was not what she wished him to be, and in
her grief and fear of losing him, she regularly burned candles for his
benefit in the church of Saint-Antoine.

M. de Terremondre, who was by way of being a connoisseur, examined the
pictures. They were all modern works of art, paintings by Daubigny,
Theodore Rousseau, Jules Dupré, Chintreuil, Diaz, and Corot, and
consisted of mournful-looking pools bordered by deep woods, dew-brushed
meadows, village streets, forest glades bathed in the golden light of
the setting sun, and willows emerging from the silver mists of morning.
The prevailing tones were white, fawn, green, blue, and grey. In
massive gilt frames they stood out against the crimson damask hangings
that accorded ill with the gigantic Renaissance chimney-piece, with the
loves of the nymphs and the metamorphoses of the gods sculptured in
the stone. The pictures undoubtedly marred the effect of the wonderful
old ceiling, the painted compartments of which reproduced in infinite
variety the peacock of Bernard de Paves tied by the foot to the lute of
Nicolette de Vaucelles.

“That’s a fine Millet,” said M. de Terremondre, coming to a standstill
before a goosegirl, whose figure stood out, terrible in its rustic
solemnity, against a background of pale gold.

“It’s a pretty picture,” answered Baron Wallstein. “I have the same
thing at my house in Vienna, but mine is a shepherd, not a goosegirl.
I don’t know what my brother gave for this one.” Cup in hand, he began
to stroll round the gallery. “This Jules Dupré cost my brother-in-law
50,000 francs; this Theodore Rousseau 60,000, and this Corot 100,000.”

“I am acquainted with the views of the late Baron in regard to
pictures,” replied M. de Terremondre, following the Baron round the
room. “One day he met me going down the staircase of the Hôtel des
Ventes, with a little picture under my arm. He caught hold of my
sleeve, as he was fond of doing, and said, ‘What are you carrying off
there?’ With the satisfied pride of the complacent dabbler in art I
replied, ‘A Ruisdael, M. de Bonmont, a genuine Ruisdael. It has been
engraved and I happen to have a print in my portfolio.’ ‘What did you
give for your Ruisdael?’ ‘The sale was in a dark room on the ground
floor and the dealer did not know what he was selling. Thirty francs!’”

“‘What a pity! What a pity!’ he ejaculated, and, seeing my surprise,
gave another tug at my sleeve. ‘My dear M. de Terremondre, you ought
to have given 10,000 francs for it; if you had paid as much as that
it would have been worth 30,000 francs to you. The little picture
only cost you thirty francs and will never fetch a high price, say
twenty-five louis at the most. The value of a thing cannot rise at a
jump from thirty francs to 30,000!’ Ah!” concluded M. de Terremondre,
“the Baron was a clever man!”

“He was indeed,” replied Wallstein, “and he also liked taking a rise
out of people.”

The two cronies looked up, and saw, right before their eyes, the very
Baron they had been discussing, the man who had been so clever all
his life. There he was, painted by Delaunay, amongst a lot of costly
pictures, his cunning animal-like face leering out of a glittering
frame.

Madame de Bonmont and the Abbé, seated together in the huge chimney
corner before the fire, were chatting about the weather and
day-dreaming. Madame de Bonmont was thinking how sweet life might be,
if only Rara willed it so. She loved him so simply and so ingenuously.
All the ancient and modern moralists, all the fathers of the Church,
the doctors and theologians, the Abbé Guitrel and Monseigneur Charlot,
the Pope and the whole of the Church Council, the archangel Michael
with his great trumpet, and Christ come again in His glory to judge
both the quick and the dead--all of them put together would never
have succeeded in making her believe that it was a sin for her to love
Rara. She was thinking that she would not see him at Montil, and that
perhaps, at that very moment, he was unfaithful to her. She knew he
was almost as familiar with women as he was with the bailiffs; she had
seen him at the races with ladies of easy virtue and uncertain age, at
whom he had cast leering glances as he handed them the field-glasses
or helped them on with their cloaks. The poor dear could not get rid
of a whole host of tiresome people, to whom he was bound for reasons
she found it impossible to understand, even when he explained them at
length. She felt very unhappy and heaved a deep sigh.

The Abbé was thinking of the bishopric of Tourcoing. His rival, the
Abbé Lantaigne, was done for. He was going under in the ruin of his
seminary, smothered beneath bills of the butcher Lafolie. But there
were many rivals in the field. A senior curate from Paris and a curé
from Lyons seemed to be the Government favourites; the Nunciature as
usual lay low. The Abbé Guitrel heaved a sigh.

Hearing the sigh, Madame de Bonmont, who was very kind-hearted,
reproached herself for selfishly thinking of her own affairs. She made
an effort to appear interested in the Abbé Guitrel’s concerns, and
affectionately inquired whether he would not soon be made a bishop.

“You are a candidate for Tourcoing,” she said. “Would you not dislike
living in so small a town?”

The Abbé declared that the care of his flock would be sufficient to
occupy him, and that, moreover, the diocese of Tourcoing was one of
the oldest and most important in Northern France. “It is the see,” he
added, “of the blessed St. Loup, the apostle of Flanders.”

“Indeed?” remarked Madame de Bonmont.

“We must be careful,” went on the Abbé, “not to confound St. Loup, the
apostle of Flanders, with St. Loup, Bishop of Lyons, St. Leu or Loup,
Bishop of Sens, and St. Loup, Bishop of Troyes. The latter had been
married seven years to Pimentola, a sister of the Bishop of Arles,
when he left her, to retire in solitude to Lerins and devote himself
entirely to works of ascetic piety.”

And Madame de Bonmont was thinking:

“He’s been losing heavily again. In one way it is good for him, because
he has been winning too frequently at the club lately, and people were
getting suspicious. On the other hand it’s a great nuisance. I shall
have to pay up.”

And Madame de Bonmont was much annoyed at having to pay Rara’s debts.
In the first place she never liked paying and, in the second, she
disliked lending money to Rara as much as a matter of principle as
from fear of not being loved for herself alone. At the same time she
knew that when she saw her Rara, gloomy and terrible, tying a wet
towel round his fevered cranium--which was beginning to be discernible
through the fast-thinning hair--and when she heard the poor darling
crying amidst a torrent of blasphemies that the only thing for him to
do was to blow out his brains, she knew she would have to pay. You see
Rara was a man of honour; in fact, he lived on honour; since he had
left the Army his profession had been that of witness or umpire, and,
in the smartest circles, no duel ever took place without his presence.

And to think that she would have to part with more money. If only he
belonged entirely to her and was loving and attentive. As it was, he
was in a perpetual state of agitation, desperation, and fury, and
always seemed like a man laying about him in the thick of a fight.

“The saint of whom I am speaking, Madame la Baronne,” went on the Abbé,
“the blessed St. Loup, or Lupus, preached the gospel in Flanders, and
his apostolic labours were often fraught with many trials. In his
biography we find an instance which will touch you by its naïve beauty.
One frosty day in winter he was traversing the frozen countryside, and
stopped at the house of a senator to warm himself. The latter, who was
entertaining some of his boon companions, continued to hold unseemly
conversation with them in the presence of the apostle. St. Loup made
an attempt to stop the conversation. ‘My sons,’ said he to the senator
and his guests, ‘are you not aware that on the day of judgment you will
have to answer for every vain speech you have uttered?’ Treating the
exhortations of the holy man with contempt, however, they returned with
redoubled zest to their indecent and impious talk. Shaking the dust
from off his feet, the blessed saint said to them, ‘I desired to warm
my tired body against the bitter cold, but your sinful talk forces me,
though still numb with cold, to quit your company.’”

Madame de Bonmont was sadly reflecting that lately, with teeth set and
eyes flashing, Rara had been threatening the destruction of the Jews.
He had always been against the Jews, and so had she for that matter.
However, she preferred not to discuss the subject, and in her opinion
Rara, being the lover of a Catholic lady of Jewish origin, was wanting
in tact when he swore, as he invariably did, that he would like to
rip open every “sheeny” in Christendom. She would have preferred more
gentleness and sympathy, calmer views and more amiable desires. As for
herself, her thoughts of love were mingled with innocent dreams of
sweetmeats and poetry.

“The mission of the blessed St. Loup,” continued the Abbé Guitrel,
“bore fruit. The inhabitants of Tourcoing were baptized by him, and
chose him by acclamation for their bishop. His end was accompanied by
circumstances which I feel sure will impress you, Madame. One December
day, in the year of our Lord 397, St. Loup, then full of years and
good deeds, made his way to a tree surrounded by briars, where it was
his habit to pray. Fixing two stakes into the ground, he marked out a
space as long as his body, and said to the disciples he had asked to
accompany him, ‘When, by God’s will, I end my exile in this world, it
is there I desire to be laid.’

“St. Loup died on the Sunday following the day on which he had marked
out his last resting-place, and it was done as he had commanded.
Blandus came to inter the body of the blessed saint, whom he was
afterwards to succeed as Bishop of Tourcoing.”

She felt sad and full of compassion. She understood the reason for
Rara’s anti-Jewish frenzies, and excused them. The fact was that
latterly, to re-establish his reputation among his fellows as a man of
honour, Rara had warmly espoused the cause of the Army, in which he had
formerly served as a cavalry officer. He had greatly tightened the
bonds that united him with one great family--the Army, and had even
struck a Jew whom he had overheard in a café asking for the Army List.

Madame de Bonmont loved and admired him, but she was far from happy.

Raising her head and opening her flower-like eyes she said:

“The see of the blessed St. Loup, apostle to---- Please go on, M.
l’Abbé. I am very interested.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Madame de Bonmont’s fate to seek, in hearts little fitted to
give it her, the sweetness of peaceful love. The sentimental Elizabeth
had always bestowed her heart upon arrant adventurers. During her
husband’s lifetime she had fondly loved the son of an obscure senator,
young X----, famous for having appropriated to his own use a whole
year’s secret funds of a certain government department. Close upon
this she had given her confidence to an extremely fascinating man
who was one of the bright particular stars of the government press,
and who suddenly disappeared from view in a tremendous financial
catastrophe. These two, at any rate, had been introduced to her by the
Baron himself. You cannot blame a woman if she has lovers belonging to
her own set. But her newest, dearest, her one and only love, Raoul
Marcien, had not been one of the Baron’s friends. He did not belong to
the world of sale and barter. She had met him in a most select circle
of Catholic Royalist society somewhere in the provinces. He was himself
as good as a nobleman. This time she had firmly believed she was going
to satisfy her desire for love, and delicate, refined intimacy, that
at last she had found the chivalrous lover with noble and beautiful
feelings of whom she had so long dreamed.

And now she found that he was like all the others, alternately frozen
with fear and burning with rage, torn with anguish of mind and
agitated by the extraordinary adventures of a life devoted to fraud
and blackmail. But he was so much more picturesque and amusing than
anyone else! He would, for instance, be summoned as witness in some
serious and delicate affair, and at the same time be served with a
judgment-summons at his club; or again, he might one day be made
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, and the same morning be haled before
the court on a charge of embezzlement. Moreover, with erect carriage,
and well-waxed moustache, he defended his honour at the point of
his sword. But for some months past he had seemed to be losing his
sang-froid; he spoke too loudly, and gesticulated too much, in fact he
compromised his case by his desire for vengeance, for he was always
complaining of betrayal.

It was with real anxiety that Elizabeth saw Rara’s temper grow daily
more unmanageable. When she went to see him of a morning she would find
him in his shirt-sleeves, bending over his old military trunk crammed
full of writs, swearing and blaspheming with crimson face. “Rogues!
scoundrels! scum! wretches!” he would shout, vociferating that they
should hear from him to their cost. She would snatch a kiss in the
middle of the curses, and be sent away with the usual remark that he
would blow out his brains.

No, it was not the love of which Elizabeth had dreamed.

“You were saying, M. l’Abbé, that the blessed St. Loup----?”

But the Abbé, with his head inclined at a gentle angle and hands
clasped upon his portly frame, was fast asleep in his chair.

So Madame de Bonmont, who was as kind to herself as she was to others,
also fell asleep in her easy chair; fell asleep, thinking that perhaps
after all Rara would come to an end of his worries soon, that she might
only have to give him quite a little money, and that after all she was
beloved by the handsomest of men.

“My dear, my dear,” cried the much-travelled Madame Hortha, in her
trumpet-like voice, calculated to strike terror into the heart of a
Turk, “are we not to see M. Ernest to-night?”

Standing there, with her big limbs and heavy features, she looked
like a warrior virgin left behind and forgotten for twenty years in
the wings of the theatre at Bayreuth; she was terrible to look upon,
clothed and girdled with jet and steel that flashed, gleamed, and
clanked as she moved, but, in spite of it all, quite a good sort of
woman, and the mother of numerous children.

Awakened with a start by the magic blast that blared from the bosom
of the excellent Madame Hortha, the Baronne replied that her son, who
had obtained sick leave, was to arrive that evening at Montil, and the
carriage had gone to the station to meet him.

The Abbé Guitrel, whose slumbers, too, had been pierced by this
nocturnal flourish of trumpets, adjusted his spectacles, and,
moistening his lips, that they might have the necessary unction,
murmured with heavenly sweetness:

“Yes, Loup--Loup.”

“And so,” said Madame de Bonmont, “you will wear the mitre, you will
hold the crosier, and have a big ring on your finger.”

“I do not know yet, Madame,” replied M. Guitrel.

“Yes, yes! You will be appointed!” She leaned forward slightly, and, in
a low voice, asked: “Monsieur l’Abbé, must the Bishop’s ring be of any
particular design?”

“Not exactly, Madame,” replied M. Guitrel. “The Bishop wears the ring
as a symbol of his spiritual union with the Church; it is therefore
fitting that the ring should suggest by its appearance thoughts of
austerity and purity.”

“Ah!” said Madame de Bonmont. “What about the stone?”

“In the Middle Ages,” replied the Abbé, “the bezel was sometimes of
gold like the ring, and sometimes consisted of a precious stone. It
seems that the amethyst is a very suitable stone with which to adorn
the pastoral ring, it gleams with a gentle lustre, and is one of the
twelve stones that formed the breastplate worn by the High Priest of
the Jews. In Christian symbolism it stands for modesty and humility;
Narbode, Bishop of Rennes in the eleventh century, makes it the emblem
of those who give themselves to be crucified on the cross of Jesus
Christ.”

“Indeed!” said Madame de Bonmont.

She had made up her mind that when M. Guitrel became Bishop of
Tourcoing she would make him a present of an episcopal ring set with a
large amethyst.

Madame Hortha’s trumpets again rang out:

“My dear, my dear, are we not to see M. Raoul Marcien to-night? Are we
not to have the pleasure of seeing the dear man?”

The cosmopolitan lady was well worthy of admiration, in that, although
acquainted with every grade of society under the sun, she avoided
making a hopeless muddle of them all. Her brain was a directory of
all the drawing-rooms of all the capitals of Europe, and she was not
wanting in a certain worldly judgment; her kindness of heart, too, was
universal. If she had mentioned Raoul Marcien, it was in all innocence.
She was innocence personified, and knew nothing of evil. She was a good
wife and a good mother, whose home was a sleeping-car or a _wagon-lit_,
yet a domesticated woman for all that. Under the corsage of jet and
steel that glittered as she moved with a sound as of hail, she wore
coarse grey cotton stays. Even her lady’s-maids never questioned her
virtue.

“My dear, my dear, of course you know that M. Raoul Marcien has fought
a duel with M. Isidore Mayer?”

And in a voice that made one think of international bureaux and tourist
inquiry offices, she related the story which Madame de Bonmont knew by
heart.

She told how M. Isidore Mayer, a Jew, both well known and highly
respected in the financial world, went into a café in the Boulevard des
Capucines, sat down at a table and asked for the Army List. Having a
son in the Army, he wished to make sure of the names of the officers
in his regiment. Just as he was about to take the book from a waiter
M. Raoul Marcien strode up, and said: “Monsieur, I forbid you to lay a
hand on that book. It is sacred to the French Army!” “Why?” asked M.
Isidore Mayer. “Because you are of the same religion as the traitor!”

M. Isidore Mayer shrugged his shoulders, upon which M. Raoul Marcien
struck him full in the face. An encounter was arranged, and two shots
fired without effect.

“My dear, my dear, do you understand why he did it? I must say I do
not.”

Madame de Bonmont did not reply, and her silence was prolonged by that
of M. de Terremondre and Baron Wallstein.

“I believe,” said Madame de Bonmont, listening intently to the distant
sounds of horses’ hoofs and the rumble of wheels, “that Ernest is
coming.”

At this point a servant came in with the newspapers. M. de Terremondre
took one of them and glanced casually at it.

“Still the Affair!” he murmured. “More professors protesting! Why will
they insist on meddling with what does not concern them? It is only
right that the Army should settle its own affairs, as it always has
done. Moreover, it seems to me that when seven officers----”

“Of course,” replied the Abbé, “when seven officers have given
judgment, I will even go so far as to say that it is unseemly to
raise any doubts as to their decision. It is highly indecorous and
incongruous!”

“Are you speaking of the Affair?” asked Madame de Bonmont. “Well, I can
assure you that Dreyfus is guilty. I have it from an authentic source.”

She blushed as she spoke, for it was Raoul to whom she had referred.

Ernest entered the drawing-room, sulky and morose.

“Good evening, mother! Good evening, M. l’Abbé!”

He took very little notice of the others, but threw himself upon the
cushions of a couch which stood just beneath the portrait of his
father, whom he much resembled. He was the Baron over again, but
shrunken, diminished, and sickly, the wild boar grown small, pale, and
flabby. The likeness, however, was striking, and M. de Terremondre drew
attention to it:

“It is surprising, M. de Bonmont, how like you are to the portrait of
the late Baron, your father.”

Ernest lifted his head and glanced at the picture by Delaunay.

“Ah, yes, the pater! Clever chap, the pater. I’m all there myself,
too, but pretty well played out. How are you, M. l’Abbé? You and I
are good friends, aren’t we? I want to have a little talk with you
presently.” Then, turning to M. de Terremondre, who was still holding
the newspaper: “What do they say there? As far as we fellows are
concerned, we are not allowed an opinion of any description, you bet!
Only a bourgeois is permitted the luxury of an idea, though it may be
an idiotic one. Then, good Lord, the things that interest the big bugs,
how should they interest us?”

He sneered. His life in the regiment afforded him endless amusement.
Although he did not appear so, he was exceedingly shrewd, prudent, and
cunning; he also knew when to hold his tongue, and took the keenest
delight in the great and demoralizing power he possessed. In spite of
himself, he corrupted every one that he approached, and was extremely
pleased when he could swindle them in some way, as, for instance, when
he succeeded in prevailing upon a poor and vain companion to present
him with a meerschaum pipe. His greatest joy was to despise and hate
his superiors, and to see how some of the more covetous among them
would absolutely sell him their very souls, while others, more timorous
and fearful of compromising themselves by showing him any leniency,
would deny him, not a favour even, but the enjoyment of some right
which they would never refuse to the son of a peasant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Full of craft and cunning, young Ernest de Bonmont came and sat by the
Abbé Guitrel, and began to talk coaxingly to him:

“M. l’Abbé, you often see the Brécés, don’t you? You know them very
well?”

“You must not imagine, my son,” replied the Abbé, “that I am an
intimate friend of the Duc de Brécé. That is not the case. The utmost
I can say is that I often have the privilege of visiting in the
family circle. On certain festival days I say Mass in the chapel of
Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles, which, as you know, is situated in the
woods of Brécé. This, as I was just telling your mother, is a source
of consolation and thankfulness to me. After Mass I lunch, either at
the Presbytery, with M. le curé Traviès, or at the château, where, I
am bound to say, they treat me with the greatest kindness. The Duke’s
manner towards me is always simple and natural, and the ladies are
amiable and pleasant. They do a great deal of good around here, and
would do still more were it not for the unjustified prejudices, blind
hatred, and bitter feelings of the people.”

“Do you happen to know what effect was produced by the utensil Mother
sent to the Duchess for the chapel of Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles?”

“What utensil do you mean? Do you refer to the golden ciborium? I
can assure you that M. and Madame de Brécé were much touched by your
mother’s simple act of homage to the miraculous Virgin.”

“So it was a good idea, wasn’t it, M. l’Abbé? Well, it was my notion.
Mother isn’t particularly bright in the way of ideas, you know--oh, I’m
not reproaching her. However, let us talk seriously. You are very fond
of me, are you not, M. l’Abbé?”

M. Guitrel took young Bonmont’s hands in both his.

“Never doubt my affection for you, my son; it is the love of a father
for his child; I might even say that it is a maternal love as well,
and thus express more fully all that it contains both of strength and
tenderness. I have watched you grow up, my dear Ernest, since that
day on which you made so excellent a first communion, to this moment,
in which you are accomplishing your noble duty as a soldier in our
great French Army, which, day by day, I am thankful to say, grows more
Christian and more pious. And it is my firm conviction, my dearest boy,
that amid the distractions, the errors even of your age, you have kept
the faith. Your actions speak for themselves. I know you have always
looked upon it as your duty to contribute towards our works of charity.
You are my favourite child.”

“Well, then, M. l’Abbé, do your child a good turn. Tell the Duc de
Brécé to give me permission to wear the Brécé Hunt badge.”

“The Hunt badge? But, my son, what do I know of such matters? I am
not, like M. de Traviès, a great hunter before the Lord. I have
followed St. Thomas far more than St. Hubert. The Hunt badge? Is that
not a figurative expression, a kind of metaphor to express the idea
of membership of the Hunt? Anyway, my son, what you desire is an
invitation to the Brécé meets.”

Young Bonmont gave a jump.

“Don’t, for heaven’s sake, get mixed, M. l’Abbé. That’s not it--oh, not
a bit of it. An invitation--I’m pretty sure to get an invitation to the
de Brécé meets, in exchange for the utensil.”

“Ciborium, ciborium, remember the Latin _ciborium_! I also think, my
dear child, that the Duke and Duchess will make a special point of
sending you an invitation as soon as they realize that it will please
you and your mother to accept it.”

“I believe you! As soon as they stuck to the plate. But you can tell
them from me that I don’t care a flip for an invitation to see a
meet. I don’t want to stay and rot at some crossroads where there is
nothing to be seen, where you are sure to get all the mud kicked up by
the horses full in your face, and then be sworn at by a huntsman for
obstructing the way. No, I am not particularly keen on such amusements.
The Brécés can keep their invitation!”

“In that case, my son, I do not understand your idea.”

“And yet my idea is clear enough, M. l’Abbé. I do not intend the Brécés
to laugh up their sleeve at me, that’s what I’m driving at.”

“Pray explain yourself!”

“Well, M. l’Abbé, just imagine being planted down on the Carrefour du
Roi, together with the village doctor, the wife of the Chief of Police,
and M. Irvoy’s head clerk! No, such a situation is not to be thought of
for one moment. But if I wear the Hunt badge, I can follow the hounds,
and, although I may look a bit off colour sometimes, I’ll soon show
them whether I can ride or not. Now _you_ can get me what I want, M.
l’Abbé; the Brécés will not refuse you anything. All you have to do is
to ask it in the name of Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles.”

“I beg of you, my child, not to bring Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles
into such a matter, which cannot interest her in the very slightest.
The miraculous Virgin of Brécé has enough to do in answering the
prayers of widows and orphans, not to mention those of our brave
soldiers in Madagascar. But, my dear Ernest, is there really so much to
be gained by the possession of this badge? Is it then such a precious
talisman? No doubt strange privileges are attached to its possession.
Tell me all about them. I am far from despising the noble and ancient
art of hunting, for I belong to the clergy of an eminently sporting
diocese, and would be glad of any information on the subject.”

“You do amuse me, M. l’Abbé, and I know you must be joking. You know as
well as I do what is understood by the Hunt badge: it is the right to
wear the colours of any particular hunt. I am going to speak frankly
to you; I am candid, because I can afford to be so. I want to be made
a member of the Brécé Hunt, because it is the correct thing, and I
like to be in the swim. I want it because I am a snob and a vain man.
I also want it because it would amuse me to dine with the Brécés on
St. Hubert’s Day. The Brécé badge would be just about my mark. I
want it very badly, and I’m not going to disguise the fact. I have no
false shame--no shame of any kind, for the matter of that. Listen to
me, M. l’Abbé, I have something of great importance to say to you. You
must understand that in broaching the subject to the Duc de Brécé,
you will only be claiming what is my due; you understand--my due! I
have property round here; I do not shoot the deer; I let people hunt
and kill on my estates, all of which deserves both consideration and
gratitude. M. de Brécé is really under obligations to his kind little
neighbour Ernest.”

The Abbé said nothing. It was evident that he did not like the idea,
and was prepared to refuse to do what was asked of him. Young Bonmont
went on:

“I need hardly say, M. l’Abbé, that, in case the Brécés demand a price
in return for the privilege, I should not stick at such a trifle.”

M. l’Abbé Guitrel made a movement of protest.

“Banish that supposition, my son! It ill accords with the character of
the Duc de Brécé.”

“That may be, M. l’Abbé. Whether it be given or sold, depends upon the
owner’s ideas and the state of his banking account. Some packs cost
the master 80,000 francs a year; others bring him in as much as 30,000
francs a year. In saying this I am not in any way blaming the man who
expects people to pay for their privileges. Personally, I should prefer
to do so, indeed, I consider it only fair. Then there are districts
where hunting costs so much, that the master, even if he is a rich
man, cannot keep things going alone. Just suppose for instance, M.
l’Abbé, that you kept a pack in the neighbourhood of Paris. Can you
see yourself meeting all expenses and finding your purse sufficient to
pay the heavy claims entailed? But I think I have heard that the Brécé
badge is not to be bought with money. The Duke hasn’t the gumption to
make a profit out of his pack. Well, M. l’Abbé, you will get it for me,
gratis and for nothing! It will all be so much to the good.”

Before replying, the Abbé reflected long and deeply, and this display
of prudence worried young Bonmont not a little. At last, however, the
Abbé opened his lips:

“My son, I have said so once, and will say it again. I have a great
affection for you, and should like both to please and to aid you. I
would welcome any opportunity of doing you a service. But I really
have not the necessary qualifications to solicit on your behalf the
worldly distinction to which you refer. Just think for a moment.
Suppose that, after hearing my request, M. de Brécé should refuse or
make some difficulty about granting it? I should be powerless to bring
any pressure to bear upon him. What chance would a humble professor
of elocution at the Grand Séminaire have of overcoming resistance,
removing difficulty, and obtaining consent, so to speak, by main force?
I have nothing with which to convince and hold parley with the great
ones of the earth. I cannot, must not, even in so paltry a matter as
this, undertake anything without being assured of its success.”

Young Bonmont looked at the Abbé with surprise mingled with admiration,
and said:

“I understand, M. l’Abbé. You cannot manage it for the time being. But
when you are made a bishop you will carry off the badge with the same
ease as a man at a fair carries off the ring, when tilting upon the
wooden horses of the roundabouts. Of course you will!”

“It is quite possible,” returned M. Guitrel, with the greatest gravity,
“that if a bishop were to ask for the Hunt badge for you, the Duke
would not refuse him.”



CHAPTER IV


That evening M. Bergeret, having done a hard day’s work, was feeling
tired. He was taking his customary stroll in the town, accompanied by
M. Goubin, his favourite disciple since the treachery of M. Roux, and
as he ruminated over the work he had accomplished he fell to wondering,
like so many others before him, what profit a man hath of all his
labours. M. Goubin asked:

“Master, do you think that Paul Louis Courrier would be a good subject
to choose for an essay?”

M. Bergeret made no reply. He was just then passing the shop of Madame
Fusellier, the stationer, and, stopping in front of the window in which
sundry drawing models were displayed, he looked with interest at the
Farnese Hercules who was showing off his muscles amid these examples of
scholastic art.

“I feel kindly disposed towards him,” remarked M. Bergeret.

“Towards whom?” asked M. Goubin, wiping his glasses.

“Hercules,” replied M. Bergeret. “He was a good man. He himself said:
‘My life is laborious and tends to a high ideal.’ He toiled much upon
this earth ere he received the reward of death, which, in truth, is
the only guerdon of life. He had no time to give to meditation, and
prolonged thought never marred the simplicity of his soul. But when
evening came a feeling of melancholy would steal over him, and, in
default of an enquiring mind, his great heart would reveal to him
the vanity of effort, and the necessity which compels all men, even
the best, to do evil even when they do good. This man of might was
extraordinarily gentle. Like the rest of us when we commit ourselves to
action, he found that he destroyed indiscriminately both the innocent
and the guilty, the meek and the violent, and, when he mused over
all this, it doubtless caused him more than one regret. Perhaps he
even felt compassion for the unhappy monsters he had destroyed for
the benefit of mankind: the poor Cretan bull, the poor Lernæan hydra,
or the beautiful lion who, when he died, provided him with such an
excellently warm cloak. More than once, when the day was over and his
work done, his club must have weighed heavily upon him.” M. Bergeret
raised aloft his umbrella with an effort as though it had been a heavy
weapon. Then he continued his discourse. “He was strong, yet weak. We
love him because he is like ourselves.”

“Hercules?” asked M. Goubin.

“Yes,” replied M. Bergeret. “Like ourselves, he was born unhappy, the
child of a god and a woman. From this mixed origin he derived the
sadness of a thoughtful spirit and the cravings of a ravening body. All
his life long he was subject to the caprices of a whimsical king. Are
not we too the children of Zeus and the hapless Alcmena, and the slaves
of Eurystheus? I am at the mercy of the Minister of Public Instruction,
who may take it into his head at any moment to ship me off to Algiers,
just as Hercules was sent to the land of the Nasamones.”

“You are not leaving us, dear Master?” asked M. Goubin anxiously.

“See how sad he is!” went on M. Bergeret. “How wearily he leans upon
his club, letting his arm hang limply at his side! His head is bowed,
he is thinking of his heavy labours. The Farnese Hercules was certainly
conceived after the statue by Lysippus, who was a blacksmith’s
apprentice before becoming a sculptor, and it is undoubtedly that
sturdy sculptor of a sturdy hero who fixed the type of Hercules.”

Having wiped his glasses once again with his handkerchief, M.
Goubin tried to catch a glimpse of the principal points mentioned
by the master, and while he was thus engaged Madame Fusellier,
the proprietress of the shop, on hearing the clock strike nine,
extinguished the gas under the disciple’s peering eyes. The poor man
had no idea why he could see nothing, for he was so short-sighted as
to be an utter stranger to that imaginary world in which most men have
their being.

And, as M. Bergeret continued to walk and talk, he followed the sound
of his voice, for he trusted only to what he heard others say to guide
him along those pathways of the earth whereon his youthful prudence
told him he might venture.

“His strength,” continued the Professor, “was the cause of his
weakness. He was under the yoke of his own strength, subject to the
exigencies of his nature, which compelled him to devour whole sheep,
drink great jars of dark wine, and to do foolish deeds for women of
little worth. The hero whose club brought peace and happiness and
justice to the world, the son of the great god Zeus, would seek sleep
anywhere like a mere tramp, or tarry for weeks and weeks with a wench
whose lover he was. And this was the cause of his melancholy. With his
simple soul, his submissiveness, his love of justice, and his mighty
muscles, it was to be feared that he could be nothing more than an
excellent soldier or a glorified gendarme. But his very weaknesses,
his errors, his unhappy experiences broadened his soul, opened out his
vision upon the manifold diversity of life and mellowed with gentleness
his terrible capacity for good works.”

“Dear Master,” said M. Goubin, “do you not think that Hercules is the
sun, that his twelve labours are the signs of the zodiac, and that
Dejanira’s fiery robe represents the flaming clouds of the setting sun?”

“That is possible,” replied M. Bergeret, “but I do not wish to
believe it. It pleases me to have the same idea of Hercules that a
barber of Thebes or a herb-vendor of Eleusis would have had in the
time of the Median wars. I think this idea from the point of view of
force, fullness and vivacity is worth all your systems of comparative
mythology put together. Hercules was a kind-hearted man. When he went
to seek the steeds of Diomedes he crossed through Pheræ and stayed his
steps before the palace of Admetus. He called for food and drink, and
spoke very roughly to the servants, who had never set eyes on such an
uncouth guest. He crowned himself with myrtles, and drank enormous
quantities of wine, and, being very drunk, and not at all proud, he
tried to force the cup-bearer to drink with him; but the latter, very
shocked at such manners, replied severely that it was no time for
eating and drinking, when the good Queen Alcestis had just been borne
to the grave. She had consecrated herself to Thanatos in place of her
husband Admetus. It was, therefore, not an ordinary death, but a kind
of spell which had been cast over her.

“Good Hercules immediately recovered from his drunkenness, and
asked whither they had taken Alcestis. Beyond the suburb on the way
to Larissa she lay in a tomb of polished marble. Thither hastened
Hercules, and when Thanatos, robed in black, came to taste of the
offering of cakes dipped in blood, the hero, who was lying in ambush
behind the funeral pile, threw himself upon the King of Darkness, held
him prisoner in the circle of his arms, and forced him, all bruised and
broken, to give up Alcestis, who, veiled and silent, returned with him
to the palace of Admetus. This time he would accept of no refreshment,
he was in haste, for he had barely time to fetch the steeds of Diomedes.

“That was a wonderful adventure, but I think I prefer the tale about
the Cercopes. Do you know the story of the two brothers, M. Goubin? One
was called Andolous and the other Atlantos, and they had faces like
monkeys. Their name leads me to believe that they were also possessed
of tails like the smaller species of the monkey tribe. They were
very cunning thieves, and robbed the orchards, and their mother was
continually warning them to beware of the hero, Melampyges. This, you
know, was the name familiarly given to Hercules, whose skin was not
white. The two rash little creatures disdained their mother’s wise
counsels, and one day, having surprised the ‘Melampyges’ asleep on
the mossy banks of a stream, they crept up to him to try and steal
his club and lionskin. But the hero, waking suddenly, seized them,
tied them by the feet to the branch of a tree, and slinging them over
his shoulder went upon his way. The Cercopes were doubtless very
uncomfortable, both in mind and body, but as the latter was extremely
supple and the former happy-go-lucky, they were amused and interested
in everything they could see, and what they chiefly saw was the reason
for the hero’s nickname of mélampyge. Atlantos pointed this out to his
brother Andolous, who replied that their captor was indeed the hero of
whom their mother had spoken. And as they hung like squirrels from a
hunter’s spear they whispered, ‘Melampyges! Melampyges!’ with a mocking
laugh like the cry of the forest lapwing.”

Hercules was a very irritable man, and did not like being made fun of,
but he was not over proud, and never imagined that the whole of his
body was as white as that of poor little Hylas. The name that had been
bestowed upon him appeared to him an honourable one, and quite worthy
of a strong man who journeyed about accomplishing great labours. He
was a simple soul and easily moved to laughter. The remarks of the two
Cercopes struck him as so funny that he stopped short, and, placing
his game upon the ground, sat down by the wayside and began to shout
with laughter. For a long time he remained there filling the valley
with the sounds of his mirth. The setting sun spread his crimson rays
over the clouds and gleamed on the mountain tops, and still the hero’s
laughter rang out from beneath the dark pines and tufted larches.
At last, however, he rose, untied the two little monkey-men, and,
having admonished them, let them go, while in the falling darkness he
continued his rough journey across the mountains. You see he was a
kind-hearted man!”

“Dear Master,” said M. Goubin, “allow me to ask you a question. Do you
consider Paul Louis Courrier a good subject for my essay? Because as
soon as I have got my degree----”



CHAPTER V


As they were discussing the Affair at Paillot’s library, in a corner
devoted to old books, M. Bergeret, who was of a speculative turn of
mind, gave expression to ideas upon the subject that were not in accord
with popular sentiment.

“This hearing of cases in camera is a detestable practice,” he said.

And as M. de Terremondre offered in defence reasons of State, he
replied:

“We have no State. We have administrations. What we call reasons of
State are simply the reasons of government departments. We are told
that such reasons are sacred; as a matter of fact, they afford the
department the opportunity to hide its errors, and at the same time to
aggravate their consequences.”

“I am a republican, a Jacobin, a terrorist--and a patriot,” remarked
M. Mazure solemnly. “I am quite willing to send the generals to the
guillotine, but I allow no one to dispute the decisions of military
justice.”

“And you are right,” replied M. de Terremondre, “for if any justice is
worthy of respect, it is that above all others. And, knowing the army
as I do, I can assure you that there are no judges so indulgent or so
merciful as military judges.”

“I am very glad to hear you say so,” replied M. Bergeret. “But as
the army is a department just the same as agriculture, finance or
public instruction, one cannot conceive of there being such a thing as
military courts, when there are neither agricultural, financial, nor
university courts. Any peculiar form of justice is directly opposed to
the fundamental principles of modern law. The military provostships
will appear as old-fashioned and barbarous to our descendants as
seigniorial and ecclesiastical courts appear to us to-day.”

“You are joking!” said M. de Terremondre.

“That is what has been said of every prophet,” replied M. Bergeret.

“But if you attack the courts martial,” cried M. de Terremondre, “it
means the end of the Army, and therefore the end of the country.”

M. Bergeret’s reply was as follows:

“When the priests and seigniors were deprived of the right of hanging
their serfs, people thought it meant the end of all law and order.
Soon, however, a new order of government sprang up, better than the old
one. What I say is this: in times of peace let the soldier be judged
by a civil court. Do you imagine that since the time of Charles VII, or
even since Napoleon, the Army has not survived more drastic innovations
than that?”

“I am an old Jacobin,” repeated M. Mazure. “I am in favour of courts
martial, and would have the heads of the Army subject to the authority
of a committee of public safety. There is nothing more calculated to
keep them up to the mark.”

“That’s another matter altogether,” said M. de Terremondre. “I return
to our original subject and ask M. Bergeret whether he honestly
believes it possible that _seven_ officers could make a mistake?”

“Fourteen!” cried M. Mazure.

“Fourteen,” repeated M. de Terremondre.

“I do believe it possible,” said M. Bergeret.

“Fourteen French officers!” ejaculated M. de Terremondre.

“Oh, well,” said M. Bergeret, “they might have been Swiss, Belgian,
Spanish, German, or Dutch, and have made just as bad a blunder.”

“Impossible!” cried M. de Terremondre.

The librarian Paillot shook his head, thereby meaning to express the
fact that he also considered it impossible. And his clerk, Léon, looked
at M. Bergeret with indignant surprise.

“I do not know whether you will ever be enlightened,” went on M.
Bergeret sweetly. “I do not think so, although all things are possible,
even the triumph of truth.”

“You mean the Revision,” said M. de Terremondre. “That, never! You will
never succeed in getting the Revision; I have been told as much by
three Ministers and twenty deputies.”

“The poet Bouchor,” replied M. Bergeret, “teaches us that it is better
to endure the horrors of war than to commit an unjust action. But such
an alternative does not confront you, gentlemen, and you are being
scared with lies.”

Just as M. Bergeret was saying this a great noise was heard in the
square outside. A band of little boys was marching past and shouting,
“_A bas Zola! Mort aux juifs!_” They were on their way to break the
windows of Meyer, the bootmaker, who was supposed to be a Jew, and the
townsmen indulgently watched them go by.

“Fine little chaps!” cried M. de Terremondre, when the demonstrators
had filed by.

M. Bergeret, with his nose buried in a ponderous volume, slowly
remarked:

“The cause of liberty had only the very smallest minority of educated
people upon her side. The clergy almost to a man, the generals and the
ignorant and fanatical mob clamoured for a master.”

“What is that you are saying?” asked M. Mazure excitedly.

“Nothing,” replied M. Bergeret. “I am reading a chapter of Spanish
history which describes the manners and customs of the people at the
time of the restoration of Ferdinand VII.”

The bootmaker, Meyer, was half killed, nevertheless. He did not
complain, for fear of being killed outright, and also because the
justice of the people, together with that of the Army, filled him with
mute admiration.



CHAPTER VI


M. Bergeret was not unhappy, for he rejoiced in that true independence
which comes from within, and his soul was unfettered. Since the
departure of his wife he was also enjoying the sweets of solitude,
while awaiting the arrival of his daughter Pauline, who was shortly
expected from Arcachon with his sister, Mademoiselle Bergeret.

He looked forward to a happy life with his daughter, who resembled him
in certain turns of mind and speech, so that it flattered his vanity
when people praised her.

He was pleased at the idea of seeing his sister Zoe, an old maid,
who, having never had any pretensions to good looks, had not lost her
natural frankness of disposition, to which was added a secret delight
in making herself unpleasant, but who lacked neither wit nor kindliness.

For the time being, however, M. Bergeret was busy settling down in
his new quarters. He hung his views of Naples and Vesuvius, legacies
both, on the walls of his study. Now of all the delights permitted to a
respectable man, there is perhaps none which procures him such tranquil
enjoyment as that of knocking nails into a wall. The keenest pleasure
of that experienced voluptuary, Comte de Caylus, was unpacking cases
of Etruscan pottery. Thus M. Bergeret proceeded to hang up on his wall
an old water-colour representing Vesuvius, adorned with an aigrette of
flame and smoke, standing out against the dark blue sky of midnight.
This picture reminded him of the days of his wondering and enchanted
childhood.

He was not sad, neither was he glad. He had money worries, he knew the
unloveliness of poverty. “Money makes the man,” as Pindar says (_Isth._
II).

He did not get on with his colleagues or his pupils. He did not get on
with the townspeople; incapable as he was of comprehending either their
thoughts or their feelings, he had been obliged to withdraw from human
fellowship, and his peculiar way of thinking had deprived him of the
enjoyment of that genial feeling of comradeship which even high walls
and closed doors cannot exclude.

The mere fact that he was a thinker made him a strange and disturbing
element suspected by all. He was even a source of worry to Paillot,
the bookseller, and his asylum and refuge, the corner where the
old books were kept, was no longer to be counted on. In spite of all
this he was not unhappy. He set about arranging his books on the deal
shelves put up by the carpenter, and took pleasure in handling these
little memorials of his humble contemplative life. He worked with zeal
at his task of getting things straight, and when he tired of hanging
pictures or arranging furniture, he buried himself deep in some book,
with a lurking feeling, however, that he ought not to enjoy it because
it was a human product, yet enjoying it notwithstanding. He read a few
pages on “the progress realized by modern society,” and his reflections
ran as follows:

“Let us be humble and believe ourselves in no way excellent, for we
are not excellent. As we examine ourselves, let us uncover our true
countenance, which is rough and violent like that of our forefathers,
and, as we have the advantage over them of a longer tradition, let us
at least recognize the sequence and continuity of our ignorance.”

Thus pondered M. Bergeret, as he settled himself in his new abode. He
was not sad, neither was he glad, as he reflected that he would always
yearn in vain for Madame de Gromance, not realizing the fact that she
was only precious to him by virtue of the craving which she inspired.
But the very derangement of his feelings prevented him from clearly
grasping this philosophical truth. He was not handsome, he was not
young, he was not rich; he was not sad, because his wisdom approached
the happy state of ataraxy, without, however, finally attaining it, and
he was not glad, because he was somewhat of a sensualist, and his soul
was not free from illusions and desires.

The servant Marie, who had fulfilled her task of bringing terror
and misery into the house, had been dismissed, and in her place he
had engaged a decent woman from the town, whom he called Angélique,
but who was spoken of as Madame Borniche by the shopkeepers and the
country-people in the market-place.

Her husband, Nicolas Borniche, a good coachman, but a bad man, had
deserted her when she was still young and ugly. She had been in service
with various families. Her status as a married woman still filled her
with a certain pride not always concealed, and with a great fondness
for managing. Finally, she was by way of being a herbalist and a
healer, something of a sorceress, and filled the house with a pleasant
odour of herbs. Full of genuine zeal, she was obsessed by an eternal
longing for affection and approval. From the very first she had taken
to M. Bergeret, on account of the distinction of his mind and the
gentleness of his manner, but she awaited the arrival of Mademoiselle
Bergeret with foreboding, for a secret presentiment told her that she
would not get on well with the sister from Arcachon. On the other hand,
she pleased M. Bergeret, who was at last enjoying peace in his house
and deliverance from all his troubles.

His books, which heretofore had been despised and thrown about, were
now displayed upon long shelves in the big sunny room. There he could
work in quiet at his _Virgilius nauticus_, and indulge freely in silent
orgies of meditation. Before the window a young plane tree gently waved
its pointed leaves, and, farther away, a dark buttress of Saint-Exupère
reared its jagged pinnacle, in which grew a cherry tree, doubtless
planted there by a bird.

Seated at his table one morning in front of the window, against which
the leaves of the plane tree quivered, M. Bergeret, who was trying to
discover how the ships of Æneas had been changed into nymphs, heard a
tap at the door, and forthwith his servant entered, carrying in front
of her, opossum-like, a tiny creature whose black head peeped out from
the folds of her apron, which she had turned up to form a pocket. With
a look of anxiety and hope upon her face, she remained motionless for
a moment, then she placed the little thing upon the carpet at her
master’s feet.

“What’s that?” asked M. Bergeret.

It was a little dog of doubtful breed, having something of the terrier
in him, and a well-set head, a short, smooth coat of a dark tan colour,
and a tiny little stump of a tail. His body retained its puppy-like
softness and he went sniffing at the carpet.

“Angélique,” said M. Bergeret, “take this animal back to its owner.”

“It has no owner, Monsieur.”

M. Bergeret looked silently at the little creature who had come to
examine his slippers, and was giving little sniffs of approval. M.
Bergeret was a philologist, which perhaps explains why at this juncture
he asked a vain question.

“What is he called?”

“Monsieur,” replied Angélique, “he has no name.”

M. Bergeret seemed put out at this answer: he looked at the dog sadly,
with a disheartened air.

Then the little animal placed its two front paws on M. Bergeret’s
slipper, and, holding it thus, began innocently to nibble at it. With a
sudden access of compassion M. Bergeret took the tiny nameless creature
upon his knees. The dog looked at him intently, and M. Bergeret was
pleased at his confiding expression.

“What beautiful eyes!” he cried.

The dog’s eyes were indeed beautiful, the pupils of a golden-flecked
chestnut set in warm white. And his gaze spoke of simple, mysterious
thoughts, common alike to the thoughtful beasts and simple men of the
earth.

Tired, perhaps, with the intellectual effort he had made for the
purpose of entering into communication with a human being, he closed
his beautiful eyes, and, yawning widely, revealed his pink mouth, his
curled-up tongue, and his array of dazzling teeth.

M. Bergeret put his hand into the dog’s mouth, and allowed him to lick
it, at which old Angélique gave a smile of relief.

“A more affectionate little creature doesn’t breathe,” she said.

“The dog,” said M. Bergeret, “is a religious animal. In his savage
state he worships the moon and the lights that float upon the waters.
These are his gods, to whom he appeals at night with long-drawn howls.
In the domesticated state he seeks by his caresses to conciliate those
powerful genii who dispense the good things of this world--to wit, men.
He worships and honours men by the accomplishment of the rites passed
down to him by his ancestors; he licks their hand, jumps against their
legs, and when they show signs of anger towards him he approaches them
crawling on his belly as a sign of humility, to appease their wrath.”

“All dogs are not the friends of man,” remarked Angélique. “Some of
them bite the hand that feeds them.”

“Those are the ungodly, blasphemous dogs,” returned M. Bergeret,
“insensate creatures like Ajax, the son of Telamon, who wounded the
hand of the golden Aphrodite. These sacrilegious creatures die a
dreadful death or lead wandering and miserable lives. They are not to
be confounded with those dogs who, espousing the quarrel of their own
particular god, wage war upon his enemy, the neighbouring god. They
are heroes. Such, for example, is the dog of Lafolie, the butcher, who
fixed his sharp teeth into the leg of the tramp Pied-d’Alouette. For it
is a fact that dogs fight among themselves like men, and Turk, with his
snub nose, serves his god Lafolie against the robber gods, in the same
way that Israel helped Jehovah to destroy Chamos and Moloch.”

The puppy, however, having decided that M. Bergeret’s remarks were the
reverse of interesting, curled up his feet and stretched out his head,
ready to go to sleep upon the knees that harboured him.

“Where did you find him?” asked M. Bergeret.

“Well, Monsieur, it was M. Dellion’s _chef_ gave him to me.”

“With the result,” continued M. Bergeret, “that we now have this soul
to care for.”

“What soul?” asked Angélique.

“This canine soul. An animal is, properly speaking, a soul; I do not
say an immortal soul. And yet, when I come to consider the positions
this poor little beast and I myself occupy in the scheme of things, I
recognize in both exactly the same right to immortality.”

After considerable hesitation, old Angélique, with a painful effort
that made her upper lip curl up and reveal her two remaining teeth,
said:

“If Monsieur does not want a dog, I will return him to M. Dellion’s
_chef_; but you may safely keep him, I assure you. You won’t see or
hear him.”

She had hardly finished her sentence when the puppy, hearing a heavy
van rolling down the street, sat bolt upright on M. Bergeret’s knees,
and began to bark both loud and long, so that the window-panes
resounded with the noise.

M. Bergeret smiled.

“He is a watch-dog,” said Angélique, by way of excuse. “They are by far
the most faithful.”

“Have you given him anything to eat?” asked M. Bergeret.

“Of course,” returned Angélique.

“What does he eat?”

“Monsieur must be aware that dogs eat bread and meat.”

Somewhat piqued, M. Bergeret retorted that in her eagerness she might
very likely have taken him away from his mother before he was old
enough to leave her, upon which he was lifted up again and re-examined,
only to make sure of the fact that he was at least six months old.

M. Bergeret put him down on the carpet, and regarded him with interest.

“Isn’t he pretty?” said the servant.

“No, he is not pretty,” replied M. Bergeret. “But he is engaging,
and has beautiful eyes. That is what people used to say about me,”
added the professor, “when I was three times as old, and not half
as intelligent. Since then I have no doubt acquired an outlook upon
the universe which he will never attain. But, in comparison with the
Absolute, I may say that my knowledge equals his in the smallness of
its extent. Like his, it is a geometrical point in the infinite.” Then,
addressing the little creature who was sniffing the waste-paper basket,
he went on: “Smell it out, sniff it well, take from the outside world
all the knowledge that can reach your simple brain through the medium
of that black truffle-like nose of yours. And what though I at the same
time observe, and compare, and study? We shall never know, neither the
one nor the other of us, why we have been put into this world, and what
we are doing in it. What are we here for, eh?”

As he had spoken rather loudly, the puppy looked at him anxiously, and
M. Bergeret, returning to the thought which had first filled his mind,
said to the servant:

“We must give him a name.”

With her hands folded in front of her she replied laughingly that that
would not be a difficult matter.

Upon which M. Bergeret made the private reflection that to the simple
all things are simple, but that clear-sighted souls, who look upon
things from many and divers aspects, invisible to the vulgar mind,
experience the greatest difficulty in coming to a decision about even
the most trivial matters. And he cudgelled his brains, trying to hit
upon a name for the little living thing who was busily engaged in
nibbling the fringe of the carpet.

“All the names of dogs,” thought he, “preserved in the ancient
treatises of the huntsmen of old, such as Fouilloux, and in the verses
of our sylvan poets such as La Fontaine--Finaud, Miraut, Briffaut,
Ravaud, and such-like names, are given to sporting dogs, who are the
aristocracy of the kennel, the chivalry of the canine race. The dog
of Ulysses was called Argos, and he was a hunter too, so Homer tells
us. ‘In his youth he hunted the little hares of Ithaca, but now he was
old and hunted no more.’ What we require is something quite different.
The names given by old maids to their lap-dogs would be more suitable
were they not usually pretentious and absurd. Azor, for instance, is
ridiculous!”

So M. Bergeret ruminated, calling to memory many a dog name, without
being able to decide, however, on one that pleased him. He would have
liked to invent a name, but lacked the imagination.

“What day is it?” he asked at last.

“The ninth,” replied Angélique, “Thursday, the ninth.”

“Well, then!” said M. Bergeret, “can’t we call the dog Thursday, like
Robinson Crusoe who called his man Friday, for the same reason?”

“As Monsieur pleases,” said Angélique. “But it isn’t very pretty.”

“Very well,” said M. Bergeret, “find a name for the creature yourself,
for, after all, you brought him here.”

“Oh, no,” said the servant. “I couldn’t find a name for him, I’m not
clever enough. When I saw him lying on the straw in the kitchen, I
called him Riquet, and he came up and played about under my skirts.”

“You called him Riquet, did you?” cried M. Bergeret. “Why didn’t you
say so before? Riquet he is and Riquet he shall remain, that’s settled.
Now be off with you, and take Riquet with you. I want to work.”

“Monsieur,” returned Angélique, “I am going to leave the puppy with
you; I will come for him when I get back from market.”

“You could quite well take him to market with you,” retorted M.
Bergeret.

“Monsieur, I am going to church as well.”

It was quite true that she really was going to church at Saint-Exupère,
to ask for a Mass to be said for the repose of her husband’s soul. She
did that regularly once a year, not that she had ever been informed
of the decease of Borniche, who had never communicated with her since
his desertion, but it was a settled thing in the good woman’s mind
that Borniche was dead. She had therefore no fear of his coming to rob
her of the little she had, and did her best to fix things up to his
advantage in the other world, so long as he left her in peace in this
one.

“Eh!” ejaculated M. Bergeret. “Shut him up in the kitchen or some other
convenient place, and do not wor----”

He did not finish his sentence, for Angélique had vanished, purposely
pretending not to hear, that she might leave Riquet with his master.
She wanted them to grow used to one another, and she also wanted to
give poor, friendless M. Bergeret a companion. Having closed the door
behind her, she went along the corridor and down the steps.

M. Bergeret set to work again and plunged head foremost into his
_Virgilius nauticus_. He loved the work; it rested his thoughts, and
became a kind of game that suited him, for he played it all by himself.
On the table beside him were several boxes filled with pegs, which
he fixed into little squares of cardboard to represent the fleet of
Æneas. Now while he was thus occupied he felt something like tiny fists
tapping at his legs. Riquet, whom he had quite forgotten, was standing
on his hind legs patting his master’s knees, and wagging his little
stump of a tail. When he tired of this, he let his paws slide down
the trouser leg, then got up and began his coaxing over again. And M.
Bergeret, turning away from the printed lore before him, saw two brown
eyes gazing up at him lovingly.

“What gives a human beauty to the gaze of this dog,” he thought,
“is probably that it varies unceasingly, being by turns bright and
vivacious or serious and sorrowful; because through these eyes his
little dumb soul finds expression for thought that lacks nothing in
depth nor sequence. My father was very fond of cats, and, consequently,
I liked them too. He used to declare that cats are the wise man’s
best companions, for they respect his studious hours. Bajazet, his
Persian cat, would sit at night for hours at a stretch, motionless and
majestic, perched on a corner of his table. I still remember the agate
eyes of Bajazet, but those jewel-like orbs concealed all thought, that
owl-like stare was cold, and hard, and wicked. How much do I prefer the
melting gaze of the dog!”

Riquet, however, was agitating his paws in frantic fashion, and M.
Bergeret, who was anxious to return to his philological amusements,
said kindly, but shortly:

“Lie down, Riquet!”

Upon which Riquet went and thrust his nose against the door through
which Angélique had passed out. And there he remained, uttering from
time to time plaintive, meek little cries. After a while he began to
scratch, making a gentle rasping noise on the polished floor with
his nails. Then the whining began again followed by more scratching.
Disturbed by these sounds, M. Bergeret sternly bade him keep still.

Riquet peered at him sorrowfully with his brown eyes, then, sitting
down, he looked at M. Bergeret again, rose, returned to the door,
sniffed underneath it, and wailed afresh.

“Do you want to go out?” asked M. Bergeret.

Putting down his pen, he went to the door, which he held a few inches
open. After making sure that he was running no risk of hurting himself
on the way out, Riquet slipped through the doorway and marched off with
a composure that was scarcely polite. On returning to his table, M.
Bergeret, sensitive man that he was, pondered over the dog’s action. He
said to himself:

“I was on the point of reproaching the animal for going without saying
either good-bye or thank you, and expecting him to apologize for
leaving me. It was the beautiful human expression of his eyes that made
me so foolish. I was beginning to look upon him as one of my own kind.”

After making this reflection M. Bergeret applied himself anew to the
metamorphosis of the ships of Æneas, a legend both pretty and popular,
but perhaps a trifle too simple in itself for expression in such noble
language. M. Bergeret, however, saw nothing incongruous in it. He
knew that the nursery tales have furnished material for nearly all
epics, and that Virgil had carefully collected together in his poem
the riddles, the puns, the uncouth stories, and the puerile imaginings
of his forefathers; that Homer, his master and the master of all the
bards, had done little more than tell over again what the good wives of
Ionia and the fishermen of the islands had been narrating for more than
a thousand years before him. Besides, for the time being this was the
least of his worries; he had another far more important preoccupation.
An expression, met with in the course of the charming story of the
metamorphosis, did not appear sufficiently plain to him. That was what
was worrying him.

“Bergeret, my friend,” he said to himself, “this is where you must open
your eyes and show your sense. Remember that Virgil always expresses
himself with extreme precision when writing on the technique of the
arts; remember that he went yachting at Baïae, that he was an expert in
naval construction, and that therefore his language, in this passage,
must have a precise and definite signification.”

And M. Bergeret carefully consulted a great number of texts, in order
to throw a light upon the word which he could not understand, and
which he had to explain. He was almost on the point of grasping the
solution, or, at any rate, he had caught a glimpse of it, when he
heard a noise like the rattling of chains at his door, a noise which,
although not alarming, struck him as curious. The disturbance was
presently accompanied by a shrill whining, and M. Bergeret, interrupted
in his philological investigations, immediately concluded that these
importunate wails must emanate from Riquet.

As a matter of fact, after having looked vainly all over the house for
Angélique, Riquet had been seized with a desire to see M. Bergeret
again. Solitude was as painful to him as human society was dear. In
order to put an end to the noise, and also because he had a secret
desire to see Riquet again, M. Bergeret got up from his arm-chair and
opened the door, and Riquet re-entered the study with the same coolness
with which he had quitted it, but as soon as he saw the door close
behind him he assumed a melancholy expression, and began to wander up
and down the room like a soul in torment.

He had a sudden way of appearing to find something of interest beneath
the chairs and tables, and would sniff long and noisily; then he would
walk aimlessly about or sit down in a corner with an air of great
humility, like the beggars who are to be seen in church porches.
Finally he began to bark at a cast of Hermes which stood upon the
mantelshelf, whereupon M. Bergeret addressed him in words full of just
reproach.

“Riquet! such vain agitation, such sniffing and barking were better
suited to a stable than to the study of a professor, and they lead one
to suppose that your ancestors lived with horses whose straw litters
they shared. I do not reproach you with that. It is only natural you
should have inherited their habits, manners, and tendencies as well
as their close-cropped coat, their sausage-like body, and their long,
thin nose. I do not speak of your beautiful eyes, for there are few
men, few dogs even, who can open such beauties to the light of day.
But, leaving all that aside, you are a mongrel, my friend, a mongrel
from your short, bandy legs to your head. Again I am far from despising
you for that. What I want you to understand is that if you desire to
live with me, you will have to drop your mongrel manners and behave
like a _scolar_, in other words, to remain silent and quiet, to respect
work, after the manner of Bajazet, who of a night would sit for four
hours without stirring, and watch my father’s pen skimming over the
paper. He was a silent and tactful creature. How different is your own
character, my friend! Since you came into this chamber of study your
hoarse voice, your unseemly snufflings and your whines, that sound like
steam whistles, have constantly confused my thoughts and interrupted my
reflections. And now you have made me lose the drift of an important
passage in Servius, referring to the construction of one of the ships
of Æneas. Know then, Riquet, my friend, that this is the house of
silence and the abode of meditation, and that if you are anxious to
stay here you must become literary. Be quiet!”

Thus spoke M. Bergeret. Riquet, who had listened to him with mute
astonishment, approached his master, and with suppliant gesture placed
a timid paw upon the knee, which he seemed to revere in a fashion that
savoured of long ago. Then a kind thought struck M. Bergeret. He picked
him up by the scruff of his neck, and put him upon the cushions of the
ample easy chair in which he was sitting. Turning himself round three
times, Riquet lay down, and then remained perfectly still and silent.
He was quite happy. M. Bergeret was grateful to him, and as he ran
through Servius he occasionally stroked the close-cropped coat, which,
without being soft, was smooth and very pleasant to the touch. Riquet
fell into a gentle doze, and communicated to his master the generous
warmth of his body, the subtle, gentle heat of a living, breathing
thing. And from that moment M. Bergeret found more pleasure in his
_Virgilius nauticus_.

From floor to ceiling his study was lined with deal shelves, bearing
books arranged in methodical order. One glance, and all that remains
to us of Latin thought was ready to his hand. The Greeks lay half-way
up. In a quiet corner, easy of access, were Rabelais, the excellent
story-tellers of the _Cent nouvelles nouvelles_, Bonaventure des
Périers, Guillaume Bouchet, and all the old French “conteurs” whom
M. Bergeret considered better adapted to humanity than writings in
the more heroic style, and who were the favourite reading of his
leisure. He only possessed them in cheap modern editions, but he had
discovered a poor bookbinder in the town who covered his volumes with
leaves from a book of anthems, and it gave M. Bergeret the keenest
pleasure to see these free-spoken gentlemen thus clad in Requiems and
Misereres. This was the sole luxury and the only peculiarity of his
austere library. The other books were paper-backed or bound in poor
and worn-out bindings. The gentle friendly manner in which they were
handled by their owner gave them the look of tools set out in a busy
man’s workshop. The books on archæology and art found a resting-place
on the highest shelves, not by any means out of contempt, but because
they were not so often used.

Now while M. Bergeret worked at his _Virgilius nauticus_ and shared
his chair with Riquet, he found, as chance would have it, that it was
necessary to consult Ottfried Müller’s little _Manual_, which happened
to be on one of the topmost shelves.

There was no need of one of those tall ladders on wheels topped by
railings and a shelf, to enable him to reach the book; there were
ladders of this description in the town library, and they had been
used by all the great book-lovers of the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries; indeed, several of the latter had fallen from them, and
thus died honourable deaths, in the manner spoken of in the pamphlet
entitled: _Des bibliophiles qui moururent en tombant de leur échelle_.

No, indeed! M. Bergeret had no need of anything of the sort. A small
pair of folding steps would have served his purpose excellently well,
and he had once seen some in the shop of Clérambaut, the cabinet-maker,
in the Rue de Josde. They folded up, and looked just the thing with
their bevelled uprights each pierced with a trefoil as a grip for the
hand. M. Bergeret would have given anything to possess them, but the
state of his finances, which were somewhat involved, forced him to
abandon the idea. No one knew better than he did that financial ills
are not mortal, but, for all that, he had no steps in his study.

In place of such a pair of steps he used an old cane-bottomed chair,
the back of which had been broken, leaving only two horns or antennæ,
which had shewn themselves to be more dangerous than useful. So they
had been cut to the level of the seat, and the chair had become a
stool. There were two reasons why this stool was ill-fitted to the
use to which M. Bergeret was wont to put it. In the first place the
woven-cane seat had grown slack with long use, and now contained a
large hollow, making one’s foothold precarious. In the second place
the stool was too low, and it was hardly possible when standing upon
it to reach the books on the highest shelf, even with the finger-tips.
What generally happened was that in the endeavour to grasp one book
several others fell out, and it depended upon their being bound or
paper-covered whether they lay with broken corners or sprawled with
leaves spread like a fan or a concertina.

Now with the intention of getting down the _Manual_ of Ottfried Müller,
M. Bergeret quitted the chair he was sharing with Riquet, who, rolled
into a ball with his head tight pressed to his body, lay in warm
comfort, opening one voluptuous eye, which he reclosed as quickly. Then
M. Bergeret drew the stool from the dark corner where it was hidden and
placed it where it was required, hoisted himself upon it, and managed
by making his arm as long as possible, and straining upon tiptoe to
touch, first with one then with two fingers, the back of a book which
he judged to be the one he was needing. As for the thumb it remained
below the shelf and rendered no assistance whatever. M. Bergeret, who
found it therefore exceedingly difficult to draw out the book, made the
reflection that the reason why the hand is a precious implement is on
account of the position of the thumb, and that no being could rise to
be an artist who had four feet and no hands.

“It is to the hand,” he reflected, “that men owe their power of
becoming engineers, painters, writers, and manipulators of all kinds of
things. If they had not a thumb as well as their other fingers, they
would be as incapable as I am at this moment, and they could never have
changed the face of the earth as they have done. Beyond a doubt it
is the shape of the hand that has assured to man the conquest of the
world.”

Then, almost simultaneously, M. Bergeret remembered that monkeys, who
possess four hands, have not, for all that, created the arts, nor
disposed the earth to their use, and he erased from his mind the theory
upon which he had just embarked. However, he did the best he could with
his four fingers. It must be known that Ottfried Müller’s _Manual_ is
composed of three volumes and an atlas. M. Bergeret wanted Volume I. He
pulled out first the second volume, then the atlas, then volume three,
and finally the book that he required. At last he held it in his hands.
All that now remained for him to do was to descend, and this he was
about to do when the cane seat gave way beneath his foot, which passed
through it. He lost his balance and fell to the ground, not as heavily
as might have been feared, for he broke his fall by grasping at one of
the uprights of the bookshelf.

He was on the ground, however, full of astonishment, and wearing on
one leg the broken chair; his whole body was permeated and as though
constricted by a pain that spread all over it, and that presently
settled itself more particularly in the region of the left elbow and
hip upon which he had fallen. But, as his anatomy was not seriously
damaged, he gathered his wits together; he had got so far as to
realize that he must draw his right leg out of the stool in which it
had so unfortunately become entangled, and that he must be careful
to raise himself up on his right side, which was unhurt. He was even
trying to put this into execution when he felt a warm breath upon his
cheek, and, turning his eyes, which fright and pain had for the moment
fixed, he saw close to his cheek Riquet’s little face.

At the sound of the fall Riquet had jumped down from the chair and run
to his unfortunate master; he was now standing near him in a state of
great excitement; then he commenced to run round him. First he came
near out of sympathy, then he retreated out of fear of some mysterious
danger. He understood perfectly well that a misfortune had taken place,
but he was neither thoughtful nor clever enough to discover what it
was; hence his anxiety. His fidelity drew him to his suffering friend,
and his prudence stopped him on the very brink of the fatal spot.
Encouraged at length by the calm and silence which eventually reigned,
he licked M. Bergeret’s neck and looked at him with eyes of fear and of
love. The fallen master smiled, and the dog licked the end of his nose.
It was a great comfort to M. Bergeret, who freed his right leg, stood
erect, and limped good-humouredly back to his chair.

Riquet was there before him. All that could be seen of his eyes was a
gleam between the narrow slit of the half-closed lids. He seemed to
have forgotten all about the adventure that a moment before had so
stirred them both. The little creature lived in the present, with no
thought of time that had run its course; not that he was wanting in
memory, inasmuch as he could remember, not his own past alone, but
the far-away past of his ancestors, and his little head was a rich
storehouse of useful knowledge; but he took no pleasure in remembrance,
and memory was not for him, as it was for M. Bergeret, a divine muse.

Gently stroking the short, smooth coat of his companion, M. Bergeret
addressed him in the following affectionate terms:

“Dog! at the price of the repose which is dear to your heart, you
came to me when I was dismayed and brought low. You did not laugh, as
any young person of my own species would have done. It is true that
however joyous or terrible nature may appear to you at times, she
never inspires you with a sense of the ridiculous. And it is for that
very reason, because of your innocent gravity, that you are the surest
friend a man can have. In the first instance I inspired confidence and
admiration in you, and now you show me pity.

“Dog! when we first met on the highway of life, we came from the two
poles of creation; we belong to different species. I refer to this with
no desire to take advantage of it, but rather with a strong sense of
universal brotherhood. We have hardly been acquainted two hours, and my
hand has never yet fed you. What can be the meaning of the obscure love
for me that has sprung up in your little heart? The sympathy you bestow
on me is a charming mystery, and I accept it. Sleep, friend, in the
place that you have chosen!”

Having thus spoken, M. Bergeret turned over the leaves of Ottfried
Müller’s _Manual_, which with marvellous instinct he had kept in his
hand both during and after his fall. He turned over the pages, and
could not find what he sought.

Every movement, however, seemed to increase the pain he was feeling.

“I believe,” he thought, “that the whole of my left side is bruised and
my hip swollen. I have a suspicion that my right leg is grazed all over
and my left elbow aches and burns, but shall I cavil at pain that has
led me to the discovery of a friend?”

His reflexions were running thus when old Angélique, breathless and
perspiring, entered the study. She first opened the door, and then she
knocked, for she never permitted herself to enter without knocking. If
she had not done so before she opened the door, she did it after, for
she had good manners, and knew what was expected of her. She went in
therefore, knocked, and said:

“Monsieur, I have come to relieve you of the dog.”

M. Bergeret heard these words with decided annoyance. He had not as
yet inquired into his claims to Riquet, and now realized that he had
none. The thought that Madame Borniche might take the animal away from
him filled him with sadness, yet, after all, Riquet did belong to her.
Affecting indifference, he replied:

“He’s asleep; let him sleep!”

“Where is he? I don’t see him,” remarked old Angélique.

“Here he is,” answered M. Bergeret. “In my chair.”

With her two hands clasped over her portly figure, old Angélique
smiled, and, in a tone of gentle mockery, ventured:

“I wonder what pleasure the creature can find in sleeping there behind
Monsieur!”

“That,” retorted M. Bergeret, “is his business.”

Then, as he was of an inquiring mind, he immediately sought of Riquet
his reasons for the selection of his resting-place, and lighting on
them, replied with his accustomed candour:

“I keep him warm, and my presence affords a sense of security; my
comrade is a chilly and homely little animal.” Then he added: “Do you
know, Angélique? I will go out presently and buy him a collar.”



CHAPTER VII


Monsieur Leterrier, the rector, who was of an arbitrary turn of mind,
and whose philosophy leaned towards spiritualism, had never felt much
sympathy for the critical intellect of M. Bergeret. A circumstance,
memorable enough, had, however, brought them together. M. Leterrier had
taken part in the Affair. He had signed a protest against the verdict,
which he conscientiously considered illegal and mistaken. No sooner had
he done so than he became the object of public anger and contempt.

The town, which numbered 150,000 inhabitants, only contained five
people of the same opinion as himself with regard to the Affair; these
were M. Bergeret, his colleague at the Faculté, two artillery officers,
and M. Eusèbe Boulet. The two officers maintained the strictest silence
on the subject, and the position of M. Eusèbe Boulet, as editor of the
_Phare_, compelled him to express daily, and with no little violence,
ideas which were contrary to his convictions, to rail at M. Leterrier,
and hold him up to the scorn of all right-minded people.

M. Bergeret had written a letter of congratulation to his rector, and
M. Leterrier called upon him.

“Do you not think,” said M. Leterrier, “that truth contains a power
that renders her invincible, and, sooner or later, ensures her final
triumph? This was the belief of the great Ernest Renan; it has also
been expressed more recently in words worthy to be engraved in bronze.”

“It is precisely what I, personally, do not think,” returned M.
Bergeret. “On the contrary, I opine that in the majority of cases truth
is likely to fall a victim to the disdain or insults of mankind and to
perish in obscurity. I could give you many instances of this. Remember,
my dear sir, that truth has so many points of inferiority to falsehood
as practically to be doomed to extinction. To begin with, truth stands
alone; she stands alone as M. l’Abbé Lantaigne says; for which reason
he admires her. But there are no real grounds for such admiration,
for falsehood is manifold, and so truth has numbers arrayed against
her. That is not her only shortcoming. She is inert, is not capable of
modification, is not adapted to those machinations which would enable
her to win her way into the hearts and minds of men. Falsehood, on
the other hand, possesses the most wonderful resources. She is pliant
and tractable, and, what is more (we must not shrink from admitting
as much), she is natural and moral. She is natural, as being the
product of the working of the senses, the source and fountain-head of
all illusion; she is moral, because she fits in with the habits and
customs of the human race, who, living in common as they do, founded
their ideas of good and evil, their human and divine laws, upon the
oldest, most sacred, most irrational, most noble, most barbarous, and
most erroneous interpretations of natural phenomena. Falsehood is the
principle of all that is beautiful and of good report amongst men. Do
we not see winged figures and mythical pictures adorning their gardens,
their palaces, and their temples? They lend a willing ear only to
the lies of the poets. What makes you wish to destroy falsehood and
to seek truth? Such an enterprise can only be inspired by decadent
curiosity and culpable intellectual temerity. It is an attempt against
the moral nature of man and the laws of society. It is a sin against
the sentiments as well as the virtues of the nations. The growth of so
great a calamity might well be fatal; were it possible to precipitate
matters in that direction, everything would go to rack and ruin. But
we know quite well that, as a matter of fact, the progress of truth is
very slight and very slow, and encroaches but little upon falsehood.”

“You are evidently not here referring to scientific truths,” said M.
Leterrier. “Their progress is rapid, irresistible, and salutary.”

“It is, unfortunately, beyond all question,” replied M. Bergeret,
“that the scientific verities which penetrate the average mind sink as
though in a swamp, and drown. They cause no upheaval and are powerless
to destroy error and prejudice. Truths of the laboratory which hold
sovereign sway over you and me, Monsieur, have no authority over the
minds of the general public. I will mention one example only, to prove
this. The system of Copernicus and Galileo is absolutely irreconcilable
with Christian philosophy, and yet you know that, both in France itself
and the world over, it has penetrated even into the elementary schools
without the very smallest modification being made in the theological
conceptions it was calculated to annihilate. It is certain that the
ideas of a man like Laplace make the old Judæo-Christian cosmogony
appear as puerile as the painting upon the dial of a Swiss clock.
And yet the theories of Laplace have been clearly exposed for nearly
a century without in the least depreciating the value of the little
Jewish or Chaldean legends which are still found in the Christian books
on religion. Science has never harmed religion, and the absurdity of
a religious practice may be clearly demonstrated without lessening the
number of the persons who indulge in it. Scientific truths are not
acceptable to the public. Nations live on mythology, Monsieur; from
legends they draw all the ideas necessary to their existence. They do
not need many, and a few simple fables suffice to gild millions of
lives. In short, truth has no hold on mankind, and it would be a pity
if she had, for her ways are contrary to their nature, as well as to
their interests.”

“You are like the Greeks, M. Bergeret,” said M. Leterrier. “You indulge
in fine sophisms, and your reasonings are tuned to the flute of Pan.
And yet, I believe with Renan, I believe with Émile Zola, that truth
possesses within herself a penetrating force, unknown alike to error
and to falsehood. I say ‘truth,’ and you understand my meaning, M.
Bergeret. For the beautiful words, truth and justice, need not be
defined in order to be understood in their true sense. They bear within
them a shining beauty and a heavenly light. I firmly believe in the
triumph of truth; that is what upholds me in the time of trial through
which I am now passing.”

“And may you be right, Monsieur le Recteur,” replied M. Bergeret.
“But, generally speaking, I think that the knowledge we have of men
and facts seldom corresponds to the men themselves, or to the facts
accomplished; that the means by which our minds can attain this
correspondence are incomplete and insufficient, and that if time
reveals new ways of doing so, it destroys more than it produces. Madame
Roland in prison displayed, to my mind, a somewhat childlike trust in
human justice when she appealed with so firm a faith and so confident a
mind to impartial posterity. Posterity is never impartial unless it is
indifferent, and what ceases to interest it it straightway forgets. It
is no judge, as Madame Roland fondly believed. It is a mob, as blind,
wonder-stricken, miserable, and violent as any other. It has its likes,
and, more especially, its dislikes. It is prejudiced, and lives in
the present, knowing nothing of the past. There is no such thing as
posterity.”

“But,” objected M. Leterrier, “there is such a thing as the hour of
justice and reparation.”

“Do you think,” demanded M. Bergeret, “that the hour of justice and
reparation ever sounded for Macbeth?”

“Macbeth?”

“Yes, Macbeth, son of Finleg, King of Scotland. Two great powers,
legend and Shakespeare, have made of him a criminal. Now I am
convinced, Monsieur, that he was a most excellent man. He protected
the people and the clergy against the violence of the nobles. He was
a thrifty king, a just judge, and the friend of the working classes.
History bears witness to it. He did not murder King Duncan; his wife
was not a wicked woman. She was called Gruoch, and had three vendettas
against the family of Malcolm. Her first husband had been burned alive
in his castle. I have here on my table an English review containing
materials which prove the goodness of Macbeth and the innocence of his
wife. Do you think that if I were to publish these proofs I should
succeed in altering public opinion?”

“I do not think so,” replied M. Leterrier.

“Neither do I,” said M. Bergeret, with a sigh.

At this moment a great clamour arose from the market-place. Some
citizens, actuated by zeal for the Army, and in conformity with their
recently formed custom, were on their way to break the windows of Meyer
the bootmaker.

“_Mort à Zola! Mort à Leterrier! Mort à Bergeret! Mort aux juifs!_”
they shouted; and as the rector gave way to some symptoms of distress
and indignation, M. Bergeret pointed out to him that he must try and
comprehend the enthusiasm of mobs such as this one.

“These people,” he said, “are going to break the windows of a
bootmaker, and will succeed in doing so without any trouble. Do you
think they would be as successful, if, for instance, they had to
put in windows or bells at General Cartier de Chalmot’s? No, indeed!
Popular enthusiasm is never constructive, but, on the contrary,
essentially destructive. This time it aims at our destruction; you must
not attach too much importance to this particular instance, but rather
seek out the laws which govern it.”

“No doubt,” replied M. Leterrier, who was frankness personified. “But,
all the same, these events fill me with consternation. Can we callously
look on at the overthrow of justice and truth by a people from whom
Europe first learned the law, and who taught the meaning of justice to
the whole world?”



CHAPTER VIII


Monsieur Le Premier Président Cassignol died in his ninety-second year,
and, in accordance with his expressed wish, was carried to his grave
upon a pauper’s hearse. This clause in his will was silently condemned.
All present were inwardly offended, as though the injunction were
intended as a slur upon that object of universal respect, money, and
as the ostentatious relinquishment of a privilege appertaining to the
bourgeois class. They called to mind that M. Cassignol had always lived
in very good style, observing, even in extreme old age, a punctilious
nicety with regard to his personal habits, and, although he had been
unceasingly employed in charitable works, none would ever have dreamed
of saying, in the words of a Christian orator, “He loved the poor even
to becoming as one of them.” They did not believe the thing was done
out of religious zeal, and looked upon it as a paradoxical piece of
pride, the elaborate display of humility being received with the utmost
coldness.

They regretted, too, that the deceased, who had been an officer of
the Legion of Honour, had directed that no military honours should be
paid him. The state of the public mind, inflamed by the nationalist
papers, was such, that open complaints at the absence of the military
were heard among the crowd. General Cartier de Chalmot, who came in
civilian attire, was greeted with profound respect by a deputation of
lawyers. A great number of magistrates and clergy thronged around the
house of mourning, and when, preceded by the Cross, and to the sound
of bells and liturgical chants, the hearse moved slowly towards the
cathedral accompanied by twelve white-coiffed nuns, and followed by a
long grey and black line of boys and girls from the church schools,
which stretched as far as the eye could see, the meaning of this long
life entirely consecrated to the triumph of the Catholic Church was
at once revealed. The whole town was there. M. Bergeret was among the
stragglers following the procession, and M. Mazure, coming up to him,
whispered in his ear:

“I knew that old Cassignol had been a fanatical zealot all his life,
but I didn’t know he was such a prig. He called himself a Liberal!”

“And so he was,” answered M. Bergeret. “He had to be, because his
ambition was to govern. Is it not through liberty that we progress
along the road to domination? My dear M. Mazure, I am indeed sorry for
you!”

“Why?” asked the keeper of the records.

“Because, being in sympathy with the mob, you constantly display the
same pathetic faculty for being deceived, and zealously march along in
the procession of triumphant dupes.”

“Oh, if you mean the Affair,” replied M. Mazure, “I may as well warn
you that we shall not agree at all.”

“Bergeret, do you know that parson?” inquired Dr. Fornerol, glancing at
a fat and agile priest who was sidling in among the crowd.

“Abbé Guitrel,” exclaimed M. Bergeret. “Who does not know of Guitrel
and his servant? Adventures recounted in days of yore by La Fontaine
and Boccaccio are attributed to them. As a matter of fact, the Abbé’s
servant is of the age stipulated by the canons of the Church. A little
while ago this priest, who will soon be a bishop, said something which
was retailed to me, and which I in turn repeat to you. He said, ‘If
the eighteenth century may be called the century of crime, perhaps the
nineteenth will be spoken of as the century of atonement.’ What do you
think of that? Suppose Guitrel were right.”

“No,” replied the keeper of the records. “The number of the emancipated
increases from day to day, and liberty of conscience has been set up
once for all. The empire of science has been established. I am not,
however, without some fears of a renewed attack by the clerical party,
present circumstances favouring reaction. It really worries me, for I
am not, like you, a dilettante. I have a fierce and anxious love for
the Republic.”

Chatting thus, they reached the open space in front of the cathedral.
Over the heads of the people, bald, black, or hoary, the swell of the
organ and the odour of incense were wafted through the great open doors
from the warm twilight within.

“I’m not going inside,” said M. Mazure.

“I will go in for a few minutes,” said M. Bergeret. “I have a taste for
ritual.”

As he entered, the _Dies Iræ_ was rolling out its spacious phrases. M.
Bergeret was behind M. Laprat-Teulet. On the gospel side, in the part
reserved for women, sat Madame de Gromance, lily-white in her black
garments; her flower-like eyes void of all thought, which only made her
all the more desirable in M. Bergeret’s mind. The cantor’s voice rang
out in the great nave, singing a verse of the funeral chant:

    “Qui latronem exaudisti
     Et Mariam absolvisti
     Mihi quoque spem dedisti.”

“You hear, Fornerol,” said M. Bergeret, “‘_Qui latronem exaudisti_----
Thou, who didst pardon the thief, and absolve the adulteress, hast
given hope to me also.’ No doubt the recital of such words to a large
assembly of people is not without its impressive side, and the praise
is due to those untutored and gentle visionaries of the Abruzzi, those
humble servants of the poor, those amiable enthusiasts who renounced
riches in order to escape from the hatred and ill-will that they
engender. They were bad economists, these companions of St. Francis; M.
Méline would show his contempt for them, if by any chance he ever heard
them spoken about.”

“Ah,” said the doctor, “the companions of St. Francis were able to look
ahead and to see of what material an assembly such as this of to-day
would be composed.”

“I believe the _Dies Iræ_ was written during the thirteenth century in
a Franciscan convent,” replied M. Bergeret. “I must consult my friend,
Commander Aspertini, on the subject.”

In the meanwhile the burial service was drawing to a close.

While they followed the hearse that bore the magistrate’s remains to
the cemetery, M. Mazure, Dr. Fornerol, and M. Bergeret continued their
conversation. As they were passing the house of Queen Marguerite, M.
Mazure remarked:

“The agreement is signed. M. de Terremondre is owner of the ancient
dwelling of Philippe Tricouillard, and intends to house his collection
there, in the secret hope of selling it at a tremendous price some
day to the town, whose benefactor he will thus become. By the way,
Terremondre has made up his mind; he is going to offer himself as
progressive republican candidate for Seuilly, but every one knows
in what direction his progress will tend. He is a turncoat from the
Royalists.”

“Hasn’t he got the Government behind him?” asked M. Bergeret.

“He is supported by the _préfet_, and opposed by the _sous-préfet_,”
replied M. Mazure. “The _sous-préfet_ of Seuilly is led by the
President of the Council, and Worms-Clavelin, the _préfet_, acts upon
the instructions of the Minister of the Interior.”

“Do you see that shop?” asked the doctor.

“The dyer’s and cleaner’s shop that belongs to the widow Leborgne?”
said M. Mazure.

“Yes,” replied Dr. Fornerol. “Her husband died six weeks ago in the
most extraordinary way. He literally died of fright and nervous shock
at sight of a dog which he believed to be mad, and which was as healthy
as I am myself.”

At the thought of death M. Mazure, who was a freethinker, felt a
sudden longing come over him to possess an immortal soul.

“I do not believe a word of what is taught by the different churches
that share in the spiritual guidance of the people,” he said. “I know,
none better, how dogma is formed, transformed, and elaborated. But why
should we not possess a thinking principle, and why should not that
principle survive the association of organic elements that we call
life?”

“I should like,” replied M. Bergeret, “to ask you what you mean by a
thinking principle, but no doubt you would find it difficult to define.”

“Not at all,” returned M. Mazure. “I give the name to the cause of
thought, or, if you prefer it, to thought itself. Why should not
thought be immortal?”

“Yes, why not?” returned M. Bergeret.

“The supposition is by no means absurd,” said M. Mazure, warming to his
subject.

“And why,” returned M. Bergeret, “should not a certain house in the
Tintelleries, bearing the number 38, be inhabited by a M. Dupont? Such
a supposition is by no means absurd. The name of Dupont is common
enough in France, and the house of which I am speaking is divided into
three parts.”

“Now, of course, you’re joking!” said M. Mazure.

“In a way I’m a spiritualist,” said Dr. Fornerol. “Spiritualism is a
therapeutic agent which must be reckoned with in the present state
of medical science. All my patients believe in the immortality of
the soul, and dislike hearing it ridiculed. The good people of the
Tintelleries quarter and elsewhere insist on being immortal, and it
would grieve and wound them if anyone were to suggest anything to the
contrary. Madame Péchin, to wit, coming out of the greengrocer’s over
there with a basketful of tomatoes--if you were to go to her and say:
‘Madame Péchin, you will taste the joys of heaven for hundreds of
millions of centuries, but you are not immortal. You will live longer
than the stars, you will still exist when the nebulæ have turned into
suns, and after the light of those suns has died; you will live on in
perfect happiness and glory during inconceivable ages, but you are not
immortal, Madame Péchin!’ If you were to say such things to her, she
would not look upon them as good tidings, and if, by chance, your words
were backed up by proofs infallible enough to convince her, she would
be miserable; the poor old thing would be in despair, and would mingle
tears with her tomatoes. Madame Péchin insists on being immortal; all
my patients have a similar craving. You, M. Mazure, and you, too,
M. Bergeret, have the same desire. Now I will confess to you that
instability is the essential characteristic of the combined elements
that go to form life. Shall I give you a scientific definition of life?
It’s a damned callous mystery!”

“Confucius,” said M. Bergeret, “was a very sensible man. One day his
disciple, Ki-Lou, asked him how to serve the demons and the spirits,
to which the master replied, ‘Man is not yet in a fit state to serve
humanity, so how can he serve the demons and the spirits?’ ‘Permit
me,’ went on the disciple, ‘to ask you what is death.’ And Confucius
replied, ‘We do not know the meaning of life, how, then, can we
understand death?’”

The procession skirted the Rue Nationale, and passed in front of the
college. Dr. Fornerol, being thereby reminded of his youthful days,
began:

“That is where I studied. It is a long time ago now. I am much older
than either of you. In a week I shall be fifty-six!”

“And so Madame Péchin really insists on being immortal?” asked M.
Bergeret.

“She is convinced that she is immortal,” answered the doctor. “If
you told her that she was not, she would take a dislike to you, and
disbelieve you all the same.”

“And the idea of having to go on for ever amid the universal passing
of things does not astonish her? She does not tire of nourishing such
exaggerated hopes? Perhaps she has not given much thought to the
nature of man and the conditions of life?”

“What does that matter?” replied the doctor. “I cannot understand
your surprise, my dear M. Bergeret. This good lady is a religious
woman; religion, indeed, is her only possession. Having been born in a
Catholic country, she is a Catholic, and she believes what she has been
taught. It’s only nature!”

“Doctor, you are talking like Zaïre,” said M. Bergeret---- “Had I
lived on the banks of the Ganges. Besides, the belief in immortality
is common in Europe, America, and a part of Asia; it spreads in Africa
with the wearing of clothes.”

“So much the better,” replied the doctor, “for it is necessary to
civilization. Without it the unfortunate would never resign themselves
to their fate.”

“Yet,” retorted M. Bergeret, “the Chinese coolies work for paltry
wages. They are patient and resigned, and they are not spiritualists.”

“That is because they are yellow,” replied the doctor. “The white races
have far less resignation. They have conceived an ideal of justice, and
formed great hopes. General Cartier de Chalmot is quite right in saying
that belief in a future life is necessary to an army. It is also very
useful with regard to social intercourse; people would be worse than
they are but for the fear of hell.”

“Doctor,” demanded M. Bergeret, “do you believe you will rise again?”

“It’s different for me,” replied the doctor. “I do not find it
necessary to believe in God in order to be an honest man. As a
scientist I know nothing; as a citizen I believe everything. I am a
Catholic by policy, and consider that religious belief is essentially
an improving element that helps to humanize the masses.”

“That is a very widespread opinion,” said M. Bergeret, “and its general
acceptance renders it suspect in my eyes. Popular opinions hold good
as a matter of course, without analysis, and if they were inquired
into, generally speaking they would not pass muster. They are like the
theatre-lover who for thirty years was able to attend the plays at
the Comédie-Française by simply muttering ‘feu Scribe’ as he went in,
to the man at the ticket-office. If investigated, his right of entry
would never have been allowed to pass, but it never was investigated.
How can one really believe religion to have a moralizing effect when
one reads the history of the Christian nations, and realizes it to be
a succession of wars, massacres and tortures. You cannot expect people
to be more pious than cloistered monks, and yet monks of every order,
black, white, brown, and pied, have been guilty of the most abominable
crimes. The agents of the Inquisition and the priests of the League
were pious, yet they were cruel. I do not mention the popes who drowned
the world in blood, for it is by no means certain that they really
believed in a future life. The truth of the matter is that men are evil
animals, and remain evil, even when they expect to go from this world
into another, which is somewhat unreasonable, when one comes to think
of it. All the same, I do not want you to imagine, doctor, that I deny
Madame Péchin the right to believe herself immortal. I will even go so
far as to say that she will not be disappointed when she departs this
life, for a lasting illusion has some of the attributes of truth, and a
person who is never disabused is never deceived.”

By this time the head of the cortège had entered the cemetery, and the
three gossips slackened their pace.

“If you were in my position, M. Bergeret,” said the doctor, “and
visited each morning a dozen or so of sick folk, you would realize, as
I do, the power of the clergy. Come now, do you never find yourself
desiring, if not believing in, immortality?”

“Doctor,” replied M. Bergeret, “my thoughts on this subject are the
same as those of Madame Dupont-Delagneau. Madame Dupont-Delagneau was
very old when my father was very young. She was fond of him, and used
to enjoy a chat with him; she was a link with the eighteenth century.
I have heard him quote her again and again, and this, amongst others,
is an anecdote I have heard him relate. Once, when she was ill in the
country, her parish priest went to visit her, and began to talk of a
future life. With a little disdainful grimace, she retorted that she
had her misgivings about the next world. ‘You tell me,’ she said, ‘that
the Creator of this world made the next too. All I can say is that I am
already too well acquainted with His handiwork!’ Thus, doctor, I am at
least as mistrustful of the next world as was Madame Dupont-Delagneau.”

“But,” asked the doctor, “have you never dreamed of immortality
achieved by science, or life on another star?”

“I always come back to the saying of Madame Dupont-Delagneau,” replied
M. Bergeret. “I should be too much afraid that the systems of Altair
or Aldebaran would resemble our solar system, and that it would not be
worth while changing. And as for being born again on this terrestrial
globe--I think not, doctor, thank you!”

“But come now, really!” persisted the doctor. “Would you not, like
Madame Péchin, like to be immortal, somehow or other?”

“All things considered,” replied M. Bergeret, “I am content with being
eternal, and, in my essence, I am that. As for the consciousness I
enjoy, that is a mere accident, doctor, a momentary phenomenon, like a
bubble formed on the surface of the waters.”

“Agreed! But it is better not to say so,” replied the doctor.

“Why?” asked M. Bergeret.

“Because such notions are not suited to the masses, with whom you must
agree outwardly, though inwardly you hold other views. It is community
of belief that makes strong nations.”

“The truth is,” replied M. Bergeret, “that men of a common faith have
no more urgent desire than to exterminate those who think differently,
particularly if the difference is very slight.”

“We are going to hear three speeches,” said M. Mazure.

He was mistaken. Five speeches were made and no one heard a word. Cries
of “_Vive l’armée!_” broke out as General Cartier de Chalmot went by,
while Messieurs Leterrier and Bergeret were pursued by the hooting of
the youthful Nationalists of the place.



CHAPTER IX


On a wet evening in May, the Brécé ladies were sitting together in the
big drawing-room, knitting woollen bodices for the poor children of the
village. Old Madame de Courtrai was standing with her back to the fire,
holding up her skirts and warming her legs. The Duke, General Cartier
de Chalmot, and M. Lerond were chatting, prior to a game of whist. The
Duke opened the previous day’s paper that was lying upon the table.

“Hostilities between the Americans and the Spanish have not yet started
in earnest,” he said. “What do you anticipate will be the outcome of it
all, General? I should be very glad to have the opinion of so eminent a
military authority as yourself.”

“It would certainly be very instructive if you would tell us what you
think about the forces that are about to try their strength in the
Antilles and in the China seas, General,” put in M. Lerond.

General Cartier de Chalmot passed his hand over his forehead, opened
his mouth some time before he spoke, and then said in an authoritative
manner:

“The Americans have committed a very imprudent act in declaring war on
Spain, and it may well cost them dear. Having no army and no navy, it
would be a difficult matter for them to keep up a struggle against an
efficient army and a well-trained navy. They have their stokers and
their enginemen, but stokers and enginemen do not make a battle fleet.”

“Do you think the Spaniards will win, General?” asked M. Lerond.

“Generally speaking, the success of a campaign depends upon
circumstances impossible to prophesy,” replied the General. “But it may
at once be stated that the Americans are not ready for war, and war
necessitates long and careful preparation.”

“Come, General,” cried Madame de Courtrai, “tell us that these American
wretches will be beaten!”

“Their success is doubtful,” replied the General. “I might even
go so far as to say that it would be paradoxical, and an insolent
contradiction of every system employed by those nations which are
essentially military nations. As a matter of fact, the victory of the
United States would constitute a condemnation of the principles adopted
throughout Europe by the most competent soldiers, and such a result is
neither likely nor desirable.”

“Good!” cried Madame de Courtrai, smacking her withered sides with
her bony hands, and shaking her head, with its rough, grey locks
that looked like a fur cap. “Good! our friends the Spaniards will be
victorious! _Vive le roi!_”

“General,” said M. Lerond, “I am most interested in what you say. The
success of our friends would be well received in France, and who knows
if they might not be the means of stirring up a Royalist and clerical
movement in this country!”

“Pardon me,” said the General. “I make no prophecy regarding the
future. As I have said before, the success of a campaign depends upon
circumstances impossible to foresee. All I can do is to take into
consideration the quality of the conflicting elements, and from this
point of view the advantage is certainly with Spain, although her fleet
does not include a sufficiency of naval units.”

“Certain symptoms,” said the Duke, “would point to the fact that the
Americans have already begun to repent of their temerity. I have heard
it positively stated that they are panic-stricken. They live in daily
dread of seeing the Spanish ironclads appear on their coasts. The
inhabitants of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are fleeing inland
_en masse_; in fact, a general panic exists.”

“_Vive le roi!_” repeated Madame de Courtrai, with fierce delight.

“What about little Honorine?” asked M. Lerond. “Is she still favoured
with the visitations of Notre-Dame-des-Belles-Feuilles?”

“Yes,” replied the dowager duchess, with some embarrassment.

“It would be a good idea,” ventured the ex-deputy, “to make an official
report of the child’s statements of what she sees and hears when in her
trances.”

No reply was forthcoming to this remark, the reason being that, having
undertaken to note down the words attributed by Honorine to the Blessed
Virgin, Madame de Brécé very soon stopped doing so: the child’s
expressions were not nice. Besides, M. le Curé Traviès, who was in the
habit of shooting rabbits every evening in the woods of Lénonville,
had too often surprised Isidore and Honorine lying among the dead
leaves to be any longer in doubt as to why they were there. M. Traviès
was something of a poacher, but both his morals and his doctrine were
sound. He gathered from repeated observations that it was hardly likely
the Blessed Virgin would appear to Honorine.

He had spoken on the matter to the ladies of the castle, who were, if
not convinced, at least somewhat perplexed. So when M. Lerond asked
them for details of the latest ecstasies, they changed the subject.

“If you care to hear news from Lourdes,” said the dowager duchess, “we
have some.”

“My nephew writes me that many miracles take place in the grotto,” said
M. de Brécé.

“I have heard the same thing from one of my officers,” replied the
General. “He is a promising young fellow, and has come back amazed at
the wonderful things he saw there.”

“You know that the doctors in attendance at the piscina report the most
miraculous cures?” said the Duke.

“We do not need the opinion of learned men to make us believe in
miracles,” said Madame de Brécé with a limpid smile. “I have far more
confidence in the Blessed Virgin than in any doctors.”

They then began to talk of the Affair, amazed, so they said, that the
“syndicate of treachery” should continue its audacious manifestations
unpunished. With much emphasis the Duke expressed himself as follows:

“When two courts martial have given their verdict, the smallest doubt
can no longer exist.”

“Have you heard,” said Madame Jean, “that Mademoiselle Deniseau, the
local prophetess, has learned from the mouth of St. Radegonde herself
that Zola is going to become a naturalized Italian, and will not return
to France?”

This prophecy was received with much favour.

A servant entered, bringing the letters.

“Perhaps there will be some news of the war,” said the Duke, opening a
paper.

And in dead silence he read the following:

“Commodore Dewey has destroyed the Spanish fleet in the port of
Manilla. The Americans have not lost a man.”

This telegram caused much depression in the drawing-room. The only
person who continued to look confident was Madame de Courtrai, who
cried:

“It’s not true!”

“The telegram,” said M. Lerond, “is an American one.”

“Yes,” said M. de Brécé, “we must beware of false news.”

All endorsed this prudent view of things, and yet were aghast at the
sudden vision of a fleet, blessed by the Pope, bearing the flag of His
Catholic Majesty, and carrying on the prow of her vessels the names of
the Virgin and the saints, disabled, shattered, and sunk by the guns
of bacon merchants, sewing-machine manufacturers, and heretics, by
a nation without kings, without princes, without a history, without
national traditions, and without an army.



CHAPTER X


M. Bergeret’s affairs were worrying him; he was beginning to fear
he might be asked to resign his position at the Faculté, when, to
his surprise, he received the intimation that he had been appointed
honorary professor there.

The news came to him one day, after his removal to his new rooms in
the Place Saint-Exupère, at the very moment when he least expected it.
His joy at the event was greater than his progress in ataraxy should
have allowed. Vague and flattering hopes arose within him, and when M.
Goubin, who had become his favourite pupil since the betrayal of M.
Roux, came that same evening to take him for their usual stroll to the
Café de la Comédie, he found him beaming all over with smiles.

The night was bright with stars, and as he went along the uneven
pavements, M. Bergeret studied the sky. He was interested in the
lighter side of astronomy, and pointed out to M. Goubin a beautiful red
star over against Gemini.

“That is Mars,” he said. “I wish there were such things as glasses
strong enough to see its inhabitants and their industries.”

“But, dear Master,” said M. Goubin, “were you not telling me some short
time ago that the planet Mars was not inhabited, that none of the
celestial bodies were inhabited, and that life, such as we conceive it,
was a disease confined to our planet alone, a kind of decay spread over
the surface of our rotting world?”

“Did I say that?” asked M. Bergeret.

“As far as I can remember that is what you said, dear Master,” replied
M. Goubin.

And his memory had not played him false. After the betrayal of M.
Roux, M. Bergeret had asserted that organic life was but decay eating
into the surface of our diseased world. He had also added that he
hoped for the greater glory of the heavens that life in the distant
worlds produced itself normally, by means of the geometrical forms of
crystallization. “Otherwise,” he had added, “I could derive no pleasure
from the contemplation of the star-spangled sky.” Now, however, he was
of a different opinion.

“You surprise me,” he said to M. Goubin. “There are several reasons for
concluding that all those stars now sparkling overhead contain life and
thought. Even on this earth of ours, life occasionally has its pleasant
side, and thought is divine. I should much like to know something
about yon sister star floating in thin ether in the face of the sun.
She is our neighbour, and only separated from us by fourteen millions
of leagues, which, astronomically speaking, is a very small distance
indeed. I should like to know if the living beings upon the planet Mars
are more beautiful than we humans are, and whether their intellect is
vaster than our own.”

“That is a thing we shall never know,” replied M. Goubin, wiping his
glasses.

“At any rate,” went on M. Bergeret, “astronomers have studied the shape
of that red planet by means of powerful telescopes, and they all agree
in saying that they are able to distinguish innumerable canals upon
its surface. Now, the hypotheses taken as a whole, hypotheses that
are closely interdependent and form a great cosmic system, lead us to
believe that this near neighbour of ours is older than the earth, from
which we may deduce that her inhabitants, with a longer experience
behind them, are wiser than ourselves. The canals of which I was
speaking give to the huge tracts of land they traverse the appearance
of Lombardy. To be quite correct, we can see neither the water nor the
banks, but only the vegetation that grows along them, and which, to the
observer, appears as a thin scattered line, pale or dark according to
the season of the year. It is especially to be remarked at the equator
of the planet. We give the canals the earthly names of Ganges, Euripus,
Phison, Nile, and Orcus. They appear to be irrigating canals, like
those at which, it is said, Leonardo da Vinci worked with the skill
of an excellent engineer. Their undeviating course, and the circular
basins in which they terminate, are sufficient proof that they are
both artificial and the result of mathematical calculation. Nature is
mathematical, it is true, but not in the same manner.

“The canal which we call Orcus is very wonderful. Its course lies
through a number of little round lakes, set at equal distances from one
another, which give it the appearance of a rosary. We cannot doubt but
that the canals of Mars have been constructed by intelligent beings.”

Thus did M. Bergeret people the universe with seductive forms and
sublime thoughts. He filled the empty spaces of the boundless heavens
because he had been made an honorary professor. He was very wise, but
also very human.

When he returned home, he found the following letter awaiting him:

                                                            “MILAN.
    “DEAR FRIEND,

    “You have relied too much upon my knowledge. I am sorry not to
    be able to satisfy the curiosity which you tell me stirred you
    during the funeral of M. Cassignol.

    “The only interest I have taken in the old Church liturgies
    lies in their connection in one way and another with the
    writings of Dante, and I can tell you nothing upon the subject
    that you do not already know.

    “The oldest mention of the chant is made about 1401 by
    Bartolommeo Pisano. Maroni attributes the _Dies Iræ_ to
    Frangipani Malabranca Orsini, who was cardinal in 1278.
    Wadding, the biographer of the Franciscan Order Séraphique,
    ascribes it to Fra Tomaso da Celano, _qui floruit sub anno_
    1250. Such attributions are altogether destitute of proof, but
    it is at any rate probable that it was composed in Italy during
    the twelfth century.

    “In the seventeenth century the defective text of the Roman
    Missal was further impaired. A marble tablet preserved in the
    church of San Francesco at Mantua offers an older and more
    perfect version of the poem. If you would like me to do so, I
    will have the _Marmor Mantuanum_ copied for you. I shall be
    delighted if you will make use of me in this as in other ways;
    nothing would give me more pleasure than to be able to serve
    you.

    “In return, please be good enough to copy for me a letter,
    written by Mabillon and preserved in the town library; it is
    one of the Joliette bequest, collection B, No. 3715^8, folio
    70. The passage that particularly interests me refers to the
    _Anecdota_ of Muratori. Coming from you I shall value it still
    more.

    “It is my opinion, by the way, that Muratori did not believe
    in God. It has always been my wish to write a book on the
    atheist-theologians, the number of whom is considerable.
    Forgive me for the trouble to which I am putting you by asking
    you to visit the public library; I trust that you may be
    rewarded by a meeting with the golden-haired fairy who guards
    the entrance, and whose dainty ears listen to your flattering
    remarks the while she swings in her fingers the huge keys that
    lock away the ancient treasures of your town. Speaking of this
    fairy reminds me that my days of love are over, and that it is
    high time for me to cultivate some favourite vice. Life would
    be sad indeed if the rosy swarm of errant thoughts did not come
    sometimes to console the old age of the most respectable folk.
    I am safe in sharing such sound wisdom with a mind as rare and
    capable of comprehension as your own.

    “When you come to Florence I will introduce you to a nymph who
    guards the house of Dante, and who is well worth your fairy.
    You will admire her chestnut hair, her black eyes, her full
    bust, and her nose you will consider a miracle of loveliness.
    It is of medium size, straight and fine, with delicate
    nostrils. I mention this particularly because you know that
    nature is not good at noses, and too often spoils a pretty face
    by her clumsiness in that direction.

    “Mabillon’s letter, which I have asked you to copy for me,
    commences thus: ‘Ni les fatigues de l’âge, monsieur....’
    Forgive me for worrying you, and believe me to be your sincere
    friend,

                                                  “CARLO ASPERTINI.

    “P.S.--Why will the French persist in upholding an error of
    justice which is now beyond all question, and which they
    could quite easily set right without harming anyone? I can
    find no solution to their conduct in this matter. All my
    countrymen, all Europe, and the whole world share my amazement.
    I should very much like to have your opinion regarding this
    extraordinary affair.”

                                                            “C. A.”



CHAPTER XI


In the clear light of early morning the quarters were full of the
passing to and fro of the men on duty, sweeping the cobbles, or
grooming down the horses. At the far end of the yard, clothed in his
canvas trousers and dirty blouse, stood Private Bonmont, with his
comrades, Privates Cocot and Briqueballe, peeling potatoes in front
of a cauldron full of water. Now and then a squad, under the conduct
of a non-commissioned officer, rushed down the stairs like a torrent,
scattering on its way the invincible gaiety of the young.

The most characteristic feature of these men who had been taught
to march was their step, a heavy, laboured step, crushing and
sonorous. Important-looking pay-sergeants continually passed by
with account-books of all sizes under their arms. Privates Bonmont,
Cocot and Briqueballe were peeling potatoes and throwing them into
the cauldron, and as they did so they gave vent to the most harmless
of thoughts in words that were few but of an exceeding coarseness.
Private Bonmont was thinking deeply.

In front of him, beyond the barrack gates that closed in the courtyard
of the huge building, stretched a circle of hills with villas nestling
in the purple branches of the trees, and sparkling in the morning sun.
There resided the actresses and light women brought to the town by
the presence of Private Bonmont. A whole swarm of women, bookmakers,
journalists belonging to sporting and military papers, jockeys,
procurers, male and female, and swindlers of all descriptions, had
settled down in the vicinity of the barracks where the rich conscript
was serving his time. As he peeled the potatoes, he might have
congratulated himself on being able to bring together so Parisian a
society at so great a distance from Paris. But he knew life well and
men better, so his pride was in no way flattered by the achievement.
He was worried and morose. Life held only one ambition for him, and
that was the badge of the Brécé Hunt. He longed for it with inherited
tenacity, with the forcefulness that his father, the great Baron, had
shown in his conquest of souls, bodies, and things, but not with the
deep, clear-sighted thought or genius of his stupendous parent. He
felt himself inferior to his wealth; this made him unhappy, and, in
consequence, spiteful.

“They only give their blessed badge to dukes and peers, I know,” he
reflected. “The Brécés are overrun with Americans and Jewesses, and I’m
as good as they any day!”

He threw his peeled potato angrily into the cauldron, at which Private
Cocot, with a big laugh and a big oath, cried out:

“There he goes, upsetting the broth, damn him!”

And Briqueballe, who was a simple soul, and of the same year, made
merry at the jest. He rejoiced, too, at the thought that he would soon
see his father, who was a harness-maker at Cayeux, and his home again.

“That old hypocrite Guitrel will do nothing for me,” thought Private
Bonmont. “He is a clever chap is Guitrel, cleverer than I ever thought.
He has made his own conditions. So long as he is not bishop he will not
say anything to his friends, the Brécés. He is a deep beggar, and no
mistake!”

“Bonmont,” said Briqueballe, “stop chucking the peelings into the pot!”

“It’s a dirty trick!” said Cocot.

“I’m not on duty this week,” objected Bonmont.

Thus spoke these three men because they were on an equal footing.

Bonmont went on thinking:

“I can do without Guitrel. There are plenty of others who will get the
badge for me. Terremondre, for instance; he knows the Brécés well.
His family is quite good, and he’s all right--but not to be relied
upon; he’s a dodger, a regular dodger! He’ll promise everything and do
nothing.”

“I couldn’t very well ask old Traviès, who goes out helping Rivoire the
poacher. There is General Cartier de Chalmot; he’d only have to open
his mouth--but the old crock hates me.”

These were Private Bonmont’s opinions, and they were not altogether
unfounded. General Cartier de Chalmot did not like him. “If little
Bonmont were under me I’d make him sit up,” he was in the habit of
saying. As for the General’s wife, her indignation regarding him knew
no bounds since the day she had heard him say at a ball: “Putting all
sentiment aside, mother is too damned lazy.” No, young Bonmont was not
mistaken, it was no good looking for help either from the General or
his wife.

He searched his memory to try and discover some one to render him the
service which Guitrel had refused him. M. Lerond? He was too cautious.
Jacques de Courtrai? He was in Madagascar.

Young Bonmont heaved a deep sigh. As he peeled his last potato a sudden
inspiration came to him.

“Supposing I made Guitrel a bishop! That would be rich!”

As this idea flashed through his brain a torrent of curses sounded in
his ears.

“_Nom de Dieu! Nom de Dieu! Misère de misère!_” yelled Briqueballe
and Cocot, as a shower of soot fell suddenly upon them, around them,
and into the cauldron, soiling their wet fingers, and blackening the
potatoes, which a moment before had been ivory white.

Looking up to seek the cause of their trouble, they espied through
the black shower some of their comrades upon the roof removing a long
chimney flue, and shaking out the soot with which it was filled. As
they caught sight of them, Cocot and Briqueballe cried as with one
voice:

“Hi! you up there! what the devil are you doing?”

And they hurled at their comrades all the curses their simple souls
could conjure up. They were innocent curses, full of genuine anger, and
they filled the barrack yard with echoes in the accents of Picardy and
Burgundy. Then the face of Sergeant Lafile, with its slight moustache,
appeared over the edge of the roof, and, amid the sudden silence, a
sarcastic voice rasped out these words:

“Three days for you two down there. Do you understand?”

Briqueballe and Cocot stood overwhelmed by the hard blows of fate and
discipline, while their companion, Private Bonmont, reflected:

“I can make a bishop right enough. I’ve only got to speak to Huguet,
and it’s done!”

Huguet was then president of the council. His cabinet was a moderate
one, supported by the Conservatives. When forming it, Huguet had been
careful to safeguard capital, gaining thereby a calm self-confidence
and not a little pride. He was Minister of Finance, and was supposed to
have given stability to the public credit, which had been shaken by his
Radical predecessor.

He had not always been so clever a statesman. He had been a Radical in
his hard-working youth, a Radical, and a revolutionary even. He had
been private secretary to the late Baron de Bonmont, for whom he wrote
books and edited papers. In those days he was a democrat, and a dreamer
in matters of finance. That was the baron’s wish, for the great man
was anxious to conciliate the progressive factions of Parliament, and
therefore liked to appear generous and even something of a dreamer too.
This was what he called “giving himself room.” It was he who made his
secretary member for Montil; Huguet owed everything to him, and young
Bonmont realized all this.

“I shall only have to say the word to Huguet,” he thought. That was
how he put it to himself, at any rate. But he was not really sure of
it, for he knew that M. Huguet, President of the Council, was careful
to avoid any encounter with Private Bonmont, and did not like to be
reminded of the old ties that had associated him with the great baron,
who had died so opportunely, amid dawning rumours of scandal. So,
on second thoughts, Private Bonmont sagely decided that it would be
necessary to find some one else.

He sat down upon the ground beside the pump, that he might be able
to think more at his ease, and was soon lost in meditation. In his
imagination every person who might, he thought, prove capable of
disposing of the episcopal crozier and mitre filed in a long procession
before him. Monseignor Charlot, M. de Goulet, Worms-Clavelin, the
_préfet_, Madame Worms-Clavelin, and M. Lacarelle crossed his mental
vision, and many others beside. He was awakened from his reverie by
Private Jouvencie, licentiate in law, pumping water down his back.

“Jouvencie,” said Bonmont solemnly, wiping his neck, “what is Loyer
minister of?”

“Loyer? Minister of Public Instruction and Public Worship,” replied
Jouvencie.

“Does he appoint the bishops?”

“Yes.”

“You are sure?”

“Yes, why?”

“Oh, nothing,” replied Bonmont.

But to himself he said:

“I’ve got it--Madame de Gromance!”



CHAPTER XII


That same evening M. Leterrier came to see M. Bergeret.

At the sound of the bell Riquet leapt down from the couch he was
sharing with his master, and, with one eye on the door, set up a
terrific barking. When M. Leterrier came into the room, the dog
received him with hostile growls; the portly form and full, grave
countenance fringed with grey beard, were not familiar to him.

“You too!” murmured the rector gently.

“Please excuse him,” said M. Bergeret. “He is a domesticated animal.
When men undertook the training of his forefathers, and, in so doing,
formed the characteristics he has inherited, they themselves regarded
a stranger as an enemy. They did not inculcate in dogs charity towards
the human race. Thoughts of universal brotherhood have not entered the
soul of Riquet; he stands for the old order of things.”

“And a very ancient one,” replied the rector, “for it is, of course,
clear that nowadays we live in unity, peace and concord, with one
another!”

He spoke these words with a bitterness not natural to him, but for some
time past his thoughts and speech had changed.

However, Riquet continued to bark and growl; he was evidently doing his
best to scare away the stranger by his voice and fearsome appearance,
but, as fast as the enemy advanced, he retreated. He was a faithful
house-dog, but cautious withal.

At last his master, growing impatient, picked him up by the scruff of
the neck, and gave him two or three taps on his nose, whereupon Riquet
immediately stopped barking, wriggled, and put out a pink, curling
tongue to lick the hand that had chastised him, his beautiful eyes full
of gentle sadness the while.

“Poor Riquet,” sighed M. Leterrier, “that is all you get for your zeal.”

“I must drive things into his head,” replied M. Bergeret, pushing him
behind him at the back of his chair. “Now he knows he was wrong to
greet you in such fashion. Riquet conceives of one evil only, physical
suffering, and of but one happiness, the absence of suffering. He
identifies crime and punishment, inasmuch as for him a misdeed is a
deed that is punished. If by accident I step on his paw, he feels
himself to be the guilty party, and begs my pardon; justice and
injustice do not trouble his infallible wisdom.”

“Such philosophy spares him the mental anguish some of us are
experiencing to-day,” said M. Leterrier.

Since the day he had signed the protest of the “Intellectuals” M.
Leterrier lived in a state of perpetual astonishment. He had set
forth his reasons in a letter to the local newspapers, and could
not understand his opponents who called him a Jew, a Prussian, an
“Intellectual,” and said that he had been bought. What also surprised
him was that Eusèbe Boulet, the editor of the _Phare_, referred to him
daily as a disloyal citizen and an opponent of the Army.

“Would you believe it?” he cried. “They have dared to put in the
_Phare_ that I insult the Army! _I_ insult the Army! I who have a son
serving with the colours!”

The two professors spoke at length of the Affair, and M. Leterrier, of
the still guileless soul, repeated:

“I cannot understand why political considerations and party passions
should be brought into the affair at all. It is a question of moral
right, and far above such things!”

“Exactly!” replied M. Bergeret. “But you would not be in a state of
perpetual astonishment if you would only remember that the passions
of the mob are simple and violent, and that it is impossible to
reason with such people. Few men are clever enough to keep control
of their minds during difficult investigations, and it has required
sustained attention on our part to discover the truth of the matter.
It has required sustained attention, and the force of minds trained to
the examination of facts with method and sagacity. Advantages such as
these, and the satisfaction of knowing oneself in possession of them
are well worth a few contemptible insults.”

“When will it all end?” asked M. Leterrier.

“In six months, perhaps, or twenty years--or never,” replied M.
Bergeret.

“Where will they draw the line?” asked M. Leterrier. “_Scelere velandum
est scelus._ It is killing me, my friend, it is killing me!”

It was true. His sense of right and wrong had gone awry, he was
feverish and his liver was out of order.

For the hundredth time he expounded the proofs which he had amassed,
with all the prudence of his mind and all the zeal of his heart. He
exposed the first causes of the error, which slowly but surely appeared
behind the masses of untruth which had veiled it. Then, strong in the
conviction of right, he vigorously demanded:

“What answer can they give?”

At this point of the conversation the two professors heard a great
clamour rising from the street. Riquet lifted up his head and listened
anxiously.

“What is it now?” asked M. Leterrier.

“It is nothing,” replied M. Bergeret, “only Pecus!”

It was, indeed, as he had said a crowd of people uttering loud cries.

“I think I hear ‘_Conspuez Leterrier!_’” said the rector. “They must
have heard that I am here!”

“I think so too,” said M. Bergeret, “and I believe that they’ll soon
be shouting ‘_Conspuez Bergeret!_’ Pecus is fed on ancient ideas, and
his aptitude for error is considerable. Feeling himself incapable of
bringing reason to bear upon hereditary prejudices, he prudently sticks
to the heritage of nursery tales, handed down by his forefathers.
This particular kind of wisdom preserves him from errors that would
otherwise do him harm. He keeps to the old and tried errors. He is
imitative, and would be more so, were it not that he involuntarily
deforms everything he imitates, such deformations going by the name of
progress. Pecus never thinks, and it is unjust to say that he deceives
himself. To his unhappiness, be it said, everything combines to
deceive him. He knows not the meaning of doubt, for doubt springs from
thought. Yet his ideas are ever changing, and at times his stupidity
turns to violence. He excels in nothing, for everything that is in any
way excellent flies before him, and ceases to be his. He wanders and
languishes and suffers. We must give him deep, sorrowful sympathy; we
must even venerate him, for it is from him that all virtue, all beauty,
and all human glory spring. Poor Pecus!”

As M. Bergeret was pronouncing these words, a stone came hurtling
through the window and fell upon the floor.

“There is an argument!” said the rector, picking up the stone.

“And rhomboid in shape,” said M. Bergeret.

“It bears no inscription,” said the rector.

“That is a pity!” answered M. Bergeret. “Commander Aspertini found at
Modena some sling stones used by the soldiers of Hirtius and of Pansa
against the followers of Octavius, in the year 43 B.C. These
stones bore inscriptions, indicating whom they were intended to strike.
M. Aspertini showed me one destined for Livy. I leave you to guess in
what form the soldier’s humour couched the terms of the inscription.”

His voice was drowned at this point by cries of “_Conspuez Bergeret!
Mort aux juifs!_” which rose from the square.

Taking the stone from the hands of the rector, M. Bergeret placed it
upon his table to serve as a letter-weight, and as soon as he could
hear himself speak, went on with his remarks:

“Horrible cruelties were committed after the defeat of the two consuls
at Modena. It cannot be denied that society has improved since then.”

The crowd went on yelling, however, and Riquet replied to it with
heroic barks.



CHAPTER XIII


Being in Paris on sick leave, young Bonmont went to see the Automobile
Exhibition that was being held near the Terrasse des Feuillants, in
the Jardin des Tuileries. As he walked down one of the side galleries
reserved for parts and accessories, he examined the Pluto Carburettor,
the Abeille Motor, and the Alphonse Lubricator, with an unenthusiastic
eye and a weary curiosity. With a curt nod or wave of the hand he
returned the greetings of timid young men and obsequious old ones. He
was neither proud nor triumphant, but simple, rather common-looking,
and armed only with the undeviating and tranquil air of malevolence
that stood him in such good stead in his dealings with men; he went
his way, a short, hunched-up, rather hump-backed little figure,
broad-shouldered, strong and vigorous enough, although already attacked
by disease.

He went down the steps of the terrace, and while examining the
trade-marks distinguishing the different lubricating oils, he came
upon one of the statues of the gardens, which had been shut in the
tent enclosure; it was a classical study in the French style, a bronze
hero whose academic nudity displayed the sculptor’s skill, and who
in a fine gymnastic attitude was felling a monster to the ground.
Misled, no doubt, by the apparently sporting air of the group, and
never reflecting that the statue had probably been in the garden long
before the Exhibition, Bonmont instinctively began to wonder what
connexion it could have with motoring. He thought that the monster, a
serpent, which, as a matter of fact, did look like a tube, was intended
to represent a pneumatic tyre, but his thoughts were very hazy and
confused. He turned aside his lack-lustre gaze almost immediately,
and entered the great hall where the cars on platforms complacently
displayed the clumsy, imperfectly developed, and still ill-balanced
forms which at the same time struck the onlooker with an irritating
impression of self-satisfaction and conceit.

Young Bonmont was not enjoying himself there; he never enjoyed himself
anywhere. But he might have found a certain pleasure in inhaling the
odour of rubber and oils that filled the air; he might have examined
the autocars and autolettes with a little interest, but that for the
moment he was possessed by one single idea. He was thinking of the
Brécé Hunt, and the longing to obtain the badge filled his very soul.
From his father he had inherited this tenacious will and the burning
intensity with which he coveted the Brécé badge was mingled in his
veins with the fever of incipient phthisis. He longed for it with all
the impatience of a child--for his mind was still very childish--and he
longed for it with the cunning tenacity of a calculating and ambitious
man--for he knew human nature well, having in a few years learned many
things.

He knew that, as far as the Duc de Brécé was concerned, he, with his
French name and his Roman title, was still Gutenberg, the Jew. He also
realized the power of his millions, and he knew more upon this subject
than will ever be grasped by peoples or their rulers. So he was neither
deluded nor discouraged. He took in the situation accurately, for he
was clear-headed. True the anti-Jewish campaign had been conducted with
the utmost vehemence in agricultural districts like his own, which
contained no Jews, but a large number of clergy. Recent events and the
newspaper articles had been a great strain upon the feeble head of
the Duc de Brécé, the leader of the Catholic party in his Department.
Doubtless, the Bonmonts were of the same way of thinking as the
grandsons of _émigrés_, and were as full of Royalist devotion and quite
as zealous Catholics as himself. But the Duke could not forget their
origin--he was a simple, obstinate man, and young Bonmont was well
aware of this. He reviewed the situation once again in front of the
Dubos-Laquille motor omnibus, and came to the conclusion that the best
way of obtaining the de Brécé badge was to procure the bishop’s crozier
for M. l’Abbé Guitrel.

“I must have him nominated,” he reflected. “It is absolutely necessary.
It will be easy enough once I know how to set about it.” And, full of
regret, he added, “Father would have advised me in the matter if he had
lived. He must have made more than one bishop in Gambetta’s time.”

Although he was not quick at generalisation, he went on to remind
himself that anything could be bought for money, a thought which imbued
him with great confidence in the success of his enterprise. Reflecting
thus, he looked up and saw young Gustave Dellion a little in front of
him, looking at a yellow-wheeled car.

Dellion caught sight of Bonmont at the same moment, but pretending he
had not seen him, he beat a retreat behind the body of the vehicle.
He was under long-standing financial obligations to Bonmont, and, for
the present, was in no way prepared to discharge them. The mere sight
of his friend’s blue eye gave him a hollow feeling in the pit of his
stomach, for it was Bonmont’s habit to stare silently and terribly
at those of his friends who owed him money. Dellion knew all about
that, and was much surprised when the little bull, as he termed him,
joined him in his retreat between the canvas wall of the tent and the
yellow-wheeled car, holding out a friendly hand, and saying with a
pleasant smile:

“How are you? Nice car! A bit long in the body, but not so bad, is
it? That’s what you want for Valcombe, my dear Gustave. Yes, indeed!
There’s a pretty puff-puff that would rip along nicely between Valcombe
and Montil.”

The mechanic who was standing by the motor thought good to intervene,
and to point out to M. le Baron that the vehicle could be turned into
an open six-seater, or a closed phaeton with seats for four. Seeing
that he was dealing with connoisseurs, he launched out into technical
explanations.

“The motor is composed of two horizontal cylinders; each piston works a
crank inclined at 180° to its neighbour.”

In businesslike terms he demonstrated the advantages of such a
combination. Then, in answer to a question by Gustave Dellion, he said
that the carburettor was automatic, and to be regulated once for all at
the moment of starting.

He stopped speaking, and the two young fellows stood there silent and
attentive. At last, pushing his stick between the spokes of one of the
wheels, Gustave Dellion remarked:

“Do you see, Bonmont? Steering is done by differential gear!”

“It is very easy to handle,” said the mechanic.

Gustave Dellion loved an automobile, and not, like Bonmont, with an
already satiated love. He gazed at the vehicle which, in spite of
the stiffness of modern body-work, looked like a great animal, a
conventional, banal, though well-behaved monster, with an apology for a
head between the lamps that looked like two huge eyes.

“Not such a bad puff-puff,” whispered young Bonmont to his friend. “Why
don’t you buy it?”

“Buy it? Can you do anything you like when you are so unfortunate as
to possess a father!” sighed Gustave Dellion. “You don’t know what a
nuisance a family is--what a worry.” Then, with feigned assurance,
he added, “And that, my dear Bonmont, reminds me that I owe you a
small----”

A friendly hand fell upon his shoulder, cutting him short, and to his
surprise there stood at his side a little fair man, his head sunk
between his shoulders, giving him the appearance of a slight hump,
broad-chested, and strong-backed--a little, simple-looking, fair man,
who regarded him with extraordinarily kind blue eyes and a sweet smile.

“You old fool!” said this little man, suggesting a good-natured little
buffalo shedding his wool on the bushes out of pure kindness of heart.

Gustave no longer recognized the Bonmont he had known, and was both
touched and surprised. Jumping into the car, the little Baron began to
handle the steering-wheel under the benevolent eye of the mechanic.

“So you drive, Bonmont?” ventured Gustave with deference.

“Occasionally,” returned young Bonmont.

Then, with one hand upon the steering-wheel, he related a motor-tour
he had made in Touraine during one of his absences on sick leave, from
which he always returned worse than he went away. He had done thirty
miles an hour. Of course, the roads were dry and in good condition,
but there were cattle, children, and frightened horses to pass, all
of which might have caused trouble. You had to keep your eyes about
you, and never let the other fellow touch the wheel. He related a few
incidents of the tour, one adventure with a milkwoman standing out
particularly in his mind.

“I saw the old woman coming along,” he said, “taking up the whole
of the road with her horse and cart. I sounded my horn, but the old
creature never moved aside. Then I made straight for her. She was new
to that trick. She drew up by the side of the road, pulling so hard at
her horse that he fell in a heap with the cart, milk-pails, old woman
and all, upon a pile of stones; so I left them to it and went on,”
concluded young Bonmont, as he jumped out of the car. “And, in spite
of the dust and the noise, motoring is a very pleasant way of getting
about. You try it, my dear fellow.”

“He is a good sort, after all,” thought young Dellion admiringly. And
his wonder grew when, dragging him along by the arm through the great
hall, Bonmont said to him:

“You are quite right. Don’t buy that motor. I’ll lend you my runabout.
I shan’t want it, because I’ve got to go back, my leave is nearly up.
Besides---- By the way, do you know if Madame de Gromance is in Paris?”

“I believe so, but I am not quite sure,” replied Gustave. “It is some
time since I saw her.”

This was in one way an honourable falsehood, for at ten minutes past
seven on the preceding evening he had left Madame de Gromance in her
room at the hotel where they had their rendezvous.

Bonmont did not reply, but, coming to a full stop before a notice
in two languages, forbidding smoking, he gazed at it silently and
thoughtfully. Gustave, following his example, remained speechless,
thinking it would not be prudent to bring the interview to an end. So
he added:

“But I may see her again soon. I _can_ see her, if you will tell me----”

The little Baron looked him straight in the eyes, and said:

“Would you like to do me a favour?”

Gustave assented with the enthusiasm of a good-natured soul and the
uneasiness of a person suddenly embarked upon a difficult enterprise.
It was none the less true that Gustave could do Ernest de Bonmont a
favour, and the latter proceeded to enlighten him on the subject.

“If you would like to do me a favour, my dear Gustave, get Madame
de Gromance to go and see Loyer, and ask him to make Abbé Guitrel a
bishop.” And he added, “You would do me a genuine service.”

To this request Gustave replied by a stupefied silence and a startled
look, not that he intended to refuse, but because he had not grasped
the situation. Young Bonmont had to repeat the same words twice over,
and to explain that Loyer was Minister of Public Worship and nominated
the bishops. He was very patient, and little by little Gustave
understood what was required of him; he even managed to repeat what he
had heard without making a single mistake:

“You want me to tell Madame de Gromance to go and ask Loyer, who is
Minister of Public Worship, to make Guitrel a bishop?”

“Bishop of Tourcoing.”

“Tourcoing! Is that in France?”

“Of course.”

“Ah!” said Gustave thoughtfully, and he fell into a reverie.

Serious objections came to him, and, at the risk of appearing
disobliging, he would mention them. It seemed to him that the request
entailed a good deal, and he did not want to enter upon it lightly.
Timidly and hesitatingly he formulated his first objection, which was a
natural one.

“It isn’t a trick, is it?” he asked.

“What do you mean by a trick?” said Bonmont shortly.

“No, really,” protested Gustave, “you aren’t pulling my leg?”

He was still in doubt, but the contemptuous look of the little fair man
dispersed all doubt.

With great firmness and decision he declared:

“As long as I know it is a serious matter, you can rely upon me. I can
be serious when necessary.”

He was silent awhile, and the difficulties confronting him again rose
in his mind. Gently and timidly he said:

“Do you think that Madame de Gromance knows the minister well enough
to ask such a--a--favour? Because, you know, she never mentions Loyer
to me.”

“And that,” replied the little Baron, “is probably because she has
other subjects to discuss with you. I don’t mean that she is keen on
Loyer, but she thinks him a good old sort, and no fool. They got to
know each other three years ago on the platform at the unveiling of
the statue to Jeanne d’Arc. Loyer would be only too delighted to do
anything to please Madame de Gromance, and I can assure you he isn’t
a bad sort. When he puts on his best coat he looks like a retired
fencing-master. She can go and see him all right, he will be quite nice
to her--and he will most certainly do her no harm!”

“In that case,” said Gustave, “she is to ask him to make Guitrel a
bishop.”

“Yes.”

“Bishop of where did you say?”

“Bishop of Tourcoing,” repeated young Bonmont. “I’d better write it
down for you.”

Picking up from a table before him the trade card of the builder of
the “Reine des Pygmées,” he wrote upon it with his little gold pencil,
“Make Guitrel Bishop of Tourcoing.”

Gustave took the card, and the idea which at first had appeared to him
so strange and weird now seemed a simple and natural one. His mind
had grown accustomed to it, and as he put the card in his pocket he
repeated in the glibbest way:

“Make Guitrel Bishop of Tourcoing. Right you are! You can rely on me.”

In this manner the words of Madame Dellion were fulfilled, who speaking
of her son one day had said, “Gustave does not learn quickly, but he
remembers what he has learned, and that is perhaps best.”

“You know,” said Ernest seriously, “I can answer for Guitrel making a
good bishop.”

“So much the better,” replied Gustave, “because----” And he did not
finish his sentence.

They had now reached the exit, however.

“I shall be in Paris until the end of the week,” said Bonmont. “Let me
know how things are going; there is no time to lose, for the candidates
are being chosen now. We will speak of the car at another time.”

As they reached the flight of flag-decorated steps, he took Gustave’s
hand in his and, holding it, impressed upon him:

“No one must know. The thing is of the utmost moment, my dear Dellion,
that no one shall know; not a soul must know that Madame de Gromance is
going to Loyer at your request. Now that is understood, is it not?”

“Quite,” replied Gustave, heartily shaking his friend’s hand.

The same evening at eight o’clock young Bonmont went to visit his
mother, whom he did not often see, but with whom he was on the
friendliest possible terms, and found her finishing her toilet in the
dressing-room.

While her maid was arranging her hair she looked away from her
reflection in the glass, and turning to her son:

“You don’t look well,” she said.

Ernest’s health had been worrying her for some time. Rara provided
her with other more painful worries, but her son was, for all that, a
source of anxiety.

“How are you, mother?”

“Oh, I’m very well.”

“You look it.”

“Did you know that your Uncle Wallstein has had a slight stroke?”

“I’m not surprised; he shouldn’t be so gay at his time of life, it’s
unnatural.”

“He is not so very old, only fifty-two.”

“Fifty-two is not what you might call youthful, exactly. By the way,
what about the Brécés?”

“The Brécés? What about them?”

“Did they thank you for the ciborium?”

“They sent their card, with a pencilled word of thanks.”

“That’s not much.”

“Well, _mon petit_, what else did you expect?”

She rose to her feet and raised her hands above her head to fix a
diamond cluster in her hair; standing thus her bare arms looked like
two handles springing from a beautifully shaped amphora. Her shoulders
gleamed under the electric light which shone through transparent shades
shaped like bunches of fruit, and in the golden whiteness of the skin
delicate blue veins ran down to the swell of her bosom. Her cheeks were
rouged and her lips painted, but her face was still youthful in its
health and vigour. The lines of her neck, which might have betrayed the
passage of the years, were lost in the beauty of the skin.

Young Bonmont studied her carefully for a few moments, and then said:

“Mother, suppose you go and see Loyer too, and ask him about Abbé
Guitrel?”



CHAPTER XIV


Madame de Bonmont, who had chosen Raoul Marcien from among all others,
and who loved him with deep affection, was justified for the space of a
few weeks in congratulating herself upon her choice, and in believing
herself a happy woman. A tremendous change had taken place in the
order of things. Raoul, who had formerly been despised or disliked in
all circles of society, who had been rejected by his regiment, cut by
his friends, cast off by his relations, expelled from his club; who
was known in all the courts of law by reason of the repeated charges
of swindling brought against him, had suddenly become cleansed of all
stain and purified of all dishonour. Certain events, guessed at, no
doubt, and soon to be made clear, had interested the Government on his
behalf. It was exceedingly necessary that Raoul should pass for an
honourable man. In public and in private, ministers maintained that the
power and glory of France and the peace of the whole world depended
upon this.

His honour was of public utility, and each and all did their best to
make it an established fact. The Government worked to this end, as
did the lawyers and the newspapers, in fact all good citizens worked
joyfully for its establishment. Madame de Bonmont experienced both
pleasure and uneasiness at the sudden transformation of her lover
into an example and a model for all Frenchmen. She was made for the
enjoyment of tranquil joys and pleasures _à deux_, and all this fame
astonished and made her ill at ease. When with Raoul she had the
fatiguing sensation of living perpetually in a lift.

Evidences of the esteem in which he was held amazed the simple
Elizabeth both by their number and extent. Congratulations, flattering
pledges, good-conduct certificates, compliments, and praises poured
in from all the bodies known and unknown, and from all the public
societies in town and country. They came from the courts, the barracks,
the archbishops’ palaces, from the town halls, _préfectures_ and great
houses of France. They rang out in the street riots, and resounded
with the bugles during torchlight processions. His honour shone
proudly forth nowadays; it flamed into being like a huge cross at an
illuminated fête. Whether he went to the Palais de Justice, or to the
Moulin-Rouge, he was greeted by the acclamations of the crowd, and
princes begged for the honour of touching his hand.

And, in spite of all this, Raoul was not at peace. When in the little
first-floor apartment hung with sky-blue draperies, intended by Madame
de Bonmont to shelter their mutual love, he was always sombre and
violent. When he heard his worth and praises shouted in the streets,
when he could not listen to the rumbling wheels of an omnibus or the
shriek of a tram without knowing that both vehicles contained the
supporters and guardians of his honour, he still remained plunged in
the bitterest, most dismal thoughts and cherished terrible designs.
With frowning brows and clenched teeth he muttered curses; he chewed
threats as a sailor chews his tobacco. “Scoundrels! Wretches! I’ll
run them through the body!” It may seem almost impossible, but
is, nevertheless, true, that he was unconscious of the people’s
acclamations; he did not hear them, and the only people he thought
of were his few accusers, all of whom were believed to be dispersed,
destroyed, and reduced to powder. In his imagination he saw them
standing before him, with threatening faces, and at sight of them
terror made his yellow eyes start from his head.

His fury was a source of consternation to poor Madame de Bonmont, who
only heard hoarse cries of hatred and vengeance coming from the lips
which should have given her kisses and words of love. And she was the
more surprised and uncomfortable because her lover’s threats were
directed as much against friend as against foe. For when he spoke
of “running them through,” Raoul never stopped to make the subtle
distinction between his defenders and his adversaries. His great mind
took in the whole of his country, yes, and the whole of the human race.

He would spend hours every day pacing up and down like a caged lion or
panther in the two little rooms that Madame de Bonmont had hung with
blue silk and furnished with cosy lounges in the hope of better things.
“I’ll do for them!” he muttered as he strode up and down.

Seated in one corner of the big couch she would follow his movements
with a timid look, and listen anxiously to his words; not that the
sentiments expressed by him appeared to her in any way unworthy of
her beloved; instinctively submissive, naturally docile, she admired
strength in all its forms, and flattered herself with the vague hope
that a man who was capable of such wholesale slaughter, might also, at
another time, be capable of wonderful embraces. And sitting at one end
of the couch, she waited with half-closed eyes and gently heaving bosom
for her Raoul’s mood to change.

She waited in vain! The vociferations continued to make her start:

“I’ll do for them!”

Occasionally she would timidly try to appease his fury; in a voice as
full as her figure she would murmur:

“But they are doing you full justice, dearest--every one knows you to
be a man of honour!”

It may be true that the slender, dark-haired David succeeded in calming
the fury of Saul with his shepherd’s lute, the sound of which was
thinner than a cricket’s chirrup; Elizabeth, less fortunate than he,
vainly offered to Raoul the Nirvana of her sighs and the splendour of
her pink and white self. Without daring to look at him, she ventured to
say:

“I cannot understand you, _mon ami_. You have confounded your
detractors, the General embraced you in the middle of the street the
other day, and the ministers....”

She got no further; he burst out:

“You mention those blackguards to me! They are only trying to find
some way of getting at me. They would like to see me a hundred feet
under the ground. But they had better be careful! I will devour them
piecemeal!”

Then he came back to his dear, familiar thought:

“I must do for them!”

This was his dream:

“I should like to be in an immense marble hall full of people, and to
lay about me with a big stick, to strike for days and nights, until
the floor, the ceiling, and the walls were red with blood!”

She vouchsafed no reply, but only looked in silence at her breast,
where lay the little bunch of violets she had bought for him and dared
not offer.

He gave her no more love. It was over and done with. The
hardest-hearted man would have taken pity on the pretty, gentle
creature who, with her voluptuous body and skin of milk and roses,
resembled some big, warm flower in its beauty, neglected, abandoned,
and left without care or culture.

She was suffering, and, being piously inclined, she sought a remedy
in religion. Thinking that an interview with Abbé Guitrel would be of
great service to Raoul, she resolved to bring the priest and her lover
together.



CHAPTER XV


Before dressing, Philippe Dellion pulled aside the window-curtains,
and, looking out into the light-spangled night, watched the carriage
lamps passing to and fro in the busy street. For a moment or two the
sight pleased him; he had been in this room, separated from the outer
world, for the space of two hours.

“What are you looking at, _mon petit_?” asked Madame de Gromance,
sitting up in the bed and arranging her tumbled hair. “Do strike a
light, it is impossible to see a thing.”

He lighted the candles that stood in little copper stands on either
side of a gilded clock adorned with shepherds and shepherdesses. The
gentle light reflected itself in the wardrobe and made the rosewood
cornice glisten. Little rays flickering everywhere in the room, lit up
the scattered garments and died gently away in the curtains’ folds.

The room was an apartment in a highly respectable hotel, in a street
near the Boulevard des Capucines. Madame de Gromance, in her wisdom,
had selected it, refusing to have anything to do with the less subtle
arrangements of Philippe, who had hired a little _rez-de-chaussée_, in
the lonely Avenue Kléber. It was her opinion that a woman who wished
to keep her affairs to herself must see that they take place in the
very heart of Paris, in some respectable hotel frequented by people
of divers races and tongues. She hardly ever spent more than two
consecutive months in Paris, but she frequently met Philippe there, and
in far greater security than she could have done in the provinces.

As she sat on the edge of the bed, the soft light fell upon her fair
fluffy hair, the milk-white skin of her sloping shoulders, and her
pretty but somewhat drooping breast.

“I am sure I shall be late again,” she said. “Tell me the time,
_mon-petit_, and don’t make a mistake. It’s really important!”

“Why do you always call me ‘_mon petit_’? Ten past six,” he returned in
a surly voice.

“Ten past six? Are you quite sure? I call you ‘_mon petit_’ because I
love you. What would you have me call you?”

“I call you Clotilde, you might occasionally call me Philippe.”

“I never do call people by their names.”

“Oh, well! no matter!” he said bitterly. “I don’t presume to imagine
that I shall change your habits.”

She picked up her stockings from the floor, stretching her back like a
cat about to pounce upon a mouse.

“What does it matter? I never think of calling you by your Christian
name, as I do my husband, or my brother, or my cousins.”

“All right! all right!” he replied. “I will conform to custom.”

“What custom?”

Jumping up with her stockings in her hand, she came across the room and
kissed him upon the neck.

Though by no means a clever man, he was suspicious, and an idea that
had lately struck him was worrying him; he suspected that Madame de
Gromance was careful to avoid making use of his name, or of the name
of any other lover, for fear of getting mixed in a moment of supreme
excitement, for she was a sensitive soul!

He was not exactly jealous, but he had a certain amount of proper
pride. Had he known that Madame de Gromance was unfaithful to him,
his vanity would have suffered. On the other hand, the desire he
had for the pretty creature was proportionate only to the desire he
believed her to inspire in others. He was not at all sure that it
was considered necessary to be the lover of Madame de Gromance, or
of any other society woman; many of his intimate friends preferred
an automobile to a mistress. He liked her well enough, and had no
objection to being her lover so long as it was considered the thing,
but if it was not, he could not see why he should persist in the
matter. The deep animal instinct in him and his outlook as a man of the
world scarcely agreed, and he was not clever enough to conciliate such
conflicting elements, the result being that there was an imperfect,
indeterminate tone about his remarks that rather fascinated Madame de
Gromance, who would not take the trouble of finding the solution and
making things clear. If it came to the point, his charmer would say
to him, “Of course I’ve never loved any man but you!” but that was
less in the hope of convincing him than in the desire to say the thing
most fitting the occasion. And at such moments when reflection is at a
disadvantage the tremendous difficulty presented by belief in such a
statement never occurred to him. Later, when he began to reason, doubt
assailed him.

His doubt found expression in cruel and sarcastic remarks, and he
practised the art of keeping his mind in a state of vague unrest. On
this particular occasion he was less sulky and bitter than usual, and
hardly even jealous or mistrustful. He merely displayed the ill-humour
that naturally follows gratified desire.

Madame de Gromance, on the contrary, was quite prepared for the
blackest fit of spite and unkindness, for on that very day her
strength, combined with her weakness, her natural inspiration and deep
artifice had obtained from him a more liberal display of affection
than that which on principle he usually vouchsafed. She had led him to
overstep the bounds of moderation, a thing he did not easily forgive,
for he was solicitous of his health, and keen on keeping in condition
for exercise and sport. Whenever Madame de Gromance led him further
than he wished, he afterwards avenged himself by unkind words and a
still more unkind silence. She did not mind, for she loved love, and
experience had taught her that all men are disagreeable as soon as
they get what they want. So she calmly awaited the reproaches she knew
she deserved. She was disappointed in her expectations, however, for a
remark from Philippe showed her that his mind was quiet and at rest.

“My shirtmaker is an ass,” he said.

He carefully dressed himself before the glass, and turned great
thoughts over and over in his mind. After a few moments of silence he
asked in quite a pleasant tone:

“You know Loyer, don’t you?”

Fresh-complexioned and slightly flushed with her white figure thrown
into relief by the dark velvet of the arm-chair, she was sitting
buttoning her boots. As she sat there, with her head and neck bent
over her crossed legs, the light shone upon her hair and upon the bare
limbs revealed by the short garment she wore, making one think of an
allegorical figure from some painted Venetian ceiling. This resemblance
did not, however, strike Philippe. He repeated his question:

“Do you know Loyer?”

She lifted her head, dangling the buttonhook from the tips of her
fingers.

“Loyer, the Cabinet Minister? Yes, I know him.”

“Do you know him well?”

“Not very well, but I do know him.”

The man under discussion, Loyer the senator, keeper of the seals and
Minister of Public Worship, was an insignificant-looking old bachelor,
honest enough outside politics, a bit of a lawyer, and a philosopher,
whose hair had turned grey in the enjoyment of clandestine love and
tavern nights. As he had not made his entry into society until somewhat
late in life, the women he met there were a continual source of wonder
to him, as he devoured them with gold-spectacled eyes.

He was very young for his sixty years, and had known how to appreciate
Madame de Gromance at her true value when he had first met her in the
drawing-rooms of the _préfecture_. That was seven years ago.

Loyer had come to the town of M. Worms-Clavelin to unveil a statue
to Joan of Arc, and had then pronounced the memorable speech that
terminated magnificently with a comparison between the Maid and
Gambetta, each of whom was transfigured, said the orator, “by the
sublime light of patriotism.” The Conservatives, who already were
secretly siding with the Radicals, because of their financial policy,
were grateful to the minister for binding them anew to the old regime
with the honourable bonds of a generous sentiment.

M. de Gromance had offered him his hand, saying: “As an old Royalist,
Monsieur le Ministre, I thank you for Jeanne and for France!”

When Loyer walked that evening with Madame de Gromance in the gardens
of the _préfecture_, lighted up by hundreds of Chinese lanterns, fixed
to the trees--trees that had been planted in 1690 by the Benedictines
of Sillé, so that two centuries later Madame Worms-Clavelin might enjoy
their shade--the minister, who had been told by the Préfet himself that
the “old Royalist” was the most deluded husband in the Department,
whispered a few gallantries into the young woman’s pink ear. He was a
Burgundian, and prided himself on being a daring one at that. Impressed
by the beauty of the historic evening, he remarked as he took leave of
Madame de Gromance that the illuminations made him inclined to dream.
Madame de Gromance liked Loyer, and subsequently begged of him several
little favours on behalf of her parish and district, which the old
fellow granted, demanding nothing in return, quite content with being
allowed to pat the arms and shoulders of the beautiful _ralliée_ and to
ask in a jocular manner after her “Old Royalist.”

She could therefore quite well allow that she knew Loyer, who was in
the Radical Cabinet as Minister of Public Worship.

“I know Loyer as one knows a person who does not belong to the same set
as oneself. Why do you ask?”

“Because if you know him well enough, I want you to ask him to do
something for me.”

“What! Do you want to bear off the academic honours like M. Bergeret?”

“No,” said Philippe seriously. “It is something more important. I want
you to speak to him about Abbé Guitrel.”

In her surprise she stood up, revealing a glimpse of dazzling flesh
above her stockings. Astonishment gave her the semblance of innocence.

“Why?” she demanded.

He was carefully knotting his tie.

“I want Loyer to make him bishop.”

“Bishop!”

The word produced abundant and definite ideas in the mind of Madame de
Gromance.

For years and years she had seen the short, fat figure, mitre-crowned
and covered with the gold-embroidered cope, rubicund, shapeless,
dignified, of Monseigneur Charlot, officiating on fête-days at the
cathedral. She had often dined with him, and had received him at
her own table. In common with all the other ladies of the diocese,
she admired the clever repartee and handsome red-stockinged calves
of the cardinal-archbishop. She also knew a considerable number of
bishops, all of whom were worthy men, but she had never reflected on
the influences that confer episcopal dignity upon a priest. It seemed
to her strange that a kind-hearted but common and coarse-minded man
like Loyer should have the power to create a prelate like Monseigneur
Charlot.

She sat there, thoughtful, looking around the room, from the tumbled
bed to the little table, upon which were placed a bottle of sherry
and some biscuits; from the chair on which she had thrown some of her
garments to the untidy dressing-table, her beautiful, unintelligent
eyes wandered, seeing nothing but lace rochets, crosiers, crosses, and
amethyst rings. Feeling absolutely at a loss, she inquired:

“Do you think bishops are made like that?”

“Of course,” he replied with assurance.

“And so you think, _mon petit_, that if I were to ask Loyer to make
Abbé Guitrel a bishop----”

He assured her that Loyer, who was an old gallant, would not refuse
that to a pretty woman.

She fixed her pink silk knickers to a hook on her silk stays. Then, as
he pressed for a reply, and insisted upon her going immediately to see
the minister, she grew exceedingly curious, and not a little suspicious.

“But, _mon petit_, why do you want Abbé Guitrel to be made a bishop?
Why?”

“To please Mother. And because I like the fellow; he is intelligent and
up to date--there aren’t so many like him. Yes, he really is advanced
and in the Pope’s good books besides. And Mother would be so delighted.”

“Then why doesn’t she go herself and settle the business with Loyer?”

“In the first place, darling, it wouldn’t be at all the same. Besides,
my parents are not in very great favour with this Cabinet. My father,
as President of the Chambre Syndicale des Métaux, has been protesting
against the new tariffs. You cannot imagine how irritating these
economic questions can be.”

But she knew quite well that he was deceiving her, and that it was not
filial love that made him dabble in ecclesiastical affairs.

She went round the room in her pink knickers of flowered silk, lithe,
agile, and pliable, stooping here and there over the scattered
garments, searching for her petticoat.

“_Mon petit_, I want your advice----”

“What about?”

After spending an unconscionable time arranging his tie in front of the
glass, and lighting a cigarette, he complacently sat watching her as
she flitted about the room in a costume that exaggerated so prettily
all that was feminine in her exceedingly feminine body. He did not know
whether to think her graceful or ridiculous. He did not know whether
he ought to think such things really unbeautiful, or whether he should
experience some slight artistic pleasure in beholding them. His doubt
arose from the recollection of a long discussion which had taken place
the winter before in the smoking-room at his father’s house, between
two old gallants, M. de Terremondre, who could think of nothing more
adorable than a pretty woman in her knickers and stays, and Paul Flin,
who, on the contrary, pitied a woman for her ungraceful appearance
at this particular stage of her toilet. Philippe had followed this
entertaining discussion, and could not make up his mind which of
the two was right. Terremondre was a man of experience, but he was
old-fashioned and too artistic. Paul Flin was considered less clever,
but very smart. Philippe’s natural malevolence and elective affinities
were making him incline to the latter’s theory when Madame de Gromance
put on her pink silk petticoat.

“_Mon petit_, do advise me. This year fur dresses are all the rage, but
what do you say to a red cloth dress--a rich red, say ruby--a fur coat
and fur toque with a bunch of Parma violets?”

He did not speak, and only betrayed his thought by a nod of the head.
At last he opened his mouth, whence issued, instead of words, the smoke
of his cigarette.

Deep in her dream she continued:

“With buttons of old paste, very narrow sleeves and a tight skirt.”

He spoke at last:

“A tight skirt--yes, that would be all right.”

Then she remembered that he knew nothing about skirts or bodices. An
idea flashed into her mind and matured.

“It is funny!” she cried. “Only the men who do not care about women
are interested in women’s dress. And the men who like them never
notice what they wear. Now you, for instance. I am sure you could
not tell me what dress I had on last Saturday at your mother’s, while
little Suequet, whose tastes, as everybody knows, are different, talks
_lingerie_ and _chiffons_ quite prettily. He is a born dressmaker and
milliner, that boy! Tell me, how do you account for it?”

“It would take too long.”

“You are sitting on my skirt, _mon petit_. While I think of it,
Emmanuel says that you are neglecting him. Yesterday he expected you to
come and see a horse that he wants to buy, and you didn’t turn up. He’s
awfully annoyed!”

At these words Philippe broke into a torrent of abuse.

“Your husband bores me to tears. He’s a grotesque fool--and the most
awful bore! You must admit yourself that pottering about all day in
his stables, his kennels, and his kitchen garden--for he goes in for
gardening too, the duffer--looking at the dogs’ food, the horses, and
such-like isn’t what you might call exciting. And then when one comes
to think of you and me, I must say it is a bit thick for your husband
to hang on to me as he does. He’s such a fool that he makes people
talk. It’s perfectly true, I tell you, people are beginning to talk.”

She answered him gently and seriously while she slipped on her skirt.

“Don’t abuse my husband, Philippe. As I am obliged to have a husband of
some sort, it is a very good thing mine is like he is. Just think for a
moment, _mon petit_, we might have somebody much worse to deal with.”

Philippe’s anger would not be calmed.

“And he loves you, the beast!”

She made a little grimace and shrugged her shoulders, as if to imply
that that was not worth mentioning. That is how Philippe chose to
interpret it, for he went on to enlarge upon the subject.

“As far as that goes, anyone can see at a glance that he’s not much of
a man with the women, but, even then, some things don’t bear thinking
about.”

Madame de Gromance turned to Philippe a beautiful look full of
happiness and peace, a look that counselled the banishment of all
painful thoughts, and going up to him placed full upon his lips a kiss,
magnificent as a royal scarlet seal.

“Mind my cigarette,” he said.

By this time she was clothed in a very simple grey dress, and was
arranging her toque upon her fluffy hair. Suddenly she broke into a
laugh, and he inquired the cause of her amusement.

“Oh, nothing!”

Then, as he persisted in his inquiry:

“Well, I was only thinking that when your mother went to see her
lover--years ago, you know--she must have found her hair a terrible
nuisance, that is if she wore it as it is in that portrait you have of
her at home.”

He made no reply, not quite knowing how to treat a joke of this
description, which inwardly shocked him.

“You’re not angry, surely,” she went on. “You do love me, don’t you?”

No, he was not angry; yes, he loved her; and she returned to her
original idea.

“It is strange, you know. Sons always believe in the virtue of their
mothers; daughters, too, but not so implicitly. And yet the fact of a
woman having had children is surely not sufficient to prove that she
has never had lovers.”

She reflected a moment, and then went on:

“Things are complicated in this world. Goodbye, _mon petit_. I am
walking, and have only just time to get there.”

“Why are you walking?”

“Because it is good for my health, and then it explains my not having
the carriage. And it’s rather fun.”

She scrutinized herself in the looking-glass, first three-quarter-ways,
then sideways, finally glancing at her back view.

“At this hour of the day, for instance, I am sure to collect a good
number of followers.”

“Why?”

“Because I look rather nice.”

“What I mean is, why at this hour specially?”

“Because it is evening. The streets are always full just before
dinner-time.”

“But who follows you? What sort of people?”

“All sorts. Men about town, workmen and priests. Yesterday a nigger
followed me. He had on a hat that shone like a mirror. He was awfully
sweet.”

“Did he speak to you?”

“Oh, yes. He said: ‘Madame, will you go for a drive with me? Or are you
afraid of losing your reputation?’”

“What a silly remark!”

“Some of them say much sillier things,” she answered gravely. “Adieu,
_mon petit_, we’ve had a lovely time to-day.”

Her hand was already on the key of the door when he stopped her.

“Clotilde,” said he, “promise me you will go and see Loyer, and that
you will say to him very nicely, ‘M. Loyer, you have a vacant see to
dispose of. Make Abbé Guitrel bishop, you cannot do better. The Pope
thinks very highly of him.’”

She shook her pretty head.

“Go and see Loyer for that? Can you imagine me in the cage of that
old gorilla? We must make some special arrangement, meet him at some
friend’s house, or something of the sort.”

“But,” objected Philippe, “it’s very important. At any moment Loyer may
sign the appointments now. There are several vacant sees.”

She reflected a moment, and, making a special effort to think clearly,
said:

“You must be mistaken, _mon petit_,” said she. “It’s _not_ Loyer who
appoints the bishops. It’s the Pope, really it is, or the Nuncio. I
can prove that, for the other day Emmanuel said, ‘The Nuncio ought to
overcome the modesty of M. de Goulet, and offer him a bishopric.’ So
you see.”

He tried to convince her to the contrary, taking the trouble to explain
the reason why.

“Listen to me! The minister chooses the bishops, and the Nuncio
confirms the minister’s choice. That is what is called the Concordat.
You must say to Loyer: ‘I know of an intelligent liberal-minded priest,
one that the Pope thinks of very highly’----”

“Yes, yes, I know!” She opened wide eyes of wonder. “It’s an
extraordinary thing you are asking of me, _mon petit_!”

Her amazement came from the fact that she was religious, and had the
greatest veneration for holy things. He was a little less religious
than she, but perhaps a trifle more scrupulous, and in his innermost
self he recognized that she was right, and that it was an extraordinary
thing to ask of her. But he was so anxious for the matter to be
concluded that he hastened to reassure her.

“I am not asking you to do anything forbidden by religion,” he
protested.

In the meanwhile her first curiosity had returned.

“But why do you want M. Guitrel to be chosen, _mon petit_?” she asked.

He answered confusedly, as he had done before:

“Mother would be pleased, and other people too.”

“What other people?”

“Oh, heaps of them--the Bonmonts.”

“The Bonmonts? But they are Jews!”

“That doesn’t matter; there are Jews even among the clergy.”

Madame de Gromance grew more suspicious as soon as she learned that the
Bonmonts were mixed up in the singular affair, but being affectionate
and easily led she promised Philippe she would do as he asked.



CHAPTER XVI


M. l’Abbé, candidate for the episcopacy, was ushered into the study of
the Nuncio, Monseigneur Cima, whose appearance at first sight came as a
surprise, for his pale, large-featured countenance, on which the years
had left traces of fatigue, showed no signs of age. At forty, he looked
rather like a sickly youth, and when he cast down his eyes his face
was as the face of a dead man. He signed to the visitor to be seated,
and, assuming his usual attitude, leaned back in his easy chair, and
prepared to listen to him. With his right elbow in his left hand, and
his head resting in the hollow of his right hand, he had a grace that
struck one as vaguely funereal, and called to mind certain figures on
ancient bas-reliefs. When in repose his face was veiled in melancholy,
but as soon as he smiled it radiated humour. The gaze of his beautiful
dark eyes gave one a feeling of discomfort; at Naples he was said to
possess the evil eye; in France he passed for a clever politician.

M. l’Abbé Guitrel thought it advisable to make only a passing allusion
to the object of his visit.

Mother Church in her wisdom might dispose of him as she judged good.
All his feelings of love for her were blended in an entire obedience to
her will!

“Monseigneur,” he added, “I am a priest, in other words a soldier, and
I aspire to the glory of obedience!”

Slowly bending his head, as a sign of approbation, Monseigneur Cima
asked the Abbé if he had been in any way acquainted with M. Duclou, the
late Bishop of Tourcoing.

“I knew him when he was Curé at Orleans, Monseigneur.”

“Orleans? A pleasant town, I have relations there, distant cousins of
mine. M. Duclou was very old when he died. Do you know what caused his
death?”

“Stone, Monseigneur.”

“The cause of the death of many old men, although science has
discovered many things to mitigate this terrible malady.”

“Yes, indeed, Monseigneur!”

“I used to know M. Duclou at Rome; he often had a rubber of whist with
me. Have you ever been to Rome, M. Guitrel?”

“Monseigneur, that is a joy so far denied me, but I have long
sojourned there in thought. My spirit has outstripped my body in its
journey to the Vatican.”

“Yes, yes; the Pope would be very pleased to see you. He likes France
very much. The best time for a visit to Rome is during the spring, for
in summer malaria is rife in the countryside, and in some parts of the
city even.”

“I do not fear malaria.”

“Of course not. Besides, provided one takes certain precautions, one
can always ward off fevers; you must never go out at night without your
cloak, and foreigners especially should never go out in open vehicles
after the sun has set.”

“I have heard, Monseigneur, that the Coliseum by moonlight is a truly
wonderful sight.”

“The air is treacherous in that district, and the gardens of the Villa
Borghese are also to be avoided for the same reason.”

“Really, Monseigneur?”

“Yes, yes! I, who am Roman-born, cannot endure the climate of Rome. I
prefer to go to Brussels. I was there for a year some time ago, and can
think of no town that I like better. I have relations there. Tourcoing,
is that a large town?”

“About 40,000 inhabitants, I believe, Monseigneur. It is a
manufacturing town.”

“I know! I know! M. Duclou used to tell me in Rome that he could only
find one fault with his flock: they drank beer. He used to say that if
they would only drink the light wines of Orleans they would be the most
perfect Christians in the world, but hops made them melancholy.”

“M. Duclou was a very witty man.”

“He disliked beer, and once I surprised him very much by telling him
that it was quite popular in Italy nowadays. There are very prosperous
German beer-houses in Florence, Rome, Naples, and most of the other
towns. Do you like beer, M. Guitrel?”

“I do not dislike it, Monseigneur.”

The Nuncio gave his ring to the priest, who kissed it and took a
respectful leave.

The Nuncio rang the bell.

“Show M. Lantaigne in.”

Having kissed the ring, the director of the Grand Séminaire was invited
to sit down and state his business.

He said:

“Monseigneur, I have sacrificed to the Pope and to necessity all the
ties that bound me to the Royal House of France; I have trampled down
the dearest hopes of my heart, which was only what I owed to the Father
of the Faithful and the unity of the Church. If His Holiness raises me
to the see of Tourcoing, I will rule it in his interest and in the
interest of France. A bishop is a ruling power, and I can answer for my
steadfastness and devotion.”

Slowly bending his head as a sign of approbation, Monseigneur Cima
asked Abbé Lantaigne whether he had been in any way acquainted with M.
Duclou, the late Bishop of Tourcoing.

“I only knew him slightly,” replied M. Lantaigne, “and long before
his elevation to the bishopric. I remember having lent him some of my
sermons when I had more of them than I knew what to do with.”

“He was not young when we lost him. Do you know what caused his death?”

“I do not know.”

“I knew M. Duclou in Rome; he often used to play a rubber of whist with
me. Have you ever been to Rome, M. Lantaigne?”

“Never, Monseigneur.”

“You should go. The Pope would be very pleased to see you; he likes
France very much. But you must be careful when you go; the climate of
Rome is bad for foreigners. During the summer malaria is rife in the
countryside, and even in some parts of the city. The best season to
visit Rome is the spring. I was born in Rome, of Roman parents, and I
much prefer Paris or Brussels. Brussels is a very pleasant town. I have
relations there. Tell me, Tourcoing, is it a very large town?”

“It is one of the oldest sees of Northern France, Monseigneur, and is
notorious for its long line of saintly bishops, from the blessed St.
Loup to Monseigneur de la Thrumellière, the immediate predecessor of M.
Duclou.”

“Tell me, what are the people of Tourcoing like?”

“They are good Church people, Monseigneur, and tend more to the Belgian
form of Catholicism than to the French.”

“Yes, yes, I know. M. Duclou, the late lamented Bishop of Tourcoing,
told me one day in Rome that he had only one fault to find with his
flock: they drank beer. He used to say that if they would only drink
the light wines of Orleans, they would be the most perfect Christians
in the world, but the juice of the hop filled them with its melancholy
and bitterness.”

“Monseigneur, allow me to say one thing: Monseigneur Duclou was both
weak and brainless. He never brought out the energetic qualities of
the sturdy northerners under his care. He was not a bad man, but his
dislike of evil was only moderate. The Catholic town of Tourcoing must
shine out on the whole of the Catholic world. Should His Holiness
judge me worthy to fill the seat of the blessed St. Loup, I swear in
ten years’ time to have won all hearts by the sacred energy of good
works; to have stolen back all the souls gone over to the enemy and
to re-establish around me the oneness of belief. In the depths of her
innermost soul, France is Christian, and only needs energetic leaders.
The Church is dying from sheer inanition.”

Monseigneur Cima rose from his chair, and held out to Abbé Lantaigne
his golden ring, saying:

“You must go to Rome, M. l’Abbé, you must go to Rome!”



CHAPTER XVII


The drawing-room of the house in the grey Batignolles quarter
was humble, the only decorations being copies of the engravings
in the Louvre, little statues, cups and dishes of Sèvres china,
trivial-looking ornaments, which somehow proclaimed the fact that the
lady of the house was connected with Government officials.

Madame Cheiral, _née_ Loyer, was the sister of the Minister of Justice
and Public Worship. She was the widow of a commission-agent in the
Rue d’Hauteville, who had died without leaving a penny, and she had
attached herself to her brother, partly for the sake of a home, and
partly out of maternal ambition. She ruled the old bachelor, who ruled
the country, and had forced him to take as his secretary-in-chief her
son Maurice, who was not fitted for anything in particular, and was
good for nothing except some public office.

Uncle Loyer had a room in the little flat of the Avenue de Clichy,
where he came to stay for a while every spring, at which season he was
subject to attacks of giddiness and drowsiness, for he was getting old.
As soon, however, as his head felt better and his tread became more
assured, he returned to the attic-room, where he had lived for half a
century, a room where he had twice been arrested by the agents of the
Empire, and from which he could see the trees of the Luxembourg. He
still kept the pipe of Jules Grévy in this garret of his.

This pipe was perhaps the most treasured possession of the old fellow,
who had gone through many phases as a Member of Parliament: the days
of eloquence and the days of affairs. He had controlled as Minister
of the Interior the secret funds of three budgets. He had bought many
a conscience for his party, a corrupter of others, but incorruptible
himself. He had always had an infinite indulgence for the hypocrisies
of his friends, but was jealous himself of retaining in the midst of
his power the vantage-ground of a simulated poverty that was at once
cynical, obstinate, deep-rooted, and honourable.

His eye was dim now and his mind inactive, but in the intervals, when
his old skill and decisive spirit returned to him, he applied all his
remaining vigour to concentrated thought, and the game of billiards.
Madame Cheiral, whose intelligence was limited and whose skill but
moderate, did what she liked with the cunning, quiet, silent, and
coarse-minded old man, who for the sixth time in his career had been
selected as a member of the cabinet that had followed upon the heels of
the clerical cabinet, and who saw his nephew fulfilling the indefinite
duties of secretary-in-chief without an idea of leadership, nor a
glimmer of moral principle. No doubt, Loyer was somewhat surprised to
find that his nephew had reactionary and clerical tendencies, but he
was too much inclined to apoplexy to run the risk of thwarting his
sister.

Madame Cheiral was staying at home that day, and when Madame
Worms-Clavelin called to see her somewhat late in the afternoon, when
no further callers were expected, she received her very cordially. They
wished each other good-bye, for the _préfet’s_ wife was returning home
on the morrow.

“Going already, darling?”

“I must,” replied Madame Worms-Clavelin sweetly, looking quite innocent
in her black feather-trimmed hat.

She always affected this hat when paying calls, likening herself to a
plume-bedecked horse attached to a funeral car.

“You must stay and dine with us, dear; we so seldom see you in Paris.
We shall be quite alone. I don’t think my brother will be here. He is
so busy and engrossed in his work just now! But perhaps Maurice will be
with us; the young men of to-day are much steadier than they used to
be. Maurice often spends an evening at home with me.”

She began to try to prevail upon Madame Worms-Clavelin with all the
persuasive eloquence of a sociable soul.

“We shall be quite among ourselves. Your dress will do very nicely. I
assure you we shall be absolutely _en famille_.”

Now Madame Worms-Clavelin had obtained from the Minister of the
Interior the Cross of the Legion of Honour for her husband; she had
exacted from the Minister of Instruction and Public Worship a promise
that the name of M. Guitrel, as candidate for the bishopric of
Tourcoing, should be on the list of candidates selected for the six
vacant sees, so there was nothing to keep her any longer in Paris. She
had intended to return home that very evening.

She excused herself, saying that she had “so many things to see to,”
but Madame Cheiral insisted; then, as Madame Worms-Clavelin persisted
in her refusal, she showed her displeasure by tightened lips and acid
tones, so Madame Worms-Clavelin, who had no wish to annoy her, gave in.

“That’s right; and, as I said before, we shall be quite by ourselves.”

They were by themselves, for Loyer never came, and Maurice, who
was expected, did not turn up either. But in their place came a
lady tobacconist[A] and a well-known elementary school teacher. The
conversation was deep and serious. Madame Cheiral, who really was only
interested in her own affairs, and who had no spite against anyone
except her dearest friends, picked out the men whom she thought worthy
of the Senate, the Chamber, and the Institute, not that she cared about
politics, science, or literature, but because she thought it her duty,
as the sister of a Cabinet Minister, to hold opinions on everything
that contributed to the moral and intellectual greatness of her country.

  [A] The sale of tobacco in France is controlled by the State, and
      given to the widows and daughters of Government officials,
      military and naval officers, etc.

Madame Worms-Clavelin listened to her with charming deference, always
retaining the same air of innocence that she reserved for people who
bored her. When in society she had a way of looking down which gave
old gentlemen a thrill, and which to-day excited the admiration of the
hoary-headed instructor of grammar and gymnastics, who endeavoured
to press her foot with his own under the table. However, she had
made up her mind to return by train from the Avenue de Clichy to the
Arc-de-Triomphe, where, among the radiating avenues that look like an
enormous cross of honour, her boarding house was situated. But when
she returned to the drawing-room on the arm of the old gentleman who
had rendered such signal services to elementary instruction she found
Maurice Cheiral, who had been detained at the ministry, and who, after
dining at a restaurant, had returned home to dress, prior to spending
the evening at a theatre.

He examined Madame Worms-Clavelin with interest, and sat down beside
her on the comfortable old couch that stood under a great Sèvres dish
decorated in neo-Chinese style, and suspended on the wall in a blue
plush frame.

“Madame Clavelin! You are the very person I wanted to see!”

In her younger days Madame Worms-Clavelin had been thin and dark, and
in such guise had not been unattractive to men. As time went on she
became fat and fair, and in this guise she was again not unattractive
to men.

“Did you see my uncle yesterday?”

“Yes. He was so sweet to me. How is he to-day?”

“Tired, very tired. He gave me the papers.”

“What papers?”

“The papers referring to the candidatures for the six vacant sees. You
are very anxious for Abbé Guitrel to be elected, are you not?”

“My husband is anxious. Your uncle told me that the thing was settled.”

“My uncle; you should not take any notice of what he says--he is a
Minister and cannot know. People are always fooling him, and then he
often says what he does not mean. Why didn’t you come to me?”

With charming modesty Madame Worms-Clavelin replied in a low voice:

“Well, I do come to you!”

“And you are wise to do so,” replied the secretary-in-chief. “All
the more so because the business is not going on as you wish, and it
depends upon me whether it proceeds or not. My uncle told you, no
doubt, that he was going to present the six applications to the Pope?”

“Yes.”

“Well, they have already been presented. I know that, for I sent them.
I take a special interest in Church matters. My uncle is one of the
old school; he does not understand the importance of religion, while I
realize it thoroughly. Now this is how things stand: the six candidates
have been presented to the Pope, and the Holy Father has only accepted
four. As far as the other two are concerned, that is M. Guitrel and M.
Morrue, he does not absolutely reject them, but he says he has not yet
sufficient information concerning them.” Maurice Cheiral shook his head
gravely. “He has not sufficient information! And when he gets more I do
not know what he will say. Between ourselves, dear lady, Guitrel looks
to me a bit of a rogue, and we cannot be too careful in choosing our
bishops. The clergy is a force upon which a prudent Government should
be able to rely; we are just beginning to realize that.”

“You are quite right,” said Madame Clavelin.

“On the other hand,” went on the secretary-in-chief, “your candidate
seems learned, well read, and open-minded.”

“Well?” asked Madame Worms-Clavelin, with a delightful smile.

“It is difficult!” replied Cheiral.

Cheiral was not a very clever man. He took few things into
consideration, and always acted on reasons so futile that they were
difficult to unravel. And so it was thought, that, being still young,
he was swayed by personal motives. At the present time he had just
finished reading a book by M. Imbert de Saint-Amand on the Tuileries
during the second Empire; the splendour of the brilliant court had
particularly taken his fancy, and the book had fired him with the
desire to live, like the Duc de Morny, a life in which politics should
be combined with pleasure and power of every description. He looked
at Madame Worms-Clavelin in a manner the significance of which she
thoroughly comprehended as she sat there silent with lowered gaze.

“My uncle,” went on Cheiral, “gives me a free hand in this matter,
which does not interest him at all. I can set about it in two ways. I
can propose without further delay the four candidates accepted by the
Holy Father, or I can tell the Nuncio that things will remain at a
standstill until the Holy See has approved of six candidates. I have
not yet made up my mind, but should be delighted to talk the matter
over with you. Shall I expect you to-morrow afternoon at five o’clock,
and wait for you in a closed carriage at the end of the Rue Vigny by
the gates of the Park Monceau?”

“There’s not much risk in that,” thought Madame Worms-Clavelin, her
only reply a slight quivering of her downcast lids.



CHAPTER XVIII


Madame de Bonmont had no difficulty in bringing Raoul Marcien and M.
l’Abbé Guitrel together at her house. The meeting was all that could
be desired, for on his part M. l’Abbé Guitrel was full of unction, and
Raoul, being a society man, knew what was due to the Church.

“Monsieur l’Abbé,” he said, “I come of a family of priests and
soldiers. I have been a soldier myself, and that means----”

He did not finish his sentence, for M. Guitrel held out his hand with a
smile, saying:

“We may call it the alliance of the sword and the aspersorium.” Then
immediately resuming his priestly gravity: “And that is the most
natural and the best of all alliances. We priests are soldiers too, and
as far as I am concerned I am very fond of the army.”

Madame de Bonmont gazed with sympathetic eyes at the Abbé, who
continued:

“In the diocese to which I belong we have started clubs, where the
soldiers can read good books as they smoke their cigars. The work is
under the patronage of Monseigneur Charlot, and is both flourishing and
useful. Let us not be unjust toward the age in which we live; if it
contains much evil it also holds much that is good. We are engaged in
a great fight, and that is, perhaps, to be preferred to the lukewarm
state of those whom a great Christian poet has described as being shut
out from both Heaven and Hell.”

Raoul approved of this speech, but ventured no reply. He did not
answer, by virtue of the fact that he had few ideas upon the subject,
and also because his whole mind was absorbed in the thought of the
three charges of cheating brought against him during the past week,
which made it impossible for him to follow any abstract or general
train of ideas.

Madame de Bonmont but dimly divined the real reason of his silence, and
M. Guitrel did not understand it at all. With an honest desire to do
the right thing, and keep the ball of conversation going, he asked M.
Marcien if he knew Colonel Gandouin.

“He is an excellent man in every way,” added the priest. “A fine
example of the Christian and the soldier. He is respected by every
right-thinking man in our diocese.”

“Do I know Colonel Gandouin!” cried Raoul. “I know him only too well.
I’ve had enough of him! I can’t bear the man!”

This outburst grieved Madame de Bonmont and startled M. Guitrel.
Neither of them knew that four years before Colonel Gandouin, with six
other officers, had ordered Captain Marcien to be placed on half-pay
for habitual dereliction of duty, that offence, selected from many
others, being the reason assigned.

From this moment the gentle Elizabeth gave up hoping that any good
would come of the interview which she had arranged to calm her Raoul,
to turn him away from thoughts of violence and bring him back to
thoughts of love. She opened her heart, however, and in a tearful voice
said to the Abbé:

“Don’t you think, M. l’Abbé, that when a man is young and has a fine
future before him, he ought not to give way to discouragement and
depression? Ought he not, on the contrary, to avoid all sad thoughts?”

“Certainly, Madame la Baronne, certainly,” replied M. l’Abbé Guitrel.
“We must never give way to discouragement, or abandon ourselves to
grief without cause. A good Christian never encourages gloomy thoughts,
Madame la Baronne, that is quite certain.”

“Do you hear, M. Marcien?” asked Madame de Bonmont.

But Raoul did not hear, and so the conversation dropped. Then Madame de
Bonmont, being a kind-hearted woman, and anxious in the midst of her
own worries to give a little pleasure to M. Guitrel, turned the topic
of conversation.

“And so, M. l’Abbé,” she said, “your favourite stone is the amethyst.”

Guessing the drift of her remark, the priest answered severely and even
harshly:

“Do not speak of that, Madame, I beg. Do not speak of that!”



CHAPTER XIX


Having risen early one morning, M. Bergeret, Professor of Latin
literature, went for a walk into the country with Riquet. The two loved
each other dearly, and were nearly always together. They had the same
tastes, and both preferred a quiet, uneventful, and simple life.

Riquet’s eyes always followed his master closely on these walks. He was
afraid to let him out of his sight one instant, because he was not very
sharp-scented, and, had he lost his master, could not have tracked him
again. His beautiful, loving look was very engaging as he trotted by
the side of M. Bergeret with an important air quite pretty to see. The
Professor of Latin literature walked slowly or quickly according to the
trend of his capricious fancy.

As soon as Riquet was a stone’s throw ahead of his master, he turned
round and waited for him with his nose in the air, and one of his
front paws lifted in an attitude of attention and watchfulness. It
did not take much to amuse either of them. Riquet plunged into gardens
and shops alike, coming out again as hastily as he had entered. On
this particular day he bounded into the coal-seller’s office, to find
himself confronted by a huge snow-white pigeon that flapped its wings
in the darkness, to his extreme terror.

He came as usual to relate his adventure, with eyes and paws and tail,
to M. Bergeret, who said jokingly:

“Yes, indeed, my poor Riquet, we have had a terrible encounter, and
have escaped the claws and beak of a winged monster. That pigeon was an
awe-inspiring creature!”

And M. Bergeret smiled. Riquet knew that smile, and knew that his
master was making fun of him. This was a thing he could not bear. He
stopped wagging his tail, and walked with hanging head, hunched-up
back, and legs wide apart, as a sign of annoyance.

“My poor Riquet,” said M. Bergeret to him again, “that bird, which
your ancestors would have eaten alive, alarms you. You are not hungry,
as they would have been, and you are not as brave as they were; the
refinement of culture has made a coward of you. It is questionable
whether civilization does not tend to make men less courageous as well
as less fierce. But civilized man, out of respect for his species,
affects courage and makes of it an artificial virtue far more beautiful
than the natural one. While, as for you, you shamelessly display your
fear.”

Riquet’s annoyance, to tell the truth, was but slight, and only lasted
a few minutes. All was forgiven and forgotten when the man and the dog
entered the Josde woods just at the hour when the grass is wet with dew
and light mists rise from the hills.

M. Bergeret loved the woods, and at sight of a blade of grass would
lose himself in boundless reveries. Riquet, too, loved the woods. As he
sniffed at the dead leaves his soul was filled with strange delight. In
deep meditation, therefore, they followed the pathway leading to the
Carrefour des Demoiselles, when they met a horseman returning to the
town. It was M. de Terremondre, the county councillor.

“Good day, M. Bergeret,” he cried, reining in his horse. “Well! Have
you thought over my arguments of yesterday?”

He had explained the evening before at Paillot’s the reason why he was
against the Jews.

When in the country, especially during the hunting season, M. de
Terremondre’s proclivities were anti-Jewish. When in Paris he dined
with rich Jews, whom he tolerated to the extent of inducing them to
buy pictures at a profit to himself. At County Council meetings, with
due consideration to the feelings that were paramount in his county
town, he was a Nationalist and an Anti-Semite. But as there were
no Jews in that town the anti-Jewish crusade consisted principally
in attacks upon the Protestants, who formed a small, austere, and
exclusive community of their own.

“So we are enemies,” went on M. de Terremondre. “I am sorry for that,
because you are a clever man, but you live quite outside the social
movement, and are not mixed up in public life. If you did as I do, and
entered into it, your sympathies would be anti-Jewish.”

“You flatter me,” said M. Bergeret. “The Jewish race which peopled
Chaldea, Assyria, and Phœnicia in former times, and which founded
cities all along the Mediterranean coast, is composed to-day of Jews
scattered the world over, and also of the countless Arab populations
of Asia and Africa. My heart is not great enough to contain so many
hatreds. Old Cadmus was a Jew, but I really couldn’t be the enemy of
old Cadmus!”

“You are joking,” replied M. de Terremondre, holding in his horse,
who was nibbling at the bushes. “You know as well as I do that the
anti-Jewish movement is directed solely against the Jews who have
settled in France.”

“Therefore I must hate 80,000 persons,” said M. Bergeret. “That is
still too many; I have not the strength for it!”

“No one asks you to hate them,” said M. de Terremondre. “But Jews and
Frenchmen cannot live together. The antagonism is ineradicable, it is
in the blood.”

“I believe, on the contrary,” said M. Bergeret, “that the Jews are
particularly assimilable, and have the most plastic and malleable
natures in the world. With the same readiness that the niece of
Mardocheus entered the harem of Ahasuerus in bygone days, so the
daughters of our Jewish financiers marry nowadays the heirs to the
greatest names in Christian France. After marriages such as these it
is rather late in the day to speak of incompatibility of race. Then,
I think it a bad thing to make a distinction of race in any country;
it is not the race that makes the nation, and there is not a single
country in Europe that has not been founded on a multitude of mixed
and different races. When Caesar entered Gaul it was peopled by Celts,
Gauls, Iberians, all differing in origin and religion. The tribes that
set up the cromlechs were not of the same blood as those who honoured
bards and druids. Into this human mixture the different invasions
poured Germans, Romans, Saracens, and out of the whole a nation arose,
the brave and lovable people of France, who, not so very long ago,
were the teachers of justice, liberty, and philosophy to the entire
world. Think of the beautiful words of Renan; I wish I could remember
them exactly: ‘What makes a nation is the memory of the great things
its people have done together, and the will they have to accomplish
others.’”

“Excellent!” said M. de Terremondre. “But as I have not the will to
accomplish great things with the Jews, I remain an Anti-Semite.”

“Are you quite sure that it is possible for your feelings to be wholly
anti-Jewish?” asked M. Bergeret.

“I do not understand you,” replied M. de Terremondre.

“Then I will explain myself,” said M. Bergeret. “There is one fact that
never varies: each time there is an attack on the Jews, a goodly number
of them side with the enemy. That is just what happened to Titus.”

At this point in the conversation Riquet sat down in the middle of the
road and looked resignedly at his master.

“You will agree,” went on M. Bergeret, “that between the years 67 and
70 A.D. Titus was a strong Anti-Semite. He took Jotapate,
and exterminated its inhabitants. He conquered Jerusalem, burned the
Temple, and reduced to ashes and ruins the city which afterwards
received the name of Œlia Capitolina. The seven-branched candlestick
was carried in his triumphal procession to Rome, and, I think, without
doing you an injustice, I may say that that was Anti-Semitism carried
to a degree which you people can never hope to attain. Well! Titus,
the destroyer of Jerusalem, had many friends among the Jews. Berenice
was deeply attached to him, and you know as well as I do that it was
against his will and against hers that he left her. Flavius Josephus
was his friend, and Flavius was not one of the least of his nation.
He was descended from the Asmonean kings, lived the life of a strict
Pharisee, and wrote Greek correctly enough. After the demolition of the
temple and holy city he followed Titus to Rome, and became the intimate
friend of the Emperor. He received the freedom of the city, the title
of Roman Knight, and a pension. And do not imagine, monsieur, that
in so doing he was betraying his race. On the contrary, he remained
faithful to the law, and applied himself to the collection of national
antiquities. In short, he was a good Jew in his own way and a friend of
Titus. Now there have always been men like Flavius in Israel. As you
pointed out, I live a secluded life and know nothing of what goes on
in the world, but it would be a great surprise to me if at the present
crisis the Jews were not divided amongst themselves, and if a great
number of them were not on your side.”

“Some of them are with us, as you say,” replied M. de Terremondre. “All
the more credit to them.”

“I thought as much,” said M. Bergeret. “And, what is more, I am sure
that there are some clever ones among them who will make their mark
in this crusade against themselves. About thirty years ago a senator,
a very clever man, who admired the Jewish faculty for getting on, and
who cited as an example a certain court chaplain of Jewish origin,
used the following words, which have since been much quoted. ‘See,’
said he, ‘here is a Jew who has gone into the Church, and now he is a
Monseigneur. Let us not revive the prejudices of barbaric times. Let us
not ask if a man is a Jew or Christian, but only if he is an honest man
and capable of serving his country.’”

M. de Terremondre’s horse began to plunge, and Riquet, coming up to
his master, begged him, with gentle, loving look, to continue the
interrupted walk.

“Do not run away with the idea,” went on M. de Terremondre, “that I
include all Jews in the same blind feeling of dislike. I have many
excellent friends among them, but my love for my country makes an
Anti-Semite of me.”

He held out his hand to M. Bergeret, and turned his horse around. He
was quietly proceeding on his way when the professor called him back.

“Hi! A word in your ear, dear M. de Terremondre. Now that the die is
cast, and that you and your friends have quarrelled with the Jews, be
very careful that you owe them nothing, and give them back the God you
have taken from them--for you have taken their God.”

“Jehovah?” asked M. de Terremondre.

“Yes, Jehovah! If I were in your place, I would beware of Him. He was
a Jew at heart, and who knows whether He has not always remained a
Jew? Who knows whether at this moment He is not avenging His people?
All that we have seen lately, the confessions that burst forth like
thunderclaps, the plain speaking, the revelations proceeding from
all parts, the assembly of red-robed judges which you were not able to
hinder even when you seemed all-powerful, who can tell whether Jehovah
has not dealt these crushing blows? They savour of His old biblical
style, and I seem to recognize His handiwork.”

M. de Terremondre’s horse was already disappearing behind the bushes
round the bend of the path, and Riquet trotted along contentedly
through the grass.

“Beware!” repeated M. Bergeret. “Do not keep their God.”



CHAPTER XX


Madame Worms-Clavelin came along through the rainy darkness, holding
up her umbrella, and walking with the brisk, decided step which, for a
wonder, had not grown heavy from long years spent in provincial towns.
The door of the carriage that was waiting for her in front of the gates
of the Park Monceau, opened a little, and then stood wide, and Madame
Worms-Clavelin slipped calmly in and took a seat beside the young
secretary, who immediately inquired as to her health.

“I am always well,” she replied, adding, “What awful weather!”

Streams of rain were running down the carriage windows; the street
noises were drowned in the damp air, and all that could be heard was
the gentle drip of the raindrops.

When the carriage began to roll with a muffled sound over the paved
road, she asked:

“Where are we going?”

“Where you like.”

“I don’t mind--Neuilly way, I should think.”

Having given instructions to the driver, Maurice Cheiral turned to the
_préfet’s_ wife and said:

“I have much pleasure in informing you that the appointment of Abbé
Guitrel (Joachim) to the See of Tourcoing will be announced in
to-morrow’s _Officiel_. I do not want to boast, but I can assure you
that it has not been a very easy matter to arrange. The Nuncio is great
at procrastination. People of that description make use of a prodigious
amount of inactivity--Well, anyhow, everything is settled.”

“That’s good,” replied Madame Worms-Clavelin. “I am sure you have
rendered a service to the progressive republican party, and that the
Moderates will have every reason to be pleased with their new bishop.”

“At any rate,” went on Maurice Cheiral, “you are satisfied.”

After a long silence he continued:

“Just think, I never slept all night. I was thinking of you, and
longing to see you again.”

The strange thing was that he was speaking the truth, and that the
expectation of this rendezvous had excited him. But he spoke in a
joking tone and drawling voice that made his words appear false,
besides which he was wanting both in assurance and decision.

Madame Worms-Clavelin quite thought she would leave the carriage as she
had entered it. Assuming a serious and gentle expression, she said in a
sympathetic tone:

“Thank you, dear M. Cheiral. Put me down here, if you please, and
remember me to your mother.”

And she held out her hand, a little, stumpy hand clad in an exceedingly
dirty glove. But he held it tightly, becoming tender and insistent,
full of desire and amour-propre.

“I am as muddy as a water spaniel,” she remarked, just as he was about
to find that out for himself.

While he adhered to his resolve, in spite of the obstacles of
circumstances and environment, she showed the most perfect good taste
and simplicity. With wonderful tact, she avoided all the unpleasantness
arising from an over-prolonged resistance or a too rapid resignation.
In like manner she avoided any remark that might reveal either ironical
indifference or interested participation. She behaved perfectly. She
had no feeling of dislike for the young statesman, who was so innocent
at the very moment when he believed himself to be so wicked, and
feelings of real regret came over her as she reflected that she might
have been more careful in selecting her _lingerie_ for the occasion;
she never had been careful enough of that, but of late years her
carelessness had become somewhat excessive. Her greatest merit on this
occasion was in keeping clear of all emphasis and exaggeration.

After a while, Maurice suddenly became quiet, indifferent, even a
trifle bored. He talked of things quite foreign to their present
situation, and peered through the blurred window-panes at the streets
that looked as though the carriage were going along at the bottom of an
aquarium; all that could be seen through the rain was the gas-jets, and
here and there the glass jars in the windows of the chemists’ shops.

“What awful rain!” sighed Madame Worms-Clavelin.

“The weather has been dreadful for the last week,” said Maurice
Cheiral, “simply rotten. Is it the same in your part of the country?”

“We get more rain in our department than in any other in France,”
replied Madame Worms-Clavelin with charming sweetness. “But there is
never any mud on the broad, gravelled garden paths of the Préfecture.
Then we country people wear clogs.”

“Do you know,” said Cheiral, “that I have never been to your town?”

“There are beautiful walks there,” replied Madame Worms-Clavelin, “and
the surroundings are charming. Do come and see us. My husband would be
delighted.”

“Does your husband like living there?”

“Yes, he likes it because he has been successful there.”

In her turn, she tried to see through the clouded panes and to pierce
the thick darkness that was full of fugitive glimmers of light.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“Far away from everywhere, I should think,” he replied eagerly. “Where
would you like me to put you down?”

She asked him to stop at a station, and he did not attempt to disguise
his anxiety to leave her.

“I must go to the Chambre,” he said. “I do not know what they have been
doing to-day.”

“Ah, they were sitting to-day?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but there was nothing of importance, I believe--an
increase of tariff. But one never knows. I had better just look in.”

They took leave of one another easily and amicably. As Madame
Worms-Clavelin stepped into a fiacre in the Boulevard de Courcelles,
near the fortifications, she heard the newsboys crying the evening
papers, and holding them out to the passers-by as they hurried
along. She caught sight of a heading in huge letters--“Fall of the
Government.”

Madame Worms-Clavelin stood for a moment looking at the men, and
listening to the voices dying away in the rainy night. She reflected
that, if Loyer were really going to send in his resignation to the
President of the Republic, there would be in all probability no notice
in to-morrow’s _Officiel_ of the new appointments in the Church. She
reflected that her husband’s decoration would not be included in the
last will and testament of the Minister of the Interior, and that hence
the half-hour she had spent in the blue-curtained fiacre was of no
avail. She had no regret over what had happened, but did not like doing
things to no purpose.

“Neuilly,” she said to the driver, “Boulevard Bineau, the Convent of
the Dames du Saint-Sang.”

And she sat pensive and solitary, while the cries of the newsvendors
filled her ears, and she tried to convince herself that the news was
true. She would not buy a paper, however, partly out of mistrust
and contempt for all newspaper matter, and partly because she was
determined not to rob herself of so much as a half-penny. She
reflected that if the Ministry really had fallen, just at the moment
when she was being so prodigal of her favours, it was a striking
example of the irony of things and the spite that hovers ceaselessly
about us, like the very atmosphere we breathe. She asked herself
whether Loyer’s secretary-in-chief had not known the news that was now
being shouted abroad while he waited for her at the park gates. At this
thought she grew scarlet, as though her chastity had been outraged
and her faith betrayed, for if that were the case Maurice Cheiral had
been making game of her, and that she could not endure. However, her
sound common sense and wide experience soon came to her aid, assuring
her that it was never safe to trust the newspapers. She thought of
Abbé Guitrel without a qualm, and congratulated herself on having
contributed in ever so small a degree to the elevation of the excellent
priest to the See of the Blessed Saint Loup. She arranged a few little
details of her toilet the while, so that she might present a good
appearance in the parlour of the Dames du Saint-Sang who were charged
with the education of her daughter.

The fog was paler and less dense in the deserted avenues, and the low,
damp streets of Neuilly. Through the gentle rain, the strong, graceful
outlines of the great bare trees were visible. Madame Worms-Clavelin
caught a glimpse of some poplars, and they reminded her of the country
which she loved more dearly every day.

She reached the barred doorway crowned with a stone shield bearing
the glove in which Joseph of Arimathea received the sacred blood of
the Saviour, and rang the bell. At her request, the portress sent for
Mademoiselle de Clavelin, and Madame Worms-Clavelin entered the bright
parlour with its horsehair chairs. As she sat there before a picture
of the Virgin extending her blessing-laden hands, the _préfet’s_ wife
was filled with a strong, sweet feeling of religion. She was not wholly
a Christian, because she had never been baptized. But her daughter
had been baptized, and was being brought up in the Catholic faith.
Together with the Republic, Madame Worms-Clavelin felt strong leanings
towards a conventional piety, and with a sincere uplifting of the heart
she saluted the kind, blue-veiled Virgin, to whom well-to-do ladies
like herself poured out their troubles and necessities. She thanked
Providence for all her blessings, as she sat before the picture of
Mary, with her outstretched arms, and she thanked the Virgin with a
mystical intensity that the Jewish religion had never been able to
satisfy. She was full of gratitude to God, who had guided her from the
miserable days of her childhood in Montmartre, when she had run about
the greasy streets of the outer boulevards in her worn-out shoes, until
the present time, when she mixed in the best society, belonged to
the ruling classes, and had a share in the affairs that governed the
country; and she thanked God that in all her negotiations--for life
is difficult, and one often needs the help of others--she had, at any
rate, never had to come into contact with any but men of position in
the world.

“Good evening, mother!”

Madame Worms-Clavelin drew her daughter under the lamp and examined her
teeth; that was always her first care. Then she looked at her eyes, to
see whether she were anæmic or not, saw that her back was straight and
that she did not bite her nails. When satisfied on all these points,
she inquired as to her work and her conduct. Her solicitude was full
of sound common sense and much experience, and altogether she was an
excellent mother.

When at last the bell rang for evening study, and it was time to
say good-bye, Madame Worms-Clavelin drew from her pocket a box of
chocolates. The box was crushed, broken, dilapidated, and as flat as a
pancake.

Mademoiselle de Clavelin took it, saying with a laugh:

“Oh, mother! It looks as if it had been in the wars!”

“It is this dreadful weather!” said Madame Worms-Clavelin, with a shrug
of her shoulders.

That evening after dinner at the boarding-house she found on the
drawing-room table a well-known evening paper whose information she
knew to be well authenticated. On reading it, she learned that the
Government had not fallen, and was not even in difficulties. It is true
that it had been in the minority at the commencement of the sitting,
but that was only on the order of the day, and it had immediately been
followed by a majority of 105.

The news delighted her, and as she thought of her husband, she said to
herself, “Lucien will be pleased to hear that Guitrel has been made
bishop.”



CHAPTER XXI


“Ask M. Guitrel to come in,” said Loyer.

Seated at his desk, the Minister was hardly visible behind the heaps
of paper piled upon it; he was a little spectacled old man, with a
grey moustache, watery eyes, and a sniff--a cynical, cantankerous
old fellow, but an honest man who, in spite of the power and honour
that had fallen to his lot, still had the appearance and manner of a
professor of the law. He took off his spectacles and wiped them, for he
was curious to see the Abbé, the candidate to the episcopal dignity,
who had been backed by so many brilliant society women.

Madame de Gromance, the pretty provincial, had been the first to call
upon him at the end of December. She had told him, without beating
about the bush, that he must appoint the Abbé Guitrel to the see of
Tourcoing. The old Minister, who still loved the perfume that clings to
a pretty woman, had kept the little hand of Madame de Gromance for a
long time between his, stroking with his thumb the bare space between
the glove and the sleeve where over the blue veins the skin is softest.
He had not gone further, however, because he was getting old, and
everything was an effort to him, and also he was afraid of appearing
ridiculous in her eyes, for he still had his share of vanity. His
words alone savoured of impropriety, and, according to his invariable
custom, he inquired for Madame de Gromance’s “old Royalist,” as he
familiarly called her husband. His eyes had become tearful behind their
bluish glasses, and his face had creased itself into a thousand little
wrinkles at the excellence of the jest.

The idea that the “old Royalist” was a wronged husband filled the
Minister of Justice and Public Worship with what really was inordinate
glee. As he thought of it, he looked at Madame de Gromance with
more curiosity, interest, and pleasure than was perhaps in the case
justifiable, but from the ruins of his amorous nature he was building
a series of mental amusements, the most intense of which was to gloat
over the misfortune of M. de Gromance in the very presence of its
voluptuous cause.

During the six months in which he had been Minister of the Interior in
a former Radical Cabinet, he had received from Worms-Clavelin private
and confidential notes, telling him all about the Gromance ménage,
so that he knew all there was to know about Clotilde’s lovers, and
delighted in the knowledge that they were numerous. He had received the
beautiful petitioner with every kindness, promising to look into M.
Guitrel’s case, but committing himself no further, for he was a good
Republican, and did not believe in subordinating affairs of state to a
woman’s caprice.

Then, too, the Baronne de Bonmont, who was reputed to have the most
beautiful shoulders in Paris, had spoken in favour of Abbé Guitrel at
the Élysée soirées. Finally, Madame Worms-Clavelin, the _préfet’s_
wife, a very charming woman, had whispered a word in his ear concerning
the good Abbé.

Loyer was very curious to see the priest who had fluttered so many
feminine hearts. He wondered whether he was about to behold one of the
great sturdy becassocked fellows that of latter days the Church has
thrown into public gatherings, sending them as far even as the Chamber
of Deputies, one of those young, full-blooded, outspoken clerical
tribunes of the people--headstrong and shrewd, with a power over simple
men and women.

The Abbé Guitrel entered the study, his head upon one side, and holding
his hat before him in his clasped hands. He was not unprepossessing,
but his desire to please, and his respect for the powers that be, made
his habitual carefully assumed priestly dignity less apparent than
usual.

Loyer noticed his three chins and domed head, his portly form, his
narrow shoulders, and his unctuousness. He was quite an old man too.

“What do the women want with him?” he thought.

The interview was trifling on either side; but, after questioning M.
Guitrel on some points of ecclesiastical administration, Loyer gathered
from the fat man’s replies that his views were both sensible and fair.

He remembered that the Director of Public Worship, M. Mostart, was
not against the nomination of Abbé Guitrel to the See of Tourcoing.
Truth to tell, M. Mostart had not given him much information on the
subject. Since there had been such a rapid succession of clerical and
anticlerical cabinets, the Director of Public Worship had not dabbled
overmuch in the making of bishops; the matter had become too delicate
of handling. He had a house at Joinville, and was fond of gardening and
fishing. His dearest dream was to write a chatty history of the Bobino
Theatre, which he had known in its palmy days. He was growing old, was
a prudent man, and did not stick obstinately to his own opinion. The
evening before he had said to Loyer, “I propose Abbé Guitrel, but
there’s nothing to choose between Abbé Guitrel and Abbé Lantaigne, it’s
six of one and half a dozen of the other!” Those were the very words of
the Director of Public Worship, but Loyer was himself an old doctor at
law, and always able to make nice distinctions.

M. Guitrel seemed to him sensible enough, and not too fanatical.

“You are not ignorant of the fact, Monsieur l’Abbé,” he said, “that the
late Bishop of Tourcoing, M. Duclou, tended to become intolerant in the
latter part of his life, and gave an unreasonable amount of work to the
Council of State. What is your opinion on the subject?”

“Alas,” replied the Abbé Guitrel, with a sigh, “it is quite true that
in his declining years, as he neared the period of eternal blessedness,
Monseigneur Duclou made some rather unfortunate declarations. The
situation was a difficult one then, but things have greatly altered,
and his successor will be able to labour quietly towards the
establishment of peace. What he will have to aim at is real peace. The
road to it is marked; he will have to enter upon it resolutely and
follow it to the end. As a matter of fact, laws dealing with education
and the Army do not give rise nowadays to any difficulties, and all
that really remains is the question of the taxation of religious
communities. This question, we must allow, is peculiarly important in
a diocese like Tourcoing, which, if I may say so, is plastered with all
kinds of religious institutions. I have studied it at length, and, if
you wish, can speak of the conclusions to which this study has led me.”

“The clergy,” said Loyer, “dislike parting with their money. That is
the truth.”

“Nobody likes it, Monsieur le Ministre,” returned Abbé Guitrel, “and
Your Excellency, such an adept in all that relates to finance, must
realize that there is a way of shearing the ratepayer without making
him complain. Why not use the same method with our poor monks, who are
too good Frenchmen not to be good ratepayers? You must bear in mind,
Monsieur le Ministre, that they are subject in the first case to the
ordinary taxes that everybody pays.”

“Naturally,” put in Loyer.

“Secondly, to taxes on inalienable property.”

“And do you complain of that?” inquired the Minister.

“Not at all,” replied the Abbé. “I am merely enumerating them
all--quick reckonings make long friends. Thirdly, to a tax of four per
cent on the income accruing from lands, houses, furniture, and money;
and, fourthly, they are liable to the increment duty, as established
by the laws of the 28th of December, 1880, and the 29th of December,
1884. It is only the principle underlying this last tax, as you know,
Monsieur le Ministre, that has been contested by several communities.
The agitation has not yet died down everywhere, and it is on this
point, Monsieur le Ministre, that I take the liberty of expressing the
views which would actuate me, were I to have the honour of occupying
the see of the Blessed Saint Loup.”

As a sign of attention, the Minister turned round in his chair, and
faced the Abbé, who went on in the following terms:

“As a matter of principle, Monsieur le Ministre, I disapprove of the
spirit of revolt, and dislike any tumultuous or systematic claiming
of rights, and in this I only comply with the Encyclical beginning
‘_Diuturnum illud_’ in which Leo XIII, following the example of St.
Paul, exhorts his people to obedience towards the civil authorities.
So much for principle; let us now look fact in the face. As a matter
of fact, I find that the religious in the diocese of Tourcoing are
placed in such different positions with regard to rates and taxes that
universality of action is thereby rendered exceedingly difficult. In
this diocese there are authorized and unauthorized communities, some
communities dedicated to works of charity among the poor, the aged, and
the orphan, and some whose sole aim and object is a life of spiritual
contemplation. They are taxed differently, according to their different
purposes. It is my opinion that the very opposition of their interests
breaks down resistance, unless their bishop himself directs the tenor
of their claims, a thing which, for my part, I should avoid, if I were
their spiritual head. I would willingly see uncertainty and division
among the communities of my diocese if by so doing I could ensure
the peace of the Church as a whole. As far as my secular clergy were
concerned,” added the priest in a firm voice, “I would answer for them
as a general answers for his troops.”

Having thus spoken, M. Guitrel apologized for having given such free
vent to his thoughts, and wasted the precious time of His Excellency.

Old Loyer made no answer, but he nodded approval. For a parson, Guitrel
was not so difficult to get on with after all, he thought.



CHAPTER XXII


Madame de Bonmont dismissed her carriage, and, hailing a cab, drove to
the street where, amid the rumble of drays and the whistle of engines,
she carried on her love affair. She would have preferred to see her
Rara in a region adorned with gardens, but love is sometimes shy
under the myrtles or by the murmuring fountains. Madame de Bonmont’s
thoughts were sad as she drove along the streets where the lamps were
just beginning to glimmer through the misty evening light. Guitrel had
indeed been appointed Bishop of Tourcoing, and she rejoiced thereat,
but joy did not possess her soul completely. Rara, with his black
humour and ferocious desires, worried her terribly. Now she went in
fear and trembling to the rendezvous, to which in former times she
had so eagerly looked forward. Confiding and retiring by nature, she
dreaded, on his account as well as her own, anything in the nature of
danger, catastrophe, or scandal. Her lover’s mental attitude, which
had never been satisfactory, had quite suddenly grown worse. Since
the suicide of Colonel Henry he had become dreadful to look upon. The
bitterness in his blood had acted like vitriol upon his countenance,
as it were searing his forehead, his eyelids, his cheeks, with marks
of fire and brimstone. For the last fortnight mysterious causes had
kept her dear one absent from the flat which he rented opposite the
Moulin-Rouge, and which was his legal domicile. He had his letters
forwarded to him, and received visitors in the little suite which
Madame de Bonmont had taken for quite a different use.

Slowly and sadly she went up the stairs, but even on the very threshold
of the door the hope of finding the delightful Rara of former days
stirred her heart. Alas, her hope was vain, she was greeted with bitter
words:

“What do you come here for? You despise me like all the rest.”

She protested at such cruelty.

She did not despise him--on the contrary, her loving animal nature
led her to admire him. She put her painted, yet youthful, lips to her
lover’s mouth, and kissed him sobbingly; but, pushing her away, he
began to pace furiously up and down the two blue-tapestried rooms.

Noiselessly she untied the little parcel of cakes she had brought with
her, and said in a hopeless, toneless voice:

“Will you have a _baba_? It is kirsch, just as you like them,” and she
handed him the cake between two dainty sugary fingers. But he refused
to see or hear her, and continued his fierce, monotonous promenade.

Then, with tear-dimmed eyes and bosom that heaved with sighs, she
lifted the thick black veil which, mask-like, covered the upper part of
her face, and silently commenced to eat a chocolate _éclair_.

At last, however, not knowing what to do or to say, she took a
jewel-case from her pocket, and, opening it, displayed for Rara the
bishop’s ring which it contained, saying in a timid voice:

“Look at M. Guitrel’s ring. It is a pretty stone, isn’t it? It is an
Hungarian amethyst. Do you think M. Guitrel will like it?”

“I don’t care a damn!”

She put the case down on the toilet table in despair, while he,
resuming the usual current of his thoughts, growled out:

“There’s no mistake about it! I will do for one of them!”

She looked at him doubtfully, for she had noticed that he was always
threatening to kill everybody, and that he killed no one. He divined
her hidden thought. It was dreadful.

“I knew that you despised me too,” he said.

He nearly struck her, and she wept bitterly; eventually he calmed
down, however, and drew her a terrible picture of his financial
embarrassments.

She wept at the picture, but did not promise to give him much, because
it was against her principles to give money to a lover, and, besides,
she feared he might go away altogether if he had the means to do so.

When she left the little blue rooms she was so upset that she quite
forgot the amethyst ring lying on the toilet table.



CHAPTER XXIII


“Are you working, dear Master, do I disturb you?” asked M. Goubin,
entering M. Bergeret’s study.

“Not at all,” replied the professor. “I was amusing myself by
translating a Greek text of the Alexandrine period, discovered in a
tomb at Philæ.”

“I should be very glad if you would read me your translation, dear
Master,” said M. Goubin.

“With pleasure,” replied M. Bergeret, and he began:

CONCERNING HERCULES ATIMOS.

Deeds are commonly ascribed to the one and only Hercules which in
reality have been accomplished by other heroes bearing the same name.
That which Orpheus teaches us concerning the Thracian Hercules relates
to the god rather than to the hero. I will not dwell upon this. The
Tyrians tell of another Hercules to whom they attribute labours so
prodigious that they are difficult to accept. What is less known is
that Alcmena gave birth to twins who were exactly alike, and who each
received the name of Hercules. The one was the son of Jupiter and the
other of Amphitryon. On account of his great deeds, the former attained
the right to drink from the cup of Hebe at the table of the gods, and
we look upon him as a god. The second was unworthy, that is why he was
called Hercules Atimos.

What I know of him I have learned from an inhabitant of Eleusis, a wise
and prudent man who has collected together many ancient legends. This
is what he told me:

Hercules Atimos, the son of Amphitryon, when nearing manhood, received
from his father a bow and arrows, forged by Vulcan, which dealt certain
death to any creature whom they struck.

Now one day, when shooting wild cranes on the slopes of Cithæron, he
met a herdsman who addressed him thus:

“Son of Amphitryon, there is an evil man who daily steals some of our
cattle. Thou art full of youth and vigour. If thou canst find the thief
and strike him with one of thy magic arrows, thou wilt gain great
praise. But he is not easy of approach, for his feet are larger than
the feet of other men, and he is very fleet.”

Atimos promised the herdsman that he would punish the brigand, and went
upon his way. Hiding in the mountain gorges, he saw at a distance
the figure of a man who appeared to him evil. Thinking it was the
cattle-stealer, he killed him with his arrows. But while the man’s
blood was still fresh upon the wild anemones, Pallas Athene, the
bright-eyed goddess, descended from Olympus, and came to meet Atimos,
who did not recognize her, for she was disguised as an old servant of
King Amphitryon. And the goddess spoke to him thus:

“Divine son of Amphitryon, the man thou hast killed was not a stealer
of cattle, but a good man. The guilty man is easily recognized by the
print of his feet in the dust, for they are larger than those of other
men. The dead man’s conduct was irreproachable, and his life a life of
innocence. Therefore shalt thou pray with tears to the divine Apollo
to restore him to life. Apollo will not refuse thy request if thou
pleadest with outstretched supplicating hands.”

Full of anger, however, Atimos replied:

“I have punished this man for his wickedness. Dost thou think, old man,
that I know not what I do and strike at random? Peace! Get thee gone,
thou madman, or thou shalt repent thy audacity.”

Some young shepherds who were gambolling with their goats upon the
slopes of Cithæron hearing the words of Atimos, received them with such
shouts of praise that the mountain resounded and the ancient pine
trees stirred and quivered. And Pallas Athene, the bright-eyed goddess,
returned to snowy Olympus.

Atimos, however, had resumed his journey, and soon found himself upon
the tracks of the cattle-thief, whom he could see at a little distance
ahead. He recognized him quite easily by his footprints in the sand,
for they were much greater than those of other men.

Then thought the hero to himself, “It is necessary that men believe in
the innocence of this man, so that they may believe I have slain the
guilty one, and that my glory be made known among men.”

With this thought in his mind, he called the man and said to him:
“Friend, I honour thee because thou art good and thy thoughts just.”
Then, drawing from his quiver one of the arrows made by Vulcan, he gave
it to the man with these words, “Take this arrow made by Vulcan. All
those who see thee with it will honour thee, and thou wilt be judged
worthy of the friendship of a hero.”

Thus spoke he. The thief took the arrow and went away. And divine
Athene, the bright-eyed goddess, descended from snowy Olympus. She
disguised herself as a gentle shepherd, and, coming up to Atimos, said:
“Son of Amphitryon, in absolving the guilty man thou hast killed the
innocent a second time. And this action shall not bring thee glory
among men.”

But Atimos did not recognize the goddess, and believing her to be a
shepherd, he cried in fury: “Chicken-heart, vain babbler, dog, I will
tear out thy soul!” And he lifted against Pallas Athene his bow, the
wood of which was harder than the iron of the arrows forged by Vulcan.

       *       *       *       *       *

“The rest is missing,” said M. Bergeret, replacing the papers upon his
table.

“What a pity!” said M. Goubin.

“It is a pity,” said M. Bergeret. “I have been much interested in
translating this Greek text; one must have a change sometimes from
everyday affairs.”



CHAPTER XXIV


As evening fell, Madame de Bonmont with anxious heart hailed a cab
and drove to Rara’s rooms, for she wished to see him again and to
recover the amethyst ring. But she feared some disaster. When the cab
crossed the Pont de l’Europe and stopped in front of her lover’s door
she saw that the road was black with hats and coats. Something was
going on that reminded her of a funeral or a removal. Men were heaping
portfolios and piles of papers into a cab, others were bringing along
a little box which Madame de Bonmont recognised as the old military
trunk filled with stamped papers in which Rara had so often plunged his
flushed arms and his furious, hairy visage.

As she stood there, frozen with terror, she heard the voice of the
dishevelled _concierge_ whisper in her ear:

“Don’t come in. Be off as fast as you can! The police are here with the
magistrate and the commissioner. They have seized your gentleman’s
papers and sealed up everything.”

The cab carried away a prostrate Madame de Bonmont. In the depths of
despair at her lost love she was, however, conscious of this thought:

“And Monseigneur Guitrel’s ring, which has been sealed with the rest!”



CHAPTER XXV


People had been talking about it for three months. M. Bergeret learned
that he had friends in Paris who had never seen him, and friends such
as these are the surest; their actions are governed by sensible,
masterly, positive reasons, and, if only their report is favourable,
they are sure of a hearing. M. Bergeret’s friends thought that his
place was in Paris, and suggested bringing him there. M. Leterrier did
all he could to bring this about, and at last it was arranged.

M. Bergeret was appointed Professor at the Sorbonne. As he left the
house of M. le Doyen Torquet, who had apprised him in the most formal
terms of his nomination, M. Bergeret, finding himself in the street
again, looked at the slate roofs, the familiar free-stone walls,
the shaving basin that swung gently to and fro over the door of the
hairdresser, the sign of the red cow over the milkman’s, and the little
bronze Triton, with water streaming from his mouth, at the corner of
the Faubourg de Josde; and all these familiar things appeared suddenly
strange in his eyes. His feet had suddenly become unacquainted with
the pavements on which he had so long and so often gone his way, with
feet rendered heavy by sadness or fatigue, or made light by some
slight happiness or amusement. The town, with its towers and steeples
standing up against the grey sky, looked to him like some strange,
far-away dream city, rather the picture of a city than the reality.
And the picture grew smaller and smaller. People, as well as things,
seemed far-away and diminished in his eyes. The postman, two women, and
the clerk of the court whom he met, looked, to him, like people on a
cinematograph screen, absolutely unreal and belonging to quite another
world than his.

After a few minutes of this strange feeling, he pulled himself up,
for he was both thoughtful and quick to read his own motives, thus
providing himself with an inexhaustible subject for surprise, sarcasm,
and pity.

“Come now,” he said to himself, “here is a town in which I have lived
for fifteen years, and which suddenly becomes strange to me because
I am about to leave it. More than that, it has, to a certain extent,
already become unreal to me. Now that it is no longer my own town, it
ceases to exist, and is nothing but a vain image. The reason is that
the many interesting things it contains were only interesting in so
far as they directly affected me. As soon as they cease to do that,
they practically do not exist as far as I am concerned. And thus, this
populous city, situated on the hills that border a great river, this
ancient Gaulish town, this colony where the Romans built temples and
a circus; this strong city that went through three memorable sieges,
where two councils were held, which was enriched with a basilica, the
crypt of which is still in existence, a cathedral, a college, sixteen
parish churches, plus sixty chapels, a town hall, markets, hospitals,
and palaces; this town which in very ancient times formed a part of the
royal domain, became the capital of a vast province, and still bears
on the fronton of the governor’s palace, now turned into barracks,
the civic coat of arms surrounded by lions and the Virtues; this town
which to-day contains an archbishop’s palace, a Faculty of Letters,
a Faculty of Science, a Court of Appeal, and a Court of Justice; the
chief town of a rich department only existed in reference to myself. It
was peopled by myself alone; I was the only cause of its existence. It
is high time for me to go; the town is fading away. I never knew that
my mind was subjective to such a mad extent. A man never knows himself,
and is a monster without realizing it.”

Thus did M. Bergeret examine himself with praiseworthy sincerity. As
he was passing the church of Saint-Exupère, however, he stopped under
the porch of the Last Judgment. He had always loved the old legendary
sculptures, and taken an interest in the stories graven upon the stone.
One devil in particular, who had a dog’s head on his shoulders, and
a man’s face on the nether portion of his anatomy, had a peculiar
fascination for him. He was occupied in dragging a long file of damned
souls chained together, and his two countenances expressed absolute
contentment. There was also a little monk whom an angel was trying to
draw up by his hands, while a devil dragged him down by the feet. M.
Bergeret loved that one, but he had never before looked with so much
interest at these objects which he was now on the point of leaving.

He could not take his eyes away from them. The naïve idea of the
universe expressed in stone by men who had been dead for more than five
hundred years touched him, and seemed to him lovable in its absurdity.
He regretted never having studied it more closely or examined it more
sympathetically. He remembered that this porch of the Last Judgment
which he had seen gilded by the rays of the sun and whitened by the
moonbeams, in the joyous summer time and the dark winter days, would
be with him only a little longer, and then he would see it no more.

He realized then that he was attached to things by invisible links not
to be broken asunder without pain, and his heart was suddenly filled
with great veneration for his town. He loved her old walls and her old
trees. He went out of his way to go up the Mall and look at a favourite
elm that grew there, the one he always sat beneath at the close of
the long summer days. The beautiful tree was now bare of foliage, and
its strong, slender framework stood out naked and black against the
sky. M. Bergeret gazed at it long. The tranquil giant was motionless
and silent, and the mystery of its peaceful life gave rise to deep
meditation on the part of the man who was about to enter upon a new
phase of his destiny.

It was thus M. Bergeret learned that he loved his mother soil and the
town where he had suffered tribulation and tasted quiet happiness.



CHAPTER XXVI


Monseigneur Guitrel, Bishop of Tourcoing, addressed to the President of
the Republic the following letter, the text of which was published _in
extenso_ by the _Semaine religieuse_, the _Vérité_, the _Étendard_, the
_Études sérieuses_, and several other diocesan papers:

    “MONSIEUR LE PRÉSIDENT,

    “Before bringing to your notice several just causes for
    complaint and divers claims which are only too well founded,
    allow me for one short instant to enjoy the keen delight of
    feeling that I am in perfect accord with you on a point which
    must affect us both; allow me, realizing as I do the feelings
    that must have swayed you during these long days of trial and
    of consolation, to join with you in an outburst of patriotic
    gratitude. Oh, how your generous soul must have suffered when
    you saw that handful of misguided men cast insult at the Army
    under the pretext of defending justice and truth, as though
    justice and truth could exist in opposition to social order
    and the hierarchy of power established by God Himself upon this
    earth! And how that heart of yours must have rejoiced at the
    sight of the whole nation, without exception of party, rising
    as one man to acclaim our brave Army, the Army of Clovis,
    Charlemagne, and St. Louis, of Godefroy de Bouillon, Jeanne
    d’Arc and Bayard; to embrace her cause and avenge her wrongs.
    Oh, with what satisfaction must you have witnessed the watchful
    wisdom of the nation as it frustrated the devices of the proud
    and the evil-doer!

    “Certainly one cannot deny that the honour of such praiseworthy
    conduct is due to France as a whole. But you are too
    clear-sighted, M. le Président, not to have recognized the
    Church and her faithful members in the van of the supporters of
    law and authority. They were in the front rank of the battle,
    saluting with confidence and respect the Army and her chiefs.
    And was it not the right place for the servants of Him Who has
    called Himself the God of Armies, and Who, to use the words of
    Bossuet, has sanctified them in calling Himself by that name?
    Thus you will always find in us the surest upholders of law
    and order, and the obedience which we have not refused even
    to princes that persecuted us will never tire. In return for
    this may your Government ever look peacefully upon us, and so
    make our obedience a joy! Our hearts must exult at sight of
    the warlike array which makes us feared by other nations, and
    at sight of you yourself in your place of honour, surrounded
    by your brilliant staff, like King Saul, that great and
    courageous man who always attached the bravest warriors to his
    person. _Nam quemcumque viderat Saul virum fortem et aptum ad
    prœlium, sociabat eum sibi_ (1 Kings xiv. 52).

    “Oh, would that I could end this letter as I have commenced it,
    with words of joy and gladness, and how happy should I be, M.
    le Président, if I could associate your venerated name with the
    declaration of peace in the Church as I have associated it with
    the victories gained before our eyes by the spirit of authority
    over the spirit of discord. But, alas, it cannot be! I must
    bring to your notice a subject of great sorrow; must afflict
    your soul by the spectacle of a great grief. I shall accomplish
    an irresistible duty in bringing your mind to bear upon an open
    and bleeding wound which must be healed. It is to my interest
    to tell you certain painful truths, and to your interest to
    listen. My pastoral duty compels me to speak. Placed by the
    grace of the Sovereign Pontiff upon the See of the Blessed
    Saint Loup, successor as I am of so many holy apostles and
    vigilant pastors, should I be the legitimate heir of their
    devoted labours if I had not the courage to continue them?
    _Alii laboraverunt, et vos in labores eorum introistis_ (Ecc.
    viii. 9). It is therefore fitting that my feeble voice should
    uplift itself until it reach your ears. It is also fitting that
    you lend an attentive ear to my words, for the subject I am
    about to discuss is worthy the thought of a ruler. _Princeps
    vero ea, quæ digna sunt principe, cogitabit_ (Is. xxxii.).

    “But how can I broach the subject without immediately feeling
    myself overcome by overwhelming grief? How can I, without
    weeping, point out to you the state of the religious whose
    spiritual head I am? For it is of them I would speak, M. le
    Président. As I entered my diocese, how heart-rending were the
    sights that met my gaze on all sides. In the sacred buildings
    consecrated to the education of children, the cure of the sick,
    and the care of the aged, the instruction of our priests and
    the contemplation of the divine mysteries, I found nothing but
    anxious faces and sad looks. There, where the joy of innocence
    and the quietude of labour formerly reigned, a dark anxiety
    has settled. Sighs go up to heaven, and from all lips the same
    cry of anguish, ‘Who will care for our sick and aged? What
    will become of our little children? Where shall we retire to
    pray?’ These were the words that greeted the shepherd of the
    diocese of Tourcoing, such were the words of the monks and nuns
    who knelt at his feet and kissed his hands, for they have
    been robbed of that which is theirs by right, of that which is
    also the right of our poor, our widows and orphans, the bread
    of our clergy, and the viaticum of our missionaries. Thus, at
    the moment of total ruin, our monks and nuns bewailed their
    fate while they waited for the tax-collectors to outrage the
    sanctuary of our cloistered virgins, and even to seize the
    sacred vessels on the altar.

    “This, then, is the state to which our religious communities
    are reduced by the enforcement of the different taxation laws
    to which I have referred, if such mad and criminal enactments
    can be called laws. If you will but examine the position in
    which our religious orders are placed by these spoliative
    measures, dignified by the name of laws, the expressions
    of which I make use will not appear to you excessive, and
    a moment’s attention on your part will make you share my
    feelings. Having regard to the fact that religious bodies are
    subject to the general taxation, it is iniquitous to force
    further taxes upon them; that will at once strike you as an
    injustice, and I can point out others equally unjust. But as
    regards this thing in particular, M. le Président, allow me to
    protest both firmly and respectfully. I have not sufficient
    authority to speak in the name of the entire Church, but I am
    sure that I do not stray from the right path when I declare
    as an essential principle of justice that the State has no
    right to impose burdens upon the Church. The Church pays what
    is demanded of her, she pays as an act of grace, but she is
    under no obligation to do so. Her ancient exemption from
    taxation proceeded from her sovereignty, for the sovereign
    pays no tribute. She can always enter a claim to those ancient
    rights when and where it suits her convenience; she can no more
    renounce her just claims than she can renounce her duties and
    sovereign privileges, and, as matters are, she gives proof of
    the most admirable powers of renunciation. That is all. Having
    stated my objections, I will now proceed with my evidence.

    “The religious bodies are subject to the following duties:

    “Firstly, general taxation, as I have just stated.

    “Secondly, taxes on inalienable property.

    “Thirdly, a tax of four per cent on income (Acts of 1880 and
    1884).

    “Fourthly, liability under the ‘droit d’accroissement,’ the
    monstrous effects of which are supposed to have been modified
    by what is called the ‘droit d’abonnement,’ by which the
    Government annually deducts from the estimated portion of
    deceased members the sum of eleven francs twenty-five per
    cent, including the decimes. It is true that, by a mock
    kindness which is in reality merely a refinement of perfidy
    and injustice, the law allows the charitable and educational
    institutions to be relieved of this charge, on account of their
    utility, as though the houses where our holy women pray God
    to pardon the crimes of France and to enlighten her blinded
    rulers were not as useful, more useful even, than schools and
    hospitals!

    “But it was necessary to disunite the common interests, and in
    order to do so differential treatment had to be meted out. The
    idea was to disintegrate and paralyse resistance; this again
    was the idea that actuated the Government when they fixed the
    tax of 30 per cent for recognized religious institutions, and
    at 40 per cent for the unrecognized, payable annually, on the
    value of property both real and personal, so that the latter,
    who are not permitted to hold property, are judged liable to
    pay, and to pay even more than the others.

    “To sum up, for the further burden of our religious bodies to
    the common taxes are added the tax on inalienable property,
    the income tax of 4 per cent, and the so-called increment
    duties, which are not modified but accentuated by what is
    called the ‘droit d’abonnement’ or subscription duty. Is this
    endurable? Is it possible to find in the whole world another
    such abominable example of spoliation? No, you must admit, M.
    le Président, that it is not.

    “And when the religious orders of my diocese asked me what
    they were to do, could I give them any other reply than the
    following: ‘Resist the law! It is your right and duty to oppose
    injustice! Resist the law! Say to them, “We cannot do it. _Non
    possumus._”’

    “They are resolved so to do, M. le Président, and all our
    religious bodies, recognized or unrecognized, teaching,
    charitable or cloistered, destined to foreign missions or
    to lives of monastic retreat, are agreed, in spite of the
    inequality with which they are assessed, upon a stubborn
    resistance. They have realized that the different forms
    of treatment meted out to them by your so-called laws are
    uniformly iniquitous, and that it behoves them to join together
    in a common defence. Their resolve is unshakable. After having
    paved the way to it, I support their resolution, and in so
    doing feel assured that I am not failing in the obedience I
    owe to authority and to the law, and which I whole-heartedly
    render to you both as a matter of conscience and religion. I
    feel sure that I am not misjudging your power, which can only
    be exercised for the maintenance of justice. _Ecce in justitia
    regnabit rex_ (Paralip. xxii. 22).

    “In his pastoral letter _Diuturnum illud_ His Holiness Leo XIII
    has expressly declared that the faithful may dispense with
    obedience to civil power if the latter issue orders that openly
    disregard natural and divine rights. ‘If a man,’ he has said
    in this admirable letter, ‘finds himself forced to infringe
    either the law of God or the law of man, he should follow the
    precepts of Jesus Christ, and reply like the apostles, “It is
    better to obey God than man.” To act thus is not to merit the
    reproach of disobedience, for as soon as the will of a ruler is
    in opposition to the will and law of God he exceeds his power,
    justice is corrupted, and henceforth his authority is impotent
    because, in so far as it is unjust, it ceases to exist.’

    “Believe me it is not without deep and protracted meditation
    that I have encouraged the religious bodies under my control
    to make the necessary resistance. I have weighed the temporal
    loss that may, perhaps, result, and such consideration has
    not stopped me. When we reply to your tax-gatherers, ‘_Non
    possumus_,’ you will attempt to overcome our resistance by
    force. But how will you achieve your end? Will you lay hands
    upon our recognized bodies? Dare you? Upon our non-recognized
    bodies? Can you? Will you show a pitiful courage and sell our
    goods and the objects dedicated to divine worship? And if it
    is indeed true that neither the poverty of the former nor
    the sacred nature of the latter will preserve them from your
    rapacity, you must learn, and the wives and children of those
    who aid and abet you must learn, that those who enter upon
    such a course run the risk of excommunication, the terrible
    effects of which strike fear into even the most hardened
    sinners. And all those who consent to buy anything proceeding
    from any such unlawful sale expose themselves to the same
    penalty.

    “And if we are robbed of our belongings, hunted from our
    dwellings, the injury will not be to us, but to you, who will
    be covered with the shame of unprecedented scandal. You can
    retaliate most cruelly upon us, but no threat can frighten
    us; we fear neither prison nor chains. The manacled hands of
    priests and confessors have delivered the Church ere now. Come
    what may, we shall pay nothing, we may not, we cannot. _Non
    possumus._

    “Before arriving at such an extremity I thought it only right,
    M. le Président, to place the matter before you, in the hope
    that you would inquire into it with the whole-hearted firmness
    God bestows upon the rulers who place their trust in Him.
    May you, with His help, find a remedy for the crying evils I
    have placed before you. God grant, M. le Président, God grant
    that, when you have examined the injustice of the taxation
    as regards our religious bodies, you may be guided less by
    your counsellors than by your own sense of justice. For, if
    the chief may take counsel of others, it is his own counsel
    he should follow. As Solomon has said, ‘Counsel in the heart
    of a man is like unto deep water.’ _Sicut aqua profunda, sic
    consilium in corde viri_ (Prov. xx. 5).

    “With the deepest respect, etc., I have the honour, M. le
    Président, to be

                        “Your obedient servant,
                                          “JOACHIM,
                                 “Bishop of Tourcoing.”

The letter of the Bishop of Tourcoing was published on January 14th.

On the 30th of the same month the _Agence Hava_ sent the following
communication to the papers:

“The cabinet met yesterday at the Élysée. It was decided at the meeting
that the Minister of Public Worship should apply to the Council
d’État for a writ against Monseigneur Guitrel, Bishop of Tourcoing,
in connexion with a letter addressed by him to the President of the
Republic.”



Transcriber’s Note:

Spelling and hyphenation have been retained as published except the
following:

    Page 39
    esctasy of admiration at _changed to_
    ecstasy of admiration at

    Page 117
    carrrying in front of her _changed to_
    carrying in front of her

    Page 175
    Superscript is shown with a preceding ^ as in “No. 3715^8”





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