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

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



By Emile Zola

Translated By Ernest A. Vizetelly



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. A. V.


Feb. 5, 1898.


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

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

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

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

“But why don’t you take him your alms yourself?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There!” said Celine in her sing-song voice, “there he is, that’s the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“The idiot,” he said, “he knows even less than he pretends.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It was the minister who wouldn’t have it,” explained Duthil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  * About 3000 dollars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why yes, we came down together.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s the ‘Panama’ dodge over again!” cried Duthil. “But no, no, we’ve
had quite enough of it!”

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” said Gerard, “I heard this morning that ‘Polyeucte’ wouldn’t get
its turn till April at the earliest.”

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

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

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

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

“And so,” asked Gerard at the same moment, “the Princess de Harn’s
_matinee_ is for this afternoon?”

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

“No, I don’t think so, I shan’t be able,” replied the young man in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, thank you, mademoiselle.”

“A glass of Chartreuse then?”

“No, thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, no,” replied the Count, “I want to walk. I shall go with Monsieur
l’Abbe Froment to the Chamber.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh! all right. Well, I’m a child of Paris, too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know him,” said Pierre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But the daughter’s infirm?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you going, Monsieur Duthil?” Pierre asked.

“Close by, in the Champs Elysees.”

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

“Willingly, Monsieur l’Abbe. It won’t inconvenience you if I finish my

“Oh! not at all.”

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

“But there’s your report.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All right! all right!” Duvillard at last murmured, sneering, but in
despair, “we’ll arrange it all.”

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

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

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

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

“Yes, yes, against the _bourgeois_, against me, against you. It’s always
the same thing--And then?”

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

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

“That’s what everybody said in the lobbies.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was going there, Monsieur le Baron.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why, but here she is!” suddenly said Massot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  * Montmartre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He does!” retorted Camille in a fury. “He’s kind and pleasant with me,
and that’s enough.”

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

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

Then Hyacinthe began to laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



IN that out-of-the-way street at Neuilly, along which nobody passed after
dusk, Pierre’s little house was now steeped in deep slumber under the
black sky; each of its shutters closed, and not a ray of light stealing
forth from within. And one could divine, too, the profound quietude of
the little garden in the rear, a garden empty and lifeless, benumbed by
the winter cold.

Pierre had several times feared that his brother would faint away in the
cab in which they were journeying. Leaning back, and often sinking down,
Guillaume spoke not a word. And terrible was the silence between them--a
silence fraught with all the questions and answers which they felt it
would be useless and painful to exchange at such a time. However, the
priest was anxious about the wound, and wondered to what surgeon he might
apply, desirous as he was of admitting only a sure, staunch man into the
secret, for he had noticed with how keen a desire to disappear his
brother had sought to hide himself.

Until they reached the Arc de Triomphe the silence remained unbroken. It
was only there that Guillaume seemed to emerge from the prostration of
his reverie. “Mind, Pierre,” said he, “no doctor. We will attend to this

Pierre was on the point of protesting, but he realised that it would be
useless to discuss the subject at such a moment, and so he merely waved
his hand to signify that he should act in spite of the prohibition were
it necessary. In point of fact, his anxiety had increased, and, when the
cab at last drew up before the house, it was with real relief that he saw
his brother alight without evincing any marked feebleness. He himself
quickly paid the driver, well-pleased, too, at finding that nobody, not
even a neighbour, was about. And having opened the door with his latch
key, he helped the injured man to ascend the steps.

A little night lamp glimmered faintly in the vestibule. On hearing the
door open, Pierre’s servant, Sophie, had at once emerged from the
kitchen. A short, thin, dark woman of sixty, she had formed part of the
household for more than thirty years, having served the mother before
serving the son. She knew Guillaume, having seen him when he was a young
man, and doubtless she now recognised him, although well-nigh ten years
had gone by since he had last crossed that threshold. Instead of evincing
any surprise, she seemed to consider his extraordinary return quite
natural, and remained as silent and discreet as usual. She led, indeed,
the life of a recluse, never speaking unless her work absolutely required
it. And thus she now contented herself with saying: “Monsieur l’Abbe,
Monsieur Bertheroy is in the study, and has been waiting there for a
quarter of an hour.”

At this Guillaume intervened, as if the news revived him: “Does Bertheroy
still come here, then? I’ll see him willingly. His is one of the best,
the broadest, minds of these days. He has still remained my master.”

A former friend of their father,--the illustrious chemist, Michel
Froment,--Bertheroy had now, in his turn, become one of the loftiest
glories of France, one to whom chemistry owed much of the extraordinary
progress that has made it the mother-science, by which the very face of
the earth is being changed. A member of the Institute, laden with offices
and honours, he had retained much affection for Pierre, and occasionally
visited him in this wise before dinner, by way of relaxation, he would

“You showed him into the study? All right, then, we will go there,” said
the Abbe to the servant. “Light a lamp and take it into my room, and get
my bed ready so that my brother may go to bed at once.”

While Sophie, without a word or sign of surprise, was obeying these
instructions, the brothers went into their father’s former laboratory, of
which the priest had now made a spacious study. And it was with a cry of
joyous astonishment that the _savant_ greeted them on seeing them enter
the room side by side, the one supporting the other. “What, together!” he
exclaimed. “Ah! my dear children, you could not have caused me greater
pleasure! I who have so often deplored your painful misunderstanding.”

Bertheroy was a tall and lean septuagenarian, with angular features. His
yellow skin clung like parchment to the projecting bones of his cheeks
and jaw. Moreover, there was nothing imposing about him; he looked like
some old shop-keeping herbalist. At the same time he had a fine, broad,
smooth brow, and his eyes still glittered brightly beneath his tangled

“What, have you injured yourself, Guillaume?” he continued, as soon as he
saw the bandaged hand.

Pierre remained silent, so as to let his brother tell the story as he
chose. Guillaume had realised that he must confess the truth, but in
simple fashion, without detailing the circumstances. “Yes, in an
explosion,” he answered, “and I really think that I have my wrist

At this, Bertheroy, whose glance was fixed upon him, noticed that his
moustaches were burnt, and that there was an expression of bewildered
stupor, such as follows a catastrophe, in his eyes. Forthwith the
_savant_ became grave and circumspect; and, without seeking to compel
confidence by any questions, he simply said: “Indeed! an explosion! Will
you let me see the injury? You know that before letting chemistry ensnare
me I studied medicine, and am still somewhat of a surgeon.”

On hearing these words Pierre could not restrain a heart-cry: “Yes, yes,
master! Look at the injury--I was very anxious, and to find you here is
unhoped-for good fortune!”

The _savant_ glanced at him, and divined that the hidden circumstances of
the accident must be serious. And then, as Guillaume, smiling, though
paling with weakness, consented to the suggestion, Bertheroy retorted
that before anything else he must be put to bed. The servant just then
returned to say the bed was ready, and so they all went into the
adjoining room, where the injured man was soon undressed and helped
between the sheets.

“Light me, Pierre,” said Bertheroy, “take the lamp; and let Sophie give
me a basin full of water and some cloths.” Then, having gently washed the
wound, he resumed: “The devil! The wrist isn’t broken, but it’s a nasty
injury. I am afraid there must be a lesion of the bone. Some nails passed
through the flesh, did they not?”

Receiving no reply, he relapsed into silence. But his surprise was
increasing, and he closely examined the hand, which the flame of the
explosion had scorched, and even sniffed the shirt cuff as if seeking to
understand the affair better. He evidently recognised the effects of one
of those new explosives which he himself had studied, almost created. In
the present case, however, he must have been puzzled, for there were
characteristic signs and traces the significance of which escaped him.

“And so,” he at last made up his mind to ask, carried away by
professional curiosity, “and so it was a laboratory explosion which put
you in this nice condition? What devilish powder were you concocting

Guillaume, ever since he had seen Bertheroy thus studying his injury,
had, in spite of his sufferings, given marked signs of annoyance and
agitation. And as if the real secret which he wished to keep lay
precisely in the question now put to him, in that powder, the first
experiment with which had thus injured him, he replied with an air of
restrained ardour, and a straight frank glance: “Pray do not question me,
master. I cannot answer you. You have, I know, sufficient nobility of
nature to nurse me and care for me without exacting a confession.”

“Oh! certainly, my friend,” exclaimed Bertheroy; “keep your secret. Your
discovery belongs to you if you have made one; and I know that you are
capable of putting it to the most generous use. Besides, you must be
aware that I have too great a passion for truth to judge the actions of
others, whatever their nature, without knowing every circumstance and

So saying, he waved his hand as if to indicate how broadly tolerant and
free from error and superstition was that lofty sovereign mind of his,
which in spite of all the orders that bedizened him, in spite of all the
academical titles that he bore as an official _savant_, made him a man of
the boldest and most independent views, one whose only passion was truth,
as he himself said.

He lacked the necessary appliances to do more than dress the wound, after
making sure that no fragment of any projectile had remained in the flesh.
Then he at last went off, promising to return at an early hour on the
morrow; and, as the priest escorted him to the street door, he spoke some
comforting words: if the bone had not been deeply injured all would be

On returning to the bedside, Pierre found his brother still sitting up
and seeking fresh energy in his desire to write home and tranquillise his
loved ones. So the priest, after providing pen and paper, again had to
take up the lamp and light him. Guillaume fortunately retained full use
of his right hand, and was thus able to pen a few lines to say that he
would not be home that night. He addressed the note to Madame Leroi, the
mother of his deceased mistress, who, since the latter’s death, had
remained with him and had reared his three sons. Pierre was aware also
that the household at Montmartre included a young woman of five or six
and twenty, the daughter of an old friend, to whom Guillaume had given
shelter on her father’s death, and whom he was soon to marry, in spite of
the great difference in their ages. For the priest, however, all these
were vague, disturbing things, condemnable features of disorderly life,
and he had invariably pretended to be ignorant of them.

“So you wish this note to be taken to Montmartre at once?” he said to his

“Yes, at once. It is scarcely more than seven o’clock now, and it will be
there by eight. And you will choose a reliable man, won’t you?”

“The best course will be for Sophie to take a cab. We need have no fear
with her. She won’t chatter. Wait a moment, and I will settle

Sophie, on being summoned, at once understood what was wanted of her, and
promised to say, in reply to any questions, that M. Guillaume had come to
spend the night at his brother’s, for reasons which she did not know. And
without indulging in any reflections herself, she left the house, saying
simply: “Monsieur l’Abbe’s dinner is ready; he will only have to take the
broth and the stew off the stove.”

However, when Pierre this time returned to the bedside to sit down there,
he found that Guillaume had fallen back with his head resting on both
pillows. And he looked very weary and pale, and showed signs of fever.
The lamp, standing on a corner of a side table, cast a soft light around,
and so deep was the quietude that the big clock in the adjoining
dining-room could be heard ticking. For a moment the silence continued
around the two brothers, who, after so many years of separation, were at
last re-united and alone together. Then the injured man brought his right
hand to the edge of the sheet, and the priest grasped it, pressed it
tenderly in his own. And the clasp was a long one, those two brotherly
hands remaining locked, one in the other.

“My poor little Pierre,” Guillaume faintly murmured, “you must forgive me
for falling on you in this fashion. I’ve invaded the house and taken your
bed, and I’m preventing you from dining.”

“Don’t talk, don’t tire yourself any more,” interrupted Pierre. “Is not
this the right place for you when you are in trouble?”

A warmer pressure came from Guillaume’s feverish hand, and tears gathered
in his eyes. “Thanks, my little Pierre. I’ve found you again, and you are
as gentle and loving as you always were. Ah! you cannot know how
delightful it seems to me.”

Then the priest’s eyes also were dimmed by tears. Amidst the deep
quietude, the great sense of comfort which had followed their violent
emotion, the brothers found an infinite charm in being together once more
in the home of their childhood.* It was there that both their father and
mother had died--the father tragically, struck down by an explosion in
his laboratory; the mother piously, like a very saint. It was there, too,
in that same bed, that Guillaume had nursed Pierre, when, after their
mother’s death, the latter had nearly died; and it was there now that
Pierre in his turn was nursing Guillaume. All helped to bow them down and
fill them with emotion: the strange circumstances of their meeting, the
frightful catastrophe which had caused them such a shock, the
mysteriousness of the things which remained unexplained between them. And
now that after so long a separation they were tragically brought together
again, they both felt their memory awaking. The old house spoke to them
of their childhood, of their parents dead and gone, of the far-away days
when they had loved and suffered there. Beneath the window lay the
garden, now icy cold, which once, under the sunbeams, had re-echoed with
their play. On the left was the laboratory, the spacious room where their
father had taught them to read. On the right, in the dining-room, they
could picture their mother cutting bread and butter for them, and looking
so gentle with her big, despairing eyes--those of a believer mated to an
infidel. And the feeling that they were now alone in that home, and the
pale, sleepy gleam of the lamp, and the deep silence of the garden and
the house, and the very past itself, all filled them with the softest of
emotion blended with the keenest bitterness.

  * See M. Zola’s “Lourdes,” Day I., Chapter II.

They would have liked to talk and unbosom themselves. But what could they
say to one another? Although their hands remained so tightly clasped, did
not the most impassable of chasms separate them? In any case, they
thought so. Guillaume was convinced that Pierre was a saint, a priest of
the most robust faith, without a doubt, without aught in common with
himself, whether in the sphere of ideas or in that of practical life. A
hatchet-stroke had parted them, and each lived in a different world. And
in the same way Pierre pictured Guillaume as one who had lost caste,
whose conduct was most suspicious, who had never even married the mother
of his three children, but was on the point of marrying that girl who was
far too young for him, and who had come nobody knew whence. In him,
moreover, were blended the passionate ideas of a _savant_ and a
revolutionist, ideas in which one found negation of everything,
acceptance and possibly provocation of the worst forms of violence, with
a glimpse of the vague monster of Anarchism underlying all. And so, on
what basis could there be any understanding between them, since each
retained his prejudices against the other, and saw him on the opposite
side of the chasm, without possibility of any plank being thrown across
it to enable them to unite? Thus, all alone in that room, their poor
hearts bled with distracted brotherly love.

Pierre knew that, on a previous occasion, Guillaume had narrowly escaped
being compromised in an Anarchist affair. He asked him no questions, but
he could not help reflecting that he would not have hidden himself in
this fashion had he not feared arrest for complicity. Complicity with
Salvat? Was he really an accomplice? Pierre shuddered, for the only
materials on which he could found a contrary opinion were, on one hand,
the words that had escaped his brother after the crime, the cry he had
raised accusing Salvat of having stolen a cartridge from him; and, on the
other hand, his heroic rush into the doorway of the Duvillard mansion in
order to extinguish the match. A great deal still remained obscure; but
if a cartridge of that frightful explosive had been stolen from Guillaume
the fact must be that he manufactured such cartridges and had others at
home. Of course, even if he were not an accomplice, the injury to his
wrist had made it needful for him to disappear. Given his bleeding hand,
and the previous suspicions levelled against him, he would never have
convinced anybody of his innocence. And yet, even allowing for these
surmises, the affair remained wrapt in darkness: a crime on Guillaume’s
part seemed a possibility, and to Pierre it was all dreadful to think of.

Guillaume, by the trembling of his brother’s moist, yielding hand, must
in some degree have realised the prostration of his poor mind, already
shattered by doubt and finished off by this calamity. Indeed, the
sepulchre was empty now, the very ashes had been swept out of it.

“My poor little Pierre,” the elder brother slowly said. “Forgive me if I
do not tell you anything. I cannot do so. And besides, what would be the
use of it? We should certainly not understand one another.... So let
us keep from saying anything, and let us simply enjoy the delight of
being together and loving one another in spite of all.”

Pierre raised his eyes, and for a long time their glances lingered, one
fixed on the other. “Ah!” stammered the priest, “how frightful it all

Guillaume, however, had well understood the mute inquiry of Pierre’s
eyes. His own did not waver but replied boldly, beaming with purity and
loftiness: “I can tell you nothing. Yet, all the same, let us love each
other, my little Pierre.”

And then Pierre for a moment felt that his brother was above all base
anxiety, above the guilty fear of the man who trembles for himself. In
lieu thereof he seemed to be carried away by the passion of some great
design, the noble thought of concealing some sovereign idea, some secret
which it was imperative for him to save. But, alas! this was only the
fleeting vision of a vague hope; for all vanished, and again came the
doubt, the suspicion, of a mind dealing with one that it knew nothing of.

And all at once a souvenir, a frightful spectacle, arose before Pierre’s
eyes and distracted him: “Did you see, brother,” he stammered, “did you
see that fair-haired girl lying under the archway, ripped open, with a
smile of astonishment on her face?”

Guillaume in his turn quivered, and in a low and dolorous voice replied:
“Yes, I saw her! Ah, poor little thing! Ah! the atrocious necessities,
the atrocious errors, of justice!”

Then, amidst the frightful shudder that seemed to sweep by, Pierre, with
his horror of all violence, succumbed, and let his face sink upon the
counterpane at the edge of the bed. And he sobbed distractedly: a sudden
attack of weakness, overflowing in tears, cast him there exhausted, with
no more strength than a child. It was as if all his sufferings since the
morning, the deep grief with which universal injustice and woe inspired
him, were bursting forth in that flood of tears which nothing now could
stay. And Guillaume, who, to calm his little brother, had set his hand
upon his head, in the same way as he had often caressingly stroked his
hair in childhood’s days, likewise felt upset and remained silent, unable
to find a word of consolation, resigned, as he was, to the eruption which
in life is always possible, the cataclysm by which the slow evolution of
nature is always liable to be precipitated. But how hard a fate for the
wretched ones whom the lava sweeps away in millions! And then his tears
also began to flow amidst the profound silence.

“Pierre,” he gently exclaimed at last, “you must have some dinner. Go, go
and have some. And screen the lamp; leave me by myself, and let me close
my eyes. It will do me good.”

Pierre had to content him. Still, he left the dining-room door open; and,
weak for want of food, though he had not hitherto noticed it, he ate
standing, with his ears on the alert, listening lest his brother should
complain or call him. And the silence seemed to have become yet more
complete, the little house sank, as it were, into annihilation, instinct
with all the melancholy charm of the past.

At about half-past eight, when Sophie returned from her errand to
Montmartre, Guillaume heard her step, light though it was. And he at once
became restless and wanted to know what news she brought. It was Pierre,
however, who enlightened him. “Don’t be anxious. Sophie was received by
an old lady who, after reading your note, merely answered, ‘Very well.’
She did not even ask Sophie a question, but remained quite composed
without sign of curiosity.”

Guillaume, realising that this fine serenity perplexed his brother,
thereupon replied with similar calmness: “Oh! it was only necessary that
grandmother should be warned. She knows well enough that if I don’t
return home it is because I can’t.”

However, from that moment it was impossible for the injured man to rest.
Although the lamp was hidden away in a corner, he constantly opened his
eyes, glanced round him, and seemed to listen, as if for sounds from the
direction of Paris. And it at last became necessary for the priest to
summon the servant and ask her if she had noticed anything strange on her
way to or from Montmartre. She seemed surprised by the question, and
answered that she had noticed nothing. Besides, the cab had followed the
outer boulevards, which were almost deserted. A slight fog had again
begun to fall, and the streets were steeped in icy dampness.

By the time it was nine o’clock Pierre realised that his brother would
never be able to sleep if he were thus left without news. Amidst his
growing feverishness the injured man experienced keen anxiety, a haunting
desire to know if Salvat were arrested and had spoken out. He did not
confess this; indeed he sought to convey the impression that he had no
personal disquietude, which was doubtless true. But his great secret was
stifling him; he shuddered at the thought that his lofty scheme, all his
labour and all his hope, should be at the mercy of that unhappy man whom
want had filled with delusions and who had sought to set justice upon
earth by the aid of a bomb. And in vain did the priest try to make
Guillaume understand that nothing certain could yet be known. He
perceived that his impatience increased every minute, and at last
resolved to make some effort to satisfy him.

But where could he go, of whom could he inquire? Guillaume, while talking
and trying to guess with whom Salvat might have sought refuge, had
mentioned Janzen, the Princess de Harn’s mysterious lover; and for a
moment he had even thought of sending to this man for information. But he
reflected that if Janzen had heard of the explosion he was not at all the
individual to wait for the police at home.

Meantime Pierre repeated: “I will willingly go to buy the evening papers
for you--but there will certainly be nothing in them. Although I know
almost everyone in Neuilly I can think of nobody who is likely to have
any information, unless perhaps it were Bache--”

“You know Bache, the municipal councillor?” interrupted Guillaume.

“Yes, we have both had to busy ourselves with charitable work in the

“Well, Bache is an old friend of mine, and I know no safer man. Pray go
to him and bring him back with you.”

A quarter of an hour later Pierre returned with Bache, who resided in a
neighbouring street. And it was not only Bache whom he brought with him,
for, much to his surprise, he had found Janzen at Bache’s house. As
Guillaume had suspected, Janzen, while dining at the Princess de Harn’s,
had heard of the crime, and had consequently refrained from returning to
his little lodging in the Rue des Martyrs, where the police might well
have set a trap for him. His connections were known, and he was aware
that he was watched and was liable at any moment to arrest or expulsion
as a foreign Anarchist. And so he had thought it prudent to solicit a few
days’ hospitality of Bache, a very upright and obliging man, to whom he
entrusted himself without fear. He would never have remained with
Rosemonde, that adorable lunatic who for a month past had been exhibiting
him as her lover, and whose useless and dangerous extravagance of conduct
he fully realised.

Guillaume was so delighted on seeing Bache and Janzen that he wished to
sit up in bed again. But Pierre bade him remain quiet, rest his head on
the pillows, and speak as little as possible. Then, while Janzen stood
near, erect and silent, Bache took a chair and sat down by the bedside
with many expressions of friendly interest. He was a stout man of sixty,
with a broad, full face, a large white beard and long white hair. His
little, gentle eyes had a dim, dreamy expression, while a pleasant,
hopeful smile played round his thick lips. His father, a fervent St.
Simonian, had brought him up in the doctrines of that belief. While
retaining due respect for it, however, his personal inclinations towards
orderliness and religion had led him to espouse the ideas of Fourier, in
such wise that one found in him a succession and an abridgment, so to
say, of two doctrines. Moreover, when he was about thirty, he had busied
himself with spiritualism. Possessed of a comfortable little fortune, his
only adventure in life had been his connection with the Paris Commune of
1871. How or why he had become a member of it he could now scarcely tell.
Condemned to death by default, although he had sat among the Moderates,
he had resided in Belgium until the amnesty; and since then Neuilly had
elected him as its representative on the Paris Municipal Council, less by
way of glorifying in him a victim of reaction than as a reward for his
worthiness, for he was really esteemed by the whole district.

Guillaume, with his desire for tidings, was obliged to confide in his two
visitors, tell them of the explosion and Salvat’s flight, and how he
himself had been wounded while seeking to extinguish the match. Janzen,
with curly beard and hair, and a thin, fair face such as painters often
attribute to the Christ, listened coldly, as was his wont, and at last
said slowly in a gentle voice: “Ah! so it was Salvat! I thought it might
be little Mathis--I’m surprised that it should be Salvat--for he hadn’t
made up his mind.” Then, as Guillaume anxiously inquired if he thought
that Salvat would speak out, he began to protest: “Oh! no; oh! no.”

However, he corrected himself with a gleam of disdain in his clear, harsh
eyes: “After all, there’s no telling. Salvat is a man of sentiment.”

Then Bache, who was quite upset by the news of the explosion, tried to
think how his friend Guillaume, to whom he was much attached, might be
extricated from any charge of complicity should he be denounced. And
Guillaume, at sight of Janzen’s contemptuous coldness, must have suffered
keenly, for the other evidently believed him to be trembling, tortured by
the one desire to save his own skin. But what could he say, how could he
reveal the deep concern which rendered him so feverish without betraying
the secret which he had hidden even from his brother?

However, at this moment Sophie came to tell her master that M. Theophile
Morin had called with another gentleman. Much astonished by this visit at
so late an hour, Pierre hastened into the next room to receive the new
comers. He had become acquainted with Morin since his return from Rome,
and had helped him to introduce a translation of an excellent scientific
manual, prepared according to the official programmes, into the Italian
schools.* A Franc-Comtois by birth, a compatriot of Proudhon, with whose
poor family he had been intimate at Besancon, Morin, himself the son of a
journeyman clockmaker, had grown up with Proudhonian ideas, full of
affection for the poor and an instinctive hatred of property and wealth.
Later on, having come to Paris as a school teacher, impassioned by study,
he had given his whole mind to Auguste Comte. Beneath the fervent
Positivist, however, one might yet find the old Proudhonian, the pauper
who rebelled and detested want. Moreover, it was scientific Positivism
that he clung to; in his hatred of all mysticism he would have naught to
do with the fantastic religious leanings of Comte in his last years. And
in Morin’s brave, consistent, somewhat mournful life, there had been but
one page of romance: the sudden feverish impulse which had carried him
off to fight in Sicily by Garibaldi’s side. Afterwards he had again
become a petty professor in Paris, obscurely earning a dismal livelihood.

  * See M. Zola’s “Rome,” Chapters IV. and XVI.

When Pierre returned to the bedroom he said to his brother in a tone of
emotion: “Morin has brought me Barthes, who fancies himself in danger and
asks my hospitality.”

At this Guillaume forgot himself and became excited: “Nicholas Barthes, a
hero with a soul worthy of antiquity. Oh! I know him; I admire and love
him. You must set your door open wide for him.”

Bache and Janzen, however, had glanced at one another smiling. And the
latter, with his cold ironical air, slowly remarked: “Why does Monsieur
Barthes hide himself? A great many people think he is dead; he is simply
a ghost who no longer frightens anybody.”

Four and seventy years of age as he now was, Barthes had spent nearly
half a century in prison. He was the eternal prisoner, the hero of
liberty whom each successive Government had carried from citadel to
fortress. Since his youth he had been marching on amidst his dream of
fraternity, fighting for an ideal Republic based on truth and justice,
and each and every endeavour had led him to a dungeon; he had invariably
finished his humanitarian reverie under bolts and bars. Carbonaro,
Republican, evangelical sectarian, he had conspired at all times and in
all places, incessantly struggling against the Power of the day, whatever
it might be. And when the Republic at last had come, that Republic which
had cost him so many years of gaol, it had, in its own turn, imprisoned
him, adding fresh years of gloom to those which already had lacked
sunlight. And thus he remained the martyr of freedom: freedom which he
still desired in spite of everything; freedom, which, strive as he might,
never came, never existed.

“But you are mistaken,” replied Guillaume, wounded by Janzen’s raillery.
“There is again a thought of getting rid of Barthes, whose uncompromising
rectitude disturbs our politicians; and he does well to take his

Nicholas Barthes came in, a tall, slim, withered old man, with a nose
like an eagle’s beak, and eyes that still burned in their deep sockets,
under white and bushy brows. His mouth, toothless but still refined, was
lost to sight between his moustaches and snowy beard; and his hair,
crowning him whitely like an aureola, fell in curls over his shoulders.
Behind him with all modesty came Theophile Morin, with grey whiskers,
grey, brush-like hair, spectacles, and yellow, weary mien--that of an old
professor exhausted by years of teaching. Neither of them seemed
astonished or awaited an explanation on finding that man in bed with an
injured wrist. And there were no introductions: those who were acquainted
merely smiled at one another.

Barthes, for his part, stooped and kissed Guillaume on both cheeks. “Ah!”
 said the latter, almost gaily, “it gives me courage to see you.”

However, the new comers had brought a little information. The boulevards
were in an agitated state, the news of the crime had spread from cafe to
cafe, and everybody was anxious to see the late edition which one paper
had published giving a very incorrect account of the affair, full of the
most extraordinary details. Briefly, nothing positive was as yet known.

On seeing Guillaume turn pale Pierre compelled him to lie down again, and
even talked of taking the visitors into the next room. But the injured
man gently replied: “No, no, I promise you that I won’t stir again, that
I won’t open my mouth. But stay there and chat together. I assure you
that it will do me good to have you near me and hear you.”

Then, under the sleepy gleams of the lamp, the others began to talk in
undertones. Old Barthes, who considered that bomb to be both idiotic and
abominable, spoke of it with the stupefaction of one who, after fighting
like a hero through all the legendary struggles for liberty, found
himself belated, out of his element, in a new era, which he could not
understand. Did not the conquest of freedom suffice for everything? he
added. Was there any other problem beyond that of founding the real
Republic? Then, referring to Mege and his speech in the Chamber that
afternoon, he bitterly arraigned Collectivism, which he declared to be
one of the democratic forms of tyranny. Theophile Morin, for his part,
also spoke against the Collectivist enrolling of the social forces, but
he professed yet greater hatred of the odious violence of the Anarchists;
for it was only by evolution that he expected progress, and he felt
somewhat indifferent as to what political means might bring about the
scientific society of to-morrow. And in like way Bache did not seem
particularly fond of the Anarchists, though he was touched by the idyllic
dream, the humanitarian hope, whose germs lay beneath their passion for
destruction. And, like Barthes, he also flew into a passion with Mege,
who since entering the Chamber had become, said he, a mere rhetorician
and theorist, dreaming of dictatorship. Meantime Janzen, still erect, his
face frigid and his lips curling ironically, listened to all three of
them, and vented a few trenchant words to express his own Anarchist
faith; the uselessness of drawing distinctions, and the necessity of
destroying everything in order that everything might be rebuilt on fresh

Pierre, who had remained near the bed, also listened with passionate
attention. Amidst the downfall of his own beliefs, the utter void which
he felt within him, here were these four men, who represented the
cardinal points of this century’s ideas, debating the very same terrible
problem which brought him so much suffering, that of the new belief which
the democracy of the coming century awaits. And, ah! since the days of
the immediate ancestors, since the days of Voltaire and Diderot and
Rousseau how incessantly had billows of ideas followed and jostled one
another, the older ones giving birth to new ones, and all breaking and
bounding in a tempest in which it was becoming so difficult to
distinguish anything clearly! Whence came the wind, and whither was the
ship of salvation going, for what port ought one to embark? Pierre had
already thought that the balance-sheet of the century ought to be drawn
up, and that, after accepting the legacies of Rousseau and the other
precursors, he ought to study the ideas of St. Simon, Fourier and even
Cabet; of Auguste Comte, Proudhon and Karl Marx as well, in order, at any
rate, to form some idea of the distance that had been travelled, and of
the cross-ways which one had now reached. And was not this an
opportunity, since chance had gathered those men together in his house,
living exponents of the conflicting doctrines which he wished to examine?

On turning round, however, he perceived that Guillaume was now very pale
and had closed his eyes. Had even he, with his faith in science, felt the
doubt which is born of contradictory theories, and the despair which
comes when one sees the fight for truth resulting in growth of error?

“Are you in pain?” the priest anxiously inquired.

“Yes, a little. But I will try to sleep.”

At this they all went off with silent handshakes. Nicholas Barthes alone
remained in the house and slept in a room on the first floor which Sophie
had got ready for him. Pierre, unwilling to quit his brother, dozed off
upon a sofa. And the little house relapsed into its deep quietude, the
silence of solitude and winter, through which passed the melancholy
quiver of the souvenirs of childhood.

In the morning, as soon as it was seven o’clock, Pierre had to go for the
newspapers. Guillaume had passed a bad night and intense fever had set
in. Nevertheless, his brother was obliged to read him the articles on the
explosion. There was an amazing medley of truths and inventions, of
precise information lost amidst the most unexpected extravagance.
Sagnier’s paper, the “Voix du Peuple,” distinguished itself by its
sub-titles in huge print and a whole page of particulars jumbled together
chance-wise. It had at once decided to postpone the famous list of the
thirty-two deputies and senators compromised in the African Railways
affair; and there was no end to the details it gave of the aspect of the
entrance to the Duvillard mansion after the explosion the pavement broken
up, the upper floor rent open, the huge doors torn away from their
hinges. Then came the story of the Baron’s son and daughter preserved as
by a miracle, the landau escaping the slightest injury, while the banker
and his wife, it was alleged, owed their preservation to the circumstance
that they had lingered at the Madeleine after Monseigneur Martha’s
remarkable address there. An entire column was given to the one victim,
the poor, pretty, fair-haired errand girl, whose identity did not seem to
be clearly established, although a flock of reporters had rushed first to
the modiste employing her, in the Avenue de l’Opera, and next to the
upper part of the Faubourg St. Denis, where it was thought her
grandmother resided. Then, in a gravely worded article in “Le Globe,”
 evidently inspired by Fonsegue, an appeal was made to the Chamber’s
patriotism to avoid giving cause for any ministerial crisis in the
painful circumstances through which the country was passing. Thus the
ministry might last, and live in comparative quietude, for a few weeks

Guillaume, however, was struck by one point only: the culprit was not
known; Salvat, it appeared certain, was neither arrested nor even
suspected. It seemed, indeed, as if the police were starting on a false
scent--that of a well-dressed gentleman wearing gloves, whom a neighbour
swore he had seen entering the mansion at the moment of the explosion.
Thus Guillaume became a little calmer. But his brother read to him from
another paper some particulars concerning the engine of destruction that
had been employed. It was a preserved-meat can, and the fragments of it
showed that it had been comparatively small. And Guillaume relapsed into
anxiety on learning that people were much astonished at the violent
ravages of such a sorry appliance, and that the presence of some new
explosive of incalculable power was already suspected.

At eight o’clock Bertheroy put in an appearance. Although he was
sixty-eight, he showed as much briskness and sprightliness as any young
sawbones calling in a friendly way to perform a little operation. He had
brought an instrument case, some linen bands and some lint. However, he
became angry on finding the injured man nervous, flushed and hot with

“Ah! I see that you haven’t been reasonable, my dear child,” said he.
“You must have talked too much, and have bestirred and excited yourself.”
 Then, having carefully probed the wound, he added, while dressing it:
“The bone is injured, you know, and I won’t answer for anything unless
you behave better. Any complications would make amputation necessary.”

Pierre shuddered, but Guillaume shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that
he might just as well be amputated since all was crumbling around him.
Bertheroy, who had sat down, lingering there for another moment,
scrutinised both brothers with his keen eyes. He now knew of the
explosion, and must have thought it over. “My dear child,” he resumed in
his brusque way, “I certainly don’t think that you committed that
abominable act of folly in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy. But I fancy that you
were in the neighbourhood--no, no, don’t answer me, don’t defend
yourself. I know nothing and desire to know nothing, not even the formula
of that devilish powder of which your shirt cuff bore traces, and which
has wrought such terrible havoc.”

And then as the brothers remained surprised, turning cold with anxiety,
in spite of his assurances, he added with a sweeping gesture: “Ah! my
friends, I regard such an action as even more useless than criminal! I
only feel contempt for the vain agitation of politics, whether they be
revolutionary or conservative. Does not science suffice? Why hasten the
times when one single step of science brings humanity nearer to the goal
of truth and justice than do a hundred years of politics and social
revolt? Why, it is science alone which sweeps away dogmas, casts down
gods, and creates light and happiness. And I, Member of the Institute as
I am, decorated and possessed of means, I am the only true

Then he began to laugh and Guillaume realised all the good-natured irony
of his laugh. While admiring him as a great _savant_, he had hitherto
suffered at seeing him lead such a _bourgeois_ life, accepting whatever
appointments and honours were offered him, a Republican under the
Republic, but quite ready to serve science under no matter what master.
But now, from beneath this opportunist, this hieratical _savant_, this
toiler who accepted wealth and glory from all hands, there appeared a
quiet yet terrible evolutionist, who certainly expected that his own work
would help to ravage and renew the world!

However, Bertheroy rose and took his leave: “I’ll come back; behave
sensibly, and love one another as well as you can.”

When the brothers again found themselves alone, Pierre seated at
Guillaume’s bedside, their hands once more sought each other and met in a
burning clasp instinct with all their anguish. How much threatening
mystery and distress there was both around and within them! The grey
wintry daylight came into the room, and they could see the black trees in
the garden, while the house remained full of quivering silence, save that
overhead a faint sound of footsteps was audible. They were the steps of
Nicholas Barthes, the heroic lover of freedom, who, rising at daybreak,
had, like a caged lion, resumed his wonted promenade, the incessant
coming and going of one who had ever been a prisoner. And as the brothers
ceased listening to him their eyes fell on a newspaper which had remained
open on the bed, a newspaper soiled by a sketch in outline which
pretended to portray the poor dead errand girl, lying, ripped open,
beside the bandbox and the bonnet it had contained. It was so frightful,
so atrociously hideous a scene, that two big tears again fell upon
Pierre’s cheeks, whilst Guillaume’s blurred, despairing eyes gazed
wistfully far away, seeking for the Future.


THE little house in which Guillaume had dwelt for so many years, a home
of quietude and hard work, stood in the pale light of winter up yonder at
Montmartre, peacefully awaiting his return. He reflected, however, after
_dejeuner_ that it might not be prudent for him to go back thither for
some three weeks, and so he thought of sending Pierre to explain the
position of affairs. “Listen, brother,” he said. “You must render me this
service. Go and tell them the truth--that I am here, slightly injured,
and do not wish them to come to see me, for fear lest somebody should
follow them and discover my retreat. After the note I wrote them last
evening they would end by getting anxious if I did not send them some
news.” Then, yielding to the one worry which, since the previous night,
had disturbed his clear, frank glance, he added: “Just feel in the
right-hand pocket of my waistcoat; you will find a little key there.
Good! that’s it. Now you must give it to Madame Leroi, my mother-in-law,
and tell her that if any misfortune should happen to me, she is to do
what is understood between us. That will suffice, she will understand

At the first moment Pierre had hesitated; but he saw how even the slight
effort of speaking exhausted his brother, so he silenced him, saying:
“Don’t talk, but put your mind at ease. I will go and reassure your
people, since you wish that this commission should be undertaken by me.”

Truth to tell, the errand was so distasteful to Pierre that he had at
first thought of sending Sophie in his place. All his old prejudices were
reviving; it was as if he were going to some ogre’s den. How many times
had he not heard his mother say “that creature!” in referring to the
woman with whom her elder son cohabited. Never had she been willing to
kiss Guillaume’s boys; the whole connection had shocked her, and she was
particularly indignant that Madame Leroi, the woman’s mother, should have
joined the household for the purpose of bringing up the little ones.
Pierre retained so strong a recollection of all this that even nowadays,
when he went to the basilica of the Sacred Heart and passed the little
house on his way, he glanced at it distrustfully, and kept as far from it
as he could, as if it were some abode of vice and error. Undoubtedly, for
ten years now, the boys’ mother had been dead, but did not another
scandal-inspiring creature dwell there, that young orphan girl to whom
his brother had given shelter, and whom he was going to marry, although a
difference of twenty years lay between them? To Pierre all this was
contrary to propriety, abnormal and revolting, and he pictured a home
given over to social rebellion, where lack of principle led to every kind
of disorder.

However, he was leaving the room to start upon his journey, when
Guillaume called him back. “Tell Madame Leroi,” said he, “that if I
should die you will let her know of it, so that she may immediately do
what is necessary.”

“Yes, yes,” answered Pierre. “But calm yourself, and don’t move about.
I’ll say everything. And in my absence Sophie will stop here with you in
case you should need her.”

Having given full instructions to the servant, Pierre set out to take a
tramcar, intending to alight from it on the Boulevard de Rochechouart,
and then climb the height on foot. And on the road, lulled by the gliding
motion of the heavy vehicle, he began to think of his brother’s past life
and connections, with which he was but vaguely, imperfectly, acquainted.
It was only at a later date that details of everything came to his
knowledge. In 1850 a young professor named Leroi, who had come from Paris
to the college of Montauban with the most ardent republican ideas, had
there married Agathe Dagnan, the youngest of the five girls of an old
Protestant family from the Cevennes. Young Madame Leroi was _enceinte_
when her husband, threatened with arrest for contributing some violent
articles to a local newspaper, immediately after the “Coup d’Etat,” found
himself obliged to seek refuge at Geneva. It was there that the young
couple’s daughter, Marguerite, a very delicate child, was born in 1852.
For seven years, that is until the Amnesty of 1859, the household
struggled with poverty, the husband giving but a few ill-paid lessons,
and the wife absorbed in the constant care which the child required.
Then, after their return to Paris, their ill-luck became even greater.
For a long time the ex-professor vainly sought regular employment; it was
denied him on account of his opinions, and he had to run about giving
lessons in private houses. When he was at last on the point of being
received back into the University a supreme blow, an attack of paralysis,
fell upon him. He lost the use of both legs. And then came utter misery,
every kind of sordid drudgery, the writing of articles for dictionaries,
the copying of manuscripts, and even the addressing of newspaper
wrappers, on the fruits of which the household barely contrived to live,
in a little lodging in the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince.

It was there that Marguerite grew up. Leroi, embittered by injustice and
suffering, predicted the advent of a Republic which would avenge the
follies of the Empire, and a reign of science which would sweep away the
deceptive and cruel divinity of religious dogmas. On the other hand,
Agathe’s religious faith had collapsed at Geneva, at sight of the narrow
and imbecile practices of Calvinism, and all that she retained of it was
the old Protestant leaven of rebellion. She had become at once the head
and the arm of the house; she went for her husband’s work, took it back
when completed, and even did much of it herself, whilst, at the same
time, performing her house duties, and rearing and educating her
daughter. The latter, who attended no school, was indebted for all she
learnt to her father and mother, on whose part there was never any
question of religious instruction. Through contact with her husband,
Madame Leroi had lost all belief, and her Protestant heredity inclining
her to free inquiry and examination, she had arranged for herself a kind
of peaceful atheism, based on paramount principles of human duty and
justice, which she applied courageously, irrespective of all social
conventionalities. The long iniquity of her husband’s fate, the
undeserved misfortunes which struck her through him and her daughter,
ended by endowing her with wonderful fortitude and devotion, which made
her, whether as a judge, a manager, or a consoler, a woman of
incomparable energy and nobleness of character.

It was in the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince that Guillaume became acquainted
with the Leroi family, after the war of 1870. On the same floor as their
little lodging he occupied a large room, where he devoted himself
passionately to his studies. At the outset there was only an occasional
bow, for Guillaume’s neighbours were very proud and very grave, leading
their life of poverty in fierce silence and retirement. Then intercourse
began with the rendering of little services, such as when the young man
procured the ex-professor a commission to write a few articles for a new
encyclopaedia. But all at once came the catastrophe: Leroi died in his
armchair one evening while his daughter was wheeling him from his table
to his bed. The two distracted women had not even the money to bury him.
The whole secret of their bitter want flowed forth with their tears, and
they were obliged to accept the help of Guillaume, who, from that moment,
became the necessary confidant and friend. And the thing which was bound
to happen did happen, in the most simple and loving manner, permitted by
the mother herself, who, full of contempt for a social system which
allowed those of good hearts to die of hunger, refused to admit the
necessity of any social tie. Thus there was no question of a regular
marriage. One day Guillaume, who was twenty-three years old, found
himself mated to Marguerite, who was twenty; both of them handsome,
healthy, and strong, adoring one another, loving work, and full of hope
in the future.

From that moment a new life began. Since his father’s death, Guillaume,
who had broken off all intercourse with his mother, had been receiving an
allowance of two hundred francs a month. This just represented daily
bread; however, he was already doubling the amount by his work as a
chemist,--his analyses and researches, which tended to the employment of
certain chemical products in industry. So he and Marguerite installed
themselves on the very summit of Montmartre, in a little house, at a
rental of eight hundred francs a year, the great convenience of the place
being a strip of garden, where one might, later on, erect a wooden
workshop. In all tranquillity Madame Leroi took up her abode with the
young people, helping them, and sparing them the necessity of keeping a
second servant. And at successive intervals of two years, her three
grandchildren were born, three sturdy boys: first Thomas, then Francois,
and then Antoine. And in the same way as she had devoted herself to her
husband and daughter, and then to Guillaume, so did she now devote
herself to the three children. She became “Mere-Grand”--an emphatic and
affectionate way of expressing the term “grandmother”--for all who lived
in the house, the older as well as the younger ones. She there
personified sense, and wisdom, and courage; it was she who was ever on
the watch, who directed everything, who was consulted about everything,
and whose opinion was always followed. Indeed, she reigned there like an
all-powerful queen-mother.

For fifteen years this life went on, a life of hard work and peaceful
affection, while the strictest economy was observed in contenting every
need of the modest little household. Then Guillaume lost his mother, took
his share of the family inheritance, and was able to satisfy his old
desire, which was to buy the house he lived in, and build a spacious
workshop in the garden. He was even able to build it of bricks, and add
an upper story to it. But the work was scarcely finished, and life seemed
to be on the point of expanding and smiling on them all, when misfortune
returned, and typhoid fever, with brutal force, carried off Marguerite,
after a week’s illness. She was then five and thirty, and her eldest boy,
Thomas, was fourteen. Thus Guillaume, distracted by his loss, found
himself a widower at thirty-eight. The thought of introducing any unknown
woman into that retired home, where all hearts beat in tender unison, was
so unbearable to him that he determined to take no other mate. His work
absorbed him, and he would know how to quiet both his heart and his
flesh. Mere-Grand, fortunately, was still there, erect and courageous;
the household retained its queen, and in her the children found a
manageress and teacher, schooled in adversity and heroism.

Two years passed; and then came an addition to the family. A young woman,
Marie Couturier, the daughter of one of Guillaume’s friends, suddenly
entered it. Couturier had been an inventor, a madman with some measure of
genius, and had spent a fairly large fortune in attempting all sorts of
fantastic schemes. His wife, a very pious woman, had died of grief at it
all; and although on the rare occasions when he saw his daughter, he
showed great fondness for her and loaded her with presents, he had first
placed her in a boarding college, and afterwards left her in the charge
of a poor female relative. Remembering her only on his death-bed, he had
begged Guillaume to give her an asylum, and find her a husband. The poor
relation, who dealt in ladies’ and babies’ linen, had just become a
bankrupt. So, at nineteen, the girl, Marie, found herself a penniless
outcast, possessed of nothing save a good education, health and courage.
Guillaume would never allow her to run about giving lessons. He took her,
in quite a natural way, to help Mere-Grand, who was no longer so active
as formerly. And the latter approved the arrangement, well pleased at the
advent of youth and gaiety, which would somewhat brighten the household,
whose life had been one of much gravity ever since Marguerite’s death.
Marie would simply be an elder sister; she was too old for the boys, who
were still at college, to be disturbed by her presence. And she would
work in that house where everybody worked. She would help the little
community pending the time when she might meet and love some worthy
fellow who would marry her.

Five more years elapsed without Marie consenting to quit that happy home.
The sterling education she had received was lodged in a vigorous brain,
which contented itself with the acquirement of knowledge. Yet she had
remained very pure and healthy, even very _naive_, maidenly by reason of
her natural rectitude. And she was also very much a woman, beautifying
and amusing herself with a mere nothing, and ever showing gaiety and
contentment. Moreover, she was in no wise of a dreamy nature, but very
practical, always intent on some work or other, and only asking of life
such things as life could give, without anxiety as to what might lie
beyond it. She lovingly remembered her pious mother, who had prepared her
for her first Communion in tears, imagining that she was opening heaven’s
portals to her. But since she had been an orphan she had of her own
accord ceased all practice of religion, her good sense revolting and
scorning the need of any moral police regulations to make her do her
duty. Indeed, she considered such regulations dangerous and destructive
of true health. Thus, like Mere-Grand, she had come to a sort of quiet
and almost unconscious atheism, not after the fashion of one who reasons,
but simply like the brave, healthy girl she was, one who had long endured
poverty without suffering from it, and believed in nothing save the
necessity of effort. She had been kept erect, indeed, by her conviction
that happiness was to be found in the normal joys of life, lived
courageously. And her happy equilibrium of mind had ever guided and saved
her, in such wise that she willingly listened to her natural instinct,
saying, with her pleasant laugh, that this was, after all, her best
adviser. She rejected two offers of marriage, and on the second occasion,
as Guillaume pressed her to accept, she grew astonished, and inquired if
he had had enough of her in the house. She found herself very
comfortable, and she rendered service there. So why should she leave and
run the risk of being less happy elsewhere, particularly as she was not
in love with anybody?

Then, by degrees, the idea of a marriage between Marie and Guillaume
presented itself; and indeed what could have been more reasonable and
advantageous for all? If Guillaume had not mated again it was for his
sons’ sake, because he feared that by introducing a stranger to the house
he might impair its quietude and gaiety. But now there was a woman among
them who already showed herself maternal towards the boys, and whose
bright youth had ended by disturbing his own heart. He was still in his
prime, and had always held that it was not good for man to live alone,
although, personally, thanks to his ardour for work, he had hitherto
escaped excessive suffering in his bereavement. However, there was the
great difference of ages to be considered; and he would have bravely
remained in the background and have sought a younger husband for Marie,
if his three big sons and Mere-Grand herself had not conspired to effect
his happiness by doing all they could to bring about a marriage which
would strengthen every home tie and impart, as it were, a fresh
springtide to the house. As for Marie, touched and grateful to Guillaume
for the manner in which he had treated her for five years past, she
immediately consented with an impulse of sincere affection, in which, she
fancied, she could detect love. And at all events, could she act in a
more sensible, reasonable way, base her life on more certain prospects of
happiness? So the marriage had been resolved upon; and about a month
previously it had been decided that it should take place during the
ensuing spring, towards the end of April.

When Pierre, after alighting from the tramcar, began to climb the
interminable flights of steps leading to the Rue St. Eleuthere, a feeling
of uneasiness again came over him at the thought that he was about to
enter that suspicious ogre’s den where everything would certainly wound
and irritate him. Given the letter which Sophie had carried thither on
the previous night, announcing that the master would not return, how
anxious and upset must all its inmates be! However, as Pierre ascended
the final flight and nervously raised his head, the little house appeared
to him right atop of the hill, looking very serene and quiet under the
bright wintry sun, which had peered forth as if to bestow upon the modest
dwelling an affectionate caress.

There was a door in the old garden wall alongside the Rue St. Eleuthere,
almost in front of the broad thoroughfare conducting to the basilica of
the Sacred Heart; but to reach the house itself one had to skirt the wall
and climb to the Place du Tertre, where one found the facade and the
entrance. Some children were playing on the Place, which, planted as it
was with a few scrubby trees, and edged with humble shops,--a
fruiterer’s, a grocer’s and a baker’s,--looked like some square in a
small provincial town. In a corner, on the left, Guillaume’s dwelling,
which had been whitewashed during the previous spring, showed its bright
frontage and five lifeless windows, for all its life was on the other,
the garden, side, which overlooked Paris and the far horizon.

Pierre mustered his courage and, pulling a brass knob which glittered
like gold, rang the bell. There came a gay, distant jingle; but for a
moment nobody appeared, and he was about to ring again, when the door was
thrown wide open, revealing a passage which ran right through the house,
beyond which appeared the ocean of Paris, the endless sea of house roofs
bathed in sunlight. And against this spacious, airy background, stood a
young woman of twenty-six, clad in a simple gown of black woolen stuff,
half covered by a large blue apron. She had her sleeves rolled up above
her elbows, and her arms and hands were still moist with water which she
had but imperfectly wiped away.

A moment’s surprise and embarrassment ensued. The young woman, who had
hastened to the door with laughing mien, became grave and covertly
hostile at sight of the visitor’s cassock. The priest thereupon realised
that he must give his name: “I am Abbe Pierre Froment.”

At this the young woman’s smile of welcome came back to her. “Oh! I beg
your pardon, monsieur--I ought to have recognised you, for I saw you wish
Guillaume good day one morning as you passed.”

She said Guillaume; she, therefore, must be Marie. And Pierre looked at
her in astonishment, finding her very different from what he had
imagined. She was only of average height, but she was vigorously,
admirably built, broad of hip and broad of shoulder, with the small firm
bosom of an amazon. By her erect and easy step, instinct with all the
adorable grace of woman in her prime, one could divine that she was
strong, muscular and healthy. A brunette, but very white of skin, she had
a heavy helm of superb black hair, which she fastened in a negligent way,
without any show of coquetry. And under her dark locks, her pure,
intelligent brow, her delicate nose and gay eyes appeared full of intense
life; whilst the somewhat heavier character of her lower features, her
fleshy lips and full chin, bespoke her quiet kindliness. She had surely
come on earth as a promise of every form of tenderness, every form of
devotion. In a word, she was a true mate for man.

However, with her heavy, straying hair and superb arms, so ingenuous in
their nudity, she only gave Pierre an impression of superfluous health
and extreme self-assurance. She displeased him and even made him feel
somewhat anxious, as if she were a creature different from all others.

“It is my brother Guillaume who has sent me,” he said.

At this her face again changed; she became grave and hastened to admit
him to the passage. And when the door was closed she answered: “You have
brought us news of him, then! I must apologise for receiving you in this
fashion. The servants have just finished some washing, and I was making
sure if the work had been well done. Pray excuse me, and come in here for
a moment; it is perhaps best that I should be the first to know the

So saying, she led him past the kitchen to a little room which served as
scullery and wash-house. A tub full of soapy water stood there, and some
dripping linen hung over some wooden bars. “And so, Guillaume?” she

Pierre then told the truth in simple fashion: that his brother’s wrist
had been injured; that he himself had witnessed the accident, and that
his brother had then sought an asylum with him at Neuilly, where he
wished to remain and get cured of his injury in peace and quietness,
without even receiving a visit from his sons. While speaking in this
fashion, the priest watched the effect of his words on Marie’s face:
first fright and pity, and then an effort to calm herself and judge
things reasonably.

“His letter quite froze me last night,” she ended by replying. “I felt
sure that some misfortune had happened. But one must be brave and hide
one’s fear from others. His wrist injured, you say; it is not a serious
injury, is it?”

“No; but it is necessary that every precaution should be taken with it.”

She looked him well in the face with her big frank eyes, which dived into
his own as if to reach the very depths of his being, though at the same
time she plainly sought to restrain the score of questions which rose to
her lips. “And that is all: he was injured in an accident,” she resumed;
“he didn’t ask you to tell us anything further about it?”

“No, he simply desires that you will not be anxious.”

Thereupon she insisted no further, but showed herself obedient and
respectful of the decision which Guillaume had arrived at. It sufficed
that he should have sent a messenger to reassure the household--she did
not seek to learn any more. And even as she had returned to her work in
spite of the secret anxiety in which the letter of the previous evening
had left her, so now, with her air of quiet strength, she recovered an
appearance of serenity, a quiet smile and clear brave glance.

“Guillaume only gave me one other commission,” resumed Pierre, “that of
handing a little key to Madame Leroi.”

“Very good,” Marie answered, “Mere-Grand is here; and, besides, the
children must see you. I will take you to them.”

Once more quite tranquil, she examined Pierre without managing to conceal
her curiosity, which seemed of rather a kindly nature blended with an
element of vague pity. Her fresh white arms had remained bare. In all
candour she slowly drew down her sleeves; then took off the large blue
apron, and showed herself with her rounded figure, at once robust and
elegant, in her modest black gown. He meanwhile looked at her, and most
certainly he did not find her to his liking. On seeing her so natural,
healthy, and courageous, quite a feeling of revolt arose within him,
though he knew not why.

“Will you please follow me, Monsieur l’Abbe?” she said. “We must cross
the garden.”

On the ground-floor of the house, across the passage, and facing the
kitchen and the scullery, there were two other rooms, a library
overlooking the Place du Tertre, and a dining-room whose windows opened
into the garden. The four rooms on the first floor served as bedchambers
for the father and the sons. As for the garden, originally but a small
one, it had now been reduced to a kind of gravelled yard by the erection
of the large workshop at one end of it. Of the former greenery, however,
there still remained two huge plum-trees with old knotted trunks, as well
as a big clump of lilac-bushes, which every spring were covered with
bloom. And in front of the latter Marie had arranged a broad flower-bed,
in which she amused herself with growing a few roses, some wallflowers
and some mignonette.

With a wave of her hand as she went past, she called Pierre’s attention
to the black plum-trees and the lilacs and roses, which showed but a few
greenish spots, for winter still held the little nook in sleep. “Tell
Guillaume,” she said, “that he must make haste to get well and be back
for the first shoots.”

Then, as Pierre glanced at her, she all at once flushed purple. Much to
her distress, sudden and involuntary blushes would in this wise
occasionally come upon her, even at the most innocent remarks. She found
it ridiculous to feel such childish emotion when she had so brave a
heart. But her pure maidenly blood had retained exquisite delicacy, such
natural and instinctive modesty that she yielded to it perforce. And
doubtless she had merely blushed because she feared that the priest might
think she had referred to her marriage in speaking of the spring.

“Please go in, Monsieur l’Abbe. The children are there, all three.” And
forthwith she ushered him into the workshop.

It was a very spacious place, over sixteen feet high, with a brick
flooring and bare walls painted an iron grey. A sheet of light, a stream
of sunshine, spread to every corner through a huge window facing the
south, where lay the immensity of Paris. The Venetian shutters often had
to be lowered in the summer to attenuate the great heat. From morn till
night the whole family lived here, closely and affectionately united in
work. Each was installed as fancy listed, having a particular chosen
place. One half of the building was occupied by the father’s chemical
laboratory, with its stove, experiment tables, shelves for apparatus,
glass cases and cupboards for phials and jars. Near all this Thomas, the
eldest son, had installed a little forge, an anvil, a vice bench, in fact
everything necessary to a working mechanician, such as he had become
since taking his bachelor’s degree, from his desire to remain with his
father and help him with certain researches and inventions. Then, at the
other end, the younger brothers, Francois and Antoine, got on very well
together on either side of a broad table which stood amidst a medley of
portfolios, nests of drawers and revolving book-stands. Francois, laden
with academical laurels, first on the pass list for the Ecole Normale,
had entered that college where young men are trained for university
professorships, and was there preparing for his Licentiate degree, while
Antoine, who on reaching the third class at the Lycee Condorcet had taken
a dislike to classical studies, now devoted himself to his calling as a
wood-engraver. And, in the full light under the window, Mere-Grand and
Marie likewise had their particular table, where needlework, embroidery,
all sorts of _chiffons_ and delicate things lay about near the somewhat
rough jumble of retorts, tools and big books.

Marie, however, on the very threshold called out in her calm voice, to
which she strove to impart a gay and cheering accent: “Children!
children! here is Monsieur l’Abbe with news of father!”

Children, indeed! Yet what motherliness she already set in the word as
she applied it to those big fellows whose elder sister she had long
considered herself to be! At three and twenty Thomas was quite a
colossus, already bearded and extremely like his father. But although he
had a lofty brow and energetic features, he was somewhat slow both in
mind and body. And he was also taciturn, almost unsociable, absorbed in
filial devotion, delighted with the manual toil which made him a mere
workman at his master’s orders. Francois, two years younger than Thomas,
and nearly as tall, showed a more refined face, though he had the same
large brow and firm mouth, a perfect blending of health and strength, in
which the man of intellect, the scientific Normalian, could only be
detected by the brighter and more subtle sparkle of the eyes. The
youngest of the brothers, Antoine, who for his eighteen years was almost
as strong as his elders, and promised to become as tall, differed from
them by his lighter hair and soft, blue, dreamy eyes, which he had
inherited from his mother. It had been difficult, however, to distinguish
one from the other when all three were schoolboys at the Lycee Condorcet;
and even nowadays people made mistakes unless they saw them side by side,
so as to detect the points of difference which were becoming more marked
as age progressed.

On Pierre’s arrival the brothers were so absorbed in their work that they
did not even hear the door open. And again, as in the case of Marie, the
priest was surprised by the discipline and firmness of mind, which amidst
the keenest anxiety gave the young fellows strength to take up their
daily task. Thomas, who stood at his vice-bench in a blouse, was
carefully filing a little piece of copper with rough but skilful hands.
Francois, leaning forward, was writing in a bold, firm fashion, whilst on
the other side of the table, Antoine, with a slender graver between his
fingers, finished a block for an illustrated newspaper.

However, Marie’s clear voice made them raise their heads: “Children,
father has sent you some news!”

Then all three with the same impulse hurriedly quitted their work and
came forward. One could divine that directly there was any question of
their father they were drawn together, blended one with the other, so
that but one and the same heart beat in their three broad chests.
However, a door at the far end of the workroom opened at that moment, and
Mere-Grand, coming from the upper floor where she and Marie had their
bedrooms, made her appearance. She had just absented herself to fetch a
skein of wool; and she gazed fixedly at the priest, unable to understand
the reason of his presence.

Marie had to explain matters. “Mere-Grand,” said she, “this is Monsieur
l’Abbe Froment, Guillaume’s brother; he has come from him.”

Pierre on his side was examining the old lady, astonished to find her so
erect and full of life at seventy. Her former beauty had left a stately
charm on her rather long face; youthful fire still lingered in her brown
eyes; and very firm was the contour of her pale lips, which in parting
showed that she had retained all her teeth. A few white hairs alone
silvered her black tresses, which were arranged in old-time fashion. Her
cheeks had but slightly withered, and her deep, symmetrical wrinkles gave
her countenance an expression of much nobility, a sovereign air as of a
queen-mother, which, tall and slight of stature as she was, and
invariably gowned in black woollen stuff, she always retained, no matter
how humble her occupation.

“So Guillaume sent you, monsieur,” she said; “he is injured, is he not?”

Surprised by this proof of intuition, Pierre repeated his story. “Yes,
his wrist is injured--but oh! it’s not a case of immediate gravity.”

On the part of the three sons, he had divined a sudden quiver, an impulse
of their whole beings to rush to the help and defence of their father.
And for their sakes he sought words of comfort: “He is with me at
Neuilly. And with due care it is certain that no serious complications
will arise. He sent me to tell you to be in no wise uneasy about him.”

Mere-Grand for her part evinced no fears, but preserved great calmness,
as if the priest’s tidings contained nothing beyond what she had known
already. If anything, she seemed rather relieved, freed from anxiety
which she had confided to none. “If he is with you, monsieur,” she
answered, “he is evidently as comfortable as he can be, and sheltered
from all risks. We were surprised, however, by his letter last night, as
it did not explain why he was detained, and we should have ended by
feeling frightened. But now everything is satisfactory.”

Mere-Grand and the three sons, following Marie’s example, asked no
explanations. On a table near at hand Pierre noticed several morning
newspapers lying open and displaying column after column of particulars
about the crime. The sons had certainly read these papers, and had feared
lest their father should be compromised in that frightful affair. How far
did their knowledge of the latter go? They must be ignorant of the part
played by Salvat. It was surely impossible for them to piece together all
the unforeseen circumstances which had brought about their father’s
meeting with the workman, and then the crime. Mere-Grand, no doubt, was
in certain respects better informed than the others. But they, the sons
and Marie, neither knew nor sought to know anything. And thus what a
wealth of respect and affection there was in their unshakable confidence
in the father, in the tranquillity they displayed directly he sent them
word that they were not to be anxious about him!

“Madame,” Pierre resumed, “Guillaume told me to give you this little key,
and to remind you to do what he charged you to do, if any misfortune
should befall him.”

She started, but so slightly that it was scarcely perceptible; and taking
the key she answered as if some ordinary wish on the part of a sick
person were alone in question. “Very well. Tell him that his wishes shall
be carried out.” Then she added, “But pray take a seat, monsieur.”

Pierre, indeed, had remained standing. However, he now felt it necessary
to accept a chair, desirous as he was of hiding the embarrassment which
he still felt in this house, although he was _en famille_ there. Marie,
who could not live without occupation for her fingers, had just returned
to some embroidery, some of the fine needlework which she stubbornly
executed for a large establishment dealing in baby-linen and bridal
_trousseaux_; for she wished at any rate to earn her own pocket-money,
she often said with a laugh. Mere-Grand, too, from habit, which she
followed even when visitors were present, had once more started on her
perpetual stocking-mending; while Francois and Antoine had again seated
themselves at their table; and Thomas alone remained on his legs, leaning
against his bench. All the charm of industrious intimacy pervaded the
spacious, sun-lit room.

“But we’ll all go to see father to-morrow,” Thomas suddenly exclaimed.

Before Pierre could answer Marie raised her head. “No, no,” said she, “he
does not wish any of us to go to him; for if we should be watched and
followed we should betray the secret of his retreat. Isn’t that so,
Monsieur l’Abbe?”

“It would indeed be prudent of you to deprive yourselves of the pleasure
of embracing him until he himself can come back here. It will be a matter
of some two or three weeks,” answered Pierre.

Mere-Grand at once expressed approval of this. “No doubt,” said she.
“Nothing could be more sensible.”

So the three sons did not insist, but bravely accepted the secret anxiety
in which they must for a time live, renouncing the visit which would have
caused them so much delight, because their father bade them do so and
because his safety depended perhaps on their obedience.

However, Thomas resumed: “Then, Monsieur l’Abbe, will you please tell him
that as work will be interrupted here, I shall return to the factory
during his absence. I shall be more at ease there for the researches on
which we are engaged.”

“And please tell him from me,” put in Francois, “that he mustn’t worry
about my examination. Things are going very well. I feel almost certain
of success.”

Pierre promised that he would forget nothing. However, Marie raised her
head, smiling and glancing at Antoine, who had remained silent with a
faraway look in his eyes. “And you, little one,” said she, “don’t you
send him any message?”

Emerging from a dream, the young fellow also began to smile. “Yes, yes, a
message that you love him dearly, and that he’s to make haste back for
you to make him happy.”

At this they all became merry, even Marie, who in lieu of embarrassment
showed a tranquil gaiety born of confidence in the future. Between her
and the young men there was naught but happy affection. And a grave smile
appeared even on the pale lips of Mere-Grand, who likewise approved of
the happiness which life seemed to be promising.

Pierre wished to stay a few minutes longer. They all began to chat, and
his astonishment increased. He had gone from surprise to surprise in this
house where he had expected to find that equivocal, disorderly life, that
rebellion against social laws, which destroy morality. But instead of
this he had found loving serenity, and such strong discipline that life
there partook of the gravity, almost the austerity, of convent life,
tempered by youth and gaiety. The vast room was redolent of industry and
quietude, warm with bright sunshine. However, what most particularly
struck him was the Spartan training, the bravery of mind and heart among
those sons who allowed nothing to be seen of their personal feelings, and
did not presume to judge their father, but remained content with his
message, ready to await events, stoical and silent, while carrying on
their daily tasks. Nothing could be more simple, more dignified, more
lofty. And there was also the smiling heroism of Mere-Grand and Marie,
those two women who slept over that laboratory where terrible
preparations were manipulated, and where an explosion was always

However, such courage, orderliness and dignity merely surprised Pierre,
without touching him. He had no cause for complaint, he had received a
polite greeting if not an affectionate one; but then he was as yet only a
stranger there, a priest. In spite of everything, however, he remained
hostile, feeling that he was in a sphere where none of his own torments
could be shared or even divined. How did these folks manage to be so calm
and happy amidst their religious unbelief, their sole faith in science,
and in presence of that terrifying Paris which spread before them the
boundless sea, the growling abomination of its injustice and its want? As
this thought came to him he turned his head and gazed at the city through
the huge window, whence it stretched away, ever present, ever living its
giant life. And at that hour, under the oblique sun-rays of the winter
afternoon, all Paris was speckled with luminous dust, as if some
invisible sower, hidden amidst the glory of the planet, were fast
scattering seed which fell upon every side in a stream of gold. The whole
field was covered with it; for the endless chaos of house roofs and
edifices seemed to be land in tilth, furrowed by some gigantic plough.
And Pierre in his uneasiness, stirred, despite everything, by an
invincible need of hope, asked himself if this was not a good sowing, the
furrows of Paris strewn with light by the divine sun for the great future
harvest, that harvest of truth and justice of whose advent he had

At last he rose and took his leave, promising to return at once, if there
should be any bad news. It was Marie who showed him to the front door.
And there another of those childish blushes which worried her so much
suddenly rose to her face, just as she, in her turn, also wished to send
her loving message to the injured man. However, with her gay, candid eyes
fixed on those of the priest, she bravely spoke the words: “_Au revoir,
Monsieur l’Abbe_. Tell Guillaume that I love him and await him.”


THREE days went by, and every morning Guillaume, confined to his bed and
consumed by fever and impatience, experienced fresh anxiety directly the
newspapers arrived. Pierre had tried to keep them from him, but Guillaume
then worried himself the more, and so the priest had to read him column
by column all the extraordinary articles that were published respecting
the crime.

Never before had so many rumours inundated the press. Even the “Globe,”
 usually so grave and circumspect, yielded to the general _furore_, and
printed whatever statements reached it. But the more unscrupulous papers
were the ones to read. The “Voix du Peuple” in particular made use of the
public feverishness to increase its sales. Each morning it employed some
fresh device, and printed some frightful story of a nature to drive
people mad with terror. It related that not a day passed without Baron
Duvillard receiving threatening letters of the coarsest description,
announcing that his wife, his son and his daughter would all be killed,
that he himself would be butchered in turn, and that do what he might his
house would none the less be blown up. And as a measure of precaution the
house was guarded day and night alike by a perfect army of plain-clothes
officers. Then another article contained an amazing piece of invention.
Some anarchists, after carrying barrels of powder into a sewer near the
Madeleine, were said to have undermined the whole district, planning a
perfect volcano there, into which one half of Paris would sink. And at
another time it was alleged that the police were on the track of a
terrible plot which embraced all Europe, from the depths of Russia to the
shores of Spain. The signal for putting it into execution was to be given
in France, and there would be a three days’ massacre, with grape shot
sweeping everyone off the Boulevards, and the Seine running red, swollen
by a torrent of blood. Thanks to these able and intelligent devices of
the Press, terror now reigned in the city; frightened foreigners fled
from the hotels _en masse_; and Paris had become a mere mad-house, where
the most idiotic delusions at once found credit.

It was not all this, however, that worried Guillaume. He was only anxious
about Salvat and the various new “scents” which the newspaper reporters
attempted to follow up. The engineer was not yet arrested, and, so far
indeed, there had been no statement in print to indicate that the police
were on his track. At last, however, Pierre one morning read a paragraph
which made the injured man turn pale.

“Dear me! It seems that a tool has been found among the rubbish at the
entrance of the Duvillard mansion. It is a bradawl, and its handle bears
the name of Grandidier, which is that of a man who keeps some well-known
metal works. He is to appear before the investigating magistrate to-day.”

Guillaume made a gesture of despair. “Ah!” said he, “they are on the
right track at last. That tool must certainly have been dropped by
Salvat. He worked at Grandidier’s before he came to me for a few days.
And from Grandidier they will learn all that they need to know in order
to follow the scent.”

Pierre then remembered that he had heard the Grandidier factory mentioned
at Montmartre. Guillaume’s eldest son, Thomas, had served his
apprenticeship there, and even worked there occasionally nowadays.

“You told me,” resumed Guillaume, “that during my absence Thomas intended
to go back to the factory. It’s in connection with a new motor which he’s
planning, and has almost hit upon. If there should be a perquisition
there, he may be questioned, and may refuse to answer, in order to guard
his secret. So he ought to be warned of this, warned at once!”

Without trying to extract any more precise statement from his brother,
Pierre obligingly offered his services. “If you like,” said he, “I will
go to see Thomas this afternoon. Perhaps I may come across Monsieur
Grandidier himself and learn how far the affair has gone, and what was
said at the investigating magistrate’s.”

With a moist glance and an affectionate grasp of the hand, Guillaume at
once thanked Pierre: “Yes, yes, brother, go there, it will be good and
brave of you.”

“Besides,” continued the priest, “I really wanted to go to Montmartre
to-day. I haven’t told you so, but something has been worrying me. If
Salvat has fled, he must have left the woman and the child all alone up
yonder. On the morning of the day when the explosion took place I saw the
poor creatures in such a state of destitution, such misery, that I can’t
think of them without a heart-pang. Women and children so often die of
hunger when the man is no longer there.”

At this, Guillaume, who had kept Pierre’s hand in his own, pressed it
more tightly, and in a trembling voice exclaimed: “Yes, yes, and that
will be good and brave too. Go there, brother, go there.”

That house of the Rue des Saules, that horrible home of want and agony,
had lingered in Pierre’s memory. To him it was like an embodiment of the
whole filthy _cloaca_, in which the poor of Paris suffer unto death. And
on returning thither that afternoon, he found the same slimy mud around
it; its yard littered with the same filth, its dark, damp stairways
redolent of the same stench of neglect and poverty, as before. In winter
time, while the fine central districts of Paris are dried and cleansed,
the far-away districts of the poor remain gloomy and miry, beneath the
everlasting tramp of the wretched ones who dwell in them.

Remembering the staircase which conducted to Salvat’s lodging, Pierre
began to climb it amidst a loud screaming of little children, who
suddenly became quiet, letting the house sink into death-like silence
once more. Then the thought of Laveuve, who had perished up there like a
stray dog, came back to Pierre. And he shuddered when, on the top
landing, he knocked at Salvat’s door, and profound silence alone answered
him. Not a breath was to be heard.

However, he knocked again, and as nothing stirred he began to think that
nobody could be there. Perhaps Salvat had returned to fetch the woman and
the child, and perhaps they had followed him to some humble nook abroad.
Still this would have astonished him; for the poor seldom quit their
homes, but die where they have suffered. So he gave another gentle knock.

And at last a faint sound, the light tread of little feet, was heard
amidst the silence. Then a weak, childish voice ventured to inquire: “Who
is there?”

“Monsieur l’Abbe.”

The silence fell again, nothing more stirred. There was evidently
hesitation on the other side.

“Monsieur l’Abbe who came the other day,” said Pierre again.

This evidently put an end to all uncertainty, for the door was set ajar
and little Celine admitted the priest. “I beg your pardon, Monsieur
l’Abbe,” said she, “but Mamma Theodore has gone out, and she told me not
to open the door to anyone.”

Pierre had, for a moment, imagined that Salvat himself was hiding there.
But with a glance he took in the whole of the small bare room, where man,
woman and child dwelt together. At the same time, Madame Theodore
doubtless feared a visit from the police. Had she seen Salvat since the
crime? Did she know where he was hiding? Had he come back there to
embrace and tranquillise them both?

“And your papa, my dear,” said Pierre to Celine, “isn’t he here either?”

“Oh! no, monsieur, he has gone away.”

“What, gone away?”

“Yes, he hasn’t been home to sleep, and we don’t know where he is.”

“Perhaps he’s working.”

“Oh, no! he’d send us some money if he was.”

“Then he’s gone on a journey, perhaps?”

“I don’t know.”

“He wrote to Mamma Theodore, no doubt?”

“I don’t know.”

Pierre asked no further questions. In fact, he felt somewhat ashamed of
his attempt to extract information from this child of eleven, whom he
thus found alone. It was quite possible that she knew nothing, that
Salvat, in a spirit of prudence, had even refrained from sending any
tidings of himself. Indeed, there was an expression of truthfulness on
the child’s fair, gentle and intelligent face, which was grave with the
gravity that extreme misery imparts to the young.

“I am sorry that Mamma Theodore isn’t here,” said Pierre, “I wanted to
speak to her.”

“But perhaps you would like to wait for her, Monsieur l’Abbe. She has
gone to my Uncle Toussaint’s in the Rue Marcadet; and she can’t stop much
longer, for she’s been away more than an hour.”

Thereupon Celine cleared one of the chairs on which lay a handful of
scraps of wood, picked up on some waste ground.

The bare and fireless room was assuredly also a breadless one. Pierre
could divine the absence of the bread-winner, the disappearance of the
man who represents will and strength in the home, and on whom one still
relies even when weeks have gone by without work. He goes out and scours
the city, and often ends by bringing back the indispensable crust which
keeps death at bay. But with his disappearance comes complete
abandonment, the wife and child in danger, destitute of all prop and

Pierre, who had sat down and was looking at that poor, little, blue-eyed
girl, to whose lips a smile returned in spite of everything, could not
keep from questioning her on another point. “So you don’t go to school,
my child?” said he.

She faintly blushed and answered: “I’ve no shoes to go in.”

He glanced at her feet, and saw that she was wearing a pair of ragged old
list-slippers, from which her little toes protruded, red with cold.

“Besides,” she continued, “Mamma Theodore says that one doesn’t go to
school when one’s got nothing to eat. Mamma Theodore wanted to work but
she couldn’t, because her eyes got burning hot and full of water. And so
we don’t know what to do, for we’ve had nothing left since yesterday, and
if Uncle Toussaint can’t lend us twenty sous it’ll be all over.”

She was still smiling in her unconscious way, but two big tears had
gathered in her eyes. And the sight of the child shut up in that bare
room, apart from all the happy ones of earth, so upset the priest that he
again felt his anger with want and misery awakening. Then, another ten
minutes having elapsed, he became impatient, for he had to go to the
Grandidier works before returning home.

“I don’t know why Mamma Theodore doesn’t come back,” repeated Celine.
“Perhaps she’s chatting.” Then, an idea occurring to her she continued:
“I’ll take you to my Uncle Toussaint’s, Monsieur l’Abbe, if you like.
It’s close by, just round the corner.”

“But you have no shoes, my child.”

“Oh! that don’t matter, I walk all the same.”

Thereupon he rose from the chair and said simply: “Well, yes, that will
be better, take me there. And I’ll buy you some shoes.”

Celine turned quite pink, and then made haste to follow him after
carefully locking the door of the room like a good little housewife,
though, truth to tell, there was nothing worth stealing in the place.

In the meantime it had occurred to Madame Theodore that before calling on
her brother Toussaint to try to borrow a franc from him, she might first
essay her luck with her younger sister, Hortense, who had married little
Chretiennot, the clerk, and occupied a flat of four rooms on the
Boulevard de Rochechouart. This was quite an affair, however, and the
poor woman only made the venture because Celine had been fasting since
the previous day.

Eugene Toussaint, the mechanician, a man of fifty, was her stepbrother,
by the first marriage contracted by her father. A young dressmaker whom
the latter had subsequently wedded, had borne him three daughters,
Pauline, Leonie and Hortense. And on his death, his son Eugene, who
already had a wife and child of his own, had found himself for a short
time with his stepmother and sisters on his hands. The stepmother,
fortunately, was an active and intelligent woman, and knew how to get out
of difficulties. She returned to her former workroom where her daughter
Pauline was already apprenticed, and she next placed Leonie there; so
that Hortense, the youngest girl, who was a spoilt child, prettier and
more delicate than her sisters, was alone left at school. And, later
on,--after Pauline had married Labitte the stonemason, and Leonie, Salvat
the journeyman-engineer,--Hortense, while serving as assistant at a
confectioner’s in the Rue des Martyrs, there became acquainted with
Chretiennot, a clerk, who married her. Leonie had died young, only a few
weeks after her mother; Pauline, forsaken by her husband, lived with her
brother-in-law Salvat, and Hortense alone wore a light silk gown on
Sundays, resided in a new house, and ranked as a _bourgeoise_, at the
price, however, of interminable worries and great privation.

Madame Theodore knew that her sister was generally short of money towards
the month’s end, and therefore felt rather ill at ease in thus venturing
to apply for a loan. Chretiennot, moreover, embittered by his own
mediocrity, had of late years accused his wife of being the cause of
their spoilt life, and had ceased all intercourse with her relatives.
Toussaint, no doubt, was a decent workman; but that Madame Theodore who
lived in misery with her brother-in-law, and that Salvat who wandered
from workshop to workshop like an incorrigible ranter whom no employer
would keep; those two, with their want and dirt and rebellion, had ended
by incensing the vain little clerk, who was not only a great stickler for
the proprieties, but was soured by all the difficulties he encountered in
his own life. And thus he had forbidden Hortense to receive her sister.

All the same, as Madame Theodore climbed the carpeted staircase of the
house on the Boulevard Rochechouart, she experienced a certain feeling of
pride at the thought that she had a relation living in such luxury. The
Chretiennot’s rooms were on the third floor, and overlooked the
courtyard. Their _femme-de-menage_--a woman who goes out by the day or
hour charring, cleaning and cooking--came back every afternoon about four
o’clock to see to the dinner, and that day she was already there. She
admitted the visitor, though she could not conceal her anxious surprise
at her boldness in calling in such slatternly garb. However, on the very
threshold of the little salon, Madame Theodore stopped short in
wonderment herself, for her sister Hortense was sobbing and crouching on
one of the armchairs, upholstered in blue repp, of which she was so

“What is the matter? What has happened to you?” asked Madame Theodore.

Her sister, though scarcely two and thirty, was no longer “the beautiful
Hortense” of former days. She retained a doll-like appearance, with a
tall slim figure, pretty eyes and fine, fair hair. But she who had once
taken so much care of herself, had now come down to dressing-gowns of
doubtful cleanliness. Her eyelids, too, were reddening, and blotches were
appearing on her skin. She had begun to fade after giving birth to two
daughters, one of whom was now nine and the other seven years of age.
Very proud and egotistical, she herself had begun to regret her marriage,
for she had formerly considered herself a real beauty, worthy of the
palaces and equipages of some Prince Charming. And at this moment she was
plunged in such despair, that her sister’s sudden appearance on the scene
did not even astonish her: “Ah! it’s you,” she gasped. “Ah! if you only
knew what a blow’s fallen on me in the middle of all our worries!”

Madame Theodore at once thought of the children, Lucienne and Marcelle.
“Are your daughters ill?” she asked.

“No, no, our neighbour has taken them for a walk on the Boulevard. But
the fact is, my dear, I’m _enceinte_, and when I told Chretiennot of it
after _dejeuner_, he flew into a most fearful passion, saying the most
dreadful, the most cruel things!”

Then she again sobbed. Gentle and indolent by nature, desirous of peace
and quietness before anything else, she was incapable of deceiving her
husband, as he well knew. But the trouble was that an addition to the
family would upset the whole economy of the household.

“_Mon Dieu_!” said Madame Theodore at last, “you brought up the others,
and you’ll bring up this one too.”

At this an explosion of anger dried the other’s eyes; and she rose,
exclaiming: “You are good, you are! One can see that our purse isn’t
yours. How are we to bring up another child when we can scarcely make
both ends meet as it is?”

And thereupon, forgetting the _bourgeois_ pride which usually prompted
her to silence or falsehood, she freely explained their embarrassment,
the horrid pecuniary worries which made their life a perpetual misery.
Their rent amounted to 700 francs,* so that out of the 3000 francs**
which the husband earned at his office, barely a couple of hundred were
left them every month. And how were they to manage with that little sum,
provide food and clothes, keep up their rank and so forth? There was the
indispensable black coat for monsieur, the new dress which madame must
have at regular intervals, under penalty of losing caste, the new boots
which the children required almost every month, in fact, all sorts of
things that could not possibly be dispensed with. One might strike a dish
or two out of the daily menu, and even go without wine; but evenings came
when it was absolutely necessary to take a cab. And, apart from all this,
one had to reckon with the wastefulness of the children, the disorder in
which the discouraged wife left the house, and the despair of the
husband, who was convinced that he would never extricate himself from his
difficulties, even should his salary some day be raised to as high a
figure as 4000 francs. Briefly, one here found the unbearable penury of
the petty clerk, with consequences as disastrous as the black want of the
artisan: the mock facade and lying luxury; all the disorder and suffering
which lie behind intellectual pride at not earning one’s living at a
bench or on a scaffolding.

  * $140.

  ** $600.

“Well, well,” repeated Madame Theodore, “you can’t kill the child.”

“No, of course not; but it’s the end of everything,” answered Hortense,
sinking into the armchair again. “What will become of us, _mon Dieu_!
What will become of us!” Then she collapsed in her unbuttoned dressing
gown, tears once more gushing from her red and swollen eyes.

Much vexed that circumstances should be so unpropitious, Madame Theodore
nevertheless ventured to ask for the loan of twenty sons; and this
brought her sister’s despair and confusion to a climax. “I really haven’t
a centime in the house,” said she, “just now I borrowed ten sous for the
children from the servant. I had to get ten francs from the Mont de Piete
on a little ring the other day. And it’s always the same at the end of
the month. However, Chretiennot will be paid to-day, and he’s coming back
early with the money for dinner. So if I can I will send you something

At this same moment the servant hastened in with a distracted air, being
well aware that monsieur was in no wise partial to madame’s relatives.
“Oh madame, madame!” said she; “here’s monsieur coming up the stairs.”

“Quick then, quick, go away!” cried Hortense, “I should only have another
scene if he met you here. To-morrow, if I can, I promise you.”

To avoid Chretiennot who was coming in, Madame Theodore had to hide
herself in the kitchen. As he passed, she just caught sight of him, well
dressed as usual in a tight-fitting frock-coat. Short and lean, with a
thin face and long and carefully tended beard, he had the bearing of one
who is both vain and quarrelsome. Fourteen years of office life had
withered him, and now the long evening hours which he spent at a
neighbouring cafe were finishing him off.

When Madame Theodore had quitted the house she turned with dragging steps
towards the Rue Marcadet where the Toussaints resided. Here, again, she
had no great expectations, for she well knew what ill-luck and worry had
fallen upon her brother’s home. During the previous autumn Toussaint,
though he was but fifty, had experienced an attack of paralysis which had
laid him up for nearly five months. Prior to this mishap he had borne
himself bravely, working steadily, abstaining from drink, and bringing up
his three children in true fatherly fashion. One of them, a girl, was now
married to a carpenter, with whom she had gone to Le Havre, while of the
others, both boys--one a soldier, had been killed in Tonquin, and the
other Charles, after serving his time in the army, had become a working
mechanician. Still, Toussaint’s long illness had exhausted the little
money which he had in the Savings Bank, and now that he had been set on
his legs again, he had to begin life once more without a copper before

Madame Theodore found her sister-in-law alone in the cleanly kept room
which she and her husband occupied. Madame Toussaint was a portly woman,
whose corpulence increased in spite of everything, whether it were worry
or fasting. She had a round puffy face with bright little eyes; and was a
very worthy woman, whose only faults were an inclination for gossiping
and a fondness for good cheer. Before Madame Theodore even opened her
mouth she understood the object of her visit. “You’ve come on us at a bad
moment, my dear,” she said, “we’re stumped. Toussaint wasn’t able to go
back to the works till the day before yesterday, and he’ll have to ask
for an advance this evening.”

As she spoke, she looked at the other with no great sympathy, hurt as she
felt by her slovenly appearance. “And Salvat,” she added, “is he still
doing nothing?”

Madame Theodore doubtless foresaw the question, for she quietly lied: “He
isn’t in Paris, a friend has taken him off for some work over Belgium
way, and I’m waiting for him to send us something.”

Madame Toussaint still remained distrustful, however: “Ah!” she said,
“it’s just as well that he shouldn’t be in Paris; for with all these bomb
affairs we couldn’t help thinking of him, and saying that he was quite
mad enough to mix himself up in them.”

The other did not even blink. If she knew anything she kept it to

“But you, my dear, can’t you find any work?” continued Madame Toussaint.

“Well, what would you have me do with my poor eyes? It’s no longer
possible for me to sew.”

“That’s true. A seamstress gets done for. When Toussaint was laid up here
I myself wanted to go back to my old calling as a needlewoman. But there!
I spoilt everything and did no good. Charring’s about the only thing that
one can always do. Why don’t you get some jobs of that kind?”

“I’m trying, but I can’t find any.”

Little by little Madame Toussaint was softening at sight of the other’s
miserable appearance. She made her sit down, and told her that she would
give her something if Toussaint should come home with money. Then,
yielding to her partiality for gossiping, since there was somebody to
listen to her, she started telling stories. The one affair, however, on
which she invariably harped was the sorry business of her son Charles and
the servant girl at a wine shop over the way. Before going into the army
Charles had been a most hard-working and affectionate son, invariably
bringing his pay home to his mother. And certainly he still worked and
showed himself good-natured; but military service, while sharpening his
wits, had taken away some of his liking for ordinary manual toil. It
wasn’t that he regretted army life, for he spoke of his barracks as a
prison. Only his tools had seemed to him rather heavy when, on quitting
the service, he had been obliged to take them in hand once more.

“And so, my dear,” continued Madame Toussaint, “it’s all very well for
Charles to be kind-hearted, he can do no more for us. I knew that he
wasn’t in a hurry to get married, as it costs money to keep a wife. And
he was always very prudent, too, with girls. But what would you have?
There was that moment of folly with that Eugenie over the road, a regular
baggage who’s already gone off with another man, and left her baby
behind. Charles has put it out to nurse, and pays for it every month. And
a lot of expense it is too, perfect ruination. Yes, indeed, every
possible misfortune has fallen on us.”

In this wise Madame Toussaint rattled on for a full half hour. Then
seeing that waiting and anxiety had made her sister-in-law turn quite
pale, she suddenly stopped short. “You’re losing patience, eh?” she
exclaimed. “The fact is, that Toussaint won’t be back for some time.
Shall we go to the works together? I’ll easily find out if he’s likely to
bring any money home.”

They then decided to go down, but at the bottom of the stairs they
lingered for another quarter of an hour chatting with a neighbour who had
lately lost a child. And just as they were at last leaving the house they
heard a call: “Mamma! mamma!”

It came from little Celine, whose face was beaming with delight. She was
wearing a pair of new shoes and devouring a cake. “Mamma,” she resumed,
“Monsieur l’Abbe who came the other day wants to see you. Just look! he
bought me all this!”

On seeing the shoes and the cake, Madame Theodore understood matters. And
when Pierre, who was behind the child, accosted her she began to tremble
and stammer thanks. Madame Toussaint on her side had quickly drawn near,
not indeed to ask for anything herself, but because she was well pleased
at such a God-send for her sister-in-law, whose circumstances were worse
than her own. And when she saw the priest slip ten francs into Madame
Theodore’s hand she explained to him that she herself would willingly
have lent something had she been able. Then she promptly started on the
stories of Toussaint’s attack and her son Charles’s ill-luck.

But Celine broke in: “I say, mamma, the factory where papa used to work
is here in this street, isn’t it? Monsieur l’Abbe has some business
there.” *

  * Although the children of the French peasantry almost
    invariably address their parents as “father” and “mother,”
     those of the working classes of Paris, and some other large
    cities, usually employ the terms “papa” and “mamma.”--Trans.

“The Grandidier factory,” resumed Madame Toussaint; “well, we were just
going there, and we can show Monsieur l’Abbe the way.”

It was only a hundred steps off. Escorted by the two women and the child,
Pierre slackened his steps and tried to extract some information about
Salvat from Madame Theodore. But she at once became very prudent. She had
not seen him again, she declared; he must have gone with a mate to
Belgium, where there was a prospect of some work. From what she said, it
appeared to the priest that Salvat had not dared to return to the Rue des
Saules since his crime, in which all had collapsed, both his past life of
toil and hope, and his recent existence with its duties towards the woman
and the child.

“There’s the factory, Monsieur l’Abbe,” suddenly said Madame Toussaint,
“my sister-in-law won’t have to wait now, since you’ve been kind enough
to help her. Thank you for her and for us.”

Madame Theodore and Celine likewise poured forth their thanks, standing
beside Madame Toussaint in the everlasting mud of that populous district,
amidst the jostling of the passers-by. And lingering there as if to see
Pierre enter, they again chatted together and repeated that, after all,
some priests were very kind.

The Grandidier works covered an extensive plot of ground. Facing the
street there was only a brick building with narrow windows and a great
archway, through which one espied a long courtyard. But, in the rear,
came a suite of habitations, workshops, and sheds, above whose never
ending roofs arose the two lofty chimneys of the generators. From the
very threshold one detected the rumbling and quivering of machinery, all
the noise and bustle of work. Black water flowed by at one’s feet, and up
above white vapour spurted from a slender pipe with a regular strident
puff, as if it were the very breath of that huge, toiling hive.

Bicycles were now the principal output of the works. When Grandidier had
taken them on leaving the Dijon Arts and Trades School, they were
declining under bad management, slowly building some little motive
engines by the aid of antiquated machinery. Foreseeing the future,
however, he had induced his elder brother, one of the managers of the Bon
Marche, to finance him, on the promise that he would supply that great
emporium with excellent bicycles at 150 francs apiece. And now quite a
big venture was in progress, for the Bon Marche was already bringing out
the new popular machine “La Lisette,” the “Bicycle for the Multitude,” as
the advertisements asserted. Nevertheless, Grandidier was still in all
the throes of a great struggle, for his new machinery had cast a heavy
burden of debt on him. At the same time each month brought its effort,
the perfecting or simplifying of some part of the manufacture, which
meant a saving in the future. He was ever on the watch; and even now was
thinking of reverting to the construction of little motors, for he
thought he could divine in the near future the triumph of the motor-car.

On asking if M. Thomas Froment were there, Pierre was led by an old
workman to a little shed, where he found the young fellow in the linen
jacket of a mechanician, his hands black with filings. He was adjusting
some piece of mechanism, and nobody would have suspected him to be a
former pupil of the Lycee Condorcet, one of the three clever Froments who
had there rendered the name famous. But his only desire had been to act
as his father’s faithful servant, the arm that forges, the embodiment of
the manual toil by which conceptions are realised. And, a giant of three
and twenty, ever attentive and courageous, he was likewise a man of
patient, silent and sober nature.

On catching sight of Pierre he quivered with anxiety and sprang forward.
“Father is no worse?” he asked.

“No, no. But he read in the papers that story of a bradawl found in the
Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, and it made him anxious, because the police may make
a perquisition here.”

Thomas, his own anxiety allayed, began to smile. “Tell him he may sleep
quietly,” he responded. “To begin with, I’ve unfortunately not yet hit on
our little motor such as I want it to be. In fact, I haven’t yet put it
together. I’m keeping the pieces at our house, and nobody here knows
exactly what I come to do at the factory. So the police may search, it
will find nothing. Our secret runs no risk.”

Pierre promised to repeat these words to Guillaume, so as to dissipate
his fears. However, when he tried to sound Thomas, and ascertain the
position of affairs, what the factory people thought of the discovery of
the bradawl, and whether there was as yet any suspicion of Salvat, he
once more found the young man taciturn, and elicited merely a “yes” or a
“no” in answer to his inquiries. The police had not been there as yet?
No. But the men must surely have mentioned Salvat? Yes, of course, on
account of his Anarchist opinions. But what had Grandidier, the master,
said, on returning from the investigating magistrate’s? As for that
Thomas knew nothing. He had not seen Grandidier that day.

“But here he comes!” the young man added. “Ah! poor fellow, his wife, I
fancy, had another attack this morning.”

He alluded to a frightful story which Guillaume had already recounted to
Pierre. Grandidier, falling in love with a very beautiful girl, had
married her; but for five years now she had been insane: the result of
puerperal fever and the death of an infant son. Her husband, with his
ardent affection for her, had been unwilling to place her in an asylum,
and had accordingly kept her with him in a little pavilion, whose
windows, overlooking the courtyard of the factory, always remained
closed. She was never seen; and never did he speak of her to anybody. It
was said that she was usually like a child, very gentle and very sad, and
still beautiful, with regal golden hair. At times, however, attacks of
frantic madness came upon her, and he then had to struggle with her, and
often hold her for hours in his arms to prevent her from splitting her
head against the walls. Fearful shrieks would ring out for a time, and
then deathlike silence would fall once more.

Grandidier came into the shed where Thomas was working. A handsome man of
forty, with an energetic face, he had a dark and heavy moustache,
brush-like hair and clear eyes. He was very partial to Thomas, and during
the young fellow’s apprenticeship there, had treated him like a son. And
he now let him return thither whenever it pleased him, and placed his
appliances at his disposal. He knew that he was trying to devise a new
motor, a question in which he himself was extremely interested; still he
evinced the greatest discretion, never questioning Thomas, but awaiting
the result of his endeavours.

“This is my uncle, Abbe Froment, who looked in to wish me good day,” said
the young man, introducing Pierre.

An exchange of polite remarks ensued. Then Grandidier sought to cast off
the sadness which made people think him stern and harsh, and in a
bantering tone exclaimed: “I didn’t tell you, Thomas, of my business with
the investigating magistrate. If I hadn’t enjoyed a good reputation we
should have had all the spies of the Prefecture here. The magistrate
wanted me to explain the presence of that bradawl in the Rue
Godot-de-Mauroy, and I at once realised that, in his opinion, the culprit
must have worked here. For my part I immediately thought of Salvat. But I
don’t denounce people. The magistrate has my hiring-book, and as for
Salvat I simply answered that he worked here for nearly three months last
autumn, and then disappeared. They can look for him themselves! Ah! that
magistrate! you can picture him a little fellow with fair hair and
cat-like eyes, very careful of his appearance, a society man evidently,
but quite frisky at being mixed up in this affair.”

“Isn’t he Monsieur Amadieu?” asked Pierre.

“Yes, that’s his name. Ah! he’s certainly delighted with the present
which those Anarchists have made him, with that crime of theirs.”

The priest listened in deep anxiety. As his brother had feared, the true
scent, the first conducting wire, had now been found. And he looked at
Thomas to see if he also were disturbed. But the young man was either
ignorant of the ties which linked Salvat to his father, or else he
possessed great power of self-control, for he merely smiled at
Grandidier’s sketch of the magistrate.

Then, as Grandidier went to look at the piece of mechanism which Thomas
was finishing, and they began to speak about it, Pierre drew near to an
open doorway which communicated with a long workshop where engine lathes
were rumbling, and the beams of press-drills falling quickly and
rhythmically. Leather gearing spun along with a continuous gliding, and
there was ceaseless bustle and activity amidst the odoriferous dampness
of all the steam. Scores of perspiring workmen, grimy with dust and
filings, were still toiling. Still this was the final effort of the day.
And as three men approached a water-tap near Pierre to wash their hands,
he listened to their talk, and became particularly interested in it when
he heard one of them, a tall, ginger-haired fellow, call another
Toussaint, and the third Charles.

Toussaint, a big, square-shouldered man with knotty arms, only showed his
fifty years on his round, scorched face, which besides being roughened
and wrinkled by labour, bristled with grey hairs, which nowadays he was
content to shave off once a week. It was only his right arm that was
affected by paralysis, and moved rather sluggishly. As for Charles, a
living portrait of his father, he was now in all the strength of his six
and twentieth year, with splendid muscles distending his white skin, and
a full face barred by a heavy black moustache. The three men, like their
employer, were speaking of the explosion at the Duvillard mansion, of the
bradawl found there, and of Salvat, whom they all now suspected.

“Why, only a brigand would do such a thing!” said Toussaint. “That
Anarchism disgusts me. I’ll have none of it. But all the same it’s for
the _bourgeois_ to settle matters. If the others want to blow them up,
it’s their concern. It’s they who brought it about.”

This indifference was undoubtedly the outcome of a life of want and
social injustice; it was the indifference of an old toiler, who, weary of
struggling and hoping for improvements, was now quite ready to tolerate
the crumbling of a social system, which threatened him with hunger in his
impotent old age.

“Well, you know,” rejoined Charles, “I’ve heard the Anarchists talking,
and they really say some very true and sensible things. And just take
yourself, father; you’ve been working for thirty years, and isn’t it
abominable that you should have had to pass through all that you did pass
through recently, liable to go off like some old horse that’s slaughtered
at the first sign of illness? And, of course, it makes me think of
myself, and I can’t help feeling that it won’t be at all amusing to end
like that. And may the thunder of God kill me if I’m wrong, but one feels
half inclined to join in their great flare-up if it’s really to make
everybody happy!”

He certainly lacked the flame of enthusiasm, and if he had come to these
views it was solely from impatience to lead a less toilsome life, for
obligatory military service had given him ideas of equality among all
men--a desire to struggle, raise himself and obtain his legitimate share
of life’s enjoyments. It was, in fact, the inevitable step which carries
each generation a little more forward. There was the father, who,
deceived in his hope of a fraternal republic, had grown sceptical and
contemptuous; and there was the son advancing towards a new faith, and
gradually yielding to ideas of violence, since political liberty had
failed to keep its promises.

Nevertheless, as the big, ginger-haired fellow grew angry, and shouted
that if Salvat were guilty, he ought to be caught and guillotined at
once, without waiting for judges, Toussaint ended by endorsing his
opinion. “Yes, yes, he may have married one of my sisters, but I renounce
him.... And yet, you know, it would astonish me to find him guilty,
for he isn’t wicked at heart. I’m sure he wouldn’t kill a fly.”

“But what would you have?” put in Charles. “When a man’s driven to
extremities he goes mad.”

They had now washed themselves; but Toussaint, on perceiving his
employer, lingered there in order to ask him for an advance. As it
happened, Grandidier, after cordially shaking hands with Pierre,
approached the old workman of his own accord, for he held him in esteem.
And, after listening to him, he gave him a line for the cashier on a
card. As a rule, he was altogether against the practice of advancing
money, and his men disliked him, and said he was over rigid, though in
point of fact he had a good heart. But he had his position as an employer
to defend, and to him concessions meant ruin. With such keen competition
on all sides, with the capitalist system entailing a terrible and
incessant struggle, how could one grant the demands of the workers, even
when they were legitimate?

Sudden compassion came upon Pierre when, after quitting Thomas, he saw
Grandidier, who had finished his round, crossing the courtyard in the
direction of the closed pavilion, where all the grief of his
heart-tragedy awaited him. Here was that man waging the battle of life,
defending his fortune with the risk that his business might melt away
amidst the furious warfare between capital and labour; and at the same
time, in lieu of evening repose, finding naught but anguish it his
hearth: a mad wife, an adored wife, who had sunk back into infancy, and
was for ever dead to love! How incurable was his secret despair! Even on
the days when he triumphed in his workshops, disaster awaited him at
home. And could any more unhappy man, any man more deserving of pity, be
found even among the poor who died of hunger, among those gloomy workers,
those vanquished sons of labour who hated and who envied him?

When Pierre found himself in the street again he was astonished to see
Madame Toussaint and Madame Theodore still there with little Celine. With
their feet in the mud, like bits of wreckage against which beat the
ceaseless flow of wayfarers, they had lingered there, still and ever
chatting, loquacious and doleful, lulling their wretchedness to rest
beneath a deluge of tittle-tattle. And when Toussaint, followed by his
son, came out, delighted with the advance he had secured, he also found
them on the same spot. Then he told Madame Theodore the story of the
bradawl, and the idea which had occurred to him and all his mates that
Salvat might well be the culprit. She, however, though turning very pale,
began to protest, concealing both what she knew and what she really

“I tell you I haven’t seen him for several days,” said she. “He must
certainly be in Belgium. And as for a bomb, that’s humbug. You say
yourself that he’s very gentle and wouldn’t harm a fly!”

A little later as Pierre journeyed back to Neuilly in a tramcar he fell
into a deep reverie. All the stir and bustle of that working-class
district, the buzzing of the factory, the overflowing activity of that
hive of labour, seemed to have lingered within him. And for the first
time, amidst his worries, he realised the necessity of work. Yes, it was
fatal, but it also gave health and strength. In effort which sustains and
saves, he at last found a solid basis on which all might be reared. Was
this, then, the first gleam of a new faith? But ah! what mockery! Work an
uncertainty, work hopeless, work always ending in injustice! And then
want ever on the watch for the toiler, strangling him as soon as slack
times came round, and casting him into the streets like a dead dog
immediately old age set in.

On reaching Neuilly, Pierre found Bertheroy at Guillaume’s bedside. The
old _savant_ had just dressed the injured wrist, and was not yet certain
that no complications would arise. “The fact is,” he said to Guillaume,
“you don’t keep quiet. I always find you in a state of feverish emotion
which is the worst possible thing for you. You must calm yourself, my
dear fellow, and not allow anything to worry you.”

A few minutes later, though, just as he was going away, he said with his
pleasant smile: “Do you know that a newspaper writer came to interview me
about that explosion? Those reporters imagine that scientific men know
everything! I told the one who called on me that it would be very kind of
_him_ to enlighten _me_ as to what powder was employed. And, by the way,
I am giving a lesson on explosives at my laboratory to-morrow. There will
be just a few persons present. You might come as well, Pierre, so as to
give an account of it to Guillaume; it would interest him.”

At a glance from his brother, Pierre accepted the invitation. Then,
Bertheroy having gone, he recounted all he had learnt during the
afternoon, how Salvat was suspected, and how the investigating magistrate
had been put on the right scent. And at this news, intense fever again
came over Guillaume, who, with his head buried in the pillow, and his
eyes closed, stammered as if in a kind of nightmare: “Ah! then, this is
the end! Salvat arrested, Salvat interrogated! Ah! that so much toil and
so much hope should crumble!”


ON the morrow, punctually at one o’clock, Pierre reached the Rue d’Ulm,
where Bertheroy resided in a fairly large house, which the State had
placed at his disposal, in order that he might install in it a laboratory
for study and research. Thus the whole first floor had been transformed
into one spacious apartment, where, from time to time, the illustrious
chemist was fond of receiving a limited number of pupils and admirers,
before whom he made experiments, and explained his new discoveries and

For these occasions a few chairs were set out before the long and massive
table, which was covered with jars and appliances. In the rear one saw
the furnace, while all around were glass cases, full of vials and
specimens. The persons present were, for the most part, fellow _savants_,
with a few young men, and even a lady or two, and, of course, an
occasional journalist. The whole made up a kind of family gathering, the
visitors chatting with the master in all freedom.

Directly Bertheroy perceived Pierre he came forward, pressed his hand and
seated him on a chair beside Guillaume’s son Francois, who had been one
of the first arrivals. The young man was completing his third year at the
Ecole Normale, close by, so he only had a few steps to take to call upon
his master Bertheroy, whom he regarded as one of the firmest minds of the
age. Pierre was delighted to meet his nephew, for he had been greatly
impressed in his favour on the occasion of his visit to Montmartre.
Francois, on his side, greeted his uncle with all the cordial
expansiveness of youth. He was, moreover, well pleased to obtain some
news of his father.

However, Bertheroy began. He spoke in a familiar and sober fashion, but
frequently employed some very happy expressions. At first he gave an
account of his own extensive labours and investigations with regard to
explosive substances, and related with a laugh that he sometimes
manipulated powders which would have blown up the entire district. But,
said he, in order to reassure his listeners, he was always extremely
prudent. At last he turned to the subject of that explosion in the Rue
Godot-de-Mauroy, which, for some days, had filled Paris with dismay. The
remnants of the bomb had been carefully examined by experts, and one
fragment had been brought to him, in order that he might give his opinion
on it. The bomb appeared to have been prepared in a very rudimentary
fashion; it had been charged with small pieces of iron, and fired by
means of a match, such as a child might have devised. The extraordinary
part of the affair was the formidable power of the central cartridge,
which, although it must have been a small one, had wrought as much havoc
as any thunderbolt. And the question was this: What incalculable power of
destruction might one not arrive at if the charge were increased ten,
twenty or a hundredfold. Embarrassment began, and divergencies of opinion
clouded the issue directly one tried to specify what explosive had been
employed. Of the three experts who had been consulted, one pronounced
himself in favour of dynamite pure and simple; but the two others,
although they did not agree together, believed in some combination of
explosive matters. He, Bertheroy, had modestly declined to adjudicate,
for the fragment submitted to him bore traces of so slight a character,
that analysis became impossible. Thus he was unwilling to make any
positive pronouncement. But his opinion was that one found oneself in
presence of some unknown powder, some new explosive, whose power exceeded
anything that had hitherto been dreamt of. He could picture some unknown
_savant_, or some ignorant but lucky inventor, discovering the formula of
this explosive under mysterious conditions. And this brought him to the
point he wished to reach, the question of all the explosives which are so
far unknown, and of the coming discoveries which he could foresee. In the
course of his investigations he himself had found cause to suspect the
existence of several such explosives, though he had lacked time and
opportunity to prosecute his studies in that direction. However, he
indicated the field which should be explored, and the best way of
proceeding. In his opinion it was there that lay the future. And in a
broad and eloquent peroration, he declared that explosives had hitherto
been degraded by being employed in idiotic schemes of vengeance and
destruction; whereas it was in them possibly that lay the liberating
force which science was seeking, the lever which would change the face of
the world, when they should have been so domesticated and subdued as to
be only the obedient servants of man.

Throughout this familiar discourse Pierre could feel that Francois was
growing impassioned, quivering at thought of the vast horizon which the
master opened up. He himself had become extremely interested, for he
could not do otherwise than notice certain allusions, and connect what he
heard with what he had guessed of Guillaume’s anxiety regarding that
secret which he feared to see at the mercy of an investigating
magistrate. And so as he, Pierre, before going off with Francois,
approached Bertheroy to wish him good day, he pointedly remarked:
“Guillaume will be very sorry that he was unable to hear you unfold those
admirable ideas.”

The old _savant_ smiled. “Pooh!” said he; “just give him a summary of
what I said. He will understand. He knows more about the matter than I

In presence of the illustrious chemist, Francois preserved the silent
gravity of a respectful pupil, but when he and Pierre had taken a few
steps down the street in silence, he remarked: “What a pity it is that a
man of such broad intelligence, free from all superstition, and anxious
for the sole triumph of truth, should have allowed himself to be
classified, ticketed, bound round with titles and academical functions!
How greatly our affection for him would increase if he took less State
pay, and freed himself from all the grand cordons which tie his hands.”

“What would you have!” rejoined Pierre, in a conciliatory spirit. “A man
must live! At the same time I believe that he does not regard himself as
tied by anything.”

Then, as they had reached the entrance of the Ecole Normale, the priest
stopped, thinking that his companion was going back to the college. But
Francois, raising his eyes and glancing at the old place, remarked: “No,
no, to-day’s Thursday, and I’m at liberty! Oh! we have a deal of liberty,
perhaps too much. But for my own part I’m well pleased at it, for it
often enables me to go to Montmartre and work at my old little table.
It’s only there that I feel any real strength and clearness of mind.”

His preliminary examinations had entitled him to admission at either the
Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale,* and he had chosen the latter,
entering its scientific section with No. 1 against his name. His father
had wished him to make sure of an avocation, that of professor, even if
circumstances should allow him to remain independent and follow his own
bent on leaving the college. Francois, who was very precocious, was now
preparing for his last examination there, and the only rest he took was
in walking to and from Montmartre, or in strolling through the Luxembourg

  * The purposes of the Ecole Normale have been referred to on
    p. 197. At the Ecole Polytechnique young men receive much
    of the preliminary training which they require to become
    either artillery officers, or military, naval or civil

From force of habit he now turned towards the latter, accompanied by
Pierre and chatting with him. One found the mildness of springtime there
that February afternoon; for pale sunshine streamed between the trees,
which were still leafless. It was indeed one of those first fine days
which draw little green gems from the branches of the lilac bushes.

The Ecole Normale was still the subject of conversation and Pierre
remarked: “I must own that I hardly like the spirit that prevails there.
Excellent work is done, no doubt, and the only way to form professors is
to teach men the trade by cramming them with the necessary knowledge. But
the worst is that although all the students are trained for the teaching
profession, many of them don’t remain in it, but go out into the world,
take to journalism, or make it their business to control the arts,
literature and society. And those who do this are for the most part
unbearable. After swearing by Voltaire they have gone back to
spirituality and mysticism, the last drawing-room craze. Now that a firm
faith in science is regarded as brutish and inelegant, they fancy that
they rid themselves of their caste by feigning amiable doubt, and
ignorance, and innocence. What they most fear is that they may carry a
scent of the schools about with them, so they put on extremely Parisian
airs, venture on somersaults and slang, and assume all the grace of
dancing bears in their eager desire to please. From that desire spring
the sarcastic shafts which they aim at science, they who pretend that
they know everything, but who go back to the belief of the humble, the
_naive_ idealism of Biblical legends, just because they think the latter
to be more distinguished.”

Francois began to laugh: “The portrait is perhaps a little overdrawn,”
 said he, “still there’s truth in it, a great deal of truth.”

“I have known several of them,” continued Pierre, who was growing
animated. “And among them all I have noticed that a fear of being duped
leads them to reaction against the entire effort, the whole work of the
century. Disgust with liberty, distrust of science, denial of the future,
that is what they now profess. And they have such a horror of the
commonplace that they would rather believe in nothing or the incredible.
It may of course be commonplace to say that two and two make four, yet
it’s true enough; and it is far less foolish for a man to say and repeat
it than to believe, for instance, in the miracles of Lourdes.”

Francois glanced at the priest in astonishment. The other noticed it and
strove to restrain himself. Nevertheless, grief and anger carried him
away whenever he spoke of the educated young people of the time, such as,
in his despair, he imagined them to be. In the same way as he had pitied
the toilers dying of hunger in the districts of misery and want, so here
he overflowed with contempt for the young minds that lacked bravery in
the presence of knowledge, and harked back to the consolation of
deceptive spirituality, the promise of an eternity of happiness in death,
which last was longed for and exalted as the very sum of life. Was not
the cowardly thought of refusing to live for the sake of living so as to
discharge one’s simple duty in being and making one’s effort, equivalent
to absolute assassination of life? However, the _Ego_ was always the
mainspring; each one sought personal happiness. And Pierre was grieved to
think that those young people, instead of discarding the past and
marching on to the truths of the future, were relapsing into shadowy
metaphysics through sheer weariness and idleness, due in part perhaps to
the excessive exertion of the century, which had been overladen with
human toil.

However, Francois had begun to smile again. “But you are mistaken,” said
he; “we are not all like that at the Ecole Normale. You only seem to know
the Normalians of the Section of Letters, and your opinions would surely
change if you knew those of the Section of Sciences. It is quite true
that the reaction against Positivism is making itself felt among our
literary fellow-students, and that they, like others, are haunted by the
idea of that famous bankruptcy of science. This is perhaps due to their
masters, the neo-spiritualists and dogmatical rhetoricians into whose
hands they have fallen. And it is still more due to fashion, the whim of
the times which, as you have very well put it, regards scientific truth
as bad taste, something graceless and altogether too brutal for light and
distinguished minds. Consequently, a young fellow of any shrewdness who
desires to please is perforce won over to the new spirit.”

“The new spirit!” interrupted Pierre, unable to restrain himself. “Oh!
that is no mere innocent, passing fashion, it is a tactical device and a
terrible one, an offensive return of the powers of darkness against those
of light, of servitude against free thought, truth and justice.”

Then, as the young man again looked at him with growing astonishment, he
relapsed into silence. The figure of Monseigneur Martha had risen before
his eyes, and he fancied he could again hear the prelate at the
Madeleine, striving to win Paris over to the policy of Rome, to that
spurious neo-Catholicism which, with the object of destroying democracy
and science, accepted such portions of them as it could adapt to its own
views. This was indeed the supreme struggle. Thence came all the poison
poured forth to the young. Pierre knew what efforts were being made in
religious circles to help on this revival of mysticism, in the mad hope
of hastening the rout of science. Monseigneur Martha, who was
all-powerful at the Catholic University, said to his intimates, however,
that three generations of devout and docile pupils would be needed before
the Church would again be absolute sovereign of France.

“Well, as for the Ecole Normale,” continued Francois, “I assure you that
you are mistaken. There are a few narrow bigots there, no doubt. But even
in the Section of Letters the majority of the students are sceptics at
bottom--sceptics of discreet and good-natured average views. Of course
they are professors before everything else, though they are a trifle
ashamed of it; and, as professors, they judge things with no little
pedantic irony, devoured by a spirit of criticism, and quite incapable of
creating anything themselves. I should certainly be astonished to see the
man of genius whom we await come out of their ranks. To my thinking,
indeed, it would be preferable that some barbarian genius, neither well
read nor endowed with critical faculty, or power of weighing and shading
things, should come and open the next century with a hatchet stroke,
sending up a fine flare of truth and reality.... But, as for my
comrades of the Scientific Section, I assure you that neo-Catholicism and
Mysticism and Occultism, and every other branch of the fashionable
phantasmagoria trouble them very little indeed. They are not making a
religion of science, they remain open to doubt on many points; but they
are mostly men of very clear and firm minds, whose passion is the
acquirement of certainty, and who are ever absorbed in the investigations
which continue throughout the whole vast field of human knowledge. They
haven’t flinched, they have remained Positivists, or Evolutionists, or
Determinists, and have set their faith in observation and experiment to
help on the final conquest of the world.”

Francois himself was growing excited, as he thus confessed his faith
while strolling along the quiet sunlit garden paths. “The young indeed!”
 he resumed. “Do people know them? It makes us laugh when we see all sorts
of apostles fighting for us, trying to attract us, and saying that we are
white or black or grey, according to the hue which they require for the
triumph of their particular ideas! The young, the real ones, why, they’re
in the schools, the laboratories and the libraries. It’s they who work
and who’ll bring to-morrow to the world. It’s not the young fellows of
dinner and supper clubs, manifestoes and all sorts of extravagances. The
latter make a great deal of noise, no doubt; in fact, they alone are
heard. But if you knew of the ceaseless efforts and passionate striving
of the others, those who remain silent, absorbed in their tasks. And I
know many of them: they are with their century, they have rejected none
of its hopes, but are marching on to the coming century, resolved to
pursue the work of their forerunners, ever going towards more light and
more equity. And just speak to them of the bankruptcy of science. They’ll
shrug their shoulders at the mere idea, for they know well enough that
science has never before inflamed so many hearts or achieved greater
conquests! It is only if the schools, laboratories and libraries were
closed, and the social soil radically changed, that one would have cause
to fear a fresh growth of error such as weak hearts and narrow minds hold
so dear!”

At this point Francois’s fine flow of eloquence was interrupted. A tall
young fellow stopped to shake hands with him; and Pierre was surprised to
recognise Baron Duvillard’s son Hyacinthe, who bowed to him in very
correct style. “What! you here in our old quarter,” exclaimed Francois.

“My dear fellow, I’m going to Jonas’s, over yonder, behind the
Observatory. Don’t you know Jonas? Ah! my dear fellow, he’s a delightful
sculptor, who has succeeded in doing away with matter almost entirely. He
has carved a figure of Woman, no bigger than the finger, and entirely
soul, free from all baseness of form, and yet complete. All Woman,
indeed, in her essential symbolism! Ah! it’s grand, it’s overpowering. A
perfect scheme of aesthetics, a real religion!”

Francois smiled as he looked at Hyacinthe, buttoned up in his long
pleated frock-coat, with his made-up face, and carefully cropped hair and
beard. “And yourself?” said he, “I thought you were working, and were
going to publish a little poem, shortly?”

“Oh! the task of creating is so distasteful to me, my dear fellow! A
single line often takes me weeks.... Still, yes, I have a little poem
on hand, ‘The End of Woman.’ And you see, I’m not so exclusive as some
people pretend, since I admire Jonas, who still believes in Woman. His
excuse is sculpture, which, after all, is at best such a gross
materialistic art. But in poetry, good heavens, how we’ve been
overwhelmed with Woman, always Woman! It’s surely time to drive her out
of the temple, and cleanse it a little. Ah! if we were all pure and lofty
enough to do without Woman, and renounce all those horrid sexual
questions, so that the last of the species might die childless, eh? The
world would then at least finish in a clean and proper manner!”

Thereupon, Hyacinthe walked off with his languid air, well pleased with
the effect which he had produced on the others.

“So you know him?” said Pierre to Francois.

“He was my school-fellow at Condorcet, we were in the same classes
together. Such a funny fellow he was! A perfect dunce! And he was always
making a parade of Father Duvillard’s millions, while pretending to
disdain them, and act the revolutionist, for ever saying that he’d use
his cigarette to fire the cartridge which was to blow up the world! He
was Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, and Tolstoi, and Ibsen, rolled into one!
And you can see what he has become with it all: a humbug with a diseased

“It’s a terrible symptom,” muttered Pierre, “when through _ennui_ or
lassitude, or the contagion of destructive fury, the sons of the happy
and privileged ones start doing the work of the demolishers.”

Francois had resumed his walk, going down towards the ornamental water,
where some children were sailing their boats. “That fellow is simply
grotesque,” he replied; “but how would you have sane people give any heed
to that mysticism, that awakening of spirituality which is alleged by the
same _doctrinaires_ who started the bankruptcy of science cry, when after
so brief an evolution it produces such insanity, both in art and
literature? A few years of influence have sufficed; and now Satanism,
Occultism and other absurdities are flourishing; not to mention that,
according to some accounts, the Cities of the Plains are reconciled with
new Rome. Isn’t the tree judged by its fruits? And isn’t it evident that,
instead of a renascence, a far-spreading social movement bringing back
the past, we are simply witnessing a transitory reaction, which many
things explain? The old world would rather not die, and is struggling in
a final convulsion, reviving for a last hour before it is swept away by
the overflowing river of human knowledge, whose waters ever increase. And
yonder, in the future, is the new world, which the real young ones will
bring into existence, those who work, those who are not known, who are
not heard. And yet, just listen! Perhaps you will hear them, for we are
among them, in their ‘quarter.’ This deep silence is that of the labour
of all the young fellows who are leaning over their work-tables, and day
by day carrying forward the conquest of truth.”

So saying Francois waved his hand towards all the day-schools and
colleges and high schools beyond the Luxembourg garden, towards the
Faculties of Law and Medicine, the Institute and its five Academies, the
innumerable libraries and museums which made up the broad domain of
intellectual labour. And Pierre, moved by it all, shaken in his theories
of negation, thought that he could indeed hear a low but far-spreading
murmur of the work of thousands of active minds, rising from
laboratories, studies and class, reading and lecture rooms. It was not
like the jerky, breathless trepidation, the loud clamour of factories
where manual labour toils and chafes. But here, too, there were sighs of
weariness, efforts as killing, exertion as fruitful in its results. Was
it indeed true that the cultured young were still and ever in their
silent forge, renouncing no hope, relinquishing no conquest, but in full
freedom of mind forging the truth and justice of to-morrow with the
invincible hammers of observation and experiment?

Francois, however, had raised his eyes to the palace clock to ascertain
the time. “I’m going to Montmartre,” he said; “will you come part of the
way with me?”

Pierre assented, particularly as the young man added that on his way he
meant to call for his brother Antoine at the Museum of the Louvre. That
bright afternoon the Louvre picture galleries were steeped in warm and
dignified quietude, which one particularly noticed on coming from the
tumult and scramble of the streets. The majority of the few people one
found there were copyists working in deep silence, which only the
wandering footsteps of an occasional tourist disturbed. Pierre and
Francois found Antoine at the end of the gallery assigned to the
Primitive masters. With scrupulous, almost devout care he was making a
drawing of a figure by Mantegna. The Primitives did not impassion him by
reason of any particular mysticism and ideality, such as fashion pretends
to find in them, but on the contrary, and justifiably enough, by reason
of the sincerity of their ingenuous realism, their respect and modesty in
presence of nature, and the minute fidelity with which they sought to
transcribe it. He spent days of hard work in copying and studying them,
in order to learn strictness and probity of drawing from them--all that
lofty distinction of style which they owe to their candour as honest

Pierre was struck by the pure glow which a sitting of good hard work had
set in Antoine’s light blue eyes. It imparted warmth and even
feverishness to his fair face, which was usually all dreaminess and
gentleness. His lofty forehead now truly looked like a citadel armed for
the conquest of truth and beauty. He was only eighteen, and his story was
simply this: as he had grown disgusted with classical studies and been
mastered by a passion for drawing, his father had let him leave the Lycee
Condorcet when he was in the third class there. Some little time had then
elapsed while he felt his way and the deep originality within him was
being evolved. He had tried etching on copper, but had soon come to wood
engraving, and had attached himself to it in spite of the discredit into
which it had fallen, lowered as it had been to the level of a mere trade.
Was there not here an entire art to restore and enlarge? For his own part
he dreamt of engraving his own drawings, of being at once the brain which
conceives and the hand which executes, in such wise as to obtain new
effects of great intensity both as regards perception and touch. To
comply with the wishes of his father, who desired each of his sons to
have a trade, he earned his bread like other engravers by working for the
illustrated newspapers. But, in addition to this current work, he had
already engraved several blocks instinct with wonderful power and life.
They were simply copies of real things, scenes of everyday existence, but
they were accentuated, elevated so to say, by the essential line, with a
maestria which on the part of so young a lad fairly astonished one.

“Do you want to engrave that?” Francois asked him, as he placed his copy
of Mantegna’s figure in his portfolio.

“Oh! no, that’s merely a dip into innocence, a good lesson to teach one
to be modest and sincere. Life is very different nowadays.”

Then, while walking along the streets--for Pierre, who felt growing
sympathy for the two young fellows, went with them in the direction of
Montmartre, forgetful of all else,--Antoine, who was beside him, spoke
expansively of his artistic dreams.

“Colour is certainly a power, a sovereign source of charm, and one may,
indeed, say that without colour nothing can be completely represented.
Yet, singularly enough, it isn’t indispensable to me. It seems to me that
I can picture life as intensely and definitely with mere black and white,
and I even fancy that I shall be able to do so in a more essential
manner, without any of the dupery which lies in colour. But what a task
it is! I should like to depict the Paris of to-day in a few scenes, a few
typical figures, which would serve as testimony for all time. And I
should like to do it with great fidelity and candour, for an artist only
lives by reason of his candour, his humility and steadfast belief in
Nature, which is ever beautiful. I’ve already done a few figures, I will
show them to you. But ah! if I only dared to tackle my blocks with the
graver, at the outset, without drawing my subject beforehand. For that
generally takes away one’s fire. However, what I do with the pencil is a
mere sketch; for with the graver I may come upon a find, some unexpected
strength or delicacy of effect. And so I’m draughtsman and engraver all
in one, in such a way that my blocks can only be turned out by myself. If
the drawings on them were engraved by another, they would be quite
lifeless.... Yes, life can spring from the fingers just as well as
from the brain, when one really possesses creative power.”

They walked on, and when they found themselves just below Montmartre, and
Pierre spoke of taking a tramcar to return to Neuilly, Antoine, quite
feverish with artistic passion, asked him if he knew Jahan, the sculptor,
who was working for the Sacred Heart. And on receiving a negative reply,
he added: “Well, come and see him for a moment. He has a great future
before him. You’ll see an angel of his which has been declined.”

Then, as Francois began to praise the angel in question, Pierre agreed to
accompany them. On the summit of the height, among all the sheds which
the building of the basilica necessitated, Jahan had been able to set up
a glazed workshop large enough for the huge angel ordered of him. His
three visitors found him there in a blouse, watching a couple of
assistants, who were rough-hewing the block of stone whence the angel was
to emerge. Jahan was a sturdy man of thirty-six, with dark hair and
beard, a large, ruddy mouth and fine bright eyes. Born in Paris, he had
studied at the Fine Art School, but his impetuous temperament had
constantly landed him in trouble there.

“Ah! yes,” said he, “you’ve come to see my angel, the one which the
Archbishop wouldn’t take. Well, there it is.”

The clay model of the figure, some three feet high, and already drying,
looked superb in its soaring posture, with its large, outspread wings
expanding as if with passionate desire for the infinite. The body, barely
draped, was that of a slim yet robust youth, whose face beamed with the
rapture of his heavenly flight.

“They found him too human,” said Jahan. “And after all they were right.
There’s nothing so difficult to conceive as an angel. One even hesitates
as to the sex; and when faith is lacking one has to take the first model
one finds and copy it and spoil it. For my part, while I was modelling
that one, I tried to imagine a beautiful youth suddenly endowed with
wings, and carried by the intoxication of his flight into all the joy of
the sunshine. But it upset them, they wanted something more religious,
they said; and so then I concocted that wretched thing over there. After
all, one has to earn one’s living, you know.”

So saying, he waved his hand towards another model, the one for which his
assistants were preparing the stone. And this model represented an angel
of the correct type, with symmetrical wings like those of a goose, a
figure of neither sex, and commonplace features, expressing the silly
ecstasy that tradition requires.

“What would you have?” continued Jahan. “Religious art has sunk to the
most disgusting triteness. People no longer believe; churches are built
like barracks, and decorated with saints and virgins fit to make one
weep. The fact is that genius is only the fruit of the social soil; and a
great artist can only send up a blaze of the faith of the time he lives
in. For my part, I’m the grandson of a Beauceron peasant. My father came
to Paris to set himself up in business as a marble worker for tombstones
and so forth, just at the top of the Rue de la Roquette. It was there I
grew up. I began as a workman, and all my childhood was spent among the
masses, in the streets, without ever a thought coming to me of setting
foot in a church. So few Parisians think of doing so nowadays. And so
what’s to become of art since there’s no belief in the Divinity or even
in beauty? We’re forced to go forward to the new faith, which is the
faith in life and work and fruitfulness, in all that labours and

Then suddenly breaking off he exclaimed: “By the way, I’ve been doing
some more work to my figure of Fecundity, and I’m fairly well pleased
with it. Just come with me and I’ll show it you.”

Thereupon he insisted on taking them to his private studio, which was
near by, just below Guillaume’s little house. It was entered by way of
the Rue du Calvaire, a street which is simply a succession of ladder-like
flights of steps. The door opened on to one of the little landings, and
one found oneself in a spacious, well-lighted apartment littered with
models and casts, fragments and figures, quite an overflow of sturdy,
powerful talent. On a stool was the unfinished model of Fecundity swathed
in wet cloths. These Jahan removed, and then she stood forth with her
rounded figure, her broad hips and her wifely, maternal bosom, full of
the milk which nourishes and redeems.

“Well, what do you think of her?” asked Jahan. “Built as she is, I fancy
that her children ought to be less puny than the pale, languid, aesthetic
fellows of nowadays!”

While Antoine and Francois were admiring the figure, Pierre, for his
part, took most interest in a young girl who had opened the door to them,
and who had now wearily reseated herself at a little table to continue a
book she was reading. This was Jahan’s sister, Lise. A score of years
younger than himself, she was but sixteen, and had been living alone with
him since their father’s death. Very slight and delicate looking, she had
a most gentle face, with fine light hair which suggested pale gold-dust.
She was almost a cripple, with legs so weak that she only walked with
difficulty, and her mind also was belated, still full of childish
_naivete_. At first this had much saddened her brother, but with time he
had grown accustomed to her innocence and languor. Busy as he always was,
ever in a transport, overflowing with new plans, he somewhat neglected
her by force of circumstances, letting her live beside him much as she

Pierre had noticed, however, the sisterly impulsiveness with which she
had greeted Antoine. And the latter, after congratulating Jahan on his
statue, came and sat down beside her, questioned her and wished to see
the book which she was reading. During the last six months the most pure
and affectionate intercourse had sprung up between them. He, from his
father’s garden, up yonder on the Place du Tertre, could see her through
the huge window of that studio where she led so innocent a life. And
noticing that she was always alone, as if forsaken, he had begun to take
an interest in her. Then had come acquaintance; and, delighted to find
her so simple and so charming, he had conceived the design of rousing her
to intelligence and life, by loving her, by becoming at once the mind and
the heart whose power fructifies. Weak plant that she was, in need of
delicate care, sunshine and affection, he became for her all that her
brother had, through circumstances, failed to be. He had already taught
her to read, a task in which every mistress had previously failed. But
him she listened to and understood. And by slow degrees a glow of
happiness came to the beautiful clear eyes set in her irregular face. It
was love’s miracle, the creation of woman beneath the breath of a young
lover who gave himself entirely. No doubt she still remained very
delicate, with such poor health that one ever feared that she might
expire in a faint sigh; and her legs, moreover, were still too weak to
admit of her walking any distance. But all the same, she was no longer
the little wilding, the little ailing flower of the previous spring.

Jahan, who marvelled at the incipient miracle, drew near to the young
people. “Ah!” said he, “your pupil does you honour. She reads quite
fluently, you know, and understands the fine books you send her. You read
to me of an evening now, don’t you, Lise?”

She raised her candid eyes, and gazed at Antoine with a smile of infinite
gratitude. “Oh! whatever he’ll teach me,” she said, “I’ll learn it, and
do it.”

The others laughed gently. Then, as the visitors were going off, Francois
paused before a model which had cracked while drying. “Oh! that’s a
spoilt thing,” said the sculptor. “I wanted to model a figure of Charity.
It was ordered of me by a philanthropic institution. But try as I might,
I could only devise something so commonplace that I let the clay spoil.
Still, I must think it over and endeavour to take the matter in hand

When they were outside, it occurred to Pierre to go as far as the
basilica of the Sacred Heart in the hope of finding Abbe Rose there. So
the three of them went round by way of the Rue Gabrielle and climbed the
steps of the Rue Chape. And just as they were reaching the summit where
the basilica reared its forest of scaffoldings beneath the clear sky,
they encountered Thomas, who, on leaving the factory, had gone to give an
order to a founder in the Rue Lamarck.

He, who as a rule was so silent and discreet, now happened to be in an
expansive mood, which made him look quite radiant. “Ah! I’m so pleased,”
 he said, addressing Pierre; “I fancy that I’ve found what I want for our
little motor. Tell father that things are going on all right, and that he
must make haste to get well.”

At these words his brothers, Francois and Antoine, drew close to him with
a common impulse. And they stood there all three, a valiant little group,
their hearts uniting and beating with one and the same delight at the
idea that their father would be gladdened, that the good news they were
sending him would help him towards recovery. As for Pierre, who, now that
he knew them, was beginning to love them and judge them at their worth,
he marvelled at the sight of these three young giants, each so strikingly
like the other, and drawn together so closely and so promptly, directly
their filial affection took fire.

“Tell him that we are waiting for him, and will come to him at the first
sign if we are wanted.”

Then each in turn shook the priest’s hand vigorously. And while he
remained watching them as they went off towards the little house, whose
garden he perceived over the wall of the Rue Saint Eleuthere, he fancied
he could there detect a delicate silhouette, a white, sunlit face under a
help of dark hair. It was doubtless the face of Marie, examining the buds
on her lilac bushes. At that evening hour, however, the diffuse light was
so golden that the vision seemed to fade in it as in a halo. And Pierre,
feeling dazzled, turned his head, and on the other side saw naught but
the overwhelming, chalky mass of the basilica, whose hugeness shut out
all view of the horizon.

For a moment he remained motionless on that spot, so agitated by
conflicting thoughts and feelings that he could read neither heart nor
mind clearly. Then, as he turned towards the city, all Paris spread
itself out at his feet, a limpid, lightsome Paris, beneath the pink glow
of that spring-like evening. The endless billows of house-roofs showed
forth with wonderful distinctness, and one could have counted the chimney
stacks and the little black streaks of the windows by the million. The
edifices rising into the calm atmosphere seemed like the anchored vessels
of some fleet arrested in its course, with lofty masting which glittered
at the sun’s farewell. And never before had Pierre so distinctly observed
the divisions of that human ocean. Eastward and northward was the city of
manual toil, with the rumbling and the smoke of its factories. Southward,
beyond the river, was the city of study, of intellectual labour, so calm,
so perfectly serene. And on all sides the passion of trade ascended from
the central districts, where the crowds rolled and scrambled amidst an
everlasting uproar of wheels; while westward, the city of the happy and
powerful ones, those who fought for sovereignty and wealth, spread out
its piles of palaces amidst the slowly reddening flare of the declining

And then, from the depths of his negation, the chaos into which his loss
of faith had plunged him, Pierre felt a delicious freshness pass like the
vague advent of a new faith. So vague it was that he could not have
expressed even his hope of it in words. But already among the rough
factory workers, manual toil had appeared to him necessary and
redemptive, in spite of all the misery and abominable injustice to which
it led. And now the young men of intellect of whom he had despaired, that
generation of the morrow which he had thought spoilt, relapsing into
ancient error and rottenness, had appeared to him full of virile promise,
resolved to prosecute the work of those who had gone before, and effect,
by the aid of Science only, the conquest of absolute truth and absolute


A FULL month had already gone by since Guillaume had taken refuge at his
brother’s little house at Neuilly. His wrist was now nearly healed. He
had long ceased to keep his bed, and often strolled through the garden.
In spite of his impatience to go back to Montmartre, join his loved ones
and resume his work there, he was each morning prompted to defer his
return by the news he found in the newspapers. The situation was ever the
same. Salvat, whom the police now suspected, had been perceived one
evening near the central markets, and then again lost sight of. Every
day, however, his arrest was said to be imminent. And in that case what
would happen? Would he speak out, and would fresh perquisitions be made?

For a whole week the press had been busy with the bradawl found under the
entrance of the Duvillard mansion. Nearly every reporter in Paris had
called at the Grandidier factory and interviewed both workmen and master.
Some had even started on personal investigations, in the hope of
capturing the culprit themselves. There was no end of jesting about the
incompetence of the police, and the hunt for Salvat was followed all the
more passionately by the general public, as the papers overflowed with
the most ridiculous concoctions, predicting further explosions, and
declaring even that all Paris would some morning be blown into the air.
The “Voix du Peuple” set a fresh shudder circulating every day by its
announcements of threatening letters, incendiary placards and mysterious,
far-reaching plots. And never before had so base and foolish a spirit of
contagion wafted insanity through a civilised city.

Guillaume, for his part, no sooner awoke of a morning than he was all
impatience to see the newspapers, quivering at the idea that he would at
last read of Salvat’s arrest. In his state of nervous expectancy, the
wild campaign which the press had started, the idiotic and the ferocious
things which he found in one or another journal, almost drove him crazy.
A number of “suspects” had already been arrested in a kind of chance
razzia, which had swept up the usual Anarchist herd, together with sundry
honest workmen and bandits, _illumines_ and lazy devils, in fact, a most
singular, motley crew, which investigating magistrate Amadieu was
endeavouring to turn into a gigantic association of evil-doers. One
morning, moreover, Guillaume found his own name mentioned in connection
with a perquisition at the residence of a revolutionary journalist, who
was a friend of his. At this his heart bounded with revolt, but he was
forced to the conclusion that it would be prudent for him to remain
patient a little longer, in his peaceful retreat at Neuilly, since the
police might at any moment break into his home at Montmartre, to arrest
him should it find him there.

Amidst all this anxiety the brothers led a most solitary and gentle life.
Pierre himself now spent most of his time at home. The first days of
March had come, and precocious springtide imparted delightful charm and
warmth to the little garden. Guillaume, however, since quitting his bed,
had more particularly installed himself in his father’s old laboratory,
now transformed into a spacious study. All the books and papers left by
the illustrious chemist were still there, and among the latter Guillaume
found a number of unfinished essays, the perusal of which greatly excited
his interest, and often absorbed him from morning till night. It was this
which largely enabled him to bear his voluntary seclusion patiently.
Seated on the other side of the big table, Pierre also mostly occupied
himself with reading; but at times his eyes would quit his book and
wander away into gloomy reverie, into all the chaos into which he still
and ever sank. For long hours the brothers would in this wise remain side
by side, without speaking a word. Yet they knew they were together; and
occasionally, when their eyes met, they would exchange a smile. The
strong affection of former days was again springing up within them; their
childhood, their home, their parents, all seemed to live once more in the
quiet atmosphere they breathed. However, the bay window overlooked the
garden in the direction of Paris, and often, when they emerged from their
reading or their reverie, it was with a sudden feeling of anxiety, and in
order to lend ear to the distant rumbling, the increased clamour of the
great city.

On other occasions they paused as if in astonishment at hearing a
continuous footfall overhead. It was that of Nicholas Barthes, who still
lingered in the room above. He seldom came downstairs, and scarcely ever
ventured into the garden, for fear, said he, that he might be perceived
and recognised from a distant house whose windows were concealed by a
clump of trees. One might laugh at the old conspirator’s haunting thought
of the police. Nevertheless, the caged-lion restlessness, the ceaseless
promenade of that perpetual prisoner who had spent two thirds of his life
in the dungeons of France in his desire to secure the liberty of others,
imparted to the silence of the little house a touching melancholy, the
very rhythm as it were of all the great good things which one hoped for,
but which would never perhaps come.

Very few visits drew the brothers from their solitude. Bertheroy came
less frequently now that Guillaume’s wrist was healing. The most
assiduous caller was certainly Theophile Morin, whose discreet ring was
heard every other day at the same hour. Though he did not share the ideas
of Barthes he worshipped him as a martyr; and would always go upstairs to
spend an hour with him. However, they must have exchanged few words, for
not a sound came from the room. Whenever Morin sat down for a moment in
the laboratory with the brothers, Pierre was struck by his seeming
weariness, his ashen grey hair and beard and dismal countenance, all the
life of which appeared to have been effaced by long years spent in the
teaching profession. Indeed, it was only when the priest mentioned Italy
that he saw his companion’s resigned eyes blaze up like live coals. One
day when he spoke of the great patriot Orlando Prada, Morin’s companion
of victory in Garibaldi’s days, he was amazed by the sudden flare of
enthusiasm which lighted up the other’s lifeless features. However, these
were but transient flashes: the old professor soon reappeared, and all
that one found in Morin was the friend of Proudhon and the subsequent
disciple of Auguste Comte. Of his Proudhonian principles he had retained
all a pauper’s hatred of wealth, and a desire for a more equitable
partition of fortune. But the new times dismayed him, and neither
principle nor temperament allowed him to follow Revolutionism to its
utmost limits. Comte had imparted unshakable convictions to him in the
sphere of intellectual questions, and he contented himself with the clear
and decisive logic of Positivism, rejecting all metaphysical hypotheses
as useless, persuaded as he was that the whole human question, whether
social or religious, would be solved by science alone. This faith, firm
as it had remained, was, however, coupled with secret bitterness, for
nothing seemed to advance in a sensible manner towards its goal. Comte
himself had ended in the most cloudy mysticism; great _savants_ recoiled
from truth in terror; and now barbarians were threatening the world with
fresh night; all of which made Morin almost a reactionist in politics,
already resigned to the advent of a dictator, who would set things
somewhat in order, so that humanity might be able to complete its

Other visitors who occasionally called to see Guillaume were Bache and
Janzen, who invariably came together and at night-time. Every now and
then they would linger chatting with Guillaume in the spacious study
until two o’clock in the morning. Bache, who was fat and had a fatherly
air, with his little eyes gently beaming amidst all the snowy whiteness
of his hair and beard, would talk on slowly, unctuously and interminably,
as soon as he had begun to explain his views. He would address merely a
polite bow to Saint-Simon, the initiator, the first to lay down the law
that work was a necessity for one and all according to their capacities;
but on coming to Fourier his voice softened and he confessed his whole
religion. To his thinking, Fourier had been the real messiah of modern
times, the saviour of genius, who had sown the good seed of the future
world, by regulating society such as it would certainly be organised
to-morrow. The law of harmony had been promulgated; human passions,
liberated and utilised in healthy fashion, would become the requisite
machinery; and work, rendered pleasant and attractive, would prove the
very function of life. Nothing could discourage Bache; if merely one
parish began by transforming itself into a _phalansterium_, the whole
department would soon follow, then the adjacent departments, and finally
all France. Moreover, Bache even favoured the schemes of Cabet, whose
Icaria, said he, had in no wise been such a foolish idea. Further, he
recalled a motion he had made, when member of the Commune in 1871, to
apply Fourier’s ideas to the French Republic; and he was apparently
convinced that the troops of Versailles had delayed the triumph of
Communism for half a century. Whenever people nowadays talked of
table-turning he pretended to laugh, but at bottom he had remained an
impenitent “spiritist.” Since he had been a municipal councillor he had
been travelling from one socialist sect to another, according as their
ideas offered points of resemblance to his old faith. And he was fairly
consumed by his need of faith, his perplexity as to the Divine, which he
was now occasionally inclined to find in the legs of some piece of
furniture, after denying its presence in the churches.

Janzen, for his part, was as taciturn as his friend Bache was garrulous.
Such remarks as he made were brief, but they were as galling as lashes,
as cutting as sabre-strokes. At the same time his ideas and theories
remained somewhat obscure, partly by reason of this brevity of his, and
partly on account of the difficulty he experienced in expressing himself
in French. He was from over yonder, from some far-away land--Russia,
Poland, Austria or Germany, nobody exactly knew; and it mattered little,
for he certainly acknowledged no country, but wandered far and wide with
his dream of blood-shedding fraternity. Whenever, with his wonted
frigidity, he gave utterance to one of those terrible remarks of his
which, like a scythe in a meadow, cut away all before him, little less
than the necessity of thus mowing down nations, in order to sow the earth
afresh with a young and better community, became apparent. At each
proposition unfolded by Bache, such as labour rendered agreeable by
police regulations, _phalansteria_ organised like barracks, religion
transformed into pantheist or spiritist deism, he gently shrugged his
shoulders. What could be the use of such childishness, such hypocritical
repairing, when the house was falling and the only honest course was to
throw it to the ground, and build up the substantial edifice of to-morrow
with entirely new materials? On the subject of propaganda by deeds,
bomb-throwing and so forth, he remained silent, though his gestures were
expressive of infinite hope. He evidently approved that course. The
legend which made him one of the perpetrators of the crime of Barcelona
set a gleam of horrible glory in his mysterious past. One day when Bache,
while speaking to him of his friend Bergaz, the shadowy Bourse jobber who
had already been compromised in some piece of thieving, plainly declared
that the aforesaid Bergaz was a bandit, Janzen contented himself with
smiling, and replying quietly that theft was merely forced restitution.
Briefly, in this man of culture and refinement, in whose own mysterious
life one might perhaps have found various crimes but not a single act of
base improbity, one could divine an implacable, obstinate theoretician,
who was resolved to set the world ablaze for the triumph of his ideas.

On certain evenings when a visit from Theophile Morin coincided with one
from Bache and Janzen, and they and Guillaume lingered chatting until far
into the night, Pierre would listen to them in despair from the shadowy
corner where he remained motionless, never once joining in the
discussions. Distracted, by his own unbelief and thirst for truth, he had
at the outset taken a passionate interest in these debates, desirous as
he was of drawing up a balance-sheet of the century’s ideas, so as to
form some notion of the distance that had been travelled, and the profits
that had accrued. But he recoiled from all this in fresh despair, on
hearing the others argue, each from his own standpoint and without
possibility of concession and agreement. After the repulses he had
encountered at Lourdes and Rome, he well realised that in this fresh
experiment which he was making with Paris, the whole brain of the century
was in question, the new truths, the expected gospel which was to change
the face of the world. And, burning with inconsiderate zeal, he went from
one belief to another, which other he soon rejected in order to adopt a
third. If he had first felt himself to be a Positivist with Morin, an
Evolutionist and Determinist with Guillaume, he had afterwards been
touched by the fraternal dream of a new golden age which he had found in
Bache’s humanitarian Communism. And indeed even Janzen had momentarily
shaken him by his fierce confidence in the theory of liberative
Individualism. But afterwards he had found himself out of his depth; and
each and every theory had seemed to him but part of the chaotic
contradictions and incoherences of humanity on its march. It was all a
continuous piling up of dross, amidst which he lost himself. Although
Fourier had sprung from Saint-Simon he denied him in part; and if
Saint-Simon’s doctrine ended in a kind of mystical sensuality, the
other’s conducted to an unacceptable regimenting of society. Proudhon,
for his part, demolished without rebuilding anything. Comte, who created
method and declared science to be the one and only sovereign, had not
even suspected the advent of the social crisis which now threatened to
sweep all away, and had finished personally as a mere worshipper of love,
overpowered by woman. Nevertheless, these two, Comte and Proudhon,
entered the lists and fought against the others, Fourier and Saint-Simon;
the combat between them or their disciples becoming so bitter and so
blind that the truths common to them all were obscured and disfigured
beyond recognition. Thence came the extraordinary muddle of the present
hour; Bache with Saint-Simon and Fourier, and Morin with Proudhon and
Comte, utterly failing to understand Mege, the Collectivist deputy, whom
they held up to execration, him and his State Collectivism, in the same
way, moreover, as they thundered against all the other present-time
Socialist sects, without realising that these also, whatever their
nature, had more or less sprung from the same masters as themselves. And
all this seemingly indicated that Janzen was right when he declared that
the house was past repair, fast crumbling amidst rottenness and insanity,
and that it ought to be levelled to the ground.

One night, after the three visitors had gone, Pierre, who had remained
with Guillaume, saw him grow very gloomy as he slowly walked to and fro.
He, in his turn, had doubtless felt that all was crumbling. And though
his brother alone was there to hear him, he went on speaking. He
expressed all his horror of the Collectivist State as imagined by Mege, a
Dictator-State re-establishing ancient servitude on yet closer lines. The
error of all the Socialist sects was their arbitrary organisation of
Labour, which enslaved the individual for the profit of the community.
And, forced to conciliate the two great currents, the rights of society
and the rights of the individual, Guillaume had ended by placing his
whole faith in free Communism, an anarchical state in which he dreamt of
seeing the individual freed, moving and developing without restraint, for
the benefit both of himself and of all others. Was not this, said he, the
one truly scientific theory, unities creating worlds, atoms producing
life by force of attraction, free and ardent love? All oppressive
minorities would disappear; and the faculties and energies of one and all
would by free play arrive at harmony amidst the equilibrium--which
changed according to needs--of the active forces of advancing humanity.
In this wise he pictured a nation, saved from State tutelage, without a
master, almost without laws, a happy nation, each citizen of which,
completely developed by the exercise of liberty, would, of his free will,
come to an understanding with his neighbours with regard to the thousand
necessities of life. And thence would spring society, free association,
hundreds of associations which would regulate social life; though at the
same time they would remain variable, in fact often opposed and hostile
to one another. For progress is but the fruit of conflict and struggle;
the world has only been created by the battle of opposing forces. And
that was all; there would be no more oppressors, no more rich, no more
poor; the domain of the earth with its natural treasures and its
implements of labour would be restored to the people, its legitimate
owners, who would know how to enjoy it with justice and logic, when
nothing abnormal would impede their expansion. And then only would the
law of love make its action felt; then would human solidarity, which,
among mankind, is the living form of universal attraction, acquire all
its power, bringing men closer and closer together, and uniting them in
one sole family. A splendid dream it was--the noble and pure dream of
absolute freedom--free man in free society. And thither a _savant’s_
superior mind was fated to come after passing on the road the many
Socialist sects which one and all bore the stigma of tyranny. And,
assuredly, as thus indulged, the Anarchist idea is the loftiest, the
proudest, of all ideas. And how delightful to yield to the hope of
harmony in life--life which restored to the full exercise of its natural
powers would of itself create happiness!

When Guillaume ceased speaking, he seemed to be emerging from a dream;
and he glanced at Pierre with some dismay, for he feared that he might
have said too much and have hurt his feelings. Pierre--moved though he
was, for a moment in fact almost won over--had just seen the terrible
practical objection, which destroyed all hope, arise before his mind’s
eye. Why had not harmony asserted itself in the first days of the world’s
existence, at the time when societies were formed? How was it that
tyranny had triumphed, delivering nations over to oppressors? And
supposing that the apparently insolvable problem of destroying
everything, and beginning everything afresh, should ever be solved, who
could promise that mankind, obedient to the same laws, would not again
follow the same paths as formerly? After all, mankind, nowadays, is
simply what life has made it; and nothing proves that life would again
make it other than it is. To begin afresh, ah, yes! but to attain another
result! But could that other result really come from man? Was it not
rather man himself who should be changed? To start afresh from where one
was, to continue the evolution that had begun, undoubtedly meant slow
travel and dismal waiting. But how great would be the danger and even the
delay, if one went back without knowing by what road across the whole
chaos of ruins one might regain all the lost time!

“Let us go to bed,” at last said Guillaume, smiling. “It’s silly of me to
weary you with all these things which don’t concern you.”

Pierre, in his excitement, was about to reveal his own heart and mind,
and the whole torturing battle within him. But a feeling of shame again
restrained him. His brother only knew him as a believing priest, faithful
to his faith. And so, without answering, he betook himself to his room.

On the following evening, about ten o’clock, while Guillaume and Pierre
sat reading in the study, the old servant entered to announce M. Janzen
and a friend. The friend was Salvat.

“He wished to see you,” Janzen explained to Guillaume. “I met him, and
when he heard of your injury and anxiety he implored me to bring him
here. And I’ve done so, though it was perhaps hardly prudent of me.”

Guillaume had risen, full of surprise and emotion at such a visit;
Pierre, however, though equally upset by Salvat’s appearance; did not
stir from his chair, but kept his eyes upon the workman.

“Monsieur Froment,” Salvat ended by saying, standing there in a timid,
embarrassed way, “I was very sorry indeed when I heard of the worry I’d
put you in; for I shall never forget that you were very kind to me when
everybody else turned me away.”

As he spoke he balanced himself alternately on either leg, and
transferred his old felt hat from hand to hand.

“And so I wanted to come and tell you myself that if I took a cartridge
of your powder one evening when you had your back turned, it’s the only
thing that I feel any remorse about in the whole business, since it may
compromise you. And I also want to take my oath before you that you’ve
nothing to fear from me, that I’ll let my head be cut off twenty times if
need be, rather than utter your name. That’s all that I had in my heart.”

He relapsed into silence and embarrassment, but his soft, dreamy eyes,
the eyes of a faithful dog, remained fixed upon Guillaume with an
expression of respectful worship. And Pierre was still gazing at him
athwart the hateful vision which his arrival had conjured up, that of the
poor, dead, errand girl, the fair pretty child lying ripped open under
the entrance of the Duvillard mansion! Was it possible that he was there,
he, that madman, that murderer, and that his eyes were actually moist!

Guillaume, touched by Salvat’s words, had drawn near and pressed his
hand. “I am well aware, Salvat,” said he, “that you are not wicked at
heart. But what a foolish and abominable thing you did!”

Salvat showed no sign of anger, but gently smiled. “Oh! if it had to be
done again, Monsieur Froment, I’d do it. It’s my idea, you know. And,
apart from you, all is well; I am content.”

He would not sit down, but for another moment continued talking with
Guillaume, while Janzen, as if he washed his hands of the business,
deeming this visit both useless and dangerous, sat down and turned over
the leaves of a picture book. And Guillaume made Salvat tell him what he
had done on the day of the crime; how like a stray dog he had wandered in
distraction through Paris, carrying his bomb with him, originally in his
tool-bag and then under his jacket; how he had gone a first time to the
Duvillard mansion and found its carriage entrance closed; then how he had
betaken himself first to the Chamber of Deputies which the ushers had
prevented him from entering, and afterwards to the Circus, where the
thought of making a great sacrifice of _bourgeois_ had occurred to him
too late. And finally, how he had at last come back to the Duvillard
mansion, as if drawn thither by the very power of destiny. His tool-bag
was lying in the depths of the Seine, he said; he had thrown it into the
water with sudden hatred of work, since it had even failed to give him
bread. And he next told the story of his flight; the explosion shaking
the whole district behind him, while, with delight and astonishment, he
found himself some distance off, in quiet streets where nothing was as
yet known. And for a month past he had been living in chance fashion, how
or where he could hardly tell, but he had often slept in the open, and
gone for a day without food. One evening little Victor Mathis had given
him five francs. And other comrades had helped him, taken him in for a
night and sent him off at the first sign of peril. A far-spreading, tacit
complicity had hitherto saved him from the police. As for going abroad,
well, he had, at one moment, thought of doing so; but a description of
his person must have been circulated, the gendarmes must be waiting for
him at the frontiers, and so would not flight, instead of retarding,
rather hasten his arrest? Paris, however, was an ocean; it was there that
he incurred the least risk of capture. Moreover, he no longer had
sufficient energy to flee. A fatalist as he was after his own fashion, he
could not find strength to quit the pavements of Paris, but there awaited
arrest, like a social waif carried chancewise through the multitude as in
a dream.

“And your daughter, little Celine?” Guillaume inquired. “Have you
ventured to go back to see her?”

Salvat waved his hand in a vague way. “No, but what would you have? She’s
with Mamma Theodore. Women always find some help. And then I’m done for,
I can do nothing for anybody. It’s as if I were already dead.” However,
in spite of these words, tears were rising to his eyes. “Ah! the poor
little thing!” he added, “I kissed her with all my heart before I went
away. If she and the woman hadn’t been starving so long the idea of that
business would perhaps never have come to me.”

Then, in all simplicity, he declared that he was ready to die. If he had
ended by depositing his bomb at the entrance of Duvillard’s house, it was
because he knew the banker well, and was aware that he was the wealthiest
of those _bourgeois_ whose fathers at the time of the Revolution had
duped the people, by taking all power and wealth for themselves,--the
power and wealth which the sons were nowadays so obstinately bent in
retaining that they would not even bestow the veriest crumbs on others.
As for the Revolution, he understood it in his own fashion, like an
illiterate fellow who had learnt the little he knew from newspapers and
speeches at public meetings. And he struck his chest with his fist as he
spoke of his honesty, and was particularly desirous that none should
doubt his courage because he had fled.

“I’ve never robbed anybody,” said he, “and if I don’t go and hand myself
up to the police, it’s because they may surely take the trouble to find
and arrest me. I’m very well aware that my affair’s clear enough as
they’ve found that bradawl and know me. All the same, it would be silly
of me to help them in their work. Still, they’d better make haste, for
I’ve almost had enough of being tracked like a wild beast and no longer
knowing how I live.”

Janzen, yielding to curiosity, had ceased turning over the leaves of the
picture book and was looking at Salvat. There was a smile of disdain in
the Anarchist leader’s cold eyes; and in his usual broken French he
remarked: “A man fights and defends himself, kills others and tries to
avoid being killed himself. That’s warfare.”

These words fell from his lips amidst deep silence. Salvat, however, did
not seem to have heard them, but stammered forth his faith in a long
sentence laden with fulsome expressions, such as the sacrifice of his
life in order that want might cease, and the example of a great action,
in the certainty that it would inspire other heroes to continue the
struggle. And with this certainly sincere faith and illuminism of his
there was blended a martyr’s pride, delight at being one of the radiant,
worshipped saints of the dawning Revolutionary Church.

As he had come so he went off. When Janzen had led him away, it seemed as
if the night which had brought him had carried him back into its
impenetrable depths. And then only did Pierre rise from his chair. He was
stifling, and threw the large window of the room wide open. It was a very
mild but moonless night, whose silence was only disturbed by the
subsiding clamour of Paris, which stretched away, invisible, on the

Guillaume, according to his habit, had begun to walk up and down. And at
last he spoke, again forgetting that his brother was a priest. “Ah! the
poor fellow! How well one can understand that deed of violence and hope!
His whole past life of fruitless labour and ever-growing want explains
it. Then, too, there has been all the contagion of ideas; the
frequentation of public meetings where men intoxicate themselves with
words, and of secret meetings among comrades where faith acquires
firmness and the mind soars wildly. Ah! I think I know that man well
indeed! He’s a good workman, sober and courageous. Injustice has always
exasperated him. And little by little the desire for universal happiness
has cast him out of the realities of life which he has ended by holding
in horror. So how can he do otherwise than live in a dream--a dream of
redemption, which, from circumstances, has turned to fire and murder as
its fitting instruments. As I looked at him standing there, I fancied I
could picture one of the first Christian slaves of ancient Rome. All the
iniquity of olden pagan society, agonising beneath the rottenness born of
debauchery and covetousness, was weighing on his shoulders, bearing him
down. He had come from the dark Catacombs where he had whispered words of
deliverance and redemption with his wretched brethren. And a thirst for
martyrdom consumed him, he spat in the face of Caesar, he insulted the
gods, he fired the pagan temples, in order that the reign of Jesus might
come and abolish servitude. And he was ready to die, to be torn to pieces
by the wild beasts!”

Pierre did not immediately reply. He had already been struck, however, by
the fact that there were undoubted points of resemblance between the
secret propaganda and militant faith of the Anarchists, and certain
practices of the first Christians. Both sects abandon themselves to a new
faith in the hope that the humble may thereby at last reap justice.
Paganism disappears through weariness of the flesh and the need of a more
lofty and pure faith. That dream of a Christian paradise opening up a
future life with a system of compensations for the ills endured on earth,
was the outcome of young hope dawning at its historic hour. But to-day,
when eighteen centuries have exhausted that hope, when the long
experiment is over and the toiler finds himself duped and still and ever
a slave, he once more dreams of getting happiness upon this earth,
particularly as each day Science tends more and more to show him that the
happiness of the spheres beyond is a lie. And in all this there is but
the eternal struggle of the poor and the rich, the eternal question of
bringing more justice and less suffering to the world.

“But surely,” Pierre at last replied, “you can’t be on the side of those
bandits, those murderers whose savage violence horrifies me. I let you
talk on yesterday, when you dreamt of a great and happy people, of ideal
anarchy in which each would be free amidst the freedom of all. But what
abomination, what disgust both for mind and heart, when one passes from
theory to propaganda and practice! If yours is the brain that thinks,
whose is the hateful hand that acts, that kills children, throws down
doors and empties drawers? Do you accept that responsibility? With your
education, your culture, the whole social heredity behind you, does not
your entire being revolt at the idea of stealing and murdering?”

Guillaume halted before his brother, quivering. “Steal and murder! no!
no! I will not. But one must say everything and fully understand the
history of the evil hour through which we are passing. It is madness
sweeping by; and, to tell the truth, everything necessary to provoke it
has been done. At the very dawn of the Anarchist theory, at the very
first innocent actions of its partisans, there was such stern repression,
the police so grossly ill-treating the poor devils that fell into its
hands, that little by little came anger and rage leading to the most
horrible reprisals. It is the Terror initiated by the _bourgeois_ that
has produced Anarchist savagery. And would you know whence Salvat and his
crime have come? Why, from all our centuries of impudence and iniquity,
from all that the nations have suffered, from all the sores which are now
devouring us, the impatience for enjoyment, the contempt of the strong
for the weak, the whole monstrous spectacle which is presented by our
rotting society!”

Guillaume was again slowly walking to and fro; and as if he were
reflecting aloud he continued: “Ah! to reach the point I have attained,
through how much thought, through how many battles, have I not passed! I
was merely a Positivist, a _savant_ devoted to observation and
experiment, accepting nothing apart from proven facts. Scientifically and
socially, I admitted that simple evolution had slowly brought humanity
into being. But both in the history of the globe and that of human
society, I found it necessary to make allowance for the volcano, the
sudden cataclysm, the sudden eruption, by which each geological phase,
each historical period, has been marked. In this wise one ends by
ascertaining that no forward step has ever been taken, no progress ever
accomplished in the world’s history, without the help of horrible
catastrophes. Each advance has meant the sacrifice of millions and
millions of human lives. This of course revolts us, given our narrow
ideas of justice, and we regard nature as a most barbarous mother; but,
if we cannot excuse the volcano, we ought to deal with it when it bursts
forth, like _savants_ forewarned of its possibility.... And then, ah,
then! well, perhaps I’m a dreamer like others, but I have my own

With a sweeping gesture he confessed what a social dreamer there was
within him beside the methodical and scrupulous _savant_. His constant
endeavour was to bring all back to science, and he was deeply grieved at
finding in nature no scientific sign of equality or even justice, such as
he craved for in the social sphere. His despair indeed came from this
inability to reconcile scientific logic with apostolic love, the dream of
universal happiness and brotherhood and the end of all iniquity.

Pierre, however, who had remained near the open window, gazing into the
night towards Paris, whence ascended the last sounds of the evening of
passionate pleasure, felt the whole flood of his own doubt and despair
stifling him. It was all too much: that brother of his who had fallen
upon him with his scientific and apostolic beliefs, those men who came to
discuss contemporary thought from every standpoint, and finally that
Salvat who had brought thither the exasperation of his mad deed. And
Pierre, who had hitherto listened to them all without a word, without a
gesture, who had hidden his secrets from his brother, seeking refuge in
his supposed priestly views, suddenly felt such bitterness stirring his
heart that he could lie no longer.

“Ah! brother, if you have your dream, I have my sore which has eaten into
me and left me void! Your Anarchy, your dream of just happiness, for
which Salvat works with bombs, why, it is the final burst of insanity
which will sweep everything away! How is it that you can’t realise it?
The century is ending in ruins. I’ve been listening to you all for a
month past. Fourier destroyed Saint-Simon, Proudhon and Comte demolished
Fourier, each in turn piling up incoherences and contradictions, leaving
mere chaos behind them, which nobody dares to sort out. And since then,
Socialist sects have been swarming and multiplying, the more sensible of
them leading simply to dictatorship, while the others indulge in most
dangerous reveries. And after such a tempest of ideas there could indeed
come nothing but your Anarchy, which undertakes to bring the old world to
a finish by reducing it to dust.... Ah! I expected it, I was waiting
for it--that final catastrophe, that fratricidal madness, the inevitable
class warfare in which our civilisation was destined to collapse!
Everything announced it: the want and misery below, the egotism up above,
all the cracking of the old human habitation, borne down by too great a
weight of crime and grief. When I went to Lourdes it was to see if the
divinity of simple minds would work the awaited miracle, and restore the
belief of the early ages to the people, which rebelled through excess of
suffering. And when I went to Rome it was in the _naive_ hope of there
finding the new religion required by our democracies, the only one that
could pacify the world by bringing back the fraternity of the golden age.
But how foolish of me all that was! Both here and there, I simply lighted
on nothingness. There where I so ardently dreamt of finding the salvation
of others, I only sank myself, going down apeak like a ship not a timber
of which is ever found again. One tie still linked me to my fellow-men,
that of charity, the dressing, relieving, and perhaps, in the long run,
healing, of wounds and sores; but that last cable has now been severed.
Charity, to my mind, appears futile and derisive by the side of justice,
to whom all supremacy belongs, and whose advent has become a necessity
and can be stayed by none. And so it is all over, I am mere ashes, an
empty grave as it were. I no longer believe in anything, anything,
anything whatever!”

Pierre had risen to his full height, with arms outstretched as if to let
all the nothingness within his heart and mind fall from them. And
Guillaume, distracted by the sight of such a fierce denier, such a
despairing Nihilist as was now revealed to him, drew near, quivering:
“What are you saying, brother! I thought you so firm, so calm in your
belief! A priest to be admired, a saint worshipped by the whole of this
parish! I was unwilling even to discuss your faith, and now it is you who
deny all, and believe in nothing whatever!”

Pierre again slowly stretched out his arms. “There is nothing, I tried to
learn all, and only found the atrocious grief born of the nothingness
that overwhelms me.”

“Ah! how you must suffer, Pierre, my little brother! Can religion, then,
be even more withering than science, since it has ravaged you like that,
while I have yet remained an old madman, still full of fancies?”

Guillaume caught hold of Pierre’s hands and pressed them, full of
terrified compassion in presence of all the grandeur and horror embodied
in that unbelieving priest who watched over the belief of others, and
chastely, honestly discharged his duty amidst the haughty sadness born of
his falsehood. And how heavily must that falsehood have weighed upon his
conscience for him to confess himself in that fashion, amidst an utter
collapse of his whole being! A month previously, in the unexpansiveness
of his proud solitude, he would never have taken such a course. To speak
out it was necessary that he should have been stirred by many things, his
reconciliation with his brother, the conversations he had heard of an
evening, the terrible drama in which he was mingled, as well as his
reflections on labour struggling against want, and the vague hope with
which the sight of intellectual youth had inspired him. And, indeed, amid
the very excess of his negation was there not already the faint dawn of a
new faith?

This Guillaume must have understood, on seeing how he quivered with
unsatisfied tenderness as he emerged from the fierce silence which he had
preserved so long. He made him sit down near the window, and placed
himself beside him without releasing his hands. “But I won’t have you
suffer, my little brother!” he said; “I won’t leave you, I’ll nurse you.
For I know you much better than you know yourself. You would never have
suffered were it not for the battle between your heart and your mind, and
you will cease to suffer on the day when they make peace, and you love
what you understand.” And in a lower voice, with infinite affection, he
went on: “You see, it’s our poor mother and our poor father continuing
their painful struggle in you. You were too young at the time, you
couldn’t know what went on. But I knew them both very wretched: he,
wretched through her, who treated him as if he were one of the damned;
and she, suffering through him, tortured by his irreligion. When he died,
struck down by an explosion in this very room, she took it to be the
punishment of God. Yet, what an honest man he was, with a good, great
heart, what a worker, seeking for truth alone, and desirous of the love
and happiness of all! Since we have spent our evenings here, I have felt
him coming back, reviving as it were both around and within us; and she,
too, poor, saintly woman, is ever here, enveloping us with love, weeping,
and yet stubbornly refusing to understand. It is they, perhaps, who have
kept me here so long, and who at this very moment are present to place
your hands in mine.”

And, indeed, it seemed to Pierre as if he could feel the breath of
vigilant affection which Guillaume evoked passing over them both. There
was again a revival of all the past, all their youth, and nothing could
have been more delightful.

“You hear me, brother,” Guillaume resumed. “You must reconcile them, for
it is only in you that they can be reconciled. You have his firm, lofty
brow, and her mouth and eyes of unrealisable tenderness. So, try to bring
them to agreement, by some day contenting, as your reason shall allow,
the everlasting thirst for love, and self-bestowal, and life, which for
lack of satisfaction is killing you. Your frightful wretchedness has no
other cause. Come back to life, love, bestow yourself, be a man!”

Pierre raised a dolorous cry: “No, no, the death born of doubt has swept
through me, withering and shattering everything, and nothing more can
live in that cold dust!”

“But, come,” resumed Guillaume, “you cannot have reached such absolute
negation. No man reaches it. Even in the most disabused of minds there
remains a nook of fancy and hope. To deny charity, devotion, the
prodigies which love may work, ah! for my part I do not go so far as
that. And now that you have shown me your sore, why should I not tell you
my dream, the wild hope which keeps me alive! It is strange; but, are
_savants_ to be the last childish dreamers, and is faith only to spring
up nowadays in chemical laboratories?”

Intense emotion was stirring Guillaume; there was battle waging in both
his brain and his heart. And at last, yielding to the deep compassion
which filled him, vanquished by his ardent affection for his unhappy
brother, he spoke out. But he had drawn yet closer to Pierre, even passed
one arm around him; and it was thus embracing him that he, in his turn,
made his confession, lowering his voice as if he feared that someone
might overhear his secret. “Why should you not know it?” he said. “My own
sons are ignorant of it. But you are a man and my brother, and since
there is nothing of the priest left in you, it is to the brother I will
confide it. This will make me love you the more, and perhaps it may do
you good.”

Then he told him of his invention, a new explosive, a powder of such
extraordinary force that its effects were incalculable. And he had found
employment for this powder in an engine of warfare, a special cannon,
hurling bombs which would assure the most overwhelming victory to the
army using them. The enemy’s forces would be destroyed in a few hours,
and besieged cities would fall into dust at the slightest bombardment. He
had long searched and doubted, calculated, recalculated and experimented;
but everything was now ready: the precise formula of the powder, the
drawings for the cannon and the bombs, a whole packet of precious papers
stored in a safe spot. And after months of anxious reflection he had
resolved to give his invention to France, so as to ensure her a certainty
of victory in her coming, inevitable war with Germany!

At the same time, he was not a man of narrow patriotism; on the contrary
he had a very broad, international conception of the future liberative
civilisation. Only he believed in the initiatory mission of France, and
particularly in that of Paris, which, even as it is to-day, was destined
to be the world’s brain to-morrow, whence all science and justice would
proceed. The great idea of liberty and equality had already soared from
it at the prodigious blast of the Revolution; and from its genius and
valour the final emancipation of man would also take its flight. Thus it
was necessary that Paris should be victorious in the struggle in order
that the world might be saved.

Pierre understood his brother, thanks to the lecture on explosives which
he had heard at Bertheroy’s. And the grandeur of this scheme, this dream,
particularly struck him when he thought of the extraordinary future which
would open for Paris amidst the effulgent blaze of the bombs. Moreover,
he was struck by all the nobility of soul which had lain behind his
brother’s anxiety for a month past. If Guillaume had trembled it was
simply with fear that his invention might be divulged in consequence of
Salvat’s crime. The slightest indiscretion might compromise everything;
and that little stolen cartridge, whose effects had so astonished
_savants_, might reveal his secret. He felt it necessary to act in
mystery, choosing his own time, awaiting the proper hour, until when the
secret would slumber in its hiding-place, confided to the sole care of
Mere-Grand, who had her orders and knew what she was to do should he, in
any sudden accident, disappear.

“And, now,” said Guillaume in conclusion, “you know my hopes and my
anguish, and you can help me and even take my place if I am unable to
reach the end of my task. Ah! to reach the end! Since I have been shut up
here, reflecting, consumed by anxiety and impatience, there have been
hours when I have ceased to see my way clearly! There is that Salvat,
that wretched fellow for whose crime we are all of us responsible, and
who is now being hunted down like a wild beast! There is also that
insensate and insatiable _bourgeoisie_, which will let itself be crushed
by the fall of the shaky old house, rather than allow the least repair to
it! And there is further that avaricious, that abominable Parisian press,
so harsh towards the weak and little, so fond of insulting those who have
none to defend them, so eager to coin money out of public misfortune, and
ready to spread insanity on all sides, simply to increase its sales!
Where, therefore, shall one find truth and justice, the hand endowed with
logic and health that ought to be armed with the thunderbolt? Would Paris
the conqueror, Paris the master of the nations, prove the justiciar, the
saviour that men await! Ah! the anguish of believing oneself to be the
master of the world’s destinies, and to have to choose and decide.”

He had risen again quivering, full of anger and fear that human
wretchedness and baseness might prevent the realisation of his dream. And
amidst the heavy silence which fell in the room, the little house
suddenly resounded with a regular, continuous footfall.

“Ah, yes! to save men and love them, and wish them all to be equal and
free,” murmured Pierre, bitterly. “But just listen! Barthes’s footsteps
are answering you, as if from the everlasting dungeon into which his love
of liberty has thrown him!”

However, Guillaume had already regained possession of himself, and coming
back in a transport of his faith, he once more took Pierre in his loving,
saving arms, like an elder brother who gives himself without restraint.
“No, no, I’m wrong, I’m blaspheming,” he exclaimed; “I wish you to be
with me, full of hope and full of certainty. You must work, you must
love, you must revive to life. Life alone can give you back peace and

Tears returned to the eyes of Pierre, who was penetrated to the heart by
this ardent affection. “Ah! how I should like to believe you,” he
faltered, “and try to cure myself. True, I have already felt, as it were,
a vague revival within me. And yet to live again, no, I cannot; the
priest that I am is dead--a lifeless, an empty tomb.”

He was shaken by so frightful a sob, that Guillaume could not restrain
his own tears. And clasped in one another’s arms the brothers wept on,
their hearts full of the softest emotion in that home of their youth,
whither the dear shadows of their parents ever returned, hovering around
until they should be reconciled and restored to the peace of the earth.
And all the darkness and mildness of the garden streamed in through the
open window, while yonder, on the horizon, Paris had fallen asleep in the
mysterious gloom, beneath a very peaceful sky which was studded with



ON the Wednesday preceding the mid-Lent Thursday, a great charity bazaar
was held at the Duvillard mansion, for the benefit of the Asylum of the
Invalids of Labour. The ground-floor reception rooms, three spacious
Louis Seize _salons_, whose windows overlooked the bare and solemn
courtyard, were given up to the swarm of purchasers, five thousand
admission cards having been distributed among all sections of Parisian
society. And the opening of the bombarded mansion in this wise to
thousands of visitors was regarded as quite an event, a real
manifestation, although some people whispered that the Rue
Godot-de-Mauroy and the adjacent streets were guarded by quite an army of
police agents.

The idea of the bazaar had come from Duvillard himself, and at his
bidding his wife had resigned herself to all this worry for the benefit
of the enterprise over which she presided with such distinguished
nonchalance. On the previous day the “Globe” newspaper, inspired by its
director Fonsegue, who was also the general manager of the asylum, had
published a very fine article, announcing the bazaar, and pointing out
how noble, and touching, and generous was the initiative of the Baroness,
who still gave her time, her money, and even her home to charity, in
spite of the abominable crime which had almost reduced that home to
ashes. Was not this the magnanimous answer of the spheres above to the
hateful passions of the spheres below? And was it not also a peremptory
answer to those who accused the capitalists of doing nothing for the
wage-earners, the disabled and broken-down sons of toil?

The drawing-room doors were to be opened at two o’clock, and would only
close at seven, so that there would be five full hours for the sales. And
at noon, when nothing was as yet ready downstairs, when workmen and women
were still decorating the stalls, and sorting the goods amidst a final
scramble, there was, as usual, a little friendly _dejeuner_, to which a
few guests had been invited, in the private rooms on the first floor.
However, a scarcely expected incident had given a finishing touch to the
general excitement of the house: that very morning Sagnier had resumed
his campaign of denunciation in the matter of the African Railway Lines.
In a virulent article in the “Voix du Peuple,” he had inquired if it were
the intention of the authorities to beguile the public much longer with
the story of that bomb and that Anarchist whom the police did not arrest.
And this time, while undertaking to publish the names of the thirty-two
corrupt senators and deputies in a very early issue, he had boldly named
Minister Barroux as one who had pocketed a sum of 200,000 francs. Mege
would therefore certainly revive his interpellation, which might become
dangerous, now that Paris had been thrown into such a distracted state by
terror of the Anarchists. At the same time it was said that Vignon and
his party had resolved to turn circumstances to account, with the object
of overthrowing the ministry. Thus a redoubtable crisis was inevitably at
hand. Fortunately, the Chamber did not meet that Wednesday; in fact, it
had adjourned until the Friday, with the view of making mid-Lent a
holiday. And so forty-eight hours were left one to prepare for the

Eve, that morning, seemed more gentle and languid than ever, rather pale
too, with an expression of sorrowful anxiety in the depths of her
beautiful eyes. She set it all down to the very great fatigue which the
preparations for the bazaar had entailed on her. But the truth was that
Gerard de Quinsac, after shunning any further assignation, had for five
days past avoided her in an embarrassed way. Still she was convinced that
she would see him that morning, and so she had again ventured to wear the
white silk gown which made her look so much younger than she really was.
At the same time, beautiful as she had remained, with her delicate skin,
superb figure and noble and charming countenance, her six and forty years
were asserting themselves in her blotchy complexion and the little
creases which were appearing about her lips, eyelids and temples.

Camille, for her part, though her position as daughter of the house made
it certain that she would attract much custom as a saleswoman, had
obstinately persisted in wearing one of her usual dresses, a dark
“carmelite” gown, an old woman’s frock, as she herself called it with a
cutting laugh. However, her long and wicked-looking face beamed with some
secret delight; such an expression of wit and intelligence wreathing her
thin lips and shining in her big eyes that one lost sight of her
deformity and thought her almost pretty.

Eve experienced a first deception in the little blue and silver
sitting-room, where, accompanied by her daughter, she awaited the arrival
of her guests. General de Bozonnet, whom Gerard was to have brought with
him, came in alone, explaining that Madame de Quinsac had felt rather
poorly that morning, and that Gerard, like a good and dutiful son, had
wished to remain with her. Still he would come to the bazaar directly
after _dejeuner_. While the Baroness listened to the General, striving to
hide her disappointment and her fear that she would now be unable to
obtain any explanation from Gerard that day, Camille looked at her with
eager, devouring eyes. And a certain covert instinct of the misfortune
threatening her must at that moment have come to Eve, for in her turn she
glanced at her daughter and turned pale as if with anxiety.

Then Princess Rosemonde de Harn swept in like a whirlwind. She also was
to be one of the saleswomen at the stall chosen by the Baroness, who
liked her for her very turbulence, the sudden gaiety which she generally
brought with her. Gowned in fire-hued satin (red shot with yellow),
looking very eccentric with her curly hair and thin boyish figure, she
laughed and talked of an accident by which her carriage had almost been
cut in halves. Then, as Baron Duvillard and Hyacinthe came in from their
rooms, late as usual, she took possession of the young man and scolded
him, for on the previous evening she had vainly waited for him till ten
o’clock in the expectation that he would keep his promise to escort her
to a tavern at Montmartre, where some horrible things were said to occur.
Hyacinthe, looking very bored, quietly replied that he had been detained
at a seance given by some adepts in the New Magic, in the course of which
the soul of St. Theresa had descended from heaven to recite a love

However, Fonsegue was now coming in with his wife, a tall, thin, silent
and generally insignificant woman, whom he seldom took about with him. On
this occasion he had been obliged to bring her, as she was one of the
lady-patronesses of the asylum, and he himself was coming to lunch with
the Duvillards in his capacity as general manager. To the superficial
observer he looked quite as gay as usual; but he blinked nervously, and
his first glance was a questioning one in the direction of Duvillard, as
if he wished to know how the latter bore the fresh thrust directed at him
by Sagnier. And when he saw the banker looking perfectly composed, as
superb, as rubicund as usual, and chatting in a bantering way with
Rosemonde, he also put on an easy air, like a gamester who had never lost
but had always known how to compel good luck, even in hours of treachery.
And by way of showing his unconstraint of mind he at once addressed the
Baroness on managerial matters: “Have you now succeeded in seeing M.
l’Abbe Froment for the affair of that old man Laveuve, whom he so warmly
recommended to us? All the formalities have been gone through, you know,
and he can be brought to us at once, as we have had a bed vacant for
three days past.”

“Yes, I know,” replied Eve; “but I can’t imagine what has become of Abbe
Froment, for he hasn’t given us a sign of life for a month past. However,
I made up my mind to write to him yesterday, and beg him to come to the
bazaar to-day. In this manner I shall be able to acquaint him with the
good news myself.”

“It was to leave you the pleasure of doing so,” said Fonsegue, “that I
refrained from sending him any official communication. He’s a charming
priest, is he not?”

“Oh! charming, we are very fond of him.”

However, Duvillard now intervened to say that they need not wait for
Duthil, as he had received a telegram from him stating that he was
detained by sudden business. At this Fonsegue’s anxiety returned, and he
once more questioned the Baron with his eyes. Duvillard smiled, however,
and reassured him in an undertone: “It’s nothing serious. Merely a
commission for me, about which he’ll only be able to bring me an answer
by-and-by.” Then, taking Fonsegue on one side, he added: “By the way,
don’t forget to insert the paragraph I told you of.”

“What paragraph? Oh! yes, the one about that _soiree_ at which Silviane
recited a piece of verse. Well, I wanted to speak to you about it. It
worries me a little, on account of the excessive praise it contains.”

Duvillard, but a moment before so full of serenity, with his lofty,
conquering, disdainful mien, now suddenly became pale and agitated. “But
I absolutely want it to be inserted, my dear fellow! You would place me
in the greatest embarrassment if it were not to appear, for I promised
Silviane that it should.”

As he spoke his lips trembled, and a scared look came into his eyes,
plainly revealing his dismay.

“All right, all right,” said Fonsegue, secretly amused, and well pleased
at this complicity. “As it’s so serious the paragraph shall go in, I
promise you.”

The whole company was now present, since neither Gerard nor Duthil was to
be expected. So they went into the dining-room amidst a final noise of
hammering in the sale-rooms below. The meal proved somewhat of a
scramble, and was on three occasions disturbed by female attendants, who
came to explain difficulties and ask for orders. Doors were constantly
slamming, and the very walls seemed to shake with the unusual bustle
which filled the house. And feverish as they all were in the dining-room,
they talked in desultory, haphazard fashion on all sorts of subjects,
passing from a ball given at the Ministry of the Interior on the previous
night, to the popular mid-Lent festival which would take place on the
morrow, and ever reverting to the bazaar, the prices that had been given
for the goods which would be on sale, the prices at which they might be
sold, and the probable figure of the full receipts, all this being
interspersed with strange anecdotes, witticisms and bursts of laughter.
On the General mentioning magistrate Amadieu, Eve declared that she no
longer dared to invite him to _dejeuner_, knowing how busy he was at the
Palace of Justice. Still, she certainly hoped that he would come to the
bazaar and contribute something. Then Fonsegue amused himself with
teasing Princess Rosemonde about her fire-hued gown, in which, said he,
she must already feel roasted by the flames of hell; a suggestion which
secretly delighted her, as Satanism had now become her momentary passion.
Meantime, Duvillard lavished the most gallant politeness on that silent
creature, Madame Fonsegue, while Hyacinthe, in order to astonish even the
Princess, explained in a few words how the New Magic could transform a
chaste young man into a real angel. And Camille, who seemed very happy
and very excited, from time to time darted a hot glance at her mother,
whose anxiety and sadness increased as she found the other more and more
aggressive, and apparently resolved upon open and merciless warfare.

At last, just as the dessert was coming to an end, the Baroness heard her
daughter exclaim in a piercing, defiant voice: “Oh! don’t talk to me of
the old ladies who still seem to be playing with dolls, and paint
themselves, and dress as if they were about to be confirmed! All such
ogresses ought to retire from the scene! I hold them in horror!”

At this, Eve nervously rose from her seat, and exclaimed apologetically:
“You must forgive me for hurrying you like this. But I’m afraid that we
shan’t have time to drink our coffee in peace.”

The coffee was served in the little blue and silver sitting-room, where
bloomed some lovely yellow roses, testifying to the Baroness’s keen
passion for flowers, which made the house an abode of perpetual spring.
Duvillard and Fonsegue, however, carrying their cups of steaming coffee
with them, at once went into the former’s private room to smoke a cigar
there and chat in freedom. As the door remained wide open, one could
hear their gruff voices more or less distinctly. Meantime, General de
Bozonnet, delighted to find in Madame Fonsegue a serious, submissive
person, who listened without interrupting, began to tell her a very long
story of an officer’s wife who had followed her husband through
every battle of the war of 1870. Then Hyacinthe, who took no
coffee--contemptuously declaring it to be a beverage only fit for
door-keepers--managed to rid himself of Rosemonde, who was sipping some
kummel, in order to come and whisper to his sister: “I say, it was very
stupid of you to taunt mamma in the way you did just now. I don’t care a
rap about it myself. But it ends by being noticed, and, I warn you
candidly, it shows ill breeding.”

Camille gazed at him fixedly with her black eyes. “Pray don’t _you_
meddle with my affairs,” said she.

At this he felt frightened, scented a storm, and decided to take
Rosemonde into the adjoining red drawing-room in order to show her a
picture which his father had just purchased. And the General, on being
called by him, likewise conducted Madame Fonsegue thither.

The mother and daughter then suddenly found themselves alone and face to
face. Eve was leaning on a pier-table, as if overcome; and indeed, the
least sorrow bore her down, so weak at heart she was, ever ready to weep
in her naive and perfect egotism. Why was it that her daughter thus hated
her, and did her utmost to disturb that last happy spell of love in which
her heart lingered? She looked at Camille, grieved rather than irritated;
and the unfortunate idea came to her of making a remark about her dress
at the very moment when the girl was on the point of following the others
into the larger drawing-room.

“It’s quite wrong of you, my dear,” said she, “to persist in dressing
like an old woman. It doesn’t improve you a bit.”

As Eve spoke, her soft eyes, those of a courted and worshipped handsome
woman, clearly expressed the compassion she felt for that ugly, deformed
girl, whom she had never been able to regard as a daughter. Was it
possible that she, with her sovereign beauty, that beauty which she
herself had ever adored and nursed, making it her one care, her one
religion--was it possible that she had given birth to such a graceless
creature, with a dark, goatish profile, one shoulder higher than the
other, and a pair of endless arms such as hunchbacks often have? All her
grief and all her shame at having had such a child became apparent in the
quivering of her voice.

Camille, however, had stopped short, as if struck in the face with a
whip. Then she came back to her mother and the horrible explanation began
with these simple words spoken in an undertone: “You consider that I
dress badly? Well, you ought to have paid some attention to me, have seen
that my gowns suited your taste, and have taught me your secret of
looking beautiful!”

Eve, with her dislike of all painful feeling, all quarrelling and bitter
words, was already regretting her attack. So she sought to make a
retreat, particularly as time was flying and they would soon be expected
downstairs: “Come, be quiet, and don’t show your bad temper when all
those people can hear us. I have loved you--”

But with a quiet yet terrible laugh Camille interrupted her. “You’ve
loved me! Oh! my poor mamma, what a comical thing to say! Have you ever
loved _anybody_? You want others to love _you_, but that’s another
matter. As for your child, any child, do you even know how it ought to be
loved? You have always neglected me, thrust me on one side, deeming me so
ugly, so unworthy of you! And besides, you have not had days and nights
enough to love yourself! Oh! don’t deny it, my poor mamma; but even now
you’re looking at me as if I were some loathsome monster that’s in your

From that moment the abominable scene was bound to continue to the end.
With their teeth set, their faces close together, the two women went on
speaking in feverish whispers.

“Be quiet, Camille, I tell you! I will not allow such language!”

“But I won’t be quiet when you do all you can to wound me. If it’s wrong
of me to dress like an old woman, perhaps another is rather ridiculous in
dressing like a girl, like a bride.”

“Like a bride? I don’t understand you.”

“Oh! yes, you do. However, I would have you know that everybody doesn’t
find me so ugly as you try to make them believe.”

“If you look amiss, it is because you don’t dress properly; that is all I

“I dress as I please, and no doubt I do so well enough, since I’m loved
as I am.”

“What, really! Does someone love you? Well, let him inform us of it and
marry you.”

“Yes--certainly, certainly! It will be a good riddance, won’t it? And
you’ll have the pleasure of seeing me as a bride!”

Their voices were rising in spite of their efforts to restrain them.
However, Camille paused and drew breath before hissing out the words:
“Gerard is coming here to ask for my hand in a day or two.”

Eve, livid, with wildly staring eyes, did not seem to understand.
“Gerard? why do you tell me that?”

“Why, because it’s Gerard who loves me and who is going to marry me! You
drive me to extremities; you’re for ever repeating that I’m ugly; you
treat me like a monster whom nobody will ever care for. So I’m forced to
defend myself and tell you the truth in order to prove to you that
everybody is not of your opinion.”

Silence fell; the frightful thing which had risen between them seemed to
have arrested the quarrel. But there was neither mother nor daughter left
there. They were simply two suffering, defiant rivals. Eve in her turn
drew a long breath and glanced anxiously towards the adjoining room to
ascertain if anyone were coming in or listening to them. And then in a
tone of resolution she made answer:

“You cannot marry Gerard.”

“Pray, why not?”

“Because I won’t have it; because it’s impossible.”

“That isn’t a reason; give me a reason.”

“The reason is that the marriage is impossible that is all.”

“No, no, I’ll tell you the reason since you force me to it. The reason is
that Gerard is your lover! But what does that matter, since I know it and
am willing to take him all the same?”

And to this retort Camille’s flaming eyes added the words: “And it is
particularly on that account that I want him.” All the long torture born
of her infirmities, all her rage at having always seen her mother
beautiful, courted and adored, was now stirring her and seeking vengeance
in cruel triumph. At last then she was snatching from her rival the lover
of whom she had so long been jealous!

“You wretched girl!” stammered Eve, wounded in the heart and almost
sinking to the floor. “You don’t know what you say or what you make me

However, she again had to pause, draw herself erect and smile; for
Rosemonde hastened in from the adjoining room with the news that she was
wanted downstairs. The doors were about to be opened, and it was
necessary she should be at her stall. Yes, Eve answered, she would be
down in another moment. Still, even as she spoke she leant more heavily
on the pier-table behind her in order that she might not fall.

Hyacinthe had drawn near to his sister: “You know,” said he, “it’s simply
idiotic to quarrel like that. You would do much better to come

But Camille harshly dismissed him: “Just _you_ go off, and take the
others with you. It’s quite as well that they shouldn’t be about our

Hyacinthe glanced at his mother, like one who knew the truth and
considered the whole affair ridiculous. And then, vexed at seeing her so
deficient in energy in dealing with that little pest, his sister, he
shrugged his shoulders, and leaving them to their folly, conducted the
others away. One could hear Rosemonde laughing as she went off below,
while the General began to tell Madame Fonsegue another story as they
descended the stairs together. However, at the moment when the mother and
daughter at last fancied themselves alone once more, other voices reached
their ears, those of Duvillard and Fonsegue, who were still near at hand.
The Baron from his room might well overhear the dispute.

Eve felt that she ought to have gone off. But she had lacked the strength
to do so; it had been a sheer impossibility for her after those words
which had smote her like a buffet amidst her distress at the thought of
losing her lover.

“Gerard cannot marry you,” she said; “he does not love you.”

“He does.”

“You fancy it because he has good-naturedly shown some kindness to you,
on seeing others pay you such little attention. But he does not love

“He does. He loves me first because I’m not such a fool as many others
are, and particularly because I’m young.”

This was a fresh wound for the Baroness; one inflicted with mocking
cruelty in which rang out all the daughter’s triumphant delight at seeing
her mother’s beauty at last ripening and waning. “Ah! my poor mamma, you
no longer know what it is to be young. If I’m not beautiful, at all
events I’m young; my eyes are clear and my lips are fresh. And my hair’s
so long too, and I’ve so much of it that it would suffice to gown me if I
chose. You see, one’s never ugly when one’s young. Whereas, my poor
mamma, everything is ended when one gets old. It’s all very well for a
woman to have been beautiful, and to strive to keep so, but in reality
there’s only ruin left, and shame and disgust.”

She spoke these words in such a sharp, ferocious voice that each of them
entered her mother’s heart like a knife. Tears rose to the eyes of the
wretched woman, again stricken in her bleeding wound. Ah! it was true,
she remained without weapons against youth. And all her anguish came from
the consciousness that she was growing old, from the feeling that love
was departing from her now, that like a fruit she had ripened and fallen
from the tree.

“But Gerard’s mother will never let him marry you,” she said.

“He will prevail on her; that’s his concern. I’ve a dowry of two
millions, and two millions can settle many things.”

“Do you now want to libel him, and say that he’s marrying you for your

“No, indeed! Gerard’s a very nice and honest fellow. He loves me and he’s
marrying me for myself. But, after all, he isn’t rich; he still has no
assured position, although he’s thirty-six; and there may well be some
advantage in a wife who brings you wealth as well as happiness. For, you
hear, mamma, it’s happiness I’m bringing him, real happiness, love that’s
shared and is certain of the future.”

Once again their faces drew close together. The hateful scene,
interrupted by sounds around them, postponed, and then resumed, was
dragging on, becoming a perfect drama full of murderous violence,
although they never shouted, but still spoke on in low and gasping
voices. Neither gave way to the other, though at every moment they were
liable to some surprise; for not only were all the doors open, so that
the servants might come in, but the Baron’s voice still rang out gaily,
close at hand.

“He loves you, he loves you”--continued Eve. “That’s what you say. But
_he_ never told you so.”

“He has told me so twenty times; he repeats it every time that we are
alone together!”

“Yes, just as one says it to a little girl by way of amusing her. But he
has never told you that he meant to marry you.”

“He told it me the last time he came. And it’s settled. I’m simply
waiting for him to get his mother’s consent and make his formal offer.”

“You lie, you lie, you wretched girl! You simply want to make me suffer,
and you lie, you lie!”

Eve’s grief at last burst forth in that cry of protest. She no longer
knew that she was a mother, and was speaking to her daughter. The woman,
the _amorosa_, alone remained in her, outraged and exasperated by a
rival. And with a sob she confessed the truth: “It is I he loves! Only
the last time I spoke to him, he swore to me--you hear me?--he swore upon
his honour that he did not love you, and that he would never marry you!”

A faint, sharp laugh came from Camille. Then, with an air of derisive
compassion, she replied: “Ah! my poor mamma, you really make me sorry for
you! What a child you are! Yes, really, you are the child, not I. What!
you who ought to have so much experience, you still allow yourself to be
duped by a man’s protests! That one really has no malice; and, indeed,
that’s why he swears whatever you want him to swear, just to please and
quiet you, for at heart he’s a bit of a coward.”

“You lie, you lie!”

“But just think matters over. If he no longer comes here, if he didn’t
come to _dejeuner_ this morning, it is simply because he’s had enough of
you. He has left you for good; just have the courage to realise it. Of
course he’s still polite and amiable, because he’s a well-bred man, and
doesn’t know how to break off. The fact is that he takes pity on you.”

“You lie, you lie!”

“Well, question him then. Have a frank explanation with him. Ask him his
intentions in a friendly way. And then show some good nature yourself,
and realise that if you care for him you ought to give him me at once in
his own interest. Give him back his liberty, and you will soon see that
I’m the one he loves.”

“You lie, you lie! You wretched child, you only want to torture and kill

Then, in her fury and distress, Eve remembered that she was the mother,
and that it was for her to chastise that unworthy daughter. There was no
stick near her, but from a basket of the yellow roses, whose powerful
scent intoxicated both of them, she plucked a handful of blooms, with
long and spiny stalks, and smote Camille across the face. A drop of blood
appeared on the girl’s left temple, near her eyelid.

But she sprang forward, flushed and maddened by this correction, with her
hand raised and ready to strike back. “Take care, mother! I swear I’d
beat you like a gipsy! And now just put this into your head: I mean to
marry Gerard, and I will; and I’ll take him from you, even if I have to
raise a scandal, should you refuse to give him to me with good grace.”

Eve, after her one act of angry vigour, had sunk into an armchair,
overcome, distracted. And all the horror of quarrels, which sprang from
her egotistical desire to be happy, caressed, flattered and adored, was
returning to her. But Camille, still threatening, still unsatiated,
showed her heart as it really was, her stern, black, unforgiving heart,
intoxicated with cruelty. There came a moment of supreme silence, while
Duvillard’s gay voice again rang out in the adjoining room.

The mother was gently weeping, when Hyacinthe, coming upstairs at a run,
swept into the little _salon_. He looked at the two women, and made a
gesture of indulgent contempt. “Ah! you’re no doubt satisfied now! But
what did I tell you? It would have been much better for you to have come
downstairs at once! Everybody is asking for you. It’s all idiotic. I’ve
come to fetch you.”

Eve and Camille would not yet have followed him, perhaps, if Duvillard
and Fonsegue had not at that moment come out of the former’s room. Having
finished their cigars they also spoke of going downstairs. And Eve had to
rise and smile and show dry eyes, while Camille, standing before a
looking-glass, arranged her hair, and stanched the little drop of blood
that had gathered on her temple.

There was already quite a number of people below, in the three huge
saloons adorned with tapestry and plants. The stalls had been draped with
red silk, which set a gay, bright glow around the goods. And no ordinary
bazaar could have put forth such a show, for there was something of
everything among the articles of a thousand different kinds, from
sketches by recognised masters, and the autographs of famous writers,
down to socks and slippers and combs. The haphazard way in which things
were laid out was in itself an attraction; and, in addition, there was a
buffet, where the whitest of beautiful hands poured out champagne, and
two lotteries, one for an organ and another for a pony-drawn village
cart, the tickets for which were sold by a bevy of charming girls, who
had scattered through the throng. As Duvillard had expected, however, the
great success of the bazaar lay in the delightful little shiver which the
beautiful ladies experienced as they passed through the entrance where
the bomb had exploded. The rougher repairing work was finished, the walls
and ceilings had been doctored, in part re-constructed. However, the
painters had not yet come, and here and there the whiter stone and
plaster work showed like fresh scars left by all the terrible gashes. It
was with mingled anxiety and rapture that pretty heads emerged from the
carriages which, arriving in a continuous stream, made the flagstones of
the court re-echo. And in the three saloons, beside the stalls, there was
no end to the lively chatter: “Ah! my dear, did you see all those marks?
How frightful, how frightful! The whole house was almost blown up. And to
think it might begin again while we are here! One really needs some
courage to come, but then, that asylum is such a deserving institution,
and money is badly wanted to build a new wing. And besides, those
monsters will see that we are not frightened, whatever they do.”

When the Baroness at last came down to her stall with Camille she found
the saleswomen feverishly at work already under the direction of Princess
Rosemonde, who on occasions of this kind evinced the greatest cunning and
rapacity, robbing the customers in the most impudent fashion. “Ah! here
you are,” she exclaimed. “Beware of a number of higglers who have come to
secure bargains. I know them! They watch for their opportunities, turn
everything topsy-turvy and wait for us to lose our heads and forget
prices, so as to pay even less than they would in a real shop. But I’ll
get good prices from them, you shall see!”

At this, Eve, who for her own part was a most incapable saleswoman, had
to laugh with the others. And in a gentle voice she made a pretence of
addressing certain recommendations to Camille, who listened with a
smiling and most submissive air. In point of fact the wretched mother was
sinking with emotion, particularly at the thought that she would have to
remain there till seven o’clock, and suffer in secret before all those
people, without possibility of relief. And thus it was almost like a
respite when she suddenly perceived Abbe Froment sitting and waiting for
her on a settee, covered with red velvet, near her stall. Her legs were
failing her, so she took a place beside him.

“You received my letter then, Monsieur l’Abbe. I am glad that you have
come, for I have some good news to give you, and wished to leave you the
pleasure of imparting it to your _protege_, that man Laveuve, whom you so
warmly recommended to me. Every formality has now been fulfilled, and you
can bring him to the asylum to-morrow.”

Pierre gazed at her in stupefaction. “Laveuve? Why, he is dead!”

In her turn she became astonished. “What, dead! But you never informed me
of it! If I told you of all the trouble that has been taken, of all that
had to be undone and done again, and the discussions and the papers and
the writing! Are you quite sure that he is dead?”

“Oh! yes, he is dead. He has been dead a month.”

“Dead a month! Well, we could not know; you yourself gave us no sign of
life. Ah! _mon Dieu_! what a worry that he should be dead. We shall now
be obliged to undo everything again!”

“He is dead, madame. It is true that I ought to have informed you of it.
But that doesn’t alter the fact--he is dead.”

Dead! that word which kept on returning, the thought too, that for a
month past she had been busying herself for a corpse, quite froze her,
brought her to the very depths of despair, like an omen of the cold death
into which she herself must soon descend, in the shroud of her last
passion. And, meantime, Pierre, despite himself, smiled bitterly at the
atrocious irony of it all. Ah! that lame and halting Charity, which
proffers help when men are dead!

The priest still lingered on the settee when the Baroness rose. She had
seen magistrate Amadieu hurriedly enter like one who just wished to show
himself, purchase some trifle, and then return to the Palace of Justice.
However, he was also perceived by little Massot, the “Globe” reporter,
who was prowling round the stalls, and who at once bore down upon him,
eager for information. And he hemmed him in and forthwith interviewed him
respecting the affair of that mechanician Salvat, who was accused of
having deposited the bomb at the entrance of the house. Was this simply
an invention of the police, as some newspapers pretended? Or was it
really correct? And if so, would Salvat soon be arrested? In self-defence
Amadieu answered correctly enough that the affair did not as yet concern
him, and would only come within his attributions, if Salvat should be
arrested and the investigation placed in his hands. At the same time,
however, the magistrate’s pompous and affectedly shrewd manner suggested
that he already knew everything to the smallest details, and that, had he
chosen, he could have promised some great events for the morrow. A circle
of ladies had gathered round him as he spoke, quite a number of pretty
women feverish with curiosity, who jostled one another in their eagerness
to hear that brigand tale which sent a little shiver coursing under their
skins. However, Amadieu managed to slip off after paying Rosemonde twenty
francs for a cigarette case, which was perhaps worth thirty sous.

Massot, on recognising Pierre, came up to shake hands with him. “Don’t
you agree with me, Monsieur l’Abbe, that Salvat must be a long way off by
now if he’s got good legs? Ah! the police will always make me laugh!”

However, Rosemonde brought Hyacinthe up to the journalist. “Monsieur
Massot,” said she, “you who go everywhere, I want you to be judge. That
Chamber of Horrors at Montmartre, that tavern where Legras sings the
‘Flowers of the Streets’--”

“Oh! a delightful spot, madame,” interrupted Massot, “I wouldn’t take
even a gendarme there.”

“No, don’t jest, Monsieur Massot, I’m talking seriously. Isn’t it quite
allowable for a respectable woman to go there when she’s accompanied by a
gentleman?” And, without allowing the journalist time to answer her, she
turned towards Hyacinthe: “There! you see that Monsieur Massot doesn’t
say no! You’ve got to take me there this evening, it’s sworn, it’s

Then she darted away to sell a packet of pins to an old lady, while the
young man contented himself with remarking, in the voice of one who has
no illusions left: “She’s quite idiotic with her Chamber of Horrors!”

Massot philosophically shrugged his shoulders. It was only natural that a
woman should want to amuse herself. And when Hyacinthe had gone off,
passing with perverse contempt beside the lovely girls who were selling
lottery tickets, the journalist ventured to murmur: “All the same, it
would do that youngster good if a woman were to take him in hand.”

Then, again addressing Pierre, he resumed: “Why, here comes Duthil! What
did Sagnier mean this morning by saying that Duthil would sleep at Mazas

In a great hurry apparently, and all smiles, Duthil was cutting his way
through the crowd in order to join Duvillard and Fonsegue, who still
stood talking near the Baroness’s stall. And he waved his hand to them in
a victorious way, to imply that he had succeeded in the delicate mission
entrusted to him. This was nothing less than a bold manoeuvre to hasten
Silviane’s admission to the Comedie Francaise. The idea had occurred to
her of making the Baron give a dinner at the Cafe Anglais in order that
she might meet at it an influential critic, who, according to her
statements, would compel the authorities to throw the doors wide open for
her as soon as he should know her. However, it did not seem easy to
secure the critic’s presence, as he was noted for his sternness and
grumbling disposition. And, indeed, after a first repulse, Duthil had for
three days past been obliged to exert all his powers of diplomacy, and
bring even the remotest influence into play. But he was radiant now, for
he had conquered.

“It’s for this evening, my dear Baron, at half-past seven,” he exclaimed.
“Ah! dash it all, I’ve had more trouble than I should have had to secure
a concession vote!” Then he laughed with the pretty impudence of a man of
pleasure, whom political conscientiousness did not trouble. And, indeed,
his allusion to the fresh denunciations of the “Voix du Peuple” hugely
amused him.

“Don’t jest,” muttered Fonsegue, who for his part wished to amuse himself
by frightening the young deputy. “Things are going very badly!”

Duthil turned pale, and a vision of the police and Mazas rose before his
eyes. In this wise sheer funk came over him from time to time. However,
with his lack of all moral sense, he soon felt reassured and began to
laugh. “Bah!” he retorted gaily, winking towards Duvillard, “the
governor’s there to pilot the barque!”

The Baron, who was extremely pleased, had pressed his hands, thanked him,
and called him an obliging fellow. And now turning towards Fonsegue, he
exclaimed: “I say, you must make one of us this evening. Oh! it’s
necessary. I want something imposing round Silviane. Duthil will
represent the Chamber, you journalism, and I finance--” But he suddenly
paused on seeing Gerard, who, with a somewhat grave expression, was
leisurely picking his way through the sea of skirts. “Gerard, my friend,”
 said the Baron, after beckoning to him, “I want you to do me a service.”
 And forthwith he told him what was in question; how the influential
critic had been prevailed upon to attend a dinner which would decide
Silviane’s future; and how it was the duty of all her friends to rally
round her.

“But I can’t,” the young man answered in embarrassment. “I have to dine
at home with my mother, who was rather poorly this morning.”

“Oh! a sensible woman like your mother will readily understand that there
are matters of exceptional importance. Go home and excuse yourself. Tell
her some story, tell her that a friend’s happiness is in question.” And
as Gerard began to weaken, Duvillard added: “The fact is, that I really
want you, my dear fellow; I must have a society man. Society, you know,
is a great force in theatrical matters; and if Silviane has society with
her, her triumph is certain.”

Gerard promised, and then chatted for a moment with his uncle, General de
Bozonnet, who was quite enlivened by that throng of women, among whom he
had been carried hither and thither like an old rudderless ship. After
acknowledging the amiability with which Madame Fonsegue had listened to
his stories, by purchasing an autograph of Monseigneur Martha from her
for a hundred francs, he had quite lost himself amid the bevy of girls
who had passed him on, one to another. And now, on his return from them,
he had his hands full of lottery tickets: “Ah! my fine fellow,” said he,
“I don’t advise you to venture among all those young persons. You would
have to part with your last copper. But, just look! there’s Mademoiselle
Camille beckoning to you!”

Camille, indeed, from the moment she had perceived Gerard, had been
smiling at him and awaiting his approach. And when their glances met he
was obliged to go to her, although, at the same moment, he felt that
Eve’s despairing and entreating eyes were fixed upon him. The girl, who
fully realised that her mother was watching her, at once made a marked
display of amiability, profiting by the license which charitable fervour
authorised, to slip a variety of little articles into the young man’s
pockets, and then place others in his hands, which she pressed within her
own, showing the while all the sparkle of youth, indulging in fresh,
merry laughter, which fairly tortured her rival.

So extreme was Eve’s suffering, that she wished to intervene and part
them. But it so chanced that Pierre barred her way, for he wished to
submit an idea to her before leaving the bazaar. “Madame,” said he,
“since that man Laveuve is dead, and you have taken so much trouble with
regard to the bed which you now have vacant, will you be so good as to
keep it vacant until I have seen our venerable friend, Abbe Rose? I am to
see him this evening, and he knows so many cases of want, and would be so
glad to relieve one of them, and bring you some poor _protege_ of his.”

“Yes, certainly,” stammered the Baroness, “I shall be very happy,--I will
wait a little, as you desire,--of course, of course, Monsieur l’Abbe.”

She was trembling all over; she no longer knew what she was saying; and,
unable to conquer her passion, she turned aside from the priest, unaware
even that he was still there, when Gerard, yielding to the dolorous
entreaty of her eyes, at last managed to escape from Camille and join

“What a stranger you are becoming, my friend!” she said aloud, with a
forced smile. “One never sees you now.”

“Why, I have been poorly,” he replied, in his amiable way. “Yes, I assure
you I have been ailing a little.”

He, ailing! She looked at him with maternal anxiety, quite upset. And,
indeed, however proud and lofty his figure, his handsome regular face did
seem to her paler than usual. It was as if the nobility of the facade
had, in some degree, ceased to hide the irreparable dilapidation within.
And given his real good nature, it must be true that he
suffered--suffered by reason of his useless, wasted life, by reason of
all the money he cost his impoverished mother, and of the needs that were
at last driving him to marry that wealthy deformed girl, whom at first he
had simply pitied. And so weak did he seem to Eve, so like a piece of
wreckage tossed hither and thither by a tempest, that, at the risk of
being overheard by the throng, she let her heart flow forth in a low but
ardent, entreating murmur: “If you suffer, ah! what sufferings are
mine!--Gerard, we must see one another, I will have it so.”

“No, I beg you, let us wait,” he stammered in embarrassment.

“It must be, Gerard; Camille has told me your plans. You cannot refuse to
see me. I insist on it.”

He made yet another attempt to escape the cruel explanation. “But it’s
impossible at the usual place,” he answered, quivering. “The address is

“Then to-morrow, at four o’clock, at that little restaurant in the Bois
where we have met before.”

He had to promise, and they parted. Camille had just turned her head and
was looking at them. Moreover, quite a number of women had besieged the
stall; and the Baroness began to attend to them with the air of a ripe
and nonchalant goddess, while Gerard rejoined Duvillard, Fonsegue and
Duthil, who were quite excited at the prospect of their dinner that

Pierre had heard a part of the conversation between Gerard and the
Baroness. He knew what skeletons the house concealed, what physiological
and moral torture and wretchedness lay beneath all the dazzling wealth
and power. There was here an envenomed, bleeding sore, ever spreading, a
cancer eating into father, mother, daughter and son, who one and all had
thrown social bonds aside. However, the priest made his way out of the
_salons_, half stifling amidst the throng of lady-purchasers who were
making quite a triumph of the bazaar. And yonder, in the depths of the
gloom, he could picture Salvat still running and running on; while the
corpse of Laveuve seemed to him like a buffet of atrocious irony dealt to
noisy and delusive charity.


How delightful was the quietude of the little ground-floor overlooking a
strip of garden in the Rue Cortot, where good Abbe Rose resided!
Hereabouts there was not even a rumble of wheels, or an echo of the
panting breath of Paris, which one heard on the other side of the height
of Montmartre. The deep silence and sleepy peacefulness were suggestive
of some distant provincial town.

Seven o’clock had struck, the dusk had gathered slowly, and Pierre was in
the humble dining-room, waiting for the _femme-de-menage_ to place the
soup upon the table. Abbe Rose, anxious at having seen so little of him
for a month past, had written, asking him to come to dinner, in order
that they might have a quiet chat concerning their affairs. From time to
time Pierre still gave his friend money for charitable purposes; in fact,
ever since the days of the asylum in the Rue de Charonne, they had had
accounts together, which they periodically liquidated. So that evening
after dinner they were to talk of it all, and see if they could not do
even more than they had hitherto done. The good old priest was quite
radiant at the thought of the peaceful evening which he was about to
spend in attending to the affairs of his beloved poor; for therein lay
his only amusement, the sole pleasure to which he persistently and
passionately returned, in spite of all the worries that his inconsiderate
charity had already so often brought him.

Glad to be able to procure his friend this pleasure, Pierre, on his side,
grew calmer, and found relief and momentary repose in sharing the other’s
simple repast and yielding to all the kindliness around him, far from his
usual worries. He remembered the vacant bed at the Asylum, which Baroness
Duvillard had promised to keep in reserve until he should have asked Abbe
Rose if he knew of any case of destitution particularly worthy of
interest; and so before sitting down to table he spoke of the matter.

“Destitution worthy of interest!” replied Abbe Rose, “ah! my dear child,
every case is worthy of interest. And when it’s a question of old toilers
without work the only trouble is that of selection, the anguish of
choosing one and leaving so many others in distress.” Nevertheless,
painful though his scruples were, he strove to think and come to some
decision. “I know the case which will suit you,” he said at last. “It’s
certainly one of the greatest suffering and wretchedness; and, so humble
a one, too--an old carpenter of seventy-five, who has been living on
public charity during the eight or ten years that he has been unable to
find work. I don’t know his name, everybody calls him ‘the big Old’un.’
There are times when he does not come to my Saturday distributions for
weeks together. We shall have to look for him at once. I think that he
sleeps at the Night Refuge in the Rue d’Orsel when lack of room there
doesn’t force him to spend the night crouching behind some palings. Shall
we go down the Rue d’Orsel this evening?”

Abbe Rose’s eyes beamed brightly as he spoke, for this proposal of his
signified a great debauch, the tasting of forbidden fruit. He had been
reproached so often and so roughly with his visits to those who had
fallen to the deepest want and misery, that in spite of his overflowing,
apostolic compassion, he now scarcely dared to go near them. However, he
continued: “Is it agreed, my child? Only this once? Besides, it is our
only means of finding the big Old’un. You won’t have to stop with me
later than eleven. And I should so like to show you all that! You will
see what terrible sufferings there are! And perhaps we may be fortunate
enough to relieve some poor creature or other.”

Pierre smiled at the juvenile ardour displayed by this old man with snowy
hair. “It’s agreed, my dear Abbe,” he responded, “I shall be very pleased
to spend my whole evening with you, for I feel it will do me good to
follow you once more on one of those rambles which used to fill our
hearts with grief and joy.”

At this moment the servant brought in the soup; however, just as the two
priests were taking their seats a discreet ring was heard, and when Abbe
Rose learnt that the visitor was a neighbour, Madame Mathis, who had come
for an answer, he gave orders that she should be shown in.

“This poor woman,” he explained to Pierre, “needed an advance of ten
francs to get a mattress out of pawn; and I didn’t have the money by me
at the time. But I’ve since procured it. She lives in the house, you
know, in silent poverty, on so small an income that it hardly keeps her
in bread.”

“But hasn’t she a big son of twenty?” asked Pierre, suddenly remembering
the young man he had seen at Salvat’s.

“Yes, yes. Her parents, I believe, were rich people in the provinces.
I’ve been told that she married a music master, who gave her lessons, at
Nantes; and who ran away with her and brought her to Paris, where he
died. It was quite a doleful love-story. By selling the furniture and
realising every little thing she possessed, she scraped together an
income of about two thousand francs a year, with which she was able to
send her son to college and live decently herself. But a fresh blow fell
on her: she lost the greater part of her little fortune, which was
invested in doubtful securities. So now her income amounts at the utmost
to eight hundred francs; two hundred of which she has to expend in rent.
For all her other wants she has to be content with fifty francs a month.
About eighteen months ago her son left her so as not to be a burden on
her, and he is trying to earn his living somewhere, but without success,
I believe.”

Madame Mathis, a short, dark woman, with a sad, gentle, retiring face,
came in. Invariably clad in the same black gown, she showed all the
anxious timidity of a poor creature whom the storms of life perpetually
assailed. When Abbe Rose had handed her the ten francs discreetly wrapped
in paper, she blushed and thanked him, promising to pay him back as soon
as she received her month’s money, for she was not a beggar and did not
wish to encroach on the share of those who starved.

“And your son, Victor, has he found any employment?” asked the old

She hesitated, ignorant as she was of what her son might be doing, for
now she did not see him for weeks together. And finally, she contented
herself with answering: “He has a good heart, he is very fond of me. It
is a great misfortune that we should have been ruined before he could
enter the Ecole Normale. It was impossible for him to prepare for the
examination. But at the Lycee he was such a diligent and intelligent

“You lost your husband when your son was ten years old, did you not?”
 said Abbe Rose.

At this she blushed again, thinking that her husband’s story was known to
the two priests. “Yes, my poor husband never had any luck,” she said.
“His difficulties embittered and excited his mind, and he died in prison.
He was sent there through a disturbance at a public meeting, when he had
the misfortune to wound a police officer. He had also fought at the time
of the Commune. And yet he was a very gentle man and extremely fond of

Tears had risen to her eyes; and Abbe Rose, much touched, dismissed her:
“Well, let us hope that your son will give you satisfaction, and be able
to repay you for all you have done for him.”

With a gesture of infinite sorrow, Madame Mathis discreetly withdrew. She
was quite ignorant of her son’s doings, but fate had pursued her so
relentlessly that she ever trembled.

“I don’t think that the poor woman has much to expect from her son,” said
Pierre, when she had gone. “I only saw him once, but the gleam in his
eyes was as harsh and trenchant as that of a knife.”

“Do you think so?” the old priest exclaimed, with his kindly _naivete_.
“Well, he seemed to me very polite, perhaps a trifle eager to enjoy life;
but then, all the young folks are impatient nowadays. Come, let us sit
down to table, for the soup will be cold.”

Almost at the same hour, on the other side of Paris, night had in like
fashion slowly fallen in the drawing-room of the Countess de Quinsac, on
the dismal, silent ground-floor of an old mansion in the Rue St.
Dominique. The Countess was there, alone with her faithful friend, the
Marquis de Morigny, she on one side, and he on the other side of the
chimney-piece, where the last embers of the wood fire were dying out. The
servant had not yet brought the lamp, and the Countess refrained from
ringing, finding some relief from her anxiety in the falling darkness,
which hid from view all the unconfessed thoughts that she was afraid of
showing on her weary face. And it was only now, before that dim hearth,
and in that black room, where never a sound of wheels disturbed the
silence of the slumberous past, that she dared to speak.

“Yes, my friend,” she said, “I am not satisfied with Gerard’s health. You
will see him yourself, for he promised to come home early and dine with
me. Oh! I’m well aware that he looks big and strong; but to know him
properly one must have nursed and watched him as I have done! What
trouble I had to rear him! In reality he is at the mercy of any petty
ailment. His slightest complaint becomes serious illness. And the life he
leads does not conduce to good health.”

She paused and sighed, hesitating to carry her confession further.

“He leads the life he can,” slowly responded the Marquis de Morigny, of
whose delicate profile, and lofty yet loving bearing, little could be
seen in the gloom. “As he was unable to endure military life, and as even
the fatigues of diplomacy frighten you, what would you have him do? He
can only live apart pending the final collapse, while this abominable
Republic is dragging France to the grave.”

“No doubt, my friend. And yet it is just that idle life which frightens
me. He is losing in it all that was good and healthy in him. I don’t
refer merely to the _liaisons_ which we have had to tolerate. The last
one, which I found so much difficulty in countenancing at the outset, so
contrary did it seem to all my ideas and beliefs, has since seemed to me
to exercise almost a good influence. Only he is now entering his
thirty-sixth year, and can he continue living in this fashion without
object or duties? If he is ailing it is perhaps precisely because he does
nothing, holds no position, and serves no purpose.” Her voice again
quavered. “And then, my friend, since you force me to tell you
everything, I must own that I am not in good health myself. I have had
several fainting fits of late, and have consulted a doctor. The truth is,
that I may go off at any moment.”

With a quiver, Morigny leant forward in the still deepening gloom, and
wished to take hold of her hands. “You! what, am I to lose you, my last
affection!” he faltered, “I who have seen the old world I belong to
crumble away, I who only live in the hope that you at all events will
still be here to close my eyes!”

But she begged him not to increase her grief: “No, no, don’t take my
hands, don’t kiss them! Remain there in the shade, where I can scarcely
see you.... We have loved one another so long without aught to cause
shame or regret; and that will prove our strength--our divine
strength--till we reach the grave.... And if you were to touch me, if
I were to feel you too near me I could not finish, for I have not done so

As soon as he had relapsed into silence and immobility, she continued:
“If I were to die to-morrow, Gerard would not even find here the little
fortune which he still fancies is in my hands. The dear child has often
cost me large sums of money without apparently being conscious of it. I
ought to have been more severe, more prudent. But what would you have?
Ruin is at hand. I have always been too weak a mother. And do you now
understand in what anguish I live? I ever have the thought that if I die
Gerard will not even possess enough to live on, for he is incapable of
effecting the miracle which I renew each day, in order to keep the house
up on a decent footing.... Ah! I know him, so supine, so sickly, in
spite of his proud bearing, unable to do anything, even conduct himself.
And so what will become of him; will he not fall into the most dire

Then her tears flowed freely, her heart opened and bled, for she foresaw
what must happen after her death: the collapse of her race and of a whole
world in the person of that big child. And the Marquis, still motionless
but distracted, feeling that he had no title to offer his own fortune,
suddenly understood her, foresaw in what disgrace this fresh disaster
would culminate.

“Ah! my poor friend!” he said at last in a voice trembling with revolt
and grief. “So you have agreed to that marriage--yes, that abominable
marriage with that woman’s daughter! Yet you swore it should never be!
You would rather witness the collapse of everything, you said. And now
you are consenting, I can feel it!”

She still wept on in that black, silent drawing-room before the
chimney-piece where the fire had died out. Did not Gerard’s marriage to
Camille mean a happy ending for herself, a certainty of leaving her son
wealthy, loved, and seated at the banquet of life? However, a last
feeling of rebellion arose within her.

“No, no,” she exclaimed, “I don’t consent, I swear to you that I don’t
consent as yet. I am fighting with my whole strength, waging an incessant
battle, the torture of which you cannot imagine.”

Then, in all sincerity, she foresaw the likelihood of defeat. “If I
should some day give way, my friend, at all events believe that I feel,
as fully as you do, how abominable such a marriage must be. It will be
the end of our race and our honour!”

This cry profoundly stirred the Marquis, and he was unable to add a word.
Haughty and uncompromising Catholic and Royalist that he was, he, on his
side also, expected nothing but the supreme collapse. Yet how
heartrending was the thought that this noble woman, so dearly and so
purely loved, would prove one of the most mournful victims of the
catastrophe! And in the shrouding gloom he found courage to kneel before
her, take her hand, and kiss it.

Just as the servant was at last bringing a lighted lamp Gerard made his
appearance. The past-century charm of the old Louis XVI. drawing-room,
with its pale woodwork, again became apparent in the soft light. In order
that his mother might not be over-saddened by his failure to dine with
her that evening the young man had put on an air of brisk gaiety; and
when he had explained that some friends were waiting for him, she at once
released him from his promise, happy as she felt at seeing him so merry.

“Go, go, my dear boy,” said she, “but mind you do not tire yourself too
much.... I am going to keep Morigny; and the General and Larombiere
are coming at nine o’clock. So be easy, I shall have someone with me to
keep me from fretting and feeling lonely.”

In this wise Gerard after sitting down for a moment and chatting with the
Marquis was able to slip away, dress, and betake himself to the Cafe

When he reached it women in fur cloaks were already climbing the stairs,
fashionable and merry parties were filling the private rooms, the
electric lights shone brilliantly, and the walls were already vibrating
with the stir of pleasure and debauchery. In the room which Baron
Duvillard had engaged the young man found an extraordinary display, the
most superb flowers, and a profusion of plate and crystal as for a royal
gala. The pomp with which the six covers were laid called forth a smile;
while the bill of fare and the wine list promised marvels, all the rarest
and most expensive things that could be selected.

“It’s stylish, isn’t it?” exclaimed Silviane, who was already there with
Duvillard, Fonsegue and Duthil. “I just wanted to make your influential
critic open his eyes a little! When one treats a journalist to such a
dinner as this, he has got to be amiable, hasn’t he?”

In her desire to conquer, it had occurred to the young woman to array
herself in the most amazing fashion. Her gown of yellow satin, covered
with old Alencon lace, was cut low at the neck; and she had put on all
her diamonds, a necklace, a diadem, shoulder-knots, bracelets and rings.
With her candid, girlish face, she looked like some Virgin in a missal, a
Queen-Virgin, laden with the offerings of all Christendom.

“Well, well, you look so pretty,” said Gerard, who sometimes jested with
her, “that I think it will do all the same.”

“Ah!” she replied with equanimity. “You consider me a _bourgeoise_, I
see. Your opinion is that a simple little dinner and a modest gown would
have shown better taste. But ah! my dear fellow, you don’t know the way
to get round men!”

Duvillard signified his approval, for he was delighted to be able to show
her in all her glory, adorned like an idol. Fonsegue, for his part,
talked of diamonds, saying that they were now doubtful investments, as
the day when they would become articles of current manufacture was fast
approaching, thanks to the electrical furnace and other inventions.
Meantime Duthil, with an air of ecstasy and the dainty gestures of a
lady’s maid, hovered around the young woman, either smoothing a
rebellious bow or arranging some fold of her lace.

“But I say,” resumed Silviane, “your critic seems to be an ill-bred man,
for he’s keeping us waiting.”

Indeed, the critic arrived a quarter of an hour late, and while
apologising, he expressed his regret that he should be obliged to leave
at half-past nine, for he was absolutely compelled to put in an
appearance at a little theatre in the Rue Pigalle. He was a big fellow of
fifty with broad shoulders and a full, bearded face. His most
disagreeable characteristic was the narrow dogmatic pedantry which he had
acquired at the Ecole Normale, and had never since been able to shake
off. All his herculean efforts to be sceptical and frivolous, and the
twenty years he had spent in Paris mingling with every section of
society, had failed to rid him of it. _Magister_ he was, and _magister_
he remained, even in his most strenuous flights of imagination and
audacity. From the moment of his arrival he tried to show himself
enraptured with Silviane. Naturally enough, he already knew her by sight,
and had even criticised her on one occasion in five or six contemptuous
lines. However, the sight of her there, in full beauty, clad like a
queen, and presented by four influential protectors, filled him with
emotion; and he was struck with the idea that nothing would be more
Parisian and less pedantic than to assert she had some talent and give
her his support.

They had seated themselves at table, and the repast proved a magnificent
one, the service ever prompt and assiduous, an attendant being allotted
to each diner. While the flowers scattered their perfumes through the
room, and the plate and crystal glittered on the snowy cloth, an
abundance of delicious and unexpected dishes were handed round--a
sturgeon from Russia, prohibited game, truffles as big as eggs, and
hothouse vegetables and fruit as full of flavour as if they had been
naturally matured. It was money flung out of window, simply for the
pleasure of wasting more than other people, and eating what they could
not procure. The influential critic, though he displayed the ease of a
man accustomed to every sort of festivity, really felt astonished at it
all, and became servile, promising his support, and pledging himself far
more than he really wished to. Moreover, he showed himself very gay,
found some witty remarks to repeat, and even some rather ribald jests.
But when the champagne appeared after the roast and the grand burgundies,
his over-excitement brought him back perforce to his real nature. The
conversation had now turned on Corneille’s “Polyeucte” and the part of
“Pauline,” in which Silviane wished to make her _debut_ at the Comedie
Francaise. This extraordinary caprice, which had quite revolted the
influential critic a week previously, now seemed to him simply a bold
enterprise in which the young woman might even prove victorious if she
consented to listen to his advice. And, once started, he delivered quite
a lecture on the past, asserting that no actress had ever yet understood
it properly, for at the outset Pauline was simply a well-meaning little
creature of the middle classes, and the beauty of her conversion at the
finish arose from the working of a miracle, a stroke of heavenly grace
which endowed her with something divine. This was not the opinion of
Silviane, who from the first lines regarded Pauline as the ideal heroine
of some symbolical legend. However, as the critic talked on and on, she
had to feign approval; and he was delighted at finding her so beautiful
and docile beneath his ferule. At last, as ten o’clock was striking, he
rose and tore out of the hot and reeking room in order to do his work.

“Ah! my dears,” cried Silviane, “he’s a nice bore is that critic of
yours! What a fool he is with his idea of Pauline being a little
_bourgeoise_! I would have given him a fine dressing if it weren’t for
the fact that I have some need of him. Ah! no, it’s too idiotic! Pour me
out a glass of champagne. I want something to set me right after all

The _fete_ then took quite an intimate turn between the four men who
remained and that bare-armed, bare-breasted girl, covered with diamonds;
while from the neighbouring passages and rooms came bursts of laughter
and sounds of kissing, all the stir and mirth of the debauchery now
filling the house. And beneath the windows torrents of vehicles and
pedestrians streamed along the Boulevards where reigned the wild fever of
pleasure and harlotry.

“No, don’t open it, or I shall catch cold!” resumed Silviane, addressing
Fonsegue as he stepped towards the window. “Are you so very warm, then?
I’m just comfortable.... But, Duvillard, my good fellow, please order
some more champagne. It’s wonderful what a thirst your critic has given

Amidst the blinding glare of the lamps and the perfume of the flowers and
wines, one almost stifled in the room. And Silviane was seized with an
irresistible desire for a spree, a desire to tipple and amuse herself in
some vulgar fashion, as in her bygone days. A few glasses of champagne
brought her to full pitch, and she showed the boldest and giddiest
gaiety. The others, who had never before seen her so lively, began on
their own side to feel amused. As Fonsegue was obliged to go to his
office she embraced him “like a daughter,” as she expressed it. However,
on remaining alone with the others she indulged in great freedom of
speech, which became more and more marked as her intoxication increased.
And to the class of men with whom she consorted her great attraction, as
she was well aware, lay in the circumstance that with her virginal
countenance and her air of ideal purity was coupled the most monstrous
perversity ever displayed by any shameless woman. Despite her innocent
blue eyes and lily-like candour, she would give rein, particularly when
she was drunk, to the most diabolical of fancies.

Duvillard let her drink on, but she guessed his thoughts, like she
guessed those of the others, and simply smiled while concocting
impossible stories and descanting fantastically in the language of the
gutter. And seeing her there in her dazzling gown fit for a queenly
virgin, and hearing her pour forth the vilest words, they thought her
most wonderfully droll. However, when she had drunk as much champagne as
she cared for and was half crazy, a novel idea suddenly occurred to her.

“I say, my children,” she exclaimed, “we are surely not going to stop
here. It’s so precious slow! You shall take me to the Chamber of
Horrors--eh? just to finish the evening. I want to hear Legras sing ‘La
Chemise,’ that song which all Paris is running to hear him sing.”

But Duvillard indignantly rebelled: “Oh! no,” said he; “most certainly
not. It’s a vile song and I’ll never take you to such an abominable

But she did not appear to hear him. She had already staggered to her feet
and was arranging her hair before a looking-glass. “I used to live at
Montmartre,” she said, “and it’ll amuse me to go back there. And,
besides, I want to know if this Legras is a Legras that I knew, oh! ever
so long ago! Come, up you get, and let us be off!”

“But, my dear girl,” pleaded Duvillard, “we can’t take you into that den
dressed as you are! Just fancy your entering that place in a low-necked
gown and covered with diamonds! Why everyone would jeer at us! Come,
Gerard, just tell her to be a little reasonable.”

Gerard, equally offended by the idea of such a freak, was quite willing
to intervene. But she closed his mouth with her gloved hand and repeated
with the gay obstinacy of intoxication: “Pooh, it will be all the more
amusing if they do jeer at us! Come, let us be off, let us be off,

Thereupon Duthil, who had been listening with a smile and the air of a
man of pleasure whom nothing astonishes or displeases, gallantly took her
part. “But, my dear Baron, everybody goes to the Chamber of Horrors,”
 said he. “Why, I myself have taken the noblest ladies there, and
precisely to hear that song of Legras, which is no worse than anything

“Ah! you hear what Duthil says!” cried Silviane. “He’s a deputy, he is,
and he wouldn’t go there if he thought it would compromise his

Then, as Duvillard still struggled on in despair at the idea of
exhibiting himself with her in such a scandalous place, she became all
the merrier: “Well, my dear fellow, please yourself. I don’t need you.
You and Gerard can go home if you like. But I’m going to Montmartre with
Duthil. You’ll take charge of me, won’t you, Duthil, eh?”

Still, the Baron was in no wise disposed to let the evening finish in
that fashion. The mere idea of it gave him a shock, and he had to resign
himself to the girl’s stubborn caprice. The only consolation he could
think of was to secure Gerard’s presence, for the young man, with some
lingering sense of decorum, still obstinately refused to make one of the
party. So the Baron took his hands and detained him, repeating in urgent
tones that he begged him to come as an essential mark of friendship. And
at last the wife’s lover and daughter’s suitor had to give way to the man
who was the former’s husband and the latter’s father.

Silviane was immensely amused by it all, and, indiscreetly thee-ing and
thou-ing Gerard, suggested that he at least owed the Baron some little
compliance with his wishes.

Duvillard pretended not to hear her. He was listening to Duthil, who told
him that there was a sort of box in a corner of the Chamber of Horrors,
in which one could in some measure conceal oneself. And then, as
Silviane’s carriage--a large closed landau, whose coachman, a sturdy,
handsome fellow, sat waiting impassively on his box--was down below, they
started off.

The Chamber of Horrors was installed in premises on the Boulevard de
Rochechouart, formerly occupied by a cafe whose proprietor had become
bankrupt.* It was a suffocating place, narrow, irregular, with all sorts
of twists, turns, and secluded nooks, and a low and smoky ceiling. And
nothing could have been more rudimentary than its decorations. The walls
had simply been placarded with posters of violent hues, some of the
crudest character, showing the barest of female figures. Behind a piano
at one end there was a little platform reached by a curtained doorway.
For the rest, one simply found a number of bare wooden forms set
alongside the veriest pot-house tables, on which the glasses containing
various beverages left round and sticky marks. There was no luxury, no
artistic feature, no cleanliness even. Globeless gas burners flared
freely, heating a dense mist compounded of tobacco smoke and human
breath. Perspiring, apoplectical faces could be perceived through this
veil, and an acrid odour increased the intoxication of the assembly,
which excited itself with louder and louder shouts at each fresh song. It
had been sufficient for an enterprising fellow to set up these boards,
bring out Legras, accompanied by two or three girls, make him sing his
frantic and abominable songs, and in two or three evenings overwhelming
success had come, all Paris being enticed and flocking to the place,
which for ten years or so had failed to pay as a mere cafe, where by way
of amusement petty cits had been simply allowed their daily games at

  * Those who know Paris will identify the site selected by M. Zola
    as that where ‘Colonel’ Lisbonne of the Commune installed his
    den the ‘Bagne’ some years ago. Nevertheless, such places as the
    ‘Chamber of Horrors’ now abound in the neighbourhood of
    Montmartre, and it must be admitted that whilst they are
    frequented by certain classes of Frenchmen they owe much of
    their success in a pecuniary sense to the patronage of
    foreigners. Among the latter, Englishmen are particularly

And the change had been caused by the passion for filth, the irresistible
attraction exercised by all that brought opprobrium and disgust. The
Paris of enjoyment, the _bourgeoisie_ which held all wealth and power,
which would relinquish naught of either, though it was surfeited and
gradually wearying of both, simply hastened to the place in order that
obscenity and insult might be flung in its face. Hypnotised, as it were,
while staggering to its fall, it felt a need of being spat upon. And what
a frightful symptom there lay in it all: those condemned ones rushing
upon dirt of their own accord, voluntarily hastening their own
decomposition by that unquenchable thirst for the vile, which attracted
men, reputed to be grave and upright, and lovely women of the most
perfect grace and luxury, to all the beastliness of that low den!

At one of the tables nearest the stage sat little Princess Rosemonde de
Harn, with wild eyes and quivering nostrils, delighted as she felt at now
being able to satisfy her curiosity regarding the depths of Paris life.
Young Hyacinthe had resigned himself to the task of bringing her, and,
correctly buttoned up in his long frock-coat, he was indulgent enough to
refrain from any marked expression of boredom. At a neighbouring table
they had found a shadowy Spaniard of their acquaintance, a so-called
Bourse jobber, Bergaz, who had been introduced to the Princess by Janzen,
and usually attended her entertainments. They virtually knew nothing
about him, not even if he really earned at the Bourse all the money which
he sometimes spent so lavishly, and which enabled him to dress with
affected elegance. His slim, lofty figure was not without a certain air
of distinction, but his red lips spoke of strong passions and his bright
eyes were those of a beast of prey. That evening he had two young fellows
with him, one Rossi, a short, swarthy Italian, who had come to Paris as a
painter’s model, and had soon glided into the lazy life of certain
disreputable callings, and the other, Sanfaute, a born Parisian
blackguard, a pale, beardless, vicious and impudent stripling of La
Chapelle, whose long curly hair fell down upon either side of his bony

“Oh! pray now!” feverishly said Rosemonde to Bergaz; “as you seem to know
all these horrid people, just show me some of the celebrities. Aren’t
there some thieves and murderers among them?”

He laughed shrilly, and in a bantering way replied: “But you know these
people well enough, madame. That pretty, pink, delicate-looking woman
over yonder is an American lady, the wife of a consul, whom, I believe,
you receive at your house. That other on the right, that tall brunette
who shows such queenly dignity, is a Countess, whose carriage passes
yours every day in the Bois. And the thin one yonder, whose eyes glitter
like those of a she-wolf, is the particular friend of a high official,
who is well known for his reputation of austerity.”

But she stopped him, in vexation: “I know, I know. But the others, those
of the lower classes, those whom one comes to see.”

Then she went on asking questions, and seeking for terrifying and
mysterious countenances. At last, two men seated in a corner ended by
attracting her attention; one of them a very young fellow with a pale,
pinched face, and the other an ageless individual who, besides being
buttoned up to his neck in an old coat, had pulled his cap so low over
his eyes, that one saw little of his face beyond the beard which fringed
it. Before these two stood a couple of mugs of beer, which they drank
slowly and in silence.

“You are making a great mistake, my dear,” said Hyacinthe with a frank
laugh, “if you are looking for brigands in disguise. That poor fellow
with the pale face, who surely doesn’t have food to eat every day, was my
schoolfellow at Condorcet!”

Bergaz expressed his amazement. “What! you knew Mathis at Condorcet!
After all, though, you’re right, he received a college education. Ah! and
so you knew him. A very remarkable young man he is, though want is
throttling him. But, I say, the other one, his companion, you don’t know

Hyacinthe, after looking at the man with the cap-hidden face, was already
shaking his head, when Bergaz suddenly gave him a nudge as a signal to
keep quiet, and by way of explanation he muttered: “Hush! Here’s
Raphanel. I’ve been distrusting him for some time past. Whenever he
appears anywhere, the police is not far off.”

Raphanel was another of the vague, mysterious Anarchists whom Janzen had
presented to the Princess by way of satisfying her momentary passion for
revolutionism. This one, though he was a fat, gay, little man, with a
doll-like face and childish nose, which almost disappeared between his
puffy cheeks, had the reputation of being a thorough desperado; and at
public meetings he certainly shouted for fire and murder with all his
lungs. Still, although he had already been compromised in various
affairs, he had invariably managed to save his own bacon, whilst his
companions were kept under lock and key; and this they were now beginning
to think somewhat singular.

He at once shook hands with the Princess in a jovial way, took a seat
near her without being invited, and forthwith denounced the dirty
_bourgeoisie_ which came to wallow in places of ill fame. Rosemonde was
delighted, and encouraged him, but others near by began to get angry, and
Bergaz examined him with his piercing eyes, like a man of energy who
acts, and lets others talk. Now and then, too, he exchanged quick glances
of intelligence with his silent lieutenants, Sanfaute and Rossi, who
plainly belonged to him, both body and soul. They were the ones who found
their profit in Anarchy, practising it to its logical conclusions,
whether in crime or in vice.

Meantime, pending the arrival of Legras with his “Flowers of the
Pavement,” two female vocalists had followed one another on the stage,
the first fat and the second thin, one chirruping some silly love songs
with an under-current of dirt, and the other shouting the coarsest of
refrains, in a most violent, fighting voice. She had just finished amidst
a storm of bravos, when the assembly, stirred to merriment and eager for
a laugh, suddenly exploded once more. Silviane was entering the little
box at one end of the hall. When she appeared erect in the full light,
with bare arms and shoulders, looking like a planet in her gown of yellow
satin and her blazing diamonds, there arose a formidable uproar, shouts,
jeers, hisses, laughing and growling, mingled with ferocious applause.
And the scandal increased, and the vilest expressions flew about as soon
as Duvillard, Gerard and Duthil also showed themselves, looking very
serious and dignified with their white ties and spreading shirt fronts.

“We told you so!” muttered Duvillard, who was much annoyed with the
affair, while Gerard tried to conceal himself in a dim corner.

She, however, smiling and enchanted, faced the public, accepting the
storm with the candid bearing of a foolish virgin, much as one inhales
the vivifying air of the open when it bears down upon one in a squall.
And, indeed, she herself had sprung from the sphere before her, its
atmosphere was her native air.

“Well, what of it?” she said replying to the Baron who wanted her to sit
down. “They are merry. It’s very nice. Oh! I’m really amusing myself!”

“Why, yes, it’s very nice,” declared Duthil, who in like fashion set
himself at his ease. “Silviane is right, people naturally like a laugh
now and then!”

Amidst the uproar, which did not cease, little Princess Rosemonde rose
enthusiastically to get a better view. “Why, it’s your father who’s with
that woman Silviane,” she said to Hyacinthe. “Just look at them! Well, he
certainly has plenty of bounce to show himself here with her!”

Hyacinthe, however, refused to look. It didn’t interest him, his father
was an idiot, only a child would lose his head over a girl in that
fashion. And with his contempt for woman the young man became positively

“You try my nerves, my dear fellow,” said Rosemonde as she sat down. “You
are the child with your silly ideas about us. And as for your father, he
does quite right to love that girl. I find her very pretty indeed, quite

Then all at once the uproar ceased, those who had risen resumed their
seats, and the only sound was that of the feverish throb which coursed
through the assembly. Legras had just appeared on the platform. He was a
pale sturdy fellow with a round and carefully shaven face, stern eyes,
and the powerful jaws of a man who compels the adoration of women by
terrorising them. He was not deficient in talent, he sang true, and his
ringing voice was one of extraordinary penetration and pathetic power.
And his _repertoire_, his “Flowers of the Pavement,” completed the
explanation of his success; for all the foulness and suffering of the
lower spheres, the whole abominable sore of the social hell created by
the rich, shrieked aloud in these songs in words of filth and fire and

A prelude was played on the piano, and Legras standing there in his
velvet jacket sang “La Chemise,” the horrible song which brought all
Paris to hear him. All the lust and vice that crowd the streets of the
great city appeared with their filth and their poison; and amid the
picture of Woman stripped, degraded, ill-treated, dragged through the
mire and cast into a cesspool, there rang out the crime of the
_bourgeoisie_. But the scorching insult of it all was less in the words
themselves than in the manner in which Legras cast them in the faces of
the rich, the happy, the beautiful ladies who came to listen to him.
Under the low ceiling, amidst the smoke from the pipes, in the blinding
glare of the gas, he sent his lines flying through the assembly like
expectorations, projected by a whirlwind of furious contempt. And when he
had finished there came delirium; the beautiful ladies did not even think
of wiping away the many affronts they had received, but applauded
frantically. The whole assembly stamped and shouted, and wallowed,
distracted, in its ignominy.

“Bravo! bravo!” the little Princess repeated in her shrill voice. “It’s
astonishing, astonishing, prodigious!”

And Silviane, whose intoxication seemed to have increased since she had
been there, in the depths of that fiery furnace, made herself
particularly conspicuous by the manner in which she clapped her hands and
shouted: “It’s he, it’s my Legras! I really must kiss him, he’s pleased
me so much!”

Duvillard, now fairly exasperated, wished to take her off by force. But
she clung to the hand-rest of the box, and shouted yet more loudly,
though without any show of temper. It became necessary to parley with
her. Yes, she was willing to go off and let them drive her home; but,
first of all, she must embrace Legras, who was an old friend of hers. “Go
and wait for me in the carriage!” she said, “I will be with you in a

Just as the assembly was at last becoming calmer, Rosemonde perceived
that the box was emptying; and her own curiosity being satisfied, she
thought of prevailing on Hyacinthe to see her home. He, who had listened
to Legras in a languid way without even applauding, was now talking of
Norway with Bergaz, who pretended that he had travelled in the North. Oh!
the fiords! oh! the ice-bound lakes! oh! the pure lily-white, chaste
coldness of the eternal winter! It was only amid such surroundings, said
Hyacinthe, that he could understand woman and love, like a kiss of the
very snow itself.

“Shall we go off there to-morrow?” exclaimed the Princess with her
vivacious effrontery. “I’ll shut up my house and slip the key under the

Then she added that she was jesting, of course. But Bergaz knew her to be
quite capable of such a freak; and at the idea that she might shut up her
little mansion and perhaps leave it unprotected he exchanged a quick
glance with Sanfaute and Rossi, who still smiled in silence. Ah! what an
opportunity for a fine stroke! What an opportunity to get back some of
the wealth of the community appropriated by the blackguard _bourgeoisie_!

Meantime Raphanel, after applauding Legras, was looking all round the
place with his little grey, sharp eyes. And at last young Mathis and his
companion, the ill-clad individual, of whose face only a scrap of beard
could be seen, attracted his attention. They had neither laughed nor
applauded; they seemed to be simply a couple of tired fellows who were
resting, and in whose opinion one is best hidden in the midst of a crowd.

All at once, though, Raphanel turned towards Bergaz: “That’s surely
little Mathis over yonder. But who’s that with him?”

Bergaz made an evasive gesture; he did not know. Still, he no longer took
his eyes from Raphanel. And he saw the other feign indifference at what
followed, and finish his beer and take his leave, with the jesting remark
that he had an appointment with a lady at a neighbouring omnibus office.
No sooner had he gone than Bergaz rose, sprang over some of the forms and
jostled people in order to reach little Mathis, into whose ear he
whispered a few words. And the young man at once left his table, taking
his companion and pushing him outside through an occasional exit. It was
all so rapidly accomplished that none of the general public paid
attention to the flight.

“What is it?” said the Princess to Bergaz, when he had quietly resumed
his seat between Rossi and Sanfaute.

“Oh! nothing, I merely wished to shake hands with Mathis as he was going

Thereupon Rosemonde announced that she meant to do the same.
Nevertheless, she lingered a moment longer and again spoke of Norway on
perceiving that nothing could impassion Hyacinthe except the idea of the
eternal snow, the intense, purifying cold of the polar regions. In his
poem on the “End of Woman,” a composition of some thirty lines, which he
hoped he should never finish, he thought of introducing a forest of
frozen pines by way of final scene. Now the Princess had risen and was
gaily reverting to her jest, declaring that she meant to take him home to
drink a cup of tea and arrange their trip to the Pole, when an
involuntary exclamation fell from Bergaz, who, while listening, had kept
his eyes on the doorway.

“Mondesir! I was sure of it!”

There had appeared at the entrance a short, sinewy, broad-backed little
man, about whose round face, bumpy forehead, and snub nose there was
considerable military roughness. One might have thought him a
non-commissioned officer in civilian attire. He gazed over the whole
room, and seemed at once dismayed and disappointed.

Bergaz, however, wishing to account for his exclamation, resumed in an
easy way: “Ah! I said there was a smell of the police about the place!
You see that fellow--he’s a detective, a very clever one, named Mondesir,
who had some trouble when he was in the army. Just look at him, sniffing
like a dog that has lost scent! Well, well, my brave fellow, if you’ve
been told of any game you may look and look for it, the bird’s flown

Once outside, when Rosemonde had prevailed on Hyacinthe to see her home,
they hastened to get into the brougham, which was waiting for them, for
near at hand they perceived Silviane’s landau, with the majestic coachman
motionless on his box, while Duvillard, Gerard, and Duthil still stood
waiting on the curbstone. They had been there for nearly twenty minutes
already, in the semi-darkness of that outer boulevard, where all the
vices of the poor districts of Paris were on the prowl. They had been
jostled by drunkards; and shadowy women brushed against them as they went
by whispering beneath the oaths and blows of bullies. And there were
couples seeking the darkness under the trees, and lingering on the
benches there; while all around were low taverns and dirty lodging-houses
and places of ill-fame. All the human degradation which till break of day
swarms in the black mud of this part of Paris, enveloped the three men,
giving them the horrors, and yet neither the Baron nor Gerard nor Duthil
was willing to go off. Each hoped that he would tire out the others, and
take Silviane home when she should at last appear.

But after a time the Baron grew impatient, and said to the coachman:
“Jules, go and see why madame doesn’t come.”

“But the horses, Monsieur le Baron?”

“Oh! they will be all right, we are here.”

A fine drizzle had begun to fall; and the wait went on again as if it
would never finish. But an unexpected meeting gave them momentary
occupation. A shadowy form, something which seemed to be a thin,
black-skirted woman, brushed against them. And all of a sudden they were
surprised to find it was a priest.

“What, is it you, Monsieur l’Abbe Froment?” exclaimed Gerard. “At this
time of night? And in this part of Paris?”

Thereupon Pierre, without venturing either to express his own
astonishment at finding them there themselves, or to ask them what they
were doing, explained that he had been belated through accompanying Abbe
Rose on a visit to a night refuge. Ah! to think of all the frightful want
which at last drifted to those pestilential dormitories where the stench
had almost made him faint! To think of all the weariness and despair
which there sank into the slumber of utter prostration, like that of
beasts falling to the ground to sleep off the abominations of life! No
name could be given to the promiscuity; poverty and suffering were there
in heaps, children and men, young and old, beggars in sordid rags, beside
the shameful poor in threadbare frock-coats, all the waifs and strays of
the daily shipwrecks of Paris life, all the laziness and vice, and
ill-luck and injustice which the torrent rolls on, and throws off like
scum. Some slept on, quite annihilated, with the faces of corpses.
Others, lying on their backs with mouths agape, snored loudly as if still
venting the plaint of their sorry life. And others tossed restlessly,
still struggling in their slumber against fatigue and cold and hunger,
which pursued them like nightmares of monstrous shape. And from all those
human beings, stretched there like wounded after a battle, from all that
ambulance of life reeking with a stench of rottenness and death, there
ascended a nausea born of revolt, the vengeance-prompting thought of all
the happy chambers where, at that same hour, the wealthy loved or rested
in fine linen and costly lace.*

  * Even the oldest Paris night refuges, which are the outcome
    of private philanthropy--L’Oeuvre de l’Hospitalite de Nuit--
    have only been in existence some fourteen or fifteen years.
    Before that time, and from the period of the great Revolution
    forward, there was absolutely no place, either refuge, asylum,
    or workhouse, in the whole of that great city of wealth and
    pleasure, where the houseless poor could crave a night’s
    shelter. The various royalist, imperialist and republican
    governments and municipalities of modern France have often
    been described as ‘paternal,’ but no governments and
    municipalities in the whole civilised world have done less for
    the very poor. The official Poor Relief Board--L’Assistance
    Publique--has for fifty years been a by-word, a mockery and a
    sham, in spite of its large revenue. And this neglect of the
    very poor has been an important factor in every French
    revolution. Each of these--even that of 1870--had its purely
    economic side, though many superficial historians are content
    to ascribe economic causes to the one Revolution of 1789, and
    to pass them by in all other instances.--Trans.

In vain had Pierre and Abbe Rose passed all the poor wretches in review
while seeking the big Old’un, the former carpenter, so as to rescue him
from the cesspool of misery, and send him to the Asylum on the very
morrow. He had presented himself at the refuge that evening, but there
was no room left, for, horrible to say, even the shelter of that hell
could only be granted to early comers. And so he must now be leaning
against a wall, or lying behind some palings. This had greatly distressed
poor Abbe Rose and Pierre, but it was impossible for them to search every
dark, suspicious corner; and so the former had returned to the Rue
Cortot, while the latter was seeking a cab to convey him back to Neuilly.

The fine drizzling rain was still falling and becoming almost icy, when
Silviane’s coachman, Jules, at last reappeared and interrupted the
priest, who was telling the Baron and the others how his visit to the
refuge still made him shudder.

“Well, Jules--and madame?” asked Duvillard, quite anxious at seeing the
coachman return alone.

Impassive and respectful, with no other sign of irony than a slight
involuntary twist of the lips, Jules answered: “Madame sends word that
she is not going home; and she places her carriage at the gentlemen’s
disposal if they will allow me to drive them home.”

This was the last straw, and the Baron flew into a passion. To have
allowed her to drag him to that vile den, to have waited there hopefully
so long, and to be treated in this fashion for the sake of a Legras! No,
no, he, the Baron, had had enough of it, and she should pay dearly for
her abominable conduct! Then he stopped a passing cab and pushed Gerard
inside it saying, “You can set me down at my door.”

“But she’s left us the carriage!” shouted Duthil, who was already
consoled, and inwardly laughed at the termination of it all. “Come here,
there’s plenty of room for three. No? you prefer the cab? Well, just as
you like, you know.”

For his part he gaily climbed into the landau and drove off lounging on
the cushions, while the Baron, in the jolting old cab, vented his rage
without a word of interruption from Gerard, whose face was hidden by the
darkness. To think of it! that she, whom he had overwhelmed with gifts,
who had already cost him two millions of francs, should in this fashion
insult him, the master who could dispose both of fortunes and of men!
Well, she had chosen to do it, and he was delivered! Then Duvillard drew
a long breath like a man released from the galleys.

For a moment Pierre watched the two vehicles go off; and then took his
own way under the trees, so as to shelter himself from the rain until a
vacant cab should pass. Full of distress and battling thoughts he had
begun to feel icy cold. The whole monstrous night of Paris, all the
debauchery and woe that sobbed around him made him shiver. Phantom-like
women who, when young, had led lives of infamy in wealth, and who now,
old and faded, led lives of infamy in poverty, were still and ever
wandering past him in search of bread, when suddenly a shadowy form
grazed him, and a voice murmured in his ear: “Warn your brother, the
police are on Salvat’s track, he may be arrested at any moment.”

The shadowy figure was already going its way, and as a gas ray fell upon
it, Pierre thought that he recognised the pale, pinched face of Victor
Mathis. And at the same time, yonder in Abbe Rose’s peaceful dining-room,
he fancied he could again see the gentle face of Madame Mathis, so sad
and so resigned, living on solely by the force of the last trembling hope
which she had unhappily set in her son.


ALREADY at eight o’clock on that holiday-making mid-Lent Thursday, when
all the offices of the Home Department were empty, Monferrand, the
Minister, sat alone in his private room. A single usher guarded his door,
and in the first ante-chamber there were only a couple of messengers.

The Minister had experienced, on awaking, the most unpleasant of
emotions. The “Voix du Peuple,” which on the previous day had revived the
African Railway scandal, by accusing Barroux of having pocketed 20,000
francs, had that morning published its long-promised list of the
bribe-taking senators and deputies. And at the head of this list
Monferrand had found his own name set down against a sum of 80,000
francs, while Fonsegue was credited with 50,000. Then a fifth of the
latter amount was said to have been Duthil’s share, and Chaigneux had
contented himself with the beggarly sum of 3,000 francs--the lowest price
paid for any one vote, the cost of each of the others ranging from 5 to

It must be said that there was no anger in Monferrand’s emotion. Only he
had never thought that Sagnier would carry his passion for uproar and
scandal so far as to publish this list--a page which was said to have
been torn from a memorandum book belonging to Duvillard’s agent, Hunter,
and which was covered with incomprehensible hieroglyphics that ought to
have been discussed and explained, if, indeed, the real truth was to be
arrived at. Personally, Monferrand felt quite at ease, for he had written
nothing, signed nothing, and knew that one could always extricate oneself
from a mess by showing some audacity, and never confessing. Nevertheless,
what a commotion it would all cause in the parliamentary duck-pond. He at
once realised the inevitable consequences, the ministry overthrown and
swept away by this fresh whirlwind of denunciation and tittle-tattle.
Mege would renew his interpellation on the morrow, and Vignon and his
friends would at once lay siege to the posts they coveted. And he,
Monferrand, could picture himself driven out of that ministerial sanctum
where, for eight months past, he had been taking his ease, not with any
foolish vainglory, but with the pleasure of feeling that he was in his
proper place as a born ruler, who believed he could tame and lead the

Having thrown the newspapers aside with a disdainful gesture, he rose and
stretched himself, growling the while like a plagued lion. And then he
began to walk up and down the spacious room, which showed all the faded
official luxury of mahogany furniture and green damask hangings. Stepping
to and fro, with his hands behind his back, he no longer wore his usual
fatherly, good-natured air. He appeared as he really was, a born
wrestler, short, but broad shouldered, with sensual mouth, fleshy nose
and stern eyes, that all proclaimed him to be unscrupulous, of iron will
and fit for the greatest tasks. Still, in this case, in what direction
lay his best course? Must he let himself be dragged down with Barroux?
Perhaps his personal position was not absolutely compromised? And yet how
could he part company from the others, swim ashore, and save himself
while they were being drowned? It was a grave problem, and with his
frantic desire to retain power, he made desperate endeavours to devise
some suitable manoeuvre.

But he could think of nothing, and began to swear at the virtuous fits of
that silly Republic, which, in his opinion, rendered all government
impossible. To think of such foolish fiddle-faddle stopping a man of his
acumen and strength! How on earth can one govern men if one is denied the
use of money, that sovereign means of sway? And he laughed bitterly; for
the idea of an idyllic country where all great enterprises would be
carried out in an absolutely honest manner seemed to him the height of

At last, however, unable as he was to come to a determination, it
occurred to him to confer with Baron Duvillard, whom he had long known,
and whom he regretted not having seen sooner so as to urge him to
purchase Sagnier’s silence. At first he thought of sending the Baron a
brief note by a messenger; but he disliked committing anything to paper,
for the veriest scrap of writing may prove dangerous; so he preferred to
employ the telephone which had been installed for his private use near
his writing-table.

“It is Baron Duvillard who is speaking to me?... Quite so. It’s I, the
Minister, Monsieur Monferrand. I shall be much obliged if you will come
to see me at once.... Quite so, quite so, I will wait for you.”

Then again he walked to and fro and meditated. That fellow Duvillard was
as clever a man as himself, and might be able to give him an idea. And he
was still laboriously trying to devise some scheme, when the usher
entered saying that Monsieur Gascogne, the Chief of the Detective Police,
particularly wished to speak to him. Monferrand’s first thought was that
the Prefecture of Police desired to know his views respecting the steps
which ought to be taken to ensure public order that day; for two mid-Lent
processions--one of the Washerwomen and the other of the Students--were
to march through Paris, whose streets would certainly be crowded.

“Show Monsieur Gascogne in,” he said.

A tall, slim, dark man, looking like an artisan in his Sunday best, then
stepped into the ministerial sanctum. Fully acquainted with the
under-currents of Paris life, this Chief of the Detective Force had a
cold dispassionate nature and a clear and methodical mind.
Professionalism slightly spoilt him, however: he would have possessed
more intelligence if he had not credited himself with so much.

He began by apologising for his superior the Prefect, who would certainly
have called in person had he not been suffering from indisposition.
However, it was perhaps best that he, Gascogne, should acquaint Monsieur
le Ministre with the grave affair which brought him, for he knew every
detail of it. Then he revealed what the grave affair was.

“I believe, Monsieur le Ministre, that we at last hold the perpetrator of
the crime in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy.”

At this, Monferrand, who had been listening impatiently, became quite
impassioned. The fruitless searches of the police, the attacks and the
jeers of the newspapers, were a source of daily worry to him. “Ah!--Well,
so much the better for you Monsieur Gascogne,” he replied with brutal
frankness. “You would have ended by losing your post. The man is

“Not yet, Monsieur le Ministre; but he cannot escape, and it is merely an
affair of a few hours.”

Then the Chief of the Detective Force told the whole story: how Detective
Mondesir, on being warned by a secret agent that the Anarchist Salvat was
in a tavern at Montmartre, had reached it just as the bird had flown;
then how chance had again set him in presence of Salvat at a hundred
paces or so from the tavern, the rascal having foolishly loitered there
to watch the establishment; and afterwards how Salvat had been stealthily
shadowed in the hope that they might catch him in his hiding-place with
his accomplices. And, in this wise, he had been tracked to the
Porte-Maillot, where, realising, no doubt, that he was pursued, he had
suddenly bolted into the Bois de Boulogne. It was there that he had been
hiding since two o’clock in the morning in the drizzle which had not
ceased to fall. They had waited for daylight in order to organise a
_battue_ and hunt him down like some animal, whose weariness must
necessarily ensure capture. And so, from one moment to another, he would
be caught.

“I know the great interest you take in the arrest, Monsieur le Ministre,”
 added Gascogne, “and it occurred to me to ask your orders. Detective
Mondesir is over there, directing the hunt. He regrets that he did not
apprehend the man on the Boulevard de Rochechouart; but, all the same,
the idea of following him was a capital one, and one can only reproach
Mondesir with having forgotten the Bois de Boulogne in his calculations.”

Salvat arrested! That fellow Salvat whose name had filled the newspapers
for three weeks past. This was a most fortunate stroke which would be
talked of far and wide! In the depths of Monferrand’s fixed eyes one
could divine a world of thoughts and a sudden determination to turn this
incident which chance had brought him to his own personal advantage. In
his own mind a link was already forming between this arrest and that
African Railways interpellation which was likely to overthrow the
ministry on the morrow. The first outlines of a scheme already rose
before him. Was it not his good star that had sent him what he had been
seeking--a means of fishing himself out of the troubled waters of the
approaching crisis?

“But tell me, Monsieur Gascogne,” said he, “are you quite sure that this
man Salvat committed the crime?”

“Oh! perfectly sure, Monsieur le Ministre. He’ll confess everything in
the cab before he reaches the Prefecture.”

Monferrand again walked to and fro with a pensive air, and ideas came to
him as he spoke on in a slow, meditative fashion. “My orders! well, my
orders, they are, first, that you must act with the very greatest
prudence. Yes, don’t gather a mob of promenaders together. Try to arrange
things so that the arrest may pass unperceived--and if you secure a
confession keep it to yourself, don’t communicate it to the newspapers.
Yes, I particularly recommend that point to you, don’t take the
newspapers into your confidence at all--and finally, come and tell me
everything, and observe secrecy, absolute secrecy, with everybody else.”

Gascogne bowed and would have withdrawn, but Monferrand detained him to
say that not a day passed without his friend Monsieur Lehmann, the Public
Prosecutor, receiving letters from Anarchists who threatened to blow him
up with his family; in such wise that, although he was by no means a
coward, he wished his house to be guarded by plain-clothes officers. A
similar watch was already kept upon the house where investigating
magistrate Amadieu resided. And if the latter’s life was precious, that
of Public Prosecutor Lehmann was equally so, for he was one of those
political magistrates, one of those shrewd talented Israelites, who make
their way in very honest fashion by invariably taking the part of the
Government in office.

Then Gascogne in his turn remarked: “There is also the Barthes affair,
Monsieur le Ministre--we are still waiting. Are we to arrest Barthes at
that little house at Neuilly?”

One of those chances which sometimes come to the help of detectives and
make people think the latter to be men of genius had revealed to him the
circumstance that Barthes had found a refuge with Abbe Pierre Froment.
Ever since the Anarchist terror had thrown Paris into dismay a warrant
had been out against the old man, not for any precise offence, but simply
because he was a suspicious character and might, therefore, have had some
intercourse with the Revolutionists. However, it had been repugnant to
Gascogne to arrest him at the house of a priest whom the whole district
venerated as a saint; and the Minister, whom he had consulted on the
point, had warmly approved of his reserve, since a member of the clergy
was in question, and had undertaken to settle the affair himself.

“No, Monsieur Gascogne,” he now replied, “don’t move in the matter. You
know what my feelings are, that we ought to have the priests with us and
not against us--I have had a letter written to Abbe Froment in order that
he may call here this morning, as I shall have no other visitors. I will
speak to him myself, and you may take it that the affair no longer
concerns you.”

Then he was about to dismiss him when the usher came back saying that the
President of the Council was in the ante-room.*

  * The title of President of the Council is given to the French
    prime minister.--Trans.

“Barroux!--Ah! dash it, then, Monsieur Gascogne, you had better go out
this way. It is as well that nobody should meet you, as I wish you to
keep silent respecting Salvat’s arrest. It’s fully understood, is it not?
I alone am to know everything; and you will communicate with me here
direct, by the telephone, if any serious incident should arise.”

The Chief of the Detective Police had scarcely gone off, by way of an
adjoining _salon_, when the usher reopened the door communicating with
the ante-room: “Monsieur le President du Conseil.”

With a nicely adjusted show of deference and cordiality, Monferrand
stepped forward, his hands outstretched: “Ah! my dear President, why did
you put yourself out to come here? I would have called on you if I had
known that you wished to see me.”

But with an impatient gesture Barroux brushed aside all question of
etiquette. “No, no! I was taking my usual stroll in the Champs Elysees,
and the worries of the situation impressed me so keenly that I preferred
to come here at once. You yourself must realise that we can’t put up with
what is taking place. And pending to-morrow morning’s council, when we
shall have to arrange a plan of defence, I felt that there was good
reason for us to talk things over.”

He took an armchair, and Monferrand on his side rolled another forward so
as to seat himself with his back to the light. Whilst Barroux, the elder
of the pair by ten years, blanched and solemn, with a handsome face,
snowy whiskers, clean-shaven chin and upper-lip, retained all the dignity
of power, the bearing of a Conventionnel of romantic views, who sought to
magnify the simple loyalty of a rather foolish but good-hearted
_bourgeois_ nature into something great; the other, beneath his heavy
common countenance and feigned frankness and simplicity, concealed
unknown depths, the unfathomable soul of a shrewd enjoyer and despot who
was alike pitiless and unscrupulous in attaining his ends.

For a moment Barroux drew breath, for in reality he was greatly moved,
his blood rising to his head, and his heart beating with indignation and
anger at the thought of all the vulgar insults which the “Voix du Peuple”
 had poured upon him again that morning. “Come, my dear colleague,” said
he, “one must stop that scandalous campaign. Moreover, you can realise
what awaits us at the Chamber to-morrow. Now that the famous list has
been published we shall have every malcontent up in arms. Vignon is
bestirring himself already--”

“Ah! you have news of Vignon?” exclaimed Monferrand, becoming very

“Well, as I passed his door just now, I saw a string of cabs waiting
there. All his creatures have been on the move since yesterday, and at
least twenty persons have told me that the band is already dividing the
spoils. For, as you must know, the fierce and ingenuous Mege is again
going to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for others. Briefly, we are
dead, and the others claim that they are going to bury us in mud before
they fight over our leavings.” With his arm outstretched Barroux made a
theatrical gesture, and his voice resounded as if he were in the tribune.
Nevertheless, his emotion was real, tears even were coming to his eyes.
“To think that I who have given my whole life to the Republic, I who
founded it, who saved it, should be covered with insults in this fashion,
and obliged to defend myself against abominable charges! To say that I
abused my trust! That I sold myself and took 200,000 francs from that man
Hunter, simply to slip them into my pocket! Well, certainly there _was_ a
question of 200,000 francs between us. But how and under what
circumstances? They were doubtless the same as in your case, with regard
to the 80,000 francs that he is said to have handed you--”

But Monferrand interrupted his colleague in a clear trenchant voice: “He
never handed me a centime.”

The other looked at him in astonishment, but could only see his big,
rough head, whose features were steeped in shadow: “Ah! But I thought you
had business relations with him, and knew him particularly well.”

“No, I simply knew Hunter as everyone knew him. I was not even aware that
he was Baron Duvillard’s agent in the African Railways matter; and there
was never any question of that affair between us.”

This was so improbable, so contrary to everything Barroux knew of the
business, that for a moment he felt quite scared. Then he waved his hand
as if to say that others might as well look after their own affairs, and
reverted to himself. “Oh! as for me,” he said, “Hunter called on me more
than ten times, and made me quite sick with his talk of the African
Railways. It was at the time when the Chamber was asked to authorise the
issue of lottery stock.* And, by the way, my dear fellow, I was then here
at the Home Department, while you had just taken that of Public Works. I
can remember sitting at that very writing-table, while Hunter was in the
same armchair that I now occupy. That day he wanted to consult me about
the employment of the large sum which Duvillard’s house proposed to spend
in advertising; and on seeing what big amounts were set down against the
Royalist journals, I became quite angry, for I realised with perfect
accuracy that this money would simply be used to wage war against the
Republic. And so, yielding to Hunter’s entreaties, I also drew up a list
allotting 200,000 francs among the friendly Republican newspapers, which
were paid through me, I admit it. And that’s the whole story.” **

  * This kind of stock is common enough in France. A part of it is
    extinguished annually at a public “drawing,” when all such
    shares or bonds that are drawn become entitled to redemption
    at “par,” a percentage of them also securing prizes of various
    amounts. City of Paris Bonds issued on this system are very
    popular among French people with small savings; but, on the
    other hand, many ventures, whose lottery stock has been
    authorised by the Legislature, have come to grief and ruined

  ** All who are acquainted with recent French history will be
    aware that Barroux’ narrative is simply a passage from the
    life of the late M. Floquet, slightly modified to suit the
    requirements of M. Zola’s story.--Trans.

Then he sprang to his feet and struck his chest, whilst his voice again
rose: “Well, I’ve had more than enough of all that calumny and falsehood!
And I shall simply tell the Chamber my story to-morrow. It will be my
only defence. An honest man does not fear the truth!”

But Monferrand, in his turn, had sprung up with a cry which was a
complete confession of his principles: “It’s ridiculous, one never
confesses; you surely won’t do such a thing!”

“I shall,” retorted Barroux with superb obstinacy. “And we shall see if
the Chamber won’t absolve me by acclamation.”

“No, you will fall beneath an explosion of hisses, and drag all of us
down with you.”

“What does it matter? We shall fall with dignity, like honest men!”

Monferrand made a gesture of furious anger, and then suddenly became
calm. Amidst all the anxious confusion in which he had been struggling
since daybreak, a gleam now dawned upon him. The vague ideas suggested by
Salvat’s approaching arrest took shape, and expanded into an audacious
scheme. Why should he prevent the fall of that big ninny Barroux? The
only thing of importance was that he, Monferrand, should not fall with
him, or at any rate that he should rise again. So he protested no
further, but merely mumbled a few words, in which his rebellious feeling
seemingly died out. And at last, putting on his good-natured air once
more, he said: “Well, after all you are perhaps right. One must be brave.
Besides, you are our head, my dear President, and we will follow you.”

They had now again sat down face to face, and their conversation
continued till they came to a cordial agreement respecting the course
which the Government should adopt in view of the inevitable
interpellation on the morrow.

Meantime, Baron Duvillard was on his way to the ministry. He had scarcely
slept that night. When on the return from Montmartre Gerard had set him
down at his door in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, he had at once gone to bed,
like a man who is determined to compel sleep, so that he may forget his
worries and recover self-control. But slumber would not come; for hours
and hours he vainly sought it. The manner in which he had been insulted
by that creature Silviane was so monstrous! To think that she, whom he
had enriched, whose every desire he had contented, should have cast such
mud at him, the master, who flattered himself that he held Paris and the
Republic in his hands, since he bought up and controlled consciences just
as others might make corners in wool or leather for the purposes of
Bourse speculation. And the dim consciousness that Silviane was the
avenging sore, the cancer preying on him who preyed on others, completed
his exasperation. In vain did he try to drive away his haunting thoughts,
remember his business affairs, his appointments for the morrow, his
millions which were working in every quarter of the world, the financial
omnipotence which placed the fate of nations in his grasp. Ever, and in
spite of all, Silviane rose up before him, splashing him with mud. In
despair he tried to fix his mind on a great enterprise which he had been
planning for months past, a Trans-Saharan railway, a colossal venture
which would set millions of money at work, and revolutionise the trade of
the world. And yet Silviane appeared once more, and smacked him on both
cheeks with her dainty little hand, which she had dipped in the gutter.
It was only towards daybreak that he at last dozed off, while vowing in a
fury that he would never see her again, that he would spurn her, and
order her away, even should she come and drag herself at his feet.

However, when he awoke at seven, still tired and aching, his first
thought was for her, and he almost yielded to a fit of weakness. The idea
came to him to ascertain if she had returned home, and if so make his
peace. But he jumped out of bed, and after his ablutions he recovered all
his bravery. She was a wretch, and he this time thought himself for ever
cured of his passion. To tell the truth, he forgot it as soon as he
opened the morning newspapers. The publication of the list of
bribe-takers in the “Voix du Peuple” quite upset him, for he had hitherto
thought it unlikely that Sagnier held any such list. However, he judged
the document at a glance, at once separating the few truths it contained
from a mass of foolishness and falsehood. And this time also he did not
consider himself personally in danger. There was only one thing that he
really feared: the arrest of his intermediary, Hunter, whose trial might
have drawn him into the affair. As matters stood, and as he did not cease
to repeat with a calm and smiling air, he had merely done what every
banking-house does when it issues stock, that is, pay the press for
advertisements and puffery, employ brokers, and reward services
discreetly rendered to the enterprise. It was all a business matter, and
for him that expression summed up everything. Moreover, he played the
game of life bravely, and spoke with indignant contempt of a banker who,
distracted and driven to extremities by blackmailing, had imagined that
he would bring a recent scandal to an end by killing himself: a pitiful
tragedy, from all the mire and blood of which the scandal had sprouted
afresh with the most luxuriant and indestructible vegetation. No, no!
suicide was not the course to follow: a man ought to remain erect, and
struggle on to his very last copper, and the very end of his energy.

At about nine o’clock a ringing brought Duvillard to the telephone
installed in his private room. And then his folly took possession of him
once more: it must be Silviane who wished to speak to him. She often
amused herself by thus disturbing him amidst his greatest cares. No doubt
she had just returned home, realising that she had carried things too far
on the previous evening and desiring to be forgiven. However, when he
found that the call was from Monferrand, who wished him to go to the
ministry, he shivered slightly, like a man saved from the abyss beside
which he is travelling. And forthwith he called for his hat and stick,
desirous as he was of walking and reflecting in the open air. And again
he became absorbed in the intricacies of the scandalous business which
was about to stir all Paris and the legislature. Kill himself! ah, no,
that would be foolish and cowardly. A gust of terror might be sweeping
past; nevertheless, for his part he felt quite firm, superior to events,
and resolved to defend himself without relinquishing aught of his power.

As soon as he entered the ante-rooms of the ministry he realised that the
gust of terror was becoming a tempest. The publication of the terrible
list in the “Voix du Peuple” had chilled the guilty ones to the heart;
and, pale and distracted, feeling the ground give way beneath them, they
had come to take counsel of Monferrand, who, they hoped, might save them.
The first whom Duvillard perceived was Duthil, looking extremely
feverish, biting his moustaches, and constantly making grimaces in his
efforts to force a smile. The banker scolded him for coming, saying that
it was a great mistake to have done so, particularly with such a scared
face. The deputy, however, his spirits already cheered by these rough
words, began to defend himself, declaring that he had not even read
Sagnier’s article, and had simply come to recommend a lady friend to the
Minister. Thereupon the Baron undertook this business for him and sent
him away with the wish that he might spend a merry mid-Lent. However, the
one who most roused Duvillard’s pity was Chaigneux, whose figure swayed
about as if bent by the weight of his long equine head, and who looked so
shabby and untidy that one might have taken him for an old pauper. On
recognising the banker he darted forward, and bowed to him with
obsequious eagerness.

“Ah! Monsieur le Baron,” said he, “how wicked some men must be! They are
killing me, I shall die of it all; and what will become of my wife, what
will become of my three daughters, who have none but me to help them?”

The whole of his woeful story lay in that lament. A victim of politics,
he had been foolish enough to quit Arras and his business there as a
solicitor, in order to seek triumph in Paris with his wife and daughters,
whose menial he had then become--a menial dismayed by the constant
rebuffs and failures which his mediocrity brought upon him. An honest
deputy! ah, good heavens! yes, he would have liked to be one; but was he
not perpetually “hard-up,” ever in search of a hundred-franc note, and
thus, perforce, a deputy for sale? And withal he led such a pitiable
life, so badgered by the women folk about him, that to satisfy their
demands he would have picked up money no matter where or how.

“Just fancy, Monsieur le Baron, I have at last found a husband for my
eldest girl. It is the first bit of luck that I have ever had; there will
only be three women left on my hands if it comes off. But you can imagine
what a disastrous impression such an article as that of this morning must
create in the young man’s family. So I have come to see the Minister to
beg him to give my future son-in-law a prefectoral secretaryship. I have
already promised him the post, and if I can secure it things may yet be

He looked so terribly shabby and spoke in such a doleful voice that it
occurred to Duvillard to do one of those good actions on which he
ventured at times when they were likely to prove remunerative
investments. It is, indeed, an excellent plan to give a crust of bread to
some poor devil whom one can turn, if necessary, into a valet or an
accomplice. So the banker dismissed Chaigneux, undertaking to do his
business for him in the same way as he had undertaken to do Duthil’s. And
he added that he would be pleased to see him on the morrow, and have a
chat with him, as he might be able to help him in the matter of his
daughter’s marriage.

At this Chaigneux, scenting a loan, collapsed into the most lavish
thanks. “Ah! Monsieur le Baron, my life will not be long enough to enable
me to repay such a debt of gratitude.”

As Duvillard turned round he was surprised to see Abbe Froment waiting in
a corner of the ante-room. Surely that one could not belong to the batch
of _suspects_, although by the manner in which he was pretending to read
a newspaper it seemed as if he were trying to hide some keen anxiety. At
last the Baron stepped forward, shook hands, and spoke to him cordially.
And Pierre thereupon related that he had received a letter requesting him
to call on the Minister that day. Why, he could not tell; in fact, he was
greatly surprised, he said, putting on a smile in order to conceal his
disquietude. He had been waiting a long time already, and hoped that he
would not be forgotten on that bench.

Just then the usher appeared, and hastened up to the banker. “The
Minister,” said he, “was at that moment engaged with the President of the
Council; but he had orders to admit the Baron as soon as the President
withdrew.” Almost immediately afterwards Barroux came out, and as
Duvillard was about to enter he recognised and detained him. And he spoke
of the denunciations very bitterly, like one indignant with all the
slander. Would not he, Duvillard, should occasion require it, testify
that he, Barroux, had never taken a centime for himself? Then, forgetting
that he was speaking to a banker, and that he was Minister of Finances,
he proceeded to express all his disgust of money. Ah! what poisonous,
murky, and defiling waters were those in which money-making went on!
However, he repeated that he would chastise his insulters, and that a
statement of the truth would suffice for the purpose.

Duvillard listened and looked at him. And all at once the thought of
Silviane came back, and took possession of the Baron, without any attempt
on his part to drive it away. He reflected that if Barroux had chosen to
give him a helping hand when he had asked for it, Silviane would now have
been at the Comedie Francaise, in which case the deplorable affair of the
previous night would not have occurred; for he was beginning to regard
himself as guilty in the matter; if he had only contented Silviane’s whim
she would never have dismissed him in so vile a fashion.

“You know, I owe you a grudge,” he said, interrupting Barroux.

The other looked at him in astonishment. “And why, pray?” he asked.

“Why, because you never helped me in the matter of that friend of mine
who wishes to make her _debut_ in ‘Polyeucte.’”

Barroux smiled, and with amiable condescension replied: “Ah! yes,
Silviane d’Aulnay! But, my dear sir, it was Taboureau who put spokes in
the wheel. The Fine Arts are his department, and the question was
entirely one for him. And I could do nothing; for that very worthy and
honest gentleman, who came to us from a provincial faculty, was full of
scruples. For my own part I’m an old Parisian, I can understand anything,
and I should have been delighted to please you.”

At this fresh resistance offered to his passion Duvillard once more
became excited, eager to obtain that which was denied him. “Taboureau,
Taboureau!” said he, “he’s a nice deadweight for you to load yourself
with! Honest! isn’t everybody honest? Come, my dear Minister, there’s
still time, get Silviane admitted, it will bring you good luck for

This time Barroux burst into a frank laugh: “No, no, I can’t cast
Taboureau adrift at this moment--people would make too much sport of
it--a ministry wrecked or saved by a Silviane question!”

Then he offered his hand before going off. The Baron pressed it, and for
a moment retained it in his own, whilst saying very gravely and with a
somewhat pale face: “You do wrong to laugh, my dear Minister. Governments
have fallen or set themselves erect again through smaller matters than
that. And should you fall to-morrow I trust that you will never have
occasion to regret it.”

Wounded to the heart by the other’s jesting air, exasperated by the idea
that there was something he could not achieve, Duvillard watched Barroux
as he withdrew. Most certainly the Baron did not desire a reconciliation
with Silviane, but he vowed that he would overturn everything if
necessary in order to send her a signed engagement for the Comedie, and
this simply by way of vengeance, as a slap, so to say,--yes, a slap which
would make her tingle! That moment spent with Barroux had been a decisive

However, whilst still following Barroux with his eyes, Duvillard was
surprised to see Fonsegue arrive and manoeuvre in such a way as to escape
the Prime Minister’s notice. He succeeded in doing so, and then entered
the ante-room with an appearance of dismay about the whole of his little
figure, which was, as a rule, so sprightly. It was the gust of terror,
still blowing, that had brought him thither.

“Didn’t you see your friend Barroux?” the Baron asked him, somewhat

“Barroux? No!”

This quiet lie was equivalent to a confession of everything. Fonsegue was
so intimate with Barroux that he thee’d and thou’d him, and for ten years
had been supporting him in his newspaper, having precisely the same
views, the same political religion. But with a smash-up threatening, he
doubtless realised, thanks to his wonderfully keen scent, that he must
change his friendships if he did not wish to remain under the ruins
himself. If he had, for long years, shown so much prudence and diplomatic
virtue in order to firmly establish the most dignified and respected of
Parisian newspapers, it was not for the purpose of letting that newspaper
be compromised by some foolish blunder on the part of an honest man.

“I thought you were on bad terms with Monferrand,” resumed Duvillard.
“What have you come here for?”

“Oh! my dear Baron, the director of a leading newspaper is never on bad
terms with anybody. He’s at the country’s service.”

In spite of his emotion, Duvillard could not help smiling. “You are
right,” he responded. “Besides, Monferrand is really an able man, whom
one can support without fear.”

At this Fonsegue began to wonder whether his anguish of mind was visible.
He, who usually played the game of life so well, with his own hand under
thorough control, had been terrified by the article in the “Voix du
Peuple.” For the first time in his career he had perpetrated a blunder,
and felt that he was at the mercy of some denunciation, for with
unpardonable imprudence he had written a very brief but compromising
note. He was not anxious concerning the 50,000 francs which Barroux had
handed him out of the 200,000 destined for the Republican press. But he
trembled lest another affair should be discovered, that of a sum of money
which he had received as a present. It was only on feeling the Baron’s
keen glance upon him that he was able to recover some self-possession.
How silly it was to lose the knack of lying and to confess things simply
by one’s demeanour!

But the usher drew near and repeated that the Minister was now waiting
for the Baron; and Fonsegue went to sit down beside Abbe Froment, whom he
also was astonished to find there. Pierre repeated that he had received a
letter, but had no notion what the Minister might wish to say to him. And
the quiver of his hands again revealed how feverishly impatient he was to
know what it might be. However, he could only wait, since Monferrand was
still busy discussing such grave affairs.

On seeing Duvillard enter, the Minister had stepped forward, offering his
hand. However much the blast of terror might shake others, he had
retained his calmness and good-natured smile. “What an affair, eh, my
dear Baron!” he exclaimed.

“It’s idiotic!” plainly declared the other, with a shrug of his
shoulders. Then he sat down in the armchair vacated by Barroux, while the
Minister installed himself in front of him. These two were made to
understand one another, and they indulged in the same despairing gestures
and furious complaints, declaring that government, like business, would
no longer be possible if men were required to show such virtue as they
did not possess. At all times, and under every _regime_, when a decision
of the Chambers had been required in connection with some great
enterprise, had not the natural and legitimate tactics been for one to do
what might be needful to secure that decision? It was absolutely
necessary that one should obtain influential and sympathetic support, in
a word, make sure of votes. Well, everything had to be paid for, men like
other things, some with fine words, others with favours or money,
presents made in a more or less disguised manner. And even admitting
that, in the present cases, one had gone rather far in the purchasing,
that some of the bartering had been conducted in an imprudent way, was it
wise to make such an uproar over it? Would not a strong government have
begun by stifling the scandal, from motives of patriotism, a mere sense
of cleanliness even?

“Why, of course! You are right, a thousand times right!” exclaimed
Monferrand. “Ah! if I were the master you would see what a fine
first-class funeral I would give it all!” Then, as Duvillard looked at
him fixedly, struck by these last words, he added with his expressive
smile: “Unfortunately I’m not the master, and it was to talk to you of
the situation that I ventured to disturb you. Barroux, who was here just
now, seemed to me in a regrettable frame of mind.”

“Yes, I saw him, he has such singular ideas at times--” Then, breaking
off, the Baron added: “Do you know that Fonsegue is in the ante-room? As
he wishes to make his peace with you, why not send for him? He won’t be
in the way, in fact, he’s a man of good counsel, and the support of his
newspaper often suffices to give one the victory.”

“What, is Fonsegue there!” cried Monferrand. “Why, I don’t ask better
than to shake hands with him. There were some old affairs between us that
don’t concern anybody! But, good heavens! if you only knew what little
spite I harbour!”

When the usher had admitted Fonsegue the reconciliation took place in the
simplest fashion. They had been great friends at college in their native
Correze, but had not spoken together for ten years past in consequence of
some abominable affair the particulars of which were not exactly known.
However, it becomes necessary to clear away all corpses when one wishes
to have the arena free for a fresh battle.

“It’s very good of you to come back the first,” said Monferrand. “So it’s
all over, you no longer bear me any grudge?”

“No, indeed!” replied Fonsegue. “Why should people devour one another
when it would be to their interest to come to an understanding?”

Then, without further explanations, they passed to the great affair, and
the conference began. And when Monferrand had announced Barroux’
determination to confess and explain his conduct, the others loudly
protested. That meant certain downfall, they would prevent him, he surely
would not be guilty of such folly. Forthwith they discussed every
imaginable plan by which the Ministry might be saved, for that must
certainly be Monferrand’s sole desire. He himself with all eagerness
pretended to seek some means of extricating his colleagues and himself
from the mess in which they were. However, a faint smile, still played
around his lips, and at last as if vanquished he sought no further.
“There’s no help for it,” said he, “the ministry’s down.”

The others exchanged glances, full of anxiety at the thought of another
Cabinet dealing with the African Railways affair. A Vignon Cabinet would
doubtless plume itself on behaving honestly.

“Well, then, what shall we do?”

But just then the telephone rang, and Monferrand rose to respond to the
summons: “Allow me.”

He listened for a moment and then spoke into the tube, nothing that he
said giving the others any inkling of the information which had reached
him. This had come from the Chief of the Detective Police, and was to the
effect that Salvat’s whereabouts in the Bois de Boulogne had been
discovered, and that he would be hunted down with all speed. “Very good!
And don’t forget my orders,” replied Monferrand.

Now that Salvat’s arrest was certain, the Minister determined to follow
the plan which had gradually taken shape in his mind; and returning to
the middle of the room he slowly walked to and fro, while saying with his
wonted familiarity: “But what would you have, my friends? It would be
necessary for me to be the master. Ah! if I were the master! A Commission
of Inquiry, yes! that’s the proper form for a first-class funeral to take
in a big affair like this, so full of nasty things. For my part, I should
confess nothing, and I should have a Commission appointed. And then you
would see the storm subside.”

Duvillard and Fonsegue began to laugh. The latter, however, thanks to his
intimate knowledge of Monferrand, almost guessed the truth. “Just
listen!” said he; “even if the ministry falls it doesn’t necessarily
follow that you must be on the ground with it. Besides, a ministry can be
mended when there are good pieces of it left.”

Somewhat anxious at finding his thoughts guessed, Monferrand protested:
“No, no, my dear fellow, I don’t play that game. We are jointly
responsible, we’ve got to keep together, dash it all!”

“Keep together! Pooh! Not when simpletons purposely drown themselves!
And, besides, if we others have need of you, we have a right to save you
in spite of yourself! Isn’t that so, my dear Baron?”

Then, as Monferrand sat down, no longer protesting but waiting,
Duvillard, who was again thinking of his passion, full of anger at the
recollection of Barroux’ refusal, rose in his turn, and exclaimed: “Why,
certainly! If the ministry’s condemned let it fall! What good can you get
out of a ministry which includes such a man as Taboureau! There you have
an old, worn-out professor without any prestige, who comes to Paris from
Grenoble, and has never set foot in a theatre in his life! Yet the
control of the theatres is handed over to him, and naturally he’s ever
doing the most stupid things!”

Monferrand, who was well informed on the Silviane question, remained
grave, and for a moment amused himself by trying to excite the Baron.
“Taboureau,” said he, “is a somewhat dull and old-fashioned University
man, but at the department of Public Instruction he’s in his proper

“Oh! don’t talk like that, my dear fellow! You are more intelligent than
that, you are not going to defend Taboureau as Barroux did. It’s quite
true that I should very much like to see Silviane at the Comedie. She’s a
very good girl at heart, and she has an amazing lot of talent. Would you
stand in her way if you were in Taboureau’s place?”

“I? Good heavens, no! A pretty girl on the stage, why, it would please
everybody, I’m sure. Only it would be necessary to have a man of the same
views as were at the department of Instruction and Fine Arts.”

His sly smile had returned to his face. The securing of that girl’s
_debut_ was certainly not a high price to pay for all the influence of
Duvillard’s millions. Monferrand therefore turned towards Fonsegue as if
to consult him. The other, who fully understood the importance of the
affair, was meditating in all seriousness: “A senator is the proper man
for Public Instruction,” said he. “But I can think of none, none at all,
such as would be wanted. A man of broad mind, a real Parisian, and yet
one whose presence at the head of the University wouldn’t cause too much
astonishment--there’s perhaps Dauvergne--”

“Dauvergne! Who’s he?” exclaimed Monferrand in surprise. “Ah! yes,
Dauvergne the senator for Dijon--but he’s altogether ignorant of
University matters, he hasn’t the slightest qualification.”

“Well, as for that,” resumed Fonsegue, “I’m trying to think. Dauvergne is
certainly a good-looking fellow, tall and fair and decorative. Besides,
he’s immensely rich, has a most charming young wife--which does no harm,
on the contrary--and he gives real _fetes_ at his place on the Boulevard
St. Germain.”

It was only with hesitation that Fonsegue himself had ventured to suggest
Dauvergne. But by degrees his selection appeared to him a real “find.”
 “Wait a bit! I recollect now that in his young days Dauvergne wrote a
comedy, a one act comedy in verse, and had it performed at Dijon. And
Dijon’s a literary town, you know, so that piece of his sets a little
perfume of ‘Belles-Lettres’ around him. And then, too, he left Dijon
twenty years ago, and is a most determined Parisian, frequenting every
sphere of society. Dauvergne will do whatever one desires. He’s the man
for us, I tell you.”

Duvillard thereupon declared that he knew him, and considered him a very
decent fellow. Besides, he or another, it mattered nothing!

“Dauvergne, Dauvergne,” repeated Monferrand. “_Mon Dieu_, yes! After all,
why not? He’ll perhaps make a very good minister. Let us say Dauvergne.”
 Then suddenly bursting into a hearty laugh: “And so we are reconstructing
the Cabinet in order that that charming young woman may join the Comedie!
The Silviane cabinet--well, and what about the other departments?”

He jested, well knowing that gaiety often hastens difficult solutions.
And, indeed, they merrily continued settling what should be done if the
ministry were defeated on the morrow. Although they had not plainly said
so the plan was to let Barroux sink, even help him to do so, and then
fish Monferrand out of the troubled waters. The latter engaged himself
with the two others, because he had need of them, the Baron on account of
his financial sovereignty, and the director of “Le Globe” on account of
the press campaign which he could carry on in his favour. And in the same
way the others, quite apart from the Silviane business, had need of
Monferrand, the strong-handed man of government, who undertook to bury
the African Railways scandal by bringing about a Commission of Inquiry,
all the strings of which would be pulled by himself. There was soon a
perfect understanding between the three men, for nothing draws people
more closely together than common interest, fear and need. Accordingly,
when Duvillard spoke of Duthil’s business, the young lady whom he wished
to recommend, the Minister declared that it was settled. A very nice
fellow was Duthil, they needed a good many like him. And it was also
agreed that Chaigneux’ future son-in-law should have his secretaryship.
Poor Chaigneux! He was so devoted, always ready to undertake any
commission, and his four women folk led him such a hard life!

“Well, then, it’s understood.” And Monferrand, Duvillard and Fonsegue
vigorously shook hands.

However, when the first accompanied the others to the door, he noticed a
prelate, in a cassock of fine material, edged with violet, speaking to a
priest in the ante-room. Thereupon he, the Minister, hastened forward,
looking much distressed. “Ah! you were waiting, Monseigneur Martha! Come
in, come in quick!”

But with perfect urbanity the Bishop refused. “No, no, Monsieur l’Abbe
Froment was here before me. Pray receive him first.”

Monferrand had to give way; he admitted the priest, and speedily dealt
with him. He who usually employed the most diplomatic reserve when he was
in presence of a member of the clergy plumply unfolded the Barthes
business. Pierre had experienced the keenest anguish during the two hours
that he had been waiting there, for he could only explain the letter he
had received by a surmise that the police had discovered his brother’s
presence in his house. And so when he heard the Minister simply speak of
Barthes, and declare that the government would rather see him go into
exile than be obliged to imprison him once more, he remained for a moment
quite disconcerted. As the police had been able to discover the old
conspirator in the little house at Neuilly, how was it that they seemed
altogether ignorant of Guillaume’s presence there? It was, however, the
usual gap in the genius of great detectives.

“Pray what do you desire of me, Monsieur le Ministre?” said Pierre at
last; “I don’t quite understand.”

“Why, Monsieur l’Abbe, I leave all this to your sense of prudence. If
that man were still at your house in forty-eight hours from now, we
should be obliged to arrest him there, which would be a source of grief
to us, for we are aware that your residence is the abode of every virtue.
So advise him to leave France. If he does that we shall not trouble him.”

Then Monferrand hastily brought Pierre back to the ante-room; and,
smiling and bending low, he said: “Monseigneur, I am entirely at your
disposal. Come in, come in, I beg you.”

The prelate, who was gaily chatting with Duvillard and Fonsegue, shook
hands with them, and then with Pierre. In his desire to win all hearts,
he that morning displayed the most perfect graciousness. His bright,
black eyes were all smiles, the whole of his handsome face wore a
caressing expression, and he entered the ministerial sanctum leisurely
and gracefully, with an easy air of conquest.

And now only Monferrand and Monseigneur Martha were left, talking on and
on in the deserted building. Some people had thought that the prelate
wished to become a deputy. But he played a far more useful and lofty part
in governing behind the scenes, in acting as the directing mind of the
Vatican’s policy in France. Was not France still the Eldest Daughter of
the Church, the only great nation which might some day restore
omnipotence to the Papacy? For that reason he had accepted the Republic,
preached the duty of “rallying” to it, and inspired the new Catholic
group in the Chamber. And Monferrand, on his side, struck by the progress
of the New Spirit, that reaction of mysticism which flattered itself that
it would bury science, showed the prelate much amiability, like a
strong-handed man who, to ensure his own victory, utilised every force
that was offered him.


ON the afternoon of that same day such a keen desire for space and the
open air came upon Guillaume, that Pierre consented to accompany him on a
long walk in the Bois de Boulogne. The priest, upon returning from his
interview with Monferrand, had informed his brother that the government
once more wished to get rid of Nicholas Barthes. However, they were so
perplexed as to how they should impart these tidings to the old man, that
they resolved to postpone the matter until the evening. During their walk
they might devise some means of breaking the news in a gentle way. As for
the walk, this seemed to offer no danger; to all appearance Guillaume was
in no wise threatened, so why should he continue hiding? Thus the
brothers sallied forth and entered the Bois by the Sablons gate, which
was the nearest to them.

The last days of March had now come, and the trees were beginning to show
some greenery, so soft and light, however, that one might have thought it
was pale moss or delicate lace hanging between the stems and boughs.
Although the sky remained of an ashen grey, the rain, after falling
throughout the night and morning, had ceased; and exquisite freshness
pervaded that wood now awakening to life once more, with its foliage
dripping in the mild and peaceful atmosphere. The mid-Lent rejoicings had
apparently attracted the populace to the centre of Paris, for in the
avenues one found only the fashionable folks of select days, the people
of society who come thither when the multitude stops away. There were
carriages and gentlemen on horseback; beautiful aristocratic ladies who
had alighted from their broughams or landaus; and wet-nurses with
streaming ribbons, who carried infants wearing the most costly lace. Of
the middle-classes, however, one found only a few matrons living in the
neighbourhood, who sat here and there on the benches busy with embroidery
or watching their children play.

Pierre and Guillaume followed the Allee de Longchamp as far as the road
going from Madrid to the lakes. Then they took their way under the trees,
alongside the little Longchamp rivulet. They wished to reach the lakes,
pass round them, and return home by way of the Maillot gate. But so
charming and peaceful was the deserted plantation through which they
passed, that they yielded to a desire to sit down and taste the delight
of resting amidst all the budding springtide around them. A fallen tree
served them as a bench, and it was possible for them to fancy themselves
far away from Paris, in the depths of some real forest. It was, too, of a
real forest that Guillaume began to think on thus emerging from his long,
voluntary imprisonment. Ah! for the space; and for the health-bringing
air which courses between that forest’s branches, that forest of the
world which by right should be man’s inalienable domain! However, the
name of Barthes, the perpetual prisoner, came back to Guillaume’s lips,
and he sighed mournfully. The thought that there should be even a single
man whose liberty was thus ever assailed, sufficed to poison the pure
atmosphere he breathed.

“What will you say to Barthes?” he asked his brother. “The poor fellow
must necessarily be warned. Exile is at any rate preferable to

Pierre sadly waved his hand. “Yes, of course, I must warn him. But what a
painful task it is!”

Guillaume made no rejoinder, for at that very moment, in that remote,
deserted nook, where they could fancy themselves at the world’s end, a
most extraordinary spectacle was presented to their view. Something or
rather someone leapt out of a thicket and bounded past them. It was
assuredly a man, but one who was so unrecognisable, so miry, so woeful
and so frightful, that he might have been taken for an animal, a boar
that hounds had tracked and forced from his retreat. On seeing the
rivulet, he hesitated for a moment, and then followed its course. But,
all at once, as a sound of footsteps and panting breath drew nearer, he
sprang into the water, which reached his thighs, bounded on to the
further bank, and vanished from sight behind a clump of pines. A moment
afterwards some keepers and policemen rushed by, skirting the rivulet,
and in their turn disappearing. It was a man hunt that had gone past, a
fierce, secret hunt with no display of scarlet or blast of horns athwart
the soft, sprouting foliage.

“Some rascal or other,” muttered Pierre. “Ah! the wretched fellow!”

Guillaume made a gesture of discouragement. “Gendarmes and prison!” said
he. “They still constitute society’s only schooling system!”

Meantime the man was still running on, farther and farther away.

When, on the previous night, Salvat had suddenly escaped from the
detectives by bounding into the Bois de Boulogne, it had occurred to him
to slip round to the Dauphine gate and there descend into the deep ditch*
of the city ramparts. He remembered days of enforced idleness which he
had spent there, in nooks where, for his own part, he had never met a
living soul. Nowhere, indeed, could one find more secret places of
retreat, hedged round by thicker bushes, or concealed from view by
loftier herbage. Some corners of the ditch, at certain angles of the
massive bastions, are favourite dens or nests for thieves and lovers.
Salvat, as he made his way through the thickest of the brambles, nettles
and ivy, was lucky enough to find a cavity full of dry leaves, in which
he buried himself to the chin. The rain had already drenched him, and
after slipping down the muddy slope, he had frequently been obliged to
grope his way upon all fours. So those dry leaves proved a boon such as
he had not dared to hope for. They dried him somewhat, serving as a
blanket in which he coiled himself after his wild race through the dank
darkness. The rain still fell, but he now only felt it on his head, and,
weary as he was, he gradually sank into deep slumber beneath the
continuous drizzle. When he opened his eyes again, the dawn was breaking,
and it was probably about six o’clock. During his sleep the rain had
ended by soaking the leaves, so that he was now immersed in a kind of
chilly bath. Still he remained in it, feeling that he was there sheltered
from the police, who must now surely be searching for him. None of those
bloodhounds would guess his presence in that hole, for his body was quite
buried, and briers almost completely hid his head. So he did not stir,
but watched the rise of the dawn.

  * This ditch or dry moat is about 30 feet deep and 50 feet wide.
    The counterscarp by which one may descend into it has an angle
    of 45 degrees.--Trans.

When at eight o’clock some policemen and keepers came by, searching the
ditch, they did not perceive him. As he had anticipated, the hunt had
begun at the first glimmer of light. For a time his heart beat violently;
however, nobody else passed, nothing whatever stirred the grass. The only
sounds that reached him were faint ones from the Bois de Boulogne, the
ring of a bicyclist’s bell, the thud of a horse’s hoofs, the rumble of
carriage wheels. And time went by, nine o’clock came, and then ten
o’clock. Since the rain had ceased falling, Salvat had not suffered so
much from the cold, for he was wearing a thick overcoat which little
Mathis had given him. But, on the other hand, hunger was coming back;
there was a burning sensation in his stomach, and leaden hoops seemed to
be pressing against his ribs. He had eaten nothing for two days; he had
been starving already on the previous evening, when he had accepted a
glass of beer at that tavern at Montmartre. Nevertheless, his plan was to
remain in the ditch until nightfall, and then slip away in the direction
of the village of Boulogne, where he knew of a means of egress from the
wood. He was not caught yet, he repeated, he might still manage to
escape. Then he tried to get to sleep again, but failed, so painful had
his sufferings become. By the time it was eleven, everything swam before
his eyes. He once nearly fainted, and thought that he was going to die.
Then rage gradually mastered him, and, all at once, he sprang out of his
leafy hiding-place, desperately hungering for food, unable to remain
there any longer, and determined to find something to eat, even should it
cost him his liberty and life. It was then noon.

On leaving the ditch he found the spreading lawns of the chateau of La
Muette before him. He crossed them at a run, like a madman, instinctively
going towards Boulogne, with the one idea that his only means of escape
lay in that direction. It seemed miraculous that nobody paid attention to
his helter-skelter flight. However, when he had reached the cover of some
trees he became conscious of his imprudence, and almost regretted the
sudden madness which had borne him along, eager for escape. Trembling
nervously, he bent low among some furze bushes, and waited for a few
minutes to ascertain if the police were behind him. Then with watchful
eye and ready ear, wonderful instinct and scent of danger, he slowly went
his way again. He hoped to pass between the upper lake and the Auteuil
race-course; but there were few trees in that part, and they formed a
broad avenue. He therefore had to exert all his skill in order to avoid
observation, availing himself of the slenderest stems, the smallest
bushes, as screens, and only venturing onward after a lengthy inspection
of his surroundings. Before long the sight of a guard in the distance
revived his fears and detained him, stretched on the ground behind some
brambles, for a full quarter of an hour. Then the approach first of a
cab, whose driver had lost his way, and afterwards of a strolling
pedestrian, in turn sufficed to stop him. He breathed once more, however,
when, after passing the Mortemart hillock, he was able to enter the
thickets lying between the two roads which lead to Boulogne and St.
Cloud. The coppices thereabouts were dense, and he merely had to follow
them, screened from view, in order to reach the outlet he knew of, which
was now near at hand. So he was surely saved.

But all at once, at a distance of some five and thirty yards, he saw a
keeper, erect and motionless, barring his way. He turned slightly to the
left and there perceived another keeper, who also seemed to be awaiting
him. And there were more and more of them; at every fifty paces or so
stood a fresh one, the whole forming a _cordon_, the meshes as it were of
a huge net. The worst was that he must have been perceived, for a light
cry, like the clear call of an owl, rang out, and was repeated farther
and farther off. The hunters were at last on the right scent, prudence
had become superfluous, and it was only by flight that the quarry might
now hope to escape. Salvat understood this so well that he suddenly began
to run, leaping over all obstacles and darting between the trees,
careless whether he were seen or heard. A few bounds carried him across
the Avenue de St. Cloud into the plantations stretching to the Allee de
la Reine Marguerite. There the undergrowth was very dense; in the whole
Bois there are no more closely set thickets. In summer they become one
vast entanglement of verdure, amidst which, had it been the leafy season,
Salvat might well have managed to secrete himself. For a moment he did
find himself alone, and thereupon he halted to listen. He could neither
see nor hear the keepers now. Had they lost his track, then? Profound
quietude reigned under the fresh young foliage. But the light, owlish cry
arose once more, branches cracked, and he resumed his wild flight,
hurrying straight before him. Unluckily he found the Allee de la Reine
Marguerite guarded by policemen, so that he could not cross over, but had
to skirt it without quitting the thickets. And now his back was turned
towards Boulogne; he was retracing his steps towards Paris. However, a
last idea came to his bewildered mind: it was to run on in this wise as
far as the shady spots around Madrid, and then, by stealing from copse to
copse, attempt to reach the Seine. To proceed thither across the bare
expanse of the race-course and training ground was not for a moment to be
thought of.

So Salvat still ran on and on. But on reaching the Allee de Longchamp he
found it guarded like the other roads, and therefore had to relinquish
his plan of escaping by way of Madrid and the river-bank. While he was
perforce making a bend alongside the Pre Catelan, he became aware that
the keepers, led by detectives, were drawing yet nearer to him, confining
his movements to a smaller and smaller area. And his race soon acquired
all the frenzy of despair. Haggard and breathless he leapt mounds, rushed
past multitudinous obstacles. He forced a passage through brambles, broke
down palings, thrice caught his feet in wire work which he had not seen,
and fell among nettles, yet picked himself up went on again, spurred by
the stinging of his hands and face. It was then Guillaume and Pierre saw
him pass, unrecognisable and frightful, taking to the muddy water of the
rivulet like a stag which seeks to set a last obstacle between itself and
the hounds. There came to him a wild idea of getting to the lake, and
swimming, unperceived, to the island in the centre of it. That, he madly
thought, would be a safe retreat, where he might burrow and hide himself
without possibility of discovery. And so he still ran on. But once again
the sight of some guards made him retrace his steps, and he was compelled
to go back and back in the direction of Paris, chased, forced towards the
very fortifications whence he had started that morning. It was now nearly
three in the afternoon. For more than two hours and a half he had been

At last he saw a soft, sandy ride for horsemen before him. He crossed it,
splashing through the mire left by the rain, and reached a little
pathway, a delightful lovers’ lane, as shady in summer as any arbour. For
some time he was able to follow it, concealed from observation, and with
his hopes reviving. But it led him to one of those broad, straight
avenues where carriages and bicycles, the whole afternoon pageant of
society, swept past under the mild and cloudy sky. So he returned to the
thickets, fell once more upon the keepers, lost all notion of the
direction he took, and even all power of thought, becoming a mere thing
carried along and thrown hither and thither by the chances of the pursuit
which pressed more and more closely upon him. Star-like crossways
followed one upon other, and at last he came to a broad lawn, where the
full light dazzled him. And there he suddenly felt the hot, panting
breath of his pursuers close in the rear. Eager, hungry breath it was,
like that of hounds seeking to devour him. Shouts rang out, one hand
almost caught hold of him, there was a rush of heavy feet, a scramble to
seize him. But with a supreme effort he leapt upon a bank, crawled to its
summit, rose again, and once more found himself alone, still running on
amid the fresh and quiet greenery.

Nevertheless, this was the end. He almost fell flat upon the ground. His
aching feet could no longer carry him; blood was oozing from his ears,
and froth had come to his mouth. His heart beat with such violence that
it seemed likely to break his ribs. Water and perspiration streamed from
him, he was miry and haggard and tortured by hunger, conquered, in fact,
more by hunger than by fatigue. And through the mist which seemed to have
gathered before his wild eyes, he suddenly saw an open doorway, the
doorway of a coach-house in the rear of a kind of chalet, sequestered
among trees. Excepting a big white cat, which took to flight, there was
not a living creature in the place. Salvat plunged into it and rolled
over on a heap of straw, among some empty casks. He was scarcely hidden
there when he heard the chase sweep by, the detectives and the keepers
losing scent, passing the chalet and rushing in the direction of the
Paris ramparts. The noise of their heavy boots died away, and deep
silence fell, while the hunted man, who had carried both hands to his
heart to stay its beating, sank into the most complete prostration, with
big tears trickling from his closed eyes.

Whilst all this was going on, Pierre and Guillaume, after a brief rest,
had resumed their walk, reaching the lake and proceeding towards the
crossway of the Cascades, in order to return to Neuilly by the road
beyond the water. However, a shower fell, compelling them to take shelter
under the big leafless branches of a chestnut-tree. Then, as the rain
came down more heavily and they could perceive a kind of chalet, a little
cafe-restaurant amid a clump of trees, they hastened thither for better
protection. In a side road, which they passed on their way, they saw a
cab standing, its driver waiting there in philosophical fashion under the
falling shower. Pierre, moreover, noticed a young man stepping out
briskly in front of them, a young man resembling Gerard de Quinsac, who,
whilst walking in the Bois, had no doubt been overtaken by the rain, and
like themselves was seeking shelter in the chalet. However, on entering
the latter’s public room, the priest saw no sign of the gentleman, and
concluded that he must have been mistaken. This public room, which had a
kind of glazed verandah overlooking the Bois, contained a few chairs and
tables, the latter with marble tops. On the first floor there were four
or five private rooms reached by a narrow passage. Though the doors were
open the place had as yet scarcely emerged from its winter’s rest. There
was nobody about, and on all sides one found the dampness common to
establishments which, from lack of custom, are compelled to close from
November until March. In the rear were some stables, a coach-house, and
various mossy, picturesque outbuildings, which painters and gardeners
would now soon embellish for the gay pleasure parties which the fine
weather would bring.

“I really think that they haven’t opened for the season yet,” said
Guillaume as he entered the silent house.

“At all events they will let us stay here till the rain stops,” answered
Pierre, seating himself at one of the little tables.

However, a waiter suddenly made his appearance seemingly in a great
hurry. He had come down from the first floor, and eagerly rummaged a
cupboard for a few dry biscuits, which he laid upon a plate. At last he
condescended to serve the brothers two glasses of Chartreuse.

In one of the private rooms upstairs Baroness Duvillard, who had driven
to the chalet in a cab, had been awaiting her lover Gerard for nearly
half an hour. It was there that, during the charity bazaar, they had
given each other an appointment. For them the chalet had precious
memories: two years previously, on discovering that secluded nest, which
was so deserted in the early, hesitating days of chilly spring, they had
met there under circumstances which they could not forget. And the
Baroness, in choosing the house for the supreme assignation of their
dying passion, had certainly not been influenced merely by a fear that
she might be spied upon elsewhere. She had, indeed, thought of the first
kisses that had been showered on her there, and would fain have revived
them even if they should now prove the last that Gerard would bestow on

But she would also have liked to see some sunlight playing over the
youthful foliage. The ashen sky and threatening rain saddened her. And
when she entered the private room she did not recognise it, so cold and
dim it seemed with its faded furniture. Winter had tarried there, with
all the dampness and mouldy smell peculiar to rooms which have long
remained closed. Then, too, some of the wall paper which had come away
from the plaster hung down in shreds, dead flies were scattered over the
parquetry flooring; and in order to open the shutters the waiter had to
engage in a perfect fight with their fastenings. However, when he had
lighted a little gas-stove, which at once flamed up and diffused some
warmth, the room became more cosy.

Eve had seated herself on a chair, without raising the thick veil which
hid her face. Gowned, gloved, and bonneted in black, as if she were
already in mourning for her last passion, she showed naught of her own
person save her superb fair hair, which glittered like a helm of tawny
gold. She had ordered tea for two, and when the waiter brought it with a
little plateful of dry biscuits, left, no doubt, from the previous
season, he found her in the same place, still veiled and motionless,
absorbed, it seemed, in a gloomy reverie. If she had reached the cafe
half an hour before the appointed time it was because she desired some
leisure and opportunity to overcome her despair and compose herself. She
resolved that of all things she would not weep, that she would remain
dignified and speak calmly, like one who, whatever rights she might
possess, preferred to appeal to reason only. And she was well pleased
with the courage that she found within her. Whilst thinking of what she
should say to dissuade Gerard from a marriage which to her mind would
prove both a calamity and a blunder, she fancied herself very calm,
indeed almost resigned to whatsoever might happen.

But all at once she started and began to tremble. Gerard was entering the

“What! are you here the first, my dear?” he exclaimed. “I thought that I
myself was ten minutes before the time! And you’ve ordered some tea and
are waiting for me!”

He forced a smile as he spoke, striving to display the same delight at
seeing her as he had shown in the early golden days of their passion. But
at heart he was much embarrassed, and he shuddered at the thought of the
awful scene which he could foresee.

She had at last risen and raised her veil. And looking at him she
stammered: “Yes, I found myself at liberty earlier than I expected....
I feared some impediment might arise... and so I came.”

Then, seeing how handsome and how affectionate he still looked, she could
not restrain her passion. All her skilful arguments, all her fine
resolutions, were swept away. Her flesh irresistibly impelled her towards
him; she loved him, she would keep him, she would never surrender him to
another. And she wildly flung her arms around his neck.

“Oh! Gerard, Gerard! I suffer too cruelly; I cannot, I cannot bear it!
Tell me at once that you will not marry her, that you will never marry

Her voice died away in a sob, tears started from her eyes. Ah! those
tears which she had sworn she would never shed! They gushed forth without
cessation, they streamed from her lovely eyes like a flood of the
bitterest grief.

“My daughter, O God! What! you would marry my daughter! She, here, on
your neck where I am now! No, no, such torture is past endurance, it must
not be, I will not have it!”

He shivered as he heard that cry of frantic jealousy raised by a mother
who now was but a woman, maddened by the thought of her rival’s youth,
those five and twenty summers which she herself had left far behind. For
his part, on his way to the assignation, he had come to what he thought
the most sensible decision, resolving to break off the intercourse after
the fashion of a well-bred man, with all sorts of fine consolatory
speeches. But sternness was not in his nature. He was weak and
soft-hearted, and had never been able to withstand a woman’s tears.
Nevertheless, he endeavoured to calm her, and in order to rid himself of
her embrace, he made her sit down upon the sofa. And there, beside her,
he replied: “Come, be reasonable, my dear. We came here to have a
friendly chat, did we not? I assure you that you are greatly exaggerating

But she was determined to obtain a more positive answer from him. “No,
no!” she retorted, “I am suffering too dreadfully, I must know the truth
at once. Swear to me that you will never, never marry her!”

He again endeavoured to avoid replying as she wished him to do. “Come,
come,” he said, “you will do yourself harm by giving way to such grief as
this; you know that I love you dearly.”

“Then swear to me that you will never, never marry her.”

“But I tell you that I love you, that you are the only one I love.”

Then she again threw her arms around him, and kissed him passionately
upon the eyes. “Is it true?” she asked in a transport. “You love me, you
love no one else? Oh! tell me so again, and kiss me, and promise me that
you will never belong to her.”

Weak as he was he could not resist her ardent caresses and pressing
entreaties. There came a moment of supreme cowardice and passion; her
arms were around him and he forgot all but her, again and again repeating
that he loved none other, and would never, never marry her daughter. At
last he even sank so low as to pretend that he simply regarded that poor,
infirm creature with pity. His words of compassionate disdain for her
rival were like nectar to Eve, for they filled her with the blissful idea
that it was she herself who would ever remain beautiful in his eyes and
whom he would ever love....

At last silence fell between them, like an inevitable reaction after such
a tempest of despair and passion. It disturbed Gerard. “Won’t you drink
some tea?” he asked. “It is almost cold already.”

She was not listening, however. To her the reaction had come in a
different form; and as though the inevitable explanation were only now
commencing, she began to speak in a sad and weary voice. “My dear Gerard,
you really cannot marry my daughter. In the first place it would be so
wrong, and then there is the question of your name, your position.
Forgive my frankness, but the fact is that everybody would say that you
had sold yourself--such a marriage would be a scandal for both your
family and mine.”

As she spoke she took hold of his hands, like a mother seeking to prevent
her big son from committing some terrible blunder. And he listened to
her, with bowed head and averted eyes. She now evinced no anger, no
jealous rage; all such feelings seemed to have departed with the rapture
of her passion.

“Just think of what people would say,” she continued. “I don’t deceive
myself, I am fully aware that there is an abyss between your circle of
society and ours. It is all very well for us to be rich, but money simply
enlarges the gap. And it was all very fine for me to be converted, my
daughter is none the less ‘the daughter of the Jewess,’ as folks so often
say. Ah! my Gerard, I am so proud of you, that it would rend my heart to
see you lowered, degraded almost, by a marriage for money with a girl who
is deformed, who is unworthy of you and whom you could never love.”

He raised his eyes and looked at her entreatingly, anxious as he was to
be spared such painful talk. “But haven’t I sworn to you, that you are
the only one I love?” he said. “Haven’t I sworn that I would never marry
her! It’s all over. Don’t let us torture ourselves any longer.”

Their glances met and lingered on one another, instinct with all the
misery which they dared not express in words. Eve’s face had suddenly
aged; her eyelids were red and swollen, and blotches marbled her
quivering cheeks, down which her tears again began to trickle. “My poor,
poor Gerard,” said she, “how heavily I weigh on you. Oh! do not deny it!
I feel that I am an intolerable burden on your shoulders, an impediment
in your life, and that I shall bring irreparable disaster on you by my
obstinacy in wishing you to be mine alone.”

He tried to speak, but she silenced him. “No, no, all is over between us.
I am growing ugly, all is ended. And besides, I shut off the future from
you. I can be of no help to you, whereas you bestow all on me. And yet
the time has come for you to assure yourself a position. At your age you
can’t continue living without any certainty of the morrow, without a home
and hearth of your own; and it would be cowardly and cruel of me to set
myself up as an obstacle, and prevent you from ending your life happily,
as I should do if I clung to you and dragged you down with me.”

Gazing at him through her tears she continued speaking in this fashion.
Like his mother she was well aware that he was weak and even sickly; and
she therefore dreamt of arranging a quiet life for him, a life of
tranquil happiness free from all fear of want. She loved him so fondly;
and possessed so much genuine kindness of heart that perhaps it might be
possible for her to rise even to renunciation and sacrifice. Moreover,
the very egotism born of her beauty suggested that it might be well for
her to think of retirement and not allow the autumn of her life to be
spoilt by torturing dramas. All this she said to him, treating him like a
child whose happiness she wished to ensure even at the price of her own;
and he, his eyes again lowered, listened without further protest, pleased
indeed to let her arrange a happy life for him.

Examining the situation from every aspect, she at last began to
recapitulate the points in favour of that abominable marriage, the
thought of which had so intensely distressed her. “It is certain,” she
said, “that Camille would bring you all that I should like you to have.
With her, I need hardly say it, would come plenty, affluence. And as for
the rest, well, I do not wish to excuse myself or you, but I could name
twenty households in which there have been worse things. Besides, I was
wrong when I said that money opened a gap between people. On the
contrary, it draws them nearer together, it secures forgiveness for every
fault; so nobody would dare to blame you, there would only be jealous
ones around you, dazzled by your good fortune.”

Gerard rose, apparently rebelling once more. “Surely,” said he, “_you_
don’t insist on my marrying your daughter?”

“Ah! no indeed! But I am sensible, and I tell you what I ought to tell
you. You must think it all over.”

“I have done so already. It is you that I have loved, and that I love
still. What you say is impossible.”

She smiled divinely, rose, and again embraced him. “How good and kind you
are, my Gerard. Ah! if you only knew how I love you, how I shall always
love you, whatever happens.”

Then she again began to weep, and even he shed tears. Their good faith
was absolute; tender of heart as they were, they sought to delay the
painful wrenching and tried to hope for further happiness. But they were
conscious that the marriage was virtually an accomplished fact. Only
tears and words were left them, while life and destiny were marching on.
And if their emotion was so acute it was probably because they felt that
this was the last time they would meet as lovers. Still they strove to
retain the illusion that they were not exchanging their last farewell,
that their lips would some day meet again in a kiss of rapture.

Eve removed her arms from the young man’s neck, and they both gazed round
the room, at the sofa, the table, the four chairs, and the little hissing
gas-stove. The moist, hot atmosphere was becoming quite oppressive.

“And so,” said Gerard, “you won’t drink a cup of tea?”

“No, it’s so horrid here,” she answered, while arranging her hair in
front of the looking-glass.

At that parting moment the mournfulness of this place, where she had
hoped to find such delightful memories, filled her with distress, which
was turning to positive anguish, when she suddenly heard an uproar of
gruff voices and heavy feet. People were hastening along the passage and
knocking at the doors. And, on darting to the window, she perceived a
number of policemen surrounding the chalet. At this the wildest ideas
assailed her. Had her daughter employed somebody to follow her? Did her
husband wish to divorce her so as to marry Silviane? The scandal would be
awful, and all her plans must crumble! She waited in dismay, white like a
ghost; while Gerard, also paling and quivering, begged her to be calm. At
last, when loud blows were dealt upon the door and a Commissary of Police
enjoined them to open it, they were obliged to do so. Ah! what a moment,
and what dismay and shame!

Meantime, for more than an hour, Pierre and Guillaume had been waiting
for the rain to cease. Seated in a corner of the glazed verandah they
talked in undertones of Barthes’ painful affair, and ultimately decided
to ask Theophile Morin to dine with them on the following evening, and
inform his old friend that he must again go into exile.

“That is the best course,” repeated Guillaume. “Morin is very fond of him
and will know how to break the news. I have no doubt too that he will go
with him as far as the frontier.”

Pierre sadly looked at the falling rain. “Ah! what a choice,” said he,
“to be ever driven to a foreign land under penalty of being thrust into
prison. Poor fellow! how awful it is to have never known a moment of
happiness and gaiety in one’s life, to have devoted one’s whole existence
to the idea of liberty, and to see it scoffed at and expire with

Then the priest paused, for he saw several policemen and keepers approach
the cafe and prowl round it. Having lost scent of the man they were
hunting, they had retraced their steps with the conviction no doubt that
he had sought refuge in the chalet. And in order that he might not again
escape them, they now took every precaution, exerted all their skill in
surrounding the place before venturing on a minute search. Covert fear
came upon Pierre and Guillaume when they noticed these proceedings. It
seemed to them that it must all be connected with the chase which they
had caught a glimpse of some time previously. Still, as they happened to
be in the chalet they might be called upon to give their names and
addresses. At this thought they glanced at one another, and almost made
up their minds to go off under the rain. But they realised that anything
like flight might only compromise them the more. So they waited; and all
at once there came a diversion, for two fresh customers entered the

A victoria with its hood and apron raised had just drawn up outside the
door. The first to alight from it was a young, well-dressed man with a
bored expression of face. He was followed by a young woman who was
laughing merrily, as if much amused by the persistence of the downpour.
By way of jesting, indeed, she expressed her regret that she had not come
to the Bois on her bicycle, whereupon her companion retorted that to
drive about in a deluge appeared to him the height of idiocy.

“But we were bound to go somewhere, my dear fellow,” she gaily answered.
“Why didn’t you take me to see the maskers?”

“The maskers, indeed! No, no, my dear. I prefer the Bois, and even the
bottom of the lake, to them.”

Then, as the couple entered the chalet, Pierre saw that the young woman
who made merry over the rain was little Princess Rosemonde, while her
companion, who regarded the mid-Lent festivities as horrible, and
bicycling as an utterly unaesthetic amusement, was handsome Hyacinthe
Duvillard. On the previous evening, while they were taking a cup of tea
together on their return from the Chamber of Horrors, the young man had
responded to the Princess’s blandishments by declaring that the only form
of attachment he believed in was a mystic union of intellects and souls.
And as such a union could only be fittingly arrived at amidst the cold,
chaste snow, they had decided that they would start for Christiania on
the following Monday. Their chief regret was that by the time they
reached the fiords the worst part of the northern winter would be over.

They sat down in the cafe and ordered some kummel, but there was none,
said the waiter, so they had to content themselves with common anisette.
Then Hyacinthe, who had been a schoolfellow of Guillaume’s sons,
recognised both him and Pierre; and leaning towards Rosemonde told her in
a whisper who the elder brother was.

Thereupon, with sudden enthusiasm, she sprang to her feet: “Guillaume
Froment, indeed! the great chemist!” And stepping forward with arm
outstretched, she continued: “Ah! monsieur, you must excuse me, but I
really must shake hands with you. I have so much admiration for you! You
have done such wonderful work in connection with explosives!” Then,
noticing the chemist’s astonishment, she again burst into a laugh: “I am
the Princess de Harn, your brother Abbe Froment knows me, and I ought to
have asked him to introduce me. However, we have mutual friends, you and
I; for instance, Monsieur Janzen, a very distinguished man, as you are
aware. He was to have taken me to see you, for I am a modest disciple of
yours. Yes, I have given some attention to chemistry, oh! from pure zeal
for truth and in the hope of helping good causes, not otherwise. So you
will let me call on you--won’t you?--directly I come back from
Christiania, where I am going with my young friend here, just to acquire
some experience of unknown emotions.”

In this way she rattled on, never allowing the others an opportunity to
say a word. And she mingled one thing with another; her cosmopolitan
tastes, which had thrown her into Anarchism and the society of shady
adventurers; her new passion for mysticism and symbolism; her belief that
the ideal must triumph over base materialism; her taste for aesthetic
verse; and her dream of some unimagined rapture when Hyacinthe should
kiss her with his frigid lips in a realm of eternal snow.

All at once, however, she stopped short and again began to laugh. “Dear
me!” she exclaimed. “What are those policemen looking for here? Have they
come to arrest us? How amusing it would be!”

Police Commissary Dupot and detective Mondesir had just made up their
minds to search the cafe, as their men had hitherto failed to find Salvat
in any of the outbuildings. They were convinced that he was here. Dupot,
a thin, bald, short-sighted, spectacled little man, wore his usual
expression of boredom and weariness; but in reality he was very wide
awake and extremely courageous. He himself carried no weapons; but, as he
anticipated a most violent resistance, such as might be expected from a
trapped wolf, he advised Mondesir to have his revolver ready. From
considerations of hierarchical respect, however, the detective, who with
his snub nose and massive figure had much the appearance of a bull-dog,
was obliged to let his superior enter first.

From behind his spectacles the Commissary of Police quickly scrutinized
the four customers whom he found in the cafe: the lady, the priest, and
the two other men. And passing them in a disdainful way, he at once made
for the stairs, intending to inspect the upper floor. Thereupon the
waiter, frightened by the sudden intrusion of the police, lost his head
and stammered: “But there’s a lady and gentleman upstairs in one of the
private rooms.”

Dupot quietly pushed him aside. “A lady and gentleman, that’s not what we
are looking for.... Come, make haste, open all the doors, you mustn’t
leave a cupboard closed.”

Then climbing to the upper floor, he and Mondesir explored in turn every
apartment and corner till they at last reached the room where Eve and
Gerard were together. Here the waiter was unable to admit them, as the
door was bolted inside. “Open the door!” he called through the keyhole,
“it isn’t you that they want!”

At last the bolt was drawn back, and Dupot, without even venturing to
smile, allowed the trembling lady and gentleman to go downstairs, while
Mondesir, entering the room, looked under every article of furniture, and
even peeped into a little cupboard in order that no neglect might be
imputed to him.

Meantime, in the public room which they had to cross after descending the
stairs, Eve and Gerard experienced fresh emotion; for people whom they
knew were there, brought together by an extraordinary freak of chance.
Although Eve’s face was hidden by a thick veil, her eyes met her son’s
glance and she felt sure that he recognised her. What a fatality! He had
so long a tongue and told his sister everything! Then, as the Count, in
despair at such a scandal, hurried off with the Baroness to conduct her
through the pouring rain to her cab, they both distinctly heard little
Princess Rosemonde exclaim: “Why, that was Count de Quinsac! Who was the
lady, do you know?” And as Hyacinthe, greatly put out, returned no
answer, she insisted, saying: “Come, you must surely know her. Who was
she, eh?”

“Oh! nobody. Some woman or other,” he ended by replying.

Pierre, who had understood the truth, turned his eyes away to hide his
embarrassment. But all at once the scene changed. At the very moment when
Commissary Dupot and detective Mondesir came downstairs again, after
vainly exploring the upper floor, a loud shout was raised outside,
followed by a noise of running and scrambling. Then Gascogne, the Chief
of the Detective Force, who had remained in the rear of the chalet,
continuing the search through the outbuildings, made his appearance,
pushing before him a bundle of rags and mud, which two policemen held on
either side. And this bundle was the man, the hunted man, who had just
been discovered in the coach-house, inside a staved cask, covered with

Ah! what a whoop of victory there was after that run of two hours’
duration, that frantic chase which had left them all breathless and
footsore! It had been the most exciting, the most savage of all sports--a
man hunt! They had caught the man at last, and they pushed him, they
dragged him, they belaboured him with blows. And he, the man, what a
sorry prey he looked! A wreck, wan and dirty from having spent the night
in a hole full of leaves, still soaked to his waist from having rushed
through a stream, drenched too by the rain, bespattered with mire, his
coat and trousers in tatters, his cap a mere shred, his legs and hands
bleeding from his terrible rush through thickets bristling with brambles
and nettles. There no longer seemed anything human about his face; his
hair stuck to his moist temples, his bloodshot eyes protruded from their
sockets; fright, rage, and suffering were all blended on his wasted,
contracted face. Still it was he, the man, the quarry, and they gave him
another push, and he sank on one of the tables of the little cafe, still
held and shaken, however, by the rough hands of the policemen.

Then Guillaume shuddered as if thunderstruck, and caught hold of Pierre’s
hand. At this the priest, who was looking on, suddenly understood the
truth and also quivered. Salvat! the man was Salvat! It was Salvat whom
they had seen rushing through the wood like a wild boar forced by the
hounds. And it was Salvat who was there, now conquered and simply a
filthy bundle. Then once more there came to Pierre, amidst his anguish, a
vision of the errand girl lying yonder at the entrance of the Duvillard
mansion, the pretty fair-haired girl whom the bomb had ripped and killed!

Dupot and Mondesir made haste to participate in Gascogne’s triumph. To
tell the truth, however, the man had offered no resistance; it was like a
lamb that he had let the police lay hold of him. And since he had been in
the cafe, still roughly handled, he had simply cast a weary and mournful
glance around him.

At last he spoke, and the first words uttered by his hoarse, gasping
voice were these: “I am hungry.”

He was sinking with hunger and weariness. This was the third day that he
had eaten nothing.

“Give him some bread,” said Commissary Dupot to the waiter. “He can eat
it while a cab is being fetched.”

A policeman went off to find a vehicle. The rain had suddenly ceased
falling, the clear ring of a bicyclist’s bell was heard in the distance,
some carriages drove by, and under the pale sunrays life again came back
to the Bois.

Meantime, Salvat had fallen gluttonously upon the hunk of bread which had
been given him, and whilst he was devouring it with rapturous animal
satisfaction, he perceived the four customers seated around. He seemed
irritated by the sight of Hyacinthe and Rosemonde, whose faces expressed
the mingled anxiety and delight they felt at thus witnessing the arrest
of some bandit or other. But all at once his mournful, bloodshot eyes
wavered, for to his intense surprise he had recognised Pierre and
Guillaume. When he again looked at the latter it was with the submissive
affection of a grateful dog, and as if he were once more promising that
he would divulge nothing, whatever might happen.

At last he again spoke, as if addressing himself like a man of courage,
both to Guillaume, from whom he had averted his eyes, and to others also,
his comrades who were not there: “It was silly of me to run,” said he. “I
don’t know why I did so. It’s best that it should be all ended. I’m


ON reading the newspapers on the following morning Pierre and Guillaume
were greatly surprised at not finding in them the sensational accounts of
Salvat’s arrest which they had expected. All they could discover was a
brief paragraph in a column of general news, setting forth that some
policemen on duty in the Bois de Boulogne had there arrested an
Anarchist, who was believed to have played a part in certain recent
occurrences. On the other hand, the papers gave a deal of space to the
questions raised by Sagnier’s fresh denunciations. There were innumerable
articles on the African Railways scandal, and the great debate which
might be expected at the Chamber of Deputies, should Mege, the Socialist
member, really renew his interpellation, as he had announced his
intention of doing.

As Guillaume’s wrist was now fast healing, and nothing seemed to threaten
him, he had already, on the previous evening, decided that he would
return to Montmartre. The police had passed him by without apparently
suspecting any responsibility on his part; and he was convinced that
Salvat would keep silent. Pierre, however, begged him to wait a little
longer, at any rate until the prisoner should have been interrogated by
the investigating magistrate, by which time they would be able to judge
the situation more clearly. Pierre, moreover, during his long stay at the
Home Department on the previous morning, had caught a glimpse of certain
things and overheard certain words which made him suspect some dim
connection between Salvat’s crime and the parliamentary crisis; and he
therefore desired a settlement of the latter before Guillaume returned to
his wonted life.

“Just listen,” he said to his brother. “I am going to Morin’s to ask him
to come and dine here this evening, for it is absolutely necessary that
Barthes should be warned of the fresh blow which is falling on him. And
then I think I shall go to the Chamber, as I want to know what takes
place there. After that, since you desire it, I will let you go back to
your own home.”

It was not more than half-past one when Pierre reached the
Palais-Bourbon. It had occurred to him that Fonsegue would be able to
secure him admittance to the meeting-hall, but in the vestibule he met
General de Bozonnet, who happened to possess a couple of tickets. A
friend of his, who was to have accompanied him, had, at the last moment,
been unable to come. So widespread was the curiosity concerning the
debate now near at hand, and so general were the predictions that it
would prove a most exciting one, that the demand for tickets had been
extremely keen during the last twenty-four hours. In fact Pierre would
never have been able to obtain admittance if the General had not
good-naturedly offered to take him in. As a matter of fact the old
warrior was well pleased to have somebody to chat with. He explained that
he had simply come there to kill time, just as he might have killed it at
a concert or a charity bazaar. However, like the ex-Legitimist and
Bonapartist that he was, he had really come for the pleasure of feasting
his eyes on the shameful spectacle of parliamentary ignominy.

When the General and Pierre had climbed the stairs, they were able to
secure two front seats in one of the public galleries. Little Massot, who
was already there, and who knew them both, placed one of them on his
right and the other on his left. “I couldn’t find a decent seat left in
the press gallery,” said he, “but I managed to get this place, from which
I shall be able to see things properly. It will certainly be a big
sitting. Just look at the number of people there are on every side!”

The narrow and badly arranged galleries were packed to overflowing. There
were men of every age and a great many women too in the confused, serried
mass of spectators, amidst which one only distinguished a multiplicity of
pale white faces. The real scene, however, was down below in the
meeting-hall, which was as yet empty, and with its rows of seats disposed
in semi-circular fashion looked like the auditorium of a theatre. Under
the cold light which fell from the glazed roofing appeared the solemn,
shiny tribune, whence members address the Chamber, whilst behind it, on a
higher level, and running right along the rear wall, was what is called
the Bureau, with its various tables and seats, including the presidential
armchair. The Bureau, like the tribune, was still unoccupied. The only
persons one saw there were a couple of attendants who were laying out new
pens and filling inkstands.

“The women,” said Massot with a laugh, after another glance at the
galleries, “come here just as they might come to a menagerie, that is, in
the secret hope of seeing wild beasts devour one another. But, by the
way, did you read the article in the ‘Voix du Peuple’ this morning? What
a wonderful fellow that Sagnier is. When nobody else can find any filth
left, he manages to discover some. He apparently thinks it necessary to
add something new every day, in order to send his sales up. And of course
it all disturbs the public, and it’s thanks to him that so many people
have come here in the hope of witnessing some horrid scene.”

Then he laughed again, as he asked Pierre if he had read an unsigned
article in the “Globe,” which in very dignified but perfidious language
had called upon Barroux to give the full and frank explanations which the
country had a right to demand in that matter of the African Railways.
This paper had hitherto vigorously supported the President of the
Council, but in the article in question the coldness which precedes a
rupture was very apparent. Pierre replied that the article had much
surprised him, for he had imagined that Fonsegue and Barroux were linked
together by identity of views and long-standing personal friendship.

Massot was still laughing. “Quite so,” said he. “And you may be sure that
the governor’s heart bled when he wrote that article. It has been much
noticed, and it will do the government a deal of harm. But the governor,
you see, knows better than anybody else what line he ought to follow to
save both his own position and the paper’s.”

Then he related what extraordinary confusion and emotion reigned among
the deputies in the lobbies through which he had strolled before coming
upstairs to secure a seat. After an adjournment of a couple of days the
Chamber found itself confronted by this terrible scandal, which was like
one of those conflagrations which, at the moment when they are supposed
to be dying out, suddenly flare up again and devour everything. The
various figures given in Sagnier’s list, the two hundred thousand francs
paid to Barroux, the eighty thousand handed to Monferrand, the fifty
thousand allotted to Fonsegue, the ten thousand pocketed by Duthil, and
the three thousand secured by Chaigneux, with all the other amounts
distributed among So-and-so and So-and-so, formed the general subject of
conversation. And at the same time some most extraordinary stories were
current; there was no end of tittle-tattle in which fact and falsehood
were so inextricably mingled that everybody was at sea as to the real
truth. Whilst many deputies turned pale and trembled as beneath a blast
of terror, others passed by purple with excitement, bursting with
delight, laughing with exultation at the thought of coming victory. For,
in point of fact, beneath all the assumed indignation, all the calls for
parliamentary cleanliness and morality, there simply lay a question of
persons--the question of ascertaining whether the government would be
overthrown, and in that event of whom the new administration would
consist. Barroux no doubt appeared to be in a bad way; but with things in
such a muddle one was bound to allow a margin for the unexpected. From
what was generally said it seemed certain that Mege would be extremely
violent. Barroux would answer him, and the Minister’s friends declared
that he was determined to speak out in the most decisive manner. As for
Monferrand he would probably address the Chamber after his colleague, but
Vignon’s intentions were somewhat doubtful, as, in spite of his delight,
he made a pretence of remaining in the back, ground. He had been seen
going from one to another of his partisans, advising them to keep calm,
in order that they might retain the cold, keen _coup d’oeil_ which in
warfare generally decides the victory. Briefly, such was the plotting and
intriguing that never had any witch’s cauldron brimful of drugs and
nameless abominations been set to boil on a more hellish fire than that
of this parliamentary cook-shop.

“Heaven only knows what they will end by serving us,” said little Massot
by way of conclusion.

General de Bozonnet for his part anticipated nothing but disaster. If
France had only possessed an army, said he, one might have swept away
that handful of bribe-taking parliamentarians who preyed upon the country
and rotted it. But there was no army left, there was merely an armed
nation, a very different thing. And thereupon, like a man of a past age
whom the present times distracted, he started on what had been his
favourite subject of complaint ever since he had been retired from the

“Here’s an idea for an article if you want one,” he said to Massot.
“Although France may have a million soldiers she hasn’t got an army. I’ll
give you some notes of mine, and you will be able to tell people the

Warfare, he continued, ought to be purely and simply a caste occupation,
with commanders designated by divine right, leading mercenaries or
volunteers into action. By democratising warfare people had simply killed
it; a circumstance which he deeply regretted, like a born soldier who
regarded fighting as the only really noble occupation that life offered.
For, as soon as it became every man’s duty to fight, none was willing to
do so; and thus compulsory military service--what was called “the nation
in arms”--would, at a more or less distant date, certainly bring about
the end of warfare. If France had not engaged in a European war since
1870 this was precisely due to the fact that everybody in France was
ready to fight. But rulers hesitated to throw a whole nation against
another nation, for the loss both in life and treasure would be
tremendous. And so the thought that all Europe was transformed into a
vast camp filled the General with anger and disgust. He sighed for the
old times when men fought for the pleasure of the thing, just as they
hunted; whereas nowadays people were convinced that they would
exterminate one another at the very first engagement.

“But surely it wouldn’t be an evil if war should disappear,” Pierre
gently remarked.

This somewhat angered the General. “Well, you’ll have pretty nations if
people no longer fight,” he answered, and then trying to show a practical
spirit, he added: “Never has the art of war cost more money than since
war itself has become an impossibility. The present-day defensive peace
is purely and simply ruining every country in Europe. One may be spared
defeat, but utter bankruptcy is certainly at the end of it all. And in
any case the profession of arms is done for. All faith in it is dying
out, and it will soon be forsaken, just as men have begun to forsake the

Thereupon he made a gesture of mingled grief and anger, almost cursing
that parliament, that Republican legislature before him, as if he
considered it responsible for the future extinction of warfare. But
little Massot was wagging his head dubiously, for he regarded the subject
as rather too serious a one for him to write upon. And, all at once, in
order to turn the conversation into another channel, he exclaimed: “Ah!
there’s Monseigneur Martha in the diplomatic gallery beside the Spanish
Ambassador. It’s denied, you know, that he intends to come forward as a
candidate in Morbihan. He’s far too shrewd to wish to be a deputy. He
already pulls the strings which set most of the Catholic deputies who
have ‘rallied’ to the Republican Government in motion.”

Pierre himself had just noticed Monseigneur Martha’s smiling face. And,
somehow or other, however modest might be the prelate’s demeanour, it
seemed to him that he really played an important part in what was going
on. He could hardly take his eyes from him. It was as if he expected that
he would suddenly order men hither and thither, and direct the whole
march of events.

“Ah!” said Massot again. “Here comes Mege. It won’t be long now before
the sitting begins.”

The hall, down below, was gradually filling. Deputies entered and
descended the narrow passages between the benches. Most of them remained
standing and chatting in a more or less excited way; but some seated
themselves and raised their grey, weary faces to the glazed roof. It was
a cloudy afternoon, and rain was doubtless threatening, for the light
became quite livid. If the hall was pompous it was also dismal with its
heavy columns, its cold allegorical statues, and its stretches of bare
marble and woodwork. The only brightness was that of the red velvet of
the benches and the gallery hand-rests.

Every deputy of any consequence who entered was named by Massot to his
companions. Mege, on being stopped by another member of the little
Socialist group, began to fume and gesticulate. Then Vignon, detaching
himself from a group of friends and putting on an air of smiling
composure, descended the steps towards his seat. The occupants of the
galleries, however, gave most attention to the accused members, those
whose names figured in Sagnier’s list. And these were interesting
studies. Some showed themselves quite sprightly, as if they were entirely
at their ease; but others had assumed a most grave and indignant
demeanour. Chaigneux staggered and hesitated as if beneath the weight of
some frightful act of injustice; whereas Duthil looked perfectly serene
save for an occasional twitch of his lips. The most admired, however, was
Fonsegue, who showed so candid a face, so open a glance, that his
colleagues as well as the spectators might well have declared him
innocent. Nobody indeed could have looked more like an honest man.

“Ah! there’s none like the governor,” muttered Massot with enthusiasm.
“But be attentive, for here come the ministers. One mustn’t miss Barroux’
meeting with Fonsegue, after this morning’s article.”

Chance willed it that as Barroux came along with his head erect, his face
pale, and his whole demeanour aggressive, he was obliged to pass Fonsegue
in order to reach the ministerial bench. In doing so he did not speak to
him, but he gazed at him fixedly like one who is conscious of defection,
of a cowardly stab in the back on the part of a traitor. Fonsegue seemed
quite at ease, and went on shaking hands with one and another of his
colleagues as if he were altogether unconscious of Barroux’ glance. Nor
did he even appear to see Monferrand, who walked by in the rear of the
Prime Minister, wearing a placid good-natured air, as if he knew nothing
of what was impending, but was simply coming to some ordinary humdrum
sitting. However, when he reached his seat, he raised his eyes and smiled
at Monseigneur Martha, who gently nodded to him. Then well pleased to
think that things were going as he wished them to go, he began to rub his
hands, as he often did by way of expressing his satisfaction.

“Who is that grey-haired, mournful-looking gentleman on the ministerial
bench?” Pierre inquired of Massot.

“Why, that’s Taboureau, the Minister of Public Instruction, the excellent
gentleman who is said to have no prestige. One’s always hearing of him,
and one never recognises him; he looks like an old, badly worn coin. Just
like Barroux he can’t feel very well pleased with the governor this
afternoon, for to-day’s ‘Globe’ contained an article pointing out his
thorough incapacity in everything concerning the fine arts. It was an
article in measured language, but all the more effective for that very
reason. It would surprise me if Taboureau should recover from it.”

Just then a low roll of drums announced the arrival of the President and
other officials of the Chamber. A door opened, and a little procession
passed by amidst an uproar of exclamations and hasty footsteps. Then,
standing at his table, the President rang his bell and declared the
sitting open. But few members remained silent, however, whilst one of the
secretaries, a dark, lanky young man with a harsh voice, read the minutes
of the previous sitting. When they had been adopted, various letters of
apology for non-attendance were read, and a short, unimportant bill was
passed without discussion. And then came the big affair, Mege’s
interpellation, and at once the whole Chamber was in a flutter, while the
most passionate curiosity reigned in the galleries above. On the
Government consenting to the interpellation, the Chamber decided that the
debate should take place at once. And thereupon complete silence fell,
save that now and again a brief quiver sped by, in which one could detect
the various feelings, passions and appetites swaying the assembly.

Mege began to speak with assumed moderation, carefully setting forth the
various points at issue. Tall and thin, gnarled and twisted like a
vine-stock, he rested his hands on the tribune as if to support his bent
figure, and his speech was often interrupted by the little dry cough
which came from the tuberculosis that was burning him. But his eyes
sparkled with passion behind his glasses, and little by little his voice
rose in piercing accents and he drew his lank figure erect and began to
gesticulate vehemently. He reminded the Chamber that some two months
previously, at the time of the first denunciations published by the “Voix
du Peuple,” he had asked leave to interpellate the Government respecting
that deplorable affair of the African Railways; and he remarked, truly
enough, that if the Chamber had not yielded to certain considerations
which he did not wish to discuss, and had not adjourned his proposed
inquiries, full light would long since have been thrown on the whole
affair, in such wise that there would have been no revival, no increase
of the scandal, and no possible pretext for that abominable campaign of
denunciation which tortured and disgusted the country. However, it had at
last been understood that silence could be maintained no longer. It was
necessary that the two ministers who were so loudly accused of having
abused their trusts, should prove their innocence, throw full light upon
all they had done; apart from which the Chamber itself could not possibly
remain beneath the charge of wholesale venality.

Then he recounted the whole history of the affair, beginning with the
grant of a concession for the African Lines to Baron Duvillard; and next
passing to the proposals for the issue of lottery stock, which proposals,
it was now said, had only been sanctioned by the Chamber after the most
shameful bargaining and buying of votes. At this point Mege became
extremely violent. Speaking of that mysterious individual Hunter, Baron
Duvillard’s recruiter and go-between, he declared that the police had
allowed him to flee from France, much preferring to spend its time in
shadowing Socialist deputies. Then, hammering the tribune with his fist,
he summoned Barroux to give a categorical denial to the charges brought
against him, and to make it absolutely clear that he had never received a
single copper of the two hundred thousand francs specified in Hunter’s
list. Forthwith certain members shouted to Mege that he ought to read the
whole list; but when he wished to do so others vociferated that it was
abominable, that such a mendacious and slanderous document ought not to
be accorded a place in the proceedings of the French legislature. Mege
went on still in frantic fashion, figuratively casting Sagnier into the
gutter, and protesting that there was nothing in common between himself
and such a base insulter. But at the same time he demanded that justice
and punishment should be meted out equally to one and all, and that if
indeed there were any bribe-takers among his colleagues, they should be
sent that very night to the prison of Mazas.

Meantime the President, erect at his table, rang and rang his bell
without managing to quell the uproar. He was like a pilot who finds the
tempest too strong for him. Among all the men with purple faces and
barking mouths who were gathered in front of him, the ushers alone
maintained imperturbable gravity. At intervals between the bursts of
shouting, Mege’s voice could still be heard. By some sudden transition he
had come to the question of a Collectivist organisation of society such
as he dreamt of, and he contrasted it with the criminal capitalist
society of the present day, which alone, said he, could produce such
scandals. And yielding more and more to his apostolic fervour, declaring
that there could be no salvation apart from Collectivism, he shouted that
the day of triumph would soon dawn. He awaited it with a smile of
confidence. In his opinion, indeed, he merely had to overthrow that
ministry and perhaps another one, and then he himself would at last take
the reins of power in hand, like a reformer who would know how to pacify
the nation. As outside Socialists often declared, it was evident that the
blood of a dictator flowed in that sectarian’s veins. His feverish,
stubborn rhetoric ended by exhausting his interrupters, who were
compelled to listen to him. When he at last decided to leave the tribune,
loud applause arose from a few benches on the left.

“Do you know,” said Massot to the General, “I met Mege taking a walk with
his three little children in the Jardin des Plantes the other day. He
looked after them as carefully as an old nurse. I believe he’s a very
worthy fellow at heart, and lives in a very modest way.”

But a quiver had now sped through the assembly. Barroux had quitted his
seat to ascend the tribune. He there drew himself erect, throwing his
head back after his usual fashion. There was a haughty, majestic,
slightly sorrowful expression on his handsome face, which would have been
perfect had his nose only been a little larger. He began to express his
sorrow and indignation in fine flowery language, which he punctuated with
theatrical gestures. His eloquence was that of a tribune of the romantic
school, and as one listened to him one could divine that in spite of all
his pomposity he was really a worthy, tender-hearted and somewhat foolish
man. That afternoon he was stirred by genuine emotion; his heart bled at
the thought of his disastrous destiny, he felt that a whole world was
crumbling with himself. Ah! what a cry of despair he stifled, the cry of
the man who is buffeted and thrown aside by the course of events on the
very day when he thinks that his civic devotion entitles him to triumph!
To have given himself and all he possessed to the cause of the Republic,
even in the dark days of the Second Empire; to have fought and struggled
and suffered persecution for that Republic’s sake; to have established
that Republic amidst the battle of parties, after all the horrors of
national and civil war; and then, when the Republic at last triumphed and
became a living fact, secure from all attacks and intrigues, to suddenly
feel like a survival of some other age, to hear new comers speak a new
language, preach a new ideal, and behold the collapse of all he had
loved, all he had reverenced, all that had given him strength to fight
and conquer! The mighty artisans of the early hours were no more; it had
been meet that Gambetta should die. How bitter it all was for the last
lingering old ones to find themselves among the men of the new,
intelligent and shrewd generation, who gently smiled at them, deeming
their romanticism quite out of fashion! All crumbled since the ideal of
liberty collapsed, since liberty was no longer the one desideratum, the
very basis of the Republic whose existence had been so dearly purchased
after so long an effort!

Erect and dignified Barroux made his confession. The Republic to him was
like the sacred ark of life; the very worst deeds became saintly if they
were employed to save her from peril. And in all simplicity he, told his
story, how he had found the great bulk of Baron Duvillard’s money going
to the opposition newspapers as pretended payment for puffery and
advertising, whilst on the other hand the Republican organs received but
beggarly, trumpery amounts. He had been Minister of the Interior at the
time, and had therefore had charge of the press; so what would have been
said of him if he had not endeavoured to reestablish some equilibrium in
this distribution of funds in order that the adversaries of the
institutions of the country might not acquire a great increase of
strength by appropriating all the sinews of war? Hands had been stretched
out towards him on all sides, a score of newspapers, the most faithful,
the most meritorious, had claimed their legitimate share. And he had
ensured them that share by distributing among them the two hundred
thousand francs set down in the list against his name. Not a centime of
the money had gone into his own pocket, he would allow nobody to impugn
his personal honesty, on that point his word must suffice. At that moment
Barroux was really grand. All his emphatic pomposity disappeared; he
showed himself, as he really was--an honest man, quivering, his heart
bared, his conscience bleeding, in his bitter distress at having been
among those who had laboured and at now being denied reward.

For, truth to tell, his words fell amidst icy silence. In his childish
simplicity he had anticipated an outburst of enthusiasm; a Republican
Chamber could but acclaim him for having saved the Republic; and now the
frigidity of one and all quite froze him. He suddenly felt that he was
all alone, done for, touched by the hand of death. Nevertheless, he
continued speaking amidst that terrible silence with the courage of one
who is committing suicide, and who, from his love of noble and eloquent
attitudes, is determined to die standing. He ended with a final
impressive gesture. However, as he came down from the tribune, the
general coldness seemed to increase, not a single member applauded. With
supreme clumsiness he had alluded to the secret scheming of Rome and the
clergy, whose one object, in his opinion, was to recover the predominant
position they had lost and restore monarchy in France at a more or less
distant date.

“How silly of him! Ought a man ever to confess?” muttered Massot. “He’s
done for, and the ministry too!”

Then, amidst the general frigidity, Monferrand boldly ascended the
tribune stairs. The prevailing uneasiness was compounded of all the
secret fear which sincerity always causes, of all the distress of the
bribe-taking deputies who felt that they were rolling into an abyss, and
also of the embarrassment which the others felt at thought of the more or
less justifiable compromises of politics. Something like relief,
therefore, came when Monferrand started with the most emphatic denials,
protesting in the name of his outraged honour, and dealing blow after
blow on the tribune with one hand, while with the other he smote his
chest. Short and thick-set, with his face thrust forward, hiding his
shrewdness beneath an expression of indignant frankness, he was for a
moment really superb. He denied everything. He was not only ignorant of
what was meant by that sum of eighty thousand francs set down against his
name, but he defied the whole world to prove that he had even touched a
single copper of that money. He boiled over with indignation to such a
point that he did not simply deny bribe-taking on his own part, he denied
it on behalf of the whole assembly, of all present and past French
legislatures, as if, indeed, bribe-taking on the part of a representative
of the people was altogether too monstrous an idea, a crime that
surpassed possibility to such an extent that the mere notion of it was
absurd. And thereupon applause rang out; the Chamber, delivered from its
fears, thrilled by his words, acclaimed him.

From the little Socialist group, however, some jeers arose, and voices
summoned Monferrand to explain himself on the subject of the African
Railways, reminding him that he had been at the head of the Public Works
Department at the time of the vote, and requiring of him that he should
state what he now meant to do, as Minister of the Interior, in order to
reassure the country. He juggled with this question, declaring that if
there were any guilty parties they would be punished, for he did not
require anybody to remind him of his duty. And then, all at once, with
incomparable maestria, he had recourse to the diversion which he had been
preparing since the previous day. His duty, said he, was a thing which he
never forgot; he discharged it like a faithful soldier of the nation hour
by hour, and with as much vigilance as prudence. He had been accused of
employing the police on he knew not what base spying work in such wise as
to allow the man Hunter to escape. Well, as for that much-slandered
police force, he would tell the Chamber on what work he had really
employed it the day before, and how zealously it had laboured for the
cause of law and order. In the Bois de Boulogne, on the previous
afternoon, it had arrested that terrible scoundrel, the perpetrator of
the crime in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, that Anarchist mechanician Salvat,
who for six weeks past had so cunningly contrived to elude capture. The
scoundrel had made a full confession during the evening, and the law
would now take its course with all despatch. Public morality was at last
avenged, Paris might now emerge in safety from its long spell of terror,
Anarchism would be struck down, annihilated. And that was what he,
Monferrand, had done as a Minister for the honour and safety of his
country, whilst villains were vainly seeking to dishonour him by
inscribing his name on a list of infamy, the outcome of the very basest
political intrigues.

The Chamber listened agape and quivering. This story of Salvat’s arrest,
which none of the morning papers had reported; the present which
Monferrand seemed to be making them of that terrible Anarchist whom many
had already begun to regard as a myth; the whole _mise-en-scene_ of the
Minister’s speech transported the deputies as if they were suddenly
witnessing the finish of a long-interrupted drama. Stirred and flattered,
they prolonged their applause, while Monferrand went on celebrating his
act of energy, how he had saved society, how crime should be punished,
and how he himself would ever prove that he had a strong arm and could
answer for public order. He even won favour with the Conservatives and
Clericals on the Right by separating himself from Barroux, addressing a
few words of sympathy to those Catholics who had “rallied” to the
Republic, and appealing for concord among men of different beliefs in
order that they might fight the common enemy, that fierce, wild socialism
which talked of overthrowing everything!

By the time Monferrand came down from the tribune, the trick was played,
he had virtually saved himself. Both the Right and Left of the Chamber*
applauded, drowning the protests of the few Socialists whose
vociferations only added to the triumphal tumult. Members eagerly
stretched out their hands to the Minister, who for a moment remained
standing there and smiling. But there was some anxiety in that smile of
his; his success was beginning to frighten him. Had he spoken too well,
and saved the entire Cabinet instead of merely saving himself? That would
mean the ruin of his plan. The Chamber ought not to vote under the effect
of that speech which had thrilled it so powerfully. Thus Monferrand,
though he still continued to smile, spent a few anxious moments in
waiting to see if anybody would rise to answer him.

  * Ever since the days of the Bourbon Restoration it has been
    the practice in the French Chambers for the more conservative
    members to seat themselves on the President’s right, and for
    the Radical ones to place themselves on his left. The central
    seats of the semicircle in which the members’ seats are
    arranged in tiers are usually occupied by men of moderate views.
    Generally speaking, such terms as Right Centre and Left Centre
    are applied to groups of Moderates inclining in the first place
    to Conservatism and in the latter to Radicalism. All this is of
    course known to readers acquainted with French institutions, but
    I give the explanation because others, after perusing French
    news in some daily paper, have often asked me what was meant by
    “a deputy of the Right,” and so forth.--Trans.

His success had been as great among the occupants of the galleries as
among the deputies themselves. Several ladies had been seen applauding,
and Monseigneur Martha had given unmistakable signs of the liveliest
satisfaction. “Ah, General!” said Massot to Bozonnet in a sneering way.
“Those are our fighting men of the present time. And he’s a bold and
strong one, is Monferrand. Of course it is all what people style ‘saving
one’s bacon,’ but none the less it’s very clever work.”

Just then, however, Monferrand to his great satisfaction had seen Vignon
rise from his seat in response to the urging of his friends. And
thereupon all anxiety vanished from the Minister’s smile, which became
one of malicious placidity.

The very atmosphere of the Chamber seemed to change with Vignon in the
tribune. He was slim, with a fair and carefully tended beard, blue eyes
and all the suppleness of youth. He spoke, moreover, like a practical
man, in simple, straightforward language, which made the emptiness of the
other’s declamatory style painfully conspicuous. His term of official
service as a prefect in the provinces had endowed him with keen insight;
and it was in an easy way that he propounded and unravelled the most
intricate questions. Active and courageous, confident in his own star,
too young and too shrewd to have compromised himself in anything so far,
he was steadily marching towards the future. He had already drawn up a
rather more advanced political programme than that of Barroux and
Monferrand, so that when opportunity offered there might be good reasons
for him to take their place. Moreover, he was quite capable of carrying
out his programme by attempting some of the long-promised reforms for
which the country was waiting. He had guessed that honesty, when it had
prudence and shrewdness as its allies, must some day secure an innings.
In a clear voice, and in a very quiet, deliberate way, he now said what
it was right to say on the subject under discussion, the things that
common sense dictated and that the Chamber itself secretly desired should
be said. He was certainly the first to rejoice over an arrest which would
reassure the country; but he failed to understand what connection there
could be between that arrest and the sad business that had been brought
before the Chamber. The two affairs were quite distinct and different,
and he begged his colleagues not to vote in the state of excitement in
which he saw them. Full light must be thrown on the African Railways
question, and this, one could not expect from the two incriminated
ministers. However, he was opposed to any suggestion of a committee of
inquiry. In his opinion the guilty parties, if such there were, ought to
be brought immediately before a court of law. And, like Barroux, he wound
up with a discreet allusion to the growing influence of the clergy,
declaring that he was against all unworthy compromises, and was equally
opposed to any state dictatorship and any revival of the ancient
theocratic spirit.

Although there was but little applause when Vignon returned to his seat,
it was evident that the Chamber was again master of its emotions. And the
situation seemed so clear, and the overthrow of the ministry so certain,
that Mege, who had meant to reply to the others, wisely abstained from
doing so. Meantime people noticed the placid demeanour of Monferrand, who
had listened to Vignon with the utmost complacency, as if he were
rendering homage to an adversary’s talent; whereas Barroux, ever since
the cold silence which had greeted his speech, had remained motionless in
his seat, bowed down and pale as a corpse.

“Well, it’s all over,” resumed Massot, amidst the hubbub which arose as
the deputies prepared to vote; “the ministry’s done for. Little Vignon
will go a long way, you know. People say that he dreams of the Elysee. At
all events everything points to him as our next prime minister.”

Then, as the journalist rose, intending to go off, the General detained
him: “Wait a moment, Monsieur Massot,” said he. “How disgusting all that
parliamentary cooking is! You ought to point it out in an article, and
show people how the country is gradually being weakened and rotted to the
marrow by all such useless and degrading discussions. Why, a great battle
resulting in the loss of 50,000 men would exhaust us less than ten years
of this abominable parliamentary system. You must call on me some
morning. I will show you a scheme of military reform, in which I point
out the necessity of returning to the limited professional armies which
we used to have, for this present-day national army, as folks call it,
which is a semi-civilian affair and at best a mere herd of men, is like a
dead weight on us, and is bound to pull us down!”

Pierre, for his part, had not spoken a word since the beginning of the
debate. He had listened to everything, at first influenced by the thought
of his brother’s interests, and afterwards mastered by the feverishness
which gradually took possession of everybody present. He had become
convinced that there was nothing more for Guillaume to fear; but how
curiously did one event fit into another, and how loudly had Salvat’s
arrest re-echoed in the Chamber! Looking down into the seething hall
below him, he had detected all the clash of rival passions and interests.
After watching the great struggle between Barroux, Monferrand and Vignon,
he had gazed upon the childish delight of that terrible Socialist Mege,
who was so pleased at having been able to stir up the depths of those
troubled waters, in which he always unwittingly angled for the benefit of
others. Then, too, Pierre had become interested in Fonsegue, who, knowing
what had been arranged between Monferrand, Duvillard and himself, evinced
perfect calmness and strove to reassure Duthil and Chaigneux, who, on
their side, were quite dismayed by the ministry’s impending fall. Yet,
Pierre’s eyes always came back to Monseigneur Martha. He had watched his
serene smiling face throughout the sitting, striving to detect his
impressions of the various incidents that had occurred, as if in his
opinion that dramatic parliamentary comedy had only been played as a step
towards the more or less distant triumph for which the prelate laboured.
And now, while awaiting the result of the vote, as Pierre turned towards
Massot and the General, he found that they were talking of nothing but
recruiting and tactics and the necessity of a bath of blood for the whole
of Europe. Ah! poor mankind, ever fighting and ever devouring one another
in parliaments as well as on battle-fields, when, thought Pierre, would
it decide to disarm once and for all, and live at peace according to the
laws of justice and reason!

Then he again looked down into the hall, where the greatest confusion was
prevailing among the deputies with regard to the coming vote. There was
quite a rainfall of suggested “resolutions,” from a very violent one
proposed by Mege, to another, which was merely severe, emanating from
Vignon. The ministry, however, would only accept the “Order of the day
pure and simple,” a mere decision, that is, to pass to the next business,
as if Mege’s interpellation had been unworthy of attention. And presently
the Government was defeated, Vignon’s resolution being adopted by a
majority of twenty-five. Some portion of the Left had evidently joined
hands with the Right and the Socialist group. A prolonged hubbub followed
this result.

“Well, so we are to have a Vignon Cabinet,” said Massot, as he went off
with Pierre and the General. “All the same, though, Monferrand has saved
himself, and if I were in Vignon’s place I should distrust him.”

That evening there was a very touching farewell scene at the little house
at Neuilly. When Pierre returned thither from the Chamber, saddened but
reassured with regard to the future, Guillaume at once made up his mind
to go home on the morrow. And as Nicholas Barthes was compelled to leave,
the little dwelling seemed on the point of relapsing into dreary quietude
once more.

Theophile Morin, whom Pierre had informed of the painful alternative in
which Barthes was placed, duly came to dinner; but he did not have time
to speak to the old man before they all sat down to table at seven
o’clock. As usual Barthes had spent his day in marching, like a caged
lion, up and down the room in which he had accepted shelter after the
fashion of a big fearless child, who never worried with regard either to
his present circumstances or the troubles which the future might have in
store for him. His life had ever been one of unlimited hope, which
reality had ever shattered. Although all that he had loved, all that he
had hoped to secure by fifty years of imprisonment or exile,--liberty,
equality and a real brotherly republic,--had hitherto failed to come,
such as he had dreamt of them, he nevertheless retained the candid faith
of his youth, and was ever confident in the near future. He would smile
indulgently when new comers, men of violent ideas, derided him and called
him a poor old fellow. For his part, he could make neither head nor tail
of the many new sects. He simply felt indignant with their lack of human
feeling, and stubbornly adhered to his own idea of basing the world’s
regeneration on the simple proposition that men were naturally good and
ought to be free and brotherly.

That evening at dinner, feeling that he was with friends who cared for
him, Barthes proved extremely gay, and showed all his ingenuousness in
talking of his ideal, which would soon be realised, said he, in spite of
everything. He could tell a story well whenever he cared to chat, and on
that occasion he related some delightful anecdotes about the prisons
through which he had passed. He knew all the dungeons, Ste. Pelagie and
Mont St. Michel, Belle-Ile-en-Mer and Clairvaux, to say nothing of
temporary gaols and the evil-smelling hulks on board which political
prisoners are often confined. And he still laughed at certain
recollections, and related how in the direst circumstances he had always
been able to seek refuge in his conscience. The others listened to him
quite charmed by his conversation, but full of anguish at the thought
that this perpetual prisoner or exile must again rise and take his staff
to sally forth, driven from his native land once more.

Pierre did not speak out until they were partaking of dessert. Then he
related how the Minister had written to him, and how in a brief interview
he had stated that Barthes must cross the frontier within forty-eight
hours if he did not wish to be arrested. Thereupon the old man gravely
rose, with his white fleece, his eagle beak and his bright eyes still
sparkling with the fire of youth. And he wished to go off at once.
“What!” said he, “you have known all this since yesterday, and have still
kept me here at the risk of my compromising you even more than I had done
already! You must forgive me, I did not think of the worry I might cause
you, I thought that everything would be satisfactorily arranged. I must
thank you both--yourself and Guillaume--for the few days of quietude that
you have procured to an old vagabond and madman like myself.”

Then, as they tried to prevail on him to remain until the following
morning, he would not listen to them. There would be a train for Brussels
about midnight, and he had ample time to take it. He refused to let Morin
accompany him. No, no, said he, Morin was not a rich man, and moreover he
had work to attend to. Why should he take him away from his duties, when
it was so easy, so simple, for him to go off alone? He was going back
into exile as into misery and grief which he had long known, like some
Wandering Jew of Liberty, ever driven onward through the world.

When he took leave of the others at ten o’clock, in the little sleepy
street just outside the house, tears suddenly dimmed his eyes. “Ah! I’m
no longer a young man,” he said; “it’s all over this time. I shall never
come back again. My bones will rest in some corner over yonder.” And yet,
after he had affectionately embraced Pierre and Guillaume, he drew
himself up like one who remained unconquered, and he raised a supreme cry
of hope. “But after all, who knows? Triumph may perhaps come to-morrow.
The future belongs to those who prepare it and wait for it!”

Then he walked away, and long after he had disappeared his firm, sonorous
footsteps could be heard re-echoing in the quiet night.



ON the mild March morning when Pierre left his little house at Neuilly to
accompany Guillaume to Montmartre, he was oppressed by the thought that
on returning home he would once more find himself alone with nothing to
prevent him from relapsing into negation and despair. The idea of this
had kept him from sleeping, and he still found it difficult to hide his
distress and force a smile.

The sky was so clear and the atmosphere so mild that the brothers had
resolved to go to Montmartre on foot by way of the outer boulevards. Nine
o’clock was striking when they set out. Guillaume for his part was very
gay at the thought of the surprise he would give his family. It was as if
he were suddenly coming back from a long journey. He had not warned them
of his intentions; he had merely written to them now and again to tell
them that he was recovering, and they certainly had no idea that his
return was so near at hand.

When Guillaume and Pierre had climbed the sunlit slopes of Montmartre,
and crossed the quiet countrified Place du Tertre, the former, by means
of a latch-key, quietly opened the door of his house, which seemed to be
asleep, so profound was the stillness both around and within it. Pierre
found it the same as on the occasion of his previous and only visit.
First came the narrow passage which ran through the ground-floor,
affording a view of all Paris at the further end. Next there was the
garden, reduced to a couple of plum-trees and a clump of lilac-bushes,
the leaves of which had now sprouted. And this time the priest perceived
three bicycles leaning against the trees. Beyond them stood the large
work-shop, so gay, and yet so peaceful, with its huge window overlooking
a sea of roofs.

Guillaume had reached the work-shop without meeting anybody. With an
expression of much amusement he raised a finger to his lips. “Attention,
Pierre,” he whispered; “you’ll just see!”

Then having noiselessly opened the door, they remained for a moment on
the threshold.

The three sons alone were there. Near his forge stood Thomas working a
boring machine, with which he was making some holes in a small brass
plate. Then Francois and Antoine were seated on either side of their
large table, the former reading, and the latter finishing a block. The
bright sunshine streamed in, playing over all the seeming disorder of the
room, where so many callings and so many implements found place. A large
bunch of wallflowers bloomed on the women’s work-table near the window;
and absorbed as the young men were in their respective tasks the only
sound was the slight hissing of the boring machine each time that the
eldest of them drilled another hole.

However, although Guillaume did not stir, there suddenly came a quiver,
an awakening. His sons seemed to guess his presence, for they raised
their heads, each at the same moment. From each, too, came the same cry,
and a common impulse brought them first to their feet and then to his


Guillaume embraced them, feeling very happy. And that was all; there was
no long spell of emotion, no useless talk. It was as if he had merely
gone out the day before and, delayed by business, had now come back.
Still, he looked at them with his kindly smile, and they likewise smiled
with their eyes fixed on his. Those glances proclaimed everything, the
closest affection and complete self-bestowal for ever.

“Come in, Pierre,” called Guillaume; “shake hands with these young men.”

The priest had remained near the door, overcome by a singular feeling of
discomfort. When his nephews had vigorously shaken hands with him, he sat
down near the window apart from them, as if he felt out of his element

“Well, youngsters,” said Guillaume, “where’s Mere-Grand, and where’s

Their grandmother was upstairs in her room, they said; and Marie had
taken it into her head to go marketing. This, by the way, was one of her
delights. She asserted that she was the only one who knew how to buy
new-laid eggs and butter of a nutty odour. Moreover, she sometimes
brought some dainty or some flowers home, in her delight at proving
herself to be so good a housewife.

“And so things are going on well?” resumed Guillaume. “You are all
satisfied, your work is progressing, eh?”

He addressed brief questions to each of them, like one who, on his return
home, at once reverts to his usual habits. Thomas, with his rough face
beaming, explained in a couple of sentences that he was now sure of
perfecting his little motor; Francois, who was still preparing for his
examination, jestingly declared that he yet had to lodge a heap of
learning in his brain; and then Antoine produced the block which he was
finishing, and which depicted his little friend Lise, Jahan’s sister,
reading in her garden amidst the sunshine. It was like a florescence of
that dear belated creature whose mind had been awakened by his affection.

However, the three brothers speedily went back to their places, reverting
to their work with a natural impulse, for discipline had made them regard
work as life itself. Then Guillaume, who had glanced at what each was
doing, exclaimed: “Ah! youngsters, I schemed and prepared a lot of things
myself while I was laid up. I even made a good many notes. We walked here
from Neuilly, but my papers and the clothes which Mere-Grand sent me will
come in a cab by-and-by.... Ah! how pleased I am to find everything in
order here, and to be able to take up my task with you again! Ah! I shall
polish off some work now, and no mistake!”

He had already gone to his own corner, the space reserved for him between
the window and the forge. He there had a chemical furnace, several glass
cases and shelves crowded with appliances, and a long table, one end of
which he used for writing purposes. And he once more took possession of
that little world. After glancing around with delight at seeing
everything in its place, he began to handle one object and another, eager
to be at work like his sons.

All at once, however, Mere-Grand appeared, calm, grave and erect in her
black gown, at the top of the little staircase which conducted to the
bedrooms. “So it’s you, Guillaume?” said she. “Will you come up for a

He immediately did so, understanding that she wished to speak to him
alone and tranquillise him. It was a question of the great secret between
them, that one thing of which his sons knew nothing, and which, after
Salvat’s crime, had brought him much anguish, through his fear that it
might be divulged. When he reached Mere-Grand’s room she at once took him
to the hiding-place near her bed, and showed him the cartridges of the
new explosive, and the plans of the terrible engine of warfare which he
had invented. He found them all as he had left them. Before anyone could
have reached them, she would have blown up the whole place at the risk of
perishing herself in the explosion. With her wonted air of quiet heroism,
she handed Guillaume the key which he had sent her by Pierre.

“You were not anxious, I hope?” she said.

He pressed her hands with a commingling of affection and respect. “My
only anxiety,” he replied, “was that the police might come here and treat
you roughly.... You are the guardian of our secret, and it would be
for you to finish my work should I disappear.”

While Guillaume and Madame Leroi were thus engaged upstairs, Pierre,
still seated near the window below, felt his discomfort increasing. The
inmates of the house certainly regarded him with no other feeling than
one of affectionate sympathy; and so how came it that he considered them
hostile? The truth was that he asked himself what would become of him
among those workers, who were upheld by a faith of their own, whereas he
believed in nothing, and did not work. The sight of those young men, so
gaily and zealously toiling, ended by quite irritating him; and the
arrival of Marie brought his distress to a climax.

Joyous and full of life, she came in without seeing him, a basket on her
arm. And she seemed to bring all the sunlight of the spring morning with
her, so bright was the sparkle of her youth. The whole of her pink face,
her delicate nose, her broad intelligent brow, her thick, kindly lips,
beamed beneath the heavy coils of her black hair. And her brown eyes ever
laughed with the joyousness which comes from health and strength.

“Ah!” she exclaimed, “I have brought such a lot of things, youngsters.
Just come and see them; I wouldn’t unpack the basket in the kitchen.”

It became absolutely necessary for the brothers to draw round the basket
which she had laid upon the table. “First there’s the butter!” said she;
“just smell if it hasn’t a nice scent of nuts! It’s churned especially
for me, you know. Then here are the eggs. They were laid only yesterday,
I’ll answer for it. And, in fact, that one there is this morning’s. And
look at the cutlets! They’re wonderful, aren’t they? The butcher cuts
them carefully when he sees me. And then here’s a cream cheese, real
cream, you know, it will be delicious! Ah! and here’s the surprise,
something dainty, some radishes, some pretty little pink radishes. Just
fancy! radishes in March, what a luxury!”

She triumphed like the good little housewife she was, one who had
followed a whole course of cookery and home duties at the Lycee Fenelon.
The brothers, as merry as she herself, were obliged to compliment her.

All at once, however, she caught sight of Pierre. “What! you are there,
Monsieur l’Abbe?” she exclaimed; “I beg your pardon, but I didn’t see
you. How is Guillaume? Have you brought us some news of him?”

“But father’s come home,” said Thomas; “he’s upstairs with Mere-Grand.”

Quite thunderstruck, she hastily placed her purchases in the basket.
“Guillaume’s come back, Guillaume’s come back!” said she, “and you don’t
tell me of it, you let me unpack everything! Well, it’s nice of me, I
must say, to go on praising my butter and eggs when Guillaume’s come

Guillaume, as it happened, was just coming down with Madame Leroi. Marie
gaily hastened to him and offered him her cheeks, on which he planted two
resounding kisses. Then she, resting her hands on his shoulders, gave him
a long look, while saying in a somewhat tremulous voice: “I am pleased,
very pleased to see you, Guillaume. I may confess it now, I thought I had
lost you, I was very anxious and very unhappy.”

Although she was still smiling, tears had gathered in her eyes, and he,
likewise moved, again kissed her, murmuring: “Dear Marie! How happy it
makes me to find you as beautiful and as affectionate as ever.”

Pierre, who was looking at them, deemed them cold. He had doubtless
expected more tears, and a more passionate embrace on the part of an
affianced pair, whom so grievous an accident had separated almost on the
eve of their wedding. Moreover, his feelings were hurt by the
disproportion of their respective ages. No doubt his brother still seemed
to him very sturdy and young, and his feeling of repulsion must have come
from that young woman whom, most decidedly, he did not like. Ever since
her arrival he had experienced increasing discomfort, a keener and keener
desire to go off and never return.

So acute became his suffering at feeling like a stranger in his brother’s
home, that he at last rose and sought to take his leave, under the
pretext that he had some urgent matters to attend to in town.

“What! you won’t stay to _dejeuner_ with us!” exclaimed Guillaume in
perfect stupefaction. “Why, it was agreed! You surely won’t distress me
like that! This house is your own, remember!”

Then, as with genuine affection they all protested and pressed him to
stay, he was obliged to do so. However, he soon relapsed into silence and
embarrassment, seated on the same chair as before, and listening moodily
to those people who, although they were his relatives, seemed to be far
removed from him.

As it was barely eleven o’clock they resumed work, but every now and
again there was some merry talk. On one of the servants coming for the
provisions, Marie told the girl to call her as soon as it should be time
to boil the eggs, for she prided herself on boiling them to a nicety, in
such wise as to leave the whites like creamy milk. This gave an
opportunity for a few jests from Francois, who occasionally teased her
about all the fine things she had learnt at the Lycee Fenelon, where her
father had placed her when she was twelve years old. However, she was not
afraid of him, but gave him tit for tat by chaffing him about all the
hours which he lost at the Ecole Normale over a mass of pedagogic trash.

“Ah! you big children!” she exclaimed, while still working at her
embroidery. “You are all very intelligent, and you all claim to have
broad minds, and yet--confess it now--it worries you a little that a girl
like me should have studied at college in the same way as yourselves.
It’s a sexual quarrel, a question of rivalry and competition, isn’t it?”

They protested the contrary, declaring that they were in favour of girls
receiving as complete an education as possible. She was well aware of
this; however, she liked to tease them in return for the manner in which
they themselves plagued her.

“But do you know,” said she, “you are a great deal behind the times? I am
well aware of the reproaches which are levelled at girls’ colleges by
so-called right-minded people. To begin, there is no religious element
whatever in the education one receives there, and this alarms many
families which consider religious education to be absolutely necessary
for girls, if only as a moral weapon of defence. Then, too, the education
at our Lycees is being democratised--girls of all positions come to them.
Thanks to the scholarships which are so liberally offered, the daughter
of the lady who rents a first floor flat often finds the daughter of her
door-keeper among her school-fellows, and some think this objectionable.
It is said also that the pupils free themselves too much from home
influence, and that too much opportunity is left for personal initiative.
As a matter of fact the extensiveness of the many courses of study, all
the learning that is required of pupils at the examinations, certainly
does tend to their emancipation, to the coming of the future woman and
future society, which you young men are all longing for, are you not?”

“Of course we are!” exclaimed Francois; “we all agree on that point.”

She waved her hand in a pretty way, and then quietly continued: “I’m
jesting. My views are simple enough, as you well know, and I don’t ask
for nearly as much as you do. As for woman’s claims and rights, well, the
question is clear enough; woman is man’s equal so far as nature allows
it. And the only point is to agree and love one another. At the same time
I’m well pleased to know what I do--oh! not from any spirit of pedantry
but simply because I think it has all done me good, and given me some
moral as well as physical health.”

It delighted her to recall the days she had spent at the Lycee Fenelon,
which of the five State colleges for girls opened in Paris was the only
one counting a large number of pupils. Most of these were the daughters
of officials or professors, who purposed entering the teaching
profession. In this case, they had to win their last diploma at the Ecole
Normale of Sevres, after leaving the Lycee. Marie, for her part, though
her studies had been brilliant, had felt no taste whatever for the
calling of teacher. Moreover, when Guillaume had taken charge of her
after her father’s death, he had refused to let her run about giving
lessons. To provide herself with a little money, for she would accept
none as a gift, she worked at embroidery, an art in which she was most

While she was talking to the young men Guillaume had listened to her
without interfering. If he had fallen in love with her it was largely on
account of her frankness and uprightness, the even balance of her nature,
which gave her so forcible a charm. She knew all; but if she lacked the
poetry of the shrinking, lamb-like girl who has been brought up in
ignorance, she had gained absolute rectitude of heart and mind, exempt
from all hypocrisy, all secret perversity such as is stimulated by what
may seem mysterious in life. And whatever she might know, she had
retained such child-like purity that in spite of her six-and-twenty
summers all the blood in her veins would occasionally rush to her cheeks
in fiery blushes, which drove her to despair.

“My dear Marie,” Guillaume now exclaimed, “you know very well that the
youngsters were simply joking. You are in the right, of course.... And
your boiled eggs cannot be matched in the whole world.”

He said this in so soft and affectionate a tone that the young woman
flushed purple. Then, becoming conscious of it, she coloured yet more
deeply, and as the three young men glanced at her maliciously she grew
angry with herself. “Isn’t it ridiculous, Monsieur l’Abbe,” she said,
turning towards Pierre, “for an old maid like myself to blush in that
fashion? People might think that I had committed a crime. It’s simply to
make me blush, you know, that those children tease me. I do all I can to
prevent it, but it’s stronger than my will.”

At this Mere-Grand raised her eyes from the shirt she was mending, and
remarked: “Oh! it’s natural enough, my dear. It is your heart rising to
your cheeks in order that we may see it.”

The _dejeuner_ hour was now at hand; and they decided to lay the table in
the work-shop, as was occasionally done when they had a guest. The
simple, cordial meal proved very enjoyable in the bright sunlight.
Marie’s boiled eggs, which she herself brought from the kitchen covered
with a napkin, were found delicious. Due honour was also done to the
butter and the radishes. The only dessert that followed the cutlets was
the cream cheese, but it was a cheese such as nobody else had ever
partaken of. And, meantime, while they ate and chatted all Paris lay
below them, stretching away to the horizon with its mighty rumbling.

Pierre had made an effort to become cheerful, but he soon relapsed into
silence. Guillaume, however, was very talkative. Having noticed the three
bicycles in the garden, he inquired of Marie how far she had gone that
morning. She answered that Francois and Antoine had accompanied her in
the direction of Orgemont. The worry of their excursions was that each
time they returned to Montmartre they had to push their machines up the
height. From the general point of view, however, the young woman was
delighted with bicycling, which had many virtues, said she. Then, seeing
Pierre glance at her in amazement, she promised that she would some day
explain her opinions on the subject to him. After this bicycling became
the one topic of conversation until the end of the meal. Thomas gave an
account of the latest improvements introduced into Grandidier’s machines;
and the others talked of the excursions they had made or meant to make,
with all the exuberant delight of school children eager for the open air.

In the midst of the chatter, Mere-Grand, who presided at table with the
serene dignity of a queen-mother, leant towards Guillaume, who sat next
to her, and spoke to him in an undertone. Pierre understood that she was
referring to his marriage, which was to have taken place in April, but
must now necessarily be deferred. This sensible marriage, which seemed
likely to ensure the happiness of the entire household, was largely the
work of Mere-Grand and the three young men, for Guillaume would never
have yielded to his heart if she whom he proposed to make his wife had
not already been a well-loved member of the family. At the present time
the last week in June seemed, for all sorts of reasons, to be a
favourable date for the wedding.

Marie, who heard the suggestion, turned gaily towards Mere-Grand.

“The end of June will suit very well, will it not, my dear?” said the

Pierre expected to see a deep flush rise to the young woman’s cheeks, but
she remained very calm. She felt deep affection, blended with the most
tender gratitude, for Guillaume, and was convinced that in marrying him
she would be acting wisely and well both for herself and the others.

“Certainly, the end of June,” she repeated, “that will suit very well

Then the sons, who likewise had heard the proposal, nodded their heads by
way of assenting also.

When they rose from table Pierre was absolutely determined to go off. The
cordial and simple meal, the sight of that family, which had been
rendered so happy by Guillaume’s return, and of that young woman who
smiled so placidly at life, had brought him keen suffering, though why he
could not tell. However, it all irritated him beyond endurance; and he
therefore again pretended that he had a number of things to see to in
Paris. He shook hands in turn with the young men, Mere-Grand and Marie;
both of the women evincing great friendliness but also some surprise at
his haste to leave the house. Guillaume, who seemed saddened and anxious,
sought to detain him, and failing in this endeavour followed him into the
little garden, where he stopped him in order to have an explanation.

“Come,” said he, “what is the matter with you, Pierre? Why are you
running off like this?”

“Oh! there’s nothing the matter I assure you; but I have to attend to a
few urgent affairs.”

“Oh, Pierre, pray put all pretence aside. Nobody here has displeased you
or hurt your feelings, I hope. They also will soon love you as I do.”

“I have no doubt of it, and I complain of nobody excepting perhaps

Guillaume’s sorrow was increasing. “Ah! brother, little brother,” he
resumed, “you distress me, for I can detect that you are hiding something
from me. Remember that new ties have linked us together and that we love
one another as in the old days when you were in your cradle and I used to
come to play with you. I know you well, remember. I know all your
tortures, since you have confessed them to me; and I won’t have you
suffer, I want to cure you, I do!”

Pierre’s heart was full, and as he heard those words he could not
restrain his tears. “Oh! you must leave me to my sufferings,” he
responded. “They are incurable. You can do nothing for me, I am beyond
the pale of nature, I am a monster.”

“What do you say! Can you not return within nature’s pale even if you
_have_ gone beyond it? One thing that I will not allow is that you should
go and shut yourself up in that solitary little house of yours, where you
madden yourself by brooding over the fall of your faith. Come and spend
your time with us, so that we may again give you some taste for life.”

Ah! the empty little house which awaited him! Pierre shivered at the
thought of it, at the idea that he would now find himself all alone
there, bereft of the brother with whom he had lately spent so many happy
days. Into what solitude and torment must he not now relapse after that
companionship to which he had become accustomed? However, the very
thought of the latter increased his grief, and confession suddenly gushed
from his lips: “To spend my time here, live with you, oh! no, that is an
impossibility. Why do you compel me to speak out, and tell you things
that I am ashamed of and do not even understand. Ever since this morning
you must have seen that I have been suffering here. No doubt it is
because you and your people work, whereas I do nothing, because you love
one another and believe in your efforts, whereas I no longer know how to
love or believe. I feel out of my element. I’m embarrassed here, and I
embarrass you. In fact you all irritate me, and I might end by hating
you. There remains nothing healthy in me, all natural feelings have been
spoilt and destroyed, and only envy and hatred could sprout up from such
ruins. So let me go back to my accursed hole, where death will some day
come for me. Farewell, brother!”

But Guillaume, full of affection and compassion, caught hold of his arms
and detained him. “You shall not go, I will not allow you to go, without
a positive promise that you will come back. I don’t wish to lose you
again, especially now that I know all you are worth and how dreadfully
you suffer. I will save you, if need be, in spite of yourself. I will
cure you of your torturing doubts, oh! without catechising you, without
imposing any particular faith on you, but simply by allowing life to do
its work, for life alone can give you back health and hope. So I beg you,
brother, in the name of our affection, come back here, come as often as
you can to spend a day with us. You will then see that when folks have
allotted themselves a task and work together in unison, they escape
excessive unhappiness. A task of any kind--yes, that is what is wanted,
together with some great passion and frank acceptance of life, so that it
may be lived as it should be and loved.”

“But what would be the use of my living here?” Pierre muttered bitterly.
“I’ve no task left me, and I no longer know how to love.”

“Well, I will give you a task, and as for love, that will soon be
awakened by the breath of life. Come, brother, consent, consent!”

Then, seeing that Pierre still remained gloomy and sorrowful, and
persisted in his determination to go away and bury himself, Guillaume
added, “Ah! I don’t say that the things of this world are such as one
might wish them to be. I don’t say that only joy and truth and justice
exist. For instance, the affair of that unhappy fellow Salvat fills me
with anger and revolt. Guilty he is, of course, and yet how many excuses
he had, and how I shall pity him if the crimes of all of us are laid at
his door, if the various political gangs bandy him from one to another,
and use him as a weapon in their sordid fight for power. The thought of
it all so exasperates me that at times I am as unreasonable as yourself.
But now, brother, just to please me, promise that you will come and spend
the day after to-morrow with us.”

Then, as Pierre still kept silent, Guillaume went on: “I will have it so.
It would grieve me too much to think that you were suffering from
martyrdom in your solitary nook. I want to cure and save you.”

Tears again rose to Pierre’s eyes, and in a tone of infinite distress he
answered: “Don’t compel me to promise.... All I can say is that I will
try to conquer myself.”

The week he then spent in his little, dark, empty home proved a terrible
one. Shutting himself up he brooded over his despair at having lost the
companionship of that elder brother whom he once more loved with his
whole soul. He had never before been so keenly conscious of his solitude;
and he was a score of times on the point of hastening to Montmartre, for
he vaguely felt that affection, truth and life were there. But on each
occasion he was held back by a return of the discomfort which he had
already experienced, discomfort compounded of shame and fear. Priest that
he was, cut off from love and the avocations of other men, he would
surely find nothing but hurt and suffering among creatures who were all
nature, freedom and health. While he pondered thus, however, there rose
before him the shades of his father and mother, those sad spirits that
seemed to wander through the deserted rooms lamenting and entreating him
to reconcile them in himself, as soon as he should find peace. What was
he to do,--deny their prayer, and remain weeping with them, or go yonder
in search of the cure which might at last lull them to sleep and bring
them happiness in death by the force of his own happiness in life? At
last a morning came when it seemed to him that his father enjoined him
with a smile to betake himself yonder, while his mother consented with a
glance of her big soft eyes, in which her sorrow at having made so bad a
priest of him yielded to her desire to restore him to the life of our
common humanity.

Pierre did not argue with himself that day: he took a cab and gave
Guillaume’s address to the driver for fear lest he should be overcome on
the way and wish to turn back. And when he again found himself, as in a
dream, in the large work-shop, where Guillaume and the young men welcomed
him in a delicately affectionate way, he witnessed an unexpected scene
which both impressed and relieved him.

Marie, who had scarcely nodded to him as he entered, sat there with a
pale and frowning face. And Mere-Grand, who was also grave, said, after
glancing at her: “You must excuse her, Monsieur l’Abbe; but she isn’t
reasonable. She is in a temper with all five of us.”

Guillaume began to laugh. “Ah! she’s so stubborn!” he exclaimed. “You can
have no idea, Pierre, of what goes on in that little head of hers when
anybody says or does anything contrary to her ideas of justice. Such
absolute and lofty ideas they are, that they can descend to no
compromise. For instance, we were talking of that recent affair of a
father who was found guilty on his son’s evidence; and she maintained
that the son had only done what was right in giving evidence against his
father, and that one ought invariably to tell the truth, no matter what
might happen. What a terrible public prosecutor she would make, eh?”

Thereupon Marie, exasperated by Pierre’s smile, which seemingly indicated
that he also thought her in the wrong, flew into quite a passion: “You
are cruel, Guillaume!” she cried; “I won’t be laughed at like this.”

“But you are losing your senses, my dear,” exclaimed Francois, while
Thomas and Antoine again grew merry. “We were only urging a question of
humanity, father and I, for we respect and love justice as much as you

“There’s no question of humanity, but simply one of justice. What is just
and right is just and right, and you cannot alter it.”

Then, as Guillaume made a further attempt to state his views and win her
over to them, she rose trembling, in such a passion that she could
scarcely stammer: “No, no, you are all too cruel, you only want to grieve
me. I prefer to go up into my own room.”

At this Mere-Grand vainly sought to restrain her. “My child, my child!”
 said she, “reflect a moment; this is very wrong, you will deeply regret

“No, no; you are not just, and I suffer too much.”

Then she wildly rushed upstairs to her room overhead.

Consternation followed. Scenes of a similar character had occasionally
occurred before, but there had never been so serious a one. Guillaume
immediately admitted that he had done wrong in laughing at her, for she
could not bear irony. Then he told Pierre that in her childhood and youth
she had been subject to terrible attacks of passion whenever she
witnessed or heard of any act of injustice. As she herself explained,
these attacks would come upon her with irresistible force, transporting
her to such a point that she would sometimes fall upon the floor and
rave. Even nowadays she proved quarrelsome and obstinate whenever certain
subjects were touched upon. And she afterwards blushed for it all, fully
conscious that others must think her unbearable.

Indeed, a quarter of an hour later, she came downstairs again of her own
accord, and bravely acknowledged her fault. “Wasn’t it ridiculous of me?”
 she said. “To think I accuse others of being unkind when I behave like
that! Monsieur l’Abbe must have a very bad opinion of me.” Then, after
kissing Mere-Grand, she added: “You’ll forgive me, won’t you? Oh!
Francois may laugh now, and so may Thomas and Antoine. They are quite
right, our differences are merely laughing matters.”

“My poor Marie,” replied Guillaume, in a tone of deep affection. “You see
what it is to surrender oneself to the absolute. If you are so healthy
and reasonable it’s because you regard almost everything from the
relative point of view, and only ask life for such gifts as it can
bestow. But when your absolute ideas of justice come upon you, you lose
both equilibrium and reason. At the same time, I must say that we are all
liable to err in much the same manner.”

Marie, who was still very flushed, thereupon answered in a jesting way:
“Well, it at least proves that I’m not perfect.”

“Oh, certainly! And so much the better,” said Guillaume, “for it makes me
love you the more.”

This was a sentiment which Pierre himself would willingly have re-echoed.
The scene had deeply stirred him. Had not his own frightful torments
originated with his desire for the absolute both in things and beings? He
had sought faith in its entirety, and despair had thrown him into
complete negation. Again, was there not some evil desire for the absolute
and some affectation of pride and voluntary blindness in the haughty
bearing which he had retained amidst the downfall of his belief, the
saintly reputation which he had accepted when he possessed no faith at
all? On hearing his brother praise Marie, because she only asked life for
such things as it could give, it had seemed to him that this was advice
for himself. It was as if a refreshing breath of nature had passed before
his face. At the same time his feelings in this respect were still vague,
and the only well-defined pleasure that he experienced came from the
young woman’s fit of anger, that error of hers which brought her nearer
to him, by lowering her in some degree from her pedestal of serene
perfection. It was, perhaps, that seeming perfection which had made him
suffer; however, he was as yet unable to analyse his feelings. That day,
for the first time, he chatted with her for a little while, and when he
went off he thought her very good-hearted and very human.

Two days later he again came to spend the afternoon in the large sunlit
work-shop overlooking Paris. Ever since he had become conscious of the
idle life he was leading, he had felt very bored when he was alone, and
only found relief among that gay, hardworking family. His brother scolded
him for not having come to _dejeuner_, and he promised to do so on the
morrow. By the time a week had elapsed, none of the discomfort and covert
hostility which had prevailed between him and Marie remained: they met
and chatted on a footing of good fellowship. Although he was a priest,
she was in no wise embarrassed by his presence. With her quiet atheism,
indeed, she had never imagined that a priest could be different from
other men. Thus her sisterly cordiality both astonished and delighted
Pierre. It was as if he wore the same garments and held the same ideas as
his big nephews, as if there were nothing whatever to distinguish him
from other men. He was still more surprised, however, by Marie’s silence
on all religious questions. She seemed to live on quietly and happily,
without a thought of what might be beyond life, that terrifying realm of
mystery, which to him had brought such agony of mind.

Now that he came every two or three days to Montmartre she noticed that
he was suffering. What could be the matter with him, she wondered. When
she questioned him in a friendly manner and only elicited evasive
replies, she guessed that he was ashamed of his sufferings, and that they
were aggravated, rendered well-nigh incurable, by the very secrecy in
which he buried them. Thereupon womanly compassion awoke within her, and
she felt increasing affection for that tall, pale fellow with feverish
eyes, who was consumed by grievous torments which he would confess to
none. No doubt she questioned Guillaume respecting her brother’s sadness,
and he must have confided some of the truth to her in order that she
might help him to extricate Pierre from his sufferings, and give him back
some taste for life. The poor fellow always seemed so happy when she
treated him like a friend, a brother!

At last, one evening, on seeing his eyes full of tears as he gazed upon
the dismal twilight falling over Paris, she herself pressed him to
confide his trouble to her. And thereupon he suddenly spoke out,
confessing all his torture and the horrible void which the loss of faith
had left within him. Ah! to be unable to believe, to be unable to love,
to be nothing but ashes, to know of nothing certain by which he might
replace the faith that had fled from him! She listened in stupefaction.
Why, he must be mad! And she plainly told him so, such was her
astonishment and revolt at hearing such a desperate cry of wretchedness.
To despair, indeed, and believe in nothing and love nothing, simply
because a religious hypothesis had crumbled! And this, too, when the
whole, vast world was spread before one, life with the duty of living it,
creatures and things to be loved and succoured, without counting the
universal labour, the task which one and all came to accomplish!
Assuredly he must be mad, mad with the gloomiest madness; still she vowed
she would cure him.

From that time forward she felt the most compassionate affection for this
extraordinary young man, who had first embarrassed and afterwards
astonished her. She showed herself very gentle and gay with him; she
looked after him with the greatest skill and delicacy of heart and mind.
There had been certain similar features in their childhood; each had been
reared in the strictest religious views by a pious mother. But afterwards
how different had been their fates! Whilst he was struggling with his
doubts, bound by his priestly vows, she had grown up at the Lycee
Fenelon, where her father had placed her as soon as her mother died; and
there, far removed from all practice of religion, she had gradually
reached total forgetfulness of her early religious views. It was a
constant source of surprise for him to find that she had thus escaped all
distress of mind at the thought of what might come after death, whereas
that same thought had so deeply tortured him. When they chatted together
and he expressed his astonishment at it, she frankly laughed, saying that
she had never felt any fear of hell, for she was certain that no hell
existed. And she added that she lived in all quietude, without hope of
going to any heaven, her one thought being to comply in a reasonable way
with the requirements and necessities of earthly life. It was, perhaps,
in some measure a matter of temperament with her; but it was also a
matter of education. Yet, whatever that education had been, whatever
knowledge she had acquired, she had remained very womanly and very
loving. There was nothing stern or masculine about her.

“Ah, my friend,” she said one day to Pierre, “if you only knew how easy
it is for me to remain happy so long as I see those I love free from any
excessive suffering. For my own part I can always adapt myself to life. I
work and content myself no matter what may happen. Sorrow has only come
to me from others, for I can’t help wishing that everybody should be
fairly happy, and there are some who won’t.... I was for a long time
very poor, but I remained gay. I wish for nothing, except for things that
can’t be purchased. Still, want is the great abomination which distresses
me. I can understand that you should have felt everything crumbling when
charity appeared to you so insufficient a remedy as to be contemptible.
Yet it does bring relief; and, moreover, it is so sweet to be able to
give. Some day, too, by dint of reason and toil, by the good and
efficient working of life itself, the reign of justice will surely come.
But now it’s I that am preaching! Oh! I have little taste for it! It
would be ridiculous for me to try to heal you with big phrases. All the
same, I should like to cure you of your gloomy sufferings. To do so, all
that I ask of you is to spend as much time as you can with us. You know
that this is Guillaume’s greatest desire. We will all love you so well,
you will see us all so affectionately united, and so gay over our common
work, that you will come back to truth by joining us in the school of our
good mother nature. You must live and work, and love and hope.”

Pierre smiled as he listened. He now came to Montmartre nearly every day.
She was so nice and affectionate when she preached to him in that way
with a pretty assumption of wisdom. As she had said too, life was so
delightful in that big workroom; it was so pleasant to be all together,
and to labour in common at the same work of health and truth. Ashamed as
Pierre was of doing nothing, anxious as he was to occupy his mind and
fingers, he had first taken an interest in Antoine’s engraving, asking
why he should not try something of the kind himself. However, he felt
that he lacked the necessary gift for art. Then, too, he recoiled from
Francois’ purely intellectual labour, for he himself had scarcely emerged
from the harrowing study of conflicting texts. Thus he was more inclined
for manual toil like that of Thomas. In mechanics he found precision and
clearness such as might help to quench his thirst for certainty. So he
placed himself at the young man’s orders, pulled his bellows and held
pieces of mechanism for him. He also sometimes served as assistant to
Guillaume, tying a large blue apron over his cassock in order to help in
the experiments. From that time he formed part of the work-shop, which
simply counted a worker the more.

One afternoon early in April, when they were all busily engaged there,
Marie, who sat embroidering at the table in front of Mere-Grand, raised
her eyes to the window and suddenly burst into a cry of admiration: “Oh!
look at Paris under that rain of sunlight!”

Pierre drew near; the play of light was much the same as that which he
had witnessed at his first visit. The sun, sinking behind some slight
purple clouds, was throwing down a hail of rays and sparks which on all
sides rebounded and leapt over the endless stretch of roofs. It might
have been thought that some great sower, hidden amidst the glory of the
planet, was scattering handfuls of golden grain from one horizon to the

Pierre, at sight of it, put his fancy into words: “It is the sun sowing
Paris with grain for a future harvest,” said he. “See how the expanse
looks like ploughed land; the brownish houses are like soil turned up,
and the streets are deep and straight like furrows.”

“Yes, yes, that’s true,” exclaimed Marie gaily. “The sun is sowing Paris
with grain. See how it casts the seed of light and health right away to
the distant suburbs! And yet, how singular! The rich districts on the
west seem steeped in a ruddy mist, whilst the good seed falls in golden
dust over the left bank and the populous districts eastward. It is there,
is it not, that the crop will spring up?”

They had all drawn near, and were smiling at the symbol. As Marie had
said, it seemed indeed that while the sun slowly sank behind the lacework
of clouds, the sower of eternal life scattered his flaming seed with a
rhythmical swing of the arm, ever selecting the districts of toil and
effort. One dazzling handful of grain fell over yonder on the district of
the schools; and then yet another rained down to fertilise the district
of the factories and work-shops.

“Ah! well,” said Guillaume gaily. “May the crop soon sprout from the good
ground of our great Paris, which has been turned up by so many
revolutions, and enriched by the blood of so many workers! It is the only
ground in the world where Ideas can germinate and bloom. Yes, yes, Pierre
is quite right, it is the sun sowing Paris with the seed of the future
world, which can sprout only up here!”

Then Thomas, Francois and Antoine, who stood behind their father in a
row, nodded as if to say that this was also their own conviction; whilst
Mere-Grand gazed afar with dreamy eyes as though she could already behold
the splendid future.

“Ah! but it is only a dream; centuries must elapse. We shall never see
it!” murmured Pierre with a quiver.

“But others will!” cried Marie. “And does not that suffice?”

Those lofty words stirred Pierre to the depths of his being. And all at
once there came to him the memory of another Marie*--the adorable Marie
of his youth, that Marie de Guersaint who had been cured at Lourdes, and
the loss of whom had left such a void in his heart. Was that new Marie
who stood there smiling at him, so tranquil and so charming in her
strength, destined to heal that old-time wound? He felt that he was
beginning to live again since she had become his friend.

  * The heroine of M. Zola’s “Lourdes.”

Meantime, there before them, the glorious sun, with the sweep of its
rays, was scattering living golden dust over Paris, still and ever sowing
the great future harvest of justice and of truth.


ONE evening, at the close of a good day’s work, Pierre, who was helping
Thomas, suddenly caught his foot in the skirt of his cassock and narrowly
escaped falling. At this, Marie, after raising a faint cry of anxiety,
exclaimed: “Why don’t you take it off?”

There was no malice in her inquiry. She simply looked upon the priestly
robe as something too heavy and cumbersome, particularly when one had
certain work to perform. Nevertheless, her words deeply impressed Pierre,
and he could not forget them. When he was at home in the evening and
repeated them to himself they gradually threw him into feverish
agitation. Why, indeed, had he not divested himself of that cassock,
which weighed so heavily and painfully on his shoulders? Then a frightful
struggle began within him, and he spent a terrible, sleepless night,
again a prey to all his former torments.

At first sight it seemed a very simple matter that he should cast his
priestly gown aside, for had he not ceased to discharge any priestly
office? He had not said mass for some time past, and this surely meant
renunciation of the priesthood. Nevertheless, so long as he retained his
gown it was possible that he might some day say mass again, whereas if he
cast it aside he would, as it were, strip himself, quit the priesthood
entirely, without possibility of return. It was a terrible step to take,
one that would prove irrevocable; and thus he paced his room for hours,
in great anguish of mind.

He had formerly indulged in a superb dream. Whilst believing nothing
himself he had resolved to watch, in all loyalty, over the belief of
others. He would not so lower himself as to forswear his vows, he would
be no base renegade, but however great the torments of the void he felt
within him he would remain the minister of man’s illusions respecting the
Divinity. And it was by reason of his conduct in this respect that he had
ended by being venerated as a saint--he who denied everything, who had
become a mere empty sepulchre. For a long time his falsehood had never
disturbed him, but it now brought him acute suffering. It seemed to him
that he would be acting in the vilest manner if he delayed placing his
life in accord with his opinions. The thought of it all quite rent his

The question was a very clear one. By what right did he remain the
minister of a religion in which he no longer believed? Did not elementary
honesty require that he should quit a Church in which he denied the
presence of the Divinity? He regarded the dogmas of that Church as
puerile errors, and yet he persisted in teaching them as if they were
eternal truths. Base work it was, that alarmed his conscience. He vainly
sought the feverish glow of charity and martyrdom which had led him to
offer himself as a sacrifice, willing to suffer all the torture of doubt
and to find his own life lost and ravaged, provided that he might yet
afford the relief of hope to the lowly. Truth and nature, no doubt, had
already regained too much ascendancy over him for those feelings to
return. The thought of such a lying apostolate now wounded him; he no
longer had the hypocritical courage to call the Divinity down upon the
believers kneeling before him, when he was convinced that the Divinity
would not descend. Thus all the past was swept away; there remained
nothing of the sublime pastoral part he would once have liked to play,
that supreme gift of himself which lay in stubborn adherence to the rules
of the Church, and such devotion to faith as to endure in silence the
torture of having lost it.

What must Marie think of his prolonged falsehood, he wondered, and
thereupon he seemed to hear her words again: “Why not take your cassock
off?” His conscience bled as if those words were a stab. What contempt
must she not feel for him, she who was so upright, so high-minded? Every
scattered blame, every covert criticism directed against his conduct,
seemed to find embodiment in her. It now sufficed that she should condemn
him, and he at once felt guilty. At the same time she had never voiced
her disapproval to him, in all probability because she did not think she
had any right to intervene in a struggle of conscience. The superb
calmness and healthiness which she displayed still astonished him. He
himself was ever haunted and tortured by thoughts of the unknown, of what
the morrow of death might have in store for one; but although he had
studied and watched her for days together, he had never seen her give a
sign of doubt or distress. This exemption from such sufferings as his own
was due, said she, to the fact that she gave all her gaiety, all her
energy, all her sense of duty, to the task of living, in such wise that
life itself proved a sufficiency, and no time was left for mere fancies
to terrify and stultify her. Well, then, since she with her air of quiet
strength had asked him why he did not take off his cassock, he would take
it off--yes, he would divest himself of that robe which seemed to burn
and weigh him down.

He fancied himself calmed by this decision, and towards morning threw
himself upon his bed; but all at once a stifling sensation, a renewal of
his abominable anguish, brought him to his feet again. No, no, he could
not divest himself of that gown which clung so tightly to his flesh. His
skin would come away with his cloth, his whole being would be lacerated!
Is not the mark of priesthood an indelible one, does it not brand the
priest for ever, and differentiate him from the flock? Even should he
tear off his gown with his skin, he would remain a priest, an object of
scandal and shame, awkward and impotent, shut off from the life of other
men. And so why tear it off, since he would still and ever remain in
prison, and a fruitful life of work in the broad sunlight was no longer
within his reach? He, indeed, fancied himself irremediably stricken with
impotence. Thus he was unable to come to any decision, and when he
returned to Montmartre two days later he had again relapsed into a state
of torment.

Feverishness, moreover, had come upon the happy home. Guillaume was
becoming more and more annoyed about Salvat’s affair, not a day elapsing
without the newspapers fanning his irritation. He had at first been
deeply touched by the dignified and reticent bearing of Salvat, who had
declared that he had no accomplices whatever. Of course the inquiry into
the crime was what is called a secret one; but magistrate Amadieu, to
whom it had been entrusted, conducted it in a very noisy way. The
newspapers, which he in some degree took into his confidence, were full
of articles and paragraphs about him and his interviews with the
prisoner. Thanks to Salvat’s quiet admissions, Amadieu had been able to
retrace the history of the crime hour by hour, his only remaining doubts
having reference to the nature of the powder which had been employed, and
the making of the bomb itself. It might after all be true that Salvat had
loaded the bomb at a friend’s, as he indeed asserted was the case; but he
must be lying when he added that the only explosive used was dynamite,
derived from some stolen cartridges, for all the experts now declared
that dynamite would never have produced such effects as those which had
been witnessed. This, then, was the mysterious point which protracted the
investigations. And day by day the newspapers profited by it to circulate
the wildest stories under sensational headings, which were specially
devised for the purpose of sending up their sales.

It was all the nonsense contained in these stories that fanned
Guillaume’s irritation. In spite of his contempt for Sagnier he could not
keep from buying the “Voix du Peuple.” Quivering with indignation,
growing more and more exasperated, he was somehow attracted by the mire
which he found in that scurrilous journal. Moreover, the other
newspapers, including even the “Globe,” which was usually so dignified,
published all sorts of statements for which no proof could be supplied,
and drew from them remarks and conclusions which, though couched in
milder language than Sagnier’s, were none the less abominably unjust. It
seemed indeed as if the whole press had set itself the task of covering
Salvat with mud, so as to be able to vilify Anarchism generally.
According to the journalists the prisoner’s life had simply been one long
abomination. He had already earned his living by thievery in his
childhood at the time when he had roamed the streets, an unhappy,
forsaken vagrant; and later on he had proved a bad soldier and a bad
worker. He had been punished for insubordination whilst he was in the
army, and he had been dismissed from a dozen work-shops because he
incessantly disturbed them by his Anarchical propaganda. Later still, he
had fled his country and led a suspicious life of adventure in America,
where, it was alleged, he must have committed all sorts of unknown
crimes. Moreover there was his horrible immorality, his connection with
his sister-in-law, that Madame Theodore who had taken charge of his
forsaken child in his absence, and with whom he had cohabited since his
return to France. In this wise Salvat’s failings and transgressions were
pitilessly denounced and magnified without any mention of the causes
which had induced them, or of the excuses which lay in the unhappy man’s
degrading environment. And so Guillaume’s feelings of humanity and
justice revolted, for he knew the real Salvat,--a man of tender heart and
dreamy mind, so liable to be impassioned by fancies,--a man cast into
life when a child without weapon of defence, ever trodden down or thrust
aside, then gradually exasperated by the perpetual onslaughts of want,
and at last dreaming of reviving the golden age by destroying the old,
corrupt world.

Unfortunately for Salvat, everything had gone against him since he had
been shut up in strict confinement, at the mercy of the ambitious and
worldly Amadieu. Guillaume had learnt from his son, Thomas, that the
prisoner could count on no support whatever among his former mates at the
Grandidier works. These works were becoming prosperous once more, thanks
to their steady output of bicycles; and it was said that Grandidier was
only waiting for Thomas to perfect his little motor, in order to start
the manufacture of motor-cars on a large scale. However, the success
which he was now for the first time achieving, and which scarcely repaid
him for all his years of toil and battle, had in certain respects
rendered him prudent and even severe. He did not wish any suspicion to be
cast upon his business through the unpleasant affair of his former
workman Salvat, and so he had dismissed such of his workmen as held
Anarchist views. If he had kept the two Toussaints, one of whom was the
prisoner’s brother-in-law, while the other was suspected of sympathy with
him, this was because they had belonged to the works for a score of
years, and he did not like to cast them adrift. Moreover, Toussaint, the
father, had declared that if he were called as a witness for the defence,
he should simply give such particulars of Salvat’s career as related to
the prisoner’s marriage with his sister.

One evening when Thomas came home from the works, to which he returned
every now and then in order to try his little motor, he related that he
had that day seen Madame Grandidier, the poor young woman who had become
insane through an attack of puerperal fever following upon the death of a
child. Although most frightful attacks of madness occasionally came over
her, and although life beside her was extremely painful, even during the
intervals when she remained downcast and gentle as a child, her husband
had never been willing to send her to an asylum. He kept her with him in
a pavilion near the works, and as a rule the shutters of the windows
overlooking the yard remained closed. Thus Thomas had been greatly
surprised to see one of these windows open, and the young woman appear at
it amidst the bright sunshine of that early spring. True, she only
remained there for a moment, vision-like, fair and pretty, with smiling
face; for a servant who suddenly drew near closed the window, and the
pavilion then again sank into lifeless silence. At the same time it was
reported among the men employed at the works that the poor creature had
not experienced an attack for well-nigh a month past, and that this was
the reason why the “governor” looked so strong and pleased, and worked so
vigorously to help on the increasing prosperity of his business.

“He isn’t a bad fellow,” added Thomas, “but with the terrible competition
that he has to encounter, he is bent on keeping his men under control.
Nowadays, says he, when so many capitalists and wage earners seem bent on
exterminating one another, the latter--if they don’t want to
starve--ought to be well pleased when capital falls into the hands of an
active, fair-minded man.... If he shows no pity for Salvat, it is
because he really believes in the necessity of an example.”

That same day Thomas, after leaving the works and while threading his way
through the toilsome hive-like Marcadet district, had overtaken Madame
Theodore and little Celine, who were wandering on in great distress. It
appeared that they had just called upon Toussaint, who had been unable to
lend them even such a trifle as ten sous. Since Salvat’s arrest, the
woman and the child had been forsaken and suspected by one and all.
Driven forth from their wretched lodging, they were without food and
wandered hither and thither dependent on chance alms. Never had greater
want and misery fallen on defenceless creatures.

“I told them to come up here, father,” said Thomas, “for I thought that
one might pay their landlord a month’s rent, so that they might go home
again.... Ah! there’s somebody coming now--it’s they, no doubt.”

Guillaume had felt angry with himself whilst listening to his son, for he
had not thought of the poor creatures. It was the old story: the man
disappears, and the woman and the child find themselves in the streets,
starving. Whenever Justice strikes a man her blow travels beyond him,
fells innocent beings and kills them.

Madame Theodore came in, humble and timid, scared like a luckless
creature whom life never wearies of persecuting. She was becoming almost
blind, and little Celine had to lead her. The girl’s fair, thin face wore
its wonted expression of shrewd intelligence, and even now, however
woeful her rags, it was occasionally brightened by a childish smile.

Pierre and Marie, who were both there, felt extremely touched. Near them
was Madame Mathis, young Victor’s mother, who had come to help Mere-Grand
with the mending of some house-linen. She went out by the day in this
fashion among a few families, and was thus enabled to give her son an
occasional franc or two. Guillaume alone questioned Madame Theodore.

“Ah! monsieur,” she stammered, “who could ever have thought Salvat
capable of such a thing, he who’s so good and so humane? Still it’s true,
since he himself has admitted it to the magistrate.... For my part I
told everybody that he was in Belgium. I wasn’t quite sure of it, still
I’m glad that he didn’t come back to see us; for if he had been arrested
at our place I should have lost my senses.... Well, now that they have
him, they’ll sentence him to death, that’s certain.”

At this Celine, who had been looking around her with an air of interest,
piteously exclaimed: “Oh! no, oh! no, mamma, they won’t hurt him!”

Big tears appeared in the child’s eyes as she raised this cry. Guillaume
kissed her, and then went on questioning Madame Theodore.

“Well, monsieur,” she answered, “the child’s not old or big enough to
work as yet, and my eyes are done for, people won’t even take me as a
charwoman. And so it’s simple enough, we starve.... Oh! of course I’m
not without relations; I have a sister who married very well. Her husband
is a clerk, Monsieur Chretiennot, perhaps you know him. Unfortunately
he’s rather proud, and as I don’t want any scenes between him and my
sister, I no longer go to see her. Besides, she’s in despair just now,
for she’s expecting another baby, which is a terrible blow for a small
household, when one already has two girls.... That’s why the only
person I can apply to is my brother Toussaint. His wife isn’t a bad sort
by any means, but she’s no longer the same since she’s been living in
fear of her husband having another attack. The first one carried off all
her savings, and what would become of her if Toussaint should remain on
her hands, paralysed? Besides, she’s threatened with another burden, for,
as you may know, her son Charles got keeping company with a servant at a
wine shop, who of course ran away after she had a baby, which she left
him to see to. So one can understand that the Toussaints themselves are
hard put. I don’t complain of them. They’ve already lent me a little
money, and of course they can’t go on lending for ever.”

She continued talking in this spiritless, resigned way, complaining only
on account of Celine; for, said she, it was enough to make one’s heart
break to see such an intelligent child obliged to tramp the streets after
getting on so well at the Communal School. She could feel too that
everybody now kept aloof from them on account of Salvat. The Toussaints
didn’t want to be compromised in any such business. There was only
Charles, who had said that he could well understand a man losing his head
and trying to blow up the _bourgeois_, because they really treated the
workers in a blackguard way.

“For my part, monsieur,” added Madame Theodore, “I say nothing, for I’m
only a woman. All the same, though, if you’d like to know what I think,
well, I think that it would have been better if Salvat hadn’t done what
he did, for we two, the girl and I, are the real ones to suffer from it.
Ah! I can’t get the idea into my head, that the little one should be the
daughter of a man condemned to death.”

Once more Celine interrupted her, flinging her arms around her neck: “Oh!
mamma, oh! mamma, don’t say that, I beg you! It can’t be true, it grieves
me too much!”

At this Pierre and Marie exchanged compassionate glances, while
Mere-Grand rose from her chair, in order to go upstairs and search her
wardrobes for some articles of clothing which might be of use to the two
poor creatures. Guillaume, who, for his part, had been moved to tears,
and felt full of revolt against the social system which rendered such
distress possible, slipped some alms into the child’s little hand, and
promised Madame Theodore that he would see her landlord so as to get her
back her room.

“Ah! Monsieur Froment!” replied the unfortunate woman. “Salvat was quite
right when he said you were a real good man! And as you employed him here
for a few days you know too that he isn’t a wicked one.... Now that
he’s been put in prison everybody calls him a brigand, and it breaks my
heart to hear them.” Then, turning towards Madame Mathis, who had
continued sewing in discreet silence, like a respectable woman whom none
of these things could concern, she went on: “I know you, madame, but I’m
better acquainted with your son, Monsieur Victor, who has often come to
chat at our place. Oh! you needn’t be afraid, I shan’t say it, I shall
never compromise anybody; but if Monsieur Victor were free to speak, he’d
be the man to explain Salvat’s ideas properly.”

Madame Mathis looked at her in stupefaction. Ignorant as she was of her
son’s real life and views, she experienced a vague dread at the idea of
any connection between him and Salvat’s family. Moreover, she refused to
believe it possible. “Oh! you must be mistaken,” she said. “Victor told
me that he now seldom came to Montmartre, as he was always going about in
search of work.”

By the anxious quiver of the widow’s voice, Madame Theodore understood
that she ought not to have mixed her up in her troubles; and so in all
humility she at once beat a retreat: “I beg your pardon, madame, I didn’t
think I should hurt your feelings. Perhaps, too, I’m mistaken, as you

Madame Mathis had again turned to her sewing as to the solitude in which
she lived, that nook of decent misery where she dwelt without
companionship and almost unknown, with scarcely sufficient bread to eat.
Ah! that dear son of hers, whom she loved so well; however much he might
neglect her, she had placed her only remaining hope in him: he was her
last dream, and would some day lavish all kinds of happiness upon her!

At that moment Mere-Grand came downstairs again, laden with a bundle of
linen and woollen clothing, and Madame Theodore and little Celine
withdrew while pouring forth their thanks. For a long time after they had
gone Guillaume, unable to resume work, continued walking to and fro in
silence, with a frown upon his face.

When Pierre, still hesitating and still tortured by conflicting feelings,
returned to Montmartre on the following day he witnessed with much
surprise a visit of a very different kind. There was a sudden gust of
wind, a whirl of skirts and a ring of laughter as little Princess
Rosemonde swept in, followed by young Hyacinthe Duvillard, who, on his
side, retained a very frigid bearing.

“It’s I, my dear master,” exclaimed the Princess. “I promised you a
visit, you remember, for I am such a great admirer of your genius. And
our young friend here has been kind enough to bring me. We have only just
returned from Norway, and my very first visit is for you.”

She turned as she spoke, and bowed in an easy and gracious way to Pierre
and Marie, Francois and Antoine, who were also there. Then she resumed:
“Oh! my dear master, you have no idea how beautifully virginal Norway is!
We all ought to go and drink at that new source of the Ideal, and we
should return purified, rejuvenated and capable of great renunciations!”

As a matter of fact she had been well-nigh bored to death there. To make
one’s honeymoon journey to the land of the ice and snow, instead of to
Italy, the hot land of the sun, was doubtless a very refined idea, which
showed that no base materialism formed part of one’s affections. It was
the soul alone that travelled, and naturally it was fit that only kisses
of the soul should be exchanged on the journey. Unfortunately, however,
Hyacinthe had carried his symbolism so far as to exasperate Rosemonde,
and on one occasion they had come to blows over it, and then to tears
when this lover’s quarrel had ended as many such quarrels do. Briefly,
they had no longer deemed themselves pure enough for the companionship of
the swans and the lakes of dreamland, and had therefore taken the first
steamer that was sailing for France.

As it was altogether unnecessary to confess to everybody what a failure
their journey had proved, the Princess abruptly brought her rapturous
references to Norway to an end, and then explained: “By the way, do you
know what I found awaiting me on my return? Why, I found my house
pillaged, oh! completely pillaged! And in such a filthy condition, too!
We at once recognised the mark of the beast, and thought of Bergaz’s
young friends.”

Already on the previous day Guillaume had read in the newspapers that a
band of young Anarchists had entered the Princess’s little house by
breaking a basement window. She had left it quite deserted, unprotected
even by a caretaker; and the robbers had not merely removed everything
from the premises--including even the larger articles of furniture, but
had lived there for a couple of days, bringing provisions in from
outside, drinking all the wine in the cellars, and leaving every room in
a most filthy and disgusting condition. On discovering all this,
Rosemonde had immediately remembered the evening she had spent at the
Chamber of Horrors in the company of Bergaz and his acolytes, Rossi and
Sanfaute, who had heard her speak of her intended trip to Norway. The two
young men had therefore been arrested, but Bergaz had so far escaped. The
Princess was not greatly astonished by it all, for she had already been
warned of the presence of dangerous characters among the mixed
cosmopolitan set with which she associated. Janzen had told her in
confidence of a number of villanous affairs which were attributed to
Bergaz and his band. And now the Anarchist leader openly declared that
Bergaz had sold himself to the police like Raphanel; and that the
burglary at the Princess’s residence had been planned by the police
officials, who thereby hoped to cover the Anarchist cause with mire. If
proof was wanted of this, added Janzen, it could be found in the fact
that the police had allowed Bergaz to escape.

“I fancied that the newspapers might have exaggerated matters,” said
Guillaume, when the Princess had finished her story. “They are inventing
such abominable things just now, in order to blacken the case of that
poor devil Salvat.”

“Oh! they’ve exaggerated nothing!” Rosemonde gaily rejoined. “As a matter
of fact they have omitted a number of particulars which were too filthy
for publication.... For my part, I’ve merely had to go to an hotel.
I’m very comfortable there; I was beginning to feel bored in that house
of mine.... All the same, however, Anarchism is hardly a clean
business, and I no longer like to say that I have any connection with

She again laughed, and then passed to another subject, asking Guillaume
to tell her of his most recent researches, in order, no doubt, that she
might show she knew enough chemistry to understand him. He had been
rendered thoughtful, however, by the story of Bergaz and the burglary,
and would only answer her in a general way.

Meantime, Hyacinthe was renewing his acquaintance with his
school-fellows, Francois and Antoine. He had accompanied the Princess to
Montmartre against his own inclinations; but since she had taken to
whipping him he had become afraid of her. The chemist’s little home
filled him with disdain, particularly as the chemist was a man of
questionable reputation. Moreover, he thought it a duty to insist on his
own superiority in the presence of those old school-fellows of his, whom
he found toiling away in the common rut, like other people.

“Ah! yes,” said he to Francois, who was taking notes from a book spread
open before him, “you are at the Ecole Normale, I believe, and are
preparing for your licentiate. Well, for my part, you know, the idea of
being tied to anything horrifies me. I become quite stupid when there’s
any question of examination or competition. The only possible road for
one to follow is that of the Infinite. And between ourselves what dupery
there is in science, how it narrows our horizon! It’s just as well to
remain a child with eyes gazing into the invisible. A child knows more
than all your learned men.”

Francois, who occasionally indulged in irony, pretended to share his
opinion. “No doubt, no doubt,” said he, “but one must have a natural
disposition to remain a child. For my part, unhappily, I’m consumed by a
desire to learn and know. It’s deplorable, as I’m well aware, but I pass
my days racking my brain over books.... I shall never know very much,
that’s certain; and perhaps that’s the reason why I’m ever striving to
learn a little more. You must at all events grant that work, like
idleness, is a means of passing life, though of course it is a less
elegant and aesthetic one.”

“Less aesthetic, precisely,” rejoined Hyacinthe. “Beauty lies solely in
the unexpressed, and life is simply degraded when one introduces anything
material into it.”

Simpleton though he was in spite of the enormity of his pretensions, he
doubtless detected that Francois had been speaking ironically. So he
turned to Antoine, who had remained seated in front of a block he was
engraving. It was the one which represented Lise reading in her garden,
for he was ever taking it in hand again and touching it up in his desire
to emphasise his indication of the girl’s awakening to intelligence and

“So you engrave, I see,” said Hyacinthe. “Well, since I renounced
versification--a little poem I had begun on the End of Woman--because
words seemed to me so gross and cumbersome, mere paving-stones as it
were, fit for labourers, I myself have had some idea of trying drawing,
and perhaps engraving too. But what drawing can portray the mystery which
lies beyond life, the only sphere that has any real existence and
importance for us? With what pencil and on what kind of plate could one
depict it? We should need something impalpable, something unheard of,
which would merely suggest the essence of things and beings.”

“But it’s only by material means,” Antoine somewhat roughly replied,
“that art can render the essence of things and beings, that is, their
full significance as we understand it. To transcribe life is my great
passion; and briefly life is the only mystery that there is in things and
beings. When it seems to me that an engraving of mine lives, I’m well
pleased, for I feel that I have created.”

Hyacinthe pouted by way of expressing his contempt of all fruitfulness.
Any fool might beget offspring. It was the sexless idea, existing by
itself, that was rare and exquisite. He tried to explain this, but became
confused, and fell back on the conviction which he had brought back from
Norway, that literature and art were done for in France, killed by
baseness and excess of production.

“It’s evident!” said Francois gaily by way of conclusion. “To do nothing
already shows that one has some talent!”

Meantime, Pierre and Marie listened and gazed around them, somewhat
embarrassed by this strange visit which had set the usually grave and
peaceful workroom topsy-turvy. The little Princess, though, evinced much
amiability, and on drawing near to Marie admired the wonderful delicacy
of some embroidery she was finishing. Before leaving, moreover, Rosemonde
insisted upon Guillaume inscribing his autograph in an album which
Hyacinthe had to fetch from her carriage. The young man obeyed her with
evident boredom. It could be seen that they were already weary of one
another. Pending a fresh caprice, however, it amused Rosemonde to
terrorize her sorry victim. When she at length led him away, after
declaring to Guillaume that she should always regard that visit as a
memorable incident in her life, she made the whole household smile by
saying: “Oh! so your sons knew Hyacinthe at college. He’s a good-natured
little fellow, isn’t he? and he would really be quite nice if he would
only behave like other people.”

That same day Janzen and Bache came to spend the evening with Guillaume.
Once a week they now met at Montmartre, as they had formerly done at
Neuilly. Pierre, on these occasions, went home very late, for as soon as
Mere-Grand, Marie, and Guillaume’s sons had retired for the night, there
were endless chats in the workroom, whence Paris could be seen spangled
with thousands of gas lights. Another visitor at these times was
Theophile Morin, but he did not arrive before ten o’clock, as he was
detained by the work of correcting his pupils’ exercises or some other
wearisome labour pertaining to his profession.

As soon as Guillaume had told the others of the Princess’s visit that
afternoon, Janzen hastily exclaimed: “But she’s mad, you know. When I
first met her I thought for a moment that I might perhaps utilise her for
the cause. She seemed so thoroughly convinced and bold! But I soon found
that she was the craziest of women, and simply hungered for new

Janzen was at last emerging from his wonted frigidity and mysteriousness.
His cheeks were quite flushed. In all probability he had suffered from
his rupture with the woman whom he had once called ‘the Queen of the
Anarchists,’ and whose fortune and extensive circle of acquaintance had
seemed to him such powerful weapons of propaganda.

“You know,” said he, when he had calmed down, “it was the police who had
her house pillaged and turned into a pigstye. Yes, in view of Salvat’s
trial, which is now near at hand, the idea was to damn Anarchism beyond
possibility of even the faintest sympathy on the part of the

“Yes, she told me so,” replied Guillaume, who had become attentive. “But
I scarcely credit the story. If Bergaz had merely acted under such
influence as you suggest, he would have been arrested with the others,
just as Raphanel was taken with those whom he betrayed. Besides, I know
something of Bergaz; he’s a freebooter.” Guillaume made a sorrowful
gesture, and then in a saddened voice continued: “Oh, I can understand
all claims and all legitimate reprisals. But theft, cynical theft for the
purpose of profit and enjoyment, is beyond me! It lowers my hope of a
better and more equitable form of society. Yes, that burglary at the
Princess’s house has greatly distressed me.”

An enigmatical smile, sharp like a knife, again played over Janzen’s
lips. “Oh! it’s a matter of heredity with you!” said he. “The centuries
of education and belief that lie behind you compel you to protest. All
the same, however, when people won’t make restoration, things must be
taken from them. What worries me is that Bergaz should have sold himself
just now. The public prosecutor will use that farcical burglary as a
crushing argument when he asks the jury for Salvat’s head.”

Such was Janzen’s hatred of the police that he stubbornly clung to his
version of the affair. Perhaps, too, he had quarrelled with Bergaz, with
whom he had at one time freely associated.

Guillaume, who understood that all discussion would be useless, contented
himself with replying: “Ah! yes, Salvat! Everything is against that
unhappy fellow, he is certain to be condemned. But you can’t know, my
friends, what a passion that affair of his puts me into. All my ideas of
truth and justice revolt at the thought of it. He’s a madman certainly;
but there are so many excuses to be urged for him. At bottom he is simply
a martyr who has followed the wrong track. And yet he has become the
scapegoat, laden with the crimes of the whole nation, condemned to pay
for one and all!”

Bache and Morin nodded without replying. They both professed horror of
Anarchism; while Morin, forgetting that the word if not the thing dated
from his first master Proudhon, clung to his Comtist doctrines, in the
conviction that science alone would ensure the happiness and pacification
of the nations. Bache, for his part, old mystical humanitarian that he
was, claimed that the only solution would come from Fourier, who by
decreeing an alliance of talent, labour and capital, had mapped out the
future in a decisive manner. Nevertheless, both Bache and Morin were so
discontented with the slow-paced _bourgeoise_ Republic of the present
day, and so hurt by the thought that everything was going from bad to
worse through the flouting of their own particular ideas, that they were
quite willing to wax indignant at the manner in which the conflicting
parties of the time were striving to make use of Salvat in order to
retain or acquire power.

“When one thinks,” said Bache, “that this ministerial crisis of theirs
has now been lasting for nearly three weeks! Every appetite is openly
displayed, it’s a most disgusting sight! Did you see in the papers this
morning that the President has again been obliged to summon Vignon to the

“Oh! the papers,” muttered Morin in his weary way, “I no longer read
them! What’s the use of doing so? They are so badly written, and they all

As Bache had said, the ministerial crisis was still dragging on. The
President of the Republic, taking as his guide the debate in the Chamber
of Deputies, by which the Barroux administration had been overthrown, had
very properly sent for Vignon, the victor on that occasion, and entrusted
him with the formation of a new ministry. It had seemed that this would
be an easy task, susceptible of accomplishment in two or three days at
the utmost, for the names of the friends whom the young leader of the
Radical party would bring to power with him had been freely mentioned for
months past. But all sorts of difficulties had suddenly arisen. For ten
days or so Vignon had struggled on amidst inextricable obstacles. Then,
disheartened and disgusted, fearing, too, that he might use himself up
and shut off the future if he persisted in his endeavours, he had been
obliged to tell the President that he renounced the task. Forthwith the
President had summoned other deputies, and questioned them until he had
found one brave enough to make an attempt on his own account; whereupon
incidents similar to those which had marked Vignon’s endeavours had once
more occurred. At the outset a list was drawn up with every prospect of
being ratified within a few hours, but all at once hesitation arose, some
pulled one way, some another; every effort was slowly paralysed till
absolute failure resulted. It seemed as though the mysterious manoeuvres
which had hampered Vignon had begun again; it was as if some band of
invisible plotters was, for some unknown purpose, doing its utmost to
wreck every combination. A thousand hindrances arose with increasing
force from every side--jealousy, dislike, and even betrayal were secretly
prompted by expert agents, who employed every form of pressure, whether
threats or promises, besides fanning and casting rival passions and
interests into collision. Thus the President, greatly embarrassed by this
posture of affairs, had again found it necessary to summon Vignon, who,
after reflection and negotiation, now had an almost complete list in his
pocket, and seemed likely to perfect a new administration within the next
forty-eight hours.

“Still it isn’t settled,” resumed Bache. “Well-informed people assert
that Vignon will fail again as he did the first time. For my part I can’t
get rid of the idea that Duvillard’s gang is pulling the strings, though
for whose benefit is a mystery. You may be quite sure, however, that its
chief purpose is to stifle the African Railways affair. If Monferrand
were not so badly compromised I should almost suspect some trick on his
part. Have you noticed that the ‘Globe,’ after throwing Barroux overboard
in all haste, now refers to Monferrand every day with the most respectful
sympathy? That’s a grave sign; for it isn’t Fonsegue’s habit to show any
solicitude for the vanquished. But what can one expect from that wretched
Chamber! The only point certain is that something dirty is being plotted

“And that big dunderhead Mege who works for every party except his own!”
 exclaimed Morin; “what a dupe he is with that idea that he need merely
overthrow first one cabinet and then another, in order to become the
leader of one himself!”

The mention of Mege brought them all to agreement, for they unanimously
hated him. Bache, although his views coincided on many points with those
of the apostle of State Collectivism, judged each of his speeches, each
of his actions, with pitiless severity. Janzen, for his part, treated the
Collectivist leader as a mere reactionary _bourgeois_, who ought to be
swept away one of the first. This hatred of Mege was indeed the common
passion of Guillaume’s friends. They could occasionally show some justice
for men who in no wise shared their ideas; but in their estimation it was
an unpardonable crime for anybody to hold much the same views as
themselves, without being absolutely in agreement with them on every
possible point.

Their discussion continued, their various theories mingling or clashing
till they passed from politics to the press, and grew excited over the
denunciations which poured each morning from Sagnier’s newspaper, like
filth from the mouth of a sewer. Thereupon Guillaume, who had become
absorbed in reverie while pacing to and fro according to his habit,
suddenly exclaimed: “Ah! what dirty work it is that Sagnier does! Before
long there won’t be a single person, a single thing left on which he
hasn’t vomited! You think he’s on your side, and suddenly he splashes you
with mire!... By the way, he related yesterday that skeleton keys and
stolen purses were found on Salvat when he was arrested in the Bois de
Boulogne! It’s always Salvat! He’s the inexhaustible subject for
articles. The mere mention of him suffices to send up a paper’s sales!
The bribe-takers of the African Railways shout ‘Salvat!’ to create a
diversion. And the battles which wreck ministers are waged round his
name. One and all set upon him and make use of him and beat him down!”

With that cry of revolt and compassion, the friends separated for the
night. Pierre, who sat near the open window, overlooking the sparkling
immensity of Paris, had listened to the others without speaking a word.
He had once more been mastered by his doubts, the terrible struggle of
his heart and mind; and no solution, no appeasement had come to him from
all the contradictory views he had heard--the views of men who only
united in predicting the disappearance of the old world, and could make
no joint brotherly effort to rear the future world of truth and justice.
In that vast city of Paris stretching below him, spangled with stars,
glittering like the sky of a summer’s night, Pierre also found a great
enigma. It was like chaos, like a dim expanse of ashes dotted with sparks
whence the coming aurora would arise. What future was being forged there,
he wondered, what decisive word of salvation and happiness would come
with the dawn, and wing its flight to every point of the horizon?

When Pierre, in his turn, was about to retire, Guillaume laid his hands
upon his shoulders, and with much emotion gave him a long look. “Ah! my
poor fellow,” said he, “you’ve been suffering too for some days past, I
have noticed it. But you are the master of your sufferings, for the
struggle you have to overcome is simply in yourself, and you can subdue
it; whereas one cannot subdue the world, when it is the world, its
cruelty and injustice that make one suffer! Good night, be brave, act as
your reason tells you, even if it makes you weep, and you will find peace
surely enough.”

Later on, when Pierre again found himself alone in his little house at
Neuilly, where none now visited him save the shades of his father and
mother, he was long kept awake by a supreme internal combat. He had never
before felt so disgusted with the falsehood of his life, that cassock
which he had persisted in wearing, though he was a priest in name only.
Perhaps it was all that he had beheld and heard at his brother’s, the
want and wretchedness of some, the wild, futile agitation of others, the
need of improvement among mankind which remained paramount amidst every
contradiction and form of weakness, that had made him more deeply
conscious of the necessity of living in loyal and normal fashion in the
broad daylight. He could no longer think of his former dream of leading
the solitary life of a saintly priest when he was nothing of the kind,
without a shiver of shame at having lied so long. And now it was quite
decided, he would lie no longer, not even from feelings of compassion in
order that others might retain their religious illusions. And yet how
painful it was to have to divest himself of that gown which seemed to
cling to his skin, and how heartrending the thought that if he did remove
it he would be skinless, lacerated, infirm, unable, do what he might, to
become like other men!

It was this recurring thought which again tortured him throughout that
terrible night. Would life yet allow him to enter its fold? Had he not
been branded with a mark which for ever condemned him to dwell apart? He
thought he could feel his priestly vows burning his very flesh like
red-hot iron. What use would it be for him to dress as men dress, if in
reality he was never to be a man? He had hitherto lived in such a
quivering state, in a sphere of renunciation and dreams! To know manhood
never, to be too late for it, that thought filled him with terror. And
when at last he made up his mind to fling aside his cassock, he did so
from a simple sense of rectitude, for all his anguish remained.

When he returned to Montmartre on the following day, he wore a jacket and
trousers of a dark colour. Neither an exclamation nor a glance that might
have embarrassed him came from Mere-Grand or the three young men. Was not
the change a natural one? They greeted him therefore in the quiet way
that was usual with them; perhaps, with some increase of affection, as if
to set him the more at his ease. Guillaume, however, ventured to smile
good-naturedly. In that change he detected his own work. Cure was coming,
as he had hoped it would come, by him and in his own home, amid the full
sunlight, the life which ever streamed in through yonder window.

Marie, who on her side raised her eyes and looked at Pierre, knew nothing
of the sufferings which he had endured through her simple and logical
inquiry: “Why not take your cassock off?” She merely felt that by
removing it he would be more at ease for his work.

“Oh, Pierre, just come and look!” she suddenly exclaimed. “I have been
amusing myself with watching all the smoke which the wind is laying
yonder over Paris. One might take it to be a huge fleet of ships shining
in the sunlight. Yes, yes, golden ships, thousands of golden ships,
setting forth from the ocean of Paris to enlighten and pacify the world!”


A COUPLE of days afterwards, when Pierre was already growing accustomed
to his new attire, and no longer gave it a thought, it so happened that
on reaching Montmartre he encountered Abbe Rose outside the basilica of
the Sacred Heart. The old priest, who at first was quite thunderstruck
and scarcely able to recognise him, ended by taking hold of his hands and
giving him a long look. Then with his eyes full of tears he exclaimed:
“Oh! my son, so you have fallen into the awful state I feared! I never
mentioned it, but I felt that God had withdrawn from you. Ah! nothing
could wound my heart so cruelly as this.”

Then, still trembling, he began to lead Pierre away as if to hide such a
scandal from the few people who passed by; and at last, his strength
failing him, he sank upon a heap of bricks lying on the grass of one of
the adjoining work-yards.

The sincere grief which his old and affectionate friend displayed upset
Pierre far more than any angry reproaches or curses would have done.
Tears had come to his own eyes, so acute was the suffering he experienced
at this meeting, which he ought, however, to have foreseen. There was yet
another wrenching, and one which made the best of their blood flow, in
that rupture between Pierre and the saintly man whose charitable dreams
and hopes of salvation he had so long shared. There had been so many
divine illusions, so many struggles for the relief of the masses, so much
renunciation and forgiveness practised in common between them in their
desire to hasten the harvest of the future! And now they were parting;
he, Pierre, still young in years, was returning to life, leaving his aged
companion to his vain waiting and his dreams.

In his turn, taking hold of Abbe Rose’s hands, he gave expression to his
sorrow. “Ah, my friend, my father,” said he, “it is you alone that I
regret losing, now that I am leaving my frightful torments behind. I
thought that I was cured of them, but it has been sufficient for me to
meet you, and my heart is rent again.... Don’t weep for me, I pray
you, don’t reproach me for what I have done. It was necessary that I
should do it. If I had consulted you, you would yourself have told me
that it was better to renounce the priesthood than to remain a priest
without faith or honour.”

“Yes, yes,” Abbe Rose gently responded, “you no longer had any faith
left. I suspected it. And your rigidity and saintliness of life, in which
I detected such great despair, made me anxious for you. How many hours
did I not spend at times in striving to calm you! And you must listen to
me again, you must still let me save you. I am not a sufficiently learned
theologian to lead you back by discussing texts and dogmas; but in the
name of Charity, my child, yes, in the name of Charity alone, reflect and
take up your task of consolation and hope once more.”

Pierre had sat down beside Abbe Rose, in that deserted nook, at the very
foot of the basilica. “Charity! charity!” he replied in passionate
accents; “why, it is its nothingness and bankruptcy that have killed the
priest there was in me. How can you believe that benevolence is
sufficient, when you have spent your whole life in practising it without
any other result than that of seeing want perpetuated and even increased,
and without any possibility of naming the day when such abomination shall
cease?... You think of the reward after death, do you not? The justice
that is to reign in heaven? But that is not justice, it is dupery--dupery
that has brought the world nothing but suffering for centuries past.”

Then he reminded the old priest of their life in the Charonne district,
when they had gone about together succouring children in the streets and
parents in their hovels; the whole of those admirable efforts which, so
far as Abbe Rose was concerned, had simply ended in blame from his
superiors, and removal from proximity to his poor, under penalty of more
severe punishment should he persist in compromising religion by the
practice of blind benevolence without reason or object. And now, was he
not, so to say, submerged beneath the ever-rising tide of want, aware
that he would never, never be able to give enough even should he dispose
of millions, and that he could only prolong the agony of the poor, who,
even should they eat today, would starve again on the morrow? Thus he was
powerless. The wound which he tried to dress and heal, immediately
reopened and spread, in such wise that all society would at last be
stricken and carried off by it.

Quivering as he listened, and slowly shaking his white head, the old
priest ended by replying: “that does that matter, my child? what does
that matter? One must give, always give, give in spite of everything!
There is no other joy on earth.... If dogmas worry you, content
yourself with the Gospel, and even of that retain merely the promise of
salvation through charity.”

But at this Pierre’s feelings revolted. He forgot that he was speaking to
one of simple mind, who was all love and nothing else, and could
therefore not follow him. “The trial has been made,” he answered, “human
salvation cannot be effected by charity, nothing but justice can
accomplish it. That is the gathering cry which is going up from every
nation. For nearly two thousand years now the Gospel has proved a
failure. There has been no redemption; the sufferings of mankind are
every whit as great and unjust as they were when Jesus came. And thus the
Gospel is now but an abolished code, from which society can only draw
things that are troublous and hurtful. Men must free themselves from it.”

This was his final conviction. How strange the idea, thought he, of
choosing as the world’s social legislator one who lived, as Jesus lived,
amidst a social system absolutely different from that of nowadays. The
age was different, the very world was different. And if it were merely a
question of retaining only such of the moral teaching of Jesus as seemed
human and eternal, was there not again a danger in applying immutable
principles to the society of every age? No society could live under the
strict law of the Gospel. Was not all order, all labour, all life
destroyed by the teaching of Jesus? Did He not deny woman, the earth,
eternal nature and the eternal fruitfulness of things and beings?
Moreover, Catholicism had reared upon His primitive teaching such a
frightful edifice of terror and oppression. The theory of original sin,
that terrible heredity reviving with each creature born into the world,
made no allowance as Science does for the corrective influences of
education, circumstances and environment. There could be no more
pessimist conception of man than this one which devotes him to the Devil
from the instant of his birth, and pictures him as struggling against
himself until the instant of his death. An impossible and absurd
struggle, for it is a question of changing man in his entirety, killing
the flesh, killing reason, destroying some guilty energy in each and
every passion, and of pursuing the Devil to the very depths of the
waters, mountains and forests, there to annihilate him with the very sap
of the world. If this theory is accepted the world is but sin, a mere
Hell of temptation and suffering, through which one must pass in order to
merit Heaven. Ah! what an admirable instrument for absolute despotism is
that religion of death, which the principle of charity alone has enabled
men to tolerate, but which the need of justice will perforce sweep away.
The poor man, who is the wretched dupe of it all, no longer believes in
Paradise, but requires that each and all should be rewarded according to
their deserts upon this earth; and thus eternal life becomes the good
goddess, and desire and labour the very laws of the world, while the
fruitfulness of woman is again honoured, and the idiotic nightmare of
Hell is replaced by glorious Nature whose travail knows no end. Leaning
upon modern Science, clear Latin reason sweeps away the ancient Semitic
conception of the Gospel.

“For eighteen hundred years,” concluded Pierre, “Christianity has been
hampering the march of mankind towards truth and justice. And mankind
will only resume its evolution on the day when it abolishes Christianity,
and places the Gospel among the works of the wise, without taking it any
longer as its absolute and final law.”

But Abbe Rose raised his trembling hands: “Be quiet, be quiet, my child!”
 he cried; “you are blaspheming! I knew that doubt distracted you; but I
thought you so patient, so able to bear suffering, that I relied on your
spirit of renunciation and resignation. What can have happened to make
you leave the Church in this abrupt and violent fashion? I no longer
recognise you. Sudden passion has sprung up in you, an invincible force
seems to carry you away. What is it? Who has changed you, tell me?”

Pierre listened in astonishment. “No,” said he, “I assure you, I am such
as you have known me, and in all this there is but an inevitable result
and finish. Who could have influenced me, since nobody has entered my
life? What new feeling could transform me, since I find none in me? I am
the same as before, the same assuredly.”

Still there was a touch of hesitation in his voice. Was it really true
that there had been no change within him? He again questioned himself,
and there came no clear answer; decidedly, he would find nothing. It was
all but a delightful awakening, an overpowering desire for life, a
longing to open his arms widely enough to embrace everyone and
everything indeed, a breeze of joy seemed to raise him from the ground
and carry him along.

Although Abbe Rose was too innocent of heart to understand things
clearly, he again shook his head and thought of the snares which the
Devil is ever setting for men. He was quite overwhelmed by Pierre’s
defection. Continuing his efforts to win him back, he made the mistake of
advising him to consult Monseigneur Martha, for he hoped that a prelate
of such high authority would find the words necessary to restore him to
his faith. Pierre, however, boldly replied that if he was leaving the
Church it was partly because it comprised such a man as Martha, such an
artisan of deception and despotism, one who turned religion into corrupt
diplomacy, and dreamt of winning men back to God by dint of ruses.
Thereupon Abbe Rose, rising to his feet, could find no other argument in
his despair than that of pointing to the basilica which stood beside
them, square, huge and massive, and still waiting for its dome.

“That is God’s abode, my child,” said he, “the edifice of expiation and
triumph, of penitence and forgiveness. You have said mass in it, and now
you are leaving it sacrilegiously and forswearing yourself!”

But Pierre also had risen; and buoyed up by a sudden rush of health and
strength he answered: “No, no! I am leaving it willingly, as one leaves a
dark vault, to return into the open air and the broad sunlight. God does
not dwell there; the only purpose of that huge edifice is to defy reason,
truth and justice; it has been erected on the highest spot that could be
found, like a citadel of error that dominates, insults and threatens

Then seeing that the old priest’s eyes were again filling with tears, and
feeling on his own side so pained by their rupture that he began to sob,
Pierre wished to go away. “Farewell! farewell!” he stammered.

But Abbe Rose caught him in his arms and kissed him, as if he were a
rebellious son who yet had remained the dearest. “No, not farewell, not
farewell, my child,” he answered; “say rather till we meet again. Promise
me that we shall see each other again, at least among those who starve
and weep. It is all very well for you to think that charity has become
bankrupt, but shall we not always love one another in loving our poor?”

Then they parted.

On becoming the companion of his three big nephews, Pierre had in a few
lessons learnt from them how to ride a bicycle, in order that he might
occasionally accompany them on their morning excursions. He went twice
with them and Marie along the somewhat roughly paved roads in the
direction of the Lake of Enghien. Then one morning when the young woman
had promised to take him and Antoine as far as the forest of
Saint-Germain, it was found at the last moment that Antoine could not
come. Marie was already dressed in a chemisette of fawn-coloured silk,
and a little jacket and “rationals” of black serge, and it was such a
warm, bright April day that she was not inclined to renounce her trip.

“Well, so much the worse!” she gaily said to Pierre, “I shall take you
with me, there will only be the pair of us. I really want you to see how
delightful it is to bowl over a good road between the beautiful trees.”

However, as Pierre was not yet a very expert rider, they decided that
they would take the train as far as Maisons-Laffitte, whence they would
proceed on their bicycles to the forest, cross it in the direction of
Saint-Germain, and afterwards return to Paris by train.

“You will be here for _dejeuner_, won’t you?” asked Guillaume, whom this
freak amused, and who looked with a smile at his brother. The latter,
like Marie, was in black: jacket, breeches and stockings all of the same

“Oh, certainly!” replied Marie. “It’s now barely eight o’clock, so we
have plenty of time. Still you need not wait for us, you know, we shall
always find our way back.”

It was a delightful morning. When they started, Pierre could fancy
himself with a friend of his own sex, so that this trip together through
the warm sunlight seemed quite natural. Doubtless their costumes, which
were so much alike, conduced to the gay brotherly feeling he experienced.
But beyond all this there was the healthfulness of the open air, the
delight which exercise brings, the pleasure of roaming in all freedom
through the midst of nature.

On taking the train they found themselves alone in a compartment, and
Marie once more began to talk of her college days. “Ah! you’ve no idea,”
 said she, “what fine games at baseball we used to have at Fenelon! We
used to tie up our skirts with string so as to run the better, for we
were not allowed to wear rationals like I’m wearing now. And there were
shrieks, and rushes, and pushes, till our hair waved about and we were
quite red with exercise and excitement. Still that didn’t prevent us from
working in the class-rooms. On the contrary! Directly we were at study we
fought again, each striving to learn the most and reach the top of the

She laughed gaily as she thus recalled her school life, and Pierre
glanced at her with candid admiration, so pink and healthy did she look
under her little hat of black felt, which a long silver pin kept in
position. Her fine dark hair was caught up behind, showing her neck,
which looked as fresh and delicate as a child’s. And never before had she
seemed to him so supple and so strong.

“Ah,” she continued in a jesting way, “there is nothing like rationals,
you know! To think that some women are foolish and obstinate enough to
wear skirts when they go out cycling!”

Then, as he declared--just by way of speaking the truth, and without the
faintest idea of gallantry--that she looked very nice indeed in her
costume, she responded: “Oh! I don’t count. I’m not a beauty. I simply
enjoy good health.... But can you understand it? To think that women
have an unique opportunity of putting themselves at their ease, and
releasing their limbs from prison, and yet they won’t do so! If they
think that they look the prettier in short skirts like schoolgirls they
are vastly mistaken! And as for any question of modesty, well, it seems
to me that it is infinitely less objectionable for women to wear
rationals than to bare their bosoms at balls and theatres and dinners as
society ladies do.” Then, with a gesture of girlish impulsiveness, she
added: “Besides, does one think of such things when one’s rolling along?
... Yes, rationals are the only things, skirts are rank heresy!”

In her turn, she was now looking at him, and was struck by the
extraordinary change which had come over him since the day when he had
first appeared to her, so sombre in his long cassock, with his face
emaciated, livid, almost distorted by anguish. It was like a
resurrection, for now his countenance was bright, his lofty brow had all
the serenity of hope, while his eyes and lips once more showed some of
the confident tenderness which sprang from his everlasting thirst for
love, self-bestowal and life. All mark of the priesthood had already left
him, save that where he had been tonsured his hair still remained rather

“Why are you looking at me?” he asked.

“I was noticing how much good has been done you by work and the open
air,” she frankly answered; “I much prefer you as you are. You used to
look so poorly. I thought you really ill.”

“So I was,” said he.

The train, however, was now stopping at Maisons-Laffitte. They alighted
from it, and at once took the road to the forest. This road rises gently
till it reaches the Maisons gate, and on market days it is often crowded
with carts.

“I shall go first, eh?” said Marie gaily, “for vehicles still alarm you.”

Thereupon she started ahead, but every now and again she turned with a
smile to see if he were following her. And every time they overtook and
passed a cart she spoke to him of the merits of their machines, which
both came from the Grandidier works. They were “Lisettes,” examples of
those popular bicycles which Thomas had helped to perfect, and which the
Bon Marche now sold in large numbers for 250 francs apiece. Perhaps they
were rather heavy in appearance, but on the other hand their strength was
beyond question. They were just the machines for a long journey, so Marie

“Ah! here’s the forest,” she at last exclaimed. “We have now reached the
end of the rise; and you will see what splendid avenues there are. One
can bowl along them as on a velvet carpet.”

Pierre had already joined her, and they rode on side by side along the
broad straight avenue fringed with magnificent trees.

“I am all right now,” said Pierre; “your pupil will end by doing you
honour, I hope.”

“Oh! I’ve no doubt of it. You already have a very good seat, and before
long you’ll leave me behind, for a woman is never a man’s equal in a
matter like this. At the same time, however, what a capital education
cycling is for women!”

In what way?”

“Oh! I’ve certain ideas of my own on the subject; and if ever I have a
daughter I shall put her on a bicycle as soon as she’s ten years old,
just to teach her how to conduct herself in life.”

“Education by experience, eh?”

“Yes, why not? Look at the big girls who are brought up hanging to their
mothers’ apron strings. Their parents frighten them with everything, they
are allowed no initiative, no exercise of judgment or decision, so that
at times they hardly know how to cross a street, to such a degree does
the traffic alarm them. Well, I say that a girl ought to be set on a
bicycle in her childhood, and allowed to follow the roads. She will then
learn to open her eyes, to look out for stones and avoid them, and to
turn in the right direction at every bend or crossway. If a vehicle comes
up at a gallop or any other danger presents itself, she’ll have to make
up her mind on the instant, and steer her course firmly and properly if
she does not wish to lose a limb. Briefly, doesn’t all this supply proper
apprenticeship for one’s will, and teach one how to conduct and defend

Pierre had begun to laugh. “You will all be too healthy,” he remarked.

“Oh, one must be healthy if one wants to be happy. But what I wish to
convey is that those who learn to avoid stones and to turn properly along
the highways will know how to overcome difficulties, and take the best
decisions in after life. The whole of education lies in knowledge and

“So women are to be emancipated by cycling?”

“Well, why not? It may seem a droll idea; but see what progress has been
made already. By wearing rationals women free their limbs from prison;
then the facilities which cycling affords people for going out together
tend to greater intercourse and equality between the sexes; the wife and
the children can follow the husband everywhere, and friends like
ourselves are at liberty to roam hither and thither without astonishing
anybody. In this lies the greatest advantage of all: one takes a bath of
air and sunshine, one goes back to nature, to the earth, our common
mother, from whom one derives fresh strength and gaiety of heart! Just
look how delightful this forest is. And how healthful the breeze that
inflates our lungs! Yes, it all purifies, calms and encourages one.”

The forest, which was quite deserted on week days, stretched out in
quietude on either hand, with sunlight filtering between its deep bands
of trees. At that hour the rays only illumined one side of the avenue,
there gilding the lofty drapery of verdure; on the other, the shady side,
the greenery seemed almost black. It was truly delightful to skim,
swallow-like, over that royal avenue in the fresh atmosphere, amidst the
waving of grass and foliage, whose powerful scent swept against one’s
face. Pierre and Marie scarcely touched the soil: it was as if wings had
come to them, and were carrying them on with a regular flight, through
alternate patches of shade and sunshine, and all the scattered vitality
of the far-reaching, quivering forest, with its mosses, its sources, its
animal and its insect life.

Marie would not stop when they reached the crossway of the Croix de
Noailles, a spot where people congregate on Sundays, for she was
acquainted with secluded nooks which were far more charming
resting-places. When they reached the slope going down towards Poissy,
she roused Pierre, and they let their machines rush on. Then came all the
joyous intoxication of speed, the rapturous feeling of darting along
breathlessly while the grey road flees beneath one, and the trees on
either hand turn like the opening folds of a fan. The breeze blows
tempestuously, and one fancies that one is journeying yonder towards the
horizon, the infinite, which ever and ever recedes. It is like boundless
hope, delivery from every shackle, absolute freedom of motion through
space. And nothing can inspirit one more gloriously--one’s heart leaps as
if one were in the very heavens.

“We are not going to Poissy, you know!” Marie suddenly cried; “we have to
turn to the left.”

They took the road from Acheres to the Loges, which ascends and
contracts, thus bringing one closer together in the shade. Gradually
slowing down, they began to exert themselves in order to make their way
up the incline. This road was not so good as the others, it had been
gullied by the recent heavy rains, and sand and gravel lay about. But
then is there not even a pleasure in effort?

“You will get used to it,” said Marie to Pierre; “it’s amusing to
overcome obstacles. For my part I don’t like roads which are invariably
smooth. A little ascent which does not try one’s limbs too much rouses
and inspirits one. And it is so agreeable to find oneself strong, and
able to go on and on in spite of rain, or wind, or hills.”

Her bright humour and courage quite charmed Pierre. “And so,” said he,
“we are off for a journey round France?”

“No, no, we’ve arrived. You won’t dislike a little rest, eh? And now,
tell me, wasn’t it worth our while to come on here and rest in such a
nice fresh, quiet spot.”

She nimbly sprang off her machine and, bidding him follow her, turned
into a path, along which she went some fifty paces. They placed their
bicycles against some trees, and then found themselves in a little
clearing, the most exquisite, leafy nest that one could dream of. The
forest here assumed an aspect of secluded sovereign beauty. The
springtide had endowed it with youth, the foliage was light and virginal,
like delicate green lace flecked with gold by the sun-rays. And from the
herbage and the surrounding thickets arose a breath of life, laden with
all the powerful aroma of the earth.

“It’s not too warm as yet, fortunately,” exclaimed Marie, as she seated
herself at the foot of a young oak-tree, against which she leant. “In
July ladies get rather red by the time they reach this spot, and all the
powder comes off their faces. However, one can’t always be beautiful.”

“Well, I’m not cold by any means,” replied Pierre, as he sat at her feet
wiping his forehead.

She laughed, and answered that she had never before seen him with such a
colour. Then they began to talk like children, like two young friends,
finding a source of gaiety in the most puerile things. She was somewhat
anxious about his health, however, and would not allow him to remain in
the cool shade, as he felt so very warm. In order to tranquillise her, he
had to change his place and seat himself with his back to the sun. Then a
little later he saved her from a large black spider, which had caught
itself in the wavy hair on the nape of her neck. At this all her womanly
nature reappeared, and she shrieked with terror. “How stupid it was to be
afraid of a spider!” she exclaimed a moment afterwards; yet, in spite of
her efforts to master herself, she remained pale and trembling.

Silence at last fell between them, and they looked at one another with a
smile. In the midst of that delicate greenery they felt drawn together by
frank affection--the affection of brother and sister, so it seemed to
them. It made Marie very happy to think that she had taken an interest in
Pierre, and that his return to health was largely her own work. However,
their eyes never fell, their hands never met, even as they sat there
toying with the grass, for they were as pure, as unconscious of all evil,
as were the lofty oaks around them.

At last Marie noticed that time was flying. “You know that they expect us
back to lunch,” she exclaimed. “We ought to be off.”

Thereupon they rose, wheeled their bicycles back to the highway, and
starting off again at a good pace passed the Loges and reached
Saint-Germain by the fine avenue which conducts to the chateau. It
charmed them to take their course again side by side, like birds of equal
flight. Their little bells jingled, their chains rustled lightly, and a
fresh breeze swept past them as they resumed their talk, quite at ease,
and so linked together by friendship that they seemed far removed from
all the rest of the world.

They took the train from Saint-Germain to Paris, and on the journey
Pierre suddenly noticed that Marie’s cheeks were purpling. There were two
ladies with them in the compartment.

“Ah!” said he, “so you feel warm in your turn now?”

But she protested the contrary, her face glowing more and more brightly
as she spoke, as if some sudden feeling of shame quite upset her. “No,
I’m not warm,” said she; “just feel my hands.... But how ridiculous it
is to blush like this without any reason for it!”

He understood her. This was one of those involuntary blushing fits which
so distressed her, and which, as Mere-Grand had remarked, brought her
heart to her very cheeks. There was no cause for it, as she herself said.
After slumbering in all innocence in the solitude of the forest her heart
had begun to beat, despite herself.

Meantime, over yonder at Montmartre, Guillaume had spent his morning in
preparing some of that mysterious powder, the cartridges of which he
concealed upstairs in Mere-Grand’s bedroom. Great danger attended this
manufacture. The slightest forgetfulness while he was manipulating the
ingredients, any delay, too, in turning off a tap, might lead to a
terrible explosion, which would annihilate the building and all who might
be in it. For this reason he preferred to work when he was alone, so that
on the one hand there might be no danger for others, and on the other
less likelihood of his own attention being diverted from his task. That
morning, as it happened, his three sons were working in the room, and
Mere-Grand sat sewing near the furnace. Truth to tell, she did not count,
for she scarcely ever left her place, feeling quite at ease there,
however great might be the peril. Indeed, she had become so well
acquainted with the various phases of Guillaume’s delicate operations,
and their terrible possibilities, that she would occasionally give him a
helping hand.

That morning, as she sat there mending some house linen,--her eyesight
still being so keen that in spite of her seventy years she wore no
spectacles,--she now and again glanced at Guillaume as if to make sure
that he forgot nothing. Then feeling satisfied, she would once more bend
over her work. She remained very strong and active. Her hair was only
just turning white, and she had kept all her teeth, while her face still
looked refined, though it was slowly withering with age and had acquired
an expression of some severity. As a rule she was a woman of few words;
her life was one of activity and good management. When she opened her
lips it was usually to give advice, to counsel reason, energy and
courage. For some time past she had been growing more taciturn than ever,
as if all her attention were claimed by the household matters which were
in her sole charge; still, her fine eyes would rest thoughtfully on those
about her, on the three young men, and on Guillaume, Marie and Pierre,
who all obeyed her as if she were their acknowledged queen. If she looked
at them in that pensive way, was it that she foresaw certain changes, and
noticed certain incidents of which the others remained unconscious?
Perhaps so. At all events she became even graver, and more attentive than
in the past. It was as if she were waiting for some hour to strike when
all her wisdom and authority would be required.

“Be careful, Guillaume,” she at last remarked, as she once more looked up
from her sewing. “You seem absent-minded this morning. Is anything
worrying you?”

He glanced at her with a smile. “No, nothing, I assure you,” he replied.
“But I was thinking of our dear Marie, who was so glad to go off to the
forest in this bright sunshine.”

Antoine, who heard the remark, raised his head, while his brothers
remained absorbed in their work. “What a pity it is that I had this block
to finish,” said he; “I would willingly have gone with her.”

“Oh, no matter,” his father quietly rejoined. “Pierre is with her, and he
is very cautious.”

For another moment Mere-Grand continued scrutinising Guillaume; then she
once more reverted to her sewing.

If she exercised such sway over the home and all its inmates, it was by
reason of her long devotion, her intelligence, and the kindliness with
which she ruled. Uninfluenced by any religious faith, and disregarding
all social conventionalities, her guiding principle in everything was the
theory of human justice which she had arrived at after suffering so
grievously from the injustice that had killed her husband. She put her
views into practice with wonderful courage, knowing nothing of any
prejudices, but accomplishing her duty, such as she understood it, to the
very end. And in the same way as she had first devoted herself to her
husband, and next to her daughter Marguerite, so at present she devoted
herself to Guillaume and his sons. Pierre, whom she had first studied
with some anxiety, had now, too, become a member of her family, a dweller
in the little realm of happiness which she ruled. She had doubtless found
him worthy of admission into it, though she did not reveal the reason
why. After days and days of silence she had simply said, one evening, to
Guillaume, that he had done well in bringing his brother to live among

Time flew by as she sat sewing and thinking. Towards noon Guillaume, who
was still at work, suddenly remarked to her: “As Marie and Pierre haven’t
come back, we had better let the lunch wait a little while. Besides, I
should like to finish what I’m about.”

Another quarter of an hour then elapsed. Finally, the three young men
rose from their work, and went to wash their hands at a tap in the

“Marie is very late,” now remarked Mere-Grand. “We must hope that nothing
has happened to her.”

“Oh! she rides so well,” replied Guillaume. “I’m more anxious on account
of Pierre.”

At this the old lady again fixed her eyes on him, and said: “But Marie
will have guided Pierre; they already ride very well together.”

“No doubt; still I should be better pleased if they were back home.”

Then all at once, fancying that he heard the ring of a bicycle bell, he
called out: “There they are!” And forgetting everything else in his
satisfaction, he quitted his furnace and hastened into the garden in
order to meet them.

Mere-Grand, left to herself, quietly continued sewing, without a thought
that the manufacture of Guillaume’s powder was drawing to an end in an
apparatus near her. A couple of minutes later, however, when Guillaume
came back, saying that he had made a mistake, his eyes suddenly rested on
his furnace, and he turned quite livid. Brief as had been his absence the
exact moment when it was necessary to turn off a tap in order that no
danger might attend the preparation of his powder had already gone by;
and now, unless someone should dare to approach that terrible tap, and
boldly turn it, a fearful explosion might take place. Doubtless it was
too late already, and whoever might have the bravery to attempt the feat
would be blown to pieces.

Guillaume himself had often run a similar risk of death with perfect
composure. But on this occasion he remained as if rooted to the floor,
unable to take a step, paralysed by the dread of annihilation. He
shuddered and stammered in momentary expectation of a catastrophe which
would hurl the work-shop to the heavens.

“Mere-Grand, Mere-Grand,” he stammered. “The apparatus, the tap... it
is all over, all over!”

The old woman had raised her head without as yet understanding him. “Eh,
what?” said she; “what is the matter with you?” Then, on seeing how
distorted were his features, how he recoiled as if mad with terror, she
glanced at the furnace and realised the danger. “Well, but it’s simple
enough,” said she; “it’s only necessary to turn off the tap, eh?”

Thereupon, without any semblance of haste, in the most easy and natural
manner possible, she deposited her needlework on a little table, rose
from her chair, and turned off the tap with a light but firm hand.
“There! it’s done,” said she. “But why didn’t you do it yourself, my

He had watched her in bewilderment, chilled to the bones, as if touched
by the hand of death. And when some colour at last returned to his
cheeks, and he found himself still alive in front of the apparatus whence
no harm could now come, he heaved a deep sigh and again shuddered. “Why
did I not turn it off?” he repeated. “It was because I felt afraid.”

At that very moment Marie and Pierre came into the work-shop all chatter
and laughter, delighted with their excursion, and bringing with them the
bright joyousness of the sunlight. The three brothers, Thomas, Francis
and Antoine, were jesting with them, and trying to make them confess that
Pierre had at least fought a battle with a cow on the high road, and
ridden into a cornfield. All at once, however, they became quite anxious,
for they noticed that their father looked terribly upset.

“My lads,” said he, “I’ve just been a coward. Ah! it’s a curious feeling,
I had never experienced it before.”

Thereupon he recounted his fears of an accident, and how quietly
Mere-Grand had saved them all from certain death. She waved her hand,
however, as if to say that there was nothing particularly heroic in
turning off a tap. The young men’s eyes nevertheless filled with tears,
and one after the other they went to kiss her with a fervour instinct
with all the gratitude and worship they felt for her. She had been
devoting herself to them ever since their infancy, she had now just given
them a new lease of life. Marie also threw herself into her arms, kissing
her with gratitude and emotion. Mere-Grand herself was the only one who
did not shed tears. She strove to calm them, begging them to exaggerate
nothing and to remain sensible.

“Well, you must at all events let me kiss you as the others have done,”
 Guillaume said to her, as he recovered his self-possession. “I at least
owe you that. And Pierre, too, shall kiss you, for you are now as good
for him as you have always been for us.”

At table, when it was at last possible for them to lunch, he reverted to
that attack of fear which had left him both surprised and ashamed. He who
for years had never once thought of death had for some time past found
ideas of caution in his mind. On two occasions recently he had shuddered
at the possibility of a catastrophe. How was it that a longing for life
had come to him in his decline? Why was it that he now wished to live? At
last with a touch of tender affection in his gaiety, he remarked: “Do you
know, Marie, I think it is my thoughts of you that make me a coward. If
I’ve lost my bravery it’s because I risk something precious when any
danger arises. Happiness has been entrusted to my charge. Just now when I
fancied that we were all going to die, I thought I could see you, and my
fear of losing you froze and paralysed me.”

Marie indulged in a pretty laugh. Allusions to her coming marriage were
seldom made; however, she invariably greeted them with an air of happy

“Another six weeks!” she simply said.

Thereupon Mere-Grand, who had been looking at them, turned her eyes
towards Pierre. He, however, like the others was listening with a smile.

“That’s true,” said the old lady, “you are to be married in six weeks’
time. So I did right to prevent the house from being blown up.”

At this the young men made merry; and the repast came to an end in very
joyous fashion.

During the afternoon, however, Pierre’s heart gradually grew heavy.
Marie’s words constantly returned to him: “Another six weeks!” Yes, it
was indeed true, she would then be married. But it seemed to him that he
had never previously known it, never for a moment thought of it. And
later on, in the evening, when he was alone in his room at Neuilly, his
heart-pain became intolerable. Those words tortured him. Why was it that
they had not caused him any suffering when they were spoken, why had he
greeted them with a smile? And why had such cruel anguish slowly
followed? All at once an idea sprang up in his mind, and became an
overwhelming certainty. He loved Marie, he loved her as a lover, with a
love so intense that he might die from it.

With this sudden consciousness of his passion everything became clear and
plain. He had been going perforce towards that love ever since he had
first met Marie. The emotion into which the young woman had originally
thrown him had seemed to him a feeling of repulsion, but afterwards he
had been slowly conquered, all his torments and struggles ending in this
love for her. It was indeed through her that he had at last found
quietude. And the delightful morning which he had spent with her that
day, appeared to him like a betrothal morning, in the depths of the happy
forest. Nature had resumed her sway over him, delivered him from his
sufferings, made him strong and healthy once more, and given him to the
woman he adored. The quiver he had experienced, the happiness he had
felt, his communion with the trees, the heavens, and every living
creature--all those things which he had been unable to explain, now
acquired a clear meaning which transported him. In Marie alone lay his
cure, his hope, his conviction that he would be born anew and at last
find happiness. In her company he had already forgotten all those
distressing problems which had formerly haunted him and bowed him down.
For a week past he had not once thought of death, which had so long been
the companion of his every hour. All the conflict of faith and doubt, the
distress roused by the idea of nihility, the anger he had felt at the
unjust sufferings of mankind, had been swept away by her fresh cool
hands. She was so healthy herself, so glad to live, that she had imparted
a taste for life even to him. Yes, it was simply that: she was making him
a man, a worker, a lover once more.

Then he suddenly remembered Abbe Rose and his painful conversation with
that saintly man. The old priest, whose heart was so ingenuous, and who
knew nothing of love and passion, was nevertheless the only one who had
understood the truth. He had told Pierre that he was changed, that there
was another man in him. And he, Pierre, had foolishly and stubbornly
declared that he was the same as he had always been; whereas Marie had
already transformed him, bringing all nature back to his breast--all
nature, with its sunlit countrysides, its fructifying breezes, and its
vast heavens, whose glow ripens its crops. That indeed was why he had
felt so exasperated with Catholicism, that religion of death; that was
why he had shouted that the Gospel was useless, and that the world
awaited another law--a law of terrestrial happiness, human justice and
living love and fruitfulness!

Ah, but Guillaume? Then a vision of his brother rose before Pierre, that
brother who loved him so fondly, and who had carried him to his home of
toil, quietude and affection, in order to cure him of his sufferings. If
he knew Marie it was simply because Guillaume had chosen that he should
know her. And again Marie’s words recurred to him: “Another six weeks!”
 Yes, in six weeks his brother would marry the young woman. This thought
was like a stab in Pierre’s heart. Still, he did not for one moment
hesitate: if he must die of his love, he would die of it, but none should
ever know it, he would conquer himself, he would flee to the ends of the
earth should he ever feel the faintest cowardice. Rather than bring a
moment’s pain to that brother who had striven to resuscitate him, who was
the artisan of the passion now consuming him, who had given him his whole
heart and all he had--he would condemn himself to perpetual torture. And
indeed, torture was coming back; for in losing Marie he could but sink
into the distress born of the consciousness of his nothingness. As he lay
in bed, unable to sleep, he already experienced a return of his
abominable torments--the negation of everything, the feeling that
everything was useless, that the world had no significance, and that life
was only worthy of being cursed and denied. And then the shudder born of
the thought of death returned to him. Ah! to die, to die without even
having lived!

The struggle was a frightful one. Until daybreak he sobbed in martyrdom.
Why had he taken off his cassock? He had done so at a word from Marie;
and now another word from her gave him the despairing idea of donning it
once more. One could not escape from so fast a prison. That black gown
still clung to his skin. He fancied that he had divested himself of it,
and yet it was still weighing on his shoulders, and his wisest course
would be to bury himself in it for ever. By donning it again he would at
least wear mourning for his manhood.

All at once, however, a fresh thought upset him. Why should he struggle
in that fashion? Marie did not love him. There had been nothing between
them to indicate that she cared for him otherwise than as a charming,
tender-hearted sister. It was Guillaume that she loved, no doubt. Then he
pressed his face to his pillow to stifle his sobs, and once more swore
that he would conquer himself and turn a smiling face upon their


HAVING returned to Montmartre on the morrow Pierre suffered so grievously
that he did not show himself there on the two following days. He
preferred to remain at home where there was nobody to notice his
feverishness. On the third morning, however, whilst he was still in bed,
strengthless and full of despair, he was both surprised and embarrassed
by a visit from Guillaume.

“I must needs come to you,” said the latter, “since you forsake us. I’ve
come to fetch you to attend Salvat’s trial, which takes place to-day. I
had no end of trouble to secure two places. Come, get up, we’ll have
_dejeuner_ in town, so as to reach the court early.”

Then, while Pierre was hastily dressing, Guillaume, who on his side
seemed thoughtful and worried that morning, began to question him: “Have
you anything to reproach us with?” he asked.

“No, nothing. What an idea!” was Pierre’s reply.

“Then why have you been staying away? We had got into the habit of seeing
you every day, but all at once you disappear.”

Pierre vainly sought a falsehood, and all his composure fled. “I had some
work to do here,” said he, “and then, too, my gloomy ideas cane back to
me, and I didn’t want to go and sadden you all.”

At this Guillaume hastily waved his hand. “If you fancy that your absence
enlivens us you’re mistaken,” he replied. “Marie, who is usually so well
and happy, had such a bad headache on the day before yesterday that she
was obliged to keep her room. And she was ill at ease and nervous and
silent again yesterday. We spent a very unpleasant day.”

As he spoke Guillaume looked Pierre well in the face, his frank loyal
eyes clearly revealing the suspicions which had come to him, but which he
would not express in words.

Pierre, quite dismayed by the news of Marie’s indisposition, and
frightened by the idea of betraying his secret, thereupon managed to tell
a lie. “Yes, she wasn’t very well on the day when we went cycling,” he
quietly responded. “But I assure you that I have had a lot to do here.
When you came in just now I was about to get up and go to your house as

Guillaume kept his eyes on him for a moment longer. Then, either
believing him or deciding to postpone his search for the truth to some
future time, he began speaking affectionately on other subjects. With his
keen brotherly love, however, there was blended such a quiver of
impending distress, of unconfessed sorrow, which possibly he did not yet
realise, that Pierre in his turn began to question him. “And you,” said
he, “are you ill? You seem to me to have lost your usual serenity.”

“I? Oh! I’m not ill. Only I can’t very well retain my composure; Salvat’s
affair distresses me exceedingly, as you must know. They will all end by
driving me mad with the monstrous injustice they show towards that
unhappy fellow.”

Thenceforward Guillaume went on talking of Salvat in a stubborn
passionate way, as if he wished to find an explanation of all his pain
and unrest in that affair. While he and Pierre were partaking of
_dejeuner_ at a little restaurant on the Boulevard du Palais he related
how deeply touched he was by the silence which Salvat had preserved with
regard both to the nature of the explosive employed in the bomb and the
few days’ work which he had once done at his house. It was, thanks to
this silence, that he, Guillaume, had not been worried or even summoned
as a witness. Then, in his emotion, he reverted to his invention, that
formidable engine which would ensure omnipotence to France, as the great
initiatory and liberative power of the world. The results of the
researches which had occupied him for ten years past were now out of
danger and in all readiness, so that if occasion required they might at
once be delivered to the French government. And, apart from certain
scruples which came to him at the thought of the unworthiness of French
financial and political society; he was simply delaying any further steps
in the matter until his marriage with Marie, in order that he might
associate her with the gift of universal peace which he imagined he was
about to bestow upon the world.

It was through Bertheroy and with great difficulty that Guillaume had
managed to secure two seats in court for Salvat’s trial. When he and
Pierre presented themselves for admission at eleven o’clock, they fancied
that they would never be able to enter. The large gates of the Palace of
Justice were kept closed, several passages were fenced off, and terror
seemed to reign in the deserted building, as if indeed the judges feared
some sudden invasion of bomb-laden Anarchists. Each door and barrier,
too, was guarded by soldiers, with whom the brothers had to parley. When
they at last entered the Assize Court they found it already crowded with
people, who were apparently quite willing to suffocate there for an hour
before the arrival of the judges, and to remain motionless for some seven
or eight hours afterwards, since it was reported that the authorities
wished to get the case over in a single sitting. In the small space
allotted to the standing public there was a serried mass of sightseers
who had come up from the streets, a few companions and friends of Salvat
having managed to slip in among them. In the other compartment, where
witnesses are generally huddled together on oak benches, were those
spectators who had been allowed admittance by favour, and these were so
numerous and so closely packed that here and there they almost sat upon
one another’s knees. Then, in the well of the court and behind the bench,
were rows of chairs set out as for some theatrical performance, and
occupied by privileged members of society, politicians, leading
journalists, and ladies. And meantime a number of gowned advocates sought
refuge wherever chance offered, crowding into every vacant spot, every
available corner.

Pierre had never before visited the Assize Court, and its appearance
surprised him. He had expected much pomp and majesty, whereas this temple
of human justice seemed to him small and dismal and of doubtful
cleanliness. The bench was so low that he could scarcely see the
armchairs of the presiding judge and his two assessors. Then he was
struck by the profusion of old oak panels, balustrades and benches, which
helped to darken the apartment, whose wall hangings were of olive green,
while a further display of oak panelling appeared on the ceiling above.
From the seven narrow and high-set windows with scanty little white
curtains there fell a pale light which sharply divided the court. On one
hand one saw the dock and the defending counsel’s seat steeped in frigid
light, while, on the other, was the little, isolated jury box in the
shade. This contrast seemed symbolical of justice, impersonal and
uncertain, face to face with the accused, whom the light stripped bare,
probed as it were to his very soul. Then, through a kind of grey mist
above the bench, in the depths of the stern and gloomy scene, one could
vaguely distinguish the heavy painting of “Christ Crucified.” A white
bust of the Republic alone showed forth clearly against the dark wall
above the dock where Salvat would presently appear. The only remaining
seats that Guillaume and Pierre could find were on the last bench of the
witnesses’ compartment, against the partition which separated the latter
from the space allotted to the standing public. Just as Guillaume was
seating himself, he saw among the latter little Victor Mathis, who stood
there with his elbows leaning on the partition, while his chin rested on
his crossed hands. The young man’s eyes were glowing in his pale face
with thin, compressed lips. Although they recognised one another, Victor
did not move, and Guillaume on his side understood that it was not safe
to exchange greetings in such a place. From that moment, however, he
remained conscious that Victor was there, just above him, never stirring,
but waiting silently, fiercely and with flaming eyes, for what was going
to happen.

Pierre, meantime, had recognised that most amiable deputy Duthil, and
little Princess Rosemonde, seated just in front of him. Amidst the hubbub
of the throng which chatted and laughed to while away the time, their
voices were the gayest to be heard, and plainly showed how delighted they
were to find themselves at a spectacle to which so many desired
admittance. Duthil was explaining all the arrangements to Rosemonde,
telling her to whom or to what purpose each bench and wooden box was
allotted: there was the jury-box, the prisoner’s dock, the seats assigned
to counsel for the defence, the public prosecutor, and the clerk of the
court, without forgetting the table on which material evidence was
deposited and the bar to which witnesses were summoned. There was nobody
as yet in any of these places; one merely saw an attendant giving a last
look round, and advocates passing rapidly. One might indeed have thought
oneself in a theatre, the stage of which remained deserted, while the
spectators crowded the auditorium waiting for the play to begin. To fill
up the interval the little Princess ended by looking about her for
persons of her acquaintance among the close-pressed crowd of sight-seers
whose eager faces were already reddening.

“Oh! isn’t that Monsieur Fonsegue over there behind the bench, near that
stout lady in yellow?” she exclaimed. “Our friend General de Bozonnet is
on the other side, I see. But isn’t Baron Duvillard here?”

“Oh! no,” replied Duthil; “he could hardly come; it would look as if he
were here to ask for vengeance.” Then, in his turn questioning Rosemonde,
the deputy went on: “Do you happen to have quarrelled with your handsome
friend Hyacinthe? Is that the reason why you’ve given me the pleasure of
acting as your escort to-day?”

With a slight shrug of her shoulders, the Princess replied that poets
were beginning to bore her. A fresh caprice, indeed, was drawing her into
politics. For a week past she had found amusement in the surroundings of
the ministerial crisis, into which the young deputy for Angouleme had
initiated her. “They are all a little bit crazy at the Duvillards’, my
dear fellow,” said she. “It’s decided, you know, that Gerard is to marry
Camille. The Baroness has resigned herself to it, and I’ve heard from a
most reliable quarter that Madame de Quinsac, the young man’s mother, has
given her consent.”

At this Duthil became quite merry. He also seemed to be well informed on
the subject. “Yes, yes, I know,” said he. “The wedding is to take place
shortly, at the Madeleine. It will be a magnificent affair, no doubt. And
after all, what would you have? There couldn’t be a better finish to the
affair. The Baroness is really kindness personified, and I said all along
that she would sacrifice herself in order to ensure the happiness of her
daughter and Gerard. In point of fact that marriage will settle
everything, put everything in proper order again.”

“And what does the Baron say?” asked Rosemonde.

“The Baron? Why, he’s delighted,” replied Duthil in a bantering way. “You
read no doubt this morning that Dauvergne is given the department of
Public Instruction in the new Ministry. This means that Silviane’s
engagement at the Comedic is a certainty. Dauvergne was chosen simply on
that account.”

At this moment the conversation was interrupted by little Massot, who,
after a dispute with one of the ushers some distance away, had perceived
a vacant place by the side of the Princess. He thereupon made her a
questioning sign, and she beckoned to him to approach.

“Ah!” said he, as he installed himself beside her, “I have not got here
without trouble. One’s crushed to death on the press bench, and I’ve an
article to write. You are the kindest of women, Princess, to make a
little room for your faithful admirer, myself.” Then, after shaking hands
with Duthil, he continued without any transition: “And so there’s a new
ministry at last, Monsieur le Depute. You have all taken your time about
it, but it’s really a very fine ministry, which everybody regards with
surprise and admiration.”

The decrees appointing the new ministers had appeared in the “Journal
Officiel” that very morning. After a long deadlock, after Vignon had for
the second time seen his plans fail through ever-recurring obstacles,
Monferrand, as a last resource, had suddenly been summoned to the Elysee,
and in four-and-twenty hours he had found the colleagues he wanted and
secured the acceptance of his list, in such wise that he now triumphantly
re-ascended to power after falling from it with Barroux in such wretched
fashion. He had also chosen a new post for himself, relinquishing the
department of the Interior for that of Finances, with the Presidency of
the Council, which had long been his secret ambition. His stealthy
labour, the masterly fashion in which he had saved himself while others
sank, now appeared in its full beauty. First had come Salvat’s arrest,
and the use he had made of it, then the wonderful subterranean campaign
which he had carried on against Vignon, the thousand obstacles which he
had twice set across his path, and finally the sudden _denouement_ with
that list he held in readiness, that formation of a ministry in a single
day as soon as his services were solicited.

“It is fine work, I must compliment you on it,” added little Massot by
way of a jest.

“But I’ve had nothing to do with it,” Duthil modestly replied.

“Nothing to do with it! Oh! yes you have, my dear sir, everybody says

The deputy felt flattered and smiled, while the other rattled on with his
insinuations, which were put in such a humorous way that nothing he said
could be resented. He talked of Monferrand’s followers who had so
powerfully helped him on to victory. How heartily had Fonsegue finished
off his old friend Barroux in the “Globe”! Every morning for a month past
the paper had published an article belabouring Barroux, annihilating
Vignon, and preparing the public for the return of a saviour of society
who was not named. Then, too, Duvillard’s millions had waged a secret
warfare, all the Baron’s numerous creatures had fought like an army for
the good cause. Duthil himself had played the pipe and beaten the drum,
while Chaigneux resigned himself to the baser duties which others would
not undertake. And so the triumphant Monferrand would certainly begin by
stifling that scandalous and embarrassing affair of the African Railways,
and appointing a Committee of Inquiry to bury it.

By this time Duthil had assumed an important air. “Well, my dear fellow,”
 said he, “at serious moments when society is in peril, certain
strong-handed men, real men of government, become absolutely necessary.
Monferrand had no need of our friendship, his presence in office was
imperiously required by the situation. His hand is the only one that can
save us!”

“I know,” replied Massot scoffingly. “I’ve even been told that if
everything was settled straight off so that the decrees might be
published this morning, it was in order to instil confidence into the
judges and jurymen here, in such wise that knowing Monferrand’s fist to
be behind them they would have the courage to pronounce sentence of death
this evening.”

“Well, public safety requires a sentence of death, and those who have to
ensure that safety must not be left ignorant of the fact that the
government is with them, and will know how to protect them, if need be.”

At this moment a merry laugh from the Princess broke in upon the
conversation. “Oh! just look over there!” said she; “isn’t that Silviane
who has just sat down beside Monsieur Fonsegue?”

“The Silviane ministry!” muttered Massot in a jesting way. “Well, there
will be no boredom at Dauvergne’s if he ingratiates himself with

Guillaume and Pierre heard this chatter, however little they cared to
listen to it. Such a deluge of society tittle-tattle and political
indiscretion brought the former a keen heart-pang. So Salvat was
sentenced to death even before he had appeared in court. He was to pay
for the transgressions of one and all, his crime was simply a favourable
opportunity for the triumph of a band of ambitious people bent on power
and enjoyment! Ah! what terrible social rottenness there was in it all;
money corrupting one and another, families sinking to filth, politics
turned into a mere treacherous struggle between individuals, and power
becoming the prey of the crafty and the impudent! Must not everything
surely crumble? Was not this solemn assize of human justice a derisive
parody, since all that one found there was an assembly of happy and
privileged people defending the shaky edifice which sheltered them, and
making use of all the forces they yet retained, to crush a fly--that
unhappy devil of uncertain sanity who had been led to that court by his
violent and cloudy dream of another, superior and avenging justice?

Such were Guillaume’s thoughts, when all at once everybody around him
started. Noon was now striking, and the jurymen trooped into court in
straggling fashion and took their seats in their box. Among them one saw
fat fellows clad in their Sunday best and with the faces of simpletons,
and thin fellows who had bright eyes and sly expressions. Some of them
were bearded and some were bald. However, they all remained rather
indistinct, as their side of the court was steeped in shade. After them
came the judges, headed by M. de Larombiere, one of the Vice-Presidents
of the Appeal Court, who in assuming the perilous honour of conducting
the trial had sought to increase the majesty of his long, slender, white
face, which looked the more austere as both his assessors, one dark and
the other fair, had highly coloured countenances. The public prosecutor’s
seat was already occupied by one of the most skilful of the
advocates-general, M. Lehmann, a broad-shouldered Alsatian Israelite,
with cunning eyes, whose presence showed that the case was deemed
exceptionally important. At last, amidst the heavy tread of gendarmes,
Salvat was brought in, at once rousing such ardent curiosity that all the
spectators rose to look at him. He still wore the cap and loose overcoat
procured for him by Victor Mathis, and everybody was surprised to see his
emaciated, sorrowful, gentle face, crowned by scanty reddish hair, which
was turning grey. His soft, glowing, dreamy blue eyes glanced around, and
he smiled at someone whom he recognised, probably Victor, but perhaps
Guillaume. After that he remained quite motionless.

The presiding judge waited for silence to fall, and then came the
formalities which attend the opening of a court of law, followed by the
perusal of the lengthy indictment, which a subordinate official read in a
shrill voice. The scene had now changed, and the spectators listened
wearily and somewhat impatiently, as, for weeks past, the newspapers had
related all that the indictment set forth. At present not a corner of the
court remained unoccupied, there was scarcely space enough for the
witnesses to stand in front of the bench. The closely packed throng was
one of divers hues, the light gowns of ladies alternating with the black
gowns of advocates, while the red robes of the judges disappeared from
view, the bench being so low that the presiding judge’s long face
scarcely rose above the sea of heads. Many of those present became
interested in the jurors, and strove to scrutinise their shadowy
countenances. Others, who did not take their eyes off the prisoner,
marvelled at his apparent weariness and indifference, which were so great
that he scarcely answered the whispered questions of his counsel, a young
advocate with a wide-awake look, who was nervously awaiting the
opportunity to achieve fame. Most curiosity, however, centred in the
table set apart for the material evidence. Here were to be seen all sorts
of fragments, some of the woodwork torn away from the carriage-door of
the Duvillard mansion, some plaster that had fallen from the ceiling, a
paving-stone which the violence of the explosion had split in halves, and
other blackened remnants. The more moving sights, however, were the
milliner’s bonnet-box, which had remained uninjured, and a glass jar in
which something white and vague was preserved in spirits of wine. This
was one of the poor errand girl’s little hands, which had been severed at
the wrist. The authorities had been unable to place her poor ripped body
on the table, and so they had brought that hand!

At last Salvat rose, and the presiding judge began to interrogate him.
The contrast in the aspect of the court then acquired tragic force: in
the shrouding shade upon one hand were the jurors, their minds already
made up beneath the pressure of public terror, while in the full, vivid
light on the other side was the prisoner, alone and woeful, charged with
all the crimes of his race. Four gendarmes watched over him. He was
addressed by M. de Larombiere in a tone of contempt and disgust. The
judge was not deficient in rectitude; he was indeed one of the last
representatives of the old, scrupulous, upright French magistracy; but he
understood nothing of the new times, and he treated prisoners with the
severity of a Biblical Jehovah. Moreover, the infirmity which was the
worry of his life, the childish lisp which, in his opinion, had alone
prevented him from shining as a public prosecutor, made him ferociously
ill-tempered, incapable of any intelligent indulgence. There were smiles,
which he divined, as soon as he raised his sharp, shrill little voice, to
ask his first questions. That droll voice of his took away whatever
majesty might have remained attached to these proceedings, in which a
man’s life was being fought for in a hall full of inquisitive, stifling
and perspiring folks, who fanned themselves and jested. Salvat answered
the judge’s earlier questions with his wonted weariness and politeness.
While the judge did everything to vilify him, harshly reproaching him
with his wretched childhood and youth, magnifying every stain and every
transgression in his career, referring to the promiscuity of his life
between Madame Theodore and little Celine as something bestial, he, the
prisoner, quietly said yes or no, like a man who has nothing to hide and
accepts the full responsibility of his actions. He had already made a
complete confession of his crime, and he calmly repeated it without
changing a word. He explained that if he had deposited his bomb at the
entrance of the Duvillard mansion it was to give his deed its true
significance, that of summoning the wealthy, the money-mongers who had so
scandalously enriched themselves by dint of theft and falsehood, to
restore that part of the common wealth which they had appropriated, to
the poor, the working classes, their children and their wives, who
perished of starvation. It was only at this moment that he grew excited;
all the misery that he had endured or witnessed rose to his clouded,
semi-educated brain, in which claims and theories and exasperated ideas
of absolute justice and universal happiness had gathered confusedly. And
from that moment he appeared such as he really was, a sentimentalist, a
dreamer transported by suffering, proud and stubborn, and bent on
changing the world in accordance with his sectarian logic.

“But you fled!” cried the judge in a voice such as would have befitted a
grasshopper. “You must not say that you gave your life to your cause and
were ready for martyrdom!”

Salvat’s most poignant regret was that he had yielded in the Bois de
Boulogne to the dismay and rage which come upon a tracked and hunted man
and impel him to do all he can to escape capture. And on being thus
taunted by the judge he became quite angry. “I don’t fear death, you’ll
see that,” he replied. “If all had the same courage as I have, your
rotten society would be swept away to-morrow, and happiness would at last

Then the interrogatory dealt at great length with the composition and
manufacture of the bomb. The judge, rightly enough, pointed out that this
was the only obscure point of the affair. “And so,” he remarked, “you
persist in saying that dynamite was the explosive you employed? Well, you
will presently hear the experts, who, it is true, differ on certain
points, but are all of opinion that you employed some other explosive,
though they cannot say precisely what it was. Why not speak out on the
point, as you glory in saying everything?”

Salvat, however, had suddenly calmed down, giving only cautious
monosyllabic replies. “Well, seek for whatever you like if you don’t
believe me,” he now answered. “I made my bomb by myself, and under
circumstances which I’ve already related a score of times. You surely
don’t expect me to reveal names and compromise comrades?”

From this declaration he would not depart. It was only towards the end of
the interrogatory that irresistible emotion overcame him on the judge
again referring to the unhappy victim of his crime, the little errand
girl, so pretty and fair and gentle, whom ferocious destiny had brought
to the spot to meet such an awful death. “It was one of your own class
whom you struck,” said M. de Larombiere; “your victim was a work girl, a
poor child who, with the few pence she earned, helped to support her aged

Salvat’s voice became very husky as he answered: “That’s really the only
thing I regret.... My bomb certainly wasn’t meant for her; and may all
the workers, all the starvelings, remember that she gave her blood as I’m
going to give mine!”

In this wise the interrogatory ended amidst profound agitation. Pierre
had felt Guillaume shuddering beside him, whilst the prisoner quietly and
obstinately refused to say a word respecting the explosive that had been
employed, preferring as he did to assume full responsibility for the deed
which was about to cost him his life. Moreover, Guillaume, on turning
round, in compliance with an irresistible impulse, had perceived Victor
Mathis still motionless behind him: his elbows ever leaning on the rail
of the partition, and his chin still resting on his hands, whilst he
listened with silent, concentrated passion. His face had become yet paler
than before, and his eyes glowed as with an avenging fire, whose flames
would never more be extinguished.

The interrogatory of the prisoner was followed by a brief commotion in

“That Salvat looks quite nice, he has such soft eyes,” declared the
Princess, whom the proceedings greatly amused. “Oh! don’t speak ill of
him, my dear deputy. You know that I have Anarchist ideas myself.”

“I speak no ill of him,” gaily replied Duthil. “Nor has our friend
Amadieu any right to speak ill of him. For you know that this affair has
set Amadieu on a pinnacle. He was never before talked about to such an
extent as he is now; and he delights in being talked about, you know! He
has become quite a social celebrity, the most illustrious of our
investigating magistrates, and will soon be able to do or become whatever
he pleases.”

Then Massot, with his sarcastic impudence, summed up the situation. “When
Anarchism flourishes, everything flourishes, eh? That bomb has helped on
the affairs of a good many fine fellows that I know. Do you think that my
governor Fonsegue, who’s so attentive to Silviane yonder, complains of
it? And doesn’t Sagnier, who’s spreading himself out behind the presiding
judge, and whose proper place would be between the four
gendarmes--doesn’t he owe a debt to Salvat for all the abominable
advertisements he has been able to give his paper by using the wretched
fellow’s back as a big drum? And I need not mention the politicians or
the financiers or all those who fish in troubled waters.”

“But I say,” interrupted Duthil, “it seems to me that you yourself made
good use of the affair. Your interview with the little girl Celine
brought you in a pot of money.”

Massot, as it happened, had been struck with the idea of ferreting out
Madame Theodore and the child, and of relating his visit to them in the
“Globe,” with an abundance of curious and touching particulars. The
article had met with prodigious success, Celine’s pretty answers
respecting her imprisoned father having such an effect on ladies with
sensitive hearts that they had driven to Montmartre in their carriages in
order to see the two poor creatures. Thus alms had come to them from all
sides; and strangely enough the very people who demanded the father’s
head were the most eager to sympathise with the child.

“Well, I don’t complain of my little profits,” said the journalist in
answer to Duthil. “We all earn what we can, you know.”

At this moment Rosemonde, while glancing round her, recognised Guillaume
and Pierre, but she was so amazed to see the latter in ordinary civilian
garb that she did not dare to speak to him. Leaning forward she
acquainted Duthil and Massot with her surprise, and they both turned
round to look. From motives of discretion, however, they pretended that
they did not recognise the Froments.

The heat in court was now becoming quite unbearable, and one lady had
already fainted. At last the presiding judge again raised his lisping
voice, and managed to restore silence. Salvat, who had remained standing,
now held a few sheets of paper, and with some difficulty he made the
judge understand that he desired to complete his interrogatory by reading
a declaration, which he had drawn up in prison, and in which he explained
his reasons for his crime. For a moment M. de Larombiere hesitated, all
surprise and indignation at such a request; but he was aware that he
could not legally impose silence on the prisoner, and so he signified his
consent with a gesture of mingled irritation and disdain. Thereupon
Salvat began his perusal much after the fashion of a schoolboy, hemming
and hawing here and there, occasionally becoming confused, and then
bringing out certain words with wonderful emphasis, which evidently
pleased him. This declaration of his was the usual cry of suffering and
revolt already raised by so many disinherited ones. It referred to all
the frightful want of the lower spheres; the toiler unable to find a
livelihood in his toil; a whole class, the most numerous and worthy of
the classes, dying of starvation; whilst, on the other hand, were the
privileged ones, gorged with wealth, and wallowing in satiety, yet
refusing to part with even the crumbs from their tables, determined as
they were to restore nothing whatever of the wealth which they had
stolen. And so it became necessary to take everything away from them, to
rouse them from their egotism by terrible warnings, and to proclaim to
them even with the crash of bombs that the day of justice had come. The
unhappy man spoke that word “justice” in a ringing voice which seemed to
fill the whole court. But the emotion of those who heard him reached its
highest pitch when, after declaring that he laid down his life for the
cause, and expected nothing but a verdict of death from the jury, he
added, as if prophetically, that his blood would assuredly give birth to
other martyrs. They might send him to the scaffold, said he, but he knew
that his example would bear fruit. After him would come another avenger,
and yet another, and others still, until the old and rotten social system
should have crumbled away so as to make room for the society of justice
and happiness of which he was one of the apostles.

The presiding judge, in his impatience and agitation, twice endeavoured
to interrupt Salvat. But the other read on and on with the imperturbable
conscientiousness of one who fears that he may not give proper utterance
to his most important words. He must have been thinking of that perusal
ever since he had been in prison. It was the decisive act of his suicide,
the act by which he proclaimed that he gave his life for the glory of
dying in the cause of mankind. And when he had finished he sat down
between the gendarmes with glowing eyes and flushed cheeks, as if he
inwardly experienced some deep joy.

To destroy the effect which the declaration had produced--a commingling
of fear and compassion--the judge at once wished to proceed with the
hearing of the witnesses. Of these there was an interminable procession;
though little interest attached to their evidence, for none of them had
any revelations to make. Most attention perhaps was paid to the measured
statements of Grandidier, who had been obliged to dismiss Salvat from his
employ on account of the Anarchist propaganda he had carried on. Then the
prisoner’s brother-in-law, Toussaint, the mechanician, also seemed a very
worthy fellow if one might judge him by the manner in which he strove to
put things favourably for Salvat, without in any way departing from the
truth. After Toussaint’s evidence considerable time was taken up by the
discussions between the experts, who disagreed in public as much as they
had disagreed in their reports. Although they were all of opinion that
dynamite could not have been the explosive employed in the bomb, they
indulged in the most extraordinary and contradictory suppositions as to
this explosive’s real nature. Eventually a written opinion given by the
illustrious _savant_ Bertheroy was read; and this, after clearly setting
forth the known facts, concluded that one found oneself in presence of a
new explosive of prodigious power, the formula of which he himself was
unable to specify.

Then detective Mondesir and commissary Dupot came in turn to relate the
various phases of the man hunt in the Bois de Boulogne. In Mondesir
centred all the gaiety of the proceedings, thanks to the guardroom
sallies with which he enlivened his narrative. And in like way the
greatest grief, a perfect shudder of revolt and compassion, was roused by
the errand girl’s grandmother, a poor, bent, withered old woman, whom the
prosecution had cruelly constrained to attend the court, and who wept and
looked quite dismayed, unable as she was to understand what was wanted of
her. When she had withdrawn, the only remaining witnesses were those for
the defence, a procession of foremen and comrades, who all declared that
they had known Salvat as a very worthy fellow, an intelligent and zealous
workman, who did not drink, but was extremely fond of his daughter, and
incapable of an act of dishonesty or cruelty.

It was already four o’clock when the evidence of the witnesses came to an
end. The atmosphere in court was now quite stifling, feverish fatigue
flushed every face, and a kind of ruddy dust obscured the waning light
which fell from the windows. Women were fanning themselves and men were
mopping their foreheads. However, the passion roused by the scene still
brought a glow of cruel delight to every eye. And no one stirred.

“Ah!” sighed Rosemonde all at once, “to think that I hoped to drink a cup
of tea at a friend’s at five o’clock. I shall die of thirst and
starvation here.”

“We shall certainly be kept till seven,” replied Massot. “I can’t offer
to go and fetch you a roll, for I shouldn’t be readmitted.”

Then Duthil, who had not ceased shrugging his shoulders while Salvat read
his declaration, exclaimed: “What childish things he said, didn’t he? And
to think that the fool is going to die for all that! Rich and poor,
indeed! Why, there will always be rich and poor. And it’s equally certain
that when a man is poor his one great desire is to become rich. If that
fellow is in the dock to-day it’s simply because he failed to make

While the others were thus conversing, Pierre for his part was feeling
extremely anxious about his brother, who sat beside him in silence, pale
and utterly upset. Pierre sought his hand and covertly pressed it. Then
in a low voice he inquired: “Do you feel ill? Shall we go away?”

Guillaume answered him by discreetly and affectionately returning his
handshake. He was all right, he would remain till the end, however much
he might be stirred by exasperation.

It was now Monsieur Lehmann, the public prosecutor, who rose to address
the court. He had a large, stern mouth, and was squarely built, with a
stubborn Jewish face. Nevertheless he was known to be a man of dexterous,
supple nature, one who had a foot in every political camp, and invariably
contrived to be on good terms with the powers that were. This explained
his rapid rise in life, and the constant favour he enjoyed. In the very
first words he spoke he alluded to the new ministry gazetted that
morning, referring pointedly to the strong-handed man who had undertaken
the task of reassuring peaceable citizens and making evil-doers tremble.
Then he fell upon the wretched Salvat with extraordinary vehemence,
recounting the whole of his life, and exhibiting him as a bandit
expressly born for the perpetration of crime, a monster who was bound to
end by committing some abominable and cowardly outrage. Next he
flagellated Anarchism and its partisans. The Anarchists were a mere herd
of vagabonds and thieves, said he. That had been shown by the recent
robbery at the Princess de Harn’s house. The ignoble gang that had been
arrested for that affair had given the apostles of the Anarchist doctrine
as their references! And that was what the application of Anarchist
theories resulted in--burglary and filth, pending a favourable hour for
wholesale pillage and murder! For nearly a couple of hours the public
prosecutor continued in this fashion, throwing truth and logic to the
winds, and exclusively striving to alarm his hearers. He made all
possible use of the terror which had reigned in Paris, and figuratively
brandished the corpse of the poor little victim, the pretty errand girl,
as if it were a blood-red flag, before pointing to the pale hand,
preserved in spirits of wine, with a gesture of compassionate horror
which sent a shudder through his audience. And he ended, as he had begun,
by inspiriting the jurors, and telling them that they might fearlessly do
their duty now that those at the head of the State were firmly resolved
to give no heed to threats.

Then the young advocate entrusted with the defence in his turn spoke. And
he really said what there was to say with great clearness and precision.
He was of a different school from that of the public prosecutor: his
eloquence was very simple and smooth, his only passion seemed to be zeal
for truth. Moreover, it was sufficient for him to show Salvat’s career in
its proper light, to depict him pursued by social fatalities since his
childhood, and to explain the final action of his career by all that he
had suffered and all that had sprung up in his dreamy brain. Was not his
crime the crime of one and all? Who was there that did not feel, if only
in a small degree, responsible for that bomb which a penniless, starving
workman had deposited on the threshold of a wealthy man’s abode--a
wealthy man whose name bespoke the injustice of the social system: so
much enjoyment on the one hand and so much privation on the other! If one
of us happened to lose his head, and felt impelled to hasten the advent
of happiness by violence in such troublous times, when so many burning
problems claimed solution, ought he to be deprived of his life in the
name of justice, when none could swear that they had not in some measure
contributed to his madness? Following up this question, Salvat’s counsel
dwelt at length on the period that witnessed the crime, a period of so
many scandals and collapses, when the old world was giving birth to a new
one amidst the most terrible struggles and pangs. And he concluded by
begging the jury to show themselves humane, to resist all passion and
terror, and to pacify the rival classes by a wise verdict, instead of
prolonging social warfare by giving the starvelings yet another martyr to

It was past six o’clock when M. de Larombiere began to sum up in a
partial and flowery fashion, in which one detected how grieved and angry
he was at having such a shrill little voice. Then the judges and the
jurors withdrew, and the prisoner was led away, leaving the spectators
waiting amidst an uproar of feverish impatience. Some more ladies had
fainted, and it had even been necessary to carry out a gentleman who had
been overcome by the cruel heat. However, the others stubbornly remained
there, not one of them quitting his place.

“Ah! it won’t take long now,” said Massot. “The jurors brought their
verdict all ready in their pockets. I was looking at them while that
little advocate was telling them such sensible things. They all looked as
if they were comfortably asleep in the gloom.”

Then Duthil turned to the Princess and asked her, “Are you still hungry?”

“Oh! I’m starving,” she replied. “I shall never be able to wait till I
get home. You will have to take me to eat a biscuit somewhere.... All
the same, however, it’s very exciting to see a man’s life staked on a yes
or a no.”

Meantime Pierre, finding Guillaume still more feverish and grieved, had
once again taken hold of his hand. Neither of them spoke, so great was
the distress that they experienced for many reasons which they themselves
could not have precisely defined. It seemed to them, however, that all
human misery--inclusive of their own, the affections, the hopes, the
griefs which brought them suffering--was sobbing and quivering in that
buzzing hall. Twilight had gradually fallen there, but as the end was now
so near it had doubtless been thought unnecessary to light the
chandeliers. And thus large vague shadows, dimming and shrouding the
serried throng, now hovered about in the last gleams of the day. The
ladies in light gowns yonder, behind the bench, looked like pale phantoms
with all-devouring eyes, whilst the numerous groups of black-robed
advocates formed large sombre patches which gradually spread everywhere.
The greyish painting of the Christ had already vanished, and on the walls
one only saw the glaring white bust of the Republic, which resembled some
frigid death’s head starting forth from the darkness.

“Ah!” Massot once more exclaimed, “I knew that it wouldn’t take long!”

Indeed, the jurors were returning after less than a quarter of an hour’s
absence. Then the judges likewise came back and took their seats.
Increased emotion stirred the throng, a great gust seemed to sweep
through the court, a gust of anxiety, which made every head sway. Some
people had risen to their feet, and others gave vent to involuntary
exclamations. The foreman of the jury, a gentleman with a broad red face,
had to wait a moment before speaking. At last in a sharp but somewhat
sputtering voice he declared: “On my honour and my conscience, before God
and before man, the verdict of the jury is: on the question of Murder,
yes, by a majority of votes.” *

  * English readers may be reminded that in France the verdict of
    a majority of the jury suffices for conviction or acquittal.
    If the jury is evenly divided the prisoner is acquitted.--Trans.

The night had almost completely fallen when Salvat was once more brought
in. In front of the jurors, who faded away in the gloom, he stood forth,
erect, with a last ray from the windows lighting up his face. The judges
themselves almost disappeared from view, their red robes seemed to have
turned black. And how phantom-like looked the prisoner’s emaciated face
as he stood there listening, with dreamy eyes, while the clerk of the
court read the verdict to him.

When silence fell and no mention was made of extenuating circumstances,
he understood everything. His face, which had retained a childish
expression, suddenly brightened. “That means death. Thank you,
gentlemen,” he said.

Then he turned towards the public, and amidst the growing darkness
searched for the friendly faces which he knew were there; and this time
Guillaume became fully conscious that he had recognised him, and was
again expressing affectionate and grateful thanks for the crust he had
received from him on a day of want. He must have also bidden farewell to
Victor Mathis, for as Guillaume glanced at the young man, who had not
moved, he saw that his eyes were staring wildly, and that a terrible
expression rested on his lips.

As for the rest of the proceedings, the last questions addressed to the
jury and the counsel, the deliberations of the judges and the delivery of
sentence--these were all lost amidst the buzzing and surging of the
crowd. A little compassion was unconsciously manifested; and some stupor
was mingled with the satisfaction that greeted the sentence of death.

No sooner had Salvat been condemned, however, than he drew himself up to
his full height, and as the guards led him away he shouted in a
stentorian voice: “Long live Anarchy!”

Nobody seemed angered by the cry. The crowd went off quietly, as if
weariness had lulled all its passions. The proceedings had really lasted
too long and fatigued one too much. It was quite pleasant to inhale the
fresh air on emerging from such a nightmare.

In the large waiting hall, Pierre and Guillaume passed Duthil and the
Princess, whom General de Bozonnet had stopped while chatting with
Fonsegue. All four of them were talking in very loud voices, complaining
of the heat and their hunger, and agreeing that the affair had not been a
particularly interesting one. Yet, all was well that ended well. As
Fonsegue remarked, the condemnation of Salvat to death was a political
and social necessity.

When Pierre and Guillaume reached the Pont Neuf, the latter for a moment
rested his elbows on the parapet of the bridge. His brother, standing
beside him, also gazed at the grey waters of the Seine, which here and
there were fired by the reflections of the gas lamps. A fresh breeze
ascended from the river; it was the delightful hour when night steals
gently over resting Paris. Then, as the brothers stood there breathing
that atmosphere which usually brings relief and comfort, Pierre on his
side again became conscious of his heart-wound, and remembered his
promise to return to Montmartre, a promise that he must keep in spite of
the torture there awaiting him; whilst Guillaume on the other hand
experienced a revival of the suspicion and disquietude that had come to
him on seeing Marie so feverish, changed as it were by some new feeling,
of which she herself was ignorant. Were further sufferings, struggles,
and obstacles to happiness yet in store for those brothers who loved one
another so dearly? At all events their hearts bled once more with all the
sorrow into which they had been cast by the scene they had just
witnessed: that assize of justice at which a wretched man had been
condemned to pay with his head for the crimes of one and all.

Then, as they turned along the quay, Guillaume recognised young Victor
going off alone in the gloom, just in front of them. The chemist stopped
him and spoke to him of his mother. But the young man did not hear; his
thin lips parted, and in a voice as trenchant as a knife-thrust he
exclaimed: “Ah! so it’s blood they want. Well, they may cut off his head,
but he will be avenged!”


THE days which followed Salvat’s trial seemed gloomy ones up yonder in
Guillaume’s workroom, which was usually so bright and gay. Sadness and
silence filled the place. The three young men were no longer there.
Thomas betook himself to the Grandidier works early every morning in
order to perfect his little motor; Francois was so busy preparing for his
examination that he scarcely left the Ecole Normale; while Antoine was
doing some work at Jahan’s, where he delighted to linger and watch his
little friend Lise awakening to life. Thus Guillaume’s sole companion was
Mere-Grand, who sat near the window busy with her needlework; for Marie
was ever going about the house, and only stayed in the workroom for any
length of time when Pierre happened to be there.

Guillaume’s gloom was generally attributed to the feelings of anger and
revolt into which the condemnation of Salvat had thrown him. He had flown
into a passion on his return from the Palace of Justice, declaring that
the execution of the unhappy man would simply be social murder,
deliberate provocation of class warfare. And the others had bowed on
hearing that pain-fraught violent cry, without attempting to discuss the
point. Guillaume’s sons respectfully left him to the thoughts which kept
him silent for hours, with his face pale and a dreamy expression in his
eyes. His chemical furnace remained unlighted, and his only occupation
from morn till night was to examine the plans and documents connected
with his invention, that new explosive and that terrible engine of war,
which he had so long dreamt of presenting to France in order that she
might impose the reign of truth and justice upon all the nations.
However, during the long hours which he spent before the papers scattered
over his table, often without seeing them, for his eyes wandered far
away, a multitude of vague thoughts came to him--doubts respecting the
wisdom of his project, and fears lest his desire to pacify the nations
should simply throw them into an endless war of extermination. Although
he really believed that great city of Paris to be the world’s brain,
entrusted with the task of preparing the future, he could not disguise
from himself that with all its folly and shame and injustice it still
presented a shocking spectacle. Was it really ripe enough for the work of
human salvation which he thought of entrusting to it? Then, on trying to
re-peruse his notes and verify his formulas, he only recovered his former
energetic determination on thinking of his marriage, whereupon the idea
came to him that it was now too late for him to upset his life by
changing such long-settled plans.

His marriage! Was it not the thought of this which haunted Guillaume and
disturbed him far more powerfully than his scientific work or his
humanitarian passion? Beneath all the worries that he acknowledged, there
was another which he did not confess even to himself, and which filled
him with anguish. He repeated day by day that he would reveal his
invention to the Minister of War as soon as he should be married to
Marie, whom he wished to associate with his glory. Married to Marie! Each
time he thought of it, burning fever and secret disquietude came over
him. If he now remained so silent and had lost his quiet cheerfulness, it
was because he had felt new life, as it were, emanating from her. She was
certainly no longer the same woman as formerly; she was becoming more and
more changed and distant. He had watched her and Pierre when the latter
happened to be there, which was now but seldom. He, too, appeared
embarrassed, and different from what he had been. On the days when he
came, however, Marie seemed transformed; it was as if new life animated
the house. Certainly the intercourse between her and Pierre was quite
innocent, sisterly on the one hand, brotherly on the other. They simply
seemed to be a pair of good friends. And yet a radiance, a vibration,
emanated from them, something more subtle even than a sun-ray or a
perfume. After the lapse of a few days Guillaume found himself unable to
doubt the truth any longer. And his heart bled, he was utterly upset by
it. He had not found them in fault in any way, but he was convinced that
these two children, as he so paternally called them, really adored one

One lovely morning when he happened to be alone with Mere-Grand, face to
face with sunlit Paris, he fell into a yet more dolorous reverie than
usual. He seemed to be gazing fixedly at the old lady, as, seated in her
usual place, she continued sewing with an air of queenly serenity.
Perhaps, however, he did not see her. For her part she occasionally
raised her eyes and glanced at him, as if expecting a confession which
did not come. At last, finding such silence unbearable, she made up her
mind to address him: “What has been the matter with you, Guillaume, for
some time past? Why don’t you tell me what you have to tell me?”

He descended from the clouds, as it were, and answered in astonishment:
“What I have to tell you?”

“Yes, I know it as well as you do, and I thought you would speak to me of
it, since it pleases you to do nothing here without consulting me.”

At this he turned very pale and shuddered. So he had not been mistaken in
the matter, even Mere-Grand knew all about it. To talk of it, however,
was to give shape to his suspicions, to transform what, hitherto, might
merely have been a fancy on his part into something real and definite.

“It was inevitable, my dear son,” said Mere-Grand. “I foresaw it from the
outset. And if I did not warn you of it, it was because I believed in
some deep design on your part. Since I have seen you suffering, however,
I have realised that I was mistaken.” Then, as he still looked at her
quivering and distracted, she continued: “Yes, I fancied that you might
have wished it, that in bringing your brother here you wished to know if
Marie loved you otherwise than as a father. There was good reason for
testing her--for instance, the great difference between your ages, for
your life is drawing to a close, whilst hers is only beginning. And I
need not mention the question of your work, the mission which I have
always dreamt of for you.”

Thereupon, with his hands raised in prayerful fashion, Guillaume drew
near to the old lady and exclaimed: “Oh! speak out clearly, tell me what
you think. I don’t understand, my poor heart is so lacerated; and yet I
should so much like to know everything, so as to be able to act and take
a decision. To think that you whom I love, you whom I venerate as much as
if you were my real mother, you whose profound good sense I know so well
that I have always followed your advice--to think that you should have
foreseen this frightful thing and have allowed it to happen at the risk
of its killing me!... Why have you done so, tell me, why?”

Mere-Grand was not fond of talking. Absolute mistress of the house as she
was, managing everything, accountable to nobody for her actions, she
never gave expression to all that she thought or all that she desired.
Indeed, there was no occasion for it, as Guillaume, like the children,
relied upon her completely, with full confidence in her wisdom. And her
somewhat enigmatical ways even helped to raise her in their estimation.

“What is the use of words, when things themselves speak?” she now gently
answered, while still plying her needle. “It is quite true that I
approved of the plan of a marriage between you and Marie, for I saw that
it was necessary that she should be married if she was to stay here. And
then, too, there were many other reasons which I needn’t speak of.
However, Pierre’s arrival here has changed everything, and placed things
in their natural order. Is not that preferable?”

He still lacked the courage to understand her. “Preferable! When I’m in
agony? When my life is wrecked?”

Thereupon she rose and came to him, tall and rigid in her thin black
gown, and with an expression of austerity and energy on her pale face.
“My son,” she said, “you know that I love you, and that I wish you to be
very noble and lofty. Only the other morning, you had an attack of
fright, the house narrowly escaped being blown up. Then, for some days
now you have been sitting over those documents and plans in an
absent-minded, distracted state, like a man who feels weak, and doubts,
and no longer knows his way. Believe me, you are following a dangerous
path; it is better that Pierre should marry Marie, both for their sakes
and for your own.”

“For my sake? No, no! What will become of me!”

“You will calm yourself and reflect, my son. You have such serious duties
before you. You are on the eve of making your invention known. It seems
to me that something has bedimmed your sight, and that you will perhaps
act wrongly in this respect, through failing to take due account of the
problem before you. Perhaps there is something better to be done....
At all events, suffer if it be necessary, but remain faithful to your

Then, quitting him with a maternal smile, she sought to soften her
somewhat stern words by adding: “You have compelled me to speak
unnecessarily, for I am quite at ease; with your superior mind, whatever
be in question, you can but do the one right thing that none other would

On finding himself alone Guillaume fell into feverish uncertainty. What
was the meaning of Mere-Grand’s enigmatical words? He knew that she was
on the side of whatever might be good, natural, and necessary. But she
seemed to be urging him to some lofty heroism; and indeed what she had
said threw a ray of light upon the unrest which had come to him in
connection with his old plan of going to confide his secret to some
Minister of War or other, whatever one might happen to be in office at
the time. Growing hesitation and repugnance stirred him as he fancied he
could again hear her saying that perhaps there might be some better
course, that would require search and reflection. But all at once a
vision of Marie rose before him, and his heart was rent by the thought
that he was asked to renounce her. To lose her, to give her to another!
No, no, that was beyond his strength. He would never have the frightful
courage that was needed to pass by the last promised raptures of love
with disdain!

For a couple of days Guillaume struggled on. He seemed to be again living
the six years which the young woman had already spent beside him in that
happy little house. She had been at first like an adopted daughter there;
and later on, when the idea of their marriage had sprung up, he had
viewed it with quiet delight in the hope that it would ensure the
happiness of all around him. If he had previously abstained from marrying
again it was from the fear of placing a strange mother over his children;
and if he yielded to the charm of loving yet once more, and no longer
leading a solitary life, it was because he had found at his very hearth
one of such sensible views, who, in the flower of youth, was willing to
become his wife despite the difference in their ages. Then months had
gone by, and serious occurrences had compelled them to postpone the
wedding, though without undue suffering on his part. Indeed, the
certainty that she was waiting for him had sufficed him, for his life of
hard work had rendered him patient. Now, however, all at once, at the
threat of losing her, his hitherto tranquil heart ached and bled. He
would never have thought the tie so close a one. But he was now almost
fifty, and it was as if love and woman were being wrenched away from him,
the last woman that he could love and desire, one too who was the more
desirable, as she was the incarnation of youth from which he must ever be
severed, should he indeed lose her. Passionate desire, mingled with rage,
flared up within him at the thought that someone should have come to take
her from him.

One night, alone in his room, he suffered perfect martyrdom. In order
that he might not rouse the house he buried his face in his pillow so as
to stifle his sobs. After all, it was a simple matter; Marie had given
him her promise, and he would compel her to keep it. She would be his,
and his alone, and none would be able to steal her from him. Then,
however, there rose before him a vision of his brother, the
long-forgotten one, whom, from feelings of affection, he had compelled to
join his family. But his sufferings were now so acute that he would have
driven that brother away had he been before him. He was enraged,
maddened, by the thought of him. His brother--his little brother! So all
their love was over; hatred and violence were about to poison their
lives. For hours Guillaume continued complaining deliriously, and seeking
how he might so rid himself of Pierre that what had happened should be
blotted out. Now and again, when he recovered self-control, he marvelled
at the tempest within him; for was he not a _savant_ guided by lofty
reason, a toiler to whom long experience had brought serenity? But the
truth was that this tempest had not sprung up in his mind, it was raging
in the child-like soul that he had retained, the nook of affection and
dreaminess which remained within him side by side with his principles of
pitiless logic and his belief in proven phenomena only. His very genius
came from the duality of his nature: behind the chemist was a social
dreamer, hungering for justice and capable of the greatest love. And now
passion was transporting him, and he was weeping for the loss of Marie as
he would have wept over the downfall of that dream of his, the
destruction of war _by_ war, that scheme for the salvation of mankind at
which he had been working for ten years past.

At last, amidst his weariness, a sudden resolution calmed him. He began
to feel ashamed of despairing in this wise when he had no certain grounds
to go upon. He must know everything, he would question the young woman;
she was loyal enough to answer him frankly. Was not this a solution
worthy of them both? An explanation in all sincerity, after which they
would be able to take a decision. Then he fell asleep; and, tired though
he felt when he rose in the morning, he was calmer. It was as if some
secret work had gone on in his heart during his few hours of repose after
that terrible storm.

As it happened Marie was very gay that morning. On the previous day she
had gone with Pierre and Antoine on a cycling excursion over frightful
roads in the direction of Montmorency, whence they had returned in a
state of mingled anger and delight. When Guillaume stopped her in the
little garden, he found her humming a song while returning bare-armed
from the scullery, where some washing was going on.

“Do you want to speak to me?” she asked.

“Yes, my dear child, it’s necessary for us to talk of some serious

She at once understood that their marriage was in question, and became
grave. She had formerly consented to that marriage because she regarded
it as the only sensible course she could take, and this with full
knowledge of the duties which she would assume. No doubt her husband
would be some twenty years older than herself, but this circumstance was
one of somewhat frequent occurrence, and as a rule such marriages turned
out well, rather than otherwise. Moreover, she was in love with nobody,
and was free to consent. And she had consented with an impulse of
gratitude and affection which seemed so sweet that she thought it the
sweetness of love itself. Everybody around her, too, appeared so pleased
at the prospect of this marriage, which would draw the family yet more
closely together. And, on her side, she had been as it were intoxicated
by the idea of making others happy.

“What is the matter?” she now asked Guillaume in a somewhat anxious
voice. “No bad news, I hope?”

“No, no,” he answered. “I’ve simply something to say to you.”

Then he led her under the plum-trees to the only green nook left in the
garden. An old worm-eaten bench still stood there against the
lilac-bushes. And in front of them Paris spread out its sea of roofs,
looking light and fresh in the morning sunlight.

They both sat down. But at the moment of speaking and questioning Marie,
Guillaume experienced sudden embarrassment, while his heart beat
violently at seeing her beside him, so young and adorable with her bare

“Our wedding-day is drawing near,” he ended by saying. And then as she
turned somewhat pale, perhaps unconsciously, he himself suddenly felt
cold. Had not her lips twitched as if with pain? Had not a shadow passed
over her fresh, clear eyes?

“Oh! we still have some time before us,” she replied.

Then, slowly and very affectionately, he resumed: “No doubt; still it is
necessary to attend to the formalities. And it is as well, perhaps, that
I should speak of those worries to-day, so that I may not have to bother
you about them again.”

Then he gently went on telling her all that would have to be done,
keeping his eyes on her whilst he spoke, watching for such signs of
emotion as the thought of her promise’s early fulfilment might bring to
her face. She sat there in silence, with her hands on her lap, and her
features quite still, thus giving no certain sign of any regret or
trouble. Still she seemed rather dejected, compliant, as it were, but in
no wise joyous.

“You say nothing, my dear Marie,” Guillaume at last exclaimed. “Does
anything of all this displease you?”

“Displease me? Oh, no!”

“You must speak out frankly, if it does, you know. We will wait a little
longer if you have any personal reasons for wishing to postpone the date

“But I’ve no reasons, my friend. What reasons could I have? I leave you
quite free to settle everything as you yourself may desire.”

Silence fell. While answering, she had looked him frankly in the face;
but a little quiver stirred her lips, and gloom, for which she could not
account, seemed to rise and darken her face, usually as bright and gay as
spring water. In former times would she not have laughed and sung at the
mere announcement of that coming wedding?

Then Guillaume, with an effort which made his voice tremble, dared to
speak out: “You must forgive me for asking you a question, my dear Marie.
There is still time for you to cancel your promise. Are you quite certain
that you love me?”

At this she looked at him in genuine stupefaction, utterly failing to
understand what he could be aiming at. And--as she seemed to be deferring
her reply, he added: “Consult your heart. Is it really your old friend or
is it another that you love?”

“I? I, Guillaume? Why do you say that to me? What can I have done to give
you occasion to say such a thing!”

All her frank nature revolted as she spoke, and her beautiful eyes,
glowing with sincerity, gazed fixedly on his.

“I love Pierre! I do, I?... Well, yes, I love him, as I love you all;
I love him because he has become one of us, because he shares our life
and our joys! I’m happy when he’s here, certainly; and I should like him
to be always here. I’m always pleased to see him and hear him and go out
with him. I was very much grieved recently when he seemed to be relapsing
into his gloomy ideas. But all that is natural, is it not? And I think
that I have only done what you desired I should do, and I cannot
understand how my affection for Pierre can in any way exercise an
influence respecting our marriage.”

These words, in her estimation, ought to have convinced Guillaume that
she was not in love with his brother; but in lieu thereof they brought
him painful enlightenment by the very ardour with which she denied the
love imputed to her.

“But you unfortunate girl!” he cried. “You are betraying yourself without
knowing it.... It is quite certain you do not love me, you love my

He had caught hold of her wrists and was pressing them with despairing
affection as if to compel her to read her heart. And she continued
struggling. A most loving and tragic contest went on between them, he
seeking to convince her by the evidence of facts, and she resisting him,
stubbornly refusing to open her eyes. In vain did he recount what had
happened since the first day, explaining the feelings which had followed
one upon another in her heart and mind: first covert hostility, next
curiosity regarding that extraordinary young priest, and then sympathy
and affection when she had found him so wretched and had gradually cured
him of his sufferings. They were both young and mother Nature had done
the rest. However, at each fresh proof and certainty which he put before
her, Marie only experienced growing emotion, trembling at last from head
to foot, but still unwilling to question herself.

“No, no,” said she, “I do not love him. If I loved him I should know it
and would acknowledge it to you; for you are well aware that I cannot
tell an untruth.”

Guillaume, however, had the cruelty to insist on the point, like some
heroic surgeon cutting into his own flesh even more than into that of
others, in order that the truth might appear and everyone be saved.
“Marie,” said he, “it is not I whom you love. All that you feel for me is
respect and gratitude and daughterly affection. Remember what your
feelings were at the time when our marriage was decided upon. You were
then in love with nobody, and you accepted the offer like a sensible
girl, feeling certain that I should render you happy, and that the union
was a right and satisfactory one.... But since then my brother has
come here; love has sprung up in your heart in quite a natural way; and
it is Pierre, Pierre alone, whom you love as a lover and a husband should
be loved.”

Exhausted though she was, utterly distracted, too, by the light which,
despite herself, was dawning within her, Marie still stubbornly and
desperately protested.

“But why do you struggle like this against the truth, my child?” said
Guillaume; “I do not reproach you. It was I who chose that this should
happen, like the old madman I am. What was bound to come has come, and
doubtless it is for the best. I only wanted to learn the truth from you
in order that I might take a decision and act uprightly.”

These words vanquished her, and her tears gushed forth. It seemed as
though something had been rent asunder within her; and she felt quite
overcome, as if by the weight of a new truth of which she had hitherto
been ignorant. “Ah! it was cruel of you,” she said, “to do me such
violence so as to make me read my heart. I swear to you again that I did
not know I loved Pierre in the way you say. But you have opened my heart,
and roused what was quietly slumbering in it.... And it is true, I do
love Pierre, I love him now as you have said. And so here we are, all
three of us supremely wretched through your doing!”

She sobbed, and with a sudden feeling of modesty freed her wrists from
his grasp. He noticed, however, that no blush rose to her face. Truth to
tell, her virginal loyalty was not in question; she had no cause to
reproach herself with any betrayal; it was he alone, perforce, who had
awakened her to love. For a moment they looked at one another through
their tears: she so strong and healthy, her bosom heaving at each
heart-beat, and her white arms--arms that could both charm and
sustain--bare almost to her shoulders; and he still vigorous, with his
thick fleece of white hair and his black moustaches, which gave his
countenance such an expression of energetic youth. But it was all over,
the irreparable had swept by, and utterly changed their lives.

“Marie,” he nobly said, “you do not love me, I give you back your

But with equal nobility she refused to take it back. “Never will I do
so,” she replied. “I gave it to you frankly, freely and joyfully, and my
affection and admiration for you have never changed.”

Nevertheless, with more firmness in his hitherto broken voice, Guillaume
retorted: “You love Pierre, and it is Pierre whom you ought to marry.”

“No,” she again insisted, “I belong to you. A tie which years have
tightened cannot be undone in an hour. Once again, if I love Pierre I
swear to you that I was ignorant of it this morning. And let us leave the
matter as it is; do not torture me any more, it would be too cruel of

Then, quivering like a woman who suddenly perceives that she is bare, in
a stranger’s presence, she hastily pulled down her sleeves, and even drew
them over her hands as if to leave naught of her person visible. And
afterwards she rose and walked away without adding a single word.

Guillaume remained alone on the bench in that leafy corner, in front of
Paris, to which the light morning sunshine lent the aspect of some
quivering, soaring city of dreamland. A great weight oppressed him, and
it seemed to him as if he would never be able to rise from the seat. That
which brought him most suffering was Marie’s assurance that she had till
that morning been ignorant of the fact that she was in love with Pierre.
She had been ignorant of it, and it was he, Guillaume, who had brought it
to her knowledge, compelled her to confess it! He had now firmly planted
it in her heart, and perhaps increased it by revealing it to her. Ah! how
cruel the thought--to be the artisan of one’s own torment! Of one thing
he was now quite certain: there would be no more love in his life. At the
idea of this, his poor, loving heart sank and bled. And yet amidst the
disaster, amidst his grief at realising that he was an old man, and that
renunciation was imperative, he experienced a bitter joy at having
brought the truth to light. This was very harsh consolation, fit only for
one of heroic soul, yet he found lofty satisfaction in it, and from that
moment the thought of sacrifice imposed itself upon him with
extraordinary force. He must marry his children; there lay the path of
duty, the only wise and just course, the only certain means of ensuring
the happiness of the household. And when his revolting heart yet leapt
and shrieked with anguish, he carried his vigorous hands to his chest in
order to still it.

On the morrow came the supreme explanation between Guillaume and Pierre,
not in the little garden, however, but in the spacious workroom. And here
again one beheld the vast panorama of Paris, a nation as it were at work,
a huge vat in which the wine of the future was fermenting. Guillaume had
arranged things so that he might be alone with his brother; and no sooner
had the latter entered than he attacked him, going straight to the point
without any of the precautions which he had previously taken with Marie.

“Haven’t you something to say to me, Pierre?” he inquired. “Why won’t you
confide in me?”

The other immediately understood him, and began to tremble, unable to
find a word, but confessing everything by the distracted, entreating
expression of his face.

“You love Marie,” continued Guillaume, “why did you not loyally come and
tell me of your love?”

At this Pierre recovered self-possession and defended himself vehemently:
“I love Marie, it’s true, and I felt that I could not conceal it, that
you yourself would notice it at last. But there was no occasion for me to
tell you of it, for I was sure of myself, and would have fled rather than
have allowed a single word to cross my lips. I suffered in silence and
alone, and you cannot know how great my torture was! It is even cruel on
your part to speak to me of it; for now I am absolutely compelled to
leave you.... I have already, on several occasions, thought of doing
so. If I have come back here, it was doubtless through weakness, but also
on account of my affection for you all. And what mattered my presence
here? Marie ran no risk. She does not love me.”

“She does love you!” Guillaume answered. “I questioned her yesterday, and
she had to confess that she loved you.”

At this Pierre, utterly distracted, caught Guillaume by the shoulders and
gazed into his eyes. “Oh! brother, brother! what is this you say? Why say
a thing which would mean terrible misfortune for us all? Even if it were
true, my grief would far exceed my joy, for I will not have you suffer.
Marie belongs to you. To me she is as sacred as a sister. And if there be
only my madness to part you, it will pass by, I shall know how to conquer

“Marie loves you,” repeated Guillaume in his gentle, obstinate way. “I
don’t reproach you with anything. I well know that you have struggled,
and have never betrayed yourself to her either by word or glance.
Yesterday she herself was still ignorant that she loved you, and I had to
open her eyes.... What would you have? I simply state a fact: she
loves you.”

This time Pierre, still quivering, made a gesture of mingled rapture and
terror, as if some divine and long-desired blessing were falling upon him
from heaven and crushing him beneath its weight.

“Well, then,” he said, after a brief pause, “it is all over.... Let us
kiss one another for the last time, and then I’ll go.”

“Go? Why? You must stay with us. Nothing could be more simple: you love
Marie and she loves you. I give her to you.”

A loud cry came from Pierre, who wildly raised his hands again with a
gesture of fright and rapture. “You give me Marie?” he replied. “You, who
adore her, who have been waiting for her for months? No, no, it would
overcome me, it would terrify me, as if you gave me your very heart after
tearing it from your breast. No, no! I will not accept your sacrifice!”

“But as it is only gratitude and affection that Marie feels for me,” said
Guillaume, “as it is you whom she really loves, am I to take a mean
advantage of the engagements which she entered into unconsciously, and
force her to a marriage when I know that she would never be wholly mine?
Besides, I have made a mistake, it isn’t I who give her to you, she has
already given herself, and I do not consider that I have any right to
prevent her from doing so.”

“No, no! I will never accept, I will never bring such grief upon you...
Kiss me, brother, and let me go.”

Thereupon Guillaume caught hold of Pierre and compelled him to sit down
by his side on an old sofa near the window. And he began to scold him
almost angrily while still retaining a smile, in which suffering and
kindliness were blended. “Come,” said he, “we are surely not going to
fight over it. You won’t force me to tie you up so as to keep you here? I
know what I’m about. I thought it all over before I spoke to you. No
doubt, I can’t tell you that it gladdens me. I thought at first that I
was going to die; I should have liked to hide myself in the very depths
of the earth. And then, well, it was necessary to be reasonable, and I
understood that things had arranged themselves for the best, in their
natural order.”

Pierre, unable to resist any further, had begun to weep with both hands
raised to his face.

“Don’t grieve, brother, either for yourself or for me,” said Guillaume.
“Do you remember the happy days we lately spent together at Neuilly after
we had found one another again? All our old affection revived within us,
and we remained for hours, hand in hand, recalling the past and loving
one another. And what a terrible confession you made to me one night, the
confession of your loss of faith, your torture, the void in which you
were rolling! When I heard of it my one great wish was to cure you. I
advised you to work, love, and believe in life, convinced as I was that
life alone could restore you to peace and health.... And for that
reason I afterwards brought you here. You fought against it, and it was I
who forced you to come. I was so happy when I found that you again took
an interest in life, and had once more become a man and a worker! I would
have given some of my blood if necessary to complete your cure....
Well, it’s done now, I have given you all I had, since Marie herself has
become necessary to you, and she alone can save you.”

Then as Pierre again attempted to protest, he resumed: “Don’t deny it. It
is so true indeed, that if she does not complete the work I have begun,
all my efforts will have been vain, you will fall back into your misery
and negation, into all the torments of a spoilt life. She is necessary to
you, I say. And do you think that I no longer know how to love you? Would
you have me refuse you the very breath of life that will truly make you a
man, after all my fervent wishes for your return to life? I have enough
affection for you both to consent to your loving one another....
Besides, I repeat it, nature knows what she does. Instinct is a sure
guide, it always tends to what is useful and trite. I should have been a
sorry husband, and it is best that I should keep to my work as an old
_savant_; whereas you are young and represent the future, all fruitful
and happy life.”

Pierre shuddered as he heard this, for his old fears returned to him. Had
not the priesthood for ever cut him off from life, had not his long years
of chaste celibacy robbed him of his manhood? “Fruitful and happy life!”
 he muttered, “ah! if you only knew how distressed I feel at the idea that
I do not perhaps deserve the gift you so lovingly offer me! You are worth
more than I am; you would have given her a larger heart, a firmer brain,
and perhaps, too, you are really a younger man than myself.... There
is still time, brother, keep her, if with you she is likely to be happier
and more truly and completely loved. For my part I am full of doubts. Her
happiness is the only thing of consequence. Let her belong to the one who
will love her best!”

Indescribable emotion had now come over both men. As Guillaume heard his
brother’s broken words, the cry of a love that trembled at the thought of
possible weakness, he did for a moment waver. With a dreadful heart-pang
he stammered despairingly: “Ah! Marie, whom I love so much! Marie, whom I
would have rendered so happy!”

At this Pierre could not restrain himself; he rose and cried: “Ah! you
see that you love her still and cannot renounce her.... So let me go!
let me go!”

But Guillaume had already caught him around the body, clasping him with
an intensity of brotherly love which was increased by the renunciation he
was resolved upon: “Stay!” said he. “It wasn’t I that spoke, it was the
other man that was in me, he who is about to die, who is already dead! By
the memory of our mother and our father I swear to you that the sacrifice
is consummated, and that if you two refuse to accept happiness from me
you will but make me suffer.”

For a moment the weeping men remained in one another’s arms. They had
often embraced before, but never had their hearts met and mingled as they
did now. It was a delightful moment, which seemed an eternity. All the
grief and misery of the world had disappeared from before them; there
remained naught save their glowing love, whence sprang an eternity of
love even as light comes from the sun. And that moment was compensation
for all their past and future tears, whilst yonder, on the horizon before
them, Paris still spread and rumbled, ever preparing the unknown future.

Just then Marie herself came in. And the rest proved very simple.
Guillaume freed himself from his brother’s clasp, led him forward and
compelled him and Marie to take each other by the hand. At first she made
yet another gesture of refusal in her stubborn resolve that she would not
take her promise back. But what could she say face to face with those two
tearful men, whom she had found in one another’s arms, mingling together
in such close brotherliness? Did not those tears and that embrace sweep
away all ordinary reasons, all such arguments as she held in reserve?
Even the embarrassment of the situation disappeared, it seemed as if she
had already had a long explanation with Pierre, and that he and she were
of one mind to accept that gift of love which Guillaume offered them with
so much heroism. A gust of the sublime passed through the room, and
nothing could have appeared more natural to them than this extraordinary
scene. Nevertheless, Marie remained silent, she dared not give her
answer, but looked at them both with her big soft eyes, which, like their
own, were full of tears.

And it was Guillaume who, with sudden inspiration, ran to the little
staircase conducting to the rooms overhead, and called: “Mere-Grand!
Mere-Grand! Come down at once, you are wanted.”

Then, as soon as she was there, looking slim and pale in her black gown,
and showing the wise air of a queen-mother whom all obeyed, he said:
“Tell these two children that they can do nothing better than marry one
another. Tell them that we have talked it over, you and I, and that it is
your desire, your will that they should do so.”

She quietly nodded her assent, and then said: “That is true, it will be
by far the most sensible course.”

Thereupon Marie flung herself into her arms, consenting, yielding to the
superior forces, the powers of life, that had thus changed the course of
her existence. Guillaume immediately desired that the date of the wedding
should be fixed, and accommodation provided for the young couple in the
rooms overhead. And as Pierre glanced at him with some remaining anxiety
and spoke of travelling, for he feared that his wound was not yet healed,
and that their presence might bring him suffering, Guillaume responded:
“No, no, I mean to keep you. If I’m marrying you, it is to have you both
here. Don’t worry about me. I have so much work to do, I shall work.”

In the evening when Thomas and Francois came home and learnt the news,
they did not seem particularly surprised by it. They had doubtless felt
that things would end like this. And they bowed to the _denouement_, not
venturing to say a word, since it was their father himself who announced
the decision which had been taken, with his usual air of composure. As
for Antoine, who on his own side quivered with love for Lise, he gazed
with doubting, anxious eyes at his father, who had thus had the courage
to pluck out his heart. Could he really survive such a sacrifice, must it
not kill him? Then Antoine kissed his father passionately, and the elder
brothers in their turn embraced him with all their hearts. Guillaume
smiled and his eyes became moist. After his victory over his horrible
torments nothing could have been sweeter to him than the embraces of his
three big sons.

There was, however, further emotion in store for him that evening. Just
as the daylight was departing, and he was sitting at his large table near
the window, again checking and classifying the documents and plans
connected with his invention, he was surprised to see his old master and
friend Bertheroy enter the workroom. The illustrious chemist called on
him in this fashion at long intervals, and Guillaume felt the honour thus
conferred on him by this old man to whom eminence and fame had brought so
many titles, offices and decorations. Moreover, Bertheroy, with his
position as an official _savant_ and member of the Institute, showed some
courage in thus venturing to call on one whom so-called respectable folks
regarded with contumely. And on this occasion, Guillaume at once
understood that it was some feeling of curiosity that had brought him.
And so he was greatly embarrassed, for he hardly dared to remove the
papers and plans which were lying on the table.

“Oh, don’t be frightened,” gaily exclaimed Bertheroy, who, despite his
careless and abrupt ways, was really very shrewd. “I haven’t come to pry
into your secrets.... Leave your papers there, I promise you that I
won’t read anything.”

Then, in all frankness, he turned the conversation on the subject of
explosives, which he was still studying, he said, with passionate
interest. He had made some new discoveries which he did not conceal.
Incidentally, too, he spoke of the opinion he had given in Salvat’s
affair. His dream was to discover some explosive of great power, which
one might attempt to domesticate and reduce to complete obedience. And
with a smile he pointedly concluded: “I don’t know where that madman
found the formula of his powder. But if you should ever discover it,
remember that the future perhaps lies in the employment of explosives as
motive power.”

Then, all at once, he added: “By the way, that fellow Salvat will be
executed on the day after to-morrow. A friend of mine at the Ministry of
Justice has just told me so.”

Guillaume had hitherto listened to him with an air of mingled distrust
and amusement. But this announcement of Salvat’s execution stirred him to
anger and revolt, though for some days past he had known it to be
inevitable, in spite of the sympathy which the condemned man was now
rousing in many quarters.

“It will be a murder!” he cried vehemently.

Bertheroy waved his hand: “What would you have?” he answered: “there’s a
social system and it defends itself when it is attacked. Besides, those
Anarchists are really too foolish in imagining that they will transform
the world with their squibs and crackers! In my opinion, you know,
science is the only revolutionist. Science will not only bring us truth
but justice also, if indeed justice ever be possible on this earth. And
that is why I lead so calm a life and am so tolerant.”

Once again Bertheroy appeared to Guillaume as a revolutionist, one who
was convinced that he helped on the ruin of the ancient abominable
society of today, with its dogmas and laws, even whilst he was working in
the depths of his laboratory. He was, however, too desirous of repose,
and had too great a contempt for futilities to mingle with the events of
the day, and he preferred to live in quietude, liberally paid and
rewarded, and at peace with the government whatever it might be, whilst
at the same time foreseeing and preparing for the formidable parturition
of the future.

He waved his hand towards Paris, over which a sun of victory was setting,
and then again spoke: “Do you hear the rumble? It is we who are the
stokers, we who are ever flinging fresh fuel under the boiler. Science
does not pause in her work for a single hour, and she is the artisan of
Paris, which--let us hope it--will be the artisan of the future. All the
rest is of no account.”

But Guillaume was no longer listening to him. He was thinking of Salvat
and the terrible engine of war he had invented, that engine which before
long would shatter cities. And a new idea was dawning and growing in his
mind. He had just freed himself of his last tie, he had created all the
happiness he could create around him. Ah! to recover his courage, to be
master of himself once more, and, at any rate, derive from the sacrifice
of his heart the lofty delight of being free, of being able to lay down
even his life, should he some day deem it necessary!



FOR some reason of his own Guillaume was bent upon witnessing the
execution of Salvat. Pierre tried to dissuade him from doing so; and
finding his efforts vain, became somewhat anxious. He accordingly
resolved to spend the night at Montmartre, accompany his brother and
watch over him. In former times, when engaged with Abbe Rose in
charitable work in the Charonne district, he had learnt that the
guillotine could be seen from the house where Mege, the Socialist deputy,
resided at the corner of the Rue Merlin. He therefore offered himself as
a guide. As the execution was to take place as soon as it should legally
be daybreak, that is, about half-past four o’clock, the brothers did not
go to bed but sat up in the workroom, feeling somewhat drowsy, and
exchanging few words. Then as soon as two o’clock struck, they started

The night was beautifully serene and clear. The full moon, shining like a
silver lamp in the cloudless, far-stretching heavens, threw a calm,
dreamy light over the vague immensity of Paris, which was like some
spell-bound city of sleep, so overcome by fatigue that not a murmur arose
from it. It was as if beneath the soft radiance which spread over its
roofs, its panting labour and its cries of suffering were lulled to
repose until the dawn. Yet, in a far, out of the way district, dark work
was even now progressing, a knife was being raised on high in order that
a man might be killed.

Pierre and Guillaume paused in the Rue St. Eleuthere, and gazed at the
vaporous, tremulous city spread out below then. And as they turned they
perceived the basilica of the Sacred Heart, still domeless but already
looking huge indeed in the moonbeams, whose clear white light accentuated
its outlines and brought them into sharp relief against a mass of
shadows. Under the pale nocturnal sky, the edifice showed like a colossal
monster, symbolical of provocation and sovereign dominion. Never before
had Guillaume found it so huge, never had it appeared to him to dominate
Paris, even in the latter’s hours of slumber, with such stubborn and
overwhelming might.

This wounded him so keenly in the state of mind in which he found
himself, that he could not help exclaiming: “Ah! they chose a good site
for it, and how stupid it was to let them do so! I know of nothing more
nonsensical; Paris crowned and dominated by that temple of idolatry! How
impudent it is, what a buffet for the cause of reason after so many
centuries of science, labour, and battle! And to think of it being reared
over Paris, the one city in the world which ought never to have been
soiled in this fashion! One can understand it at Lourdes and Rome; but
not in Paris, in the very field of intelligence which has been so deeply
ploughed, and whence the future is sprouting. It is a declaration of war,
an insolent proclamation that they hope to conquer Paris also!”

Guillaume usually evinced all the tolerance of a _savant_, for whom
religions are simply social phenomena. He even willingly admitted the
grandeur or grace of certain Catholic legends. But Marie Alacoque’s
famous vision, which has given rise to the cult of the Sacred Heart,
filled him with irritation and something like physical disgust. He
suffered at the mere idea of Christ’s open, bleeding breast, and the
gigantic heart which the saint asserted she had seen beating in the
depths of the wound--the huge heart in which Jesus placed the woman’s
little heart to restore it to her inflated and glowing with love. What
base and loathsome materialism there was in all this! What a display of
viscera, muscles and blood suggestive of a butcher’s shop! And Guillaume
was particularly disgusted with the engraving which depicted this horror,
and which he found everywhere, crudely coloured with red and yellow and
blue, like some badly executed anatomical plate.

Pierre on his side was also looking at the basilica as, white with
moonlight, it rose out of the darkness like a gigantic fortress raised to
crush and conquer the city slumbering beneath it. It had already brought
him suffering during the last days when he had said mass in it and was
struggling with his torments. “They call it the national votive
offering,” he now exclaimed. “But the nation’s longing is for health and
strength and restoration to its old position by work. That is a thing the
Church does not understand. It argues that if France was stricken with
defeat, it was because she deserved punishment. She was guilty, and so
to-day she ought to repent. Repent of what? Of the Revolution, of a
century of free examination and science, of the emancipation of her mind,
of her initiatory and liberative labour in all parts of the world? That
indeed is her real transgression; and it is as a punishment for all our
labour, search for truth, increase of knowledge and march towards justice
that they have reared that huge pile which Paris will see from all her
streets, and will never be able to see without feeling derided and
insulted in her labour and glory.”

With a wave of his hand he pointed to the city, slumbering in the
moonlight as beneath a sheet of silver, and then set off again with his
brother, down the slopes, towards the black and deserted streets.

They did not meet a living soul until they reached the outer boulevard.
Here, however, no matter what the hour may be, life continues with
scarcely a pause. No sooner are the wine shops, music and dancing halls
closed, than vice and want, cast into the street, there resume their
nocturnal existence. Thus the brothers came upon all the homeless ones:
low prostitutes seeking a pallet, vagabonds stretched on the benches
under the trees, rogues who prowled hither and thither on the lookout for
a good stroke. Encouraged by their accomplice--night, all the mire and
woe of Paris had returned to the surface. The empty roadway now belonged
to the breadless, homeless starvelings, those for whom there was no place
in the sunlight, the vague, swarming, despairing herd which is only
espied at night-time. Ah! what spectres of destitution, what apparitions
of grief and fright there were! What a sob of agony passed by in Paris
that morning, when as soon as the dawn should rise, a man--a pauper, a
sufferer like the others--was to be guillotined!

As Guillaume and Pierre were about to descend the Rue des Martyrs, the
former perceived an old man lying on a bench with his bare feet
protruding from his gaping, filthy shoes. Guillaume pointed to him in
silence. Then, a few steps farther on, Pierre in his turn pointed to a
ragged girl, crouching, asleep with open month, in the corner of a
doorway. There was no need for the brothers to express in words all the
compassion and anger which stirred their hearts. At long intervals
policemen, walking slowly two by two, shook the poor wretches and
compelled them to rise and walk on and on. Occasionally, if they found
them suspicious or refractory, they marched them off to the
police-station. And then rancour and the contagion of imprisonment often
transformed a mere vagabond into a thief or a murderer.

In the Rue des Martyrs and the Rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, the brothers
found night-birds of another kind, women who slunk past them, close to
the house-fronts, and men and hussies who belaboured one another with
blows. Then, upon the grand boulevards, on the thresholds of lofty black
houses, only one row of whose windows flared in the night, pale-faced
individuals, who had just come down from their clubs, stood lighting
cigars before going home. A lady with a ball wrap over her evening gown
went by accompanied by a servant. A few cabs, moreover, still jogged up
and down the roadway, while others, which had been waiting for hours,
stood on their ranks in rows, with drivers and horses alike asleep. And
as one boulevard after another was reached, the Boulevard Poissonniere,
the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, the Boulevard St. Denis, and so forth, as
far as the Place de la Republique, there came fresh want and misery, more
forsaken and hungry ones, more and more of the human “waste” that is cast
into the streets and the darkness. And on the other hand, an army of
street-sweepers was now appearing to remove all the filth of the past
four and twenty hours, in order that Paris, spruce already at sunrise,
might not blush for having thrown up such a mass of dirt and
loathsomeness in the course of a single day.

It was, however, more particularly after following the Boulevard
Voltaire, and drawing near to the districts of La Roquette and Charonne,
that the brothers felt they were returning to a sphere of labour where
there was often lack of food, and where life was but so much pain. Pierre
found himself at home here. In former days, accompanied by good Abbe
Rose, visiting despairing ones, distributing alms, picking up children
who had sunk to the gutter, he had a hundred times perambulated every one
of those long, densely populated streets. And thus a frightful vision
arose before his mind’s eye; he recalled all the tragedies he had
witnessed, all the shrieks he had heard, all the tears and bloodshed he
had seen, all the fathers, mothers and children huddled together and
dying of want, dirt and abandonment: that social hell in which he had
ended by losing his last hopes, fleeing from it with a sob in the
conviction that charity was a mere amusement for the rich, and absolutely
futile as a remedy. It was this conviction which now returned to him as
he again cast eyes upon that want and grief stricken district which
seemed fated to everlasting destitution. That poor old man whom Abbe Rose
had revived one night in yonder hovel, had he not since died of
starvation? That little girl whom he had one morning brought in his arms
to the refuge after her parents’ death, was it not she whom he had just
met, grown but fallen to the streets, and shrieking beneath the fist of a
bully? Ah! how great was the number of the wretched! Their name was
legion! There were those whom one could not save, those who were hourly
born to a life of woe and want, even as one may be born infirm, and
those, too, who from every side sank in the sea of human injustice, that
ocean which has ever been the same for centuries past, and which though
one may strive to drain it, still and for ever spreads. How heavy was the
silence, how dense the darkness in those working-class streets where
sleep seems to be the comrade of death! Yet hunger prowls, and misfortune
sobs; vague spectral forms slink by, and then are lost to view in the
depths of the night.

As Pierre and Guillaume went along they became mixed with dark groups of
people, a whole flock of inquisitive folk, a promiscuous, passionate
tramp, tramp towards the guillotine. It came from all Paris, urged on by
brutish fever, a hankering for death and blood. In spite, however, of the
dull noise which came from this dim crowd, the mean streets that were
passed remained quite dark, not a light appeared at any of their windows;
nor could one hear the breathing of the weary toilers stretched on their
wretched pallets from which they would not rise before the morning

On seeing the jostling crowd which was already assembled on the Place
Voltaire, Pierre understood that it would be impossible for him and his
brother to ascend the Rue de la Roquette. Barriers, moreover, must
certainly have been thrown across that street. In order therefore to
reach the corner of the Rue Merlin, it occurred to him to take the Rue de
la Folie Regnault, which winds round in the rear of the prison, farther

Here indeed they found solitude and darkness again.

The huge, massive prison with its great bare walls on which a moonray
fell, looked like some pile of cold stones, dead for centuries past. At
the end of the street they once more fell in with the crowd, a dim
restless mass of beings, whose pale faces alone could be distinguished.
The brothers had great difficulty in reaching the house in which Mege
resided at the corner of the Rue Merlin. All the shutters of the
fourth-floor flat occupied by the Socialist deputy were closed, though
every other window was wide open and crowded with surging sightseers.
Moreover, the wine shop down below and the first-floor room connected
with it flared with gas, and were already crowded with noisy customers,
waiting for the performance to begin.

“I hardly like to go and knock at Mege’s door,” said Pierre.

“No, no, you must not do so!” replied Guillaume.

“Let us go into the wine shop. We may perhaps be able to see something
from the balcony.”

The first-floor room was provided with a very large balcony, which women
and gentlemen were already filling. The brothers nevertheless managed to
reach it, and for a few minutes remained there, peering into the darkness
before them. The sloping street grew broader between the two prisons, the
“great” and the “little” Roquette, in such wise as to form a sort of
square, which was shaded by four clumps of plane-trees, rising from the
footways. The low buildings and scrubby trees, all poor and ugly of
aspect, seemed almost to lie on a level with the ground, under a vast sky
in which stars were appearing, as the moon gradually declined. And the
square was quite empty save that on one spot yonder there seemed to be
some little stir. Two rows of guards prevented the crowd from advancing,
and even threw it back into the neighbouring streets. On the one hand,
the only lofty houses were far away, at the point where the Rue St. Maur
intersects the Rue de la Roquette; while, on the other, they stood at the
corners of the Rue Merlin and the Rue de la Folie Regnault, so that it
was almost impossible to distinguish anything of the execution even from
the best placed windows. As for the inquisitive folk on the pavement they
only saw the backs of the guards. Still this did not prevent a crush. The
human tide flowed on from all sides with increasing clamour.

Guided by the remarks of some women who, leaning forward on the balcony,
had been watching the square for a long time already, the brothers were
at last able to perceive something. It was now half-past three, and the
guillotine was nearly ready. The little stir which one vaguely espied
yonder under the trees, was that of the headsman’s assistants fixing the
knife in position. A lantern slowly came and went, and five or six
shadows danced over the ground. But nothing else could be distinguished,
the square was like a large black pit, around which ever broke the waves
of the noisy crowd which one could not see. And beyond the square one
could only identify the flaring wine shops, which showed forth like
lighthouses in the night. All the surrounding district of poverty and
toil was still asleep, not a gleam as yet came from workrooms or yards,
not a puff of smoke from the lofty factory chimneys.

“We shall see nothing,” Guillaume remarked.

But Pierre silenced him, for he has just discovered that an elegantly
attired gentleman leaning over the balcony near him was none other than
the amiable deputy Duthil. He had at first fancied that a woman muffled
in wraps who stood close beside the deputy was the little Princess de
Harn, whom he had very likely brought to see the execution since he had
taken her to see the trial. On closer inspection, however, he had found
that this woman was Silviane, the perverse creature with the virginal
face. Truth to tell, she made no concealment of her presence, but talked
on in an extremely loud voice, as if intoxicated; and the brothers soon
learnt how it was that she happened to be there. Duvillard, Duthil, and
other friends had been supping with her at one o’clock in the morning,
when on learning that Salvat was about to be guillotined, the fancy of
seeing the execution had suddenly come upon her. Duvillard, after vainly
entreating her to do nothing of the kind, had gone off in a fury, for he
felt that it would be most unseemly on his part to attend the execution
of a man who had endeavoured to blow up his house. And thereupon Silviane
had turned to Duthil, whom her caprice greatly worried, for he held all
such loathsome spectacles in horror, and had already refused to act as
escort to the Princess. However, he was so infatuated with Silviane’s
beauty, and she made him so many promises, that he had at last consented
to take her.

“He can’t understand people caring for amusement,” she said, speaking of
the Baron. “And yet this is really a thing to see.... But no matter,
you’ll find him at my feet again to-morrow.”

Duthil smiled and responded: “I suppose that peace has been signed and
ratified now that you have secured your engagement at the Comedie.”

“Peace? No!” she protested. “No, no. There will be no peace between us
until I have made my _debut_. After that, we’ll see.”

They both laughed; and then Duthil, by way of paying his court, told her
how good-naturedly Dauvergne, the new Minister of Public Instruction and
Fine Arts, had adjusted the difficulties which had hitherto kept the
doors of the Comedie closed upon her. A really charming man was
Dauvergne, the embodiment of graciousness, the very flower of the
Monferrand ministry. His was the velvet hand in that administration whose
leader had a hand of iron.

“He told me, my beauty,” said Duthil, “that a pretty girl was in place
everywhere.” And then as Silviane, as if flattered, pressed closely
beside him, the deputy added: “So that wonderful revival of ‘Polyeucte,’
in which you are going to have such a triumph, is to take place on the
day after to-morrow. We shall all go to applaud you, remember.”

“Yes, on the evening of the day after to-morrow,” said Silviane, “the
very same day when the wedding of the Baron’s daughter will take place.
There’ll be plenty of emotion that day!”

“Ah! yes, of course!” retorted Duthil, “there’ll be the wedding of our
friend Gerard with Mademoiselle Camille to begin with. We shall have a
crush at the Madeleine in the morning and another at the Comedie in the
evening. You are quite right, too; there will be several hearts throbbing
in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy.”

Thereupon they again became merry, and jested about the Duvillard
family--father, mother, lover and daughter--with the greatest possible
ferocity and crudity of language. Then, all at once Silviane exclaimed:
“Do you know, I’m feeling awfully bored here, my little Duthil. I can’t
distinguish anything, and I should like to be quite near so as to see it
all plainly. You must take me over yonder, close to that machine of

This request threw Duthil into consternation, particularly as at that
same moment Silviane perceived Massot outside the wine shop, and began
calling and beckoning to him imperiously. A brief conversation then
ensued between the young woman and the journalist: “I say, Massot!” she
called, “hasn’t a deputy the right to pass the guards and take a lady
wherever he likes?”

“Not at all!” exclaimed Duthil. “Massot knows very well that a deputy
ought to be the very first to bow to the laws.”

This exclamation warned Massot that Duthil did not wish to leave the
balcony. “You ought to have secured a card of invitation, madame,” said
he, in reply to Silviane. “They would then have found you room at one of
the windows of La Petite Roquette. Women are not allowed elsewhere....
But you mustn’t complain, you have a very good place up there.”

“But I can see nothing at all, my dear Massot.”

“Well, you will in any case see more than Princess de Harn will. Just now
I came upon her carriage in the Rue du Chemin Vert. The police would not
allow it to come any nearer.”

This news made Silviane merry again, whilst Duthil shuddered at the idea
of the danger he incurred, for Rosemonde would assuredly treat him to a
terrible scene should she see him with another woman. Then, an idea
occurring to him, he ordered a bottle of champagne and some little cakes
for his “beautiful friend,” as he called Silviane. She had been
complaining of thirst, and was delighted with the opportunity of
perfecting her intoxication. When a waiter had managed to place a little
table near her, on the balcony itself, she found things very pleasant,
and indeed considered it quite brave to tipple and sup afresh, while
waiting for that man to be guillotined close by.

It was impossible for Pierre and Guillaume to remain up there any longer.
All that they heard, all that they beheld filled them with disgust. The
boredom of waiting had turned all the inquisitive folks of the balcony
and the adjoining room into customers. The waiter could hardly manage to
serve the many glasses of beer, bottles of expensive wine, biscuits, and
plates of cold meat which were ordered of him. And yet the spectators
here were all _bourgeois_, rich gentlemen, people of society! On the
other hand, time has to be killed somehow when it hangs heavily on one’s
hands; and thus there were bursts of laughter and paltry and horrible
jests, quite a feverish uproar arising amidst the clouds of smoke from
the men’s cigars. When Pierre and Guillaume passed through the wine shop
on the ground-floor they there found a similar crush and similar tumult,
aggravated by the disorderly behaviour of the big fellows in blouses who
were drinking draught wine at the pewter bar which shone like silver.
There were people, too, at all the little tables, besides an incessant
coming and going of folks who entered the place for a “wet,” by way of
calming their impatience. And what folks they were! All the scum, all the
vagabonds who had been dragging themselves about since daybreak on the
lookout for whatever chance might offer them, provided it were not work!

On the pavement outside, Pierre and Guillaume felt yet a greater
heart-pang. In the throng which the guards kept back, one simply found so
much mire stirred up from the very depths of Paris life: prostitutes and
criminals, the murderers of to-morrow, who came to see how a man ought to
die. Loathsome, bareheaded harlots mingled with bands of prowlers or ran
through the crowd, howling obscene refrains. Bandits stood in groups
chatting and quarrelling about the more or less glorious manner in which
certain famous _guillotines_ had died. Among these was one with respect
to whom they all agreed, and of whom they spoke as of a great captain, a
hero whose marvellous courage was deserving of immortality. Then, as one
passed along, one caught snatches of horrible phrases, particulars about
the instrument of death, ignoble boasts, and filthy jests reeking with
blood. And over and above all else there was bestial fever, a lust for
death which made this multitude delirious, an eagerness to see life flow
forth fresh and ruddy beneath the knife, so that as it coursed over the
soil they might dip their feet in it. As this execution was not an
ordinary one, however, there were yet spectators of another kind; silent
men with glowing eyes who came and went all alone, and who were plainly
thrilled by their faith, intoxicated with the contagious madness which
incites one to vengeance or martyrdom.

Guillaume was just thinking of Victor Mathis, when he fancied that he saw
him standing in the front row of sightseers whom the guards held in
check. It was indeed he, with his thin, beardless, pale, drawn face.
Short as he was, he had to raise himself on tiptoes in order to see
anything. Near him was a big, red-haired girl who gesticulated; but for
his part he never stirred or spoke. He was waiting motionless, gazing
yonder with the round, ardent, fixed eyes of a night-bird, seeking to
penetrate the darkness. At last a guard pushed him back in a somewhat
brutal way; but he soon returned to his previous position, ever patient
though full of hatred against the executioners, wishing indeed to see all
he could in order to increase his hate.

Then Massot approached the brothers. This time, on seeing Pierre without
his cassock, he did not even make a sign of astonishment, but gaily
remarked: “So you felt curious to see this affair, Monsieur Froment?”

“Yes, I came with my brother,” Pierre replied. “But I very much fear that
we shan’t see much.”

“You certainly won’t if you stay here,” rejoined Massot. And thereupon in
his usual good-natured way--glad, moreover, to show what power a
well-known journalist could wield--he inquired: “Would you like me to
pass you through? The inspector here happens to be a friend of mine.”

Then, without waiting for an answer, he stopped the inspector and hastily
whispered to him that he had brought a couple of colleagues, who wanted
to report the proceedings. At first the inspector hesitated, and seemed
inclined to refuse Massot’s request; but after a moment, influenced by
the covert fear which the police always has of the press, he made a weary
gesture of consent.

“Come, quick, then,” said Massot, turning to the brothers, and taking
them along with him.

A moment later, to the intense surprise of Pierre and Guillaume, the
guards opened their ranks to let them pass. They then found themselves in
the large open space which was kept clear. And on thus emerging from the
tumultuous throng they were quite impressed by the death-like silence and
solitude which reigned under the little plane-trees. The night was now
paling. A faint gleam of dawn was already falling from the sky.

After leading his companions slantwise across the square, Massot stopped
them near the prison and resumed: “I’m going inside; I want to see the
prisoner roused and got ready. In the meantime, walk about here; nobody
will say anything to you. Besides, I’ll come back to you in a moment.”

A hundred people or so, journalists and other privileged spectators, were
scattered about the dark square. Movable wooden barriers--such as are set
up at the doors of theatres when there is a press of people waiting for
admission--had been placed on either side of the pavement running from
the prison gate to the guillotine; and some sightseers were already
leaning over these barriers, in order to secure a close view of the
condemned man as he passed by. Others were walking slowly to and fro, and
conversing in undertones. The brothers, for their part, approached the

It stood there under the branches of the trees, amidst the delicate
greenery of the fresh leaves of spring. A neighbouring gas-lamp, whose
light was turning yellow in the rising dawn, cast vague gleams upon it.
The work of fixing it in position--work performed as quietly as could be,
so that the only sound was the occasional thud of a mallet--had just been
finished; and the headsman’s “valets” or assistants, in frock-coats and
tall silk hats, were waiting and strolling about in a patient way. But
the instrument itself, how base and shameful it looked, squatting on the
ground like some filthy beast, disgusted with the work it had to
accomplish! What! those few beams lying on the ground, and those others
barely nine feet high which rose from it, keeping the knife in position,
constituted the machine which avenged Society, the instrument which gave
a warning to evil-doers! Where was the big scaffold painted a bright red
and reached by a stairway of ten steps, the scaffold which raised high
bloody arms over the eager multitude, so that everybody might behold the
punishment of the law in all its horror! The beast had now been felled to
the ground, where it simply looked ignoble, crafty and cowardly. If on
the one hand there was no majesty in the manner in which human justice
condemned a man to death at its assizes: on the other, there was merely
horrid butchery with the help of the most barbarous and repulsive of
mechanical contrivances, on the terrible day when that man was executed.

As Pierre and Guillaume gazed at the guillotine, a feeling of nausea came
over them. Daylight was now slowly breaking, and the surroundings were
appearing to view: first the square itself with its two low, grey
prisons, facing one another; then the distant houses, the taverns, the
marble workers’ establishments, and the shops selling flowers and
wreaths, which are numerous hereabouts, as the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise
is so near. Before long one could plainly distinguish the black lines of
the spectators standing around in a circle, the heads leaning forward
from windows and balconies, and the people who had climbed to the very
house roofs. The prison of La Petite Roquette over the way had been
turned into a kind of tribune for guests; and mounted Gardes de Paris
went slowly to and fro across the intervening expanse. Then, as the sky
brightened, labour awoke throughout the district beyond the crowd, a
district of broad, endless streets lined with factories, work-shops and
work-yards. Engines began to snort, machinery and appliances were got
ready to start once more on their usual tasks, and smoke already curled
away from the forest of lofty brick chimneys which, on all sides, sprang
out of the gloom.

It then seemed to Guillaume that the guillotine was really in its right
place in that district of want and toil. It stood in its own realm, like
a _terminus_ and a threat. Did not ignorance, poverty and woe lead to it?
And each time that it was set up amidst those toilsome streets, was it
not charged to overawe the disinherited ones, the starvelings, who,
exasperated by everlasting injustice, were always ready for revolt? It
was not seen in the districts where wealth and enjoyment reigned. It
would there have seemed purposeless, degrading and truly monstrous. And
it was a tragical and terrible coincidence that the bomb-thrower, driven
mad by want, should be guillotined there, in the very centre of want’s

But daylight had come at last, for it was nearly half-past four. The
distant noisy crowd could feel that the expected moment was drawing nigh.
A shudder suddenly sped through the atmosphere.

“He’s coming,” exclaimed little Massot, as he came back to Pierre and
Guillaume. “Ah! that Salvat is a brave fellow after all.”

Then he related how the prisoner had been awakened; how the governor of
the prison, magistrate Amadieu, the chaplain, and a few other persons had
entered the cell where Salvat lay fast asleep; and then how the condemned
man had understood the truth immediately upon opening his eyes. He had
risen, looking pale but quite composed. And he had dressed himself
without assistance, and had declined the nip of brandy and the cigarette
proffered by the good-hearted chaplain, in the same way as with a gentle
but stubborn gesture he had brushed the crucifix aside. Then had come the
“toilette” for death. With all rapidity and without a word being
exchanged, Salvat’s hands had been tied behind his back, his legs had
been loosely secured with a cord, and the neckband of his shirt had been
cut away. He had smiled when the others exhorted him to be brave. He only
feared some nervous weakness, and had but one desire, to die like a hero,
to remain the martyr of the ardent faith in truth and justice for which
he was about to perish.

“They are now drawing up the death certificate in the register,”
 continued Massot in his chattering way. “Come along, come along to the
barriers if you wish a good view.... I turned paler, you know, and
trembled far more than he did. I don’t care a rap for anything as a rule;
but, all the same, an execution isn’t a pleasant business.... You
can’t imagine how many attempts were made to save Salvat’s life. Even
some of the papers asked that he might be reprieved. But nothing
succeeded, the execution was regarded as inevitable, it seems, even by
those who consider it a blunder. Still, they had such a touching
opportunity to reprieve him, when his daughter, little Celine, wrote that
fine letter to the President of the Republic, which I was the first to
publish in the ‘Globe.’ Ah! that letter, it cost me a lot of running

Pierre, who was already quite upset by this long wait for the horrible
scene, felt moved to tears by Massot’s reference to Celine. He could
again see the child standing beside Madame Theodore in that bare, cold
room whither her father would never more return. It was thence that he
had set out on a day of desperation with his stomach empty and his brain
on fire, and it was here that he would end, between yonder beams, beneath
yonder knife.

Massot, however, was still giving particulars. The doctors, said he, were
furious because they feared that the body would not be delivered to them
immediately after the execution. To this Guillaume did not listen. He
stood there with his elbows resting on the wooden barrier and his eyes
fixed on the prison gate, which still remained shut. His hands were
quivering, and there was an expression of anguish on his face as if it
were he himself who was about to be executed. The headsman had again just
left the prison. He was a little, insignificant-looking man, and seemed
annoyed, anxious to have done with it all. Then, among a group of
frock-coated gentlemen, some of the spectators pointed out Gascogne, the
Chief of the Detective Police, who wore a cold, official air, and
Amadieu, the investigating magistrate, who smiled and looked very spruce,
early though the hour was. He had come partly because it was his duty,
and partly because he wished to show himself now that the curtain was
about to fall on a wonderful tragedy of which he considered himself the
author. Guillaume glanced at him, and then as a growing uproar rose from
the distant crowd, he looked up for an instant, and again beheld the two
grey prisons, the plane-trees with their fresh young leaves, and the
houses swarming with people beneath the pale blue sky, in which the
triumphant sun was about to appear.

“Look out, here he comes!”

Who had spoken? A slight noise, that of the opening gate, made every
heart throb. Necks were outstretched, eyes gazed fixedly, there was
laboured breathing on all sides. Salvat stood on the threshold of the
prison. The chaplain, stepping backwards, had come out in advance of him,
in order to conceal the guillotine from his sight, but he had stopped
short, for he wished to see that instrument of death, make acquaintance
with it, as it were, before he walked towards it. And as he stood there,
his long, aged sunken face, on which life’s hardships had left their
mark, seemed transformed by the wondrous brilliancy of his flaring,
dreamy eyes. Enthusiasm bore him up--he was going to his death in all the
splendour of his dream. When the executioner’s assistants drew near to
support him he once more refused their help, and again set himself in
motion, advancing with short steps, but as quickly and as straightly as
the rope hampering his legs permitted.

All at once Guillaume felt that Salvat’s eyes were fixed upon him.
Drawing nearer and nearer the condemned man had perceived and recognised
his friend; and as he passed by, at a distance of no more than six or
seven feet, he smiled faintly and darted such a deep penetrating glance
at Guillaume, that ever afterwards the latter felt its smart. But what
last thought, what supreme legacy had Salvat left him to meditate upon,
perhaps to put into execution? It was all so poignant that Pierre feared
some involuntary call on his brother’s part; and so he laid his hand upon
his arm to quiet him.

“Long live Anarchy!”

It was Salvat who had raised this cry. But in the deep silence his husky,
altered voice seemed to break. The few who were near at hand had turned
very pale; the distant crowd seemed bereft of life. The horse of one of
the Gardes de Paris was alone heard snorting in the centre of the space
which had been kept clear.

Then came a loathsome scramble, a scene of nameless brutality and
ignominy. The headsman’s helps rushed upon Salvat as he came up slowly
with brow erect. Two of them seized him by the head, but finding little
hair there, could only lower it by tugging at his neck. Next two others
grasped him by the legs and flung him violently upon a plank which tilted
over and rolled forward. Then, by dint of pushing and tugging, the head
was got into the “lunette,” the upper part of which fell in such wise
that the neck was fixed as in a ship’s port-hole--and all this was
accomplished amidst such confusion and with such savagery that one might
have thought that head some cumbrous thing which it was necessary to get
rid of with the greatest speed. But the knife fell with a dull, heavy,
forcible thud, and two long jets of blood spurted from the severed
arteries, while the dead man’s feet moved convulsively. Nothing else
could be seen. The executioner rubbed his hands in a mechanical way, and
an assistant took the severed blood-streaming head from the little basket
into which it had fallen and placed it in the large basket into which the
body had already been turned.

Ah! that dull, that heavy thud of the knife! It seemed to Guillaume that
he had heard it echoing far away all over that district of want and toil,
even in the squalid rooms where thousands of workmen were at that moment
rising to perform their day’s hard task! And there the echo of that thud
acquired formidable significance; it spoke of man’s exasperation with
injustice, of zeal for martyrdom, and of the dolorous hope that the blood
then spilt might hasten the victory of the disinherited.

Pierre, for his part, at the sight of that loathsome butchery, the abject
cutthroat work of that killing machine, had suddenly felt his chilling
shudder become more violent; for before him arose a vision of another
corpse, that of the fair, pretty child ripped open by a bomb and
stretched yonder, at the entrance of the Duvillard mansion. Blood
streamed from her delicate flesh, just as it had streamed from that
decapitated neck. It was blood paying for blood; it was like payment for
mankind’s debt of wretchedness, for which payment is everlastingly being
made, without man ever being able to free himself from suffering.

Above the square and the crowd all was still silent in the clear sky. How
long had the abomination lasted? An eternity, perhaps, compressed into
two or three minutes. And now came an awakening: the spectators emerged
from their nightmare with quivering hands, livid faces, and eyes
expressive of compassion, disgust and fear.

“That makes another one. I’ve now seen four executions,” said Massot, who
felt ill at ease. “After all, I prefer to report weddings. Let us go off,
I have all I want for my article.”

Guillaume and Pierre followed him mechanically across the square, and
again reached the corner of the Rue Merlin. And here they saw little
Victor Mathis, with flaming eyes and white face, still standing in
silence on the spot where they had left him. He could have seen nothing
distinctly; but the thud of the knife was still echoing in his brain. A
policeman at last gave him a push, and told him to move on. At this he
looked the policeman in the face, stirred by sudden rage and ready to
strangle him. Then, however, he quietly walked away, ascending the Rue de
la Roquette, atop of which the lofty foliage of Pere-Lachaise could be
seen, beneath the rising sun.

The brothers meantime fell upon a scene of explanations, which they heard
without wishing to do so. Now that the sight was over, the Princess de
Harn arrived, and she was the more furious as at the door of the wine
shop she could see her new friend Duthil accompanying a woman.

“I say!” she exclaimed, “you are nice, you are, to have left me in the
lurch like this! It was impossible for my carriage to get near, so I’ve
had to come on foot through all those horrid people who have been
jostling and insulting me.”

Thereupon Duthil, with all promptitude, introduced Silviane to her,
adding, in an aside, that he had taken a friend’s place as the actress’s
escort. And then Rosemonde, who greatly wished to know Silviane, calmed
down as if by enchantment, and put on her most engaging ways. “It would
have delighted me, madame,” said she, “to have seen this sight in the
company of an _artiste_ of your merit, one whom I admire so much, though
I have never before had an opportunity of telling her so.”

“Well, dear me, madame,” replied Silviane, “you haven’t lost much by
arriving late. We were on that balcony there, and all that I could see
were a few men pushing another one about.... It really isn’t worth the
trouble of coming.”

“Well, now that we have become acquainted, madame,” said the Princess, “I
really hope that you will allow me to be your friend.”

“Certainly, madame, my friend; and I shall be flattered and delighted to
be yours.”

Standing there, hand in hand, they smiled at one another. Silviane was
very drunk, but her virginal expression had returned to her face; whilst
Rosemonde seemed feverish with vicious curiosity. Duthil, whom the scene
amused, now had but one thought, that of seeing Silviane home; so calling
to Massot, who was approaching, he asked him where he should find a
cab-rank. Rosemonde, however, at once offered her carriage, which was
waiting in an adjacent street.

She would set the actress down at her door, said she, and the deputy at
his; and such was her persistence in the matter that Duthil, greatly
vexed, was obliged to accept her offer.

“Well, then, till to-morrow at the Madeleine,” said Massot, again quite
sprightly, as he shook hands with the Princess.

“Yes, till to-morrow, at the Madeleine and the Comedie.”

“Ah! yes, of course!” he repeated, taking Silviane’s hand, which he
kissed. “The Madeleine in the morning and the Comedie in the evening...
. We shall all be there to applaud you.”

“Yes, I expect you to do so,” said Silviane. “Till to-morrow, then!”

“Till to-morrow!”

The crowd was now wearily dispersing, to all appearance disappointed and
ill at ease. A few enthusiasts alone lingered in order to witness the
departure of the van in which Salvat’s corpse would soon be removed;
while bands of prowlers and harlots, looking very wan in the daylight,
whistled or called to one another with some last filthy expression before
returning to their dens. The headsman’s assistants were hastily taking
down the guillotine, and the square would soon be quite clear.

Pierre for his part wished to lead his brother away. Since the fall of
the knife, Guillaume had remained as if stunned, without once opening his
lips. In vain had Pierre tried to rouse him by pointing to the shutters
of Mege’s flat, which still remained closed, whereas every other window
of the lofty house was wide open. Although the Socialist deputy hated the
Anarchists, those shutters were doubtless closed as a protest against
capital punishment. Whilst the multitude had been rushing to that
frightful spectacle, Mege, still in bed, with his face turned to the
wall, had probably been dreaming of how he would some day compel mankind
to be happy beneath the rigid laws of Collectivism. Affectionate father
as he was, the recent death of one of his children had quite upset his
private life. His cough, too, had become a very bad one; but he ardently
wished to live, for as soon as that new Monferrand ministry should have
fallen beneath the interpellation which he already contemplated, his own
turn would surely come: he would take the reins of power in hand, abolish
the guillotine and decree justice and perfect felicity.

“Do you see, Guillaume?” Pierre gently repeated. “Mege hasn’t opened his
windows. He’s a good fellow, after all; although our friends Bache and
Morin dislike him.” Then, as his brother still refrained from answering,
Pierre added, “Come, let us go, we must get back home.”

They both turned into the Rue de la Folie Regnault, and reached the outer
Boulevards by way of the Rue du Chemin Vert. All the toilers of the
district were now at work. In the long streets edged with low buildings,
work-shops and factories, one heard engines snorting and machinery
rumbling, while up above, the smoke from the lofty chimneys was assuming
a rosy hue in the sunrise. Afterwards, when the brothers reached the
Boulevard de Menilmontant and the Boulevard de Belleville, which they
followed in turn at a leisurely pace, they witnessed the great rush of
the working classes into central Paris. The stream poured forth from
every side; from all the wretched streets of the faubourgs there was an
endless exodus of toilers, who, having risen at dawn, were now hurrying,
in the sharp morning air, to their daily labour. Some wore short jackets
and others blouses; some were in velveteen trousers, others in linen
overalls. Their thick shoes made their tramp a heavy one; their hanging
hands were often deformed by work. And they seemed half asleep, not a
smile was to be seen on any of those wan, weary faces turned yonder
towards the everlasting task--the task which was begun afresh each day,
and which--‘twas their only chance--they hoped to be able to take up for
ever and ever. There was no end to that drove of toilers, that army of
various callings, that human flesh fated to manual labour, upon which
Paris preys in order that she may live in luxury and enjoyment.

Then the procession continued across the Boulevard de la Villette, the
Boulevard de la Chapelle, and the Boulevard de Rochechouart, where one
reached the height of Montmartre. More and more workmen were ever coming
down from their bare cold rooms and plunging into the huge city, whence,
tired out, they would that evening merely bring back the bread of
rancour. And now, too, came a stream of work-girls, some of them in
bright skirts, some glancing at the passers-by; girls whose wages were so
paltry, so insufficient, that now and again pretty ones among them never
more turned their faces homewards, whilst the ugly ones wasted away,
condemned to mere bread and water. A little later, moreover, came the
_employes_, the clerks, the counter-jumpers, the whole world of
frock-coated penury--“gentlemen” who devoured a roll as they hastened
onward, worried the while by the dread of being unable to pay their rent,
or by the problem of providing food for wife and children until the end
of the month should come.* And now the sun was fast ascending on the
horizon, the whole army of ants was out and about, and the toilsome day
had begun with its ceaseless display of courage, energy and suffering.

  * In Paris nearly all clerks and shop-assistants receive
    monthly salaries, while most workmen are paid once a

Never before had it been so plainly manifest to Pierre that work was a
necessity, that it healed and saved. On the occasion of his visit to the
Grandidier works, and later still, when he himself had felt the need of
occupation, there had cone to him the thought that work was really the
world’s law. And after that hateful night, after that spilling of blood,
after the slaughter of that toiler maddened by his dreams, there was
consolation and hope in seeing the sun rise once more, and everlasting
labour take up its wonted task. However hard it might prove, however
unjustly it might be lotted out, was it not work which would some day
bring both justice and happiness to the world?

All at once, as the brothers were climbing the steep hillside towards
Guillaume’s house, they perceived before and above them the basilica of
the Sacred Heart rising majestically and triumphantly to the sky. This
was no sublunar apparition, no dreamy vision of Domination standing face
to face with nocturnal Paris. The sun now clothed the edifice with
splendour, it looked golden and proud and victorious, flaring with
immortal glory.

Then Guillaume, still silent, still feeling Salvat’s last glance upon
him, seemed to come to some sudden and final decision. He looked at the
basilica with glowing eyes, and pronounced sentence upon it.


THE wedding was to take place at noon, and for half an hour already
guests had been pouring into the magnificently decorated church, which
was leafy with evergreens and balmy with the scent of flowers. The high
altar in the rear glowed with countless candles, and through the great
doorway, which was wide open, one could see the peristyle decked with
shrubs, the steps covered with a broad carpet, and the inquisitive crowd
assembled on the square and even along the Rue Royale, under the bright

After finding three more chairs for some ladies who had arrived rather
late, Duthil remarked to Massot, who was jotting down names in his
note-book: “Well, if any more come, they will have to remain standing.”

“Who were those three?” the journalist inquired.

“The Duchess de Boisemont and her two daughters.”

“Indeed! All the titled people of France, as well as all the financiers
and politicians, are here! It’s something more even than a swell Parisian

As a matter of fact all the spheres of “society” were gathered together
there, and some at first seemed rather embarrassed at finding themselves
beside others. Whilst Duvillard’s name attracted all the princes of
finance and politicians in power, Madame de Quinsac and her son were
supported by the highest of the French aristocracy. The mere names of the
witnesses sufficed to indicate what an extraordinary medley there was. On
Gerard’s side these witnesses were his uncle, General de Bozonnet, and
the Marquis de Morigny; whilst on Camille’s they were the great banker
Louvard, and Monferrand, the President of the Council and Minister of
Finances. The quiet bravado which the latter displayed in thus supporting
the bride after being compromised in her father’s financial intrigues
imparted a piquant touch of impudence to his triumph. And public
curiosity was further stimulated by the circumstance that the nuptial
blessing was to be given by Monseigneur Martha, Bishop of Persepolis, the
Pope’s political agent in France, and the apostle of the endeavours to
win the Republic over to the Church by pretending to “rally” to it.

“But, I was mistaken,” now resumed Massot with a sneer. “I said a really
Parisian wedding, did I not? But in point of fact this wedding is a
symbol. It’s the apotheosis of the _bourgeoisie_, my dear fellow--the old
nobility sacrificing one of its sons on the altar of the golden calf in
order that the Divinity and the gendarmes, being the masters of France
once more, may rid us of those scoundrelly Socialists!”

Then, again correcting himself, he added: “But I was forgetting. There
are no more Socialists. Their head was cut off the other morning.”

Duthil found this very funny. Then in a confidential way he remarked:
“You know that the marriage wasn’t settled without a good deal of
difficulty.... Have you read Sagnier’s ignoble article this morning?”

“Yes, yes; but I knew it all before, everybody knew it.”

Then in an undertone, understanding one another’s slightest allusion,
they went on chatting. It was only amidst a flood of tears and after a
despairing struggle that Baroness Duvillard had consented to let her
lover marry her daughter. And in doing so she had yielded to the sole
desire of seeing Gerard rich and happy. She still regarded Camille with
all the hatred of a defeated rival. Then, an equally painful contest had
taken place at Madame de Quinsac’s. The Countess had only overcome her
revolt and consented to the marriage in order to save her son from the
dangers which had threatened him since childhood; and the Marquis de
Morigny had been so affected by her maternal abnegation, that in spite of
all his anger he had resignedly agreed to be a witness, thus making a
supreme sacrifice, that of his conscience, to the woman whom he had ever
loved. And it was this frightful story that Sagnier--using transparent
nicknames--had related in the “Voix du Peuple” that morning. He had even
contrived to make it more horrid than it really was; for, as usual, he
was badly informed, and he was naturally inclined to falsehood and
invention, as by sending an ever thicker and more poisonous torrent from
his sewer, he might, day by day, increase his paper’s sales. Since
Monferrand’s victory had compelled him to leave the African Railways
scandal on one side, he had fallen back on scandals in private life,
stripping whole families bare and pelting them with mud.

All at once Duthil and Massot were approached by Chaigneux, who, with his
shabby frock coat badly buttoned, wore both a melancholy and busy air.
“Well, Monsieur Massot,” said he, “what about your article on Silviane?
Is it settled? Will it go in?”

As Chaigneux was always for sale, always ready to serve as a valet, it
had occurred to Duvillard to make use of him to ensure Silviane’s success
at the Comedie. He had handed this sorry deputy over to the young woman,
who entrusted him with all manner of dirty work, and sent him scouring
Paris in search of applauders and advertisements. His eldest daughter was
not yet married, and never had his four women folk weighed more heavily
on his hands. His life had become a perfect hell; they had ended by
beating him, if he did not bring a thousand-franc note home on the first
day of every month.

“My article!” Massot replied; “no, it surely won’t go in, my dear deputy.
Fonsegue says that it’s written in too laudatory a style for the ‘Globe.’
He asked me if I were having a joke with the paper.”

Chaigneux became livid. The article in question was one written in
advance, from the society point of view, on the success which Silviane
would achieve in “Polyeucte,” that evening, at the Comedie. The
journalist, in the hope of pleasing her, had even shown her his “copy”;
and she, quite delighted, now relied upon finding the article in print in
the most sober and solemn organ of the Parisian press.

“Good heavens! what will become of us?” murmured the wretched Chaigneux.
“It’s absolutely necessary that the article should go in.”

“Well, I’m quite agreeable. But speak to the governor yourself. He’s
standing yonder between Vignon and Dauvergne, the Minister of Public

“Yes, I certainly will speak to him--but not here. By-and-by in the
sacristy, during the procession. And I must also try to speak to
Dauvergne, for our Silviane particularly wants him to be in the
ministerial box this evening. Monferrand will be there; he promised
Duvillard so.”

Massot began to laugh, repeating the expression which had circulated
through Paris directly after the actress’s engagement: “The Silviane
ministry.... Well, Dauvergne certainly owes that much to his
godmother!” said he.

Just then the little Princess de Harn, coming up like a gust of wind,
broke in upon the three men. “I’ve no seat, you know!” she cried.

Duthil fancied that it was a question of finding her a well-placed chair
in the church. “You mustn’t count on me,” he answered. “I’ve just had no
end of trouble in stowing the Duchess de Boisemont away with her two

“Oh, but I’m talking of this evening’s performance. Come, my dear Duthil,
you really must find me a little corner in somebody’s box. I shall die, I
know I shall, if I can’t applaud our delicious, our incomparable friend!”

Ever since setting Silviane down at her door on the previous day,
Rosemonde had been overflowing with admiration for her.

“Oh! you won’t find a single remaining seat, madame,” declared Chaigneux,
putting on an air of importance. “We have distributed everything. I have
just been offered three hundred francs for a stall.”

“That’s true, there has been a fight even for the bracket seats, however
badly they might be placed,” Duthil resumed. “I am very sorry, but you
must not count on me.... Duvillard is the only person who might take
you in his box. He told me that he would reserve me a seat there. And so
far, I think, there are only three of us, including his son.... Ask
Hyacinthe by-and-by to procure you an invitation.”

Rosemonde, whom Hyacinthe had so greatly bored that she had given him his
dismissal, felt the irony of Duthil’s suggestion. Nevertheless, she
exclaimed with an air of delight: “Ah, yes! Hyacinthe can’t refuse me
that. Thanks for your information, my dear Duthil. You are very nice, you
are; for you settle things gaily even when they are rather sad.... And
don’t forget, mind, that you have promised to teach me politics. Ah!
politics, my dear fellow, I feel that nothing will ever impassion me as
politics do!”

Then she left them, hustled several people, and in spite of the crush
ended by installing herself in the front row.

“Ah! what a crank she is!” muttered Massot with an air of amusement.

Then, as Chaigneux darted towards magistrate Amadieu to ask him in the
most obsequious way if he had received his ticket, the journalist said to
Duthil in a whisper: “By the way, my dear friend, is it true that
Duvillard is going to launch his famous scheme for a Trans-Saharan
railway? It would be a gigantic enterprise, a question of hundreds and
hundreds of millions this time.... At the ‘Globe’ office yesterday
evening, Fonsegue shrugged his shoulders and said it was madness, and
would never come off!”

Duthil winked, and in a jesting way replied: “It’s as good as done, my
dear boy. Fonsegue will be kissing the governor’s feet before another
forty-eight hours are over.”

Then he gaily gave the other to understand that golden manna would
presently be raining down on the press and all faithful friends and
willing helpers. Birds shake their feathers when the storm is over, and
he, Duthil, was as spruce and lively, as joyous at the prospect of the
presents he now expected, as if there had never been any African Railways
scandal to upset him and make him turn pale with fright.

“The deuce!” muttered Massot, who had become serious. “So this affair
here is more than a triumph: it’s the promise of yet another harvest.
Well, I’m no longer surprised at the crush of people.”

At this moment the organs suddenly burst into a glorious hymn of
greeting. The marriage procession was entering the church. A loud clamour
had gone up from the crowd, which spread over the roadway of the Rue
Royale and impeded the traffic there, while the _cortege_ pompously
ascended the steps in the bright sunshine. And it was now entering the
edifice and advancing beneath the lofty, re-echoing vaults towards the
high altar which flared with candles, whilst on either hand crowded the
congregation, the men on the right and the women on the left. They had
all risen and stood there smiling, with necks outstretched and eyes
glowing with curiosity.

First, in the rear of the magnificent beadle, came Camille, leaning on
the arm of her father, Baron Duvillard, who wore a proud expression
befitting a day of victory. Veiled with superb _point d’Alencon_ falling
from her diadem of orange blossom, gowned in pleated silk muslin over an
underskirt of white satin, the bride looked so extremely happy, so
radiant at having conquered, that she seemed almost pretty. Moreover, she
held herself so upright that one could scarcely detect that her left
shoulder was higher than her right.

Next came Gerard, giving his arm to his mother, the Countess de
Quinsac,--he looking very handsome and courtly, as was proper, and she
displaying impassive dignity in her gown of peacock-blue silk embroidered
with gold and steel beads. But it was particularly Eve whom people wished
to see, and every neck was craned forward when she appeared on the arm of
General Bozonnet, the bridegroom’s first witness and nearest male
relative. She was gowned in “old rose” taffetas trimmed with Valenciennes
of priceless value, and never had she looked younger, more deliciously
fair. Yet her eyes betrayed her emotion, though she strove to smile; and
her languid grace bespoke her widowhood, her compassionate surrender of
the man she loved. Monferrand, the Marquis de Morigny, and banker
Louvard, the three other witnesses, followed the Baroness and General
Bozonnet, each giving his arm to some lady of the family. A considerable
sensation was caused by the appearance of Monferrand, who seemed on
first-rate terms with himself, and jested familiarly with the lady he
accompanied, a little brunette with a giddy air. Another who was noticed
in the solemn, interminable procession was the bride’s eccentric brother
Hyacinthe, whose dress coat was of a cut never previously seen, with its
tails broadly and symmetrically pleated.

When the affianced pair had taken their places before the prayer-stools
awaiting them, and the members of both families and the witnesses had
installed themselves in the rear in large armchairs, all gilding and red
velvet, the ceremony was performed with extraordinary pomp. The cure of
the Madeleine officiated in person; and vocalists from the Grand Opera
reinforced the choir, which chanted the high mass to the accompaniment of
the organs, whence came a continuous hymn of glory. All possible luxury
and magnificence were displayed, as if to turn this wedding into some
public festivity, a great victory, an event marking the apogee of a
class. Even the impudent bravado attaching to the loathsome private drama
which lay behind it all, and which was known to everybody, added a touch
of abominable grandeur to the ceremony. But the truculent spirit of
superiority and domination which characterised the proceedings became
most manifest when Monseigneur Martha appeared in surplice and stole to
pronounce the blessing. Tall of stature, fresh of face, and faintly
smiling, he had his wonted air of amiable sovereignty, and it was with
august unction that he pronounced the sacramental words, like some
pontiff well pleased at reconciling the two great empires whose heirs he
united. His address to the newly married couple was awaited with
curiosity. It proved really marvellous, he himself triumphed in it. Was
it not in that same church that he had baptised the bride’s mother, that
blond Eve, who was still so beautiful, that Jewess whom he himself had
converted to the Catholic faith amidst the tears of emotion shed by all
Paris society? Was it not there also that he had delivered his three
famous addresses on the New Spirit, whence dated, to his thinking, the
rout of science, the awakening of Christian spirituality, and that policy
of rallying to the Republic which was to lead to its conquest?

So it was assuredly allowable for him to indulge in some delicate
allusions, by way of congratulating himself on his work, now that he was
marrying a poor scion of the old aristocracy to the five millions of that
_bourgeoise_ heiress, in whose person triumphed the class which had won
the victory in 1789, and was now master of the land. The fourth estate,
the duped, robbed people, alone had no place in those festivities. But by
uniting the affianced pair before him in the bonds of wedlock,
Monseigneur Martha sealed the new alliance, gave effect to the Pope’s own
policy, that stealthy effort of Jesuitical Opportunism which would take
democracy, power and wealth to wife, in order to subdue and control them.
When the prelate reached his peroration he turned towards Monferrand, who
sat there smiling; and it was he, the Minister, whom he seemed to be
addressing while he expressed the hope that the newly married pair would
ever lead a truly Christian life of humility and obedience in all fear of
God, of whose iron hand he spoke as if it were that of some gendarme
charged with maintaining the peace of the world. Everybody was aware that
there was some diplomatic understanding between the Bishop and the
Minister, some secret pact or other whereby both satisfied their passion
for authority, their craving to insinuate themselves into everything and
reign supreme; and thus when the spectators saw Monferrand smiling in his
somewhat sly, jovial way, they also exchanged smiles.

“Ah!” muttered Massot, who had remained near Duthil, “how amused old
Justus Steinberger would be, if he were here to see his granddaughter
marrying the last of the Quinsacs!”

“But these marriages are quite the thing, quite the fashion, my dear
fellow,” the deputy replied. “The Jews and the Christians, the
_bourgeois_ and the nobles, do quite right to come to an understanding,
so as to found a new aristocracy. An aristocracy is needed, you know, for
otherwise we should be swept away by the masses.”

None the less Massot continued sneering at the idea of what a grimace
Justus Steinberger would have made if he had heard Monseigneur Martha. It
was rumoured in Paris that although the old Jew banker had ceased all
intercourse with his daughter Eve since her conversion, he took a keen
interest in everything she was reported to do or say, as if he were more
than ever convinced that she would prove an avenging and dissolving agent
among those Christians, whose destruction was asserted to be the dream of
his race. If he had failed in his hope of overcoming Duvillard by giving
her to him as a wife, he doubtless now consoled himself with thinking of
the extraordinary fortune to which his blood had attained, by mingling
with that of the harsh, old-time masters of his race, to whose corruption
it gave a finishing touch. Therein perhaps lay that final Jewish conquest
of the world of which people sometimes talked.

A last triumphal strain from the organ brought the ceremony to an end;
whereupon the two families and the witnesses passed into the sacristy,
where the acts were signed. And forthwith the great congratulatory
procession commenced.

The bride and bridegroom at last stood side by side in the lofty but
rather dim room, panelled with oak. How radiant with delight was Camille
at the thought that it was all over, that she had triumphed and married
that handsome man of high lineage, after wresting him with so much
difficulty from one and all, her mother especially! She seemed to have
grown taller. Deformed, swarthy, and ugly though she was, she drew
herself up exultingly, whilst scores and scores of women, friends or
acquaintances, scrambled and rushed upon her, pressing her hands or
kissing her, and addressing her in words of ecstasy. Gerard, who rose
both head and shoulders above his bride, and looked all the nobler and
stronger beside one of such puny figure, shook hands and smiled like some
Prince Charming, who good-naturedly allowed himself to be loved.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the newly wedded pair, though they were drawn
up in one line, formed two distinct groups past which the crowd pushed
and surged with arms outstretched. Duvillard received the congratulations
offered him as if he were some king well pleased with his people; whilst
Eve, with a supreme effort, put on an enchanting mien, and answered one
and all with scarcely a sign of the sobs which she was forcing back.
Then, on the other side of the bridal pair, Madame de Quinsac stood
between General de Bozonnet and the Marquis de Morigny. Very dignified,
in fact almost haughty, she acknowledged most of the salutations
addressed to her with a mere nod, giving her little withered hand only to
those people with whom she was well acquainted. A sea of strange
countenances encompassed her, and now and again when some particularly
murky wave rolled by, a wave of men whose faces bespoke all the crimes of
money-mongering, she and the Marquis exchanged glances of deep sadness.
This tide continued sweeping by for nearly half an hour; and such was the
number of those who wanted to shake hands with the bridal pair and their
relatives, that the latter soon felt their arms ache.

Meantime, some folks lingered in the sacristy; little groups collected,
and gay chatter rang out. Monferrand was immediately surrounded. Massot
pointed out to Duthil how eagerly Public Prosecutor Lehmann rushed upon
the Minister to pay him court. They were immediately joined by
investigating magistrate Amadieu. And even M. de Larombiere, the judge,
approached Monferrand, although he hated the Republic, and was an
intimate friend of the Quinsacs. But then obedience and obsequiousness
were necessary on the part of the magistracy, for it was dependent on
those in power, who alone could give advancement, and appoint even as
they dismissed. As for Lehmann, it was alleged that he had rendered
assistance to Monferrand by spiriting away certain documents connected
with the African Railways affair, whilst with regard to the smiling and
extremely Parisian Amadieu, was it not to him that the government was
indebted for Salvat’s head?

“You know,” muttered Massot, “they’ve all come to be thanked for
guillotining that man yesterday. Monferrand owes that wretched fellow a
fine taper; for in the first place his bomb prolonged the life of the
Barroux ministry, and later on it made Monferrand prime minister, as a
strong-handed man was particularly needed to strangle Anarchism. What a
contest, eh? Monferrand on one side and Salvat on the other. It was all
bound to end in a head being cut off; one was wanted.... Ah! just
listen, they are talking of it.”

This was true. As the three functionaries of the law drew near to pay
their respects to the all-powerful Minister, they were questioned by lady
friends whose curiosity had been roused by what they had read in the
newspapers. Thereupon Amadieu, whom duty had taken to the execution, and
who was proud of his own importance, and determined to destroy what he
called “the legend of Salvat’s heroic death,” declared that the scoundrel
had shown no true courage at all. His pride alone had kept him on his
feet. Fright had so shaken and choked him that he had virtually been dead
before the fall of the knife.

“Ah! that’s true!” cried Duthil. “I was there myself.”

Massot, however, pulled him by the arm, quite indignant at such an
assertion, although as a rule he cared a rap for nothing. “You couldn’t
see anything, my dear fellow,” said he; “Salvat died very bravely. It’s
really stupid to continue throwing mud at that poor devil even when he’s

However, the idea that Salvat had died like a coward was too pleasing a
one to be rejected. It was, so to say, a last sacrifice deposited at
Monferrand’s feet with the object of propitiating him. He still smiled in
his peaceful way, like a good-natured man who is stern only when
necessity requires it. And he showed great amiability towards the three
judicial functionaries, and thanked them for the bravery with which they
had accomplished their painful duty to the very end. On the previous day,
after the execution, he had obtained a formidable majority in the Chamber
on a somewhat delicate matter of policy. Order reigned, said he, and all
was for the very best in France. Then, on seeing Vignon--who like a cool
gamester had made a point of attending the wedding in order to show
people that he was superior to fortune--the Minister detained him, and
made much of him, partly as a matter of tactics, for in spite of
everything he could not help fearing that the future might belong to that
young fellow, who showed himself so intelligent and cautious. When a
mutual friend informed them that Barroux’ health was now so bad that the
doctors had given him up as lost, they both began to express their
compassion. Poor Barroux! He had never recovered from that vote of the
Chamber which had overthrown him. He had been sinking from day to day,
stricken to the heart by his country’s ingratitude, dying of that
abominable charge of money-mongering and thieving; he who was so upright
and so loyal, who had devoted his whole life to the Republic! But then,
as Monferrand repeated, one should never confess. The public can’t
understand such a thing.

At this moment Duvillard, in some degree relinquishing his paternal
duties, came to join the others, and the Minister then had to share the
honours of triumph with him. For was not this banker the master? Was he
not money personified--money, which is the only stable, everlasting
force, far above all ephemeral tenure of power, such as attaches to those
ministerial portfolios which pass so rapidly from hand to hand?
Monferrand reigned, but he would pass away, and a like fate would some
day fall on Vignon, who had already had a warning that one could not
govern unless the millions of the financial world were on one’s side. So
was not the only real triumpher himself, the Baron--he who laid out five
millions of francs on buying a scion of the aristocracy for his daughter,
he who was the personification of the sovereign _bourgeoisie_, who
controlled public fortune, and was determined to part with nothing, even
were he attacked with bombs? All these festivities really centred in
himself, he alone sat down to the banquet, leaving merely the crumbs from
his table to the lowly, those wretched toilers who had been so cleverly
duped at the time of the Revolution.

That African Railways affair was already but so much ancient history,
buried, spirited away by a parliamentary commission. All who had been
compromised in it, the Duthils, the Chaigneux, the Fonsegues and others,
could now laugh merrily. They had been delivered from their nightmare by
Monferrand’s strong fist, and raised by Duvillard’s triumph. Even
Sagnier’s ignoble article and miry revelations in the “Voix du Peuple”
 were of no real account, and could be treated with a shrug of the
shoulders, for the public had been so saturated with denunciation and
slander that it was now utterly weary of all noisy scandal. The only
thing which aroused interest was the rumour that Duvillard’s big affair
of the Trans-Saharan Railway was soon to be launched, that millions of
money would be handled, and that some of them would rain down upon
faithful friends.

Whilst Duvillard was conversing in a friendly way with Monferrand and
Dauvergne, the Minister of Public Instruction, who had joined them,
Massot encountered Fonsegue, his editor, and said to him in an undertone:
“Duthil has just assured me that the Trans-Saharan business is ready, and
that they mean to chance it with the Chamber. They declare that they are
certain of success.”

Fonsegue, however, was sceptical on the point. “It’s impossible,” said
he; “they won’t dare to begin again so soon.”

Although he spoke in this fashion, the news had made him grave. He had
lately had such a terrible fright through his imprudence in the African
Railways affair, that he had vowed he would take every precaution in
future. Still, this did not mean that he would refuse to participate in
matters of business. The best course was to wait and study them, and then
secure a share in all that seemed profitable. In the present instance he
felt somewhat worried. However, whilst he stood there watching the group
around Duvillard and the two ministers, he suddenly perceived Chaigneux,
who, flitting hither and thither, was still beating up applauders for
that evening’s performance. He sang Silviane’s praises in every key,
predicted a most tremendous success, and did his very best to stimulate
curiosity. At last he approached Dauvergne, and with his long figure bent
double exclaimed: “My dear Minister, I have a particular request to make
to you on the part of a very charming person, whose victory will not be
complete this evening if you do not condescend to favour her with your

Dauvergne, a tall, fair, good-looking man, whose blue eyes smiled behind
his glasses, listened to Chaigneux with an affable air. He was proving a
great success at the Ministry of Public Instruction, although he knew
nothing of University matters. However, like a real Parisian of Dijon, as
people called him, he was possessed of some tact and skill, gave
entertainments at which his young and charming wife outshone all others,
and passed as being quite an enlightened friend of writers and artists.
Silviane’s engagement at the Comedie, which so far was his most notable
achievement, and which would have shaken the position of any other
minister, had by a curious chance rendered him popular. It was regarded
as something original and amusing.

On understanding that Chaigneux simply wished to make sure of his
presence at the Comedie that evening, he became yet more affable. “Why,
certainly, I shall be there, my dear deputy,” he replied. “When one has
such a charming god-daughter one mustn’t forsake her in a moment of

At this Monferrand, who had been lending ear, turned round. “And tell
her,” said he, “that I shall be there, too. She may therefore rely on
having two more friends in the house.”

Thereupon Duvillard, quite enraptured, his eyes glistening with emotion
and gratitude, bowed to the two ministers as if they had granted him some
never-to-be-forgotten favour.

When Chaigneux, on his side also, had returned thanks with a low bow, he
happened to perceive Fonsegue, and forthwith he darted towards him and
led him aside. “Ah! my dear colleague,” he declared, “it is absolutely
necessary that this matter should be settled. I regard it as of supreme

“What are you speaking of?” inquired Fonsegue, much surprised.

“Why, of Massot’s article, which you won’t insert.”

Thereupon, the director of the “Globe” plumply declared that he could not
insert the article. He talked of his paper’s dignity and gravity; and
declared that the lavishing of such fulsome praise upon a hussy--yes, a
mere hussy, in a journal whose exemplary morality and austerity had cost
him so much labour, would seem monstrous and degrading. Personally, he
did not care a fig about it if Silviane chose to make an exhibition of
herself, well, he would be there to see; but the “Globe” was sacred.

Disconcerted and almost tearful, Chaigneux nevertheless renewed his
attempt. “Come, my dear colleague,” said he, “pray make a little effort
for my sake. If the article isn’t inserted, Duvillard will think that it
is my fault. And you know that I really need his help. My eldest
daughter’s marriage has again been postponed, and I hardly know where to
turn.” Then perceiving that his own misfortunes in no wise touched
Fonsegue, he added: “And do it for your own sake, my dear colleague, your
own sake. For when all is said Duvillard knows what is in the article,
and it is precisely because it is so favourable a one that he wishes to
see it in the ‘Globe.’ Think it over; if the article isn’t published, he
will certainly turn his back on you.”

For a moment Fonsegue remained silent. Was he thinking of the colossal
Trans-Saharan enterprise? Was he reflecting that it would be hard to
quarrel at such a moment and miss his own share in the coming
distribution of millions among faithful friends? Perhaps so; however, the
idea that it would be more prudent to await developments gained the day
with him. “No, no,” he said, “I can’t, it’s a matter of conscience.”

In the mean time congratulations were still being tendered to the newly
wedded couple. It seemed as if all Paris were passing through the
sacristy; there were ever the same smiles and the same hand shakes.
Gerard, Camille and their relatives, however weary they might feel, were
forced to retain an air of delight while they stood there against the
wall, pent up by the crowd. The heat was now becoming unbearable, and a
cloud of dust arose as when some big flock goes by.

All at once little Princess de Harn, who had hitherto lingered nobody
knew where, sprang out of the throng, flung her arms around Camille,
kissed even Eve, and then kept Gerard’s hand in her own while paying him
extraordinary compliments. Then, on perceiving Hyacinthe, she took
possession of him and carried him off into a corner. “I say,” she
exclaimed, “I have a favour to ask you.”

The young man was wonderfully silent that day. His sister’s wedding
seemed to him a contemptible ceremony, the most vulgar that one could
imagine. So here, thought he, was another pair accepting the horrid
sexual law by which the absurdity of the world was perpetuated! For his
part, he had decided that he would witness the proceedings in rigid
silence, with a haughty air of disapproval. When Rosemonde spoke to him,
he looked at her rather nervously, for he was glad that she had forsaken
him for Duthil, and feared some fresh caprice on her part. At last,
opening his mouth for the first time that day, he replied: “Oh, as a
friend, you know, I will grant you whatever favour you like.”

Forthwith the Princess explained that she would surely die if she did not
witness the _debut_ of her dear friend Silviane, of whom she had become
such a passionate admirer. So she begged the young man to prevail on his
father to give her a seat in his box, as she knew that one was left

Hyacinthe smiled. “Oh, willingly, my dear,” said he; “I’ll warn papa,
there will be a seat for you.”

Then, as the procession of guests at last drew to an end and the vestry
began to empty, the bridal pair and their relatives were able to go off
through the chattering throng, which still lingered about to bow to them
and scrutinise them once more.

Gerard and Camille were to leave for an estate which Duvillard possessed
in Normandy, directly after lunch. This repast, served at the princely
mansion of the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, provided an opportunity for fresh
display. The dining-room on the first floor had been transformed into a
buffet, where reigned the greatest abundance and the most wonderful
sumptuousness. Quite a reception too was held in the drawing-rooms, the
large red _salon_, the little blue and silver _salon_ and all the others,
whose doors stood wide open. Although it had been arranged that only
family friends should be invited, there were quite three hundred people
present. The ministers had excused themselves, alleging that the weighty
cares of public business required their presence elsewhere. But the
magistrates, the deputies and the leading journalists who had attended
the wedding were again assembled together. And in that throng of hungry
folks, longing for some of the spoils of Duvillard’s new venture, the
people who felt most out of their element were Madame de Quinsac’s few
guests, whom General de Bozonnet and the Marquis de Morigny had seated on
a sofa in the large red _salon_, which they did not quit.

Eve, who for her part felt quite overcome, both her moral and physical
strength being exhausted, had seated herself in the little blue and
silver drawing-room, which, with her passion for flowers, she had
transformed into an arbour of roses. She would have fallen had she
remained standing, the very floor had seemed to sink beneath her feet.
Nevertheless, whenever a guest approached her she managed to force a
smile, and appear beautiful and charming. Unlooked-for help at last came
to her in the person of Monseigneur Martha, who had graciously honoured
the lunch with his presence. He took an armchair near her, and began to
talk to her in his amiable, caressing way. He was doubtless well aware of
the frightful anguish which wrung the poor woman’s heart, for he showed
himself quite fatherly, eager to comfort her. She, however, talked on
like some inconsolable widow bent on renouncing the world for God, who
alone could bring her peace. Then, as the conversation turned on the
Asylum for the Invalids of Labour, she declared that she was resolved to
take her presidency very seriously, and, in fact, would exclusively
devote herself to it, in the future.

“And as we are speaking of this, Monseigneur,” said she, “I would even
ask you to give me some advice.... I shall need somebody to help me,
and I thought of securing the services of a priest whom I much admire,
Monsieur l’Abbe Pierre Froment.”

At this the Bishop became grave and embarrassed; but Princess Rosemonde,
who was passing by with Duthil, had overheard the Baroness, and drawing
near with her wonted impetuosity, she exclaimed: “Abbe Pierre Froment!
Oh! I forgot to tell you, my dear, that I met him going about in jacket
and trousers! And I’ve been told too that he cycles in the Bois with some
creature or other. Isn’t it true, Duthil, that we met him?”

The deputy bowed and smiled, whilst Eve clasped her hands in amazement.
“Is it possible! A priest who was all charitable fervour, who had the
faith and passion of an apostle!”

Thereupon Monseigneur intervened: “Yes, yes, great sorrows occasionally
fall upon the Church. I heard of the madness of the unhappy man you speak
of. I even thought it my duty to write to him, but he left my letter
unanswered. I should so much have liked to stifle such a scandal! But
there are abominable forces which we cannot always overcome; and so a day
or two ago the archbishop was obliged to put him under interdict....
You must choose somebody else, madame.”

It was quite a disaster. Eve gazed at Rosemonde and Duthil, without
daring to ask them for particulars, but wondering what creature could
have been so audacious as to turn a priest from the path of duty. She
must assuredly be some shameless demented woman! And it seemed to Eve as
if this crime gave a finishing touch to her own misfortune. With a wave
of the arm, which took in all the luxury around her, the roses steeping
her in perfume, and the crush of guests around the buffet, she murmured:
“Ah! decidedly there’s nothing but corruption left; one can no longer
rely on anybody!”

Whilst this was going on, Camille happened to be alone in her own room
getting ready to leave the house with Gerard. And all at once her brother
Hyacinthe joined her there. “Ah! it’s you, youngster!” she exclaimed.
“Well, make haste if you want to kiss me, for I’m off now, thank

He kissed her as she suggested, and then in a doctoral way replied: “I
thought you had more self-command. The delight you have been showing all
this morning quite disgusts me.”

A quiet glance of contempt was her only answer. However, he continued:
“You know very well that she’ll take your Gerard from you again, directly
you come back to Paris.”

At this Camille’s cheeks turned white and her eyes flared. She stepped
towards her brother with clenched fists: “She! you say that she will take
him from me!”

The “she” they referred to was their own mother.

“Listen, my boy! I’ll kill her first!” continued Camille. “Ah, no! she
needn’t hope for that. I shall know how to keep the man that belongs to
me.... And as for you, keep your spite to yourself, for I know you,
remember; you are a mere child and a fool!”

He recoiled as if a viper were rearing its sharp, slender black head
before him; and having always feared her, he thought it best to beat a

While the last guests were rushing upon the buffet and finishing the
pillage there, the bridal pair took their leave, before driving off to
the railway station. General de Bozonnet had joined a group in order to
vent his usual complaints about compulsory military service, and the
Marquis de Morigny was obliged to fetch him at the moment when the
Countess de Quinsac was kissing her son and daughter-in-law. The old lady
trembled with so much emotion that the Marquis respectfully ventured to
sustain her. Meantime, Hyacinthe had started in search of his father, and
at last found him near a window with the tottering Chaigneux, whom he was
violently upbraiding, for Fonsegue’s conscientious scruples had put him
in a fury. Indeed, if Massot’s article should not be inserted in the
“Globe,” Silviane might lay all the blame upon him, the Baron, and wreak
further punishment upon him. However, upon being summoned by his son he
had to don his triumphal air once more, kiss his daughter on the
forehead, shake hands with his son-in-law, jest and wish them both a
pleasant journey. Then Eve, near whom Monseigneur Martha had remained,
smiling, in her turn had to say farewell. In this she evinced touching
bravery; her determination to remain beautiful and charming until the
very end lent her sufficient strength to show herself both gay and

She took hold of the slightly quivering hand which Gerard proffered with
some embarrassment, and ventured to retain it for a moment in her own, in
a good-hearted, affectionate way, instinct with all the heroism of
renunciation. “Good by, Gerard,” she said, “keep in good health, be
happy.” Then turning to Camille she kissed her on both cheeks, while
Monseigneur Martha sat looking at them with an air of indulgent sympathy.
They wished each other “Au revoir,” but their voices trembled, and their
eyes in meeting gleamed like swords; in the same way as beneath the
kisses they had exchanged they had felt each other’s teeth. Ah! how it
enraged Camille to see her mother still so beautiful and fascinating in
spite of age and grief! And for Eve how great the torture of beholding
her daughter’s youth, that youth which had overcome her, and was for ever
wresting love from within her reach! No forgiveness was possible between
them; they would still hate one another even in the family tomb, where
some day they would sleep side by side.

All the same, that evening Baroness Duvillard excused herself from
attending the performance of “Polyeucte” at the Comedie Francaise. She
felt very tired and wished to go to bed early, said she. As a matter of
fact she wept on her pillow all night long. Thus the Baron’s stage-box on
the first balcony tier contained only himself, Hyacinthe, Duthil, and
little Princess de Harn.

At nine o’clock there was a full house, one of the brilliant chattering
houses peculiar to great dramatic solemnities. All the society people who
had marched through the sacristy of the Madeleine that morning were now
assembled at the theatre, again feverish with curiosity, and on the
lookout for the unexpected. One recognised the same faces and the sane
smiles; the women acknowledged one another’s presence with little signs
of intelligence, the men understood each other at a word, a gesture. One
and all had kept the appointment, the ladies with bared shoulders, the
gentlemen with flowers in their button-holes. Fonsegue occupied the
“Globe’s” box, with two friendly families. Little Massot had his
customary seat in the stalls. Amadieu, who was a faithful patron of the
Comedie, was also to be seen there, as well as General de Bozonnet and
Public Prosecutor Lehmann. The man who was most looked at, however, on
account of his scandalous article that morning, was Sagnier, the terrible
Sagnier, looking bloated and apoplectical. Then there was Chaigneux, who
had kept merely a modest bracket-seat for himself, and who scoured the
passages, and climbed to every tier, for the last time preaching
enthusiasm. Finally, the two ministers Monferrand and Dauvergne appeared
in the box facing Duvillard’s; whereupon many knowing smiles were
exchanged, for everybody was aware that these personages had come to help
on the success of the _debutante_.

On the latter point there had still been unfavourable rumours only the
previous day. Sagnier had declared that the _debut_ of such a notorious
harlot as Silviane at the Comedie Francaise, in such a part too as that
of “Pauline,” which was one of so much moral loftiness, could only be
regarded as an impudent insult to public decency. The whole press,
moreover, had long been up in arms against the young woman’s
extraordinary caprice. But then the affair had been talked of for six
months past, so that Paris had grown used to the idea of seeing Silviane
at the Comedie. And now it flocked thither with the one idea of being
entertained. Before the curtain rose one could tell by the very
atmosphere of the house that the audience was a jovial, good-humoured
one, bent on enjoying itself, and ready to applaud should it find itself
at all pleased.

The performance really proved extraordinary. When Silviane, chastely
robed, made her appearance in the first act, the house was quite
astonished by her virginal face, her innocent-looking mouth, and her eyes
beaming with immaculate candour. Then, although the manner in which she
had understood her part at first amazed people, it ended by charming
them. From the moment of confiding in “Stratonice,” from the moment of
relating her dream, she turned “Pauline” into a soaring mystical
creature, some saint, as it were, such as one sees in stained-glass
windows, carried along by a Wagnerian Brunhilda riding the clouds. It was
a thoroughly ridiculous conception of the part, contrary to reason and
truth alike. Still, it only seemed to interest people the more, partly on
account of mysticism being the fashion, and partly on account of the
contrast between Silviane’s assumed candour and real depravity. Her
success increased from act to act, and some slight hissing which was
attributed to Sagnier only helped to make the victory more complete.
Monferrand and Dauvergne, as the newspapers afterwards related, gave the
signal for applause; and the whole house joined in it, partly from
amusement and partly perhaps in a spirit of irony.

During the interval between the fourth and fifth acts there was quite a
procession of visitors to Duvillard’s box, where the greatest excitement
prevailed. Duthil, however, after absenting himself for a moment, came
back to say: “You remember our influential critic, the one whom I brought
to dinner at the Cafe Anglais? Well, he’s repeating to everybody that
‘Pauline’ is merely a little _bourgeoise_, and is not transformed by the
heavenly grace until the very finish of the piece. To turn her into a
holy virgin from the outset simply kills the part, says he.”

“Pooh!” repeated Duvillard, “let him argue if he likes, it will be all
the more advertisement.... The important point is to get Massot’s
article inserted in the ‘Globe’ to-morrow morning.”

On this point, unfortunately, the news was by no means good. Chaigneux,
who had gone in search of Fonsegue, declared that the latter still
hesitated in the matter in spite of Silviane’s success, which he declared
to be ridiculous. Thereupon, the Baron became quite angry. “Go and tell
Fonsegue,” he exclaimed, “that I insist on it, and that I shall remember
what he does.”

Meantime Princess Rosemonde was becoming quite delirious with enthusiasm.
“My dear Hyacinthe,” she pleaded, “please take me to Silviane’s
dressing-room; I can’t wait, I really must go and kiss her.”

“But we’ll all go!” cried Duvillard, who heard her entreaty.

The passages were crowded, and there were people even on the stage.
Moreover, when the party reached the door of Silviane’s dressing-room,
they found it shut. When the Baron knocked at it, a dresser replied that
madame begged the gentlemen to wait a moment.

“Oh! a woman may surely go in,” replied Rosemonde, hastily slipping
through the doorway. “And you may come, Hyacinthe,” she added; “there can
be no objection to you.”

Silviane was very hot, and a dresser was wiping her perspiring shoulders
when Rosemonde darted forw