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Title: An Attic Philosopher in Paris — Complete
Author: Souvestre, Émile
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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AN “ATTIC” PHILOSOPHER

(Un Philosophe sous les Toits)

By EMILE SOUVESTRE



With a Preface by JOSEPH BERTRAND, of the French Academy



EMILE SOUVESTRE

No one succeeds in obtaining a prominent place in literature, or in
surrounding himself with a faithful and steady circle of admirers drawn
from the fickle masses of the public, unless he possesses originality,
constant variety, and a distinct personality. It is quite possible to
gain for a moment a few readers by imitating some original feature
in another; but these soon vanish and the writer remains alone and
forgotten. Others, again, without belonging to any distinct group
of authors, having found their standard in themselves, moralists and
educators at the same time, have obtained undying recognition.

Of the latter class, though little known outside of France, is Emile
Souvestre, who was born in Morlaix, April 15, 1806, and died at Paris
July 5, 1854. He was the son of a civil engineer, was educated at
the college of Pontivy, and intended to follow his father’s career by
entering the Polytechnic School. His father, however, died in 1823, and
Souvestre matriculated as a law-student at Rennes. But the young student
soon devoted himself entirely to literature. His first essay, a tragedy,
‘Le Siege de Missolonghi’ (1828), was a pronounced failure. Disheartened
and disgusted he left Paris and established himself first as a lawyer
in Morlaix. Then he became proprietor of a newspaper, and was afterward
appointed a professor in Brest and in Mulhouse. In 1836 he contributed
to the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’ some sketches of life in Brittany, which
obtained a brilliant success. Souvestre was soon made editor of La
Revue de Paris, and in consequence early found a publisher for his first
novel, ‘L’Echelle de Femmes’, which, as was the case with his second
work, Riche et Pauvre’, met with a very favorable reception. His
reputation was now made, and between this period and his death he gave
to France about sixty volumes--tales, novels, essays, history, and
drama.

A double purpose was always very conspicuous in his books: he aspired to
the role of a moralist and educator, and was likewise a most impressive
painter of the life, character, and morals of the inhabitants of
Brittany.

The most significant of his books are perhaps ‘Les Derniers Bretons
(1835-1837, 4 vols.), Pierre Landais (1843, 2 vols.), Le Foyer Breton
(1844, 2 vols.), Un Philosophe sons les Toits, crowned by the Academy
(1850), Confessions d’un Ouvrier (1851), Recits et Souvenirs (1853),
Souvenirs d’un Vieillard (1854); also La Bretagne Pittoresque (1845),
and, finally, Causeries Historiques et Litteraires (1854, 2 vols.)’.
His comedies deserve honorable mention: ‘Henri Hamelin, L’Oncle Baptiste
(1842), La Parisienne, Le Mousse, etc’. In 1848, Souvestre was appointed
professor of the newly created school of administration, mostly devoted
to popular lectures. He held this post till 1853, lecturing partly in
Paris, partly in Switzerland.

His death, when comparatively young, left a distinct gap in the literary
world. A life like his could not be extinguished without general sorrow.
Although he was unduly modest, and never aspired to the role of a
beacon-light in literature, always seeking to remain in obscurity,
the works of Emile Souvestre must be placed in the first rank by their
morality and by their instructive character. They will always command
the entire respect and applause of mankind. And thus it happens that,
like many others, he was only fully appreciated after his death.

Even those of his ‘confreres’ who did not seem to esteem him, when
alive, suddenly found out that they had experienced a great loss in
his demise. They expressed it in emotional panegyrcs; contemporaneous
literature discovered that virtue had flown from its bosom, and the
French Academy, which had at its proper time crowned his ‘Philosophe
sons les Toits’ as a work contributing supremely to morals, kept his
memory green by bestowing on his widow the “Prix Lambert,” designed for
the “families of authors who by their integrity, and by the probity
of their efforts have well deserved this token from the Republique des
Lettres.”

                    JOSEPH BERTRAND
                  de ‘Academie Francaise.



AN “ATTIC” PHILOSOPHER



BOOK 1.



CHAPTER I. NEW-YEAR’S GIFTS

January 1st

The day of the month came into my mind as soon as I awoke. Another year
is separated from the chain of ages, and drops into the gulf of the
past! The crowd hasten to welcome her young sister. But while all looks
are turned toward the future, mine revert to the past. Everyone smiles
upon the new queen; but, in spite of myself, I think of her whom time
has just wrapped in her winding-sheet. The past year!--at least I know
what she was, and what she has given me; while this one comes surrounded
by all the forebodings of the unknown. What does she hide in the clouds
that mantle her? Is it the storm or the sunshine? Just now it rains, and
I feel my mind as gloomy as the sky. I have a holiday today; but what
can one do on a rainy day? I walk up and down my attic out of temper,
and I determine to light my fire.

Unfortunately the matches are bad, the chimney smokes, the wood goes
out! I throw down my bellows in disgust, and sink into my old armchair.

In truth, why should I rejoice to see the birth of a new year? All those
who are already in the streets, with holiday looks and smiling faces--do
they understand what makes them so gay? Do they even know what is the
meaning of this holiday, or whence comes the custom of New-Year’s gifts?

Here my mind pauses to prove to itself its superiority over that of the
vulgar. I make a parenthesis in my ill-temper in favor of my vanity, and
I bring together all the evidence which my knowledge can produce.

(The old Romans divided the year into ten months only; it was Numa
Pompilius who added January and February. The former took its name
from Janus, to whom it was dedicated. As it opened the new year, they
surrounded its beginning with good omens, and thence came the custom of
visits between neighbors, of wishing happiness, and of New-Year’s gifts.
The presents given by the Romans were symbolic. They consisted of dry
figs, dates, honeycomb, as emblems of “the sweetness of the auspices
under which the year should begin its course,” and a small piece of
money called stips, which foreboded riches.)

Here I close the parenthesis, and return to my ill-humor. The
little speech I have just addressed to myself has restored me my
self-satisfaction, but made me more dissatisfied with others. I could
now enjoy my breakfast; but the portress has forgotten my morning’s
milk, and the pot of preserves is empty! Anyone else would have been
vexed: as for me, I affect the most supreme indifference. There remains
a hard crust, which I break by main strength, and which I carelessly
nibble, as a man far above the vanities of the world and of fresh rolls.

However, I do not know why my thoughts should grow more gloomy by
reason of the difficulties of mastication. I once read the story of
an Englishman who hanged himself because they had brought him his tea
without sugar. There are hours in life when the most trifling cross
takes the form of a calamity. Our tempers are like an opera-glass, which
makes the object small or great according to the end you look through.

Usually, the prospect that opens out before my window delights me. It is
a mountain-range of roofs, with ridges crossing, interlacing, and piled
on one another, and upon which tall chimneys raise their peaks. It was
but yesterday that they had an Alpine aspect to me, and I waited for the
first snowstorm to see glaciers among them; to-day, I only see tiles
and stone flues. The pigeons, which assisted my rural illusions, seem
no more than miserable birds which have mistaken the roof for the back
yard; the smoke, which rises in light clouds, instead of making me
dream of the panting of Vesuvius, reminds me of kitchen preparations
and dishwater; and lastly, the telegraph, that I see far off on the old
tower of Montmartre, has the effect of a vile gallows stretching its
arms over the city.

My eyes, thus hurt by all they meet, fall upon the great man’s house
which faces my attic.

The influence of New-Year’s Day is visible there. The servants have an
air of eagerness proportioned to the value of their New-Year’s gifts,
received or expected. I see the master of the house crossing the court
with the morose look of a man who is forced to be generous; and
the visitors increase, followed by shop porters who carry flowers,
bandboxes, or toys. Suddenly the great gates are opened, and a new
carriage, drawn by thoroughbred horses, draws up before the doorsteps.
They are, without doubt, the New-Year’s gift presented to the mistress
of the house by her husband; for she comes herself to look at the new
equipage. Very soon she gets into it with a little girl, all streaming
with laces, feathers and velvets, and loaded with parcels which she goes
to distribute as New-Year’s gifts. The door is shut, the windows are
drawn up, the carriage sets off.

Thus all the world are exchanging good wishes and presents to-day. I
alone have nothing to give or to receive. Poor Solitary! I do not even
know one chosen being for whom I might offer a prayer.

Then let my wishes for a happy New Year go and seek out all my unknown
friends--lost in the multitude which murmurs like the ocean at my feet!

To you first, hermits in cities, for whom death and poverty have
created a solitude in the midst of the crowd! unhappy laborers, who are
condemned to toil in melancholy, and eat your daily bread in silence
and desertion, and whom God has withdrawn from the intoxicating pangs of
love and friendship!

To you, fond dreamers, who pass through life with your eyes turned
toward some polar star, while you tread with indifference over the rich
harvests of reality!

To you, honest fathers, who lengthen out the evening to maintain your
families! to you, poor widows, weeping and working by a cradle! to you,
young men, resolutely set to open for yourselves a path in life, large
enough to lead through it the wife of your choice! to you, all brave
soldiers of work and of self-sacrifice!

To you, lastly, whatever your title and your name, who love good, who
pity the suffering; who walk through the world like the symbolical
Virgin of Byzantium, with both arms open to the human race!

Here I am suddenly interrupted by loud and increasing chirpings. I look
about me: my window is surrounded with sparrows picking up the crumbs of
bread which in my brown study I had just scattered on the roof. At this
sight a flash of light broke upon my saddened heart. I deceived myself
just now, when I complained that I had nothing to give: thanks to me,
the sparrows of this part of the town will have their New-Year’s gifts!

Twelve o’clock.--A knock at my door; a poor girl comes in, and greets
me by name. At first I do not recollect her; but she looks at me, and
smiles. Ah! it is Paulette! But it is almost a year since I have seen
her, and Paulette is no longer the same: the other day she was a child,
now she is almost a young woman.

Paulette is thin, pale, and miserably clad; but she has always the same
open and straightforward look--the same mouth, smiling at every word,
as if to court your sympathy--the same voice, somewhat timid, yet
expressing fondness. Paulette is not pretty--she is even thought plain;
as for me, I think her charming. Perhaps that is not on her account, but
on my own. Paulette appears to me as one of my happiest recollections.

It was the evening of a public holiday. Our principal buildings were
illuminated with festoons of fire, a thousand flags waved in the night
winds, and the fireworks had just shot forth their spouts of flame into
the midst of the Champ de Mars. Suddenly, one of those unaccountable
alarms which strike a multitude with panic fell upon the dense crowd:
they cry out, they rush on headlong; the weaker ones fall, and the
frightened crowd tramples them down in its convulsive struggles. I
escaped from the confusion by a miracle, and was hastening away, when
the cries of a perishing child arrested me: I reentered that human
chaos, and, after unheard-of exertions, I brought Paulette out of it at
the peril of my life.

That was two years ago: since then I had not seen the child again but
at long intervals, and I had almost forgotten her; but Paulette’s memory
was that of a grateful heart, and she came at the beginning of the year
to offer me her wishes for my happiness. She brought me, besides, a
wallflower in full bloom; she herself had planted and reared it: it was
something that belonged wholly to herself; for it was by her care, her
perseverance, and her patience, that she had obtained it.

The wallflower had grown in a common pot; but Paulette, who is a
bandbox-maker, had put it into a case of varnished paper, ornamented
with arabesques. These might have been in better taste, but I did not
feel the attention and good-will the less.

This unexpected present, the little girl’s modest blushes, the
compliments she stammered out, dispelled, as by a sunbeam, the kind of
mist which had gathered round my mind; my thoughts suddenly changed
from the leaden tints of evening to the brightest colors of dawn. I made
Paulette sit down, and questioned her with a light heart.

At first the little girl replied in monosyllables; but very soon
the tables were turned, and it was I who interrupted with short
interjections her long and confidential talk. The poor child leads a
hard life. She was left an orphan long since, with a brother and sister,
and lives with an old grandmother, who has “brought them up to poverty,”
 as she always calls it.

However, Paulette now helps her to make bandboxes, her little sister
Perrine begins to use the needle, and her brother Henry is apprentice
to a printer. All would go well if it were not for losses and want of
work--if it were not for clothes which wear out, for appetites which
grow larger, and for the winter, when you cannot get sunshine for
nothing. Paulette complains that her candles go too quickly, and that
her wood costs too much. The fireplace in their garret is so large that
a fagot makes no more show in it than a match; it is so near the roof
that the wind blows the rain down it, and in winter it hails upon the
hearth; so they have left off using it. Henceforth they must be content
with an earthen chafing-dish, upon which they cook their meals. The
grandmother had often spoken of a stove that was for sale at the
broker’s close by; but he asked seven francs for it, and the times are
too hard for such an expense: the family, therefore, resign themselves
to cold for economy!

As Paulette spoke, I felt more and more that I was losing my fretfulness
and low spirits. The first disclosures of the little bandbox-maker
created within me a wish that soon became a plan. I questioned her about
her daily occupations, and she informed me that on leaving me she must
go, with her brother, her sister, and grandmother, to the different
people for whom they work. My plan was immediately settled. I told the
child that I would go to see her in the evening, and I sent her away
with fresh thanks.

I placed the wallflower in the open window, where a ray of sunshine bid
it welcome; the birds were singing around, the sky had cleared up, and
the day, which began so loweringly, had become bright. I sang as I moved
about my room, and, having hastily put on my hat and coat, I went out.

Three o’clock.--All is settled with my neighbor, the chimney-doctor; he
will repair my old stove, and answers for its being as good as new.
At five o’clock we are to set out, and put it up in Paulette’s
grandmother’s room.

Midnight.--All has gone off well. At the hour agreed upon, I was at the
old bandbox-maker’s; she was still out. My Piedmontese

   [In Paris a chimney-sweeper is named “Piedmontese” or “Savoyard,”
    as they usually come from that country.]

fixed the stove, while I arranged a dozen logs in the great fireplace,
taken from my winter stock. I shall make up for them by warming myself
with walking, or by going to bed earlier.

My heart beat at every step that was heard on the staircase; I trembled
lest they should interrupt me in my preparations, and should thus spoil
my intended surprise. But no!--see everything ready: the lighted stove
murmurs gently, the little lamp burns upon the table, and a bottle of
oil for it is provided on the shelf. The chimney-doctor is gone. Now
my fear lest they should come is changed into impatience at their not
coming. At last I hear children’s voices; here they are: they push open
the door and rush in--but they all stop in astonishment.

At the sight of the lamp, the stove, and the visitor, who stands there
like a magician in the midst of these wonders, they draw back almost
frightened. Paulette is the first to comprehend it, and the arrival of
the grandmother, who is more slowly mounting the stairs, finishes the
explanation. Then come tears, ecstasies, thanks!

But the wonders are not yet ended. The little sister opens the oven, and
discovers some chestnuts just roasted; the grandmother puts her hand on
the bottles of cider arranged on the dresser; and I draw forth from the
basket that I have hidden a cold tongue, a pot of butter, and some fresh
rolls.

Now their wonder turns into admiration; the little family have never
seen such a feast! They lay the cloth, they sit down, they eat; it is
a complete banquet for all, and each contributes his share to it. I had
brought only the supper: and the bandbox-maker and her children supplied
the enjoyment.

What bursts of laughter at nothing! What a hubbub of questions which
waited for no reply, of replies which answered no question! The old
woman herself shared in the wild merriment of the little ones! I
have always been struck at the ease with which the poor forget their
wretchedness. Being used to live only for the present, they make a gain
of every pleasure as soon as it offers itself. But the surfeited rich
are more difficult to satisfy: they require time and everything to suit
before they will consent to be happy.

The evening has passed like a moment. The old woman told me the history
of her life, sometimes smiling, sometimes drying her eyes. Perrine sang
an old ballad with her fresh young voice. Henry told us what he knows of
the great writers of the day, to whom he has to carry their proofs. At
last we were obliged to separate, not without fresh thanks on the part
of the happy family.

I have come home slowly, ruminating with a full heart, and pure
enjoyment, on the simple events of my evening. It has given me much
comfort and much instruction. Now, no New-Year’s Day will come amiss
to me; I know that no one is so unhappy as to have nothing to give and
nothing to receive.

As I came in, I met my rich neighbor’s new equipage. She, too, had
just returned from her evening’s party; and, as she sprang from the
carriage-step with feverish impatience, I heard her murmur “At last!”

I, when I left Paulette’s family, said “So soon!”



CHAPTER II. THE CARNIVAL

February 20th

What a noise out of doors! What is the meaning of these shouts and
cries? Ah! I recollect: this is the last day of the Carnival, and the
maskers are passing.

Christianity has not been able to abolish the noisy bacchanalian
festivals of the pagan times, but it has changed the names. That which
it has given to these “days of liberty” announces the ending of the
feasts, and the month of fasting which should follow; carn-ival means,
literally, “farewell to flesh!” It is a forty days’ farewell to the
“blessed pullets and fat hams,” so celebrated by Pantagruel’s minstrel.
Man prepares for privation by satiety, and finishes his sin thoroughly
before he begins to repent.

Why, in all ages and among every people, do we meet with some one of
these mad festivals? Must we believe that it requires such an effort
for men to be reasonable, that the weaker ones have need of rest at
intervals? The monks of La Trappe, who are condemned to silence by their
rule, are allowed to speak once in a month, and on this day they all
talk at once from the rising to the setting of the sun.

Perhaps it is the same in the world. As we are obliged all the year to
be decent, orderly, and reasonable, we make up for such a long restraint
during the Carnival. It is a door opened to the incongruous fancies and
wishes that have hitherto been crowded back into a corner of our brain.
For a moment the slaves become the masters, as in the days of the
Saturnalia, and all is given up to the “fools of the family.”

The shouts in the square redouble; the troops of masks increase--on
foot, in carriages, and on horseback. It is now who can attract the most
attention by making a figure for a few hours, or by exciting curiosity
or envy; to-morrow they will all return, dull and exhausted, to the
employments and troubles of yesterday.

Alas! thought I with vexation, each of us is like these masqueraders;
our whole life is often but an unsightly Carnival! And yet man has need
of holidays, to relax his mind, rest his body, and open his heart. Can
he not have them, then, with these coarse pleasures? Economists have
been long inquiring what is the best disposal of the industry of the
human race. Ah! if I could only discover the best disposal of its
leisure! It is easy enough to find it work; but who will find it
relaxation? Work supplies the daily bread; but it is cheerfulness that
gives it a relish. O philosophers! go in quest of pleasure! find us
amusements without brutality, enjoyments without selfishness; in a word,
invent a Carnival that will please everybody, and bring shame to no one.

Three o’clock.--I have just shut my window, and stirred up my fire. As
this is a holiday for everybody, I will make it one for myself, too. So
I light the little lamp over which, on grand occasions, I make a cup of
the coffee that my portress’s son brought from the Levant, and I look in
my bookcase for one of my favorite authors.

First, here is the amusing parson of Meudon; but his characters are
too fond of talking slang:--Voltaire; but he disheartens men by always
bantering them:--Moliere; but he hinders one’s laughter by making one
think:--Lesage; let us stop at him. Being profound rather than grave, he
preaches virtue while ridiculing vice; if bitterness is sometimes to be
found in his writings, it is always in the garb of mirth: he sees the
miseries of the world without despising it, and knows its cowardly
tricks without hating it.

Let us call up all the heroes of his book.... Gil Blas, Fabrice,
Sangrado, the Archbishop of Granada, the Duke of Lerma, Aurora, Scipio!
Ye gay or graceful figures, rise before my eyes, people my solitude;
bring hither for my amusement the world-carnival, of which you are the
brilliant maskers!

Unfortunately, at the very moment I made this invocation, I recollected
I had a letter to write which could not be put off. One of my attic
neighbors came yesterday to ask me to do it. He is a cheerful old man,
and has a passion for pictures and prints. He comes home almost every
day with a drawing or painting--probably of little value; for I know he
lives penuriously, and even the letter that I am to write for him shows
his poverty. His only son, who was married in England, is just dead,
and his widow--left without any means, and with an old mother and a
child--had written to beg for a home. M. Antoine asked me first to
translate the letter, and then to write a refusal. I had promised that
he should have this answer to-day: before everything, let us fulfil our
promises.

The sheet of “Bath” paper is before me, I have dipped my pen into the
ink, and I rub my forehead to invite forth a sally of ideas, when I
perceive that I have not my dictionary. Now, a Parisian who would speak
English without a dictionary is like a child without leading-strings;
the ground trembles under him, and he stumbles at the first step. I run
then to the bookbinder’s, where I left my Johnson, who lives close by in
the square.

The door is half open; I hear low groans; I enter without knocking, and
I see the bookbinder by the bedside of his fellow-lodger. This latter
has a violent fever and delirium. Pierre looks at him perplexed and out
of humor. I learn from him that his comrade was not able to get up in
the morning, and that since then he has become worse every hour.

I ask whether they have sent for a doctor.

“Oh, yes, indeed!” replied Pierre, roughly; “one must have money
in one’s pocket for that, and this fellow has only debts instead of
savings.”

“But you,” said I, rather astonished; “are you not his friend?”

“Friend!” interrupted the bookbinder. “Yes, as much as the shaft-horse
is friend to the leader--on condition that each will take his share of
the draught, and eat his feed by himself.”

“You do not intend, however, to leave him without any help?”

“Bah! he may keep in his bed till to-morrow, as I’m going to the ball.”

“You mean to leave him alone?”

“Well! must I miss a party of pleasure at Courtville--[A Parisian summer
resort.]--because this fellow is lightheaded?” asked Pierre, sharply. “I
have promised to meet some friends at old Desnoyer’s. Those who are sick
may take their broth; my physic is white wine.”

So saying, he untied a bundle, out of which he took the fancy costume of
a waterman, and proceeded to dress himself in it.

In vain I tried to awaken some fellow-feeling for the unfortunate man
who lay groaning there close by him; being entirely taken up with the
thoughts of his expected pleasure, Pierre would hardly so much as hear
me. At last his coarse selfishness provoked me. I began reproaching
instead of remonstrating with him, and I declared him responsible for
the consequences which such a desertion must bring upon the sick man.

At this the bookbinder, who was just going, stopped with an oath,
and stamped his foot. “Am I to spend my Carnival in heating water for
footbaths, pray?”

“You must not leave your comrade to die without help!” I replied.

“Let him go to the hospital, then!”

“How can he by himself?”

Pierre seemed to make up his mind.

“Well, I’m going to take him,” resumed he; “besides, I shall get rid of
him sooner. Come, get up, comrade!” He shook his comrade, who had not
taken off his clothes. I observed that he was too weak to walk, but the
bookbinder would not listen: he made him get up, and half dragged,
half supported him to the lodge of the porter, who ran for a hackney
carriage. I saw the sick man get into it, almost fainting, with the
impatient waterman; and they both set off, one perhaps to die, the other
to dine at Courtville Gardens!

Six o’clock.--I have been to knock at my neighbor’s door, who opened it
himself; and I have given him his letter, finished at last, and directed
to his son’s widow. M. Antoine thanked me gratefully, and made me sit
down.

It was the first time I had been into the attic of the old amateur.
Curtains stained with damp and hanging down in rags, a cold stove, a bed
of straw, two broken chairs, composed all the furniture. At the end of
the room were a great number of prints in a heap, and paintings without
frames turned against the wall.

At the moment I came in, the old man was making his dinner on some hard
crusts of bread, which he was soaking in a glass of ‘eau sucree’. He
perceived that my eyes fell upon his hermit fare, and he looked a little
ashamed.

“There is nothing to tempt you in my supper, neighbor,” said he, with a
smile.

I replied that at least I thought it a very philosophical one for the
Carnival.

M. Antoine shook his head, and went on again with his supper.

“Every one keeps his holidays in his own way,” resumed he, beginning
again to dip a crust into his glass. “There are several sorts of
epicures, and not all feasts are meant to regale the palate; there are
some also for the ears and the eyes.”

I looked involuntarily round me, as if to seek for the invisible banquet
which could make up to him for such a supper.

Without doubt he understood me; for he got up slowly, and, with the
magisterial air of a man confident in what he is about to do, he
rummaged behind several picture frames, drew forth a painting, over
which he passed his hand, and silently placed it under the light of the
lamp.

It represented a fine-looking old man, seated at table with his wife,
his daughter, and his children, and singing to the accompaniment of
musicians who appeared in the background. At first sight I recognized
the subject, which I had often admired at the Louvre, and I declared it
to be a splendid copy of Jordaens.

“A copy!” cried M. Antoine; “say an original, neighbor, and an original
retouched by Rubens! Look closer at the head of the old man, the
dress of the young woman, and the accessories. One can count
the pencil-strokes of the Hercules of painters. It is not only a
masterpiece, sir; it is a treasure--a relic! The picture at the Louvre
may be a pearl, this is a diamond!”

And resting it against the stove, so as to place it in the best light,
he fell again to soaking his crusts, without taking his eyes off the
wonderful picture. One would have said that the sight of it gave the
crusts an unexpected relish, for he chewed them slowly, and emptied
his glass by little sips. His shrivelled features became smooth, his
nostrils expanded; it was indeed, as he said himself, “a feast for the
eyes.”

“You see that I also have my treat,” he resumed, nodding his head with
an air of triumph. “Others may run after dinners and balls; as for me,
this is the pleasure I give myself for my Carnival.”

“But if this painting is really so precious,” replied I, “it ought to be
worth a high price.”

“Eh! eh!” said M. Antoine, with an air of proud indifference. “In good
times, a good judge might value it at somewhere about twenty thousand
francs.”

I started back.

“And you have bought it?” cried I.

“For nothing,” replied he, lowering his voice. “These brokers are asses;
mine mistook this for a student’s copy; he let me have it for fifty
louis, ready money! This morning I took them to him, and now he wishes
to be off the bargain.”

“This morning!” repeated I, involuntarily casting my eyes on the letter
containing the refusal that M. Antoine had made me write to his son’s
widow, which was still on the little table.

He took no notice of my exclamation, and went on contemplating the work
of Jordaens in an ecstasy.

“What a knowledge of chiaroscuro!” he murmured, biting his last crust in
delight. “What relief! what fire! Where can one find such transparency
of color! such magical lights! such force! such nature!”

As I was listening to him in silence, he mistook my astonishment for
admiration, and clapped me on the shoulder.

“You are dazzled,” said he merrily; “you did not expect such a treasure!
What do you say to the bargain I have made?”

“Pardon me,” replied I, gravely; “but I think you might have done
better.”

M. Antoine raised his head.

“How!” cried he; “do you take me for a man likely to be deceived about
the merit or value of a painting?”

“I neither doubt your taste nor your skill; but I cannot help thinking
that, for the price of this picture of a family party, you might have
had--”

“What then?”

“The family itself, sir.”

The old amateur cast a look at me, not of anger, but of contempt. In
his eyes I had evidently just proved myself a barbarian, incapable of
understanding the arts, and unworthy of enjoying them. He got up without
answering me, hastily took up the Jordaens, and replaced it in its
hiding-place behind the prints.

It was a sort of dismissal; I took leave of him, and went away.

Seven o’clock.--When I come in again, I find my water boiling over
my lamp, and I busy myself in grinding my Mocha, and setting out my
coffee-things.

The getting coffee ready is the most delicate and most attractive of
domestic operations to one who lives alone: it is the grand work of a
bachelor’s housekeeping.

Coffee is, so to say, just the mid-point between bodily and spiritual
nourishment. It acts agreeably, and at the same time, upon the senses
and the thoughts. Its very fragrance gives a sort of delightful
activity to the wits; it is a genius that lends wings to our fancy, and
transports it to the land of the Arabian Nights.

When I am buried in my old easy-chair, my feet on the fender before a
blazing fire, my ear soothed by the singing of the coffee-pot, which
seems to gossip with my fire-irons, the sense of smell gently excited by
the aroma of the Arabian bean, and my eyes shaded by my cap pulled down
over them, it often seems as if each cloud of the fragrant steam took a
distinct form. As in the mirages of the desert, in each as it rises, I
see some image of which my mind had been longing for the reality.

At first the vapor increases, and its color deepens. I see a cottage
on a hillside: behind is a garden shut in by a whitethorn hedge, and
through the garden runs a brook, on the banks of which I hear the bees
humming.

Then the view opens still more. See those fields planted with
apple-trees, in which I can distinguish a plough and horses waiting for
their master! Farther on, in a part of the wood which rings with the
sound of the axe, I perceive the woodsman’s hut, roofed with turf and
branches; and, in the midst of all these rural pictures, I seem to see a
figure of myself gliding about. It is my ghost walking in my dream!

The bubbling of the water, ready to boil over, compels me to break off
my meditations, in order to fill up the coffee-pot. I then remember
that I have no cream; I take my tin can off the hook and go down to the
milkwoman’s.

Mother Denis is a hale countrywoman from Savoy, which she left when
quite young; and, contrary to the custom of the Savoyards, she has
not gone back to it again. She has neither husband nor child,
notwithstanding the title they give her; but her kindness, which never
sleeps, makes her worthy of the name of mother.

A brave creature! Left by herself in the battle of life, she makes good
her humble place in it by working, singing, helping others, and leaving
the rest to God.

At the door of the milk-shop I hear loud bursts of laughter. In one of
the corners of the shop three children are sitting on the ground. They
wear the sooty dress of Savoyard boys, and in their hands they hold
large slices of bread and cheese. The youngest is besmeared up to the
eyes with his, and that is the reason of their mirth.

Mother Denis points them out to me.

“Look at the little lambs, how they enjoy themselves!” said she, putting
her hand on the head of the little glutton.

“He has had no breakfast,” puts in one of the others by way of excuse.

“Poor little thing,” said the milkwoman; “he is left alone in the
streets of Paris, where he can find no other father than the All-good
God!”

“And that is why you make yourself a mother to them?” I replied, gently.

“What I do is little enough,” said Mother Denis, measuring out my milk;
“but every day I get some of them together out of the street, that for
once they may have enough to eat. Dear children! their mothers will make
up for it in heaven. Not to mention that they recall my native mountains
to me: when they sing and dance, I seem to see our old father again.”

Here her eyes filled with tears.

“So you are repaid by your recollections for the good you do them?”
 resumed I.

“Yes! yes!” said she, “and by their happiness, too! The laughter of
these little ones, sir, is like a bird’s song; it makes you gay, and
gives you heart to live.”

As she spoke she cut some fresh slices of bread and cheese, and added
some apples and a handful of nuts to them.

“Come, my little dears,” she cried, “put these into your pockets against
to-morrow.”

Then, turning to me:

“To-day I am ruining myself,” added she; “but we must all have our
Carnival.”

I came away without saying a word: I was too much affected.

At last I have discovered what true pleasure is. After beholding
the egotism of sensuality and of intellect, I have found the happy
self-sacrifice of goodness. Pierre, M. Antoine, and Mother Denis had all
kept their Carnival; but for the first two, it was only a feast for the
senses or the mind; while for the third, it was a feast for the heart.



CHAPTER III. WHAT WE MAY LEARN BY LOOKING OUT OF WINDOW

March 3d

A poet has said that life is the dream of a shadow: he would better have
compared it to a night of fever! What alternate fits of restlessness and
sleep! what discomfort! what sudden starts! what ever-returning thirst!
what a chaos of mournful and confused fancies! We can neither sleep
nor wake; we seek in vain for repose, and we stop short on the brink of
action. Two thirds of human existence are wasted in hesitation, and the
last third in repenting.

When I say human existence, I mean my own! We are so made that each of
us regards himself as the mirror of the community: what passes in our
minds infallibly seems to us a history of the universe. Every man is
like the drunkard who reports an earthquake, because he feels himself
staggering.

And why am I uncertain and restless--I, a poor day-laborer in the
world--who fill an obscure station in a corner of it, and whose work
it avails itself of, without heeding the workman? I will tell you, my
unseen friend, for whom these lines are written; my unknown brother, on
whom the solitary call in sorrow; my imaginary confidant, to whom
all monologues are addressed and who is but the shadow of our own
conscience.

A great event has happened in my life! A crossroad has suddenly opened
in the middle of the monotonous way along which I was travelling
quietly, and without thinking of it. Two roads present themselves, and
I must choose between them. One is only the continuation of that I have
followed till now; the other is wider, and exhibits wondrous prospects.
On the first there is nothing to fear, but also little to hope; on the
other are great dangers and great fortune. Briefly, the question is,
whether I shall give up the humble office in which I thought to die,
for one of those bold speculations in which chance alone is banker! Ever
since yesterday I have consulted with myself; I have compared the two
and I remain undecided.

Where shall I find light--who will advise me?

Sunday, 4th.--See the sun coming out from the thick fogs of winter!
Spring announces its approach; a soft breeze skims over the roofs, and
my wallflower begins to blow again.

We are near that sweet season of fresh green, of which the poets of the
sixteenth century sang with so much feeling:

          Now the gladsome month of May
          All things newly doth array;
          Fairest lady, let me too
          In thy love my life renew.

The chirping of the sparrows calls me: they claim the crumbs I scatter
to them every morning. I open my window, and the prospect of roofs opens
out before me in all its splendor.

He who has lived only on a first floor has no idea of the picturesque
variety of such a view. He has never contemplated these tile-colored
heights which intersect each other; he has not followed with his eyes
these gutter-valleys, where the fresh verdure of the attic gardens
waves, the deep shadows which evening spreads over the slated slopes,
and the sparkling of windows which the setting sun has kindled to
a blaze of fire. He has not studied the flora of these Alps of
civilization, carpeted by lichens and mosses; he is not acquainted with
the myriad inhabitants that people them, from the microscopic insect to
the domestic cat--that reynard of the roofs who is always on the prowl,
or in ambush; he has not witnessed the thousand aspects of a clear or
a cloudy sky; nor the thousand effects of light, that make these upper
regions a theatre with ever-changing scenes! How many times have my
days of leisure passed away in contemplating this wonderful sight; in
discovering its darker or brighter episodes; in seeking, in short, in
this unknown world for the impressions of travel that wealthy tourists
look for lower!

Nine o’clock.--But why, then, have not my winged neighbors picked up the
crumbs I have scattered for them before my window? I see them fly away,
come back, perch upon the ledges of the windows, and chirp at the sight
of the feast they are usually so ready to devour! It is not my presence
that frightens them; I have accustomed them to eat out of my hand. Then,
why this fearful suspense? In vain I look around: the roof is clear,
the windows near are closed. I crumble the bread that remains from my
breakfast to attract them by an ampler feast. Their chirpings increase,
they bend down their heads, the boldest approach upon the wing, but
without daring to alight.

Come, come, my sparrows are the victims of one of the foolish panics
which make the funds fall at the Bourse! It is plain that birds are not
more reasonable than men!

With this reflection I was about to shut my window, when suddenly
I perceived, in a spot of sunshine on my right, the shadow of two
pricked-up ears; then a paw advanced, then the head of a tabby-cat
showed itself at the corner of the gutter. The cunning fellow was lying
there in wait, hoping the crumbs would bring him some game.

And I had accused my guests of cowardice! I was so sure that no danger
could menace them! I thought I had looked well everywhere! I had only
forgotten the corner behind me!

In life, as on the roofs, how many misfortunes come from having
forgotten a single corner!

Ten o’clock.--I cannot leave my window; the rain and the cold have kept
it shut so long that I must reconnoitre all the environs to be able
to take possession of them again. My eyes search in succession all the
points of the jumbled and confused prospect, passing on or stopping
according to what they light upon.

Ah! see the windows upon which they formerly loved to rest; they are
those of two unknown neighbors, whose different habits they have long
remarked.

One is a poor work-woman, who rises before sunrise, and whose profile is
shadowed upon her little muslin window-curtain far into the evening; the
other is a young songstress, whose vocal flourishes sometimes reach my
attic by snatches. When their windows are open, that of the work-woman
discovers a humble but decent abode; the other, an elegantly furnished
room. But to-day a crowd of tradespeople throng the latter: they take
down the silk hangings and carry off the furniture, and I now remember
that the young singer passed under my window this morning with her veil
down, and walking with the hasty step of one who suffers some inward
trouble. Ah! I guess it all. Her means are exhausted in elegant fancies,
or have been taken away by some unexpected misfortune, and now she has
fallen from luxury to indigence. While the work-woman manages not only
to keep her little room, but also to furnish it with decent comfort by
her steady toil, that of the singer is become the property of brokers.
The one sparkled for a moment on the wave of prosperity; the other sails
slowly but safely along the coast of a humble and laborious industry.

Alas! is there not here a lesson for us all? Is it really in hazardous
experiments, at the end of which we shall meet with wealth or ruin, that
the wise man should employ his years of strength and freedom? Ought he
to consider life as a regular employment which brings its daily wages,
or as a game in which the future is determined by a few throws? Why seek
the risk of extreme chances? For what end hasten to riches by dangerous
roads? Is it really certain that happiness is the prize of brilliant
successes, rather than of a wisely accepted poverty? Ah! if men but
knew in what a small dwelling joy can live, and how little it costs to
furnish it!

Twelve o’clock.--I have been walking up and down my attic for a long
time, with my arms folded and my eyes on the ground! My doubts increase,
like shadows encroaching more and more on some bright space; my fears
multiply; and the uncertainty becomes every moment more painful to me!
It is necessary for me to decide to-day, and before the evening! I hold
the dice of my future fate in my hands, and I dare not throw them.

Three o’clock.--The sky has become cloudy, and a cold wind begins to
blow from the west; all the windows which were opened to the sunshine of
a beautiful day are shut again. Only on the opposite side of the street,
the lodger on the last story has not yet left his balcony.

One knows him to be a soldier by his regular walk, his gray moustaches,
and the ribbon that decorates his buttonhole. Indeed, one might have
guessed as much from the care he takes of the little garden which is the
ornament of his balcony in mid-air; for there are two things especially
loved by all old soldiers--flowers and children. They have been so long,
obliged to look upon the earth as a field of battle, and so long cut off
from the peaceful pleasures of a quiet lot, that they seem to begin life
at an age when others end it. The tastes of their early years, which
were arrested by the stern duties of war, suddenly break out again with
their white hairs, and are like the savings of youth which they spend
again in old age. Besides, they have been condemned to be destroyers for
so long that perhaps they feel a secret pleasure in creating, and
seeing life spring up again: the beauty of weakness has a grace and
an attraction the more for those who have been the agents of unbending
force; and the watching over the frail germs of life has all the charms
of novelty for these old workmen of death.

Therefore the cold wind has not driven my neighbor from his balcony.
He is digging up the earth in his green boxes, and carefully sowing the
seeds of the scarlet nasturtium, convolvulus, and sweet-pea. Henceforth
he will come every day to watch for their first sprouting, to protect
the young shoots from weeds or insects, to arrange the strings for the
tendrils to climb on, and carefully to regulate their supply of water
and heat!

How much labor to bring in the desired harvest! For that, how many times
shall I see him brave cold or heat, wind or sun, as he does to-day! But
then, in the hot summer days, when the blinding dust whirls in clouds
through our streets, when the eye, dazzled by the glare of white stucco,
knows not where to rest, and the glowing roofs reflect their heat
upon us to burning, the old soldier will sit in his arbor and perceive
nothing but green leaves and flowers around him, and the breeze will
come cool and fresh to him through these perfumed shades. His assiduous
care will be rewarded at last.

We must sow the seeds, and tend the growth, if we would enjoy the
flower.

Four o’clock.--The clouds that have been gathering in the horizon for
a long time are become darker; it thunders loudly, and the rain pours
down! Those who are caught in it fly in every direction, some laughing
and some crying.

I always find particular amusement in these helter-skelters, caused by
a sudden storm. It seems as if each one, when thus taken by surprise,
loses the factitious character that the world or habit has given him,
and appears in his true colors.

See, for example, that big man with deliberate step, who suddenly
forgets his indifference, made to order, and runs like a schoolboy!
He is a thrifty city gentleman, who, with all his fashionable airs, is
afraid to spoil his hat.

That pretty woman yonder, on the contrary, whose looks are so modest,
and whose dress is so elaborate, slackens her pace with the increasing
storm. She seems to find pleasure in braving it, and does not think
of her velvet cloak spotted by the hail! She is evidently a lioness in
sheep’s clothing.

Here, a young man, who was passing, stops to catch some of the
hailstones in his hand, and examines them. By his quick and
business-like walk just now, you would have taken him for a tax-gatherer
on his rounds, when he is a young philosopher, studying the effects of
electricity. And those schoolboys who leave their ranks to run after the
sudden gusts of a March whirlwind; those girls, just now so demure, but
who now fly with bursts of laughter; those national guards, who quit the
martial attitude of their days of duty to take refuge under a porch! The
storm has caused all these transformations.

See, it increases! The hardiest are obliged to seek shelter. I see
every one rushing toward the shop in front of my window, which a bill
announces is to let. It is for the fourth time within a few months. A
year ago all the skill of the joiner and the art of the painter were
employed in beautifying it, but their works are already destroyed by the
leaving of so many tenants; the cornices of the front are disfigured by
mud; the arabesques on the doorway are spoiled by bills posted upon them
to announce the sale of the effects. The splendid shop has lost some of
its embellishments with each change of the tenant. See it now empty, and
left open to the passersby. How much does its fate resemble that of so
many who, like it, only change their occupation to hasten the faster to
ruin!

I am struck by this last reflection: since the morning everything seems
to speak to me, and with the same warning tone. Everything says: “Take
care! be content with your happy, though humble lot; happiness can be
retained only by constancy; do not forsake your old patrons for the
protection of those who are unknown!”

Are they the outward objects which speak thus, or does the warning
come from within? Is it not I myself who give this language to all that
surrounds me? The world is but an instrument, to which we give sound at
will. But what does it signify if it teaches us wisdom? The low voice
that speaks in our breasts is always a friendly voice, for it tells
us what we are, that is to say, what is our capability. Bad conduct
results, for the most part, from mistaking our calling. There are so
many fools and knaves, because there are so few men who know themselves.
The question is not to discover what will suit us, but for what we are
suited!

What should I do among these many experienced financial speculators? I
am only a poor sparrow, born among the housetops, and should always
fear the enemy crouching in the dark corner; I am a prudent workman,
and should think of the business of my neighbors who so suddenly
disappeared; I am a timid observer, and should call to mind the flowers
so slowly raised by the old soldier, or the shop brought to ruin by
constant change of masters. Away from me, ye banquets, over which hangs
the sword of Damocles! I am a country mouse. Give me my nuts and hollow
tree, and I ask nothing besides--except security.

And why this insatiable craving for riches? Does a man drink more when
he drinks from a large glass? Whence comes that universal dread of
mediocrity, the fruitful mother of peace and liberty? Ah! there is the
evil which, above every other, it should be the aim of both public and
private education to anticipate! If that were got rid of, what treasons
would be spared, what baseness avoided, what a chain of excess and
crime would be forever broken! We award the palm to charity, and to
self-sacrifice; but, above all, let us award it to moderation, for it
is the great social virtue. Even when it does not create the others, it
stands instead of them.

Six o’clock.--I have written a letter of thanks to the promoters of
the new speculation, and have declined their offer! This decision has
restored my peace of mind. I stopped singing, like the cobbler, as long
as I entertained the hope of riches: it is gone, and happiness is come
back!

O beloved and gentle Poverty! pardon me for having for a moment wished
to fly from thee, as I would from Want. Stay here forever with thy
charming sisters, Pity, Patience, Sobriety, and Solitude; be ye my
queens and my instructors; teach me the stern duties of life; remove far
from my abode the weakness of heart and giddiness of head which follow
prosperity. Holy Poverty! teach me to endure without complaining,
to impart without grudging, to seek the end of life higher than in
pleasure, farther off than in power. Thou givest the body strength, thou
makest the mind more firm; and, thanks to thee, this life, to which the
rich attach themselves as to a rock, becomes a bark of which death may
cut the cable without awakening all our fears. Continue to sustain me, O
thou whom Christ hath called Blessed!



CHAPTER IV. LET US LOVE ONE ANOTHER

April 9th

The fine evenings are come back; the trees begin to put forth their
shoots; hyacinths, jonquils, violets, and lilacs perfume the baskets
of the flower-girls--all the world have begun their walks again on the
quays and boulevards. After dinner, I, too, descend from my attic to
breathe the evening air.

It is the hour when Paris is seen in all its beauty. During the day
the plaster fronts of the houses weary the eye by their monotonous
whiteness; heavily laden carts make the streets shake under their huge
wheels; the eager crowd, taken up by the one fear of losing a moment
from business, cross and jostle one another; the aspect of the city
altogether has something harsh, restless, and flurried about it. But, as
soon as the stars appear, everything is changed; the glare of the white
houses is quenched in the gathering shades; you hear no more any rolling
but that of the carriages on their way to some party of pleasure; you
see only the lounger or the light-hearted passing by; work has given
place to leisure. Now each one may breathe after the fierce race through
the business of the day, and whatever strength remains to him he gives
to pleasure! See the ballrooms lighted up, the theatres open, the
eating-shops along the walks set out with dainties, and the twinkling
lanterns of the newspaper criers. Decidedly Paris has laid aside the
pen, the ruler, and the apron; after the day spent in work, it must have
the evening for enjoyment; like the masters of Thebes, it has put off
all serious matter till tomorrow.

I love to take part in this happy hour; not to mix in the general
gayety, but to contemplate it. If the enjoyments of others embitter
jealous minds, they strengthen the humble spirit; they are the beams of
sunshine, which open the two beautiful flowers called trust and hope.

Although alone in the midst of the smiling multitude, I do not feel
myself isolated from it, for its gayety is reflected upon me: it is my
own kind, my own family, who are enjoying life, and I take a brother’s
share in their happiness. We are all fellow-soldiers in this earthly
battle, and what does it matter on whom the honors of the victory fall?
If Fortune passes by without seeing us, and pours her favors on others,
let us console ourselves, like the friend of Parmenio, by saying,
“Those, too, are Alexanders.”

While making these reflections, I was going on as chance took me. I
crossed from one pavement to another, I retraced my steps, I stopped
before the shops or to read the handbills. How many things there are
to learn in the streets of Paris! What a museum it is! Unknown fruits,
foreign arms, furniture of old times or other lands, animals of all
climates, statues of great men, costumes of distant nations! It is the
world seen in samples!

Let us then look at this people, whose knowledge is gained from the
shop-windows and the tradesman’s display of goods. Nothing has been
taught them, but they have a rude notion of everything. They have
seen pineapples at Chevet’s, a palm-tree in the Jardin des Plantes,
sugar-canes selling on the Pont-Neuf. The Redskins, exhibited in the
Valentine Hall, have taught them to mimic the dance of the bison, and to
smoke the calumet of peace; they have seen Carter’s lions fed; they
know the principal national costumes contained in Babin’s collection;
Goupil’s display of prints has placed the tiger-hunts of Africa and the
sittings of the English Parliament before their eyes; they have become
acquainted with Queen Victoria, the Emperor of Austria, and Kossuth, at
the office-door of the Illustrated News. We can certainly instruct them,
but not astonish them; for nothing is completely new to them. You may
take the Paris ragamuffin through the five quarters of the world, and
at every wonder with which you think to surprise him, he will settle the
matter with that favorite and conclusive answer of his class--“I know.”

But this variety of exhibitions, which makes Paris the fair of the
world, does not offer merely a means of instruction to him who walks
through it; it is a continual spur for rousing the imagination, a first
step of the ladder always set up before us in a vision. When we see
them, how many voyages do we take in imagination, what adventures do we
dream of, what pictures do we sketch! I never look at that shop near
the Chinese baths, with its tapestry hangings of Florida jessamine,
and filled with magnolias, without seeing the forest glades of the New
World, described by the author of Atala, opening themselves out before
me.

Then, when this study of things and this discourse of reason begin to
tire you, look around you! What contrasts of figures and faces you
see in the crowd! What a vast field for the exercise of meditation! A
half-seen glance, or a few words caught as the speaker passes by, open
a thousand vistas to your imagination. You wish to comprehend what these
imperfect disclosures mean, and, as the antiquary endeavors to decipher
the mutilated inscription on some old monument, you build up a history
on a gesture or on a word! These are the stirring sports of the mind,
which finds in fiction a relief from the wearisome dullness of the
actual.

Alas! as I was just now passing by the carriage-entrance of a great
house, I noticed a sad subject for one of these histories. A man was
sitting in the darkest corner, with his head bare, and holding out his
hat for the charity of those who passed. His threadbare coat had that
look of neatness which marks that destitution has been met by a long
struggle. He had carefully buttoned it up to hide the want of a shirt.
His face was half hid under his gray hair, and his eyes were closed, as
if he wished to escape the sight of his own humiliation, and he remained
mute and motionless. Those who passed him took no notice of the beggar,
who sat in silence and darkness! They had been so lucky as to escape
complaints and importunities, and were glad to turn away their eyes too.

Suddenly the great gate turned on its hinges; and a very low carriage,
lighted with silver lamps and drawn by two black horses, came slowly
out, and took the road toward the Faubourg St. Germain. I could just
distinguish, within, the sparkling diamonds and the flowers of a
ball-dress; the glare of the lamps passed like a bloody streak over
the pale face of the beggar, and showed his look as his eyes opened and
followed the rich man’s equipage until it disappeared in the night.

I dropped a small piece of money into the hat he was holding out, and
passed on quickly.

I had just fallen unexpectedly upon the two saddest secrets of the
disease which troubles the age we live in: the envious hatred of him
who suffers want, and the selfish forgetfulness of him who lives in
affluence.

All the enjoyment of my walk was gone; I left off looking about me, and
retired into my own heart. The animated and moving sight in the streets
gave place to inward meditation upon all the painful problems which
have been written for the last four thousand years at the bottom of each
human struggle, but which are propounded more clearly than ever in our
days.

I pondered on the uselessness of so many contests, in which defeat and
victory only displace each other by turns, and on the mistaken zealots
who have repeated from generation to generation the bloody history of
Cain and Abel; and, saddened with these mournful reflections, I walked
on as chance took me, until the silence all around insensibly drew me
out from my own thoughts.

I had reached one of the remote streets, in which those who would live
in comfort and without ostentation, and who love serious reflection,
delight to find a home. There were no shops along the dimly lighted
street; one heard no sounds but of distant carriages, and of the steps
of some of the inhabitants returning quietly home.

I instantly recognized the street, though I had been there only once
before.

That was two years ago. I was walking at the time by the side of the
Seine, to which the lights on the quays and bridges gave the aspect of
a lake surrounded by a garland of stars; and I had reached the Louvre,
when I was stopped by a crowd collected near the parapet they had
gathered round a child of about six, who was crying, and I asked the
cause of his tears.

“It seems that he was sent to walk in the Tuileries,” said a mason, who
was returning from his work with his trowel in his hand; “the servant
who took care of him met with some friends there, and told the child to
wait for him while he went to get a drink; but I suppose the drink made
him more thirsty, for he has not come back, and the child cannot find
his way home.”

“Why do they not ask him his name, and where he lives?”

“They have been doing it for the last hour; but all he can say is, that
he is called Charles, and that his father is Monsieur Duval--there are
twelve hundred Duvals in Paris.”

“Then he does not know in what part of the town he lives?”

“I should not think, indeed! Don’t you see that he is a gentleman’s
child? He has never gone out except in a carriage or with a servant; he
does not know what to do by himself.”

Here the mason was interrupted by some of the voices rising above the
others.

“We cannot leave him in the street,” said some.

“The child-stealers would carry him off,” continued others.

“We must take him to the overseer.”

“Or to the police-office.”

“That’s the thing. Come, little one!”

But the child, frightened by these suggestions of danger, and at the
names of police and overseer, cried louder, and drew back toward the
parapet. In vain they tried to persuade him; his fears made him resist
the more, and the most eager began to get weary, when the voice of a
little boy was heard through the confusion.

“I know him well--I do,” said he, looking at the lost child; “he belongs
in our part of the town.”

“What part is it?”

“Yonder, on the other side of the Boulevards--Rue des Magasins.”

“And you have seen him before?”

“Yes, yes! he belongs to the great house at the end of the street, where
there is an iron gate with gilt points.”

The child quickly raised his head, and stopped crying. The little boy
answered all the questions that were put to him, and gave such details
as left no room for doubt. The other child understood him, for he went
up to him as if to put himself under his protection.

“Then you can take him to his parents?” asked the mason, who had
listened with real interest to the little boy’s account.

“I don’t care if I do,” replied he; “it’s the way I’m going.”

“Then you will take charge of him?”

“He has only to come with me.”

And, taking up the basket he had put down on the pavement, he set off
toward the postern-gate of the Louvre.

The lost child followed him.

“I hope he will take him right,” said I, when I saw them go away.

“Never fear,” replied the mason; “the little one in the blouse is
the same age as the other; but, as the saying is, he knows black from
white;’ poverty, you see, is a famous schoolmistress!”

The crowd dispersed. For my part, I went toward the Louvre; the thought
came into my head to follow the two children, so as to guard against any
mistake.

I was not long in overtaking them; they were walking side by side,
talking, and already quite familiar with each other. The contrast in
their dress then struck me. Little Duval wore one of those fanciful
children’s dresses which are expensive as well as in good taste; his
coat was skilfully fitted to his figure, his trousers came down
in plaits from his waist to his boots of polished leather with
mother-of-pearl buttons, and his ringlets were half hid by a velvet cap.
The appearance of his guide, on the contrary, was that of the class who
dwell on the extreme borders of poverty, but who there maintain their
ground with no surrender. His old blouse, patched with pieces of
different shades, indicated the perseverance of an industrious mother
struggling against the wear and tear of time; his trousers were become
too short, and showed his stockings darned over and over again; and it
was evident that his shoes were not made for him.

The countenances of the two children were not less different than their
dress. That of the first was delicate and refined; his clear blue
eye, his fair skin, and his smiling mouth gave him a charming look of
innocence and happiness. The features of the other, on the contrary, had
something rough in them; his eye was quick and lively, his complexion
dark, his smile less merry than shrewd; all showed a mind sharpened by
too early experience; he walked boldly through the middle of the streets
thronged by carriages, and followed their countless turnings without
hesitation.

I found, on asking him, that every day he carried dinner to his father,
who was then working on the left bank of the Seine; and this responsible
duty had made him careful and prudent. He had learned those hard but
forcible lessons of necessity which nothing can equal or supply the
place of. Unfortunately, the wants of his poor family had kept him from
school, and he seemed to feel the loss; for he often stopped before
the printshops, and asked his companion to read him the names of the
engravings. In this way we reached the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, which
the little wanderer seemed to know again. Notwithstanding his fatigue,
he hurried on; he was agitated by mixed feelings; at the sight of his
house he uttered a cry, and ran toward the iron gate with the gilt
points; a lady who was standing at the entrance received him in her
arms, and from the exclamations of joy, and the sound of kisses, I soon
perceived she was his mother.

Not seeing either the servant or child return, she had sent in search of
them in every direction, and was waiting for them in intense anxiety.

I explained to her in a few words what had happened. She thanked me
warmly, and looked round for the little boy who had recognized and
brought back her son; but while we were talking, he had disappeared.

It was for the first time since then that I had come into this part of
Paris. Did the mother continue grateful? Had the children met again, and
had the happy chance of their first meeting lowered between them that
barrier which may mark the different ranks of men, but should not divide
them?

While putting these questions to myself, I slackened my pace, and fixed
my eyes on the great gate, which I just perceived. Suddenly I saw it
open, and two children appeared at the entrance. Although much grown, I
recognized them at first sight; they were the child who was found near
the parapet of the Louvre, and his young guide. But the dress of the
latter was greatly changed: his blouse of gray cloth was neat, and even
spruce, and was fastened round the waist by a polished leather belt; he
wore strong shoes, but made for his feet, and had on a new cloth cap.
Just at the moment I saw him, he held in his two hands an enormous bunch
of lilacs, to which his companion was trying to add narcissuses and
primroses; the two children laughed, and parted with a friendly good-by.
M. Duval’s son did not go in till he had seen the other turn the corner
of the street.

Then I accosted the latter, and reminded him of our former meeting; he
looked at me for a moment, and then seemed to recollect me.

“Forgive me if I do not make you a bow,” said he, merrily, “but I want
both my hands for the nosegay Monsieur Charles has given me.”

“You are, then, become great friends?” said I.

“Oh! I should think so,” said the child; “and now my father is rich
too!”

“How’s that?”

“Monsieur Duval lent him some money; he has taken a shop, where he works
on his own account; and, as for me, I go to school.”

“Yes,” replied I, remarking for the first time the cross that decorated
his little coat; “and I see that you are head-boy!”

“Monsieur Charles helps me to learn, and so I am come to be the first in
the class.”

“Are you now going to your lessons?”

“Yes, and he has given me some lilacs; for he has a garden where we play
together, and where my mother can always have flowers.”

“Then it is the same as if it were partly your own.”

“So it is! Ah! they are good neighbors indeed. But here I am; good-by,
sir.”

He nodded to me with a smile, and disappeared.

I went on with my walk, still pensive, but with a feeling of relief.
If I had elsewhere witnessed the painful contrast between affluence
and want, here I had found the true union of riches and poverty. Hearty
good-will had smoothed down the more rugged inequalities on both sides,
and had opened a road of true neighborhood and fellowship between the
humble workshop and the stately mansion. Instead of hearkening to the
voice of interest, they had both listened to that of self-sacrifice,
and there was no place left for contempt or envy. Thus, instead of the
beggar in rags, that I had seen at the other door cursing the rich man,
I had found here the happy child of the laborer loaded with flowers and
blessing him! The problem, so difficult and so dangerous to examine into
with no regard but for the rights of it, I had just seen solved by love.



CHAPTER V. COMPENSATION

Sunday, May 27th

Capital cities have one thing peculiar to them: their days of rest seem
to be the signal for a general dispersion and flight. Like birds that
are just restored to liberty, the people come out of their stone cages,
and joyfully fly toward the country. It is who shall find a green
hillock for a seat, or the shade of a wood for a shelter; they gather
May flowers, they run about the fields; the town is forgotten until
the evening, when they return with sprigs of blooming hawthorn in their
hats, and their hearts gladdened by pleasant thoughts and recollections
of the past day; the next day they return again to their harness and to
work.

These rural adventures are most remarkable at Paris. When the fine
weather comes, clerks, shop keepers, and workingmen look forward
impatiently for the Sunday as the day for trying a few hours of this
pastoral life; they walk through six miles of grocers’ shops and
public-houses in the faubourgs, in the sole hope of finding a real
turnip-field. The father of a family begins the practical education of
his son by showing him wheat which has not taken the form of a loaf,
and cabbage “in its wild state.” Heaven only knows the encounters, the
discoveries, the adventures that are met with! What Parisian has not had
his Odyssey in an excursion through the suburbs, and would not be able
to write a companion to the famous Travels by Land and by Sea from Paris
to St. Cloud?

We do not now speak of that floating population from all parts, for whom
our French Babylon is the caravansary of Europe: a phalanx of thinkers,
artists, men of business, and travellers, who, like Homer’s hero, have
arrived in their intellectual country after beholding “many peoples and
cities;” but of the settled Parisian, who keeps his appointed place, and
lives on his own floor like the oyster on his rock, a curious vestige of
the credulity, the slowness, and the simplicity of bygone ages.

For one of the singularities of Paris is, that it unites twenty
populations completely different in character and manners. By the
side of the gypsies of commerce and of art, who wander through all the
several stages of fortune or fancy, live a quiet race of people with an
independence, or with regular work, whose existence resembles the dial
of a clock, on which the same hand points by turns to the same hours. If
no other city can show more brilliant and more stirring forms of life,
no other contains more obscure and more tranquil ones. Great cities are
like the sea: storms agitate only the surface; if you go to the bottom,
you find a region inaccessible to the tumult and the noise.

For my part, I have settled on the verge of this region, but do not
actually live in it. I am removed from the turmoil of the world, and
live in the shelter of solitude, but without being able to disconnect
my thoughts from the struggle going on. I follow at a distance all its
events of happiness or grief; I join the feasts and the funerals; for
how can he who looks on, and knows what passes, do other than take part?
Ignorance alone can keep us strangers to the life around us: selfishness
itself will not suffice for that.

These reflections I made to myself in my attic, in the intervals of the
various household works to which a bachelor is forced when he has
no other servant than his own ready will. While I was pursuing my
deductions, I had blacked my boots, brushed my coat, and tied my
cravat; I had at last arrived at the important moment when we pronounce
complacently that all is finished, and that well.

A grand resolve had just decided me to depart from my usual habits. The
evening before, I had seen by the advertisements that the next day was
a holiday at Sevres, and that the china manufactory would be open to the
public. I was tempted by the beauty of the morning, and suddenly decided
to go there.

On my arrival at the station on the left bank, I noticed the crowd
hurrying on in the fear of being late. Railroads, besides many other
advantages, possess that of teaching the French punctuality. They will
submit to the clock when they are convinced that it is their master;
they will learn to wait when they find they will not be waited for.
Social virtues, are, in a great degree, good habits. How many great
qualities are grafted into nations by their geographical position, by
political necessity, and by institutions! Avarice was destroyed for a
time among the Lacedaemonians by the creation of an iron coinage, too
heavy and too bulky to be conveniently hoarded.

I found myself in a carriage with two middle-aged women belonging to the
domestic and retired class of Parisians I have spoken of above. A few
civilities were sufficient to gain me their confidence, and after some
minutes I was acquainted with their whole history.

They were two poor sisters, left orphans at fifteen, and had lived ever
since, as those who work for their livelihood must live, by economy
and privation. For the last twenty or thirty years they had worked
in jewelry in the same house; they had seen ten masters succeed one
another, and make their fortunes in it, without any change in their own
lot. They had always lived in the same room, at the end of one of the
passages in the Rue St. Denis, where the air and the sun are unknown.
They began their work before daylight, went on with it till after
nightfall, and saw year succeed to year without their lives being marked
by any other events than the Sunday service, a walk, or an illness.

The younger of these worthy work-women was forty, and obeyed her sister
as she did when a child. The elder looked after her, took care of her,
and scolded her with a mother’s tenderness. At first it was amusing;
afterward one could not help seeing something affecting in these two
gray-haired children, one unable to leave off the habit of obeying, the
other that of protecting.

And it was not in that alone that my two companions seemed younger than
their years; they knew so little that their wonder never ceased. We had
hardly arrived at Clamart before they involuntarily exclaimed, like the
king in the children’s game, that they “did not think the world was so
great”!

It was the first time they had trusted themselves on a railroad, and
it was amusing to see their sudden shocks, their alarms, and their
courageous determinations: everything was a marvel to them! They had
remains of youth within them, which made them sensible to things which
usually only strike us in childhood. Poor creatures! they had still the
feelings of another age, though they had lost its charms.

But was there not something holy in this simplicity, which had been
preserved to them by abstinence from all the joys of life? Ah! accursed
be he who first had the bad courage to attach ridicule to that name
of “old maid,” which recalls so many images of grievous deception, of
dreariness, and of abandonment! Accursed be he who can find a subject
for sarcasm in involuntary misfortune, and who can crown gray hairs with
thorns!

The two sisters were called Frances and Madeleine. This day’s journey
was a feat of courage without example in their lives. The fever of
the times had infected them unawares. Yesterday Madeleine had suddenly
proposed the idea of the expedition, and Frances had accepted it
immediately. Perhaps it would have been better not to yield to the great
temptation offered by her younger sister; but “we have our follies
at all ages,” as the prudent Frances philosophically remarked. As
for Madeleine, there are no regrets or doubts for her; she is the
life-guardsman of the establishment.

“We really must amuse ourselves,” said she; “we live but once.”

And the elder sister smiled at this Epicurean maxim. It was evident that
the fever of independence was at its crisis in both of them.

And in truth it would have been a great pity if any scruple had
interfered with their happiness, it was so frank and genial! The sight
of the trees, which seemed to fly on both sides of the road, caused
them unceasing admiration. The meeting a train passing in the contrary
direction, with the noise and rapidity of a thunderbolt, made them shut
their eyes and utter a cry; but it had already disappeared! They look
around, take courage again, and express themselves full of astonishment
at the marvel.

Madeleine declares that such a sight is worth the expense of the
journey, and Frances would have agreed with her if she had not
recollected, with some little alarm, the deficit which such an expense
must make in their budget. The three francs spent upon this single
expedition were the savings of a whole week of work. Thus the joy of the
elder of the two sisters was mixed with remorse; the prodigal child now
and then turned its eyes toward the back street of St. Denis.

But the motion and the succession of objects distract her. See the
bridge of the Val surrounded by its lovely landscape: on the right,
Paris with its grand monuments, which rise through the fog, or sparkle
in the sun; on the left, Meudon, with its villas, its woods, its vines,
and its royal castle! The two work-women look from one window to the
other with exclamations of delight. One fellow-passenger laughs at their
childish wonder; but to me it is deeply touching, for I see in it the
sign of a long and monotonous seclusion: they are the prisoners of work,
who have recovered liberty and fresh air for a few hours.

At last the train stops, and we get out. I show the two sisters the path
that leads to Sevres, between the railway and the gardens, and they go
on before, while I inquire about the time of returning.

I soon join them again at the next station, where they have stopped at
the little garden belonging to the gatekeeper; both are already in deep
conversation with him while he digs his garden-borders, and marks out
the places for flower-seeds. He informs them that it is the time for
hoeing out weeds, for making grafts and layers, for sowing annuals, and
for destroying the insects on the rose-trees. Madeleine has on the sill
of her window two wooden boxes, in which, for want of air and sun, she
has never been able to make anything grow but mustard and cress; but she
persuades herself that, thanks to this information, all other plants
may henceforth thrive in them. At last the gatekeeper, who is sowing a
border with mignonette, gives her the rest of the seeds which he does
not want, and the old maid goes off delighted, and begins to act over
again the dream of Paired and her can of milk, with these flowers of her
imagination.

On reaching the grove of acacias, where the fair was going on, I lost
sight of the two sisters. I went alone among the sights: there were
lotteries going on, mountebank shows, places for eating and drinking,
and for shooting with the cross-bow. I have always been struck by the
spirit of these out-of-door festivities. In drawing-room entertainments,
people are cold, grave, often listless, and most of those who go there
are brought together by habit or the obligations of society; in the
country assemblies, on the contrary, you only find those who are
attracted by the hope of enjoyment. There, it is a forced conscription;
here, they are volunteers for gayety! Then, how easily they are pleased!
How far this crowd of people is yet from knowing that to be pleased with
nothing, and to look down on everything, is the height of fashion and
good taste! Doubtless their amusements are often coarse; elegance and
refinement are wanting in them; but at least they have heartiness. Oh,
that the hearty enjoyments of these merry-makings could be retained
in union with less vulgar feeling! Formerly religion stamped its holy
character on the celebration of country festivals, and purified the
pleasures without depriving them of their simplicity.

The hour arrives at which the doors of the porcelain manufactory and the
museum of pottery are open to the public. I meet Frances and Madeleine
again in the first room. Frightened at finding themselves in the midst
of such regal magnificence, they hardly dare walk; they speak in a low
tone, as if they were in a church.

“We are in the king’s house,” said the eldest sister, forgetting that
there is no longer a king in France.

I encourage them to go on; I walk first, and they make up their minds to
follow me.

What wonders are brought together in this collection! Here we see clay
moulded into every shape, tinted with every color, and combined with
every sort of substance!

Earth and wood are the first substances worked upon by man, and seem
more particularly meant for his use. They, like the domestic animals,
are the essential accessories of his life; therefore there must be a
more intimate connection between them and us. Stone and metals require
long preparations; they resist our first efforts, and belong less to the
individual than to communities. Earth and wood are, on the contrary, the
principal instruments of the isolated being who must feed and shelter
himself.

This, doubtless, makes me feel so much interested in the collection I am
examining. These cups, so roughly modelled by the savage, admit me to
a knowledge of some of his habits; these elegant yet incorrectly formed
vases of the Indian tell me of a declining intelligence,--in which still
glimmers the twilight of what was once bright sunshine; these jars,
loaded with arabesques, show the fancy of the Arab rudely and ignorantly
copied by the Spaniard! We find here the stamp of every race, every
country, and every age.

My companions seemed little interested in these historical associations;
they looked at all with that credulous admiration which leaves no room
for examination or discussion. Madeleine read the name written under
every piece of workmanship, and her sister answered with an exclamation
of wonder.

In this way we reached a little courtyard, where they had thrown away
the fragments of some broken china.

Frances perceived a colored saucer almost whole, of which she took
possession as a record of the visit she was making; henceforth she would
have a specimen of the Sevres china, “which is only made for kings!”
 I would not undeceive her by telling her that the products of the
manufactory are sold all over the world, and that her saucer, before
it was cracked, was the same as those that are bought at the shops for
sixpence! Why should I destroy the illusions of her humble existence?
Are we to break down the hedge-flowers that perfume our paths? Things
are oftenest nothing in themselves; the thoughts we attach to them alone
give them value. To rectify innocent mistakes, in order to recover some
useless reality, is to be like those learned men who will see nothing in
a plant but the chemical elements of which it is composed.

On leaving the manufactory, the two sisters, who had taken possession
of me with the freedom of artlessness, invited me to share the luncheon
they had brought with them. I declined at first, but they insisted
with so much good-nature, that I feared to pain them, and with some
awkwardness gave way.

We had only to look for a convenient spot. I led them up the hill,
and we found a plot of grass enamelled with daisies, and shaded by two
walnut-trees.

Madeleine could not contain herself for joy. All her life she had
dreamed of a dinner out on the grass! While helping her sister to take
the provisions from the basket, she tells me of all her expeditions into
the country that had been planned, and put off. Frances, on the other
hand, was brought up at Montmorency, and before she became an orphan she
had often gone back to her nurse’s house. That which had the attraction
of novelty for her sister, had for her the charm of recollection. She
told of the vintage harvests to which her parents had taken her; the
rides on Mother Luret’s donkey, that they could not make go to the right
without pulling him to the left; the cherry-gathering; and the sails on
the lake in the innkeeper’s boat.

These recollections have all the charm and freshness of childhood.
Frances recalls to herself less what she has seen than what she has
felt. While she is talking the cloth is laid, and we sit down under
a tree. Before us winds the valley of Sevres, its many-storied houses
abutting upon the gardens and the slopes of the hill; on the other side
spreads out the park of St. Cloud, with its magnificent clumps of trees
interspersed with meadows; above stretch the heavens like an immense
ocean, in which the clouds are sailing! I look at this beautiful
country, and I listen to these good old maids; I admire, and I am
interested; and time passes gently on without my perceiving it.

At last the sun sets, and we have to think of returning. While Madeleine
and Frances clear away the dinner, I walk down to the manufactory to ask
the hour. The merrymaking is at its height; the blasts of the trombones
resound from the band under the acacias. For a few moments I forget
myself with looking about; but I have promised the two sisters to take
them back to the Bellevue station; the train cannot wait, and I make
haste to climb the path again which leads to the walnut-trees.

Just before I reached them, I heard voices on the other side of the
hedge. Madeleine and Frances were speaking to a poor girl whose clothes
were burned, her hands blackened, and her face tied up with bloodstained
bandages. I saw that she was one of the girls employed at the gunpowder
mills, which are built further up on the common. An explosion had taken
place a few days before; the girl’s mother and elder sister were killed;
she herself escaped by a miracle, and was now left without any means of
support. She told all this with the resigned and unhopeful manner of
one who has always been accustomed to suffer. The two sisters were much
affected; I saw them consulting with each other in a low tone: then
Frances took thirty sous out of a little coarse silk purse, which was
all they had left, and gave them to the poor girl. I hastened on to that
side of the hedge; but, before I reached it, I met the two old sisters,
who called out to me that they would not return by the railway, but on
foot!

I then understood that the money they had meant for the journey had just
been given to the beggar! Good, like evil, is contagious: I run to the
poor wounded girl, give her the sum that was to pay for my own place,
and return to Frances and Madeleine, and tell them I will walk with
them.

       ..........................

I am just come back from taking them home; and have left them delighted
with their day, the recollection of which will long make them happy.
This morning I was pitying those whose lives are obscure and joyless;
now, I understand that God has provided a compensation with every trial.
The smallest pleasure derives from rarity a relish otherwise unknown.
Enjoyment is only what we feel to be such, and the luxurious man feels
no longer: satiety has destroyed his appetite, while privation preserves
to the other that first of earthly blessings: the being easily made
happy. Oh, that I could persuade every one of this! that so the rich
might not abuse their riches, and that the poor might have patience. If
happiness is the rarest of blessings, it is because the reception of it
is the rarest of virtues.

Madeleine and Frances! ye poor old maids whose courage, resignation,
and generous hearts are your only wealth, pray for the wretched who give
themselves up to despair; for the unhappy who hate and envy; and for the
unfeeling into whose enjoyments no pity enters.



BOOK 2.



CHAPTER VI. UNCLE MAURICE


June 7th, Four O’clock A.M.

I am not surprised at hearing, when I awake, the birds singing so
joyfully outside my window; it is only by living, as they and I do, in
a top story, that one comes to know how cheerful the mornings really are
up among the roofs. It is there that the sun sends his first rays, and
the breeze comes with the fragrance of the gardens and woods; there that
a wandering butterfly sometimes ventures among the flowers of the attic,
and that the songs of the industrious work-woman welcome the dawn of
day. The lower stories are still deep in sleep, silence, and shadow,
while here labor, light, and song already reign.

What life is around me! See the swallow returning from her search for
food, with her beak full of insects for her young ones; the sparrows
shake the dew from their wings while they chase one another in the
sunshine; and my neighbors throw open their windows, and welcome
the morning with their fresh faces! Delightful hour of waking, when
everything returns to feeling and to motion; when the first light of day
strikes upon creation, and brings it to life again, as the magic wand
struck the palace of the Sleeping Beauty in the wood! It is a moment of
rest from every misery; the sufferings of the sick are allayed, and a
breath of hope enters into the hearts of the despairing. But, alas! it
is but a short respite! Everything will soon resume its wonted course:
the great human machine, with its long strains, its deep gasps, its
collisions, and its crashes, will be again put in motion.

The tranquillity of this first morning hour reminds me of that of our
first years of life. Then, too, the sun shines brightly, the air
is fragrant, and the illusions of youth-those birds of our life’s
morning-sing around us. Why do they fly away when we are older? Where
do this sadness and this solitude, which gradually steal upon us,
come from? The course seems to be the same with individuals and with
communities: at starting, so readily made happy, so easily enchanted;
and at the goal, the bitter disappointment or reality! The road, which
began among hawthorns and primroses, ends speedily in deserts or in
precipices! Why is there so much confidence at first, so much doubt at
last? Has, then, the knowledge of life no other end but to make it
unfit for happiness? Must we condemn ourselves to ignorance if we would
preserve hope? Is the world and is the individual man intended, after
all, to find rest only in an eternal childhood?

How many times have I asked myself these questions! Solitude has the
advantage or the danger of making us continually search more deeply into
the same ideas. As our discourse is only with ourself, we always give
the same direction to the conversation; we are not called to turn it
to the subject which occupies another mind, or interests another’s
feelings; and so an involuntary inclination makes us return forever to
knock at the same doors!

I interrupted my reflections to put my attic in order. I hate the
look of disorder, because it shows either a contempt for details or an
unaptness for spiritual life. To arrange the things among which we have
to live, is to establish the relation of property and of use between
them and us: it is to lay the foundation of those habits without which
man tends to the savage state. What, in fact, is social organization but
a series of habits, settled in accordance with the dispositions of our
nature?

I distrust both the intellect and the morality of those people to whom
disorder is of no consequence--who can live at ease in an Augean stable.
What surrounds us, reflects more or less that which is within us. The
mind is like one of those dark lanterns which, in spite of everything,
still throw some light around. If our tastes did not reveal our
character, they would be no longer tastes, but instincts.

While I was arranging everything in my attic, my eyes rested on the
little almanac hanging over my chimney-piece. I looked for the day of
the month, and I saw these words written in large letters: “FETE DIEU!”

It is to-day! In this great city, where there are no longer any public
religious solemnities, there is nothing to remind us of it; but it is,
in truth, the period so happily chosen by the primitive church. “The day
kept in honor of the Creator,” says Chateaubriand, “happens at a time
when the heaven and the earth declare His power, when the woods and
fields are full of new life, and all are united by the happiest ties;
there is not a single widowed plant in the fields.”

What recollections these words have just awakened! I left off what I was
about, I leaned my elbows on the windowsill, and, with my head between
my two hands, I went back in thought to the little town where the first
days of my childhood were passed.

The ‘Fete Dieu’ was then one of the great events of my life! It was
necessary to be diligent and obedient a long time beforehand, to deserve
to share in it. I still recollect with what raptures of expectation I
got up on the morning of the day. There was a holy joy in the air. The
neighbors, up earlier than usual, hung cloths with flowers or figures,
worked in tapestry, along the streets. I went from one to another,
by turns admiring religious scenes of the Middle Ages, mythological
compositions of the Renaissance, old battles in the style of Louis XIV,
and the Arcadias of Madame de Pompadour. All this world of phantoms
seemed to be coming forth from the dust of past ages, to assist--silent
and motionless--at the holy ceremony. I looked, alternately in fear
and wonder, at those terrible warriors with their swords always raised,
those beautiful huntresses shooting the arrow which never left the bow,
and those shepherds in satin breeches always playing the flute at the
feet of the perpetually smiling shepherdess. Sometimes, when the wind
blew behind these hanging pictures, it seemed to me that the figures
themselves moved, and I watched to see them detach themselves from the
wall, and take their places in the procession! But these impressions
were vague and transitory. The feeling that predominated over every
other was that of an overflowing yet quiet joy. In the midst of all the
floating draperies, the scattered flowers, the voices of the maidens,
and the gladness which, like a perfume, exhaled from everything, you
felt transported in spite of yourself. The joyful sounds of the festival
were repeated in your heart, in a thousand melodious echoes. You were
more indulgent, more holy, more loving! For God was not only manifesting
himself without, but also within us.

And then the altars for the occasion! the flowery arbors! the triumphal
arches made of green boughs! What competition among the different
parishes for the erection of the resting-places where the procession was
to halt! It was who should contribute the rarest and the most beautiful
of his possessions!

It was there I made my first sacrifice!

The wreaths of flowers were arranged, the candles lighted, and the
Tabernacle dressed with roses; but one was wanting fit to crown the
whole! All the neighboring gardens had been ransacked. I alone possessed
a flower worthy of such a place. It was on the rose-tree given me by my
mother on my birthday. I had watched it for several months, and there
was no other bud to blow on the tree. There it was, half open, in its
mossy nest, the object of such long expectations, and of all a child’s
pride! I hesitated for some moments. No one had asked me for it; I
might easily avoid losing it. I should hear no reproaches, but one rose
noiselessly within me. When every one else had given all they had, ought
I alone to keep back my treasure? Ought I to grudge to God one of the
gifts which, like all the rest, I had received from him? At this last
thought I plucked the flower from the stem, and took it to put at the
top of the Tabernacle. Ah! why does the recollection of this sacrifice,
which was so hard and yet so sweet to me, now make me smile? Is it
so certain that the value of a gift is in itself, rather than in the
intention? If the cup of cold water in the gospel is remembered to the
poor man, why should not the flower be remembered to the child? Let us
not look down upon the child’s simple act of generosity; it is these
which accustom the soul to self-denial and to sympathy. I cherished this
moss-rose a long time as a sacred talisman; I had reason to cherish it
always, as the record of the first victory won over myself.

It is now many years since I witnessed the celebration of the ‘Fete
Dieu’; but should I again feel in it the happy sensations of former
days? I still remember how, when the procession had passed, I walked
through the streets strewed with flowers and shaded with green boughs.
I felt intoxicated by the lingering perfumes of the incense, mixed with
the fragrance of syringas, jessamine, and roses, and I seemed no longer
to touch the ground as I went along. I smiled at everything; the whole
world was Paradise in my eyes, and it seemed to me that God was floating
in the air!

Moreover, this feeling was not the excitement of the moment: it might be
more intense on certain days, but at the same time it continued through
the ordinary course of my life. Many years thus passed for me in an
expansion of heart, and a trustfulness which prevented sorrow, if not
from coming, at least from staying with me. Sure of not being alone, I
soon took heart again, like the child who recovers its courage, because
it hears its mother’s voice close by. Why have I lost that confidence of
my childhood? Shall I never feel again so deeply that God is here?

How strange the association of our thoughts! A day of the month recalls
my infancy, and see, all the recollections of my former years are
growing up around me! Why was I so happy then? I consider well, and
nothing is sensibly changed in my condition. I possess, as I did
then, health and my daily bread; the only difference is, that I am
now responsible for myself! As a child, I accepted life when it came;
another cared and provided for me. So long as I fulfilled my present
duties I was at peace within, and I left the future to the prudence of
my father! My destiny was a ship, in the directing of which I had no
share, and in which I sailed as a common passenger. There was the whole
secret of childhood’s happy security. Since then worldly wisdom has
deprived me of it. When my lot was intrusted to my own and sole keeping,
I thought to make myself master of it by means of a long insight into
the future. I have filled the present hour with anxieties, by occupying
my thoughts with the future; I have put my judgment in the place of
Providence, and the happy child is changed into the anxious man.

A melancholy course, yet perhaps an important lesson. Who knows that,
if I had trusted more to Him who rules the world, I should not have been
spared all this anxiety? It may be that happiness is not possible here
below, except on condition of living like a child, giving ourselves up
to the duties of each day as it comes, and trusting in the goodness of
our heavenly Father for all besides.

This reminds me of my Uncle Maurice! Whenever I have need to strengthen
myself in all that is good, I turn my thoughts to him; I see again the
gentle expression of his half-smiling, half-mournful face; I hear his
voice, always soft and soothing as a breath of summer! The remembrance
of him protects my life, and gives it light. He, too, was a saint and
martyr here below. Others have pointed out the path of heaven; he has
taught us to see those of earth aright.

But, except the angels, who are charged with noting down the sacrifices
performed in secret, and the virtues which are never known, who has ever
heard of my Uncle Maurice? Perhaps I alone remember his name, and still
recall his history.

Well! I will write it, not for others, but for myself! They say that,
at the sight of the Apollo, the body erects itself and assumes a more
dignified attitude: in the same way, the soul should feel itself raised
and ennobled by the recollection of a good man’s life!

A ray of the rising sun lights up the little table on which I write; the
breeze brings me in the scent of the mignonette, and the swallows wheel
about my window with joyful twitterings. The image of my Uncle Maurice
will be in its proper place amid the songs, the sunshine, and the
fragrance.

Seven o’clock.--It is with men’s lives as with days: some dawn radiant
with a thousand colors, others dark with gloomy clouds. That of my Uncle
Maurice was one of the latter. He was so sickly, when he came into
the world, that they thought he must die; but notwithstanding these
anticipations, which might be called hopes, he continued to live,
suffering and deformed.

He was deprived of all joys as well as of all the attractions of
childhood. He was oppressed because he was weak, and laughed at for his
deformity. In vain the little hunchback opened his arms to the world:
the world scoffed at him, and went its way.

However, he still had his mother, and it was to her that the child
directed all the feelings of a heart repelled by others. With her he
found shelter, and was happy, till he reached the age when a man must
take his place in life; and Maurice had to content himself with that
which others had refused with contempt. His education would
have qualified him for any course of life; and he became an
octroi-clerk--[The octroi is the tax on provisions levied at the
entrance of the town]--in one of the little toll-houses at the entrance
of his native town.

He was always shut up in this dwelling of a few feet square, with no
relaxation from the office accounts but reading and his mother’s visits.
On fine summer days she came to work at the door of his hut, under the
shade of a clematis planted by Maurice. And, even when she was silent,
her presence was a pleasant change for the hunchback; he heard the
clinking of her long knitting-needles; he saw her mild and mournful
profile, which reminded him of so many courageously-borne trials; he
could every now and then rest his hand affectionately on that bowed
neck, and exchange a smile with her!

This comfort was soon to be taken from him. His old mother fell sick,
and at the end of a few days he had to give up all hope. Maurice was
overcome at the idea of a separation which would henceforth leave him
alone on earth, and abandoned himself to boundless grief. He knelt by
the bedside of the dying woman, he called her by the fondest names, he
pressed her in his arms, as if he could so keep her in life. His mother
tried to return his caresses, and to answer him; but her hands were
cold, her voice was already gone. She could only press her lips against
the forehead of her son, heave a sigh, and close her eyes forever!

They tried to take Maurice away, but he resisted them and threw himself
on that now motionless form.

“Dead!” cried he; “dead! She who had never left me, she who was the only
one in the world who loved me! You, my mother, dead! What then remains
for me here below?”

A stifled voice replied:

“God!”

Maurice, startled, raised himself! Was that a last sigh from the dead,
or his own conscience, that had answered him? He did not seek to know,
but he understood the answer, and accepted it.

It was then that I first knew him. I often went to see him in his little
toll-house. He joined in my childish games, told me his finest stories,
and let me gather his flowers. Deprived as he was of all external
attractiveness, he showed himself full of kindness to all who came to
him, and, though he never would put himself forward, he had a welcome
for everyone. Deserted, despised, he submitted to everything with a
gentle patience; and while he was thus stretched on the cross of life,
amid the insults of his executioners, he repeated with Christ, “Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

No other clerk showed so much honesty, zeal, and intelligence; but those
who otherwise might have promoted him as his services deserved were
repelled by his deformity. As he had no patrons, he found his claims
were always disregarded. They preferred before him those who were better
able to make themselves agreeable, and seemed to be granting him a favor
when letting him keep the humble office which enabled him to live. Uncle
Maurice bore injustice as he had borne contempt; unfairly treated by
men, he raised his eyes higher, and trusted in the justice of Him who
cannot be deceived.

He lived in an old house in the suburb, where many work-people, as poor
but not as forlorn as he, also lodged. Among these neighbors there was
a single woman, who lived by herself in a little garret, into which came
both wind and rain. She was a young girl, pale, silent, and with nothing
to recommend her but her wretchedness and her resignation to it. She was
never seen speaking to any other woman, and no song cheered her garret.
She worked without interest and without relaxation; a depressing gloom
seemed to envelop her like a shroud. Her dejection affected Maurice; he
attempted to speak to her; she replied mildly, but in few words. It
was easy to see that she preferred her silence and her solitude to the
little hunchback’s good-will; he perceived it, and said no more.

But Toinette’s needle was hardly sufficient for her support, and
presently work failed her! Maurice learned that the poor girl was in
want of everything, and that the tradesmen refused to give her credit.
He immediately went to them privately and engaged to pay them for what
they supplied Toinette with.

Things went on in this way for several months. The young dressmaker
continued out of work, until she was at last frightened at the bills
she had contracted with the shopkeepers. When she came to an explanation
with them, everything was discovered. Her first impulse was to run to
Uncle Maurice, and thank him on her knees. Her habitual reserve had
given way to a burst of deepest feeling. It seemed as if gratitude had
melted all the ice of that numbed heart.

Being now no longer embarrassed with a secret, the little hunchback
could give greater efficacy to his good offices. Toinette became to him
a sister, for whose wants he had a right to provide. It was the first
time since the death of his mother that he had been able to share his
life with another. The young woman received his attentions with feeling,
but with reserve. All Maurice’s efforts were insufficient to dispel her
gloom: she seemed touched by his kindness, and sometimes expressed her
sense of it with warmth; but there she stopped. Her heart was a closed
book, which the little hunchback might bend over, but could not read. In
truth he cared little to do so; he gave himself up to the happiness of
being no longer alone, and took Toinette such as her long trials had
made her; he loved her as she was, and wished for nothing else but still
to enjoy her company.

This thought insensibly took possession of his mind, to the exclusion
of all besides. The poor girl was as forlorn as himself; she had become
accustomed to the deformity of the hunchback, and she seemed to look on
him with an affectionate sympathy! What more could he wish for? Until
then, the hopes of making himself acceptable to a helpmate had been
repelled by Maurice as a dream; but chance seemed willing to make it a
reality. After much hesitation he took courage, and decided to speak to
her.

It was evening; the little hunchback, in much agitation, directed his
steps toward the work-woman’s garret just as he was about to enter,
he thought he heard a strange voice pronouncing the maiden’s name.
He quickly pushed open the door, and perceived Toinette weeping, and
leaning on the shoulder of a young man in the dress of a sailor.

At the sight of my uncle, she disengaged herself quickly, and ran to
him, crying out:

“Ah! come in--come in! It is he that I thought was dead: it is Julien;
it is my betrothed!”

Maurice tottered, and drew back. A single word had told him all!

It seemed to him as if the ground shook and his heart was about to
break; but the same voice that he had heard by his mother’s deathbed
again sounded in his ears, and he soon recovered himself. God was still
his friend!

He himself accompanied the newly-married pair on the road when they left
the town, and, after wishing them all the happiness which was denied to
him, he returned with resignation to the old house in the suburb.

It was there that he ended his life, forsaken by men, but not as he said
by the Father which is in heaven. He felt His presence everywhere; it
was to him in the place of all else. When he died, it was with a smile,
and like an exile setting out for his own country. He who had consoled
him in poverty and ill-health, when he was suffering from injustice and
forsaken by all, had made death a gain and blessing to him.

Eight o’clock.--All I have just written has pained me! Till now I have
looked into life for instruction how to live. Is it then true that
human maxims are not always sufficient? that beyond goodness, prudence,
moderation, humility, self-sacrifice itself, there is one great truth,
which alone can face great misfortunes? and that, if man has need of
virtues for others, he has need of religion for himself?

When, in youth, we drink our wine with a merry heart, as the Scripture
expresses it, we think we are sufficient for ourselves; strong, happy,
and beloved, we believe, like Ajax, we shall be able to escape every
storm in spite of the gods. But later in life, when the back is
bowed, when happiness proves a fading flower, and the affections grow
chill-then, in fear of the void and the darkness, we stretch out our
arms, like the child overtaken by night, and we call for help to Him who
is everywhere.

I was asking this morning why this growing confusion alike for society
and for the individual? In vain does human reason from hour to hour
light some new torch on the roadside: the night continues to grow ever
darker! Is it not because we are content to withdraw farther and farther
from God, the Sun of spirits?

But what do these hermit’s reveries signify to the world? The inward
turmoils of most men are stifled by the outward ones; life does not give
them time to question themselves. Have they time to know what they are,
and what they should be, whose whole thoughts are in the next lease or
the last price of stock? Heaven is very high, and wise men look only at
the earth.

But I--poor savage amid all this civilization, who seek neither power
nor riches, and who have found in my own thoughts the home and shelter
of my spirit--I can go back with impunity to these recollections of my
childhood; and, if this our great city no longer honors the name of
God with a festival, I will strive still to keep the feast to Him in my
heart.



CHAPTER VII. THE PRICE OF POWER AND THE WORTH OF FAME

Sunday, July 1st

Yesterday the month dedicated to Juno (Junius, June) by the Romans
ended. To-day we enter on July.

In ancient Rome this latter month was called Quintiles (the fifth),
because the year, which was then divided into only ten parts, began in
March. When Numa Pompilius divided it into twelve months this name
of Quintiles was preserved, as well as those that followed--Sexteles,
September, October, November, December--although these designations did
not accord with the newly arranged order of the months. At last, after
a time the month Quintiles, in which Julius Caesar was born, was called
Julius, whence we have July. Thus this name, placed in the calendar, is
become the imperishable record of a great man; it is an immortal epitaph
on Time’s highway, engraved by the admiration of man.

How many similar inscriptions are there! Seas, continents, mountains,
stars, and monuments, have all in succession served the same purpose! We
have turned the whole world into a Golden Book, like that in which
the state of Venice used to enroll its illustrious names and its great
deeds. It seems that mankind feels a necessity for honoring itself in
its elect ones, and that it raises itself in its own eyes by choosing
heroes from among its own race. The human family love to preserve
the memory; of the parvenus of glory, as we cherish that of a great
ancestor, or of a benefactor.

In fact, the talents granted to a single individual do not benefit
himself alone, but are gifts to the world; everyone shares them, for
everyone suffers or benefits by his actions. Genius is a lighthouse,
meant to give light from afar; the man who bears it is but the rock upon
which this lighthouse is built.

I love to dwell upon these thoughts; they explain to me in what consists
our admiration for glory. When glory has benefited men, that admiration
is gratitude; when it is only remarkable in itself, it is the pride
of race; as men, we love to immortalize the most shining examples of
humanity.

Who knows whether we do not obey the same instinct in submitting to the
hand of power? Apart from the requirements of a gradation of ranks, or
the consequences of a conquest, the multitude delight to surround their
chiefs with privileges--whether it be that their vanity makes them thus
to aggrandize one of their own creations, or whether they try to conceal
the humiliation of subjection by exaggerating the importance of those
who rule them. They wish to honor themselves through their master; they
elevate him on their shoulders as on a pedestal; they surround him
with a halo of light, in order that some of it may be reflected upon
themselves. It is still the fable of the dog who contents himself with
the chain and collar, so that they are of gold.

This servile vanity is not less natural or less common than the vanity
of dominion. Whoever feels himself incapable of command, at least
desires to obey a powerful chief. Serfs have been known to consider
themselves dishonored when they became the property of a mere count
after having been that of a prince, and Saint-Simon mentions a valet who
would only wait upon marquises.

July 7th, seven o’clock P. M.--I have just now been up the Boulevards;
it was the opera night, and there was a crowd of carriages in the
Rue Lepelletier. The foot-passengers who were stopped at a crossing
recognized the persons in some of these as we went by, and mentioned
their names; they were those of celebrated or powerful men, the
successful ones of the day.

Near me there was a man looking on with hollow cheeks and eager eyes,
whose thin black coat was threadbare. He followed with envious looks
these possessors of the privileges of power or of fame, and I read on
his lips, which curled with a bitter smile, all that passed in his mind.

“Look at them, the lucky fellows!” thought he; “all the pleasures
of wealth, all the enjoyments of pride, are theirs. Their names are
renowned, all their wishes fulfilled; they are the sovereigns of the
world, either by their intellect or their power; and while I, poor and
unknown, toil painfully along the road below, they wing their way over
the mountain-tops gilded by the broad sunshine of prosperity.”

I have come home in deep thought. Is it true that there are these
inequalities, I do not say in the fortunes, but in the happiness of men?
Do genius and authority really wear life as a crown, while the greater
part of mankind receive it as a yoke? Is the difference of rank but a
different use of men’s dispositions and talents, or a real inequality
in their destinies? A solemn question, as it regards the verification of
God’s impartiality.

July 8th, noon.--I went this morning to call upon a friend from the
same province as myself, who is the first usher-in-waiting to one of our
ministers. I took him some letters from his family, left for him by a
traveller just come from Brittany. He wished me to stay.

“To-day,” said he, “the Minister gives no audience: he takes a day of
rest with his family. His younger sisters are arrived; he will take them
this morning to St. Cloud, and in the evening he has invited his friends
to a private ball. I shall be dismissed directly for the rest of the
day. We can dine together; read the news while you are waiting for me.”

I sat down at a table covered with newspapers, all of which I looked
over by turns. Most of them contained severe criticisms on the last
political acts of the minister; some of them added suspicions as to the
honor of the minister himself.

Just as I had finished reading, a secretary came for them to take them
to his master.

He was then about to read these accusations, to suffer silently the
abuse of all those tongues which were holding him up to indignation or
to scorn! Like the Roman victor in his triumph, he had to endure the
insults of him who followed his car, relating to the crowd his follies,
his ignorance, or his vices.

But, among the arrows shot at him from every side, would no one be found
poisoned? Would not one reach some spot in his heart where the wound
would be incurable? What is the worth of a life exposed to the attacks
of envious hatred or furious conviction? The Christians yielded only the
fragments of their flesh to the beasts of the amphitheatres; the man in
power gives up his peace, his affections, his honor, to the cruel bites
of the pen.

While I was musing upon these dangers of greatness, the usher entered
hastily. Important news had been received: the minister is just summoned
to the council; he will not be able to take his sisters to St. Cloud.

I saw, through the windows, the young ladies, who were waiting at the
door, sorrowfully go upstairs again, while their brother went off to the
council. The carriage, which should have gone filled with so much family
happiness, is just out of sight, carrying only the cares of a statesman
in it.

The usher came back discontented and disappointed. The more or less of
liberty which he is allowed to enjoy, is his barometer of the political
atmosphere. If he gets leave, all goes well; if he is kept at his
post, the country is in danger. His opinion on public affairs is but a
calculation of his own interest. My friend is almost a statesman.

I had some conversation with him, and he told me several curious
particulars of public life.

The new minister has old friends whose opinions he opposes, though he
still retains his personal regard for them. Though separated from them
by the colors he fights under, they remain united by old associations;
but the exigencies of party forbid him to meet them. If their
intercourse continued, it would awaken suspicion; people would imagine
that some dishonorable bargain was going on; his friends would be held
to be traitors desirous to sell themselves, and he the corrupt minister
prepared to buy them. He has, therefore, been obliged to break off
friendships of twenty years’ standing, and to sacrifice attachments
which had become a second nature.

Sometimes, however, the minister still gives way to his old feelings; he
receives or visits his friends privately; he shuts himself up with
them, and talks of the times when they could be open friends. By dint
of precautions they have hitherto succeeded in concealing this blot of
friendship against policy; but sooner or later the newspapers will be
informed of it, and will denounce him to the country as an object of
distrust.

For whether hatred be honest or dishonest, it never shrinks from any
accusation. Sometimes it even proceeds to crime. The usher assured me
that several warnings had been given the minister which had made him
fear the vengeance of an assassin, and that he no longer ventured out on
foot.

Then, from one thing to another, I learned what temptations came in to
mislead or overcome his judgment; how he found himself fatally led
into obliquities which he could not but deplore. Misled by passion,
over-persuaded by entreaties, or compelled for reputation’s sake, he has
many times held the balance with an unsteady hand. How sad the condition
of him who is in authority! Not only are the miseries of power imposed
upon him, but its vices also, which, not content with torturing, succeed
in corrupting him.

We prolonged our conversation till it was interrupted by the minister’s
return. He threw himself out of the carriage with a handful of papers,
and with an anxious manner went into his own room. An instant afterward
his bell was heard; his secretary was called to send off notices to all
those invited for the evening; the ball would not take place; they
spoke mysteriously of bad news transmitted by the telegraph, and in such
circumstances an entertainment would seem to insult the public sorrow.

I took leave of my friend, and here I am at home. What I have just seen
is an answer to my doubts the other day. Now I know with what pangs men
pay for their dignities; now I understand

     That Fortune sells what we believe she gives.

This explains to me the reason why Charles V. aspired to the repose of
the cloister.

And yet I have only glanced at some of the sufferings attached to power.
What shall I say of the falls in which its possessors are precipitated
from the heights of heaven to the very depths of the earth? of that
path of pain along which they must forever bear the burden of their
responsibility? of that chain of decorums and ennuis which encompasses
every act of their lives, and leaves them so little liberty?

The partisans of despotism adhere with reason to forms and ceremonies.
If men wish to give unlimited power to their fellow-man, they must keep
him separated from ordinary humanity; they must surround him with a
continual worship, and, by a constant ceremonial, keep up for him
the superhuman part they have granted him. Our masters cannot remain
absolute, except on condition of being treated as idols.

But, after all, these idols are men, and, if the exclusive life they
must lead is an insult to the dignity of others, it is also a torment to
themselves. Everyone knows the law of the Spanish court, which used to
regulate, hour by hour, the actions of the king and queen; “so that,”
 says Voltaire, “by reading it one can tell all that the sovereigns of
Spain have done, or will do, from Philip II to the day of judgment.” It
was by this law that Philip III, when sick, was obliged to endure such
an excess of heat that he died in consequence, because the Duke of
Uzeda, who alone had the right to put out the fire in the royal chamber,
happened to be absent.

When the wife of Charles II was run away with on a spirited horse, she
was about to perish before anyone dared to save her, because etiquette
forbade them to touch the queen. Two young officers endangered their
lives for her by stopping the horse. The prayers and tears of her whom
they had just snatched from death were necessary to obtain pardon for
their crime. Every one knows the anecdote related by Madame Campan of
Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. One day, being at her toilet, when
the chemise was about to be presented to her by one of the assistants,
a lady of very ancient family entered and claimed the honor, as she had
the right by etiquette; but, at the moment she was about to fulfil her
duty, a lady of higher rank appeared, and in her turn took the garment
she was about to offer to the queen; when a third lady of still higher
title came in her turn, and was followed by a fourth, who was no other
than the king’s sister. The chemise was in this manner passed from hand
to hand, with ceremonies, courtesies, and compliments, before it came
to the queen, who, half naked and quite ashamed, was shivering with cold
for the great honor of etiquette.

12th, seven o’clock, P.M.--On coming home this evening, I saw, standing
at the door of a house, an old man, whose appearance and features
reminded me of my father. There was the same beautiful smile, the same
deep and penetrating eye, the same noble bearing of the head, and the
same careless attitude.

I began living over again the first years of my life, and recalling to
myself the conversations of that guide whom God in his mercy had given
me, and whom in his severity he had too soon withdrawn.

When my father spoke, it was not only to bring our two minds together by
an interchange of thought, but his words always contained instruction.

Not that he endeavored to make me feel it so: my father feared
everything that had the appearance of a lesson. He used to say that
virtue could make herself devoted friends, but she did not take pupils:
therefore he was not desirous to teach goodness; he contented himself
with sowing the seeds of it, certain that experience would make them
grow.

How often has good grain fallen thus into a corner of the heart, and,
when it has been long forgotten, all at once put forth the blade and
come into ear! It is a treasure laid aside in a time of ignorance, and
we do not know its value till we find ourselves in need of it.

Among the stories with which he enlivened our walks or our evenings,
there is one which now returns to my memory, doubtless because the time
is come to derive its lesson from it.

My father, who was apprenticed at the age of twelve to one of those
trading collectors who call themselves naturalists, because they put all
creation under glasses that they may sell it by retail, had always led
a life of poverty and labor. Obliged to rise before daybreak, by turns
shop-boy, clerk, and laborer, he was made to bear alone all the work
of a trade of which his master reaped all the profits. In truth, this
latter had a peculiar talent for making the most of the labor of other
people. Though unfit himself for the execution of any kind of work, no
one knew better how to sell it. His words were a net, in which people
found themselves taken before they were aware. And since he was devoted
to himself alone, and looked on the producer as his enemy, and the
buyer as prey, he used them both with that obstinate perseverance which
avarice teaches.

My father was a slave all the week, and could call himself his own only
on Sunday. The master naturalist, who used to spend the day at the house
of an old female relative, then gave him his liberty on condition that
he dined out, and at his own expense. But my father used secretly to
take with him a crust of bread, which he hid in his botanizing-box, and,
leaving Paris as soon as it was day, he would wander far into the valley
of Montmorency, the wood of Meudon, or among the windings of the
Marne. Excited by the fresh air, the penetrating perfume of the growing
vegetation, or the fragrance of the honeysuckles, he would walk on until
hunger or fatigue made itself felt. Then he would sit under a hedge,
or by the side of a stream, and would make a rustic feast, by turns
on watercresses, wood strawberries, and blackberries picked from the
hedges; he would gather a few plants, read a few pages of Florian,
then in greatest vogue, of Gessner, who was just translated, or of Jean
Jacques, of whom he possessed three old volumes. The day was thus passed
alternately in activity and rest, in pursuit and meditation, until the
declining sun warned him to take again the road to Paris, where he would
arrive, his feet torn and dusty, but his mind invigorated for a whole
week.

One day, as he was going toward the wood of Viroflay, he met, close to
it, a stranger who was occupied in botanizing and in sorting the plants
he had just gathered. He was an elderly man with an honest face; but
his eyes, which were rather deep-set under his eyebrows, had a somewhat
uneasy and timid expression. He was dressed in a brown cloth coat,
a gray waistcoat, black breeches, and worsted stockings, and held an
ivory-headed cane under his arm. His appearance was that of a small
retired tradesman who was living on his means, and rather below the
golden mean of Horace.

My father, who had great respect for age, civilly raised his hat to
him as he passed. In doing so, a plant he held fell from his hand; the
stranger stooped to take it up, and recognized it.

“It is a Deutaria heptaphyllos,” said he; “I have not yet seen any of
them in these woods; did you find it near here, sir?”

My father replied that it was to be found in abundance on the top of the
hill, toward Sevres, as well as the great Laserpitium.

“That, too!” repeated the old man more briskly. “Ah! I shall go and look
for them; I have gathered them formerly on the hillside of Robaila.”

My father proposed to take him. The stranger accepted his proposal with
thanks, and hastened to collect together the plants he had gathered; but
all of a sudden he appeared seized with a scruple. He observed to his
companion that the road he was going was halfway up the hill, and led
in the direction of the castle of the Dames Royales at Bellevue; that by
going to the top he would consequently turn out of his road, and that it
was not right he should take this trouble for a stranger.

My father insisted upon it with his habitual good-nature; but, the more
eagerness he showed, the more obstinately the old man refused; it
even seemed to my father that his good intention at last excited his
suspicion. He therefore contented himself with pointing out the road to
the stranger, whom he saluted, and he soon lost sight of him.

Many hours passed by, and he thought no more of the meeting. He had
reached the copses of Chaville, where, stretched on the ground in a
mossy glade, he read once more the last volume of Emile. The delight of
reading it had so completely absorbed him that he had ceased to see or
hear anything around him. With his cheeks flushed and his eyes moist, he
repeated aloud a passage which had particularly affected him.

An exclamation uttered close by him awoke him from his ecstasy; he
raised his head, and perceived the tradesman-looking person he had met
before on the crossroad at Viroflay.

He was loaded with plants, the collection of which seemed to have put
him into high good-humor.

“A thousand thanks, sir,” said he to my father. “I have found all that
you told me of, and I am indebted to you for a charming walk.”

My father respectfully rose, and made a civil reply. The stranger had
grown quite familiar, and even asked if his young “brother botanist” did
not think of returning to Paris. My father replied in the affirmative,
and opened his tin box to put his book back in it.

The stranger asked him with a smile if he might without impertinence ask
the name of it. My father answered that it was Rousseau’s Emile.

The stranger immediately became grave.

They walked for some time side by side, my father expressing, with the
warmth of a heart still throbbing with emotion, all that this work
had made him feel; his companion remaining cold and silent. The former
extolled the glory of the great Genevese writer, whose genius had made
him a citizen of the world; he expatiated on this privilege of great
thinkers, who reign in spite of time and space, and gather together a
people of willing subjects out of all nations; but the stranger suddenly
interrupted him:

“And how do you know,” said he, mildly, “whether Jean Jacques would not
exchange the reputation which you seem to envy for the life of one of
the wood-cutters whose chimneys’ smoke we see? What has fame brought him
except persecution? The unknown friends whom his books may have made
for him content themselves with blessing him in their hearts, while the
declared enemies that they have drawn upon him pursue him with violence
and calumny! His pride has been flattered by success: how many times has
it been wounded by satire? And be assured that human pride is like the
Sybarite who was prevented from sleeping by a crease in a roseleaf. The
activity of a vigorous mind, by which the world profits, almost always
turns against him who possesses it. He expects more from it as he grows
older; the ideal he pursues continually disgusts him with the actual;
he is like a man who, with a too-refined sight, discerns spots and
blemishes in the most beautiful face. I will not speak of stronger
temptations and of deeper downfalls. Genius, you have said, is a
kingdom; but what virtuous man is not afraid of being a king? He who
feels only his great powers, is--with the weaknesses and passions of our
nature--preparing for great failures. Believe me, sir, the unhappy man
who wrote this book is no object of admiration or of envy; but, if you
have a feeling heart, pity him!”

My father, astonished at the excitement with which his companion
pronounced these last words, did not know what to answer.

Just then they reached the paved road which led from Meudon Castle to
that of Versailles; a carriage was passing.

The ladies who were in it perceived the old man, uttered an exclamation
of surprise, and leaning out of the window repeated:

“There is Jean Jacques--there is Rousseau!”

Then the carriage disappeared in the distance.

My father remained motionless, confounded, and amazed, his eyes wide
open, and his hands clasped.

Rousseau, who had shuddered on hearing his name spoken, turned toward
him:

“You see,” said he, with the bitter misanthropy which his later
misfortunes had produced in him, “Jean Jacques cannot even hide himself:
he is an object of curiosity to some, of malignity to others, and to all
he is a public thing, at which they point the finger. It would signify
less if he had only to submit to the impertinence of the idle; but, as
soon as a man has had the misfortune to make himself a name, he becomes
public property. Every one rakes into his life, relates his most trivial
actions, and insults his feelings; he becomes like those walls, which
every passer-by may deface with some abusive writing. Perhaps you
will say that I have myself encouraged this curiosity by publishing my
Confessions. But the world forced me to it. They looked into my house
through the blinds, and they slandered me; I have opened the doors and
windows, so that they should at least know me such as I am. Adieu, sir.
Whenever you wish to know the worth of fame, remember that you have seen
Rousseau.”

Nine o’clock.--Ah! now I understand my father’s story! It contains the
answer to one of the questions I asked myself a week ago. Yes, I now
feel that fame and power are gifts that are dearly bought; and that,
when they dazzle the soul, both are oftenest, as Madame de Stael says,
but ‘un deuil eclatant de bonheur!

          ‘Tis better to be lowly born,
          And range with humble livers in content,
          Than to be perk’d up in a glistering grief,
          And wear a golden sorrow.

          [Henry VIII., Act II., Scene 3.]



CHAPTER VIII. MISANTHROPY AND REPENTANCE

August 3d, Nine O’clock P.M.

There are days when everything appears gloomy to us; the world, like the
sky, is covered by a dark fog. Nothing seems in its place; we see only
misery, improvidence, and cruelty; the world seems without God, and
given up to all the evils of chance.

Yesterday I was in this unhappy humor. After a long walk in the
faubourgs, I returned home, sad and dispirited.

Everything I had seen seemed to accuse the civilization of which we are
so proud! I had wandered into a little by-street, with which I was not
acquainted, and I found myself suddenly in the middle of those dreadful
abodes where the poor are born, to languish and die. I looked at those
decaying walls, which time has covered with a foul leprosy; those
windows, from which dirty rags hang out to dry; those fetid gutters,
which coil along the fronts of the houses like venomous reptiles! I felt
oppressed with grief, and hastened on.

A little farther on I was stopped by the hearse of a hospital; a dead
man, nailed down in his deal coffin, was going to his last abode,
without funeral pomp or ceremony, and without followers. There was not
here even that last friend of the outcast--the dog, which a painter has
introduced as the sole attendant at the pauper’s burial! He whom they
were preparing to commit to the earth was going to the tomb, as he had
lived, alone; doubtless no one would be aware of his end. In this battle
of society, what signifies a soldier the less?

But what, then, is this human society, if one of its members can thus
disappear like a leaf carried away by the wind?

The hospital was near a barrack, at the entrance of which old men,
women, and children were quarrelling for the remains of the coarse
bread which the soldiers had given them in charity! Thus, beings like
ourselves daily wait in destitution on our compassion till we give
them leave to live! Whole troops of outcasts, in addition to the trials
imposed on all God’s children, have to endure the pangs of cold, hunger,
and humiliation. Unhappy human commonwealth! Where man is in a worse
condition than the bee in its hive, or the ant in its subterranean city!

Ah! what then avails our reason? What is the use of so many high
faculties, if we are neither the wiser nor the happier for them? Which
of us would not exchange his life of labor and trouble with that of the
birds of the air, to whom the whole world is a life of joy?

How well I understand the complaint of Mao, in the popular tales of the
‘Foyer Breton’ who, when dying of hunger and thirst, says, as he looks
at the bullfinches rifling the fruit-trees:

“Alas! those birds are happier than Christians; they have no need of
inns, or butchers, or bakers, or gardeners. God’s heaven belongs to
them, and earth spreads a continual feast before them! The tiny flies
are their game, ripe grass their cornfields, and hips and haws their
store of fruit. They have the right of taking everywhere, without paying
or asking leave: thus comes it that the little birds are happy, and sing
all the livelong day!”

But the life of man in a natural state is like that of the birds; he
equally enjoys nature. “The earth spreads a continual feast before him.”
 What, then, has he gained by that selfish and imperfect association
which forms a nation? Would it not be better for every one to turn again
to the fertile bosom of nature, and live there upon her bounty in peace
and liberty?

August 20th, four o’clock A.M.--The dawn casts a red glow on my
bed-curtains; the breeze brings in the fragrance of the gardens below.
Here I am again leaning on my elbows by the windows, inhaling the
freshness and gladness of this first wakening of the day.

My eye always passes over the roofs filled with flowers, warbling, and
sunlight, with the same pleasure; but to-day it stops at the end of a
buttress which separates our house from the next.

The storms have stripped the top of its plaster covering, and dust
carried by the wind has collected in the crevices, and, being fixed
there by the rain, has formed a sort of aerial terrace, where some green
grass has sprung up. Among it rises a stalk of wheat, which to-day is
surmounted by a sickly ear that droops its yellow head.

This poor stray crop on the roofs, the harvest of which will fall to the
neighboring sparrows, has carried my thoughts to the rich crops which
are now falling beneath the sickle; it has recalled to me the
beautiful walks I took as a child through my native province, when the
threshing-floors at the farmhouses resounded from every part with the
sound of a flail, and when the carts, loaded with golden sheaves, came
in by all the roads. I still remember the songs of the maidens, the
cheerfulness of the old men, the open-hearted merriment of the laborers.
There was, at that time, something in their looks both of pride and
feeling. The latter came from thankfulness to God, the former from the
sight of the harvest, the reward of their labor. They felt indistinctly
the grandeur and the holiness of their part in the general work of the
world; they looked with pride upon their mountains of corn-sheaves, and
they seemed to say, Next to God, it is we who feed the world!

What a wonderful order there is in all human labor!

While the husbandman furrows his land, and prepares for every one his
daily bread, the town artizan, far away, weaves the stuff in which he
is to be clothed; the miner seeks underground the iron for his plow; the
soldier defends him against the invader; the judge takes care that
the law protects his fields; the tax-comptroller adjusts his private
interests with those of the public; the merchant occupies himself in
exchanging his products with those of distant countries; the men of
science and of art add every day a few horses to this ideal team, which
draws along the material world, as steam impels the gigantic trains of
our iron roads! Thus all unite together, all help one another; the
toil of each one benefits himself and all the world; the work has been
apportioned among the different members of the whole of society by a
tacit agreement. If, in this apportionment, errors are committed,
if certain individuals have not been employed according to their
capacities, those defects of detail diminish in the sublime conception
of the whole. The poorest man included in this association has his
place, his work, his reason for being there; each is something in the
whole.

There is nothing like this for man in the state of nature. As he depends
only upon himself, it is necessary that he be sufficient for everything.
All creation is his property; but he finds in it as many hindrances as
helps. He must surmount these obstacles with the single strength that
God has given him; he cannot reckon on any other aid than chance and
opportunity. No one reaps, manufactures, fights, or thinks for him; he
is nothing to any one. He is a unit multiplied by the cipher of his own
single powers; while the civilized man is a unit multiplied by the whole
of society.

But, notwithstanding this, the other day, disgusted by the sight of some
vices in detail, I cursed the latter, and almost envied the life of the
savage.

One of the infirmities of our nature is always to mistake feeling for
evidence, and to judge of the season by a cloud or a ray of sunshine.

Was the misery, the sight of which made me regret a savage life, really
the effect of civilization? Must we accuse society of having created
these evils, or acknowledge, on the contrary, that it has alleviated
them? Could the women and children, who were receiving the coarse bread
from the soldier, hope in the desert for more help or pity? That dead
man, whose forsaken state I deplored, had he not found, by the cares of
a hospital, a coffin and the humble grave where he was about to rest?
Alone, and far from men, he would have died like the wild beast in his
den, and would now be serving as food for vultures! These benefits of
human society are shared, then, by the most destitute. Whoever eats the
bread that another has reaped and kneaded, is under an obligation to his
brother, and cannot say he owes him nothing in return. The poorest of us
has received from society much more than his own single strength would
have permitted him to wrest from nature.

But cannot society give us more? Who doubts it? Errors have been
committed in this distribution of tasks and workers. Time will diminish
the number of them; with new lights a better division will arise; the
elements of society go on toward perfection, like everything else. The
difficulty is to know how to adapt ourselves to the slow step of time,
whose progress can never be forced on without danger.

August 14th, six o’clock A.M.--My garret window rises upon the roof like
a massive watch-tower. The corners are covered by large sheets of lead,
which run into the tiles; the successive action of cold and heat has
made them rise, and so a crevice has been formed in an angle on the
right side. There a sparrow has built her nest.

I have followed the progress of this aerial habitation from the first
day. I have seen the bird successively bring the straw, moss, and wool
designed for the construction of her abode; and I have admired the
persevering skill she expended in this difficult work. At first, my new
neighbor spent her days in fluttering over the poplar in the garden, and
in chirping along the gutters; a fine lady’s life seemed the only one to
suit her. Then all of a sudden, the necessity of preparing a shelter
for her brood transformed our idler into a worker; she no longer gave
herself either rest or relaxation. I saw her always either flying,
fetching, or carrying; neither rain nor sun stopped her. A striking
example of the power of necessity! We are indebted to it not only for
most of our talents, but for many of our virtues!

Is it not necessity that has given the people of less favored climates
that constant activity which has placed them so quickly at the head of
nations? As they are deprived of most of the gifts of nature, they
have supplied them by their industry; necessity has sharpened their
understanding, endurance awakened their foresight. While elsewhere man,
warmed by an ever brilliant sun, and loaded with the bounties of the
earth, was remaining poor, ignorant, and naked, in the midst of gifts he
did not attempt to explore, here he was forced by necessity to wrest his
food from the ground, to build habitations to defend himself from the
intemperance of the weather, and to warm his body by clothing himself
with the wool of animals. Work makes him both more intelligent and more
robust: disciplined by it, he seems to mount higher on the ladder of
creation, while those more favored by nature remain on the step nearest
to the brutes.

I made these reflections while looking at the bird, whose instinct
seemed to have become more acute since she had been occupied in work.
At last the nest was finished; she set up her household there, and I
followed her through all the phases of her new existence.

When she had sat on the eggs, and the young ones were hatched, she fed
them with the most attentive care. The corner of my window had become
a stage of moral action, which fathers and mothers might come to take
lessons from. The little ones soon became large, and this morning I have
seen them take their first flight. One of them, weaker than the others,
was not able to clear the edge of the roof, and fell into the gutter.
I caught him with some difficulty, and placed him again on the tile in
front of his house, but the mother has not noticed him. Once freed from
the cares of a family, she has resumed her wandering life among the
trees and along the roofs. In vain I have kept away from my window, to
take from her every excuse for fear; in vain the feeble little bird
has called to her with plaintive cries; his bad mother has passed by,
singing and fluttering with a thousand airs and graces. Once only the
father came near; he looked at his offspring with contempt, and then
disappeared, never to return!

I crumbled some bread before the little orphan, but he did not know how
to peck it with his bill. I tried to catch him, but he escaped into the
forsaken nest. What will become of him there, if his mother does not
come back!

August 15th, six o’clock.--This morning, on opening my window, I found
the little bird dying upon the tiles; his wounds showed me that he had
been driven from the nest by his unworthy mother. I tried in vain to
warm him again with my breath; I felt the last pulsations of life; his
eyes were already closed, and his wings hung down! I placed him on the
roof in a ray of sunshine, and I closed my window. The struggle of life
against death has always something gloomy in it: it is a warning to us.

Happily I hear some one in the passage; without doubt it is my old
neighbor; his conversation will distract my thoughts.

It was my portress. Excellent woman! She wished me to read a letter from
her son the sailor, and begged me to answer it for her.

I kept it, to copy it in my journal. Here it is:

   “DEAR MOTHER: This is to tell you that I have been very well ever
   since the last time, except that last week I was nearly drowned with
   the boat, which would have been a great loss, as there is not a
   better craft anywhere.

   “A gust of wind capsized us; and just as I came up above water, I
   saw the captain sinking. I went after him, as was my duty, and,
   after diving three times, I brought him to the surface, which
   pleased him much; for when we were hoisted on board, and he had
   recovered his senses, he threw his arms round my neck, as he would
   have done to an officer.

   “I do not hide from you, dear mother, that this has delighted me.
   But it isn’t all; it seems that fishing up the captain has reminded
   them that I had a good character, and they have just told me that I
   am promoted to be a sailor of the first class! Directly I knew it,
   I cried out, ‘My mother shall have coffee twice a day!’ And really,
   dear mother, there is nothing now to hinder you, as I shall now have
   a larger allowance to send you.

   “I include by begging you to take care of yourself if you wish to do
   me good; for nothing makes me feel so well as to think that you want
   for nothing.

   “Your son, from the bottom of my heart,

                         “JACQUES.”

This is the answer that the portress dictated to me:

   “MY GOOD JACQUOT: It makes me very happy to see that your heart is
   still as true as ever, and that you will never shame those who have
   brought you up. I need not tell you to take care of your life,
   because you know it is the same as my own, and that without you,
   dear child, I should wish for nothing but the grave; but we are not
   bound to live, while we are bound to do our duty.

   “Do not fear for my health, good Jacques; I was never better! I do
   not grow old at all, for fear of making you unhappy. I want
   nothing, and I live like a lady. I even had some money over this
   year, and as my drawers shut very badly, I put it into the savings’
   bank, where I have opened an account in your name. So, when you
   come back, you will find yourself with an income. I have also
   furnished your chest with new linen, and I have knitted you three
   new sea-jackets.

   “All your friends are well. Your cousin is just dead, leaving his
   widow in difficulties. I gave her your thirty francs’ remittance
   and said that you had sent it her; and the poor woman remembers you
   day and night in her prayers. So, you see, I have put that money in
   another sort of savings’ bank; but there it is our hearts that get
   the interest.

   “Good-bye, dear Jacquot. Write to me often, and always remember the
   good God, and your old mother,

                    “PHROSINE MILLOT.”

Good son, and worthy mother! how such examples bring us back to a love
for the human race! In a fit of fanciful misanthropy, we may envy the
fate of the savage, and prefer that of the bird to such as he; but
impartial observation soon does justice to such paradoxes. We find, on
examination, that in the mixed good and evil of human nature, the good
so far abounds that we are not in the habit of noticing it, while the
evil strikes us precisely on account of its being the exception. If
nothing is perfect, nothing is so bad as to be without its compensation
or its remedy. What spiritual riches are there in the midst of the evils
of society! how much does the moral world redeem the material!

That which will ever distinguish man from the rest of creation, is his
power of deliberate affection and of enduring self-sacrifice. The mother
who took care of her brood in the corner of my window devoted to
them the necessary time for accomplishing the laws which insure the
preservation of her kind; but she obeyed an instinct, and not a
rational choice. When she had accomplished the mission appointed her
by Providence, she cast off the duty as we get rid of a burden, and
she returned again to her selfish liberty. The other mother, on the
contrary, will go on with her task as long as God shall leave her here
below: the life of her son will still remain, so to speak, joined to her
own; and when she disappears from the earth, she will leave there that
part of herself.

Thus, the affections make for our species an existence separate from
all the rest of creation. Thanks to them, we enjoy a sort of terrestrial
immortality; and if other beings succeed one another, man alone
perpetuates himself.



CHAPTER IX. THE FAMILY OF MICHAEL AROUT

September 15th, Eight O’clock

This morning, while I was arranging my books, Mother Genevieve came in,
and brought me the basket of fruit I buy of her every Sunday. For the
nearly twenty years that I have lived in this quarter, I have dealt in
her little fruit-shop. Perhaps I should be better served elsewhere, but
Mother Genevieve has but little custom; to leave her would do her harm,
and cause her unnecessary pain. It seems to me that the length of our
acquaintance has made me incur a sort of tacit obligation to her; my
patronage has become her property.

She has put the basket upon my table, and as I want her husband, who is
a joiner, to add some shelves to my bookcase, she has gone downstairs
again immediately to send him to me.

At first I did not notice either her looks or the sound of her voice:
but, now that I recall them, it seems to me that she was not as jovial
as usual. Can Mother Genevieve be in trouble about anything?

Poor woman! All her best years were subject to such bitter trials, that
she might think she had received her full share already. Were I to live
a hundred years, I should never forget the circumstances which made her
known to me, and which obtained for her my respect.

It was at the time of my first settling in the faubourg. I had noticed
her empty fruit-shop, which nobody came into, and, being attracted by
its forsaken appearance, I made my little purchases in it. I have always
instinctively preferred the poor shops; there is less choice in them,
but it seems to me that my purchase is a sign of sympathy with a brother
in poverty. These little dealings are almost always an anchor of hope
to those whose very existence is in peril--the only means by which some
orphan gains a livelihood. There the aim of the tradesman is not to
enrich himself, but to live! The purchase you make of him is more than
an exchange--it is a good action.

Mother Genevieve at that time was still young, but had already lost that
fresh bloom of youth which suffering causes to wither so soon among
the poor. Her husband, a clever joiner, gradually left off working to
become, according to the picturesque expression of the workshops, a
worshipper of Saint Monday. The wages of the week, which was always
reduced to two or three working days, were completely dedicated by him
to the worship of this god of the Barriers,--[The cheap wine shops are
outside the Barriers, to avoid the octroi, or municipal excise.]--and
Genevieve was obliged herself to provide for all the wants of the
household.

One evening, when I went to make some trifling purchases of her, I
heard a sound of quarrelling in the back shop. There were the voices of
several women, among which I distinguished that of Genevieve, broken by
sobs. On looking farther in, I perceived the fruit-woman holding a child
in her arms, and kissing it, while a country nurse seemed to be claiming
her wages from her. The poor woman, who without doubt had exhausted
every explanation and every excuse, was crying in silence, and one of
her neighbors was trying in vain to appease the countrywoman. Excited by
that love of money which the evils of a hard peasant life but too well
excuse, and disappointed by the refusal of her expected wages, the nurse
was launching forth in recriminations, threats, and abuse. In spite
of myself, I listened to the quarrel, not daring to interfere, and not
thinking of going away, when Michael Arout appeared at the shop-door.

The joiner had just come from the Barriers, where he had passed part of
the day at a public-house. His blouse, without a belt, and untied at the
throat, showed none of the noble stains of work: in his hand he held
his cap, which he had just picked up out of the mud; his hair was in
disorder, his eye fixed, and the pallor of drunkenness in his face. He
came reeling in, looked wildly around him, and called Genevieve.

She heard his voice, gave a start, and rushed into the shop; but at the
sight of the miserable man, who was trying in vain to steady himself,
she pressed the child in her arms, and bent over it with tears.

The countrywoman and the neighbor had followed her.

“Come! come!” cried the former in a rage, “do you intend to pay me,
after all?”

“Ask the master for the money,” ironically answered the woman from
the next door, pointing to the joiner, who had just fallen against the
counter.

The countrywoman looked at him.

“Ah! he is the father,” returned she. “Well, what idle beggars! not to
have a penny to pay honest people; and get tipsy with wine in that way.”

The drunkard raised his head.

“What! what!” stammered he; “who is it that talks of wine? I’ve had
nothing but brandy! But I am going back again to get some wine! Wife,
give me your money; there are some friends waiting for me at the ‘Pere
la Tuille’.”

Genevieve did not answer: he went round the counter, opened the till,
and began to rummage in it.

“You see where the money of the house goes!” observed the neighbor to
the countrywoman; “how can the poor unhappy woman pay you when he takes
all?”

“Is that my fault?” replied the nurse, angrily. “They owe to me, and
somehow or other they must pay me!”

And letting loose her tongue, as these women out of the country do, she
began relating at length all the care she had taken of the child, and
all the expense it had been to her. In proportion as she recalled all
she had done, her words seemed to convince her more than ever of her
rights, and to increase her anger. The poor mother, who no doubt feared
that her violence would frighten the child, returned into the back shop,
and put it into its cradle.

Whether it is that the countrywoman saw in this act a determination to
escape her claims, or that she was blinded by passion, I cannot say; but
she rushed into the next room, where I heard the sounds of quarrelling,
with which the cries of the child were soon mingled. The joiner, who was
still rummaging in the till, was startled, and raised his head.

At the same moment Genevieve appeared at the door, holding in her arms
the baby that the countrywoman was trying to tear from her. She ran
toward the counter, and throwing herself behind her husband, cried:

“Michael, defend your son!”

The drunken man quickly stood up erect, like one who awakes with a
start.

“My son!” stammered he; “what son?”

His looks fell upon the child; a vague ray of intelligence passed over
his features.

“Robert,” resumed he; “it is Robert!”

He tried to steady himself on his feet, that he might take the baby, but
he tottered. The nurse approached him in a rage.

“My money, or I shall take the child away!” cried she. “It is I who have
fed and brought it up: if you don’t pay me for what has made it live, it
ought to be the same to you as if it were dead. I shall not go until I
have my due, or the baby.”

“And what would you do with him?” murmured Genevieve, pressing Robert
against her bosom.

“Take it to the Foundling!” replied the countrywoman, harshly; “the
hospital is a better mother than you are, for it pays for the food of
its little ones.”

At the word “Foundling,” Genevieve had exclaimed aloud in horror. With
her arms wound round her son, whose head she hid in her bosom, and her
two hands spread over him, she had retreated to the wall, and remained
with her back against it, like a lioness defending her young. The
neighbor and I contemplated this scene, without knowing how we could
interfere. As for Michael, he looked at us by turns, making a visible
effort to comprehend it all. When his eye rested upon Genevieve and the
child, it lit up with a gleam of pleasure; but when he turned toward us,
he again became stupid and hesitating.

At last, apparently making a prodigious effort, he cried out, “Wait!”

And going to a tub filled with water, he plunged his face into it
several times.

Every eye was turned upon him; the countrywoman herself seemed
astonished. At length he raised his dripping head. This ablution had
partly dispelled his drunkenness; he looked at us for a moment, then he
turned to Genevieve, and his face brightened up.

“Robert!” cried he, going up to the child, and taking him in his arms.
“Ah! give him me, wife; I must look at him.”

The mother seemed to give up his son to him with reluctance, and stayed
before him with her arms extended, as if she feared the child would
have a fall. The nurse began again in her turn to speak, and renewed
her claims, this time threatening to appeal to law. At first Michael
listened to her attentively, and when he comprehended her meaning, he
gave the child back to its mother.

“How much do we owe you?” asked he.

The countrywoman began to reckon up the different expenses, which
amounted to nearly thirty francs. The joiner felt to the bottom of
his pockets, but could find nothing. His forehead became contracted by
frowns; low curses began to escape him. All of a sudden he rummaged in
his breast, drew forth a large watch, and holding it up above his head:

“Here it is--here’s your money!” cried he with a joyful laugh; “a watch,
a good one! I always said it would keep for a drink on a dry day; but it
is not I who will drink it, but the young one. Ah! ah! ah! go and sell
it for me, neighbor, and if that is not enough, I have my earrings.
Eh! Genevieve, take them off for me; the earrings will square all! They
shall not say you have been disgraced on account of the child--no, not
even if I must pledge a bit of my flesh! My watch, my earrings, and my
ring--get rid of all of them for me at the goldsmith’s; pay the woman,
and let the little fool go to sleep. Give him me, Genevieve; I will put
him to bed.”

And, taking the baby from the arms of his mother, he carried him with a
firm step to his cradle.

It was easy to perceive the change which took place in Michael from
this day. He cut all his old drinking acquaintances. He went early every
morning to his work, and returned regularly in the evening to finish the
day with Genevieve and Robert. Very soon he would not leave them at all,
and he hired a place near the fruit-shop, and worked in it on his own
account.

They would soon have been able to live in comfort, had it not been for
the expenses which the child required. Everything was given up to his
education. He had gone through the regular school training, had studied
mathematics, drawing, and the carpenter’s trade, and had only begun to
work a few months ago. Till now, they had been exhausting every resource
which their laborious industry could provide to push him forward in his
business; and, happily, all these exertions had not proved useless: the
seed had brought forth fruit, and the days of harvest were close by.

While I was thus recalling these remembrances to my mind, Michael had
come in, and was occupied in fixing shelves where they were wanted.

During the time I was writing the notes of my journal, I was also
scrutinizing the joiner.

The excesses of his youth and the labor of his manhood have deeply
marked his face; his hair is thin and gray, his shoulders stoop, his
legs are shrunken and slightly bent. There seems a sort of weight in
his whole being. His very features have an expression of sorrow and
despondency. He answers my questions by monosyllables, and like a man
who wishes to avoid conversation. Whence comes this dejection, when one
would think he had all he could wish for? I should like to know!

Ten o’clock.--Michael is just gone downstairs to look for a tool he has
forgotten. I have at last succeeded in drawing from him the secret of
his and Genevieve’s sorrow. Their son Robert is the cause of it!

Not that he has turned out ill after all their care--not that he is
idle or dissipated; but both were in hopes he would never leave them any
more. The presence of the young man was to have renewed and made glad
their lives once more; his mother counted the days, his father prepared
everything to receive their dear associate in their toils; and at the
moment when they were thus about to be repaid for all their sacrifices,
Robert had suddenly informed them that he had just engaged himself to a
contractor at Versailles.

Every remonstrance and every prayer were useless; he brought forward
the necessity of initiating himself into all the details of an important
contract, the facilities he should have in his new position of improving
himself in his trade, and the hopes he had of turning his knowledge
to advantage. At, last, when his mother, having come to the end of her
arguments, began to cry, he hastily kissed her, and went away that he
might avoid any further remonstrances.

He had been absent a year, and there was nothing to give them hopes of
his return. His parents hardly saw him once a month, and then he only
stayed a few moments with them.

“I have been punished where I had hoped to be rewarded,” Michael said to
me just now. “I had wished for a saving and industrious son, and God has
given me an ambitious and avaricious one! I had always said to myself
that when once he was grown up we should have him always with us,
to recall our youth and to enliven our hearts. His mother was always
thinking of getting him married, and having children again to care for.
You know women always will busy themselves about others. As for me, I
thought of him working near my bench, and singing his new songs; for he
has learnt music, and is one of the best singers at the Orpheon.

“A dream, sir, truly! Directly the bird was fledged, he took to flight,
and remembers neither father nor mother. Yesterday, for instance, was
the day we expected him; he should have come to supper with us. No
Robert to-day, either! He has had some plan to finish, or some bargain
to arrange, and his old parents are put down last in the accounts, after
the customers and the joiner’s work. Ah! if I could have guessed how it
would have turned out! Fool! to have sacrificed my likings and my money,
for nearly twenty years, to the education of a thankless son! Was it
for this I took the trouble to cure myself of drinking, to break with
my friends, to become an example to the neighborhood? The jovial good
fellow has made a goose of himself. Oh! if I had to begin again! No, no!
you see women and children are our bane. They soften our hearts; they
lead us a life of hope and affection; we pass a quarter of our lives in
fostering the growth of a grain of corn which is to be everything to us
in our old age, and when the harvest-time comes--good-night, the ear is
empty!”

While he was speaking, Michael’s voice became hoarse, his eyes fierce,
and his lips quivered. I wished to answer him, but I could only think of
commonplace consolations, and I remained silent. The joiner pretended he
needed a tool, and left me.

Poor father! Ah! I know those moments of temptation when virtue has
failed to reward us, and we regret having obeyed her! Who has not felt
this weakness in hours of trial, and who has not uttered, at least once,
the mournful exclamation of Brutus?

But if virtue is only a word, what is there then in life that is true
and real? No, I will not believe that goodness is in vain! It does not
always give the happiness we had hoped for, but it brings some other. In
the world everything is ruled by order, and has its proper and necessary
consequences, and virtue cannot be the sole exception to the general
law. If it had been prejudicial to those who practised it, experience
would have avenged them; but experience has, on the contrary, made it
more universal and more holy. We only accuse it of being a faithless
debtor because we demand an immediate payment, and one apparent to our
senses. We always consider life as a fairytale, in which every good
action must be rewarded by a visible wonder. We do not accept as payment
a peaceful conscience, self-content, or a good name among men--treasures
that are more precious than any other, but the value of which we do not
feel till after we have lost them!

Michael is come back, and has returned to his work. His son has not yet
arrived.

By telling me of his hopes and his grievous disappointments, he became
excited; he unceasingly went over again the same subject, always adding
something to his griefs. He had just wound up his confidential discourse
by speaking to me of a joiner’s business which he had hoped to buy, and
work to good account with Robert’s help. The present owner had made a
fortune by it, and, after thirty years of business, he was thinking of
retiring to one of the ornamental cottages in the outskirts of the city,
a usual retreat for the frugal and successful workingman. Michael had
not indeed the two thousand francs which must be paid down; but perhaps
he could have persuaded Master Benoit to wait. Robert’s presence would
have been a security for him, for the young man could not fail to insure
the prosperity of a workshop; besides science and skill, he had the
power of invention and bringing to perfection. His father had discovered
among his drawings a new plan for a staircase, which had occupied his
thoughts for a long time; and he even suspected him of having engaged
himself to the Versailles contractor for the very purpose of executing
it. The youth was tormented by this spirit of invention, which took
possession of all his thoughts, and, while devoting his mind to study,
he had no time to listen to his feelings.

Michael told me all this with a mixed feeling of pride and vexation. I
saw he was proud of the son he was abusing, and that his very pride made
him more sensitive to that son’s neglect.

Six o’clock P.M.--I have just finished a happy day. How many events
have happened within a few hours, and what a change for Genevieve and
Michael!

He had just finished fixing the shelves, and telling me of his son,
while I laid the cloth for my breakfast.

Suddenly we heard hurried steps in the passage, the door opened, and
Genevieve entered with Robert.

The joiner gave a start of joyful surprise, but he repressed it
immediately, as if he wished to keep up the appearance of displeasure.

The young man did not appear to notice it, but threw himself into his
arms in an open-hearted manner, which surprised me. Genevieve, whose
face shone with happiness, seemed to wish to speak, and to restrain
herself with difficulty.

I told Robert I was glad to see him, and he answered me with ease and
civility.

“I expected you yesterday,” said Michael Arout, rather dryly.

“Forgive me, father,” replied the young workman, “but I had business at
St. Germain’s. I was not able to come back till it was very late, and
then the master kept me.”

The joiner looked at his son sidewise, and then took up his hammer
again.

“All right,” muttered he, in a grumbling tone; “when we are with other
people we must do as they wish; but there are some who would like better
to eat brown bread with their own knife than partridges with the silver
fork of a master.”

“And I am one of those, father,” replied Robert, merrily, “but, as the
proverb says, ‘you must shell the peas before you can eat them.’ It was
necessary that I should first work in a great workshop--”

“To go on with your plan of the staircase,” interrupted Michael,
ironically.

“You must now say Monsieur Raymond’s plan, father,” replied Robert,
smiling.

“Why?”

“Because I have sold it to him.”

The joiner, who was planing a board, turned round quickly.

“Sold it!” cried he, with sparkling eyes.

“For the reason that I was not rich enough to give it him.”

Michael threw down the board and tool.

“There he is again!” resumed he, angrily; “his good genius puts an idea
into his head which would have made him known, and he goes and sells it
to a rich man, who will take the honor of it himself.”

“Well, what harm is there done?” asked Genevieve.

“What harm!” cried the joiner, in a passion. “You understand nothing
about it--you are a woman; but he--he knows well that a true workman
never gives up his own inventions for money, no more than a soldier
would give up his cross. That is his glory; he is bound to keep it for
the honor it does him! Ah, thunder! if I had ever made a discovery,
rather than put it up at auction I would have sold one of my eyes! Don’t
you see that a new invention is like a child to a workman? He takes care
of it, he brings it up, he makes a way for it in the world, and it is
only a poor creature who sells it.”

Robert colored a little.

“You will think differently, father,” said he, “when you know why I sold
my plan.”

“Yes, and you will thank him for it,” added Genevieve, who could no
longer keep silence.

“Never!” replied Michael.

“But, wretched man!” cried she, “he sold it only for our sakes!”

The joiner looked at his wife and son with astonishment. It was
necessary to come to an explanation. The latter related how he had
entered into a negotiation with Master Benoit, who had positively
refused to sell his business unless one half of the two thousand francs
were first paid down. It was in the hopes of obtaining this sum that
he had gone to work with the contractor at Versailles; he had had an
opportunity of trying his invention, and of finding a purchaser. Thanks
to the money he received for it, he had just concluded the bargain with
Benoit, and had brought his father the key of the new work-yard.

This explanation was given by the young workman with so much modesty
and simplicity that I was quite affected by it. Genevieve cried; Michael
pressed his son to his heart, and in a long embrace he seemed to ask his
pardon for having unjustly accused him.

All was now explained with honor to Robert. The conduct which his
parents had ascribed to indifference really sprang from affection; he
had neither obeyed the voice of ambition nor of avarice, nor even the
nobler inspiration of inventive genius: his whole motive and single aim
had been the happiness of Genevieve and Michael. The day for proving his
gratitude had come, and he had returned them sacrifice for sacrifice!

After the explanations and exclamations of joy were over, all three were
about to leave me; but, the cloth being laid, I added three more places,
and kept them to breakfast.

The meal was prolonged: the fare was only tolerable; but the
over-flowings of affection made it delicious. Never had I better
understood the unspeakable charm of family love. What calm enjoyment in
that happiness which is always shared with others; in that community
of interests which unites such various feelings; in that association of
existences which forms one single being of so many! What is man without
those home affections, which, like so many roots, fix him firmly in
the earth, and permit him to imbibe all the juices of life? Energy,
happiness--do not all these come from them? Without family life where
would man learn to love, to associate, to deny himself? A community in
little, is it not this which teaches us how to live in the great one?
Such is the holiness of home, that, to express our relation with God, we
have been obliged to borrow the words invented for our family life. Men
have named themselves the sons of a heavenly Father!

Ah! let us carefully preserve these chains of domestic union. Do not let
us unbind the human sheaf, and scatter its ears to all the caprices of
chance and of the winds; but let us rather enlarge this holy law; let us
carry the principles and the habits of home beyond set bounds; and, if
it may be, let us realize the prayer of the Apostle of the Gentiles
when he exclaimed to the newborn children of Christ: “Be ye like-minded,
having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”



BOOK 3.



CHAPTER X. OUR COUNTRY


October 12th, Seven O’clock A.M.

The nights are already become cold and long; the sun, shining through my
curtains, no more wakens me long before the hour for work; and even when
my eyes are open, the pleasant warmth of the bed keeps me fast under
my counterpane. Every morning there begins a long argument between my
activity and my indolence; and, snugly wrapped up to the eyes, I wait
like the Gascon, until they have succeeded in coming to an agreement.

This morning, however, a light, which shone from my door upon my
pillow, awoke me earlier than usual. In vain I turned on my side;
the persevering light, like a victorious enemy, pursued me into every
position. At last, quite out of patience, I sat up and hurled my
nightcap to the foot of the bed!

(I will observe, by way of parenthesis, that the various evolutions of
this pacific headgear seem to have been, from the remotest time, symbols
of the vehement emotions of the mind; for our language has borrowed its
most common images from them.)

But be this as it may, I got up in a very bad humor, grumbling at my
new neighbor, who took it into his head to be wakeful when I wished to
sleep. We are all made thus; we do not understand that others may live
on their own account. Each one of us is like the earth, according to the
old system of Ptolemy, and thinks he can have the whole universe revolve
around himself. On this point, to make use of the metaphor alluded to:
‘Tous les hommes ont la tete dans le meme bonnet’.

I had for the time being, as I have already said, thrown mine to the
other end of my bed; and I slowly disengaged my legs from the
warm bedclothes, while making a host of evil reflections upon the
inconvenience of having neighbors.

For more than a month I had not had to complain of those whom chance
had given me; most of them only came in to sleep, and went away again
on rising. I was almost always alone on this top story--alone with the
clouds and the sparrows!

But at Paris nothing lasts; the current of life carries us along, like
the seaweed torn from the rock; the houses are vessels which take mere
passengers. How many different faces have I already seen pass along the
landing-place belonging to our attics! How many companions of a few days
have disappeared forever! Some are lost in that medley of the living
which whirls continually under the scourge of necessity, and others in
that resting-place of the dead, who sleep under the hand of God!

Peter the bookbinder is one of these last. Wrapped up in selfishness,
he lived alone and friendless, and he died as he had lived. His loss was
neither mourned by any one, nor disarranged anything in the world; there
was merely a ditch filled up in the graveyard, and an attic emptied in
our house.

It is the same which my new neighbor has inhabited for the last few
days.

To say truly (now that I am quite awake, and my ill humor is gone with
my nightcap)--to say truly, this new neighbor, although rising earlier
than suits my idleness, is not the less a very good man: he carries
his misfortunes, as few know how to carry their good fortunes, with
cheerfulness and moderation.

But fate has cruelly tried him. Father Chaufour is but the wreck of a
man. In the place of one of his arms hangs an empty sleeve; his left leg
is made by the turner, and he drags the right along with difficulty; but
above these ruins rises a calm and happy face. While looking upon his
countenance, radiant with a serene energy, while listening to his voice,
the tone of which has, so to speak, the accent of goodness, we see
that the soul has remained entire in the half-destroyed covering. The
fortress is a little damaged, as Father Chaufour says, but the garrison
is quite hearty.

Decidedly, the more I think of this excellent man, the more I reproach
myself for the sort of malediction I bestowed on him when I awoke.

We are generally too indulgent in our secret wrongs toward our neighbor.
All ill-will which does not pass the region of thought seems innocent to
us, and, with our clumsy justice, we excuse without examination the sin
which does not betray itself by action!

But are we then bound to others only by the enforcement of laws? Besides
these external relations, is there not a real relation of feeling
between men? Do we not owe to all those who live under the same heaven
as ourselves the aid not only of our acts but of our purposes? Ought not
every human life to be to us like a vessel that we accompany with our
prayers for a happy voyage? It is not enough that men do not harm
one another; they must also help and love one another! The papal
benediction, ‘Urbi et orbi’! should be the constant cry from all hearts.
To condemn him who does not deserve it, even in the mind, even by a
passing thought, is to break the great law, that which has established
the union of souls here below, and to which Christ has given the sweet
name of charity.

These thoughts came into my mind as I finished dressing, and I said to
myself that Father Chaufour had a right to reparation from me. To make
amends for the feeling of ill-will I had against him just now, I owed
him some explicit proof of sympathy. I heard him humming a tune in
his room; he was at work, and I determined that I would make the first
neighborly call.

Eight o’clock P.M.--I found Father Chaufour at a table lighted by a
little smoky lamp, without a fire, although it is already cold, and
making large pasteboard boxes; he was humming a popular song in a low
tone. I had hardly entered the room when he uttered an exclamation of
surprise and pleasure.

“Eh! is it you, neighbor? Come in, then! I did not think you got up so
early, so I put a damper on my music; I was afraid of waking you.”

Excellent man! while I was sending him to the devil he was putting
himself out of his way for me!

This thought touched me, and I paid my compliments on his having become
my neighbor with a warmth which opened his heart.

“Faith! you seem to me to have the look of a good Christian,” said he in
a voice of soldierlike cordiality, and shaking me by the hand. “I do not
like those people who look on a landing-place as a frontier line, and
treat their neighbors as if they were Cossacks. When men snuff the same
air, and speak the same lingo, they are not meant to turn their backs
to each other. Sit down there, neighbor; I don’t mean to order you; only
take care of the stool; it has but three legs, and we must put good-will
in place of the fourth.”

“It seems that that is a treasure which there is no want of here,” I
observed.

“Good-will!” repeated Chaufour; “that is all my mother left me, and I
take it no son has received a better inheritance. Therefore they used to
call me Monsieur Content in the batteries.”

“You are a soldier, then?”

“I served in the Third Artillery under the Republic, and afterward
in the Guard, through all the commotions. I was at Jemappes and at
Waterloo; so I was at the christening and at the burial of our glory, as
one may say!”

I looked at him with astonishment.

“And how old were you then, at Jemappes?” asked I.

“Somewhere about fifteen,” said he.

“How came you to think of being a soldier so early?”

“I did not really think about it. I then worked at toy-making, and never
dreamed that France would ask me for anything else than to make her
draught-boards, shuttlecocks, and cups and balls. But I had an old uncle
at Vincennes whom I went to see from time to time--a Fontenoy veteran in
the same rank of life as myself, but with ability enough to have risen
to that of a marshal. Unluckily, in those days there was no way for
common people to get on. My uncle, whose services would have got him
made a prince under the other, had then retired with the mere rank of
sub-lieutenant. But you should have seen him in his uniform, his cross
of St. Louis, his wooden leg, his white moustaches, and his noble
countenance. You would have said he was a portrait of one of those old
heroes in powdered hair which are at Versailles!

“Every time I visited him, he said something which remained fixed in my
memory. But one day I found him quite grave.

“‘Jerome,’ said he, ‘do you know what is going on on the frontier?’

“‘No, lieutenant,’ replied I.

“‘Well,’ resumed he, ‘our country is in danger!’

“I did not well understand him, and yet it seemed something to me.

“‘Perhaps you have never thought what your country means,’ continued he,
placing his hand on my shoulder; `it is all that surrounds you, all that
has brought you up and fed you, all that you have loved! This ground
that you see, these houses, these trees, those girls who go along there
laughing--this is your country! The laws which protect you, the bread
which pays for your work, the words you interchange with others, the
joy and grief which come to you from the men and things among which you
live--this is your country! The little room where you used to see
your mother, the remembrances she has left you, the earth where she
rests--this is your country! You see it, you breathe it, everywhere!
Think to yourself, my son, of your rights and your duties, your
affections and your wants, your past and your present blessings; write
them all under a single name--and that name will be your country!’

“I was trembling with emotion, and great tears were in my eyes.

“‘Ah! I understand,’ cried I; ‘it is our home in large; it is that part
of the world where God has placed our body and our soul.’

“‘You are right, Jerome,’ continued the old soldier; ‘so you comprehend
also what we owe it.’

“‘Truly,’ resumed I, ‘we owe it all that we are; it is a question of
love.’

“‘And of honesty, my son,’ concluded he. ‘The member of a family who
does not contribute his share of work and of happiness fails in his
duty, and is a bad kinsman; the member of a partnership who does not
enrich it with all his might, with all his courage, and with all his
heart, defrauds it of what belongs to it, and is a dishonest man. It
is the same with him who enjoys the advantages of having a country, and
does not accept the burdens of it; he forfeits his honor, and is a bad
citizen!’

“‘And what must one do, lieutenant, to be a good citizen?’ asked I.

“‘Do for your country what you would do for your father and mother,’
said he.

“I did not answer at the moment; my heart was swelling, and the blood
boiling in my veins; but on returning along the road, my uncle’s words
were, so to speak, written up before my eyes. I repeated, ‘Do for your
country what you would do for your father and mother.’ And my country is
in danger; an enemy attacks it, while I--I turn cups and balls!

“This thought tormented me so much all night that the next day I
returned to Vincennes to announce to the lieutenant that I had just
enlisted, and was going off to the frontier. The brave man pressed upon
me his cross of St. Louis, and I went away as proud as an ambassador.

“That is how, neighbor, I became a volunteer under the Republic before I
had cut my wisdom teeth.”

All this was told quietly, and in the cheerful spirit of him who looks
upon an accomplished duty neither as a merit nor a grievance.

While he spoke, Father Chaufour grew animated, not on account of
himself, but of the general subject. Evidently that which occupied him
in the drama of life was not his own part, but the drama itself.

This sort of disinterestedness touched me. I prolonged my visit, and
showed myself as frank as possible, in order to win his confidence in
return. In an hour’s time he knew my position and my habits; I was on
the footing of an old acquaintance.

I even confessed the ill-humor the light of his lamp put me into a short
time before. He took what I said with the touching cheerfulness which
comes from a heart in the right place, and which looks upon everything
on the good side. He neither spoke to me of the necessity which obliged
him to work while I could sleep, nor of the deprivations of the old
soldier compared to the luxury of the young clerk; he only struck his
forehead, accused himself of thoughtlessness, and promised to put list
round his door!

O great and beautiful soul! with whom nothing turns to bitterness, and
who art peremptory only in duty and benevolence!

October 15th.--This morning I was looking at a little engraving I
had framed myself, and hung over my writing-table; it is a design of
Gavarni’s; in which, in a grave mood, he has represented a veteran and a
conscript.

By often contemplating these two figures, so different in expression,
and so true to life, both have become living in my eyes; I have seen
them move, I have heard them speak; the picture has become a real scene,
at which I am present as spectator.

The veteran advances slowly, his hand leaning on the shoulder of the
young soldier. His eyes, closed for ever, no longer perceive the sun
shining through the flowering chestnut-trees. In the place of his right
arm hangs an empty sleeve, and he walks with a wooden leg, the sound of
which on the pavement makes those who pass turn to look.

At the sight of this ancient wreck from our patriotic wars, the greater
number shake their heads in pity, and I seem to hear a sigh or an
imprecation.

“See the worth of glory!” says a portly merchant, turning away his eyes
in horror.

“What a deplorable use of human life!” rejoins a young man who carries a
volume of philosophy under his arm.

“The trooper would better not have left his plow,” adds a countryman,
with a cunning air.

“Poor old man!” murmurs a woman, almost crying.

The veteran has heard, and he knits his brow; for it seems to him that
his guide has grown thoughtful. The latter, attracted by what he hears
around him, hardly answers the old man’s questions, and his eyes,
vaguely lost in space, seem to be seeking there for the solution of some
problem.

I seem to see a twitching in the gray moustaches of the veteran; he
stops abruptly, and, holding back his guide with his remaining arm:

“They all pity me,” says he, “because they do not understand it; but if
I were to answer them--”

“What would you say to them, father?” asks the young man, with
curiosity.

“I should say first to the woman who weeps when she looks at me, to keep
her tears for other misfortunes; for each of my wounds calls to mind
some struggle for my colors. There is room for doubting how some men
have done their duty; with me it is visible. I carry the account of my
services, written with the enemy’s steel and lead, on myself; to pity me
for having done my duty is to suppose I would better have been false to
it.”

“And what would you say to the countryman, father?”

“I should tell him that, to drive the plow in peace, we must first
secure the country itself; and that, as long as there are foreigners
ready to eat our harvest, there must be arms to defend it.”

“But the young student, too, shook his head when he lamented such a use
of life.”

“Because he does not know what self-sacrifice and suffering can teach.
The books that he studies we have put in practice, though we never
read them: the principles he applauds we have defended with powder and
bayonet.”

“And at the price of your limbs and your blood. The merchant said, when
he saw your maimed body, ‘See the worth of glory!”’

“Do not believe him, my son: the true glory is the bread of the soul;
it is this which nourishes self-sacrifice, patience, and courage. The
Master of all has bestowed it as a tie the more between men. When we
desire to be distinguished by our brethren, do we not thus prove our
esteem and our sympathy for them? The longing for admiration is but one
side of love. No, no; the true glory can never be too dearly paid for!
That which we should deplore, child, is not the infirmities which prove
a generous self-sacrifice, but those which our vices or our imprudence
have called forth. Ah! if I could speak aloud to those who, when
passing, cast looks of pity upon me, I should say to the young man whose
excesses have dimmed his sight before he is old, ‘What have you done
with your eyes?’ To the slothful man, who with difficulty drags along
his enervated mass of flesh, ‘What have you done with your feet?’ To the
old man, who is punished for his intemperance by the gout, ‘What have
you done with your hands?’ To all, ‘What have you done with the days God
granted you, with the faculties you should have employed for the good of
your brethren?’ If you cannot answer, bestow no more of your pity upon
the old soldier maimed in his country’s cause; for he--he at least--can
show his scars without shame.”

October 16th.--The little engraving has made me comprehend better the
merits of Father Chaufour, and I therefore esteem him all the more.

He has just now left my attic. There no longer passes a single day
without his coming to work by my fire, or my going to sit and talk by
his board.

The old artilleryman has seen much, and likes to tell of it. For twenty
years he was an armed traveller throughout Europe, and he fought without
hatred, for he was possessed by a single thought--the honor of the
national flag! It might have been his superstition, if you will; but it
was, at the same time, his safeguard.

The word FRANCE, which was then resounding so gloriously through the
world, served as a talisman to him against all sorts of temptation. To
have to support a great name may seem a burden to vulgar minds, but it
is an encouragement to vigorous ones.

“I, too, have had many moments,” said he to me the other day, “when I
have been tempted to make friends with the devil. War is not precisely
the school for rural virtues. By dint of burning, destroying, and
killing, you grow a little tough as regards your feelings; ‘and, when
the bayonet has made you king, the notions of an autocrat come into
your head a little strongly. But at these moments I called to mind that
country which the lieutenant spoke of to me, and I whispered to myself
the well-known phrase, ‘Toujours Francais! It has been laughed at since.
People who would make a joke of the death of their mother have turned it
into ridicule, as if the name of our country was not also a noble and a
binding thing. For my part, I shall never forget from how many follies
the title of Frenchman has kept me. When, overcome with fatigue, I
have found myself in the rear of the colors, and when the musketry
was rattling in the front ranks, many a time I heard a voice, which
whispered in my ear, ‘Leave the others to fight, and for today take care
of your own hide!’ But then, that word Francais! murmured within me, and
I pressed forward to help my comrades. At other times, when, irritated
by hunger, cold, and wounds, I have arrived at the hovel of some
Meinherr, I have been seized by an itching to break the master’s back,
and to burn his hut; but I whispered to myself, Francais! and this name
would not rhyme with either incendiary or murderer. I have, in this
way, passed through kingdoms from east to west, and from north to south,
always determined not to bring disgrace upon my country’s flag. The
lieutenant, you see, had taught me a magic word--My country! Not only
must we defend it, but we must also make it great and loved.”

October 17th.--To-day I have paid my neighbor a long visit. A chance
expression led the way to his telling me more of himself than he had yet
done.

I asked him whether both his limbs had been lost in the same battle.

“No, no!” replied he; “the cannon only took my leg; it was the Clamart
quarries that my arm went to feed.”

And when I asked him for the particulars--

“That’s as easy as to say good-morning,” continued he. “After the great
break-up at Waterloo, I stayed three months in the camp hospital to give
my wooden leg time to grow. As soon as I was able to hobble a little, I
took leave of headquarters, and took the road to Paris, where I hoped to
find some relative or friend; but no--all were gone, or underground. I
should have found myself less strange at Vienna, Madrid, or Berlin. And
although I had a leg the less to provide for, I was none the better off;
my appetite had come back, and my last sous were taking flight.

“I had indeed met my old colonel, who recollected that I had helped
him out of the skirmish at Montereau by giving him my horse, and he had
offered me bed and board at his house. I knew that the year before he
had married a castle and no few farms, so that I might become permanent
coat-brusher to a millionaire, which was not without its temptations.
It remained to see if I had not anything better to do. One evening I set
myself to reflect upon it.

“‘Let us see, Chaufour,’ said I to myself; ‘the question is to act like
a man. The colonel’s place suits you, but cannot you do anything better?
Your body is still in good condition, and your arms strong; do you not
owe all your strength to your country, as your Vincennes uncle said?
Why not leave some old soldier, more cut up than you are, to get his
hospital at the colonel’s? Come, trooper, you are still fit for another
stout charge or two! You must not lay up before your time.’

“Whereupon I went to thank the colonel, and to offer my services to an
old artilleryman, who had gone back to his home at Clamart, and who had
taken up the quarryman’s pick again.

“For the first few months I played the conscript’s part--that is to say,
there was more stir than work; but with a good will one gets the better
of stones, as of everything else. I did not become, so to speak, the
leader of a column, but I brought up the rank among the good workmen,
and I ate my bread with a good appetite, seeing I had earned it with
a good will. For even underground, you see, I still kept my pride. The
thought that I was working to do my part in changing rocks into houses
pleased my heart. I said to myself, ‘Courage, Chaufour, my old boy; you
are helping to beautify your country.’ And that kept up my spirit.

“Unfortunately, some of my companions were rather too sensible to the
charms of the brandy-bottle; so much so, that one day one of them, who
could hardly distinguish his right hand from his left, thought proper to
strike a light close to a charged mine. The mine exploded suddenly,
and sent a shower of stone grape among us, which killed three men, and
carried away the arm of which I have now only the sleeve.”

“So you were again without means of living?” said I to the old soldier.

“That is to say, I had to change them,” replied he, quietly. “The
difficulty was to find one which would do with five fingers instead of
ten; I found it, however.”

“How was that?”

“Among the Paris street-sweepers.”

“What! you have been one--”

“Of the pioneers of the health force for a while, neighbor, and that was
not my worst time either. The corps of sweepers is not so low as it is
dirty, I can tell you! There are old actresses in it who could never
learn to save their money, and ruined merchants from the exchange; we
even had a professor of classics, who for a little drink would recite
Latin to you, or Greek tragedies, as you chose. They could not have
competed for the Monthyon prize; but we excused faults on account of
poverty, and cheered our poverty by our good-humor and jokes. I was as
ragged and as cheerful as the rest, while trying to be something better.
Even in the mire of the gutter I preserved my faith that nothing is
dishonorable which is useful to our country.

“‘Chaufour,’ said I to myself with a smile, ‘after the sword, the
hammer; after the hammer, the broom; you are going downstairs, my old
boy, but you are still serving your country.’”

“‘However, you ended by leaving your new profession?’ said I.”

“A reform was required, neighbor. The street-sweepers seldom have their
feet dry, and the damp at last made the wounds in my good leg open
again. I could no longer follow the regiment, and it was necessary to
lay down my arms. It is now two months since I left off working in the
sanitary department of Paris.

“At the first moment I was daunted. Of my four limbs, I had now only my
right hand, and even that had lost its strength; so it was necessary
to find some gentlemanly occupation for it. After trying a little of
everything, I fell upon card-box making, and here I am at cases for the
lace and buttons of the national guard; it is work of little profit, but
it is within the capacity of all. By getting up at four and working
till eight, I earn sixty-five centimes; my lodging and bowl of soup
take fifty of them, and there are three sous over for luxuries. So I am
richer than France herself, for I have no deficit in my budget; and I
continue to serve her, as I save her lace and buttons.”

At these words Father Chaufour looked at me with a smile, and with his
great scissors began cutting the green paper again for his cardboard
cases. My heart was touched, and I remained lost in thought.

Here is still another member of that sacred phalanx who, in the battle
of life, always march in front for the example and the salvation of the
world! Each of these brave soldiers has his war-cry; for this one it is
“Country,” for that “Home,” for a third “Mankind;” but they all
follow the same standard--that of duty; for all the same divine law
reigns--that of self-sacrifice. To love something more than one’s
self--that is the secret of all that is great; to know how to live for
others--that is the aim of all noble souls.



CHAPTER XI. MORAL USE OF INVENTORIES

November 13th, Nine O’clock P.M.

I had well stopped up the chinks of my window; my little carpet was
nailed down in its place; my lamp, provided with its shade, cast a
subdued light around, and my stove made a low, murmuring sound, as if
some live creature was sharing my hearth with me.

All was silent around me. But, out of doors the snow and rain swept the
roofs, and with a low, rushing sound ran along the gurgling gutters;
sometimes a gust of wind forced itself beneath the tiles, which
rattled together like castanets, and afterward it was lost in the empty
corridor. Then a slight and pleasurable shiver thrilled through my
veins: I drew the flaps of my old wadded dressing-gown around me, I
pulled my threadbare velvet cap over my eyes, and, letting myself sink
deeper into my easy-chair, while my feet basked in the heat and light
which shone through the door of the stove, I gave myself up to a
sensation of enjoyment, made more lively by the consciousness of the
storm which raged without. My eyes, swimming in a sort of mist, wandered
over all the details of my peaceful abode; they passed from my prints to
my bookcase, resting upon the little chintz sofa, the white curtains of
the iron bedstead, and the portfolio of loose papers--those archives
of the attics; and then, returning to the book I held in my hand, they
attempted to seize once more the thread of the reading which had been
thus interrupted.

In fact, this book, the subject of which had at first interested me, had
become painful to me. I had come to the conclusion that the pictures of
the writer were too sombre. His description of the miseries of the
world appeared exaggerated to me; I could not believe in such excess of
poverty and of suffering; neither God nor man could show themselves so
harsh toward the sons of Adam. The author had yielded to an artistic
temptation: he was making a show of the sufferings of humanity, as Nero
burned Rome for the sake of the picturesque.

Taken altogether, this poor human house, so often repaired, so much
criticised, is still a pretty good abode; we may find enough in it to
satisfy our wants, if we know how to set bounds to them; the happiness
of the wise man costs but little, and asks but little space.

These consoling reflections became more and more confused. At last my
book fell on the ground without my having the resolution to stoop and
take it up again; and insensibly overcome by the luxury of the silence,
the subdued light, and the warmth, I fell asleep.

I remained for some time lost in the sort of insensibility belonging to
a first sleep; at last some vague and broken sensations came over me.
It seemed to me that the day grew darker, that the air became colder.
I half perceived bushes covered with the scarlet berries which foretell
the coming of winter. I walked on a dreary road, bordered here and there
with juniper-trees white with frost. Then the scene suddenly changed.
I was in the diligence; the cold wind shook the doors and windows; the
trees, loaded with snow, passed by like ghosts; in vain I thrust my
benumbed feet into the crushed straw. At last the carriage stopped, and,
by one of those stage effects so common in sleep, I found myself alone
in a barn, without a fireplace, and open to the winds on all sides.
I saw again my mother’s gentle face, known only to me in my early
childhood, the noble and stern countenance of my father, the little fair
head of my sister, who was taken from us at ten years old; all my dead
family lived again around me; they were there, exposed to the bitings
of the cold and to the pangs of hunger. My mother prayed by the resigned
old man, and my sister, rolled up on some rags of which they had made
her a bed, wept in silence, and held her naked feet in her little blue
hands.

It was a page from the book I had just read transferred into my own
existence.

My heart was oppressed with inexpressible anguish. Crouched in a corner,
with my eyes fixed upon this dismal picture, I felt the cold slowly
creeping upon me, and I said to myself with bitterness:

“Let us die, since poverty is a dungeon guarded by suspicion, apathy,
and contempt, and from which it is vain to try to escape; let us die,
since there is no place for us at the banquet of the living!”

And I tried to rise to join my mother again, and to wait at her feet for
the hour of release.

This effort dispelled my dream, and I awoke with a start.

I looked around me; my lamp was expiring, the fire in my stove
extinguished, and my half-opened door was letting in an icy wind. I
got up, with a shiver, to shut and double-lock it; then I made for the
alcove, and went to bed in haste.

But the cold kept me awake a long time, and my thoughts continued the
interrupted dream.

The pictures I had lately accused of exaggeration now seemed but a too
faithful representation of reality; and I went to sleep without being
able to recover my optimism--or my warmth.

Thus did a cold stove and a badly closed door alter my point of view.
All went well when my blood circulated properly; all looked gloomy when
the cold laid hold on me.

This reminds me of the story of the duchess who was obliged to pay a
visit to the neighboring convent on a winter’s day. The convent was
poor, there was no wood, and the monks had nothing but their discipline
and the ardor of their prayers to keep out the cold. The duchess, who
was shivering with cold, returned home, greatly pitying the poor monks.
While the servants were taking off her cloak and adding two more logs to
her fire, she called her steward, whom she ordered to send some wood
to the convent immediately. She then had her couch moved close to the
fireside, the warmth of which soon revived her. The recollection of what
she had just suffered was speedily lost in her present comfort, when the
steward came in again to ask how many loads of wood he was to send.

“Oh! you may wait,” said the great lady carelessly; “the weather is very
much milder.”

Thus, man’s judgments are formed less from reason than from sensation;
and as sensation comes to him from the outward world, so he finds
himself more or less under its influence; by little and little he
imbibes a portion of his habits and feelings from it.

It is not, then, without cause that, when we wish to judge of a
stranger beforehand, we look for indications of his character in the
circumstances which surround him. The things among which we live are
necessarily made to take our image, and we unconsciously leave in them
a thousand impressions of our minds. As we can judge by an empty bed
of the height and attitude of him who has slept in it, so the abode of
every man discovers to a close observer the extent of his intelligence
and the feelings of his heart. Bernardin de St.-Pierre has related the
story of a young girl who refused a suitor because he would never have
flowers or domestic animals in his house. Perhaps the sentence was
severe, but not without reason. We may presume that a man insensible
to beauty and to humble affection must be ill prepared to feel the
enjoyments of a happy marriage.

14th, seven o’clock P.M.--This morning, as I was opening my journal to
write, I had a visit from our old cashier.

His sight is not so good as it was, his hand begins to shake, and the
work he was able to do formerly is now becoming somewhat laborious to
him. I had undertaken to write out some of his papers, and he came for
those I had finished.

We conversed a long time by the stove, while he was drinking a cup of
coffee which I made him take.

M. Rateau is a sensible man, who has observed much and speaks little; so
that he has always something to say.

While looking over the accounts I had prepared for him, his look fell
upon my journal, and I was obliged to acknowledge that in this way I
wrote a diary of my actions and thoughts every evening for private use.
From one thing to another, I began speaking to him of my dream the day
before, and my reflections about the influence of outward objects upon
our ordinary sentiments. He smiled.

“Ah! you, too, have my superstitions,” he said, quietly. “I have always
believed, like you, that you may know the game by the lair: it is
only necessary to have tact and experience; but without them we commit
ourselves to many rash judgments. For my part. I have been guilty of
this more than once, but sometimes I have also drawn a right conclusion.
I recollect especially an adventure which goes as far back as the first
years of my youth--”

He stopped. I looked at him as if I waited for his story, and he told it
me at once.

At this time he was still but third clerk to an attorney at Orleans. His
master had sent him to Montargis on different affairs, and he intended
to return in the diligence the same evening, after having received
the amount of a bill at a neighboring town; but they kept him at the
debtor’s house, and when he was able to set out the day had already
closed.

Fearing not to be able to reach Montargis in good time, he took a
crossroad they pointed out to him. Unfortunately the fog increased, no
star was visible in the heavens, and the darkness became so great
that he lost his road. He tried to retrace his steps, passed twenty
footpaths, and at last was completely astray.

After the vexation of losing his place in the diligence, came the
feeling of uneasiness as to his situation. He was alone, on foot, lost
in a forest, without any means of finding his right road again, and with
a considerable sum of money about him, for which he was responsible.
His anxiety was increased by his inexperience. The idea of a forest was
connected in his mind with so many adventures of robbery and murder,
that he expected some fatal encounter every instant.

To say the truth, his situation was not encouraging. The place was not
considered safe, and for some time past there had been rumors of the
sudden disappearance of several horse-dealers, though there was no trace
of any crime having been committed.

Our young traveller, with his eyes staring forward, and his ears
listening, followed a footpath which he supposed might take him to some
house or road; but woods always succeeded to woods. At last he perceived
a light at a distance, and in a quarter of an hour he reached the
highroad.

A single house, the light from which had attracted him, appeared at a
little distance. He was going toward the entrance gate of the courtyard,
when the trot of a horse made him turn his head. A man on horseback had
just appeared at the turning of the road, and in an instant was close to
him.

The first words he addressed to the young man showed him to be the
farmer himself. He related how he had lost himself, and learned from the
countryman that he was on the road to Pithiviers. Montargis was three
leagues behind him.

The fog had insensibly changed into a drizzling rain, which was
beginning to wet the young clerk through; he seemed afraid of the
distance he had still to go, and the horseman, who saw his hesitation,
invited him to come into the farmhouse.

It had something of the look of a fortress. Surrounded by a pretty high
wall, it could not be seen except through the bars of the great gate,
which was carefully closed. The farmer, who had got off his horse, did
not go near it, but, turning to the right, reached another entrance
closed in the same way, but of which he had the key.

Hardly had he passed the threshold when a terrible barking resounded
from each end of the yard. The farmer told his guest to fear nothing,
and showed him the dogs chained up to their kennels; both were of an
extraordinary size, and so savage that the sight of their master himself
could not quiet them.

A boy, attracted by their barking, came out of the house and took the
farmer’s horse. The latter began questioning him about some orders he
had given before he left the house, and went toward the stable to see
that they had been executed.

Thus left alone, our clerk looked about him.

A lantern which the boy had placed on the ground cast a dim light over
the courtyard. All around seemed empty and deserted. Not a trace was
visible of the disorder often seen in a country farmyard, and which
shows a temporary cessation of the work which is soon to be resumed
again. Neither a cart forgotten where the horses had been unharnessed,
nor sheaves of corn heaped up ready for threshing, nor a plow overturned
in a corner and half hidden under the freshly-cut clover. The yard was
swept, the barns shut up and padlocked. Not a single vine creeping up
the walls; everywhere stone, wood, and iron!

He took up the lantern and went up to the corner of the house. Behind
was a second yard, where he heard the barking of a third dog, and a
covered wall was built in the middle of it.

Our traveller looked in vain for the little farm garden, where pumpkins
of different sorts creep along the ground, or where the bees from the
hives hum under the hedges of honeysuckle and elder. Verdure and
flowers were nowhere to be seen. He did not even perceive the sight of a
poultry-yard or pigeon-house. The habitation of his host was everywhere
wanting in that which makes the grace and the life of the country.

The young man thought that his host must be of a very careless or a very
calculating disposition, to concede so little to domestic enjoyments and
the pleasures of the eye; and judging, in spite of himself, by what he
saw, he could not help feeling a distrust of his character.

In the mean time the farmer returned from the stables, and made him
enter the house.

The inside of the farmhouse corresponded to its outside. The whitewashed
walls had no other ornament than a row of guns of all sizes; the massive
furniture hardly redeemed its clumsy appearance by its great solidity.
The cleanliness was doubtful, and the absence of all minor conveniences
proved that a woman’s care was wanting in the household concerns. The
young clerk learned that the farmer, in fact, lived here with no one but
his two sons.

Of this, indeed, the signs were plain enough. A table with the cloth
laid, that no one had taken the trouble to clear away, was left near the
window. The plates and dishes were scattered upon it without any order,
and loaded with potato-parings and half-picked bones. Several empty
bottles emitted an odor of brandy, mixed with the pungent smell of
tobacco-smoke.

After seating his guest, the farmer lighted his pipe, and his two sons
resumed their work by the fireside. Now and then the silence was just
broken by a short remark, answered by a word or an exclamation; and then
all became as mute as before.

“From my childhood,” said the old cashier, “I had been very sensible to
the impression of outward objects; later in life, reflection had taught
me to study the causes of these impressions rather than to drive them
away. I set myself, then, to examine everything around me with great
attention.

“Below the guns, I had remarked on entering, some wolftraps were
suspended, and to one of them still hung the mangled remains of a wolf’s
paw, which they had not yet taken off from the iron teeth. The blackened
chimneypiece was ornamented by an owl and a raven nailed on the wall,
their wings extended, and their throats with a huge nail through each;
a fox’s skin, freshly flayed, was spread before the window; and a larder
hook, fixed into the principal beam, held a headless goose, whose body
swayed about over our heads.

“My eyes were offended by all these details, and I turned them again
upon my hosts. The father, who sat opposite to me, only interrupted his
smoking to pour out his drink, or address some reprimand to his
sons. The eldest of these was scraping a deep bucket, and the bloody
scrapings, which he threw into the fire every instant, filled the room
with a disagreeable fetid smell; the second son was sharpening some
butcher’s knives. I learned from a word dropped from the father that
they were preparing to kill a pig the next day.

“These occupations and the whole aspect of things inside the house told
of such habitual coarseness in their way of living as seemed to explain,
while it formed the fitting counterpart of, the forbidding gloominess
of the outside. My astonishment by degrees changed into disgust, and my
disgust into uneasiness. I cannot detail the whole chain of ideas which
succeeded one another in my imagination; but, yielding to an impulse I
could not overcome, I got up, declaring I would go on my road again.

“The farmer made some effort to keep me; he spoke of the rain, of the
darkness, and of the length of the way. I replied to all by the absolute
necessity there was for my being at Montargis that very night; and
thanking him for his brief hospitality, I set off again in a haste which
might well have confirmed the truth of my words to him.

“However, the freshness of the night and the exercise of walking did not
fail to change the directions of my thoughts. When away from the objects
which had awakened such lively disgust in me, I felt it gradually
diminishing. I began to smile at the susceptibility of my feelings,
and then, in proportion as the rain became heavier and colder, these
strictures on myself assumed a tone of ill-temper. I silently accused
myself of the absurdity of mistaking sensation for admonitions of my
reason. After all, were not the farmer and his sons free to live alone,
to hunt, to keep dogs, and to kill a pig? Where was the crime of it?
With less nervous susceptibility, I should have accepted the shelter
they offered me, and I should now be sleeping snugly on a truss of
straw, instead of walking with difficulty through the cold and drizzling
rain. I thus continued to reproach myself, until, toward morning, I
arrived at Montargis, jaded and benumbed with cold.

“When, however, I got up refreshed, toward the middle of the next day,
I instinctively returned to my first opinion. The appearance of the
farmhouse presented itself to me under the same repulsive colors which
the evening before had determined me to make my escape from it. Reason
itself remained silent when reviewing all those coarse details, and was
forced to recognize in them the indications of a low nature, or else the
presence of some baleful influence.

“I went away the next day without being able to learn anything
concerning the farmer or his sons; but the recollection of my adventure
remained deeply fixed in my memory.

“Ten years afterward I was travelling in the diligence through the
department of the Loiret; I was leaning from the window, and looking at
some coppice ground now for the first time brought under cultivation,
and the mode of clearing which one of my travelling companions was
explaining to me, when my eyes fell upon a walled inclosure, with an
iron-barred gate. Inside it I perceived a house with all the blinds
closed, and which I immediately recollected; it was the farmhouse where
I had been sheltered. I eagerly pointed it out to my companion, and
asked who lived in it.

“‘Nobody just now,’ replied he.

“‘But was it not kept, some years ago, by a farmer and his two sons?’

“‘The Turreaus;’ said my travelling companion, looking at me; ‘did you
know them?’

“‘I saw them once.’

“He shook his head.

“‘Yes, yes!’ resumed he; ‘for many years they lived there like wolves in
their den; they merely knew how to till land, kill game, and drink. The
father managed the house, but men living alone, without women to love
them, without children to soften them, and without God to make them
think of heaven, always turn into wild beasts, you see; so one morning
the eldest son, who had been drinking too much brandy, would not harness
the plow-horses; his father struck him with his whip, and the son, who
was mad drunk, shot him dead with his gun.’”

16th, P.M.--I have been thinking of the story of the old cashier these
two days; it came so opportunely upon the reflections my dream had
suggested to me.

Have I not an important lesson to learn from all this?

If our sensations have an incontestable influence upon our judgments,
how comes it that we are so little careful of those things which awaken
or modify these sensations? The external world is always reflected in us
as in a mirror, and fills our minds with pictures which, unconsciously
to ourselves, become the germs of our opinions and of our rules of
conduct. All the objects which surround us are then, in reality, so many
talismans whence good and evil influences are emitted, and it is for
us to choose them wisely, so as to create a healthy atmosphere for our
minds.

Feeling convinced of this truth, I set about making a survey of my
attic.

The first object on which my eyes rest is an old map of the history of
the principal monastery in my native province. I had unrolled it with
much satisfaction, and placed it on the most conspicuous part of the
wall. Why had I given it this place? Ought this sheet of old worm-eaten
parchment to be of so much value to me, who am neither an antiquary nor
a scholar? Is not its real importance in my sight that one of the abbots
who founded it bore my name, and that I shall, perchance, be able
to make myself a genealogical tree of it for the edification of my
visitors? While writing this, I feel my own blushes. Come, down with the
map! let us banish it into my deepest drawer.

As I passed my glass, I perceived several visiting cards complacently
displayed in the frame. By what chance is it that there are only
names that make a show among them? Here is a Polish count--a retired
colonel--the deputy of my department. Quick, quick, into the fire with
these proofs of vanity! and let us put this card in the handwriting of
our office-boy, this direction for cheap dinners, and the receipt of
the broker where I bought my last armchair, in their place. These
indications of my poverty will serve, as Montaigne says, ‘mater ma
superbe’, and will always make me recollect the modesty in which the
dignity of the lowly consists.

I have stopped before the prints hanging upon the wall. This large
and smiling Pomona, seated on sheaves of corn, and whose basket is
overflowing with fruit, only produces thoughts of joy and plenty; I was
looking at her the other day, when I fell asleep denying such a thing
as misery. Let us give her as companion this picture of Winter, in which
everything tells of sorrow and suffering: one picture will modify the
other.

And this Happy Family of Greuze’s! What joy in the children’s eyes! What
sweet repose in the young woman’s face! What religious feeling in the
grandfather’s countenance! May God preserve their happiness to them! but
let us hang by its side the picture of this mother, who weeps over an
empty cradle. Human life has two faces, both of which we must dare to
contemplate in their turn.

Let me hide, too, these ridiculous monsters which ornament my
chimneypiece. Plato has said that “the beautiful is nothing else than
the visible form of the good.” If it is so, the ugly should be the
visible form of the evil, and, by constantly beholding it, the mind
insensibly deteriorates.

But above all, in order to cherish the feelings of kindness and pity,
let me hang at the foot of my bed this affecting picture of the Last
Sleep! Never have I been able to look at it without feeling my heart
touched.

An old woman, clothed in rags, is lying by a roadside; her stick is at
her feet, and her head rests upon a stone; she has fallen asleep; her
hands are clasped; murmuring a prayer of her childhood, she sleeps her
last sleep, she dreams her last dream!

She sees herself, again a strong and happy child, keeping the sheep on
the common, gathering the berries from the hedges, singing, curtsying to
passers-by, and making the sign of the cross when the first star appears
in the heavens! Happy time, filled with fragrance and sunshine! She
wants nothing yet, for she is ignorant of what there is to wish for.

But see her grown up; the time is come for working bravely: she must
cut the corn, thresh the wheat, carry the bundles of flowering clover
or branches of withered leaves to the farm. If her toil is hard, hope
shines like a sun over everything and it wipes the drops of sweat away.
The growing girl already sees that life is a task, but she still sings
as she fulfills it.

By-and-bye the burden becomes heavier; she is a wife, she is a mother!
She must economize the bread of to-day, have her eye upon the morrow,
take care of the sick, and sustain the feeble; she must act, in short,
that part of an earthly Providence, so easy when God gives us his aid,
so hard when he forsakes us. She is still strong, but she is anxious;
she sings no longer!

Yet a few years, and all is overcast. The husband’s health is broken;
his wife sees him pine away by the now fireless hearth; cold and hunger
finish what sickness had begun; he dies, and his widow sits on the
ground by the coffin provided by the charity of others, pressing her two
half-naked little ones in her arms. She dreads the future, she weeps,
and she droops her head.

At last the future has come; the children are grown up, but they are no
longer with her. Her son is fighting under his country’s flag, and his
sister is gone. Both have been lost to her for a long time--perhaps
forever; and the strong girl, the brave wife, the courageous mother, is
henceforth only a poor old beggar-woman, without a family, and without
a home! She weeps no more, sorrow has subdued her; she surrenders, and
waits for death.

Death, that faithful friend of the wretched, is come: not hideous and
with mockery, as superstition represents, but beautiful, smiling, and
crowned with stars! The gentle phantom stoops to the beggar; its pale
lips murmur a few airy words, which announce to her the end of her
labors; a peaceful joy comes over the aged beggarwoman, and, leaning on
the shoulder of the great Deliverer, she has passed unconsciously from
her last earthly sleep to her eternal rest.

Lie there, thou poor way-wearied woman! The leaves will serve thee for a
winding-sheet. Night will shed her tears of dew over thee, and the birds
will sing sweetly by thy remains. Thy visit here below will not have
left more trace than their flight through the air; thy name is already
forgotten, and the only legacy thou hast to leave is the hawthorn stick
lying forgotten at thy feet!

Well! some one will take it up--some soldier of that great human host
which is scattered abroad by misery or by vice; for thou art not an
exception, thou art an instance; and under the same sun which shines
so pleasantly upon all, in the midst of these flowering vineyards, this
ripe corn, and these wealthy cities, entire generations suffer, succeed
each other, and still bequeath to each the beggar’s stick!

The sight of this sad picture shall make me more grateful for what God
has given me, and more compassionate for those whom he has treated with
less indulgence; it shall be a lesson and a subject for reflection for
me.

Ah! if we would watch for everything that might improve and instruct
us; if the arrangements of our daily life were so disposed as to be a
constant school for our minds! but oftenest we take no heed of them. Man
is an eternal mystery to himself; his own person is a house into which
he never enters, and of which he studies the outside alone. Each of
us need have continually before him the famous inscription which once
instructed Socrates, and which was engraved on the walls of Delphi by an
unknown hand:

             KNOW THYSELF.



CHAPTER XII. THE END OF THE YEAR

December 30th, P.M.

I was in bed, and hardly recovered from the delirious fever which had
kept me for so long between life and death. My weakened brain was
making efforts to recover its activity; my thoughts, like rays of light
struggling through the clouds, were still confused and imperfect; at
times I felt a return of the dizziness which made a chaos of all my
ideas, and I floated, so to speak, between alternate fits of mental
wandering and consciousness.

Sometimes everything seemed plain to me, like the prospect which, from
the top of some high mountain, opens before us in clear weather. We
distinguish water, woods, villages, cattle, even the cottage perched on
the edge of the ravine; then suddenly there comes a gust of wind laden
with mist, and all is confused and indistinct.

Thus, yielding to the oscillations of a half-recovered reason, I allowed
my mind to follow its various impulses without troubling myself to
separate the real from the imaginary; I glided softly from one to the
other, and my dreams and waking thoughts succeeded closely upon one
another.

Now, while my mind is wandering in this unsettled state, see, underneath
the clock which measures the hours with its loud ticking, a female
figure appears before me!

At first sight I saw enough to satisfy me that she was not a daughter of
Eve. In her eye was the last flash of an expiring star, and her face had
the pallor of an heroic death-struggle. She was dressed in a drapery of
a thousand changing colors of the brightest and the most sombre hues,
and held a withered garland in her hand.

After having contemplated her for some moments, I asked her name, and
what brought her into my attic. Her eyes, which were following the
movements of the clock, turned toward me, and she replied:

“You see in me the year which is just drawing to its end; I come to
receive your thanks and your farewell.”

I raised myself on my elbow in surprise, which soon gave place to bitter
resentment.

“Ah! you want thanks,” cried I; “but first let me know what for?

“When I welcomed your coming, I was still young and vigorous: you have
taken from me each day some little of my strength, and you have ended by
inflicting an illness upon me; already, thanks to you, my blood is less
warm, my muscles less firm, and my feet less agile than before! You
have planted the germs of infirmity in my bosom; there, where the summer
flowers of life were growing, you have wickedly sown the nettles of old
age!

“And, as if it were not enough to weaken my body, you have also
diminished the powers of my soul; you have extinguished her enthusiasm;
she is become more sluggish and more timid. Formerly her eyes took in
the whole of mankind in their generous survey; but you have made her
nearsighted, and now she hardly sees beyond herself! That is what you
have done for my spiritual being: then as to my outward existence, see
to what grief, neglect, and misery you have reduced it! For the many
days that the fever has kept me chained to this bed, who has taken care
of this home in which I placed all my joy? Shall I not find my closets
empty, my bookcase, stripped, all my poor treasures lost through
negligence or dishonesty? Where are the plants I cultivated, the birds I
fed? All are gone! my attic is despoiled, silent and solitary! As it is
only for the last few moments that I have returned to a consciousness of
what surrounds me, I am even ignorant who has nursed me during my long
illness! Doubtless some hireling, who will leave when all my means of
recompense are exhausted! And what will my masters, for whom I am
bound to work, have said to my absence? At this time of the year, when
business is most pressing, can they have done without me, will they
even have tried to do so? Perhaps I am already superseded in the humble
situation by which I earned my daily bread! And it is thou-thou alone,
wicked daughter of Time--who hast brought all these misfortunes upon
me: strength, health, comfort, work--thou hast taken all from me. I have
only received outrage and loss from thee, and yet thou darest to claim
my gratitude!”

“Ah! die then, since thy day is come; but die despised and cursed; and
may I write on thy tomb the epitaph the Arabian poet inscribed upon that
of a king:

     “‘Rejoice, thou passer-by: he whom we have buried here
     cannot live again.’”

       .......................

I was wakened by a hand taking mine; and opening my eyes, I recognized
the doctor.

After having felt my pulse, he nodded his head, sat down at the foot of
the bed, and looked at me, rubbing his nose with his snuffbox. I have
since learned that this was a sign of satisfaction with the doctor.

“Well! so we wanted old snub-nose to carry us off?” said M. Lambert, in
his half-joking, half-scolding way. “What the deuce of a hurry we were
in! It was necessary to hold you back with both arms at least!”

“Then you had given me up, doctor?” asked I, rather alarmed.

“Not at all,” replied the old physician. “We can’t give up what we
have not got; and I make it a rule never to have any hope. We are but
instruments in the hands of Providence, and each of us should say, with
Ambroise Pare: ‘I tend him, God cures him!”’

“May He be blessed then, as well as you,” cried I; “and may my health
come back with the new year!”

M. Lambert shrugged his shoulders.

“Begin by asking yourself for it,” resumed he, bluntly. “God has given
it you, and it is your own sense, and not chance, that must keep it for
you. One would think, to hear people talk, that sickness comes upon us
like the rain or the sunshine, without one having a word to say in the
matter. Before we complain of being ill we should prove that we deserve
to be well.”

I was about to smile, but the doctor looked angry.

“Ah! you think that I am joking,” resumed he, raising his voice; “but
tell me, then, which of us gives his health the same attention that he
gives to his business? Do you economize your strength as you economize
your money? Do you avoid excess and imprudence in the one case with the
same care as extravagance or foolish speculations in the other? Do
you keep as regular accounts of your mode of living as you do of
your income? Do you consider every evening what has been wholesome
or unwholesome for you, with the same care that you bring to the
examination of your expenditure? You may smile; but have you not brought
this illness on yourself by a thousand indiscretions?”

I began to protest against this, and asked him to point out these
indiscretions. The old doctor spread out his fingers, and began to
reckon upon them one by one.

“Primo,” cried he, “want of exercise. You live here like a mouse in
a cheese, without air, motion, or change. Consequently, the blood
circulates badly, the fluids thicken, the muscles, being inactive, do
not claim their share of nutrition, the stomach flags, and the brain
grows weary.

“Secundo. Irregular food. Caprice is your cook; your stomach a slave who
must accept what you give it, but who presently takes a sullen revenge,
like all slaves.

“Tertio. Sitting up late. Instead of using the night for sleep, you
spend it in reading; your bedstead is a bookcase, your pillows a desk!
At the time when the wearied brain asks for rest, you lead it through
these nocturnal orgies, and you are surprised to find it the worse for
them the next day.

“Quarto. Luxurious habits. Shut up in your attic, you insensibly
surround yourself with a thousand effeminate indulgences. You must have
list for your door, a blind for your window, a carpet for your feet, an
easy-chair stuffed with wool for your back, your fire lit at the
first sign of cold, and a shade to your lamp; and thanks to all these
precautions, the least draught makes you catch cold, common chairs give
you no rest, and you must wear spectacles to support the light of
day. You have thought you were acquiring comforts, and you have only
contracted infirmities.

“Quinto”

“Ah! enough, enough, doctor!” cried I. “Pray, do not carry your
examination farther; do not attach a sense of remorse to each of my
pleasures.”

The old doctor rubbed his nose with his snuffbox.

“You see,” said he, more gently, and rising at the same time, “you would
escape from the truth. You shrink from inquiry--a proof that you are
guilty. ‘Habemus confitentem reum’! But at least, my friend, do not go
on laying the blame on Time, like an old woman.”

Thereupon he again felt my pulse, and took his leave, declaring that his
function was at an end, and that the rest depended upon myself.

When the doctor was gone, I set about reflecting upon what he had said.

Although his words were too sweeping, they were not the less true in the
main. How often we accuse chance of an illness, the origin of which we
should seek in ourselves! Perhaps it would have been wiser to let him
finish the examination he had begun.

But is there not another of more importance--that which concerns
the health of the soul? Am I so sure of having neglected no means of
preserving that during the year which is now ending? Have I, as one of
God’s soldiers upon earth, kept my courage and my arms efficient? Shall
I be ready for the great review of souls which must pass before Him WHO
IS in the dark valley of Jehoshaphat?

Darest thou examine thyself, O my soul! and see how often thou hast
erred?

First, thou hast erred through pride! for I have not duly valued the
lowly. I have drunk too deeply of the intoxicating wines of genius, and
have found no relish in pure water. I have disdained those words which
had no other beauty than their sincerity; I have ceased to love men
solely because they are men--I have loved them for their endowments; I
have contracted the world within the narrow compass of a pantheon, and
my sympathy has been awakened by admiration only. The vulgar crowd,
which I ought to have followed with a friendly eye because it is
composed of my brothers in hope or grief, I have let pass by with as
much indifference as if it were a flock of sheep. I am indignant with
him who rolls in riches and despises the man poor in worldly wealth; and
yet, vain of my trifling knowledge, I despise him who is poor in mind--I
scorn the poverty of intellect as others do that of dress; I take credit
for a gift which I did not bestow on myself, and turn the favor of
fortune into a weapon with which to attack others.

Ah! if, in the worst days of revolutions, ignorance has revolted and
raised a cry of hatred against genius, the fault is not alone in
the envious malice of ignorance, but comes in part, too, from the
contemptuous pride of knowledge.

Alas! I have too completely forgotten the fable of the two sons of the
magician of Bagdad.

One of them, struck by an irrevocable decree of destiny, was born blind,
while the other enjoyed all the delights of sight. The latter, proud of
his own advantages, laughed at his brother’s blindness, and disdained
him as a companion. One morning the blind boy wished to go out with him.

“To what purpose,” said he, “since the gods have put nothing in common
between us? For me creation is a stage, where a thousand charming scenes
and wonderful actors appear in succession; for you it is only an
obscure abyss, at the bottom of which you hear the confused murmur of
an invisible world. Continue then alone in your darkness, and leave the
pleasures of light to those upon whom the day-star shines.”

With these words he went away, and his brother, left alone, began to cry
bitterly. His father, who heard him, immediately ran to him, and tried
to console him by promising to give him whatever he desired.

“Can you give me sight?” asked the child.

“Fate does not permit it,” said the magician.

“Then,” cried the blind boy, eagerly, “I ask you to put out the sun!”

Who knows whether my pride has not provoked the same wish on the part of
some one of my brothers who does not see?

But how much oftener have I erred through levity and want of thought!
How many resolutions have I taken at random! how many judgments have I
pronounced for the sake of a witticism! how many mischiefs have I not
done without any sense of my responsibility! The greater part of men
harm one another for the sake of doing something. We laugh at the honor
of one, and compromise the reputation of another, like an idle man who
saunters along a hedgerow, breaking the young branches and destroying
the most beautiful flowers.

And, nevertheless, it is by this very thoughtlessness that the fame of
some men is created. It rises gradually, like one of those mysterious
mounds in barbarous countries, to which a stone is added by every
passerby; each one brings something at random, and adds it as he passes,
without being able himself to see whether he is raising a pedestal or a
gibbet. Who will dare look behind him, to see his rash judgments held up
there to view?

Some time ago I was walking along the edge of the green mound on which
the Montmartre telegraph stands. Below me, along one of the zigzag paths
which wind up the hill, a man and a girl were coming up, and arrested my
attention. The man wore a shaggy coat, which gave him some resemblance
to a wild beast; and he held a thick stick in his hand, with which he
described various strange figures in the air. He spoke very loud, and
in a voice which seemed to me convulsed with passion. He raised his
eyes every now and then with an expression of savage harshness, and it
appeared to me that he was reproaching and threatening the girl, and
that she was listening to him with a submissiveness which touched my
heart. Two or three times she ventured a few words, doubtless in the
attempt to justify herself; but the man in the greatcoat began again
immediately with his loud and angry voice, his savage looks, and his
threatening evolutions in the air. I followed him with my eyes, vainly
endeavoring to catch a word as he passed, until he disappeared behind
the hill.

I had evidently just seen one of those domestic tyrants whose sullen
tempers are excited by the patience of their victims, and who, though
they have the power to become the beneficent gods of a family, choose
rather to be their tormentors.

I cursed the unknown savage in my heart, and I felt indignant that these
crimes against the sacred peace of home could not be punished as they
deserve, when I heard his voice approaching nearer. He had turned the
path, and soon appeared before me at the top of the slope.

The first glance, and his first words, explained everything to me: in
place of what I had taken for the furious tones and terrible looks of an
angry man, and the attitude of a frightened victim, I had before me only
an honest citizen, who squinted and stuttered, but who was explaining
the management of silkworms to his attentive daughter.

I turned homeward, smiling at my mistake; but before I reached my
faubourg I saw a crowd running, I heard calls for help, and every
finger pointed in the same direction to a distant column of flame. A
manufactory had taken fire, and everybody was rushing forward to assist
in extinguishing it.

I hesitated. Night was coming on; I felt tired; a favorite book was
awaiting me; I thought there would be no want of help, and I went on my
way.

Just before I had erred from want of consideration; now it was from
selfishness and cowardice.

But what! have I not on a thousand other occasions forgotten the duties
which bind us to our fellowmen? Is this the first time I have avoided
paying society what I owe it? Have I not always behaved to my companions
with injustice, and like the lion? Have I not claimed successively every
share? If any one is so ill-advised as to ask me to return some little
portion, I get provoked, I am angry, I try to escape from it by every
means. How many times, when I have perceived a beggar sitting huddled up
at the end of the street, have I not gone out of my way, for fear that
compassion would impoverish me by forcing me to be charitable! How often
have I doubted the misfortunes of others, that I might with justice
harden my heart against them.

With what satisfaction have I sometimes verified the vices of the poor
man, in order to show that his misery is the punishment he deserves!

Oh! let us not go farther--let us not go farther! I interrupted the
doctor’s examination, but how much sadder is this one! We pity the
diseases of the body; we shudder at those of the soul.

I was happily disturbed in my reverie by my neighbor, the old soldier.

Now I think of it, I seem always to have seen, during my fever, the
figure of this good old man, sometimes leaning against my bed, and
sometimes sitting at his table, surrounded by his sheets of pasteboard.

He has just come in with his glue-pot, his quire of green paper, and
his great scissors. I called him by his name; he uttered a joyful
exclamation, and came near me.

“Well! so the bullet is found again!” cried he, taking my two hands into
the maimed one which was left him; “it has not been without trouble, I
can tell you; the campaign has been long enough to win two clasps in.
I have seen no few fellows with the fever batter windmills during my
hospital days: at Leipsic, I had a neighbor who fancied a chimney was
on fire in his stomach, and who was always calling for the fire-engines;
but the third day it all went out of itself. But with you it has lasted
twenty-eight days--as long as one of the Little Corporal’s campaigns.”

“I am not mistaken then; you were near me?”

“Well! I had only to cross the passage. This left hand has not made you
a bad nurse for want of the right; but, bah! you did not know what hand
gave you drink, and it did not prevent that beggar of a fever from being
drowned--for all the world like Poniatowski in the Elster.”

The old soldier began to laugh, and I, feeling too much affected to
speak, pressed his hand against my breast. He saw my emotion, and
hastened to put an end to it.

“By-the-bye, you know that from to-day you have a right to draw
your rations again,” resumed he gayly; “four meals, like the German
meinherrs--nothing more! The doctor is your house steward.”

“We must find the cook, too,” replied I, with a smile.

“She is found,” said the veteran.

“Who is she?”

“Genevieve.”

“The fruit-woman?”

“While I am talking she is cooking for you, neighbor; and do not fear
her sparing either butter or trouble. As long as life and death were
fighting for you, the honest woman passed her time in going up and down
stairs to learn which way the battle went. And, stay, I am sure this is
she.”

In fact we heard steps in the passage, and he went to open the door.

“Oh, well!” continued he, “it is Mother Millot, our portress, another
of your good friends, neighbor, and whose poultices I recommend to you.
Come in, Mother Millot--come in; we are quite bonny boys this morning,
and ready to step a minuet if we had our dancing-shoes.”

The portress came in, quite delighted. She brought my linen, washed and
mended by herself, with a little bottle of Spanish wine, the gift of her
sailor son, and kept for great occasions. I would have thanked her,
but the good woman imposed silence upon me, under the pretext that the
doctor had forbidden me to speak. I saw her arrange everything in my
drawers, the neat appearance of which struck me; an attentive hand
had evidently been there, and day by day put straight the unavoidable
disorder consequent on sickness.

As she finished, Genevieve arrived with my dinner; she was followed by
Mother Denis, the milk-woman over the way, who had learned, at the
same time, the danger I had been in, and that I was now beginning to
be convalescent. The good Savoyard brought me a new-laid egg, which she
herself wished to see me eat.

It was necessary to relate minutely all my illness to her. At every
detail she uttered loud exclamations; then, when the portress warned her
to be less noisy, she excused herself in a whisper. They made a circle
around me to see me eat my dinner; each mouthful I took was accompanied
by their expressions of satisfaction and thankfulness. Never had the
King of France, when he dined in public, excited such admiration among
the spectators.

As they were taking the dinner away, my colleague, the old cashier,
entered in his turn.

I could not prevent my heart beating as I recognized him. How would the
heads of the firm look upon my absence, and what did he come to tell me?

I waited with inexpressible anxiety for him to speak; but he sat down by
me, took my hand, and began rejoicing over my recovery, without saying a
word about our masters. I could not endure this uncertainty any longer.

“And the Messieurs Durmer,” asked I, hesitatingly, “how have they
taken--the interruption to my work?”

“There has been no interruption,” replied the old clerk, quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“Each one in the office took a share of your duty; all has gone on as
usual, and the Messieurs Durmer have perceived no difference.”

This was too much. After so many instances of affection, this filled up
the measure. I could not restrain my tears.

Thus the few services I had been able to do for others had been
acknowledged by them a hundredfold! I had sown a little seed, and every
grain had fallen on good ground, and brought forth a whole sheaf. Ah!
this completes the lesson the doctor gave me. If it is true that the
diseases, whether of the mind or body, are the fruit of our follies and
our vices, sympathy and affection are also the rewards of our having
done our duty. Every one of us, with God’s help, and within the
narrow limits of human capability, himself makes his own disposition,
character, and permanent condition.

Everybody is gone; the old soldier has brought me back my flowers and
my birds, and they are my only companions. The setting sun reddens my
half-closed curtains with its last rays. My brain is clear, and my heart
lighter. A thin mist floats before my eyes, and I feel myself in that
happy state which precedes a refreshing sleep.

Yonder, opposite the bed, the pale goddess in her drapery of a thousand
changing colors, and with her withered garland, again appears before me;
but this time I hold out my hand to her with a grateful smile.

“Adieu, beloved year! whom I but now unjustly accused. That which I have
suffered must not be laid to thee; for thou wast but a tract through
which God had marked out my road--a ground where I had reaped the
harvest I had sown. I will love thee, thou wayside shelter, for those
hours of happiness thou hast seen me enjoy; I will love thee even for
the suffering thou hast seen me endure. Neither happiness nor suffering
came from thee; but thou hast been the scene for them. Descend again
then, in peace, into eternity, and be blest, thou who hast left me
experience in the place of youth, sweet memories instead of past time,
and gratitude as payment for good offices.”


     ETEXT EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:

     Always to mistake feeling for evidence
     Ambroise Pare: ‘I tend him, God cures him!’
     Are we then bound to others only by the enforcement of laws
     Attach a sense of remorse to each of my pleasures
     Brought them up to poverty
     But above these ruins rises a calm and happy face
     Carn-ival means, literally, “farewell to flesh!”
      Coffee is the grand work of a bachelor’s housekeeping
     Contemptuous pride of knowledge
     Death, that faithful friend of the wretched
     Defeat and victory only displace each other by turns
     Did not think the world was so great
     Do they understand what makes them so gay?
     Each of us regards himself as the mirror of the community
     Ease with which the poor forget their wretchedness
     Every one keeps his holidays in his own way
     Fame and power are gifts that are dearly bought
     Favorite and conclusive answer of his class--“I know”
      Fear of losing a moment from business
     Finishes his sin thoroughly before he begins to repent
     Fortune sells what we believe she gives
     Her kindness, which never sleeps
     Houses are vessels which take mere passengers
     Hubbub of questions which waited for no reply
     I make it a rule never to have any hope
     Ignorant of what there is to wish for
     Looks on an accomplished duty neither as a merit nor a grievance
     Make himself a name: he becomes public property
     Moderation is the great social virtue
     More stir than work
     My patronage has become her property
     No one is so unhappy as to have nothing to give
     Not desirous to teach goodness
     Nothing is dishonorable which is useful
     Our tempers are like an opera-glass
     Poverty, you see, is a famous schoolmistress
     Power of necessity
     Prisoners of work
     Progress can never be forced on without danger
     Question is not to discover what will suit us
     Richer than France herself, for I have no deficit in my budget
     Ruining myself, but we must all have our Carnival
     Satisfy our wants, if we know how to set bounds to them
     Sensible man, who has observed much and speaks little
     So much confidence at first, so much doubt at las
     Sullen tempers are excited by the patience of their victims
     The happiness of the wise man costs but little
     The man in power gives up his peace
     Two thirds of human existence are wasted in hesitation
     Virtue made friends, but she did not take pupils
     We do not understand that others may live on their own account
     We are not bound to live, while we are bound to do our duty
     What have you done with the days God granted you
     What a small dwelling joy can live
     You may know the game by the lair





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