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

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PENGUIN ISLAND

by ANATOLE FRANCE



CONTENTS

     BOOK I.    THE BEGINNINGS
     BOOK II.   THE ANCIENT TIMES
     BOOK III.  THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE
     BOOK IV.   MODERN TIMES: TRINCO
     BOOK V.    MODERN TIMES: CHATILLON
     BOOK VI.   MODERN TIMES
     BOOK VII.  MODERN TIMES
     BOOK VIII. FUTURE TIMES



BOOK I. THE BEGINNINGS



I. LIFE OF SAINT MAEL

Mael, a scion of a royal family of Cambria, was sent in his ninth year
to the Abbey of Yvern so that he might there study both sacred and
profane learning. At the age of fourteen he renounced his patrimony and
took a vow to serve the Lord. His time was divided, according to the
rule, between the singing of hymns, the study of grammar, and the
meditation of eternal truths.

A celestial perfume soon disclosed the virtues of the monk throughout
the cloister, and when the blessed Gal, the Abbot of Yvern, departed
from this world into the next, young Mael succeeded him in the
government of the monastery. He established therein a school, an
infirmary, a guest-house, a forge, work-shops of all kinds, and sheds
for building ships, and he compelled the monks to till the lands in the
neighbourhood. With his own hands he cultivated the garden of the Abbey,
he worked in metals, he instructed the novices, and his life was gently
gliding along like a stream that reflects the heaven and fertilizes the
fields.

At the close of the day this servant of God was accustomed to seat
himself on the cliff, in the place that is to-day still called St.
Mael’s chair. At his feet the rocks bristling with green seaweed and
tawny wrack seemed like black dragons as they faced the foam of the
waves with their monstrous breasts. He watched the sun descending into
the ocean like a red Host whose glorious blood gave a purple tone to the
clouds and to the summits of the waves. And the holy man saw in this the
image of the mystery of the Cross, by which the divine blood has clothed
the earth with a royal purple. In the offing a line of dark blue marked
the shores of the island of Gad, where St. Bridget, who had been given
the veil by St. Malo, ruled over a convent of women.

Now Bridget, knowing the merits of the venerable Mael, begged from
him some work of his hands as a rich present. Mael cast a hand-bell of
bronze for her and, when it was finished, he blessed it and threw it
into the sea. And the bell went ringing towards the coast of Gad, where
St. Bridget, warned by the sound of the bell upon the waves, received it
piously, and carried it in solemn procession with singing of psalms into
the chapel of the convent.

Thus the holy Mael advanced from virtue to virtue. He had already passed
through two-thirds of the way of life, and he hoped peacefully to reach
his terrestrial end in the midst of his spiritual brethren, when he knew
by a certain sign that the Divine wisdom had decided otherwise, and
that the Lord was calling him to less peaceful but not less meritorious
labours.



II. THE APOSTOLICAL VOCATION OF SAINT MAEL

One day as he walked in meditation to the furthest point of a tranquil
beach, for which rocks jutting out into the sea formed a rugged dam, he
saw a trough of stone which floated like a boat upon the waters.

It was in a vessel similar to this that St. Guirec, the great St.
Columba, and so many holy men from Scotland and from Ireland had gone
forth to evangelize Armorica. More recently still, St. Avoye having come
from England, ascended the river Auray in a mortar made of rose-coloured
granite into which children were afterwards placed in order to make
them strong; St. Vouga passed from Hibernia to Cornwall on a rock whose
fragments, preserved at Penmarch, will cure of fever such pilgrims as
place these splinters on their heads. St. Samson entered the Bay of St.
Michael’s Mount in a granite vessel which will one day be called St.
Samson’s basin. It is because of these facts that when he saw the stone
trough the holy Mael understood that the Lord intended him for the
apostolate of the pagans who still peopled the coast and the Breton
islands.

He handed his ashen staff to the holy Budoc, thus investing him with
the government of the monastery. Then, furnished with bread, a barrel
of fresh water, and the book of the Holy Gospels, he entered the stone
trough which carried him gently to the island of Hoedic.

This island is perpetually buffeted by the winds. In it some poor
men fished among the clefts of the rocks and labouriously cultivated
vegetables in gardens full of sand and pebbles that were sheltered from
the wind by walls of barren stone and hedges of tamarisk. A beautiful
fig-tree raised itself in a hollow of the island and thrust forth its
branches far and wide. The inhabitants of the island used to worship it.

And the holy Mael said to them: “You worship this tree because it is
beautiful. Therefore you are capable of feeling beauty. Now I come to
reveal to you the hidden beauty.” And he taught them the Gospel. And
after having instructed them, he baptized them with salt and water.

The islands of Morbihan were more numerous in those times than they are
to-day. For since then many have been swallowed up by the sea. St. Mael
evangelized sixty of them. Then in his granite trough he ascended the
river Auray. And after sailing for three hours he landed before a
Roman house. A thin column of smoke went up from the roof. The holy man
crossed the threshold on which there was a mosaic representing a dog
with its hind legs outstretched and its lips drawn back. He was welcomed
by an old couple, Marcus Combabus and Valeria Moerens, who lived there
on the products of their lands. There was a portico round the interior
court the columns of which were painted red, half their height upwards
from the base. A fountain made of shells stood against the wall and
under the portico there rose an altar with a niche in which the master
of the house had placed some little idols made of baked earth and
whitened with whitewash. Some represented winged children, others Apollo
or Mercury, and several were in the form of a naked woman twisting her
hair. But the holy Mael, observing those figures, discovered among them
the image of a young mother holding a child upon her knees.

Immediately pointing to that image he said:

“That is the Virgin, the mother of God. The poet Virgil foretold her in
Sibylline verses before she was born and, in angelical tones he sang Jam
redit et virgo. Throughout heathendom prophetic figures of her have been
made, like that which you, O Marcus, have placed upon this altar. And
without doubt it is she who has protected your modest household. Thus it
is that those who faithfully observe the natural law prepare themselves
for the knowledge of revealed truths.”

Marcus Combabus and Valeria Moerens, having been instructed by this
speech, were converted to the Christian faith. They received baptism
together with their young freedwoman, Caelia Avitella, who was dearer to
them than the light of their eyes. All their tenants renounced paganism
and were baptized on the same day.

Marcus Combabus, Valeria Moerens, and Caelia Avitella led thenceforth
a life full of merit. They died in the Lord and were admitted into the
canon of the saints.

For thirty-seven years longer the blessed Mael evangelized the pagans
of the inner lands. He built two hundred and eighteen chapels and
seventy-four abbeys.

Now on a certain day in the city of Vannes, when he was preaching the
Gospel, he learned that the monks of Yvern had in his absence declined
from the rule of St. Gal. Immediately, with the zeal of a hen who
gathers her brood, he repaired to his erring children. He was then
towards the end of his ninety-seventh year; his figure was bent, but his
arms were still strong, and his speech was poured forth abundantly like
winter snow in the depths of the valleys.

Abbot Budoc restored the ashen staff to St. Mael and informed him of
the unhappy state into which the Abbey had fallen. The monks were in
disagreement as to the date an which the festival of Easter ought to
be celebrated. Some held for the Roman calendar, others for the Greek
calendar, and the horrors of a chronological schism distracted the
monastery.

There also prevailed another cause of disorder. The nuns of the island
of Gad, sadly fallen from their former virtue, continually came in boats
to the coast of Yvern. The monks received them in the guesthouse and
from this there arose scandals which filled pious souls with desolation.

Having finished his faithful report, Abbot Budoc concluded in these
terms:

“Since the coming of these nuns the innocence and peace of the monks are
at an end.”

“I readily believe it,” answered the blessed Mael. “For woman is a
cleverly constructed snare by which we are taken even before we suspect
the trap. Alas! the delightful attraction of these creatures is exerted
with even greater force from a distance than when they are close at
hand. The less they satisfy desire the more they inspire it. This is the
reason why a poet wrote this verse to one of them:

‘When present I avoid thee, but when away I find thee.’

“Thus we see, my son, that the blandishments of carnal love have more
power over hermits and monks than over men who live in the world. All
through my life the demon of lust has tempted me in various ways, but
his strongest temptations did not come to me from meeting a woman,
however beautiful and fragrant she was. They came to me from the image
of an absent woman. Even now, though full of days and approaching my
ninety-eighth year, I am often led by the Enemy to sin against chastity,
at least in thought. At night when I am cold in my bed and my frozen
old bones rattle together with a dull sound I hear voices reciting the
second verse of the third Book of the Kings: ‘Wherefore his servants
said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin:
and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her
lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat,’ and the devil
shows me a girl in the bloom of youth who says to me: ‘I am thy Abishag;
I am thy Shunamite. Make, O my lord, room for me in thy couch.’

“Believe me,” added the old man, “it is only by the special aid of
Heaven that a monk can keep his chastity in act and in intention.”

Applying himself immediately to restore innocence and peace to the
monastery, he corrected the calendar according to the calculations of
chronology and astronomy and he compelled all the monks to accept his
decision; he sent the women who had declined from St. Bridget’s rule
back to their convent; but far from driving them away brutally, he
caused them to be led to their boat with singing of psalms and litanies.

“Let us respect in them,” he said, “the daughters of Bridget and the
betrothed of the Lord. Let us beware lest we imitate the Pharisees who
affect to despise sinners. The sin of these women and not their persons
should be abased, and they should be made ashamed of what they have done
and not of what they are, for they are all creatures of God.”

And the holy man exhorted his monks to obey faithfully the rule of their
order.

“When it does not yield to the rudder,” said he to them, “the ship
yields to the rock.”



III. THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT MAEL

The blessed Mael had scarcely restored order in the Abbey of Yvern
before he learned that the inhabitants of the island of Hoedic, his
first catechumens and the dearest of all to his heart, had returned to
paganism, and that they were hanging crowns of flowers and fillets of
wool to the branches of the sacred fig-tree.

The boatman who brought this sad news expressed a fear that soon those
misguided men might violently destroy the chapel that had been built on
the shore of their island.

The holy man resolved forthwith to visit his faithless children, so that
he might lead them back to the faith and prevent them from yielding to
such sacrilege. As he went down to the bay where his stone trough was
moored, he turned his eyes to the sheds, then filled with the noise of
saws and of hammers, which, thirty years before, he had erected on the
fringe of that bay for the purpose of building ships.

At that moment, the Devil, who never tires, went out from the sheds and,
under the appearance of a monk called Samsok, he approached the holy man
and tempted him thus:

“Father, the inhabitants of the island of Hoedic commit sins
unceasingly. Every moment that passes removes them farther from God.
They are soon going to use violence towards the chapel that you have
raised with your own venerable hands on the shore of their island. Time
is pressing. Do you not think that your stone trough would carry you
more quickly towards them if it were rigged like a boat and furnished
with a rudder, a mast, and a sail, for then you would be driven by the
wind? Your arms are still strong and able to steer a small craft.
It would be a good thing, too, to put a sharp stem in front of your
apostolic trough. You are much too clear-sighted not to have thought of
it already.”

“Truly time is pressing,” answered the holy man. “But to do as you say,
Samson, my son, would it not be to make myself like those men of little
faith who do not trust the Lord? Would it not be to despise the gifts of
Him who has sent me this stone vessel without rigging or sail?”

This question, the Devil, who is a great theologian, answered by
another.

“Father, is it praiseworthy to wait, with our arms folded, until help
comes from on high, and to ask everything from Him who can do all
things, instead of acting by human prudence and helping ourselves?

“It certainly is not,” answered the holy Mael, “and to neglect to act by
human prudence is tempting God.”

“Well,” urged the Devil, “is it not prudence in this case to rig the
vessel?”

“It would be prudence if we could not attain our end in any other way.”

“Is your vessel then so very speedy?”

“It is as speedy as God pleases.”

“What do you know about it? It goes like Abbot Budoc’s mule. It is a
regular old tub. Are you forbidden to make it speedier?”

“My son, clearness adorns your words, but they are unduly
over-confident. Remember that this vessel is miraculous.”

“It is, father. A granite trough that floats on the water like a cork
is a miraculous trough. There is not the slightest doubt about it. What
conclusion do you draw from that?”

“I am greatly perplexed. Is it right to perfect so miraculous a machine
by human and natural means?”

“Father, if you lost your right foot and God restored it to you, would
not that foot be miraculous?”

“Without doubt, my son.”

“Would you put a shoe on it?”

“Assuredly.”

“Well, then, if you believe that one may cover a miraculous foot with a
natural shoe, you should also believe that we can put natural rigging
on a miraculous boat. That is clear. Alas! Why must the holiest persons
have their moments of weakness and despondency? The most illustrious of
the apostles of Brittany could accomplish works worthy of eternal glory
. . . But his spirit is tardy and his hand is slothful. Farewell then,
father! Travel by short and slow stages and when at last you approach
the coast of Hoedic you will see the smoking ruins of the chapel that
was built and consecrated by your own hands. The pagans will have burned
it and with it the deacon you left there. He will be as thoroughly
roasted as a black pudding.”

“My trouble is extreme,” said the servant of God, drying with his sleeve
the sweat that gathered upon his brow. “But tell me, Samson, my son,
would not rigging this stone trough be a difficult piece of work? And if
we undertook it might we not lose time instead of gaining it?”

“Ah! father,” exclaimed the Devil, “in one turning of the hour-glass the
thing would be done. We shall find the necessary rigging in this shed
that you have formerly built here on the coast and in those store-houses
abundantly stocked through your care. I will myself regulate all the
ship’s fittings. Before being a monk I was a sailor and a carpenter and
I have worked at many other trades as well. Let us to work.”

Immediately he drew the holy man into an outhouse filled with all things
needful for fitting out a boat.

“That for you, father!”

And he placed on his shoulders the sail, the mast, the gaff, and the
boom.

Then, himself bearing a stem and a rudder with its screw and tiller, and
seizing a carpenter’s bag full of tools, he ran to the shore, dragging
the holy man after him by his habit. The latter was bent, sweating, and
breathless, under the burden of canvas and wood.



IV. ST. MAEL’S NAVIGATION ON THE OCEAN OF ICE

The Devil, having tucked his clothes up to his arm-pits, dragged the
trough on the sand, and fitted the rigging in less than an hour.

As soon as the holy Mael had embarked, the vessel, with all its sails
set, cleft through the waters with such speed that the coast was almost
immediately out of sight. The old man steered to the south so as to
double the Land’s End, but an irresistible current carried him to the
south-west. He went along the southern coast of Ireland and turned
sharply towards the north. In the evening the wind freshened. In vain
did Mael attempt to furl the sail. The vessel flew distractedly towards
the fabulous seas.

By the light of the moon the immodest sirens of the North came around
him with their hempen-coloured hair, raising their white throats and
their rose-tinted limbs out of the sea; and beating the water into foam
with their emerald tails, they sang in cadence:

     Whither go’st thou, gentle Mael,
     In thy trough distracted?
     All distended is thy sail
     Like the breast of Juno
     When from it gushed the Milky Way.

For a moment their harmonious laughter followed him beneath the stars,
but the vessel fled on, a hundred times more swiftly than the red ship
of a Viking. And the petrels, surprised in their flight, clung with
their feet to the hair of the holy man.

Soon a tempest arose full of darkness and groanings, and the trough,
driven by a furious wind, flew like a sea-mew through the mist and the
surge.

After a night of three times twenty-four hours the darkness was suddenly
rent and the holy man discovered on the horizon a shore more dazzling
than diamond. The coast rapidly grew larger, and soon by the glacial
light of a torpid and sunken sun, Mael saw, rising above the waves,
the silent streets of a white city, which, vaster than Thebes with its
hundred gates, extended as far as the eye could see the ruins of its
forum built of snow, its palaces of frost, its crystal arches, and its
iridescent obelisks.

The ocean was covered with floating ice-bergs around which swam men of
the sea of a wild yet gentle appearance. And Leviathan passed by hurling
a column of water up to the clouds.

Moreover, on a block of ice which floated at the same rate as the stone
trough there was seated a white bear holding her little one in her arms,
and Mael heard her murmuring in a low voice this verse of Virgil, Incipe
parve puer.

And full of sadness and trouble, the old man wept.

The fresh water had frozen and burst the barrel that contained it. And
Mael was sucking pieces of ice to quench his thirst, and his food was
bread dipped in dirty water. His beard and his hair were broken like
glass. His habit was covered with a layer of ice and cut into him at
every movement of his limbs. Huge waves rose up and opened their foaming
jaws at the old man. Twenty times the boat was filled by masses of
sea. And the ocean swallowed up the book of the Holy Gospels which the
apostle guarded with extreme care in a purple cover marked with a golden
cross.

Now on the thirtieth day the sea calmed. And lo! with a frightful
clamour of sky and waters a mountain of dazzling whiteness advanced
towards the stone vessel. Mael steered to avoid it, but the tiller broke
in his hands. To lessen the speed of his progress towards the rock he
attempted to reef the sails, but when he tried to knot the reef-points
the wind pulled them away from him and the rope seared his hands. He saw
three demons with wings of black skin having hooks at their ends, who,
hanging from the rigging, were puffing with their breath against the
sails.

Understanding from this sight that the Enemy had governed him in all
these things, he guarded himself by making the sign of the Cross.
Immediately a furious gust of wind filled with the noise of sobs and
howls struck the stone trough, carried off the mast with all the sails,
and tore away the rudder and the stem.

The trough was drifting on the sea, which had now grown calm. The holy
man knelt and gave thanks to the Lord who had delivered him from the
snares of the demon. Then he recognised, sitting on a block of ice, the
mother bear who had spoken during the storm. She pressed her beloved
child to her bosom, and in her hand she held a purple book marked with a
golden cross. Hailing the granite trough, she saluted the holy man with
these words:

“Pax tibi Mael.”

And she held out the book to him.

The holy man recognised his evangelistary, and, full of astonishment, he
sang in the tepid air a hymn to the Creator and His creation.



V. THE BAPTISM OF THE PENGUINS

After having drifted for an hour the holy man approached a narrow
strand, shut in by steep mountains. He went along the coast for a whole
day and a night, passing around the reef which formed an insuperable
barrier. He discovered in this way that it was a round island in
the middle of which rose a mountain crowned with clouds. He joyfully
breathed the fresh breath of the moist air. Rain fell, and this rain was
so pleasant that the holy man said to the Lord:

“Lord, this is the island of tears, the island of contrition.”

The strand was deserted. Worn out with fatigue and hunger, he sat down
on a rock in the hollow of which there lay some yellow eggs, marked with
black spots, and about as large as those of a swan. But he did not touch
them, saying:

“Birds are the living praises of God. I should not like a single one of
these praises to be lacking through me.”

And he munched the lichens which he tore from the crannies of the rocks.

The holy man had gone almost entirely round the island without meeting
any inhabitants, when he came to a vast amphitheatre formed of black and
red rocks whose summits became tinged with blue as they rose towards the
clouds, and they were filled with sonorous cascades.

The reflection from the polar ice had hurt the old man’s eyes, but
a feeble gleam of light still shone through his swollen eyelids. He
distinguished animated forms which filled the rocks, in stages, like a
crowd of men on the tiers of an amphitheatre. And at the same time, his
ears, deafened by the continual noises of the sea, heard a feeble sound
of voices. Thinking that what he saw were men living under the natural
law, and that the Lord had sent him to teach them the Divine law, he
preached the gospel to them.

Mounted on a lofty stone in the midst of the wild circus:

“Inhabitants of this island,” said he, “although you be of small
stature, you look less like a band of fishermen and mariners than like
the senate of a judicious republic. By your gravity, your silence, your
tranquil deportment, you form on this wild rock an assembly comparable
to the Conscript Fathers at Rome deliberating in the temple of Victory,
or rather, to the philosophers of Athens disputing on the benches of the
Areopagus. Doubtless you possess neither their science nor their genius,
but perhaps in the sight of God you are their superiors. I believe that
you are simple and good. As I went round your island I saw no image
of murder, no sign of carnage, no enemies’ heads or scalps hung from a
lofty pole or nailed to the doors of your villages. You appear to me
to have no arts and not to work in metals. But your hearts are pure
and your hands are innocent, and the truth will easily enter into your
souls.”

Now what he had taken for men of small stature but of grave bearing were
penguins whom the spring had gathered together, and who were ranged in
couples on the natural steps of the rock, erect in the majesty of their
large white bellies. From moment to moment they moved their winglets
like arms, and uttered peaceful cries. They did not fear men, for they
did not know them, and had never received any harm from them; and there
was in the monk a certain gentleness that reassured the most timid
animals and that pleased these penguins extremely. With a friendly
curiosity they turned towards him their little round eyes lengthened in
front by a white oval spot that gave something odd and human to their
appearance.

Touched by their attention, the holy man taught them the Gospel.

“Inhabitants of this island, the earthly day that has just risen over
your rocks is the image of the heavenly day that rises in your souls.
For I bring you the inner light; I bring you the light and heat of the
soul. Just as the sun melts the ice of your mountains so Jesus Christ
will melt the ice of your hearts.”

Thus the old man spoke. As everywhere throughout nature voice calls
to voice, as all which breathes in the light of day loves alternate
strains, these penguins answered the old man by the sounds of their
throats. And their voices were soft, for it was the season of their
loves.

The holy man, persuaded that they belonged to some idolatrous people and
that in their own language they gave adherence to the Christian faith,
invited them to receive baptism.

“I think,” said he to them, “that you bathe often, for all the hollows
of the rocks are full of pure water, and as I came to your assembly I
saw several of you plunging into these natural baths. Now purity of body
is the image of spiritual purity.”

And he taught them the origin, the nature, and the effects of baptism.

“Baptism,” said he to them, “is Adoption, New Birth, Regeneration,
Illumination.”

And he explained each of these points to them in succession.

Then, having previously blessed the water that fell from the cascades
and recited the exorcisms, he baptized those whom he had just taught,
pouring on each of their heads a drop of pure water and pronouncing the
sacred words.

And thus for three days and three nights he baptized the birds.



VI. AN ASSEMBLY IN PARADISE

When the baptism of the penguins was known in Paradise, it caused
neither joy nor sorrow, but an extreme surprise. The Lord himself was
embarrassed. He gathered an assembly of clerics and doctors, and asked
them whether they regarded the baptism as valid.

“It is void,” said St. Patrick.

“Why is it void?” asked St. Gal, who had evangelized the people of
Cornwall and had trained the holy Mael for his apostolical labours.

“The sacrament of baptism,” answered St. Patrick, “is void when it is
given to birds, just as the sacrament of marriage is void when it is
given to a eunuch.”

But St. Gal replied:

“What relation do you claim to establish between the baptism of a bird
and the marriage of a eunuch? There is none at all. Marriage is, if I
may say so, a conditional, a contingent sacrament. The priest blesses an
event beforehand; it is evident that if the act is not consummated the
benediction remains without effect. That is obvious. I have known on
earth, in the town of Antrim, a rich man named Sadoc, who, living in
concubinage with a woman, caused her to be the mother of nine children.
In his old age, yielding to my reproofs, he consented to marry her, and
I blessed their union. Unfortunately Sadoc’s great age prevented him
from consummating the marriage. A short time afterwards he lost all his
property, and Germaine (that was the name of the woman), not feeling
herself able to endure poverty, asked for the annulment of a marriage
which was no reality. The Pope granted her request, for it was just.
So much for marriage. But baptism is conferred without restrictions or
reserves of any kind. There is no doubt about it, what the penguins have
received is a sacrament.”

Called to give his opinion, Pope St. Damascus expressed himself in these
terms:

“In order to know if a baptism is valid and will produce its result,
that is to say, sanctification, it is necessary to consider who gives
it and not who receives it. In truth, the sanctifying virtue of this
sacrament results from the exterior act by which it is conferred,
without the baptized person cooperating in his own sanctification by any
personal act; if it were otherwise it would not be administered to the
newly born. And there is no need, in order to baptize, to fulfil any
special condition; it is not necessary to be in a state of grace; it
is sufficient to have the intention of doing what the Church does, to
pronounce the consecrated words and to observe the prescribed forms. Now
we cannot doubt that the venerable Mael has observed these conditions.
Therefore the penguins are baptized.”

“Do you think so?” asked St. Guenole. “And what then do you believe that
baptism really is? Baptism is the process of regeneration by which man
is born of water and of the spirit, for having entered the water covered
with crimes, he goes out of it a neophyte, a new creature, abounding in
the fruits of righteousness; baptism is the seed of immortality; baptism
is the pledge of the resurrection; baptism is the burying with Christ in
His death and participation in His departure from the sepulchre. That
is not a gift to bestow upon birds. Reverend Fathers, let us consider.
Baptism washes away original sin; now the penguins were not conceived in
sin. It removes the penalty of sin; now the penguins have not sinned.
It produces grace and the gift of virtues, uniting Christians to Jesus
Christ, as the members to the body, and it is obvious to the senses that
penguins cannot acquire the virtues of confessors, of virgins, and of
widows, or receive grace and be united to--”

St. Damascus did not allow him to finish.

“That proves,” said he warmly, “that the baptism was useless; it does
not prove that it was not effective.”

“But by this reasoning,” said St. Guenole, “one might baptize in the
name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by aspersion or
immersion, not only a bird or a quadruped, but also an inanimate object,
a statue, a table, a chair, etc. That animal would be Christian, that
idol, that table would be Christian! It is absurd!”

St. Augustine began to speak. There was a great silence.

“I am going,” said the ardent bishop of Hippo, “to show you, by an
example, the power of formulas. It deals, it is true, with a diabolical
operation. But if it be established that formulas taught by the Devil
have effect upon unintelligent animals or even on inanimate objects, how
can we longer doubt that the effect of the sacramental formulas extends
to the minds of beasts and even to inert matter?

“This is the example. There was during my lifetime in the town of
Madaura, the birthplace of the philosopher Apuleius, a witch who was
able to attract men to her chamber by burning a few of their hairs along
with certain herbs upon her tripod, pronouncing at the same time certain
words. Now one day when she wished by this means to gain the love of a
young man, she was deceived by her maid, and instead of the young man’s
hairs, she burned some hairs pulled from a leather bottle, made out of
a goatskin that hung in a tavern. During the night the leather bottle,
full of wine, capered through the town up to the witch’s door. This fact
is undoubted. And in sacraments as in enchantments it is the form which
operates. The effect of a divine formula cannot be less in power and
extent than the effect of an infernal formula.”

Having spoken in this fashion the great St. Augustine sat down amidst
applause.

One of the blessed, of an advanced age and having a melancholy
appearance, asked permission to speak. No one knew him. His name was
Probus, and he was not enrolled in the canon of the saints.

“I beg the company’s pardon,” said he, “I have no halo, and I gained
eternal blessedness without any eminent distinction. But after what the
great St. Augustine has just told you I believe it right to impart a
cruel experience, which I had, relative to the conditions necessary for
the validity of a sacrament. The bishop of Hippo is indeed right in what
he said. A sacrament depends on the form; its virtue is in its form;
its vice is in its form. Listen, confessors and pontiffs, to my woeful
story. I was a priest in Rome under the rule of the Emperor Gordianus.
Without desiring to recommend myself to you for any special merit, I may
say that I exercised my priesthood with piety and zeal. For forty years
I served the church of St. Modestus-beyond-the-Walls. My habits were
regular. Every Saturday I went to a tavern-keeper called Barjas, who
dwelt with his wine-jars under the Porta Capena, and from him I bought
the wine that I consecrated daily throughout the week. During that long
space of time I never failed for a single morning to consecrate the holy
sacrifice of the mass. However, I had no joy, and it was with a heart
oppressed by sorrow that, on the steps of the altar I used to ask, ‘Why
art thou so heavy, O my soul, and why art thou so disquieted within
me?’ The faithful whom I invited to the holy table gave me cause for
affliction, for having, so to speak, the Host that I administered still
upon their tongues, they fell again into sin just as if the sacrament
had been without power or efficacy. At last I reached the end of my
earthly trials, and failing asleep in the Lord, I awoke in this abode
of the elect. I learned then from the mouth of the angel who brought me
here, that Barjas, the tavern-keeper of the Porta Capena, had sold for
wine a decoction of roots and barks in which there was not a single drop
of the juice of the grape. I had been unable to transmute this vile
brew into blood, for it was not wine, and wine alone is changed into the
blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore all my consecrations were invalid, and
unknown to us, my faithful and myself had for forty years been deprived
of the sacrament and were in fact in a state of excommunication. This
revelation threw me into a stupor which overwhelms me even to-day in
this abode of bliss. I go all through Paradise without ever meeting
a single one of those Christians whom formerly I admitted to the holy
table in the basilica of the blessed Modestus. Deprived of the bread of
angels, they easily gave way to the most abominable vices, and they have
all gone to hell. It gives me some satisfaction to think that Barjas,
the tavern-keeper, is damned. There is in these things a logic worthy of
the author of all logic. Nevertheless my unhappy example proves that it
is sometimes inconvenient that form should prevail over essence in the
sacraments, and I humbly ask, Could not, eternal wisdom remedy this?”

“No,” answered the Lord. “The remedy would be worse than the disease.
It would be the ruin of the priesthood if essence prevailed over form in
the laws of salvation.”

“Alas! Lord,” sighed the humble Probus. “Be persuaded by my humble
experience; as long as you reduce your sacraments to formulas your
justice will meet with terrible obstacles.”

“I know that better than you do,” replied the Lord. “I see in a single
glance both the actual problems which are difficult, and the future
problems which will not be less difficult. Thus I can foretell that when
the sun will have turned round the earth two hundred and forty times
more.

“Sublime language,” exclaimed the angels.

“And worthy of the creator of the world,” answered the pontiffs.

“It is,” resumed the Lord, “a manner of speaking in accordance with
my old cosmogony and one which I cannot give up without losing my
immutability. . . .

“After the sun, then, will have turned another two hundred and forty
times round the earth, there will not be a single cleric left in Rome
who knows Latin. When they sing their litanies in the churches people
will invoke Orichel, Roguel, and Totichel, and, as you know, these are
devils and not angels. Many robbers desiring to make their communions,
but fearing that before obtaining pardon they would be forced to give up
the things they had robbed to the Church, will make their confessions
to travelling priests, who, ignorant of both Italian and Latin, and only
speaking the patois of their village, will go through cities and towns
selling the remission of sins for a base price, often for a bottle of
wine. Probably we shall not be inconvenienced by those absolutions as
they will want contrition to make them valid, but it may be that their
baptisms will cause us some embarrassment. The priests will become so
ignorant that they will baptize children in nomine patria et filia et
spirita sancta, as Louis de Potter will take a pleasure in relating in
the third volume of his ‘Philosophical, Political, and Critical History
of Christianity.’ It will be an arduous question to decide on the
validity of such baptisms; for even if in my sacred writings I tolerate
a Greek less elegant than Plato’s and a scarcely Ciceronian Latin, I
cannot possibly admit a piece of pure patois as a liturgical formula.
And one shudders when one thinks that millions of new-born babes will be
baptized by this method. But let us return to our penguins.”

“Your divine words, Lord, have already led us back to them,” said
St. Gal. “In the signs of religion and the laws of salvation form
necessarily prevails over essence, and the validity of a sacrament
solely depends upon its form. The whole question is whether the penguins
have been baptized with the proper forms. Now there is no doubt about
the answer.”

The fathers and the doctors agreed, and their perplexity became only the
more cruel.

“The Christian state,” said St. Cornelius, “is not without serious
inconveniences for a penguin. In it the birds are obliged to work out
their own salvation. How can they succeed? The habits of birds are,
in many points, contrary to the commandments of the Church, and the
penguins have no reason for changing theirs. I mean that they are not
intelligent enough to give up their present habits and assume better.”

“They cannot,” said the Lord; “my decrees prevent them.”

“Nevertheless,” resumed St. Cornelius, “in virtue of their baptism their
actions no longer remain indifferent. Henceforth they will be good or
bad, susceptible of merit or of demerit.”

“That is precisely the question we have to deal with,” said the Lord.

“I see only one solution,” said St. Augustine. “The penguins will go to
hell.”

“But they have no soul,” observed St. Irenaeus.

“It is a pity,” sighed Tertullian.

“It is indeed,” resumed St. Gal. “And I admit that my disciple, the holy
Mael, has, in his blind zeal, created great theological difficulties for
the Holy Spirit and introduced disorder into the economy of mysteries.”

“He is an old blunderer,” cried St. Adjutor of Alsace, shrugging his
shoulders.

But the Lord cast a reproachful look on Adjutor.

“Allow me to speak,” said he; “the holy Mael has not intuitive knowledge
like you, my blessed ones. He does not see me. He is an old man burdened
by infirmities; he is half deaf and three parts blind. You are
too severe on him. However, I recognise that the situation is an
embarrassing one.”

“Luckily it is but a passing disorder,” said St. Irenaeus. “The penguins
are baptized, but their eggs are not, and the evil will stop with the
present generation.”

“Do not speak thus, Irenaeus my son,” said the Lord. “There are
exceptions to the laws that men of science lay down on the earth because
they are imperfect and have not an exact application to nature. But
the laws that I establish are perfect and suffer no exception. We must
decide the fate of the baptized penguins without violating any divine
law, and in a manner conformable to the decalogue as well as to the
commandments of my Church.”

“Lord,” said St. Gregory Nazianzen, “give them an immortal soul.”

“Alas! Lord, what would they do with it,” sighed Lactantius. “They
have not tuneful voices to sing your praises. They would not be able to
celebrate your mysteries.”

“Without doubt,” said St. Augustine, “they would not observe the divine
law.”

“They could not,” said the Lord.

“They could not,” continued St. Augustine. “And if, Lord, in your
wisdom, you pour an immortal soul into them, they will burn eternally
in hell in virtue of your adorable decrees. Thus will the transcendent
order, that this old Welshman has disturbed, be re-established.”

“You propose a correct solution to me, son of Monica,” said the Lord,
“and one that accords with my wisdom. But it does not satisfy my mercy.
And, although in my essence I am immutable, the longer I endure, the
more I incline to mildness. This change of character is evident to
anyone who reads my two Testaments.”

As the discussion continued without much light being thrown upon the
matter and as the blessed showed a disposition to keep repeating the
same thing, it was decided to consult St. Catherine of Alexandria. This
is what was usually done in such cases. St. Catherine while on earth had
confounded fifty very learned doctors. She knew Plato’s philosophy in
addition to the Holy Scriptures, and she also possessed a knowledge of
rhetoric.



VII. AN ASSEMBLY IN PARADISE (Continuation and End)

St. Catherine entered the assembly, her head encircled by a crown of
emeralds, sapphires, and pearls, and she was clad in a robe of cloth
of gold. She carried at her side a blazing wheel, the image of the one
whose fragments had struck her persecutors.

The Lord having invited her to speak, she expressed herself in these
terms:

“Lord, in order to solve the problem you deign to submit to me I
shall not study the habits of animals in general nor those of birds in
particular. I shall only remark to the doctors, confessors, and pontiffs
gathered in this assembly that the separation between man and animal is
not complete since there are monsters who proceed from both. Such are
chimeras--half nymphs and half serpents; such are the three Gorgons and
the Capripeds; such are the Scyllas and the Sirens who sing in the
sea. These have a woman’s breast and a fish’s tail. Such also are the
Centaurs, men down to the waist and the remainder horses. They are a
noble race of monsters. One of them, as you know, was able, guided
by the light of reason alone, to direct his steps towards eternal
blessedness, and you sometimes see his heroic bosom prancing on the
clouds. Chiron, the Centaur, deserved for his works on the earth
to share the abode of the blessed; he it was who gave Achilles his
education; and that young hero, when he left the Centaur’s hands, lived
for two years, dressed as a young girl, among the daughters of King
Lycomedes. He shared their games and their bed without allowing any
suspicion to arise that he was not a young virgin like them. Chiron,
who taught him such good morals, is, with the Emperor Trajan, the only
righteous man who obtained celestial glory by following the law of
nature. And yet he was but half human.

“I think I have proved by this example that, to reach eternal
blessedness, it is enough to possess some parts of humanity, always on
the condition that they are noble. And what Chiron, the Centaur,
could obtain without having been regenerated by baptism, would not the
penguins deserve too, if they became half penguins and half men? That
is why, Lord, I entreat you to give old Mael’s penguins a human head
and breast so that they can praise you worthily. And grant them also an
immortal soul--but one of small size.”

Thus Catherine spoke, and the fathers, doctors, confessors, and pontiffs
heard her with a murmur of approbation.

But St. Anthony, the Hermit, arose and stretching two red and knotty
arms towards the Most High:

“Do not so, O Lord God,” he cried, “in the name of your holy Paraclete,
do not so!”

He spoke with such vehemence that his long white beard shook on his chin
like the empty nose-bag of a hungry horse.

“Lord, do not so. Birds with human heads exist already. St. Catherine
has told us nothing new.”

“The imagination groups and compares; it never creates,” replied St.
Catherine drily.

“They exist already,” continued St. Antony, who would listen to nothing.
“They are called harpies, and they are the most obscene animals in
creation. One day as I was having supper in the desert with the Abbot
St. Paul, I placed the table outside my cabin under an old sycamore
tree. The harpies came and sat in its branches; they deafened us with
their shrill cries and cast their excrement over all our food. The
clamour of the monsters prevented me from listening to the teaching of
the Abbot St. Paul, and we ate birds’ dung with our bread and lettuces.
Lord, it is impossible to believe that harpies could give thee worthy
praise.

“Truly in my temptations I have seen many hybrid beings, not only
women-serpents and women-fishes, but beings still more confusedly formed
such as men whose bodies were made out of a pot, a bell, a clock, a
cupboard full of food and crockery, or even out of a house with doors
and windows through which people engaged in their domestic tasks could
be seen. Eternity would not suffice were I to describe all the monsters
that assailed me in my solitude, from whales rigged like ships to a
shower of red insects which changed the water of my fountain into blood.
But none were as disgusting as the harpies whose offal polluted the
leaves of my sycamore.”

“Harpies,” observed Lactantius, “are female Monsters with birds’
bodies. They have a woman’s head and breast. Their forwardness, their
shamelessness, and their obscenity proceed from their female nature as
the poet Virgil demonstrated in his ‘Aeneid.’ They share the curse of
Eve.”

“Let us not speak of the curse of Eve,” said the Lord. “The second Eve
has redeemed the first.”

Paul Orosius, the author of a universal history that Bossuet was to
imitate in later years, arose and prayed to the Lord:

“Lord, hear my prayer and Anthony’s. Do not make any more monsters like
the Centaurs, Sirens, and Fauns, whom the Greeks, those collectors of
fables, loved. You will derive no satisfaction from them. Those species
of monsters have pagan inclinations and their double nature does not
dispose them to purity of morals.”

The bland Lactantius replied in these terms:

“He who has just spoken is assuredly the best historian in Paradise, for
Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Velleius Paterculus, Cornelius
Nepos, Suetonius, Manetho, Diodorus Siculus, Dion Cassius, and
Lampridius are deprived of the sight of God, and Tacitus suffers in hell
the torments that are reserved for blasphemers. But Paul Orosius does
not know heaven as well as he knows the earth, for he does not seem to
bear in mind that the angels, who proceed from man and bird, are purity
itself.”

“We are wandering,” said the Eternal. “What have we to do with all those
centaurs, harpies, and angels? We have to deal with penguins.”

“You have spoken to the point, Lord,” said the chief of the fifty
doctors, who, during their mortal life had been confounded by the Virgin
of Alexandria, “and I dare express the opinion that, in order to put an
end to the scandal by which heaven is now stirred, old Mael’s penguins
should, as St. Catherine who confounded us has proposed, be given half
of a human body with an eternal soul proportioned to that half.”

At this speech there arose in the assembly a great noise of private
conversations and disputes of the doctors. The Greek fathers argued with
the Latins concerning the substance, nature, and dimensions of the soul
that should be given to the penguins.

“Confessors and pontiffs,” exclaimed the Lord, “do not imitate the
conclaves and synods of the earth. And do not bring into the Church
Triumphant those violences that trouble the Church Militant. For it is
but too true that in all the councils held under the inspiration of my
spirit, in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa, fathers have torn the
beards and scratched the eyes of other fathers. Nevertheless they were
infallible, for I was with them.”

Order being restored, old Hermas arose and slowly uttered these words:

“I will praise you, Lord, for that you caused my mother, Saphira, to be
born amidst your people, in the days when the dew of heaven refreshed
the earth which was in travail with its Saviour. And will praise you,
Lord, for having granted to me to see with my mortal eyes the Apostles
of your divine Son. And I will speak in this illustrious assembly
because you have willed that truth should proceed out of the mouths of
the humble, and I will say: ‘Change these penguins to men. It is the
only determination conformable to your justice and your mercy.’”

Several doctors asked permission to speak, others began to do so. No one
listened, and all the confessors were tumultuously shaking their palms
and their crowns.

The Lord, by a gesture of his right hand, appeased the quarrels of his
elect.

“Let us not deliberate any longer,” said he. “The opinion broached by
gentle old Hermas is the only one conformable to my eternal designs.
These birds will be changed into men. I foresee in this several
disadvantages. Many of those men will commit sins they would not have
committed as penguins. Truly their fate through this change will be
far less enviable than if they had been without this baptism and this
incorporation into the family of Abraham. But my foreknowledge must not
encroach upon their free will.

“In order not to impair human liberty, I will be ignorant of what I
know, I will thicken upon my eyes the veils I have pierced, and in my
blind clearsightedness I will let myself be surprised by what I have
foreseen.”

And immediately calling the archangel Raphael:

“Go and find the holy Mael,” said he to him; “inform him of his mistake
and tell him, armed with my Name, to change these penguins into men.”



VIII. METAMORPHOSIS OF THE PENGUINS

The archangel, having gone down into the Island of the Penguins, found
the holy man asleep in the hollow of a rock surrounded by his new
disciples. He laid his hand on his shoulder and, having waked him, said
in a gentle voice:

“Mael, fear not!”

The holy man, dazzled by a vivid light, inebriated by a delicious
odour, recognised the angel of the Lord, and prostrated himself with his
forehead on the ground.

The angel continued:

“Mael, know thy error, believing that thou wert baptizing children of
Adam thou hast baptized birds; and it is, through thee that penguins
have entered into the Church of God.”

At these words the old man remained stupefied.

And the angel resumed:

“Arise, Mael, arm thyself with the mighty Name of the Lord, and say to
these birds, ‘Be ye men!’”

And the holy Mael, having wept and prayed, armed himself with the mighty
Name of the Lord and said to the birds:

“Be ye men!”

Immediately the penguins were transformed. Their foreheads enlarged and
their heads grew round like the dome of St. Maria Rotunda in Rome. Their
oval eyes opened more widely on the universe; a fleshy nose clothed the
two clefts of their nostrils; their beaks were changed into mouths, and
from their mouths went forth speech; their necks grew short and thick;
their wings became arms and their claws legs; a restless soul dwelt
within the breast of each of them.

However, there remained with them some traces of their first nature.
They were inclined to look sideways; they balanced themselves on their
short thighs; their bodies were covered with fine down.

And Mael gave thanks to the Lord, because he had incorporated these
penguins into the family of Abraham.

But he grieved at the thought that he would soon leave the island to
come back no more, and that perhaps when he was far away the faith
of the penguins would perish for want of care like a young and tender
plant.

And he formed the idea of transporting their island to the coasts of
Armorica.

“I know not the designs of eternal Wisdom,” said he to himself. “But if
God wills that this island be transported, who could prevent it?”

And the holy man made a very fine cord about forty feet long out of the
flax of his stole. He fastened one end of the cord round a point of rock
that jutted up through the sand of the shore and, holding the other end
of the cord in his hand, he entered the stone trough.

The trough glided over the sea and towed Penguin Island behind it; after
nine days’ sailing it approached the Breton coast, bringing the island
with it.



BOOK II. THE ANCIENT TIMES



I. THE FIRST CLOTHES

One day St. Mael was sitting by the seashore on a warm stone that he
found. He thought it had been warmed by the sun and he gave thanks
to God for it, not knowing that the Devil had been resting on it. The
apostle was waiting for the monks of Yvern who had been commissioned to
bring a freight of skins and fabrics to clothe the inhabitants of the
island of Alca.

Soon he saw a monk called Magis coming ashore and carrying a chest upon
his back. This monk enjoyed a great reputation for holiness.

When he had drawn near to the old man he laid the chest on the ground
and wiping his forehead with the back of his sleeve, he said:

“Well, father, you wish then to clothe these penguins?”

“Nothing is more needful, my son,” said the old man. “Since they have
been incorporated into the family of Abraham these penguins share the
curse of Eve, and they know that they are naked, a thing of which they
were ignorant before. And it is high time to clothe them, for they are
losing the down that remained on them after their metamorphosis.”

“It is true,” said Magis as he cast his eyes over the coast where
the penguins were to be seen looking for shrimps, gathering mussels,
singing, or sleeping, “they are naked. But do you not think, father,
that it would be better to leave them naked? Why clothe them? When they
wear clothes and are under the moral law they will assume an immense
pride, a vile hypocrisy, and an excessive cruelty.”

“Is it possible, my son,” sighed the old man, “that you understand so
badly the effects of the moral law to which even the heathen submit?”

“The moral law,” answered Magis, “forces men who are beasts to live
otherwise than beasts, a thine that doubtless puts a constraint upon
them, but that also flatters and reassures them; and as they are proud,
cowardly, and covetous of pleasure, they willingly submit to restraints
that tickle their vanity and on which they found both their present
security and the hope of their future happiness. That is the principle
of all morality. . . . But let us not mislead ourselves. My companions
are unloading their cargo of stuffs and skins on the island. Think,
father, while there is still time I To clothe the penguins is a very
serious business. At present when a penguin desires a penguin he knows
precisely what he desires and his lust is limited by an exact knowledge
of its object. At this moment two or three couples of penguins are
making love on the beach. See with what simplicity! No one pays
any attention and the actors themselves do not seem to be greatly
preoccupied. But when the female penguins are clothed, the male penguin
will not form so exact a notion of what it is that attracts him to them.
His indeterminate desires will fly out into all sorts of dreams and
illusions; in short, father, he will know love and its mad torments.
And all the time the female penguins will cast down their eyes and bite
their lips, and take on airs as if they kept a treasure under their
clothes! . . . what a pity!

“The evil will be endurable as long as these people remain rude and
poor; but only wait for a thousand years and you will see, father, with
what powerful weapons you have endowed the daughters of Alca. If you
will allow me, I can give you some idea of it beforehand. I have some
old clothes in this chest. Let us take at hazard one of these female
penguins to whom the male penguins give such little thought, and let us
dress her as well as we can.

“Here is one coming towards us. She is neither more beautiful nor
uglier than the others; she is young. No one looks at her. She strolls
indolently along the shore, scratching her back and with her finger
at her nose as she walks. You cannot help seeing, father, that she has
narrow shoulders, clumsy breasts, a stout figure, and short legs. Her
reddish knees pucker at every step she takes, and there is, at each of
her joints, what looks like a little monkey’s head. Her broad and sinewy
feet cling to the rock with their four crooked toes, while the great
toes stick up like the heads of two cunning serpents. She begins to
walk, all her muscles are engaged in the task, and, when we see them
working, we think of her as a machine intended for walking rather than
as a machine intended for making love, although visibly she is both,
and contains within herself several other pieces of machinery, besides.
Well, venerable apostle, you will see what I am going to make of her.”

With these words the monk, Magis, reached the female penguin in three
bounds, lifted her up, carried her in his arms with her hair trailing
behind her, and threw her, overcome with fright, at the feet of the holy
Mael.

And whilst she wept and begged him to do her no harm, he took a pair of
sandals out of his chest and commanded her to put them on.

“Her feet,” observed the old man, “will appear smaller when squeezed in
by the woollen cords. The soles, being two fingers high, will give
an elegant length to her legs and the weight they bear will seem
magnified.”

As the penguin tied on her sandals she threw a curious look towards
the open coffer, and seeing that it was full of jewels and finery, she
smiled through her tears.

The monk twisted her hair on the back of her head and covered it with
a chaplet of flowers. He encircled her wrist with golden bracelets
and making her stand upright, he passed a large linen band beneath her
breasts, alleging that her bosom would thereby derive a new dignity and
that her sides would be compressed to the greater glory of her hips.

He fixed this band with pins, taking them one by one out of his mouth.

“You can tighten it still more,” said the penguin.

When he had, with much care and study, enclosed the soft parts of her
bust in this way, he covered her whole body with a rose-coloured tunic
which gently followed the lines of her figure.

“Does it hang well?” asked the penguin.

And bending forward with her head on one side and her chin on her
shoulder, she kept looking attentively at the appearance of her toilet.

Magis asked her if she did not think the dress a little long, but she
answered with assurance that it was not--she would hold it up.

Immediately, taking the back of her skirt in her left hand, she drew
it obliquely across her hips, taking care to disclose a glimpse of her
heels. Then she went away, walking with short steps and swinging her
hips.

She did not turn her head, but as she passed near a stream she glanced
out of the corner of her eye at her own reflection.

A male penguin, who met her by chance, stopped in surprise, and
retracing his steps began to follow her. As she went along the shore,
others coming back from fishing, went up to her, and after looking at
her, walked behind her. Those who were lying on the sand got up and
joined the rest.

Unceasingly, as she advanced, fresh penguins, descending from the paths
of the mountain, coming out of clefts of the rocks, and emerging from
the water, added to the size of her retinue.

And all of them, men of ripe age with vigorous shoulders and hairy
breasts, agile youths, old men shaking the multitudinous wrinkles of
their rosy, and white-haired skins, or dragging their legs thinner and
drier than the juniper staff that served them as a third leg, hurried
on, panting and emitting an acrid odour and hoarse gasps. Yet she went
on peacefully and seemed to see nothing.

“Father,” cried Magis, “notice how each one advances with his nose
pointed towards the centre of gravity of that young damsel now that the
centre is covered by a garment. The sphere inspires the meditations
of geometers by the number of its properties. When it proceeds from a
physical and living nature it acquires new qualities, and in order that
the interest of that figure might be fully revealed to the penguins it
was necessary that, ceasing to see it distinctly with their eyes, they
should be led to represent it to themselves in their minds. I myself
feel at this moment irresistibly attracted towards that penguin. Whether
it be because her skirt gives more importance to her hips, and that in
its simple magnificence it invests them with a synthetic and general
character and allows only the pure idea, the divine principle, of them
to be seen, whether this be the cause I cannot say, but I feel that if
I embraced her I would hold in my hands the heaven of human pleasure. It
is certain that modesty communicates an invincible attraction to women.
My uneasiness is so great that it would be vain for me to try to conceal
it.”

He spoke, and, gathering up his habit, he rushed among the crowd of
penguins, pushing, jostling, trampling, and crushing, until he reached
the daughter of Alca, whom he seized and suddenly carried in his arms
into a cave that had been hollowed out by the sea.

Then the penguins felt as if the sun had gone out. And the holy Mael
knew that the Devil had taken the features of the monk, Magis, in order
that he might give clothes to the daughter of Alca. He was troubled in
spirit, and his soul was sad. As with slow steps he went towards his
hermitage he saw the little penguins of six and seven years of age
tightening their waists with belts made of sea-weed and walking along
the shore to see if anybody would follow them.



II. THE FIRST CLOTHES (Continuation and End)

The holy Mael felt a profound sadness that the first clothes put upon
a daughter of Alca should have betrayed the penguin modesty instead of
helping it. He persisted, none the less, in his design of giving clothes
to the inhabitants of the miraculous island. Assembling them on the
shore, he distributed to them the garments that the monks of Yvern
had brought. The male penguins received short tunics and breeches, the
female penguins long robes. But these robes were far from creating the
effect that the former one had produced. They were not so beautiful,
their shape was uncouth and without art, and no attention was paid to
them since every woman bad one. As they prepared the meals and worked
in the fields they soon had nothing but slovenly bodices and soiled
petticoats.

The male penguins loaded their unfortunate consorts with work until they
looked like beasts of burden. They knew nothing of the troubles of the
heart and the disorders of passion. Their habits were innocent. Incest,
though frequent, was a sign of rustic simplicity and if drunkenness led
a youth to commit some such crime he thought nothing more about it the
day afterwards.



III. SETTING BOUNDS TO THE FIELDS AND THE ORIGIN OF PROPERTY

The island did not preserve the rugged appearance that it had formerly,
when, in the midst of floating icebergs it sheltered a population of
birds within its rocky amphitheatre. Its snow-clad peak had sunk
down into a hill from the summit of which one could see the coasts of
Armorica eternally covered with mist, and the ocean strewn with sullen
reefs like monsters half raised out of its depths.

Its coasts were now very extensive and clearly defined and its shape
reminded one of a mulberry leaf. It was suddenly covered with coarse
grass, pleasing to the flocks, and with willows, ancient figtrees, and
mighty oaks. This fact is attested by the Venerable Bede and several
other authors worthy of credence.

To the north the shore formed a deep bay that in after years became one
of the most famous ports in the universe. To the east, along a rocky
coast beaten by a foaming sea, there stretched a deserted and fragrant
heath. It was the Beach of Shadows, and the inhabitants of the island
never ventured on it for fear of the serpents that lodged in the hollows
of the rocks and lest they might encounter the souls of the dead who
resembled livid flames. To the south, orchards and woods bounded the
languid Bay of Divers. On this fortunate shore old Mael built a wooden
church and a monastery. To the west, two streams, the Clange and the
Surelle, watered the fertile valleys of Dalles and Dombes.

Now one autumn morning, as the blessed Mael was walking in the valley of
Clange in company with a monk of Yvern called Bulloch, he saw bands of
fierce-looking men loaded with stones passing along the roads. At the
same time he heard in all directions cries and complaints mounting up
from the valley towards the tranquil sky.

And he said to Bulloch:

“I notice with sadness, my son, that since they became men the
inhabitants of this island act with less wisdom than formerly. When they
were birds they only quarrelled during the season of their love affairs.
But now they dispute all the time; they pick quarrels with each other
in summer as well as in winter. How greatly have they fallen from that
peaceful majesty which made the assembly of the penguins look like the
Senate of a wise republic!

“Look towards Surelle, Bulloch, my son. In yonder pleasant valley a
dozen men penguins are busy knocking each other down with the spades and
picks that they might employ better in tilling the ground. The women,
still more cruel than the men, are tearing their opponents’ faces with
their nails. Alas! Bulloch, my son, why are they murdering each other in
this way?”

“From a spirit of fellowship, father, and through forethought for
the future,” answered Bulloch. “For man is essentially provident and
sociable. Such is his character and it is impossible to imagine it apart
from a certain appropriation of things. Those penguins whom you see are
dividing the ground among themselves.”

“Could they not divide it with less violence?” asked the aged man. “As
they fight they exchange invectives and threats. I do not distinguish
their words, but they are angry ones, judging from the tone.”

“They are accusing one another of theft and encroachment,” answered
Bulloch. “That is the general sense of their speech.”

At that moment the holy Mael clasped his hands and sighed deeply.

“Do you see, my son,” he exclaimed, “that madman who with his teeth is
biting the nose of the adversary he has overthrown and that other one
who is pounding a woman’s head with a huge stone?”

“I see them,” said Bulloch. “They are creating law; they are founding
property; they are establishing the principles of civilization, the
basis of society, and the foundations of the State.”

“How is that?” asked old Mael.

“By setting bounds to their fields. That is the origin of all
government. Your penguins, O Master, are performing the most august
of functions. Throughout the ages their work will be consecrated by
lawyers, and magistrates will confirm it.”

Whilst the monk, Bulloch, was pronouncing these words a big penguin with
a fair skin and red hair went down into the valley carrying a trunk of a
tree upon his shoulder. He went up to a little penguin who was watering
his vegetables in the heat of the sun, and shouted to him:

“Your field is mine!”

And having delivered himself of this stout utterance he brought down
his club on the head of the little penguin, who fell dead upon the field
that his own hands had tilled.

At this sight the holy Mael shuddered through his whole body and poured
forth a flood of tears.

And in a voice stifled by horror and fear he addressed this prayer to
heaven:

“O Lord, my God, O thou who didst receive young Abel’s sacrifices, thou
who didst curse Cain, avenge, O Lord, this innocent penguin sacrificed
upon his own field and make the murderer feel the weight of thy arm.
Is there a more odious crime, is there a graver offence against thy
justice, O Lord, than this murder and this robbery?”

“Take care, father,” said Bulloch gently, “that what you call murder and
robbery may not really be war and conquest, those sacred foundations
of empires, those sources of all human virtues and all human greatness.
Reflect, above all, that in blaming the big penguin you are attacking
property in its origin and in its source. I shall have no trouble
in showing you how. To till the land is one thing, to possess it is
another, and these two things must not be confused; as regards ownership
the right of the first occupier is uncertain and badly founded. The
right of conquest, on the other hand, rests on more solid foundations.
It is the only right that receives respect since it is the only one that
makes itself respected. The sole and proud origin of property is force.
It is born and preserved by force. In that it is august and yields
only to a greater force. This is why it is correct to say that he
who possesses is noble. And that big red man, when he knocked down a
labourer to get possession of his field, founded at that moment a very
noble house upon this earth. I congratulate him upon it.”

Having thus spoken, Bulloch approached the big penguin, who was leaning
upon his club as he stood in the blood-stained furrow:

“Lord Greatauk, dreaded Prince,” said he, bowing to the ground, “I
come to pay you the homage due to the founder of legitimate power and
hereditary wealth. The skull of the vile Penguin you have overthrown
will, buried in your field, attest for ever the sacred rights of your
posterity over this soil that you have ennobled. Blessed be your suns
and your sons’ sons! They shall be Greatauks, Dukes of Skull, and they
shall rule over this island of Alca.”

Then raising his voice and turning towards the holy Mael:

“Bless Greatauk, father, for all power comes from God.”

Mael remained silent and motionless, with his eyes raised towards
heaven; he felt a painful uncertainty in judging the monk Bulloch’s
doctrine. It was, however, the doctrine destined to prevail in epochs of
advanced civilization. Bulloch can be considered as the creator of civil
law in Penguinia.



IV. THE FIRST ASSEMBLY OF THE ESTATES OF PENGUINIA

“Bulloch, my son,” said old Mael, “we ought to make a census of the
Penguins and inscribe each of their names in a book.”

“It is a most urgent matter,” answered Bulloch, “there can be no good
government without it.”

Forthwith, the apostle, with the help of twelve monks, proceeded to make
a census of the people.

And old Mael then said:

“Now that we keep a register of all the inhabitants, we ought, Bulloch,
my son, to levy a just tax so as to provide for public expenses and
the maintenance of the Abbey. Each ought to contribute according to his
means. For this reason, my son, call together the Elders of Alca, and in
agreement with them we shall establish the tax.”

The Elders, being called together, assembled to the number of thirty
under the great sycamore in the courtyard of the wooden monastery.
They were the first Estates of Penguinia. Three-fourths of them were
substantial peasants of Surelle and Clange. Greatauk, as the noblest of
the Penguins, sat upon the highest stone.

The venerable Mael took his place in the midst of his monks and uttered
these words:

“Children, the Lord when he pleases grants riches to men and he
takes them away from them. Now I have called you together to levy
contributions from the people so as to provide for public expenses and
the maintenance of the monks. I consider that these contributions
ought to be in proportion to the wealth of each. Therefore he who has a
hundred oxen will give ten; he who has ten will give one.”

When the holy man had spoken, Morio, a labourer at Anis-on-the-Clange,
one of the richest of the Penguins, rose up and said:

“O Father Mael, I think it right that each should contribute to the
public expenses and to the support of the Church, on my part I am ready
to give up all that I possess in the interest of my brother Penguins,
and if it were necessary I would even cheerfully part with my shirt. All
the elders of the people are ready, like me, to sacrifice their goods,
and no one can doubt their absolute devotion to their country and their
creed. We have, then, only to consider the public interest and to do
what it requires. Now, Father, what it requires, what it demands, is not
to ask much from those who possess much, for then the rich would be less
rich and the poor still poorer. The poor live on the wealth of the rich
and that is the reason why that wealth is sacred. Do not touch it, to do
so would be an uncalled for evil. You will get no great profit by taking
from the rich, for they are very few in number; on the contrary you will
strip yourself of all your resources and plunge the country into misery.
Whereas if you ask a little from each inhabitant without regard to his
wealth, you will collect enough for the public necessities and you will
have no need to enquire into each citizen’s resources, a thing that
would be regarded by all as a most vexatious measure. By taxing all
equally and easily you will spare the poor, for you Will leave them
the wealth of the rich. And how could you possibly proportion taxes to
wealth? Yesterday I had two hundred oxen, to-day I have sixty, to-morrow
I shall have a hundred. Clunic has three cows, but they are thin; Nicclu
has only two, but they are fat. Which is the richer, Clunic or Nicclu?
The signs of opulence are deceitful. What is certain is that everyone
eats and drinks. Tax people according to what they consume. That would
be wisdom and it would be justice.”

Thus spoke Morio amid the applause of the Elders.

“I ask that this speech be graven on bronze,” cried the monk, Bulloch.
“It is spoken for the future; in fifteen hundred years the best of the
Penguins will not speak otherwise.”

The Elders were still applauding when Greatauk, his hand on the pommel
of his sword, made this brief declaration:

“Being noble, I shall not contribute; for to contribute is ignoble. It
is for the rabble to pay.”

After this warning the Elders separated in silence.

As in Rome, a new census was taken every five years; and by this means
it was observed that the population increased rapidly. Although children
died in marvellous abundance and plagues and famines came with perfect
regularity to devastate entire villages, new Penguins, in continually
greater numbers, contributed by their private misery to the public
prosperity.



V. THE MARRIAGE OF KRAKEN AND ORBEROSIA

During these times there lived in the island of Alca a Penguin whose arm
was strong and whose mind was subtle. He was called Kraken, and had his
dwelling on the Beach of Shadows whither the inhabitants never ventured
for fear of serpents that lodged in the hollows of the rocks and
lest they might encounter the souls of Penguins that had died without
baptism. These, in appearance like livid flames, and uttering doleful
groans, wandered night and day along the deserted beach. For it was
generally believed, though without proof, that among the Penguins that
had been changed into men at the blessed Mael’s prayer, several had
not received baptism and returned after their death to lament amid the
tempests. Kraken dwelt on this savage coast in an inaccessible cavern.
The only way to it was through a natural tunnel a hundred feet long, the
entrance of which was concealed by a thick wood. One evening as Kraken
was walking through this deserted plain he happened to meet a young and
charming woman Penguin. She was the one that the monk Magis had clothed
with his own hands and thus was the first to have worn the garments
of chastity. In remembrance of the day when the astonished crowd of
Penguins had seen her moving gloriously in her robe tinted like the
dawn, this maiden had received the name of Orberosia.*

     * “Orb, poetically, a globe when speaking of the heavenly
     bodies. By extension any species of globular body.”--Littre

At the sight of Kraken she uttered a cry of alarm and darted forward to
escape from him. But the hero seized her by the garments that floated
behind, her, and addressed her in these words:

“Damsel, tell me thy name, thy family and thy country.”

But Orberosia kept looking at Kraken with alarm.

“Is it you, I see, sir,” she asked him, trembling, “or is it not rather
your troubled spirit?”

She spoke in this way because the inhabitants of Alca, having no news of
Kraken since he went to live on the Beach of Shadows, believed that he
had died and descended among the demons of night.

“Cease to fear, daughter of Alca,” answered Kraken. “He who speaks to
thee is not a wandering spirit, but a man full of strength and might. I
shall soon possess great riches.”

And young Orberosia asked:

“How dost thou think of acquiring great riches, O Kraken, since thou art
a child of Penguins?”

“By my intelligence,” answered Kraken.

“I know,” said Orberosia, “that in the time that thou dwelt among us
thou wert renowned for thy skill in hunting and fishing. No one equalled
thee in taking fishes in a net or in piercing with thy arrows the
swift-flying birds.”

“It was but a vulgar and laborious industry, O maiden. I have found a
means of gaining much wealth for myself without fatigue. But tell me who
thou art?”

“I am called Orberosia,” answered the young girl.

“Why art thou so far away from thy dwelling and in the night?”

“Kraken, it was not without the will of Heaven.”

“What meanest thou, Orberosia?”

“That Heaven, O Kraken, placed me in thy path, for what reason I know
not.”

Kraken beheld her for a long time in silence.

Then he said with gentleness:

“Orberosia, come into my house; it is that of the bravest and most
ingenious of the sons of the Penguins. If thou art willing to follow me,
I will make thee my companion.”

Then casting down her eyes, she murmured:

“I will follow thee, master.”

It is thus that the fair Orberosia became the consort of the hero
Kraken. This marriage was not celebrated with songs and torches because
Kraken did not consent to show himself to the people of the Penguins;
but hidden in his cave he planned great designs.



VI. THE DRAGON OF ALCA

“We afterwards went to visit the cabinet of natural history. . . . The
care-taker showed us a sort of packet bound in straw that he told us
contained the skeleton of a dragon; a proof, added he, that the dragon
is not a fabulous animal.”--Memoirs of Jacques Casanova, Paris, 1843.
Vol. IV., pp. 404, 405

In the meantime the inhabitants of Alca practised the labours of peace.
Those of the northern coast went in boats to fish or to search for
shell-fish. The labourers of Dombes cultivated oats, rye, and wheat.
The rich Penguins of the valley of Dalles reared domestic animals,
while those of the Bay of Divers cultivated their orchards. Merchants of
Port-Alca carried on a trade in salt fish with Armorica and the gold
of the two Britains, which began to be introduced into the island,
facilitated exchange. The Penguin people were enjoying the fruit of
their labours in perfect tranquillity when suddenly a sinister rumour
ran from village to village. It was said everywhere that frightful
dragon had ravaged two farms in the Bay of Divers.

A few days before, the maiden Orberosia had disappeared. Her absence had
at first caused no uneasiness because on several occasions she had been
carried off by violent men who were consumed with love. And thoughtful
people were not astonished at this, reflecting that the maiden was the
most beautiful of the Penguins. It was even remarked that she sometimes
went to meet her ravishers, for none of us can escape his destiny. But
this time, as she did not return, it was feared that the dragon had
devoured her. The more so as the inhabitants of the valley of Dalles
soon knew that the dragon was not a fable told by the women around the
fountains. For one night the monster devoured out of the village of Anis
six hens, a sheep, and a young orphan child called little Elo. The next
morning nothing was to be found either of the animals or of the child.

Immediately the Elders of the village assembled in the public place and
seated themselves on the stone bench to take counsel concerning what it
was expedient to do in these terrible circumstances.

Having called all those Penguins who had seen the dragon during the
disastrous night, they asked them:

“Have you not noticed his form and his behaviour?”

And each answered in his turn:

“He has the claws of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a
serpent.”

“His back bristles with thorny crests.”

“His whole body is covered with yellow scales.”

“His look fascinates and confounds. He vomits flames.”

“He poisons the air with his breath.”

“He has the head of a dragon, the claws of a lion, and the tail of a
fish.”

And a woman of Anis, who was regarded as intelligent and of sound
judgment and from whom the dragon had taken three hens, deposed as
follows:

“He is formed like a man. The proof is that I thought he was my husband,
and I said to him, ‘Come to bed, you old fool.’”

Others said:

“He is formed like a cloud.”

“He looks like a mountain.”

And a little child came and said:

“I saw the dragon taking off his head in the barn so that he might give
a kiss to my sister Minnie.”

And the Elders also asked the inhabitants:

“How big is the dragon?”

And it was answered:

“As big as an ox.”

“Like the big merchant ships of the Bretons.”

“He is the height of a man.”

“He is higher than the fig-tree under which you are sitting.”

“He is as large as a dog.”

Questioned finally on his colour, the inhabitants said:

“Red.”

“Green.”

“Blue.”

“Yellow.”

“His head is bright green, his wings are brilliant orange tinged with
pink, his limbs are silver grey, his hind-quarters and his tail are
striped with brown and pink bands, his belly bright yellow spotted with
black.”

“His colour? He has no colour.”

“He is the colour of a dragon.”

After hearing this evidence the Elders remained uncertain as to what
should be done. Some advised to watch for him, to surprise him and
overthrow him by a multitude of arrows. Others, thinking it vain to
oppose so powerful a monster by force, counselled that he should be
appeased by offerings.

“Pay him tribute,” said one of them who passed for a wise man. “We can
render him propitious to us by giving him agreeable presents, fruits,
wine, lambs, a young virgin.”

Others held for poisoning the fountains where he was accustomed to drink
or for smoking him out of his cavern.

But none of these counsels prevailed. The dispute was lengthy and the
Elders dispersed without coming to any resolution.



VII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

During all the month dedicated by the Romans to their false god Mars or
Mavors, the dragon ravaged the farms of Dalles and Dombes. He carried
off fifty sheep, twelve pigs, and three young boys. Every family was in
mourning and the island was full of lamentations. In order to remove the
scourge, the Elders of the unfortunate villages watered by the Clange
and the Surelle resolved to assemble and together go and ask the help of
the blessed Mael.

On the fifth day of the month whose name among the Latins signifies
opening, because it opens the year, they went in procession to the
wooden monastery that had been built on the southern coast of the
island. When they were introduced into the cloister they filled it with
their sobs and groans. Moved by their lamentations, old Mael left the
room in which he devoted himself to the study of astronomy and the
meditation of the Scriptures, and went down to them, leaning on his
pastoral staff. At his approach, the Elders, prostrating themselves,
held out to him green branches of trees and some of them burnt aromatic
herbs.

And the holy man, seating himself beside the cloistral fountain under an
ancient fig-tree, uttered these words:

“O my sons, offspring of the Penguins, why do you weep and groan? Why do
you hold out those suppliant boughs towards me? Why do you raise towards
heaven the smoke of those herbs? What calamity do you expect that I can
avert from your heads? Why do you beseech me? I am ready to give my life
for you. Only tell your father what it is you hope from him.”

To these questions the chief of the Elders answered:

“O Mael, father of the sons of Alca, I will speak for all. A horrible
dragon is laying waste our lands, depopulating our cattle-sheds, and
carrying off the flower of our youth. He has devoured the child Elo and
seven young boys; he has mangled the maiden Orberosia, the fairest of
the Penguins with his teeth. There is not a village in which he does not
emit his poisoned breath and which he has not filled with desolation.
A prey to this terrible scourge, we come, O Mael, to pray thee, as the
wisest, to advise us concerning the safety of the inhabitants of this
island lest the ancient race of Penguins be extinguished.”

“O chief of the Elders of Alca,” replied Mael, “thy words fill me with
profound grief, and I groan at the thought that this island is the prey
of a terrible dragon. But such an occurrence is not unique, for we find
in books several tales of very fierce dragons. The monsters are oftenest
found in caverns, by the brinks of waters, and, in preference, among
pagan peoples. Perhaps there are some among you who, although they have
received holy baptism and been incorporated into the family of Abraham,
have yet worshipped idols, like the ancient Romans, or hung up images,
votive tablets, fillets of wool, and garlands of flowers on the branches
of some sacred tree. Or perhaps some of the women Penguins have danced
round a magic stone and drunk water from the fountains where the nymphs
dwell. If it be so, believe, O Penguins, that the Lord has sent this
dragon to punish all for the crimes of some, and to lead you, O children
of the Penguins, to exterminate blasphemy, superstition, and impiety
from amongst you. For this reason I advise, as a remedy against the
great evil from which you suffer, that you carefully search your
dwellings for idolatry, and extirpate it from them. I think it would be
also efficacious to pray and do penance.”

Thus spoke the holy Mael. And the Elders of the Penguin people kissed
his feet and returned to their villages with renewed hope.



VIII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

Following the counsel of the holy Mael the inhabitants of Alca
endeavoured to uproot the superstitions that had sprung up amongst them.
They took care to prevent the girls from dancing with incantations
round the fairy tree. Young mothers were sternly forbidden to rub their
children against the stones that stood upright in the fields so as
to make them strong. An old man of Dombes who foretold the future by
shaking grains of barley on a sieve, was thrown into a well.

However, each night the monster still raided the poultry-yards and the
cattle-sheds. The frightened peasants barricaded themselves in their
houses. A woman with child who saw the shadow of a dragon on the road
through a window in the moonlight, was so terrified that she was brought
to bed before her time.

In those days of trial, the holy Mael meditated unceasingly on the
nature of dragons and the means of combating them. After six months of
study and prayer he thought he had found what he sought. One evening as
he was walking by the sea with a young monk called Samuel, he to him in
these terms:

“I have studied at length the history and habits of dragons, not to
satisfy a vain curiosity, but to discover examples to follow in the
present circumstances. For such, Samuel, my son, is the use of history.

“It is an invariable fact that dragons are extremely vigilant. They
never sleep, and for this reason we often find them employed in guarding
treasures. A dragon guarded at Colchis the golden fleece that Jason
conquered from him. A dragon watched over the golden apples in the
garden of the Hesperides. He was killed by Hercules and transformed into
a star by Juno. This fact is related in some books, and if it be true,
it was done by magic, for the gods of the pagans are in reality demons.
A dragon prevented barbarous and ignorant men from drinking at the
fountain of Castalia. We must also remember the dragon of Andromeda,
which was slain by Perseus. But let us turn from these pagan fables, in
which error is always mixed with truth. We meet dragons in the histories
of the glorious archangel Michael, of St. George, St. Philip, St. James
the Great, St. Patrick, St. Martha, and St. Margaret. And it is in such
writings, since they are worthy of full credence, that we ought to look
for comfort and counsel.

“The story of the dragon of Silena affords us particularly precious
examples. You must know, my son, that on the banks of a vast pool close
to that town there dwelt a dragon who sometimes approached the walls
and poisoned with his breath all who dwelt in the suburbs. And that
they might not be devoured by the monster, the inhabitants of Silena
delivered up to him one of their number expressed his thought every
morning. The victim was chosen by lot, and after a hundred others, the
lot fell upon the king’s daughter.

“Now St. George, who was a military tribune, as he passed through the
town of Silena, learned that the king’s daughter had just been given to
the fierce beast. He immediately mounted his horse, and, armed with
his lance, rushed to encounter the dragon, whom he reached just as the
monster was about to devour the royal virgin. And when St. George had
overthrown the dragon, the king’s daughter fastened her girdle round the
beast’s neck and he followed her like a dog led on a leash.

“That is an example for us of the power of virgins over dragons. The
history of St. Martha furnishes us with a still more certain proof. Do
you know the story, Samuel, my son?”

“Yes, father,” answered Samuel.

And the blessed Mael went on:

“There was in a forest on the banks of the Rhone, between Arles and
Avignon, a dragon half quadruped and half fish, larger than an ox, with
sharp teeth like horns and huge-wings at his shoulders. He sank the
boats and devoured their passengers. Now St. Martha, at the entreaty of
the people, approached this dragon, whom she found devouring a man. She
put her girdle round his neck and led him easily into the town.

“These two examples lead me to think that we should have recourse to the
power of some virgin so as to conquer the dragon who scatters terror and
death through the island of Alca.

“For this reason, Samuel thy son, gird up thy loins and go, I pray thee,
with two of thy companions, into all the villages of this island, and
proclaim everywhere that a virgin alone shall be able to deliver the
island from the monster that devastates it.

“Thou shalt sing psalms and canticles and thou shalt say:

“‘O sons of the Penguins, if there be among you a pure virgin, let her
arise and go, armed with the sign of the cross, to combat the dragon!’”

Thus the old man spake, and Samuel promised to obey him. The next day he
girded up his loins and set out with two of his companions to proclaim
to the inhabitants of Alca that a virgin alone would be able to deliver
the Penguins from the rage of the dragon.



IX. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

Orberosia loved her husband, but she did not love him alone. At the
hour when Venus lightens in the pale sky, whilst Kraken scattered terror
through the villages, she used to visit in his moving hut, a young
shepherd of Dalles called Marcel, whose pleasing form was invested with
inexhaustible vigour. The fair Orberosia shared the shepherd’s aromatic
couch with delight, but far from making herself known to him, she took
the name of Bridget, and said that she was the daughter of a gardener in
the Bay of Divers. When regretfully she left his arms she walked across
the smoking fields towards the Coast of Shadows, and if she happened to
meet some belated peasant she immediately spread out her garments like
great wings and cried:

“Passer by, lower your eyes, that you may not have to say, ‘Alas! alas!
woe is me, for I have seen the angel of the Lord.’”

The villagers tremblingly knelt with their faces to the round. And
several of them used to say that angels, whom it would be death to see,
passed along the roads of the island in the night time.

Kraken did not know of the loves of Orberosia and Marcel, for he was a
hero, and heroes never discover the secrets of their wives. But though
he did not know of these loves, he reaped the benefit of them. Every
night he found his companion more good-humoured and more beautiful,
exhaling pleasure and perfuming the nuptial bed with a delicious odour
of fennel and vervain. She loved Kraken with a love that never became
importunate or anxious, because she did not rest its whole weight on him
alone.

This lucky infidelity of Orberosia was destined soon to save the hero
from a great peril and to assure his fortune and his glory for ever.
For it happened that she saw passing in the twilight a neatherd from
Belmont, who was goading on his oxen, and she fell more deeply in
love with him than she had ever been with the shepherd Marcel. He was
hunch-backed; his shoulders were higher than his ears; his body was
supported by legs of different lengths; his rolling eyes flashed, from
beneath his matted hair. From his throat issued a hoarse voice and
strident laughter; he smelt of the cow-shed. However, to her he was
beautiful. “A plant,” as Gnatho says, “has been loved by one, a stream
by another, a beast by a third.”

Now, one day, as she was sighing within the neatherd’s arms in a village
barn, suddenly the blasts of a trumpet, with sounds and footsteps, fell
upon her ears; she looked through the window and saw the inhabitants
collected in the marketplace round a young monk, who, standing upon a
rock, uttered these words in a distinct voice:

“Inhabitants of Belmont, Abbot Mael, our venerable father, informs you
through my mouth that neither by strength nor skill in arms shall you
prevail against the dragon; but the beast shall be overcome by a virgin.
If, then, there be among you a perfectly pure virgin, let her arise and
go towards the monster; and when she meets him let her tie her girdle
round his neck and she shall lead him as easily as if he were a little
dog.”

And the young monk, replacing his hood upon his head, departed to carry
the proclamation of the blessed Mael to other villages.

Orberosia sat in the amorous straw, resting her head in her hand and
supporting her elbow upon her knee, meditating on what she had just
heard.

Although, so far as Kraken was concerned, she feared the power of
a virgin much less than the strength of armed men, she did not feel
reassured by the proclamation of the blessed Mael. A vague but sure
instinct ruled her mind and warned her that Kraken could not henceforth
be a dragon with safety.

She said to the neatherd:

“My own heart, what do you think about the dragon?”

The rustic shook his head.

“It is certain that dragons laid waste the earth in ancient times and
some have been seen as large as mountains. But they come no longer, and
I believe that what has been taken for a dragon is not one at all, but
pirates or merchants who have carried off the fair Orberosia and
the best of the children of Alca in their ships. But if one of those
brigands attempts to rob me of my oxen, I will either by force or craft
find a way to prevent him from doing me any harm.”

This remark of the neatherd increased Orberosia’s apprehensions and
added to her solicitude for the husband whom she loved.



X. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

The days passed by and no maiden arose in the island to combat the
monster. And in the wooden monastery old Mael, seated on a bench in the
shade of an old fig-tree, accompanied by a pious monk called Regimental,
kept asking himself anxiously and sadly how it was that there was not in
Alca a single virgin fit to overthrow the monster.

He sighed and brother Regimental sighed too. At that moment old Mael
called young Samuel, who happened to pass through the garden, and said
to him:

“I have meditated anew, my son, on the means of destroying the dragon
who devours the flower of our youth, our flocks, and our harvests. In
this respect the story of the dragons of St. Riok and of St. Pol de Leon
seems to me particularly instructive. The dragon of St. Riok was six
fathoms long; his head was derived from the cock and the basilisk, his
body from the ox and the serpent; he ravaged the banks of the Elorn in
the time of King Bristocus. St. Riok, then aged two years, led him by
a leash to the sea, in which the monster drowned himself of his own
accord. St. Pol’s dragon was sixty feet long and not less terrible. The
blessed apostle of Leon bound him with his stole and allowed a young
noble of great purity of life to lead him. These examples prove that
in the eyes of God a chaste young man is as agreeable as a chaste girl.
Heaven makes no distinction between them. For this reason, my son, if
you believe what I say, we will both go to the Coast of Shadows; when we
reach the dragon’s cavern we will call the monster in a loud voice, and
when he comes forth I will tie my stole round his neck and you will lead
him to the sea, where he will not fail to drown himself.”

At the old man’s words Samuel cast down his head and did not answer.

“You seem to hesitate, my son,” said Mael.

Brother Regimental, contrary to his custom, spoke without being
addressed.

“There is at least cause for some hesitation,” said he. “St. Riok was
only two years old when he overcame the dragon. Who says that nine or
ten years later he could have done as much? Remember, father, that the
dragon who is devastating our island has devoured little Elo and four
or five other young boys. Brother Samuel is not go presumptuous as to
believe that at nineteen years of age he is more innocent than they were
at twelve and fourteen.

“Alas!” added the monk, with a groan, “who can boast of being chaste in
this world, where everything gives the example and model of love, where
all things in nature, animals, and plants, show us the caresses of love
and advise us to share them? Animals are eager to unite in their own
fashion, but the various marriages of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and
reptiles are far from equalling in lust the nuptials of the trees. The
greatest extremes of lewdness that the pagans have imagined in their
fables are outstripped by the simple flowers of the field, and, if
you knew the irregularities of lilies and roses you would take those
chalices of impurity, those vases of scandal, away from your altars.”

“Do not speak in this way, Brother Regimental,” answered old Mael.
“Since they are subject to the law of nature, animals and plants are
always innocent. They have no souls to save, whilst man--”

“You are right,” replied Brother Regimental, “it is quite a different
thing. But do not send young Samuel to the dragon--the dragon might
devour him. For the last five years Samuel is not in a state to show his
innocence to monsters. In the year of the comet, the Devil in order to
seduce him, put in his path a milkmaid, who was lifting up her petticoat
to cross a ford. Samuel was tempted, but he overcame the temptation.
The Devil, who never tires, sent him the image of that young girl in
a dream. The shade did what the reality was unable to accomplish, and
Samuel yielded. When he awoke be moistened his couch with his tears, but
alas! repentance did not give him back his innocence.”

As he listened to this story Samuel asked himself how his secret could
be known, for he was ignorant that the Devil had borrowed the appearance
of Brother Regimental, so as to trouble the hearts of the monks of Alca.

And old Mael remained deep in thought and kept asking himself in grief:

“Who will deliver us from the dragon’s tooth? Who will preserve us from
his breath? Who will save us from his look?”

However, the inhabitants of Alca began to take courage. The labourers of
Dombes and the neatherds of Belmont swore that they themselves would
be of more avail than a girl against the ferocious beast, and they
exclaimed as they stroked the muscles on their arms, “Let the dragon
come!” Many men and women had seen him. They did not agree about his
form and his figure, but all now united in saying that he was not as
big as they had thought, and that his height was not much greater than
a man’s. The defence was organised; towards nightfall watches were
stationed at the entrances of the villages ready to give the alarm; and
during the night companies armed with pitchforks and scythes protected
the paddocks in which the animals were shut up. Indeed, once in the
village of Anis some plucky labourers surprised him as he was scaling
Morio’s wall, and, as they had flails, scythes, and pitchforks, they
fell upon him and pressed him hard. One of them, a very quick and
courageous man, thought to have run him through with his pitchfork; but
he slipped in a pool and so let him escape. The others would certainly
have caught him had they not waited to pick up the rabbits and fowls
that he dropped in his flight.

Those labourers declared to the Elders of the village that the monster’s
form and proportions appeased to them human enough except for his head
and his tail, which were, in truth, terrifying.



XI. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

On that day Kraken came back to his cavern sooner than usual. He took
from his head his sealskin helmet with its two bull’s horns and its
visor trimmed with terrible hooks. He threw on the table his gloves that
ended in horrible claws--they were the beaks of sea-birds. He unhooked
his belt from which hung a long green tail twisted into many folds. Then
he ordered his page, Elo, to help him off with his boots and, as the
child did not succeed in doing this very quickly, he gave him a kick
that sent him to the other end of the grotto.

Without looking at the fair Orberosia, who was spinning, he seated
himself in front of the fireplace, on which a sheep was roasting, and he
muttered:

“Ignoble Penguins. . . . There is no worse trade than a dragon’s.”

“What does my master say?” asked the fair Orberosia.

“They fear me no longer,” continued Kraken. “Formerly everyone fled at
my approach. I carried away hens and rabbits in my bag; I drove sheep
and pigs, cows, and oxen before me. To-day these clod-hoppers keep a
good guard; they sit up at night. Just now I was pursued in the
village of Anis by doughty labourers armed with flails and scythes and
pitchforks. I had to drop the hens and rabbits, put my tail under my
arm, and run as fast as I could. Now I ask you, is it seemly for a
dragon of Cappadocia to run away like a robber with his tail under his
arm? Further, incommoded as I was by crests, horns, hooks, claws, and
scales, I barely escaped a brute who ran half an inch of his pitchfork
into my left thigh.”

As he said this he carefully ran his hand over the insulted part, and,
after giving himself up for a few moments to bitter meditation:

“What idiots those Penguins are! I am tired of blowing flames in the
faces of such imbeciles. Orberosia, do you hear me?”

Having thus spoken the hero raised his terrible helmet in his hands and
gazed at it for a long time in gloomy silence. Then he pronounced these
rapid words:

“I have made this helmet with my own hands in the shape of a fish’s
head, covering it with the skin of a seal. To make it more terrible I
have put on it the horns of a bull and I have given it a boar’s jaws;
I have hung from it a horse’s tail dyed vermilion. When in the gloomy
twilight I threw it over my shoulders no inhabitant of this island had
courage to withstand its sight. Women and children, young men and old
men fled distracted at its approach, and I carried terror among the
whole race of Penguins. By what advice does that insolent people lose
its earlier fears and dare to-day to behold these horrible jaws and to
attack this terrible crest?”

And throwing his helmet on the rocky soil:

“Perish, deceitful helmet!” cried Kraken. “I swear by all the demons of
Armor that I will never bear you upon my head again.”

And having uttered this oath he stamped upon his helmet, his gloves, his
boots, and upon his tail with its twisted folds.

“Kraken,” said the fair Orberosia, “will you allow your servant to
employ artifice to save your reputation and your goods? Do not despise a
woman’s help. You need it, for all men are imbeciles.”

“Woman,” asked Kraken, “what are your plans?”

And the fair Orberosia informed her husband that the monks were going
through the villages teaching the inhabitants the best way of combating
the dragon; that, according to their instructions, the beast would be
overcome by a virgin, and that if a maid placed her girdle around the
dragon’s neck she could lead him as easily as if he were a little dog.

“How do you know that the monks teach this?” asked Kraken.

“My friend,” answered Orberosia, “do not interrupt a serious subject
by frivolous questions. . . . ‘If, then,’ added the monks, ‘there be in
Alca a pure virgin, let her arise!’ Now, Kraken, I have determined to
answer their call. I will go and find the holy Mael and I will say to
him: ‘I am the virgin destined by Heaven to overthrow the dragon.’”

At these words Kraken exclaimed: “How can you be that pure virgin? And
why do you want to overthrow me, Orberosia? Have you lost your reason?
Be sure that I will not allow myself to be conquered by you!”

“Can you not try and understand me before you get angry?” sighed the
fair Orberosia with deep though gentle contempt.

And she explained the cunning designs that she had formed.

As he listened, the hero remained pensive. And when she ceased speaking:

“Orberosia, your cunning, is deep,” said he, “And if your plans are
carried out according to your intentions I shall derive great advantages
from them. But how can you be the virgin destined by heaven?”

“Don’t bother about that,” she replied, “and come to bed.”

The next day in the grease-laden atmosphere of the cavern, Kraken
plaited a deformed skeleton out of osier rods and covered it with
bristling, scaly, and filthy skins. To one extremity of the skeleton
Orberosia sewed the fierce crest and the hideous mask that Kraken used
to wear in his plundering expeditions, and to the other end she fastened
the tail with twisted folds which the hero was wont to trail behind him.
And when the work was finished they showed little Elo and the other five
children who waited on them how to get inside this machine, how to make
it walk, how to blow horns and burn tow in it so as to send forth smoke
and flames through the dragon’s mouth.



XII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

Orberosia, having clothed herself in a robe made of coarse stuff and
girt herself with a thick cord, went to the monastery and asked to
speak to the blessed Mael. And because women were forbidden to enter
the enclosure of the monastery the old man advanced outside the gates,
holding his pastoral cross in his right hand and resting his left on the
shoulder of Brother Samuel, the youngest of his disciples.

He asked:

“Woman, who art thou?”

“I am the maiden Orberosia.”

At this reply Mael raised his trembling arms to heaven.

“Do you speak truth, woman? It is a certain fact that Orberosia was
devoured by the dragon. And yet I see Orberosia and hear her. Did you
not, O my daughter, while within the dragon’s bowels arm yourself with
the sign of the cross and come uninjured out of his throat? That is what
seems to me the most credible explanation.”

“You are not deceived, father,” answered Orberosia. “That is precisely
what happened to me. Immediately I came out of the creature’s bowels
I took refuge in a hermitage on the Coast of Shadows. I lived there
in solitude, giving myself up to prayer and meditation, and performing
unheard of austerities, until I learnt by a revelation from heaven that
a maid alone could overcome the dragon, and that I was that maid.”

“Show me a sign of your mission,” said the old man.

“I myself am the sign,” answered Orberosia.

“I am not ignorant of the power of those who have placed a seal upon
their flesh,” replied the apostle of the Penguins. “But are you indeed
such as you say?”

“You will see by the result,” answered Orberosia.

The monk Regimental drew near:

“That will,” said he, “be the best proof. King Solomon has said: ‘Three
things are hard to understand and a fourth is impossible: they are the
way of a serpent on the earth, the way of a bird in the air, the way
of a ship in the sea, and the way of a man with a maid!’ I regard
such matrons as nothing less than presumptuous who claim to compare
themselves in these matters with the wisest of kings. Father, if you are
led by me you will not consult them in regard to the pious Orberosia.
When they have given their opinion you will not be a bit farther on than
before. Virginity is not less difficult to prove than to keep. Pliny
tells us in his history that its signs are either imaginary or very
uncertain.* One who bears upon her the fourteen signs of corruption may
yet be pure in the eyes of the angels, and, on the contrary, another who
has been pronounced pure by the matrons who inspected her may know that
her good appearance is due to the artifices of a cunning perversity. As
for the purity of this holy girl here, I would put my hand in the fire
in witness of it.”

     * We have vainly sought for this phrase in Pliny’s “Natural
     History.”--Editor.

He spoke thus because he was the Devil. But old Mael did not know it. He
asked the pious Orberosia:

“My daughter, how, would you proceed to conquer so fierce an animal as
he who devoured you?”

The virgin answered:

“To-morrow at sunrise, O Mael, you will summon the people together on
the hill in front of the desolate moor that extends to the Coast of
Shadows, and you will take care that no man of the Penguins remains less
than five hundred paces from those rocks so that he may not be poisoned
by the monster’s breath. And the dragon will come out of the rocks and I
will put my girdle round his neck and lead him like an obedient dog.”

“Ought you not to be accompanied by a courageous and pious man who will
kill the dragon?” asked Mael.

“It will be as thou sayest, venerable father. I shall deliver the
monster to Kraken, who will stay him with his flashing sword. For I tell
thee that the noble Kraken, who was believed to be dead, will return
among the Penguins and he shall slay the dragon. And from the creature’s
belly will come forth the little children whom he has devoured.”

“What you declare to me, O virgin,” cried the apostle, “seems wonderful
and beyond human power.”

“It is,” answered the virgin Orberosia. “But learn, O Mael, that I have
had a revelation that as a reward for their deliverance, the Penguin
people will pay to the knight Kraken an annual tribute of three hundred
fowls, twelve sheep, two oxen, three pigs, one thousand eight hundred
bushels of corn, and vegetables according to their season; and that,
moreover, the children who will come out of the dragon’s belly will be
given and committed to the said Kraken to serve him and obey him in
all things. If the Penguin people fail to keep their engagements a new
dragon will come upon the island more terrible than the first. I have
spoken.”



XIII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation and End)

The people of the Penguins were assembled by Mael and they spent the
night on the Coast of Shadows within the bounds which the holy man had
prescribed in order that none among the Penguins should be poisoned by
the monster’s breath.

The veil of night still covered the earth when, preceded by a hoarse
bellowing, the dragon showed his indistinct and monstrous form upon
the rocky coast. He crawled like a serpent and his writhing body seemed
about fifteen feet long. At his appearance the crowd drew back in
terror. But soon all eyes were turned towards the Virgin Orberosia,
who, in the first light of the dawn, clothed in white, advanced over the
purple heather. With an intrepid though modest gait she walked towards
the beast, who, uttering awful bellowings, opened his flaming throat. An
immense cry of terror and pity arose from the midst of the Penguins. But
the virgin, unloosing her linen girdle, put it round the dragon’s neck
and led him on the leash like a faithful dog amid the acclamations of
the spectators.

She had walked over a long stretch of the heath when Kraken appeared
armed with a flashing sword. The people, who believed him dead, uttered
cries of joy and surprise. The hero rushed towards the beast, turned
him over on his back, and with his sword cut open his belly, from whence
came forth in their shirts, with curling hair and folded hands, little
Elo and the five other children whom the monster had devoured.

Immediately they threw themselves on their knees before the virgin
Orberosia, who took them in her arms and whispered into their ears:

“You will go through the villages saying: ‘We are the poor little
children who were devoured by the dragon, and we came out of his belly
in our shirts.’ The inhabitants will give you abundance of all that you
can desire. But if you say anything else you will get nothing but cuffs
and whippings. Go!”

Several Penguins, seeing the dragon disembowelled, rushed forward to cut
him to pieces, some from a feeling of rage and vengeance, others to get
the magic stone called dragonite, that is engendered in his head. The
mothers of the children who had come back to life ran to embrace their
little ones. But the holy Mael kept them back, saying that none of them
were holy enough to approach a dragon without dying.

And soon little Elo, and the five other children came towards the people
and said:

“We are the poor little children who were devoured by the dragon and we
came out of his belly in our shirts.”

And all who heard them kissed them and said:

“Blessed children, we will give you abundance of all that you can
desire.”

And the crowd of people dispersed, full of joy, singing hymns and
canticles.

To commemorate this day on which Providence delivered the people from
a cruel scourge, processions were established in which the effigy of a
chained dragon was led about.

Kraken levied the tribute and became the richest and most powerful of
the Penguins. As a sign of his victory and so as to inspire a salutary
terror, he wore a dragon’s crest upon his head and he had a habit of
saying to the people:

“Now that the monster is dead I am the dragon.”

For many years Orberosia bestowed her favours upon neatherds and
shepherds, whom she thought equal to the gods. But when she was no
longer beautiful she consecrated herself to the Lord.

At her death she became the object of public veneration, and was
admitted into the calendar of the saints and adopted as the patron saint
of Penguinia.

Kraken left a son, who, like his father, wore a dragon’s crest, and
he was for this reason surnamed Draco. He was the founder of the first
royal dynasty of the Penguins.



BOOK III. THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE



I. BRIAN THE GOOD AND QUEEN GLAMORGAN

The kings of Alca were descended from Draco, the son of Kraken, and they
wore on their heads a terrible dragon’s crest, as a sacred badge whose
appearance alone inspired the people with veneration, terror, and love.
They were perpetually in conflict either with their own vassals and
subjects or with the princes of the adjoining islands and continents.

The most ancient of these kings has left but a name. We do not even know
how to pronounce or write it. The first of the Draconides whose history
is known was Brian the Good, renowned for his skill and courage in war
and in the chase.

He was a Christian and loved learning. He also favoured men who had
vowed themselves to the monastic life. In the hall of his palace where,
under the sooty rafters, there hung the heads, pelts, and horns of
wild beasts, he held feasts to which all the harpers of Alca and of
the neighbouring islands were invited, and he himself used to join in
singing the praises of the heroes. He was just and magnanimous, but
inflamed by so ardent a love of glory that he could not restrain himself
from putting to death those who had sung better than himself.

The monks of Yvern having been driven out by the pagans who ravaged
Brittany, King Brian summoned them into his kingdom and built a wooden
monastery for them near his palace. Every day he went with Queen
Glamorgan, his wife, into the monastery chapel and was present at the
religious ceremonies and joined in the hymns.

Now among these monks there was a brother called Oddoul, who, while
still in the flower of his youth, had adorned himself with knowledge and
virtue. The devil entertained a great grudge against him, and attempted
several times to lead him into temptation. He took several shapes and
appeared to him in turn as a war-horse, a young maiden, and a cup of
mead. Then he rattled two dice in a dicebox and said to him:

“Will you play with me for the kingdoms of, the world against one of the
hairs of your head?”

But the man of the Lord, armed with the sign of the Cross, repulsed the
enemy. Perceiving that he could not seduce him, the devil thought of an
artful plan to ruin him. One summer night he approached the queen, who
slept upon her couch, showed her an image of the young monk whom she
saw every day in the wooden monastery, and upon this image he placed
a spell. Forthwith, like a subtle poison, love flowed into Glamorgan’s
veins, and she burned with an ardent desire to do as she listed with
Oddoul. She found unceasing pretexts to have him near her. Several times
she asked him to teach reading and singing to her children.

“I entrust them to you,” said she to him. “And will follow the lessons
you will give them so that I myself may learn also. You will teach both
mother and sons at the same time.”

But the young monk kept making excuses. At times he would say that he
was not a learned enough teacher, and on other occasions that his
state forbade him all intercourse with women. This refusal inflamed
Glamorgan’s passion. One day as she lay pining upon her couch, her
malady having become intolerable, she summoned Oddoul to her chamber.
He came in obedience to her orders, but remained with his eyes cast
down towards the threshold of the door. With impatience and grief she
resented his not looking at her.

“See,” said she to him, “I have no more strength, a shadow is on my
eyes. My body is both burning and freezing.”

And as he kept silence and made no movement, she called him in a voice
of entreaty:

“Come to me, come!”

With outstretched arms to which passion gave more length, she
endeavoured to seize him and draw him towards her.

But he fled away, reproaching her for her wantonness.

Then, incensed with rage and fearing that Oddoul might divulge the shame
into which she had fallen, she determined to ruin him so that he might
not ruin her.

In a voice of lamentation that resounded throughout all the palace she
called for help, as if, in truth, she were in some great danger. Her
servants rushed up and saw the young monk fleeing and the queen pulling
back the sheets upon her couch. They all cried out together. And when
King Brian, attracted by the noise, entered the chamber, Glamorgan,
showing him her dishevelled hair, her eyes flooded with tears, and her
bosom that in the fury of her love she had torn with her nails, said:

“My lord and husband, behold the traces of the insults I have undergone.
Driven by an infamous desire Oddoul has approached me and attempted to
do me violence.”

When he heard these complaints and saw the blood, the king, transported
with fury, ordered his guards to seize the young monk and burn him alive
before the palace under the queen’s eyes.

Being told of the affair, the Abbot of Yvern went to the king and said
to him:

“King Brian, know by this example the difference between a Christian
woman and a pagan. Roman Lucretia was the most virtuous of idolatrous
princesses, yet she had not the strength to defend herself against the
attacks of an effeminate youth, and, ashamed of her weakness, she gave
way to despair, whilst Glamorgan has successfully withstood the assaults
of a criminal filled with rage, and possessed by the most terrible of
demons.” Meanwhile Oddoul, in the prison of the palace, was waiting for
the moment when he should be burned alive. But God did not suffer an
innocent to perish. He sent to him an angel, who, taking the form of one
of the queen’s servants called Gudrune, took him out of his prison and
led him into the very room where the woman whose appearance he had taken
dwelt.

And the angel said to young Oddoul:

“I love thee because thou art daring.”

And young Oddoul, believing that it was Gudrune herself, answered with
downcast looks:

“It is by the grace of the Lord that I have resisted the violence of the
queen and braved the anger of that powerful woman.”

And the angel asked:

“What? Hast thou not done what the queen accuses thee of?”

“In truth no, I have not done it,” answered Oddoul, his hand on his
heart.

“Thou hast not done it?”

“No, I have not done it. The very thought of such an action fills me
with horror.”

“Then,” cried the angel, “what art thou doing here, thou impotent
creature?” *

     * The Penguin chronicler who relates the fact employs the
     expression, Species inductilis. I have endeavoured to
     translate it literally.


And she opened the door to facilitate the young man’s escape. Oddoul
felt himself pushed violently out. Scarcely had he gone down into the
street than a chamber-pot was poured over his head; and he thought:

“Mysterious are thy designs, O Lord, and thy ways past finding out.”



II. DRACO THE GREAT (Translation of the Relics of St. Orberosia)

The direct posterity of Brian the Good was extinguished about the year
900 in the person of Collic of the Short Nose. A cousin of that prince,
Bosco the Magnanimous, succeeded him, and took care, in order to assure
himself of the throne, to put to death all his relations. There issued
from him a long line of powerful kings.

One of them, Draco the Great, attained great renown as a man of war. He
was defeated more frequently than the others. It is by this constancy
in defeat that great captains are recognized. In twenty years he burned
down more than a hundred thousand hamlets, market towns, unwalled
towns, villages, walled towns, cities, and universities. He set fire
impartially to his enemies’ territory and to his own domains. And he
used to explain his conduct by saying:

“War without fire is like tripe without mustard: it is an insipid
thing.”

His justice was rigorous. When the peasants whom he made prisoners were
unable to raise the money for their ransoms he had them hanged from a
tree, and if any unhappy woman came to plead for her destitute husband
he dragged her by the hair at his horse’s tail. He lived like a soldier
without effeminacy. It is satisfactory to relate that his manner of
life was pure. Not only did he not allow his kingdom to decline from its
hereditary glory, but, even in his reverses he valiantly supported the
honour of the Penguin people.

Draco the Great caused the relics of St. Orberosia to be transferred to
Alca.

The body of the blessed saint had been buried in a grotto on the Coast
of Shadows at the end of a scented heath. The first pilgrims who went
to visit it were the boys and girls from the neighbouring villages. They
used to go there in the evening, by preference in couples, as if their
pious desires naturally sought satisfaction in darkness and solitude.
They worshipped the saint with a fervent and discreet worship whose
mystery they seemed jealously to guard, for they did not like to publish
too openly the experiences they felt. But they were heard to murmur one
to another words of love, delight, and rapture with which they mingled
the name of Orberosia. Some would sigh that there they forgot the world;
others would say that they came out of the grotto in peace and calm; the
young girls among them used to recall to each other the joy with which
they had been filled in it.

Such were the marvels that the virgin of Alca performed in the morning
of her glorious eternity; they had the sweetness and indefiniteness
of the dawn. Soon the mystery of the grotto spread like a perfume
throughout the land; it was a ground of joy and edification for pious
souls, and corrupt men endeavoured, though in vain, by falsehood and
calumny, to divert the faithful from the springs of grace that flowed
from the saint’s tomb. The Church took measures so that these graces
should not remain reserved for a few children, but should be diffused
throughout all Penguin Christianity. Monks took up their quarters in the
grotto, they built a monastery, a chapel, and a hostelry on the coast,
and pilgrims began to flock thither.

As if strengthened by a longer sojourn in heaven, the blessed Orberosia
now performed still greater miracles for those who came to lay their
offerings on her tomb. She gave hopes to women who had been hitherto
barren, she sent dreams to reassure jealous old men concerning the
fidelity of the young wives whom they had suspected without cause, and
she protected the country from plagues, murrains, famines, tempests, and
dragons of Cappadocia.

But during the troubles that desolated the kingdom in the time of King
Collic and his successors, the tomb of St. Orberosia was plundered of
its wealth, the monastery burned down, and the monks dispersed. The
road that had been so long trodden by devout pilgrims was overgrown with
furze and heather, and the blue thistles of the sands. For a hundred
years the miraculous tomb had been visited by none save vipers,
weasels, and bats, when, one day the saint appeared to a peasant of the
neighbourhood, Momordic by name.

“I am the virgin Orberosia,” said she to him; “I have chosen thee to
restore my sanctuary. Warn the inhabitants of the country that if they
allow my memory to be blotted out, and leave my tomb without honour and
wealth, a new dragon will come and devastate Penguinia.”

Learned churchmen held an inquiry concerning this apparition, and
pronounced it genuine, and not diabolical but truly heavenly, and in
later years it was remarked that in France, in like circumstances, St.
Foy and St. Catherine had acted in the same way and made use of similar
language.

The monastery was restored and pilgrims flocked to it anew. The virgin
Orberosia worked greater and greater miracles. She cured divers hurtful
maladies, particularly club-foot, dropsy, paralysis, and St. Guy’s
disease. The monks who kept the tomb were enjoying an enviable opulence,
when the saint, appearing to King Draco the Great, ordered him to
recognise her as the heavenly patron of the kingdom and to transfer her
precious remains to the cathedral of Alca.

In consequence, the odoriferous relics of that virgin were carried with
great pomp to the metropolitan church and placed in the middle of the
choir in a shrine made of gold and enamel and ornamented with precious
stones.

The chapter kept a record of the miracles wrought by the blessed
Orberosia.

Draco the Great, who had never ceased to defend and exalt the Christian
faith, died fulfilled with the most pious sentiments and bequeathed his
great possessions to the Church.



III. QUEEN CRUCHA

Terrible disorders followed the death of Draco the Great. That prince’s
successors have often been accused of weakness, and it is true that none
of them followed, even from afar, the example of their valiant ancestor.

His son, Chum, who was lame, failed to increase the territory of the
Penguins. Bolo, the son of Chum, was assassinated by the palace guards
at the age of nine, just as he was ascending the throne. His brother
Gun succeeded him. He was only seven years old and allowed himself to be
governed by his mother, Queen Crucha.

Crucha was beautiful, learned, and intelligent; but she was unable to
curb her own passions.

These are the terms in which the venerable Talpa expresses himself in
his chronicle regarding that illustrious queen:

“In beauty of face and symmetry of figure Queen Crucha yields neither
to Semiramis of Babylon nor to Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons; nor to
Salome, the daughter of Herodias. But she offers in her person certain
singularities that will appear beautiful or uncomely according to the
contradictory opinions of men and the varying judgments of the world.
She has on her forehead two small horns which she conceals in the
abundant folds of her golden hair; one of her eyes is blue and one is
black; her neck is bent towards the left side; and, like Alexander
of Macedon, she has six fingers on her right hand, and a stain like a
little monkey’s head upon her skin.

“Her gait is majestic and her manner affable. She is magnificent in her
expenses, but she is not always able to rule desire by reason.

“One day, having noticed in the palace stables, a young groom of great
beauty, she immediately fell violently in love with him, and entrusted
to him the command of her armies. What one must praise unreservedly
in this great queen is the abundance of gifts that she makes to the
churches, monasteries, and chapels in her kingdom, and especially to
the holy house of Beargarden, where, by the grace of the Lord, I made my
profession in my fourteenth year. She has founded masses for the repose
of her soul in such great numbers that every priest in the Penguin
Church is, so to speak, transformed into a taper lighted in the sight of
heaven to draw down the divine mercy upon the august Crucha.”

From these lines and from some others with which have enriched my text
the reader can judge of the historical and literary value of the “Gesta
Penguinorum.” Unhappily, that chronicle suddenly comes suddenly to an
end at third year of Draco the Simple, the successor of Gun the Weak.
Having reached that point of my history, I deplore the loss of an
agreeable and trustworthy guide.

During the two centuries that followed, the Penguins remained plunged
in blood-stained disorder. All the arts perished. In the midst of the
general ignorance, the monks in the shadow of their cloister devoted
themselves to study, and copied the Holy Scriptures with indefatigable
zeal. As parchment was scarce, they scraped the writing off old
manuscripts in order to transcribe upon them the divine word. Thus
throughout the breadth of Penguinia Bibles blossomed forth like roses on
a bush.

A monk of the order of St. Benedict, Ermold the Penguin, had himself
alone defaced four thousand Greek and Latin manuscripts so as to copy
out the Gospel of St. John four thousand times. Thus the masterpieces of
ancient poetry and eloquence were destroyed in great numbers. Historians
are unanimous in recognising that the Penguin convents were the refuge
of learning during the Middle Ages.

Unending wars between the Penguins and the Porpoises filled the close
of this period. It is extremely difficult to know the truth concerning
these wars, not because accounts are wanting, but because there are so
many of them. The Porpoise Chronicles contradict the Penguin Chronicles
at every point. And, moreover, the Penguins contradict each other as
well as the Porpoises. I have discovered two chronicles that are in
agreement, but one has copied from the other. A single fact is certain,
namely, that massacres, rapes, conflagrations, and plunder succeeded one
another without interruption.

Under the unhappy prince Bosco IX. the kingdom was at the verge of
ruin. On the news that the Porpoise fleet, composed of six hundred great
ships, was in sight of Alca, the bishop ordered a solemn procession. The
cathedral chapter, the elected magistrates, the members of Parliament,
and the clerics of the University entered the Cathedral and, taking up
St. Orberosia’s shrine, led it in procession through the town, followed
by the entire people singing hymns. The holy patron of Penguinia was not
invoked in vain. Nevertheless, the Porpoises besieged the town both by
land and sea, took it by assault, and for three days and three nights
killed, plundered, violated, and burned, with all the indifference that
habit produces.

Our astonishment cannot be too great at the fact that, during those iron
ages, the faith was preserved intact among the Penguins. The splendour
of the truth in those times illumined all souls that had not been
corrupted by sophisms. This is the explanation of the unity of belief.
A constant practice of the Church doubtless contributed also to
maintain this happy communion of the faithful--every Penguin who thought
differently from the others was immediately burned at the stake.



IV. LETTERS: JOHANNES TALPA

During the minority of King Gun, Johannes Talpa, in the monastery of
Beargarden, where at the age of fourteen he had made his profession
and from which he never departed for a single day throughout his life,
composed his celebrated Latin chronicle in twelve books called “De
Gestis Penguinorum.”

The monastery of Beargarden lifts its high walls on the summit of an
inaccessible peak. One sees around it only the blue tops of mountains,
divided by the clouds.

When he began to write his “Gesta Penguinorum,” Johannes Talpa was
already old. The good monk has taken care to tell us this in his book:
“My head has long since lost,” he says, “its adornment of fair hair,
and my scalp resembles those convex mirrors of metal which the Penguin
ladies consult with so much care and zeal. My stature, naturally small,
has with years become diminished and bent. My white beard gives warmth
to my breast.”

With a charming simplicity, Talpa informs us of certain circumstances in
his life and some features in his character. “Descended,” he tells us,
“from a noble family, and destined from childhood for the ecclesiastical
state, I was taught grammar and music. I learnt to read under the
guidance of a master who was called Amicus, and who would have been
better named Inimicus. As I did not easily attain to a knowledge of
my letters, he beat me violently with rods so that I can say that he
printed the alphabet in strokes upon my back.”

In another passage Talpa confesses his natural inclination towards
pleasure. These are his expressive words: “In my youth the ardour of
my senses was such that in the shadow of the woods I experienced a
sensation of boiling in a pot rather than of breathing the fresh air. I
fled from women, but in vain, for every object recalled them to me.”

While he was writing his chronicle, a terrible war, at once foreign and
domestic, laid waste the Penguin land. The soldiers of Crucha came to
defend the monastery of Beargarden against the Penguin barbarians and
established themselves strongly within its walls. In order to render it
impregnable they pierced loop-holes through the walls and they took the
lead off the church roof to make balls for their slings. At night they
lighted huge fires in the courts and cloisters and on them they roasted
whole oxen which they spitted upon the ancient pine-trees of the
mountain. Sitting around the flames, amid smoke filled with a mingled
odour of resin and fat, they broached huge casks of wine and beer. Their
songs, their blasphemies, and the noise of their quarrels drowned the
sound of the morning bells.

At last the Porpoises, having crossed the defiles, laid siege to the
monastery. They were warriors from the North, clad in copper armour.
They fastened ladders a hundred and fifty fathoms long to the sides of
the cliffs and sometimes in the darkness and storm these broke beneath
the weight of men and arms, and bunches of the besiegers were hurled
into the ravines and precipices. A prolonged wail would be heard going
down into the darkness, and the assault would begin again. The Penguins
poured streams of burning wax upon their assailants, which made them
blaze like torches. Sixty times the enraged Porpoises attempted to scale
the monastery and sixty times they were repulsed.

For six months they had closely invested the monastery, when, on the day
of the Epiphany, a shepherd of the valley showed them a hidden path
by which they climbed the mountain, penetrated into the vaults of the
abbey, ran through the cloisters, the kitchens, the church, the chapter
halls, the library, the laundry, the cells, the refectories, and the
dormitories, and burned the buildings, killing and violating without
distinction of age or sex. The Penguins, awakened unexpectedly, ran to
arms, but in the darkness and alarm they struck at one another, whilst
the Porpoises with blows of their axes disputed the sacred vessels, the
censers, the candlesticks, dalmatics, reliquaries, golden crosses, and
precious stones.

The air was filled with an acrid odour of burnt flesh. Groans and
death-cries arose in the midst of the flames, and on the edges of the
crumbling roofs monks ran in thousands like ants, and fell into the
valley. Yet Johannes Talpa kept on writing his Chronicle. The soldiers
of Crucha retreated speedily and filled up all the issues from the
monastery with pieces of rock so as to shut up the Porpoises in the
burning buildings. And to crush the enemy beneath the ruin they employed
the trunks of old oaks as battering-rams. The burning timbers fell in
with a noise like thunder and the lofty arches of the naves crumbled
beneath the shock of these giant trees when moved by six hundred men
together. Soon there was left nothing of the rich and extensive abbey
but the cell of Johannes Talpa, which, by a marvellous chance, hung from
the ruin of a smoking gable. The old chronicler still kept writing.

This admirable intensity of thought may seem excessive in the case of
an annalist who applies himself to relate the events of his own time.
However abstracted and detached we may be from surrounding things,
we nevertheless resent their influence. I have consulted the original
manuscript of Johannes Talpa in the National Library, where it is
preserved (Monumenta Peng., K. L6., 12390 four). It is a parchment
manuscript of 628 leaves. The writing is extremely confused, the letters
instead of being in a straight line, stray in all directions and are
mingled together in great disorder, or, more correctly speaking, in
absolute confusion. They are so badly formed that for the most part it
is impossible not merely to say what they are, but even to distinguish
them from the splashes of ink with which they are plentifully
interspersed. Those inestimable pages bear witness in this way to the
troubles amid which they were written. To read them is difficult. On the
other hand, the monk of Beargarden’s style shows no trace of emotion.
The tone of the “Gesta Penguinorum” never departs from simplicity.
The narration is rapid and of a conciseness that sometimes approaches
dryness. The reflections are rare and, as a rule, judicious.



V. THE ARTS: THE PRIMITIVES OF PENGUIN PAINTING

The Penguin critics vie with one another in affirming that Penguin
art has from its origin been distinguished by a powerful and pleasing
originality, and that we may look elsewhere in vain for the qualities of
grace and reason that characterise its earliest works. But the Porpoises
claim that their artists were undoubtedly the instructors and masters of
the Penguins. It is difficult to form an opinion on the matter, because
the Penguins, before they began to admire their primitive painters,
destroyed all their works.

We cannot be too sorry for this loss. For my own part I feel it cruelly,
for I venerate the Penguin antiquities and I adore the primitives.
They are delightful. I do not say the are all alike, for that would be
untrue, but they have common characters that are found in all schools--I
mean formulas from which they never depart--and there is besides
something finished in their work, for what they know they know well.
Luckily we can form a notion of the Penguin primitives from the Italian,
Flemish, and Dutch primitives, and from the French primitives, who are
superior to all the rest; as M. Gruyer tells us they are more logical,
logic being a peculiarly French quality. Even if this is denied it must
at least be admitted that to France belongs the credit of having kept
primitives when the other nations knew them no longer. The Exhibition
of French Primitives at the Pavilion Marsan in 1904 contained several
little panels contemporary with the later Valois kings and with Henry
IV.

I have made many journeys to see the pictures of the brothers Van Eyck,
of Memling, of Roger van der Weyden, of the painter of the death of
Mary, of Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and of the old Umbrian masters. It was,
however, neither Bruges, nor Cologne, nor Sienna, nor Perugia, that
completed my initiation; it was in the little town of Arezzo that I
became a conscious adept in primitive painting. That was ten years
ago or even longer. At that period of indigence and simplicity, the
municipal museums, though usually kept shut, were always opened to
foreigners. One evening an old woman with a candle showed me, for half a
lira, the sordid museum of Arezzo, and in it I discovered a painting
by Margaritone, a “St. Francis,” the pious sadness of which moved me to
tears. I was deeply touched, and Margaritone, of Arezzo became from that
day my dearest primitive.

I picture to myself the Penguin primitives in conformity with the works
of that master. It will not therefore be thought superfluous if in this
place I consider his works with some attention, if not in detail,
at least under their more general and, if I dare say so, most
representative aspect.

We possess five or six pictures signed with his hand. His masterpiece,
preserved in the National Gallery of London, represents the Virgin
seated on a throne and holding the infant Jesus in her arms. What
strikes one first when one looks at this figure is the proportion. The
body from the neck to the feet is only twice as long as the head,
so that it appears extremely short and podgy. This work is not less
remarkable for its painting than for its drawing. The great Margaritone
had but a limited number of colours in his possession, and he used
them in all their purity without ever modifying the tones. From this it
follows that his colouring has more vivacity than harmony. The cheeks
of the Virgin and those of the Child are of a bright vermilion which the
old master, from a naive preference for clear definitions, has placed on
each face in two circumferences as exact as if they had been traced out
by a pair of compasses.

A learned critic of the eighteenth century, the Abbe Lanzi, has treated
Margaritone’s works with profound disdain. “They are,” he says, “merely
crude daubs. In those unfortunate times people could neither draw nor
paint.” Such was the common opinion of the connoisseurs of the days of
powdered wigs. But the great Margaritone and his contemporaries were
soon to be avenged for this cruel contempt. There was born in the
nineteenth century, in the biblical villages and reformed cottages of
pious England, a multitude of little Samuels and little St. Johns, with
hair curling like lambs, who, about 1840, and 1850, became spectacled
professors and founded the cult of the primitives.

That eminent theorist of Pre-Raphaelitism, Sir James Tuckett, does not
shrink from placing the Madonna of the National Gallery on a level with
the masterpieces of Christian art. “By giving to the Virgin’s head,”
 says Sir James Tuckett, “a third of the total height of the figure,
the old master attracts the spectator’s attention and keeps it directed
towards the more sublime parts of the human figure, and in particular
the eyes, which we ordinarily describe as the spiritual organs. In this
picture, colouring and design conspire to produce an ideal and mystical
impression. The vermilion of the cheeks does not recall the natural
appearance of the skin; it rather seems as if the old master has applied
the roses of Paradise to the faces of the Mother and the Child.”

We see, in such a criticism as this, a shining reflection, so to speak,
of the work which it exalts; yet MacSilly, the seraphic aesthete of
Edinburgh, has expressed in a still more moving and penetrating fashion
the impression produced upon his mind by the sight of this primitive
painting. “The Madonna of Margaritone,” says the revered MacSilly,
“attains the transcendent end of art. It inspires its beholders with
feelings of innocence and purity; it makes them like little children.
And so true is this, that at the age of sixty-six, after having had the
joy of contemplating it closely for three hours, I felt myself suddenly
transformed into a little child. While my cab was taking me through
Trafalgar Square I kept laughing and prattling and shaking my
spectacle-case as if it were a rattle. And when the maid in my
boarding-house had served my meal I kept pouring spoonfuls of soup into
my ear with all the artlessness of childhood.”

“It is by such results,” adds MacSilly, “that the excellence of a work
of art is proved.”

Margaritone, according to Vasari, died at the age of seventy-seven,
“regretting that he had lived to see a new form of art arising and the
new artists crowned with fame.”

These lines, which I translate literally, have inspired Sir James
Tuckett with what are perhaps the finest pages in his work. They form
part of his “Breviary for Aesthetes”; all the Pre-Raphaelites know them
by heart. I place them here as the most precious ornament of this book.
You will agree that nothing more sublime has been written since the days
of the Hebrew prophets.

MARGARITONE’S VISION

Margaritone, full of years and labours, went one day to visit the studio
of a young painter who had lately settled in the town. He noticed in
the studio a freshly painted Madonna, which, although severe and rigid,
nevertheless, by a certain exactness in the proportions and a devilish
mingling of light and shade, assumed an appearance of relief and life.
At this sight the artless and sublime worker of Arezzo perceived with
horror what the future of painting would be. With his brow clasped in
his hands he exclaimed:

“What things of shame does not this figure show forth! I discern in it
the end of that Christian art which paints the soul and inspires the
beholder with an ardent desire for heaven. Future painters will not
restrain themselves as does this one to portraying on the side of a wall
or on a wooden panel the cursed matter of which our bodies are formed;
they will celebrate and glorify it. They will clothe their figures with
dangerous appearances of flesh, and these figures will seem like real
persons. Their bodies will be seen; their forms will appear through
their clothing. St. Magdalen will have a bosom. St. Martha a belly, St.
Barbara hips, St. Agnes buttocks; St. Sebastian will unveil his youthful
beauty, and St. George will display beneath his armour the muscular
wealth of a robust virility; apostles, confessors, doctors, and God
the Father himself will appear as ordinary beings like you and me; the
angels will affect an equivocal, ambiguous, mysterious beauty which
will trouble hearts. What desire for heaven will these representations
impart? None; but from them you will learn to take pleasure in the
forms of terrestrial life. Where will painters stop in their indiscreet
inquiries? They will stop nowhere. They will go so far as to show men
and women naked like the idols of the Romans. There will be a sacred art
and a profane art, and the sacred art will not be less profane than the
other.”

“Get ye behind me, demons,” exclaimed the old master. For in prophetic
vision he saw the righteous and the saints assuming the appearance of
melancholy athletes. He saw Apollos playing the lute on a flowery hill,
in the midst of the Muses wearing light tunics. He saw Venuses lying
under shady myrtles and the Danae exposing their charming sides to the
golden rain. He saw pictures of Jesus under the pillar’s of the temple
amidst patricians, fair ladies, musicians, pages, negroes, dogs, and
parrots. He saw in an inextricable confusion of human limbs, outspread
wings, and flying draperies, crowds of tumultuous Nativities, opulent
Holy Families, emphatic Crucifixions. He saw St. Catherines, St.
Barbaras, St. Agneses humiliating patricians by the sumptuousness of
their velvets, their brocades, and their pearls, and by the splendour of
their breasts. He saw Auroras scattering roses, and a multitude of naked
Dianas and Nymphs surprised on the banks of retired streams. And the
great Margaritone died, strangled by so horrible a presentiment of the
Renaissance and the Bolognese School.



VI. MARBODIUS

We possess a precious monument of the Penguin literature of the
fifteenth century. It is a narrative of a journey to hell undertaken
by the monk Marbodius, of the order of St. Benedict, who professed
a fervent admiration for the poet Virgil. This narrative, written in
fairly good Latin, has been published by M. du Clos des Limes. It is
here translated for the first time. I believe that I am doing a service
to my fellow-countrymen in making them acquainted with these pages,
though doubtless they are far from forming a unique example of this
class of mediaeval Latin literature. Among the fictions that may be
compared with them we may mention “The Voyage of St. Brendan,”
 “The Vision of Albericus,” and “St. Patrick’s Purgatory,” imaginary
descriptions, like Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” of the supposed
abode of the dead. The narrative of Marbodius is one of the latest works
dealing with this theme, but it is not the least singular.

THE DESCENT OF MARBODIUS INTO HELL

In the fourteen hundred and fifty-third year of the incarnation of the
Son of God, a few days before the enemies of the Cross entered the
city of Helena and the great Constantine, it was given to me, Brother
Marbodius, an unworthy monk, to see and to hear what none had hitherto
seen or heard. I have composed a faithful narrative of those things so
that their memory may not perish with me, for man’s time is short.

On the first day of May in the aforesaid year, at the hour of vespers, I
was seated in the Abbey of Corrigan on a stone in the cloisters and, as
my custom was, I read the verses of the poet whom I love best of all,
Virgil, who has sung of the labours: of the field, of shepherds, and
of heroes. Evening was hanging its purple folds from the arches of the
cloisters and in a voice of emotion I was murmuring the verses which
describe how Dido, the Phoenician queen, wanders with her ever-bleeding
wound beneath the myrtles of hell. At that moment Brother Hilary
happened to pass by, followed by Brother Jacinth, the porter.

Brought up in the barbarous ages before the resurrection of the Muses,
Brother Hilary has not been initiated into the wisdom of the ancients;
nevertheless, the poetry of the Mantuan has, like a subtle torch, shed
some gleams of light into his understanding.

“Brother Marbodius,” he asked me, “do those verses that you utter
with swelling breast and sparkling eyes--do they belong to that great
‘Aeneid’ from which morning or evening your glances are never withheld?”

I answered that I was reading in Virgil how the son of Anchises
perceived Dido like a moon behind the foliage.*

     * The text runs

     . . .qualem primo qui syrgere mense
     Aut videt aut vidisse putat per nubila lunam.

Brother Marbodius, by a strange misunderstanding, substitutes an
entirely different image for the one created by the poet.


“Brother Marbodius,” he replied, “I am certain that on all occasions
Virgil gives expression to wise maxims and profound thoughts. But the
songs that he modulates on his Syracusan flute hold such a lofty meaning
and such exalted doctrine that I am continually puzzled by them.”

“Take care, father,” cried Brother Jacinth, in an agitated voice.
“Virgil was a magician who wrought marvels by the help of demons. It is
thus he pierced through a mountain near Naples and fashioned a bronze
horse that had power to heal all the diseases of horses. He was a
necromancer, and there is still shown, in a certain town in Italy, the
mirror in which he made the dead appear. And yet a woman deceived this
great sorcerer. A Neapolitan courtesan invited him to hoist himself up
to her window in the basket that was used to bring the provisions, and
she left him all night suspended between two storeys.”

Brother Hilary did not appear to hear these observations.

“Virgil is a prophet,” he replied, “and a prophet who leaves far behind
him the sibyls with their sacred verses as well as the daughter of King
Priam, and that great diviner of future things, Plato of Athens. You
will find in the fourth of his Syracusan cantos the birth of our Lord
foretold in a lancune that seems of heaven rather than of earth.* In the
time of my early studies, when I read for the first time JAM REDIT ET
VIRGO, I felt myself bathed in an infinite delight, but I immediately
experienced intense grief at the thought that, for ever deprived of the
presence of God, the author of this prophetic verse, the noblest that
has come from human lips, was pining among the heathen in eternal
darkness. This cruel thought did not leave me. It pursued me even in
my studies, my prayers, my meditations, and my ascetic labours. Thinkin
that Virgil was deprived of the sight of God and that possibly he might
even be suffering the fate of the reprobate in hell, I could neither
enjoy peace nor rest, and I went so far as to exclaim several times a
day with my arms outstretched to heaven:

“‘Reveal to me, O Lord, the lot thou hast assigned to him who sang on
earth as the angels sing in heaven!’

     *Three centuries before the epoch in which our Marbodius
     lived the words--

     ‘Maro, vates gentilium
     Da Christo testimonium.’

     Were sung in the churches on Christmas Day.


“After some years my anguish ceased when I read in an old book that
the great apostle St. Paul, who called the Gentiles into the Church of
Christ, went to Naples and sanctified with his tears the tomb of the
prince of poets.* This was some ground for believing that Virgil, like
the Emperor Trajan, was admitted to Paradise because even in error he
had a presentiment of the truth. We are not compelled to believe it, but
I can easily persuade myself that it is true.”

     *Ad maronis mausoleum
     Ductus, fudit super eum
     Piae rorem lacrymae.
     Quem te, intuit, reddidissem,
     Si te vivum invenissem
     Poetarum maxime!

Having thus spoken, old Hilary wished me the peace of a holy night and
went away with Brother Jacinth.

I resumed the delightful study of my poet. Book in hand, I meditated
upon the way in which those whom Love destroys with its cruel malady
wander through the secret paths in the depth of the myrtle forest, and,
as I meditated, the quivering reflections of the stars came and mingled
with those of the leafless eglantines in the waters of the cloister
fountain. Suddenly the lights and the perfumes and the stillness of the
sky were overwhelmed, a fierce Northwind charged with storm and darkness
burst roaring upon me. It lifted me up and carried me like a wisp of
straw over fields, cities, rivers, and mountains, and through the midst
of thunder-clouds, during a long night composed of a whole series of
nights and days. And when, after this prolonged and cruel rage, the
hurricane was at last stilled, I found myself far from my native land at
the bottom of a valley bordered by cypress trees. Then a woman of wild
beauty, trailing long garments behind her, approached me. She placed
her left hand on my shoulder, and, pointing her right arm to an oak with
thick foliage:

“Look!” said she to me.

Immediately I recognised the Sibyl who guards the sacred wood of
Avernus, and I discerned the fair Proserpine’s beautiful golden twig
amongst the tufted boughs of the tree to which her finger pointed.

“O prophetic Virgin,” I exclaimed, “thou hast comprehended my desire and
thou hast satisfied it in this way. Thou hast revealed to me the tree
that bears the shining twig without which none can enter alive into the
dwelling-place of the dead. And in truth, eagerly did I long to converse
with the shade of Virgil.”

Having said this, I snatched the golden branch from its ancient trunk
and I advanced without fear into the smoking gulf that leads to the
miry banks of the Styx, upon which the shades are tossed about like dead
leaves. At sight of the branch dedicated to Proserpine, Charon took
me in his bark, which groaned beneath my weight, and I alighted on the
shores of the dead, and was greeted by the mute baying of the threefold
Cerberus. I pretended to throw the shade of a stone at him, and the vain
monster fled into his cave. There, amidst the rushes, wandered the souls
of those children whose eyes had but opened and shut to the kindly light
of day, and there in a gloomy cavern Minos judges men. I penetrated
into the myrtle wood in which the victims of love wander languishing,
Phaedra, Procris, the sad Eriphyle, Evadne, Pasiphae, Laodamia, and
Cenis, and the Phoenician Dido. Then I went through the dusty plains
reserved for famous warriors. Beyond them open two ways. That to the
left leads to Tartarus, the abode of the wicked. I took that to the
right, which leads to Elysium and to the dwellings of Dis. Having hung
the sacred branch at the goddess’s door, I reached pleasant fields
flooded with purple light. The shades of philosophers and poets hold
grave converse there. The Graces and the Muses formed sprightly choirs
upon the grass. Old Homer sang, accompanying himself upon his rustic
lyre. His eyes were closed, but divine images shone upon his lips. I saw
Solon, Democritus, and Pythagoras watching the games of the young men in
the meadow, and, through the foliage of an ancient laurel, I perceived
also Hesiod, Orpheus, the melancholy Euripides, and the masculine
Sappho. I passed and recognised, as they sat on the bank of a fresh
rivulet, the poet Horace, Varius, Gallus, and Lycoris. A little
apart, leaning against the trunk of a dark holm-oak, Virgil was gazing
pensively at the grove. Of lofty stature, though spare, he still
preserved that swarthy complexion, that rustic air, that negligent
bearing, and unpolished appearance which during his lifetime concealed
his genius. I saluted him piously and remained for a long time without
speech.

At last when my halting voice could proceed out of my throat:

“O thou, so dear to the Ausonian Muses, thou honour of the Latin name,
Virgil,” cried I, “it is through thee I have known what beauty is, it
is through thee I have known what the tables of the gods and the beds
of the goddesses are like. Suffer the praises of the humblest of thy
adorers.”

“Arise, stranger,” answered the divine poet. “I perceive that thou art
a living being among the shades, and that thy body treads down the grass
in this eternal evening. Thou art not the first man who has descended
before his death into these dwellings, although all intercourse between
us and the living is difficult. But cease from praise; I do not like
eulogies and the confused sounds of glory have always offended my ears.
That is why I fled from Rome, where I was known to the idle and curious,
and laboured in the solitude of my beloved Parthenope. And then I am not
so convinced that the men of thy generation understand my verses that
should be gratified by thy praises. Who art thou?”

“I am called Marbodius of the Kingdom of Alca. I made my profession in
the Abbey of Corrigan. I read thy poems by day and I read them by night.
It is thee whom I have come to see in Hell; I was impatient to know what
thy fate was. On earth the learned often dispute about it. Some hold
it probable that, having lived under the power of demons, thou art now
burning in inextinguishable flames; others, more cautious, pronounce
no opinion, believing that all which is said concerning the dead is
uncertain and full of lies; several, though not in truth the ablest,
maintain that, because thou didst elevate the tone of the Sicilian Muses
and foretell that a new progeny would descend from heaven, thou wert
admitted, like the Emperor Trajan, to enjoy eternal blessedness in the
Christian heaven.”

“Thou seest that such is not the case,” answered the shade, smiling.

“I meet thee in truth, O Virgil, among the heroes and sages in those
Elysian Fields which thou thyself hast described. Thus, contrary to what
several on earth believe, no one has come to seek thee on the part of
Him who reigns on high?”

After a rather long silence:

“I will conceal nought from thee. He sent for me; one of his messengers,
a simple man, came to say that I was expected, and that, although I
had not been initiated into their mysteries, in consideration of my
prophetic verses, a place had been reserved for me among those of the
new sect. But I refused to accept that invitation; I had no desire
to change my lace. I did so not because I share the admiration of the
Greeks for the Elysian fields, or because I taste here those joys
which caused Proserpine to lose the remembrance of her mother. I never
believed much myself in what I say about these things in the ‘Aeneid.’
I was instructed by philosophers and men of science and I had a correct
foreboding of the truth. Life in hell is extremely attenuated; we feel
neither pleasure nor pain; we are as if we were not. The dead have
no existence here except such as the living lend them. Nevertheless I
prefer to remain here.”

“But what reason didst thou give, O Virgil, for so strange a refusal?”

“I gave excellent ones. I said to the messenger of the god that I did
not deserve the honour he brought me, and that a meaning had been given
to my verses which they did not bear. In truth I have not in my fourth
Eclogue betrayed the faith of my ancestors. Some ignorant Jews alone
have interpreted in favour of a barbarian god a verse which celebrates
the return of the golden age predicted by the Sibylline oracles. I
excused myself then on the ground that I could not occupy a place which
was destined for me in error and to which I recognised that I had no
right. Then I alleged my disposition and my tastes, which do not accord
with the customs of the new heavens.

“‘I am not unsociable,’ said I to this man. ‘I have shown in life a
complaisant and easy disposition, although the extreme simplicity of my
habits caused me to be suspected of avarice. I kept nothing for myself
alone. My library was open to all and I have conformed my conduct to
that fine saying of Euripides, “all ought to be common among friends.”
 Those praises that seemed obtrusive when I myself received them became
agreeable to me when addressed to Varius or to Macer. But at bottom I
am rustic and uncultivated. I take pleasure in the society of animals;
I was so zealous in observing them and took so much care of them that I
was regarded, not altogether wrongly, as a good veterinary surgeon. I am
told that the people of thy sect claim an immortal soul for themselves,
but refuse one to the animals. That is a piece of nonsense that makes
me doubt their judgment. Perhaps I love the flocks and the shepherds a
little too much. That would not seem right amongst you. There is a maxim
to which I endeavour to conform my actions, “Nothing too much.” More
even than my feeble health my philosophy teaches me to use things with
measure. I am sober; a lettuce and some olives with a drop of Falernian
wine form all my meals. I have, indeed, to some extent gone with strange
women, but I have not delayed over long in taverns to watch the young
Syrians dance to the sound of the crotalum.* But if I have restrained
my desires it was for my own satisfaction and for the sake of good
discipline. To fear pleasure and to fly from joy appears to me the worst
insult that one can offer to nature. I am assured that during their
lives certain of the elect of thy god abstained from food and avoided
women through love of asceticism, and voluntarily exposed themselves to
useless sufferings. I should be afraid of meeting those, criminals whose
frenzy horrifies me. A poet must not be asked to attach himself too
strictly to any scientific or moral doctrine. Moreover, I am a Roman,
and the Romans, unlike the Greeks, are unable to pursue profound
speculations in a subtle manner. If they adopt a philosophy it is above
all in order to derive some practical advantages from it. Siro, who
enjoyed great renown among us, taught me the system of Epicurus and thus
freed me from vain terrors and turned me aside from the cruelties to
which religion persuades ignorant men. I have embraced the views of
Pythagoras concerning the souls of men and animals, both of which are of
divine essence; this invites us to look upon ourselves without pride
and without shame. I have learnt from the Alexandrines how the earth, at
first soft and without form, hardened in proportion as Nereus withdrew
himself from it to dig his humid dwellings; I have learned how things
were formed insensibly; in what manner the rains, falling from the
burdened clouds, nourished the silent forests, and by what progress a
few animals at last began to wander over the nameless mountains. I could
not accustom myself to your cosmogony either, for it seems to me
fitter for a camel-driver on the Syrian sands than for a disciple of
Aristarchus of Samos. And what would become of me in the abode of your
beatitude if I did not find there my friends, my ancestors, my masters,
and my gods, and if it is not given to me to see Rhea’s noble son, or
Venus, mother of Aeneas, with her winning smile, or Pan, or the young
Dryads, or the Sylvans, or old Silenus, with his face stained by Aegle’s
purple mulberries.’ These are the reasons which I begged that simple man
to plead before the successor of Jupiter.”

     * This phrase seems to indicate that, if one is to believe
     Macrobius, the “Copa” is by Virgil.

“And since then, O great shade, thou hast received no other messages?”

“I have received none.”

“To console themselves for thy absence, O Virgil, they have three poets,
Commodianus, Prudentius, and Fortunatus, who were all three born in
those dark plays when neither prosody nor grammar were known. But tell
me, O Mantuan, hast thou never received other intelligence of the God
whose company thou didst so deliberately refuse?”

“Never that I remember.”

“Hast thou not told me that I am not the first who descended alive into
these abodes and presented himself before thee?”


“Thou dost remind me of it. A century and a half ago, or so it seems
to me (it is difficult to reckon days and years amid the shades),
my profound peace was intruded upon by a strange visitor. As I was
wandering beneath the gloomy foliage that borders the Styx, I saw
rising before me a human form more opaque and darker than that of the
inhabitants of these shores. I recognised a living person. He was
of high stature, thin, with an aquiline nose, sharp chin, and hollow
cheeks. His dark eyes shot forth fire; a red hood girt with a crown of
laurels bound his lean brows. His bones pierced through the tight
brown cloak that descended to his heels. He saluted me with deference,
tempered by a sort of fierce pride, and addressed me in a speech more
obscure and incorrect than that of those Gauls with whom the divine
Julius filled both his legions and the Curia. At last I understood that
he had been born near Fiesole, in an ancient Etruscan colony that Sulla
had founded on the banks of the Arno, and which had prospered; that
he had obtained municipal honours, but that he had thrown himself
vehemently into the sanguinary quarrels which arose between the senate,
the knights, and the people, that he had been defeated and banished, and
now he wandered in exile throughout the world. He described Italy to me
as distracted by more wars and discords than in the time of my youth,
and as sighing anew for a second Augustus. I pitied his misfortune,
remembering what I myself had formerly endured.

“An audacious spirit unceasingly disquieted him, and his mind harboured
great thoughts, but alas! his rudeness and ignorance displayed the
triumph of barbarism. He knew neither poetry, nor science, nor even
the tongue of the Greeks, and he was ignorant, too, of the ancient
traditions concerning the origin of the world and the nature of the
gods. He bravely repeated fables which in my time would have brought
smiles to the little children who were not yet old enough to pay for
admission at the baths. The vulgar easily believe in monsters. The
Etruscans especially peopled hell with demons, hideous as a sick man’s
dreams. That they have not abandoned their childish imaginings after
so many centuries is explained by the continuation and progress of
ignorance and misery, but that one of their magistrates whose mind is
raised above the common level should share these popular illusions and
should be frightened by the hideous demons that the inhabitants of that
country painted on the walls of their tombs in the time of Porsena--that
is something which might sadden even a sage. My Etruscan visitor
repeated verses to me which he had composed in a new dialect, called
by him the vulgar tongue, the sense of which I could not understand.
My ears were more surprised than charmed as I heard him repeat the same
sound three or four times at regular intervals in his efforts to mark
the rhythm. That artifice did not seem ingenious to me; but it is not
for the dead to judge of novelties.

“But I do not reproach this colonist of Sulla, born in an unhappy time,
for making inharmonious verses or for being, if it be possible, as bad a
poet as Bavius or Maevius. I have grievances against him which touch
me more closely. The thing is monstrous and scarcely credible, but when
this man returned to earth he disseminated the most odious lies about
me. He affirmed in several passages of his barbarous poems that I had
served him as a guide in the modern Tartarus, a place I know nothing of.
He insolently proclaimed that I had spoken of the gods of Rome as false
and lying gods, and that I held as the true God the present successor of
Jupiter. Friend, when thou art restored to the kindly light of day and
beholdest again thy native land, contradict those abominable falsehoods.
Say to thy people that the singer of the pious Aeneas has never
worshipped the god of the Jews. I am assured that his power is declining
and that his approaching fall is manifested by undoubted indications.
This news would give me some pleasure if one could rejoice in these
abodes where we feel neither fears nor desires.”

He spoke, and with a gesture of farewell he went away. I beheld his.
shade gliding over the asphodels without bending their stalks. I saw
that it became fainter and vaguer as it receded farther from me, and
it vanished before it reached the wood of evergreen laurels. Then I
understood the meaning of the words, “The dead have no life, but that
which the living lend them,” and I walked slowly through the pale meadow
to the gate of horn.

I affirm that all in this writing is true.*

     * There is in Marbodius’s narrative a passage very worthy of
     notice, viz., that in which the monk of Corrigan describes
     Dante Alighieri such as we picture him to ourselves to-day.
     The miniatures in a very old manuscript of the “Divine
     Comedy,” the “Codex Venetianus,” represent the poet as a
     little fat man clad in a short tunic, the skirts of which
     fall above his knees. As for Virgil, he still wears the
     philosophical beard, in the wood-engravings of the sixteenth
     century.

One would not have thought either that Marbodius, or even Virgil, could
have known the Etruscan tombs of Chiusi and Corneto, where, in fact,
there are horrible and burlesque devils closely resembling those of
Orcagna. Nevertheless, the authenticity of the “Descent of Marbodius
into Hell” is indisputable. M. du Clos des Lunes has firmly established
it. To doubt it would be to doubt palaeography itself.



VII. SIGNS IN THE MOON

At that time, whilst Penguinia was still plunged in ignorance and
barbarism, Giles Bird-catcher, a Franciscan monk, known by his writings
under the name Aegidius Aucupis, devoted himself with indefatigable
zeal to the study of letters and the sciences. He gave his nights to
mathematics and music, which he called the two adorable sisters,
the harmonious daughters of Number and Imagination. He was versed in
medicine and astrology. He was suspected of practising magic, and it
seemed true that he wrought metamorphoses and discovered hidden things.

The monks of his convent, finding in his cell Greek books which they
could not read, imagined them to be conjuring-books, and denounced their
too learned brother as a wizard. Aegidius Aucupis fled, and reached the
island of Ireland, where he lived for thirty studious years. He went
from monastery to monastery, searching for and copying the Greek and
Latin manuscripts which they contained. He also studied physics and
alchemy. He acquired a universal knowledge and discovered notable
secrets concerning animals, plants, and stones. He was found one day in
the company of a very beautiful woman who sang to her own accompaniment
on the lute, and who was afterwards discovered to be a machine which he
had himself constructed.

He often crossed the Irish Sea to go into the land of Wales and to visit
the libraries of the monasteries there. During one of these crossings,
as he remained during the night on the bridge of the ship, he saw
beneath the waters two sturgeons swimming side by side. He had very
good hearing and he knew the language of fishes. Now he heard one of the
sturgeons say to the other:

“The man in the moon, whom we have often seen carrying fagots on his
shoulders, has fallen into the sea.”

And the other sturgeon said in its turn:

“And in the silver disc there will be seen the image of two lovers
kissing each other on the mouth.”

Some years later, having returned to his native country, Aegidius
Aucupis found that ancient learning had been restored. Manners had
softened. Men no longer pursued the nymphs of the fountains, of the
woods, and of the mountains with their insults. They placed images of
the Muses and of the modest Graces in their gardens, and they rendered
her former honours to the Goddess with ambrosial lips, the joy of men
and gods. They were becoming reconciled to nature. They trampled vain
terrors beneath their feet and raised their eyes to heaven without
fearing, as they formerly did, to read signs of anger and threats of
damnation in the skies.

At this spectacle Aegidius Aucupis remembered what the two sturgeons of
the sea of Erin had foretold.



BOOK IV. MODERN TIMES: TRINCO



I. MOTHER ROUQUIN

Aegidius Aucupis, the Erasmus of the Penguins, was not mistaken; his age
was an age of free inquiry. But that great man mistook the elegances
of the humanists for softness of manners, and he did not foresee
the effects that the awaking of intelligence would have amongst
the Penguins. It brought about the religious Reformation; Catholics
massacred Protestants and Protestants massacred Catholics. Such were
the first results of liberty of thought. The Catholics prevailed in
Penguinia. But the spirit of inquiry had penetrated among them without
their knowing it. They joined reason to faith, and claimed that religion
had been divested of the superstitious practices that dishonoured it,
just as in later days the booths that the cobblers, hucksters, and
dealers in old clothes had built against the walls of the cathedrals
were cleared away. The word, legend, which at first indicated what the
faithful ought to read, soon suggested the idea of pious fables and
childish tales.

The saints had to suffer from this state of mind. An obscure canon
called Princeteau, a very austere and crabbed man, designated so great a
number of them as not worthy of having their days observed, that he was
surnamed the exposer of the saints. He did not think, for instance,
that if St. Margaret’s prayer were applied as a poultice to a woman in
travail that the pains of childbirth would be softened.

Even the venerable patron saint of Penguinia did not escape his rigid
criticism. This is what he says of her in his “Antiquities of Alca”:

“Nothing is more uncertain than the history, or even the existence, of
St. Orberosia. An ancient anonymous annalist, a monk of Dombes, relates
that a woman called Orberosia was possessed by the devil in a cavern
where, even down to his own days, the little boys and girls of the
village used to play at a sort of game representing the devil and
the fair Orberosia. He adds that this woman became the concubine of a
horrible dragon, who ravaged the country. Such a statement is hardly
credible, but the history of Orberosia, as it has since been related,
seems hardly more worthy of belief. The life of that saint by the Abbot
Simplicissimus is three hundred years later than the pretended events
which it relates and that author shows himself excessively credulous and
devoid of all critical faculty.”

Suspicion attacked even the supernatural origin of the Penguins. The
historian Ovidius Capito went so far as to deny the miracle of their
transformation. He thus begins his “Annals of Penguinia”:

“A dense obscurity envelopes this history, and it would be no
exaggeration to say that it is a tissue of puerile fables and popular
tales. The Penguins claim that they are descended from birds who were
baptized by St. Mael and whom God changed into men at the intercession
of that glorious apostle. They hold that, situated at first in the
frozen ocean, their island, floating like Delos, was brought to anchor
in these heaven-favoured seas, of which it is to-day the queen. I
conclude that this myth is a reminiscence of the ancient migrations of
the Penguins.”

In the following century, which was that of the philosophers, scepticism
became still more acute. No further evidence of it is needed than the
following celebrated passage from the “Moral Essay”:

“Arriving we know not from whence (for indeed their origins are not very
clear), and successively invaded and conquered by four or five peoples
from the north, south, east, and west, miscegenated, interbred,
amalgamated, and commingled, the Penguins boast of the purity of their
race, and with justice, for they have become a pure race. This mixture
of all mankind, red, black, yellow, and white, round-headed and
long-headed, as formed in the course of ages a fairly homogeneous human
family, and one which is recognisable by certain features due to a
community of life and customs.

“This idea that they belong to the best race in the world, and that
they are its finest family, inspires them with noble pride, indomitable
courage, and a hatred for the human race.

“The life of a people is but a succession of miseries, crimes, and
follies. This is true of the Penguin nation, as of all other nations.
Save for this exception its history is admirable from beginning to end.”

The two classic ages of the Penguins are too well-known for me to lay
stress upon them. But what has not been sufficiently noticed is the way
in which the rationalist theologians such as Canon Princeteau called
into existence the unbelievers of the succeeding age. The former
employed their reason to destroy what did not seem to them, essential
to their religion; they only left untouched the most rigid article of
faith. Their intellectual successors, being taught by them how to
make use of science and reason, employed them against whatever beliefs
remained. Thus rational theology engendered natural philosophy.

That is why (if I may turn from the Penguins of former days to the
Sovereign Pontiff, who, to-day governs the universal Church) we cannot
admire too greatly the wisdom of Pope Pius X. in condemning the study
of exegesis as contrary to revealed truth, fatal to sound theological
doctrine, and deadly to the faith. Those clerics who maintain the rights
of science in opposition to him are pernicious doctors and pestilent
teachers, and the faithful who approve of them are lacking in either
mental or moral ballast.

At the end of the age of philosophers, the ancient kingdom of Penguinia
was utterly destroyed, the king put to death, the privileges of the
nobles abolished, and a Republic proclaimed in the midst of public
misfortunes and while a terrible war was raging. The assembly which
then governed Penguinia ordered all the metal articles contained in the
churches to be melted down. The patriots even desecrated the tombs of
the kings. It is said that when the tomb of Draco the Great was opened,
that king presented an appearance as black as ebony and so majestic
that those who profaned his corpse fled in terror. According to other
accounts, these churlish men insulted him by putting a pipe in his mouth
and derisively offering him a glass of wine.

On the seventeenth day of the month of Mayflowers, the shrine of
St. Orberosia, which had for five hundred years been exposed to the
veneration of the faithful in the Church of St. Mael, was transported
into the town-hall and submitted to the examination of a jury of experts
appointed by the municipality. It was made of gilded copper in shape
like the nave of a church, entirely covered with enamels and decorated
with precious stones, which latter were perceived to be false. The
chapter in its foresight had removed the rubies, sapphires, emeralds,
and great balls of rock-crystal, and had substituted pieces of glass in
their place. It contained only a little dust and a piece of old linen,
which were thrown into a great fire that had been lighted on the Place
de Greve to burn the relics of the saints. The people danced around it
singing patriotic songs.

From the threshold of their booth, which leant against the town-hall,
a man called Rouquin and his wife were watching this group of madmen.
Rouquin clipped dogs and gelded cats; he also frequented the inns. His
wife was a ragpicker and a bawd, but she had plenty of shrewdness.

“You see, Rouquin,” said she to her man, “they are committing a
sacrilege. They will repent of it.”

“You know nothing about it, wife,” answered Rouquin; “they, have become
philosophers, and when one is once a philosopher he is a philosopher for
ever.”

“I tell you, Rouquin, that sooner or later they will regret what they
are doing to-day. They ill-treat the saints because they have not helped
them enough, but for all that the quails won’t fall ready cooked into
their mouths. They will soon find themselves as badly off as before, and
when they have put out their tongues for enough they will become pious
again. Sooner than people think the day will come when Penguinia will
again begin to honour her blessed patron. Rouquin, it would be a good
thing, in readiness for that day, if we kept a handful of ashes and some
rags and bones in an old pot in our lodgings. We will say that they are
the relics of St. Orberosia and that we have saved them from the flames
at the peril of our lives. I am greatly mistaken if we don’t get honour
and profit out of them. That good action might be worth a place from the
Cure to sell tapers and hire chairs in the chapel of St. Orberosia.”

On that same day Mother Rouquin took home with her a little ashes and
some bones, and put them in an old jam-pot in her cupboard.



II. TRINCO

The sovereign Nation had taken possession of the lands of the nobility
and clergy to sell them at a low price to the middle classes and
the peasants. The middle classes and the peasants thought that the
revolution was a good thing for acquiring lands and a bad one for
retaining them.

The legislators of the Republic made terrible laws for the defence of
property, and decreed death to anyone who should propose a division of
wealth. But that did not avail the Republic. The peasants who had become
proprietors bethought themselves that though it had made them rich,
the Republic had nevertheless caused a disturbance to wealth, and they
desired a system more respectful of private property and more capable of
assuring the permanence of the new institutions.

They had not long to wait. The Republic, like Agrippina, bore her
destroyer in her bosom.

Having great wars to carry on, it created military forces, and these
were destined both to save it and to destroy it. Its legislators thought
they could restrain their generals by the fear of punishment, but if
they sometimes cut off the heads of unlucky soldiers they could not do
the same to the fortunate soldiers who obtained over it the advantages
of having saved its existence.

In the enthusiasm of victory the renovated Penguins delivered themselves
up to a dragon, more terrible than that of their fables, who, like
a stork amongst frogs, devoured them for fourteen years with his
insatiable beak.

Half a century after the reign of the new dragon a young Maharajah
of Malay, called Djambi, desirous, like the Scythian Anacharsis,
of instructing himself by travel, visited Penguinia and wrote an
interesting account of his travels. I transcribe the first page of his
account:

ACCOUNT OF THE TRAVELS OF YOUNG DJAMBI IN PENGUINIA

After a voyage of ninety days I landed at the vast and deserted port of
the Penguins and travelled over untilled fields to their ruined capital.
Surrounded by ramparts and full of barracks and arsenals it had a
martial though desolate appearance. Feeble and crippled men wandered
proudly through the streets, wearing old uniforms and carrying rusty
weapons.

“What do you want?” I was rudely asked at the gate of the city by a
soldier whose moustaches pointed to the skies.

“Sir,” I answered, “I come as an inquirer to visit this island.”

“It is not an island,” replied the soldier.

“What!” I exclaimed, “Penguin Island is not an island?”

“No, sir, it is an insula. It was formerly called an island, but for a
century it has been decreed that it shall bear the name of insula. It is
the only insula in the whole universe. Have you a passport?”

“Here it is.”

“Go and get it signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

A lame guide who conducted me came to a pause in a vast square.

“The insula,” said he, “has given birth, as you know, to Trinco, the
greatest genius of the universe, whose statue you see before you. That
obelisk standing to your right commemorates Trinco’s birth; the column
that rises to your left has Trinco crowned with a diadem upon its
summit. You see here the triumphal arch dedicated to the glory of Trinco
and his family.”

“What extraordinary feat has Trinco performed?” I asked.

“War.”

“That is nothing extraordinary. We Malayans make war constantly.”

“That may be, but Trinco is the greatest warrior of all countries and
all times. There never existed a greater conqueror than he. As you
anchored in our port you saw to the east a volcanic island called
Ampelophoria, shaped like a cone, and of small size, but renowned for
its wines. And to the west a larger island which raises to the sky a
long range of sharp teeth; for this reason it is called the Dog’s Jaws.
It is rich in copper mines. We possessed both before Trinco’s reign
and they were the boundaries of our empire. Trinco extended the Penguin
dominion over the Archipelago of the Turquoises and the Green Continent,
subdued the gloomy Porpoises, and planted his flag amid the icebergs
of the Pole and on the burning sands of the African deserts. He raised
troops in all the countries he conquered, and when his armies marched
past in the wake of our own light infantry, our island grenadiers, our
hussars, our dragoons, our artillery, and our engineers there were to be
seen yellow soldiers looking in their blue armour like crayfish standing
on their tails; red men with parrots’ plumes, tattooed with solar and
Phallic emblems, and with quivers of poisoned arrows resounding on
their backs; naked blacks armed only with their teeth and nails; pygmies
riding on cranes; gorillas carrying trunks of trees and led by an old
ape who wore upon his hairy breast the cross of the Legion of Honour.
And all those troops, led to Trinco’s banner by the most ardent
patriotism, flew on from victory to victory, and in thirty years of war
Trinco conquered half the known world.”

“What!” cried I, “you possess half of the world.”

“Trinco conquered it for us, and Trinco lost it to us. As great in his
defeats as in his victories he surrendered all that he had conquered.
He even allowed those two islands we possessed before his time,
Ampelophoria and the Dog’s Jaws, to be taken from us. He left Penguinia
impoverished and depopulated. The flower of the insula perished in his
wars. At the time of his fall there were left in our country none but
the hunchbacks and cripples from whom we are descended. But he gave us
glory.”

“He made you pay dearly for it!”

“Glory never costs too much,” replied my guide.



III. THE JOURNEY OF DOCTOR OBNUBILE

After a succession of amazing vicissitudes, the memory of which is in
great part lost by the wrongs of time and the bad style of historians,
the Penguins established the government of the Penguins by themselves.
They elected a diet or assembly, and invested it with the privilege of
naming the Head of the State. The latter, chosen from among the simple
Penguins, wore no formidable monster’s crest upon his head and exercised
no absolute authority over the people. He was himself subject to the
laws of the nation. He was not given the title of king, and no ordinal
number followed his name. He bore such names as Paturle, Janvion,
Traffaldin, Coquenhot, and Bredouille. These magistrates did not make
war. They were not suited for that.

The new state received the name of Public Thing or Republic. Its
partisans were called republicanists or republicans. They were also
named Thingmongers and sometimes Scamps, but this latter name was taken
in ill part.

The Penguin democracy did not itself govern. It obeyed a financial
oligarchy which formed opinion by means of the newspapers, and held
in its hands the representatives, the ministers, and the president.
It controlled the finances of the republic, and directed the foreign
affairs of the country as if it were possessed of sovereign power.

Empires and kingdoms in those days kept up enormous fleets. Penguinia,
compelled to do as they did, sank under the pressure of her armaments.
Everybody deplored or pretended to deplore so grievous a necessity.
However, the rich, and those engaged in business or affairs, submitted
to it with a good heart through a spirit of patriotism, and because they
counted on the soldiers and sailors to defend their goods at home and
to acquire markets and territories abroad. The great manufacturers
encouraged the making of cannons and ships through a zeal for the
national defence and in order to obtain orders. Among the citizens of
middle rank and of the liberal professions some resigned themselves to
this state of affairs without complaining, believing that it would last
for ever; others waited impatiently for its end and thought they might
be able to lead the powers to a simultaneous disarmament.

The illustrious Professor Obnubile belonged to this latter class.

“War,” said he, “is a barbarity to which the progress of civilization
will put an end. The great democracies are pacific and will soon impose
their will upon the aristocrats.”

Professor Obnubile, who had for sixty years led a solitary and retired
life in his laboratory, whither external noises did not penetrate,
resolved to observe the spirit of the peoples for himself. He began
his studies with the greatest of all democracies and set sail for New
Atlantis.

After a voyage of fifteen days his steamer entered, during the night,
the harbour of Titanport, where thousands of ships were anchored. An
iron bridge thrown across the water and shining with lights, stretched
between two piers so far apart that Professor Obnubile imagined he was
sailing on the seas of Saturn and that he saw the marvellous ring which
girds the planet of the Old Man. And this immense conduit bore upon it
more than a quarter of the wealth of the world. The learned Penguin,
having disembarked, was waited on by automatons in a hotel forty-eight
stories high. Then he took the great railway that led to Gigantopolis,
the capital of New Atlantis. In the train there were restaurants,
gaming-rooms, athletic arenas, telegraphic, commercial, and financial
offices, a Protestant Church, and the printing-office of a great
newspaper, which latter the doctor was unable to read, as he did not
know the language of the New Atlantans. The train passed along the banks
of great rivers, through manufacturing cities which concealed the sky
with the smoke from their chimneys, towns black in the day, towns red at
night, full of noise by day and full of noise also by night.

“Here,” thought the doctor, “is a people far too much engaged in
industry and trade to make war. I am already certain that the New
Atlantans pursue a policy of peace. For it is an axiom admitted by all
economists that peace without and peace within are necessary for the
progress of commerce and industry.”

As he surveyed Gigantopolis, he was confirmed in this opinion. People
went through the streets so swiftly propelled by hurry that they knocked
down all who were in their way. Obnubile was thrown down several times,
but soon succeeded in learning how to demean himself better; after an
hour’s walking he himself knocked down an Atlantan.

Having reached a great square he saw the portico of a palace in the
Classic style, whose Corinthian columns reared their capitals of
arborescent acanthus seventy metres above the stylobate.

As he stood with his head thrown back admiring the building, a man of
modest appearance approached him and said in Penguin:

“I see by your dress that you are from Penguinia. I know your language;
I am a sworn interpreter. This is the Parliament palace. At the present
moment the representatives of the States are in deliberation. Would you
like to be present at the sitting?”

The doctor was brought into the hall and cast his looks upon the crowd
of legislators who were sitting on cane chairs with their feet upon
their desks.

The president arose and, in the midst of general inattention, muttered
rather than spoke the following formulas which the interpreter
immediately translated to the doctor.

“The war for the opening of the Mongol markets being ended to the
satisfaction of the States, I propose that the accounts be laid before
the finance committee . . . .”

“Is there any opposition? . . .”

“The proposal is carried.”

“The war for the opening of the markets of Third-Zealand being ended
to the satisfaction of the States, I propose that the accounts be laid
before the finance committee. . . .”

“Is there any opposition? . . .”

“The proposal is carried.”

“Have I heard aright?” asked Professor Obnubile. “What? you an
industrial people and engaged in all these wars!”

“Certainly,” answered the interpreter, “these are industrial wars.
Peoples who have neither commerce nor industry are not obliged to make
war, but a business people is forced to adopt a policy of conquest. The
number of wars necessarily increases with our productive activity. As
soon as one of our industries fails to find a market for its products
a war is necessary to open new outlets. It is in this way we have had
a coal war, a copper war, and a cotton war. In Third-Zealand we have
killed two-thirds of the inhabitants in order to compel the remainder to
buy our umbrellas and braces.”

At that moment a fat man who was sitting in the middle of the assembly
ascended the tribune.

“I claim,” said he, “a war against the Emerald Republic, which
insolently contends with our pigs for the hegemony of hams and sauces in
all the markets of the universe.”

“Who is that legislator?” asked Doctor Obnubile.

“He is a pig merchant.”

“Is there any opposition?” said the President. “I put the proposition to
the vote.”

The war against the Emerald Republic was voted with uplifted hands by a
very large majority.

“What?” said Obnubile to the interpreter; “you have voted a war with
that rapidity and that indifference!”

“Oh! it is an unimportant war which will hardly cost eight million
dollars.”

“And men . . .”

“The men are included in the eight million dollars.”

Then Doctor Obnubile bent his head in bitter reflection.

“Since wealth and civilization admit of as many causes of wars as
poverty and barbarism, since the folly and wickedness of men are
incurable, there remains but one good action to be done. The wise man
will collect enough dynamite to blow up this planet. When its fragments
fly through space an imperceptible amelioration will be accomplished
in the universe and a satisfaction will be given to the universal
conscience. Moreover, this universal conscience does not exist.”



BOOK V. MODERN TIMES: CHATILLON



I. THE REVEREND FATHERS AGARIC AND CORNEMUSE

Every system of government produces people who are dissatisfied. The
Republic or Public Thing produced them at first from among the nobles
who had been despoiled of their ancient privileges. These looked with
regret and hope to Prince Crucho, the last of the Draconides, a prince
adorned both with the grace of youth and the melancholy of exile.
It also produced them from among the smaller traders, who, owing to
profound economic causes, no longer gained a livelihood. They believed
that this was the fault of the republic which they had at first adored
and from which each day they were now becoming more detached. The
financiers, both Christians and Jews, became by their insolence and
their cupidity the scourge of the country, which they plundered and
degraded, as well as the scandal of a government which they never
troubled either to destroy or preserve, so confident were they that they
could operate without hindrance under all governments. Nevertheless,
their sympathies inclined to absolute power as the best protection
against the socialists, their puny but ardent adversaries. And just
as they imitated the habits of the aristocrats, so they imitated their
political and religious sentiments. Their women, in particular, loved
the Prince and had dreams of appearing one day at his Court.

However, the Republic retained some partisans and defenders. If it was
not in a position to believe in the fidelity of its own officials it
could at least still count on the devotion of the manual labourers,
although it had never relieved their misery. These came forth in crowds
from their quarries and their factories to defend it, and marched in
long processions, gloomy, emaciated, and sinister. They would have died
for it because it had given them hope.

Now, under the Presidency of Theodore Formose, there lived in a
peaceable suburb of Alca a monk called Agaric, who kept a school and
assisted in arranging marriages. In his school he taught fencing and
riding to the sons of old families, illustrious by their birth, but now
as destitute of wealth as of privilege. And as soon as they were old
enough he married them to the daughters of the opulent and despised
caste of financiers.

Tall, thin, and dark, Agaric used to walk in deep thought, with
his breviary in his hand and his brow loaded with care, through the
corridors of the school and the alleys of the garden. His care was not
limited to inculcating in his pupils abstruse doctrines and mechanical
precepts and to endowing them afterwards with legitimate and rich
wives. He entertained political designs and pursued the realisation of
a gigantic plan. His thought of thoughts and labour of labours was
to overthrow the Republic. He was not moved to this by any personal
interest. He believed that a democratic state was opposed to the holy
society to which body and soul he belonged. And all the other monks, his
brethren, thought the same. The Republic was perpetually at strife with
the congregation of monks and the assembly of the faithful. True,
to plot the death of the new government was a difficult and perilous
enterprise. Still, Agaric was in a position to carry on a formidable
conspiracy. At that epoch, when the clergy guided the superior classes
of the Penguins, this monk exercised a tremendous influence over the
aristocracy of Alca.

All the young men whom he had brought up waited only for a favourable
moment to march against the popular power. The sons of the ancient
families did not practise the arts or engage in business. They were
almost all soldiers and served the Republic. They served it, but
they did not love it; they regretted the dragon’s crest. And the fair
Jewesses shared in these regrets in order that they might be taken for
Christians.

One July as he was walking in a suburban street which ended in some
dusty fields, Agaric heard groans coming from a moss-grown well that had
been abandoned by the gardeners. And almost immediately he was told by
a cobbler of the neighbourhood that a ragged man who had shouted out
“Hurrah for the Republic!” had been thrown into the well by some cavalry
officers who were passing, and had sunk up to his ears in the mud.
Agaric was quite ready to see a general significance in this particular
fact. He inferred a great fermentation in the whole aristocratic and
military caste, and concluded that it was the moment to act.

The next day he went to the end of the Wood of Conils to visit the
good Father Cornemuse. He found the monk in his laboratory pouring a
golden-coloured liquor into a still. He was a short, fat, little man,
with vermilion-tinted cheeks and an elaborately polished bald head. His
eyes had ruby-coloured pupils like a guinea-pig’s. He graciously saluted
his visitor and offered him a glass of the St. Orberosian liqueur, which
he manufactured, and from the sale of which he gained immense wealth.

Agaric made a gesture of refusal. Then, standing on his long feet and
pressing his melancholy hat against his stomach, he remained silent.

“Take a seat,” said Cornemuse to him.

Agaric sat down on a rickety stool, but continued mute.

Then the monk of Conils inquired:

“Tell me some news of your young pupils. Have the dear children sound
views?”

“I am very satisfied with them,” answered the teacher. “It is everything
to be nurtured in sound principles. It is necessary to have sound views
before having any views at all, for afterwards it is too late. . . .
Yes, I have great grounds for comfort. But we live in a sad age.”

“Alas!” sighed Cornemuse.

“We are passing through evil days. . . .”

“Times of trial.”

“Yet, Cornemuse, the mind of the public is not so entirely corrupted as
it seems.”

“Perhaps you are right.”

“The people are tired of a government that ruins them and does nothing
for them. Every day fresh scandals spring up. The Republic is sunk in
shame. It is ruined.”

“May God grant it!”

“Cornemuse, what do you think of Prince Crucho?”

“He is an amiable young man and, I dare say, a worthy scion of an august
stock. I pity him for having to endure the pains of exile at so early an
age. Spring has no flowers for the exile, and autumn no fruits. Prince
Crucho has sound views; he respects the clergy; he practises our
religion; besides, he consumes a good deal of my little products.”

“Cornemuse, in many homes, both rich and poor, his return is hoped for.
Believe me, he will come back.”

“May I live to throw my mantle beneath his feet!” sighed Cornemuse.

Seeing that he held these sentiments, Agaric depicted to him the state
of people’s minds such as he himself imagined them. He showed him the
nobles and the rich exasperated against the popular government; the army
refusing to endure fresh insults; the officials willing to betray their
chiefs; the people discontented, riot ready to burst forth, and the
enemies of the monks, the agents of the constituted authority, thrown
into the wells of Alca. He concluded that it was the moment to strike a
great blow.

“We can,” he cried, “save the Penguin people, we can deliver it from
its tyrants, deliver it from itself, restore the Dragon’s crest,
re-establish the ancient State, the good State, for the honour of the
faith and the exaltation of the Church. We can do this if we will. We
possess great wealth and we exert secret influences; by our evangelistic
and outspoken journals we communicate with all the ecclesiastics
in towns and county alike, and we inspire them with our own eager
enthusiasm and our own burning faith. They will kindle their penitents
and their congregations. I can dispose of the chiefs of the army; I have
an understanding with the men of the people. Unknown to them I sway
the minds of umbrella sellers, publicans, shopmen, gutter merchants,
newspaper boys, women of the streets, and police agents. We have more
people on our side than we need. What are we waiting for? Let us act!”

“What do you think of doing?” asked Cornemuse.

“Of forming a vast conspiracy and overthrowing the Republic, of
re-establishing Crucho on the throne of the Draconides.”

Cornemuse moistened his lips with his tongue several times. Then he said
with unction:

“Certainly the restoration of the Draconides is desirable; it is
eminently desirable; and for my part, desire it with all my heart. As
for the Republic, you know what I think of it. . . . But would it not te
better to abandon it to its fate and let it die of the vices of its own
constitution? Doubtless, Agaric, what you propose is noble and generous.
It would be a fine thing to save this great and unhappy country, to
re-establish it in its ancient splendour. But reflect on it, we
are Christians before we are Penguins. And we must take heed not to
compromise religion in political enterprises.”

Agaric replied eagerly:

“Fear nothing. We shall hold all the threads of the plot, but we
ourselves shall remain in the background. We shall not be seen.”

“Like flies in milk,” murmured the monk of Conils.

And turning his keen ruby-coloured eyes towards his brother monk:

“Take care. Perhaps the Republic is stronger than it seems. Possibly,
too, by dragging it out of the nerveless inertia in which it now rests
we may only consolidate its forces. Its malice is great; if we attack
it, it will defend itself. It makes bad laws which hardly affect us;
if it is frightened it will make terrible ones against us. Let us not
lightly engage in an adventure in which we may get fleeced. You think
the opportunity a good one. I don’t, and I am going to tell you why. The
present government is not yet known by everybody, that is to say, it is
known by nobody. It proclaims that it is the Public Thing, the common
thing. The populace believes it and remains democratic and Republican.
But patience! This same people will one day demand that the public thing
be the people’s thing. I need not tell you how insolent, unregulated,
and contrary to Scriptural polity such claims seem to me. But the people
will make them, and enforce them, and then there will be an end of the
present government. The moment cannot now be far distant; and it is then
that we ought to act in the interests of our august body. Let us wait.
What hurries us? Our existence is not in peril. It has not been
rendered absolutely intolerable to us. The Republic fails in respect and
submission to us; it does not give the priests the honours it owes them.
But it lets us live. And such is the excellence of our position that
with us to live is to prosper. The Republic is hostile to us, but women
revere us. President Formose does not assist at the celebration of our
mysteries, but I have seen his wife and daughters at my feet. They
buy my phials by the gross. I have no better clients even among the
aristocracy. Let us say what there is to be said for it. There is no
country in the world as good for priests and monks as Penguinia. In what
other country would you find our virgin wax, our virile incense, our
rosaries, our scapulars, our holy water, and our St. Orberosian liqueur
sold in such great quantities? What other people would, like the
Penguins, give a hundred golden crowns for a wave of our hands, a sound
from our mouths, a movement of our lips? For my part, I gain a thousand
times more, in this pleasant, faithful, and docile Penguinia, by
extracting the essence from a bundle of thyme, than I could make
by tiring my lungs with preaching the remission of sins in the most
populous states of Europe and America. Honestly, would Penguinia be
better off if a police officer came to take me away from here and put me
on a steamboat bound for the Islands of Night?”

Having thus spoken, the monk of Conils got up and led his guest into
a huge shed where hundreds of orphans clothed in blue were packing
bottles, nailing up cases, and gumming tickets. The ear was deafened
by the noise of hammers mingled with the dull rumbling of bales being
placed upon the rails.

“It is from here that consignments are forwarded,” said Cornemuse.
“I have obtained from the government a railway through the Wood and
a station at my door. Every three days I fill a truck with my own
products. You see that the Republic has not killed all beliefs.”

Agaric made a last effort to engage the wise distiller in his
enterprise. He pointed him to a prompt, certain, dazzling success.

“Don’t you wish to share in it?” he added. “Don’t you wish to bring back
your king from exile?”

“Exile is pleasant to men of good will,” answered the monk of Conils.
“If you are guided by me, my dear Brother Agaric, you will give up your
project for the present. For my own part I have no illusions. Whether or
not I belong to your party, if you lose, I shall have to pay like you.”

Father Agaric took leave of his friend and went back satisfied to his
school. “Cornemuse,” thought he, “not being able to prevent the plot,
would like to make it succeed and he will give money.” Agaric was not
deceived. Such, indeed, was the solidarity among priests and monks that
the acts of a single one bound them all. That was at once both their
strength and their weakness.



II. PRINCE CRUCHO

Agaric resolved to proceed without delay to Prince Crucho, who honoured
him with his familiarity. In the dusk of the evening he went out of his
school by the side door, disguised as a cattle merchant and took passage
on board the St. Mael.

The next day he landed in Porpoisea, for it was at Chitterlings Castle
on this hospitable soil that Crucho ate the bitter bread of exile.

Agaric met the Prince on the road driving in a motor-car with two young
ladies at the rate of a hundred miles an hour. When the monk saw him he
shook his red umbrella and the prince stopped his car.

“Is it you, Agaric? Get in! There are already three of us, but we can
make room for you. You can take one of these young ladies on your knee.”

The pious Agaric got in.

“What news, worthy father?” asked the young prince.

“Great news,” answered Agaric. “Can I speak?”

“You can. I have nothing secret from these two ladies.”

“Sire, Penguinia claims you. You will not be deaf to her call.”

Agaric described the state of feeling and outlined a vast plot.

“On my first signal,” said he, “all your partisans will rise at once.
With cross in hand and habits girded up, your venerable clergy will lead
the armed crowd into Formose’s palace. We shall carry terror and death
among your enemies. For a reward of our efforts we only ask of you,
Sire, that you will not render them useless. We entreat you to come and
seat yourself on the throne that we shall prepare.”

The prince returned a simple answer:

“I shall enter Alca on a green horse.”

Agaric declared that he accepted this manly response. Although, contrary
to his custom, he had a lady on his knee, he adjured the young prince,
with a sublime loftiness of soul, to be faithful to his royal duties.

“Sire,” he cried, with tears in his eyes, “you will live to remember
the day on which you have been restored from exile, given back to your
people, reestablished on the throne of your ancestors by the hands of
your monks, and crowned by them with the august crest of the Dragon.
King Crucho, may you equal the glory of your ancestor Draco the Great!”

The young prince threw himself with emotion on his restorer and
attempted to embrace him, but he was prevented from reaching him by
the girth of the two ladies, so tightly packed were they all in that
historic carriage.

“Worthy father,” said he, “I would like all Penguinia to witness this
embrace.”

“It would be a cheering spectacle,” said Agaric.

In the mean time the motor-car rushed like a tornado through hamlets
and villages, crushing hens, geese, turkeys, ducks, guinea-fowls, cats,
dogs, pigs, children, labourers, and women beneath its insatiable tyres.
And the pious Agaric turned over his great designs in his mind. His
voice, coming from behind one of the ladies, expressed this thought:

“We must have money, a great deal of money.”

“That is your business,” answered the prince.

But already the park gates were opening to the formidable motor-car.

The dinner was sumptuous. They toasted the Dragon’s crest. Everybody
knows that a closed goblet is a sign of sovereignty; so Prince
Crucho and Princess Gudrune, his wife, drank out of goblets that were
covered-over like ciboriums. The prince had his filled several times
with the wines of Penguinia, both white and red.

Crucho had received a truly princely education, and he excelled in
motoring, but was not ignorant of history either. He was said to be well
versed in the antiquities and famous deeds of his family; and, indeed,
he gave a notable proof of his knowledge in this respect. As they were
speaking of the various remarkable peculiarities that had been noticed
in famous women.

“It is perfectly true,” said he, “that Queen Crucha, whose name I bear,
had the mark of a little monkey’s head upon her body.”

During the evening Agaric had a decisive interview with three of the
prince’s oldest councillors. It was decided to ask for funds from
Crucho’s father-in-law, as he was anxious to have a king for son-in-law,
from several Jewish ladies, who were impatient to become ennobled, and,
finally, from the Prince Regent of the Porpoises, who had promised his
aid to the Draconides, thinking that by Crucho’s restoration he would
weaken the Penguins, the hereditary enemies of his people. The three
old councillors divided among themselves the three chief offices of the
Court, those of Chamberlain, Seneschal, and High Steward, and authorised
the monk to distribute the other places to the prince’s best advantage.

“Devotion has to be rewarded,” said the three old councillors.

“And treachery also,” said Agaric.

“It is but too true,” replied one of them, the Marquis of Sevenwounds,
who had experience of revolutions.

There was dancing, and after the ball Princess Gudrune tore up her green
robe to make cockades. With her own hands she sewed a piece of it on the
monk’s breast, upon which he shed tears of sensibility and gratitude.

M. de Plume, the prince’s equerry, set out the same evening to look for
a green horse.



III. THE CABAL

After his return to the capital of Penguinia, the Reverend Father
Agaric disclosed his projects to Prince Adelestan des Boscenos, of whose
Draconian sentiments he was well aware.

The prince belonged to the highest nobility. The Torticol des Boscenos
went back to Brian the Good, and under the Draconides had held the
highest offices in the kingdom. In 1179, Philip Torticol, High Admiral
of Penguinia, a brave, faithful, and generous, but vindictive man,
delivered over the port of La Crique and the Penguin fleet to the
enemies of the kingdom, because he suspected that Queen Crucha, whose
lover he was, had been unfaithful to him and loved a stable-boy. It was
that great queen who gave to the Boscenos the silver warming-pan which
they bear in their arms. As for their motto, it only goes back to the
sixteenth century. The story of its origin is as follows: One gala
night, as he mingled with the crowd of courtiers who were watching the
fire-works in the king’s garden, Duke John des Boscenos approached the
Duchess of Skull and put his hand under the petticoat of that lady, who
made no complaint at the gesture. The king, happening to pass, surprised
them and contented himself with saying, “And thus I find you.” These
four words became the motto of the Boscenos.

Prince Adelestan had not degenerated from his ancestors. He preserved an
unalterable fidelity for the race of the Draconides and desired nothing
so much as the restoration of Prince Crucho, an event which was in his
eyes to be the fore-runner of the restoration of his own fortune. He
therefore readily entered into the Reverend Father Agaric’s plans. He
joined himself at once to the monk’s projects, and hastened to put him
into communication with the most loyal Royalists of his acquaintance,
Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, Viscount Olive, and M. Bigourd. They
met together one night in the Duke of Ampoule’s country house, six miles
eastward of Alca, to consider ways and means.

M. de La Trumelle was in favour of legal action.

“We ought to keep within the law,” said he in substance. “We are for
order. It is by an untiring propaganda that we shall best pursue the
realisation of our hopes. We must change the feeling of the country. Our
cause will conquer because it is just.”

The Prince des Boscenos expressed a contrary opinion. He thought that,
in order to triumph, just causes need force quite as much and even more
than unjust causes require it.

“In the present situation,” said he tranquilly, “three methods of action
present themselves: to hire the butcher boys, to corrupt the ministers,
and to kidnap President Formose.”

“It would be a mistake to kidnap Formose,” objected M. de La Trumelle.
“The President is on our side.”

The attitude and sentiments of the President of the Republic are
explained by the fact that one Dracophil proposed to seize Formose
while another Dracophil regarded him as a friend. Formose showed himself
favourable to the Royalists, whose habits he admired and imitated. If
he smiled at the mention of the Dragon’s crest it was at the thought
of putting it on his own head. He was envious of sovereign power, not
because he felt himself capable of exercising it, but because he loved
to appear so. According to the expression of a Penguin chronicler, “he
was a goose.”

Prince des Boscenos maintained his proposal to march against Formose’s
palace and the House of Parliament.

Count Clena was even still more energetic.

“Let us begin,” said he, “by slaughtering, disembowelling, and braining
the Republicans and all partisans of the government. Afterwards we shall
see what more need be done.”

M. de La Trumelle was a moderate, and moderates are always moderately
opposed to violence. He recognised that Count Clena’s policy was
inspired by a noble feeling and that it was high-minded, but he timidly
objected that perhaps it was not conformable to principle, and that it
presented certain dangers. At last he consented to discuss it.

“I propose,” added he, “to draw up an appeal to the people. Let us show
who we are. For my own part I can assure you that I shall not hide my
flag in my pocket.”

M. Bigourd began to speak.

“Gentlemen, the Penguins are dissatisfied with the new order because it
exists, and it is natural for men to complain of their condition. But at
the same time the Penguins are afraid to change their government because
new things alarm them. They have not known the Dragon’s crest and,
although they sometimes say that they regret it, we must not believe
them. It is easy to see that they speak in this way either without
thought or because they are in an ill-temper. Let us not have any
illusions about their feelings towards ourselves. They do not like us.
They hate the aristocracy both from a base envy and from a generous love
of equality. And these two united feelings are very strong in a people.
Public opinion is not against us, because it knows nothing about us. But
when it knows what we want it will not follow us. If we let it be seen
that we wish to destroy democratic government and restore the Dragon’s
crest, who will be our partisans? Only the butcher-boys and the little
shopkeepers of Alca. And could we even count on them to the end?
They are dissatisfied, but at the bottom of their hearts they are
Republicans. They are more anxious to sell their cursed wares than to
see Crucho again. If we act openly we shall only cause alarm.

“To make people sympathise with us and follow us we must make them
believe that we want, not to overthrow the Republic, but, on the
contrary, to restore it, to cleanse, to purify, to embellish, to adorn,
to beautify, and to ornament it, to render it, in a word, glorious and
attractive. Therefore, we ought not to act openly ourselves. It is known
that we are not favourable to the present order. We must have recourse
to a friend of the Republic, and, if we are to do what is best, to a
defender of this government. We have plenty to choose from. It would
be well to prefer the most popular and, if I dare say so, the most
republican of them. We shall win him over to us by flattery, by
presents, and above all by promises. Promises cost less than presents,
and are worth more. No one gives as much as he who gives hopes. It is
not necessary for the man we choose to be of brilliant intellect. I
would even prefer him to be of no great ability. Stupid people show an
inimitable grace in roguery. Be guided by me, gentlemen, and overthrow
the Republic by the agency of a Republican. Let us be prudent. But
prudence does not exclude energy. If you need me you will find me at
your disposal.”

This speech made a great impression upon those who heard it. The mind
of the pious Agaric was particularly impressed. But each of them was
anxious to appoint himself to a position of honour and profit. A secret
government was organised of which all those present were elected active
members. The Duke of Ampoule, who was the great financier of the
party, was chosen treasurer and charged with organising funds for the
propaganda.

The meeting was on the point of coming to an end when a rough voice was
heard singing an old air:

     Boscenos est un gros cochon;
     On en va faire des andouilles
     Des saucisses et du jambon
     Pour le reveillon des pauv’ bougres.

It had, for two hundred years, been a well-known song in the slums of
Alca. Prince Boscenos did not like to hear it. He went down into the
street, and, perceiving that the singer was a workman who was placing
some slates on the roof of a church, he politely asked him to sing
something else.

“I will sing what I like,” answered the man.

“My friend, to please me. . . .”

“I don’t want to please you.”

Prince Boscenos was as a rule good-tempered, but he was easily angered
and a man of great strength.

“Fellow, come down or I will go up to you,” cried he, in a terrible
voice.

As the workman, astride on his coping, showed no sign of budging, the
prince climbed quickly up the staircase of the tower and attacked the
singer. He gave him a blow that broke his jaw-bone and sent him rolling
into a water-spout. At that moment seven or eight carpenters, who were
working on the rafters, heard their companion’s cry and looked through
the window. Seeing the prince on the coping they climbed along a ladder
that was leaning on the slates and reached him just as he was slipping
into the tower. They sent him, head foremost, down the one hundred and
thirty-seven steps of the spiral staircase.



IV. VISCOUNTESS OLIVE

The Penguins had the finest army in the world. So had the Porpoises. And
it was the same with the other nations of Europe. The smallest amount of
thought will prevent any surprise at this. For all armies are the finest
in the world. The second finest army, if one could exist, would be in
a notoriously inferior position; it would be certain to be beaten. It
ought to be disbanded at once. Therefore, all armies are the finest in
the world. In France the illustrious Colonel Marchand understood
this when, before the passage of the Yalou, being questioned by some
journalists about the Russo-Japanese war, he did not hesitate to
describe the Russian army as the finest in the world, and also the
Japanese. And it should be noticed that even after suffering the most
terrible reverses an army does not fall from its position of being
the finest in the world. For if nations ascribe their victories to the
ability of their generals and the courage of their soldiers, they always
attribute their defeats to an inexplicable fatality. On the other hand,
navies are classed according to the number of their ships. There is a
first, a second, a third, and so on. So that there exists no doubt as to
the result of naval wars.

The Penguins had the finest army and the second navy in the world.
This navy was commanded by the famous Chatillon, who bore the title
of Emiralbahr, and by abbreviation Emiral. It is the same word which,
unfortunately in a corrupt form, is used to-day among several European
nations to designate the highest grade in the naval service. But as
there was but one Emiral among the Penguins, a singular prestige, if I
dare say so, was attached to that rank.

The Emiral did not belong to the nobility. A child of the people, he was
loved by the people. They were flattered to see a man who sprang from
their own ranks holding a position of honour. Chatillon was good-looking
and fortune favoured him. He was not over-addicted to thought. No event
ever disturbed his serene outlook.

The Reverend Father Agaric, surrendering to M. Bigourd’s reasons and
recognising that the existing government could only be destroyed by one
of its defenders, cast his eyes upon Emiral Chatillon. He asked a large
sum of money from his friend, the Reverend Father Cornemuse, which the
latter handed him with a sigh. And with this sum he hired six hundred
butcher boys of Alca to run behind Chatillon’s horse and shout, “Hurrah
for the Emiral!” Henceforth Chatillon could not take a single step
without being cheered.

Viscountess Olive asked him for a private interview. He received her at
the Admiralty* in a room decorated with anchors, shells, and grenades.

     * Or better, Emiralty.

She was discreetly dressed in greyish blue. A hat trimmed with roses
covered her pretty, fair hair, Behind her veil her eyes shone like
sapphires. Although she came of Jewish origin there was no more
fashionable woman in the whole nobility. She was tall and well shaped;
her form was that of the year, her figure that of the season.

“Emiral,” said she, in a delightful voice, “I cannot conceal my emotion
from you. . . . It is very natural . . . before a hero.”

“You are too kind. But tell me, Viscountess, what brings me the honour
of your visit.”

“For a long time I have been anxious to see you, to speak to you. . . .
So I very willingly undertook to convey a message to you.”

“Please take a seat.”

“How still it is here.”

“Yes, it is quiet enough.”

“You can hear the birds singing.”

“Sit down, then, dear lady.”

And he drew up an arm-chair for her.

She took a seat with her back to the light.

“Emiral, I came to bring you a very important message, a message. . .”

“Explain.”

“Emiral, have you ever seen Prince Crucho?”

“Never.”

She sighed.

“It is a great pity. He would be so delighted to see you! He esteems and
appreciates you. He has your portrait on his desk beside his mother’s.
What a pity it is he is not better known! He is a charming prince and so
grateful for what is done for him! He will be a great king. For he will
be king without doubt. He will come back and sooner than people think.
. . . What I have to tell you, the message with which I am entrusted,
refers precisely to. . .”

The Emiral stood up.

“Not a word more, dear lady. I have the esteem, the confidence of the
Republic. I will not betray it. And why should I betray it? I am loaded
honours and dignities.”

“Allow me to tell you, my dear Emiral, that your honours and dignities
are far from equalling what you deserve. If your services were
properly rewarded, you would be Emiralissimo and Generalissimo,
Commander-in-chief of the troops both on land and sea. The Republic is
very ungrateful to you.”

“All governments are more or less ungrateful.”

“Yes, but the Republicans are jealous of you. That class of person
is always afraid of his superiors. They cannot endure the Services.
Everything that has to do with the navy and the army is odious to them.
They are afraid of you.”

“That is possible.”

“They are wretches; they are ruining the country. Don’t you wish to save
Penguinia?

“In what way?”

“By sweeping away all the rascals of the Republic, all the Republicans.”

“What a proposal to make to me, dear lady!”

“It is what will certainly be done, if not by you, then by some one
else. The Generalissimo, to mention him alone, is ready to throw all
the ministers, deputies, and senators into the sea, and to recall Prince
Crucho.”

“Oh, the rascal, the scoundrel,” exclaimed the Emiral.

“Do to him what he would do to you. The prince will know how to
recognise your services, He will give you the Constable’s sword and a
magnificent grant. I am commissioned, in the mean time, to hand you a
pledge of his royal friendship.”

As she said these words she drew a green cockade from her bosom.

“What is that?” asked the Emiral.

“It is his colours which Crucho sends you.”

“Be good enough to take them back.”

“So that they may be offered to the Generalissimo who will accept them!
. . . No, Emiral, let me place them on your glorious breast.”

Chatillon gently repelled the lady. But for some minutes he thought her
extremely pretty, and he felt this impression still more when two bare
arms and the rosy palms of two delicate hands touched him lightly. He
yielded almost immediately. Olive was slow in fastening the ribbon. Then
when it was done she made a low courtesy and saluted Chatillon with the
title of Constable.

“I have been ambitious like my comrades,” answered the sailor, “I don’t
hide it, and perhaps I am so still; but u on my word of honour, when I
look at you, the only, desire I feel is for a cottage and a heart.”

She turned upon him the charming sapphire glances that flashed from
under her eyelids.

“That is to be had also . . . what are you doing, Emiral?”

“I am looking for the heart.”

When she left the Admiralty, the Viscountess went immediately to the
Reverend Father Agaric to give an account of her visit.

“You must go to him again, dear lady,” said that austere monk.



V. THE PRINCE DES BOSCENOS

Morning and evening the newspapers that had been bought by the
Dracophils proclaimed Chatillon’s praises and hurled shame and
opprobrium upon the Ministers of the Republic. Chatillon’s portrait was
sold through the streets of Alca. Those young descendants of Remus who
carry plaster figures on their heads, offered busts of Chatillon for
sale upon the bridges.

Every evening Chatillon rode upon his white horse round the Queen’s
Meadow, a place frequented by the people of fashion. The Dracophils
posted along the Emiral’s route a crowd of needy Penguins who kept
shouting: “It is Chatillon we want.” The middle classes of Alca
conceived a profound admiration for the Emiral. Shopwomen murmured:
“He is good-looking.” Women of fashion slackened the speed of their
motor-cars and kissed hands to him as they passed, amidst the hurrahs of
an enthusiastic populace.

One day, as he went into a tobacco shop, two Penguins who were putting
letters in the box recognized Chatillon and cried at the top of their
voices: “Hurrah for the Emiral! Down with the Republicans.” All those
who were passing stopped in front of the shop. Chatillon lighted his
cigar before the eyes of a dense crowd of frenzied citizens who waved
their hats and cheered. The crowd kept increasing, and the whole
town, singing and marching behind its hero, went back with him to the
Admiralty.

The Emiral had an old comrade in arms, Under-Emiral Vulcanmould, who had
served with great distinction, a man as true as gold and as loyal as his
sword. Vulcanmould plumed himself on his thoroughgoing independence and
he went among the partisans of Crucho and the Minister of the Republic
telling both parties what he thought of them. M. Bigourd maliciously
declared that he told each party what the other party thought of it.
In truth he had on several occasions been guilty of regrettable
indiscretions, which were overlooked as being the freedoms of a soldier
who knew nothing of intrigue. Every morning he went to see Chatillon,
whom he treated with the cordial roughness of a brother in arms.

“Well, old buffer, so you are popular,” said he to him. “Your phiz is
sold on the heads of pipes and on liqueur bottles and every drunkard in
Alca spits out your name as he rolls in the gutter. . . . Chatillon, the
hero of the Penguins! Chatillon, defender of the Penguin glory! . . .
Who would have said it? Who would have thought it?”

And he laughed with his harsh laugh. Then changing his tone: “But,
joking aside, are you not a bit surprised at what is happening to you?”

“No, indeed,” answered Chatillon.

And out went the honest Vulcanmould, banging the door behind him.

In the mean time Chatillon had taken a little flat at number 18
Johannes-Talpa Street, so that he might receive Viscountess Olive. They
met there every day. He was desperately in love with her. During his
martial and neptunian life he had loved crowds of women, red, black,
yellow, and white, and some of them had been very beautiful. But before
he met the Viscountess he did not know what a woman really was. When the
Viscountess Olive called him her darling, her dear darling, he felt in
heaven and it seemed to him that the stars shone in her hair.

She would come a little late, and, as she put her bag on the table, she
would ask pensively:

“Let me sit on your knee.”

And then she would talk of subjects suggested by the pious Agaric,
interrupting the conversation with sighs and kisses. She would ask him
to dismiss such and such an officer, to give a command to another,
to send the squadron here or there. And at the right moment she would
exclaim:

“How young you are, my dear!”

And he did whatever she wished, for he was simple, he was anxious to
wear the Constable’s sword, and to receive a large grant; he did not
dislike playing a double part, he had a vague idea of saving Penguinia,
and he was in love.

This delightful woman induced him to remove the troops that were at La
Cirque, the port where Crucho was to land. By this means it was made
certain that there would be no obstacle to prevent the prince from
entering Penguinia.

The pious Agaric organised public meetings so as to keep up the
agitation. The Dracophils held one or two every day in some of the
thirty-six districts of Alca, and preferably in the poorer quarters.
They desired to win over the poor, for they are the most numerous.
On the fourth of May a particularly fine meeting was held in an old
cattle-market, situated in the centre of a populous suburb filled with
housewives sitting on the doorsteps and children playing in the gutters.
There were present about two thousand people, in the opinion of
the Republicans, and six thousand according to the reckoning of the
Dracophils. In the audience was to be seen the flower of Penguin
society, including Prince and Princess des Boscenos, Count Clena, M. de
La Trumelle, M. Bigourd, and several rich Jewish ladies.

The Generalissimo of the national army had come in uniform. He was
cheered.

The committee had been carefully formed. A man of the people, a workman,
but a man of sound principles, M. Rauchin, the secretary of the yellow
syndicate, was asked to preside, supported by Count Clena and M.
Michaud, a butcher.

The government which Penguinia had freely given itself was called by
such names as cesspool and drain in several eloquent speeches. But
President Formose was spared and no mention was made of Crucho or the
priests.

The meeting was not unanimous. A defender of the modern State and of the
Republic, a manual labourer, stood up.

“Gentlemen,” said M. Rauchin, the chairman, “we have told you that this
meeting would not be unanimous. We are not like our opponents, we are
honest men. I allow our opponent to speak. Heaven knows what you are
going to hear. Gentlemen, I beg of you to restrain as long as you can
the expression of your contempt, your disgust, and your indignation.”

“Gentlemen,” said the opponent. . . .

Immediately he was knocked down, trampled beneath the feet of the
indignant crowd, and his unrecognisable remains thrown out of the hall.

The tumult was still resounding when Count Clena ascended the tribune.
Cheers took the place of groans and when silence was restored the orator
uttered these words:

“Comrades, we are going to see whether you have blood in your veins.
What we have got to do is to slaughter, disembowel, and brain all the
Republicans.”

This speech let loose such a thunder of applause that the old shed
rocked with it, and a cloud of acrid and thick dust fell from its filthy
walls and worm-eaten beams and enveloped the audience.

A resolution was carried vilifying the government and acclaiming
Chatillon. And the audience departed singing the hymn of the liberator:
“It is Chatillon we want.”

The only way out of the old market was through a muddy alley shut in by
omnibus stables and coal sheds. There was no moon and a cold drizzle was
coming down. The police, who were assembled in great numbers, blocked
the alley and compelled the Dracophils to disperse in little groups.
These were the instructions they had received from their chief, who was
anxious to check the enthusiasm of the excited crowd.

The Dracophils who were detained in the alley kept marking time and
singing, “It is Chatillon we want.” Soon, becoming impatient of the
delay, the cause of which they did not know, they began to push those in
front of them. This movement, propagated along the alley, threw those in
front against the broad chests of the police. The latter had no hatred
for the Dracophils. In the bottom of their hearts they liked Chatillon.
But it is natural to resist aggression and strong men are inclined to
make use of their strength. For these reasons the police kicked the
Dracophils with their hob-nailed boots. As a result there were sudden
rushes backwards and forwards. Threats and cries mingled with the songs.

“Murder! Murder! . . . It is Chatillon we want! Murder! Murder!”

And in the gloomy alley the more prudent kept saying, “Don’t push.”
 Among these latter, in the darkness, his lofty figure rising above the
moving crowd, his broad shoulders and robust body noticeable among
the trampled limbs and crushed sides of the rest, stood the Prince
des Boscenos, calm, immovable, and placid. Serenely and indulgently he
waited. In the mean time, as the exit was opened at regular intervals
between the ranks of the police, the pressure of elbows against the
chests of those around the prince diminished and people began to breathe
again.

“You see we shall soon be able to go out,” said that kindly giant, with
a pleasant smile. “Time and patience . . .”

He took a cigar from his case, raised it to his lips and struck a match.
Suddenly, in the light of the match, he saw Princess Anne, his wife,
clasped in Count Clena’s arms. At this sight he rushed towards them,
striking both them and those around with his cane. He was disarmed,
though not without difficulty, but he could not be separated from his
opponent. And whilst the fainting princess was lifted from arm to arm
to her carriage over the excited and curious crowd, the two men still
fought furiously. Prince des Boscenos lost his hat, his eye-glass,
his cigar, his necktie, and his portfolio full of private letters and
political correspondence; he even lost the miraculous medals that he
had received from the good Father Cornemuse. But he gave his opponent
so terrible a kick in the stomach that the unfortunate Count was knocked
through an iron grating and went, head foremost, through a glass door
and into a coal-shed.

Attracted by the struggle and the cries of those around, the police
rushed towards the prince, who furiously resisted them. He stretched
three of them gasping at his feet and put seven others to flight,
with, respectively, a broken jaw, a split lip, a nose pouring blood, a
fractured skull, a torn ear, a dislocated collar-bone, and broken ribs.
He fell, however, and was dragged bleeding and disfigured, with his
clothes in rags, to the nearest police-station, where, jumping about and
bellowing, he spent the night.

At daybreak groups of demonstrators went about the town singing, “It is
Chatillon we want,” and breaking the windows of the houses in which the
Ministers of the Republic lived.



VI. THE EMIRAL’S FALL

That night marked the culmination of the Dracophil movement. The
Royalists had no longer any doubt of its triumph. Their chiefs sent
congratulations to Prince Crucho by wireless telegraphy. Their ladies
embroidered scarves and slippers for him. M. de Plume had found the
green horse.

The pious Agaric shared the common hope. But he still worked to
win partisans for the Pretender. They ought, he said, to lay their
foundations upon the bed-rock.

With this design he had an interview with three Trade Union workmen.

In these times the artisans no longer lived, as in the days of the
Draconides, under the government of corporations. They were free, but
they had no assured pay. After having remained isolated from each other
for a long time, without help and without support, they had formed
themselves into unions. The coffers of the unions were empty, as it was
not the habit of the unionists to pay their subscriptions. There were
unions numbering thirty thousand members, others with a thousand,
five hundred, two hundred, and so forth. Several numbered two or three
members only, or even a few less. But as the lists of adherents were
not published, it was not easy to distinguish the great unions from the
small ones.

After some dark and indirect steps the pious Agaric was put into
communication in a room in the Moulin de la Galette, with comrades
Dagobert, Tronc, and Balafille, the secretaries of three unions of which
the first numbered fourteen members, the second twenty-four, and the
third only one. Agaric showed extreme cleverness at this interview.

“Gentlemen,” said he, “you and I have not, in most respects, the same
political and social views, but there are points in which we may come
to an understanding. We have a common enemy. The government exploits you
and despises us. Help us to overthrow it; we will supply you with
the means so far as we are able, and you can in addition count on our
gratitude.”

“Fork out the tin,” said Dagobert.

The Reverend Father placed on the table a bag which the distiller of
Conils had given him with tears in his eyes.

“Done!” said the three companions.

Thus was the solemn compact sealed.

As soon as the monk had departed, carrying with him the joy of having
won over the masses to his cause, Dagobert, Tronc, and Balafille
whistled to their wives, Amelia, Queenie, and Matilda, who were waiting
in the street for the signal, and all six holding each other’s hands,
danced around the bag, singing:

     J’ai du bon pognon,
     Tu n’l’auras pas Chatillon!
     Hou! Hou! la calotte!

And they ordered a salad-bowl full of warm wine.

In the evening all six went through the street from stall to stall
singing their new song. The song became popular, for the detectives
reported that every day showed an increase of the number of workpeople
who sang through the slums:

     J’ai du bon pognon;
     Tu n’l’auras pas Chatillon!
     Hou! Hou! la calotte!

The Dracophil agitation made no progress in the provinces. The pious
Agaric sought to find the cause of this, but was unable to discover it
until old Cornemuse revealed it to him.

“I have proofs,” sighed the monk of Conils, “that the Duke of Ampoule,
the treasurer of the Dracophils, has brought property in Porpoisia with
the funds that he received for the propaganda.”

The party wanted money. Prince des Boscenos had lost his portfolio in a
brawl and he was reduced to painful expedients which were repugnant to
his impetuous character. The Viscountess Olive was expensive. Cornemuse
advised that the monthly allowance of that lady should be diminished.

“She is very useful to us,” objected the pious Agaric.

“Undoubtedly,” answered Cornemuse, “but she does us an injury by ruining
us.”

A schism divided the Dracophils. Misunderstandings reigned in their
councils. Some wished that in accordance with the policy of M. Bigourd
and the pious Agaric, they should carry on the design of reforming the
Republic. Others, wearied by their long constraint, had resolved to
proclaim the Dragon’s crest and swore to conquer beneath that sign.

The latter urged the advantage of a clear situation and the
impossibility of making a pretence much longer, and in truth, the public
began to see whither the agitation was tending and that the Emiral’s
partisans wanted to destroy the very foundations of the Republic.

A report was spread that the prince was to land at La Cirque and make
his entry into Alca on a green horse.

These rumours excited the fanatical monks, delighted the poor nobles,
satisfied the rich Jewish ladies, and put hope in the hearts of the
small traders. But very few of them were inclined to purchase these
benefits at the price of a social catastrophe and the overthrow of the
public credit; and there were fewer still who would have risked their
money, their peace, their liberty, or a single hour from their pleasures
in the business. On the other hand, the workmen held themselves ready,
as ever, to give a day’s work to the Republic, and a strong resistance
was being formed in the suburbs.

“The people are with us,” the pious Agaric used to say.

However, men, women, and children, when leaving their factories, used to
shout with one voice:

     A bas Chatillon!
     Hou! Hou! la calotte!

As for the government, it showed the weakness, indecision, flabbiness,
and heedlessness common to all governments, and from which none has ever
departed without falling into arbitrariness and violence. In three words
it knew nothing, wanted nothing, and would do nothing. Formose, shut in
his presidential palace, remained blind, dumb, deaf, huge, invisible,
wrapped up in his pride as in an eider-down.

Count Olive advised the Dracophils to make a last appeal for funds and
to attempt a great stroke while Alca was still in a ferment.

An executive committee, which he himself had chosen, decided to kidnap
the members of the Chamber of Deputies, and considered ways and means.

The affair was fixed for the twenty-eighth of July. On that day the sun
rose radiantly over the city. In front of the legislative palace women
passed to market with their baskets; hawkers cried their peaches, pears,
and grapes; cab horses with their noses in their bags munched their
hay. Nobody expected anything, not because the secret had been kept
but because it met with nothing but unbelievers. Nobody believed in a
revolution, and from this fact we may conclude that nobody desired one.
About two o’clock the deputies began to pass, few and unnoticed, through
the side-door of the palace. At three o’clock a few groups of badly
dressed men had formed. At half past three black masses coming from the
adjacent streets spread over Revolution Square. This vast expanse was
soon covered by an ocean of soft hats, and the crowd of demonstrators,
continually increased by sight-seers, having crossed the bridge, struck
its dark wave against the walls of the legislative enclosure. Cries,
murmurs, and songs went up to the impassive sky. “It is Chatillon we
want!” “Down with the Deputies!” “Down with the Republicans!” “Death
to the Republicans!” The devoted band of Dracophils, led by Prince des
Boscenos, struck up the august canticle:

     Vive Crucho,
     Vaillant et sage,
     Plein de courage
     Des le berceau!

Behind the wall silence alone replied.

This silence and the absence of guards encouraged and at the same time
frightened the crowd. Suddenly a formidable voice cried out:

“Attack!”

And Prince des Boscenos was seen raising his gigantic form to the top
of the wall, which was covered with barbs and iron spikes. Behind him
rushed his companions, and the people followed. Some hammered against
the wall to make holes in it; others endeavoured to tear down the spikes
and to pull out the barbs. These defences had given way in places and
some of the invaders had stripped the wall and were sitting astride on
the top. Prince des Boscenos was waving an immense green flag. Suddenly
the crowd wavered and from it came a long cry of terror. The police
and the Republican carabineers issuing out of all the entrances of the
palace formed themselves into a column beneath the wall and in a moment
it was cleared of its besiegers. After a long moment of suspense the
noise of arms was heard, and the police charged the crowd with fixed
bayonets. An instant afterwards and on the deserted square strewn with
hats and walking-sticks there reigned a sinister silence. Twice again
the Dracophils attempted to form, twice they were repulsed. The rising
was conquered. But Prince des Boscenos, standing on the wall of the
hostile palace, his flag in his hand, still repelled the attack of a
whole brigade. He knocked down all who approached him. At last he, too,
was thrown down, and fell on an iron spike, to which he remained hooked,
still clasping the standard of the Draconides.

On the following day the Ministers of the Republic and the Members of
Parliament determined to take energetic measures. In vain, this time,
did President Formose attempt to evade his responsibilities. The
government discussed the question of depriving Chatillon of his rank and
dignities and of indicting him before the High Court as a conspirator,
an enemy of the public good, a traitor, etc.

At this news the Emiral’s old companions in arms, who the very evening
before had beset him with their adulations, made no effort to conceal
their joy. But Chatillon remained popular with the middle classes of
Alca and one still heard the hymn of the liberator sounding in the
streets, “It is Chatillon we want.”

The Ministers were embarrassed. They intended to indict Chatillon before
the High Court. But they knew nothing; they remained in that total
ignorance reserved for those who govern men. They were incapable of
advancing any grave charges against Chatillon. They could supply
the prosecution with nothing but the ridiculous lies of their spies.
Chatillon’s share in the plot and his relations with Prince Crucho
remained the secret of the thirty thousand Dracophils. The Ministers
and the Deputies had suspicions and even certainties, but they had no
proofs. The Public Prosecutor said to the Minister of justice: “Very
little is needed for a political prosecution! but I have nothing at all
and that is not enough.” The affair made no progress. The enemies of the
Republic were triumphant.

On the eighteenth of September the news ran in Alca that Chatillon had
taken flight. Everywhere there was surprise and astonishment. People
doubted, for they could not understand.

This is what had happened: One day as the brave Under-Emiral Vulcanmould
happened, as if by chance, to go into the office of M. Barbotan, the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, he remarked with his usual frankness:

“M. Barbotan, your colleagues do not seem to me to be up to much; it is
evident that they have never commanded a ship. That fool Chatillon gives
them a deuced bad fit of the shivers.”

The Minister, in sign of denial, waved his paper-knife in the air above
his desk.

“Don’t deny it,” answered Vulcanmould. “You don’t know how to get rid of
Chatillon. You do not dare to indict him before the High Court because
you are not sure of being able to bring forward a strong enough charge.
Bigourd will defend him, and Bigourd is a clever advocate. . . . You are
right, M. Barbotan, you are right. It would be a dangerous trial.”

“Ah! my friend,” said the Minister, in a careless tone, “if you knew
how satisfied we are. . . . I receive the most reassuring news from
my prefects. The good sense of the Penguins will do justice to the
intrigues of this mutinous soldier. Can you suppose for a moment that
a great people, an intelligent, laborious people, devoted to liberal
institutions which. . .”

Vulcanmould interrupted with a great sigh:

“Ah! If I had time to do it I would relieve you of your difficulty. I
would juggle away my Chatillon like a nutmeg out of a thimble. I would
fillip him off to Porpoisia.”

The Minister paid close attention.

“It would not take long,” continued the sailor. “I would rid you in a
trice of the creature. . . . But just now I have other fish to fry. . . .
I am in a bad hole. I must find a pretty big sum. But, deuce take it,
honour before everything.”

The Minister and the Under-Emiral looked at each other for a moment in
silence. Then Barbotan said with authority:

“Under-Emiral Vulcanmould, get rid of this seditious soldier. You will
render a great service to Penguinia, and the Minister of Home Affairs
will see that your gambling debts are paid.”

The same evening Vulcanmould called on Chatillon and looked at him for
some time with an expression of grief and mystery.

“My do you look like that?” asked the Emiral in an uneasy tone.

Vulcanmould said to him sadly:

“Old brother in arms, all is discovered. For the past half-hour the
government knows everything.”

At these words Chatillon sank down overwhelmed.

Vulcanmould continued:

“You may be arrested any moment. I advise you to make off.”

And drawing out his watch:

“Not a minute to lose.”

“Have I time to call on the Viscountess Olive?”

“It would be mad,” said Vulcanmould, handing him a passport and a pair
of blue spectacles, and telling him to have courage.

“I will,” said Chatillon.

“Good-bye! old chum.”

“Good-bye and thanks! You have saved my life.”

“That is the least I could do.”

A quarter of an hour later the brave Emiral had left the city of Alca.

He embarked at night on an old cutter at La Cirque and set sail
for Porpoisia. But eight miles from the coast he was captured by a
despatch-boat which was sailing without lights and which was under, the
flag of the Queen of the Black Islands. That Queen had for a long time
nourished a fatal passion for Chatillon.



VII. CONCLUSION

Nunc est bibendum. Delivered from its fears and pleased at having
escaped from so great a danger, the government resolved to celebrate
the anniversary of the Penguin regeneration and the establishment of the
Republic by holding a general holiday.

President Formose, the Ministers, and the members of the Chamber and of
the Senate were present at the ceremony.

The Generalissimo of the Penguin army was present in uniform. He was
cheered.

Preceded by the black flag of misery and the red flag of revolt,
deputations of workmen walked in the procession, their aspect one of
grim protection.

President, Ministers, Deputies, officials, heads of the magistracy and
of the army, each, in their own names and in the name of the sovereign
people, renewed the ancient oath to live in freedom or to die. It was
an alternative upon which they were resolutely determined. But they
preferred to live in freedom. There were games, speeches, and songs.

After the departure of the representatives of the State the crowd of
citizens separated slowly and peaceably, shouting out, “Hurrah for the
Republic!” “Hurrah for liberty!” “Down with the shaven pates!”

The newspapers mentioned only one regrettable incident that happened on
that wonderful day. Prince des Boscenos was quietly smoking a cigar
in the Queen’s Meadow when the State procession passed by. The prince
approached the Minister’s carriage and said in a loud voice: “Death to
the Republicans!” He was immediately apprehended by the police, to whom
he offered a most desperate resistance. He knocked them down in crowds,
but he was conquered by numbers, and, bruised, scratched, swollen, and
unrecognisable even to the eyes of his wife, he was dragged through the
joyous streets into an obscure prison.

The magistrates carried on the case against Chatillon in a peculiar
style. Letters were found at the Admiralty which revealed the complicity
of the Reverend Father Agaric in the plot. Immediately public opinion
was inflamed against the monks, and Parliament voted, one after the
other, a dozen laws which restrained, diminished, limited, prescribed,
suppressed, determined, and curtailed, their rights, immunities,
exemptions, privileges, and benefits, and created many invalidating
disqualifications against them.

The Reverend Father Agaric steadfastly endured the rigour of the laws
which struck himself personally, as well as the terrible fall of the
Emiral of which he was the chief cause. Far from yielding to evil
fortune, he regarded it as but a bird of passage. He was planning new
political designs more audacious than the first.

When his projects were sufficiently ripe he went one day to the Wood of
Conils. A thrush sang in a tree and a little hedgehog crossed the
stony path in front of him with awkward steps. Agaric walked with great
strides, muttering fragments of sentences to himself.

When he reached the door of the laboratory in which, for so many
years, the pious manufacturer bad distilled the golden liqueur of St.
Orberosia, he found the place deserted and the door shut. Having walked
around the building he saw in the backyard the venerable Cornemuse, who,
with his habit pinned up, was climbing a ladder that leant against the
wall.

“Is that you, my dear friend?” said he to him. “What are you doing
there?”

“You can see for yourself,” answered the monk of Conils in a feeble
voice, turning a sorrowful look Upon Agaric. “I am going into my house.”

The red pupils of his eyes no longer imitated the triumph and brilliance
of the ruby, they flashed mournful and troubled glances. His countenance
had lost its happy fulness. His shining head was no longer pleasant
to the sight; perspiration and inflamed blotches bad altered its
inestimable perfection.

“I don’t understand,” said Agaric.

“It is easy enough to understand. You see the consequences of your plot.
Although a multitude of laws are directed against me I have managed to
elude the greater number of them. Some, however, have struck me. These
vindictive men have closed my laboratories and my shops, and confiscated
my bottles, my stills, and my retorts. They have put seals on my doors
and now I am compelled to go in through the window. I am barely able to
extract in secret and from time to time the juice of a few plants and
that with an apparatus which the humblest labourer would despise.”

“You suffer from the persecution,” said Agaric. “It strikes us all.”

The monk of Conils passed his hand over his afflicted brow:

“I told you so, Brother Agaric; I told you that your enterprise would
turn against ourselves.”

“Our defeat is only momentary,” replied Agaric eagerly. “It is due to
purely accidental causes; it results from mere contingencies. Chatillon
was a fool; he has drowned himself in his own ineptitude. Listen to
me, Brother Cornemuse. We have not a moment to lose. We must free the
Penguin people, we must deliver them from their tyrants, save them from
themselves, restore the Dragon’s crest, reestablish the ancient State,
the good State, for the honour of religion and the exaltation of the
Catholic faith. Chatillon was a bad instrument; he broke in our hands.
Let us take a better instrument to replace him. I have the man who will
destroy this impious democracy. He is a civil official; his name is
Gomoru. The Penguins worship him, He has already betrayed his party for
a plate of rice. There’s the man we want!”

At the beginning of this speech the monk of Conils had climbed into his
window and pulled up the ladder.

“I foresee,” answered he, with his nose through the sash, “that you will
not stop until you have us all expelled from this pleasant, agreeable,
and sweet land of Penguinia. Good night; God keep you!”

Agaric, standing before the wall, entreated his dearest brother to
listen to him for a moment:

“Understand your own interest better, Cornemuse! Penguinia is ours. What
do we need to conquer it? just one effort more . . . one more little
sacrifice of money and . . .”

But without listening further, the monk of Conils drew in his head and
closed his window.



BOOK VI. MODERN TIMES.

THE AFFAIR OF THE EIGHTY THOUSAND TRUSSES OF HAY

O Father Zeus, only save thou the sons of the Acheans from the darkness,
and make clear sky and vouchsafe sight to our eyes, and then, so it be
but light, slay us, since such is thy good pleasure. (Iliad, xvii. 645
et seq.)



I. GENERAL GREATAUK, DUKE OF SKULL

A short time after the flight of the Emiral, a middle-class Jew called
Pyrot, desirous of associating with the aristocracy and wishing to serve
his country, entered the Penguin army. The Minister of War, who at the
time was Greatauk, Duke of Skull, could not endure him. He blamed him
for his zeal, his hooked nose, his vanity, his fondness for study, his
thick lips, and his exemplary conduct. Every time the author of any
misdeed was looked for, Greatauk used to say:

“It must be Pyrot!”

One morning General Panther, the Chief of the Staff, informed Greatauk
of a serious matter. Eighty thousand trusses of hay intended for the
cavalry had disappeared and not a trace of them was to be found.

Greatauk exclaimed at once:

“It must be Pyrot who has stolen them!”

He remained in thought for some time and said: “The more I think of
it the more I am convinced that Pyrot has stolen those eighty thousand
trusses of hay. And I know it by this: he stole them in order that he
might sell them to our bitter enemies the Porpoises. What an infamous
piece of treachery!

“There is no doubt about it,” answered Panther; “it only remains to
prove it.”

The same day, as he passed by a cavalry barracks, Prince des Boscenos
heard the troopers as they were sweeping out the yard, singing:

     Boscenos est un gros cochon;
     On en va faire des andouilles,
     Des saucisses et du jambon
     Pour le riveillon des pauy’ bougres.

It seemed to him contrary to all discipline that soldiers should sing
this domestic and revolutionary refrain which on days of riot had been
uttered by the lips of jeering workmen. On this occasion he deplored the
moral degeneration of the army, and thought with a bitter smile that his
old comrade Greatauk, the head of this degenerate army, basely exposed
him to the malice of an unpatriotic government. And he promised himself
that he would make an improvement before long.

“That scoundrel Greatauk,” said he to himself, “will, not remain long a
Minister.”

Prince des Boscenos was the most irreconcilable of the opponents of
modern democracy, free thought, and the government which the Penguins had
voluntarily given themselves. He had a vigorous and undisguised hatred
for the Jews, and he worked in public and in private, night and day, for
the restoration of the line of the Draconides. His ardent royalism was
still further excited by the thought of his private affairs, which were
in a bad way and were hourly growing worse. He had no hope of seeing an
end to his pecuniary embarrassments until the heir of Draco the Great
entered the city of Alca.

When he returned to his house, the prince took out of his safe a bundle
of old letters consisting of a private correspondence of the most secret
nature, which he had obtained from a treacherous secretary. They proved
that his old comrade Greatauk, the Duke of Skull, had been guilty of
jobbery regarding the military stores and had received a present of no
great value from a manufacturer called Maloury. The very smallness of
this present deprived the Minister who had accepted it of all excuse.

The prince re-read the letters with a bitter satisfaction, put them
carefully back into his safe, and dashed to the Minister of War. He was
a man of resolute character. On being told that the Minister could see
no one he knocked down the ushers, swept aside the orderlies, trampled
under foot the civil and military clerks, burst through the doors, and
entered the room of the astonished Greatauk.

“I will not say much,” said he to him, “but I will speak to the point.
You are a confounded cad. I have asked you to put a flea in the ear of
General Mouchin, the tool of those Republicans, and you would not do it.
I have asked you to give a command to General des Clapiers, who works
for the Dracophils, and who has obliged me personally, and you would not
do it. I have asked you to dismiss General Tandem, the commander of Port
Alca, who robbed me of fifty louis at cards, and who had me handcuffed
when I was brought before the High Court as Emiral Chatillon’s
accomplice. You would not do it. I asked you for the hay and bran
stores. You would not give them. I asked you to send me on a secret
mission to Porpoisia. You refused. And not satisfied with these repeated
refusals you have designated me to your Government colleagues as a
dangerous person, who ought to be watched, and it is owing to you that
I have been shadowed by the police. You old traitor! I ask nothing more
from you and I have but one word to say to you: Clear out; you have
bothered us too long. Besides, we will force the vile Republic to
replace you by one of our own party. You know that I am a man of my
word. If in twenty-four hours you have not handed in your resignation I
will publish the Maloury dossier in the newspapers.”

But Greatauk calmly and serenely replied:

“Be quiet, you fool. I am just having a Jew transported. I am handing
over Pyrot to justice as guilty of having stolen eighty thousand trusses
of hay.”

Prince Boscenos, whose anger vanished like a dream, smiled.

“Is that true?”

“You will see.”

“My congratulations, Greatauk. But as one always needs to take
precautions with you I shall immediately publish the good news. People
will read this evening about Pyrot’s arrest in every newspaper in
Alca . . . .”

And he went away muttering:

“That Pyrot! I suspected he would come to a bad end.”

A moment later General Panther appeared before Greatauk.

“Sir,” said he, “I have just examined the business of the eighty
thousand trusses of hay. There is no evidence against Pyrot.”

“Let it be found,” answered Greatauk. “Justice requires it. Have Pyrot
arrested at once.”



II. PYROT

All Penguinia heard with horror of Pyrot’s crime; at the same time
there was a sort of satisfaction that this embezzlement combined with
treachery and even bordering on sacrilege, had been committed by a Jew.
In order to understand this feeling it is necessary to be acquainted
with the state of public opinion regarding the Jews both great and
small. As we have had occasion to say in this history, the universally
detested and all powerful financial caste was composed of Christians and
of Jews. The Jews who formed part of it and on whom the people poured
all their hatred were the upper-class Jews. They possessed immense
riches and, it was said, held more than a fifth part of the total
property of Penguinia. Outside this formidable caste there was a
multitude of Jews of a mediocre condition, who were not more loved than
the others and who were feared much less. In every ordered State, wealth
is a sacred thing: in democracies it is the only sacred thing. Now
the Penguin State was democratic. Three or four financial companies
exercised a more extensive, and above all, more effective and continuous
power, than that of the Ministers of the Republic. The latter were
puppets whom the companies ruled in secret, whom they compelled by
intimidation or corruption to favour themselves at the expense of the
State, and whom they ruined by calumnies in the press if they remained
honest. In spite of the secrecy of the Exchequer, enough appeared to
make the country indignant, but the middle-class Penguins had, from the
greatest to the least of them, been brought up to hold money in great
reverence, and as they all had property, either much or little, they
were strongly impressed with the solidarity of capital and understood
that a small fortune is not safe unless a big one is protected. For
these reasons they conceived a religious respect for the Jews’ millions,
and self-interest being stronger with them than aversion, they were as
much afraid as they were of death to touch a single hair of one of the
rich Jews whom they detested. Towards the poorer Jews they felt less
ceremonious and when they saw any of them down they trampled on them.
That is why the entire nation learnt with thorough satisfaction that the
traitor was a Jew. They could take vengeance on all Israel in his person
without any fear of compromising the public credit.

That Pyrot had stolen the eighty thousand trusses of hay nobody
hesitated for a moment to believe. No one doubted because the general
ignorance in which everybody was concerning the affair did not allow of
doubt, for doubt is a thing that demands motives. People do not doubt
without reasons in the same way that people believe without reasons. The
thing was not doubted because it was repeated everywhere and, with the
public, to repeat is to prove. It was not doubted because people wished
to believe Pyrot guilty and one believes what one wishes to believe.
Finally, it was not doubted because the faculty of doubt is rare amongst
men; very few minds carry in them its germs and these are not developed
without cultivation. Doubt is singular, exquisite, philosophic, immoral,
transcendent, monstrous, full of malignity, injurious to persons and
to property, contrary to the good order of governments, and to the
prosperity of empires, fatal to humanity, destructive of the gods, held
in horror by heaven and earth. The mass of the Penguins were ignorant
of doubt: it believed in Pyrot’s guilt and this conviction immediately
became one of its chief national beliefs and an essential truth in its
patriotic creed.

Pyrot was tried secretly and condemned.

General Panther immediately went to the Minister of War to tell him the
result.

“Luckily,” said he, “the judges were certain, for they had no proofs.”

“Proofs,” muttered Greatauk, “Proofs, what do they prove? There is only
one certain, irrefragable proof--the confession of the guilty person.
Has Pyrot confessed?”

“No, General.”

“He will confess, he ought to. Panther, we must induce him; tell him it
is to his interest. Promise him that, if he confesses, he will obtain
favours, a reduction of his sentence, full pardon; promise him that if
he confesses his innocence will be admitted, that he will be decorated.
Appeal to his good feelings. Let him confess from patriotism, for the
flag, for the sake of order, from respect for the hierarchy, at the
special command of the Minister of War militarily. . . . But tell me,
Panther, has he not confessed already? There are tacit confessions;
silence is a confession.”

“But, General, he is not silent; he keeps on squealing like a pig that
he is innocent.”

“Panther, the confessions of a guilty man sometimes result from the
vehemence of his denials. To deny desperately is to confess. Pyrot has
confessed; we must have witnesses of his confessions, justice requires
them.”

There was in Western Penguinia a seaport called La Cirque, formed of
three small bays and formerly greatly frequented by ships, but now
solitary and deserted. Gloomy lagoons stretched along its low coasts
exhaling a pestilent odour, while fever hovered over its sleepy waters.
Here, on the borders of the sea, there was built a high square tower,
like the old Campanile at Venice, from the side of which, close to the
summit hung an open cage which was fastened by a chain to a transverse
beam. In the times of the Draconides the Inquisitors of Alca used to
put heretical clergy into this cage. It had been empty for three hundred
years, but now Pirot was imprisoned in it under the guard of sixty
warders, who lived in the tower and did not lose sight of him night or
day, spying on him for confessions that they might afterwards report
to the Minister of War. For Greatauk, careful and prudent, desired
confessions and still further confessions. Greatauk, who was looked
upon as a fool, was in reality a man of great ability and full of rare
foresight.

In the mean time Pyrot, burnt by the sun, eaten by mosquitoes, soaked
in the rain, hail and snow, frozen by the cold, tossed about terribly by
the wind, beset by the sinister croaking of the ravens that perched upon
his cage, kept writing down his innocence on pieces torn off his shirt
with a tooth-pick dipped in blood. These rags were lost in the sea or
fell into the hands of the gaolers. But Pyrot’s protests moved nobody
because his confessions had been published.



III. COUNT DE MAUBEC DE LA DENTDULYNX

The morals of the Jews were not always pure; in most cases they were
averse from none of the vices of Christian civilization, but they
retained from the Patriarchal age a recognition of family, ties and
an attachment to the interests of the tribe. Pyrot’s brothers,
half-brothers, uncles, great-uncles, first, second, and third cousins,
nephews and great-nephews, relations by blood and relations by marriage,
and all who were related to him to the number of about seven hundred,
were at first overwhelmed by the blow that had struck their relative,
and they shut themselves up in their houses, covering themselves with
ashes and blessing the hand that had chastised them. For forty days they
kept a strict fast. Then they bathed themselves and resolved to search,
without rest, at the cost of any toil and at the risk of eve danger,
for the demonstration of an innocence which they did not doubt. And how
could they have doubted? Pyrot’s innocence had been revealed to them in
the same way that his guilt had been revealed to Christian Penguinia’s;
for these things, being hidden, assume a mystic character and take on
the authority of religious truths. The seven hundred Pyrotists set to
work with as much zeal as prudence, and made the most thorough inquiries
in secret. They were everywhere; they were seen nowhere. One would have
said that, like the pilot of Ulysses, they wandered freely over the
earth. They penetrated into the War Office and approached, under
different disguises, the judges, the registrars, and the witnesses of
the affair. Then Greatauk’s cleverness was seen. The witnesses knew
nothing; the judges and registrars knew nothing. Emissaries reached
even Pyrot and anxiously questioned him in his cage amid the prolonged
moanings of the sea and the hoarse croaks of the ravens. It was in vain;
the prisoner knew nothing. The seven hundred Pyrotists could not subvert
the proofs of the accusation because they could not know what they were,
and they could not know what they were because there were none. Pyrot’s
guilt was indefeasible through its very nullity. And it was with a
legitimate pride that Greatauk, expressing himself as a true artist,
said one day to General Panther: “This case is a master-piece: it is
made out of nothing.” The seven hundred Pyrotists despaired of ever
clearing up this dark business, when suddenly they discovered, from
a stolen letter, that the eighty thousand trusses of hay had never
existed, that a most distinguished nobleman, Count de Maubec, had
sold them to the State, that he had received the price but had never
delivered them. Indeed seeing that he was descended from the richest
landed proprietors of ancient Penguinia, the heir of the Maubecs of
Dentdulynx, once the possessors of four duchies, sixty counties, and six
hundred and twelve marquisates, baronies, and viscounties, he did not
possess as much land as he could cover with his hand, and would not have
been able to cut a single day’s mowing of forage off his own domains. As
to his getting a single rush from a land-owner or a merchant, that would
have been quite impossible, for everybody except the Ministers of State
and the Government officials knew that it would be easier to get blood
from a stone than a farthing from a Maubec.

The seven hundred Pyrotists made a minute inquiry concerning the Count
Maubec de la Dentdulynx’s financial resources, and they proved that that
nobleman was chiefly supported by a house in which some generous ladies
were ready to furnish all comers with the most lavish hospitality.
They publicly proclaimed that he was guilty of the theft of the eighty
thousand trusses of straw for which an innocent man had been condemned
and was now imprisoned in the cage.

Maubec belonged to an illustrious family which was allied to the
Draconides. There is nothing that a democracy esteems more highly than
noble birth. Maubec had also served in the Penguin army, and since the
Penguins were all soldiers, they loved their army to idolatry. Maubec,
on the field of battle, had received the Cross, which is a sign of
honour among the Penguins and which they valued even more highly than
the embraces of their wives. All Penguinia declared for Maubec, and the
voice of the people which began to assume a threatening tone, demanded
severe punishments for the seven hundred calumniating Pyrotists.

Maubec was a nobleman; he challenged the seven hundred Pyrotists to
combat with either sword, sabre, pistols, carabines, or sticks.

“Vile dogs,” he wrote to them in a famous letter, “you have crucified
my God and you want my life too; I warn you that I will not be such a
duffer as He was and that I will cut off your fourteen hundred ears.
Accept my boot on your seven hundred behinds.”

The Chief of the Government at the time was a peasant called Robin
Mielleux, a man pleasant to the rich and powerful, but hard towards the
poor, a man of small courage and ignorant of his own interests. In a
public declaration he guaranteed Maubec’s innocence and honour, and
presented the seven hundred Pyrotists: to the criminal courts where they
were condemned, as libellers, to imprisonment, to enormous fines, and to
all the damages that were claimed by their innocent victim.

It seemed as if Pyrot was destined to remain for ever shut in the cage
on which the ravens perched. But all the Penguins being anxious to know
and prove that this Jew was guilty, all the proofs brought forward were
found not to be good, while some of them were also contradictory. The
officers of the Staff showed zeal but lacked prudence. Whilst Greatauk
kept an admirable silence, General Panther made inexhaustible speeches
and every morning demonstrated in the newspapers that the condemned man
was guilty. He would have done better, perhaps, if he had said nothing.
The guilt was evident and what is evident cannot be demonstrated. So
much reasoning disturbed people’s minds; their faith, though still
alive, became less serene. The more proofs one gives a crowd the more
they ask for.

Nevertheless the danger of proving too much would not have been great if
there had not been in Penguinia, as there are, indeed, everywhere, minds
framed for free inquiry, capable of studying a difficult question, and
inclined to philosophic doubt. They were few; they were not all inclined
to speak, and the public was by no means inclined to listen to them.
Still, they did not always meet with deaf ears. The great Jews, all the
Israelite millionaires of Alca, when spoken to of Pyrot, said: “We do
not know the man”; but they thought of saving him. They preserved the
prudence to which their wealth inclined them and wished that others
would be less timid. Their wish was to be gratified.



IV. COLOMBAN

Some weeks after the conviction of the seven hundred Pyrotists, a
little, gruff, hairy, short-sighted man left his house one morning
with a paste-pot, a ladder, and a bundle of posters and went about the
streets pasting placards to the walls on which might be read in large
letters: Pyrot is innocent, Maubec is guilty. He was not a bill-poster;
his name was Colomban, and as the author of sixty volumes on Penguin
sociology he was numbered among the most laborious and respected writers
in Alca. Having given sufficient thought to the matter and no longer
doubting Pyrot’s innocence, he proclaimed it in the manner which he
thought would be most sensational. He met with no hindrance while
posting his bills in the quiet streets, but when he came to the populous
quarters, every time he mounted his ladder, inquisitive people crowded
round him and, dumbfounded with surprise and indignation, threw at
him threatening looks which he received with the calm that comes from
courage and short-sightedness. Whilst caretakers and tradespeople tore
down the bills he had posted, he kept on zealously placarding, carrying
his tools and followed by little boys who, with their baskets under
their arms or their satchels on their backs, were in no hurry to reach
school. To the mute indignation against him, protests and murmurs were
now added. But Colomban did not condescend to see or hear anything.
As, at the entrance to the Rue St. Orberosia, he was posting one of his
squares of paper bearing the words: Pyrot is innocent, Maubec is guilty,
the riotous crowd showed signs of the most violent anger. They called
after him, “Traitor, thief, rascal, scoundrel.” A woman opened a window
and emptied a vase full of filth over his head, a cabby sent his hat
flying from one end of the street to the other by a blow of his
whip amid the cheers of the crowd who now felt themselves avenged. A
butcher’s boy knocked Colomban with his paste-pot, his brush, and his
posters, from the top of his ladder into the gutter, and the proud
Penguins then felt the greatness of their country. Colomban stood up,
covered with filth, lame, and with his elbow injured, but tranquil and
resolute.

“Low brutes,” he muttered, shrugging his shoulders.

Then he went down on all-fours in the gutter to look for his glasses
which he had lost in his fall. It was then seen that his coat was split
from the collar to the tails and that his trousers were in rags. The
rancour of the crowd grew stronger.

On the other side of the street stretched the big St. Orberosian Stores.
The patriots seized whatever they could lay their hands on from the shop
front, and hurled at Colomban oranges, lemons, pots of jam, pieces of
chocolate, bottles of liqueurs, boxes of sardines, pots of foie gras,
hams, fowls, flasks of oil, and bags of haricots. Covered with the
debris of the food, bruised, tattered, lame, and blind, he took to
flight, followed by the shop-boys, bakers, loafers, citizens, and
hooligans whose number increased each moment and who kept shouting:
“Duck him! Death to the traitor! Duck him!” This torrent of vulgar
humanity swept along the streets and rushed into the Rue St. Mael.
The police did their duty. From all the adjacent streets constables
proceeded and, holding their scabbards with their left hands, they
went at full speed in front of the pursuers. They were on the point of
grabbing Colomban in their huge hands when he suddenly escaped them by
falling through an open man-hole to the bottom of a sewer.

He spent the night there in the darkness, sitting close by the dirty
water amidst the fat and slimy rats. He thought of his task, and his
swelling heart filled with courage and pity. And when the dawn threw
a pale ray of light into the air-hole he got up and said, speaking to
himself:

“I see that the fight will be a stiff one.”

Forthwith he composed a memorandum in which he clearly showed that
Pyrot could not have stolen from the Ministry of War the eighty thousand
trusses of hay which it had never received, for the reason that Maubec
had never delivered them, though he had received the money. Colomban
caused this statement to be distributed in the streets of Alca. The
people refused to read it and tore it up in anger. The shop-keepers
shook their fists at the distributers, who made off, chased by angry
women armed with brooms. Feelings grew warm and the ferment lasted the
whole day. In the evening bands of wild and ragged men went about
the streets yelling: “Death to Colomban!” The patriots snatched whole
bundles of the memorandum from the newsboys and burned them in the
public squares, dancing wildly round these bon-fires with girls whose
petticoats were tied up to their waists.

Some of the more enthusiastic among them went and broke the windows of
the house in which Colomban had lived in perfect tranquillity during his
forty years of work.

Parliament was roused and asked the Chief of the Government what
measures he proposed to take in order to repel the odious attacks
made by Colomban upon the honour of the National Arm and the safety
of Penguinia. Robin Mielleux denounced Colomban’s impious audacity and
proclaimed amid the cheers of the legislators that the man would be
summoned before the Courts to answer for his infamous libel.

The Minister of War was called to the tribune and appeared in it
transfigured. He had no longer the air, as in former days, of one of the
sacred geese of the Penguin citadels. Now, bristling, with outstretched
neck and hooked beak, he seemed the symbolical vulture fastened to the
livers of his country’s enemies.

In the august silence of the assembly he pronounced these words only:

“I swear that Pyrot is a rascal.”

This speech of Greatauk was reported all over Penguinia and satisfied
the public conscience.



V. THE REVEREND FATHERS AGARIC AND CORNEMUSE

Colomban bore with meekness and surprise the weight of the general
reprobation. He could not go out without being stoned, so he did not
go out. He remained in his study with a superb obstinacy, writing new
memoranda in favour of the encaged innocent. In the mean time among
the few readers that he found, some, about a dozen, were struck by his
reasons and began to doubt Pyrot’s guilt. They broached the subject to
their friends and endeavoured to spread the light that had arisen in
their minds. One of them was a friend of Robin Mielleux and confided to
him his perplexities, with the result that he was no longer received by
that Minister. Another demanded explanations in an open letter to the
Minister of War. A third published a terrible pamphlet. The latter,
whose name was Kerdanic, was a formidable controversialist. The public
was unmoved. It was said that these defenders of the traitor had been
bribed by the rich Jews; they were stigmatized by the name of Pyrotists
and the patriots swore to exterminate them. There were only a thousand
or twelve hundred Pyrotists in the whole vast Republic, but it was
believed that they were everywhere. People were afraid of finding
them in the promenades, at meetings, at receptions, in fashionable
drawing-rooms, at the dinner-table, even in the conjugal couch. One half
of the population was suspected by the other half. The discord set all
Alca on fire.

In the mean time Father Agaric, who managed his big school for young
nobles, followed events with anxious attention. The misfortunes of the
Penguin Church had not disheartened him. He remained faithful to Prince
Crucho and preserved the hope of restoring the heir of the Draconides
to the Penguin throne. It appeared to him that the events that were
happening or about to happen in the country, the state of mind of
which they were at once the effect and the cause, and the troubles that
necessarily resulted from them might--if they were directed, guided, and
led by the profound wisdom of a monk--overthrow the Republic and incline
the Penguins to restore Prince Crucho, from whose piety the faithful
hoped for so much solace. Wearing his huge black hat, the brims of which
looked like the wings of Night, he walked through the Wood of Conils
towards the factory where his venerable friend, Father Cornemuse,
distilled the hygienic St. Orberosian liqueur, The good monk’s industry,
so cruelly affected in the time of Emiral Chatillon, was being restored
from its ruins. One heard goods trains rumbling through the Wood and one
saw in the sheds hundreds of orphans clothed in blue, packing bottles
and nailing up cases.

Agaric found the venerable Cornemuse standing before his stoves and
surrounded by his retorts. The shining pupils of the old man’s eyes had
again become as rubies, his skull shone with its former elaborate and
careful polish.

Agaric first congratulated the pious distiller on the restored activity
of his laboratories and workshops.

“Business is recovering. I thank God for it,” answered the old man of
Conils. “Alas! it had fallen into a bad state, Brother Agaric. You raw
the desolation of this establishment. I need say no more.”

Agaric turned away his head.

“The St. Orberosian liqueur,” continued Cornemuse, “is making fresh
conquests. But none the less my industry remains uncertain and
precarious. The laws of ruin and desolation that struck it have not been
abrogated, they have only been suspended.”

And the monk of Conils lifted his ruby eyes to heaven.

Agaric put his hand on his shoulder.

“What a sight, Cornemuse, does unhappy Penguinia present to us!
Everywhere disobedience, independence, liberty! We seethe proud, the
haughty, the men of revolt rising up. After having braved the Divine
laws they now rear themselves against human laws, so true is it that in
order to be a good citizen a man must be a good Christian. Colomban
is trying to imitate Satan. Numerous criminals are following his fatal
example. They want, in their rage, to put aside all checks, to throw off
all yokes, to free themselves from the most sacred bonds, to escape from
the most salutary restraints. They strike their country to make it obey
them. But they will be overcome by the weight of public animadversion,
vituperation, indignation, fury, execration, and abomination. That is
the abyss to which they have been led by atheism, free thought, and the
monstrous claim to judge for themselves and to form their own opinions.”

“Doubtless, doubtless,” replied Father Cornemuse, shaking his head, “but
I confess that the care of distilling these simples has prevented me
from following public affairs. I only know that people are talking a
great deal about a man called Pyrot. Some maintain that he is guilty,
others affirm that he is innocent, but I do not clearly understand the
motives that drive both parties to mix themselves up in a business that
concerns neither of them.”

The pious Agaric asked eagerly:

“You do not doubt Pyrot’s guilt?”

“I cannot doubt it, dear Agaric,” answered the monk of Conils. “That
would be contrary to the laws of my country which we ought to respect as
long as they are not opposed to the Divine laws. Pyrot is guilty, for
he has been convicted. As to saying more for or against his guilt, that
would be to erect my own authority against that of the judges, a thing
which I will take good care not to do. Besides, it is useless, for Pyrot
has been convicted. If he has not been convicted because he is guilty,
he is guilty because he has been convicted; it comes to the same thing.
I believe in his guilt as every good citizen ought to believe in it; and
I will believe in it as long as the established jurisdiction will order
me to believe in it, for it is not for a private person but for a
judge to proclaim the innocence of a convicted person. Human justice
is venerable even in the errors inherent in its fallible and limited
nature. These errors are never irreparable; if the judges do not repair
them on earth, God will repair them in Heaven. Besides I have great
confidence in general Greatauk, who, though he certainly does not look
it, seems to me to be an abler man than all those who are attacking
him.”

“Dearest Cornemuse,” cried the pious Agaric, “the Pyrot affair, if
pushed to the point whither we can lead it by the help of God and the
necessary funds, will produce the greatest benefits. It will lay bare
the vices of this Anti-Christian Republic and will incline the Penguins
to restore the throne of the Draconides and the prerogatives of the
Church. But to do that it is necessary for the people to see the clergy
in the front rank of its defenders. Let us march against the enemies of
the army, against those who insult our heroes, and everybody will follow
us.”

“Everybody will be too many,” murmured the monk of Conils, shaking his
head. “I see that the Penguins want to quarrel. If we mix ourselves up
in their quarrel they will become reconciled at our expense and we shall
have to pay the cost of the war. That is why, if you are guided by me,
dear Agaric, you will not engage the Church in this adventure.”

“You know my energy; you know my prudence. I will compromise nothing.
. . . Dear Cornemuse, I only want from you the funds necessary for us to
begin the campaign.”

For a long time Cornemuse refused to bear the expenses of what he
thought was a fatal enterprise. Agaric was in turn pathetic and
terrible. At last, yielding to his prayers and threats, Cornemuse, with
banging head and swinging arms, went to the austere cell that concealed
his evangelical poverty. In the whitewashed wall under a branch of
blessed box, there was fixed a safe. He opened it, and with a sigh took
out a bundle of bills which, with hesitating hands, he gave to the pious
Agaric.

“Do not doubt it, dear Cornemuse,” said the latter, thrusting the papers
into the pocket of his overcoat, “this Pyrot affair has been sent us by
God for the glory and exaltation of the Church of Penguinia.”

“I pray that you may be right!” sighed the monk of Conils.

And, left alone in his laboratory, he gazed, through his exquisite eyes,
with an ineffable sadness at his stoves and his retorts.



VI. THE SEVEN HUNDRED PYROTISTS

The seven hundred Pyrotists inspired the public with an increasing
aversion. Every day two or three of them were beaten to death in the
streets. One of them was publicly whipped, another thrown into the
river, a third tarred and feathered and led through a laughing crowd, a
fourth had his nose cut off by a captain of dragoons. They did not dare
to show themselves at their clubs, at tennis, or at the races; they
put on a disguise when they went to the Stock Exchange. In these
circumstances the Prince des Boscenos thought it urgent to curb their
audacity and repress their insolence. For this purpose he joined with
Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, Viscount Olive, and M. Bigourd in
founding a great anti-Pyrotist association to which citizens in hundreds
of thousands, soldiers in companies, regiments, brigades, divisions, and
army corps, towns, districts, and provinces, all gave their adhesion.

About this time the Minister of War happening to visit one day his Chief
of Staff, saw with surprise that the large room where General Panther
worked, which was formerly quite bare, had now along each wall from
floor to ceiling in sets of deep pigeon-holes, triple and quadruple rows
of paper bundles of every as form and colour. These sudden and monstrous
records had in a few days reached the dimensions of a pile of archives
such as it takes centuries to accumulate.

“What is this?” asked the astonished minister.

“Proofs against Pyrot,” answered General Panther with patriotic
satisfaction. “We had not got them when we convicted him, but we have
plenty of them now.”

The door was open, and Greatauk saw coming up the stair-case a long file
of porters who were unloading heavy bales of papers in the hall, and he
saw the lift slowly rising heavily loaded with paper packets.

“What are those others?” said he.

“They are fresh proofs against Pyrot that are now reaching us,” said
Panther. “I have asked for them in every county of Penguinia, in every
Staff Office and in every Court in Europe. I have ordered them in every
town in America and in Australia, and in every factory in Africa, and I
am expecting bales of them from Bremen and a ship-load from Melbourne.”
 And Panther turned towards the Minister of War the tranquil and radiant
look of a hero. However, Greatauk, his eye-glass in his eye, was looking
at the formidable pile of papers with less satisfaction than uneasiness.

“Very good,” said he, “very good! but I am afraid that this Pyrot
business may lose its beautiful simplicity. It was limpid; like a
rock-crystal its value lay in its transparency. You could have searched
it in vain with a magnifying-glass for a straw, a bend, a blot, for the
least fault. When it left my hands it was as pure as the light. Indeed
it was the light. I give you a pearl and you make a mountain out of it.
To tell you the truth I am afraid that by wishing to do too well you
have done less well. Proofs! of course it is good to have proofs, but
perhaps it is better to have none at all. I have already told you,
Panther, there is only one irrefutable proof, the confession of the
guilty person (or if the innocent what matter!). The Pyrot affair, as
I arranged it, left no room for criticism; there was no spot where it
could be touched. It defied assault. It was invulnerable because it was
invisible. Now it gives an enormous handle for discussion. I advise
you, Panther, to use your paper packets with great reserve. I should
be particularly grateful if you would be more sparing of your
communications to journalists. You speak well, but you say too much.
Tell me, Panther, are there any forged documents among these?”

“There are some adapted ones.”

“That is what I meant. There are some adapted ones. So much the better.
As proofs, forged documents, in general, are better than genuine ones,
first of all because they have been expressly made to suit the needs
of the case, to order and measure, and therefore they are fitting and
exact. They are also preferable because they carry the mind into an
ideal world and turn it aside from the reality which, alas! in this
world is never without some alloy. . . . Nevertheless, I think I should
have preferred, Panther, that we had no proofs at all.”

The first act of the Anti-Pyrotist Association was to ask the Government
immediately to summon the seven hundred Pyrotists and their accomplices
before the High Court of Justice as guilty of high treason. Prince des
Boscenos was charged to speak on behalf of the Association and presented
himself before the Council which had assembled to hear him. He expressed
a hope that the vigilance and firmness of the Government would rise to
the height of the occasion. He shook hands with each of the ministers
and as he passed General Greatauk he whispered in his ear:

“Behave properly, you ruffian, or I will publish the Maloury dossier!”

Some days later by a unanimous vote of both Houses, on a motion proposed
by the Government, the Anti-Pyrotist Association was granted a charter
recognising it as beneficial to the public interest.

The Association immediately sent a deputation to Chitterlings Castle in
Porpoisia, where Crucho was eating the bitter bread of exile, to assure
the prince of the love and devotion of the Anti-Pyrotist members.

However, the Pyrotists grew in numbers, and now counted ten thousand.
They had their regular cafes on the boulevards. The patriots had theirs
also, richer and bigger, and every evening glasses of beer, saucers,
match-stands, jugs, chairs, and tables were hurled from one to the
other. Mirrors were smashed to bits, and the police ended the struggles
by impartially trampling the combatants of both parties under their
hob-nailed shoes.

On one of these glorious nights, as Prince des Boscenos was leaving
a fashionable cafe in the company of some patriots, M. de La Trumelle
pointed out to him a little, bearded man with glasses, hatless, and
having only one sleeve to his coat, who was painfully dragging himself
along the rubbish-strewn pavement.

“Look!” said he, “there is Colomban!”

The prince had gentleness as well as strength; he was exceedingly mild;
but at the name of Colomban his blood boiled. He rushed at the little
spectacled man, and knocked him down with one blow of his fist on the
nose.

M. de La Trumelle then perceived that, misled by an undeserved
resemblance, he had mistaken for Colomban, M. Bazile, a retired lawyer,
the secretary of the Anti-pyrotist Association, and an ardent and
generous patriot. Prince des Boscenos was one of those antique souls who
never bend. However, he knew how to recognise his faults.

“M. Bazile,” said he, raising his hat, “if I have touched your face with
my hand you will excuse me and you will understand me, you will approve
of me, nay, you will compliment me, you will congratulate me and
felicitate me, when you know the cause of that act. I took you for
Colomban.”

M. Bazile, wiping his bleeding nostrils with his handkerchief and
displaying an elbow laid bare by the absence of his sleeve:

“No, sir,” answered he drily, “I shall not felicitate you, I shall not
congratulate you, I shall not compliment you, for your action was, at
the very least, superfluous; it was, I will even say, supererogatory.
Already this evening I have been three times mistaken for Colomban and
received a sufficient amount of the treatment he deserves. The patriots
have knocked in my ribs and broken my back, and, sir, I was of opinion
that that was enough.”

Scarcely had he finished this speech than a band of Pyrotists appeared,
and misled in their turn by that insidious resemblance, they believed
that the patriots were killing Colomban. They fell on Prince des
Boscenos and his companions with loaded canes and leather thongs, and
left them for dead. Then seizing Bazile they carried him in triumph, and
in spite of his protests, along the boulevards, amid cries of: “Hurrah
for Colomban! Hurrah for Pyrot!” At last the police, who had been sent
after them, attacked and defeated them and dragged them ignominiously to
the station, where Bazile, under the name of Colomban, was trampled on
by an innumerable quantity of thick, hob-nailed shoes.



VII. BIDAULT-COQUILLE AND MANIFLORE, THE SOCIALISTS

Whilst the wind of anger and hatred blew in Alca, Eugine
Bidault-Coquille, poorest and happiest of astronomers, installed in
an old steam-engine of the time of the Draconides, was observing the
heavens through a bad telescope, and photographing the paths of the
meteors upon some damaged photographic plates. His genius corrected the
errors of his instruments and his love of science triumphed over the
worthlessness of his apparatus. With an inextinguishable ardour he
observed aerolites, meteors, and fire-balls, and all the glowing ruins
and blazing sparks which pass through the terrestrial atmosphere with
prodigious speed, and as a reward for is studious vigils he received the
indifference of the public, the ingratitude of the State and the blame
of the learned societies. Engulfed in the celestial spaces he knew
not what occurred upon the surface of the earth. He never read the
newspapers, and when he walked through the town his mind was occupied
with the November asteroids, and more than once he found himself at the
bottom of a pond in one of the public parks or beneath the wheels of a
motor omnibus.

Elevated in stature as in thought he respected himself and others. This
was shown by his cold politeness as well as by a very thin black frock
coat and a tall hat which gave to his person an appearance at once
emaciated and sublime. He took his meals in a little restaurant from
which all customers less intellectual than himself had fled, and
thenceforth his napkin bound by its wooden ring rested alone in the
abandoned rack.

In this cook-shop his eyes fell one evening upon Colomban’s memorandum
in favour of Pyrot. He read it as he was cracking some bad nuts and
suddenly, exalted with astonishment, admiration, horror, and pity, he
forgot all about falling meteors and shooting stars and saw nothing but
the innocent man hanging in his cage exposed to the winds of heaven and
the ravens perching upon it.

That image did not leave him. For a week he had been obsessed by the
innocent convict, when, as he was leaving his cook-shop, he saw a crowd
of citizens entering a public-house in which a public meeting was going
on. He went in. The meeting was disorderly; they were yelling, abusing
one another and knocking one another down in the smoke-laden hall. The
Pyrotists and the Anti-Pyrotists spoke in turn and were alternately
cheered and hissed at. An obscure and confused enthusiasm moved the
audience. With the audacity of a timid and retired man Bidault-Coquille
leaped upon the platform and spoke for three-quarters of an hour. He
spoke very quickly, without order, but with vehemence, and with all the
conviction of a mathematical mystic. He was cheered. When he got down
from the platform a big woman of uncertain age, dressed in red, and
wearing an immense hat trimmed with heroic feathers, throwing herself
into his arms, embraced him, and said to him:

“You are splendid!”

He thought in his simplicity that there was some truth in the statement.

She declared to him that henceforth she would live but for Pyrot’s
defence and Colomban’s glory. He thought her sublime and beautiful. She
was Maniflore, a poor old courtesan, now forgotten and discarded, who
had suddenly become a vehement politician.

She never left him. They spent glorious hours together in doss-houses
and in lodgings beautified by their love, in newspaper offices, in
meeting-halls and in lecture-halls. As he was an idealist, he persisted
in thinking her beautiful, although she gave him abundant opportunity of
seeing that she had preserved no charm of any kind. From her past beauty
she only retained a confidence in her capacity for pleasing and a lofty
assurance in demanding homage. Still, it must be admitted that this
Pyrot affair, so fruitful in prodigies, invested Maniflore with a sort
of civic majesty, and transformed her, at public meetings, into an
august symbol of justice and truth.

Bidault-Coquille and Maniflore did not kindle the least spark of irony
or amusement in a single Anti-Pyrotist, a single defender of Greatauk,
or a single supporter of the army. The gods, in their anger, had refused
to those men the precious gift of humour. They gravely accused the
courtesan and the astronomer of being spies, of treachery, and of
plotting against their country. Bidault-Coquille and Maniflore grew
visibly greater beneath insult, abuse, and calumny.

For long months Penguinia had been divided into two camps and, though at
first sight it may appear strange, hitherto the socialists had taken
no part in the contest. Their groups comprised almost all the manual
workers in the country, necessarily scattered, confused, broken up, and
divided, but formidable. The Pyrot affair threw the group leaders into a
singular embarrassment. They did not wish to place themselves either on
the side of the financiers or on the side of the army. They regarded
the Jews, both great and small, as their uncompromising opponents. Their
principles were not at stake, nor were their interests concerned in the
affair. Still the greater number felt how difficult it was growing for
them to remain aloof from struggles in which all Penguinia was engaged.

Their leaders called a sitting of their federation at the Rue de la
Queue-du-diable-St. Mael, to take into consideration the conduct they
ought to adopt in the present circumstances and in future eventualities.

Comrade Phoenix was the first to speak.

“A crime,” said he, “the most odious and cowardly of crimes, a judicial
crime, has been committed. Military judges, coerced or misled by their
superior officers, have condemned an innocent man to an infamous and
cruel punishment. Let us not say that the victim is not one of our own
party, that he belongs to a caste which was, and always will be, our
enemy. Our party is the party of social justice; it can look upon no
iniquity with indifference.

“It would be a shame for us if we left it to Kerdanic, a radical,
to Colomban, a member of the middle classes, and to a few moderate
Republicans, alone to proceed against the crimes of the army. If
the victim is not one of us, his executioners are our brothers’
executioners, and before Greatauk struck down this soldier he shot our
comrades who were on strike.

“Comrades, by an intellectual, moral and material effort you must rescue
Pyrot from his torment, and in performing this generous act you are
not turning aside from the liberating and revolutionary task you have
undertaken, for Pyrot his become the symbol of the oppressed and of all
the social iniquities that now exist; by destroying one you make all the
others tremble.”

When Phoenix ended, comrade Sapor spoke in these terms:

“You are advised to abandon your task in order to do something with
which you have no concern. Why throw yourselves into a conflict
where, on whatever side you turn, you will find none but your natural,
uncompromising, even necessary opponents? Are the financiers to be less
hated by us than the army? What inept and criminal generosity is it that
hurries you to save those seven hundred Pyrotists whom you will always
find confronting you in the social war?

“It is proposed that you act the part of the police for your enemies,
and that you are to re-establish for them the order which their own
crimes have disturbed. Magnanimity pushed to this degree changes its
name.

“Comrades, there is a point at which infamy becomes fatal to a society.
Penguin society is being strangled by its infamy, and you are requested
to save it, to give it air that it can breathe. This is simply turning
you into ridicule.

“Leave is to smother itself and let us gaze at its last convulsions with
joyful contempt, only regretting that it has so entirely corrupted the
soil on which it has been built that we shall find nothing but poisoned
mud on which to lay the foundations of a new society.”

When Sapor had ended his speech comrade Lapersonne pronounced these few
words:

“Phoenix calls us to Pyrot’s help for the reason that Pyrot is innocent.
It seems to me that that is a very bad reason. If Pyrot is innocent he
has behaved like a good soldier and has always conscientiously worked
at his trade, which principally consists in shooting the people. That is
not a motive to make the people brave all dangers in his defence. When
it is demonstrated to me that Pyrot is guilty and that he stole the army
hay, I shall be on his side.”

Comrade Larrivee afterwards spoke.

“I am not of my friend, Phoenix’s opinion but I am not with my friend
Sapor either. I do not believe that the party is bound to embrace a
cause as soon as we are told that that cause is just. That, I am afraid,
is a grievous abuse of words and a dangerous equivocation. For social
justice is not revolutionary justice. They are both in perpetual
antagonism: to serve the one is to oppose the other. As for me, my
choice is made. I am for revolutionary justice as against social
justice. Still, in the present case I am against abstention. I say that
when a lucky chance brings us an affair like this we should be fools not
to profit by it.

“How? We are given an opportunity of striking terrible, perhaps
fatal, blows against militarism. And am I to fold my arms? I tell you,
comrades, I am not a fakir, I have never been a fakir, and if there are
fakirs here let them not count on me. To sit in meditation is a policy
without results and one which I shall never adopt.

“A party like ours ought to be continually asserting itself. It ought to
prove its existence by continual action. We will intervene in the Pyrot
affair but we will intervene in it in a revolutionary manner; we
will adopt violent action. . . . Perhaps you think that violence is
old-fashioned and superannuated, to be scrapped along with diligences,
hand-presses and aerial telegraphy. You are mistaken. To-day as
yesterday nothing is obtained except by violence; it is the one
efficient instrument. The only thing necessary is to know how to use it.
You ask what will our action be? I will tell you: it will be to stir up
the governing classes against one another, to put the army in conflict
with the capitalists, the government with the magistracy, the nobility
and clergy with the Jews, and if possible to drive them all to destroy
one another. To do this would be to carry on an agitation which would
weaken government in the same way that fever wears out the sick.

“The Pyrot affair, little as we know how to turn it to advantage,
will put forward by ten years the growth of the Social party and the
emancipation of the proletariat, by disarmament, the general strike, and
revolution.”

The leaders of the party having each expressed a different opinion, the
discussion was continued, not without vivacity. The orators, as always
happens in such a case, reproduced the arguments they had already
brought forward, though with less order and moderation than before. The
dispute was prolonged and none changed his opinion. These opinions, in
the final analysis, were reduced to two: that of Sapor and Lapersonne
who advised abstention, and that of Phoenix and Larrivee, who wanted
intervention. Even these two contrary opinions were united in a common
hatred of the heads of the army and of their justice, and in a common
belief in Pyrot’s innocence. So that public opinion was hardly mistaken
in regarding all the Socialist leaders as pernicious Anti-Pyrotists.

As for the vast masses in whose name they spoke and whom they
represented as far as speech can express the impossible--as for the
proletarians whose thought is difficult to know and who do not know it
themselves, it seemed that the Pyrot affair did not interest them. It
was too literary for them, it was in too classical a style, and had an
upper-middle-class and high-finance tone about it that did not please
them much.



VIII. THE COLOMBAN TRIAL

When the Colomban trial began, the Pyrotists were not many more than
thirty thousand, but they were every where and might be found even among
the priests and millionaires. What injured them most was the sympathy of
the rich Jews. On the other hand they derived valuable advantages from
their feeble number. In the first place there were among them fewer
fools than among their opponents, who were over-burdened with them.
Comprising but a feeble minority, they co-operated easily, acted
with harmony, and had no temptation to divide and thus counteract one
another’s efforts. Each of them felt the necessity of doing the best
possible and was the more careful of his conduct as he found himself
more in the public eye. Finally, they had every reason to hope that they
would gain fresh adherents, while their opponents, having had everybody
with them at the beginning, could only decrease.

Summoned before the judges at a public sitting, Colomban immediately
perceived that his judges were not anxious to discover the truth. As
soon as he opened his mouth the President ordered him to be silent in
the superior interests of the State. For the same reason, which is the
supreme reason, the witnesses for the defence were not heard. General
Panther, the Chief of the Staff, appeared in the witness-box, in full
uniform and decorated with all his orders. He deposed as follows:

“The infamous Colomban states that we have no proofs against Pyrot. He
lies; we have them. I have in my archives seven hundred and thirty-two
square yards of them which at five hundred pounds each make three
hundred and sixty-six thousand pounds.”

That superior officer afterwards gave, with elegance and ease, a summary
of those proofs.

“They are of all colours and all shades,” said he in substance, “they
are of every form--pot, crown, sovereign, grape, dove-cot, grand eagle,
etc. The smallest is less than the hundredth part of a square inch, the
largest measures seventy yards long by ninety yards broad.”

At this revelation the audience shuddered with horror.

Greatauk came to give evidence in his turn. Simpler, and perhaps
greater, he wore a grey tunic and held his hands joined behind his back.

“I leave,” said he calmly and in a slightly raised voice, “I leave to M.
Colomban the responsibility for an act that has brought our country
to the brink of ruin. The Pyrot affair is secret; it ought to remain
secret. If it were divulged the cruelest ills, wars, pillages,
depredations, fires, massacres, and epidemics would immediately burst
upon Penguinia. I should consider myself guilty of high treason if I
uttered another word.”

Some persons known for their political experience, among others M.
Bigourd, considered the evidence of the Minister of War as abler and of
greater weight than that of his Chief of Staff.

The evidence of Colonel de Boisjoli made a great impression.

“One evening at the Ministry of War,” said that officer, “the attache of
a neighbouring Power told me that while visiting his sovereign’s stables
he had once admired some soft and fragrant hay, of a pretty green
colour, the finest hay he had ever seen! ‘Where did it come from?’ I
asked him. He did not answer, but there seemed to me no doubt about its
origin. It was the hay Pyrot had stolen. Those qualities of verdure,
softness, and aroma, are those of our national hay. The forage of the
neighbouring Power is grey and brittle; it sounds under the fork and
smells of dust. One can draw one own conclusions.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Hastaing said in the witness-box, amid hisses, that
he did not believe Pyrot guilty. He was immediately seized by the police
and thrown into the bottom of a dungeon where, amid vipers, toads, and
broken glass, he remained insensible both to promises and threats.

The usher called:

“Count Pierre Maubec de la Dentdulynx.”

There was deep silence, and a stately but ill-dressed nobleman, whose
moustaches pointed to the skies and whose dark eyes shot forth flashing
glances, was seen advancing toward the witness-box.

He approached Colomban and casting upon him a look of ineffable disdain:

“My evidence,” said he, “here it is: you excrement!”

At these words the entire hall burst into enthusiastic applause and
jumped up, moved by one of those transports that stir men’s hearts and
rouse them to extraordinary actions. Without another word Count Maubec
de la Dentdulynx withdrew.

All those present left the Court and formed a procession behind him.
Prostrate at his feet, Princess des Boscenos held his legs in a close
embrace, but he went on, stern and impassive, beneath a shower of
handkerchiefs and flowers. Viscountess Olive, clinging to his neck,
could not be removed, and the calm hero bore her along with him,
floating on his breast like a light scarf.

When the court resumed its sitting, which it had been compelled to
suspend, the President called the experts.

Vermillard, the famous expert in handwriting, gave the results of his
researches.

“Having carefully studied,” said he, “the papers found in Pyrot’s house,
in particular his account book and his laundry books, I noticed that,
though apparently not out of the common, they formed an impenetrable
cryptogram, the key to which, however, I discovered. The traitor’s
infamy is to be seen in every line. In this system of writing the
words ‘Three glasses of beer and twenty francs for Adele’ mean ‘I have
delivered thirty thousand trusses of hay to a neighbouring Power! From
these documents I have even been able to establish the composition of
the hay delivered by this officer. The words waistcoat, drawers, pocket
handkerchief, collars, drink, tobacco, cigars, mean clover, meadowgrass,
lucern, burnet, oats, rye-grass, vernal-grass, and common cat’s tail
grass. And these are precisely the constituents of the hay furnished
by Count Maubec to the Penguin cavalry. In this way Pyrot mentioned
his crimes in a language that he believed would always remain
indecipherable. One is confounded by so much astuteness and so great a
want of conscience.”

Colomban, pronounced guilty without any extenuating circumstances,
was condemned to the severest penalty. The judges immediately signed a
warrant consuming him to solitary confinement.

In the Place du Palais on the sides of a river whose banks had during
the course of twelve centuries seen so great a history, fifty thousand
persons were tumultuously awaiting the result of the trial. Here were
the heads of the Anti-Pyrotist Association, among whom might be seen
Prince des Boscenos, Count Clena, Viscount Olive, and M. de La Trumelle;
here crowded the Reverend Father Agaric and the teachers of St. Mael
College with their pupils; here the monk Douillard and General Caraguel,
embracing each other, formed a sublime group. The market women and
laundry women with spits, shovels, tongs, beetles, and kettles full of
water might be seen running across the Pont-Vieux. On the steps in front
of the bronze gates were assembled all the defenders of Pyrot in Alca,
professors, publicists, workmen, some conservatives, others Radicals or
Revolutionaries, and by their negligent dress and fierce aspect could
be recognised comrades Phoenix, Larrivee, Lapersonne, Dagobert, and
Varambille. Squeezed in his funereal frock-coat and wearing his hat of
ceremony, Bidault-Coquille invoked the sentimental mathematics on
behalf of Colomban and Colonel Hastaing. Maniflore shone smiling and
resplendent on the topmost step, anxious, like Leaena, to deserve
a glorious monument, or to be given, like Epicharis, the praises of
history.

The seven hundred Pyrotists disguised as lemonade sellers,
utter-merchants, collectors of odds and ends, or anti-Pyrotists,
wandered round the vast building.

When Colomban appeared, so great an uproar burst forth that, struck by
the commotion of air and water, birds fell from the trees and fishes
floated on the surface of the stream.

On all sides there were yells:

“Duck Colomban, duck him, duck him!”

There were some cries of “Justice and truth!” and a voice was even heard
shouting:

“Down with the Army!”

This was the signal for a terrible struggle. The combatants fell in
thousands, and their bodies formed howling and moving mounds on top of
which fresh champions gripped each other by the throats. Women, eager,
pale, and dishevelled, with clenched teeth and frantic nails, rushed
on the man, in transports that, in the brilliant light of the public
square, gave to their faces expressions unsurpassed even in the shade
of curtains and in the hollows of pillows. They were going to seize
Colomban, to bite him, to strangle, dismember and rend him, when
Maniflore, tall and dignified in her red tunic, stood forth, serene
and terrible, confronting these furies who recoiled from before her in
terror. Colomban seemed to be saved; his partisans succeeded in clearing
a passage for him through the Place du Palais and in putting him into a
cab stationed at the corner of the Pont-Vieux. The horse was already in
full trot when Prince des Boscenos, Count Clena, and M. de La Trumelle
knocked the driver off his seat. Then, making the animal back and
pushing the spokes of the wheels, they ran the vehicle on to the parapet
of the bridge, whence they overturned it into the river amid the cheers
of the delirious crowd. With a resounding splash a jet of water rose
upwards, and then nothing but a slight eddy was to be seen on the
surface of the stream.

Almost immediately comrades Dagobert and Varambille, with the help of
the seven hundred disguised Pyrotists, sent Prince des Boscenos head
foremost into a river-laundry in which he was lamentably swallowed up.

Serene night descended over the Place du Palais and shed silence and
peace upon the frightful ruins with which it was strewed. In the mean
time, Colomban, three thousand yards down the stream, cowering beside
a lame old horse on a bridge, was meditating on the ignorance and
injustice of crowds.

“The business,” said he to himself, “is even more troublesome than I
believed. I foresee fresh difficulties.”

He got up and approached the unhappy animal.

“What have you, poor friend, done to them?” said he. “It is on my
account they have used you so cruelly.”

He embraced the unfortunate beast and kissed the white star on his
forehead. Then he took him by the bridle and led him, both of them
limping, trough the sleeping city to his house, where sleep soon allowed
them to forget mankind.



IX. FATHER DOUILLARD

In their infinite gentleness and at the suggestion of the common father
of the faithful, the bishops, canons, vicars, curates, abbots, and
friars of Penguinia resolved to hold a solemn service in the cathedral
of Alca, and to pray that Divine mercy would deign to put an end to the
troubles that distracted one of the noblest countries in Christendom,
and grant to repentant Penguinia pardon for its crimes against God and
the ministers of religion.

The ceremony took place on the fifteenth of June. General Caraguel,
surrounded by his staff, occupied the churchwarden’s pew. The
congregation was numerous and brilliant. According to M. Bigourd’s
expression it was both crowded and select. In the front rank was to be
seen M. de la Bertheoseille, Chamberlain to his Highness Prince Crucho.
Near the pulpit, which was to be ascended by the Reverend Father
Douillard, of the Order of St. Francis, were gathered, in an attitude of
attention with their hands crossed upon their wands of office, the great
dignitaries of the Anti-Pyrotist association, Viscount Olive, M. de
La Trumelle, Count Clena, the Duke d’Ampoule, and Prince des Boscenos.
Father Agaric was in the apse with the teachers and pupils of St. Mael
College. The right-hand transept and aisle were reserved for officers
and soldiers in uniform, this side being thought the more honourable,
since the Lord leaned his head to the right when he died on the
Cross. The ladies of the aristocracy, and among them Countess Clena,
Viscountess Olive, and Princess des Boscenos, occupied reserved seats.
In the immense building and in the square outside were gathered twenty
thousand clergy of all sorts, as well as thirty thousand of the laity.

After the expiatory and propitiatory ceremony the Reverend Father
Douillard ascended the pulpit. The sermon had at first been entrusted to
the Reverend Father Agaric, but, in spite of his merits, he was thought
unequal to the occasion in zeal and doctrine, and the eloquent Capuchin
friar, who for six months had gone through the barracks preaching
against the enemies of God and authority, had been chosen in his place.

The Reverend Father Douillard, taking as his text, “He hath put down the
mighty from their seat,” established that all temporal power has God as
its principle and its end, and that it is ruined and destroyed when it
turns aside from the path that Providence has traced out for it and from
the end to which He has directed it.

Applying these sacred rules to the government of Penguinia, he drew a
terrible picture of the evils that the country’s rulers had been unable
either to prevent or to foresee.

“The first author of all these miseries and degradations, my brethren,”
 said he, “is only too well known to you. He is a monster whose destiny
is providentially proclaimed by his name, for it is derived from the
Greek word, pyros, which means fire. Eternal wisdom warns us by this
etymology that a Jew was to set ablaze the country that had welcomed
him.”

He depicted the country, persecuted by the persecutors of the Church,
and crying in its agony:

“O woe! O glory! Those who have crucified my God are crucifying me!”

At these words a prolonged shudder passed through the assembly.

The powerful orator excited still greater indignation when he described
the proud and crime-stained Colomban, plunged into the stream, all
the waters of which could not cleanse him. He gathered up all the
humiliations and all the perils of the Penguins in order to reproach the
President of the Republic and his Prime Minister with them.

“That Minister,” said he, “having been guilty of degrading cowardice
in not exterminating the seven hundred Pyrotists with their allies and
defenders, as Saul exterminated the Philistines at Gibeah, has rendered
himself unworthy of exercising the power that God delegated to him,
and every good citizen ought henceforth to insult his contemptible
government. Heaven will look favourably on those who despise him.
‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat.’ God will depose these
pusillanimous chiefs and will put in their place strong men who
will call upon Him. I tell you, gentlemen, I tell you officers,
non-commissioned officers, and soldiers who listen to me, I tell you
General of the Penguin armies, the hour has come! If you do not obey
God’s orders, if in His name you do not depose those now in authority,
if you do not establish a religious and strong government in Penguinia,
God will none the less destroy what He has condemned, He will none the
less save His people. He will save them, but, if you are wanting, He
will do so by means of a humble artisan or a simple corporal. Hasten!
The hour will soon be past.”

Excited by this ardent exhortation, the sixty thousand people present
rose up trembling and shouting: “To arms! To arms! Death to the
Pyrotists! Hurrah for Crucho!” and all of them, monks, women, soldiers,
noblemen, citizens, and loafers, who were gathered beneath the
superhuman arm uplifted in the pulpit, struck up the hymn, “Let us save
Penguinia!” They rushed impetuously from the basilica and marched along
the quays to the Chamber of Deputies.

Left alone in the deserted nave, the wise Cornemuse, lifting his arms to
heaven, murmured in broken accents:

“Agnosco fortunam ecclesiae penguicanae! I see but too well whither this
will lead us.”

The attack which the crowd made upon the legislative palace was
repulsed. Vigorously charged by the police and Alcan guards, the
assailants were already fleeing in disorder, when the Socialists,
running from the slums and led by comrades Phoenix, Dagobert,
Lapersonne, and Varambille, threw themselves upon them and completed
their discomfiture. MM. de La Trumelle and d’Ampoule were taken to the
police station. Prince des Boscenos, after a valiant struggle, fell upon
the bloody pavement with a fractured skull.

In the enthusiasm of victory, the comrades, mingled with an innumerable
crowd of paper-sellers and gutter-merchants, ran through the boulevards
all night, carrying, Maniflore in triumph, and breaking the mirrors of
the cafes and the glasses of the street lamps amid cries of “Down with
Crucho! Hurrah for the Social Revolution!” The Anti-Pyrotists in their
turn upset the newspaper kiosks and tore down the hoardings.

These were spectacles of which cool reason cannot approve and they
were fit causes for grief to the municipal authorities, who desired to
preserve the good order of the roads and streets. But, what was sadder
for a man of heart was the sight or the canting humbugs, who, from
fear of blows, kept at an equal distance from the two camps, and who,
although they allowed their selfishness and cowardice to be visible,
claimed admiration for the generosity of their sentiments and the
nobility of their souls. They rubbed their eyes with onions, gaped like
whitings, blew violently into their handkerchiefs, and, bringing their
voices out of the depths of their stomachs, groaned forth: “O Penguins,
cease these fratricidal struggles; cease to rend your mother’s bosom!”
 As if men could live in society without disputes and without quarrels,
and as if civil discords were not the necessary conditions of national
life and progress. They showed themselves hypocritical cowards by
proposing a compromise between the just and the unjust, offending
the just in his rectitude and the unjust in his courage. One of these
creatures, the rich and powerful Machimel, a champion coward, rose upon
the town like a colossus of grief; his tears formed poisonous lakes at
his feet and his sighs capsized the boats of the fishermen.

During these stormy nights Bidault-Coquille at the top of his old
steam-engine, under the serene sky, boasted in his heart, while the
shooting stars registered themselves upon his photographic plates. He
was fighting for justice. He loved and was loved with a sublime passion.
Insult and calumny raised him to the clouds. A caricature of him in
company with those of Colomban, Kerdanic, and Colonel Hastaing was to be
seen in the newspaper kiosks. The Anti-Pyrotists proclaimed that he
had received fifty thousand francs from the big Jewish financiers.
The reporters of the militarist sheets held interviews regarding his
scientific knowledge with official scholars, who declared he had no
knowledge of the stars, disputed his most solid observations, denied
his most certain discoveries, and condemned his most ingenious and most
fruitful hypotheses. He exulted under these flattering blows of hatred
and envy.

He contemplated the black immensity pierced by a multitude of lights,
without giving a thought to all the heavy slumbers, cruel insomnias,
vain dreams, spoilt pleasures, and infinitely diverse miseries that a
great city contains.

“It is in this enormous city,” said he to himself, “that the just and
the unjust are joining battle.”

And substituting a simple and magnificent poetry for the multiple and
vulgar reality, he represented to himself the Pyrot affair as a struggle
between good and bad angels. He awaited the eternal triumph of the
Sons of Light and congratulated himself on being a Child of the Day
confounding the Children of Night.



X. MR. JUSTICE CHAUSSEPIED

Hitherto blinded by fear, incautious and stupid before the bands of
Friar Douillard and the partisans of Prince Crucho, the Republicans at
last opened their eyes and grasped the real meaning of the Pyrot affair.
The deputies who had for two years turned pale at the shouts of the
patriotic crowds became, not indeed more courageous, but altered their
cowardice and blamed Robin Mielleux for disorders which their own
compliance had encouraged, and the instigators of which they had several
times slavishly congratulated. They reproached him for having imperilled
the Republic by a weakness which was really theirs and a timidity
which they themselves had imposed upon him. Some of them began to doubt
whether it was not to their interest to believe in Pyrot’s innocence
rather than in his guilt, and thenceforward they felt a bitter anguish
at the thought that the unhappy man might have been wrongly convicted
and that in his aerial cage he might be expiating another man’s crimes.
“I cannot sleep on account of it!” was what several members of Minister
Guillaumette’s majority used to say. But these were ambitious to replace
their chief.

These generous legislators overthrew the cabinet, and the President of
the Republic put in Robin Mielleux’s place, a patriarchal Republican
with a flowing beard, La Trinite by name, who, like most of the
Penguins, understood nothing about the affair, but thought that too many
monks were mixed up in it.

General Greatauk before leaving the Ministry of War, gave his final
advice to Pariler, the Chief of the Staff.

“I go and you remain,” said he, as he shook hands with him. “The Pyrot
affair is my daughter; I confide her to you, she is worthy of your love
and your care; she is beautiful. Do not forget that her beauty loves
the shade, is leased with mystery, and likes to remain veiled. Great her
modesty with gentleness. Too many indiscreet looks have already profaned
her charms. . . . Panther, you desired proofs and you obtained them. You
have many, perhaps too many, in your possession. I see that there will
be many tiresome interventions and much dangerous curiosity. If I were
in your place I would tear up all those documents. Believe me, the best
of proofs is none at all. That is the only one which nobody discusses.”

Alas! General Panther did not realise the wisdom of this advice. The
future was only too thoroughly to justify Greatauk’s perspicacity. La
Trinite demanded the documents belonging, to the Pyrot affair. Peniche,
his Minister of War, refused them in the superior interests of the
national defence, telling him that the documents under General Panther’s
care formed the hugest mass of archives in the world. La Trinite studied
the case as well as he could, and, without penetrating to the bottom of
the matter, suspected it of irregularity. Conformably to his rights
and prerogatives he then ordered a fresh trial to be held. Immediately,
Peniche, his Minister of War, accused him of insulting the army and
betraying the country and flung his portfolio at his head. He was
replaced by a second, who did the same. To him succeeded a third, who
imitated these examples, and those after him to the number of seventy
acted like their predecessors, until the venerable La Trinite groaned
beneath the weight of bellicose portfolios. The seventy-first Minister
of War, van Julep, retained office. Not that he was in disagreement with
so many and such noble colleagues, but he had been commissioned by them
generously to betray his Prime Minister, to cover him with shame and
opprobrium, and to convert the new trial to the glory of Greatauk, the
satisfaction of the Anti-Pyrotists, the profit of the monks, and the
restoration of Prince Crucho.

General van Julep, though endowed with high military virtues, was not
intelligent enough to employ the subtle conduct and exquisite methods of
Greatauk. He thought, like General Panther, that tangible proofs against
Pyrot were necessary, that they could never ave too many of them, that
they could never have even enough. He expressed these’ sentiments to his
Chief of Staff, who was only too inclined to agree with them.

“Panther,” said he, “we are at the moment when we need abundant and
superabundant proofs.”

“You have said enough, General,” answered Panther, “I will complete my
piles of documents.”

Six months later the proofs against Pyrot filled two storeys of the
Ministry of War. The ceiling fell in beneath the weight of the bundles,
and the avalanche of falling documents crushed two head clerks, fourteen
second clerks, and sixty copying clerks, who were at work upon the
ground floor arranging a change in the fashion of the cavalry gaiters.
The walls of the huge edifice had to be propped. Passers-by saw
with amazement enormous beams and monstrous stanchions which reared
themselves obliquely against the noble front of the building, now
tottering and disjointed, and blocked up the streets, stopped the
carriages, and presented to the motor-omnibuses an obstacle against
which they dashed with their loads of passengers.

The judges who had condemned Pyrot were not, properly speaking, judges
but soldiers. The judges who had condemned Colomban were real judges,
but of inferior rank, wearing seedy black clothes like church vergers,
unlucky wretches of judges, miserable judgelings. Above them were the
superior judges who wore ermine robes over their black gowns. These,
renowned for their knowledge and doctrine, formed a court whose terrible
name expressed power. It was called the Court of Appeal (Cassation) so
as to make it clear that it was the hammer suspended over the judgments
and decrees of all other jurisdictions.

One of these superior red Judges of the Supreme Court, called
Chaussepied, led a modest and tranquil life in a suburb of Alca. His
soul was pure, his heart honest, his spirit just. When he had finished
studying his documents he used to play the violin and cultivate
hyacinths. Every Sunday he dined with his neighbours the Mesdemoiselles
Helbivore. His old age was cheerful and robust and his friends often
praised the amenity of his character.

For some months, however, he had been irritable and touchy, and when he
opened a newspaper his broad and ruddy face would become covered with
dolorous wrinkles and darkened with an angry purple. Pyrot was the cause
of it. Justice Chaussepied could not understand how an officer could
have committed so black a crime as to hand over eighty thousand trusses
of military hay to a neighbouring and hostile Power. And he could still
less conceive how a scoundrel should have found official defenders in
Penguinia. The thought that there existed in his country a Pyrot,
a Colonel Hastaing, a Colomban, a Kerdanic, a Phoenix, spoilt his
hyacinths, his violin, his heaven, and his earth, all nature, and even
his dinner with the Mesdemoiselles Helbivore!

In the mean time the Pyrot case, having been presented to the Supreme
Court by the Keeper of Seals, it fell to Chaussepied to examine it and
cover its defects, in case any existed. Although as upright and honest
as a man can be, and trained by long habit to exercise his magistracy
without fear or favour, he expected to find in the documents he
submitted to him proofs of certain guilt and obvious criminality. After
lengthened difficulties and repeated refusals on the part of General
Julep, Justice Chaussepied was allowed to examine the documents.
Numbered and initialed they ran to the number of fourteen millions six
hundred and twenty-six thousand three hundred and twelve. As he studied
them the judge was at first surprised, then astonished, then stupefied,
amazed, and, if I dare say so, flabbergasted. He found among the
documents prospectuses of new fancy shops, newspapers, fashion-plates,
paper bags, old business letters, exercise books, brown paper, green
paper for rubbing parquet floors, playing cards, diagrams, six thousand
copies of the “Key to Dreams,” but not a single document in which any
mention was made of Pyrot.



XI. CONCLUSION

The appeal was allowed, and Pyrot was brought down from his cage. But
the Anti-Pyrotists did not regard themselves as beaten. The military
judges re-tried Pyrot. Greatauk, in this second affair, surpassed
himself. He obtained a second conviction; he obtained it by declaring
that the proofs communicated to the Supreme Court were worth nothing,
and that great care had been taken to keep back the good ones, since
they ought to remain secret. In the opinion of connoisseurs he had never
shown so much address. On leaving the court, as he passed through the
vestibule with a tranquil step, and his hands behind his back, amidst a
crowd of sight-seers, a woman dressed in red and with her face covered
by a black veil rushed at him, brandishing a kitchen knife.

“Die, scoundrel!” she cried. It was Maniflore. Before those present
could understand what was happening, the general seized her by the
wrist, and with apparent gentleness, squeezed it so forcibly that the
knife fell from her aching hand.

Then he picked it up and handed it to Maniflore.

“Madam,” said he with a bow, “you have dropped a household utensil.”

He could not prevent the heroine from being taken to the police-station;
but he had her immediately released and afterwards he employed all his
influence to stop the prosecution.

The second conviction of Pyrot was Greatauk’s last victory.

Justice Chaussepied, who had formerly liked soldiers so much, and
esteemed their justice so highly, being now enraged with the
military judges, quashed their judgments as a monkey cracks nuts.
He rehabilitated Pyrot a second time; he would, if necessary, have
rehabilitated him five hundred times.

Furious at having been cowards and at having allowed themselves to be
deceived and made game of, the Republicans turned against the monks
and clergy. The deputies passed laws of expulsion, separation, and
spoliation against them. What Father Cornemuse had foreseen took place.
That good monk was driven from the Wood of Conils. Treasury officers
confiscated his retorts and his stills, and the liquidators divided
amongst them his bottles of St. Oberosian liqueur. The pious distiller
lost the annual income of three million five hundred thousand francs
that his products procured for him. Father Agaric went into exile,
abandoning his school into the hands of laymen, who soon allowed it to
fall into decay. Separated from its foster-mother, the State, the Church
of Penguinia withered like a plucked flower.

The victorious defenders of the innocent man now abused each other and
overwhelmed each other reciprocally with insults and calumnies. The
vehement Kerdanic hurled himself upon Phoenix as if ready to devour
him. The wealthy Jews and the seven hundred Pyrotists turned away with
disdain from the socialist comrades whose aid they had humbly implored
in the past.

“We know you no longer,” said they. “To the devil with you and your
social justice. Social justice is the defence of property.”

Having been elected a Deputy and chosen to be the leader of the new
majority, comrade Larrivee was appointed by the Chamber and public
opinion to the Premiership. He showed himself an energetic defender
of the military tribunals that had condemned Pyrot. When his former
socialist comrades claimed a little more justice and liberty for the
employes of the State as well as for manual workers, he opposed their
proposals in an eloquent speech.

“Liberty,” said he, “is not licence. Between order and disorder my
choice is made: revolution is impotence. Progress has no more formidable
enemy than violence. Gentlemen, those who, as I am, are anxious for
reform, ought to apply themselves before everything else to cure this
agitation which enfeebles government just as fever exhausts those who
are ill. It is time to reassure honest people.”

This speech was received with applause. The government of the Republic
remained in subjection to the great financial companies, the army was
exclusively devoted to the defence of capital, while the fleet was
designed solely to procure fresh orders for the mine-owners. Since the
rich refused to pay their just share of the taxes, the poor, as in the
past, paid for them.

In the mean time from the height of his old steamline, beneath the
crowded stars of night, Bidault-Coquille gazed sadly at the sleeping
city. Maniflore had left him. Consumed with a desire for fresh devotions
and fresh sacrifices, she had gone in company with a young Bulgarian
to bear justice and vengeance to Sofia. He did not regret her, having
perceived after the Affair, that she was less beautiful in form and in
thought than he had at first imagined. His impressions had been modified
in the same direction concerning many other forms and many other
thoughts. And what was cruelest of all to him, he regarded himself as
not so great, not so splendid, as he had believed.

And he reflected:

“You considered yourself sublime when you had but candour and good-will.
Of what were you proud, Bidault-Coquille? Of having been one of the
first to know that Pyrot was innocent and Greatauk a scoundrel. But
three-fourths of those who defended Greatauk against the attacks of the
seven hundred Pyrotists knew that better than you. Of what then did you
show yourself so proud? Of having dared to say what you thought? That
is civic courage, and, like military courage, it is a mere result of
imprudence. You have been imprudent. So far so good, but that is
no reason for praising yourself beyond measure. Your imprudence was
trifling; it exposed you to trifling perils; you did not risk your head
by it. The Penguins have lost that cruel and sanguinary pride which
formerly gave a tragic grandeur to their revolutions; it is the fatal
result of the weakening of beliefs and character. Ought one to look
upon oneself as a superior spirit for having shown a little more
clear-sightedness than the vulgar? I am very much afraid, on the
contrary, Bidault-Coquille, that you have given proof of a gross
misunderstanding of the conditions of the moral and intellectual
development of a people. You imagined that social injustices were
threaded together like pearls and that it would be enough to pull off
one in order to unfasten the whole necklace. That is a very ingenuous
conception. You flattered yourself that at one stroke you were
establishing justice in your own country and in the universe. You were
a brave man, an honest idealist, though without much experimental
philosophy. But go home to your own heart and you will recognise that
you had in you a spice of malice and that our ingenuousness was not
without cunning. You believed you were performing a fine moral action.
You said to yourself: ‘Here am I, just and courageous once for all.
I can henceforth repose in the public esteem and the praise of
historians.’ And now that you have lost your illusions, now that you
know how hard it is to redress wrongs, and that the task must ever be
begun afresh, you are going back to your asteroids. You are right; but
go back to them with modesty, Bidault-Coquille!”



BOOK VII. MODERN TIMES


MADAME CERES

“Only extreme things are tolerable.” Count Robert de Montesquiou.



I. MADAME CLARENCE’S DRAWING-ROOM

Madame Clarence, the widow of an exalted functionary of the Republic,
loved to entertain. Every Thursday she collected together some friends
of modest condition who took pleasure in conversation. The ladies who
went to see her, very different in age and rank, were all without
money, and had all suffered much. There was a duchess who looked like
a fortune-teller and a fortune-teller who looked like a duchess. Madame
Clarence was pretty enough to maintain some old liaisons, but not to
form new ones, and she generally inspired a quiet esteem. She had a very
pretty daughter, who, since she had no dower, caused some alarm among
the male guests; for the Penguins were as much afraid of portionless
girls as they were of the devil himself. Eveline Clarence, noticing
their reserve and perceiving its cause, used to hand them their tea
with an air of disdain. Moreover, she seldom appeared at the parties
and talked only to the ladies or the very young people. Her discreet and
retiring presence put no restraint upon the conversation, since those
who took part in it thought either that as she was a young girl she
would not understand it, or that, being twenty-five years old, she might
listen to everything.

One Thursday therefore, in Madame Clarence’s drawing-room, the
conversation turned upon love. The ladies spoke of it with pride,
delicacy, and mystery, the men with discretion and fatuity; everyone
took an interest in the conversation, for each one was interested in
what he or she said. A great deal of wit flowed; brilliant apostrophes
were launched forth and keen repartees were returned. But when Professor
Haddi began to speak he overwhelmed everybody.

“It is the same with our ideas on love as with our ideas on everything
else,” said he, “they rest upon anterior habits whose very memory has
been effaced. In morals, the limitations that have lost their grounds
for existing, the most useless obligations, the cruelest and most
injurious restraints, are because of their profound antiquity and the
mystery of their origin, the least disputed and the least disputable as
well as the most respected, and they are those that cannot be violated
without incurring the most severe blame. All morality relative to the
relations of the sexes is founded on this principle: that a woman once
obtained belongs to the man, that she is his property like his horse or
his weapons. And this having ceased to be true, absurdities result from
it, such as the marriage or contract of sale of a woman to a man, with
clauses restricting the right of ownership introduced as a consequence
of the gradual diminution of the claims of the possessor.

“The obligation imposed on a girl that she should bring her virginity
to her husband comes from the times when girls were married immediately
they were of a marriageable age. It is ridiculous that a girl who
marries at twenty-five or thirty should be subject to that obligation.
You will, perhaps, say that it is a present with which her husband, if
she gets one at last, will be gratified; but every moment we see men
wooing married women and showing themselves perfectly satisfied to take
them as they find them.

“Still, even in our own day, the duty of girls is determined in
religious morality by the old belief that God, the most powerful of
warriors, is polygamous, that he has reserved all maidens for himself,
and that men can only take those whom he has left. This belief, although
traces of it exist in several metaphors of mysticism, is abandoned
to-day, by most civilised peoples. However, it still dominates the
education of girls not only among our believers, but even among our
free-thinkers, who, as a rule, think freely for the reason that they do
not think at all.

“Discretion means ability to separate and discern. We say that a girl is
discreet when she knows nothing at all. We cultivate her ignorance. In
spite of all our care the most discreet know something, for we cannot
conceal from them their own nature and their own sensations. But they
know badly, they know in a wrong way. That is all we obtain by our
careful education. . . .”

“Sir,” suddenly said Joseph Boutourle, the High Treasurer of Alca,
“believe me, there are innocent girls, perfectly innocent girls, and it
is a great pity. I have known three. They married, and the result was
tragical.”

“I have noticed,” Professor Haddock went on, “that Europeans in general
and Penguins in particular occupy themselves, after sport and motoring,
with nothing so much as with love. It is giving a great deal of
importance to a matter that has very little weight.”

“Then, Professor,” exclaimed Madame Cremeur in a choking voice, “when
a woman has completely surrendered herself to you, you think it is a
matter of no importance?”

“No, Madame; it can have its importance,” answered Professor Haddock,
“but it is necessary to examine if when she surrenders herself to us she
offers us a delicious fruit-garden or a plot of thistles and dandelions.
And then, do we not misuse words? In love, a woman lends herself rather
than gives herself. Look at the pretty Madame Pensee. . . .”

“She is my mother,” said a tall, fair young man.

“Sir, I have the greatest respect for her,” replied Professor Haddock;
“do not be afraid that I intend to say anything in the least offensive
about her. But allow me to tell you that, as a rule, the opinions of
sons about their mothers are not to be relied on. They do not bear
enough in mind that a mother is a mother only because she loved, and
that she can still love. That, however, is the case, and it would be
deplorable were it otherwise. I have noticed, on the contrary, that
daughters do not deceive themselves about their mothers’ faculty for
loving or about the use they make of it; they are rivals; they have
their eyes upon them.”

The insupportable Professor spoke a great deal longer, adding
indecorum to awkwardness, and impertinence to incivility, accumulating
incongruities, despising what is respectable, respecting what is
despicable; but no one listened to him further.

During this time in a room that was simple without grace, a room sad
for the want of love, a room which, like all young girls’ rooms, had
something of the cold atmosphere of a place of waiting about it, Eveline
Clarence turned over the pages of club annuals and prospectuses of
charities in order to obtain from them some acquaintance with society.
Being convinced that her mother, shut up in her own intellectual but
poor world, could neither bring her out or push her into prominence, she
decided that she herself would seek the best means of winning a husband.
At once calm and obstinate, without dreams or illusions, and regarding
marriage as but a ticket of admission or a passport, she kept before
her mind a clear notion of the hazards, difficulties, and chances of her
enterprise. She had the art of pleasing and a coldness of temperament
that enabled her to turn it to its fullest advantage. Her weakness lay
in the fact that she was dazzled by anything that had an aristocratic
air.

When she was alone with her mother she said:

“Mamma, we will go to-morrow to Father Douillard’s retreat.”



II. THE CHARITY OF ST. ORBEROSIA

Every Friday evening at nine o’clock the choicest of Alcan society
assembled in the aristocratic church of St. Mael for the Reverend Father
Douillard’s retreat. Prince and Princess des Boscenos, Viscount and
Viscountess Olive, M. and Madame Bigourd, Monsieur and Madame de La
Trumelle were never absent. The flower of the aristocracy might be seen
there, and fair Jewish baronesses also adorned it by their presence, for
the Jewish baronesses of Alca were Christians.

This retreat, like all religious retreats, had for its object to procure
for those living in the world opportunities for recollection so that
they might think of their eternal salvation. It was also intended to
draw down upon so man noble and illustrious families the benediction
of L. Orberosia, who loves the Penguins. The Reverend Father Douillard
strove for the completion of his task with a truly apostolical zeal. He
hoped to restore the prerogatives of St. Orberosia as the patron saint
of Penguinia and to dedicate to her a monumental church on one of the
hills that dominate the city. His efforts had been crowned with great
success, and for the accomplishing of this national enterprise he had
already united more than a hundred thousand adherents and collected more
than twenty millions of francs.

It was in the choir of St. Mael’s that St. Orberosia’s new shrine,
shining with gold, sparkling with precious stones, and surrounded by
tapers and flowers, had been erected.

The following account may be read in the “History of the Miracles of the
Patron Saint of Alca” by the Abbe Plantain:

“The ancient shrine had been melted down during the Terror and the
precious relics of the saint thrown into a fire that had been lit on the
Place de Greve; but a poor woman of great piety, named Rouquin, went by
night at the peril of her life to gather up the calcined bones and the
ashes of the blessed saint. She preserved them in a jam-pot, and when
religion was again restored, brought them to the venerable Cure of
St. Maels. The woman ended her days piously as a vendor of tapers and
custodian of seats in the saint’s chapel.”

It is certain that in the time of Father Douillard, although faith was
declining, the cult of St. Orberosia, which for three hundred years had
fallen under the criticism of Canon Princeteau and the silence of the
Doctors of the Church, recovered, and was surrounded with more pomp,
more splendour, and more fervour than ever. The theologians did not
now subtract a single iota from the legend. They held as certainly
established all the facts related by Abbot Simplicissimus, and in
particular declared, on the testimony of that monk, that the devil,
assuming a monk’s form had carried off the saint to a cave and had there
striven with her until she overcame him. Neither places nor dates caused
them any embarrassment. They paid no heed to exegesis and took good
care not to grant as much to science as Canon Princeteau had formerly
conceded. They knew too well whither that would lead.

The church shone with lights and flowers. An operatic tenor sang the
famous canticle of St. Orberosia:

     Virgin of Paradise
     Come, come in the dusky night
     And on us shed
     Thy beams of light.

Mademoiselle Clarence sat beside her mother and in front of Viscount
Clena. She remained kneeling during a considerable time, for the
attitude of prayer is natural to discreet virgins and it shows off their
figures.

The Reverend Father Douillard ascended the pulpit. He was a powerful
orator and could, at once melt, surprise, and rouse his hearers. Women
complained only that he fulminated against vice with excessive harshness
and in crude terms that made them blush. But they liked him none the
less for it.

He treated in his sermon of the seventh trial of St. Orberosia, who was
tempted by the dragon which she went forth to combat. But she did not
yield, and she disarmed the monster. The orator demonstrated without
difficulty that we, also, by the aid of St. Orberosia, and strong in the
virtue which she inspires, can in our turn overthrow the dragons that
dart upon us and are waiting to devour us, the dragon of doubt, the
dragon of impiety, the dragon of forgetfulness of religious duties.
He proved that the charity of St. Orberosia was a work of social
regeneration, and he concluded by an ardent appeal to the faithful “to
become instruments of the Divine mercy, eager upholders and supporters
of the charity of St. Orberosia, and to furnish it with all the means
which it required to take its flight and bear its salutary fruits.” *

     * Cf. J. Ernest Charles in the “Censeur,” May-August, 1907,
     p. 562, col. 2.

After the ceremony, the Reverend Father Douillard remained in
the sacristy at the disposal of those of the faithful who desired
information concerning the charity, or who wished to bring their
contributions. Mademoiselle Clarence wished to speak to Father
Douillard, so did Viscount Clena. The crowd was large, and a queue was
formed. By chance Viscount Clena and Mademoiselle Clarence were side by
side and possibly they were squeezed a little closely to each other
by the crowd. Eveline had noticed this fashionable young man, who was
almost as well known as his father in the world of sport. Clena had
noticed her, and, as he thought her pretty, he bowed to her, then
apologised and pretended to believe that he had been introduced to the
ladies, but could not remember where. They pretended to believe it also.

He presented himself the following week at Madame Clarence’s, thinking
that her house was a bit fast--a thing not likely to displease him--and
when he saw Eveline again he felt he had not been mistaken and that she
was an extremely pretty girl.

Viscount Clena had the finest motor-car in Europe. For three months he
drove the Clarences every day over hills and plains, through woods and
valleys; they visited famous sites and went over celebrated castles. He
said to Eveline all that could be said and did all that could be done
to overcome her resistance. She did not conceal from him that she
loved him, that she would always love him, and love no one but him. She
remained grave and trembling by his side. To his devouring passion she
opposed the invincible defence of a virtue conscious of its danger. At
the end of three months, after having gone uphill and down hill,
turned sharp corners, and negotiated level crossings, and experienced
innumerable break-downs, he knew her as well as he knew the fly-wheel of
his car, but not much better. He employed surprises, adventures,
sudden stoppages in the depths of forests and before hotels, but he had
advanced no farther. He said to himself that it was absurd; then, taking
her again in his car he set off at fifty miles an hour quite prepared to
upset her in a ditch or to smash himself and her against a tree.

One day, having come to take her on some excursion, he found her more
charming than ever, and more provoking. He darted upon her as a storm
falls upon the reeds that border a lake. She bent with adorable weakness
beneath the breath of the storm, and twenty times was almost carried
away by its strength, but twenty times she arose, supple and, bowing to
the wind. After all these shocks one would have said that a light breeze
had barely touched her charming stem; she smiled as if ready to be
plucked by a bold hand. Then her unhappy aggressor, desperate, enraged,
and three parts mad, fled so as not to kill her, mistook the door, went
into the bedroom of Madame Clarence, whom he found putting on her hat in
front of a wardrobe, seized her, flung her on the bed, and possessed her
before she knew what had happened.

The same day Eveline, who had been making inquiries, learned that
Viscount Clena had nothing but debts, lived on money given him by an
elderly lady, and promoted the sale of the latest models of a motor-car
manufacturer. They separated with common accord and Eveline began again
disdainfully to serve tea to her mother’s guests.



III. HIPPOLYTE CERES

In Madame Clarence’s drawing-room the conversation turned upon love, and
many charming things were said about it.

“Love is a sacrifice,” sighed Madame Cremeur.

“I agree with you,” replied M. Boutourle with animation.

But Professor Haddock soon displayed his fastidious insolence.

“It seems to me,” said he, “that the Penguin ladies have made a great
fuss since, through St. Mael’s agency, they became viviparous. But there
is nothing to be particularly proud of in that, for it is a state they
share in common with cows and pigs, and even with orange and lemon
trees, for the seeds of these plants germinate in the pericarp.”

“The self-importance which the Penguin ladies give themselves does not
go so far back as that,” answered M. Boutourle. “It dates from the day
when the holy apostle gave them clothes. But this self-importance was
long kept in restraint, and displayed itself fully only with increased
luxury of dress and in a small section of society. For go only two
leagues from Alca into the country at harvest time, and you will see
whether women are over-precise or self-important.”

On that day M. Hippolyte Ceres paid his first call. He was a Deputy of
Alca, and one of the youngest members of the House. His father was
said to have kept a dram shop, but he himself was a lawyer of robust
physique, a good though prolix speaker, with a self-important air and a
reputation for ability.

“M. Ceres,” said the mistress of the house, “your constituency is one of
the finest in Alca.”

“And there are fresh improvements made in it every day, Madame.”

“Unfortunately, it is impossible to take a stroll through it any
longer,” said M. Boutourle.

“Why?” asked M. Ceres.

“On account of the motors, of course.”

“Do not give them a bad name,” answered the Deputy. “They are our great
national industry.”

“I know. The Penguins of to-day make me think of the ancient Egyptians.
According to Clement of Alexandria, Taine tells us--though he misquotes
the text--the Egyptians worshipped the crocodiles that devoured them.
The Penguins to-day worship the motors that crush them. Without a doubt
the future belongs to the metal beast. We are no more likely to go back
to cabs than we are to go back to the diligence. And the long martyrdom
of the horse will come to an end. The motor, which the frenzied cupidity
of manufacturers hurls like a juggernaut’s car upon the bewildered
people and of which the idle and fashionable make a foolish though fatal
elegance, will soon begin to perform its true function, and putting its
strength at the service of the entire people, will behave like a docile,
toiling monster. But in order that the motor may cease to be injurious
and become beneficent we must build roads suited to its speed, roads
which it cannot tear up with its ferocious tyres, and from which it will
send no clouds of poisonous dust into human lungs. We ought not to allow
slower vehicles or mere animals to go upon those roads, and we should
establish garages upon them and foot-bridges over them, and so create
order and harmony among the means of communication of the future. That
is the wish of every good citizen.”

Madame Clarence led the conversation back to the improvements in M.
Ceres’ constituency. M. Ceres showed his enthusiasm for demolitions,
tunnelings, constructions, reconstructions, and all other fruitful
operations.

“We build to-day in an admirable style,” said he; “everywhere majestic
avenues are being reared. Was ever anything as fine as our arcaded
bridges and our domed hotels!”

“You are forgetting that big palace surmounted an immense melon-shaped
dome,” grumbled by M. Daniset, an old art amateur, in a voice of
restrained rage. “I am amazed at the degree of ugliness which a modern
city can attain. Alca is becoming Americanised. Everywhere we are
destroying all that is free, unexpected, measured, restrained, human,
or traditional among the things that are left us. Everywhere we are
destroying that charming object, a piece of an old wall that bears up
the branches of a tree. Everywhere we are suppressing some fragment
of light and air, some fragment of nature, some fragment of the
associations that still remain with us, some fragment of our fathers,
some fragment of ourselves. And we are putting up frightful, enormous,
infamous houses, surmounted in Viennese style by ridiculous domes, or
fashioned after the models of the ‘new art’ without mouldings, or
having profiles with sinister corbels and burlesque pinnacles, and such
monsters as these shamelessly peer over the surrounding buildings. We
see bulbous protuberances stuck on the fronts of buildings and we are
told they are ‘new art’ motives. I have seen the ‘new art’ in other
countries, but it is not so ugly as with us; it has fancy and it has
simplicity. It is only in our own country that by a sad privilege we may
behold the newest and most diverse styles of architectural ugliness. Not
an enviable privilege!”

“Are you not afraid,” asked M. Ceres severely, “are you not afraid that
these bitter criticisms tend to keep out of our capital the foreigners
who flow into it from all arts of the world and who leave millions
behind them?”

“You may set your mind at rest about that,” answered M. Daniset.
“Foreigners do not come to admire our buildings; they come to see our
courtesans, our dressmakers, and our dancing saloons.”

“We have one bad habit,” sighed M. Ceres, “it is that we calumniate
ourselves.”

Madame Clarence as an accomplished hostess thought it was time to return
to the subject of love and asked M. Jumel his opinion of M. Leon Blum’s
recent book in which the author complained. . . .

“. . . That an irrational custom,” went on Professor Haddock, “prevents
respectable young ladies from making love, a thing they would enjoy
doing, whilst mercenary girls do it too much and without getting any
enjoyment out of it. It is indeed deplorable. But M. Leon Blum need
not fret too much. If the evil exists, as he says it does, in our
middle-class society, I can assure him that everywhere else he would see
a consoling spectacle. Among the people, the mass of the people through
town and country, girls do not deny themselves that pleasure.”

“It is depravity!” said Madame Cremeur.

And she praised the innocence of young girls in terms full of modesty
and grace. It was charming to hear her.

Professor Haddock’s views on the same subject were, on the contrary,
painful to listen to.

“Respectable young girls,” said he, “are guarded and watched over.
Besides, men do not, as a rule, pursue them much, either through
probity, or from a fear of grave responsibilities, or because the
seduction of a young girl would not be to their credit. Even then we do
not know what really takes place, for the reason that what is hidden is
not seen. This is a condition necessary to the existence of all society.
The scruples of respectable young girls could be more easily overcome
than those of married women if the same pressure were brought to bear on
them, and for this there are two reasons: they have more illusions, and
their curiosity has not been satisfied. Women, for the most part, have
been so disappointed by their husbands that they have not courage
enough to begin again with somebody else. I myself have been met by this
obstacle several times in my attempts at seduction.”

At the moment when Professor Haddock ended his unpleasant remarks,
Mademoiselle Eveline Clarence entered the drawing-room and listlessly
handed about tea with that expression of boredom which gave an oriental
charm to her beauty.

“For my part,” said Hippolyte Ceres, looking at her, “I declare myself
the young ladies’ champion.”

“He must be a fool,” thought the girl.

Hippolyte Ceres, who had never set foot outside of his political world
of electors and elected, thought Madame Clarence’s drawing-room most
select, its mistress exquisite, and her daughter amazingly beautiful.
His visits became frequent and he paid court to both of them. Madame
Clarence, who now liked attention, thought him agreeable. Eveline showed
no friendliness towards him, and treated him with a hauteur and disdain
that he took for aristocratic behaviour and fashionable manners, and
he thought all the more of her on that account. This busy man taxed his
ingenuity to please them, and he sometimes succeeded. He got them
cards for fashionable functions and boxes at the Opera. He furnished
Mademoiselle Clarence with several opportunities of appearing to great
advantage and in particular at a garden party which, although given by
a Minister, was regarded as really fashionable, and gained its first
success in society circles for the Republic.

At that party Eveline had been much noticed and had attracted the
special attention of a young diplomat called Roger Lambilly who,
imagining that she belonged to a rather fast set, invited her to his
bachelor’s flat. She thought him handsome and believed him rich, and she
accepted. A little moved, almost disquieted, she very nearly became the
victim of her daring, and only avoided defeat by an offensive measure
audaciously carried out. This was the most foolish escapade in her
unmarried life.

Being now on friendly terms with Ministers and with the President,
Eveline continued to wear her aristocratic and pious affectations,
and these won for her the sympathy of the chief personages in the
anti-clerical and democratic Republic. M. Hippolyte Ceres, seeing that
she was succeeding and doing him credit, liked her still more. He even
went so far as to fall madly in love with her.

Henceforth, in spite of everything, she began to observe him with
interest, being curious to see if his passion would increase. He
appeared to her without elegance or grace, and not well bred, but
active, clear-sighted, full of resource, and not too great a bore. She
still made fun of him, but he had now won her interest.

One day she wished to test him. It was during the elections, when
members of Parliament were, as the phrase runs, requesting a renewal of
their mandates. He had an opponent, who, though not dangerous at first
and not much of an orator, was rich and was reported to be gaining votes
every day. Hippolyte Ceres, banishing both dull security and foolish
alarm from his mind, redoubled his care. His chief method of action
was by public meetings at which he spoke vehemently against the rival
candidate. His committee held huge meetings on Saturday evenings and
at three o’clock on Sunday afternoons. One Sunday, as he called on
the Clarences, he found Eveline alone in the drawing-room. He had been
chatting for about twenty or twenty-five minutes, when, taking out his
watch, he saw that it was a quarter to three. The young girl showed
herself amiable, engaging, attractive, and full of promises. Ceres was
fascinated, but he stood up to go.

“Stay a little longer,” said she in a pressing and agreeable voice which
made him promptly sit down again.

She was full of interest, of abandon, curiosity, and weakness. He
blushed, turned pale, and again got up.

Then, in order to keep him still longer, she looked at him out of two
grey and melting eyes, and though her bosom was heaving, she did not say
another word. He fell at her feet in distraction, but once more looking
at his watch, he jumped up with a terrible oath.

“D--! a quarter to four! I must be off.”

And immediately he rushed down the stairs.

From that time onwards she had a certain amount of esteem for him.



IV. A POLITICIAN’S MARRIAGE

She was not quite in love with him, but she wished him to be in love
with her. She was, moreover, very reserved with him, and that not solely
from any want of inclination to be otherwise, since in affairs of
love some things are due to indifference, to inattention, to woman’s
instinct, to traditional custom and feeling, to a desire to try one’s
power, and to satisfaction at seeing its results. The reason of her
prudence was that she knew him to be very much infatuated and capable
of taking advantage of any familiarities she allowed as well as of
reproaching her coarsely afterwards if she discontinued them.

As he was a professed anti-clerical and free-thinker, she thought it
a good plan to affect an appearance of piety in his presence and to
be seen with prayer-books bound in red morocco, such as Queen Marie
Leczinska’s or the Dauphiness Marie Josephine’s “The Last Two Weeks of
Lent.” She lost no opportunity, either, of showing him the subscriptions
that she collected for the endowment of the national cult of St.
Orberosia. Eveline did not act in this way because she wished to tease
him. Nor did it spring from a young girl’s archness, or a spirit of
constraint, or even from snobbishness, though there was more than
a suspicion of this latter in her behaviour. It was but her way of
asserting herself, of stamping herself with a definite character, of
increasing her value. To rouse the Deputy’s courage she wrapped herself
up in religion, just as Brunhild surrounded herself with flames so as to
attract Sigurd. Her audacity was successful. He thought her still more
beautiful thus. Clericalism was in his eyes a sign of good form.

Ceres was re-elected by an enormous majority and returned to a House
which showed itself more inclined to the Left, more advanced, and, as it
seemed, more eager for reform than its predecessor. Perceiving at once
that so much zeal was but intended to hide a fear of change, and a
sincere desire to do nothing, he determined to adopt a policy that would
satisfy these aspirations. At the beginning of the session he made a
great speech, cleverly thought out and well arranged, dealing with the
idea that all reform ought to be put off for a long time. He showed
himself heated, even fervid; holding the principle that an orator should
recommend moderation with extreme vehemence. He was applauded by the
entire assembly. The Clarences listened to him from the President’s
box and Eveline trembled in spite of herself at the solemn sound of
the applause. On the same bench the fair Madame Pensee shivered at the
intonations of his virile voice.

As soon as he descended from the tribune, Ceres, even while the audience
were still clapping, went without a moment’s delay to salute the
Clarences in their box. Eveline saw in him the beauty of success, and as
he leaned towards the ladies, wiping his neck with his handkerchief
and receiving their congratulations with an air of modesty though not
without a tinge of self-conceit, the young girl glanced towards Madame
Pensee and saw her, palpitating and breathless, drinking in the hero’s
applause with her head thrown backwards. It seemed as if she were on the
point of fainting. Eveline immediately smiled tenderly on M. Ceres.

The Alcan deputy’s speech had a great vogue. In political “spheres”
 it was regarded as extremely able. “We have at last heard an honest
pronouncement,” said the chief Moderate journal. “It is a regular
programme!” they said in the House. It was agreed that he was a man of
immense talent.

Hippolyte Ceres had now established himself as leader of the radicals,
socialists, and anti-clericals, and they appointed him President of
their group, which was then the most considerable in the House. He thus
found himself marked out for office in the next ministerial combination.

After a long hesitation Eveline Clarence accepted the idea of marrying
M. Hippolyte Ceres. The great man was a little common for her taste.
Nothing had yet proved that he would one day reach the point where
politics bring in large sums of money. But she was entering her
twenty-seventh year and knew enough of life to see that she must not be
too fastidious or show herself too difficult to please.

Hippolyte Ceres was celebrated; Hippolyte Ceres was happy. He was no
longer recognisable; the elegance of his clothes and deportment had
increased tremendously. He wore an undue number of white gloves. Now
that he was too much of a society man, Eveline began to doubt if it was
not worse than being too little of one. Madame Clarence regarded the
engagement with favour. She was reassured concerning her daughter’s
future and pleased to have flowers given her every Thursday for her
drawing-room.

The celebration of the marriage raised some difficulties. Eveline was
pious and wished to receive the benediction of the Church. Hippolyte
Ceres, tolerant but a free-thinker, wanted only a civil marriage. There
were many discussions and even some violent scenes upon the subject.
The last took place in the young girl’s room at the moment when the
invitations were being written. Eveline declared that if she did not go
to church she would not believe herself married. She spoke of breaking
off the engagement, and of going abroad with her mother, or of retiring
into a convent. Then she became tender, weak, suppliant. She sighed,
and everything in her virginal chamber sighed in chorus, the holy-water
font, the palm-branch above her white bed, the books of devotion on
their little shelves, and the blue and white statuette of St.
Orberosia chaining the dragon of Cappadocia, that stood upon the marble
mantelpiece. Hippolyte Ceres was moved, softened, melted.

Beautiful in her grief, her eyes shining with tears, her wrists girt
by a rosary of lapis lazuli and, so to speak, chained by her faith,
she suddenly flung herself at Hippolyte’s feet, and dishevelled, almost
dying, she embraced his knees.

He nearly yielded.

“A religious marriage,” he muttered, “a marriage in church, I could
make my constituents stand that, but my committee would not swallow the
matter so easily. . . . Still I’ll explain it to them . . . toleration,
social necessities . . . . They all send their daughters to Sunday
school . . . . But as for office, my dear I am afraid we are going to
drown all hope of that in your holy water.”

At these words she stood up grave, generous, resigned, conquered also in
her turn.

“My dear, I insist no longer.”

“Then we won’t have a religious marriage. It will be better, much better
not.”

“Very well, but be guided by me. I am going to try and arrange
everything both to your satisfaction and mine.”

She sought the Reverend Father Douillard and explained the situation. He
showed himself even more accommodating and yielding than she had hoped.

“Your husband is an intelligent man, a man of order and reason; he will
come over to us. You will sanctify him. It is not in vain that God has
granted him the blessing of a Christian wife. The Church needs no pomp
and ceremonial display for her benedictions. Now that she is persecuted,
the shadow of the crypts and the recesses of the catacombs are in better
accord with her festivals. Mademoiselle, when you have performed the
civil formalities come here to my private chapel in costume with M.
Ceres. I will marry you, a observe the most absolute discretion. I will
obtain the necessary dispensations from the Archbishop as well as all
facilities regarding the banns, confession-tickets, etc.”

Hippolyte, although he thought the combination a little dangerous,
agreed to it, a good deal flattered, at bottom.

“I will go in a short coat,” he said.

He went in a frock coat with white gloves and varnished shoes, and he
genuflected.

“Politeness demands. . . .”



V. THE VISIRE CABINET

The Ceres household was established with modest decency in a pretty flat
situated in a new building. Ceres loved his wife in a calm and tranquil
fashion. He was often kept late from home by the Commission on the
Budget and he worked more than three nights a week at a report on the
postal finances of which he hoped to make a masterpiece. Eveline thought
she could twist him round her finger, and this did not displease him.
The bad side of their situation was that they had not much money; in
truth they had very little. The servants of the Republic do not grow
rich in her service as easily as people think. Since the sovereign is no
longer there to distribute favours, each of them takes what he can, and
his depredations, limited by the depredations of all the others, are
reduced to modest proportions. Hence that austerity of morals that is
noticed in democratic leaders. They can only grow rich during periods
of great business activity and then they find themselves exposed to the
envy of their less favoured colleagues. Hippolyte Ceres had for a
long time foreseen such a period. He was one of those who had made
preparations for its arrival. Whilst waiting for it he endured his
poverty with dignity, and Eveline shared that poverty without suffering
as much as one might have thought. She was in close intimacy with the
Reverend Father Douillard and frequented the chapel of St. Orberosia,
where she met with serious society and people in a position to render
her useful services. She knew how to choose among them and gave her
confidence to none but those who deserved it. She had gained experience
since her motor excursions with Viscount Clena, and above all she had
now acquired the value of a married woman.

The deputy was at first uneasy about these pious practices, which were
ridiculed by the demagogic newspapers, but he was soon reassured, for
he saw all around him democratic leaders joyfully becoming reconciled to
the aristocracy and the Church.

They found that they had reached one of those periods (which often
recur) when advance had been carried a little too far. Hippolyte Ceres
gave a moderate support to this view. His policy was not a policy of
persecution but a policy of tolerance. He had laid its foundations in
his splendid speech on the preparations for reform. The Prime Minister
was looked upon as too advanced. He proposed schemes which were admitted
to be dangerous to capital, and the great financial companies were
opposed to him. Of course it followed that the papers of all views
supported the companies. Seeing the danger increasing, the Cabinet
abandoned its schemes, its programme, and its opinions, but it was too
late. A new administration was already ready. An insidious question by
Paul Visire which was immediately made the subject of a resolution, and
a fine speech by Hippolyte Ceres, overthrew the Cabinet.

The President of the Republic entrusted the formation of a new Cabinet
to this same Paul Visire, who, though still very young, had been a
Minister twice. He was a charming man, spending much of his time in the
green-rooms of theatres, very artistic, a great society man, of amazing
ability and industry. Paul Visire formed a temporary ministry intended
to reassure public feeling which had taken alarm, and Hippolyte Ceres
was invited to hold office in it.

The new ministry, belonging to all the groups in the majority,
represented the most diverse and contrary opinions, but they were all
moderate and convinced conservatives.* The Minister of Foreign Affairs
was retained from the former cabinet. He was a little dark man called
Crombile, who worked fourteen hours a day with the conviction that
he dealt with tremendous questions. He refused to see even his own
diplomatic agents, and was terribly uneasy, though he did not disturb
anybody else, for the want of foresight of peoples is infinite and that
of governments is just as great.

     * As this ministry exercised considerable influence upon the
     destinies of the country and of the world, we think it well
     to give its composition: Minister of the Interior and Prime
     Minister, Paul Visire; Minister of Justice, Pierre Bouc;
     Foreign Affairs, Victor Crombile; Finance, Terrasson;
     Education, Labillette; Commerce, Posts and Telegraphs,
     Hippolyte Ceres; Agriculture, Aulac; Public Works,
     Lapersonne; War, General Debonnaire; Admiralty, Admiral
     Vivier des Murenes.

The office of Public Works was given to a Socialist, Fortune Lapersonne.
It was then a political custom and one of the most solemn, most severe,
most rigorous, and if I may dare say so, the most terrible and cruel
of all political customs, to include a member of the Socialist party
in each ministry intended to oppose Socialism, so that the enemies of
wealth and property should suffer the shame of being attacked by one of
their own party, and so that they could not unite against these forces
without turning to some one who might possibly attack themselves in the
future. Nothing but a profound ignorance of the human heart would permit
the belief that it was difficult to find a Socialist to occupy these
functions. Citizen Fortune Lapersonne entered the Visire cabinet of
his own free will and without any constraint; and he found those who
approved of his action even among his former friends, so great was the
fascination that power exercised over the Penguins!

General Debonnaire went to the War Office. He was looked upon as one
of the ablest generals in the army, but he was ruled by a woman, the
Baroness Bildermann, who, though she had reached the age of intrigue,
was still beautiful. She was in the pay of a neighbouring and hostile
Power.

The new Minister of Marine, the worthy Admiral Vivier des Murenes, was
generally regarded as an excellent seaman. He displayed a piety that
would have seemed excessive in an anti-clerical minister, if the
Republic had not recognised that religion was of great maritime utility.
Acting on the instruction of his spiritual director, the Reverend Father
Douillard, the worthy Admiral had dedicated his fleet to St. Orberosia
and directed canticles in honour of the Alcan Virgin to be composed by
Christian bards. These replaced the national hymn in the music played by
the navy.

Prime Minister Visire declared himself to be distinctly anticlerical
but ready to respect all creeds; he asserted that he was a sober-minded
reformer. Paul Visire and his colleagues desired reforms, and it was in
order not to compromise reform that they proposed none; for they were
true politicians and knew that reforms are compromised the moment they
are proposed. The government was well received, respectable people were
reassured, and the funds rose.

The administration announced that four new ironclads would be put
into commission, that prosecutions would be undertaken against the
Socialists, and it formally declared its intention to have nothing to do
with any inquisitorial income-tax. The choice of Terrasson as Minister
of Finance was warmly approved by the press. Terrasson, an old minister
famous for his financial operations, gave warrant to all the hopes of
the financiers and shadowed forth a period of great business activity.
Soon those three udders of modern nations, monopolies, bill discounting,
and fraudulent speculation, were swollen with the milk of wealth.
Already whispers were heard of distant enterprises, and of planting
colonies, and the boldest put forward in the newspapers the project of a
military and financial protectorate over Nigritia.

Without having yet shown what he was capable of, Hippolyte Ceres was
considered a man of weight. Business people thought highly of him.
He was congratulated on all sides for having broken with the
extreme sections, the dangerous men, and for having realised the
responsibilities of government.

Madame Ceres shone alone amid the Ministers’ wives. Crombile withered
away in bachelordom. Paul Visire had married money in the person of
Mademoiselle Blampignon, an accomplished, estimable, and simple lady who
was always ill, and whose feeble health compelled her to stay with her
mother in the depths of a remote province. The other Ministers’ wives
were not born to charm the sight, and people smiled when they read
that Madame Labillette had appeared at the Presidency Ball wearing a
headdress of birds of paradise. Madame Vivier des Murenes, a woman of
good family, was stout rather than tall, had a face like a beef-steak
and the voice of a newspaper-seller. Madame Debonnaire, tall, dry,
and florid, was devoted to young officers. She ruined herself by her
escapades and crimes and only regained consideration by dint of ugliness
and insolence.

Madame Ceres was the charm of the Ministry and its tide to
consideration. Young, beautiful, and irreproachable, she charmed alike
society and the masses by her combination of elegant costumes and
pleasant smiles.

Her receptions were thronged by the great Jewish financiers. She gave
the most fashionable garden parties in the Republic. The newspapers
described her dresses and the milliners did not ask her to pay for them.
She went to Mass; she protected the chapel of St. Orberosia from the
ill-will of the people; and she aroused in aristocratic hearts the hope
of a fresh Concordat.

With her golden hair, grey eyes, and supple and slight though rounded
figure, she was indeed pretty. She enjoyed an excellent reputation and
she was so adroit, and calm, so much mistress of herself, that she would
have preserved it intact even if she had been discovered in the very act
of ruining it.

The session ended with a victory for the cabinet which, amid the
almost unanimous applause of the House, defeated a proposal for an
inquisitorial tax, and with a triumph for Madame Ceres who gave parties
in honour of three kings who were at the moment passing through Alca.



VI. THE SOFA OF THE FAVOURITE

The Prime Minister invited Monsieur and Madame Ceres to spend a couple
of weeks of the holidays in a little villa that he had taken in the
mountains, and in which he lived alone. The deplorable health of Madame
Paul Visire did not allow her to accompany her husband, and she remained
with her relatives in one of the southern provinces.

The villa had belonged to the mistress of one of the last Kings of Alca:
the drawing-room retained its old furniture, and in it was still to be
found the Sofa of the Favourite. The country was charming; a pretty blue
stream, the Aiselle, flowed at the foot of the hill that dominated the
villa. Hippolyte Ceres loved fishing; when engaged at this monotonous
occupation he often formed his best Parliamentary combinations, and
his happiest oratorical inspirations. Trout swarmed in the Aiselle; he
fished it from morning till evening in a boat that the Prime Minister
readily placed at is disposal.

In the mean time, Eveline and Paul Visire sometimes took a turn together
in the garden, or had a little chat in the drawing-room. Eveline,
although she recognised the attraction that Visire had for women, had
hitherto displayed towards him only an intermittent and superficial
coquetry, without any deep intentions or settled design. He was a
connoisseur and saw that she was pretty. The House and the Opera had
deprived him of all leisure, but, in a little villa, the grey eyes
and rounded figure of Eveline took on a value in his eyes. One day as
Hippolyte Ceres was fishing in the Aiselle, he made her sit beside him
on the Sofa of the Favourite. Long rays of gold struck Eveline like
arrows from a hidden Cupid through the chinks of the curtains which
protected her from the heat and glare of a brilliant day. Beneath her
white muslin dress her rounded yet slender form was outlined in its
grace and youth. Her skin was cool and fresh, and had the fragrance of
freshly mown hay. Paul Visire behaved as the occasion warranted, and for
her part, she was opposed neither to the games of chance or of society.
She believed it would be nothing or a trifle; she was mistaken.

“There was,” says the famous German ballad, “on the sunny side of the
town square, beside a wall whereon the creeper grew, a pretty little
letter-box, as blue as the corn-flowers, smiling and tranquil.

“All day long there came to it, in their heavy shoes, small
shop-keepers, rich farmers, citizens, the tax-collector and the
policeman, and they put into it their business letters, their invoices,
their summonses their notices to pay taxes, the judges’ returns, and
orders for the recruits to assemble. It remained smiling and tranquil.

“With joy, or in anxiety, there advanced towards it workmen and farm
servants, maids and nursemaids, accountants, clerks, and women carrying
their little children in their arms; they put into it notifications of
births, marriages, and deaths, letters between engaged couples, between
husbands and wives, from mothers to their sons, and from sons to their
mothers. It remained smiling and tranquil.

“At twilight, young lads and young girls slipped furtively to it, and
put in love-letters, some moistened with tears that blotted the ink,
others with a little circle to show the place to kiss, all of them very
long. It remained smiling and tranquil.

“Rich merchants came themselves through excess of carefulness at the
hour of daybreak, and put into it registered letters, and letters with
five red seals, full of bank notes or cheques on the great financial
establishments of the Empire. It remained smiling and tranquil.

“But one day, Gaspar, whom it had never seen, and whom it did not know
from Adam, came to put in a letter, of which nothing is known but that
it was folded like a little hat. Immediately the pretty letter-box fell
into a swoon. Henceforth it remains no longer in its place; it runs
through streets, fields, and woods, girdled with ivy, and crowned with
roses. It keeps running up hill and down dale; the country policeman
surprises it sometimes, amidst the corn, in Gaspar’s arms kissing him
upon the mouth.”

Paul Visire had recovered all his customary nonchalance. Eveline
remained stretched on the Divan of the Favourite in an attitude of
delicious astonishment.

The Reverend Father Douillard, an excellent moral theologian, and a man
who in the decadence of the Church has preserved his principles, was
very right to teach, in conformity with the doctrine of the Fathers,
that while a woman commits a great sin by giving herself for money, she
commits a much greater one by giving herself for nothing. For, in the
first case she acts to support her life, and that is sometimes not
merely excusable but pardonable, and even worthy of the Divine Grace,
for God forbids suicide, and is unwilling that his creatures should
destroy themselves. Besides, in giving herself in order to live, she
remains humble, and derives no pleasure from it a thing which diminishes
the sin. But a woman who gives herself for nothing sins with pleasure
and exults in her fault. The pride and delight with which she burdens
her crime increase its load of moral guilt.

Madame Hippolyte Ceres’ example shows the profundity of these moral
truths. She perceived that she had senses. A second was enough to bring
about this discovery, to change her soul, to alter her whole life. To
have learned to know herself was at first a delight. The {greek here}
of the ancient philosophy is not a precept the moral fulfilment of which
procures any pleasure, since one enjoys little satisfaction from knowing
one’s soul. It is not the same with the flesh, for in it sources of
pleasure may be revealed to us. Eveline immediately felt an obligation
to her revealer equal to the benefit she had received, and she imagined
that he who had discovered these heavenly depths was the sole possessor
of the key to them. Was this an error, and might she not be able to
find others who also had the golden key? It is difficult to decide; and
Professor Haddock, when the facts were divulged (which happened without
much delay as we shall see), treated the matter from an experimental
point of view, in a scientific review, and concluded that the chances
Madame C-- would have of finding the exact equivalent of M. V-- were
in the proportion of 305 to 975008. This is as much as to say that she
would never find it. Doubtless her instinct told her the same, for she
attached herself distractedly to him.

I have related these facts with all the circumstances which seemed to me
worthy of attracting the attention of meditative and philosophic minds.
The Sofa of the Favourite is worthy of the majesty of history; on
it were decided the destinies of a great people; nay, on it was
accomplished an act whose renown was to extend over the neighbouring
nations both friendly and hostile, and even over all humanity. Too often
events of this nature escape the superficial minds and shallow spirits
who inconsiderately assume the task of writing history. Thus the secret
springs of events remain hidden from us. The fall of Empires and the
transmission of dominions astonish us and remain incomprehensible to us,
because we have not discovered the imperceptible point, or touched the
secret spring which when put in movement has destroyed and overthrown
everything. The author of this great history knows better than
anyone else his faults and his weaknesses, but he can do himself this
justice--that he has always kept the moderation, the seriousness, the
austerity, which an account of affairs of State demands, and that he has
never departed from the gravity which is suitable to a recital of human
actions.



VII. THE FIRST CONSEQUENCES

When Eveline confided to Paul Visire that she had never experienced
anything similar, he did not believe her. He had had a good deal to do
with women and knew that they readily say these things to men in order
to make them more in love with them. Thus his experience, as sometimes
happens, made him disregard the truth. Incredulous, but gratified all
the same, he soon felt love and something more for her. This state at
first seemed favourable to his intellectual faculties. Visire delivered
in the chief town of his constituency a speech full of grace, brilliant
and happy, which was considered to be a masterpiece.

The re-opening of Parliament was serene. A few isolated jealousies, a
few timid ambitions raised their heads in the House, and that was all. A
smile from the Prime Minister was enough to dissipate these shadows.
She and he saw each other twice a day, and wrote to each other in the
interval. He was accustomed to intimate relationships, was adroit, and
knew how to dissimulate; but Eveline displayed a foolish imprudence: she
made herself conspicuous with him in drawing-rooms, at the theatre, in
the House, and at the Embassies; she wore her love upon her face, upon
her whole person, in her moist glances, in the languishing smile of her
lips, in the heaving of her breast, in all her heightened, agitated,
and distracted beauty. Soon the entire country knew of their intimacy.
Foreign Courts were informed of it. The President of the Republic and
Eveline’s husband alone remained in ignorance. The President became
acquainted with it in the country, through a misplaced police report
which found its way, it is not known how, into his portmanteau.

Hippolyte Ceres, without being either very subtle, or very
perspicacious, noticed that there was something different in his home.
Eveline, who quite lately had interested herself in his affairs, and
shown, if not tenderness, at least affection, towards him, displayed
henceforth nothing but indifference and repulsion. She had always had
periods of absence, and made prolonged visits to the Charity of St.
Orberosia; now, she went out in the morning, remained out all day, and
sat down to dinner at nine o’clock in the evening with the face of a
somnambulist. Her husband thought it absurd; however, he might perhaps
have never known the reason for this; a profound ignorance of women, a
crass confidence in his own merit, and in his own fortune, might perhaps
have always hidden the truth from him, if the two lovers had not, so to
speak, compelled him to discover it.

When Paul Visire went to Eveline’s house and found her alone, they
used to say, as they embraced each other; “Not here! not here!” and
immediately they affected an extreme reserve. That was their invariable
rule. Now, one day, Paul Visire went to the house of his colleague
Ceres, with whom he had an engagement. It was Eveline who received him,
the Minister of Commerce being delayed by a commission.

“Not here!” said the lovers, smiling.

They said it, mouth to mouth, embracing, and clasping each other. They
were still saying it, when Hippolyte Ceres entered the drawing-room.

Paul Visire did not lose his presence of mind. He declared to Madame
Ceres that he would give up his attempt to take the dust out of her
eye. By this attitude he did not deceive the husband, but he was able to
leave the room with some dignity.

Hippolyte Ceres was thunderstruck. Eveline’s conduct appeared
incomprehensible to him; he asked her what reasons she had for it.

“Why? why?” he kept repeating continually, “why?”

She denied everything, not to convince him, for he had seen them, but
from expediency and good taste, and to avoid painful explanations.
Hippolyte Ceres suffered all the tortures of jealousy. He admitted it
to himself, he kept saying inwardly, “I am a strong man; I am clad in
armour; but the wound is underneath, it is in my heart,” and turning
towards his wife, who looked beautiful in her guilt, he would say:

“It ought not to have been with him.”

He was right--Eveline ought not to have loved in government circles.

He suffered so much that he took up his revolver, exclaiming: “I will go
and kill him!” But he remembered that a Minister of Commerce cannot kill
his own Prime Minister, and he put his revolver back into his drawer.

The weeks passed without calming his sufferings. Each morning he buckled
his strong man’s armour over his wound and sought in work and fame the
peace that fled from him. Every Sunday he inaugurated busts, statues,
fountains, artesian wells, hospitals, dispensaries, railways, canals,
public markets, drainage systems, triumphal arches, and slaughter
houses, and delivered moving speeches on each of these occasions.
His fervid activity devoured whole piles of documents; he changed the
colours of the postage stamps fourteen times in one week. Nevertheless,
he gave vent to outbursts of grief and rage that drove him insane; for
whole days his reason abandoned him. If he had been in the employment of
a private administration this would have been noticed immediately, but
it is much more difficult to discover insanity or frenzy in the conduct
of affairs of State. At that moment the government employees were
forming themselves into associations and federations amid a ferment
that was giving alarm both to the Parliament and to public feeling. The
postmen were especially prominent in their enthusiasm for trade unions.

Hippolyte Ceres informed them in a circular that their action was
strictly legal. The following day he sent out a second circular
forbidding all associations of government employees as illegal. He
dismissed one hundred and eighty postmen, reinstated them, reprimanded
them--and awarded them gratuities. At Cabinet councils he was always
on the point of bursting forth. The presence of the Head of the State
scarcely restrained him within the limits of the decencies, and as
he did not dare to attack his rival he consoled himself by heaping
invectives upon General Debonnaire, the respected Minister of War.
The General did not hear them, for he was deaf and occupied himself in
composing verses for the Baroness Bildermann. Hippolyte Ceres offered
an indistinct opposition to everything the Prime Minister proposed. In
a word, he was a madman. One faculty alone escaped the ruin of his
intellect: he retained his Parliamentary sense, his consciousness of
the temper of majorities, his thorough knowledge of groups, and his
certainty of the direction in which affairs were moving.



VIII. FURTHER CONSEQUENCES

The session ended calmly, and the Ministry saw no dangerous signs
upon the benches where the majority sat. It was visible, however, from
certain articles in the Moderate journals, that the demands of the
Jewish and Christian financiers were increasing daily, that the
patriotism of the banks required a civilizing expedition to Nigritia,
and that the steel trusts, eager in the defence of our coasts and
colonies, were crying out for armoured cruisers and still more armoured
cruisers. Rumours of war began to be heard. Such rumours sprang up every
year as regularly as the trade winds; serious people paid no heed
to them and the government usually let them die away from their own
weakness unless they grew stronger and spread. For in that case the
country would be alarmed. The financiers only wanted colonial wars and
the people did not want any wars at all. It loved to see its government
proud and even insolent, but at the least suspicion that a European war
was brewing, its violent emotion would quickly have reached the House.
Paul Visire was not uneasy. The European situation was in his view
completely reassuring. He was only irritated by the maniacal silence of
his Minister of Foreign Affairs. That gnome went to the Cabinet meetings
with a portfolio bigger than himself stuffed full of papers, said
nothing, refused to answer all questions, even those asked him by the
respected President of the Republic, and, exhausted by his obstinate
labours, took a few moments’ sleep in his arm-chair in which nothing
but the top of his little black head was to be seen above the green
tablecloth.

In the mean time Hippolyte Ceres became a strong man again. In company
with his colleague Lapersonne he formed numerous intimacies with ladies
of the theatre. They were both to be seen at night entering fashionable
restaurants in the company of ladies whom they over-topped by their
lofty stature and their new hats, and they were soon reckoned amongst
the most sympathetic frequenters of the boulevards. Fortune Lapersonne
had his own wound beneath his armour, His wife, a young milliner whom he
carried off from a marquis, had gone to live with a chauffeur. He loved
her still, and could not console himself for her loss, so that very
often in the private room of a restaurant, in the midst of a group of
girls who laughed and ate crayfish, the two ministers exchanged a look
full of their common sorrow and wiped away an unbidden tear.

Hippolyte Ceres, although wounded to the heart, did not allow himself to
be beaten. He swore that he would be avenged.

Madame Paul Visire, whose deplorable health forced her to live with her
relatives in a distant province, received an anonymous letter specifying
that M. Paul Visire, who had not a half-penny when he married her, was
spending her dowry on a married woman, E-- C--, that he gave this
woman thirty-thousand-franc motor-cars, and pearl necklaces costing
twenty-five thousand francs, and that he was going straight to dishonour
and ruin. Madame Paul Visire read the letter, fell into hysterics, and
handed it to her father.

“I am going to box your husband’s ears,” said M. Blampignon; “he is a
blackguard who will land you both in the workhouse unless we look out.
He may be Prime Minister, but he won’t frighten me.”

When he stepped off the train M. Blampignon presented himself at the
Ministry of the Interior, and was immediately received. He entered the
Prime Minister’s room in a fury.

“I have something to say to you, sir!” And he waved the anonymous
letter.

Paul Visire welcomed him smiling.

“You are welcome, my dear father. I was going to write to you. . . .
Yes, to tell you of your nomination to the rank of officer of the Legion
of Honour. I signed the patent this morning.”

M. Blampignon thanked his son-in-law warmly and threw the anonymous
letter into the fire.

He returned to his provincial house and found his daughter fretting and
agitated.

“Well! I saw your husband. He is a delightful fellow. But then, you
don’t understand how to deal with him.”

About this time Hippolyte Ceres learned through a little scandalous
newspaper (it is always through the newspapers that ministers are
informed of the affairs of State) that the Prime Minister dined every
evening with Mademoiselle Lysiane of the Folies Dramatiques, whose charm
seemed to have made a great impression on him. Thenceforth Ceres took
a gloomy joy in watching his wife. She came in every evening to dine or
dress with an air of agreeable fatigue and the serenity that comes from
enjoyment.

Thinking that she knew nothing, he sent her anonymous communications.
She read them at the table before him and remained still listless and
smiling.

He then persuaded himself that she gave no heed to these vague reports,
and that in order to disturb her it would be necessary to enable her to
verify her lover’s infidelity and treason for herself. There were at the
Ministry a number of trustworthy agents charged with secret inquiries
regarding the national defence. They were then employed in watching the
spies of a neighbouring and hostile Power who had succeeded in entering
the Postal and Telegraphic service. M. Ceres ordered them to suspend
their work for the present and to inquire where, when, and how, the
Minister of the Interior saw Mademoiselle Lysiane. The agents performed
their missions faithfully and told the minister that they had several
times seen the Prime Minister with a woman, but that she was not
Mademoiselle Lysiane. Hippolyte Ceres asked them nothing further. He was
right; the loves of Paul Visire and Lysiane were but an alibi invented
by Paul Visire himself, with Eveline’s approval, for his fame was rather
inconvenient to her, and she sighed for secrecy and mystery.

They were not shadowed by the agents of the Ministry of Commerce alone.
They were also followed by those of the Prefect of Police, and even by
those of the Minister of the Interior, who disputed with each other
the honour of protecting their chief. Then there were the emissaries
of several royalist, imperialist, and clerical organisations, those of
eight or ten blackmailers, several amateur detectives, a multitude of
reporters, and a crowd of photographers, who all made their appearance
wherever these two took refuge in their perambulating love affairs,
at big hotels, small hotels, town houses, country houses, private
apartments, villas, museums, palaces, hovels. They kept watch in the
streets, from neighbouring houses, trees, walls, stair-cases, landings,
roofs, adjoining rooms, and even chimneys. The Minister and his friend
saw with alarm all round their bed room, gimlets boring through doors
and shutters, and drills making holes in the walls. A photograph of
Madame Ceres in night attire buttoning her boots was the utmost that had
been obtained.

Paul Visire grew impatient and irritable, and often lost his good humour
and agreeableness. He came to the cabinet meetings in a rage and he,
too, poured invectives upon General Debonnaire--a brave man under fire
but a lax disciplinarian--and launched his sarcasms at against the
venerable admiral Vivier des Murenes whose ships went to the bottom
without any apparent reason.

Fortune Lapersonne listened open-eyed, and grumbled scoffingly between
his teeth:

“He is not satisfied with robbing Hippolyte Ceres of his wife, but he
must go and rob him of his catchwords too.”

These storms were made known by the indiscretion of some ministers and
by the complaints of the two old warriors, who declared their intention
of flinging their portfolios at the beggar’s head, but who did nothing
of the sort. These outbursts, far from injuring the lucky Prime
Minister, had an excellent effect on Parliament and public opinion,
who looked on them as signs of a keen solicitude for the welfare of the
national army and navy. The Prime Minister was the recipient of general
approbation.

To the congratulations of the various groups and of notable personages,
he replied with simple firmness: “Those are my principles!” and he had
seven or eight Socialists put in prison.

The session ended, and Paul Visire, very exhausted, went to take the
waters. Hippolyte Ceres refused to leave his Ministry, where the trade
union of telephone girls was in tumultuous agitation. He opposed it with
an unheard of violence, for he had now become a woman-hater. On Sundays
he went into the suburbs to fish along with his colleague Lapersonne,
wearing the tall hat that never left him since he had become a Minister.
And both of them, forgetting the fish, complained of the inconstancy of
women and mingled their griefs.

Hippolyte still loved Eveline and he still suffered. However, hope
had slipped into his heart. She was now separated from her lover, and,
thinking to win her back, he directed all his efforts to that end.
He put forth all his skill, showed himself sincere, adaptable,
affectionate, devoted, even discreet; his heart taught him the
delicacies of feeling. He said charming and touching things to the
faithless one, and, to soften her, he told her all that he had suffered.

Crossing the band of his trousers upon his stomach.

“See,” said he, “how thin I have got.”

He promised her everything he thought could gratify a woman, country
parties, hats, jewels.

Sometimes he thought she would take pity on him.

She no longer displayed an insolently happy countenance. Being separated
from Paul, her sadness had an air of gentleness. But the moment he made
a gesture to recover her she turned away fiercely and gloomily, girt
with her fault as if with a golden girdle.

He did not give up, making himself humble, suppliant, lamentable.

One day he went to Lapersonne and said to him with tears in his eyes:

“Will you speak to her?”

Lapersonne excused himself, thinking that his intervention would be
useless, but he gave some advice to his friend.

“Make her think that you don’t care about her, that you love another,
and she will come back to you.”

Hippolyte, adopting this method, inserted in the newspapers that he was
always to be found in the company of Mademoiselle Guinaud of the Opera.
He came home late or did not come home at all, assumed in Eveline’s
presence an appearance of inward joy impossible to restrain, took out of
his pocket, at dinner, a letter on scented paper which he pretended to
read with delight, and his lips seemed as in a dream to kiss invisible
lips. Nothing happened. Eveline did not even notice the change.
Insensible to all around her, she only came out of her lethargy to ask
for some louis from her husband, and if he did not give them she threw
him a look of contempt, ready to upbraid him with the shame which she
poured upon him in the sight of the whole world. Since she had loved
she spent a great deal on dress. She needed money, and she had only her
husband to secure it for her; she was so far faithful to him.

He lost patience, became furious, and threatened her with his revolver.
He said one day before her to Madame Clarence:

“I congratulate you, Madame; you have brought up your daughter to be a
wanton hussy.”

“Take me away, Mamma,” exclaimed Eveline. “I will get a divorce!”

He loved her more ardently than ever. In his jealous rage, suspecting
her, not without probability, of sending and receiving letters, he swore
that he would intercept them, re-established a censorship over the post,
threw private correspondence into confusion, delayed stock-exchange
quotations, prevented assignations, brought about bankruptcies, thwarted
passions, and caused suicides. The independent press gave utterance to
the complaints of the public and indignantly supported them. To justify
these arbitrary measures, the ministerial journals spoke darkly of plots
and public dangers, and promoted a belief in a monarchical conspiracy.
The less well-informed sheets gave more precise information, told of
the seizure of fifty thousand guns, and the landing of Prince Crucho.
Feeling grew throughout the country, and the republican organs called
for the immediate meeting of Parliament. Paul Visire returned to
Paris, summoned his colleagues, held an important Cabinet Council, and
proclaimed through his agencies that a plot had been actually formed
against the national representation, but that the Prime Minister held
the threads of it in his hand, and that a judicial inquiry was about to
be opened.

He immediately ordered the arrest of thirty Socialists, and whilst
the entire country was acclaiming him as its saviour, baffling the
watchfulness of his six hundred detectives, he secretly took Eveline to
a little house near the Northern railway station, where they remained
until night. After their departure, the maid of their hotel, as she
was putting their room in order, saw seven little crosses traced by a
hairpin on the wall at the head of the bed.

That is all that Hippolyte Ceres obtained as a reward of his efforts.



IX. THE FINAL CONSEQUENCES

Jealousy is a virtue of democracies which preserves them from tyrants.
Deputies began to envy the Prime Minister his golden key. For a year his
domination over the beauteous Madame Ceres had been known to the whole
universe. The provinces, whither news and fashions only arrive after a
complete revolution of the earth round the sun, were at last informed of
the illegitimate loves of the Cabinet. The provinces preserve an austere
morality; women are more virtuous there than they are in the capital.

Various reasons have been alleged for this: Education, example,
simplicity of life. Professor Haddock asserts that this virtue of
provincial ladies is solely due to the fact that the heels of their
shoes are low. “A woman,” said he, in a learned article in the
“Anthropological Review”, “a woman attracts a civilized man in
proportion as her feet make an angle with the ground. If this angle is
as much as thirty-five degrees, the attraction becomes acute. For the
position of the feet upon the ground determines the whole carriage of
the body, and it results that provincial women, since they wear low
heels, are not very attractive, and preserve their virtue with ease.”
 These conclusions were not generally accepted. It was objected that
under the influence of English and American fashions, low heels had been
introduced generally without producing the results attributed to them
by the learned Professor; moreover, it was said that the difference he
pretended to establish between the morals of the metropolis and those
of the provinces is perhaps illusory, and that if it exists, it is
apparently due to the fact that great cities offer more advantages and
facilities for love than small towns provide. However that may be, the
provinces began to murmur against the Prime Minister, and to raise a
scandal. This was not yet a danger, but there was a possibility that it
might become one.

For the moment the peril was nowhere and yet everywhere. The majority
remained solid; but the leaders became stiff and exacting. Perhaps
Hippolyte Ceres would never have intentionally sacrificed his interests
to his vengeance. But thinking that he could henceforth, without
compromising his own fortune, secretly damage that of Paul Visire, he
devoted himself to the skilful and careful preparation of difficulties
and perils for the Head of the Government. Though far from equalling his
rival in talent, knowledge, and authority, he greatly surpassed him in
his skill as a lobbyist. The most acute parliamentarians attributed
the recent misfortunes of the majority to his refusal to vote. At
committees, by a calculated imprudence, he favoured motions which
he knew the Prime Minister could not accept. One day his intentional
awkwardness provoked a sudden and violent conflict between the Minister
of the Interior, and his departmental Treasurer. Then Ceres became
frightened and went no further. It would have been dangerous for him to
overthrow the ministry too soon. His ingenious hatred found an issue by
circuitous paths. Paul Visire had a poor cousin of easy morals who bore
his name. Ceres, remembering this lady, Celine Visire, brought her
into prominence, arranged that she should become intimate with several
foreigners, and procured her engagements in the music-halls. One summer
night, on a stage in the Champs Elysees before a tumultuous crowd, she
performed risky dances to the sounds of wild music which was audible
in the gardens where the President of the Republic was entertaining
Royalty. The name of Visire, associated with these scandals, covered the
walls of the town, filled the newspapers, was repeated in the cafes and
at balls, and blazed forth in letters of fire upon the boulevards.

Nobody regarded the Prime Minister as responsible for the scandal of
his relatives, but a bad idea of his family came into existence, and the
influence of the statesman was diminished.

Almost immediately he was made to feel this in a pretty sharp fashion.
One day in the House, on a simple question, Labillette, the Minister of
Religion and Public Worship, who was suffering from an attack of liver,
and beginning to be exasperated by the intentions and intrigues of
the clergy, threatened to close the Chapel of St. Orberosia, and spoke
without respect of the National Virgin. The entire Right rose up in
indignation; the Left appeared to give but a half-hearted support to
the rash Minister. The leaders of the majority did not care to attack a
popular cult which brought thirty millions a year into the country.
The most moderate of the supporters of the Right, M. Bigourd, made
the question the subject of a resolution and endangered the Cabinet.
Luckily, Fortune Lapersonne, the Minister of Public Works, always
conscious of the obligations of power, was able in the Prime Minister’s
absence to repair the awkwardness and indecorum of his colleague, the
Minister of Public Worship. He ascended the tribune and bore witness
to the respect in which the Government held the heavenly Patron of
the country, the consoler of so many ills which science admitted its
powerlessness to relieve.

When Paul Visire, snatched at last from Eveline’s arms, appeared in the
House, the administration was saved; but the Prime Minister saw himself
compelled to grant important concessions to the upper classes. He
proposed in Parliament that six armoured cruisers should be laid down,
and thus won the sympathies of the Steel Trust; he gave new assurances
that the income tax would not be imposed, and he had eighteen Socialists
arrested.

He was soon to find himself opposed by more formidable obstacles. The
Chancellor of the neighbouring Empire in an ingenious and profound
speech upon the foreign relations of his sovereign, made a sly allusion
to the intrigues that inspired the policy of a great country. This
reference, which was receive with smiles by the Imperial Parliament,
was certain to irritate a punctilious republic. It aroused the national
susceptibility, which directed its wrath against its amorous
Minister. The Deputies seized upon a frivolous pretext to show their
dissatisfaction. A ridiculous incident, the fact that the wife of a
subprefect had danced at the Moulin Rouge, forced the minister to face
a vote of censure, and he was within a few votes of being defeated.
According to general opinion, Paul Visire had never been so weak, so
vacillating, or so spiritless, as on that occasion.

He understood that he could only keep himself in office by a great
political stroke, and he decided on the expedition to Nigritia. This
measure was demanded by the great financial and industrial corporations
and was one which would bring concessions of immense forests to the
capitalists, a loan of eight millions to the banking companies, as well
as promotions and decorations to the naval and military officers. A
pretext presented itself; some insult needed to be avenged, or some
debt to be collected. Six battleships, fourteen cruisers, and eighteen
transports sailed up the mouth of the river Hippopotamus. Six hundred
canoes vainly opposed the landing of the troops. Admiral Vivier des
Murenes’ cannons produced an appalling effect upon the blacks, who
replied to them with flights of arrows, but in spite of their fanatical
courage they were entirely defeated. Popular enthusiasm was kindled by
the newspapers which the financiers subsidised, and burst into a blaze.
Some Socialists alone protested against this barbarous, doubtful, and
dangerous enterprise. They were at once arrested.

At that moment when the Minister, supported by wealth, and now beloved
by the poor, seemed unconquerable, the light of hate showed Hippolyte
Ceres alone the danger, and looking with a gloomy joy at his rival, he
muttered between his teeth, “He is wrecked, the brigand!”

Whilst the country intoxicated itself with glory, the neighbouring
Empire protested against the occupation of Nigritia by a European
power, and these protests following one another at shorter and
shorter intervals became more and more vehement. The newspapers of the
interested Republic concealed all causes for uneasiness; but Hippolyte
Ceres heard the growing menace, and determined at last to risk
everything, even the fate of the ministry, in order to ruin his enemy.
He got men whom he could trust to write and insert articles in several
of the official journals, which, seeming to express Paul Visire’s
precise views, attributed warlike intentions to the Head of the
Government.

These articles roused a terrible echo abroad, and they alarmed the
public opinion of a nation which, while fond of soldiers, was not fond
of war. Questioned in the House on the foreign policy of his government,
Paul Visire made a re-assuring statement, and promised to maintain a
face compatible with the dignity of a great nation. His Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Crombile, read a declaration which was absolutely
unintelligible, for the reason that it was couched in diplomatic
language. The Minister obtained a large majority.

But the rumours of war did not cease, and in order to avoid a new and
dangerous motion, the Prime Minister distributed eighty thousand acres
of forests in Nigritia among the Deputies, and had fourteen Socialists
arrested. Hippolyte Ceres went gloomily about the lobbies, confiding to
the Deputies of his group that he was endeavouring to induce the Cabinet
to adopt a pacific policy, and that he still hoped to succeed. Day by
day the sinister rumours grew in volume, and penetrating amongst the
public, spread uneasiness and disquiet. Paul Visire himself began to
take alarm. What disturbed him most were the silence and absence of the
Minister of Foreign Affairs. Crombile no longer came to the meetings of
the Cabinet. Rising at five o’clock in the morning, he worked eighteen
hours at his desk, and at last fell exhausted into his waste-paper
basket, from whence the registrars removed him, together with the
papers which they were going to sell to the military attaches of the
neighbouring Empire.

General Debonnaire believed that a campaign was imminent, and prepared
for it. Far from fearing war, he prayed for it, and confided his
generous hopes to Baroness Bildermann, who informed the neighbouring
nation, which, acting on her information, proceeded to a rapid
mobilization.

The Minister of Finance unintentionally precipitated events. At the
moment, he was speculating for a fall, and in order to bring about
a panic on the Stock Exchange, he spread the rumour that war was now
inevitable. The neighbouring Empire, deceived by this action, and
expecting to see its territory invaded, mobilized its troops in all
haste. The terrified Chamber overthrew the Visire ministry by an
enormous majority (814 votes to 7, with 28 abstentions). It was too
late. The very day of this fall the neighbouring and hostile nation
recalled its ambassador and flung eight millions of men into Madame
Ceres’ country. War became universal, and the whole world was drowned in
a torrent of blood.


THE ZENITH OF PENGUIN CIVILIZATION

Half a century after the events we have just related, Madame Ceres died
surrounded with respect and veneration, in the eighty-ninth year of her
age. She had long been the widow of a statesman whose name she bore with
dignity. Her modest and quiet funeral was followed by the orphans of the
parish and the sisters of the Sacred Compassion.

The deceased left all her property to the Charity of St. Orberosia.

“Alas!” sighed M. Monnoyer, a canon of St. Mael, as he received the
pious legacy, “it was high time for a generous benefactor to come to
the relief of our necessities. Rich and poor, learned and ignorant
are turning away from us. And when we try to lead back these misguided
souls, neither threats nor promises, neither gentleness nor violence,
nor anything else is now successful. The Penguin clergy pine in
desolation; our country priests, reduced to following the humblest of
trades, are shoeless, and compelled to live upon such scraps as they
can pick up. In our ruined churches the rain of heaven falls upon the
faithful, and during the holy offices they can hear the noise of stones
falling from the arches. The tower of the cathedral is tottering and
will soon fall. St. Orberosia is forgotten by the Penguins, her devotion
abandoned, and her sanctuary deserted. On her shrine, bereft of its gold
and precious stones, the spider silently weaves her web.”

Hearing these lamentations, Pierre Mille, who at the age of ninety-eight
years had lost nothing of his intellectual and moral power, asked, the
canon if he did not think that St. Orberosia would one day rise out of
this wrongful oblivion.

“I hardly dare to hope so,” sighed M. Monnoyer.

“It is a pity!” answered Pierre Mille. “Orberosia is a charming figure
and her legend is a beautiful one. I discovered the other day by the
merest chance, one of her most delightful miracles, the miracle of Jean
Violle. Would you like to hear it, M. Monnoyer?”

“I should be very pleased, M. Mille.”

“Here it is, then, just as I found it in a fifteenth-century manuscript

“Cecile, the wife of Nicolas Gaubert, a jeweller on the Pont-au-Change,
after having led an honest and chaste life for many years, and being
now past her prime, became infatuated with Jean Violle, the Countess de
Maubec’s page, who lived at the Hotel du Paon on the Place de Greve. He
was not yet eighteen years old, and his face and figure were attractive.
Not being able to conquer her passion, Cecile resolved to satisfy it.
She attracted the page to her house, loaded him with caresses, supplied
him with sweetmeats and finally did as she wished with him.

“Now one day, as they were together in the jeweller’s bed, Master
Nicholas came home sooner than he was expected. He found the bolt drawn,
and heard his wife on the other side of the door exclaiming, ‘My heart!
my angel! my love!’ Then suspecting that she was shut up with a gallant,
he struck great blows upon the door and began to shout ‘Slut! hussy!
wanton! open so that I may cut off your nose and ears!’ In this peril,
the jeweller’s wife besought St. Orberosia, and vowed her a large candle
if she helped her and the little page, who was dying of fear beside the
bed, out of their difficulty.

“The saint heard the prayer. She immediately changed Jean Violle into
a girl. Seeing this, Cecile was completely reassured, and began to call
out to her husband: ‘Oh! you brutal villain, you jealous wretch! Speak
gently if you want the door to be opened.’ And scolding in this way, she
ran to the wardrobe and took out of it an old hood, a pair of stays,
and a long grey petticoat, in which she hastily wrapped the transformed
page. Then when this was done, ‘Catherine, dear Catherine,’ said she,
loudly, ‘open the door for your uncle; he is more fool than knave, and
won’t do you any harm.’ The boy who had become a girl, obeyed. Master
Nicholas entered the room and found in it a young maid whom he did not
know, and his wife in bed. ‘Big booby,’ said the latter to him, ‘don’t
stand gaping at what you see, just as I had come to bed because had
a stomach ache, I received a visit from Catherine, the daughter of my
sister Jeanne de Palaiseau, with whom we quarrelled fifteen years ago.
Kiss your niece. She is well worth the trouble.’ The jeweller gave
Violle a hug, and from that moment wanted nothing so much as to be alone
with her a moment, so that he might embrace her as much as he liked. For
this reason he led her without any delay down to the kitchen, under the
pretext of giving her some walnuts and wine, and he was no sooner there
with her than he began to caress her very affectionately. He would not
have stopped at that if St. Orberosia had not inspired his good wife
with the idea of seeing what he was about. She found him with the
pretended niece sitting on his knee. She called him a debauched
creature, boxed his ears, and forced him to beg her pardon. The next day
Violle resumed his previous form.”

Having heard this story the venerable Canon Monnoyer thanked Pierre
Mille for having told it, and, taking up his pen, began to write out
a list of horses that would win at the next race meeting. For he was a
book-maker’s clerk.

In the mean time Penguinia gloried in its wealth. Those who produced the
things necessary for life, wanted them; those who did not produce them
had more than enough. “But these,” as a member of the Institute said,
“are necessary economic fatalities.” The great Penguin people had no
longer either traditions, intellectual culture, or arts. The progress
of civilisation manifested itself among them by murderous industry,
infamous speculation, and hideous luxury. Its capital assumed, as
did all the great cities of the time, a cosmopolitan and financial
character. An immense and regular ugliness reigned within it. The
country enjoyed perfect tranquillity. It had reached its zenith.



BOOK VIII. FUTURE TIMES

THE ENDLESS HISTORY


Alca is becoming Americanised.--M. Daniset.

And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the
inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.--Genesis
xix. 25

{greek here} (Herodotus, Histories, VII cii.)

Poverty hast ever been familiar to Greece, but virtue has been acquired,
having been accomplished by wisdom and firm laws.--Henry Cary’s
Translation.

You have not seen angels then.--Liber Terribilis.

     Bqfttfusftpvtuse jufbmmbb b up sjufef
     tspjtfucftfnqfsfvstbqsftbnpjsqsp
     dmbnfuspjtghjttdmjcfsufnbgsbodftftutpbnjtfbeftdpnqb
     hojtgjobo--difsftr--vjejtqpteoueftsjdifttftevqbzt fuqbsmfn
     Pzfoevofqsf ttfbdifuffejsjhfboumpqjojno Voufnpjoxfsiejrvf

We are now beginning to study a chemistry which will deal with effects
produced by bodies containing a quantity of concentrated energy the like
of which we have not yet had at our disposal.--Sir William Ramsay.


S. I

The houses were never high enough to satisfy them; they kept on making
them still higher and built them of thirty or forty storeys: with
offices, shops, banks, societies one above another; they dug cellars and
tunnels ever deeper downwards.

Fifteen millions of men laboured in a giant town by the light of beacons
which shed forth their glare both day and night. No light of heaven
pierced through the smoke of the factories with which the town was girt,
but sometimes the red disk of a rayless sun might be seen riding in the
black firmament through which iron bridges ploughed their way, and from
which there descended a continual shower of soot and cinders. It was
the most industrial of all the cities in the world and the richest.
Its organisation seemed perfect. None of the ancient aristocratic or
democratic forms remained; everything was subordinated to the interests
of the trusts. This environment gave rise to what anthropologists called
the multi-millionaire type. The men of this type were at once energetic
and frail, capable of great activity in forming mental combinations
and of prolonged labour in offices, but men whose nervous irritability
suffered from hereditary troubles which increased as time went on.

Like all true aristocrats, like the patricians of republican Rome or the
squires of old England, these powerful men affected a great severity
in their habits and customs. They were the ascetics of wealth. At the
meetings of the trusts an observer would have noticed their smooth and
puffy faces, their lantern cheeks, their sunken eyes and wrinkled brows.
With bodies more withered, complexions yellower, lips drier, and eyes
filled with a more burning fanaticism than those of the old Spanish
monks, these multimillionaires gave themselves up with inextinguishable
ardour to the austerities of banking and industry. Several, denying
themselves all happiness, all pleasure, and all rest, spent their
miserable lives in rooms without light or air, furnished only with
electrical apparatus, living on eggs and milk, and sleeping on camp
beds. By doing nothing except pressing nickel buttons with their
fingers, these mystics heaped up riches of which they never even saw the
signs, and acquired the vain possibility of gratifying desires that they
never experienced.

The worship of wealth had its martyrs. One of these multi-millionaires,
the famous Samuel Box, preferred to die rather than surrender the
smallest atom of his property. One of his workmen, the victim of an
accident while at work, being refused any indemnity by his employer,
obtained a verdict in the courts, but repelled by innumerable obstacles
of procedure, he fell into the direst poverty. Being thus reduced to
despair, he succeeded by dint of cunning and audacity in confronting his
employer with a loaded revolver in his hand, and threatened to blow
out his brains if he did not give him some assistance. Samuel Box gave
nothing, and let himself be killed for the sake of principle.

Examples that come from high quarters are followed. Those who possessed
some small capital (and they were necessarily the greater number),
affected the ideas and habits of the multi-millionaires, in order
that they might be classed among them. All passions which injured the
increase or the preservation of wealth, were regarded as dishonourable;
neither indolence, nor idleness, nor the taste for disinterested study,
nor love of the arts, nor, above all, extravagance, was ever forgiven;
pity was condemned as a dangerous weakness. Whilst every inclination
to licentiousness excited public reprobation, the violent and brutal
satisfaction of an appetite was, on the contrary, excused; violence, in
truth, was regarded as less injurious to morality, since it manifested
a form of social energy. The State was firmly based on two great public
virtues: respect for the rich and contempt for the poor. Feeble spirits
who were still moved by human suffering had no other resource than to
take refuge in a hypocrisy which it was impossible to blame, since
it contributed to the maintenance of order and the solidity of
institutions.

Thus, among the rich, all were devoted to their social order, or seemed
to be so; all gave good examples, if all did not follow them. Some felt
the gravity of their position cruelly; but they endured it either from
pride or from duty. Some attempted, in secret and by subterfuge, to
escape from it for a moment. One of these, Edward Martin, the President,
of the Steel Trust, sometimes dressed himself as a poor man, went: forth
to beg his bread, and allowed himself to be jostled by the passers-by.
One day, as he asked alms on a bridge, he engaged in a quarrel with a
real beggar, and filled with a fury of envy, he strangled him.

As they devoted their whole intelligence to business, they sought
no intellectual pleasures. The theatre, which had formerly been very
flourishing among them, was now reduced to pantomimes and comic dances.
Even the pieces in which women acted were given up; the taste for pretty
forms and brilliant toilettes had been lost; the somersaults of clowns
and the music of negroes were preferred above them, and what roused
enthusiasm was the sight of women upon the stage whose necks were
bedizened with diamonds, or processions carrying golden bars in triumph.
Ladies of wealth were as much compelled as the men to lead a respectable
life. According to a tendency common to all civilizations, public
feeling set them up as symbols; they were, by their austere
magnificence, to represent both the splendour of wealth and its
intangible. The old habits of gallantry had been reformed, Tut
fashionable lovers were now secretly replaced by muscular labourers
or stray grooms. Nevertheless, scandals were rare, a foreign journey
concealed nearly all of them, and the Princesses of the Trusts remained
objects of universal esteem.

The rich formed only a small minority, but their collaborators, who
composed the entire people, had been completely won over or completely
subjugated by them. They formed two classes, the agents of commerce or
banking, and workers in the factories. The former contributed an immense
amount of work and received large salaries. Some of them succeeded in
founding establishments of their own; for in the constant increase of
the public wealth the more intelligent and audacious could hope for
anything. Doubtless it would have been possible to find a certain
number of discontented and rebellious persons among the immense crowd of
engineers and accountants, but this powerful society had imprinted its
firm discipline even on the minds of its opponents. The very anarchists
were laborious and regular.

As for the workmen who toiled in the factories that surrounded the
town, their decadence, both physical and moral, was terrible; they were
examples of the type of poverty as it is set forth by anthropology.
Although the development among them of certain muscles, due to the
particular nature of their work, might give a false idea of their
strength, they presented sure signs of morbid debility. Of low stature,
with small heads and narrow chests, they were further distinguished from
the comfortable classes by a multitude of physiological anomalies, and,
in particular, by a common want of symmetry between the head and the
limbs. And they were destined to a gradual and continuous degeneration,
for the State made soldiers of the more robust among them, and the
health of these did not long withstand the brothels and the drink-shops
that sprang up around their barracks. The proletarians became more
and more feeble in mind. The continued weakening of their intellectual
faculties was not entirely due to their manner of life; it resulted also
from a methodical selection carried out by the employers. The latter,
fearing that workmen of too great ability might be inclined to put
forward legitimate demands, took care to eliminate them by every
possible means, and preferred to engage ignorant and stupid labourers,
who were incapable of defending their rights, but were yet intelligent
enough to perform their toil, which highly perfected machines rendered
extremely simple. Thus the proletarians were unable to do anything to
improve their lot. With difficulty did they succeed by means of strikes
in maintaining the rate of their wages. Even this means began to fail
them. The alternations of production inherent in the capitalist system
caused such cessations of work that, in several branches of industry, as
soon as a strike was declared, the accumulation of products allowed
the employers to dispense with the strikers. In a word, these miserable
employees were plunged in a gloomy apathy that nothing enlightened and
nothing exasperated. They were necessary instruments for the social
order and well adapted to their purpose.

Upon the whole, this social order seemed the most firmly established
that had yet been seen, at least amon kind, for that of bees and ants is
incomparably more stable. Nothing could foreshadow the ruin of a system
founded on what is strongest in human nature, pride and cupidity.
However, keen observers discovered several grounds for uneasiness. The
most certain, although the least apparent, were of an economic order,
and consisted in the continually increasing amount of over-production,
which entailed long and cruel interruptions of labour, though these
were, it is true, utilized by the manufacturers as a means of breaking
the power of the workmen, by facing them with the prospect of a
lock-out. A more obvious peril resulted from the physiological state of
almost the entire population. “The health of the poor is what it must
be,” said the experts in hygiene, “but that of the rich leaves much to
be desired.” It was not difficult to find the causes of this. The supply
of oxygen necessary for life was insufficient in the city, and men
breathed in an artificial air. The food trusts, by means of the most
daring chemical syntheses, produced artificial wines, meat, milk, fruit,
and vegetables, and the diet thus imposed gave rise to stomach and brain
troubles. The multi-millionaires were bald at the age of eighteen; some
showed from time to time a dangerous weakness of mind. Over-strung and
enfeebled, they gave enormous sums to ignorant charlatans; and it was a
common thing for some bath-attendant or other trumpery who turned healer
or prophet, to make a rapid fortune by the practice of medicine or
theology. The number of lunatics increased continually; suicides
multiplied in the world of wealth, and many of them were accompanied
by atrocious and extraordinary circumstances, which bore witness to an
unheard o perversion of intelligence and sensibility.

Another fatal symptom created a strong impression upon average minds.
Terrible accidents, henceforth periodical and regular, entered
into people’s calculations, and kept mounting higher and higher in
statistical tables. Every day, machines burst into fragments, houses
fell down, trains laden with merchandise fell on to the streets,
demolishing entire buildings and crushing hundreds of passers-by.
Through the ground, honey-combed with tunnels, two or three storeys of
work-shops would often crash, engulfing all those who worked in them.

S. 2

In the southwestern district of the city, on an eminence which had
preserved its ancient name of Fort Saint-Michel, there stretched a
square where some old trees still spread their exhausted arms above the
greensward. Landscape gardeners had constructed a cascade, grottos, a
torrent, a lake, and an island, on its northern slope. From this side
one could see the whole town with its streets, its boulevards, its
squares, the multitude of its roofs and domes, its air-passages, and its
crowds of men, covered with a veil of silence, and seemingly enchanted
by the distance. This square was the healthiest place in the capital;
here no smoke obscured the sky, and children were brought here to play.
In summer some employees from the neighbouring offices and laboratories
used to resort to it for a moment after their luncheons, but they did
not disturb its solitude and peace.

It was owing to this custom that, one day in June, about mid-day, a
telegraph clerk, Caroline Meslier, came and sat down on a bench at the
end of a terrace. In order to refresh her eyes by the sight of a little
green, she turned her back to the town. Dark, with brown eyes, robust
and placid, Caroline appeared to be from twenty-five to twenty-eight
years of age. Almost immediately, a clerk in the Electricity Trust,
George Clair, took his place beside her. Fair, thin, and supple, he had
features of a feminine delicacy; he was scarcely older than she, and
looked still younger. As they met almost every day in this place,
a comradeship had sprung up between them, and they enjoyed chatting
together. But their conversation had never been tender, affectionate, or
even intimate. Caroline, although it had happened to her in the past to
repent of her confidence, might perhaps have been less reserved had
not George Clair always shown himself extremely restrained in his
expressions and behaviour. He always gave a purely intellectual
character to the conversation, keeping it within the realm of general
ideas, and, moreover, expressing himself on all subjects with the
greatest freedom. He spoke frequently of the organization of society,
and the conditions of labour.

“Wealth,” said he, “is one of the means of living happily; but people
have made it the sole end of existence.”

And this state of things seemed monstrous to both of them.

They returned continually to various scientific subjects with which they
were both familiar.

On that day they discussed the evolution of chemistry.

“From the moment,” said Clair, “that radium was seen to be transformed
into helium, people ceased to affirm the immutability of simple bodies;
in this way all those old laws about simple relations and about the
indestructibility of matter were abolished.”

“However,” said she, “chemical laws exist.”

For, being a woman, she had need of belief.

He resumed carelessly:

“Now that we can procure radium in sufficient quantities, science
possesses incomparable means of analysis; even at present we get
glimpses, within what are called simple bodies, of extremely diversified
complex ones, and we discover energies in matter which seem to increase
even by reason of its tenuity.”

As they talked, they threw bits of bread to the birds, and some children
played around them.

Passing from one subject to another:

“This hill, in the quaternary epoch,” said Clair, “was inhabited by wild
horses. Last year, as they were tunnelling for the water mains, they
found a layer of the bones of primeval horses.”

She was anxious to know whether, at that distant epoch, man had yet
appeared.

He told her that man used to hunt the primeval horse long before he
tried to domesticate him.

“Man,” he added, “was at first a hunter, then he became a shepherd,
a cultivator, a manufacturer . . . and these diverse civilizations
succeeded each other at intervals of time that the mind cannot
conceive.”

He took out his watch.

Caroline asked if it was already time to go back to the office.

He said it was not, that it was scarcely half-past twelve.

A little girl was making mud pies at the foot of their bench; a little
boy of seven or eight years was playing in front of them. Whilst his
mother was sewing on an adjoining bench, he played all alone at being a
run-away horse, and with that power of illusion, of which children are
capable, he imagined that he was at the same time the horse, and those
who ran after him, and those who fled in terror before him. He kept
struggling with himself and shouting: “Stop him, Hi! Hi! This is an
awful horse, he has got the bit between his teeth.”

Caroline asked the question:

“Do you think that men were happy formerly?”

Her companion answered:

“They suffered less when they were younger. They acted like that little
boy: they played; they played at arts, at virtues, at vices, at heroism,
at beliefs, at pleasures; they had illusions which entertained them;
they made a noise; they amused themselves. But now. . . .”

He interrupted himself, and looked again at his watch.

The child, who was running, struck his foot against the little girl’s
pail, and fell his full length on the gravel. He remained a moment
stretched out motionless, then raised himself up on the palms of his
hands. His forehead puckered, his mouth opened, and he burst into tears.
His mother ran up, but Caroline had lifted him from the ground and was
wiping his eyes and mouth with her handkerchief.

The child kept on sobbing and Clair took him in his arms.

“Come, don’t cry, my little man! I am going to tell you a story.

“A fisherman once threw his net into the sea and drew out a little,
sealed, copper pot, which he opened with his knife. Smoke came out
of it, and as it mounted up to the clouds the smoke grew thicker and
thicker and became a giant who gave such a terrible yawn that the whole
world was blown to dust.”

Clair stopped himself, gave a dry laugh, and handed the child back to
his mother. Then he took out his watch again, and kneeling on the bench
with his elbows resting on its back he gazed at the town. As far as
the eye could reach, the multitude of houses stood out in their tiny
immensity.

Caroline turned her eyes in the same direction.

“What splendid weather it is!” said she. “The sun’s rays change the
smoke on the horizon into gold. The worst thing about civilization is
that it deprives one of the light of day.”

We did not answer; his looks remained fixed on a place in the town.

After some seconds of silence they saw about half a mile away, in the
richer district on the other side of the river, a sort of tragic fog
rearing itself upwards. A moment afterwards an explosion was heard even
where they were sitting, and an immense tree of smoke mounted towards
the pure sky. Little by little the air was filled with an imperceptible
murmur caused by the shouts of thousands of men. Cries burst forth quite
close to the square.

“What has been blown up?”

The bewilderment was great, for although accidents were common, such
a violent explosion as this one had never been seen, and everybody
perceived that something terribly strange had happened.

Attempts were made to locate the place of the accident; districts,
streets, different buildings, clubs, theatres, and shops were mentioned.
Information gradually became more precise and at last the truth was
known.

“The Steel Trust has just been blown up.”

Clair put his watch back into his pocket.

Caroline looked at him closely and her eyes filled with astonishment.

At last she whispered in his ear:

“Did you know it? Were you expecting it? Was it you . . . ?”

He answered very calmly:

“That town ought to be destroyed.”

She replied in a gentle and thoughtful tone:

“I think so too.”

And both of them returned quietly to their work.


S. 3

From that day onward, anarchist attempts followed one another every week
without interruption. The victims were numerous, and almost all of them
belonged to the poorer classes. These crimes roused public resentment.
It was among domestic servants, hotel-keepers, and the employees of such
small shops as the Trusts still allowed to exist, that indignation
burst forth most vehemently. In popular districts women might be heard
demanding unusual punishments for the dynamitards. (They were called
by this old name, although it was hardly appropriate to them, since, to
these unknown chemists, dynamite was an innocent material only fit to
destroy ant-hills, and they considered it mere child’s play to explode
nitro-glycerine with a cartridge made of fulminate of mercury.) Business
ceased suddenly, and those who were least rich were the first to feel
the effects. They spoke of doing justice themselves to the anarchists.
In the mean time the factory workers remained hostile or indifferent
to violent action. They were threatened, as a result of the decline of
business, with a likelihood of losing their work, or even a lock-out
in all the factories. The Federation of Trade Unions proposed a general
strike as the most powerful means of influencing the employers, and the
best aid that could be given to the revolutionists, but all the trades
with the exception of the gliders refused to cease work.

The police made numerous arrests. Troops summoned from all parts of the
National Federation protected the offices of the Trusts, the houses of
the multi-millionaires, the public halls, the banks, and the big shops.
A fortnight passed without a single explosion, and it was concluded that
the dynamitards, in all probability but a handful of persons, perhaps
even Still fewer, had all been killed or captured, or that they were in
hiding, or had taken flight. Confidence returned; it returned at first
among the poorer classes. Two or three hundred thousand soldiers, who
bad been lodged in the most closely populated districts, stimulated
trade, and people began to cry out: “Hurrah for the army!”

The rich, who had not been so quick to take alarm, were reassured more
slowly. But at the Stock Exchange a group of “bulls” spread optimistic
rumours and by a powerful effort put a brake upon the fall in prices.
Business improved. Newspapers with big circulations supported the
movement. With patriotic eloquence they depicted capital as laughing in
its impregnable position at the assaults of a few dastardly criminals,
and public wealth maintaining its serene ascendency in spite of the vain
threats made against it. They were sincere in their attitude, though at
the same time they found it benefited them. Outrages were forgotten or
their occurrence denied. On Sundays, at the race-meetings, the stands
were adorned by women covered with pearls and diamonds. It was observed
with joy that the capitalists had not suffered. Cheers were given for
the multi-millionaires in the saddling rooms.

On the following day the Southern Railway Station, the Petroleum Trust,
and the huge church built at the expense of Thomas Morcellet were all
blown up. Thirty houses were in flames, and the beginning of a fire
was discovered at the docks. The firemen showed amazing intrepidity and
zeal. They managed their tall fire-escapes with automatic precision,
and climbed as high as thirty storeys to rescue the luckless inhabitants
from the flames. The soldiers performed their duties with spirit, and
were given a double ration of coffee. But these fresh casualties started
a panic. Millions of people, who wanted to take their money with them
and leave the town at once, crowded the great banking houses. These
establishments, after paying out money for three days, closed their
doors amid mutterings of a riot. A crowd of fugitives, laden with their
baggage, besieged the railway stations and took the town by storm. Many
who were anxious to lay in a stock of provisions and take refuge in
the cellars, attacked the grocery stores, although they were guarded by
soldiers with fixed bayonets. The public authorities displayed energy.
Numerous arrests were made and thousands of warrants issued against
suspected persons.

During the three weeks that followed no outrage was committed. There was
a rumour that bombs had been found in the Opera House, in the cellars of
the Town Hall, and beside one of the Pillars of the Stock Exchange. But
it was soon known that these were boxes of sweets that had been put in
those places by practical jokers or lunatics. One of the accused, when
questioned by a magistrate, declared that he was the chief author of
the explosions, and said that all his accomplices had lost their
lives. These confessions were published by the newspapers and helped
to reassure public opinion. It was only towards the close of the
examination that the magistrates saw they had to deal with a pretender
who was in no way connected with any of the crimes.

The experts chosen by the courts discovered nothing that enabled them to
determine the engine employed in the work of destruction. According to
their conjectures the new explosive emanated from a gas which radium
evolves, and it was supposed that electric waves, produced by a special
type of oscillator, were propagated through space and thus caused the
explosion. But even the ablest chemist could say nothing precise or
certain. At last two policemen, who were passing in front of the Hotel
Meyer, found on the pavement, close to a ventilator, an egg made of
white metal and provided with a capsule at each end. They picked it
up carefully, and, on the orders of their chief, carried it to the
municipal laboratory. Scarcely had the experts assembled to examine it,
than the egg burst and blew up the amphitheatre and the dome. All the
experts perished, and with them Collin, the General of Artillery, and
the famous Professor Tigre.

The capitalist society did not allow itself to be daunted by this fresh
disaster. The great banks re-opened their doors, declaring that
they would meet demands partly in bullion and partly in paper money
guaranteed by the State: The Stock Exchange and the Trade Exchange,
in spite of the complete cessation of business, decided not to suspend
their sittings.

In the mean time the magisterial investigation into the case of those
who had been first accused had come to an end. Perhaps the evidence
brought against them might have appeared insufficient under other
circumstances, but the zeal both of the magistrates and the public made
up for this insufficiency. On the eve of the day fixed for the trial the
Courts of justice were blown up and eight hundred people were killed,
the greater number of them being judges and lawyers. A furious crowd
broke into the prison and lynched the prisoners. The troops sent to
restore order were received with showers of stones and revolver shots;
several soldiers being dragged from their horses and trampled underfoot.
The soldiers fired on the mob and many persons were killed. At last the
public authorities succeeded in establishing tranquillity. Next day the
Bank was blown up.

From that time onwards unheard-of things took place. The factory
workers, who had refused to strike, rushed in crowds into the town and
set fire to the houses. Entire regiments, led by their officers, joined
the workmen, went with them through the town singing revolutionary
hymns, and took barrels of petroleum from the docks with which to feed
the fires. Explosions were continual. One morning a monstrous tree of
smoke, like the ghost of a huge palm tree half a mile in height, rose
above the giant Telegraph Hall which suddenly fell into a complete ruin.

Whilst half the town was in flames, the other half pursued its
accustomed life. In the mornings, milk pails could be heard jingling
in the dairy carts. In a deserted avenue some old navvy might be seen
seated against a wall slowly eating hunks of bread with perhaps a little
meat. Almost all the presidents of the trusts remained at their posts.
Some of them performed their duty with heroic simplicity. Raphael
Box, the son of a martyred multi-millionaire, was blown up as he was
presiding at the general meeting of the Sugar Trust. He was given a
magnificent funeral and the procession on its way to the cemetery had
to climb six times over piles of ruins or cross upon planks over the
uprooted roads.

The ordinary helpers of the rich, the clerks, employees, brokers, and
agents, preserved an unshaken fidelity. The surviving clerks of the Bank
that had been blown up, made their way along the ruined streets through
the midst of smoking houses to hand in their bills of exchange, and
several were swallowed up in the flames while endeavouring to present
their receipts.

Nevertheless, any illusion concerning the state of affairs was
impossible. The enemy was master of the town. Instead of silence the
noise of explosions was now continuous and produced an insurmountable
feeling of horror. The lighting apparatus having been destroyed, the
city was plunged in darkness all through the night, and appalling crimes
were committed. The populous districts alone, having suffered the least,
still preserved measures of protection. The were paraded by patrols of
volunteers who shot the robbers, and at every street corner one stumbled
over a body lying in a pool of blood, the hands bound behind the back, a
handkerchief over the face, and a placard pinned upon the breast.

It became impossible to clear away the ruins or to bury the dead. Soon
the stench from the corpses became intolerable. Epidemics raged and
caused innumerable deaths, while they also rendered the survivors feeble
and listless. Famine carried off almost all who were left. A hundred
and one days after the first outrage, whilst six army corps with field
artillery and siege artillery were marching, at night, into the poorest
quarter of the city, Caroline and Clair, holding each other’s hands,
were watching from the roof a lofty house, the only one still left
standing, but now surrounded by smoke and flame, joyous songs ascended
from the street, where the crowd was dancing in delirium.

“To-morrow it will be ended,” said the man, “and it will be better.”

The young woman, her hair loosened and her face shining with the
reflection of the flames, gazed with a pious joy at the circle of fire
that was growing closer around them.

“It will be better,” said she also.

And throwing herself into the destroyer’s arms she pressed a passionate
kiss upon his lips.

S. 4

The other towns of the federation also suffered from disturbances and
outbreaks, and then order was restored. Reforms were introduced into
institutions and great changes took place in habits and customs, but the
country never recovered the loss of its capital, and never regained its
former prosperity. Commerce and industry dwindled away, and civilization
abandoned those countries which for so long it bad preferred to all
others. They became insalubrious and sterile; the territory that had
supported so many millions of men became nothing more than a desert. On
the hill of Fort St. Michel wild horses cropped the coarse grass.

Days flowed by like water from the fountains, and the centuries passed
like drops falling from the ends of stalactites. Hunters came to chase
the bears upon the hills that covered the forgotten city; shepherds led
their flocks upon them; labourers turned up the soil with their ploughs;
gardeners cultivated their lettuces and grafted their pear trees. They
were not rich, and they had no arts. The walls of their cabins were
covered with old vines and roses, A goat-skin clothed their tanned
limbs, while their wives dressed themselves with the wool that they
themselves had spun. The goat-herds moulded little figures of men and
animals out of clay, or sang songs about the young girl who follows her
lover through woods or among the browsing goats while the pine trees
whisper together and the water utters its murmuring sound. The master of
the house grew angry with the beetles who devoured his figs; he planned
snares to protect his fowls from the velvet-tailed fox, and he poured
out wine for his neighbours saying:

“Drink! The flies have not spoilt my vintage; the vines were dry before
they came.”

Then in the course of ages the wealth of the villages and the corn
that filled the fields were pillaged by barbarian invaders. The country
changed its masters several times. The conquerors built castles upon the
hills; cultivation increased; mills, forges, tanneries, and looms were
established; roads were opened through the woods and over the marshes;
the river was covered with boats. The hamlets became large villages and
joining together formed a town which protected itself by deep trenches
and lofty walls. Later, becoming the capital of a great State, it found
itself straitened within its now useless ramparts and it converted them
into grass-covered walks.

It grew very rich and large beyond measure. The houses were never high
enough to satisfy the people; they kept on making them still higher
and built them of thirty or forty storeys, with offices, shops, banks,
societies one above another; they dug cellars and tunnels ever deeper
downwards. Fifteen millions of men laboured in the giant town.





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