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Title: Truth
Author: Zola, Émile
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Truth" ***

Literature.(Images generously made available by the Internet





Translated by






Conspicuous among the writings which influenced the great changes
witnessed by the world at the end of the eighteenth century were the
'Nouvelle Héloise,' the 'Contrat Social,' the 'Émile ou l'Éducation' of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. At the close of the nineteenth, the advent of
the twentieth century, one finds three books, 'Fécondité,' 'Travail,'
and 'Vérité,' the works of Émile Zola, Rousseau's foremost descendant.
It is too soon by far to attempt to gauge the extent of the influence
which these works may exercise; but, disseminated in French and in many
other languages to the uttermost ends of the earth, they are works
which will certainly have to be reckoned with in a social as well as a
literary sense. The writings of Rousseau, violently assailed by some,
enthusiastically praised by others, ended by leaving their mark on
the world at large. Very few may read them nowadays, but in certain
essential respects their spirit pervaded the nineteenth century, and
their influence is not dead yet, for the influence which springs from
the eternal truths of nature cannot die. As for the critics who will
undoubtedly arise to dispute the likelihood of any great influence
being exercised by the last writings of Émile Zola, I adjourn them
to some twenty years hence. Rome was not built in a day, many long
years elapsed before the spirit of Rousseau's writings became fully
disseminated, and, although the world moves more quickly now than it
did then, time remains a factor of the greatest importance.

Moreover, the future alone can decide the fate of Émile Zola's last
books; for, while dealing with problems of the present time, they are
essentially books which appeal to the future for their justification.
Each of those three volumes, 'Fécondité,' 'Travail,' and 'Vérité,'
takes as its text an existing state of things, and then suggests
alterations and remedies which can only be applied gradually, long
years being required to bring about any substantial result. It is known
that the series was to have comprised a fourth and concluding volume,
which would have been entitled 'Justice'; and indeed the actual writing
of that volume would have been begun on September 29 last if, at an
early hour on that very day, the hand of Émile Zola had not been stayed
for ever by a tragic death, which a few precautions would undoubtedly
have prevented. At an earlier stage it was surmised--on many sides I
see by the newspaper cuttings before me--that this unwritten book,
'Justice,' would deal chiefly with the Dreyfus case, in which Zola
played so commanding and well-remembered a part. But that was a
mistake, a misconception of his intentions. Though his work would have
embraced the justice dispensed in courts of law, his chief thought
was social justice, equity as between class and class, man and man.
And thus the hand of death at least robbed those who are in any way
oppressed of a powerful statement of their rights.

As for the Dreyfus case, it figures in the present volume, or rather
it serves as the basis of one of the narratives unfolded in it.
The Dreyfus case certainly revealed injustice; but it even more
particularly revealed falsehood, the most unblushing and the most
egregious mendacity, the elevation of the _suppressio veri_ and the
_suggestio falsi_ to the dignity of a fine art. The world has known
greater deeds of injustice than the Dreyfus case, but never has it
known--and may it never again know--such a widespread exhibition of
mendacity, both so unscrupulous and so persevering, attended too by
the most amazing credulity on the part of nine-tenths of the French
nation--for small indeed (at the beginning, at all events) was the
heroic band which championed the truth. Behind all the mendacity and
credulity, beyond the personages directly implicated in the case,
stood one of the great forces of the world, the Roman Catholic Church.
Of all the ministers of that Church in France, only one raised his
voice in favour of the truth, all the others were tacitly or actively
accomplices in the great iniquity. And that will explain much which
will be found in Émile Zola's last book.

The horrible crime on which he bases a part of his narrative is not
ascribed to any military man (in fact the army scarcely figures in
'Vérité'); it is one of the crimes springing from the unnatural lives
led by those who have taken vows in the Roman Church, of which some
record will be found in the reports on criminality in France, which
the Keeper of the Seals issues every ten years. Many such crimes,
particularly those which are not carried to the point of murder,
are more or less hushed up, the offenders being helped to escape by
their friends in the Church; but sufficient cases have been legally
investigated during the last thirty years to enable one to say that
the crime set forth in 'Vérité' is not to be regarded as altogether
exceptional in its nature. The scene of the book is laid in the French
school world, and by the intriguing of clericalist teachers the crime
referred to is imputed to a Jew schoolmaster. Forthwith there comes an
explosion of that anti-Semitism--cruelly and cowardly spurred on by the
Roman Church--which was the very _fons et origo_ of the Dreyfus case.

On the dogmas of the Roman Church, and on her teaching methods with
the young, falls the entire responsibility of such fanaticism and
such credulity. Republican France, fully enlightened respecting the
Church's aims by many circumstances and occurrences--the Dreyfus
case, the treasonable monarchical spirit shown by her officers when
educated in Jesuit colleges, the whole Nationalist agitation, and the
very educational exhibits sent by the Religious Orders to the last
great world-show in Paris, exhibits which proved peremptorily that
1,600,000 children were being reared by Brothers and Sisters in hatred
and contempt of the government of the country--France is now driving
the Church from both the elementary and the superior schools. Those
who merely glance with indifference at the Paris letters and telegrams
appearing in the newspapers may be told that a great revolution is now
taking place in France, a revolution partaking of some of the features
of the Reformation, a change such as England, for instance, has not
witnessed since Henry VIII. and James II. The effects of that change
upon the world at large may be tremendous; Rome knows it, and resists
with the tenacity of despair; but faith in her dogmas and belief
in her protestations have departed from the great majority of the
French electorate; and, driven from the schools, unable in particular
to continue moulding the women by whom hitherto she has so largely
exercised her influence, the Church already finds herself in sore
straits, at a loss almost how to proceed. By hook or crook she will
resist, undoubtedly, to the last gasp; but with the secularisation of
the whole educational system it will be difficult for her to recruit
adherents in the future, and poison the national life as she did poison
it throughout the years of the Dreyfus unrest. She sowed the storm and
now she is reaping the whirlwind.

Besides the powerful 'story of a crime' which is unfolded in the
pages of 'Vérité,' besides the discussion of political and religious
methods and prospects, and the exposition of educational views which
will be found in the book, it has other very interesting features. The
whole story of Marc Froment and his struggle with his wife Geneviève
is admirable. It has appealed to me intensely, for personal reasons,
though happily my home never knew so fierce a conflict. Yet experience
has taught me what may happen when man and woman do not share the same
faith, and how, over the most passionate love, the sincerest affection,
there may for that reason fall a blighting shadow, difficult indeed to
dispel. And though Marc Froment at last found his remedy, as I found
mine, living to enjoy long after-years of perfect agreement with the
chosen helpmate, it is certain that a difference of religious belief
is a most serious danger for all who enter the married state, and that
it leads to the greatest misery, the absolute wrecking of many homes.
In 'Vérité' the subject is treated with admirable insight, force, and
pathos; and I feel confident that this portion of the book will be read
with the keenest interest.

Of the rest of the work I need hardly speak further; for I should
merely be paraphrasing things which will be found in it. Some of the
personages who figure in its pages will doubtless be recognised. Nobody
acquainted with the Dreyfus case can doubt, I think, the identity of
the scoundrel who served as the basis of Brother Gorgias. Father Crabot
also is a celebrity, and Simon, David, Delbos, and Baron Nathan are
drawn from life. There are several striking scenes--the discovery of
the crime, the arrest and the first trial of the Jew schoolmaster,
the parting of Marc from his wife, and subsequently from his daughter
Louise, the deaths of Madame Berthereau and Madame Duparque, and the
last public appearance of the impudent Gorgias. But amid all the
matter woven into the narrative one never loses sight of the chief
theme--the ignominy and even the futility of falsehood, the debasing
effects of credulity and ignorance, the health and power that come
from knowledge--this being the stepping-stone to truth, which ends by
triumphing over all things.

Let me add that the book is the longest as well as the last of my dear
master's writings. While translating it I have pruned it slightly here
and there in order to get rid of sundry repetitions. In so long a
work some repetition is perhaps necessary; and it must be remembered
that with Émile Zola repetition was more or less a method. One blow
seldom, if ever, sufficed him; he was bent on hammering his points into
his reader's skull. With the last part of 'Vérité' I have had some
little difficulty, the proofs from which my translation has been made
containing some scarcely intelligible passages, as well as various
errors in names and facts, which I have rectified as best I could.
These, however, are matters of little moment, and can hardly affect
the work as a whole, though, of course, it is unfortunate that Zola
should not have been spared to correct his last proofs.

And now as this is, in all likelihood, the last occasion on which I
shall be privileged to present one of his works in an English dress,
may I tender to all whom my translations have reached--the hundreds
of reviewers and the many thousands of readers in the lands where the
English language is spoken--my heartfelt thanks for the courtesy,
the leniency, the patience, the encouragement, the favour they have
shown to me for several years? As I said in a previous preface, I am
conscious of many imperfections in these renderings of mine. I can only
regret that they should not have been better; but, like others, I have
my limitations. At the same time I may say that I have never undertaken
any of these translations in a perfunctory or a mere mercantile spirit.
Such as they are, they have been to me essentially a labour of love.
And now that I am about to lay down my pen, that I see a whole period
of my life closing, I think it only right to express my gratitude to
all whose support has helped me to accomplish my self-chosen task of
placing the great bulk of Émile Zola's writings within the reach of
those Anglo-Saxons who, unfortunately, are unable to read French. My
good friend once remarked that it was a great honour and privilege to
be, if only for one single hour, the spokesman of one's generation.
I feel that the great honour and privilege of my life will consist
in having been--imperfectly no doubt, yet not I hope without some
fidelity--his spokesman for ten years among many thousands of my race.

E. A. V.





On the previous evening, that of Wednesday, Marc Froment, the Jonville
schoolmaster, with Geneviève his wife and Louise his little girl,
had arrived at Maillebois, where he was in the habit of spending a
month of his vacation, in the company of his wife's grandmother and
mother, Madame Duparque and Madame Berthereau--'those ladies,' as folk
called them in the district. Maillebois, which counted two thousand
inhabitants and ranked as the chief place of a canton, was only six
miles distant from the village of Jonville, and less than four from
Beaumont, the large old university town.

The first days of August were oppressively hot that year. There had
been a frightful storm on the previous Sunday, during the distribution
of prizes; and again that night, about two o'clock, a deluge of rain
had fallen, without, however, clearing the sky, which remained cloudy,
lowering, and oppressively heavy. The ladies, who had risen at six in
order to be ready for seven o'clock Mass, were already in their little
dining-room awaiting the younger folk, who evinced no alacrity to
come down. Four cups were set out on the white oilcloth table-cover,
and at last Pélagie appeared with the coffee-pot. Small of build and
red-haired, with a large nose and thin lips, she had been twenty years
in Madame Duparque's service, and was accustomed to speak her mind.

'Ah! well,' said she, 'the coffee will be quite cold, but it will not
be my fault.'

When she had returned, grumbling, to her kitchen, Madame Duparque also
vented her displeasure. 'It is unbearable,' she said; 'one might think
that Marc took pleasure in making us late for Mass whenever he stays

Madame Berthereau, who was more indulgent, ventured to suggest an
excuse. 'The storm must have prevented them from sleeping,' she
replied; 'but I heard them hastening overhead just now.'

Three and sixty years of age, very tall, with hair still very dark, and
a frigid, symmetrically wrinkled face, severe eyes, and a domineering
nose, Madame Duparque had long kept a draper's shop, known by the
sign of 'The Guardian Angel,' on the Place St. Maxence, in front of
the cathedral of Beaumont. But after the sudden death of her husband,
caused, it was said, by the collapse of a Catholic banking-house, she
had sensibly disposed of the business, and retired, with an income
of some six thousand francs a year, to Maillebois, where she owned a
little house. This had taken place about twelve years previously, and
her daughter, Madame Berthereau, being also left a widow, had joined
her with her daughter Geneviève, who was then entering her eleventh
year. To Madame Duparque, the sudden death of her son-in-law, a State
revenue _employé_, in whose future she had foolishly believed but who
died poor, leaving his wife and child on her hands, proved another
bitter blow. Since that time the two widows had resided together in
the dismal little house at Maillebois, leading a confined, almost
claustral, life, limited in an increasing degree by the most rigid
religious practices. Nevertheless Madame Berthereau, who had been
fondly adored by her husband, retained, as a memento of that awakening
to love and life, an affectionate gentleness of manner. Tall and dark,
like her mother, she had a sorrowful, worn, and faded countenance, with
submissive eyes and tired lips, on which occasionally appeared her
secret despair at the thought of the happiness she had lost.

It was by one of Berthereau's friends, Salvan, who, after being a
schoolmaster at Beaumont, became an Inspector of Elementary Schools
and, subsequently, Director of the Training College, that the
marriage of Marc and Geneviève was brought about. He was the girl's
surrogate-guardian. Berthereau, a liberal-minded man, did not follow
the observances of the Church, but he allowed his wife to do so; and
with affectionate weakness he had even ended by accompanying her to
Mass. In a similarly affectionate way, Salvan, whose freedom of
thought was yet greater than his friend's, for he relied exclusively on
experimental certainty, was imprudent enough to foist Marc into a pious
family, without troubling himself about any possibility of conflict.
The young people were very fond of each other, and in Salvan's opinion
they would assuredly arrange matters between them. Indeed, during her
three years of married life, Geneviève, who had been one of the best
pupils of the Convent of the Visitation at Beaumont, had gradually
neglected her religious observances, absorbed as she was in her love
for her husband. At this Madame Duparque evinced deep affliction,
although the young woman, in her desire to please her, made it a duty
to follow her to church whenever she stayed at Maillebois. But this
was not sufficient for the terrible old grandmother, who in the first
instance had tried to prevent the marriage, and who now harboured a
feeling of dark rancour against Marc, accusing him of robbing her of
her grandchild's soul.

'A quarter to seven!' she muttered as she heard the neighbouring church
clock strike. 'We shall never be ready!'

Then, approaching the window, she glanced at the adjacent Place des
Capucins. The little house was built at a corner of that square and
the Rue de l'Église. On its ground floor, to the right and the left
of the central passage, were the dining and drawing rooms, and in the
rear came the kitchen and the scullery, which looked into a dark and
mouldy yard. Then, on the first floor, on the right hand were two rooms
set apart for Madame Duparque, and, on the left, two others occupied
by Madame Berthereau; whilst under the tiles, in front of Pélagie's
bed-chamber and some store places, were two more little rooms, which
had been furnished for Geneviève during her girlhood, and of which
she gaily resumed possession whenever she now came to Maillebois
with her husband. But how dark was the gloom, how heavy the silence,
how tomblike the chill which fell from the dim ceilings! The Rue de
l'Église, starting from the apse of the parish church of St. Martin,
was too narrow for vehicular traffic; twilight reigned there even at
noontide; the house-fronts were leprous, the little paving-stones
were mossy, the atmosphere stank of slops. And on the northern side
the Place des Capucins spread out treeless, but darkened by the lofty
front of an old convent, which had been divided between the Capuchins,
who there had a large and handsome chapel, and the Brothers of the
Christian Schools, who had installed a very prosperous educational
establishment in some of the conventual dependencies.

Madame Duparque remained for a moment in contemplation of that deserted
space, across which flitted merely the shadowy figures of the devout;
its priestly quietude being enlivened at intervals only by the children
attending the Brothers' school. A bell rang slowly in the lifeless air,
and the old lady was turning round impatiently, when the door of the
room opened and Geneviève came in.

'At last!' the grandmother exclaimed. 'We must breakfast quickly: the
first bell is ringing.'

Fair, tall, and slender, with splendid hair, and a face all life and
gaiety inherited from her father, Geneviève, childlike still, though
two and twenty, was laughing with a laugh which showed all her white
teeth. But Madame Duparque, on perceiving that she was alone, began to
protest: 'What! is not Marc ready?'

'He's following me, grandmother; he is coming down with Louise.'

Then, after kissing her silent mother, Geneviève gave expression to the
amusement she felt at finding herself once more, as a married woman,
in the quiet home of her youth. Ah! she knew each paving-stone of
that Place des Capucins; she found old friends in the smallest tufts
of weeds. And by way of evincing amiability and gaining time, she was
going into raptures over the scene she viewed from the window, when all
at once, on seeing two black figures pass, she recognised them.

'Why, there are Father Philibin and Brother Fulgence!' she said. 'Where
can they be going at this early hour?'

The two clerics were slowly crossing the little square, which, under
the lowering sky, the shadows of their cassocks seemed to fill. Father
Philibin, forty years of age and of peasant origin, displayed square
shoulders and a course, round, freckled face, with big eyes, a large
mouth, and strong jaws. He was prefect of the studies at the College
of Valmarie, a magnificent property which the Jesuits owned in the
environs of Maillebois. Brother Fulgence, likewise a man of forty, but
little, dark, and lean, was the superior of the three Brothers with
whom he carried on the neighbouring Christian School. The son of a
servant girl and a mad doctor, who had died a patient in a madhouse, he
was of a nervous, irritable temperament, with a disorderly overweening
mind; and it was he who was now speaking to his companion in a very
loud voice and with sweeping gestures.

'The prizes are to be given at the Brothers' school this afternoon,'
said Madame Duparque by way of explanation. 'Father Philibin, who
is very fond of our good Brothers, has consented to preside at the
distribution. He must have just arrived from Valmarie; and I suppose he
is going with Brother Fulgence to settle certain details.'

But she was interrupted, for Marc had at last made his appearance,
carrying his little Louise, who, scarcely two years old, hung about his
neck, playing and laughing blissfully.

'Puff, puff, puff!' the young man exclaimed as he entered the room.
'Here we are in the railway train. One can't come quicker than by
train, eh?'

Shorter than his three brothers, Mathieu, Luc, and Jean, Marc Froment
had a longer and a thinner face, with the lofty towerlike family
forehead greatly developed. But his particular characteristics were
his spell-working eyes and voice, soft clear eyes which dived into
one's soul, and an engaging conquering voice which won both mind and
heart. Though he wore moustaches and a slight beard, one could see
his rather large, firm, and kindly mouth. Like all the sons of Pierre
and Marie Froment,[1] he had learned a manual calling, that of a
lithographer, and, securing his bachelor's degree when seventeen years
of age, he had come to Beaumont to complete his apprenticeship with
the Papon-Laroches, the great firm which supplied maps and diagrams to
almost every school in France. It was at this time that his passion
for teaching declared itself, impelling him to enter the Training
College of Beaumont, which he had quitted in his twentieth year as
an assistant-master, provided with a superior certificate. Having
subsequently secured that of Teaching Capacity, he was, when seven and
twenty, about to be appointed schoolmaster at Jonville when he married
Geneviève Berthereau, thanks to his good friend Salvan, who introduced
him to the ladies, and who was moved by the sight of the love which
drew the young folk together. And now, for three years past, Marc
and Geneviève, though their means were scanty and they experienced
all manner of pecuniary straits and administrative worries, had been
leading a delightful life of love in their secluded village, which
numbered barely eight hundred souls.

[Footnote 1: See M. Zola's novel, _Paris_.]

But the happy laughter of the father and the little girl did not
dissipate the displeasure of Madame Duparque. 'That railway train is
not worth the coaches of my youth,' said she. 'Come, let us breakfast
quickly, we shall never get there.'

She had seated herself, and was already pouring some milk into the
cups. While Geneviève placed little Louise's baby-chair between herself
and her mother, in order to keep a good watch over the child, Marc, who
was in a conciliatory mood, tried to secure the old lady's forgiveness.

'Yes, I have delayed you, eh?' he said. 'But it is your fault,
grandmother; one sleeps too soundly in your house, it is so very quiet.'

Madame Duparque, who was hurrying over her breakfast, with her nose
in her cup, did not condescend to answer. But a pale smile appeared
on the face of Madame Berthereau after she had directed a long look
at Geneviève, who seemed so happy between her husband and her child.
And in a low voice, as if speaking involuntarily, the younger widow
murmured, glancing slowly around her: 'Yes, very quiet, so quiet that
one cannot even feel that one is living.'

'All the same, there was some noise on the square at ten o'clock,' Marc
retorted. 'Geneviève was amazed. The idea of a disturbance at night on
the Place des Capucins!'

He had blundered badly in his desire to make the others laugh. This
time it was the grandmother who, with an offended air, replied: 'It
was the worshippers leaving the Capuchin Chapel. The offices of the
Adoration of the Holy Sacrament were celebrated yesterday evening at
nine o'clock. The Brothers took with them those of their pupils who
attended their first Communion this year, and the children were rather
free in talking and laughing as they crossed the square. But that is
far better than the abominable pastimes of the children who are brought
up without moral or religious guidance!'

Silence, deep and embarrassing, fell immediately. Only the rattle of
the spoons in the cups was to be heard. That accusation of abominable
pastimes was directed against Marc's school, with its system of
secular education. But, as Geneviève turned on him a little glance of
entreaty, he did not lose his temper. Before long he even resumed the
conversation, speaking to Madame Berthereau of his life at Jonville,
and also of his pupils, like a master who was attached to them and who
derived from them pleasure and satisfaction. Three, said he, had just
obtained the certificate awarded for successful elementary studies.

But at this moment the church bell again rang out slowly, sending a
wail through the heavy atmosphere above the mournful, deserted district.

'The last bell!' cried Madame Duparque. 'I said that we should never
get there in time!'

She rose, and had already begun to hustle her daughter and her
granddaughter, who were finishing their coffee, when Pélagie, the
servant, again appeared, this time trembling, almost beside herself,
and with a copy of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ in her hand.

'Ah! madame, madame, how horrible! The newspaper boy has just told

'What? Make haste!'

The servant was stifling.

'That little Zéphirin, the schoolmaster's nephew, has just been found
murdered, there, quite near, in his room.'


'Yes, madame; strangled in his nightdress. It is an abominable affair!'

A terrible shudder swept through the room; even Madame Duparque

'Little Zéphirin?' said she. 'Ah! yes, the nephew of Simon, the Jew
schoolmaster, a child with a pretty face but infirm. For his part
the lad was a Catholic; he went to the Brothers' school, and he must
have been at the ceremony last night, for he took his first Communion
lately.... But what can you expect? Some families are accursed!'

Marc had listened, chilled and indignant. And careless now whether he
gave offence or not, he answered: 'Simon, I know Simon! He was at the
Training College with me; he is only two years older than myself. I
know nobody with a firmer intellect, a more affectionate heart. He had
given shelter to that poor child, that Catholic nephew, and allowed him
to attend the Brothers' school, from conscientious scruples which are
seldom found. What a frightful blow has fallen on him!'

Then the young man rose, quivering: 'I am going to him,' he added; 'I
want to hear everything, I want to sustain him in his grief.'

But Madame Duparque no longer listened. She was pushing Madame
Berthereau and Geneviève outside, scarcely allowing them time to put
on their hats. The ringing of the last bell had just ceased, and the
ladies hastened towards the church, amidst the heavy, storm-laden
silence of the deserted square. And Marc, after entrusting little
Louise to Pélagie, in his turn went out.

The elementary schools of Maillebois, newly built and divided into two
pavilions, one for boys and one for girls, stood on the Place de la
République, in front of the town hall, which was also a new building of
corresponding architecture, and only the High Street, really a section
of the road from Beaumont to Jonville running across the square,
separated the two edifices, which with their chalky whiteness were
the pride of the district. The High Street, which the parish church
of St. Martin likewise faced, a little further down, was, as became
a centre of trade, a populous thoroughfare, animated by the constant
coming and going of pedestrians and vehicles. But silence and solitude
were found again behind the schools, and weeds sprouted there between
the little paving-stones. A street, the Rue Courte, in which one found
but the parsonage and a stationer's shop kept by Mesdames Milhomme,
connected the sleepy end of the Place de la République with the Place
des Capucins, in such wise that Marc had few steps to take.

The school playgrounds faced the Rue Courte, and were separated by two
little gardens set apart for the schoolmaster and the schoolmistress.
On the ground floor of the boys' pavilion, at a corner of the
playground, was a tiny room, which Simon had been able to give to
little Zéphirin on taking charge of him. The boy was a nephew of his
wife, Rachel Lehmann, and a grandson of the old Lehmanns, who were poor
Jew tailors, dwelling in the Rue du Trou, the most wretched street
of Maillebois. Zéphirin's father, Daniel Lehmann, a mechanician, had
contracted a love-match with a Catholic girl, an orphan named Marie
Prunier, who had been reared by the Sisters, and was a dressmaker. The
young couple adored each other, and at first their son Zéphirin was not
baptised nor indeed brought up in any religious faith, neither parent
desiring to grieve the other by rearing the child according to his or
her particular creed. But after the lapse of six years a thunderbolt
fell: Daniel met with a frightful death, being caught and crushed to
pieces in some machinery before the very eyes of his wife, who had
come to the works, bringing his lunch with her. And Marie, terrified
by the sight, won back to the religion of her youth, picturing the
catastrophe as the chastisement of Heaven, which thereby punished
her for her guilt in having loved a Jew, soon caused her son to be
baptised, and sent him to the Brothers' school. Unhappily, through some
hereditary taint or flaw, the lad's frame became distorted, he grew
gradually humpbacked; in which misfortune the mother imagined she could
trace the implacable wrath of God pursuing her relentlessly, because
she was unable to pluck from her heart the fond memory of the husband
she had adored. That anguish, combined with excessive toil, ended
by killing her about the time when little Zéphirin, having reached
his eleventh birthday, was ready to take his first Communion. It was
then that Simon, though poor himself, gave the boy shelter, in order
that he might not become a charge on his wife's relations. At the
same time the schoolmaster, who was tolerant as well as kind-hearted,
contented himself with lodging and feeding his nephew, allowing him to
communicate as a Catholic and to complete his studies at the Brothers'

The little room in which Zéphirin slept--formerly a kind of
lumber-room, but tidily arranged for him--had a window opening almost
on a level with the ground, behind the school, the spot being the
most secluded of the square. And that morning, about seven o'clock,
as young Mignot, the assistant-master, who slept on the first floor
of the building, went out, he noticed that Zéphirin's window was wide
open. Mignot was passionately fond of fishing, and, profiting by the
arrival of the vacation, he was about to start, in a straw hat and a
linen jacket, and with his rod on his shoulder, for the banks of the
Verpille, a streamlet which ran through the industrial quarter of
Maillebois. A peasant by birth, he had entered the Beaumont Training
College, even as he might have entered a seminary, in order to escape
the hard labour of the fields. Fair, with close-cut hair, he had a
massive pock-marked face, which gave him an appearance of sternness,
though he was not hardhearted, being indeed rather kindly disposed; but
his chief care was to do nothing which might impede his advancement. He
was five and twenty years of age, but showed no haste to get married,
waiting in that respect as in others, and destined to become such as
circumstances might decree. That morning he was greatly struck by
the sight of Zéphirin's open window, although there was nothing very
extraordinary in such a thing, for the lad usually rose at an early
hour. However, the young master drew near and glanced into the room.
Then stupefaction rooted him to the spot, and his horror found vent in

'O God, the poor boy! O God, God, what can have happened? What a
terrible misfortune!'

The tiny room, with its light wall paper, retained its wonted quietude,
its suggestion of happy boyhood. On the table was a coloured statuette
of the Virgin with a few books and little prints of a religious
character, carefully arranged and classified. The small white bed was
in no wise disarranged, the lad had not slept in it that night. The
only sign of disorder was an overturned chair. But on the rug beside
the bed Zéphirin was lying strangled, his face livid, his bare neck
showing the imprint of his murderer's cruel fingers. His rent garment
allowed a glimpse of his misshapen spine, the hump, that jutted out
below his left arm, which was thrown back across his head. In spite of
its bluish pallor his face retained its charm; it was the face of a
fair curly-haired angel, delicately girlish, with blue eyes, a slender
nose, and a small sweet mouth, whose gentle laugh in happy hours had
brought delightful dimples to the child's cheeks.

But Mignot, quite beside himself, did not cease to cry his horror
aloud. 'Ah! God, God, how frightful! For God's sake help, help! Come

Then Mademoiselle Rouzaire the schoolmistress, who heard the cries,
hastened to the spot. She had been paying an early visit to her garden,
being anxious about some lettuces which the stormy weather was helping
to go to seed. She was a red-haired woman of two and thirty, tall and
strongly built, with a round freckled face, big grey eyes, pale lips,
and a pointed nose, which denoted cunning and avaricious harshness.
Ugly though she was, her name had been associated with that of the
handsome Mauraisin, the Elementary Inspector, whose support ensured
her advancement. Moreover she was devoted to Abbé Quandieu, the parish
priest, the Capuchins, and even the Christian Brothers, and personally
conducted her pupils to the catechism classes and the church ceremonies.

As soon as she beheld the horrid sight, she also raised an outcry:
'Good Lord, take pity on us! It is a massacre; it is the devil's work,
O God of Mercy!'

Then, as Mignot was about to spring over the window-bar, she prevented
him: 'No, no, don't go in, one must ascertain, one must call----'

As she turned round, as if seeking somebody, she perceived Father
Philibin and Brother Fulgence emerging from the Rue Courte, on their
way from the Place des Capucins, across which Geneviève had seen them
pass. She recognised them, and raised her arms to heaven, as if at the
sight of Providence.

'Oh, Father! oh, Brother! come, come at once, the devil has been here!'

The two clerics drew near and experienced a terrible shock. But Father
Philibin, who was energetic and of a thoughtful bent, remained silent,
whereas impulsive Brother Fulgence, ever prompt to throw himself
forward, burst into exclamations: 'Ah! the poor child, ah! what a
horrid crime! So gentle and so good a lad, the best of our pupils, so
pious and fervent too! Come, we must investigate this matter, we cannot
leave things as they are.'

This time Mademoiselle Rouzaire did not dare to protest as the Brother
sprang over the window-bar followed by Father Philibin, who, having
perceived a ball of paper lying near the boy, at once picked it up.
From fear or rather prudence the schoolmistress did not join the
others; indeed, she even detained Mignot outside for another moment.
That which the ministers of the Deity might venture to do was not
fit perhaps for mere teachers. Meantime, while Brother Fulgence bent
over the victim without touching him, but again raising tumultuous
exclamations, Father Philibin, still silent, unrolled the paper ball,
and, to all appearance, examined it carefully. He was turning his back
to the window, and one could only see the play of his elbows, without
distinguishing the paper, the rustling of which could be heard. This
went on for a few moments; and when Mignot, in his turn, sprang into
the room he saw that the ball which Father Philibin had picked up had
been formed of a newspaper, in the midst of which a narrow, crumpled,
and stained slip of white paper appeared.

The Jesuit looked at the assistant-master, and quietly and slowly
remarked: 'It is a number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ dated yesterday,
August 2; but the singular thing is that, crumpled up in it, there
should be this copy-slip for a writing lesson. Just look at it.'

As the slip had been noticed by Mignot already, Father Philibin could
not do otherwise than show it; but he kept it between his big fingers
so that the other only distinguished the words, _'Aimez vous les uns
les autres'_ ('Love one another') lithographed in a well-formed
'English' round-hand. Rents and stains made this copy-slip a mere rag
of paper, and the assistant-master gave it only a brief glance, for
fresh exclamations now arose at the window.

They came from Marc, who had just arrived, and who was filled with
horror and indignation at the sight of the poor little victim. Without
listening to the schoolmistress's explanations, he brushed her aside
and vaulted over the window-bar. The presence of the two clerics
astonished him; but he learnt from Mignot that he and Mademoiselle
Rouzaire had summoned them as they were passing, immediately after the
discovery of the crime.

'Don't touch or disturb anything!' Marc exclaimed. 'One must at once
send to the mayor and the gendarmerie.'

People were collecting already; and a young man, who undertook the
suggested commission, set off at a run, while Marc continued to inspect
the room. In front of the body he saw Brother Fulgence distracted
with compassion, with his eyes full of tears, like a man of nervous
temperament unable to control emotion. Marc was really touched by
the Brother's demeanour. He himself shuddered at the sight of what
he beheld, for the abominable nature of the crime was quite evident.
And a thought, which was to return later on as a conviction, suddenly
flitted through his mind, then left him, in such wise that he was
only conscious of the presence of Father Philibin, who, full of deep
distressful calm, still held the newspaper and the writing-copy. For a
moment the Jesuit had turned round as if to look under the bed; then,
however, he had stepped back.

'You see,' he said, without waiting to be questioned, 'this is what I
found on the floor, rolled into a ball, which the murderer certainly
tried to thrust into the child's mouth as a gag, in order to stifle his
cries. As he did not succeed he strangled him. On this writing-copy,
soiled by saliva, one can see the marks left by the poor little
fellow's teeth. The ball was lying yonder, near that leg of the table.
Is that not so, Monsieur Mignot? You saw it?'

'Oh! quite so,' replied the assistant-master, 'I noticed it at once.'

As he drew near again and examined the copy, he felt vaguely surprised
on noticing that the right-hand corner of the slip of paper was torn
off. It seemed to him that he had not remarked that deficiency when
the Jesuit had first shown him the slip; but perhaps it had then been
hidden by Father Philibin's big fingers. However, Mignot's memory grew
confused; it would have been impossible for him to say whether that
corner had been torn away in the first instance or not.

Marc, however, having taken the slip from the Jesuit, was studying it
and expressing his thoughts aloud: 'Yes, yes, it has been bitten. But
it won't be much of an indication, for such slips are sold currently;
one can find them everywhere. Oh! but there is a kind of flourish down
here, I see, some initialling which one cannot well decipher.'

Without any haste, Father Philibin stepped up to him. 'Some
initialling? Do you think so? It seemed to me a mere blot, half effaced
by saliva and by the bite which pierced the slip, close by.'

'A blot, no! These marks are certainly initials, but they are quite
illegible.' Then, noticing that a corner of the slip was deficient,
Marc added: 'That, no doubt, was done by another bite. Have you found
the missing piece?'

Father Philibin answered that he had not looked for it; and he again
unfolded the newspaper and examined it carefully, while Mignot,
stooping, searched the floor. Nothing was found. Besides, the matter
was regarded as being of no importance. Marc agreed with the two
clerics that the murderer, seized with terror, must have strangled
the boy after vainly endeavouring to stifle his cries by stuffing the
paper gag into his mouth. The extraordinary circumstance was that the
copy-slip should have been found rolled up with the newspaper. The
presence of a number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ could be understood, for
anybody might have one in his pocket. But whence had that slip come,
how did it happen to be crumpled, almost kneaded, with the newspaper?
All sorts of suppositions were allowable, and the officers of the law
would have to open an investigation in order to discover the truth.

To Marc it seemed as if a calamitous gust had just swept through the
dim tragedy, suddenly steeping everything in horrid night. 'Ah!' he
murmured involuntarily, 'it is Crime, the monster, in the depths of his
dark pit.'

Meantime people continued to assemble before the window. On perceiving
the throng the Mesdames Milhomme, who kept the neighbouring stationery
business, had hastened from their shop. Madame Alexandre, who was
tall, fair, and gentle in appearance, and Madame Edouard, who was also
tall but dark and somewhat rough, felt the more concerned as Victor,
the latter's son, went to the Brothers' school, while Sébastien,
the former's boy, attended Simon's. Thus they listened eagerly to
Mademoiselle Rouzaire, who, standing in the middle of the group, was
giving various particulars, pending the arrival of the mayor and the

'I went myself,' she said, 'to that touching Adoration of the Holy
Sacrament at the Capuchin Chapel last evening, and poor Zéphirin was
there with a few schoolfellows--those who took their first Communion
this year. He edified us all, he looked a little angel.'

'My son Victor did not go, for he is only nine years old,' Madame
Edouard answered. 'But did Zéphirin go alone? Did nobody bring him

'Oh! the chapel is only a few yards distant,' the schoolmistress
explained. 'I know that Brother Gorgias had orders to escort the
children whose parents could not attend, and whose homes are rather
distant. But Madame Simon asked me to watch over Zéphirin, and it
was I who brought him back. He was very gay; he opened the shutters,
which were simply pushed to, and sprang into his room through the open
window, laughing and saying that it was the easiest and shortest way. I
stayed outside for a moment, waiting until he had lighted his candle.'

Marc, drawing near, had listened attentively. 'What time was it?' he
now inquired.

'Exactly ten,' Mademoiselle Rouzaire replied. 'St. Martin's clock was

The others shuddered, moved by that account of the lad springing so
gaily into the room where he was to meet such a tragic death. And
Madame Alexandre gently gave expression to a thought which suggested
itself to all: 'It was hardly prudent to let the lad sleep by himself
in this lonely room, so easily reached from the square. The shutters
ought to have been barred at night.'

'Oh! he fastened them,' said Mademoiselle Rouzaire.

'Did he do so last night while you were here?' inquired Marc,
intervening once more.

'No, when I left him to go to my rooms he had lighted his candle and
was arranging some pictures on his table, with the window wide open.'

Mignot, the assistant-master, now joined in the conversation. 'This
window made Monsieur Simon anxious,' he said; 'he wished he could have
given the lad another room. He often recommended him to fasten the
shutters carefully. But I fear that the child paid little heed.'

The two clerics in their turn had now decided to quit the room. Father
Philibin, after laying the number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ and the
copy-slip on the table, had ceased speaking, preferring to look and
listen; and he followed very attentively each word and gesture that
came from Marc, while Brother Fulgence, for his part, continued to
relieve himself with lamentations. Eventually, the Jesuit, who seemed
to read the young schoolmaster's thoughts in his eyes, remarked to him:
'So you think that some tramp, some night prowler, seeing the boy alone
in this room, may have got in by the window?'

From prudence Marc would express no positive opinion. 'Oh! I think
nothing,' said he; 'it is for the law to seek and find the murderer.
However, the bed has not been opened, the boy was certainly about to
get into it, and this seems to show that, the crime must have been
committed shortly after ten o'clock. Suppose that he busied himself
for half an hour at the utmost with his pictures, and that he then saw
a stranger spring into his room. In that case he would have raised a
cry, which would certainly have been heard. You heard nothing, did you,

'No, nothing,' the schoolmistress replied. 'I myself went to bed about
half-past ten. The neighbourhood was very quiet. The storm did not
awaken me until about one o'clock this morning.'

'Very little of the candle has been burnt,' Mignot now observed. 'The
murderer must have blown it out as he went off by the window, which he
left wide open, as I found it just now.'

These remarks, which lent some weight to the theory of a prowler
springing into the room, ill-using and murdering the boy, increased the
horror-fraught embarrassment of the bystanders. All wished to avoid
being compromised, and therefore kept to themselves their thoughts
respecting the impossibilities or improbabilities of the theory which
had been propounded. After a pause, however, as the mayor and the
gendarmes did not appear, Father Philibin inquired: 'Is not Monsieur
Simon at Maillebois?'

Mignot, who had not recovered from the shock of his discovery, gazed
at the Jesuit with haggard eyes. To bring the assistant-master to his
senses, Marc himself had to express his astonishment: 'But Simon is
surely in his rooms! Has he not been told?'

'Why no!' the assistant answered, 'I must have lost my head. Monsieur
Simon went to attend a banquet at Beaumont yesterday evening, but he
certainly came home during the night. His wife is rather poorly; they
must be still in bed.'

It was now already half-past seven, but the stormy sky remained so dark
and heavy that one might have thought dawn was only just appearing
in that secluded corner of the square. However, the assistant-master
made up his mind and ascended the stairs to fetch Simon. What a happy
awakening it would be for the latter, he muttered sarcastically, and
what an agreeable commission for himself was that which he had to
fulfil with his chief!

Simon was the younger son of a Jew clockmaker of Beaumont; he had a
brother, David, who was his elder by three years. When he was fifteen
and David eighteen their father, ruined by lawsuits, succumbed to a
sudden attack of apoplexy; and three years later their mother died
in very straitened circumstances. Simon had then just entered the
Training College, while David joined the army. The former, quitting
the college at an early age, became assistant-master at Dherbecourt,
a large _bourg_ of the district, where he remained nearly ten years.
There also, in his twenty-sixth year, he married Rachel Lehmann, the
daughter of the little tailor of the Rue du Trou, who had a fair number
of customers at Maillebois. Rachel, a brunette with magnificent hair
and large caressing eyes, was very beautiful. Her husband adored her,
encompassed her with passionate worship. Two children had been born to
them, a boy, Joseph, now four, and a girl, Sarah, two years of age.
And Simon, duly provided with a certificate of Teaching Capacity, was
proud of the fact that at two and thirty he should be schoolmaster at
Maillebois--where he had now dwelt a couple of years--for this was an
instance of rapid advancement.

Marc, though he disliked the Jews by reason of a sort of hereditary
antipathy and distrust, the causes of which he had never troubled to
analyse, retained a friendly recollection of Simon, whom he had known
at the Training College. He declared him to be extremely intelligent,
a very good teacher, full of a sense of duty. But he found him too
attentive to petty details, too slavishly observant of regulations,
which he followed to the very letter, ever bending low before
discipline, as if fearful of a bad report and the dissatisfaction of
his superiors. In this Marc traced the terror and humility of the
Jewish race, persecuted for so many centuries, and ever retaining a
dread of outrage and iniquity. Moreover, Simon had good cause for
prudence, for his appointment at Maillebois, that clerical little
town with its powerful Capuchin community and its Brothers' school,
had caused almost a scandal. It was only by dint of correctitude
and particularly of ardent patriotism among his pupils, such as the
glorification of France as a military power, the foretelling of
national glory and a supreme position among the nations, that Simon
obtained forgiveness for being a Jew.

He now suddenly made his appearance, accompanied by Mignot. Short,
thin, and sinewy, he had red, closely-cropped hair and a sparse beard.
His blue eyes were soft, his mouth was well shaped, his nose of the
racial type, long and slender; yet his physiognomy was scarcely
prepossessing, it remained vague, confused, paltry; and at that moment
he was so terribly upset by the dreadful tidings that, as he appeared
before the others, staggering and stammering, one might have thought
him intoxicated.

'Great God! is it possible?' he gasped. 'Such villainy, such

But he reached the window, where he remained like one overwhelmed,
unable to speak another word, and shuddering from head to foot, his
glance fixed meanwhile on the little victim. Those who were present,
the two clerics, the lady stationers, and the schoolmasters, watched
him in silence, astonished that he did not weep.

Marc, stirred by compassion, took hold of his hands and embraced him:
'Come, you must muster your courage; you need all your strength,' he
said to him.

But Simon, without listening, turned to his assistant. 'Pray go back
to my wife, Mignot,' he said; 'I do not want her to see this. She was
very fond of her nephew, and she is too poorly to be able to bear such
a horrible sight.'

Then, as the young man went off, he continued in broken accents: 'Ah!
what an awakening! For once in a while we were lying late in bed. My
poor Rachel was still asleep, and, as I did not wish to disturb her, I
remained by her side, thinking of our holiday pleasures. I roused her
late last night when I came home, and she did not get to sleep again
till three in the morning, for the storm upset her.'

'What time was it when you came home?' Marc inquired.

'Exactly twenty minutes to twelve. My wife asked me the time and I
looked at the clock.'

This seemed to surprise Mademoiselle Rouzaire, who remarked: 'But there
is no train from Beaumont at that hour.'

'I didn't come back by train,' Simon explained. 'The banquet lasted
till late, I missed the 10.30 train, and rather than wait for the one
at midnight I decided to walk the distance. I was anxious to join my

Father Philibin still preserved silence and calmness; but Brother
Fulgence, unable to restrain himself any longer, began to question

'Twenty minutes to twelve! Then the crime must have been committed
already. You saw nothing? You heard nothing?'

'Nothing at all. The square was deserted, the storm was beginning to
rumble in the distance. I did not meet a soul. All was quiet in the

'Then it did not occur to you to go to see if poor Zéphirin had
returned safely from the chapel, and if he were sleeping soundly? Did
you not pay him a visit every evening?'

'No, he was already a very shrewd little man, and we left him as
much liberty as possible. Besides, the place was so quiet, there was
nothing to suggest any reason for disturbing his sleep. I went straight
upstairs to my room, making the least possible noise. I kissed my
children, who were asleep, then I went to bed; and, well pleased to
find my wife rather better, I chatted with her in an undertone.'

Father Philibin nodded as if approvingly, and then remarked: 'Evidently
everything can be accounted for.'

The bystanders seemed convinced; the theory of a prowler committing the
crime about half-past ten o'clock, entering and leaving the room by
the window, seemed more and more probable. Simon's statement confirmed
the information given by Mignot and Mademoiselle Rouzaire. Moreover,
the Mesdames Milhomme, the stationers, asserted that they had seen an
evil-looking man roaming about the square at nightfall.

'There are so many rascals on the roads!' said the Jesuit Father by
way of conclusion. 'We must hope that the police will set hands on the
murderer, though such a task is not always an easy one.'

Marc alone experienced a feeling of uncertainty. Although he had been
the first to think it possible that some stranger might have sprung on
Zéphirin, he had gradually realised that there was little probability
of such an occurrence. Was it not more likely that the man had been
acquainted with the boy and had at first approached him as a friend?
Then, however, had come the abominable impulse, horror and murder,
strangulation as a last resource to stifle the victim's cries, followed
by flight amidst a gust of terror. But all this remained very involved;
and after some brief perception of its probability Marc relapsed into
darkness, into the anxiety born of contradictory suppositions. He
contented himself with saying to Simon, by way of calming him: 'All the
evidence agrees: the truth will soon be made manifest.'

At that moment, just as Mignot returned after prevailing on Madame
Simon to remain in her room, Darras, the Mayor of Maillebois, arrived
with three gendarmes. A building contractor, on the high road to a
considerable fortune, Darras was a stout man of forty-two, with a fair,
round, pinky, clean-shaven face. He immediately ordered the shutters to
be closed and placed two gendarmes outside the window, while the third,
entering the house passage, went to guard the door of the room, which
Zéphirin never locked. From this moment the orders were that nothing
should be touched, and that nobody should even approach the scene of
the crime. On hearing of it the mayor had immediately telegraphed to
the Public Prosecution Office at Beaumont, and the magistrates would
surely arrive by the first train.

Father Philibin and Brother Fulgence now spoke of having to attend to
various matters connected with the distribution of prizes which was to
take place in the afternoon, and Darras advised them to make haste and
then return, for, said he, the Procureur de la République, otherwise
the Public Prosecutor, would certainly wish to question them about
the number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ and the copy-slip found near the
body. So the two clerics took their departure; and while the gendarmes,
stationed on the square outside the window, with difficulty restrained
the now increasing crowd, which became violent and raised threatening
cries, demanding the execution of the unknown murderer, Simon again
went into the building with Darras, Marc, Mademoiselle Rouzaire, and
Mignot, the whole party waiting in a large classroom lighted by broad
windows which faced the playground.

It was now eight o'clock, and after a sudden stormy rainfall, the sky
cleared, and the day became a splendid one. An hour elapsed before
the magistrates arrived. The Procureur de la République, Raoul de La
Bissonnière, came in person, accompanied by Daix, the Investigating
Magistrate. Both were moved by the magnitude of the crime and foresaw
a great trial. La Bissonnière, a dapper little man with a doll-like
face, and whiskers of a correct legal cut, was very ambitious. Not
content with his rapid advancement to the post he held--he was only
forty-five--he was ever on the watch for some resounding case which
would launch him in Paris, where, thanks to his suppleness and address,
his complaisant respect for the powers of the day, whatever they might
be, he relied on securing a high position. On the other hand, Daix,
tall and lean, with a sharp-cut face, was a type of the punctilious
Investigating Magistrate, devoted to his professional duties. But he
was also of an anxious and timid nature, for his ugly but coquettish
and extravagant wife, exasperated by the poverty of their home,
terrorised and distressed him with her bitter reproaches respecting his
lack of ambition.

On reaching the schools the legal functionaries, before taking any
evidence, desired to visit the scene of the crime. Simon and Darras
accompanied them to Zéphirin's bed-chamber while the others, who
were soon joined by Father Philibin and Brother Fulgence, waited in
the large classroom. When the magistrates returned thither, they had
verified all the material features of the crime, and were acquainted
with the various circumstances already known to the others. They
brought with them the number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ and the
copy-slip, to which they seemed to attach extreme importance. At once
seating themselves at Simon's table, they examined those two pieces
of evidence, exchanging impressions concerning them, and then showing
the copy-slip to the two schoolmasters, Simon and Marc, as well as to
the schoolmistress and the clerics. But this was only done by way of
eliciting some general information, for no clerk was present to record
a formal interrogatory.

'Oh! those copies,' Marc replied, 'are used currently in all the
schools, in the secular ones as well as in those of the religious

This was confirmed by Brother Fulgence. 'Quite so,' said he; 'similar
ones would be found at our school, even as there must be some here.'

La Bissonnière, however, desired more precise information. 'But do you
remember having placed this one in the hands of any of your pupils?' he
asked Simon. 'Those words "Love one another" must have struck you.'

'That copy was never used here,' Simon answered flatly. 'As you point
out, monsieur, I should have recollected it.'

The same question was then addressed to Brother Fulgence, who at
first evinced some little hesitation. 'I have three Brothers with
me--Brothers Isidore, Lazarus, and Gorgias,' he replied, 'and it is
difficult for me to avouch anything.'

Then, in the deep silence which was falling, he added: 'But no, no,
that copy was never used at our school, for it would have come before

The magistrates did not insist on the point. For the time being they
did not wish the importance which they attached to the slip to become
too manifest. They expressed their surprise, however, that the missing
corner of it had not been found.

'Do not these slips sometimes bear in one corner a stamp of the school
to which they belong?' Daix inquired. Brother Fulgence had to admit
that it was so, but Marc protested that he had never stamped any
copy-slips used in his school.

'Excuse me,' declared Simon in his tranquil way, 'I have some
slips here on which a stamp would be found. But I stamp them down

Perceiving the perplexity of the magistrates, Father Philibin, hitherto
silent and attentive, indulged in a light laugh. 'This shows,' he said,
'how difficult it is to arrive at the truth.... By the way, Monsieur
le Procureur de la République, matters are much the same with the
stain which you are now examining. One of us fancied it to be some
initialling, a kind of flourish. But, for my part, I believe it to be a
blot which some pupil tried to efface with his finger.'

'Is it usual for the masters to initial the copy-slips?' asked Daix.

'Yes,' Brother Fulgence acknowledged, 'that is done at our school.'

'Ah! no,' cried Simon and Marc in unison, 'we never do it in the
Communal schools.'

'You are mistaken,' said Mademoiselle Rouzaire, although I do not stamp
my copies, I have sometimes initialled them.'

With a wave of the hand La Bissonnière stopped the discussion, for
he knew by experience what a muddle is reached when one enters into
secondary questions of personal habits. The copy-slip, the missing
corner of it, the possible existence of a stamp and a paraph would all
have to be studied in the course of the investigation. For the moment
he now contented himself with asking the witnesses to relate how the
crime had been discovered. Mignot had to say that the open window had
attracted his attention and that he had raised an outcry on perceiving
the victim's body. Mademoiselle Rouzaire explained how she had hastened
to the spot and how, on the previous evening, she had brought Zéphirin
home from the Capuchin Chapel, when he had sprung into the room by the
window. Father Philibin and Brother Fulgence in their turn related how
chance had connected them with the tragedy, in what condition they had
found the room, and in what particular spot they had discovered the
paper gag, which they had merely unfolded before placing it on the
table. Finally, Marc indicated a few observations which he had made on
his arrival, subsequent to that of the others.

La Bissonnière thereupon turned to Simon and began to question him:
'You have told us that you came home at twenty minutes to twelve, and
that the whole house then seemed to you to be perfectly quiet. Your
wife was asleep----'

At this point Daix interrupted his superior: 'Monsieur le Procureur,'
said he, 'is it not advisable that Madame Simon should be present?
Could she not come down here a moment?'

La Bissonnière nodded assent, and Simon went to fetch his wife, who
soon made her appearance.

Rachel, attired in a plain morning wrap of unbleached linen, looked
so beautiful as she entered the room amidst the deep silence, that
a little quiver of admiration and tender sympathy sped by. Hers was
the Jewish beauty in its flower, a delightfully oval face, splendid
black hair, a gilded skin, large caressing eyes, and a red mouth with
speckless, dazzling teeth. And one could tell that she was all love, a
trifle indolent, living in seclusion in her home, with her husband and
her children, like a woman of the East in her little secret garden.
Simon was about to close the door behind her, when the two children,
Joseph and Sarah, four and two years old respectively, and both of them
strong and flourishing, ran in, although they had been forbidden to
come downstairs. And they sought refuge in the folds of their mother's
wrap, where the magistrates, by a gesture, intimated they might remain.

The gallant La Bissonnière, moved by the sight of such great beauty,
imparted a flute-like accent to his voice as he asked Rachel a few
questions: 'It was twenty minutes to twelve, madame, was it not, when
your husband came home?'

'Yes, monsieur, he looked at the clock. And he was in bed and we were
still chatting in an undertone and with the light out, in order that
the children might not be roused, when we heard midnight strike.'

'But before your husband's arrival, madame, between half-past ten and
half-past eleven, did you hear nothing, no footsteps nor talking, no
sounds of struggling, nor stifled cries?'

'No, absolutely nothing, monsieur. I was asleep. It was my husband's
entry into our room which awoke me. He had left me feeling poorly,
and he was so pleased to find me better that he began to laugh as he
kissed me, and I made him keep quiet for fear lest the others should
be disturbed, so deep was the silence around us. Ah! how could we have
imagined that such a frightful misfortune had fallen on the house!'

She was thoroughly upset, and tears coursed down her cheeks, while
she turned towards her husband as if for consolation and support. And
he, weeping now at the sight of her grief, and forgetting where he
was, caught her passionately in his arms, and kissed her with infinite
tenderness. The two children raised their heads anxiously. There was
a moment of deep emotion and compassionate kindliness, in which all

'I was rather surprised at the time because there is no train at that
hour,' resumed Madame Simon of her own accord. 'But when my husband was
in bed he told me how it happened.'

'Yes,' Simon explained, 'I could not do otherwise than attend that
banquet; but when, on reaching the station at Beaumont, I saw the
half-past ten o'clock train steaming away before my eyes, I felt so
annoyed that I would not wait for the train at midnight, but set out
on foot at once. A walk of less than four miles is nothing to speak of.
The night was very beautiful, very warm.... About one o'clock, when the
storm burst, I was still talking softly to my wife, telling her how I
had spent my evening, for she could not get to sleep again. It was that
which kept us late in bed this morning, ignorant of the dreadful blow
that had fallen on us.'

Then, as Rachel began to weep again, he once more kissed her, like a
lover and like a father. 'Come, my darling, calm yourself. We loved
the poor little fellow with all our hearts, and we have no cause for
self-reproach in this abominable catastrophe.'

That was also the opinion of the onlookers. Darras, the mayor,
professed great esteem for the zealous and honest schoolmaster Simon.
Mignot and Mademoiselle Rouzaire, although by no means fond of the
Jews, shared the opinion that this one at all events strove by
irreproachable conduct to obtain forgiveness for his birth. Father
Philibin and Brother Fulgence on their side, in presence of the general
sentiment of the others, affected neutrality, remaining apart and
preserving silence, while with keen eyes they scrutinised people and
things. The magistrates, thrown back on the theory of some stranger who
must have entered and left the boy's room by the window, had to rest
content with this first verification of the facts. Only one point as
yet was clearly established, the hour of the crime, which must have
been perpetrated between half-past ten and eleven o'clock. As for the
crime itself it remained engulfed in darkness.

Leaving the authorities, who had certain details to settle, Marc,
after embracing Simon in brotherly fashion, was desirous of going home
to lunch. The scene between the husband and the wife had taught him
nothing, for he well knew how tenderly they loved each other. But tears
had come to his eyes, he had been deeply stirred by the sight of such
dolorous affection.

Noon was about to strike at St. Martin's Church when he again found
himself on the square, which was now blocked by such an increasing
crowd that it was difficult for him to open a way. As the news of the
crime spread, folk arrived from all directions, pressing towards the
closed window, which the two gendarmes could hardly defend; and the
horribly exaggerated accounts of the affair which circulated through
the crowd raised its indignation to fever heat and made it growl
wrathfully. Marc had just freed himself from the throng when a priest
approached him and inquired:

'Have you come from the school, Monsieur Froment? Are all these
horrible things which people are repeating true?'

The questioner was Abbé Quandieu, priest of St. Martin's, the parish
church. Forty-three years old, tall and robust, the Abbé had a gentle,
kindly face, with light blue eyes, round cheeks, and a soft chin. Marc
had met him at Madame Duparque's, for he was the old lady's confessor
and friend. And though the schoolmaster was not fond of priests he
felt some esteem for this one, knowing that he was tolerant and
reasonable--possessed, too, of more feeling than real mental ability.

In a few words Marc recounted the facts of the case, which were already
sufficiently horrid.

'Ah, poor Monsieur Simon!' said the priest compassionately, 'how deeply
grieved he must be, for he was very much attached to his nephew and
behaved very well in regard to him! I have had proof of it.'

This spontaneous testimony pleased Marc, who remained conversing
with the priest for another minute. But a Capuchin Father drew near,
Father Théodose, the Superior of the little community attached to the
neighbouring chapel. Superbly built, having also a handsome face with
large ardent eyes, and a splendid dark beard, which rendered him quite
majestic, Father Théodose was a confessor of repute, and a preacher of
a mystical turn, whose glowing accents attracted all the devout women
of Maillebois. Though he was covertly waging war against Abbé Quandieu,
he affected in his presence the deferential manner of a younger and
more humbly situated servant of Providence. He immediately gave
expression to his emotion and his grief, for he had noticed the poor
child, he said, at the chapel on the previous evening. So pious a child
he was, a little angel with a cherub's fair curly locks. But Marc did
not tarry to listen, for the Capuchin inspired him with unconquerable
distrust and antipathy. So he turned his steps homeward; but all at
once he was again stopped, this time by a friendly tap on the shoulder.

'What! Férou, are you at Maillebois?' he exclaimed. The man whom he
addressed by the name of Férou was schoolmaster at Le Moreau, a lonely
hamlet, some two and a half miles from Jonville. The little place had
not even a priest of its own, but was looked after, from the religious
standpoint, by the Jonville priest, Abbé Cognasse. Férou there led a
life of black misery with his wife and his children, three girls. He
was a big loosely-built fellow of thirty, whose clothes always seemed
too short for him. His dark hair bristled on his long and bony head,
he had a bumpy nose, a wide mouth, and a projecting chin, and knew not
what to do with his big feet and his big hands.

'You know very well that my wife's aunt keeps a grocery shop here,'
he answered. 'We came over to see her. But, I say, what an abominable
business this is about the poor little hunchback! Won't it just enable
those dirty priests to belabour us and say that we pervert and poison
the young!'

Marc regarded Férou as a very intelligent, well-read man, whom a
confined life full of privations had embittered to the point of
violence and inspired with ideas of revenge. The virulence of the
remark he had just made disturbed Marc, who rejoined: 'Belabour us? I
don't see what we have to do with it.'

'Then you are a simpleton,' Férou retorted. 'You don't understand that
species, but you will soon see the good Fathers and the dear Brothers,
all the black gowns, hard at work. Haven't they already allowed it to
be surmised that Simon himself strangled his nephew?'

At this Marc lost his temper. Férou's hatred of the Church led him too

'You are out of your senses,' said Marc. 'Nobody suspects, nobody for
one moment would dare to suspect, Simon. All acknowledge his integrity
and kindliness. Even Abbé Quandieu told me a moment ago that he had had
proof of his fatherly treatment of the poor victim.'

Férou's lean and lanky figure was shaken by a convulsive laugh, his
hair seemed to bristle yet higher on his equine head. 'Ah! it's too
amusing,' he replied. 'So you fancy they will restrain themselves
when a dirty Jew is in question? Does a dirty Jew deserve to have the
truth told about him? Your friend Quandieu and all the others will say
whatever may be desirable if it is necessary that the dirty Jew should
be found guilty, thanks to the complicity of us others, the scamps who
know neither God nor country, and who corrupt the children of France.
For that is what the priests say of us--you know it well!'

Then as Marc, chilled to the heart, continued to protest, Férou
resumed yet more vehemently: 'But you know what goes on at Le Moreux!
I starve there, I'm treated with contempt, pressed down even lower
than the wretched road-menders. When Abbé Cognasse comes over to say
Mass he'd spit on me if he met me. And if I don't eat bread every day
it's simply because I refused to sing in the choir and ring the church
bell! You know Abbé Cognasse yourself. You have managed to check him
at Jonville, since you contrived to get the mayor over to your side;
but, none the less, you are always at war; he would devour you if you
only gave him the chance. A village schoolmaster indeed! Why, he's
everybody's beast of burden, everybody's lackey, a man without caste,
an arrant failure; and the peasants distrust him, and the priests would
like to burn him alive in order to ensure the undivided reign of the
Church Catechism throughout the country!'

He went on bitterly, enumerating the sufferings of those damned ones,
as he called the elementary teachers. He himself, a shepherd's son,
successful at the village school which he had attended, and afterwards
a student at the Training College, which he had quitted with excellent
certificates, had always suffered from lack of means; for in a spirit
of rectitude after some trouble with a shop girl at Maillebois, when
he was assistant-master there, he had foolishly married her, although
she was as poor as himself. But was Marc any happier at Jonville,
even though his wife received frequent presents from her grandmother?
Was he not always struggling with indebtedness, struggling too with
the priest, in order to retain dignity and independence? True, he was
seconded by Mademoiselle Mazeline, the mistress of the girls' school,
a woman of firm sense, with an inexhaustible heart, who had helped
him to win over the parish council and gradually the whole commune.
But circumstances had been in his favour, and the example was perhaps
unique in the department. On the other hand, the state of affairs
at Maillebois completed the picture. There, on one side, one found
Mademoiselle Rouzaire won over to the cause of the priests and the
monks, learning to take her pupils to church, and fulfilling so well
the office of the nuns that it had been considered unnecessary to
install a nuns' school in the little town. Then, on the other hand,
there was that poor fellow Simon, an honest man certainly, but one who,
from fear of being treated as a dirty Jew, tried circumspection with
everybody, allowing his nephew to be educated by the dear Brothers,
and bowing down to the ground before all the rooks who infested the

'A dirty Jew!' cried Férou with emphasis, by way of conclusion. 'He is,
and always will be, a dirty Jew. And to be both a schoolmaster and a
Jew beats everything.... Ah! well, you'll see, you'll see!'

Then, with impetuous gestures which shook the whole of his big loose
frame he took himself off and mingled with the crowd.

Marc had remained on the kerb of the footway, shrugging his shoulders
and regarding Férou as a semi-lunatic, for the picture which he had
drawn seemed to him full of exaggeration. But of what use was it to
answer that poor fellow whose brain would soon be turned by ill luck?
Yet Marc was haunted by what he had heard, and grew vaguely anxious as
he resumed his walk towards the Place des Capucins.

It was a quarter past twelve when he reached the little house, and
for a quarter of an hour the ladies had been awaiting him in the
dining-room, where the table was already laid. This fresh delay had
quite upset Madame Duparque. She said nothing, but the brusqueness
with which she sat down and nervously unfolded her napkin denoted how
culpable she considered this lack of punctuality.

'I must apologise,' the young man explained, 'but I had to wait for the
magistrates, and there was such a crowd on the square afterwards that I
could not pass.'

At this, although the grandmother was resolved on silence, she could
not restrain an exclamation: 'I hope that you are not going to busy
yourself with that abominable affair!'

'Oh!' Marc merely answered, 'I certainly hope I sha'n't have to do
so--unless it be as a matter of duty.'

When Pélagie had served an omelet and some slices of grilled mutton
with mashed potatoes, the young man related all that he had learnt.
Geneviève listened to his story, quivering with horror and pity, while
Madame Berthereau, who was also greatly moved, battled with her tears
and glanced furtively at Madame Duparque, as if to ascertain how far
she might allow her sensibility to go. But the old lady had relapsed
into silent disapproval of everything which seemed to her contrary
to her rule of life. She ate steadily, and it was only after a time
that she remarked, 'I remember very well that a child disappeared at
Beaumont during my youth. It was found under the porch of St. Maxence.
The body was cut in quarters, and there was only the heart missing. It
was said that the Jews required the heart for the unleavened bread of
their Passover.'

Marc looked at her in amazement. 'You are not serious, grandmother: you
surely don't believe such a stupid and infamous charge?'

She turned her cold, clear eyes on him, and, instead of giving a direct
answer, she said: 'It is simply an old recollection which came back to
me.... Of course I accuse nobody.'

At this Pélagie, who had just brought the dessert, ventured to join in
the conversation with the familiarity of an old servant: 'It is quite
right of madame to accuse nobody, and others ought to follow madame's
example. The neighbourhood has been in a state of revolution since this
morning. You can have no idea of the frightful stories which are being
told. Just now, too, I heard a workman say that the Brothers' school
ought to be burnt down.'

Deep silence followed those words. Marc, struck by them, made a
gesture, then restrained himself, like one who prefers to keep his
thoughts to himself. And Pélagie continued: 'Madame will let me go to
the distribution of prizes this afternoon, I hope? I don't think my
nephew Polydor will have a prize; but it would please me to be present.
Those good Brothers! It won't be a happy festival for them, falling on
the very day when one of their best pupils has been killed!'

Madame Duparque nodded assent to the servant's request, and the
conversation was then turned into another channel. Indeed the end of
the meal was brightened somewhat by the laughter of little Louise, who
gazed in astonishment at the grave faces of her father and her mother,
who usually smiled so brightly. This led to some relaxation of the
tension, and for a moment they all chatted in a cordial, intimate way.

The distribution of prizes at the Brothers' school that afternoon
roused great emotion. Never before had the ceremony attracted such a
throng. True, the circumstance that it was presided over by Father
Philibin, the prefect of the studies at the College of Valmarie, made
it particularly notable. The rector of that College, Father Crabot, who
was famous for his society influence and the powerful part he was said
to play in contemporary politics, also attended, desirous as he was of
giving the Brothers a public mark of his esteem. Further, there was a
reactionary deputy of the department, Count Hector de Sanglebœuf, the
owner of La Désirade, a splendid estate of the environs, which, with a
few millions, had formed the marriage portion of his wife, a daughter
of Baron Nathan, the great Jew banker. However, that which excited
everybody, and which drew to the usually quiet and deserted Place des
Capucins such a feverish crowd, was the monstrous crime discovered in
the morning, the murder of one of the Brothers' pupils under the most
abominable circumstances.

And it seemed as if the murdered boy were present, as if only he were
there, in the shady courtyard where the platform was set up beyond the
serried rows of chairs, while Father Philibin spoke in praise of the
school, of its director, the distinguished Brother Fulgence, and of his
three assistants, Brothers Isidore, Lazarus, and Gorgias. The haunting
sensation became yet more intense when the prize-list was read by the
last-named, a thin, knotty man, showing a low, harsh brow under his
frizzy black hair, a big nose projecting like an eagle's beak between
his prominent cheek-bones, and thin lips which in parting revealed
wolf-like teeth. Zéphirin had been the best scholar of his class, every
prize of which he had won. Thus his name recurred incessantly, and
Brother Gorgias, in his long black cassock, on which the ends of his
neck-band showed like a splotch of white, let that name fall from his
lips in such slow lugubrious fashion that on each occasion a quiver
of growing intensity sped through the assembled throng. Every time
the poor little dead boy was called he seemed to rise up to receive
his crown and his gilt-edged book. But, alas! crowns and books alike
formed an increasing pile on the table; and nothing could be more
poignant than the silence and the void to which so many prizes were
cast, the prizes of that model pupil who had vanished so tragically,
and whose lamentable remains were lying only a few doors away. At
last the emotion of the onlookers became too great to be restrained;
sobs burst forth while Brother Gorgias continued to call that name
with a twitching of the upper-lip, habitual to him, which disclosed
some of the teeth on the left side of his mouth amid an involuntary
grimace-like grin, suggestive of both scorn and cruelty.

The function ended amid general uneasiness. However fine might be the
assembly which had hastened thither to exalt the Brothers, anxiety
increased, disquietude swept over all, as if some menace had come from
afar. But the worst was the departure amid the murmurs and the covert
curses of numerous groups of artisans and peasants gathered on the
square. The abominable stories of which Pélagie had spoken circulated
through that quivering crowd. A horrid story which had been stifled the
previous year, the story of a Brother whom his superiors had conjured
away to save him from the Assize Court, was repeated. All sorts of
rumours had been current since that time, rumours of abominations, of
terrified children who dared not speak out. Naturally there had been
much enlargement of those mysterious rumours as they passed from mouth
to mouth; and the indignation of the folk assembled on the square came
from the revival of them which was prompted by the murder of one of
the Brothers' pupils. Accusations were already taking shape, words
of vengeance spread around. Would the guilty one again be allowed to
escape? Would that vile and bloody den never be closed? Thus, as the
fine folk departed, and particularly when the robes of the monks and
the cassocks of the priests were seen, fists were stretched out, and
menaces of death arose: the whole of one group of onlookers pursuing
with hisses Fathers Crabot and Philibin as they hurried away, pale and
anxious; while Brother Fulgence ordered the school-gates to be strongly

Marc, out of curiosity, had watched the scene from a window of Madame
Duparque's little house, and, becoming keenly interested in it, he had
even gone for a moment to the threshold, in order that he might see and
hear the better. How ridiculous had been Férou's prophecy that the Jew
would be saddled with the crime, that the rancorous black gowns would
make a scapegoat of the secular schoolmaster! Far from things taking
that course, it seemed as though they might turn out very badly for the
good Brothers. The rising wrath of the crowd, those menaces of death,
indicated that matters might go very far indeed, that the popular anger
might spread from the one guilty man to the whole of his congregation,
and shake the very Church itself in the region, if indeed the guilty
man were one of its ministers. Marc questioned himself on that point
but could form no absolute conviction; indeed, even suspicion seemed to
him hazardous and wrong. The demeanour of Father Philibin and Brother
Fulgence had appeared quite natural, full of perfect tranquillity. And
he strove to be very tolerant and just, for fear lest he might yield to
his impulses as a freethinker delivered from belief in dogmas. All was
dark in that terrible tragedy, and he resolved to wait until he should
learn more.

But while he stood there he saw Pélagie returning in her Sunday-best,
accompanied by her nephew, Polydor Souquet, a lad of eleven, who
carried a handsomely bound book under his arm.

'It's the good conduct prize, monsieur!' exclaimed the servant proudly.
'That is even better than a prize for reading or writing, is it not?'

The truth was that Polydor, sly but torpid, astonished even the
Brothers by his prodigious idleness. He was a pale, sturdy boy, with
very light hair and a long dull face. The son of a road-mender addicted
to drink, he had lost his mother at an early age, and lived chancewise
nowadays while his father broke stones on the roads. Hating every kind
of work, terrified particularly by the idea of having to break stones
in his turn, he allowed his aunt to indulge in the dream of seeing him
become a Brother, invariably agreeing with everything she said, and
often visiting her in her kitchen, in the hope thereby of securing some
dainty morsel.

Pélagie, however, in spite of her delight, was affected by the uproar
on the square. She at last looked round, quivering, and cast a glance
of fury and defiance at the crowd. 'You hear them, monsieur!' she
exclaimed. 'You hear those anarchists! The idea of it! Such devoted
Brothers, who are so fond of their pupils, who look after them with
such motherly care! For instance, there's Polydor. He lives with his
father on the road to Jonville, nearly a mile away. Well, last night,
after that ceremony, for fear of a mishap, Brother Gorgias accompanied
him to his very door. Is that not so, Polydor?'

'Yes,' the boy answered laconically in his husky voice.

'Yet folk insult and threaten the Brothers!' the servant resumed. 'How
wicked! You can picture poor Brother Gorgias taking that long walk in
the dark night, in order that nothing might befall this little man! Ah!
it's enough to disgust one of being prudent and kind!'

Marc, who had been scrutinising the boy, was struck by his resolute
taciturnity, by the hypocritical somnolence in which he seemed to find
a pleasant refuge. He listened no further to Pélagie, to whose chatter
he never accorded much attention. But on returning to the little
drawing-room, where he had left his wife reading while Madame Duparque
and Madame Berthereau turned to their everlasting knitting for some
religious charities, he felt anxious, for he perceived that Geneviève
had laid her book aside, and was gazing with much emotion at the tumult
on the square. She came to him, and with an affectionate impulse,
fraught with alarm, looking extremely pretty in her agitation, she
almost threw herself upon his neck.

'What is happening?' she asked. 'Are they going to fight?'

He began to reassure her; and all at once Madame Duparque, raising her
eyes from her work, sternly gave expression to her will: 'Marc, I hope
that you will not mix yourself up in that horrid affair. What madness
it is to suspect and insult the Brothers! God will end by avenging His


Marc was unable to get to sleep that night, for he was haunted by the
events of the day--by that monstrous, mysterious, puzzling crime.
Thus, while Geneviève, his wife, reposed quietly beside him, he dwelt
in thought upon each incident of the affair, classified each detail,
striving to pierce the darkness and establish the truth.

Marc's mind was one that sought logic and light. His clear and firm
judgment demanded in all things a basis of certainty. Thence came
his absolute passion for truth. In his eyes no rest of mind, no real
happiness, was possible without complete, decisive certainty. He
was not very learned, but such things as he knew he wished to know
completely, in order that he might have no doubt of the possession of
the truth, experimental truth, established for ever. All unrest came
to an end when doubt ceased; he then fully recovered his spirits,
and to his passion for the acquirement of truth was added one for
imparting it to others, for driving it into the brains and hearts of
all. His marvellous gifts then became manifest; he brought with him a
methodical power which simplified, classified, illumined everything.
His quiet conviction imposed itself on his hearers, light was shed on
dim notions, things seemed easy and simple. He instilled life into the
driest subjects. He succeeded in imparting a passionate interest even
to grammar and arithmetic, rendering them as interesting as stories to
his pupils. In him one really found the born teacher.

He had discovered that he possessed that teaching gift at the time
when, already possessed of a bachelor's degree, he had come to Beaumont
to finish his apprenticeship as a lithographic draughtsman in the
establishment of Messrs. Papon-Laroche. Entrusted with the execution
of many school diagrams, he had exercised his ingenuity in simplifying
them, creating perfect masterpieces of clearness and precision, which
had revealed to him his true vocation, the happiness that he found in
teaching the young.

It was at Papon-Laroche's establishment also that he had first met
Salvan, now Director of the Training College, who, observing his bent,
had approved of the course he took in yielding to it completely, and
becoming what he was to-day--a humble elementary schoolmaster who,
convinced of the noble usefulness of his duties, was happy to discharge
them even in a small and lonely village. Marc's affection for those
whose narrow and slumbering minds required awakening and expansion had
decided his career. And, in the discharge of his modest functions,
his passion for truth increased, becoming a more and more imperious
craving. It ended indeed by constituting the _ratio_ of his health,
his very life, for it was only by satisfying it that he enjoyed normal
life. When it escaped him, he fell into anguish of spirit, consumed
by his desire to acquire and possess it wholly, in order that he
might communicate it to others, failing which he spent his days in
intolerable suffering, often physical as well as mental.

From this passion assuredly sprang the torment which kept Marc awake
that night by the side of his sleeping wife. He suffered from his
ignorance, his failure to penetrate the truth respecting the murder
of that child. He was not confronted merely by an ignoble crime; he
divined behind it the existence of dark and threatening depths, some
dim but yawning abyss. Would his sufferings continue then as long as
he should not know the truth, which perchance he might never know?
for the shadows seemed to increase at each effort that he made to
dissipate them. Mastered by uncertainty and fear, he ended by longing
for daybreak, in order that he might resume his investigations. But
his wife laughed lightly in her sleep; some happy dream, no doubt,
had come to her; and then the terrible old grandmother seemed to rise
up before the young man's eyes, and repeat that he must on no account
meddle in that horrible affair. At this the certainty of a conflict
with his wife's relations appeared to him, and brought his hesitation
and unhappiness to a climax.

Hitherto he had experienced no serious trouble with that devout family
whence he, who held no religious belief whatever, had taken the young
girl who had become his wife, his life's companion. He did not carry
tolerance so far as to follow his wife to Mass, as Berthereau had done,
but he had allowed his daughter Louise to be baptised, in order that
he might have some peace with the ladies. Besides, as his wife in her
adoration for him had ceased to follow the religious observances of
her Church soon after the marriage, no quarrel had yet arisen between
them. Occasionally he remarked in Geneviève some revival of her long
Catholic training, ideas of the absolute which clashed with his own,
superstitions which sent a chill to his heart. But these were merely
passing incidents; he believed that the love which bound him to his
wife was strong enough to triumph over such divergencies; for did they
not soon find themselves in each other's arms again, even when they had
momentarily felt themselves to be strangers, belonging to different

Geneviève had been one of the best pupils of the Sisters of the
Visitation; she had quitted their establishment with a superior
certificate, in such wise that her first idea had been to become a
teacher herself. But there was no place for her at Jonville, where
the excellent Mademoiselle Mazeline managed the girls' school without
assistance; and, naturally enough, she had been unwilling to quit her
husband. Then household duties had taken possession of her; now, also,
she had to attend to her little girl; and thus all thought of realising
her early desire was postponed, perhaps for ever. But did not this very
circumstance make their life all happiness and perfect agreement, far
from the reach of storms?

If, from concern for their future happiness, the worthy Salvan,
Berthereau's faithful friend, to whom the marriage was due, had for a
moment thought of trying to check the irresistible love by which the
young people were transported, he must have felt reassured on finding
them still tenderly united after three years of matrimony. It was only
now while the wife dreamt happily in her slumber that the husband
for the first time experienced anxiety at the thought of the case of
conscience before him, foreseeing, as he did, that a quarrel might
well arise with his wife's relations, and that all sorts of unpleasant
consequences might ensue in his home, should he yield to his imperative
craving for truth.

At last, however, he dozed off and ended by sleeping soundly. In the
morning, when his eyes opened to the clear bright light, he felt
astonished at having passed through such a nightmare-like vigil. It
had assuredly been caused by the haunting influence of that frightful
crime, to which, as it happened, Geneviève, still full of emotion and
pity, was the first to refer again.

'Poor Simon must be in great distress,' she said. 'You cannot abandon
him. I think that you ought to see him this morning and place yourself
at his disposal.'

Marc embraced her, delighted to find her so kind-hearted and brave.
'But grandmother will get angry again,' he replied, 'and our life here
will become unbearable.'

Geneviève laughed lightly, and gently shrugged her shoulders. 'Oh!
grandmother would quarrel with the very angels,' she retorted. 'When
one does half what she desires, one does quite enough.'

This sally enlivened them both, and, Louise having awoke, they spent a
few delightful moments in playing with her in her little cot.

Then Marc resolved to go out and resume his inquiry directly after
breakfast. While he was dressing, he thought the matter over
quietly and sensibly. He was well acquainted with Maillebois and
the characteristics of its two thousand inhabitants, divided into
petty _bourgeois_, petty shopkeepers, and workmen; the latter, some
eight hundred in number, being distributed through the workshops of
some four or five firms, all of which were prosperous, thanks to the
vicinity of Beaumont. Being nearly equally divided, the two sections
of the population fought strenuously for authority, and the Municipal
Council was a faithful picture of their differences, one half of
it being Clerical and Reactionary, while the other was Republican
and Progressive. As yet only a very few Socialists figured in the
population, lost among all the folk of other views, and they were
quite without influence. Darras, the Mayor and building contractor,
was certainly a declared Republican, and even made a profession of
anti-clericalism. But, owing to the almost equal strength of the two
parties in the council, it was only by a majority of two votes that
he, rich and active, with about a hundred workpeople under his orders,
had been preferred to Philis, a retired tilt and awning maker, with an
income of from ten to twelve thousand francs a year, who led the stern
confined life of a militant Clerical, interested in nothing beyond the
observance of the narrowest piety. Thus Darras was compelled to observe
extreme prudence, for the displacement of a few votes would unseat him.
Ah! if there had been only a substantial Republican majority behind
him, how bravely he would have supported the cause of liberty, truth,
and justice, instead of practising, as he was reduced to do, the most
diplomatic 'opportunism.'

Another thing known to Marc was the increasing power of the Clerical
party, which seemed likely to conquer the whole region. For ten years
the little community of Capuchins established in the old convent, a
part of which it had surrendered to the Brothers of the Christian
Schools, had carried on the worship of St. Antony of Padua with
ever-increasing audacity, and also with such great success that the
profits were enormous.[1] While the Brothers, on their side, derived
advantage from this success, which brought them many pupils and thus
increased the prosperity of the schools, the Capuchins worked their
chapel as one may work a distillery, and sent forth from it every
kind of moral poison. The Saint stood on a golden altar, ever decked
with flowers and ablaze with lights, collection boxes appeared on
all sides, and a commercial office was permanently installed in the
sacristy, where the procession of clients lasted from morn till night.
The Saint did not merely find lost things,--his specialty in the early
days of his _cultus_,--he had extended his business. For a few francs
he undertook to enable the dullest youths to pass their examinations,
to render doubtful business affairs excellent, to exonerate the rich
scions of patriotic families from military service, to say nothing
of performing a multitude of other equally genuine miracles, such as
healing the sick and the maimed, and according a positive protection
against ruin and death, in the last respect going indeed so far as to
resuscitate a young girl who had expired two days previously. Naturally
enough, as each new story circulated, more and more money flowed
in, and the business spread from the _bourgeois_ and shopkeepers of
Reactionary Maillebois to the workmen of Republican Maillebois, whom
the poison ended by infecting.

[Footnote 1: The Protestant reader may be informed that this Saint
(1195-1231) was a Portuguese Franciscan, famous for the eloquence of
his sermons. The practices of which M. Zola speaks are not inventions.
The so-called worship of St. Antony has become widespread in France of
recent years. Such is superstition!--_Trans._]

It is true that, in his Sunday sermons, Abbé Quandieu, priest of St.
Martin's, the parish church, forcibly pointed out the danger of low
superstition; but few people listened to him. Possessed of a more
enlightened faith than that of many priests, he deplored the harm
which the rapacity of the Capuchins was doing to religion. In the first
place they were ruining him; the parish church was losing many sources
of revenue, all the alms and offerings now going to the convent chapel.
But his grief came largely from a higher cause; he experienced the
sorrow of an intelligent priest who was not disposed to bow to Rome in
all things, but who still believed in the possible evolution amid the
great modern democratic movement of an independent and liberal Church
of France. Thus he waged war against those 'dealers of the Temple'
who betrayed the cause of Jesus; and it was said that Monseigneur
Bergerot,[2] the Bishop of Beaumont, shared his views. But this did
not prevent the Capuchins from increasing their triumphs, subjugating
Maillebois and transforming it into a holy spot, by dint of their
spurious miracles.

Marc also knew that, if Monseigneur Bergerot was behind Abbé Quandieu,
the Capuchins and the Brothers possessed the support of Father
Crabot, the all-powerful Rector of the College of Valmarie. If Father
Philibin, the Prefect of the Studies there, had presided at the recent
prize-giving at the Brothers' school, it had been by way of according
to the latter a public mark of esteem and protection. The Jesuits had
the affair in hand, as folk of evil mind were wont to say. And Simon,
the Jew schoolmaster, found himself caught amid those inextricable
quarrels, alone in a region swept by religious passion, at a dangerous
moment, when the victory would be won by the most impudent. Men's
hearts were perturbed; a spark would suffice to fire and devastate all
minds. Nevertheless the Communal school had not lost a pupil as yet;
its attendances and successes equalled those of the Brothers' school;
and this comparative victory was undoubtedly due to the prudent skill
displayed by Simon, who behaved cautiously with everybody, and who
moreover was supported openly by Darras, and covertly by Abbé Quandieu.
But the rivalry of the two schools would undoubtedly lead to the real
battle, the decisive assault which must come sooner or later; for these
two schools could not possibly live side by side, one must end by
devouring the other. And the Church would be unable to subsist should
she lose the privilege of teaching and enslaving the humble.

[Footnote 2: Frequently referred to in M. Zola's _Lourdes_ and _Rome_
as a liberal prelate at variance with the Vatican.--_Trans._]

That morning, during breakfast with the ladies in the dismal little
dining-room, Marc, already oppressed by his reflections, felt his
discomfort increase. Madame Duparque quietly related that if Polydor
had secured a prize the previous day, he owed it to a pious precaution
taken by his aunt Pélagie, who had thoughtfully given a franc to St.
Antony of Padua. On hearing this, Madame Berthereau nodded as if
approvingly, and even Geneviève did not venture to smile, but seemed
interested in the marvellous stories related by her grandmother. The
old lady recounted a number of extraordinary incidents, how lives and
fortunes had been saved, thanks to presents of two and three francs
bestowed on the Saint by the medium of the Capuchins' Agency. And one
realised how--one little sum being added to another--rivers of gold
ended by flowing to their chapel, like so much tribute levied on public
suffering and imbecility.

However, that morning's number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_, printed
during the night, had arrived, and Marc was well pleased when, at the
end of a long article on the crime of Maillebois, he found a paragraph
containing a very favourable mention of Simon. The schoolmaster, who
was esteemed by everybody, had received, it was said, the most touching
assurances of sympathy in the great misfortune which had befallen him.
This note had evidently been penned by some correspondent the previous
evening, after the tumultuous departure from the distribution of prizes
which had indicated in which direction the wind was likely to blow.
Indeed, nobody could have mistaken the public hostility against the
Brothers; and all the vague rumours, all the horrid stories hushed
up in the past, aggravated that hostility, in such wise that one was
threatened with some abominable scandal in which the whole Catholic and
Reactionary party might collapse.

Thus Marc was surprised at the lively and even triumphant demeanour
of Pélagie when she came in to clear the breakfast table. He lingered
there on purpose to draw her out.

'Ah! there's good news, monsieur,' said she; 'I learnt something, and
no mistake, when I went on my errands this morning! I knew very well
that those anarchists who insulted the Brothers yesterday were liars.'

Then she recounted all the tittle-tattle of the shops, all the gossip
she had picked up on the foot-pavements whilst going from door to
door. Amid the oppressive horror, the disturbing mystery that had
weighed upon the town for four and twenty hours, the wildest fancies
had been gradually germinating. It seemed as if some poisonous
vegetation had sprung up during the night. At first there were only
the vaguest suppositions; then explanations, suggested chancewise,
became certainties, and doubtful coincidences were transformed into
irrefutable proofs. And a point to be remarked was that all these
stealthy developments, originating nobody knew how or where, but
spreading hour by hour, and diffusing doubt and uneasiness, turned in
favour of the Brothers and against Simon.

'It is quite certain, you know, monsieur,' said Pélagie, 'that the
schoolmaster cared very little for his nephew. He ill-treated him;
he was seen doing so by people who will say it. Besides, he was
vexed at not having him in his school. He was in no end of a passion
when the lad took his first Communion; he shook his fist at him and
blasphemed.... And, at all events, it is very extraordinary that the
little angel should have been killed only a little while after he had
left the Holy Table, and when God was still within him.'

A pang came to Marc's heart; he listened to the servant with
stupefaction. 'What do you mean?' he at last exclaimed. 'Are people
accusing Simon of having killed his nephew?'

'Well, some don't scruple to think it. That story of going to enjoy
himself at Beaumont, then missing the train at half-past ten, and
coming back on foot seems a strange one. He reached home at twenty
minutes to twelve, he says. But nobody saw him, and he may very well
have returned by train an hour earlier, at the very moment when the
crime was committed. And when it was over he only had to blow out the
candle, and leave the window wide open in order to make people suppose
that the murderer had come from outside. At about a quarter to eleven
Mademoiselle Rouzaire, the schoolmistress, distinctly heard a sound
of footsteps in the school, moans and calls too, and the opening and
shutting of doors----'

'Mademoiselle Rouzaire!' cried Marc. 'Why, she did not say a word of
that in her first evidence. I was present!'

'Excuse me, monsieur, but at the butcher's just now Mademoiselle
Rouzaire was telling it to everybody, and I heard her.'

The young man, quite aghast, allowed the servant to continue:

'Monsieur Mignot, the assistant-master, also says that he was greatly
surprised at the head-master's sound sleep in the morning. And, indeed,
it is extraordinary that one should have to go and awaken a man on
the day when a murder is committed in his house. It seems too that he
wasn't the least bit touched; he merely trembled like a leaf, when he
saw the little body.'

Marc again wished to protest; but Pélagie, in a stubborn, malicious
way, went on: 'Besides, it was surely he, for a copy-slip which came
from his class was found in the child's mouth. Only the master could
have had that slip in his pocket--is that not so? It is said that it
was even signed by him. At the greengrocer's too I heard a lady say
that the police officials had found a number of similar slips in his

This time Marc retorted by stating the facts, speaking of the illegible
initials on the slip, which Simon declared had never been in his hands;
though, as it was of a pattern in common use, one might have found it
in any school. However, when Pélagie declared that overwhelming proofs
had been discovered that very morning during the search made by the
officials in Simon's rooms, the young man began to feel exceedingly
disturbed, and ceased to protest, for he realised that in the frightful
confusion which was spreading through people's minds all arguments
would be futile.

'You see, monsieur,' Pélagie continued, 'one can expect anything when
one has to deal with a Jew. As the milkman said to me just now, those
folk have no real family ties, no real country; they carry on dealings
with the devil, they pillage people, and kill just for the pleasure of
doing evil. And you may say what you like, you won't prevent people
from believing that that Jew needed a child's life for some dirty
business with the devil, and cunningly waited till his nephew had taken
his first Communion in order that he might pollute and murder him while
he was stainless and full of perfume from the presence of the Host.'

It was the charge of ritual murder reappearing, that haunting charge
transmitted through the ages and reviving at each catastrophe,
relentlessly pursuing those hateful Jews who poisoned wells and
butchered little children.

On two occasions Geneviève, who suffered when she saw how Marc was
quivering, had felt desirous of interrupting and joining in his
protests. But she had restrained herself from fear of irritating her
grandmother, who was evidently well pleased with the servant's gossip,
for she nodded approval of it. In fact, Madame Duparque regarded it
as a victory; and, disdaining to lecture her son-in-law, whom she
deemed already vanquished, she contented herself with saying to the
ever-silent Madame Berthereau: 'It is just like that dead child who
was found many years ago in the porch of St. Maxence. A woman in the
service of some Jews narrowly escaped being sentenced in their place,
for only a Jew could have been the murderer. When one frequents such
folk one is always exposed to the wrath of God.'

Marc preferred to make no rejoinder; and almost immediately afterwards
he went out. But his perturbation was extreme, and a doubt came to him.
Could Simon really be guilty? The suspicion attacked him like some evil
fever contracted in a pernicious spot; and he felt a need of reflecting
and recovering his equilibrium before he called upon his colleague.
So he went off along the deserted road to Valmarie, picturing, as he
walked, all the incidents of the previous day, and weighing men and
things. No, no! Simon could not be reasonably suspected. Certainties
presented themselves on all sides. First of all, such a horrible crime
on his part was utterly illogical, impossible. He was assuredly healthy
in body and mind, he had no physiological flaws, his gentle gaiety
denoted the regularity of his life. And he had a wife of resplendent
beauty whom he adored, beside whom he lived in loving ecstasy, grateful
to her for the handsome children who had sprung from their affection
and had become their living love and worship. How was it possible to
imagine that such a man had yielded to a fit of abominable madness
a few moments before rejoining his well-loved spouse and his little
children slumbering in their cots? Again, how simple and truthful on
the previous day had been the accents of that man who was exposed to
the scrutiny of so many enemies, who loved his calling to the point of
heroism, who made the best of his poverty without ever uttering a word
of complaint!

The account he had given of his evening had been very clear, his wife
had confirmed his statements respecting the time of his return, none
of the information that he had furnished seemed open to doubt. And
if some obscure points remained, if that crumpled copy-slip found
with a number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ constituted an enigma as yet
unravelled, reason at least indicated that the culprit must be sought
elsewhere; for Simon's nature and life, the very conditions in which he
lived, showed that he could have had nothing to do with the crime. On
that point Marc experienced a feeling of certainty, based on reason, on
truth itself, which remains unshakable when once it is established by
observation and the deductions that facts supply.

Thus the young man's conviction was formed; there were certain
ascertained facts to which he would bring everything else back, and,
although every error and falsehood might be launched, he would brush
all assertions aside if they did not agree with such truths as were
already known and demonstrated.

Serene once more, relieved of the burden of his doubts, Marc returned
to Maillebois, passing the railway station at the moment when some
passengers were alighting from a train which had just arrived. Among
those who emerged from the station he perceived the Elementary
Education Inspector of the _arrondissement_, handsome Mauraisin,
as he was called, a very dark, foppish little man of thirty-eight,
whose thin lips and whose chin were hidden by a carefully kept
moustache and beard, while glasses screened his eager eyes. Formerly
a professor at the Beaumont Training College, Mauraisin belonged to
that new generation, the _Arrivistes_, who are ever on the lookout
for advancement, and who always place themselves on the stronger
side. He, it was said, had coveted the directorship of the Training
College, which had fallen to Salvan, whom he pursued with covert
hatred, but very prudently, for he was aware of Salvan's great
credit with Le Barazer, the Academy Inspector,[3] on whom he himself
depended. Besides, in presence of the equality of the forces which
were contending for supremacy in his _arrondissement_, Mauraisin, in
spite of his personal preferences for the clericals, the priests, and
monks, whom he regarded as 'devilish clever,' had been skilful enough
to refrain from declaring himself too openly. Thus, when Marc perceived
the Elementary Inspector, it was allowable for him to fancy that Le
Barazer, with whose good nature he was acquainted, had despatched his
subordinate to the assistance of Simon in the terrible catastrophe
which threatened to sweep the schoolmaster of Maillebois and his school

[Footnote 3: In matters of education the French territory is
apportioned among a number of 'Academies,' such as those of Paris,
Caen, Rennes, Bordeaux, Dijon, &c., which are each governed by
Rectors, and which, combined, constitute the University of France,
of which the Minister of Public Instruction for the time being is
the grand-master. The Rectors communicate with him; under them, in
each territorial department within their jurisdiction, they have an
'Inspecteur d'Académie,' who is provided with a general secretary,
and who in turn has under him several subordinate inspectors called
'Inspecteurs de l'Instruction primaire.' There is one of these for each
_arrondissement_ into which the departments are divided.--_Trans._]

The young man therefore hastened his steps, desirous of paying his
respects to the Inspector, but all at once an unexpected incident
restrained him. A cassock had emerged from a neighbouring street, and
he recognised in its wearer Father Crabot, the Rector of the Jesuit
College of Valmarie. A tall, finely-built man, without a white hair
at five and forty, Father Crabot had a broad and regular face, with
a somewhat large nose, amiable eyes, and thick, caressing lips. The
only failing with which he was reproached was a tendency to become a
fashionable cleric as a result of the many aristocratic connections
which he was always eager to form. But those connections simply
increased the sphere of his power, and some people said, with good
reason, that he was the secret master of the department, and that the
victory of the Church, which was assuredly approaching, depended solely
on him.

Marc felt surprised and disquieted on seeing the Jesuit at Maillebois
at that hour. Had he quitted Valmarie very early in the morning then?
What urgent business, what pressing visits had brought him there?
Whence had he come, whither was he going, distributing bows and smiles
as he passed through the streets full of the fever born by rumour and
tittle-tattle? And all at once Marc saw Father Crabot stop at the sight
of Mauraisin and offer the latter his hand with charming cordiality.
Their conversation was not a long one; it consisted, no doubt, of
the usual commonplaces, but they seemed to be on excellent terms, as
if indeed they discreetly understood each other. When the Elementary
Inspector quitted the Jesuit, he drew his little figure erect,
evidently feeling very proud of that handshake, which had inspired him
with an opinion, a resolution, which perhaps he had hitherto hesitated
to form. But Father Crabot, going his way, also caught sight of Marc,
and recognising him, from having seen him at Madame Duparque's, where
he occasionally condescended to call, made a great show of doffing his
hat by way of salutation. The young man, who stood on the kerb of the
footway, was compelled to respond by a similar act of politeness, and
then watched the Jesuit as the latter, filling the streets with the
sweep of his cassock, betook himself through Maillebois, which felt
very honoured, flattered, and subjugated by his presence.

Marc, for his part, slowly resumed his walk towards the school. The
current of his thoughts had changed, he was growing gloomy again, as
if he were returning to some contaminated spot where slow poison had
diffused hostility. The houses did not seem to be the same as on the
previous day; and, in particular, the faces of the people appeared
to have changed. Thus, when he reached Simon's rooms, he was quite
surprised to find his friend quietly sorting some papers in the midst
of his family. Rachel was seated near the window, the two children were
playing in a corner, and if it had not been for the sadness of the
parents one would have thought that nothing unusual had occurred in the

Simon, however, stepped forward and pressed Marc's hands with keen
emotion, like one who felt how friendly and bravely sympathetic was the
visit. The perquisition early that morning was at once spoken of.

'Have the police been here?' Marc inquired.

'Yes, it was quite natural they should come: I expected it. Of course
they found nothing, and went off with empty hands.'

Marc restrained a gesture of astonishment. What had Pélagie told him?
Why had people spread rumours of crushing proofs, of the discovery
among other things of copy-slips identical with the one found in the
room of the crime? Were lies being told then?

'And you see,' Simon continued, 'I am setting my papers in order, for
they mixed them up. What a frightful affair, my friend! We no longer
know if we exist.'

Then he mentioned that the post-mortem examination of Zéphirin's
remains was to take place that very day. Indeed, they were then
expecting the medical officer of the Public Prosecution service. But
doubtless it would only be possible to bury the body on the morrow.

'For my part,' Simon added, 'as you will well understand, I seem to be
living in a nightmare. I ask myself if such a catastrophe is possible.
I have been thinking of nothing else since yesterday morning; I am
always beginning the same story afresh, my return on foot, so late but
in great quietude, my arrival at the house which was fast asleep, and
then that frightful awakening in the morning.'

These remarks gave Marc an opportunity to ask a few questions. 'Did you
meet nobody on the road?' he inquired. 'Did nobody see you arrive here
at the hour you named?'

'Why, no! I met nobody, and I think nobody saw me come in. At that late
hour nobody is about in Maillebois.'

Silence fell. Then Marc resumed: 'But as you did not take the train
back you did not use your return ticket. Have you still got it?'

'My return ticket? No! I was so furious when I saw the half-past ten
o'clock train going off without me, that I threw the ticket away, in
the station yard, directly I decided to return on foot.'

Silence fell again, and Simon gazed fixedly at his friend, saying: 'Why
do you put these questions to me?'

Marc affectionately grasped his hands once more, and retained them for
a moment in his own, whilst resolving to warn him of impending danger,
indeed to tell him everything. 'I regret,' he said, 'that nobody saw
you, and I regret still more that you did not keep your return ticket.
There are so many fools and malicious folks about! It is being reported
that this morning the police found overwhelming proofs here, copies of
the writing-slip, initialled in the same way as the one which formed
part of the gag. Mignot, it seems, is astonished that he should have
found you so sound asleep yesterday morning; and Mademoiselle Rouzaire
now remembers that about a quarter to eleven o'clock on the night of
the crime, she heard voices and footsteps, as if somebody were entering
the house.'

Very pale but very calm, Simon smiled and shrugged his shoulders:
'Ah! that's it, is it? They are suspecting me. Well, I now understand
the expressions I have seen on the faces of the folk who have been
passing the school since early this morning! Mignot, who is a good
fellow at heart, will of course say as everybody else says, for fear of
compromising himself with a Jew like me. As for Mademoiselle Rouzaire,
she will sacrifice me ten times over, if her confessor has suggested it
to her, and if she finds a chance of advancement or merely additional
consideration in such a fine deed. Ah! they are suspecting me, are
they? and the whole pack of clerical hounds has been let loose!'

He almost laughed as he spoke. But Rachel, whose customary indolence
seemed to have been increased by her deep grief, had now suddenly
risen, her beautiful countenance all aglow with dolorous revolt.

'You, you! They suspect you of such ignominy!' she exclaimed; 'you who
were so kind and gentle when you came home, and clasped me in your
arms, and spoke such loving words to me! They must be mad! Is it not
sufficient that I should speak the truth, tell of your return, and of
the night we spent together?'

Then she flung herself upon his neck, weeping and relapsing into the
weakness of an adored and caressed woman. Pressing her to his heart her
husband strove to reassure and calm her.

'Don't be distressed, my darling! Those stories are idiotic, they stand
on nothing. I am quite at ease; the authorities may turn everything
here upside down; they may search all my past life, they will find no
guilt in it. I have only to speak the truth, and, do you know, nothing
can stand against the truth; it is the great, the eternal victor.'

Then, turning to his friend, he added: 'Is it not so, my good Marc? is
one not invincible when one has truth on one's side?'

If Marc had not been convinced already of Simon's innocence his last
doubts would have fled amid the emotion of that scene. Yielding to an
impulse of his heart he embraced both husband and wife, as if giving
himself to them entirely, in order to help them in the grave crisis
which he foresaw. Desirous as he was of taking immediate action, he
again spoke of the copy-slip, for he felt that it was the one important
piece of evidence on which the elucidation of the whole affair must
be reared. But how puzzling was that crumpled, bitten slip of paper,
soiled by saliva, with its initialling or its blot half effaced, and
with one of its corners carried away, no doubt, by the victim's teeth!
The very words 'Love one another,' lithographed in a fine English
round-hand, seemed fraught with a terrible irony. Whence had that
slip come? Who had brought it to that room--the boy or his murderer?
And how could one ascertain the truth when the Mesdames Milhomme, the
neighbouring stationers, sold such slips almost daily?

Simon, for his part, could only repeat that he had never had that
particular one in his school. 'All my boys would say so. That copy
never entered the school, never passed under their eyes.'

Marc regarded this as valuable information. 'Then they could testify
to that effect!' he exclaimed. 'As it is being falsely rumoured that
the police found similar copies in your rooms, one must re-establish
the truth immediately,--call on your pupils at their homes, and demand
their evidence before anybody tries to tamper with their memory. Give
me the names of a few of them; I will take the matter in hand, and
carry it through this afternoon.'

Simon, strong in the consciousness of his innocence, at first refused
to do so. But eventually, among his pupils' parents, he named Bongard,
a farmer on the road to La Désirade, Masson Doloir, a workman living
in the Rue Plaisir, and Savin, a clerk in the Rue Fauche. Those three
would suffice unless Marc should also like to call on the Mesdames
Milhomme. Thus everything was settled, and Marc went off to lunch,
promising that he would return in the evening to acquaint Simon with
the result of his inquiries.

Once outside on the square, however, he again caught sight of handsome
Mauraisin. This time the Elementary Inspector was deep in conference
with Mademoiselle Rouzaire. He was usually most punctilious and
prudent with the schoolmistresses, in consequence of his narrow escape
from trouble, a few years previously, in connection with a young
assistant-teacher who had shrieked like a little booby when he had
simply wished to kiss her. Malicious people said that Mademoiselle
Rouzaire did not shriek, although she was so ugly, and that this
explained both the favourable reports she secured and her prospects of
rapid advancement.

Standing at the gate of her little garden, she was now speaking to
Mauraisin with great volubility, making sweeping gestures in the
direction of the boys' school; while the Inspector, wagging his head,
listened to her attentively. At last they entered the garden together,
gently closing the gate behind them. It was evident to Marc that the
woman was telling Mauraisin about the crime and the sounds of footsteps
and voices which she now declared she had heard. At the thought of this
the quiver of the early morning returned to Marc; he again experienced
discomfort--a discomfort arising from his hostile surroundings, from
the dark, stealthy plot which was brewing, gathering like a storm,
rendering the atmosphere more and more oppressive. Singular indeed
was the fashion in which that Elementary Inspector went to the help
of a threatened master: he began by taking the opinions of all the
surrounding folk whom jealousy or hatred inspired!

At two o'clock in the afternoon Marc found himself on the road to
La Désirade, just outside Maillebois. Bongard, whose name had been
given him by Simon, there owned a little farm of a few fields, which
he cultivated himself with difficulty, securing, as he put it, no
more than was needed to provide daily bread. Marc luckily met him
just as he had returned home with a cartload of hay. He was a strong,
square-shouldered, and stoutish man, with round eyes and placid silent
face, beardless but seldom fresh shaven. On her side La Bongard, a
long bony _blonde_, who was also present, preparing some mash for her
cow, showed an extremely plain countenance, outrageously freckled,
with a patch of colour on each cheek-bone, and an expression of close
reserve. Both looked suspiciously at the strange gentleman whom they
saw entering their yard.

'I am the Jonville schoolmaster,' said Marc. 'You have a little boy who
attends the Communal school at Maillebois, have you not?'

At that moment Fernand, the boy in question, who had been playing on
the road, ran up. He was a sturdy lad of nine years, fashioned, one
might have thought, with a billhook, and showing a low brow and a dull,
heavy countenance. He was followed by his sister Angèle, a lass of
seven, with a similarly massive but more knowing face, for in her quick
eyes one espied some dawning intelligence which was striving to escape
from its fleshy prison. She had heard Marc's question, and she cried in
a shrill voice: 'I go to Mademoiselle Rouzaire's, I do; Fernand goes to
Monsieur Simon's.'

Bongard had sent his children to the Communal schools, first because
the teaching cost him nothing, and secondly because, as a matter of
mere instinct,--for he had never reasoned the question,--he was not on
the side of the priests. He practised no religion, and if La Bongard
went to church it was simply from habit and by way of diversion. All
that the husband, who was scarce able to read or write, appreciated in
his wife, who was still more ignorant than himself, was her powers of
endurance, which, similar to those of a beast of burden, enabled her to
toil from morn till night without complaining. And the farmer showed
little or no anxiety whether his children made progress at school.
As a matter of fact little Fernand was industrious and took no end of
pains, but could get nothing into his head; whereas little Angèle,
who proved yet more painstaking and stubborn, at last seemed likely
to become a passable pupil. She was like so much human matter in the
rough, lately fashioned of clay, and awaking to intelligence by a slow
and dolorous effort.

'I am Monsieur Simon's friend,' Marc resumed, 'and I have come on his
behalf about what has happened. You have heard of the crime, have you

Most certainly they had heard of it. Their anxious faces suddenly
became impenetrable, in such wise that one could read on them neither
feeling nor thought. Why had that stranger come to question them in
this fashion? Their ideas about things concerned nobody. Besides, it
was necessary to be prudent in matters in which a word too much often
suffices to bring about a man's sentence.

'And so,' Marc continued, 'I should like to know if your little boy
ever saw in his class a copy-slip like this.'

Marc himself on a slip of paper had written the words '_Aimez vous
les uns les autres_' in a fine round-hand of the proper size. Having
explained matters, he showed the paper to Fernand, who looked at it
in a dazed fashion, for his mind worked slowly and he did not yet
understand what was asked him.

'Look well at it, my little friend,' said Marc; 'did you ever see such
a copy at the school?'

But before the lad had made up his mind, Bongard, in his circumspect
manner, intervened: 'The child doesn't know, how can he know?'

And La Bongard, like her husband's shadow, added: 'Why of course a
child, it can never know.'

Without listening to them, however, Marc insisted, and placed the copy
in the hands of Fernand, who, fearing that he might be punished, made
an effort, and at last responded: 'No, monsieur, I never saw it.'

As he spoke he raised his head, and his eyes met his father's, which
were fixed on him so sternly that he hastened to add, stammering as he
did so: 'Unless all the same I did see it; I don't know.'

That was all that could be got out of him. When Marc pressed him, his
answers became incoherent, while his parents themselves said yes or no
chancewise, according to what they deemed to be their interest. It was
Bongard's prudent habit to jog his head in approval of every opinion
expressed by those who spoke to him, for fear of compromising himself.
Yes, yes, it was a frightful crime, and if the culprit should be caught
it would be quite right to cut off his head. Each man to his trade,
the gendarmes knew theirs, there were rascals everywhere. As for the
priests, there was some good in them, but all the same one had a right
to follow one's own ideas. And at last, as Marc could learn nothing
positive, he had to take himself off, watched inquisitively by the
children, and pursued by the shrill voice of little Angèle, who began
chattering with her brother as soon as the gentleman could no longer
detect what she said.

The young man gave way to some sad reflections as he returned to
Maillebois. He had just come in contact with the thick layer of human
ignorance, the huge blind, deaf multitude still enwrapped in the
slumber of the earth. Behind the Bongards the whole mass of country
folk remained stubbornly, dimly vegetating, ever slow to awaken to a
true perception of things. There was a whole nation to be educated
if one desired that it should be born to truth and justice. But how
colossal would be the labour! How could it be raised from the clay in
which it lingered, how many generations perhaps would be needed to free
the race from darkness! Even at the present time the vast majority of
the social body remained in infancy, in primitive imbecility. In the
case of Bongard one descended to mere brute matter, which was incapable
of being just because it knew nothing and would learn nothing.

Marc turned to the left, and after crossing the High Street found
himself in the poor quarter of Maillebois. Various industrial
establishments there polluted the waters of the Verpille, and the
sordid houses of the narrow streets were the homes of many workpeople.
Doloir the mason tenanted four fairly large rooms on a first floor over
a wineshop in the Rue Plaisir. Marc, imperfectly informed respecting
the address, was seeking it when he came upon a party of masons who had
just quitted their work to drink a glass together at the bar of the
wineshop. They were discussing the crime in violent language.

'A Jew's capable of anything,' one big fair fellow exclaimed. 'There
was one in my regiment who was a thief, but that did not prevent him
from being a corporal, for a Jew always gets out of difficulties.'

Another mason, short and dark, shrugged his shoulders. 'I quite agree,'
said he, 'that the Jews are not worth much, but all the same the
priests are no better.'

'Oh! as for the priests,' the other retorted, 'some are good, some
are bad. At all events the priests are Frenchmen, whereas those dirty
beasts, the Jews, have sold France to the foreigners twice already.'
Then, as his comrade, somewhat shaken in his views, asked him if he had
read that in _Le Petit Beaumontais_, 'No, I didn't,' he added; 'those
newspapers give me too much of a headache. But some of my mates told
me, and, besides, everybody knows it well.'

The others, thereupon feeling convinced, became silent, and slowly
drained their glasses. They were just quitting the wineshop when Marc,
approaching, asked the tall fair one if he knew where Doloir the mason
lived. The workman laughed. 'Doloir, monsieur? that's me,' he said; 'I
live here; those are my three windows.'

The adventure quite enlivened this tall sturdy fellow of somewhat
military bearing. As he laughed his big moustaches rose, disclosing his
teeth, which looked very white in his highly coloured face, with large,
good-natured blue eyes.

'You could not have asked anybody more likely to know, could you,
monsieur?' he continued. 'What do you wish of me?'

Marc looked at him with a feeling of some sympathy in spite of the
hateful words he had heard. Doloir, who had been for several years in
the employment of Darras, the Mayor and building contractor, was a
fairly good workman--one who occasionally drank a drop too much, but
who took his pay home to his wife regularly. He certainly growled about
the employers, referred to them as a dirty gang, and called himself a
socialist, though he had only a vague idea what socialism might be.
At the same time he had some esteem for Darras, who, while making a
great deal of money, tried to remain a comrade with his men. But above
everything else three years of barrack-life had left an ineffaceable
mark on Doloir. He had quitted the army in a transport of delight at
his deliverance, freely cursing the disgusting and hateful calling in
which one ceased to be a man. But ever since that time he had been
continually living his three years' service afresh; not a day passed
but some recollection of it came to him. With his hand spoilt as it
were by the rifle he had carried, he had found his trowel heavy, and
had returned to work in a spiritless fashion, like one who was no
longer accustomed to toil, but whose will was broken and whose body had
become used to long spells of idleness, such as those which intervened
between the hours of military exercise. To become once more the
excellent workman that he had been previously was impossible. Besides,
he was haunted by military matters, to which he was always referring
apropos of any subject that presented itself. But he chattered in a
confused way, he had no information, he read nothing, he knew nothing,
being simply firm and stubborn on the patriotic question, which, to his
mind, consisted in preventing the Jews from handing France over to the

'You have two children at the Communal school,' Marc said to him, 'and
I have come from the master, my friend Simon, for some information. But
I see that you are hardly a friend of the Jews.'

Doloir still laughed. 'It's true,' said he, 'that Monsieur Simon is a
Jew; but hitherto I always thought him a worthy man. What information
do you want, monsieur?'

When he learnt that the question was merely one of showing his children
a writing copy in order to ascertain whether they had ever used it in
their class, he responded: 'Nothing can be easier, monsieur, if it will
do you a service. Come upstairs with me, the children must be at home.'

The door was opened by Madame Doloir, a dark, short but robust woman,
having a serious, energetic face with a low brow, frank eyes, and a
square-shaped chin. Although she was barely nine and twenty she was
already the mother of three children, and it was evident that she was
expecting a fourth. But this did not prevent her from being always the
first to rise and the last to go to bed in the home, for she was very
industrious, very thrifty, always busy, scrubbing and cleaning. She had
quitted her employment as a seamstress about the time of the birth of
her third child, and nowadays she only attended to her home, but she
did so like a woman who fully earned her bread.

'This gentleman is a friend of the schoolmaster, and wishes to speak to
the children,' her husband explained to her.

Marc entered a very clean dining or living room. The little kitchen was
on the left, with its door wide open. In front were the bedrooms of the
parents and the children.

'Auguste! Charles!' the father called.

Auguste and Charles, one eight, the other six years old, hastened
forward, followed by their little sister Lucille, who was four. They
were handsome, well-fed children in whom one found the characteristics
of the father and the mother combined; the younger boy appearing more
intelligent than the elder one, and the little girl, a _blondine_ with
a soft laugh, already looking quite pretty.

When, Marc, however, showed the copy to the boys and questioned them,
Madame Doloir, who hitherto had not spoken a word, hastily intervened:
'Excuse me, monsieur, but I do not wish my children to answer you.'

She said this very politely, without the slightest sign of temper, like
a good mother, indeed, who was merely fulfilling her duty.

'But why?' Marc asked in his amazement.

'Why, because there is no need for us, monsieur, to meddle in an affair
which seems likely to turn out very badly. I have had it dinned into my
ears ever since yesterday morning; and I won't have anything to do with
it, that's all.'

Then, as Marc insisted and began to defend Simon, she retorted: 'I say
nothing against Monsieur Simon, the children have never had to complain
of him. If he is accused, let him defend himself: that is his business.
For my part I have always tried to prevent my husband from meddling in
politics, and if he listens to me he will hold his tongue, and take up
his trowel without paying any attention either to the Jews or to the
priests. All this, at bottom, is politics again.'

She never went to church, although she had caused her children to
be baptised and had decided to let them take their first Communion.
Those, however, were things one had to do. For the rest, she simply and
instinctively held conservative views, accepting things as they were,
accommodating herself to her narrow life, for she was terrified by the
thought of catastrophes which might diminish their daily bread. With an
expression of stubborn resolve she repeated: 'I do not wish any of us
to be compromised.'

Those words were decisive: Doloir himself bowed to them. Although he
usually allowed his wife to lead him, he did not like her to exercise
her power before others. But this time he submitted.

'I did not reflect, monsieur,' he said. 'My wife is right. It is best
for poor devils like us to keep quiet. One of the men in my regiment
knew all sorts of things about the Captain. Ah! they did not stand on
ceremony with him. You should have seen what a number of times he was
sent to the cells!'

Marc, like the husband, had to accept the position; and so, renouncing
all further inquiry there, he merely said: 'It is possible that the
judicial authorities may ask your boys what I desired to ask them. In
that case they will have to answer.'

'Very good,' Madame Doloir answered quietly, 'if the judicial
authorities question them we shall see what they ought to do. They will
answer or not, it will all depend; my children are mine, and it is my

Marc withdrew, escorted by Doloir, who was in a hurry to return to his
work. When they reached the street, the mason almost apologised. His
wife was not always easy to deal with, he remarked; but when she said
the right thing, it was right and no mistake.

Such was Marc's discouragement that he now wondered whether it would
be worth his while to carry the inquiry further by visiting Savin the
clerk. In the Doloirs' home he had not found the same dense ignorance
as at the Bongards'. The former were a step higher in the social scale,
and if both husband and wife were still virtually illiterate, they at
least came in contact with other classes, and knew a little of life.
But how vague was still the dawn which they typified, how dim was the
groping through idiotic egotism, in what disastrous errors did lack
of solidarity maintain the poor folk of that class! If they were not
happier it was because they were ignorant of every right condition
of civic life, of the necessity that others should be happy in order
that one might be happy oneself. Marc thought of that human house, the
doors and windows of which people have striven to keep closed for ages,
whereas they ought to be opened widely in order to allow air and warmth
and light to enter in torrents freely.

While he was thus reflecting, he turned the corner of the Rue Plaisir,
and reached the Rue Fauche, where the Savins dwelt. He thereupon felt
ashamed of his discouragement, so he climbed the stairs to their flat,
and speedily found himself in the presence of Madame Savin, who had
hastened to answer his ring.

'My husband, monsieur? Yes, as it happens, he is at home, for he was
rather feverish this morning and could not go to his office. Please
follow me.'

She was charming was Madame Savin, dark, refined and gay, with a
pretty laugh, and so young-looking also, though her twenty-eighth
year was already past, that she seemed to be the elder sister of her
four children. The firstborn was a girl, Hortense; followed by twin
boys, Achille and Philippe, and then by another boy, Jules, whom the
young mother was still nursing. It was said that her husband was
terribly jealous, that he suspected her, and watched her, ever full
of ill-natured disquietude, although she gave him no cause for it. A
bead-worker by trade, and an orphan, she had been sought by him in
marriage for her beauty's sake, after her aunt's death, when she was
quite alone in the world; and on this account she retained a feeling of
gratitude towards him, and conducted herself very uprightly like a good
wife and a good mother.

Just as she was about to usher Marc into the adjoining room, some
embarrassment came over her. Perhaps she feared the bad temper of
her husband, who was ever ready to pick a quarrel, and to whom she
preferred to yield for the sake of domestic peace.

'What name am I to give, monsieur?' she asked.

Marc told her his name and the object of his visit, whereupon with
graceful suppleness she glided away, leaving the young man in the
little ante-chamber, which he began to scrutinise. The flat was
composed of five rooms, occupying the whole of that floor of the
house. Savin, a petty _employé_ of the Revenue service, clerk to the
local tax-collector, had to keep up his rank, which in his opinion
necessitated a certain amount of outward show. Thus his wife wore
bonnets, and he himself never went out otherwise than in a frock
coat. But how painful were the straits of the life which he led
behind that façade so mendaciously suggestive of class superiority
and easy circumstances! The bitterness of his feelings came from his
consciousness that he was bound fast to his humble duties, that he
had no prospect whatever of advancement, but was condemned for life
to never-changing toil and a contemptible salary, which only just
saved him from starvation. Poor in health and soured, humble and
irritable at one and the same time, feeling as much terror as rage
in his everlasting anxiety lest he might displease his superiors, he
showed himself obsequious and cowardly at his office, whilst at home he
terrorised his wife with his fits of passion, which suggested those of
a sickly child. She smiled at them in her pretty, gentle way, and after
attending to the children and the household she found a means to work
bead-flowers for a firm at Beaumont, very delicate and well-paid work,
which provided the family with little luxuries. But her husband, vexed
at heart, such was his middle-class pride, would not have it said that
his wife was forced to work, and so it was necessary for her to shut
herself up with her beads, and deliver her work by stealth.

For a moment Marc heard a sharp voice speaking angrily. Then, after
a gentle murmur, silence fell, and Madame Savin reappeared: 'Please
follow me, monsieur.'

Savin scarcely rose from the arm-chair in which he was nursing his
attack of fever. A village schoolmaster was of no consequence. Short,
lean, and puny, quite bald already, although he was only thirty-one
years old, the clerk had a poor, cadaverous countenance, with slight,
tired features, light eyes, and a very scanty beard of a dirty
yellowish tinge. He finished wearing out his old frock coats at home,
and that day the coloured scarf he had fastened about his neck helped
to make him look like a little old man, burdened with complaints and
quite neglectful of his person.

'My wife tells me, monsieur,' he said, 'that you have called about that
abominable affair, in which Simon the schoolmaster, according to some
accounts, is likely to be compromised; and my first impulse, I confess
it, was to refuse to see you.'

Then he stopped short, for he had just noticed on the table some
bead-work flowers which his wife had been making as she sat beside him,
while he perused _Le Petit Beaumontais_. He gave her a terrible glance
which she understood, for she hastened to cover her work with the

'But don't regard me as a Reactionary, monsieur,' Savin resumed. 'I am
a Republican--in fact a very advanced Republican; I do not hide it, my
superiors are well aware of it. When one serves the Republic it is only
honest to be a Republican, is it not? Briefly, I am on the side of the
Government for and in all things.'

Compelled to listen politely, Marc contented himself with nodding his

'My views on the religious question are very simple,' Savin
continued. 'The priests ought to remain in their own sphere. I am an
anti-clerical as I am a Republican. But I hasten to add that in my
opinion a religion is necessary for women and children, and that as
long as the Catholic religion is that of the country, why, we may as
well have that one as another! Thus, with respect to my wife, I have
made her understand that it is fitting and necessary for a woman of her
age and position to follow the observances of religion in order that
she may have a rule and a _morale_ in the eyes of the world. She goes
to the Capuchins!'

Madame Savin became embarrassed, her face turned pink, and she cast
down her eyes. That question of religious practices had long been
a great source of unpleasantness in her home. She, with all her
charming delicacy, her gentle, upright, heart, had always regarded
those practices with repugnance. As for her husband, he, wild with
jealousy, ever picking quarrels with her respecting what he called her
unfaithfulness of thought, looked upon Confession and Communion solely
as police measures, moral curbs, excellently suited to restrain women
from descending the slope which leads to betrayal. And his wife had
been obliged to yield to him in the matter, and accept the confessor
whom he selected, the bearded Father Théodose, though with her woman's
instinct she divined the latter to be a man of a horrid nature. But if
she was wounded at heart and blushed with offended delicacy, she none
the less shrugged her shoulders and continued to obey her husband for
the sake of domestic quietude.

'As for my children, monsieur,' Savin was now saying, 'my resources
have not enabled me to send Achille and Philippe, my twin sons, to
college; so, naturally enough, I have sent them to the secular school
in accordance with my duty as a functionary and a Republican. In the
same way my daughter Hortense goes to Mademoiselle Rouzaire's; but,
at bottom, I am well pleased to find that that lady has religious
sentiments, and conducts her pupils to church--for, after all, such
is her duty, and I should complain if she did not do so. Boys always
pull through. And yet if I did not owe an account of my actions to my
superiors, would it not have been more advantageous for my sons if I
had sent them to a Church school? Later in life they would have been
helped on, placed in good situations, supported, whereas now they will
simply vegetate, as I myself have vegetated.'

His bitter rancour was overflowing; and, seized with a secret dread,
he added in a lower tone: 'The priests, you see, are the stronger, and
in spite of everything one ought always to be with them.'

A feeling of compassion came over Marc; that poor, puny, trembling
being, driven desperate by mediocrity of circumstances and foolishness
of nature, seemed to him in sore need of pity. Foreseeing the
conclusion of all his speeches the young man had already risen. 'And
so, monsieur,' he said, 'the information which I desired to obtain from
your children----'

'The children are not here,' Savin answered; 'a lady, a neighbour,
has taken them for a walk. But, even if they were here, ought I to
allow them to answer you? Judge for yourself. A functionary can in no
case take sides. And I already have quite enough worries at my office
without incurring any responsibility in this vile affair.'

Then, as Marc hastily bowed, he added: 'Although the Jews prey on
our land of France I have nothing to say against that Monsieur
Simon, unless it be that a Jew ought never to be allowed to be a
schoolmaster. I hope that _Le Petit Beaumontais_ will start a campaign
on that subject.... Liberty and justice for all--such ought to be the
watchwords of a good Republican. But the country must be put first, the
country alone must be considered, when it is in danger! Is that not so?'

Madame Savin, who since Marc's entry into the room had not spoken a
word, escorted the young man to the door of the flat, where, while
still retaining an air of embarrassment amid her submissiveness--that
of a slave-wife superior to her harsh master--she contented herself
with smiling divinely. Then at the bottom of the stairs Marc
encountered the children whom the neighbour was bringing home.
Hortense, the girl, now nine years old, was already a pretty and
coquettish little person, with artful eyes which gleamed with
maliciousness when she did not veil them with the expression of
hypocritical piety which she had learnt to acquire at Mademoiselle
Rouzaire's. But Marc was more interested in the twin boys, Achille
and Philippe, two thin pale lads, sickly like their father, and very
unruly and sly for their seven years. They pushed their sister against
the banister, and almost made her fall; and when they had climbed the
stairs, and the door of the flat opened, an infant's wail was heard,
that of little Jules, who had awoke and was already in the arms of his
mother, eager for her breast.

As Marc walked down the street, he caught himself talking aloud. So
they were all agreed, from the ignorant peasant to the timid and
idiotic clerk, passing by way of the brutified workman, the spoilt
fruit of barrack-life and the salary system. In ascending the social
scale one merely found error aggravated by narrow egotism and base
cowardice. Men's minds remained steeped in darkness; the semi-education
which was nowadays acquired without method, and which reposed on
no serious scientific foundation, led simply to a poisoning of the
brain, to a state of disquieting corruption. There must be education
certainly, but complete education, whence hypocrisy and falsehood
would be banished--education which would free the mind by acquainting
it with truth in its entirety. Marc trembled at the thought of the
abyss of ignorance, error, and hatred which opened before him. What an
awful bankruptcy there would be if those folk were needed some day for
some work of truth and justice! And those folk typified France; they
were the multitude, the heavy, inert mass, many of them worthy people
no doubt, but none the less a mass of lead, which weighed the nation
down to the ground, incapable as they were of leading a better life,
of becoming free, just, and truly happy, because they were steeped in
ignorance and poison.

As Marc went slowly towards the school to acquaint his friend Simon
with the sad result of his visits, he suddenly remembered that he had
not yet called on the Mesdames Milhomme, the stationers of the Rue
Courte; and although he anticipated no better result with them than
with the others he resolved to fulfil his commission to the very end.

The Milhommes, the ladies' husbands, had been two brothers, born at
Maillebois. Edouard, the elder, had inherited a little stationery
business from an uncle, and, being of a stay-at-home and unaspiring
disposition, had made a shift to live on it with his wife; while
his younger, more active, and ambitious brother Alexandre laid the
foundations of a fortune while hurrying about the country as a
commercial traveller. But death swooped down on both: the elder brother
was the first to die, as the result of a tragic accident, a fall into
a cellar; the second succumbing six months later to an attack of
pulmonary congestion while he was at the other end of France. Their
widows remained--one with her humble shop, the other with a capital of
some twenty thousand francs, the first savings on which her husband
had hoped to rear a fortune. It was to Madame Edouard, a woman of
decision and diplomatic skill, that the idea occurred of inducing her
sister-in-law, Madame Alexandre, to enter into a partnership, and
invest her twenty thousand francs in the little business at Maillebois,
which might be increased by selling books, stationery, and other
articles for the schools. Each of the two widows had a son, and from
that time forward the Mesdames Milhomme, as they were called, Madame
Edouard with her little Victor, and Madame Alexandre with her little
Sébastien, had kept house together, living in the close intimacy
which their interests required, although their natures were radically

Madame Edouard followed the observances of the Church, but this did not
mean that her faith was firm. She simply placed the requirements of her
business before everything else. Her customers were chiefly pious folk
whom she did not wish to displease. Madame Alexandre, on the contrary,
had given up church-going at the time of her marriage, for her husband
had been a gay companion and freethinker, and she refused to take up
religion again. It was Madame Edouard, the clever diplomatist, who
ingeniously indicated that these divergencies might become a source
of profit. Their business was spreading; their shop, situated midway
between the Brothers' school and the Communal school, supplied articles
suitable for both--lesson books, copybooks, diagrams, and drawing
copies, without speaking of pens, pencils, and similar things. Thus
it was decided that each of the two women should retain her views and
ways, the one with the priests, the other with the freethinkers, in
such wise as to satisfy both sides. And in order that nobody might
remain ignorant of the understanding, Sébastien was sent to the secular
Communal school, where Simon the Jew was master, while Victor remained
at the Brothers' school. Matters being thus settled, engineered with
superior skill, the partnership prospered, and Mesdames Milhomme now
owned one of the most thriving shops in Maillebois.

Marc, on reaching the Rue Courte, in which there were only two houses,
the Milhommes' and the parsonage, slackened his steps, and for a
moment examined the windows of the stationery shop, in which religious
prints were mingled with school pictures glorifying the Republic,
whilst illustrated newspapers, hanging from strings, almost barred
the doorway. He was about to enter when Madame Alexandre--a tall
and gentle-looking blonde, whose face, faded already, though she was
only thirty, was still lighted by a faint smile--appeared upon the
threshold. Close beside her was her little Sébastien, of whom she was
very fond: a child of seven, fair and gentle like his mother, very
handsome also, with blue eyes, a delicately shaped nose, and a mouth
bespeaking amiability.

Madame Alexandre was acquainted with Marc, and she at once referred to
the abominable crime which seemed to haunt her. 'How dreadful, Monsieur
Froment!' said she. 'To think also that it occurred so near to us! I
frequently saw poor little Zéphirin go by, either on his way to school
or returning home. And he often came here to buy copybooks and pens. I
can no longer sleep since I saw him dead!'

Then she spoke compassionately of Simon and his grief. She considered
him to be very kind-hearted and upright, particularly as he took
a great interest in her little Sébastien, who was one of his most
intelligent and docile pupils. Whatever other people might say, she
would never be able to think the master capable of such a frightful
deed as that crime. As for the copy-slip of which people talked so
much, nothing would have been proved even if similar ones had been
found in the school.

'We sell such slips, you know, Monsieur Froment,' she continued, 'and I
have already searched through those which we have in stock. It is true
that none bear those particular words, "Love one another"----'

At this moment Sébastien, who had been listening attentively, raised
his head. 'I saw one like that,' said he. 'My cousin Victor brought one
home from the Brothers' school--there were those words on it!'

His mother appeared stupefied: 'What are you saying?' she exclaimed.
'You never mentioned that to me!'

'But you did not ask. Besides, Victor forbade me to tell, because it's
forbidden to take the copy-slips from school.'

'Then where is that one?'

'Ah! I don't know. Victor hid it somewhere, so that he might not be

Marc was following the scene, astonished, delighted, his heart beating
fast with hope. Was the truth about to come forth from the mouth of
that child? Perchance this would prove the feeble ray which spreads
little by little until it finally expands into a great blaze of light.
And the young man was already putting precise and decisive questions to
Sébastien, when Madame Edouard, accompanied by Victor, appeared upon
the scene. She was returning from a visit which she had just made to
Brother Fulgence, under the pretext of applying for the payment of a
stationery account.

Taller than her sister-in-law, Madame Edouard was dark, with a massive
square-shaped face and a masculine appearance. Her gestures were quick,
her speech was loud. A good and honest woman in her way, she would not
have wronged her partner of a _sou_, though she never hesitated to
domineer over her. She indeed was the man in the household, and the
other as a means of defence only possessed her force of inertia, her
very gentleness, of which she availed herself at times for weeks and
months together, thereby often securing the victory. As for Victor,
Madame Edouard's son, he was a sturdy, squarely-set lad, nine years of
age, with a big dark head and massive face, quite a contrast indeed to
his cousin Sébastien.

Directly Madame Edouard was apprised of the situation, she looked at
her son severely: 'What! a copy? You stole a copy from the Brothers and
brought it here?'

Victor had already turned a glance of despair and fury upon Sébastien.
'No, no, mamma,' he answered.

'But you did, for your cousin saw it. He does not usually tell

The boy ceased answering, but he still cast terrible glances at his
cousin. And the latter was by no means at his ease, for he well knew
the physical strength of his playmate, and commonly represented the
vanquished, beaten enemy whenever they had a game at war together.
Under the elder's guidance, there were endless noisy gallops through
the house; the younger, so gentle by nature, letting himself be led
into them with a kind of rapturous terror.

'No doubt he did not steal it,' Madame Alexandre observed indulgently.
'Perhaps he only brought it home by mistake.'

In order that his cousin might the more readily forgive his
indiscretion, Sébastien at once confirmed this suggestion: 'Of course,
it was like that. I did not say he stole it.'

Madame Edouard, having now calmed down, ceased to exact an immediate
answer from Victor, who remained silent as if stubbornly resolved upon
making no confession. His mother, for her part, doubtless reflected
that it would be scarcely prudent to investigate the matter in a
stranger's presence without weighing the gravity of the consequences.
She pictured herself taking one or the other side in the affair, and
setting either the Brothers' school or the Communal school against her,
thereby losing one set of customers. So, after casting a domineering
glance at Madame Alexandre, she contented herself with saying to her
son: 'That will do. Go indoors, monsieur; we will settle all this by
and by. Just reflect, and if you do not tell me the real truth, I shall
know what to do to you.'

Then, turning to Marc, she added: 'We will tell you what he says,
monsieur; and you may depend upon it that he will soon speak unless he
desires such a whipping as he is not likely to forget.'

Marc could not insist any further, however ardent might be his desire
to learn the whole truth immediately, in order that he might convey it
to Simon like tidings of deliverance. But he no longer felt a doubt
respecting the genuineness of the decisive fact, the triumphant proof
which chance had placed in his hands; so he at once hastened to his
friend's, to tell him of his successive repulses with the Bongards,
the Doloirs, and the Savins, and of the unhoped-for discovery which he
made at the Milhommes'. Simon listened quietly, showing no sign of the
delight which Marc had anticipated. Ah! there were similar copies at
the Brothers' school? Well, he was not astonished to hear it. For his
own part, why should he worry, as he was innocent?

'I thank you very much for all the trouble you have taken, my good
friend,' he added, 'and I fully understand the importance of that
child's statement. But I cannot accustom myself to the idea that my
fate depends on what may be said, or what may not be said, considering
that I am guilty of nothing. To my thinking, that is as evident as the
sun in the skies.'

Marc, who felt quite enlivened, began to laugh. He now shared his
friend's confidence. And after they had chatted for a moment, he took,
his leave, but suddenly returned to ask: 'Has handsome Mauraisin been
to see you?'

'No, I have not seen him,' Simon answered.

'In that case, my friend, he must have wished to ascertain the opinions
of all Maillebois before coming. I caught sight of him this morning,
first with Father Crabot, and afterwards with Mademoiselle Rouzaire.
While I was running about this afternoon, too, I fancied I saw him
twice--once slipping into the Ruelle des Capucins, and then, as it
seemed to me, on his way to the mayor's. He must have been making
inquiries in order to be sure of taking the stronger side.'

Simon, hitherto so calm, made a nervous gesture; for, timid by nature,
he regarded his superiors with respect and fear. Indeed, his sole
personal worry in the catastrophe was the possibility of a great
scandal which might cost him his situation, or at least cause him to be
regarded very unfavourably by the officials of his department. And he
was about to confess this apprehension to Marc when, as it happened,
Mauraisin presented himself, looking frigid and thoughtful.

'Yes, Monsieur Simon, I have hastened here on account of that horrible
affair. I am in despair for the school, for all of you, and for
ourselves. It is very serious--very serious--very serious.'

As he spoke the Elementary Inspector drew up his little figure, and
his words fell from his lips with increasing severity. In a formal way
he had shaken hands with Marc, knowing that Le Barazer, the Academy
Inspector, his superior, was partial to the young man. But he looked at
him askance through his glasses as if to invite him to withdraw. And
Marc could not linger, although it worried him to leave Simon alone
with that man, on whom his position depended, and before whom he now
trembled--he who had shown so much courage ever since the morning. But
there was no help for it; so Marc went home full of the new impression
that had come to him, the covert hostility of that man Mauraisin, whom
he divined to be a traitor.

The evening, spent with the ladies, proved very quiet. Neither Madame
Duparque nor Madame Berthereau referred to the crime, and the little
house fell asleep peacefully, as if nought of the tragedy in progress
elsewhere had ever entered it. Marc had thought it prudent to say
nothing about his busy afternoon. On going to bed he contented himself
with telling his wife that he felt quite at ease with reference to
his friend Simon. The news pleased Geneviève; and they then continued
chatting until rather late, for in the daytime they were never alone
together, never able to speak freely, in such wise that they seemed to
be strangers. When they fell asleep in each other's arms, it was as if
they had been blissfully reunited after a positive separation.

But, in the morning, Marc was painfully astonished to find an
abominable article against Simon in _Le Petit Beaumontais_. He
remembered the paragraph of the previous day which had expressed
so much sympathy with the schoolmaster and had covered him with
praise. Twenty-four hours had sufficed to effect a complete change,
and now, with a wonderful show of perfidious suppositions and false
interpretations of the facts, the Jew was savagely sacrificed, plainly
accused of the ignoble crime. What could have happened then? What
powerful influence could have been at work? Whence came that poisoned
article, drafted so carefully in order that the Jew might be for
ever condemned by the ignorant populace athirst for falsehood? That
newspaper melodrama with its mysterious intricacies, its extraordinary
fairy-tale improbabilities, would prove, Marc felt it, a legend
changing into truth, positive truth, from which people henceforth would
refuse to depart. And when the young man had finished his perusal
he again became conscious of some secret working in the gloom, some
immense work which mysterious forces had been accomplishing since the
previous day in order to ruin the innocent and thereby save the unknown

Yet no fresh incident had occurred, the magistrates had not returned to
Maillebois, there was still only the gendarmes guarding the chamber of
the crime, where lay the remains of the poor little victim, awaiting
burial. The post-mortem examination on the previous day had merely
confirmed the facts which were already known: After a scene of horror
Zéphirin had been killed by strangulation, as was indicated by the
deep violet finger-marks around his neck. It had been settled that the
funeral should take place that afternoon, and, according to report,
preparations were being made to invest it with avenging solemnity.
The authorities were to be present as well as all the victim's

Marc, whom anxiety assailed once more, spent a gloomy morning. He did
not go to see Simon, for he thought it best to do so in the evening
after the funeral. He contented himself with strolling through
Maillebois, which he found drowsy, as if gorged with horrors, while
waiting for the promised spectacle. After his walk the young man's
spirits revived, and he was finishing lunch with the ladies, amused
by the prattle of little Louise, who was very lively that day, when
Pélagie, on entering the room with a fine plum tart, found herself
unable to restrain her rapturous delight.

'Ah! madame,' she exclaimed, 'they are arresting that brigand of a Jew!
At last! It's none too soon!'

'They are arresting Simon? How do you know it?' exclaimed Marc, who had
turned very pale.

'Why, everybody says so, monsieur. The butcher across the road has just
gone off to see it.'

Marc flung down his napkin, rose, and went out without touching any
tart. The ladies were aghast, deeply offended by such a breach of good
manners. Even Geneviève seemed to be displeased.

'He is losing his senses,' said Madame Duparque dryly. 'Ah! my dear
girl, I warned you. Without religion no happiness is possible.'

When Marc reached the street he immediately realised that something
extraordinary was taking place. All the shopkeepers were at their
doors, some people were running, while an ever-increasing uproar of
shouts and jeers was to be heard. Hastening his steps Marc turned into
the Rue Courte, and there he at once perceived the Mesdames Milhomme
and their children assembled on the threshold of the stationery shop.
They also were deeply interested in the great event. And Marc then
remembered that there was some good evidence to be obtained there, of
which he had better make sure immediately.

'Is it true?' he asked. 'Is Monsieur Simon being arrested?'

'Why, yes, Monsieur Froment,' Madame Alexandre replied in her gentle
way. 'We have just seen the Commissary pass.'

'And it is certain, you know,' said Madame Edouard in her turn, looking
him straight in the face, and anticipating the question which she had
already read in his eyes, 'it is quite certain that Victor never had
that pretended copy-slip. I have questioned him, and I am convinced
that he is telling no falsehood.'

The boy raised his face, with its square chin and large eyes full of
quiet impudence. 'No, of course I am not telling a falsehood,' he said.

Amazed, chilled to the heart, Marc turned to Madame Alexandre: 'But
what was it your son said, madame? He saw that copy in his cousin's
hands--he declared it!'

The mother appeared ill at ease and did not immediately answer. Her
little Sébastien had already taken refuge in her skirts as if to hide
his face, and she with a quivering hand fondled his hair, covered his
head anxiously and protectingly.

'No doubt, Monsieur Froment,' she at last responded, 'he saw it, or
rather he fancied he saw it. At present he is not very sure: he thinks
he may have been mistaken. And so, you see, there is nothing more to be

Unwilling to insist with the women, Marc addressed himself to the
little boy. 'Is it true that you did not see the copy? There is nothing
so wicked as a lie, my child.'

Sébastien, instead of answering, pressed his face more closely to
his mother's skirt, and burst into sobs. It was evident that Madame
Edouard, like a good trader, who feared that by taking any particular
side in the conflict she might lose a part of her custom, had imposed
her will upon the others. She was as firm as a rock, and it would be
impossible to move her. However, she condescended to indicate the
reasons by which she was guided.

'_Mon Dieu_, Monsieur Froment,' she said, 'we are against nobody,
you know; we need everybody's help in our business. Only it must be
admitted that all the appearances are against Monsieur Simon. Take,
for instance, that train which he says he missed, that return ticket
which he threw away in the station yard, that four-mile walk when he
met nobody. Besides, Mademoiselle Rouzaire is positive that she heard a
noise about twenty minutes to eleven o'clock, whereas he pretends that
he did not return till an hour later. Explain, too, how it happened
that Monsieur Mignot had to go and wake him when it was nearly eight
o'clock in the morning--he who is usually up so early.... Well, perhaps
he will justify himself. For his sake, let us hope so----'

Marc stopped her with a gesture. She was repeating what he had read
in _Le Petit Beaumontais_, and he was terrified by it. He cast a
keen glance on both women--the one who so resolutely silenced her
conscience, the other who trembled from head to foot; and he himself
shuddered at the thought of their sudden falsehood which might lead to
such disastrous consequences. Then he left them and hastened to Simon's.

A closed vehicle, guarded by two plain-clothes officers, was waiting
at the door. The orders were stringent, but Marc at last contrived
to enter. While two other officers guarded Simon in the classroom,
the Commissary of Police, who had arrived with a warrant signed by
Investigating Magistrate Daix, conducted a fresh and very minute
perquisition through the whole house, seeking, no doubt, for copies of
the famous writing slip. But he found nothing; and when Marc ventured
to ask one of the officers if a similar perquisition had taken place
at the school kept by the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine, the
man looked at him in amazement. A perquisition at the good Brothers'
school? What for, indeed? But Marc was already shrugging his shoulders
at his own simplicity, for, even supposing that the officers had gone
to the Brothers', the latter had been allowed ample time to burn and
destroy everything likely to compromise them.

The young man had to exert all his powers of restraint to prevent
himself from expressing his feelings of revolt. His powerlessness to
demonstrate the truth filled him with despair. For yet another hour he
had to remain in the hall, waiting for the finish of the Commissary's
search. At last, just as the officers were about to remove Simon, he
was able to see him for a moment. Madame Simon and her two children
were there also, and she flung herself, sobbing, about her husband's
neck, while the Commissary, a rough but not hard-hearted man, made a
pretence of giving some last orders. There came a most heart-rending

Simon, livid, crushed by the downfall of his life, strove to preserve
great calmness.

'Do not grieve, my darling,' he said. 'It can only be an error, an
abominable error. Everything will certainly be explained as soon as I
am interrogated, and I shall soon return to you.'

But Rachel sobbed yet more violently, with a wild expression on her
tear-drenched face, while she raised the poor little ones, Joseph and
Sarah, in order that their father might kiss them once again.

'Yes, yes, the poor children; love them well; take good care of them
until my return. And I beg you do not weep so; you will deprive me of
all my courage.'

He tore himself from her clasp, and then, at the sight of Marc, his
eyes sparkled with infinite joy. He quickly grasped the hand which the
young man offered him: 'Ah! comrade, thank you! Let my brother David
be warned at once; be sure to tell him I am innocent. He will seek
everywhere, he will find the culprit, it is to him that I confide my
honour and my children's.'

'Be easy,' replied Marc, half-choking with emotion, 'I will help him.'

But the Commissary now returned and put an end to the leave-taking. It
was necessary that Madame Simon, wild with grief, should be removed at
the moment when Simon was led away by the two officers. What followed
was monstrous. The hour fixed for the funeral of little Zéphirin was
three, and, in order to prevent any regrettable collision, it had
been decided to arrest Simon at one o'clock. But the perquisition had
lasted so long that the very thing which the authorities had wished to
prevent took place. When Simon appeared outside, on the little flight
of steps, the square was already crowded with people who had come to
see the funeral procession. And this crowd, which had gorged itself
with the tales of _Le Petit Beaumontais_, and which was still stirred
by the horror of the crime, raised angry shouts as soon as it perceived
the schoolmaster, that accursed Jew, that slayer of little children,
who for his abominable witchery needed their virgin blood, whilst it
was yet sanctified by the presence of the Host. That was the legend,
never to be destroyed, which sped from mouth to mouth, maddening the
tumultuous and menacing crowd.

'To death! To death with the murderer and sacrilegist! To death, to
death with the Jew!'

Chilled to his bones, paler and yet more rigid than before, Simon, from
the top of the steps, responded by a cry which henceforth came without
cessation from his lips as if it were the very voice of his conscience:
'I am innocent, I am innocent!'

Then rage transported the throng, the hoots ascended tempestuously, a
huge human wave bounded forward to seize the accursed wretch and throw
him down and tear him into shreds.

'To death! to death with the Jew!'

But the officers had quickly pushed Simon into the waiting vehicle, and
the driver urged his horse into a fast trot, while the prisoner, never
tiring, repeated his cry in accents which rose above the tempest:

'I am innocent! I am innocent! I am innocent!'

All the way down the High Street the crowd rushed, howling louder and
louder, behind the vehicle. And Marc, who had remained in the square,
dazed and full of anguish, began to think of the other demonstration,
the indignant murmurs, the explosion of revolt which had attended the
end of the prize-giving at the Brothers' school two days previously.
Barely forty-eight hours had sufficed for a complete revulsion of
public opinion, and he was terrified by the abominable skill, the cruel
promptitude displayed by the mysterious hands which had gathered so
much darkness together. His hopes had crumbled, he felt that truth was
obscured, defeated, in peril of death. Never before had he experienced
such intense distress of mind.

But the procession for little Zéphirin's funeral was already being
formed. Marc saw the devout Mademoiselle Rouzaire bringing up the
girls of her class, after witnessing Simon's Calvary without making
even a gesture of sympathy. Nor had Mignot, who was surrounded by
some of the boys, gone to press his superior's hand. He stood there
sullen and embarrassed, suffering no doubt from the struggle between
his good nature and his interests. At last the procession started,
directing its steps towards St. Martin's amidst extraordinary pomp.
Again one realised how carefully artful hands had organised everything
in order to move the people, excite its pity, and its desire for
vengeance. On either side of the little coffin walked those of
Zéphirin's school-fellows who had taken their first Communion at the
same time as himself. Next appeared Darras, the Mayor, attended by
the other authorities and acting as chief mourner. Then came all the
pupils of the Brothers' school, led by Brother Fulgence with his three
assistants, Brothers Isidore, Lazarus, and Gorgias. The important
airs which Brother Fulgence gave himself were much remarked; he came,
went, and commanded on all sides, going even so far in his agitation
as to meddle with Mademoiselle Rouzaire's pupils as though they were
under his orders. And several Capuchins were also present with their
superior, Father Théodose, and there were Jesuits from the College of
Valmarie, headed by their rector, Father Crabot, together with priests
who had come from all the surrounding districts--such a gathering of
gowns and cassocks, indeed, that the whole Church of the region seemed
to have been mobilised in order to ensure itself a triumph by claiming
as its own the poor little body which, amid that splendid procession,
was now being carried to the grave.

Sobs burst forth along the whole line of route, and furious cries
resounded: 'Death to the Jews! Death to the dirty Jews!'

A final incident completed Marc's enlightenment while, with his
heart full of bitterness, he continued to watch the scene. He caught
sight of Inspector Mauraisin, who, as on the previous day, had come
from Beaumont to ascertain, no doubt, what might be his best line of
conduct. And when Father Crabot passed, Marc saw that he and Mauraisin
exchanged a smile and a discreet salutation, like men who understood
each other and regarded each other's conduct with approval. All the
monstrous iniquity, woven in the gloom during the last two days, then
appeared to Marc under the clear sky, while the bells of St. Martin's
rang out in honour of the poor little boy whose tragic fate was about
to be so impudently exploited.

But a rough hand was laid on Marc's shoulder, and some words addressed
to him in a tone of bitter irony caused him to look round.

'Well, what did I tell you, my worthy and simple colleague? The dirty
Jew is convicted of villainy and murder. And while he travels to
Beaumont gaol, all the good Brothers are triumphing!'

It was Férou who spoke--Férou the rebellious, starveling schoolmaster,
looking more gawky than ever, with his hair all in disorder, his long
bony head, and his big sneering mouth.

'How can they be accused,' he continued, 'since the little victim
belongs to them, to them alone? Ah! it's certain that nobody will
dare to accuse them, for all Maillebois has seen them take him to
the grave in grand procession! The amusing thing is the buzzing of
that ridiculous black fly, that idiotic Brother Fulgence, who knocks
up against everybody. He's over zealous. But you must have also seen
Father Crabot with his shrewd smile, which doubtless hides no little
stupidity, whatever may be his reputation for skilfulness. At all
events, remember what I tell you, the cleverest, the only really clever
one among them all, is certainly Father Philibin, who pretends to
look like a big booby. You may search for him, but you won't find him
there. It wasn't likely that he would come to Maillebois to-day. He's
keeping himself in the background, and you may be sure that he's doing
some fine work. Ah! I don't know exactly who the culprit may be--he is
certainly none of those--but he belongs to their shop, that's as plain
as a pikestaff, and they will overturn everything rather than give him

Then as Marc, still overcome, remained silent, merely nodding, Férou
went on: 'Ah! they regard it as a fine opportunity to crush the
freethinkers. A Communal schoolmaster guilty of abomination and murder!
What a splendid battle-cry! They will soon settle our hash, rogues that
we are, without God or country! Yes, death to the traitors who've sold
themselves! Death to the dirty Jews!'

Waving his long arms, Férou went off into the crowd. As he was wont to
say with his excessive jeering bitterness, it mattered little to him at
bottom whether he ended by being burnt at the stake, in a shirt dipped
in brimstone, or whether he starved to death in his wretched school at
Le Moreux.

That evening, when, after a silent dinner in the ladies' company, Marc
found himself alone again with Geneviève, she, observing his despair,
lovingly passed her arms about him, and burst into tears. He felt
deeply moved, for it had seemed to him that day as if their bond of
union had been slightly shaken, as if severance were beginning. He
pressed her to his heart, and for a long time they both wept without
exchanging a word.

At last, hesitating somewhat, she said to him: 'Listen, my dear Marc, I
think we should do well to shorten our stay with grandmother. We might
go away to-morrow.'

Surprised by these words, he questioned her: 'Has she had enough of us
then? Were you told to signify it to me?'

'Oh! no, no! On the contrary, it would grieve mamma. We should have to
invent a pretext, get somebody to send us a telegram.'

'But in that case, why should we not spend our full month here as
usual? We have some little differences together, no doubt; but I don't

For a moment Geneviève remained embarrassed. She did not dare to
confess her anxiety at the thought that something had seemed to be
detaching her from her husband that evening, in the atmosphere of
devout hostility in which she lived at her grandmother's. She had felt
indeed as if the ideas and feelings of her girlhood were returning and
clashing with the life which she led as wife and mother. But all that
was merely the faint touch of the past, and her gaiety and confidence
soon returned amid Marc's caresses. Near her, in the cradle, she could
hear the gentle and regular breathing of her little Louise.

'You are right,' she said. 'Let us stay--and do your duty as you
understand it. We love each other too well to be otherwise than happy,


From that time forward, in order to avoid painful quarrels; nothing
more was said of the Affaire Simon in the ladies' little house. At
meals they spoke merely of the fine weather, as if they were a thousand
leagues from Maillebois, where the popular passions raged more and
more tempestuously, old friends of thirty years' standing, and even
relatives quarrelling, threatening one another and exchanging blows.
Marc, who in the home of Geneviève's family displayed such silence and
lack of interest, became elsewhere one of the most ardent combatants,
an heroic worker in the cause of truth and justice.

On the evening of the day when Simon was arrested he had persuaded his
colleague's wife to seek an asylum with her parents, the Lehmanns,
those tailors who dwelt in a little dark house of the Rue du Trou.
It was holiday-time, the school was closed; and, besides, Mignot the
assistant-master, remained to guard the building--that is, when he
was not fishing in the Verpille. Moreover, Mademoiselle Rouzaire, who
wished to take part in the affair, in which her evidence was likely
to prove important, had also remained at her post, renouncing on this
occasion the holiday visit which she usually paid to an aunt dwelling
at a distance. Thus Madame Simon, leaving her furniture behind, in
order that folk might not regard her departure as terrified flight and
a tacit acknowledgment of guilt, had taken Joseph and Sarah to the Rue
du Trou, with a single trunk of clothes, as if she merely intended to
stay with her parents for a few weeks.

From that moment Marc visited the Lehmanns almost daily. The Rue du
Trou, which opened into the Rue du Plaisir, was one of the most sordid
streets of the poor quarter of Maillebois, and the Lehmanns' house
was composed merely of a dark shop and a still darker shop parlour on
the ground floor, then three first-floor rooms, reached by a black
staircase, at the very top of which was a spacious garret, this
last being the only part of the house which the sunrays occasionally
entered. The damp, greenish, cellar-like shop parlour served as a
kitchen and living room. Rachel took possession of the dismal bedroom
of her girlhood; and the old people contented themselves with one
chamber, the third being given to the children, who were also allowed
the run of the garret, which made them a gay and spacious playroom.

Marc constantly felt surprised that such an admirable woman as Rachel,
one of so rare a beauty, should have sprung in such a horrid den from
needy parents, weighed down by a long heredity of anxious penury.
Lehmann, her father, was, at five and fifty, a Jew of the classic type,
short and insignificant, with a large nose, blinking eyes, and a thick
grey beard which hid his mouth. His calling had distorted him; he had
one shoulder higher than the other, and a kind of anxious discomfort
of body was thus added to his humility. His wife, who plied her needle
from morning till night, hid herself away in his shadow, being yet more
retiring in her humility and silent disquietude. They led a narrow life
full of difficulties, earning a scanty subsistence by dint of hard work
for slowly-acquired customers, such as the few Israelites of the region
who were in easy circumstances, and certain Christians who did not
spend much money on their clothes. The gold of France, with which the
Jews were said to gorge themselves, was certainly not piled up there.
Indeed, a feeling of great compassion came to one at the sight of those
poor weary old people, who were ever trembling lest somebody should
deprive them of the bread which cost them so much toil.

At the Lehmanns', however, Marc became acquainted with Simon's brother
David, whom a telegram had summoned on the day of the arrest. Taller
and stronger than Simon, whose senior he was by three years, David had
a full firm face with bright and energetic eyes. After his father's
death he had entered the army, in which he had served for twelve
years, rising from the ranks to a lieutenancy, and after innumerable
struggles and rebuffs being, it seemed, near promotion to the rank
of captain, when he suddenly sent in his papers, lacking the courage
to contend any longer against the affronts to which his comrades and
superiors subjected him because he was a Jew. This had taken place some
five years before the crime of Maillebois, at the time when Simon was
about to marry Rachel. David, who remained a bachelor, looked round
him for occupation, and, like a man of initiative and energy, embarked
in an enterprise of which nobody had previously thought. This was the
working of some very extensive sand and gravel pits on the estate of
La Désirade, which then still belonged to the millionaire banker,
Baron Nathan. The latter, taken with the young man's energy and sense,
granted him a thirty years' lease on fairly low terms, and thus David
was soon on the high road to fortune; for in three years he earned a
hundred thousand francs in this enterprise, which steadily increased in
magnitude and at last absorbed every hour of his time.

But, on hearing of the charge brought against his brother, he did not
hesitate; he placed his business in the hands of a foreman on whom he
could rely, and hurried to Maillebois. He did not for a moment doubt
his brother's innocence. It was materially impossible, he felt, that
such a deed could be the act of such a man, the one whom he knew best
in all the world, who was indeed the counterpart of himself. But he
evinced great prudence, for he desired to do nothing that might harm
his brother, and he knew, too, that all Jews were unpopular. Thus, when
Marc in his impassioned way spoke to him of his suspicions, declaring
that the real culprit must certainly be one of the Brothers of the
Christian Doctrine, David, though at heart of the same opinion, strove
to calm his friend, saying that one must not lose sight of the theory
of a prowling tramp, a chance murderer, who might have entered and left
by the window. As a matter of fact, he felt that he would increase the
popular prejudice against Simon by bringing any random charge against
the Brothers; he foresaw, too, that all efforts would be vain against
the coalition of the interested parties unless he were possessed of
decisive proofs. Meantime, in order that Simon might benefit by an
element of doubt, would it not be best to revert to the theory of that
prowler, which everybody had admitted as possible at the moment of
the discovery of the crime? It would serve as an excellent basis for
provisional operations; whereas a campaign at that moment against the
well-informed and powerfully supported Brothers could only turn against
the prisoner.

David was able to see Simon in the presence of Investigating
Magistrate Daix, and by the long hand-shake which they then exchanged
they fully understood that each was possessed by the same feelings.
Later, David also saw his brother at the prison, and, on returning
to the Lehmanns, he described Simon as being still in great despair,
ever straining his mind in endeavouring to unravel the enigma, but
displaying extraordinary energy in defending his honour and that of
his children. When David recounted all this, seated in the dim little
shop where Marc also was present, the latter was profoundly stirred by
the silent tears of Madame Simon, who looked so beautiful and dolorous
in her self-abandonment, like a woman of weak loving nature cruelly
struck down by destiny. The Lehmanns also could only sigh and display
the shrinking despair of poor folk who were resigned to contumely.
They still plied their needles, and, though they were convinced of
their son-in-law's innocence, they dared not proclaim it before their
customers for fear lest they should aggravate his position and lose
their own means of livelihood. The public effervescence at Maillebois
was unhappily increasing, and one evening a band of brawlers smashed
the shop windows. It was necessary to put up the shutters at once. Then
little manuscript notices were posted in various parts of the town,
calling upon patriots to assemble and burn down the shop. For some days
indeed--particularly one Sunday, after a pompous religious ceremony at
the Capuchin Chapel--the explosion of anti-semite passion became so
intense that Darras, the Mayor, had to send to Beaumont for police,
deeming it necessary to have guards posted in the Rue du Trou lest the
house of the Lehmanns should be sacked.

From hour to hour the affair expanded, and grew more virulent, becoming
a social battlefield on which rival parties contended hotly. Magistrate
Daix had doubtless received orders to conduct his investigations
with all possible speed. In less than a month he interrogated all
the witnesses--Mignot, Mademoiselle Rouzaire, Father Philibin,
Brother Fulgence, several schoolchildren and railway employés.
Brother Fulgence, with his usual exuberance, demanded that his three
assistants, Brothers Isidore, Lazarus, and Gorgias, should also be
interrogated; he likewise insisted that a search should be made at
his school, and this was done; but naturally nothing was found. Daix
thought it his duty, however, to inquire minutely into the suggestion
that the crime might have been committed by a tramp. By his orders the
entire gendarmerie of the department scoured the roads, and some fifty
tramps were arrested, and then released, without the slightest clue
being arrived at. In one instance a pedlar remained three days under
lock and key, but to no purpose. Then Daix, setting aside the theory
of a prowler, remained in presence of the copy-slip, the one tangible
piece of evidence at his disposal, the only thing on which he could
rear his charge.

When this reached the ears of Marc and David, they became calm again,
for it seemed to them impossible that a serious accusation could be
based on that slip of paper, the importance of which was so open to
discussion. As David repeated, although no guilty tramp had been found,
the hypothesis that one existed, or at least an element of doubt, still
remained. And if thereto one added the lack of proof against Simon,
the moral improbability of his guilt, his never-varying protests of
innocence, it was purely impossible for an Investigating Magistrate,
possessed of any conscience, to come to the conclusion that he was the
culprit. A _non-lieu_, otherwise a decision that there was no ground to
proceed further against the prisoner, seemed a certainty on which one
might rely.

There came days, however, when Marc and David, who co-operated in
brotherly fashion, began to lose some of their fine assurance. Bad
rumours reached them. The Congregations were bestirring themselves
frantically. Father Crabot was for ever visiting Beaumont, availing
himself of his society connections to dine with government officials,
members of the judicial and even the university world. As the Jew
prisoner seemed more and more likely to secure release, so, on all
sides, the battle grew fiercer. At last, then, it occurred to David to
endeavour to obtain the support of Baron Nathan, the great banker and
former proprietor of La Désirade, who was staying there as the guest of
his daughter, the Countess de Sanglebœuf, whose marriage portion had
consisted of that royal domain and a sum of ten millions of francs[1]
in hard cash. Thus, one bright afternoon in August, David and Marc, who
also had a slight acquaintance with the Baron, set out on foot for La
Désirade, a very pleasant walk, for the distance from Maillebois was
not much more than a mile.

[Footnote 1: About $1,940,000.]

Count Hector de Sanglebœuf, the last scion of his house, one of the
early members of which had been squire to St. Louis, had found himself
completely ruined when he was only thirty-six years of age. His father
had devoured the greater part of the family fortune and he himself had
consumed the remnants. After holding a commission in the Cuirassiers,
he had resigned it, feeling tired of garrison life; and for a time he
had remained living with a widow, the Marchioness de Boise, who was
ten years his senior, and far too intent on her own comfort to marry
him, for her penury, added to his own, would only have conduced to a
disastrous future. People related that it was this mistress who had
ingeniously arranged the Count's marriage with Baron Nathan's daughter
Lia, a young person of four and twenty, very beautiful and all ablaze
with millions. Nathan had negotiated the transaction with his eyes
open, knowing perfectly well what he gave and what he was to receive
in exchange, adding his daughter to the millions which left his safe
in order that he might have as son-in-law a Count of very old and
authentic nobility, which circumstance would open to him the portals of
a sphere from which he had been hitherto excluded.

He himself had lately acquired the title of Baron, and he was at last
escaping from the ancient 'ghetto,' that universal contumely of which
the haunting thought made him shudder. A dealer in money, he had
filled his cellars with gold, and his one frantic craving nowadays,
like that of the Christian moneymongers, whose appetites were fully
as keen, was to gratify his pride and his instincts of domination, to
be saluted, honoured and worshipped upon all sides, and in particular
to be delivered from the ever-pursuing dread of being kicked and spat
upon like a mere dirty Jew. Thus he quite enjoyed staying with his
son-in-law at La Désirade, deriving no little consideration from the
connections of his daughter the Countess, and remaining in so small
a degree a Jew that, like many other renegades of his class, he had
enrolled himself among the anti-semites, and professed the most fervent
royalism and patriotism. Indeed, the dexterous, smiling Marchioness de
Boise, who had derived from her lover's marriage all the profit she had
anticipated for him and for herself, was often obliged to moderate the
Baron's ardour. That marriage, it should be mentioned, had scarcely
changed the position of the Marchioness and Count Hector. The former,
a beautiful ripening blonde, was doubtless devoid of jealousy in the
strict sense of the word, besides being intelligent enough to combine
such worldly enjoyment as money may procure with the happiness of a
long and peaceful _liaison_. Besides, she knew the beautiful Lia to
be an admirable piece of statuary, an idol full of narrow egotism,
who found it blissful to be installed in a sanctuary, where attendant
worshippers adored but did not unduly tire her. She did not even read,
for reading soon brought her fatigue; she was quite content to remain
seated for hours together in the midst of general attentions, with
never a thought for anybody but herself.

Doubtless she did not long remain ignorant of the real position of the
Marchioness and her husband, but she dismissed the thought of it, not
wishing to be worried, and indeed she was at last unable to dispense
with that caressing friend, who was ever in admiration before her,
and who lavished on her such loving and pleasing expressions as 'my
pussy,' 'my beautiful darling,' 'my dear treasure.' A more touching
friendship was never seen, and the Marchioness soon had her room and
her place at table at La Désirade. Then another idea of genius came
to her. She undertook to convert Lia to the Catholic faith. The young
wife was at first terrified by the idea, for she feared that she might
be overwhelmed with religious exercises and observances. But, directly
Father Crabot was brought into the affair, he, with his worldly
graciousness, made the path quite easy. Yet the Countess was most won
over by the enthusiasm which her father displayed for the Marchioness's
idea. It was as if the Baron hoped that he would cleanse himself of
some of his own horrid Jewry in the water of the young woman's baptism.
When the ceremony took place it quite upset society in Beaumont, and it
was always spoken of as a great triumph of the Church.

As a final achievement, the motherly Marchioness de Boise, who directed
the steps of Hector de Sanglebœuf as if he were her big, dull-witted,
obedient child, had with the help of his wife's fortune caused him
to be elected as one of the deputies of Beaumont, insisting too
that he should join the little parliamentary group of Opportunist
Reactionaries, who gave out that they had 'rallied' to the Republic;
for by this course she hoped to raise him to some high political
position. The amusing part of the affair was that Baron Nathan, who,
scarce freed from the stigma of his Jewish ancestry, had become an
uncompromising Royalist, now found himself a far more fervent partisan
of the monarchy than his son-in-law, and this in spite of the latter's
descent from a squire of St. Louis. The Baron, who had found an
opportunity for personal triumph in the baptism of his daughter--on
which occasion he had chosen her new 'Christian' name, Marie, by which
he always addressed her with a kind of pious affectation--triumphed
also in the election of his son-in-law as deputy, for he felt that he
might be able to make use of him in the political world. But, apart
from questions of interest, he quite enjoyed himself at La Désirade,
which was now full of priests, and where all the talk was about the
various pious works in which the Marchioness de Boise associated her
friend Marie, with whom she became yet more intimate and loving.

David and Marc slackened their steps when, admitted by the lodge-keeper
of La Désirade, they at last found them selves in the grounds. It was a
splendid and enjoyable August day, and the beauty of the great trees,
the infinite placidity of the lawns, the delightful freshness of the
waters filled them with admiration. A king might have dwelt there. At
the end of the enchanting avenues of verdure extending on all sides,
one invariably perceived the château, a sumptuous Renaissance château,
rising like lace-work of pinkish stone against the azure of the sky.
And at the sight of that paradise acquired by Jew wealth, at the
thought of the splendid fortune amassed by Nathan the Jew money-monger,
Marc instinctively recalled the gloomy little shop in the Rue du Trou,
the dismal hovel without air or sunshine, where Lehmann, that other
Jew, had been plying his needle for thirty years, and earning only
enough to provide himself with bread. And, ah! how many other Jews
there were, yet more wretched than he--Jews who starved in filthy dens.
They were the immense majority, and their existence demonstrated all
the idiotic falsity of anti-semitism, that proscription _en masse_ of
a race which was charged with the monopolisation of all wealth, when
it numbered so many poor working-folk, so many victims, crushed down
by the almightiness of money, whether it were Jew, or Catholic, or
Protestant. As soon as ever a French Jew became a great capitalist, he
bought a title of Baron, married his daughter to a Count of ancient
stock, made a pretence of showing himself more royalist than the king,
and ended by becoming the worst of renegades, a fierce anti-semite, who
not only denied, but helped to slaughter, his kith and kin. There was
really no Jew question at all, there was only a Capitalist question--a
question of money heaped up in the hands of a certain number of
gluttons, and thereby poisoning and rotting the world.

As David and Marc reached the château they perceived Baron Nathan,
his daughter, and his son-in-law seated under a large oak tree in
the company of the Marchioness de Boise and a cleric, in whom they
recognised Father Crabot. Doubtless the Rector of the College of
Valmarie had been invited to a quiet family lunch, in neighbourly
fashion--for a distance of less than two miles separated the two
estates; and doubtless, also, some serious question had been discussed
at dessert. Then, to enjoy the fine weather, they had seated themselves
in some garden chairs, under that oak and near a marble basin, into
which ever fell the crystal of a source which an indelicate nymph was
pouring from her urn.

On recognising the visitors, who discreetly halted a short distance
away, the Baron came forward and conducted them to some other seats,
set out on the opposite side of the basin. Short and somewhat
bent, quite bald at fifty, with a yellow face, a fleshy nose, and
black eyes--the eyes of a bird of prey set deeply under projecting
brows--Nathan had assumed for the nonce an expression of grievous
sympathy as if he were receiving folk in deep mourning who had just
lost a relative. It was plain that the visit did not surprise him. He
must have been expecting it.

'Ah! how I pity you, my poor David,' he said. 'I have often thought
of you since that misfortune. You know how highly I esteem your
intelligence, enterprise, and industry. But what an affair, what an
abominable affair your brother Simon has put on your shoulders! He is
compromising you, he is ruining you, my poor David!'

And with an impulse of sincere despair the Baron raised his quivering
hands and added, as if he feared he might see the persecutions of olden
time begin afresh: 'The unhappy man! He is compromising all of us!'

Then David with his quiet bravery began to plead his brother's cause,
expressing his absolute conviction of his innocence, enumerating the
moral and material proofs which in his estimation were irrefutable,
while Nathan curtly jogged his head.

'Yes, yes, it is only natural,' the Baron at last replied, 'you believe
him to be innocent; I myself still wish to do so. Unfortunately it is
not a question of convincing me, you must convince the officers of the
law, and also the exasperated masses who are capable of doing harm to
all of us if he is not condemned.... No, I shall never forgive your
brother for having saddled us with such a dreadful affair.'

Then, on David explaining that he had come to him, knowing his
influence, and relying on his help to make the truth manifest, the
Baron became colder, more and more reserved, and listened in silence.

'You always showed me so much kindness, Monsieur le Baron,' said David,
'and as you used to invite the judicial authorities of Beaumont here,
I thought that you might perhaps be able to give me some information.
For instance, you are acquainted with Monsieur Daix, the Investigating
Magistrate who has the affair in hand, and who, I hope, will soon stay
further proceedings. Perhaps you may have some news on that subject;
besides which, if a decision has not yet been reached, a word from you
might prove valuable----'

'No, no,' Nathan protested, 'I know nothing, I desire to know nothing.
I have no official connections, no influence. Besides, my position
as a co-religionist prevents me from doing anything; I should merely
compromise myself without rendering you any service. But wait a moment,
I will call my son-in-law.'

Marc had remained silent, contenting himself with listening. He had
accompanied David merely to give him the support of his presence as
one of Simon's colleagues. But while he listened he glanced in the
direction of the oak tree, at the ladies sitting there--Countess
Marie, as the beautiful Lia was now called, and the Marchioness de
Boise, between whom Father Crabot was reposing in a rustic armchair,
while Count Hector de Sanglebœuf, who had remained erect, finished
chewing a cigar. The Marchioness, still slim and still pretty under
her fair hair, which she powdered, was expressing great anxiety
respecting a sunbeam which darted on the nape of the Countess's neck;
and although the beautiful Jewess, indolent and superb, declared that
she was in no way inconvenienced, her friend, lavishing on her all the
usual pet names, 'my pussy,' 'my jewel,' and 'my treasure,' at last
compelled her to change places. The Jesuit Crabot, who was evidently
at his ease, smiled at both of them with the air of a very tolerant
father-confessor. And meantime a never-ending flute-like strain came
from the crystalline water which the indelicate nymph was pouring from
her urn into the marble basin.

Sanglebœuf, on being called by his father-in-law, came forward slowly.
With a big body and a full and highly-coloured face, a low forehead
and short-cropped, ruddy, bristling hair, he had eyes of a dim blue, a
small flabby nose, and a large voracious mouth, half-hidden by thick
moustaches. As soon as the Baron had told him of the help which David
solicited, he became quite angry, though he affected a kind of military

'What! mix myself up in that affair! Ah, no!' he exclaimed. 'You must
excuse me, monsieur, if I employ my credit as a deputy in clearer and
cleaner affairs. I am quite willing to believe that you personally are
an honourable man. But you will really have a great deal to do if you
wish to defend your brother. Besides, as all those who support you say,
we are the enemy. Why do you apply to us?'

Then, turning his big, blurred, wrathful eyes on Marc, he began to hold
forth against the godless and unpatriotic folk who dared to insult
the army. Too young to have fought in 1870, he had merely served as a
garrison soldier, taking part in no campaign whatever. Nevertheless he
had remained a cuirassier to his very marrow, to cite one of his own
expressions. And he boasted that he had set two emblems at his bedside,
two emblems which summed up his religion--a crucifix and a flag, his
flag--for which, unfortunately for a good many people, he had not died.

'When you have restored the Cross to the schools, monsieur,' he
continued, 'when your schoolmasters decide to make Christians and not
citizens of their pupils, then, and only then, will you have any claim
on us should you ask us to render you a service.'

David, pale and frigid, allowed him to run on without attempting
any interruption. It was only when he had finished that he quietly
rejoined: 'But I have asked you for nothing, monsieur. It was to
Monsieur le Baron that I ventured to apply.'

Nathan, fearing a scene, then intervened, and led David and Marc away,
as if to escort them through a part of the grounds. Father Crabot, on
hearing the Count's loud voice, had for a moment raised his head; then
had returned to his worldly chat with his two dear lady penitents. And
when Sanglebœuf had joined the others again, one could distinctly hear
them laughing at the good lesson which, in their opinion, had just been
administered to a couple of dirty Jews.

'What can you expect? They are all like that,' said Nathan to David and
Marc, lowering his voice, when they were some thirty paces distant.
'I summoned my son-in-law in order that you might see for yourselves
what are the views of the department--I mean of the upper classes, the
deputies, functionaries, and magistrates. And so, how could I be of any
use to you? Nobody would listen to me.'

This hypocritical affectation of good nature, in which one detected a
quiver of the old hereditary racial dread, must have seemed cowardly
even to the Baron himself, for he presently added: 'Besides, they are
right; I am with them; France before everything else, with her glorious
past, and the _ensemble_ of her firm traditions. We cannot hand her
over to the Freemasons and the cosmopolites! And I cannot let you go,
my dear David, without offering you a word of advice. Have nothing to
do with that affair; you would lose everything in it, you would be
wrecked for ever. Your brother will get out of the mess by himself if
he is innocent.'

Those were his last words; he shook hands with them, and quietly walked
back, while they in silence quitted the grounds. But on the high road
they exchanged glances almost of amusement, however much they might be
disappointed, for the scene in which they had participated seemed to
them quite typical, perfect of its kind.

'Death to the Jews!' exclaimed Marc facetiously.

'Ah! the dirty Jews!' David responded in the same jesting way, tinged
with bitterness. 'He advised me to forsake my brother; and for his part
he would not hesitate. He has thrown his brothers over plenty of times
already, and he will do so again. I certainly must not knock for help
at the doors of my famous and powerful co-religionists. They shiver
with fear.'

Several more days now went by, and, however prompt Magistrate Daix
might have been with his investigations, he still delayed his decision.
It was said that he was a prey to increasing perplexity, having a
very keen professional mind, and too much intelligence to have failed
to divine the truth; but, on the other hand, being worried by public
opinion and browbeaten at home by his terrible wife. Madame Daix,
ugly, coquettish, and very pious--indeed, another of Father Crabot's
dearly-loved penitents--was consumed by ambition, tortured by penurious
circumstances, haunted by dreams of life in Paris, finery, and a
social position, as the outcome of some great sensational 'affair.'
Such an 'affair' was within her reach now, and she never ceased
repeating to her husband that it would be idiotic not to profit by the
opportunity; for if he were so simple as to release that dirty Jew
they would end by dying in a garret. Yet Daix struggled, honest still,
but perturbed and no longer hurrying, clinging in fact to a last hope
that something would happen to enable him to reconcile his interests
with his duty. This fresh delay seemed of good augury to Marc, who
was well aware of the magistrate's torments, but who still remained
optimistically convinced that truth possessed an irresistible power, to
which all ended by submitting.

Since the beginning of the affair he often went to Beaumont of a
morning to see his old friend Salvan, the Director of the Training
College. He found him well posted with information, and derived also
a good deal of faith and courage from what he said. Besides, that
college where he had lived three years, full of apostolic enthusiasm,
had remained dear to him. It stood on a lonely little square at the
end of the Rue de la République; and when in those vacation days he
reached the director's quiet private room, which looked into a little
garden, he felt himself in a spot where peace and happy confidence
prevailed. One morning, however, when he called, he found Salvan full
of grief and irritation. At first he had to wait in the ante-chamber,
for the director was engaged with another visitor; but the latter, a
fellow-schoolmaster named Doutrequin--a man with a low stubborn brow,
broad clean-shaven cheeks, and the expression of a magistrate conscious
of the importance of his functions--soon quitted the private room, and
Marc bowed to him as he passed. Then, his turn having come, he was
astonished by the agitation of Salvan, who, raising his arms to the
ceiling, greeted him with the exclamation: 'Well, my friend, you know
the abominable news, don't you?'

Of medium height, unassuming but energetic, with a good round face,
all gaiety and frankness, Salvan, as a rule, turned laughing eyes upon
those to whom he spoke. But now his glance was ablaze with generous

'What is it?' Marc inquired anxiously.

'Ah, so you do not know yet? Well, my friend, those blackguards have
dared to do it. Last night Daix signed an _ordonnance_ sending Simon
for trial!'

Marc turned pale, but remained silent, while Salvan, pointing to a
number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ which lay open on his table, added:
'Doutrequin, who just went out, left me that filthy rag which gives the
news, and he confirmed its accuracy, on the authority of one of the
clerks at the Palace of Justice whom he knows.'

Then, taking up the paper, crumpling it, and flinging it into a corner
of the room with a gesture of disgust, Salvan continued: 'Ah! the
filthy rag! If iniquity becomes possible it is because that paper
poisons the poor and lowly with its lies. They are still so ignorant,
so credulous, so ready to believe the stories that flatter their base
passions. And to think that paper first acquired a circulation, first
found its way into all hands, by belonging to no party, by remaining
neutral, by merely printing serial stories, matter-of-fact accounts of
current events, and pleasant articles popularising general knowledge.
By that means, in the course of years, it became the friend, the
oracle, the daily pabulum of the simple-minded and the poor who cannot
think for themselves. But now, abusing its unique position, its immense
connection, it places itself in the pay of the parties of error and
reaction, makes money out of every piece of financial roguery, and
every underhand political plot. It is of secondary importance if
lies and insults come from the fighting journals which are openly
reactionary. They support a faction, they are known, and when one
reads them one is prepared for what they may say. Thus _La Croix de
Beaumont_, the Church party's organ, has started an abominable campaign
against our friend Simon, "the Jew schoolmaster who poisoned and
murdered little children," as it calls him; but all that has scarcely
moved me. When, however, _Le Petit Beaumontais_ publishes the ignoble
and cowardly articles with which you are acquainted, those charges and
slanders picked up in the gutter, it is a crime. To penetrate among the
simple by affecting bluff good nature, and then to mingle arsenic with
every dish, to drive the masses to delirium and to the most monstrous
actions in order to increase one's sales, I know of no greater crime!
And make no mistake, if Daix did not stay further proceedings it was
because public opinion weighed on him, poor wretched man that he is,
afraid to be honest, and afflicted too with a wife who rots everything.
And public opinion, you know, is such as it is made by _Le Petit
Beaumontais_, which is the prime mover in the iniquity, for it sows
imbecility and cruelty in the minds of the multitude, whence now, I
fear, we shall see a detestable harvest rise!'

Salvan sank into his arm-chair in front of his writing-table with an
expression of despairing anguish on his countenance. And silence fell
while Marc walked slowly to and fro, overwhelmed by that recapitulation
of opinions which he himself fully shared. At last, however, he
stopped, saying: 'All the same, we must come to a decision, and what
shall we do? Let us suppose that this iniquitous trial takes place:
Simon cannot be condemned, it would be too monstrous! And, surely, we
shall not remain with our arms folded. When this terrible blow falls on
poor David he will want to act. What do you advise us to do?'

'Ah, my friend!' cried Salvan, 'how willingly I would be the first to
act, if you could give me the means! You readily understand--do you
not?--that in the person of that unfortunate Simon, it is the secular
schoolmaster whom they are pursuing and whom they want to crush. They
regard our dear training school as a nursery of godless, unpatriotic
men, and they are eager to destroy it. For them I am a kind of Satan,
engendering atheist missionaries, to ruin whom has long been their
dream. What a triumph for the Church gang if one of our former pupils
should ascend the scaffold, convicted of an infamous crime! Ah, my dear
college, my poor house, which I should like to see so useful, so great,
so necessary for the destinies of the country, through what a terrible
time will it now have to pass!'

All Salvan's ardent faith in the good work he did was manifest in his
fervid words. Originally a schoolmaster, then an Elementary Inspector,
a militant with a clear mind devoted to knowledge and progress, he had
given himself, on his appointment as Director of the Training College,
to one sole mission--that of preparing efficient schoolmasters ready
to champion experimental science and freed from the bonds of Rome--men
who would at last teach Truth to the people and make it capable of
practising Liberty, Justice, and Peace. Therein lay the whole future of
the nation--the future indeed of all mankind.

'We shall all group ourselves around you,' said Marc, quivering; 'we
will not suffer you to be stopped in your work, the most urgent and
loftiest of all at the present time!'

Salvan smiled sadly. 'Oh, all, my friend! How many are there around me
then? There is yourself, and there was also that unfortunate fellow,
Simon, on whom I greatly relied. Again, there is Mademoiselle Mazeline,
the schoolmistress at your village, Jonville. If we had a few dozen
teachers like her we might expect that the next generation would at
last see women, wives and mothers, delivered from the priests! As for
Férou, wretchedness and revolt are driving him crazy, bitterness of
feeling is poisoning his mind. And after him comes the mere flock of
indifferent, egotistical folk, stagnating in the observance of routine,
and having only one concern, that of flattering their superiors in
order to secure good reports. Then too there are the renegades, those
who have gone over to the enemy, as, for instance, that Mademoiselle
Rouzaire, who alone does the work of ten nuns, and who behaves so
shamefully in the Simon affair. I was forgetting another, Mignot, one
of our best pupils, who is certainly not a bad fellow, but whose mind
requires forming, liable as it is to turn out good or bad, according to

Salvan was growing excited, and it was with increased force that
he continued: 'But a case that one may well despair of is that of
Doutrequin, whom you saw leaving me just now. A schoolmaster himself,
he is the son of one; in '70 he was fifteen, and three years later he
entered the college still shuddering at the thought of the invasion,
and dreaming of revenge. At that time considerations of patriotism
influenced the whole of our educational system in France. The country
asked us merely for soldiers; the army was like a temple, a sanctuary,
that army which has remained waiting with arms grounded for thirty
years, and which has devoured thousands upon thousands of millions of
francs! And thus we have been turned into a warrior France instead
of becoming a France of progress, truth, justice, and peace, such as
alone could have helped to save the world. And now one sees so-called
patriotism changing Doutrequin, once a good Republican, a supporter
of Gambetta, and still quite recently an anti-clerical, into an
anti-Semite, even as it will end by changing him into a clerical
altogether. A few minutes ago he favoured me with an extraordinary
speech, an echo of the articles in _Le Petit Beaumontais_. "France
before everything else," said he; it was necessary to drive out the
Jews, to make a fundamental dogma of respect for the army, and to allow
more liberty in education, by which he meant to allow the religious
Congregations full freedom to keep the masses ignorant. He typifies
the bankruptcy of the earlier patriotic Republicans. Yet he is a
worthy man, an excellent teacher, with five assistants under him,
and the best-kept school in Beaumont. Two of his sons are already
assistant-teachers in other schools of the department, and I know that
they share their father's views and even exaggerate them as young
men are wont to do. What will become of us if such sentiments should
continue to animate our elementary masters? Ah! it is high time to
provide others, to send a legion of men of free intelligence to teach
the people truth, which is the one sole source of equity, kindliness,
and happiness!'

He spoke these last words with such fervour that Marc smiled! 'Ah! my
dear master, now I recognise you,' he said. 'You are not going to give
up the battle! You will end by winning it, for you have truth on your

Salvan gaily admitted that he had previously given way to a fit of
discouragment. The infamous proceedings with which Simon was threatened
had unnerved him. 'Advice?' he repeated, 'you asked me for advice as to
how you should act. Let us see; let us examine the situation together.'

There was Forbes, the Academy Rector,[2] gentle and affable, a very
able man of letters, and a very intelligent man also. But he was deep
in historical studies, covertly disdainful of the present age, and
he acted as a mere go-between for the intercourse of the Minister of
Public Instruction and the university staff. Then, however, came Le
Barazer, the Academy Inspector; and Salvan's hope of future victory was
centred in that sensible and courageous man, who was also a skilful
politician. The experience of Le Barazer, who was now barely fifty
years of age, dated back to the heroic days of the Republic, when the
necessity of secular and compulsory education had imposed itself as
the one sole possible basis of a free and just democracy. A worker for
the good cause from the very outset, Le Barazer had retained all his
hatred of clericalism, convinced that it was absolutely necessary to
drive the priests from the schools, and to free people's minds from
all mendacious superstitions, if one desired that the nation should
be strong, well-instructed, and capable of acting in the plenitude
of its intelligence. But age, the obstacles he had encountered, the
ever tenacious resistance of the Church, had added great prudence and
tactical skill to his Republican zeal.

[Footnote 2: See foot-note, p. 44, _ante_.]

Nobody knew better than he how to utilise the little ground which
he gained each day, and to oppose inertia to the assaults of his
adversaries, when forcible resistance was impossible. He exerted
the power he held as Academy Inspector without ever entering into a
direct contest with anybody, either the Prefect or the Deputies or the
Senators of the department, though, on the other hand, he refused to
yield so long as his views were not adopted.

It was thanks to him that Salvan, although violently attacked by the
clerical faction, was able to continue his work of regeneration,
the renewing of the _personnel_ of the elementary schoolmasters;
and doubtless he alone could in a measure defend Simon against his
subordinate, Inspector Mauraisin. For that handsome gentleman also had
to be reckoned with, and he was likely to prove ferocious, a traitor
to the university cause, and an accomplice of the Congregations, since
he had come to the conclusion that the Church would prove victorious
in the affair, and pay a higher reward than the other side for the
services rendered to it.

'Have you heard of his evidence?' Salvan continued. 'It appears that
he said everything he could against Simon to Daix. To think that the
inspection of our schools is confided to Jesuits of his stamp! It is
the same with that fellow, Depinvilliers, the principal of the Lycée[3]
of Beaumont, who attends Mass at St. Maxence every Sunday with his
wife and his two ugly daughters. Opinions are free, of course; but if
Depinvilliers is free to go to Mass, he ought not to be free to hand
one of our establishments of secondary education over to the Jesuits.
Father Crabot reigns at our Lycée as he reigns at the College of
Valmarie. Ah! the bitter irony of it when one thinks that this secular
Lycée, this Republican Lycée, which I sometimes hear called the rival
of the Jesuit College, is in reality a mere branch of it! Ah! our
Republic does fine work, it places its interests in very trusty and
loyal hands! I can well understand Mauraisin working for the other
side, which is ever active and which pays its supporters well!'

Then, coming to the point, Salvan added: 'I tell you what I will do. I
will see Le Barazer. Do not go to him yourself. It is better that any
application should come from me, whom he supports so bravely. And it
is useless to hustle him, he will act at the moment he thinks fit,
and with such means as are at his disposal. He will certainly keep
Mauraisin quiet, if he can render Simon no more direct service.... But
what I advise you to do is to see Lemarrois, our Mayor and Deputy. You
know him well, do you not? He was a friend of Berthereau, your wife's
father. He may be useful to you.'

[Footnote 3: A government secondary college.]

Marc then took leave, and on reaching the street decided to call on
Lemarrois at once. Eleven o'clock was striking, and he would doubtless
find him at home. Turning, therefore, into the Rue Gambetta, a
thoroughfare running from the Lycée to the Hôtel de Ville, and thus
cutting Beaumont in halves, he made his way to the Avenue des Jaffres,
the famous promenade of the town, which also traversed it, but from
the Préfecture to the Cathedral. In that very avenue, in the midst of
the aristocratic quarter, Lemarrois owned a luxurious house, where his
beautiful wife, a Parisienne, often gave entertainments. Wealthy and
already of repute in his profession, he had brought her from Paris
at the time when he had returned to his native place to practise
there and satisfy his political ambition. While he was yet a medical
student, he had made the acquaintance of Gambetta, with whom intimacy
had followed, for he showed much enthusiasm and firm Republicanism,
and became indeed one of the great man's favourite disciples. Thus he
was regarded at Beaumont as a pillar of the middle-class Republic. And
not only was he the husband of an amiable wife, but, intelligent and
good-hearted, he was personally very popular with the poor, whom he
attended gratuitously. His political advancement had been rapid; first
he had become municipal councillor, then a departmental councillor,
then deputy and mayor. For twelve years now he had been installed in
the latter functions, and was still the uncontested master of the town
and the chief of the departmental parliamentary contingent, though the
latter included some reactionary deputies.

Directly he saw Marc enter his study, a spacious room furnished with
chastened luxury, he went towards him with both hands outstretched, and
an expression of smiling sympathy on his face. Dark, with scarcely a
grey hair, though he was nearly fifty, he had a big head, with quick,
bright eyes, and a profile fit for a medal.

'Ah! my good fellow, I was astonished not to see you, and I can guess
what motive has brought you to-day! What an abominable business,
is it not? That unfortunate Simon is innocent, that is certain from
the frantic way in which he is being charged. I am on your side, you
know--on your side with all my heart!'

Pleased by this reception, cheered at meeting a just man, Marc quickly
explained to him that he came to solicit his influential help. There
was surely something to be done. One could not allow an innocent man to
be tried and perhaps condemned.

But Lemarrois was already raising his arms to heaven. 'Do something,
no doubt, no doubt!' said he. 'Only, what can one do against public
opinion when the whole department is already stirred up? As you must
know, the political situation is becoming more and more difficult. And
the general elections will take place next May--that is, in scarcely
nine months' time! Do you not understand to what extreme prudence we
are reduced? for we must not expose the Republic to the risk of a

He had seated himself and his face became anxious while, toying with a
large paper-knife, he expressed his fears about the agitated condition
of the department, in which the Socialists were actively bestirring
themselves, and gaining ground. He did not fear the election of any of
them as yet, for none could command a sufficient majority; but if two
Reactionaries, one of whom was Sanglebœuf, the so-called _rallié_, had
been returned at the last elections, it was by reason of a diversion
created by the Socialists. Each time that he pronounced that word
'Socialists' it was with a kind of aggressive bitterness, in which one
could detect the fear and anger of the middle-class Republic, which now
possessed power, in presence of the slow but irresistible use of the
Socialist Republic which wished to possess it.

'So how can I help you, my good fellow?' he continued; 'I am bound hand
and foot, for we have to reckon with public opinion. I don't refer
to myself,--I am certain of re-election,--but I have to think of my
colleagues whom I must not leave wounded on the battlefield. If it were
merely a question of my own seat I would sacrifice it at once so as to
act solely in accordance with my conscience; but the Republic is at
stake and we must not allow it to be defeated.'

Then he complained of the Prefect of the department, that handsome,
well-groomed Hennebise, who sported glasses and arranged his hair so
carefully. He gave no help whatever; for being perpetually afraid of
getting into difficulties with his Minister or the Jesuits, he was
careful to offend neither. He probably had secret leanings towards the
priests and the military set, and it would be necessary to watch him,
while pursuing, however, a course of diplomacy and compromise similar
to his own.

'Briefly,' said Lemarrois, 'you see me in despair, reduced to measure
every step and weigh every word for the next nine months under penalty
of being hissed by the readers of _Le Petit Beaumontais_, to the great
delight of the clerical faction. This Simon affair falls on us at a
most unfavourable moment. If the elections were not so near, I would
march with you at once.'

Then, quite abruptly, he, usually so calm, lost his temper: 'To make
matters worse, Simon not only saddles us with this business at a
difficult moment, but he chooses Delbos as his advocate, Delbos the
Socialist, who is the _bête noire_ of all right-thinking people.
Frankly, that is the climax; Simon must be really desirous of seeing
himself condemned.'

Marc had remained listening, pained at heart, feeling that another of
his illusions was taking flight. Yet he knew Lemarrois to be honest,
and he had seen him give many proofs of firm Republican faith.

'But Delbos is very talented,' the young man answered, 'and if poor
Simon chose him, it was because, like all of us, he considered him to
be the man of the situation. Besides, it is not certain that another
advocate would have accepted the brief. It is a frightful moment;
people are becoming cowards.'

That word must have seemed to Lemarrois like a smack. He made a quick
gesture, but he evinced no anger--indeed, he began to smile. 'You
consider me very cautious, do you not, my young friend?' he said. 'When
you get older you will see that it is not always easy in politics to
behave in accordance with one's own convictions. But why do you not
apply to my colleague Marcilly, your young deputy, the favourite and
the hope of all the young intellectuals of the department? I have
become an old, spent, prudent hack--that's understood. But Marcilly,
whose mind is so free and broad, will certainly place himself at your
head. Go to see him, go to see him.'

Then, having escorted Marc to the landing, he again pressed his hands,
promising that he would help him with all his power, when circumstances
should permit it.

Indeed, thought Marc, why should he not go to Marcilly? The latter
also lived in the Avenue des Jaffres, and it was not yet noon. The
young schoolmaster was entitled to call on him, as he had acted,
very discreetly, as one of his electoral canvassers, being full of
enthusiasm for a candidate who was so sympathetic and possessed of such
high literary culture. Born at Jonville, Marcilly had distinguished
himself as a pupil of the Training College, and had subsequently held
a professorship at the Faculty of Beaumont, which post he had resigned
in order to become a parliamentary candidate. Short, fair, and refined
in appearance, with an amiable and ever-smiling face, he played havoc
with women's hearts, and even won the partiality of men, thanks to
his rare skill in saying the right word to each, and in evincing all
necessary obligingness. To the younger members of the electorate
he endeared himself by his own comparative youth, for he was only
thirty-two, and by the happy and elegant form of his speeches, in which
he displayed much broadness of mind and knowledge of men and things.
It was felt at the time of his election that one would at last have a
really young deputy on whom one might rely. He would renew the science
of politics, infuse into it the blood of the rising generations, and
adorn it with faultless language, all the delightful bloom of sound
literature. Indeed, for three years past Marcilly had been acquiring a
more and more important position in the Chamber. His credit constantly
increased, and, in spite of the fact that he was only two and thirty,
he had already been spoken of for a ministerial portfolio. It was
certain also that if he attended to his constituents' affairs with
untiring complaisance, he pushed on his own still more successfully,
profiting by every circumstance to rise a little higher, but doing so
in such a natural and easy way that nobody had yet regarded him as
a mere _Arriviste_, one of those representatives of hot, impatient
youth, eager for enjoyment and power in every form. His rooms were
furnished and ornamented in a delicate style, and he received Marc
like a comrade. He spoke of Simon, too, immediately, in a voice full
of emotion, saying how deeply he was affected by the poor man's fate.
Of course he did not refuse to help him, he would speak in his favour,
he would see people who might be useful. But whatever might be his
graciousness, he ended by recommending extreme prudence on account of
the proximity of the elections. If his manners were more caressing,
his answer was much the same as Lemarrois'; he was secretly resolved
to do nothing for fear of compromising the Republican party. The two
schools might differ in outward appearance--that of Lemarrois being
older and rougher in its ways; that of Marcilly, younger and more
prodigal of compliments--but both were determined to abandon no shred
of the power they held. And now, for the first time, Marc felt that
Marcilly might be merely an _Arriviste_ in his flower, resolved to
follow his own course and bear his fruit. Nevertheless, on taking
leave, it became necessary to thank him, for with a flow of gentle
words the young deputy repeated that he was at his visitor's disposal
and would assuredly give some help.

Marc was full of fear and anxiety when he returned to Maillebois that
day. Calling on the Lehmanns in the afternoon, he found the family in
desolation. They had so confidently expected that further proceedings
would be abandoned. David, who was present, quite upset by the bad
news, still tried to believe in the possibility of some miracle which
would prevent that iniquitous trial from taking place. But, on the
morrow, things began to move quickly. The Indictment Chamber[4] seemed
to be in a singular hurry, for, the case was set down for hearing at
the earliest assizes, those of October. In presence of the inevitable,
David, with his ardent faith in his brother's innocence, recovered
all his courage, all that strength and firmness of mind which were to
make him a hero. The trial would have to take place; it could not be
avoided; but where was the jury that would dare to convict Simon when
no proofs were forthcoming? The prisoner never varied in his cry of
innocence; and the calmness with which he waited, the confidence in
speedy release which he expressed to his brother at each visit, greatly
fortified the latter. At the Lehmanns' house, as the expectations of
acquittal grew stronger, plans were formed, and Madame Simon talked
of a month's rest which she, her husband, and the children would
afterwards take in Provence, where they had some friends. It was in the
midst of this fresh spell of hopefulness that David one morning asked
Marc to go with him to Beaumont in order that they might discuss the
affair with Delbos, Simon's counsel.

The young advocate resided in the Rue Fontanier, in the popular
trading quarter of the town. The son of a peasant of the environs, he
had studied law in Paris, where for a short time he had frequented
many young men of Socialist views. But hitherto, for lack of one of
those great causes which class a man, he had not bound himself to any
party. In accepting a brief in Simon's case, that case which made his
colleagues of the bar tremble, he had decided his future. He studied
it and became impassioned on finding himself in presence of all the
public powers, all the forces of reaction, which, in order to save the
old rotten framework of society from destruction, were coalescing and
striving to ruin a poor and guiltless man. And the rise of militant
Socialism was at the end of it all, the salvation of the country by the
new force of which the freed masses now disposed.

[Footnote 4: A tribunal discharging the duties of a grand

'Well, so there is to be a battle!' Delbos exclaimed gaily, when he
received his visitors in his little study, littered with books and
papers. 'Ah! I cannot tell if we shall conquer, but at all events we
shall do the others some harm.'

Short, dark, and wiry, with eyes of fire and tongue of flame, he
possessed an admirable voice and an extraordinary gift of eloquence, at
once enthusiastic, logical, and precise. David, however, was struck by
his apparent doubt of victory and repeated what he had been saying for
a week past: 'Conquer? Oh! we shall certainly do so. Where can a jury
be found that would dare to convict my brother without proofs?'

Delbos looked at him, and then began to laugh, saying: 'Let us go down
into the street, my poor friend, and the first twelve citizens we get
together will spit in your face and call you a dirty Jew. You don't
read _Le Petit Beaumontais_, and you are ignorant of the beautiful
souls and minds of your contemporaries. But all allusions would be
dangerous and culpable: is that not so, Monsieur Froment?'

Then, as Marc spoke of the disappointment he had experienced when
visiting influential persons, Delbos, wishing to free his client's
brother of his erroneous views, insisted on the subject. No doubt they
had a friend in Salvan, but he was sorely threatened, and, instead
of defending others, needed to be defended himself. Then Le Barazer
would sacrifice something to the fire, suffering Simon to go to his
fate and reserving all his authority and influence for the defence of
secular education. Next Lemarrois, the once incorruptible Republican,
was unknowingly on that path of disquietude which leads straight to
reaction. Then came Marcilly, at the mention of whose name Delbos was
all afire. No trust whatever was to be placed in him, he had always
lied, and to-morrow he would become a renegade and a traitor. Indeed,
one would obtain only fair words from all those folks; nothing in the
way of deeds was to be expected, neither an act of frankness nor one of

Having thus judged the university men and the politicians, Delbos
passed to the judicial world. He was convinced that Magistrate Daix
had suspected the truth, but had set it on one side, terrified as he
was by the perpetual quarrels which his wife stirred up in order to
prevent him from releasing the dirty Jew. And in acting as he had
done he had surely experienced great perturbation of conscience, for
at bottom he was honest. But, apart from him, one had to fear the
Procureur de la République, the frisky Raoul de La Bissonnière, whose
speech to the jury would certainly prove ferocious. Vain of his petty
_noblesse_, it seemed to La Bissonnière great condescension on his part
to serve the Republic, and he meant to be rewarded for doing so by
rapid advancement, which he hastened as best he could, fawning on both
the Government and the Congregations, zealous too as a patriot and an
anti-semite. As for President Gragnon, in him one would have a jovial
judge, a hard drinker, a keen sportsman, fond of petticoats, addicted
to witticisms, affecting brusqueness, not certainly sceptical, without
soul or faith, and at the mercy of the stronger side. Finally, there
would be the jury, the composition of which it was easy to foresee. One
might expect a few representatives of the manufacturing and trading
classes, some professional men, clerks, and retired officers, and all
would have poisoned minds, all would tremble for their skins, and yield
to the general dementia.

'So, you see,' Delbos concluded bitterly, 'your brother, forsaken by
everybody since he so awkwardly requires help when fear respecting
the result of the elections paralyses even the friends of truth and
justice, will have a fine collection of stupidity, egotism, and
cowardice to judge him.' And, as David preserved dolorous silence, he
added: 'Oh! we shall not allow ourselves to be devoured without raising
an outcry. But I prefer to show you things as they are. And now let us
examine the position with respect to the case itself.'

He could tell what views would be set forth by the prosecution.
Pressure had been brought to bear on the witnesses from all sides.
Quite apart from public opinion in the midst of whose vitiated
atmosphere they lived, they were certainly being worked upon by occult
powers, caught in a skilfully contrived skein of daily exhortations
which dictated to them the statements they were to make. Mademoiselle
Rouzaire now declared peremptorily that she had heard Simon come home
at a quarter to eleven o'clock on the night of the crime. Even Mignot
now fancied that he had heard footsteps and voices about the same hour.
Then influence must have been exercised on Simon's pupils, the Bongard,
Doloir, Savin, and Milhomme children, with the object of extracting
from them statements unfavourable to the prisoner. Little Sébastien
Milhomme, for instance, had now declared, while sobbing distressfully,
that he had never seen his cousin Victor with any copy-slip coming
from the Brothers' school; and apropos of that affair, people spoke
of an unexpected visit that Madame Edouard Milhomme had lately
received from a distant cousin, General Jarousse, who commanded the
division garrisoned at Beaumont. He had never previously confessed his
relationship to the lady stationer, but had suddenly remembered it, and
paid her that friendly call.

Moreover, the prosecution insisted on the failure of all efforts
to find any tramp who might have committed the crime, as had been
originally suspected. It also asserted that it had vainly sought any
witness, guard, or wayfarer, who had seen Simon returning from Beaumont
to Maillebois on foot. On the other hand, it had failed to establish
that he had returned by train, for no railway employé remembered having
seen him; besides which several return tickets had not been given up
on the night of the crime. But it seemed that the evidence of Brother
Fulgence and Father Philibin would be very grave, particularly that of
the latter, who would prove that the copy-slip connected with the crime
had really belonged to Simon's school. And to make things complete, two
handwriting experts of the prosecution, Masters Badoche and Trabut, had
declared that they fully recognised Simon's initials, an E and an S
intertwined, in the faint and virtually illegible paraph on the slip.

Thus one could divine the form which the 'act of accusation' or
indictment would take. It would set forth that Simon lied, and that he
had assuredly returned from Beaumont by train, and must have reached
his home at the very time when Mademoiselle Rouzaire declared that
she had heard him. On the other hand it seemed certain that little
Zéphirin, after returning from the Capuchin Chapel at ten o'clock, had
not gone to bed immediately, but had amused himself by arranging some
religious pictures on his table, in such wise that one might say the
crime had been committed between a quarter to eleven and eleven o'clock.

It was easy to picture the scene. Simon, seeing a light, had entered
his nephew's room, and found him there, about to get into bed.
Arriving from a banquet, heated by wine, he had yielded to a fit of
abominable madness. Moreover, he hated the child, he was infuriated
by the fact that he was a Catholic, and thus it was allowable to hint
at the possibility of ritual crime, at the horrible legend fixed in
the minds of the masses. But, at all events, there certainly had been
abomination; and the maddened criminal, after thrusting the first
thing he had at hand into the victim's mouth in order to stifle his
cries, had lost his head, and, frantic with terror, had strangled the
lad when the improvised gag fell out and the cries began afresh, more
terrible than ever. It was not so easy to explain how it happened that
the number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ and the copy-slip had been mingled
together. Doubtless the newspaper had been in Simon's pocket, for the
boy would not have had one in his possession. As for the copy-slip,
the prosecution, after hesitating slightly, had adopted the view that
this also must have been in Simon's pocket, for the report of the
handwriting experts identifying the initials showed that it belonged to

The crime accomplished, the rest was easily explained. Simon left the
body on the floor, touched nothing in the room, but contented himself
with opening the window widely in order to make it appear that the
murderer had come from outside. In one respect he had blundered badly,
he had not thought of picking up and destroying the newspaper and the
copy-slip, which had rolled to the foot of the bed. This showed how
great had been his perturbation. And, doubtless, he had not immediately
joined his wife, as she fixed the hour of his return at twenty minutes
to twelve. In all probability he had spent some time seated on the
stairs, trying to recover his calmness. The prosecution did not go so
far as to charge Madame Simon with complicity; nevertheless, it gave
out that she did not tell the truth when she spoke of the smiling
quietude, the gay affection displayed by her husband that night; and
a proof of her disregard for veracity was to be found in the evidence
of Mignot, who was astonished that his principal should have risen so
late the next morning, and who asserted that he had found him pale and
shivering, scarce able to walk, when he went to tell him the dreadful
tidings. Mademoiselle Rouzaire, Brother Fulgence, and Father Philibin
agreed that Simon had almost fainted at the sight of the little body,
although in other respects he showed the most revolting dryness of
heart. And in this again was there not an overwhelming proof of
culpability? The wretched man's guilt could be doubted by none.

Having thus explained the views of the prosecution, Delbos resumed:
'The moral impossibilities are gross; no man of good sense will think
Simon guilty, and, besides, there are several material improbabilities.
But this frightful tale is sufficiently well constructed to seize
hold of the masses and to become one of those legendary fables which
acquire the force of truth. Our weakness proceeds from the fact that,
not knowing the real story, we cannot set it up in opposition to the
legend now being forged. The theory of a night prowler, to which you
seem to cling, can only serve to cast a little doubt into the minds of
the jury; for there are serious objections to it. And so whom can we
accuse, and what shall my system of defence be?'

At this Marc, hitherto very attentive and silent, could not restrain
himself from giving expression to the conviction which had slowly
gathered in his mind: 'But there is no doubt at all for me; the
criminal was one of the Brothers!'

Delbos, well pleased with the answer, and signifying his approval by an
energetic gesture, then exclaimed: 'Quite so. My own conviction is the
same. The more I study the case the more I am led to that conclusion as
being the only one possible.' And as David anxiously shook his head,
he added: 'Yes, I know; it seems to you that your brother's position
would be very dangerous if one of those Ignorantines were accused
without decisive proof. And you are certainly right. Nevertheless, I
have to plead, and the best way to prove your brother's innocence is to
demonstrate who the guilty man must be. Is it not so? You will tell me
that the question becomes one of ascertaining who that man is, and for
that very reason I wish to go into the matter with you thoroughly.'

The discussion continued, and Marc recapitulated the reasons which
made him believe the murderer to be one of the Brothers. First, the
copy-slip had come from this school; that was virtually proved by what
had occurred at the Milhommes. Then there was the initialling of the
slip, and the corner of it which had been torn away, in which clue the
solution of the enigma probably lurked. A decisive moral proof was the
extraordinary zeal the Congregations displayed in denouncing Simon.
They would not have stirred up heaven and earth in this fashion if
they had not found it necessary to save some black sheep; though of
course they also hoped to crush the secular schools and to insure the
triumph of the Church. Moreover, there were features in the crime which
suggested that it could only have been perpetrated by some sly, cruel,
bestial frock-wearer. But unfortunately arguments did not suffice, and
Marc was in despair that his investigations had been thwarted by a
combination of obscurity, confusion, and dread which artful, invisible
hands seemed to increase each day.

'Come,' interrupted Delbos, 'you suspect neither Brother Fulgence nor
Father Philibin, eh?'

'Oh no!' Marc answered, 'I saw them near the body when the crime was
discovered. Brother Fulgence certainly returned to his school on
quitting the Capuchin Chapel on the Thursday evening. Besides, though
he is vain and crazy, I do not think him capable of such a dreadful
deed. As for Father Philibin, he did not quit Valmerie that evening.
Moreover, he also seems to me honest, a worthy man at bottom.'

Silence fell. Then Marc, with a dreamy expression in his eyes, resumed:
'Yet something had certainly happened that morning just as I arrived
at the school. Father Philibin had picked up the newspaper and the
copy-slip, and I now ask myself whether he profited by that brief
opportunity to tear off and do away with that corner of the slip, on
which, perhaps, there may have been some indication.... But But Mignot,
though he hesitated at first, now declares the corner must have been
missing when he first saw the slip.'

'And what about the assistant Brothers, Isidore, Lazarus, and Gorgias?'
asked Delbos.

David, who on his side had prosecuted unremitting inquiries with
admirable zeal, intelligence, and patience, shook his head. 'All three
have _alibis_ which a dozen of their set will establish in court,' he
replied. 'Isidore and Lazarus, it seems, returned to the school from
the Capuchin Chapel with their principal, Brother Fulgence. Brother
Gorgias for his part saw a child home, but he also had returned to the
school by half-past ten, according to all the members of the staff
and various lay witnesses--friends of the Brothers, it is true--who
perceived him going in.'

Again did Marc intervene in his pensive manner, his eyes wandering
afar like those of a man in quest of truth. 'That Brother Gorgias is
not to my liking; I thought of him,' he said. 'The child he escorted
home was Polydor, the nephew of a woman named Pélagie, who is cook to
my wife's relatives. I tried to question the boy, but he is sly, idle,
addicted to falsehoods, and I got nothing out of him except a little
more confusion. All the same, Brother Gorgias haunts me. He is said to
be brutal, sensual, cynical, displaying excessive piety, professing
a stern, uncompromising, exterminating creed. I have been told also
that he formerly had some connection with Father Philibin and even
with Father Crabot.... Brother Gorgias, yes, I certainly thought for a
moment that he might be our man. But then I found I had nothing to go
upon except suppositions.'

'Certainly, Brother Gorgias is not a pleasant customer,' declared
David, 'and my feelings are akin to yours. But can we denounce him when
we have only arguments to bring against him? No witness would support
us; all would stand up for the Brother and whitewash him in reply to
our impious charges.'

Delbos had listened attentively. 'At all events,' said he, 'I cannot
defend Simon without carrying the battle into the enemy's camp. Bear in
mind, too, that the only help from which you may derive some advantage
will perhaps come to you from the Church itself. The old quarrel
between our Bishop, Monseigneur Bergerot, and Father Crabot, the Rector
of Valmarie, is taking a very serious turn, by reason, precisely,
of the Simon affair. My own belief is that the crafty mind and the
invisible hand, which seem to you to be directing the whole business,
are those of Father Crabot. I certainly do not accuse him of the crime,
but it is he who is protecting the culprit. And if we attack him we
shall strike the head of the band, besides which the Bishop will be on
our side--not openly, of course; but is not such assistance something,
even if it be secret?'

A smile of doubt appeared on Marc's face, as if he felt that one never
had the Church on one's side when human truth and justice were at
stake. However, he likewise regarded Father Crabot as the enemy, and
to trace the developments of the case back to him and to endeavour to
destroy him was the right course. So they spoke of Father Crabot and
of his past life, which a somewhat mysterious legend poetised. He was
thought to be the illegitimate grandson of a famous general, a prince
of the First Empire, which relationship, in the estimation of patriotic
souls, endued his pious ministry with some of the resounding glory of
battle and conquest. But the romantic circumstances in which he had
taken orders touched people more deeply. At thirty years of age he had
been a rich, handsome, gallant cavalier, on the point of marrying a
beautiful widow, a Duchess with a great name and a great fortune; but
brutal death had struck her down in her flower. That blow, as Father
Crabot often said, had shown him the bitter nothingness of human joys,
and cast him into the arms of religion. He had gained thereby the
tremulous tenderness of all women's hearts; they were well pleased,
indeed, that he should have sought a refuge in heaven, for love of the
one woman whom he had adored.

Then another legend, that of the foundation of the College of Valmarie,
endeared him to the devotees of the region. The Valmarie estate had
previously belonged to the old Countess de Quédeville, who, after
notorious amours, had retired thither to sanctify her last years by the
practice of extreme piety. Her son and daughter-in-law having perished
in an accident while travelling, she remained alone with her grandson
and sole heir, Gaston, a boy of nine years, who was most aggressively
turbulent, violent in speech, and wild in his play. Not knowing how to
subdue him, and not daring to trust him to school life, the Countess
had engaged as tutor a young Jesuit of six and twenty, Father Philibin,
whose manners suggested his peasant origin, but who was recommended
to her for his extreme firmness. He, no doubt, made the Countess
acquainted with Father Crabot, who was some five or six years his
senior, and who was then at the height of his celebrity, radiant with
the halo of his great passion and its tragic, divine ending. Six months
later, as friend and confessor, he reigned at Valmarie, evil-minded
people asserting that he was the lover of the Countess.

As that turbulent boy Gaston seemed to disturb the happy quietude of
the domain, a truly royal one with its grand old trees, its running
waters, its great stretches of green velvet, there was at one moment
some thought of sending him to the Jesuit Fathers in Paris. He climbed
the loftiest poplars for rooks' nests, took to the river in his clothes
to fish for eels, came home in rags, with arms and legs bruised,
and his face bleeding, giving his grandmother no rest whatever from
anxiety, in spite of Father Philibin's reputed firmness. But all at
once the situation was tragically altered: Gaston was drowned one day
while walking out, under the nominal supervision of his tutor. The
latter related that the boy had fallen into a dangerous hole full of
water, whence it had been impossible to extricate him, in spite of the
efforts of a young fellow of fifteen, Georges Plumet--the son of one of
the gardeners and sometimes Gaston's companion in his escapades--who
had run up on seeing the accident from a distance. The Countess,
profoundly grieved, died during the following year, bequeathing
Valmarie and all her fortune to Father Crabot--or, to be exact,
to a petty clerical banker of Beaumont, who lent his name in such
matters--with directions to establish a Jesuit College on the estate.
Crabot, for a time, had taken himself elsewhere, then had returned
with the rank of Rector, and for ten years now the College had been
prospering under his control.

He reigned there from his austere and retired little cell, whose
walls were bare, and whose furniture was limited to a little pallet,
a table, and two chairs. He made the bed, he swept the floor himself;
and though he heard the confessions of his female penitents in the
chapel, it was in that cell that he listened to those of the men, as
if he were proud of the poverty and solitude into which he withdrew
like some redoubtable divinity, leaving to Father Philibin, the Prefect
of the Studies, all usual daily intercourse with the pupils of the
establishment. But, although he rarely showed himself to them in the
class-rooms, he reserved 'parlour-days' to himself, lavished attentions
on his pupils' relations, particularly on the ladies and young girls
of the local aristocracy, busying himself with the future of his dear
sons and dear daughters, arranging their marriages, insuring them good
positions, in fact disposing of all those fine folk for the greater
glory of God and of his particular Order. And it was thus that he had
become an all-powerful personage.

'To tell the truth,' Delbos resumed, 'Father Crabot strikes me as being
a mediocrity, whose entire strength proceeds from the stupidity of
those among whom he works. I am more distrustful of Father Philibin,
whom you think a worthy man. I am impressed by his affected roughness
and frankness. Suspicion clings to his doings and to Crabot's in the
time of the Countess de Quédeville, such as the drowning of that child
Gaston, and all the more or less lawful manœuvring to acquire the
estate and the fortune. It happens that the only witness of Gaston's
death, Georges Plumet, the gardener's son, is precisely Brother
Gorgias, for whom Philibin assumed great affection and of whom he made
an Ignorantine, when, of course, he changed his name. And now we find
those three men together again, and the solution of the present mystery
is to be found, perhaps, in that circumstance; for, if Brother Gorgias
be guilty, the efforts of the others to save him might be explained
by strong personal motives, the existence of some skeleton in their
cupboard, and the dread lest he should speak out if he were abandoned.
Unfortunately, as you said just now, we can only form suppositions,
whereas we need substantial, authentic facts. However, let us keep on
searching. Defence, I repeat it, will only be possible if I am armed
sufficiently to be an accuser and an avenger.'

That conversation with Delbos inspirited David and Marc. And, even as
had been foreseen, they tasted for a moment the pleasure of witnessing
a quarrel in the clerical camp. At the outset of the affair Abbé
Quandieu, the parish priest of Maillebois, had not concealed his belief
in the innocence of Simon. He did not go so far as to accuse one of
the Brothers; but he allowed it to be seen that he disapproved of the
frantic campaign which the Brothers and the Capuchins were carrying
on with the object of gaining the whole district for themselves;
for, apart from his own loss of parishioners, it distressed him, for
religion's sake, to see the basest superstitions triumphing. When he
found public opinion suddenly poisoned with respect to Simon's case,
he became neutral, never speaking of the affair, but dreading, in his
sincere piety, lest his dear gentle Lord of charity and love should
be slain and replaced by a God of falsehood and iniquity. His only
consolation was that his views coincided with those of Monseigneur
Bergerot, the Bishop, who was fond of him and whom he often visited.
Like the priest himself, the Bishop was accused of Gallicanism, which
simply meant that he did not invariably bow to Rome, and that the
idolatrous worship of images and the impudent trafficking of those
who contracted to perform spurious miracles were repugnant to his
pure faith. For instance, he observed with saddened eyes the invading
tendencies of the Maillebois Capuchins, who so openly traded on the
shrine of St. Antony of Padua which they had set up in their chapel,
thus competing disloyally with the church of St. Martin, where Abbé
Quandieu officiated. The Bishop's anxiety increased when behind the
Capuchins he divined the presence of the Jesuits, all the disciplined
troops of his enemy Father Crabot, who was always employing his
influence to thwart him, and who dreamt of becoming master of the

The Bishop reproached the Jesuits with compelling God to go to men,
instead of forcing men to go to God, and he also saw in them the
artisans of the society compromise, of the falling off both in faith
and in observances, which in his opinion was destroying the Church. In
the Simon affair, on finding them so intent upon ruining the unhappy
prisoner, he became suspicious and studied the case very carefully with
Abbé Quandieu, who was well informed. He must then have arrived at a
decisive opinion. Perhaps indeed he learnt who was really the culprit.
But what course could he take, how could he give up a member of the
religious Orders, without risk of doing harm to religion? He lacked the
courage to go as far as that. Yet certainly his silence was full of
bitterness, and he felt anxious as to the consequences of the monstrous
adventure into which others were forcing the Church, which he would
have liked to see all peace, equity, and kindliness.

Thus Monseigneur Bergerot's resignation was not absolute. The idea of
abandoning his dear Abbé Quandieu, of allowing those whom he called
'the dealers of the Temple' to consummate his ruin, was unbearable
to him. On coming, then, to Maillebois in the course of a pastoral
round of inspection, he officiated personally in the ancient church
of St. Martin, and delivered an address in which he blamed all gross
superstition, referring plainly to the commerce carried on by the
Capuchins in their chapel, which was now driving as much trade as a
bazaar. Nobody was mistaken as to the Bishop's meaning; moreover,
everyone felt that the blow was directed not only against Father
Théodose, but against Father Crabot who was behind him. And as
Monseigneur ended by expressing the hope that the Church of France
would remain the pure source of all truth and justice, the scandal
became the greater, for in those words an allusion to the Simon affair
was detected, and the Bishop was accused of casting the Brothers of the
Christian Doctrine to the Jews, the bribe-takers, and the traitors.
On returning to his episcopal palace Monseigneur Bergerot must have
trembled at the thought of the courage he had shown, particularly
as everything was done to embitter his position still more. Some
intimates, in recounting the visit of thanks which Abbé Quandieu paid
him, mentioned that the Bishop and the poor priest had wept together.

The agitation at Beaumont increased as the assizes drew near; the
Indictment Chamber having returned the papers in Simon's case to the
Prosecution Office, the first hearing had been fixed for Monday,
October 20. Meantime the position taken up by the Bishop brought
popular passions to a climax. He was attacked even more violently by
_Le Petit Beaumontais_ than by _La Croix de Beaumont_, though the
latter journal was in the hands of the Jesuits. The Simonists had
plucked up a little courage at the advent of his unhoped-for help; but
the anti-Simonists poisoned public opinion with fresh romances, among
others an extraordinary invention to the effect that a Jew syndicate
had been formed to buy up all the powers of the world by dint of
millions. And three millions, it was said, had gone to Monseigneur
Bergerot as his share.

From that moment dementia and violence reigned throughout the town.
From Le Mauviot, the working-class _faubourg_, to the Avenue des
Jaffres, the aristocratic quarter, passing by way of the Rue Fontanier
and the adjoining narrow streets where the smaller shopkeepers
congregated, the contest became more and more bitter, the Simonists,
who were few in number, being crushed by the ever-growing hordes of
their adversaries. On one occasion a crowd went to hoot Salvan, the
Director of the Training College, as he was suspected of Simonism; and
in a like spirit, Depinvilliers, the Jew-hating and patriotic principal
of the Lycée, was acclaimed. Paid brawlers, recruited on the pavements
and reinforced by clerical young men of position, swept the streets
and threatened the Jew-shops. The saddest was that the Republican and
even some of the Socialist working men either disinterested themselves
from the contest or took up positions against right and truth. Then
terror reigned, cowardice became widespread, all the social forces
coalesced against the unhappy prisoner. The University, headed by
Forbes, its Rector, did not stir for fear of compromising itself.
The official Administration, personified by Prefect Hennebise, had
disinterested itself from the question at the outset, desirous as it
was of incurring no worries. The politicians, the Senators as well as
the Deputies, remained silent for fear they might lose their seats if
they spoke otherwise than the electors did. The Church, in which the
Bishop had ceased to count, Father Crabot becoming its real chief,
demanded the setting up of piles and stakes, and the extermination
of all Jews, Protestants, and Freemasons. The army, by the voice of
General Jarousse, also called for the cleansing of the country, and the
enthronement of an emperor or a king as soon as all the rogues without
God or fatherland should be sabred. And there remained the Judicial
Bench, towards which every hope went forth, for did it not hold in its
hands the necessary _dénouement_, the condemnation of the dirty Jew, by
which alone the salvation of France might be assured? Thus Gragnon, the
presiding judge, and Raoul de La Bissonnière, the Public Prosecutor,
had become great personages, of whom nobody doubted, for their
anti-Simonism was as notorious as were their desire for advancement and
their passion for popularity.

When the names inscribed on the general roll of jurors for the coming
assizes were made public, there was a fresh outburst of violence and
intrigue. The most terrible pressure was brought to bear on the persons
who were likely to serve; so that nobody might remain ignorant of
their names and addresses _Le Petit Beaumontais_ printed them, thus
designating them to the fury of the crowd in the event of their failing
to convict the prisoner. They received anonymous letters, they were
upset by strange visitors, they were begged to think of their wives and
children. In the drawing-rooms of the Avenue des Jaffres people amused
themselves with elaborate calculations, passing in review the more
or less certain opinions of each individual juror. Would such a one
convict or would he not? The question became a society pastime.

At beautiful Madame Lemarrois' house each Saturday, her day, nothing
else was spoken of. All the ladies came: Générale Jarousse, who,
although lean, ugly, and dusky, was said to be abominably unfaithful
to the general, her husband; Présidente Gragnon, who, still superb and
languishing, fascinated the young Assessors of the Public Prosecution
Service; Préfete Hennebise, who, like an artful and prudent Parisienne,
spoke little and listened a great deal; together with the eager Madame
Daix, the Investigating Magistrate's wife, and at times even Madame
de La Bissonnière, the Prosecutor's spouse, though she, gentle and
retiring in her ways, seldom went into society. The ladies had all
attended a great fête given at La Désirade by the Sanglebœufs in
accordance with the advice of Baron Nathan, who had prevailed on his
daughter to shake off her indolence and place herself, like others
of her sex, at the service of the good cause. The part which women
played in the affair was indeed an influential one: they were worth an
army, said young Deputy Marcilly, who, waiting to see on which side
victory would rest, comported himself as a Simonist with some and as an
anti-Simonist with others.

But a last quarrel maddened everybody. One morning _Le Petit
Beaumontais_ formally suggested that at least some part of the case
should be heard _in camera_. This idea had certainly not originated
with the newspaper itself; one divined in it a deep knowledge of
the sentiments of the multitude, a hope that mystery would make the
charges appear yet more monstrous than they were, and a desire for
some convenient means by which one might subsequently justify the
condemnation of an innocent man, as for instance by asserting that
facts had come out _in camera_ with which the general public was not
acquainted. The Simonists detected the danger, protested, appealed for
full light, the hearing of the whole case in open court; whereupon the
anti-Simonists, fired with indignation, shrieked that the appeal was
scandalous, and demanded to know whether the ears of respectable people
were to be soiled by being compelled to listen to the most abominable
particulars. Thus, during the last week, a furious _mêlée_ raged in

At last the great day, October 20, arrived. The school term having
begun, Marc had been obliged to reinstall himself at Jonville, with
Geneviève and little Louise, whom Madame Duparque and Madame Berthereau
had insisted on keeping with them throughout the whole vacation that
year. Marc had assented the more readily as his sojourn at Maillebois
permitted him to carry on his investigations, which, alas! led to
nothing. But at the same time he had felt so uncomfortable in the
ladies' house, where never a word was said of the great affair, that he
was happy to find himself once more in his school, among his troop of
playful boys, some of whom were so dear to him. On the other hand, at
his own request, he had been cited as a witness in the case in order
that he might testify to Simon's good character; and he awaited the
trial with a quiver of emotion, again possessed by tenacious reliance
in truth and justice, for it seemed to him impossible that a man could
be condemned without proofs, in these days and in France, a land of
liberty and generosity.

When he arrived at Beaumont on the Monday morning the town appeared
to be in a state of siege. Most of the troops were kept under arms in
their barracks, but gendarmes and infantrymen guarded the approaches of
the Palace of Justice; and in order to reach it Marc had to overcome
all sorts of obstacles, although he was duly provided with a witness's
summons. Again, he found the staircases and passages likewise barred by
troops. The Assize Court, a new and very spacious hall, glittered with
gilding and imitation marble, in the crude light entering by six large
windows. The place was already crowded two hours before the opening of
the proceedings. All the fine folk of Beaumont were assembled behind
the judges' armchairs. There were ladies in full dress everywhere,
even on the benches usually reserved for witnesses. And the 'pit,'
where only standing room was provided, was already tumultuous. A picked
throng was gathered there; one recognised the church beadles and the
hired 'demonstrators' of the streets, with whom mingled some of the
ranters of the Young Catholic set. There was a long delay, and thus
Marc had ample time to examine the faces around him and to realise amid
what hostile passions the proceedings would take their course.

The Court appeared: first Gragnon and his Assessors, then the
Procureur de la République, La Bissonnière. The first formalities were
accomplished rapidly; but it was rumoured that a 'panel' had not been
formed without difficulty, several jurors on the roll having applied to
be excused, so great was their dread of incurring any responsibility
in Simon's case. At last the twelve chosen men entered the court in a
file, and took their seats morosely, like condemned criminals. There
were five shopkeepers, two manufacturers, two individuals living on
their means, a doctor, an architect, and a retired army captain. The
architect, a pious man, named Jacquin, who worked for the bishopric,
happened to be the foreman, his name having come first at the drawing
of lots. If the counsel for the defence had not challenged him by
reason of his connections, it was because he enjoyed a well-deserved
reputation for loyalty, uprightness, and honesty. Moreover, something
like disappointment became manifest among the anti-Simonists on the
arrival of the jurymen, whose names were repeated here and there, as
each in succession was identified. Some of them appeared to be doubtful
customers; and there had been hopes of a more reliable jury, one
absolutely determined to convict the prisoner.

Deep silence fell; then the examination of Simon began. Looking puny
and awkward as he entered the court, he had created an unfavourable
impression. But he had drawn himself up, and now, by reason of the
quiet and easy way in which he answered the questions addressed to him,
he appeared to be impudent. Gragnon, the presiding judge, had put on
the scoffing air which he assumed on great occasions, while keeping
his little grey eyes fixed upon the advocate, Maître Delbos, the
anarchist, as he called him, whom he had undertaken to suppress with a
thumb-stroke. Meantime he indulged in witticisms, striving to provoke
laughter, but growing gradually irritated by the calmness of Simon,
who, as he did not lie, was unable to contradict himself and thus give
himself away. The judge therefore became insolent, vainly endeavouring
to provoke a protest from Delbos; but the latter, knowing his man, held
his tongue and smiled. On the whole, the first day's proceedings, while
rejoicing the Simonists, rendered the anti-Simonists extremely anxious,
for the prisoner had clearly set forth the hour of his return to
Maillebois, and the manner in which he had immediately joined his wife,
without it being possible for the judge to produce a single certain,
ascertained fact in opposition to his declarations. At the rising of
the Court, when the crowd retired, the witnesses for the defence were
hooted, and there was almost a fight on the steps of the Palace of

On the Tuesday the hearing of the witnesses began amid a yet greater
concourse of people. First came assistant-master Mignot, whose
statements were now less assertive than they had been during the
magisterial inquiry. He no longer spoke positively of the hour at
which he had heard sounds of footsteps and voices. Simple and worthy
fellow as he was at bottom, he doubtless felt disturbed when he thought
of the terrible consequences of such evidence as the judge tried to
extract from him. But Mademoiselle Rouzaire was pitilessly precise.
She specified the exact time, a quarter to eleven o'clock, adding even
that she had fully recognised Simon's voice and footfall. Then came a
long procession of railway employés, _octroi_ officials,[5] and mere
wayfarers, whose evidence was taken to solve the question whether the
prisoner had travelled by the 10.30 train, as the prosecution asserted,
or whether he had returned home on foot, as he himself claimed to
have done. The depositions on the subject were interminable, full of
confusion and contradictions. The impression they left, however, was
somewhat favourable to the defence. But next came the much awaited
evidence of Father Philibin and Brother Fulgence. The former, which was
very brief, proved a disappointment, for the Jesuit merely recounted
in a few husky sentences how he had found the little body on the floor
near the bed. But Brother Fulgence amused the whole assembly by the
vehemence he imparted to his narrative, throughout the whole of which
he gesticulated as wildly as a jumping-jack. Nevertheless, he seemed
quite pleased with the effect he produced. From the very outset of the
affair he had not ceased to muddle and spoil things.

At last the three assistant Brothers, Isidore, Lazarus, and Gorgias,
who had been specially cited by the defence, were called. Delbos
allowed the two former to retire after a few insignificant questions,
but he rose and remained erect while Gorgias was at the bar. That
former little peasant, the son of a gardener at Valmarie, Georges
Plumet as he was called in the days of the Countess de Quédeville, and
now Brother Gorgias of the Ignorantine Order, was a strong, thin, dark
and knotty man, with a low stern forehead, projecting cheek-bones, and
thick lips under a big nose shaped like an eagle's beak. As formerly
mentioned, he was afflicted with a tic, a convulsive twitching of his
upper lip on its left side, which thus disclosed his strong teeth, and
formed a kind of involuntary rictus, having a violent and scoffing
expression. When he stepped forward in his old black frock and with
his white band of doubtful cleanliness, a quiver, which had come
nobody knew whence, sped through the assembly. And immediately a duel,
with questions as keen as sword thrusts and answers as cutting as
parries, began between the advocate and the Brother on the subject
of the evening of the crime, on the time which the witness had taken
to escort little Polydor to his home, and the precise hour at which
he had returned to the school. The public listened in perplexity,
failing to understand the decisive importance of this examination,
for the witness was a stranger to most of the people present. As it
happened, Brother Gorgias, in his violent scoffing way, found an answer
for every question, produced proofs, and established the fact that at
half-past ten o'clock he had been in bed in his cell. Brothers Isidore
and Lazarus were recalled, the doorkeeper of the Brothers' school
was fetched, together with two inhabitants of Maillebois, belated
promenaders, and all swore and confirmed the Ignorantine's assertions.

[Footnote 5: Those who collect municipal dues at the gates or outskirts
of French towns.--_Trans._]

Of course this duel was not fought without considerable intervention on
the part of President Gragnon, who thought the opportunity favourable
to silence Delbos, on the ground that he addressed insulting questions
to the Brother. Delbos retorted by submitting 'conclusions,' and there
was quite a to-do, amidst which Brother Gorgias seemed triumphant,
turning on the advocate sly glances of disdain, as if to imply that he
feared nothing whatever, protected as he was by his God of anger and
extermination, who proved so terrible to infidels. But if the incident
yielded no result that Delbos could immediately put to use, it wrought
great perturbation; and some folk felt terribly alarmed lest Simon
should escape as the result of such attempts to cast doubt into the
minds of the jurors. That alarm must have spread to the Congregations,
for a fresh incident occurred after the evidence of the handwriting
experts, Masters Badoche and Trabut, who, amidst general stupefaction,
explained how they detected Simon's initials, an E and an S interlaced,
in the paraph on the copy-slip, when nobody else could see them there.
That copy-slip was the one document in the case, everything depended
on it; thus the evidence of those extraordinary experts was extremely
grave: it meant the condemnation of Simon.

It was then that Father Philibin, who had followed the proceedings
most attentively, asked the judge's permission to return to the
bar. There, in a ringing voice, he, who had first shown himself so
spiritless and retiring, recounted a brief story of a certain letter
he had seen--a letter written by Simon to a friend, and signed with
the same flourishes. And when Gragnon pressed him, asked for precise
particulars, the Jesuit raised his hand towards the picture of the
Crucifixion above the judgment seat, and declared theatrically that
it was a secret of the confessional, and that he would say no more.
Thus the second day's proceedings came to an end amid a paroxysm of
feverishness and tumult.

On the Wednesday the question of hearing the report on the post-mortem
examination and the evidence of the school children _in camera_ was
dealt with. The presiding judge had the right to take such a course;
but Delbos, without contesting it, set forth all the danger of wrapping
the affair in mystery, and submitted fresh 'conclusions' to the effect
that all evidence should be heard in open court. None the less Gragnon
quietly pronounced a judgment, which the numerous gendarmes who were
present immediately put into execution by pushing the public outside.
There was an extraordinary outburst of emotion, a perfect scramble,
followed by passionate discussions in the passages. During the two
hours occupied by the proceedings _in camera_ the excitement kept on
increasing. Frightful rumours and statements circulated as if what was
being said in court filtered through the walls. At first the chatterers
dealt with the report on the post-mortem examination, discussing in
turn every expression said to be contained in it, and adding horrible
particulars, hitherto unknown to anybody, but absolutely proving
Simon's guilt. Then came the evidence of the Bongard, Doloir, Savin,
and Milhomme children, who were pictured saying things they had never
said. However, people were convinced that all had been corrupted,
and, in spite of Delbos's protest, which indeed was regarded as
a mere comedy, it was declared that the Simonists themselves had
desired proceedings _in camera_ in order to save the secular school of
Maillebois from utter disgrace. Thus, was not condemnation certain?
Besides, those who might be disturbed by the lack of sufficient proof
respecting the death of Zéphirin would be told that certain things
had been stated _in camera_--things they would be unable to control,
knowing nothing of them.

When the doors were re-opened there came a rush, people swept
in tumultuously, searching and sniffing for some trace of the
monstrosities they had imagined. But during the remainder of the
sitting they heard little beyond the evidence of a few witnesses for
the defence, witnesses as to character, among whom Marc figured, and
who all declared Simon to be a very kind and gentle man, fondly
attached to his wife and children. Only one witness attracted any
attention, this being Mauraisin, the Elementary Inspector, who had felt
greatly annoyed by the citation which Delbos had intentionally sent
to him. At a loss between his desire to please the anti-Simonists and
his fear of displeasing his immediate superior, Le Barazer, whom he
knew to be discreetly a Simonist, Mauraisin was in the first instance
obliged to admit that he had reported most favourably on Simon and his
school, and subsequently he could only qualify those reports by vague
insinuations respecting the prisoner's sly character and the sectarian
violence of his religious passions.

The speeches of La Bissonnière and Delbos occupied the Court throughout
the Thursday and the Friday. During the earlier proceedings La
Bissonnière had intervened as little as possible, spending most of
his time in taking notes and contemplating his finger-nails. At heart
he was not free from uneasiness, and he must have asked himself if
he would not do well to relinquish certain charges as some of the
so-called proofs were so very fragile. Thus his address was rather
spiritless. He contented himself with pointing out the various
probabilities of guilt, and ended by asking merely for the application
of the law. His speech had lasted barely two hours, its success was
meagre, and the anxiety of the anti-Simonists again became acute.

Not enough time was left that day for Delbos, who only finished his
speech on the morrow. He began by drawing a portrait of Simon, showing
him in his school, esteemed and loved, having an adorable wife and
beautiful children at his fireside. Then, after setting forth the
horrible and ignoble circumstances of the crime, the advocate asked
if such a man could be guilty of it. He took the so-called proofs
of the prosecution one by one, and demonstrated their nothingness.
On the subject of the copy-slip, and the report of the hand-writing
experts, he waxed terrible; he showed that the ownership of the one
document in the case could not be attributed to Simon, and he exposed
the arrant stupidity of the report drawn up by Masters Badoche and
Trabut. He discussed and destroyed every item of evidence, even that
which had been taken _in camera_, thereby drawing on himself all the
thunders of President Gragnon. Quite a violent quarrel arose, and,
indeed, from that moment Delbos spoke under the constant threat of
being arbitrarily silenced. Nevertheless, from a defender he became
an accuser; he cast before the Court the Brothers and the Capuchins,
and the Jesuits also. He carried the case back to Father Crabot in
order that he might strike the chief of the coalition, as he desired
to do. Only a Brother, he said, could have committed the crime, and,
although he did not name Brother Gorgias, he designated him; he gave
all the reasons on which his conviction was based, he pointed out all
the underhand devices which had been adopted by the other side, the
formation of a great clerical conspiracy of which Simon was the victim,
and the necessity for the plotters that an innocent man should be
condemned in order that the real culprit might be saved. In conclusion
he cried to the jury that it was not the murderer of little Zéphirin,
but the secular schoolmaster, the Jew, whom they were really asked to
condemn. The end of his speech, though rent by the interruptions of the
presiding judge and the hooting of the audience, was, on the whole,
regarded as an oratorical triumph, which placed Delbos in the front
rank, but for which his client, no doubt, would pay heavily.

La Bissonnière immediately rose to reply to it, his countenance
assuming an expression of grief and indignation. An unqualifiable
scandal had taken place; the counsel for the defence had dared to
accuse a Brother without producing any serious proof in support of
his monstrous allegation. He had done worse: he had denounced as that
Brother's accomplices both his superiors and other members of the
religious Orders, including even one of high personality, before whom
all honest folk bowed with respect. Religion was outraged, anarchist
passions were let loose, those who acknowledged neither God nor
patriotic feeling would fain precipitate the country into an abyss. For
three hours La Bissonnière went on denouncing the enemies of society
in flowery language, drawing his little figure erect, as if he felt he
were at last rising to the high destiny to which his ambition aspired.
As he finished he became ironical; he wished to know if the fact of
being a Jew sufficed to make a man innocent; and then he asked the jury
for all its severity, for the head of the wretch who had degraded and
murdered a little child. Frantic applause burst forth, and Delbos, by
his vehement rejoinder full of exasperation, only drew on himself a
fresh tempest of insults and threats.

It was seven o'clock in the evening when the jurors retired to consider
their verdict. As the questions put to them by the Court were few in
number, it was hoped that matters would be finished in less than an
hour, and that one might then go off to dine. Night had fallen, and
the few big lamps placed on the tables did not suffice to illumine
the great hall. Candles, which looked like church tapers, had been
set up in front of the newspaper reporters, who were still working.
The atmosphere was hot and murky, but not a lady quitted her seat,
the crowd stubbornly remained there, phantom-like in places according
to the play of the lights, which threw great tragic shadows around.
All gave full rein to their passions, there was a deafening uproar
of voices, with an agitation, a seething and bubbling, as in some
fermenting vat. The few Simonists were triumphant; they declared it
would be impossible for the jury to convict. And, in spite of the
noisy applause bestowed on La Bissonnière's reply, the anti-Simonists,
who crowded the hall, showed themselves nervous, trembling lest the
expiatory victim should escape them. It was asserted that Jacquin, the
foreman of the jury, had spoken to somebody of the anguish he felt in
presence of the absolute lack of proofs. And three other jurymen were
mentioned as having appeared favourable to the prisoner. Acquittal
became possible. Thus there was angry waiting, waiting which lasted and
lasted, contrary to all previous expectations. Eight o'clock struck,
nine o'clock struck, and still the jurors did not return. They had been
shut up for two hours, unable, no doubt, to come to an agreement. This
only increased the general uncertainty, and, although the door of the
jury's retiring room was carefully closed, rumours came from it, nobody
knew how, raising the agitation of the ravenous, extenuated, impatient
throng to a climax.

All at once it was learnt that the foreman, acting for himself and his
colleagues, had begged the presiding judge to go to them. According
to another version it was the judge who had placed himself at their
disposal, insisting to see them, which seemed a scarcely correct
proceeding. However, the waiting began once more, long minutes went by.
What could the judge be doing with the jurors? Legally he might only
acquaint them with the dispositions of the law, should they be ignorant
of the consequences of their decision. But the delay which was taking
place appeared very long for a simple explanation of that kind; and,
indeed, a fresh rumour suddenly spread among Gragnon's intimates, who
did not seem at all struck by the enormity of such a story. It was to
the effect that a document had reached the judge after the close of
the proceedings, and that he had found it absolutely necessary to lay
it before the jurymen, though the prisoner and his counsel were not
present. However, ten o'clock struck, and at last the jury reappeared.

Then, in the anxious and suddenly silent hall, when the judges had
returned and taken their seats, their robes setting red blotches
against the background of shifting darkness, architect Jacquin, the
foreman, arose. His face, distinctly seen, for the light of a lamp
fell on it, was very pale. And it was in a somewhat weak voice that
he pronounced the customary formula. The jury's answer was 'yes'
to all the questions, but it granted the admission of extenuating
circumstances, illogically of course, and with the sole object of
avoiding the capital penalty. The penalty, in the circumstances, was
penal servitude for life, and sentence was pronounced by President
Gragnon with the air of a well-satisfied jolly dog and the jeering
nasal accent habitual to him. The Procureur de la République, La
Bissonnière, picked up his papers with a quick gesture, like a man
relieved and delighted at having secured his desire. From the audience
frantic applause had risen immediately--the loud baying of hungry
hounds, to whom the long-pursued quarry was at last flung. It was like
the delirium of cannibals gorging themselves with human flesh. And yet
amid that tumult, fraught with horrid savagery, above all the ferocious
baying, there rose a cry--Simon's unceasing cry, 'I am innocent! I
am innocent!'--a loud and stubborn call which sowed truth in worthy
hearts, whilst Advocate Delbos, with tears springing to his eyes, leant
towards the condemned man and embraced him like a brother.

David, who had abstained from appearing in court, in order that he
might give no occasion for an increase of anti-Semite hatred, awaited
the result at Delbos's rooms in the Rue Fontanier. Until ten o'clock
he remained counting the minutes, consumed by the most torturing
fever, knowing not whether he ought to rejoice or despair at such
delay. He continually went to the window to lean out, and listen to
the sounds in the distance. And the very atmosphere of the street,
and the exclamations of a few people passing, had already imparted
to him the fatal tidings, when Marc arrived, sobbing, exhausted, and
confirmed them. Salvan accompanied Marc--Salvan, whom the young man
had met on quitting the court, and who was also beside himself. There
came an hour of tragic despair, of utter collapse, when all that was
good and just seemed to be engulfed for ever; and when Delbos, after
an interview with Simon, whom he had found stricken yet still erect,
arrived in his turn, he could only cast himself on David's neck and
embrace him, even as he had embraced his brother yonder.

'Ah! weep, my friend!' he cried. 'It is the greatest iniquity of the


On his return to Jonville after the vacation that year, Marc had found
himself engaged in another struggle, one having no connection with
Simon's case. His adversary, Abbé Cognasse, the parish priest, anxious
to get him into difficulties, had decided to make an effort to win over
the village Mayor, one Martineau, a peasant, through the latter's wife,
'the beautiful Martineau,' as she was called.

Abbé Cognasse was a terrible man, tall, lean, and angular, with a
determined chin, and a sharp nose under a low brow and a thick mane
of dark hair. His eyes glowed with aggressive fire; his knotty hands,
which he seldom washed, seemed made expressly for the purpose of
throttling those who dared to resist him. Forty years of age, he kept
one servant, Palmyre, an old maid of sixty, who was inclined to be
humpbacked and who was yet more terrible than her master, so miserly
and harsh indeed that she was regarded as the terror of the district.
The priest was said to lead a chaste life, but he ate a great deal
and he drank very copiously, though without intoxicating himself. A
peasant's son, and therefore narrow and stubborn in his opinions, he
always insisted upon his rights and his dues, never foregoing a single
copper of the latter, even when the poorest of his parishioners was in
question. Thus he was very anxious to hold Mayor Martineau in his power
in order to become the real master of the commune, and thereby increase
his own profits as well as assure the triumph of religion. As for his
quarrel with Marc, this had arisen over a sum of thirty francs a year
which the parish had arranged to pay the schoolmaster for ringing the
church bell, and which Marc, for a time, duly received, although he
absolutely refused to put his hands to the bell-rope.

Martineau was not easily won over when he found himself supported.
Of the same age as the priest, square of face and sturdy of build,
ruddy and bright-eyed, he spoke little and evinced great caution.
He was said to be the wealthiest cultivator of the commune, and, his
extensive property gaining him the favour of his fellow parishioners,
he had been Mayor of Jonville for ten years past. Scarcely knowing how
to read and write, he did not care to pronounce openly between the
Church and the school; he thought it best to affect neutrality, though
he always ended by siding with one or the other, according whether he
felt the priest or the schoolmaster to be the stronger. In the depths
of his heart he was inclined to favour the latter, for in his veins
coursed some of that ancient rancour which animates the French peasant
against the priest, whom he regards as an idle man bent on enjoying
life, one indeed who does nothing and yet requires to be paid, and who
captures the wives and daughters of his parishioners in the name of an
invisible, jealous and ever-threatening Deity. But if Martineau did not
follow the Church observances, he had never opposed his _curé_ without
assistance, for he held that the black-gowns were extremely clever,
whatever else might be said about them. Thus it was largely because
Marc displayed so much quiet energy and intelligence that Martineau had
joined his side, allowing him to go forward without pledging himself
too much.

But it occurred to Abbé Cognasse to make use of the Mayor's wife, the
beautiful Martineau, who, although she was not one of his penitents,
attended church very regularly on Sundays and festivals. Very
dark, with large eyes, a fresh mouth, and a buxom figure, she was
coquettishly inclined, fond of exhibiting a new gown, of airing a lace
cap, of arraying herself in her gold jewellery. Her assiduity at Mass
was due to that alone. Church-going had become her diversion. There was
no other spot whither she could repair in full dress, to show herself,
and pass her neighbours in review. Indeed, in that village of less than
eight hundred souls, for lack of any other meeting place and occasion
for ceremony and festival, the damp little nave of the church, where
Mass was so hastily celebrated, became the drawing-room, the theatre,
the one general parade and recreation ground of the women who were
desirous of pleasing. Those who went thither were influenced very
little by faith; their craving was to wear their Sunday finery and to
show themselves. Their mothers had done it, their daughters would do
it also; it was the general custom. As for Madame Martineau, on being
approached and flattered by Abbé Cognasse, she endeavoured to convince
her husband that the priest was right in the matter of the thirty
francs. But Martineau sharply bade her hold her tongue and return to
her cows, for he belonged to the old school, and did not allow women to
meddle in matters which concerned men.

In itself the story of the thirty francs was very simple. Ever since
there had been a schoolmaster at Jonville he had been paid that sum
annually to ring the church bell. But Marc, being unwilling to do so,
ended by persuading the parish council to devote the money to another
purpose. If the priest needed a bellringer he could surely pay for
one himself. But the old clock in the church steeple was in a sad
condition, constantly losing time, and a former clockmaker, dwelling in
the vicinity, was willing to repair it and keep it in working order for
that very sum of thirty francs a year. It was with some little malice
that Marc suggested the acceptance of the offer, while the peasants
reflected and sounded themselves, wondering whether their interests
would be best served by having the bell rung for Mass, or by having
a clock to tell them the correct time. As for ensuring both services
by voting an additional thirty francs, they never gave that point a
moment's thought, for their policy was to burden the parish with no
useless expense whatever. Nevertheless, there was a fine tussle, in
which the influence of the priest and that of the schoolmaster came
into collision, the latter finally remaining victorious, in spite of
the maledictions which Abbé Cognasse, in his sermons, heaped on the
impious folk who, by silencing the bell, wished to silence the call of
religion. One fine Sunday morning, however, after a month's quietude,
a succession of furious peals resounded from the church steeple; and
people then discovered that the priest's old servant, the terrible
Palmyre, was ringing the bell with all the furious strength of her wiry
little arms.

Abbé Cognasse understood that the Mayor was escaping him, and, though
inwardly aglow with anger, he henceforth became prudent, displaying all
the flexible craft of his cloth. Then, as Martineau grew conscious of
the firmness of the hands to which he had confided himself, he more and
more frequently consulted Marc, who at last felt that he was master.
As parish clerk the young man ended by discreetly guiding the council,
duly respecting the self-esteem of its members and remaining in the
background, content to inspire those peasants, whose chief desire was
for quietude and prosperity, with intelligence, sense, and healthy
determination. Under the young man's auspices education spread, casting
light upon all things, destroying foolish superstitions, and driving
not only mental poverty but also the poverty of homes away; for wealth
comes with knowledge. Never indeed had Jonville made so much progress;
it was becoming the most prosperous and the happiest parish of the

It must be said that Marc was greatly assisted in his work by
Mademoiselle Mazeline, the mistress of the girls' school, which a
wall alone separated from the boys' school, where the young man
was master. Short and dark, quite destitute of beauty, but very
charming, with a broad face, a full kindly mouth, fine black eyes
glowing with tenderness and abnegation beneath a lofty and bossy
brow, Mademoiselle Mazeline was all intelligence, sense, healthy and
upright determination, like one born to educate and emancipate the
little girls confided to her. She came from that Training School
of Fontenay-aux-Roses which, thanks to the heart and mind of an
illustrious master, has already sent forth a whole cohort of able
pioneers, whose mission it is to form the wives and mothers of
to-morrow. And if, at six and twenty years of age, the young woman
was already mistress of a school, it was thanks to her intelligent
superiors, Salvan and Le Barazer, who were giving her a trial in that
lonely village in order to ascertain if she would turn out the good
work which they awaited. At heart they felt some anxiety on account of
her advanced opinions, fearing that she might indispose her pupils'
parents by her anti-clerical views, her conviction that woman would
only bring happiness to the world when she was at last delivered from
the priests. But Mademoiselle Mazeline behaved with great sense and
good humour, and if she did not take her girls to Mass, she treated
them in such a motherly fashion, taught them and cared for them so
affectionately, that the peasants became deeply attached to her. Thus
she greatly helped Marc in his work by proving that, although one may
not go to Mass, and although one may set one's belief more particularly
in human work and conscientiousness, one may nevertheless become the
most intelligent, most upright, and kindly woman in the world.

But Abbé Cognasse, whatever his repulse at Jonville, fully revenged
himself at Le Moreux, a little parish some two and a half miles
distant, which, having no priest of its own, was dependent upon him.
If, however, there were less than two hundred inhabitants at Le Moreux,
and if the village was hidden away among the hills, the difficult roads
cutting it off from frequent intercourse with the rest of the world, on
the other hand it was by no means a wretched spot. Its only poor family
was that of its schoolmaster; all the others possessed fertile lands,
and lived with hardly a care amid the sleepy quietude of routine.
Saleur, the Mayor, a short stout man with a bovine muzzle and little or
no neck, had been a grazier, and had suddenly made a fortune by selling
his meadow lands, herds, and flocks at a high price to a company, which
wished to syndicate all the stock-raising in the department. Since then
he had transformed his house into a coquettish villa, and had become
a _bourgeois_, sending his son Honoré to the Beaumont Lycée before
letting him go as a student to Paris. Although the people of Moreux
were jealous of Saleur, they reappointed him Mayor at each election,
for the all-sufficient reason that, having to do nothing for a living,
he was well able to attend to the parish affairs. He, however, cast
them upon the shoulders of Férou, the schoolmaster, who as parish clerk
received an annual salary of one hundred and eighty francs,[1] in
return for which he had to perform no little work, keep the registers,
draw up reports, write letters, and attend to something or other at
almost every moment.

Saleur was dense and heavy, crassly ignorant, scarce able to sign his
name, and, though not harsh at bottom, he treated Férou as if the
latter were a mere writing machine, regarding him indeed with the
quiet contempt of a man who had needed nothing like so much learning
to make his fortune and live at his ease. Moreover, the Mayor bore
the schoolmaster a grudge for having quarrelled with Abbé Cognasse by
refusing to take his pupils to church, and sing as a choirman. It was
not that Saleur himself followed the observances of the Church; for
it was merely as a supporter of the cause of order that he went to
Mass with his wife, a lean, insignificant, red-haired woman, who was
neither devout nor coquettish, but who also regarded attendance at
church on Sundays as a social duty. Thus Saleur's grudge against Férou
arose simply from the circumstance that the schoolmaster's rebellious
attitude aggravated the quarrels which were perpetually occurring
between the priest of Jonville and the inhabitants of Le Moreux.

[Footnote 1: About $35.]

For instance, the latter complained that the priest treated them with
little or no respect, that they only obtained from him some scraps of
Masses, bestowed on them like alms, that they were compelled to send
their children to Jonville for the catechism classes and the first
Communion, and that all sorts of difficulties were placed in their
way with respect to weddings, baptisms, and churchings; whereupon
the infuriated Abbé retorted that when folk wished to obtain favours
from Heaven their first duty was to provide themselves with a priest
of their own. On weekdays, when it was invariably closed, the church
of Le Moreux looked like a dismal empty barn; but for half an hour
every Sunday Abbé Cognasse swept down on it like a tempest, feared by
everybody and terrorising the parish with his capriciousness and his

Marc, who was acquainted with the situation, could not think of Férou
without feeling much compassionate sympathy. In that well-to-do village
of Le Moreux, he, the schoolmaster, alone was unable to satisfy his
hunger. The horrible misery which assails so many poor schoolmasters
became in his case most tragically acute. He had made his _début_ at
Maillebois as an assistant teacher, with a salary of nine hundred
francs,[2] when he was twenty-four years of age. And now, after six
years' work, exiled to Le Moreux on account of his bitter disposition,
he still only received a thousand francs a year, or, allowing for the
amount deducted for the pension fund, sixty-five francs a month--that
is to say, fifty-two sous a day.[3] Yet he had a wife and three little
girls to keep! Black misery reigned in the damp old hovel which served
as a school, the food was often such as dogs would have scorned to
touch, the girls went about shoeless, the wife did not possess a decent
gown. And indebtedness was always increasing, the threatening, deadly
indebtedness in which so many humble servants of the State become
engulfed, while those at the head of affairs are often wickedly paid
six times as much as their services deserve.

How great was the courage, the heroism which Férou needed to try to
hide that misery, to remain erect in his threadbare frock-coat, to hold
his rank as a man of letters, a monsieur who by the regulations was
forbidden to carry on any commercial calling whatever. Morning after
morning the struggle began afresh, night was only reached by force of
energy and will. That shepherd's son, whose keenly intelligent mind
had retained great independence, discharged his duties passionately,
as often as not without any show of resignation. His wife, a stout
and pleasant blonde, formerly assistant to her aunt, who kept a shop
at Maillebois, where Férou had met and married her honestly enough,
after getting her into trouble, gave him it is true some little help,
attending for instance to the girls, teaching them to read and sew,
while he had on his hands the ill-bred, dense, and malicious boys.
Under all the circumstances was it surprising that he sometimes yielded
to the discouragement which comes from ungrateful toil, to the sudden
rebellion of his suffering heart? Born poor, he had always suffered
from poverty, ill fed and ill clad, and now that he was a monsieur
his poverty became the more frightfully bitter. Around him he saw
only happy folk, peasants possessed of lands, able to eat their fill,
proud of the crown-pieces they had put by. Most of them were brutish,
scarcely able to write. They invariably needed his help when a letter
had to be drafted. Yet he, the only man of intellect, education, and
culture among them, often lacked a franc to buy himself a couple of
new collars or to pay for the repair of his old shoes. And the others
treated him as a lackey, overwhelmed him with scorn, jeered at his
ragged coat, of which, at heart, they were jealous.

But the comparison which they drew between him, the schoolmaster, and
Abbé Cognasse, the priest, was particularly unfavourable to Férou.
The schoolmaster was so poorly paid and so wretched, he was treated
impertinently by his pupils, and disdainfully by their parents; he
was destitute, too, of all authority, unsupported by his superiors;
whereas the priest, far more liberally remunerated, receiving moreover
all sorts of presents in addition to his stipend, was backed up by
his bishop and petted by the devout, whilst as for authority he spoke
like one who had only to address himself to his Master to bring as he
pleased thunder, or rain, or sunshine on the crops. Thus, although
Abbé Cognasse was always quarrelling with the folk of Le Moreux, and
although they had lost their faith and had almost ceased to follow the
observances of religion, he still reigned over them. And thus, on the
other hand, schoolmaster Férou, tortured by his life of indigence,
gorged with bitterness, turned into a Socialist by sheer force of
circumstances, drew bad reports upon himself by expressing subversive
views with respect to that social system which condemned him, the
representative of intelligence and knowledge, to starve, whilst all
around him stupidity and ignorance possessed and enjoyed.

[Footnote 2: About $175 per annum.]

[Footnote 3: About 50 cents.]

The winter proved very severe that year. Already in November Jonville
and Le Moreux were buried in snow and ice. Marc heard that two of
Férou's little girls were ill and that their father was scarcely able
to provide them with broth. He strove to assist him, but he himself
was very poor, and had to obtain Mademoiselle Mazeline's help in the
good work. Like Férou indeed, Marc, as schoolmaster, only received a
salary of one thousand francs a year, but his duties as parish clerk
were better remunerated than his colleague's. Again, the building in
which the Jonville boys' and girls' schools were lodged--the former
village parsonage, restored and enlarged--was more healthy than that of
Le Moreux. Nevertheless, the young man hitherto had only made both ends
meet by the liberality of Madame Duparque, his wife's grandmother, who
sent frocks for Louise, linen for Geneviève, besides little presents in
money at certain seasons of the year. Since the Simon case, however,
she had given nothing, and Marc was almost relieved, for the harsh
words accompanying each of her presents had often hurt his feelings.
But how straitened did the home now become, and what toil, courage, and
economy were needed to live and discharge one's office with dignity!

Marc, who loved his profession, had returned to it with a kind of
dolorous ardour, and nobody, on seeing him at work, punctually
discharging each duty through those first winter months so hard to the
poor, had any suspicion of the sombre grief, the bitter despair, which
he hid so jealously beneath a brave assumption of tranquillity. He had
remained sorely hurt ever since the condemnation of Simon; the wound
dealt him by that monstrous iniquity would not heal. In moments of
privacy he lapsed into black reveries, and Geneviève often heard him
exclaim: 'It is frightful! I thought I knew my country, and I did not
know it!'

Yes, how had it been possible for such an infamous thing to take
place in France, the France of the Great Revolution, which Marc had
regarded hitherto as the deliverer and justiciar promised to the world?
He loved his country dearly for its generosity, for its independent
courage, for all the noble and great work which he thought it was
destined to accomplish. And now it allowed--nay, actually demanded--the
condemnation of an innocent man! And it reverted to the old-time
imbecility, the barbarity of ancient days! Had it been changed, had it
been poisoned to bring about that dementia? Grief and shame haunted
him; it was as if he himself had had a share in that crime. And with
his eager passion for truth and his craving to impose it upon all, he
felt intolerable discomfort when he saw falsehood triumph, and found
himself powerless to fight and destroy it by shouting aloud the truth
which he had sought so zealously. He lived through the affair again,
he still sought and sought, without discovering anything more, so
great was the tangle created by invisible hands. And after his long
hours of teaching, such despair at times came over him in the evening
that Geneviève gently cast her arms about him and kissed him tenderly,
desirous of giving him a little comfort.

'You will make yourself ill, my poor friend,' she said. 'Don't think of
those sad things any more.'

Tears came to his eyes, so deeply was he touched. In his turn, he
kissed her tenderly. 'Yes, yes,' he answered, 'you are right, one must
be brave. But how can I help it? I cannot prevent myself from thinking,
and it is great torment.'

Then smiling, and raising a finger to her lips, she led him to the cot
where little Louise was already fast asleep. 'You must only think of
our darling; you must say to yourself that we are working for her. She
will be happy if we are.'

'Yes, that would be the more sensible course. But, then, is not our
happiness to come from the happiness of all?'

Geneviève had evinced much sense and affection throughout the affair.
She had been grieved by the demeanour of her grandmother towards her
husband, to whom, during the last days spent at Maillebois, even
Pélagie, with spiteful affectation, had never spoken. Thus, when the
young people had quitted the house on the Place des Capucins, the
parting had been a very cold one; and since that time Geneviève had
contented herself with calling on her relations at long intervals, by
way of avoiding a complete rupture. Now that she was back at Jonville
she had again ceased to attend Mass, for she did not wish to give Abbé
Cognasse any opportunity to approach her and endeavour to undermine her
affection for her husband. Evincing no interest in the quarrel between
the Church and the school, she was content to cling to Marc's neck;
and, like a woman who has given herself entirely to the loved one, it
was in his arms that she sought a refuge, even when heredity and the
effects of a Catholic education prevented her from fully approving
his actions. Perhaps in the Simon affair she did not think as he did,
but she knew how loyal, generous, and just he was, and she could not
blame him for acting according to his conscience. Nevertheless, like a
sensible woman, she occasionally recalled him to prudence. What would
have become of them and their child if he had compromised himself so
far as to lose his position? At the same time, they loved each other
so much, they were still so full of passion one for the other, that no
quarrel between them had a chance of becoming serious. The slightest
disagreement ended in an embrace, a great quiver, and a rain of ardent

'Ah, my dear, dear Geneviève, when one has given oneself, one can never
take oneself back!'

'Yes, yes, my dear Marc, I am yours; I know how good you are; do with
me as you please.'

He allowed her all freedom. Had she gone to Mass he would not have
tried to prevent her. Whatever might be his own views, he wished to
respect her liberty of conscience. And, as christening was a usual
thing, he had not thought of opposing the baptism of little Louise.
When at times he felt worried by the divergence of religious views, he
asked himself if love did not suffice as a remedy for everything, if
one did not always end by agreeing, whatever catastrophe might befall,
when every evening there came the closest union, husband and wife
having but one heart and one being.

If the Simon affair continued to haunt Marc, it was because he was
unable to cease occupying himself with it. He had vowed that he would
never rest until he should discover the real culprit; and he kept his
word, influenced more by passion than by strict duty. On Thursdays,
when his afternoons were free, he hastened to Maillebois to call at the
Lehmanns' dark and dismal shop in the Rue du Trou. The condemnation
of Simon had fallen on that wretched dwelling like a thunderbolt.
Public execration seemed to cast the convict's family, his friends,
and even the few acquaintances who remained faithful to him, out of
the pale of humanity. Lehmann and his wife, who evinced such wretched
resignation to their lot, were forsaken by their customers, and would
have starved had they not secured some poorly-paid piece-work for
Parisian clothiers. But it was particularly Madame Simon, the mournful
Rachel, and her little children, Joseph and Sarah, who suffered from
the savage hatred assailing their name. It had been impossible for the
children to return to school. The town-lads hooted them, pelted them
with stones, and one day the little boy came home with his lip badly
cut by a missile. As for the mother, who had assumed mourning and
whose beauty became the more dazzling in the plain black gown which
she always wore, she spent her days in weeping, relying only on some
prodigy for salvation. Alone among the inmates of the desolate house,
amid the yielding grief of the others, did David remain erect, silent
and active, still seeking and still hoping.

He had allotted to himself a superhuman task--that of saving and
rehabilitating his brother. He had sworn to him at their last interview
that he would dedicate his life to the work of penetrating the
frightful mystery, of discovering the real murderer, and of dragging
the truth into the broad light of day. Thus he had definitively placed
the working of his sand and gravel pits in the hands of a reliable
manager, knowing that if he should lack money he would from the outset
find his efforts crippled. Personally, he devoted himself entirely to
his search for the truth, ever following up the slightest clues, ever
deep in the quest for new facts. If it had been possible for his zeal
to weaken, the letters from Cayenne, which his sister-in-law at long
intervals received from his brother, would have sufficed to inflame his
courage. Simon's departure, his embarkation with other unhappy beings,
the awful voyage, the arrival yonder amid all the horrors of the penal
settlement--those were scorching memories which threw David into
indescribable agitation, which returned amid dreadful shudders at each
and every hour. And now came letters, doctored and amputated by the
officials, yet allowing one to detect beneath each phrase the cry of
one who was enduring intolerable torture, the revolt of an innocent man
for ever brooding over his pretended crime, and at a loss to understand
why it was that he should expiate another's deed. Was not madness at
the end of that devouring anguish? Simon alluded gently to the thieves
and assassins, his companions; and one could divine that his hatred was
directed against the keepers, the torturers, who, uncontrolled, far
removed from the civilised world, became like the wild men of primeval
caverns, gloating over the sufferings they inflicted upon other men.
It was a sphere of mire and blood; and one evening a pardoned convict
recounted such horrible particulars to David, in Marc's presence, that
the two friends, their bleeding hearts wrung by terror and compassion,
were stirred to furious protest and cried their pain aloud.

Unfortunately the ceaseless inquiries, which both David and Marc
prosecuted with discreet stubbornness, yielded no great result. They
had resolved to keep a watch on the Brothers' school at Maillebois, and
particularly on Brother Gorgias, whom they still suspected. But a month
after the trial all three of the assistant Brothers, Isidore, Lazarus,
and Gorgias, disappeared together, being sent to some other community
at the other end of France. Brother Fulgence, the director, alone
remained at Maillebois, where three new Ignorantines joined him. David
and Marc could draw no positive conclusions from this incident, for the
Brothers often went from one establishment to another. Besides, as all
three assistants had been removed, it was impossible to tell to which
one of them that removal was really due.

So far as Maillebois was concerned the worst result of Simon's
condemnation had been the terrible blow dealt to the Communal school,
from which several families had withdrawn their children in order to
confide them to the Brothers, who had never previously known such
great prosperity. Nowadays the victorious faces of priests, monks,
and Brothers were met on all sides in the town; and the new master
appointed to succeed Simon, a pale and puny little fellow named
Méchain, seemed scarcely the man to resist that invading tide. He was
said to be consumptive, and he certainly suffered a great deal from the
severity of the winter, when he left his boys largely in the charge
of Mignot, who, always at a loss when he was not guided, now took the
advice of Mademoiselle Rouzaire. She was more than ever on the side
of the clerical faction which at present reigned over the region; and
thus she persuaded Mignot to take the boys to Mass, and even set up a
large wooden crucifix in the classroom. These things were tolerated in
official spheres, where it was thought, perhaps, that they might have a
good effect on certain families and facilitate the return of children
to the Communal school. But, as a matter of fact, all Maillebois was
going over to the Clericals, and the crisis had become extremely

Marc's desolation increased as he observed the spirit of ignorance
enthroned over the region. Simon's name had become a bogie name; one
could not mention it without driving people wild with rage and fear.
They regarded it as an accursed name which brought misfortune--a name
that summed up all human iniquity. Silence ought to be observed; no
allusion, however slight, ought to be made to it, for otherwise one
might draw the most dreadful catastrophes upon the country. A few men
of sensible upright minds had certainly felt greatly disturbed since
the trial, and had even admitted the possibility of the condemned man's
innocence; but in presence of the furious wave of public opinion they
no longer spoke; they even advised their friends to remain silent. What
would be the use of protesting, of endeavouring to secure justice? Why
should one expose oneself to utter ruin without rendering any practical
help to anybody? At each indication furnished by circumstances Marc
felt stupefied at finding everybody crouching in falsehood and error,
as in some ever-growing pond of filthy, slimy, poisonous water. On
various occasions he happened to meet Bongard the farmer, Doloir the
mason, and Savin the clerk, and he quite understood that all three
had been minded to withdraw their children from the Communal school
and send them to the Brothers', and that if they had abstained from
doing so it was only from some dim fear that they might thereby harm
themselves with the authorities.

Bongard, who kept very quiet, at a loss whether to side with the
priests or the government, ended, however, by relating that the Jews
spread the cattle plague through the country, for his two children had
seen a man throwing some white powder into a well. Doloir on his side
talked of an international Jew syndicate which had been formed to sell
France to Germany, and threatened to box the ears of Méchain, the new
schoolmaster, if his boys, Auguste and Charles, should learn anything
wrong at that Communal school where children were corrupted. Then Savin
became more bitter than ever, haunted at times by the idea that if
he vegetated it was because he had not joined the Freemasons, and at
others covertly regretting that he had not openly become a partisan of
the Church. At one moment also he declared the Simon affair to have
been a comedy. One culprit had been sacrificed to save all the others
and to hide what went on in every school of France, whether it were
secular or religious. Thus, to save his children, Hortense, Achille,
and Philippe, from perdition, he thought of removing them from school
altogether, and allowing them to grow up as nature might direct.

Marc listened to it all, feeling quite upset and at a loss to
understand how people of any sense could reach such a degree of
aberration. There was something more than innate ignorance in such
mentality. It had been created by the continuous working of all the
stupid things which were currently said, by the growth of popular
prejudices through the ages, by the virus of all the superstitions
and legends which destroyed men's reason. And how was purification
possible, how could one cure those poor ailing, intoxicated people and
endow them with good health, intellectually and morally?

Marc experienced deep emotion one day when he went to buy a schoolbook
of the Mesdames Milhomme, the stationers in the Rue Courte. Both of
them were in the shop with their sons, Madame Alexander with Sébastien,
and Madame Edouard with Victor. Marc was served by the latter lady,
who, though she seemed taken aback when he suddenly entered, promptly
recovered her assurance and frowned with an expression of harsh and
egotistical determination. But Madame Alexandre had risen quivering,
and under the pretence of making Sébastien wash his hands, she at once
led him away. Marc was deeply stirred by that flight. It was a proof of
what he suspected--the great perturbation that had reigned in that home
ever since Simon, the innocent man, had been condemned. Would the truth
ever come from that little shop then? He knew not, and, feeling more
distressed than ever, he withdrew, after allowing Madame Edouard to
tell him some extraordinary tales by way of masking her sister-in-law's
weakness. An old lady customer of hers, she said, often dreamt of
poor little Zéphirin, Simon's victim, who appeared to her, bearing a
martyr's palm. And since the Brothers' school had been suspected by the
freethinkers it had been granted the visible protection of Heaven, for
on three different occasions surrounding buildings had been struck by
lightning whereas the school had remained unharmed.

Finally, apropos of some administrative affair, Marc had occasion
to call on Darras, the Mayor, who had always been regarded as a
Simonist, having openly displayed his sympathy with the prisoner at
the time of the trial. But, after all, he was a functionary, and did
not his position now compel him to observe complete neutrality? His
discretion was increased by some little cowardice, a fear of coming
into collision with the majority of the electors and of losing his
position of mayor, of which he was so proud. So, when Marc's business
was settled and the young man ventured to question him, he raised his
arms to the ceiling despairingly. He could do nothing, he was bound
by his position, particularly as the Clericals would certainly secure
a majority in the municipal council at the next elections if the
population were irritated any further. That disastrous Simon affair had
given the Church a wonderfully favourable battlefield, where it gained
the easiest victories over the poor ignorant multitude, poisoned with
errors and lies. As long as that blast of dementia should continue
blowing, one could attempt nothing, one must bow the head, and let the
storm sweep on. Darras even exacted from Marc a promise that he would
not repeat what he said to him. Then he escorted him to the door as a
proof of his secret sympathy, and again implored him to remain silent
and motionless until the advent of better times.

When Marc, as the result of such incidents, felt overcome with despair
and disgust, there was only one spot where he found any comfort.
That was the private room of Salvan, the Director of the Beaumont
Training College. He visited Salvan frequently during the trying
winter months, when his colleague Férou was starving at Le Moreux
and contending against Abbé Cognasse. He spoke to his friend of the
revolting wretchedness of the poor ill-paid schoolmaster, beside the
prosperity of the fatly-kept priest. And Salvan admitted that such
wretchedness was the cause of the discredit into which the position
of elementary schoolmaster was fast falling. If students for the
Training Colleges were only recruited with difficulty, it was because
the paltry stipend of fifty-two sous a day, allowed a man when he
became a titular head-master at thirty years of age, no longer tempted
anybody. The peasants' sons who were anxious to escape the plough, and
among whom both the Training Colleges and the Seminaries found most of
their pupils, now preferred to go to the towns in search of fortune,
to engage in commerce there, and even to become mere clerks. It was
only exoneration from military service, obtained by signing a contract
to follow the teaching profession for at least ten years, that still
induced some of them to enter that calling, in which so little money
and so few honours were to be won, whereas a deal of worry and a deal
of scorn were to be expected by all.

Yet the recruiting of the Training Colleges was the great question, on
which the education of the country, its very strength and salvation,
depended. Co-equal with it in importance was that of the exact
training to be given in those colleges to the schoolmasters of the
future. It was necessary to animate them with the flame of reason and
logic, to warm their hearts with the love of truth and justice. The
recruiting depended entirely on the grant of higher remuneration to the
profession, such reasonable remuneration as would enable a schoolmaster
to lead a life of quiet dignity; whilst as for the training of the
future teachers an entirely new programme was needed. As Salvan rightly
said, on the value of the elementary master depended the value of
elementary education, the mentality of the poorer classes, who formed
the immense majority of the community. And beyond that matter there was
that of the future of France. Thus the question became one of life or
death for the nation.

Salvan's mission was to prepare masters for the liberating work which
would be entrusted to them. But hitherto it had been impossible to
create apostles such as were needed, men who based themselves solely on
experimental methods, who rejected dogmas and mendacious legends, the
whole huge fabric of error by which the humble of the world have been
held in misery and bondage for ages. The existing masters were mostly
worthy folk, Republicans even, quite capable of teaching reading,
writing, arithmetic, and a little history, but absolutely incapable
of forming citizens and men. In the disastrous Simon affair they had
been seen passing almost entirely to the side of falsehood, because
they lacked reasoning powers, method, and logic. They did not know how
truth ought to be loved; it had sufficed them to hear that the Jews had
sold France to Germany, and at once they had become delirious! Where
then, ah! where was that sacred battalion of elementary schoolmasters
which was to have taught the whole people of France by the sole light
of certainties scientifically established, in order that it might be
delivered from the darkness of centuries, and rendered capable, at
last, of practising truth, and liberty, and justice?

One morning Marc received a letter in which Salvan begged him to call
at the first opportunity. On the following Thursday afternoon the young
man therefore repaired to Beaumont, to that Training College which
he could never enter without a feeling of emotion, without memories
and hopes arising in his mind. The director was awaiting him in his
private room, a door of which opened into a little garden brightened
already by the warm April sunshine.

'My dear friend,' said Salvan, 'this is why I sent for you. You are
acquainted with the deplorable state of affairs at Maillebois. Méchain;
the new master, whose appointment in such grave circumstances was a
mistake, is not badly disposed; I even think that he is on our side;
but he is weak, and in a few months' time he has allowed himself to
be outflanked. Moreover, he is ill, and has applied for a change of
appointment, wishing, if possible, to go to the south. What we need
at Maillebois is a master of sterling good sense and strong will,
one possessed of all the intelligence and energy necessitated by the
present situation. And so there have been thoughts of you----'

'Of me!' cried Marc, taken aback by so sudden and unexpected an

'Yes; you alone are thoroughly acquainted with the district and the
frightful crisis to which it is now a prey. Since the condemnation of
poor Simon, the elementary school has been, so to say, accursed; it
loses pupils every month, while the Brothers' school tends to take
its place. Maillebois is now becoming a centre of Clericalism, low
superstition, and reactionary stupidity, which will end by devouring
everything if we do not resist. The population is already relapsing
into the hateful passions, the foolish imaginings of nine hundred years
ago, and we need an artisan of the future, a sower of the good crop to
restore the Communal school to prosperity. So, as I said before, you
were thought of----'

'But is it merely a personal desire that you are expressing, or have
you been asked to consult me?' asked Marc, again interrupting.

Salvan smiled: 'Oh! I am a functionary of no great importance; I can
hardly hope to see all my personal desires accomplished. The truth
is that I have been requested to sound you. It is known that I am a
friend of yours. Le Barazer, our Academy Inspector, sent for me last
Monday, and from our conversation sprang the idea of offering you the
Maillebois school.'

Marc could not refrain from shrugging his shoulders.

'Oh! Le Barazer did not behave very bravely in Simon's case, I am aware
of it,' Salvan continued. 'He might have done something. But we have
to take men as they are. One thing which I can promise you is that if
you do not find him exactly on your side, hereafter he will at least
prove the hidden prop, the inert substance on which you may lean for
support without fear. He always ends by getting the better of Prefect
Hennebise, who is so dreadfully afraid of worries; and Forbes, the
Rector, good man, is content to reign without governing. The dangerous
party is that lay Jesuit Mauraisin, your Elementary Inspector, Father
Crabot's friend, with whom Le Barazer thinks it more politic to behave
gently. But come, surely the idea of battle does not frighten you!'

Marc remained silent, with downcast eyes, absorbed in anxious thoughts,
assailed by doubt and hesitation. Then Salvan, who could read his mind
and who, moreover, was acquainted with the drama of his home life,
stepped forward and took his hands, saying with great feeling: 'I know
what I am asking of you, my friend. I was a great friend of Berthereau,
Geneviève's father, a man with a very free, broad mind, but at the
same time a sentimental man who ended by accompanying his wife to Mass
in order to please her. Later I acted as surrogate-guardian to his
daughter, your wife, and I often visited the little house on the Place
des Capucins, where Madame Duparque already reigned so despotically
over her daughter, Madame Berthereau, and over her grandchild,
Geneviève. Perhaps I ought to have warned you more than I did at the
time of your marriage, for there is always some danger when a man like
you marries a young girl who ever since infancy has been steeped in the
most idolatrous of religions. But, so far, I have had no great occasion
for self-reproach, for you are happy. Nevertheless, it is quite true
that, if you accept the Maillebois appointment, you will find yourself
in continual conflict with those ladies. That is what you are thinking
of, is it not?'

Marc raised his head. 'Yes, I confess it, I fear for my happiness.
As you know, I have no ambition. To be appointed at Maillebois would
doubtless be desirable advancement; but I am perfectly content with my
position at Jonville, where I am delighted to have succeeded and to
have rendered some services to our cause. Yet now you wish me to quit
that certainty, and jeopardise my peace elsewhere!'

A pause followed; then Salvan gently asked: 'Do you doubt Geneviève's

'Oh! no,' cried Marc; and after another pause and some little
embarrassment: 'How could I doubt her, loving as she is, so happy in
my arms?... But you can have no notion of the life we led with those
ladies during the vacation, while I was busy with Simon's case. It
became unbearable. I was treated as a stranger there; even the servant
would not speak to me. And I felt as if I had been carried thousands
of leagues away, to some other planet, with whose inhabitants I
had nothing in common. Worst of all, the ladies began to spoil my
Geneviève; she was relapsing into the ideas of her convent days, and
she herself ended by growing frightened, and felt very happy when we
found ourselves once more in our little nest at Jonville.'

He paused, quivering, and then concluded: 'No! no! Leave me where I am.
I do my duty there: I carry out a work which I regard as good. It is
sufficient for each workman to bring his stone for the edifice.'

Salvan, who had been pacing the room slowly, halted in front of the
young man. 'I do not wish you to sacrifice yourself, my friend,' he
said; 'I should regret it all my life if your happiness should be
compromised, if the bitterness born of conflict should infect your
hearth. But you are of the metal out of which heroes are wrought.... Do
not give me an answer now. Take a week to think the matter over. Come
again next Thursday; we will then have another chat, and arrive at a

Marc returned to Jonville that evening, feeling very worried. Ought
he to silence his fears, which he scarcely dared to acknowledge to
himself, and engage in a struggle with his wife's relations--a struggle
in which all the joy of his life might be annihilated? He had decided
at first that he would have a frank explanation with Geneviève; but
afterwards his courage failed him, he foresaw only too well that she
would simply tell him to act in accordance with his opinions and as
his duty directed. Thus, assailed by increasing anguish of mind,
discontented with himself, the young man did not speak to his wife of
Salvan's offer. Two days went by amid hesitation and doubt; and then he
ended by reviewing the situation and weighing the various reasons which
might induce him to accept or refuse the Maillebois appointment.

He pictured the little town. There was Darras the Mayor, who, although
a good-natured man and one of advanced views, no longer dared to be
openly just for fear of losing his official position, and placing his
fortune in jeopardy. There were also all the Bongards, the Doloirs,
the Savins, the Milhommes, all those folk of average intellect and
morality who had favoured him with such strange discourses, in which
cruelty was blended with imbecility; while behind them came the
multitude, a prey to even more ridiculous fancies and capable of more
immediate ferocity. The superstitions of savages prevailed among the
masses, their mentality was that of a nation of barbarians, adoring
fetiches, setting its glory in massacre and rapine, and displaying
neither a shred of tolerance, nor of sense, nor of kindliness. But
why did they remain steeped--at their ease, as it were--in all the
dense filth of error and falsehood? Why did they reject logic, even
mere reason, with a kind of instinctive hatred, as if they were
terrified by everything that was pure, simple, and clear? And why,
in the Simon case, had they given to the world the extraordinary
and deplorable spectacle of a people paralysed in its sensibility
and intelligence, determined neither to see nor to understand, but
bent on enveloping itself in all possible darkness, in order that
it might be unable to see, and free to clamour for death amid the
black night of its superstitions and its prejudices? Those folk had
assuredly been contaminated, poisoned; day by day newspapers like _Le
Petit Beaumontais_ and _La Croix de Beaumont_ had poured forth the
hateful beverage which corrupts and brings delirium. Poor childish
minds, hearts deficient in courage, all the suffering and humble ones,
brutified by bondage and misery, become an easy prey for forgers and
liars, for those who batten upon public credulity. And ever since the
beginning of time every Church and Empire and Monarchy in the world
has only reigned over the multitude by poisoning it, after robbing and
maintaining it in the terror and slavery of false beliefs.

But if the people had been poisoned so easily it must have been because
it possessed no power of resistance. Poison, moral poison, acts
particularly on the ignorant, on those who know nothing, those who
are incapable of criticising, examining, and reasoning. Thus, beneath
all the anguish, iniquity, and shame, one found ignorance--ignorance,
the first and the only cause of mankind's long Calvary, its slow and
laborious ascent towards the light through all the filth and the crimes
of history. And assuredly, if nations were to be freed, one must go to
the root of things--that root of ignorance; for once again it had been
demonstrated that an ignorant people could not practise equity, that
truth alone could endow it with the power of dispensing justice.

At that point of his reflections Marc felt very much astonished. How
came it that the mentality of the masses was no higher than that of
mere savages? Had not the Republic reigned for thirty years, and had
not its founders shown themselves conscious of the necessities of the
times by basing the state edifice on scholastic laws, restoring the
elementary schools to honour and strength, and decreeing that education
thenceforth should be gratuitous, compulsory, and secular? They must
have fancied at that time that the good work was virtually done, that
a real democracy, delivered from old-time errors and falsehoods, would
at last sprout from the soil of France. But thirty years had elapsed,
and any forward step that might be achieved seemed to be cancelled by
the slightest public disturbance. The people of to-day relapsed into
the brutish degradation, the dementia of the people of yesterday,
amidst a sudden return of ancestral darkness. What had happened then?
What covert resistance, what subterranean force was it that had thus
paralysed the immense efforts which had been attempted to extricate all
the humble and suffering ones from their slavery and obscurity? As Marc
put this question to himself he at once saw the enemy arise--the enemy,
the creator of ignorance and death, the Roman Catholic Church.

It was that Church which, with the patient tactics of a tenacious
worker, had barred the roads, and gradually seized on all those poor
dense minds which others had tried to wrest from its domination. She
had always fully understood that she must remain the master of the
educational system in order that she might create night and falsehood
as she listed, if she desired to keep the bodies and souls of the
masses in subjection. Thus it was on the battlefield of the schools
that she had once again waged hostilities, displaying marvellous
suppleness in her hypocritical craft, pretending even to be Republican,
and availing herself of the laws of freedom to keep within the prison
house of her dogmas and superstitions the millions of children whom
those same laws had been devised to liberate. And all those children
were young brains won over to error, future soldiers for the religion
of spoliation and cruelty which reigned over the hateful society of the

The crafty old Pope was seen leading the campaign, that turning
movement which was to drive the Revolution from its own land of
France, and, in the name of liberty, filch and appropriate all
its conquests. The founders of the existing _régime_, the early
Republicans, in presence of the feigned disarming of the Church, had
been simple-minded enough to regard themselves as victors, to lapse
into tranquillity, and even to smile upon the priests. They celebrated
a new spirit of concord and pacification, the union of all beliefs in
one sole national and patriotic faith. As the Republic was triumphant,
why should it not welcome all its children, even those who, again
and again, had tried to throttle it? But, thanks to that benevolent
grandeur of views, the Church went on prosecuting her subterranean
march, the Congregations which had been expelled[4] came back one by
one, the everlasting work of invasion and enthralment was pursued
without an hour's rest. Little by little the colleges of the Jesuits,
the Dominicans, and other Congregations peopled the civil service, the
magistrature, and the army with their pupils and creatures, while the
secular schools were dispossessed by those of the Brothers and Sisters.
Thus, on suddenly awaking with a great start, the country had found
itself once more in the hands of the Church, the best posts of its
governmental organisation being held by the Church's men, while its
future was pledged, since the children of the masses, the peasants,
artisans, and soldiers of to-morrow were held beneath the rods of the

[Footnote 4: This is not an allusion to the recent expulsions of
the religious Orders, but to those carried out a score of years

Marc, as it happened, witnessed on the Sunday an extraordinary
spectacle which fully confirmed his impressions. He was still deep in
thought, still unable to make up his mind to accept Salvan's offer.
And having gone to Maillebois that Sunday in order to see David,
he afterwards came upon a remarkable religious ceremony, which _Le
Croix de Beaumont_ and _Le Petit Beaumontais_ had been announcing in
flamboyant articles for a fortnight past, in such wise that all the
devotees of the region were in a fever of excitement over it. The
question was one of a superb reliquary, containing a fragment of the
skull of St. Antony of Padua, a perfect treasure, for the purchase of
which as much as ten thousand francs, it was said, had been subscribed
by some of the faithful, who had presented it to the Capuchin Chapel.
For the inauguration of the reliquary at the feet of the statue of the
Saint there was to be a grand solemnity, which Monseigneur Begerot had
consented to adorn with his presence. It was the Bishop's graciousness
in this respect which impassioned everybody; for none had forgotten how
he had formerly supported Abbé Quandieu, the parish priest, against the
efforts of the Capuchins to gain all the faithful and all the money of
the region to themselves. Besides, he had always been regarded as a
thorough Simonist. Yet he had now consented to bestow on the Capuchins
and their trade a public mark of his sympathy; and it followed that
he must have submitted to very powerful influences, for it was
extraordinary that after an interval of only a few months he should
give the lie to all his previous actions, and resign himself to a
course which must have been painful indeed to a man of so much culture
and gentle good sense.

Attracted by curiosity, Marc repaired with the crowd to the chapel,
where during the next two hours he beheld the strangest things
possible. The trade which the Maillebois Capuchins carried on with
their St. Antony of Padua had become very considerable, amounting to
some hundreds of thousands of francs every year, collected in little
sums, varying from one franc to ten. Father Théodose, the superior,
whose fine apostolic head sent all the lady devotees into raptures, had
proved himself to be an inventor and manager of great genius. He had
devised and organised the democratic miracle, the domestic, every-day
miracle such as was within the reach of the humblest purses. At the
outset St. Antony's statue in the chapel had been a somewhat paltry
one, and the Saint had busied himself with little else than the finding
of lost things, his old-time specialty. But after a few successes of
this kind, as money began to flow in, Father Théodose by a stroke of
genius extended the sphere of the Saint's miraculous action, applying
it to all the needs and desires of his steadily increasing customers.
The sick who were afflicted with incurable maladies, those also who
merely suffered from head or stomach ache; the petty shopkeepers who
were in embarrassed circumstances, who lacked the money to honour their
acceptances, or who did not know how to get rid of damaged goods; the
speculators who had embarked in shady undertakings and who feared the
loss of their fortunes and their liberty; the mothers who were in
despair at finding no husbands for their plain and dowerless daughters;
the poor devils out of work, who were weary of seeking employment,
and who felt that only a prodigy could enable them to earn their
bread; the heirs who were anxious with respect to the sentiments of an
ailing grandparent, and who desired the help of Heaven to ensure them
a bequest; the idle schoolboys, the hare-brained school girls, all the
dunces who were certain to fail at their examinations if Providence did
not come to their assistance; all the sorry weaklings, destitute of
will, incapable of effort, who, regardless of work and common sense,
awaited some undeserved success from a superior power--all these might
address themselves to St. Antony, confide their case to him, and secure
his all-powerful intercession with the Deity, the chances of success in
their favour being six to four, according to careful statistics which
had been prepared!

So everything was organised in a lavish way. The old statue was
replaced by a new one, very much larger and gilded far more profusely;
and collection boxes were set up on all sides--collection boxes of a
new pattern, each having two compartments, one for money gifts and
the other for letters which were addressed to the Saint, and which
specified the nature of the applications. It was of course allowable
to give no money; but it was remarked that the Saint granted only the
prayers of those who bestowed at least some small alms. In the result
a tariff was established, based on experience--so Father Théodose
asserted--one franc and two francs given being for little favours,
five francs and ten francs when one was more ambitiously inclined.
Besides, if the applicant did not give enough, the Saint soon made it
known by failing to intervene, and it then became necessary to double
and treble one's alms. Those customers who desired to delay payment
until the miracle was accomplished ran the risk of never securing a
favour at all. Moreover, the Saint retained all freedom of action,
choosing the elect as he pleased, and rendering accounts to none. Thus
the whole affair was a gamble, a kind of divine lottery, in which one
might draw a good or a bad number; and it was this very circumstance
which impassioned the masses among whom the gambling instinct is so
keen. They rushed upon the collection boxes and gave their franc,
their two francs, or their five francs, all aflame with the hope that
they would perhaps secure a big prize, some illicit and unhoped-for
gain, some fine marriage, some diploma, some huge bequest. Never had
there been a more impudent attempt to brutify the public, a more
shameless speculation on human stupidity and the instincts of idleness
and covetousness, one which destroyed all self-reliance and spread
broadcast the idea of achieving success by chance alone without the
slightest show of merit.[5]

[Footnote 5: M. Zola's account of the worship of St. Antony is strictly
accurate. Can one wonder that the Government of the Republic should
have decided to expel from France some of the bandits who, masquerading
under the guise of monks, initiated this colossal fraud? The idea of
it sprang from their keen jealousy of the wealth of the Assumptionist
Fathers whom they found raking in money at Lourdes by the aid of bogus
miracles. They carried the miracle craze further by diffusing the
worship of St. Antony throughout France, preying on all the credulous
with the most astounding impudence.--_Trans._]

Marc understood by the feverish enthusiasm of the groups around him
that the business would spread still further and contaminate the
whole region, thanks to that chiselled, gilded, silver reliquary,
in which a fragment of St. Antony's skull was enshrined. This was
Father Théodose's last device in response to the competition which
other religious Orders had started at Beaumont, with a great swarming
of statues and collection boxes, in order that the public might try
their luck with other miracle-working saints. Mistakes would now be
impossible, he alone possessed the sacred fragment of bone, and he
alone would be able to supply the miracle gamblers with the very best
chances of success. Posters covered the walls of the chapel, a new
prospectus guaranteed the absolute authenticity of the relic, set
forth that the tariffs would not be increased in spite of the new
advantages offered, and carefully regulated operations in order that
no recrimination might ensue between the Saint and his customers. The
first thing, however, which struck Marc painfully was the presence of
Mademoiselle Rouzaire, who had brought the girls of the Communal school
to the ceremony as if their attendance were a part of the curriculum.
And he was stupefied when at the head of the girls he saw the tallest
of them carrying a religious banner of white silk embroidered with
gold. But Mademoiselle Rouzaire made no secret of her sentiments.
Whenever one of her pupils competed for a certificate she sent her
not only to take Communion, but to place two francs in one of St.
Antony's collection boxes, in order that the Deity might facilitate her
examination. When the pupil was more stupid than usual she even advised
her to put five francs into the box, as the Saint would assuredly have
extra trouble in her case. She also made her pupils keep diaries in
which they had to record their sins day by day, and distributed good
marks to them for attendance at Mass. Singular indeed was the secular
Communal school kept by Mademoiselle Rouzaire!

The little girls ranged themselves on the left side of the nave,
while the little boys of the Brothers' school installed themselves
on the right, in the charge of Brother Fulgence, who, as usual, made
no end of fuss. Father Crabot and Father Philibin, who had wished to
honour the ceremony with their presence, were already in the choir.
Perhaps they were further desirous of enjoying their victory over
Monseigneur Bergerot, for everybody knew how the Rector of Valmarie
had helped to glorify the worship of St. Antony of Padua, in such wise
that it was a triumph to have compelled the Bishop to make due amends
for his severity of language respecting 'base superstition.' When
Monseigneur Bergerot entered the chapel, followed by Abbé Quandieu,
Marc felt confused, almost ashamed for them, such dolorous submission,
such enforced relinquishment did he detect beneath their grave pale

The young man easily guessed what had happened, how the dementia, the
irresistible onrush of the devout, had ended by sweeping the Bishop
and the priest from the positions they had originally taken up. Abbé
Quandieu had long resisted, unwilling as he was to lend himself to what
he regarded as idolatry. But at sight of the scandal occasioned by his
demeanour and the solitude growing around him, he had been seized with
anguish, wondering if religion would not suffer from his uncompromising
attitude, and at last resigning himself to the painful duty of casting
the holy mantle of his ministry over the new and pestilential sore.
One day he had carried the story of his doubts, his struggles, his
defeat to Monseigneur Bergerot, who like him was vanquished, who like
him feared some diminution of the power of the Church if it should
confess its follies and its flaws. And the weeping Bishop had embraced
the priest and promised to attend the ceremony which was to seal the
reconciliation with the Capuchins and their allies. Keen suffering
must have come to them from their powerlessness, from their enforced
cowardice; and they must have suffered yet more bitterly at seeing
their ideal soiled, their faith made a mere matter of barter. Ah! that
Christianity, so pure at its advent, a great cause of brotherhood and
deliverance, and even that Catholicism which had winged its flight so
boldly and proved itself so powerful an instrument of civilisation, in
what mud would both expire, if they must be thus allowed to sink to the
vilest trading, to become the prey of the basest passions, mere things
to be bought and sold, instruments for the diffusion of brutishness and
falsehood! Worms were gathering in them, as in all old things, and soon
would come rottenness, final decomposition, which would leave nought
save a little dust and mouldiness behind.

The ceremony proved a triumphal one. A constellation of candles
glittered around the reliquary which was blessed and censed. There were
orisons and addresses, and canticles chanted amid the mighty strains
of the organ. Several ladies were taken ill, one of Mademoiselle
Rouzaire's little girls had to be led away, so oppressive became the
atmosphere. But the delirium of the congregation reached a climax
when Father Théodose, having ascended the pulpit, recited the Saint's
miracles: one hundred and twenty-eight lost objects duly found; fifty
doubtful commercial transactions brought to a good issue; thirty
tradespeople saved from bankruptcy by the sudden sale of old goods
stored away in their shops; ninety-three sick people, paralytic,
consumptive, affected with cancer or with gout, restored to health;
twenty-six young girls married although they were portionless; thirty
married women becoming the mothers of boys or girls, according to their
choice; three hundred clerks placed in good offices with the salaries
they desired; six inheritances acquired suddenly and against all hopes;
seventy-seven pupils, girls and boys, successful at their examinations,
although their teachers had foretold the contrary; and all sorts of
other favours and graces, conversions, illicit unions transformed into
lawful ones, unbelievers dying converted, lawsuits gained, unsaleable
lands suddenly disposed of, houses let after remaining tenantless for
ten years! And ardent covetousness convulsed the throng at each fresh
announcement of a miracle, till at last a clamour of satisfied passion
greeted the enumeration of each favour, which Father Théodose announced
from the pulpit in a thundering voice. It all ended in an attack
of veritable dementia, the whole congregation rising and howling,
stretching forth convulsive hands as if to catch one or another of
those great lottery prizes that rained down from heaven.

Angered and disgusted, Marc was unable to remain there any longer.
He had seen Father Crabot await a benevolent smile from Monseigneur
Bergerot, then hold with him a friendly conversation, which everybody
remarked. Meantime Abbé Quandieu was smiling also, though a twitch of
pain lurked round his lips. The sacrifice was consummated. The victory
of the Brothers and the monks, the triumph of the Catholicism of
idolatry, servitude, and annihilation would prove complete. The young
man felt stifled in that atmosphere, so he left the chapel to seek the
sunshine and the pure air.

But St. Antony of Padua pursued him even across the square outside.
Groups of female devotees were chattering together, even as the women
gamblers had chattered in the old days while loitering near the doors
of the lottery offices.

'As for me,' said one very fat and doleful woman, 'I never have any
luck; I never win at any game. And perhaps that's why St. Antony does
not listen to me. I gave forty sous on three occasions, once for my
goat which was ailing, but all the same it died; the next time for a
ring I lost, and which I never found; and then, the third time, for
some potatoes which were rotting, but it was no good, I couldn't find a
buyer for them. Ah! I am really unlucky and no mistake!'

'You are too patient, my dear,' a little dark wizened old woman
answered. 'As for me, when St. Antony won't lend ear, I make him

'But how, my dear?'

'Oh! I punish him. For instance, there was that little house of mine
which I couldn't let because people complain that it's too damp and
that children get ill and die there. Well, I gave three francs, and
then I waited. Nothing, not a sign of a tenant! I gave three francs a
second time, and still there was no result. That made me cross and I
hustled the statuette of the Saint which stands on the chest of drawers
in my bedroom. As he still did nothing for me, I turned his face to the
wall to let him reflect. He spent a week like that, but still nothing
came of it, for it did not humiliate him sufficiently. I had to think
of something else; I felt quite furious, and I ended by tying him to
a cord and lowering him into my well, head downwards. Ah! my dear, he
then understood that I was bound to have the last word with him; for
he hadn't been in the well two hours when some people called and I let
them my little house.'

'But you pulled him out of the well?'

'Oh! at once. I set him on the drawers again, after wiping him quite
clean and apologising to him.... We are not on bad terms together on
account of that affair, oh! dear no; only, do you see, when one has
paid one's money, one ought to be energetic.'

'All right, my dear, I'll try.... I have some worries with the Justice
of the Peace, so I will go inside and give two francs. And if the Saint
doesn't help me to win the suit, I will show him my displeasure.'

'That's it, my dear! Tie a stone to his neck, or wrap him up in some
dirty linen. He doesn't like that at all. It will make him do the right

Marc could not help smiling in spite of his bitter feelings. He
continued listening, and heard a group of serious looking men--among
whom he recognised Philis, the Municipal Councillor and clerical
rival of Mayor Darras--deploring the fact that not a parish of the
_arrondissement_ had yet consecrated itself to the Sacred Heart of
Jesus. That was another clever invention, more dangerous still than
the base trafficking in St. Antony of Padua. True, the poorer classes
as yet remained indifferent to it, as it lacked the attraction of a
miraculous and a gambling element. None the less, there was a grave
peril in that idolatrous worship of the Sacred Heart, a real, red,
bleeding heart torn away amid a last palpitation, and portrayed like
the heart of some animal in a butcher's shop. The endeavour was to
make that gory picture the emblem of modern France, to print it in
purple, to embroider it in silk and gold on the national flag, so
that the whole country might become a mere dependency of the Church
which invented that repulsive fetich worship. Here again one found the
same manœuvre, the same attempt to lay the grip of priestcraft on the
nation, to win over the multitude by means of superstition and legend,
in the hope of steeping it once more in ignorance and bondage. And in
the case of the Sacred Heart, as in that of St. Antony of Padua, it
was particularly the Jesuits who were at work, disorganising the olden
Catholicism with their evil power, and reducing religion to a level
with the carnal practices of savage tribes.

Marc hurried away. He again felt suffocated, he longed for solitude and
space. Geneviève, desirous of spending an afternoon with her parents,
had accompanied him to Maillebois that Sunday. Madame Duparque,
being attacked by gout, was confined to her arm-chair, and had been
prevented therefore from attending the ceremony at the chapel. As Marc
no longer visited his wife's relations, he had agreed with Geneviève
that he would meet her outside the railway station in time for the four
o'clock train. It was now scarcely more than three, and so he walked
mechanically to the tree-planted square where the railway station
stood, and sank upon a bench there amid the solitude. He was still
pondering, still absorbed in a great, decisive, mental battle.

All at once light flashed upon his mind. The extraordinary spectacle
he had just beheld, the things he had seen and heard, filled him with
glowing certainty. If the nation were passing through such a frightful
crisis; if it were becoming divided into two hostile Frances, ready to
devour one another, it was simply because Rome had carried her battle
into French territory. France was the last great Roman Catholic power
that remained;[6] she alone still possessed the men and the money,
the strength needed to impose Roman Catholicism on the world. It was
logical, therefore, that her territory should have been chosen for the
supreme battle of Rome, who was so frantically desirous of recovering
her temporal power, as that alone could lead her to the realisation of
her ancient dream of universal domination. Thus all France had become
like those frontier plains, those fertile ploughlands, vineyards,
and orchards where two armies meet and contend to decide some mighty
quarrel. The crops are ravaged by cavalry charges, the vineyards and
orchards are ripped open by galloping batteries of artillery; shells
blow up the villages, grape-shot cuts down the trees, and changes the
plain into a lifeless desert. And, in like way, the France of to-day
is devastated and ruined by the warfare which the Church there wages
against the Revolution, an exterminating warfare without truce or
mercy, for the Church well understands that, if she does not slay the
Revolution, by which is symbolised the spirit of liberty and justice,
the Revolution will slay her. Thence comes the desperate struggle on
every field, among every class--a struggle poisoning every question
that arises, fomenting civil war, transforming the motherland into
a field of massacre, where perhaps only ruins will soon remain.
And therein lies the mortal danger, a certainty of death if the
Church should triumph and cast France once more into the darkness
and wretchedness of the past, making of her also one of those fallen
nations which expire in the misery and nothingness with which Roman
Catholicism has stricken every land where she has reigned.

[Footnote 6: Austria, the reader may be reminded, is in great straits,
held together merely by the prestige of its reigning monarch; Italy is
hostile to the temporal claims of the papacy; Spain has been killed by
its priests; Portugal slumbers in insignificance; even the prosperity
of Belgium has been largely affected by the blighting influence of its
religious Orders.--_Trans._]

Reflections, which previously had filled Marc with much perplexity,
now came to him afresh, illumined by new light. He pictured the
subterranean work of the Church during the last fifty years: the clever
manœuvres of the Teaching Orders to win future power by influencing the
children; and the policy followed by Leo XIII., his crafty acceptance
of the Republic for the sole purpose of worming his way into it and
subduing it. But if the France of Voltaire and Diderot, the France
of the Revolution and the Three Republics, had become the poor,
misled, distracted France of to-day, which almost reverted to the
past instead of marching towards the future, it was more particularly
because the Jesuits and the other teaching Orders had set their grip
on the children, trebling the number of their pupils in thirty years,
spreading their powerful establishments over the entire land. And, all
at once, impelled thereto by events, and compelled moreover to take
up position, the triumphant Church unmasked her work, and defiantly
acknowledged that she meant to be the sovereign of the nation.

All the various conquests hitherto achieved arose before the
scared eyes of the onlookers: The high positions in the army, the
magistrature, the civil and political services were in the hands of
men formed by the Church; the once liberal, unbelieving, railing
middle class had been won back to the retrograde Church-spirit from
the fear of being dispossessed by the rising tide of the masses; the
latter themselves were poisoned with gross superstitions, held in
crass ignorance and falsehood in order that they might remain the
human cattle whom the master fleeces and slaughters. And the Church,
no longer hiding her designs, impudently pursued her work of conquest,
setting up St. Antony's collection boxes with a great display of
puffery on all sides, distributing flags adorned with the gory emblem
of the Sacred Heart to the villages, opening congregational schools in
competition to every secular one, and even seizing on the latter, where
the teachers often became creatures of her own, and did her work either
from cowardice or interest.

She, the Roman Catholic Church, was now openly at war with civil
society. She raised money expressly to carry on her work of conquest;
many of the religious congregations had taken to industry and trade;
one alone, that of the Good Pastor, realising some twelve millions of
francs profit[7] every year by exploiting the forty-seven thousand
work-girls who slaved in its two hundred and seven establishments. And
the Church sold all kinds of things: alcoholic liqueurs and shoes,
medicines and furniture, miraculous waters and embroidered nightgowns
for women of bad character. She turned everything into money, she
levied the heaviest tribute on public stupidity and credulity by her
spurious miracles and her everlasting exploitation of religion. Her
wealth amounted to thousands of millions of francs, her estates were
immense, and she disposed of enough ready cash to buy parties, hurl
them one upon the other, and triumph amid the blood and ruin of civil
war. The struggle appeared terrible and immediate to Marc, who had
never previously felt how very necessary it was that France should slay
that Church if she did not wish to be slain by her.

[Footnote 7: $2,316,000.]

All at once the Bongards, the Doloirs, the Savins, the Milhommes
seemed to appear before him; he could hear them stammering the paltry
excuses that came from cowardly hearts and poisoned minds, seeking
refuge in ignorance and fear-fraught egotism. They represented France,
the scared, brutified masses, handed over to prejudice and clerical
imbecility. To rot the people more quickly anti-Semitism had been
invented, that revival of religious hate by which too it was hoped to
win over even unbelievers who had deserted the Church. But to hurl the
people against the Jews and to exploit its ancestral passions was only
a beginning; at the end lay a return to slavery, a plunge into darkness
and ancient bondage. And to-morrow there would be Bongards, Doloirs,
Savins, and Milhommes of a still lower type, more stupefied, more
steeped in darkness and falsehood than those of to-day, if the children
should still be left in the hands of the Brothers and the Jesuits, on
the forms of the many Congregational schools.

It would not be sufficient to close those schools; it was also
necessary to purify the Communal schools, which the stealthy work of
the Church had ended by affecting, paralysing secular education, and
installing reactionary masters and mistresses among the teachers, who
by their lessons and their examples perpetuated error. For one man
like Férou, so intelligent and brave, even if maddened by misery, for
one woman like Mademoiselle Mazeline, all heart and reason, how many
disturbingly worthless ones there were--how many, too, who were badly
disposed, who went over to the enemy and did the greatest harm! There
were Mademoiselle Rouzaires, who from ambition sided with the stronger
party and carried their interested clericalism to excess; there were
Mignots drifting, allowing themselves to be impelled hither and thither
by those around them; there were Doutrequins, honest old Republicans,
who had become anti-Semites and reactionaries from an error of
patriotism; and behind all these appeared the entire elementary staff
of the country, disturbed, spoilt, losing its way, and liable to lead
the children confided to it, the generations of which the future would
be compounded, to the bottomless pit. Marc felt a chill at his heart
as he thought of it. Never before had the peril threatening the nation
seemed to him so imminent and so redoubtable.

It was certain that the elementary schools would prove the
battle-ground of the social contest; for the one real question was to
decide what education should be given to those masses which, little
by little, would assuredly dispossess the middle class of its usurped
power. Victorious over the expiring nobility in 1789, the _bourgeoisie_
had replaced it, and for a whole century it had kept possession of
the entire spoils, refusing to the masses their equitable share. At
present the _rôle_ of the _bourgeoisie_ was finished; it acknowledged
it, by going over to reaction, desperate as it felt at the idea of
having to part with power, terrified by the rise of the democracy which
was certain to dispossess it. Voltairean when it had thought itself
in full and peaceful enjoyment of its conquests, clerical now that in
its anxious need it found it had to summon reaction to its help, it
was worn out, rotted by abuse of power, and the ever advancing social
forces would eliminate it from the system. The energy of to-morrow
would be found in the masses, in them slumbered humanity's huge reserve
force of intelligence and will. Marc's only hope now was in those
children of the people who frequented the elementary schools from one
to the other end of France. They constituted the raw material out of
which the future nation would be fashioned, and it was necessary to
educate them in such wise that they might discharge their duty as
freed citizens, possessed of knowledge and will power, released from
all the absurd dogmas, errors, and superstitions which destroy human
liberty and dignity.

No happiness was possible, whether moral or material, save in the
possession of knowledge. The view inspired by the Gospel dictum, 'Happy
the poor in spirit,'[8] had held mankind in a quagmire of wretchedness
and bondage for ages. No, no! The poor in spirit are perforce mere
cattle, fit flesh for slavery and for suffering. As long as there shall
be a multitude of the poor in spirit, so will there be a multitude
of wretched beings, mere beasts of burden, exploited, preyed upon by
an infinitesimal minority of thieves and bandits. The happy people
will one day be that which is possessed of knowledge and will. It is
from the black pessimism based on sundry passages of the Bible that
the world must be delivered--the world, terrified, crushed down for
more than two thousand years, living solely for the sake of death.
Nothing could be more dangerous than to take the old Semite doctrine
as the only moral and social code. Happy, on the contrary, are those
who know--happy the intelligent, the men of will and action, for the
kingdom of the world shall belong to them! That was the cry which now
arose to Marc's lips, from his whole being, in a great transport of
faith and enthusiasm.

[Footnote 8: This is how the French render the well-known words of the
Sermon on the Mount, as given in Matthew v. 2. It will be remembered
that in Luke vi. 20, only the word 'poor' is given, 'in spirit' being
omitted. I must confess that I do not know what the 'higher criticism'
has to say of this inconsistency, and I am not learned enough to
express an opinion of any value on the Greek texts.--_Trans._]

And all at once he arrived at a decision: he would accept Salvan's
offer, he would come to Maillebois as elementary master, and he would
contend against the Church, against that contamination of the people,
of which he had witnessed one of the delirious fits at the ridiculous
ceremony held that afternoon. He would work for the liberation of
the humble, he would strive to make them free citizens. To win back
those masses whom he saw weighed down by ignorance and falsehood,
incapable of justice, he would go to the children and to the children's
children, instruct them, and, little by little, create a people of
truth who, then alone, would become a people of justice. That was the
loftiest duty, the most pressing good work, that on which depended the
country's very salvation, its strength and glory in its liberating
and justice-bringing mission through the ages and through the other
nations. And if, after three days' hesitation and anguish at the idea
of imperilling the happiness he enjoyed in Geneviève's arms, a moment
had sufficed for Marc to arrive at that weighty decision, was it not
that he had also found himself confronted by the serious problem of the
position of woman, whom the Church had turned into a mere stupefied
serf, an instrument of falsity and destruction?

What would they become as wives and mothers, those little girls whom
Mademoiselle Rouzaire now led to the Capuchins? When the Church had
seized them and held them by their senses, their weakness, and their
sufferings, it would never release them; it would employ them as
terrible engines of warfare, to demolish men and pervert children. So
long as woman, in her ancient contest with man, with respect to unjust
laws and iniquitous moral customs, should thus remain the property and
the weapon of the Church, social happiness would remain impossible,
war would be perpetuated between the disunited sexes. And woman would
only at last be a free creature, a free companion for man, disposing of
herself and of her happiness for the happiness of her husband and her
child, on the day when she should cease to belong to the priest, her
present master--he who disorganised and corrupted her.

With respect to Marc himself, was it not an unacknowledged fear, the
dread of some drama, which might ravage his own household, that had
made him tremble and recoil from the prospect of doing his duty? The
sudden decision he had taken might mean a struggle at his own hearth,
the necessity of doing his duty to those of his own home, even though
his heart might bleed cruelly the while. He knew that now; thus there
was some heroism in the course he chose with all simplicity, with all
enthusiasm for the good, work which he hoped to prosecute. The highest
_rôle_ and the noblest in a nascent democracy is that of the poor and
scorned elementary schoolmaster, appointed to teach the humble, to
train them to be happy citizens, the builders of the future City of
Justice and Peace. Marc felt it was so, and he suddenly realised the
exact sense of his mission, his apostleship of Truth, that fervent
passion to acquire Truth, certain and positive, then cry it aloud and
teach it to all, which had ever possessed him.

Raising his eyes to the railway station, the young man suddenly
perceived that it was past four o'clock. The train which he and his
wife were to have taken had gone, and it would be necessary to wait
till six, when the next one started. Almost immediately afterwards
he saw Geneviève approaching, looking much distressed, and carrying
little Louise in her arms in order to get over the ground more rapidly.
'Ah! my friend, you must forgive me, I quite forgot the time,' she
exclaimed. 'Grandmother detained me, and seemed so annoyed by my
impatience to join you that I ended by no longer noticing how time
slipped by.'

She had seated herself on the bench beside him, with Louise on her lap.
He smilingly inclined his head and kissed the child, who had raised her
little hands to pull his beard. And he quietly answered: 'Well, we will
wait till six o'clock, my dear. There is nobody to interfere with us,
we can remain here. Besides, I have something to tell you.'

But Louise wanted to play, and, stamping on her father's thighs, she
cast her arms about his neck.

'Has she been good?' he asked.

'Oh! she always is at grandmother's; she's afraid of being scolded. But
now, you see, she wants to have her revenge.'

When the young woman had managed to reseat the child on her lap again,
she inquired of her husband: 'What is it you want to tell me?'

'Something which I did not previously speak to you about, as I had
not made up my mind. I am offered the post of schoolmaster here, at
Maillebois, and I am going to accept it. What do you think of it?'

She looked at him in amazement, at first unable to reply. And for a
moment in her eyes he plainly detected a gleam of joyous surprise,
followed, however, by increasing anxiety.

'Yes, what do you think of it?' he repeated.

'I think, my friend, that it is advancement, such as you did not expect
so soon--only, the position will not be an easy one here, amid such
exasperated passions--your opinions, too, being known to everybody.'

'No doubt. I thought of that, but it would be cowardly to refuse the

'But to speak quite plainly, my friend, I very much fear that if you
accept the post it will lead to a complete rupture with grandmother.
With mother we might still get on. But, as you know, grandmother is
intractable; she will imagine that you have come here to do the work of
Antichrist. It means certain rupture.'

A pause, full of embarrassment, followed. Then Marc resumed: 'So you
advise me to refuse? You also would disapprove of it: you would not be
pleased if I came here?'

She again raised her eyes to his, and with an impulse of great
sincerity replied: 'Disapprove of what you do? You grieve me, my
friend: why do you say that? Act as your conscience bids, do your duty
as you understand it. You are the only good judge, and whatever you do
will be well done.'

But, though she spoke those words, he could detect that her voice was
trembling, as if with fear of some unconfessed peril which she felt to
be near at hand. There came a fresh pause, during which her husband
took hold of her hands and caressed them lovingly in order to reassure

'So you have quite made up your mind?' she asked.

'Yes, quite: I feel that I should be acting wrongly if I acted

'Well, as we still have an hour and a half to wait for our train, I
think we ought to return to grandmother's at once, to acquaint her with
your decision.... I want you to behave frankly with her, not as if you
were hiding things.'

The young woman was still looking at her husband, and at that moment
all that he read in her glance was a great deal of loyalty mingled with
a little sadness.

'You are right, my darling,' he answered; 'let us go to grandmother's
at once.'

They walked slowly towards the Place des Capucins, delayed somewhat by
the little legs of Louise, whom her mother held by the hand. But the
close of that fine April day was delightful, and they covered the short
distance in a kind of reverie, without exchanging a word. The square
had become deserted again, the ladies' house seemed to be wrapped in
its wonted somnolence. They found Madame Duparque seated in the little
drawing-room, resting her ailing leg on a chair, while she knitted
stockings for some charity. Madame Berthereau was embroidering near the

Greatly astonished by Geneviève's return, and particularly by the
presence of Marc, the grandmother dropped her knitting, and, without
even telling them to sit down, waited for them to speak. When Marc had
acquainted her with the position, the offer made to him, his decision
to accept it, and his desire to inform her of it in a deferential way,
she gave a sudden start, then shrugged her shoulders.

'But it is madness, my boy,' said she; 'you won't keep the appointment
a month.'

'Why not?'

'Why? Because you are not the schoolmaster we require. You are well
aware of the good spirit of the district, where religion is securing
such splendid triumphs. And with your revolutionary ideas your position
would be untenable, you would soon be at war with the whole population.'

'Well, I should be at war. Unfortunately one has to fight in order to
be victorious.'

Thereupon the old lady became angry: 'Don't speak foolishly!' she
exclaimed. 'There seems to be no end to your pride and rebellion
against religion! But you are only a grain of sand, my poor boy, and
I really pity you when I see you imagining yourself strong enough to
conquer in a battle in which both Heaven and man will annihilate you!'

'It is not I who am strong, it is reason, it is truth.'

'Yes, I know.... But it is of no consequence! Just listen to me! I will
not have you here as schoolmaster. I am anxious for my tranquillity and
honourability. It would be too much grief and shame for me to see our
Geneviève here, in Maillebois, as the wife of a man denying both God
and country, and scandalising all pious souls by his actions. It is
madness, I tell you! You will immediately refuse.'

Madame Berthereau, sorely grieved by this sudden dispute, lowered her
head over her embroidery in order that she might not have to intervene.
Geneviève remained erect, but had become very pale, while little
Louise, whose hand she still held, felt so frightened that she hid her
face in the folds of her mother's skirt. But Marc was determined to
remain calm, and without even raising his voice he answered:

'No, I cannot refuse. I have come to a decision, and I merely desired
to inform you of it.'

At this Madame Duparque, although she was scarcely able to move, by
reason of her attack of gout, lost all self-control. As a rule nobody
dared to resist her, and she was exasperated at now finding herself
confronted by such quiet determination. A wave of terrible anger rose
within her, and words she would rather have left unspoken rushed from
her lips: 'Come! say everything,' she cried; 'confess it, you are only
coming here in order that you may busy yourself on the spot with that
abominable Simon case! Yes! you are on the side of those ignoble Jews;
you still think of stirring up all that filth, and pouncing upon some
innocent to send him yonder, in the place of the vile assassin who
was so justly condemned! And that innocent, you are still stubbornly
seeking him among the worthiest of God's servants! Is that not so?
Confess it! Why don't you confess it?'

Marc could not help smiling; for he fully understood that the real
cause of all the anger with which he was assailed was indeed the Simon
case, the dread lest he should take it in hand again, and at last
discover the real culprit. He could divine that behind Madame Duparque
there stood her confessor, Father Crabot, and that the Jesuits and
their allies, in order to prevent him from carrying on a campaign at
Maillebois, were determined to tolerate there no schoolmaster who was
not virtually in their hands.

'Why, certainly,' he answered in his quiet way, 'I am still convinced
of my comrade Simon's innocence, and I shall do everything I can to
demonstrate it.'

Madame Duparque in her rage jerked herself first towards Madame
Berthereau and then towards Geneviève. 'You hear him, and you say
nothing! Our name will be brought into that campaign of ignominy.
Our daughter will be seen in the camp of the enemies of society and
religion!... Come, come, you who are her mother ought to tell her that
such a thing is out of question, that she must prevent such infamy for
the honour of herself and that of all of us.'

The old lady's last words were addressed to Madame Berthereau, who,
utterly scared by the quarrel, had now let her embroidery fall from
her hands. For a moment she remained silent, for it cost her an effort
to emerge from the gloomy self-effacement in which she usually lived.
At last, making up her mind, she said: 'Your grandmother is right, my
girl. Your duty requires that you should not tolerate actions in which
you would have your share of responsibility before God. Your husband
will listen to you if he loves you. Indeed, you are the only one who
can speak to his heart. Your father never went against my desires in
matters of conscience.'

Geneviève turned towards Marc, at the same time pressing little Louise
to her side. She was stirred to the depths of her being: all her
girlhood at the Convent of the Visitation, all her pious training and
education, seemed to revive, filling her with vertigo. And yet she
repeated what she had already said to her husband: 'Marc is the only
good judge; he will do what he deems to be his duty.'

Despite her ailing leg, Madame Duparque had managed to struggle to
her feet. 'Is that your answer?' she cried wrathfully. 'You, whom we
brought up in a Christian manner--you who were well beloved by God--you
already deny Him, and live religionless, like some beast of the fields?
And you choose Satan without making even an effort to overcome him? Ah,
well, your husband is only the more guilty, and he shall be punished
for that also; you will be punished both of you, and God's curse shall
extend even to your child!'

She stretched forth her arms, and stood there in such a threatening
posture that little Louise, who was terror-stricken, began to sob. Marc
quickly caught up the child and pressed her to his heart, while she,
as if eager for his protection, flung her arms around his neck. And
Geneviève likewise drew near and leant against the shoulder of the man
to whom she had given her life.

'Be gone! be gone! all three of you!' cried Madame Duparque. 'Go to
your folly and your pride, they will work your ruin! You hear me,
Geneviève: there shall be no more intercourse between us until you
come back here in all humility. For you will come back some day; you
belonged to God too long for it to be otherwise; besides, I shall pray
to Him so well that He will know how to win you back entirely.... But
now be gone, be gone, I will have nothing more to do with you!'

Torn by anguish, her eyes full of tears, Geneviève looked at her
distracted mother, who was weeping silently. So heartrending was the
scene that the young woman again seemed to hesitate; but Marc gently
took her hand and led her away. Madame Duparque had already sunk into
her arm-chair, and the little house relapsed into its frigid gloom and
dismal silence.

On the following Thursday Marc repaired to Beaumont to inform
Salvan that he accepted his offer. And early in May he received the
appointment, quitted Jonville, and installed himself at Maillebois as
head-master of the Boys' Elementary School.



One sunny morning in May Marc, for the first time, took his class at
Maillebois. On the side facing the square, the large schoolroom had
three lofty windows, through whose panes of ground glass streamed a
gay, white, and vivid light. In front of the master's desk, which stood
on a small platform reached by three steps, the boys' little double
desks were set out, four in each of the eight rows.

Loud laughter, in fact quite an uproar, burst forth when one of the
lads, on proceeding to his seat, stumbled and fell intentionally.

'Now, boys,' Marc quietly said, 'you must behave yourselves. I am not
going to punish you, but you will find it more beneficial and pleasant
to behave yourselves with me.... Monsieur Mignot, please call the

Marc had wished to have Mignot's assistance on this first occasion, and
the other's demeanour plainly indicated his hostility and the surprise
he felt at having as his principal a man who had compromised himself
so greatly in the recent scandals. Mignot had even joined in the boys'
laughter when one of them had stumbled and fallen by way of amusing the
others. However, the calling of the register began.

'Auguste Doloir!'

'Present!' exclaimed a merry-looking lad in so gruff a voice that the
whole class again exploded.

Auguste was the mason's elder son, and it was he who had stumbled
a few minutes previously. Nine years of age, he looked vigorous
and intelligent, but he was wrong-headed, and his pranks often
revolutionised the school.

'Charles Doloir!' called Mignot.

'Present!' And this time Auguste's brother, two years his junior,
answered in so shrill a voice that the storm of laughter began afresh.
Though Charles was of a more refined and gentle nature than Auguste, he
invariably seconded him.

But Marc let the matter pass. He wished to be patient and to inflict
no punishments that first day. While the calling of the register
proceeded he glanced round the large room where he would have to deal
with all those turbulent lads. At Jonville there had been no such
lavish provision of blackboards--one behind his desk for himself,
and two others, right and left, for the boys--nor such a display
of coloured prints representing weights and measures, the mineral,
vegetable, and animal kingdoms, useful and harmful insects, mushrooms
and toadstools, without counting the large and numerous maps. There,
too, in a cabinet was a collection of the 'solid bodies,' as well as
various instruments for the teaching of physics and chemistry. But Marc
did not find among his new pupils the good understanding and cordiality
which had prevailed among those whom he had left at Jonville. The
neglect of his weak and ailing predecessor, Méchain, had evidently
helped to disorganise the school, which, after numbering nearly sixty
pupils, could now muster scarcely forty. Thus its position was sorely
compromised, and the hard task of restoring it to prosperity and
orderliness lay before him.

'Achille Savin!' Mignot called.

There was no answer, and he therefore repeated the name. Yet both the
Savins, the twin sons of the tax-collector's clerk, sat at one of the
double desks, with their heads lowered and a sly expression on their
faces. Though they were only eight years of age they seemed already
proficient in prudent hypocrisy.

'Achille and Philippe Savin!' Mignot repeated, glancing at them.

Thereupon, making up their minds, they answered leisurely but in
unison, 'Present!'

Marc, who felt surprised, inquired why they had previously remained
silent; but he could obtain no answer from them; they looked at him
distrustfully as if they had to defend themselves from him.

'Fernand Bongard!' Mignot continued.

Again nobody answered. Fernand, the peasant farmer's son, a sturdy boy
of ten, sat there huddled up, leaning on his elbows, with a stupefied
expression on his face. He seemed to be sleeping with his eyes open.
But one of his schoolfellows gave him a nudge, and then in a scared way
he shouted 'Present!'

This time none of the others dared to laugh, for they feared Fernand's
fists. And, silence continuing, Mignot was able to call the last name:
'Sébastien Milhomme!'

Marc had already recognised Madame Alexandre's son. Eight years of age,
with a face all gentleness, refinement, and intelligence, he sat at
the first desk on the right hand. And the young man smiled at the lad;
charmed by his candid eyes, in which he fancied he could detect the
early sparkle of a young mind, such as he desired to awaken.

'Present!' Sébastien answered in a clear gay voice, which to Marc
seemed like music compared with all the full or mocking voices of the

The calling of the register was finished; and at a sign from Mignot all
the boys now rose for prayers. Since Simon's departure, Méchain had
allowed prayers to be said at the beginning and the end of each class,
yielding, in this respect, to the stealthy persuasion of Mademoiselle
Rouzaire, who, citing her own practice as an example, asserted that the
fear of hell greatly helped to keep her pupils quiet. Moreover, parents
were pleased with the prayer-saying, and Mauraisin, the Elementary
Inspector, regarded it with favour, although it in no wise figured in
the regulations. That morning, however, Marc swiftly intervened, saying
in his quiet and resolute way: 'Sit down, boys. You are not here to say
prayers. You may say them at home if your fathers and mothers desire

Mignot, nonplussed, looked at him inquisitively. Ah! well, he would
not exercise much authority at Maillebois if he began by suppressing
prayers! Marc fully understood the meaning of his assistant's glance,
for ever since his arrival in the little town he had been conscious of
the general feeling, the conviction that he was destined to encounter
rapid and complete defeat. Besides, Salvan had warned him, and had
recommended extreme prudence, a course of skilful tolerance during
the first months. If Marc, after due reflection, ventured to suppress
prayers, it was as a first step, the result of which would enable him
to feel his way. He would have liked to remove the big crucifix which
Méchain, exhausted by the pressure brought to bear on him, had allowed
to be hung over the blackboard behind the master's desk. But the young
man felt that he could hardly do that immediately; it was necessary
that he should establish himself firmly in his position and know his
ground thoroughly before he engaged in a real battle. Apart from the
crucifix he was also irritated by four glaring chromolithographs
which hung from the walls, one of them representing the fable of St.
Geneviève delivering Paris, another Joan of Arc listening to the voices
from heaven, another St. Louis healing the sick by the touch of his
hands, and another Napoleon riding across a battlefield. Miracle and
force, religious lie and military violence were ever given as examples,
ever sown as seed in the minds of the children who would become the
citizens of to-morrow. Marc asked himself if all that ought not to
be changed, if education ought not to be begun afresh at the very
beginning, with lessons of truth and solidarity, if one was to create
free and intelligent men, capable of practising justice.

The first class was duly held, Marc gently yet firmly taking possession
of his post among his new pupils, whose curiosity he found tinged
with rebellion. The pacific conquest of their minds and hearts which
the young master desired to effect proceeded patiently day by day. At
the outset he occasionally experienced some secret bitterness, for
his mind wandered back to the well-loved pupils, the children of his
brain, whom he had left at Jonville, and whom he knew to be now in the
hands of one of his former colleagues, Jauffre, with whose spirit of
intrigue and thirst for immediate success he was well acquainted. He
felt some remorse at the thought that he had abandoned his work yonder
to one who would surely destroy it, and his only consolation lay in
the circumstance that he had taken up yet more pressing and necessary
work at Maillebois. To that work he became more and more passionately
attached, devoting himself to it with enthusiastic faith as the days
flew by and lesson followed lesson.

On the morrow of the General Elections, which took place during
that month of May, quietude fell upon the region. Prior to those
elections silence and restraint with respect to Simon's case had been
declared imperative, in order that the result of the polling might
not prove disastrous for the Republic; and directly those elections
were over--the new Chamber of Deputies being composed of virtually
the same men as the previous one--silence was again declared to be
necessary, lest, by raising inopportune questions, one should retard
the realisation of promised reforms. The truth was that after all the
battling of the electoral campaign the successful candidates desired to
enjoy the dearly-bought fruits of victory in peace. Thus, at Beaumont,
neither Lemarrois nor Marcilly, on being re-elected, was willing to
mention Simon's name, although each had promised to act as soon as his
mandate should be renewed and he should no longer have to fear the
blindness of universal suffrage. But at present it was held that Simon
had been judged and well judged; in fact the slightest allusion to his
affair was deemed contrary to patriotism. Naturally enough the same
views prevailed at Maillebois. Darras, the Mayor, even begged Marc, in
the interest of the unhappy prisoner and his relatives, to do nothing
whatever, but to wait for some wakening of public opinion. Meantime
absolute forgetfulness was effected, perfect silence was enjoined, as
if there were no Simonists or anti-Simonists left.

Marc had to resign himself to the position, particularly as he was
entreated in that sense by the ever humble and anxious Lehmanns, and
even by David, who, with all his heroic tenacity, understood the
necessity of patience. Yet Simon's brother was now following up a
serious clue. Indirectly and without positive proof thereof, he had
heard of the illegal communication which President Gragnon had made to
the jury in their retiring room prior to the verdict; and if he could
only establish the fact that this communication had been really made,
the annulment of all the proceedings would necessarily follow. But
David was conscious of the difficulties of the times, and prosecuted
his inquiries with the greatest secrecy for fear of warning his
adversaries. Marc, though of a more feverish spirit, at last consented
to follow the same tactics and feign forgetfulness. Thus the Simon
affair began to slumber as if it were ended and forgotten, whereas, in
reality, it remained the secret sore, the poisoned, incurable wound
of which the social body--ever exposed to the danger of some sudden
and mortal outburst of delirium--was dying. For, be it remembered, one
single act of injustice may suffice for a whole nation to be stricken
with dementia and slowly die.

In this position of affairs Marc for a time was able to devote himself
entirely to his school duties, and he did so with the conviction that
he was contributing to the only work by which iniquity may be destroyed
and its renewal prevented--that work which consists in diffusing
knowledge and sowing the seeds of truth among the rising generations.
Never before had he understood so fully the terrible difficulties of
the task. He found himself utterly alone. He felt that his pupils and
their parents, his assistant Mignot, and his neighbour Mademoiselle
Rouzaire were all against him. And the times were disastrous; the
Brothers' school recruited five more pupils from the Communal school
during Marc's first month. A blast of unpopularity threatened to sweep
the young man away. Parents went to the Ignorantines in order to save
their children from the abominations of that new secular master who had
suppressed prayers on the very day he had entered upon his functions.
Thus Brother Fulgence was quite triumphant. He was again assisted by
Brothers Gorgias and Isidore, who had disappeared for a while after
Simon's trial, and who now had been recalled, by way of showing, no
doubt, that the community deemed itself to be above suspicion. If
Brother Lazarus, the third assistant, had not returned to Maillebois
with the others, the reason was that he had died during his absence.
The others remained the masters of the town, whose streets were always
full of cassocks.

For Marc the worst was the mocking contempt with which all those folk
seemed to regard him. They did not condescend to make any violent
attack on him, they waited for him to commit suicide by some act of
stupendous folly. Mignot's demeanour on the first day had become that
of the whole district. As Mademoiselle Rouzaire said, it was expected
that Marc would render his position untenable in less than two months.
The young man detected the hopes of his adversaries by the manner in
which Inspector Mauraisin spoke to him on the occasion of his first
visit. Mauraisin, knowing that Marc was covered by Salvan and Le
Barazer, displayed a kind of ironical indulgence, allowing the young
man to follow his own course, but watching stealthily for some serious
blunder which would enable him to apply for his removal to another
part. He said nothing about the suppression of prayers, he desired
something more decisive, an _ensemble_ of crushing facts. The Inspector
was seen laughing over the matter with Mademoiselle Rouzaire, one of
his favourites, and from that moment Marc was surrounded by spies,
eager to denounce both his expressions of opinion and his actions.

Every time that Marc called upon Salvan in search of a little comfort,
his protector repeated to him: 'Be prudent, my friend.... Yesterday Le
Barazer received another anonymous letter denouncing you as a poisoner
and a henchman of hell. You know that I wish all success to the good
work, but I also think that it may be compromised by precipitate
action. As a beginning, render yourself necessary, bring back affluence
to the school, get yourself liked.'

At this Marc, however bitter his feelings, ended by smiling: 'You are
right, I feel it is so,' he answered; 'it is by force of wisdom and
affection that one must conquer.'

He, Geneviève, and little Louise were now dwelling in the quarters
formerly allotted to Simon. The lodging was larger and more comfortable
than that of Jonville. There were two bedrooms and two sitting-rooms,
besides a kitchen and dependencies. And the whole was very clean and
very bright, full of sunshine, and overlooked a fairly large garden in
which vegetables and flowers grew. But the young couple's furniture was
scanty; and since their quarrel with Madame Duparque, it was difficult
for them to make both ends meet, for Marc's meagre salary was all they
had to depend upon. That salary now amounted to twelve hundred francs
a year, but it really represented no more than the thousand francs
allowed at Jonville, for there Marc had also received payment as parish
clerk, which post was not to be thought of at Maillebois. And how
were they to manage on a hundred francs a month in that little town
where living was more expensive than in the village? How were they to
maintain some little appearance of dignity and comfort? How was Marc
to wear fairly respectable frock coats, such as usage demanded? It was
a grave problem, the solution of which required prodigies of thrift,
continuous secret heroism in all the petty details of life. They often
ate dry bread in order that they might have clean linen.

But, in Geneviève, Marc found a valuable, an admirable helpmate. She
renewed the exploits she had accomplished at Jonville, she managed to
provide for all the requirements of the home, without allowing much
of its penury to be seen. She had to attend to everything--cooking,
washing, and mending--and Louise was ever all smiles and smartness in
her light-hued little frocks. If Mignot, according to usage, had taken
his meals with his principal, the money paid for his board might have
helped Geneviève slightly. But the young bachelor, who had his own
quarters on the other side of the landing, preferred to patronise a
neighbouring eating-house, perhaps in order to mark his hostility and
to avoid compromising himself by any companionship with a man for whom
Mademoiselle Rouzaire predicted the worst catastrophes. He, Mignot,
with his paltry monthly salary of seventy-one francs and twenty-five
centimes,[1] led the usual wretched life of a young assistant-master,
ill clad and ill fed, with no other diversion within his reach than
that of fishing on Thursdays and Sundays. This rendered him all the
more ill-tempered and distrustful, as though indeed it were Marc's
fault if he partook of such sorry messes at the eating-house. Yet
Geneviève displayed solicitude for his welfare. She offered to mend his
linen, and one evening, when he was suffering from a cold, she hastened
to make him some herb-drink. As she and her husband said, the young
fellow was not bad-hearted, he was badly advised. Perhaps, by showing
him some kindness and equity, they might at last win him over to better

[Footnote 1: A little less than $14.]

That which Geneviève dared not say, for fear of grieving Marc, was that
the home suffered particularly from the quarrel with Madame Duparque.
In former days the grandmother had provided Louise with clothes, made
presents, and rendered assistance at difficult times. Now that the
young people were at Maillebois, only a few doors distant from the old
lady, she might often have helped them. Under the circumstances it was
very embarrassing to live so near, and to be obliged to turn one's head
aside every time one met her. On two occasions little Louise, who,
being only three years of age, could not understand the situation, held
out her arms and called when the old lady passed, in such wise that the
fated reconciliation ended by taking place. Geneviève, on returning
home one day, in a state of great emotion, related that she had yielded
to circumstances and had embraced her grandmother and mother on meeting
them on the Place des Capucins, where Louise, in all innocence, had run
forward and cast herself into their arms.

At this confession Marc, in his turn, kissed his wife, saying with a
good-natured smile: 'But that is all right, my darling. For your sake
and Louise's I am well pleased with the reconciliation. It was bound
to come, and if I am on bad terms with those ladies you surely don't
imagine that I am such a barbarian as to demand the same of you.'

'No, my friend,' Geneviève replied, 'only it is very embarrassing in a
family when the wife visits a place where her husband cannot go.'

'Why should it be embarrassing? For the sake of peace it is best that
I should not call on your grandmother again, for I cannot possibly
agree with her. But there is nothing to prevent you and the little one
from visiting her and your mother also, from time to time.'

Geneviève had become grave, her eyes fell, and while she reflected she

'I should have preferred not to go to grandmother's without you,' she
said. 'I feel firmer when we are together.... But you are right, I
understand that it would be painful for you to accompany me, and, on
the other hand, it is difficult for me to break off now.'

Thus the question was settled. At first Geneviève went but once a week
to the little house on the Place des Capucins, taking Louise with
her, and spending an hour there during the school work of Marc, who
contented himself with bowing to the ladies when he met them.

And now, for a period of two years, with infinite patience and good
nature, Marc prosecuted the conquest of his pupils amid hostile
surroundings and innumerable worries. He was a born teacher, one
who knew how to become a child again in order that children might
understand him. And, in particular, he strove to be gay; he willingly
joined in his pupils' play, behaving as if he were simply a companion,
an elder brother. And in the school work his strength lay in his power
to cast his science aside, to place himself within the reach of young
and imperfectly awakened minds, by finding easy explanatory words
suited to each occasion. It was as if he himself were still somewhat
ignorant, and participated in the delight of learning. Heavily laden
as the curriculum might be, what with reading, writing, grammar,
orthography, composition, arithmetic, history, geography, elementary
science, singing, gymnastics, notions of agriculture, manual work,
morals and civic instruction, he passed nothing by until the lads
had understood it. All his first efforts indeed were concentrated on
method, in order that nothing taught might be lost, but that everything
might be positively and fully assimilated.

Ah! how fervently did Marc devote himself to that sowing and
cultivation of truth! He strove to plan things in such wise that truth
might impose itself on his pupils by its own power, nourish their
expanding minds, and become both their flesh and their brains. And what
truth it was! It so happens that every error claims to be truth. Does
not even the Roman Catholic Church, though based on absurd dogmas,
pretend that it is the sole truth? Thus Marc began by teaching that
there is no truth outside the pale of reason, logic, and particularly
experiment. When the son of a peasant or a workman is told by his
schoolmaster that the world is round and revolves in space, he accepts
the statement upon trust just as he accepts the statements made to him
by the priest on matters of religion at the Catechism class. In order
that he may appreciate the difference, experiment must show him the
scientific certainty of the former statement. All so-called revealed
truth is falsehood; experimental truth alone is accurate--one, entire,
eternal. Marc therefore at the outset found it necessary to rebut the
Catholic catechism by the scientific catechism. He took the world and
mankind as they were explained by science, and set them forth in their
living reality and their march towards a continual and ever more and
more perfect future. There was no possibility of real amelioration,
liberation, and happiness otherwise than by truth--that is, by
knowledge of the conditions in which mankind exists and progresses. All
the craving for knowledge as a means for rapid attainment to health and
peace bore within itself its method of free expansion, science ceasing
to be a dead letter, and becoming a source of life, an excitant of
temperament and character.

Marc, as far as possible, left books upon one side, in order to compel
his pupils to judge things for themselves. They only knew things well
when they had seen or touched them. He never asked them to believe
in a phenomenon until he had proved its reality by experiment. The
whole domain of unproven facts was set aside, in reserve, for future
investigation. But he demonstrated that with the help of the acquired
truths mankind might already rear for itself a large and splendid home
of security and brotherliness. To see things for oneself, to convince
oneself of what one ought to believe, to develop one's reasoning powers
and one's individuality in accordance with the reasons of existence and
action, such were the principles which governed Marc's teaching method,
the only one by which true men might be created.

But knowledge was not sufficient--a social bond, a spiritual link of
perpetual solidarity was required. And this Marc found in Justice.
He had often noticed with what a flash of rebellion a boy, molested
in his rights, would exclaim: 'That isn't fair!' Indeed, any act of
injustice raises a tempest in the depths of those young minds, and
brings them frightful suffering. This is because the idea of justice in
them is absolute. Mark turned to good use the candour of equity, the
innate need of truth and justice, that one finds in children when life
has not yet inclined them to mendacious and iniquitous compromises.
By way of Truth towards Justice--such was the road along which he
strove to direct his pupils, as often as possible requiring them to
judge themselves when they happened to be in fault. If they had told
a falsehood, he made them admit the wrong they had done both to their
schoolfellows and to themselves. If they were disorderly and delayed
lessons, he showed them that they were the first to suffer. At times a
culprit spontaneously admitted his offence, thus earning forgiveness.
Emulation in equity ended by animating those young people; they learnt
to rival one another in frankness. At times, of course, there was
trouble, conflict, catastrophe, for all this was only a beginning, and
several generations of schoolboys would be needed for schools to become
the real abodes of healthy and happy life. Marc, however, rejoiced over
the slightest results that he obtained, convinced as he was that if
knowledge were primarily essential for all progress, nothing definitive
with respect to the happiness of mankind could be achieved without the
assistance of the spirit of justice. Why did the _bourgeois_ class,
which was the best educated, become rotten so soon? Was it not by
reason of its iniquities, its denial of justice, its refusal to restore
what it had stolen, to give to the humble and the suffering their
legitimate share of the world's good things? Some folk, in condemning
education, cited the ignominious downfall of the _bourgeoisie_ as an
example, and accused science of producing a multitude of casteless
individuals, thereby increasing the sum of evil and tribulation. And
yes, so long as the passion for knowledge merely for its own sake
should become keener and keener in a social system which was all
falsehood and injustice, it would only add to existing ruins. It was
necessary that science should tend towards justice, and bring to the
future city of fraternity a moral system of liberty and peace.

Even to be just did not suffice; Marc also required kindliness and
affection of his pupils. Nothing could germinate, nothing could flower,
unless it were by love and for it. In the universal flame of desire and
union one found the focus of the world. Within each human being was
implanted an imperious need to mingle with all others; and personal
action, liberty, and individuality were like the play of different
organs, all dependent on the universal Being. If each individual man,
even when isolated, represented so much will and power, his actions, at
all events, only began to count when they exercised an influence on the
community. To love, to make oneself loved, to make all others love: the
teacher's _rôle_ was found entire in those three propositions, those
three degrees of human instruction. To love--Marc loved his pupils
with his whole heart, giving himself to them unreservedly, knowing
full well that one must indeed love if one would teach, for only love
has the power of touching and convincing. To make oneself loved--that
was a task to which he devoted every hour, fraternising with his boys,
never seeking to make them fear him, but, on the contrary, striving
to win them over by persuasion, affection, the good-fellowship of an
elder brother still growing up among his juniors. To make all others
love--that again was his constant thought; he was ever recalling the
true saying that the happiness of each is compounded of the happiness
of all; and he brought forward the daily example of the progress and
pleasure of each boy when the whole class had worked well.

Schooling, no doubt, should have as its objects the culture of energy,
the liberation and exaltation of each individuality; a child must
judge and act by himself alone in order that as a man he may yield the
sum-total of his personal value. But, as Marc put it, would not the
crop resulting from such intensive culture increase the common harvest
of all? Could a man create true glory for himself without contributing
in one or another form to the happiness of others? Education
necessarily tended to solidarity, to the universal attraction which was
gradually blending mankind into one family. And Marc's mind and heart
were set on sympathy and affection, on a joyous, brotherly school, full
of sunshine, song, and laughter, where happiness was taught, where the
pupils learnt to live the life of science, truth, and justice, which
would come in all its fulness when the way for it should have been
sufficiently prepared by generations of children taught as they ought
to be.

From the very outset Marc combated the system by which violence,
terror, and folly were inculcated in so many children. The right of the
stronger, massacre, carnage, the devastation and razing of cities--all
those things were set before the young, glorified in books, pictures,
and constant, almost hourly, lessons. Great was the display of the
bloody pages of history, the wars, the conquests, the names of the
captains who had butchered their fellow-beings. The minds of children
were enfevered by the crash of arms, by nightmares of slaughter
steeping the plains in blood. In the prize books given to them, in the
little papers published for their perusal, on the very covers of their
copybooks, their eyes encountered the savagery of armies, the burning
of fleets, the everlasting calamity of man sinking to the level of a
wolf. And when a battle was not depicted there came a miracle, some
absurd legend, some source of darkness: a saint delivering a country
by his or her prayers, an intervention of Jesus or Mary ensuring the
ownership of the world to the wealthy, a Churchman solving political
and social difficulties by a mere sign of the Cross. The humble were
invariably warned that they must show obedience and resignation. To
impress it on their minds in childhood's hour, stormy skies were shown
them, illumined by the lightning of an irritated and cruel Deity.
Terror reigned, terror of that Deity, terror too of the devil, a base
and hideous terror, which seized on man in his infancy and kept him
cowering until he reached the grave after a life which was all dense
night, ignorance, and falsehood. In that manner one fashioned only
slaves, flesh fit to serve the master's capricious purposes. And indeed
that education of blind faith and perpetual extermination was based on
the necessity of ever having soldiers ready to defend the established
and iniquitous order of things.

Yet what an antiquated idea it was to cultivate human energy by lessons
of warfare! It corresponded with the times when the sword alone decided
questions between nation and nation, and between kings and their
subjects. But nowadays, if nations still guard themselves--as they do,
in formidable fashion, full of anxious dread lest everything should
collapse--who will dare to say that victory will rest with the warlike
nations? Who, on the contrary, cannot see that the triumphant nation of
to-morrow will be that which defeats the others on the economic field,
by reorganising the conditions of human toil, and by bringing more
justice and happiness to mankind?

To Marc it seemed that the only worthy _rôle_ for France was that of
completing the Revolution and becoming the great emancipator. The
narrow doctrine that one's sole purpose should be to make soldiers
of Frenchmen filled him with grief and anger. On the morrow of the
disasters of 1870 such a programme may have had its excuse; and yet
all the unrest of years and years, the whole abominable crisis of the
present times has proceeded from that programme, from having placed
one's supreme hope in the army, from having abandoned the democracy to
military leaders. If it be still necessary to guard oneself, surrounded
as one is by neighbours in arms, it is yet more necessary to become
workers, free and just citizens, such as those to whom to-morrow will
belong. On the day when France knows it and wills it, on the day when
she becomes a nation freed from error, the armour-plated empires around
her will crumble beneath the breath of truth and justice emanating
from her lips--a breath which will achieve that which can never be
accomplished by all her armies and her guns. Nations awaken nations,
and on the day when, one by one, the nations rise, enlightened,
instructed by example, the world will witness the victory of peace, the
end of war. Marc could imagine for his country no more splendid _rôle_
than that of hastening the day when all countries would mingle in one.
Thus he kept a strict watch over his pupils' books, replacing as far
as possible all pictures and descriptions of spurious miracles and
bloody battles by others which dealt with the truths of science and the
fruitful labours of mankind. The one true source of energy lies in work
for happiness' sake.

In the course of the second year some good results were already
manifest. Dividing his school into two classes, Marc took charge of
the first, composed of boys from nine to thirteen years of age, while
Mignot attended to the second, in which the lads were from six to nine
years old. The young principal also adopted the system of appointing
monitors, whence he derived certain advantages, a saving of time in
some matters, and an increase of emulation among his boys. Not a
moment was lost during school hours, yet he allowed the lads as much
independence as possible, chatting with them, provoking objections from
them, and imposing nothing on them by dint of authority, desirous as
he was that all feeling of certainty should come from their own minds.
Thus gaiety prevailed, and the lessons in which those young minds
passed from discovery to discovery were full of attractiveness.

On one matter only did Marc insist, and that was great cleanliness.
Under his guidance the lads took pleasure in washing their hands at
the water taps, and the classroom windows were opened widely at each
interval between lessons, as well as afterwards. Before Marc's time it
had been the practice (a usual one in French elementary schools) for
the boys to sweep the schoolroom floor, whereby they raised a terrible
amount of dust,--a redoubtable means of spreading contagion,--but he
taught them to wash the floor with sponges, a duty which they soon
regarded as a pastime.

One sunshiny day in May, two years after Marc's appointment to
Maillebois, Inspector Mauraisin paid the school a surprise visit during
the interval between morning lessons. It was in vain that he had
hitherto kept a watch on Marc. He was disconcerted by the young man's
prudence, infuriated by his inability to send in a bad report such as
would have justified removal. That clumsy revolutionary dreamer, whom
nobody had expected to see six months in office, was becoming a perfect
fixture, to the amazement and scandal of all right-thinking people. By
devising that surprise visit, however, the Inspector hoped to catch him
in fault.

As it happened, the boys had just been washing the classroom floor,
and handsome little Mauraisin, sprucely buttoned up in his frock coat,
raised a cry of alarm: 'What! are you flooded?'

When Marc explained that he had replaced sweeping by washing, for
reasons of hygiene, the Inspector shrugged his shoulders: 'Another
novelty!' said he. 'You might at least have warned the Administration.
Besides, all this water cannot be healthy, it must tend to rheumatism.
You will please content yourself with the broom so long as you are not
authorised to use sponges.'

Then, as the interval between lessons was not quite over, he began to
rummage everywhere, even opening the cupboards to see if their contents
were in order. Perhaps he hoped to find some bad books, some Anarchist
pamphlets. At all events he criticised everything, laid stress on the
slightest sign of negligence, passing censure in a loud voice, in the
very midst of the boys, by way of humiliating Marc in their presence.
At last, the boys having resumed their seats, the usual questioning

Mauraisin's first attack fell upon Mignot because little Charles
Doloir, eight years of age, and therefore in the second class, was
unable to answer a question on a subject which he had not yet studied.

'So you are behindhand with the programme!' said the Inspector. 'Why,
your pupils ought to have reached that lesson two months ago.'

Mignot, who, though he stood there in a respectful attitude, was
plainly irritated by the other's aggressive tone, turned towards his
principal. It was indeed at the latter that Mauraisin had really aimed
his remark. And so the young head-master replied: 'Excuse me, Monsieur
l'Inspecteur, it was I who thought it right to intervert certain parts
of the programme in order to make some of the lessons clearer. Besides,
is it not better to attend less to the exact order of the lessons as
given in the books than to their spirit, in such wise, however, that
all may be taught to the boys in the course of the year?'

Mauraisin affected great indignation: 'What! you interfere with the
programme, monsieur? You, yourself, decide what to take of it and
what to leave out? You substitute your fancy for the wisdom of your
superiors? Well, they shall know that this class is behindhand.'

Then, his glance falling on the elder Doloir, Auguste, who was ten
years old, he told him to stand up, and began to question him about
the Reign of Terror, asking him to name the leaders of the period,
Robespierre, Danton, Marat.

'Was Marat handsome, my boy?' he inquired.

Now Auguste Doloir, though Marc had succeeded in obtaining a little
better behaviour from him, was still the rebel and trickster of the
school. Either from ignorance or roguishness, it was hard to say, he
now made answer: 'Oh! very handsome, monsieur.'

His schoolfellows, vastly amused, laughed and wriggled on their seats.

'No, no, my boy!' exclaimed Mauraisin, 'Marat was hideous, with every
vice and every crime stamped upon his countenance!' And, turning
towards Marc, he added clumsily enough: 'You do not teach them that
Marat was handsome, I imagine!'

'No, Monsieur l'Inspecteur,' the master answered with a smile.

Laughter arose once more, and Mignot had to step between the desks
to restore order, while Mauraisin, clinging to the subject of Marat,
began to refer to Charlotte Corday. As luck would have it, he addressed
himself to Fernand Bongard, now a tall boy of eleven, whom he probably
imagined to be one of the most advanced pupils.

'Here! you big fellow yonder, can you tell me how Marat died?'

He could not have been more unlucky. It was only with the greatest
difficulty that Marc taught Fernand anything. The lad was not merely
thick-headed, he did not try to learn, and as for the names and dates
of history he was on the worst possible terms with them. He rose with a
scared expression in his dilated eyes.

'Come, compose yourself, my boy,' said Mauraisin. 'Did not Marat die
under peculiar circumstances?'

Fernand remained silent, with his mouth wide open. But a compassionate
schoolfellow behind him whispered: 'In a bath'; whereupon in a very
loud voice he answered: 'Marat drowned himself while taking a bath.'

This time the laughter became delirium, and Mauraisin flew into a
temper: 'These boys are really stupid!' he exclaimed. 'Marat was killed
in his bath by Charlotte Corday, a young girl of high-strung nature,
who sacrificed herself in order to save France from a monster thirsting
for blood.... Are you taught nothing, then, as you cannot answer the
simplest questions?'

However, he interrogated the twin brothers Savin, Achille and Philippe,
respecting the religious wars, and obtained fairly satisfactory answers
from them. They were scarcely popular in the school, for not only were
they sly and addicted to falsehoods, but they denounced those of their
schoolfellows whom they saw in fault, besides telling their father
of everything that occurred. Nevertheless the Inspector, won over by
their hypocritical ways, cited them as examples: 'These boys know at
least something,' said he. And again addressing himself to Philippe he
inquired: 'Now, can you tell me what one ought to do to follow one's
religion properly?'

'One ought to go to Mass, monsieur.'

'No doubt, but that is not sufficient; one ought to do everything that
religion teaches. You hear, my boy--everything that religion teaches.'

Marc looked at Mauraisin in stupefaction, still he did not intervene,
for he guessed that the Inspector in putting that singular question
had been prompted by a desire to make him compromise himself by some
imprudent remark. Indeed, that was so fully the other's object that
he continued aggressively, addressing himself this time to Sébastien
Milhomme: 'You, the little boy yonder with the fair hair, tell me what
religion teaches?'

Sébastien, who stood erect, with an expression of consternation on
his face, made no answer. He was the best pupil of the class, with a
quick, intelligent mind, and an affectionate and gentle disposition.
His inability to answer the Inspector brought tears to his eyes. As he
received no lessons in religion, he did not even understand what he was

'Well, you need not look at me like that, you little stupid!' exclaimed
Mauraisin; 'my question is clear enough.'

But Marc was unable to restrain himself any longer. The embarrassment
of his best pupil, to whom he was growing extremely attached, proved
unbearable to him. So he came to his help: 'Excuse me, Monsieur
l'Inspecteur, the teachings of religion are contained in the Church
Catechism, and the Catechism is not included in our programme. So how
can the lad answer you?'

This answer, no doubt, was what Mauraisin had expected. 'I have no
lessons to receive from you, Monsieur le Maître,' he responded,
feigning anger once more, 'I know what I am about. There is no properly
conducted school in which a child cannot give a general answer to a
question about the religion of his country.'

'I repeat. Monsieur l'Inspecteur,' rejoined Marc in a firm voice,
in which a little rising anger became apparent, 'I repeat that it
is not for me to teach the Catechism. You are mistaken, you are not
at the school of the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine, who make
the Catechism the basis of all their teaching. You are in a secular
Republican school, expressly set apart from all the churches--one where
the teaching is based solely on reason and science. If it be necessary,
I shall appeal on the subject to my superiors.'

Mauraisin understood that he had gone too far. Each time that he had
endeavoured to shake Marc's position he had found his superior, Academy
Inspector Le Barazer, tacitly, passively supporting the young man,
refusing to take any action against him unless grave and well-proven
charges were brought forward. Moreover, Mauraisin knew Le Barazer's
opinions respecting the absolute neutrality of the schools in religious
matters. And so, without insisting on the subject, he curtailed his
inspection, soon bringing it to an end, though not without again
indulging in criticisms, for he was determined to find nothing
satisfactory. The boys themselves deemed him ridiculous, and covertly
made merry over the bad temper of that vain little fop whose hair and
beard were so sprucely kept. When he withdrew, Mignot went so far as to
shrug his shoulders, and whisper to Marc: 'We shall have a bad report,
but you were quite right. That man is becoming altogether too stupid.'

For some time now, Mignot, gained upon by Marc's firm yet gentle
behaviour, had been coming over to his side. It was not that he as yet
shared his opinions in all things, for he was still anxious respecting
his own advancement; but he had a sound mind at bottom, and was
gradually yielding to the other's good guidance.

'Oh! a bad report!' Marc repeated gaily; 'he won't dare to venture
beyond hypocritical and venomous attacks.... Ah! do you see him going
into Mademoiselle Rouzaire's? He's with his divinity now. The worst is
that his behaviour is not dictated by principle, but merely by personal
policy, a desire to make his way in the world.'

At each inspection Mauraisin lavished very favourable reports upon
Mademoiselle Rouzaire. She, at all events, took her girls to church,
compelled them to recite the Catechism in school hours, and allowed the
Inspector to question them about religion as much as he desired. One of
her pupils, little Hortense Savin, who was being prepared for her first
Communion, quite astonished Mauraisin by her extensive knowledge of
Bible history. And if Angèle Bongard, thick-skulled like her brother,
showed less proficiency in spite of her painfully stubborn efforts to
learn, on the other hand Lucile Doloir, a little lass six years of
age, who had joined the school only recently, gave promise of great
intelligence, and would make, later on, a very charming 'Handmaiden of
the Virgin.'

When morning lessons were over, Marc again caught sight of Mauraisin,
whom Mademoiselle Rouzaire was escorting to the threshold of her
school. They lingered there together, chatting in an intimate way
and making gestures suggestive of great distress of mind. They were
undoubtedly deploring what went on in the neighbouring boys' school,
which was still in the hands of the disgraceful master of whom, for two
years, they had been vainly trying to rid the town.

After long expecting the sudden removal of Marc, Maillebois was now
growing accustomed to his presence. At a sitting of the Municipal
Council, Mayor Darras had even found an opportunity to praise him;
and his position had been strengthened recently by an incident of
considerable significance: the return of two boys who had been
previously transferred to the Brothers' school. This indicated that
parents felt tranquillised, and were disposed to accept the young
man, and it was also a check for the Congregational school, hitherto
so prosperous and victorious. Was Marc about to succeed, then,
in restoring the secular school to honour, by dint of wisdom and
affection, as he had said to Salvan? Anxiety must have arisen among
the Ignorantines and the monks, the whole clerical faction, for the
young man suddenly found himself attacked in so singular a fashion
that he was quite surprised. Mauraisin, on calling upon the Mayor and
others, had left the Catechism question on one side, speaking only
of Marc's new system of washing the schoolroom floor, and in this
connection affecting much alarm for the children's health. A great
controversy arose: ought the floor to be washed or ought it to be
swept? Before long Maillebois was divided into two camps, which became
quite impassioned and hurled all sorts of arguments at one another. The
children's parents were consulted, and Savin, the clerk, denounced the
washing system so bitterly that for a moment it was thought he would
remove his twin boys from the school. But Marc carried the question to
a higher court, soliciting the opinion of his superiors, and requesting
them to appoint a commission of medical men and hygienists. Then came
a serious investigation, and victory rested with the washing system.
For the master this was quite a triumph; the children's parents became
more and more disposed to support him; even Savin, with whom it was so
difficult to deal, had to retract, and another boy came back from the
Brothers' school, which, people began to say, was horribly dirty.

But, in spite of this dawning sympathy, Marc harboured no illusions. He
felt that years would be necessary to free the region from the poison
of Clericalism. Gaining a little more ground every now and then, he
practised the greatest prudence, well pleased with the result, however
slight it might be. At the instance of Geneviève, he had carried his
desire for peace so far as to renew his intercourse with her relations.
This, as it happened, took place in connection with the famous washing
controversy, in which, contrary to custom, the ladies shared his views.
So now, from time to time, accompanying his wife and daughter, he again
visited the little house on the Place des Capucins. The two old ladies
remained ceremonious and carefully avoided all dangerous subjects
of conversation. Thus there was no pleasant intimacy. Nevertheless
the reconciliation delighted Geneviève, for it freed her from the
embarrassment she had felt when calling alone on her grandmother and
mother. At present she saw them almost daily, and sometimes left Louise
with them, coming and going from one house to the other, Marc evincing
no anxiety, but feeling, indeed, well pleased with the gaiety displayed
by his wife, on whom the ladies again lavished caresses, services, and
little presents.

One Sunday, on going to lunch with a friend at Jonville, Marc--by
the force of contrast--suddenly realised how much ground he had
already gained at Maillebois. He had never previously understood how
decisive a schoolmaster's influence might prove. Whilst Maillebois
was slowly reverting to justice, health, and prosperity, he found
Jonville relapsing into darkness, poverty, and stagnation. It grieved
him to find that little or nothing remained of the good work he had
done there in former years. And this was due solely to the deplorable
action of the new schoolmaster, Jauffre, who cared for nothing save
his own personal success. Short, dark, quick and cunning, with narrow
prying eyes, Jauffre owed his success in life to the priest of his
native village, who had taken him from his father, a blacksmith, to
teach him his first lessons. Later on another priest had enriched
him by negotiating his marriage with a butcher's daughter, who was
short and dark like himself, and who brought him as dowry an income
of two thousand francs a year. Jauffre was convinced, therefore,
that if he desired to become a personage he ought to remain on the
side of the priests, who some day doubtless would provide him with a
splendid position. The income he owed to his wife already rendered him
respectable, and his superiors treated him with consideration, for a
man who was not dependent on the administration for his living could
hardly be hustled about as if he were a mere starveling like Férou. In
the school world, as elsewhere, favours go to the rich, never to the

Besides, exaggerated reports were spread respecting Jauffre's fortune,
in such wise that all the peasants took off their hats to him, he
completing his conquest of them by his greed for gain, his wonderful
skill in extracting as much profit as possible from everybody and
everything. He was not troubled with any sincere belief; if he were a
Republican, a good patriot, and a good Catholic, it was only so far as
his interests required. Thus, although he called upon Abbé Cognasse
as soon as he was appointed to Jonville, he did not immediately hand
the school over to him, for he detected the anti-clerical spirit then
prevalent in the village. But he gradually allowed the priest to become
all-powerful by intentional relinquishment of his own privileges, and
by covert resistance to the express desires of the Mayor and the parish
council. Mayor Martineau, so strong and firm when he had leant on Marc,
became quite lost on having to contend single-handed against the new
schoolmaster, who soon became the real ruler of the parish, and ended
by relinquishing his authority to Abbé Cognasse in such wise that, at
the expiration of six months, Jonville was in the priest's hands.

Jauffre's line of conduct interested Marc particularly, because it was
a masterpiece of Jesuitry. He obtained precise information about it
from the schoolmistress, Mademoiselle Mazeline, on whom he called. She
was sincerely grieved at being unable to effect anything useful now
that she remained alone in a parish where all was rotting. She told
Marc, of the comedy played by Jauffre in the earlier days when Mayor
Martineau complained of one or another encroachment on the part of the
priest, which the schoolmaster himself had stealthily provoked. The
latter pretended to be as indignant as the Mayor, and accused his wife,
Madame Jauffre, who was very devout, of assisting Abbé Cognasse. As
it happened, the husband and the wife were in full agreement, and had
devised this plan in order to escape responsibility. And so Martineau
was speedily vanquished, particularly as his coquettish wife became
the great friend of Madame Jauffre, who, on the strength of her dower,
affected the manners of a born lady. Before long Jauffre began to ring
the bell for Mass, a duty which Marc had always refused to discharge.
It brought in only thirty francs a year, but then, in Jauffre's
opinion, thirty francs were not to be sneezed at. At Marc's instigation
the money had been devoted for a time to the repair of the old church
clock, and now the latter, being neglected as in former days, got out
of order once more, in such wise that the peasants never again knew
the correct time, for the clock went by fits and starts, being one day
too fast and another too slow. As Mademoiselle Mazeline remarked, with
a sad smile, that clock was the image of the parish, where nothing was
now done in accordance with sense and logic.

The worst was that Abbé Cognasse's triumph extended to Le Moreux, whose
Mayor, Saleur, the ex-grazier, impressed by the turn which things
were taking at Jonville, and fearing for the fat life which he led,
thanks to his new wealth, went back to the Church, however little
he might really like the priests. And it was on that wretched rebel
schoolmaster, Férou, that the effects of the reconciliation fell.
Whenever Abbé Cognasse now came to Le Moreux, he displayed a most
insolent sense of victory, and inflicted on the schoolmaster all sorts
of humiliations, with which the other had to put up, abandoned as he
was by the Mayor and the parish council. Never did a poor man lead a
more rageful life. Possessed of a broad, quick mind, but condemned to
live among so much ignorance and malice, Férou was impelled to the most
extreme views by his ever-increasing misery. His wife, worn out by
hard toil, and his three poor, pale, and puny daughters were starving.
Yet, although indebtedness was consuming his last resources, he did
not submit. Looking more of a scarecrow than ever in his old whitening
frock coat, he evinced greater and greater bitterness, not only
refusing to take his pupils to Mass, but even growling insults when the
priest went by on Sundays. A catastrophe was imminent, dismissal was
inevitable, and, to make matters worse, as the unlucky man had served
only eight of his ten years as a teacher,[2] he would be seized by the
military authorities immediately after his dismissal. What would become
of the mournful wife and little girls, when the husband, the father,
should be lodged in some barracks?

[Footnote 2: See page 137, _ante_.]

On leaving Jonville that day, Marc and Mademoiselle Mazeline, who
accompanied him as far as the railway station, passed the church
at the moment when vespers were ending. Palmyre, Abbé Cognasse's
terrible old servant, stood on the threshold, taking stock of those
who showed themselves good Christians. Jauffre came out, and two of
his pupils saluted him in military fashion, a mark of deference which
he exacted, and which flattered his patriotic feelings. Then appeared
Madame Jauffre and Madame Martineau, Martineau himself, and a stream
of peasants of both sexes. Marc hastened his steps in order to avoid
recognition and an impulse to express his grief aloud. He was struck
by the fact that Jonville was less well kept than formerly; signs of
abandonment, of a diminution of prosperity were already apparent.
But then was not that the law? Did not intellectual poverty engender
material poverty? Filth and vermin have invaded every country where
Roman Catholicism has triumphed. Wherever it has passed it has proved
a blast of death, striking the soil with sterility, casting men into
idleness and imbecility, for it is the very negation of life, and it
kills nations like a slow but deadly poison.

Marc felt relieved when, on the morrow, he once more found himself in
his school at Maillebois among the children whose minds and hearts he
was striving to awaken. Doubtless his work progressed very slowly, but
the result achieved lent him the strength to persevere. Unfortunately,
the parents of his boys gave him no help. His advance would have been
more rapid if the lads had found in their homes some continuance of
the principles inculcated during their school hours. But the contrary
happened at times. In Achille and Philippe Savin, Marc detected the
sullen, jealous bitterness of their father, and he could only endeavour
to check their propensity for falsehood, slyness, and tale-bearing.
Again, though the Doloirs were intelligent enough if they had only
been minded to learn, they showed little real improvement. Auguste was
very inattentive and quarrelsome, and Charles followed in his elder
brother's footsteps. With Fernand Bongard the difficulty was different;
he was exceptionally obtuse, and it was only with an incredible
amount of trouble that one could make him understand and remember the
slightest thing. Yet there was some improvement among the boys in their
_ensemble_ since Marc had brought them under a regimen of reason and

Besides, the young man did not hope to change the world with one
generation of schoolboys. The elementary master's task requires the
greatest patience and abnegation; and Marc's one desire was to furnish
an example by giving his whole life to the obscure work of preparing
the future. If others would only perform their duty one might hope
that in three or four generations a new liberating France might be
created, such as might emancipate the world. And the young man was
ambitious of no immediate reward, no personal success, though to his
great delight he did receive a recompense for his efforts in the
satisfaction which one of his pupils, little Sébastien Milhomme, gave
him. That gentle and remarkably intelligent lad had become passionately
attached to truth. Not only was he the first of his class, but he
also displayed much sincerity and uprightness, at once boyishly and
charmingly uncompromising in character. His schoolfellows often chose
him as umpire in a difficulty, and when he had pronounced judgment
he would not admit that any should free themselves from the effects
of his decision. Marc always felt happy when he saw Sébastien at his
desk, with his long and somewhat pensive face crowned by fair and
curly hair, and lighted by fine blue eyes, which, fixed on the master
with an ardent desire to learn, drank in every lesson. And it was not
only Sébastien's rapid progress which won Marc's heart; he was still
fonder of the boy on account of all the good and generous qualities
which he divined in him. Indeed, Sébastien's was an exquisite little
nature which Marc took pleasure in wakening, one of those child-natures
in which all the florescence of noble thoughts and noble deeds was
beginning to bud.

A painful scene occurred one day towards the close of the afternoon
lessons. Fernand Bongard, whom others were fond of teasing on account
of his dense stupidity, had discovered that the peak of his cap had
been torn off. Forthwith he had burst into tears, declaring that his
mother would surely beat him. Marc wished to discover the author of
this malicious act, but all the boys laughingly denied their guilt,
Auguste Doloir more impudently even than the others, though there was
reason to suspect that the misdeed was his work. And, indeed, as it was
proposed to keep the whole school in after lessons, until the culprit
should confess, Achille Savin betrayed Auguste by pulling the peak
of Fernand's cap out of his pocket. This gave Marc an opportunity to
denounce falsehood, and he did so with so much warmth that the culprit
himself shed tears and asked forgiveness. But Sébastien Milhomme's
emotion was extraordinary, and when the others departed he lingered in
the empty schoolroom, looking at his master with a desperate expression
in his eyes.

'Have you something to say to me, my boy?' Marc asked him.

'Yes, monsieur,' Sébastien replied. Yet he became silent, his lips
trembling, and his handsome face flushing with confusion.

'Is it very difficult to say, then?' Marc inquired.

'Yes, monsieur, it's a falsehood which I told you, and which makes me
feel very unhappy.'

The young master smiled, anticipating some peccadillo, some childishly
exaggerated scruple of conscience. 'Well, tell me the truth,' he said,
'it will relieve you.'

Another pause of some length followed. Signs of a fresh mental battle
became apparent in Sébastien's limpid blue eyes and even on his pure
lips. But at last the boy made up his mind and said: 'Well, monsieur,
I told you a falsehood a long time ago, when I was quite little and
ignorant--I told you a falsehood by saying what was not true, that I
had never seen my cousin Victor with that writing copy--you remember,
monsieur--the copy which people talked about so much. He had given it
to me as he did not want to keep it himself, for he felt anxious about
it as he had taken it from the Brothers'. And on that very day when I
told you I did not remember anything about it, I had hidden it in a
copybook of my own.'

Marc listened, thunderstruck. Once more the whole Simon case seemed to
arise before him, emerging from its apparent slumber. But he did not
wish the lad to see how deeply he was stirred by the unexpected shock,
and so he asked him: 'Are you sure that you are not again mistaken? Did
the copy bear the words "_Aimez vous les uns les autres_"?'

'Yes, monsieur.'

'And there was a paraph down below? I have taught you what a paraph is,
have I not?'

'Yes, monsieur.'

For a moment Marc relapsed into silence. His heart was beating
violently, he feared lest the cry which was rising to his lips might
escape him. Then, wishing to make quite sure, he continued: 'But why
did you keep silent till now, my lad? And what induced you to tell me
the truth this evening?'

Sébastien, already relieved, looked his master straight in the face
with an expression of charming candour. His delicate smile returned,
and he explained the wakening of his conscience in the simplest way.

'Oh! if I did not tell you the truth sooner, monsieur, it was because
I felt no need of doing so. I no longer remembered that I had told
you a falsehood, it was so long ago. But one day, here, you explained
to us how wrong it was to tell falsehoods, and then I remembered it,
and began to feel worried. Afterwards, every time you spoke of the
happiness one found in always saying the truth, I felt the more worried
because I had not said it to you.... And to-day it pained me so I
couldn't bear it any longer, and I had to tell you.'

Emotion brought tears to Marc's eyes. So his lessons were already
flowering in that little mind, and it was he who garnered that first
harvest--a harvest of truth--such precious truth, too, which would
perhaps enable him to bring about a little justice. Never had he hoped
for so prompt and so sweet a reward. The emotion he felt was exquisite.
With an impulse of tender affection he stooped and kissed the lad.

'Thank you, my little Sébastien, you have given me great pleasure, and
I love you with all my heart.'

Emotion had come upon the boy also. 'Oh! I love you very much,
monsieur,' he answered, 'for otherwise I should not have dared to tell
you everything.'

Marc resisted his desire to question the boy fully, for he feared
lest he might be accused of having abused his authority as master to
aggravate the confession. He merely ascertained that Madame Alexandre
had taken the copy-slip from her son, who did not know what she had
done with it, for she had never again mentioned it to him. For the
rest, the young man preferred to see the mother. She alone could
produce the slip--if it were still in her possession--and what a
precious document it would prove, for would it not constitute the
long-sought 'new fact,' which might enable Simon's family to apply for
the revision of his iniquitous trial?

On remaining alone, Marc felt full of joy. He wished it were possible
for him to hasten to the Lehmanns immediately, to tell them the good
news, and impart a little happiness to their sad, mourning home, which
was the object of so much popular execration. At last! at last! a
sunray had flashed upon the black night of iniquity.

Going upstairs to join his wife, he cried to her as he reached the
threshold, such was his excitement, his craving to relieve his heart:
'Geneviève, do you know, I now have proof of Simon's innocence ... Ah!
justice is wakening; we shall be able to go forward now!'

He had not noticed the presence, in a shadowy corner, of Madame
Duparque, who, since the reconciliation, condescended to visit her
granddaughter occasionally. She, on hearing him, gave a start and
exclaimed in her harsh voice: 'What? Simon's innocence! Do you still
persevere in your folly, then? A proof indeed! What proof do you mean?'

Then, after he had related his conversation with little Milhomme, the
old lady again flew into a temper: 'The evidence of a child! That isn't
of much value! He now pretends that he formerly lied; but what proof is
there that he is not lying now?... So the culprit would be a Brother,
eh? Oh! speak your mind plainly, acknowledge it; your only object is
to accuse one of the Brothers, is that not so? It is always the same
rageful impiety with you!'

Somewhat disconcerted at having thus come upon the old lady, and
wishing to spare his wife the grief of any fresh rupture, Marc
contented himself with saying: 'I won't discuss things with you,
grandmother. I merely wished to inform Geneviève of some news which was
likely to please her.'

'But your news does not please her!' cried Madame Duparque. 'Look at

Marc turned towards his wife, who stood there in the fading light which
fell from the window. And indeed, to his surprise, he saw that she
was grave, that her beautiful eyes had darkened, as if the night, now
slowly approaching, had filled them with shadows.

'Is it true, Geneviève?' he asked her; 'does a work of justice no
longer please you?'

She did not answer him at once. She had become pale and embarrassed,
as if tortured by painful hesitation. And just as he, likewise feeling
very uneasy, was repeating his question, she was saved the distress of
answering him by the sudden appearance of Madame Alexandre.

Sébastien, on returning home, had bravely told his mother of his
confession respecting the copy-slip. She had lacked the strength to
scold him for his good action; but full of fear at the thought that
the schoolmaster would call, question her, and demand the document in
the presence of her terrible sister-in-law, Madame Edouard, who was so
anxious for the prosperity of their little stationery business, she
had preferred to go to the school and do what she could to bury the
affair at once.

Yet now she was there her discomfort became great indeed. Like a gust
of wind she had darted out of her shop, hardly knowing what she would
say, and at present she remained stammering, full of embarrassment,
particularly as she perceived Geneviève and Madame Duparque with Marc,
whom she had hoped to see privately, alone.

'Monsieur Froment,' she began, 'Sébastien has just told me, yes, of
that confession he thought fit to make to you.... So I deemed it best
to give you the reasons of my conduct. You understand--do you not?--all
the worry which such a story would bring us with the difficulties that
already beset us in our business. Well, the fact is, it's true; I did
have that paper, but it no longer exists; I destroyed it.'

She breathed again as if relieved, having contrived to say what she
considered necessary in order to be freed from trouble.

'You destroyed it!' Marc exclaimed with a pang. 'Oh! Madame Alexandre!'

Some slight embarrassment returned to her and she once more sought her
words: 'I did wrong, perhaps.... But think of our position! We are two
poor women with nobody to assist us. And, besides, it was so sad to
have our children mixed up in that abominable affair.... I could not
keep a paper which prevented me from sleeping: I burnt it....'

She was still quivering so perceptibly that Marc looked at her as
she stood there, tall and fair, with the gentle face of a woman of
loving nature. And it seemed to him that she was experiencing some
secret torment. For a moment he felt suspicious--wondered if she were
lying--and it occurred to him to test her sincerity.

'By destroying that paper, Madame Alexandre,' he said, 'you condemned
an innocent man a second time.... Think of all that he is suffering
yonder. You would weep if I read his letters to you. There can be
no worse torture than his--the deadly climate, the harshness of his
keepers, and, above all else, the consciousness of his innocence and
the fearful obscurity as to the truth, amid which he is struggling....
And And what a frightful nightmare for you, should you remember that
all this is your work!'

She had become quite white, and her hands moved involuntarily as if to
ward off some horrible vision. There was kindness and weakness in her
nature, but Marc could not tell whether it were a quiver of remorse, or
some desperate struggle that he detected in her. For a moment, as if
imploring help, she stammered wildly: 'My poor child! my poor child!'

And that child, that little Sébastien, to whom she was so fondly, so
passionately attached, to whom she would have sacrificed everything,
must have suddenly appeared before her, and have restored some little
of her strength. 'Oh! you are cruel, Monsieur Froment!' she said; 'you
make me terribly unhappy.... But how can it be helped, since it's done?
I cannot find that paper again among the ashes.'

'So you burnt it, Madame Alexandre--you are sure of it?'

'Certainly, I told you so.... I burnt it for fear lest my little man
should be compromised, and suffer from it all his life.'

She spoke those last words in an ardent voice, as if with fierce
resolution. Marc was convinced, and made a gesture of despair. Once
again the triumph of truth was delayed, prevented. Without a word
he escorted Madame Alexandre to the door, she again becoming all
embarrassment, at a loss indeed how to take leave of the ladies who
were present. Bowing and stammering excuses, she disappeared, and, when
she was gone, deep silence reigned in the room.

Neither Geneviève nor Madame Duparque had intervened. Both had remained
frigid and motionless. And they still preserved silence while Marc,
absorbed in his grief, his head bowed, walked slowly to and fro. At
last, however, Madame Duparque rose to take her departure, and on
reaching the threshold she turned and said: 'That woman is a lunatic!
Her story of a destroyed paper appears to me to be a fairy tale which
nobody would believe. You would do wrong to relate it, for it would not
help on your affairs.... Good-night: be sensible.'

Marc did not even answer. With a heavy tread he long continued walking
up and down. Night had gathered round, and Geneviève lighted the lamp.
And when by its pale glow she began to lay the table in silence, her
husband did not even try to confess her. One sorrow was enough, and he
did not wish to hasten the advent of another, such as would come should
he learn, as he might, that she, his wife, was no longer in communion
with him in respect to many things.

But during the following days he was haunted by Madame Duparque's last
words. Supposing indeed that he should try to make use of the new
fact which had come to his knowledge, what credit would his statement
obtain among the public? Doubtless he would secure the testimony of
Sébastien; the boy would repeat that he had seen the copy-slip which
his cousin Victor had brought from the Brothers' school. But it would
be the testimony of a child barely ten years old, and his mother would
strive to weaken its importance. It was the paper itself that ought to
be produced; and the statement that it had been burnt would merely lead
to the affair being buried once again.

The more Marc reflected, the more he understood the necessity of
waiting. The new fact could not be put to use, given the conditions
in which he had discovered it. And yet for him how precious it was,
how fertile in decisive proof! It rendered his faith in Simon's
innocence unshakable, it confirmed all his deductions, materialised the
conviction to which reasoning had brought him. One of the Brothers was
the real culprit; a legally conducted inquiry would soon have shown
which of them it was. Yet the young man again had to resign himself
to patience, and rely on the strength of truth, which was now at last
on the march, and which would never more be stopped until full light
should be cast upon everything.

At the same time Marc's anguish increased, the torture of his
conscience became more tragical day by day. It was frightful to
know that an innocent man was suffering abominable martyrdom in a
penal settlement, and that the real culprit was free, near at hand,
impudent and triumphant, still pursuing his vile work as a corrupter
of children; and it was still more frightful that one should be unable
to cry all that aloud and prove it, confronted as one was by the base
complicity of all the social forces banded together by egotistical
interest to perpetuate the monstrous iniquity. Marc no longer slept,
he carried his secret with him like a sharp goad which incessantly
reminded him that it was his duty to ensure justice. Never for an hour
did he cease to think of his mission, and his heart bled despairingly
because he knew not what to do to hasten its success.

Even at the Lehmanns he said nothing of Sébastien's confession. What
good would it have done to give these poor folk a vague uncertain
hope? Life still treated them very harshly, overwhelmed them with
opprobrium and grief--grief for the prisoner yonder, whose letters
rent their hearts, and whose name was cast in their teeth as a supreme
insult. Old Lehmann's trade had declined yet more; Rachel, always
gowned in mourning like a widow, distressed by the rapid growth of her
children, who would learn everything before long, scarcely dared to
go out. Thus Marc only confided in David, in whom glowed the stubborn
determination to make everybody recognise and acclaim his brother's
innocence at some future time. He lived apart, ignored, carefully
avoiding all appearance on the scene, but never, not for an hour,
did he pause in the task of rehabilitation which had become the sole
object of his life. He reflected, studied, followed clues which he
too often had to abandon after a few steps. Despite two years of
constant research, he had discovered nothing decisive. His suspicion
of an illegal communication made by President Gragnon to the jurors
had become a moral certainty, only he had failed in all his efforts to
procure proof, and could not tell how to obtain it. Nevertheless he
was not discouraged; he had resolved to devote ten, twenty years of
his life even, to reach the real culprit. Marc's revelation inspired
him with additional courage and patience. He likewise held that it
was best to keep Sébastien's confession secret, so long as it was not
strengthened by some material proof. For the moment it merely supplied
the hope of an additional triumph. And that said, David again turned,
calmly and firmly, to his investigations, pursuing them with no haste,
but ever in the same prudent, continuous manner.

One morning, before lessons began, Marc at last made up his mind to
remove the large crucifix which hitherto he had left hanging from
the wall behind his desk. He had been waiting for two years to be
sufficiently master of the situation before expressing in this manner
the independence of the secular school--such as he understood and
desired it--in matters of religion. Until now he had willingly yielded
to Salvan's prudent advice, for he understood that he must assure
himself of his position before making it a position of combat. But
he now felt strong enough to begin the battle. Had he not restored
prosperity to the Communal school by winning back to it numerous pupils
who had been transferred to the Brothers'? Had he not gradually gained
personal respect, the affection of the children, the favour of their
parents? Besides, he was impelled to take action first by his recent
visit to Jonville, which he had left on the high road to knowledge,
and which Abbé Cognasse was once more transforming into an abode of
darkness, and secondly by all the anxiety and anger stirred up within
him by Sébastien's confession--anger with the ignominy that he divined
around him in Maillebois, which was enslaved and poisoned by the
clerical faction.

That morning, then, he had already climbed upon a stool to remove the
crucifix, when Geneviève, holding little Louise by the hand, entered
the classroom to inform him of her intention to take the child to spend
the day with her grandmother. At the sight of Marc on the stool the
young woman was quite surprised. 'What are you doing there?' she asked

'Can't you see?' he answered. 'I am taking down this crucifix, which I
intend to give to Abbé Quandieu myself, in order that he may restore it
to the church which it ought never to have left.... Here! help me--take

But she did not hold out her arms. She did not move. Turning extremely
pale, she watched him as if she were witnessing some forbidden and
dangerous deed which filled her with fear. And he had to descend from
the stool unhelped by her, encumbered with the big crucifix, which he
immediately locked up in one of the cupboards.

'You wouldn't help me,' he exclaimed. 'What is the matter? Do you
disapprove of what I have done?'

In spite of her emotion, Geneviève answered plainly: 'Yes, I disapprove
of it.'

Her answer amazed Marc. Like her he began to quiver. It was the first
time that she assumed such an aggressive and angry tone with him. He
felt a little shock, a slight rending, such as presages rupture. And he
looked at her with astonishment and anxiety, as if he had heard a voice
he did not know, as if a stranger had just spoken to him.

'What! you disapprove of what I do? Was it really you who said that?'

'Yes, it was I. It is wrong of you to do what you have done.'

She it was indeed; for she stood before him, tall and slender, with her
fair amiable face, and her glance gleaming with some of her father's
sensual passion. Yes, it was she, and yet in the expression of those
large blue eyes there was already something different, a shadow,
a little of the mystical dimness of the _au-delà_. And Marc in his
astonishment felt a chill come to his heart as he suddenly observed
that change. What had happened, then? Why was she no longer the same?
But he recoiled from an immediate explanation, and contented himself
with adding: 'Hitherto, even when you did not think perhaps as I did,
you always told me to act in accordance with my conscience, and that
is what I have now done. And so your blame surprised me painfully. We
shall have to talk of it.'

She did not disarm, she preserved her angry frigidity of manner. 'We
will talk of it if you so desire,' she replied; 'meantime I am going
to take Louise to grandmother, who will not bring her back till this

Sudden enlightenment dawned upon Marc. It was Madame Duparque who was
taking Geneviève from him, and who, doubtless, would take Louise also.
He had acted wrongly in disinteresting himself from his wife's doings,
in allowing her and the child to spend so much time in that pious
house, where the dimness and atmosphere of a chapel prevailed. He had
failed to notice the stealthy change which had been taking place in his
wife during the last two years, that revival of her pious youth, of the
indelible education of other days, which, little by little, had been
bringing her back to the dogmas which he imagined had been overcome
by the efforts of his intellect and the embrace of his love. As yet
she had not begun to follow her religion again by attendance at Mass,
Communion, and Confession, but he felt that she was already parting
from him, reverting to the past with slow but certain steps, each of
which would place them farther and farther asunder.

'Are we no longer in agreement, then, my darling?' he asked her sadly.

With great frankness she replied: 'No. And grandmother was right,
Marc; all the trouble has come from that horrible affair. Since you
have been defending that man, who was transported and who deserved
his punishment, misfortune has entered our home, and we shall end by
agreeing no more in anything.'

He raised a cry of despair. 'Is it you,' he repeated, 'you who speak
like that? You are against truth, against justice now!'

'I am against the deluded and malicious ones whose evil passions attack
religion. They wish to destroy God; but, even if one quits the Church,
one should at least respect its ministers, who do so much good.'

This time Marc made no rejoinder. A quarrel was out of place at that
moment when he was expecting the arrival of the boys. But was the
evil so deep already? His grief arose chiefly from the fact that at
the root of the dissentiment parting him from his wife he found the
Simon affair, the mission of equity which he had imposed on himself.
No concession in that matter was possible on his part, and thus no
agreement could be arrived at. For two years past that monstrous affair
had been mingled with every incident; it was like a poisoned source
which would continue to rot both people and things, so long as justice
was not done. And now his own home was poisoned by it.

Seeing that he preserved silence, Geneviève went towards the door,
repeating quietly: 'Well, I am going to grandmother's with Louise.'

Marc thereupon caught up the child as if anxious to kiss her. Would he
also allow that little one, the flesh of his flesh, to be taken from
him? Ought he not to keep her in his arms to save her from imbecile and
deadly contagion? For a moment he looked at her. Already at five years
of age, she showed signs of becoming tall and slender like her mother,
her grandmother, and her great-grandmother. But she lacked their pale
fair hair, and she had the lofty brow of the Froments, the brow that
suggested an impregnable tower of sense and knowledge. Laughing loudly,
she cast her arms prettily about her father's neck.

'You know, papa, I will repeat my fable to you when I come home; I know
it quite well.'

Yielding to a sentiment of tolerance, Marc, for the second time,
resolved that he would have no dispute. He restored the little one to
her mother, who led her away. Moreover, the boys were now arriving,
and the classroom soon became full. But anxiety remained in the
master's heart at the thought of the struggle which he had resolved
to wage when he removed the crucifix from the wall. That struggle, it
was now certain, would reach his own hearth. His tears and the tears
of his loved ones would flow. Nevertheless, by an heroic effort, he
mastered his suffering; and summoning little Sébastien, the monitor,
he bade him watch over the reading class, while for his part he gaily
proceeded with some demonstrations on the blackboard, amidst the joyous
brightness with which the sunshine flooded the schoolroom.


Three days later, in the evening, while Marc was undressing in the
bedroom, Geneviève being already in bed, he told her that he had
received an urgent letter from Salvan, who wished to see him on the
morrow, Sunday.

'No doubt it is about that crucifix which I removed from the
classroom,' the young man added. 'Some parents have complained, it
seems; and very likely there will be a great to-do. But I anticipated

Geneviève, whose head lay deep in her pillow, returned no answer.
But when Marc was in bed and the light was extinguished, he was
delightfully surprised to find her casting her arms about him, and
whispering in his ear: 'I spoke to you harshly the other day; and, it's
true, I don't think as you do about religion or about the affair; but I
still love you very dearly, I love you with all my heart.'

Marc felt the more moved by these words as, since the recent dispute,
his wife had turned her back upon him, as though in token of conjugal

'And as you are going to have trouble,' she continued softly, 'I don't
want you to think me angry. One's ideas may differ, but all the same
one may love one another very much--is it not so? And if you are mine,
I am still yours, my dear, dear husband.'

On hearing her speak like that he clasped her to him with passionate
eagerness. 'Ah! my dear wife, as long as you love me, as long as you
are mine,' said he, 'I shall fear nought of the terrible threats around

She yielded to his embrace, quivering, transported by the joy of love
which was essential to her being. And there came a moment of perfect
communion, irresistible reconciliation. The good understanding of a
young couple, united by love, is only seriously threatened when some
divergency of that love arises. As long as they are swayed by passion
one for the other, they remain in agreement athwart the worst mishaps.
He who would part them must first of all destroy their mutual passion.

When Marc gave Geneviève a last kiss before both fell asleep, he
thought it well to reassure her: 'I shall act very prudently in this
affair, I promise you,' said he. 'You know too that I am moderate and
reasonable at bottom.'

'Ah! do as you please,' she answered prettily. 'All I ask is that you
should come back to me, and that we should still love each other.'

On the morrow the young man repaired to Beaumont, quite enlivened by
his wife's ardent affection. He derived fresh courage from it, and thus
it was with a smiling face and the demeanour of a combatant that he
entered Salvan's private room at the Training College. But the first
words spoken by the director, after they had shaken hands in a friendly
way, surprised and embarrassed him.

'I say, my good fellow,' Salvan began, 'so it seems that you have at
last discovered the new fact, the long-sought proof of our poor Simon's
innocence, which will enable one to apply for the revision of his

Marc, who had anticipated an immediate explanation on the subject of
the crucifix, remained for a moment silent, wondering whether he ought
to tell the truth even to Salvan. At last, seeking his words, he said
slowly: 'The new fact ... no, I have nothing decisive as yet.'

But Salvan did not notice his hesitation. 'That is what I thought,' he
rejoined, 'for you would have warned me, eh? Nevertheless, there is a
rumour of some discovery made by you, a document of capital importance,
placed in your hands by chance, something like a sword of Damocles
which you are said to hold over the heads of the real culprit and his
accomplices, the whole clerical gang of the region.'

Marc listened, full of stupefaction. Who could have spoken? How was it
that Sébastien's confession and his mother's visit had become known?
How was it that particulars had been spread abroad, modified and
exaggerated as they passed from mouth to mouth? The young man suddenly
made up his mind to tell the truth to Salvan; he felt it necessary to
confide in that worthy and sensible friend and adviser, on whom he
placed so much reliance. So he told him how he knew that a copy-slip,
similar to the one brought forward in evidence against Simon, had been
taken from the Brothers' school, and how it had been destroyed.

Salvan, who was deeply moved, rose from his chair. 'It was the proof we
needed!' he exclaimed. 'But you act rightly in remaining silent since
we hold no material evidence. One must wait.... At present, however,
I understand the disquietude, the covert alarm, which for some days
past I have detected among our adversaries. Some words may have escaped
you or the boy, or his mother, and chance words often go far; or else
some mysterious agency may have placed the secret in circulation,
misrepresenting the facts. In any case the culprit and his accomplices
have certainly felt the ground quaking beneath them; and, naturally,
they are alarmed, for they will have to defend their crime.'

Then, passing to the subject which had prompted his urgent letter,
he resumed: 'But I wished to speak to you of another incident, which
everybody is talking about--your removal of that crucifix from your
classroom. You know my views: our schools ought to be purely and simply
secular, therefore all religious symbols are out of place in them.
But you can have no idea of the tempest which your action will raise.
Unfortunately, it is now the interest of the good Brothers and their
supporters, the Jesuits, to ruin you absolutely, alarmed as they are by
the weapons which they believe to be in your hands. By your action in
the matter of the crucifix you have laid yourself open to attack, and
so they are naturally rushing forward to the onslaught.'

Marc understood, and made a gesture of defiance, like a man fully
prepared for battle. 'But have I not acted prudently, in accordance
with your advice?' he responded. 'Did I not wait two long years before
removing that cross which was hung up after Simon's trial to indicate
that the clerical faction had virtually taken possession of the
Communal school? I have set that poor school on its legs again; it was
suspected and discredited, and I have made it prosperous and free. So
was it not legitimate that my first independent act as schoolmaster,
after winning acceptance and then victory, should be to rid the school
of all emblems, and restore it to that neutrality in matters of
religion, from which it ought never to have departed?'

Salvan interrupted him: 'Once again, I do not blame you. You showed
great patience and tolerance. Nevertheless, your action has taken
place at a terrible moment, and, feeling alarmed for you, I wished to
discuss matters in order to provide, if possible, for all dangerous

They sat down and talked at length. The political situation of
the department was still very bad. Fresh elections had taken place
recently, and the result had been another step in the direction of
clerical reaction. An extraordinary thing had happened: Lemarrois, the
Mayor of Beaumont, Gambetta's former friend, whose position as deputy
had been deemed unassailable, had found himself obliged to submit to
a second ballot,[1] through the advent of a Socialist candidate, none
other than Advocate Delbos, whose address at Simon's trial had marked
him out for the support of the revolutionary _faubourgs_; and, at
the second polling, Lemarrois had only won by a majority of about a
thousand votes. Meanwhile, the Royalist and Catholic reactionaries had
gained a seat, the handsome Hector de Sanglebœuf having secured the
return of a friend, a general officer, thanks to the entertainments
which he gave at La Désirade, and the lavish manner in which he
distributed Jew gold, derived from his father-in-law, Baron Nathan.
Then, too, in order to secure re-election, the amiable Marcilly, once
the hope of all the young men of culture, had skilfully completed his
evolution towards the welcoming Church, which was very desirous of
concluding a new pact with the _bourgeoisie_, whom the progress of
Socialism terrified.

[Footnote 1: In French elections, when several nominees contest some
particular seat, a candidate, to be successful, must obtain one half,
_plus_ one, of the total number of votes recorded. If no candidate
secures that number a second ballot ensues a fortnight later. On the
second occasion a relative majority suffices for election.--_Trans._]

Though it had accepted political equality the _bourgeoisie_ indeed was
unwilling to concede equality in the economic field, for it desired to
restore nothing of what it had stolen. And to resist the onslaught from
below, it preferred to ally itself with its old enemies. It again began
to think that religion had some good features, that it was useful as
a kind of police institution, a barrier, which alone might check the
growing appetite of the masses. And as a first step the _bourgeoisie_
was gradually garbing itself in militarism, nationalism, anti-semitism,
and all the other hypocritical disguises under which invading
Clericalism pursued its road.

The army became merely the emblem of brute force upholding the thefts
of ages, an impregnable wall of bayonets within whose shelter property
and capital, duly gorged, might digest in security. The nation, the
country, was the _ensemble_ of abuses and iniquities which it was
criminal to touch, the monstrous social edifice, not one beam of
which must be changed for dread lest all should fall. The Jews, even
as in the Middle Ages, served as a pretext to instil fresh warmth into
cooling beliefs, to exploit ancestral hatred, and sow the horrid seeds
of civil war. And beneath that all-embracing movement of reaction
there was nought save the stealthy labour of the Church, seeking to
regain the ground she had formerly lost when the old world broke up
beneath the liberating breath of the French Revolution. It was the
Revolution that the Church strove to kill by regaining ascendency over
the _bourgeoisie_, which the Revolution had raised to power, and which
had decided to betray it in order to retain that power, of which it
owed account to the masses. And the return of the _bourgeoisie_ to
the bosom of the Church would lead to the reconquest of the people,
for the Church's vast design was to subjugate men by the influence of
women, and particularly to lay hold of the children in their schools
and confine their minds in the dim prison of dogmas. If the France
of Voltaire were again becoming the France of Rome it was because
the teaching Congregations had set their grip on the young. And the
position was becoming worse and worse, the Church was already shrieking
victory--victory over the democracy, victory over science--full of
the hope that she would prevent the inevitable, the completion of the
Revolution, the junction of the masses with the _bourgeoisie_ in the
seat of power, and the final liberation of the entire people.

'The situation grows worse daily,' said Salvan; 'you know what a
frantic campaign is being carried on against our system of elementary
education. Last Sunday, at Beaumont, a priest went so far as to say
in the pulpit that a secular schoolmaster was Satan disguised as a
pedagogue. "Fathers and mothers!" he cried, "you should wish your
children to be dead rather than in such hells as those schools!"...
As for secondary education, that also is a prey to clerical reaction.
Apart from the ever-increasing prosperity of such Congregational
establishments as the College of Valmarie, where the Jesuits finish
poisoning the sons of the _bourgeoisie_, the officers, functionaries,
and magistrates of the future, our Lycées, even, remain in the
power of the priests. Here at Beaumont, for instance, the director,
the devout Depinvilliers, openly receives Father Crabot, who is, I
think, the confessor of his wife and daughters. Lately, as he felt
discontented with Abbé Leriche, a worthy but very aged man who had
fallen asleep in his post, he secured a thoroughly militant chaplain.
At the Lycées, no doubt, religious exercises are optional; but for a
boy to be exempted from them a request from his parents is required.
And naturally the pupil about whom a fuss is made in that respect
is badly noted, set upon one side, and even subjected to all sorts
of petty persecutions.... Briefly, after thirty years of Republican
rule, a century of active free thought, the Church still trains and
educates our children, still remains paramount, intent on retaining
her domination over the world by moulding in the same old moulds as
formerly the men of bondage and error that she needs to govern on her
behalf. And all the wretchedness of the times comes from that cause.'

'But what do you advise me to do, my friend?' Marc inquired. 'After
acting as I have done, am I to retreat?'

'No, certainly not. Perhaps, if you had warned me, I might have begged
you to wait a little longer. But as you have removed that crucifix
you must defend yourself. After writing to you I saw Le Barazer, our
Academy Inspector, and I now feel somewhat easier in mind. You know
him, and you are aware how difficult it is to guess his thoughts. Yet
I believe that he is at heart on our side, and I should be greatly
surprised if he were to play into the hands of our enemies. But
everything will depend on you, on your power of resistance, on the
firmness of the position you have acquired at Maillebois. I foresee
a frantic campaign on the part of the Brothers, the Capuchins, and
the Jesuits, for you are not merely a secular schoolmaster, otherwise
an incarnation of Satan, but you are, particularly, the defender of
Simon--that is, the torchbearer, the soldier of truth and justice,
whose light must be extinguished and whose lips must be sealed. In any
case, be prudent and sensible and keep up your courage.'

Salvan, who had risen, grasped the young man's hands, and for a moment
they remained thus, smiling as they gazed at each other, their eyes
shining with courage and faith.

'At least you do not despair of the final result, my friend?'

'Despair, my boy? Ah! never! Victory is certain; I do not know when
it will come, but it is certain. Besides, there is more cowardice and
egotism than actual malice among some of our adversaries. How many
of our university men are neither really good nor really bad, though
on striking an average one finds perhaps rather more goodness than
evil among them. The worst is that they are functionaries, and as such
are wedded to routine, apart from which their one concern is their
advancement, as is natural. Forbes, our Rector, harbours, I fancy,
the contempt of a philosopher for these wretched times, and on that
account is content to play the part of a piece of administrative
mechanism connecting the Minister with the university staff. Then,
too, if Depinvilliers sets himself on the side of the Church, it is
merely because he has two ugly daughters on his hands, and relies on
Father Crabot to supply them with rich husbands. As for the terrible
Mauraisin--whom you will do well to beware of, for he has an ugly
soul--he would like to be in my shoes; and he would go over to your
side to-morrow if he thought you in a position to give him my berth....
Yes, yes, many of them are merely poor hungry devils, while others are
men of weak intellect--they will come over to our side and even help us
when we have won the battle.'

He laughed indulgently. Then, becoming grave once more, he added:
'Besides, the good work I do here prevents me from despairing. As
you know, I hide myself away in my little corner; but, day by day, I
strive to hasten the future. And things move--they move. I am very well
satisfied with my young men. No doubt it is still rather difficult
to recruit students, for the profession appears so thankless, so
poorly paid, leading to nothing but contumely and a life of certain
wretchedness. All the same, we had more competitors than usual this
year. It is hoped that the Chambers will end by voting reasonable
salaries, such as may enable the humblest masters to live in some
little dignity. And you will see, you will see what will happen when
properly trained masters leave this college and spread through the
villages and the towns, carrying words of deliverance with them,
destroying error, superstition, and falsehood on all sides, like the
missionaries of a new humanity! The Church will be vanquished then,
for it can only subsist and triumph amid ignorance, and when it is
swept away the whole nation will march unchecked towards solidarity and

'Ah! my old friend, that is the great hope!' cried Marc; 'that is what
lends all of us the strength and cheerfulness we need to do our work.
Thanks for inspiriting me; I will try to be sensible and courageous.'

They once more shook hands energetically, and Marc returned to
Maillebois, where the fiercest battle, war to the knife, awaited him.

There, as at Beaumont, the political situation had become worse. The
last municipal elections, following those for the Chamber of Deputies,
had also given disastrous results. Darras had found his party in
a minority in the new Municipal Council; and Philis, the clerical
councillor, the leader of the reactionary cause, had now been elected
Mayor. Before everything else, Marc wished to see Darras in order to
ascertain how far the latter might yet be able to support him. So he
presented himself, one evening, in the comfortable drawing-room of the
handsome house which the contractor had built himself. Darras, as soon
as he perceived him, raised his arms to the ceiling.

'Ah! my dear schoolmaster, so now you have the whole pack at your
heels! Oh! I shall be on your side, you may rely on me now that I
am beaten, reduced to opposition.... It was difficult for me to be
always on your side when I was Mayor; for, as you know, the majority
I disposed of was only one of two votes. But even when I had to act
contrary to your desires, I repeated to myself that you were a thousand
times right. At present we shall be able to go forward, since the only
course open to me is to fight and try to upset Philis, and take the
mayoralty from him. You did quite right when you removed that crucifix
from the schoolroom; it wasn't there in Simon's time, and it ought
never to have been there at all.'

Marc made bold to smile. 'Why, every time I spoke to you of removing
it,' said he, 'you protested. You talked of the necessity of prudence,
of the danger of frightening the children's parents, and giving our
adversaries a weapon against us.'

'But I have just admitted to you how embarrassed I was! Ah! it is by no
means easy to manage a town like Maillebois, where the forces of the
different parties have always balanced, and where nobody has ever been
able to tell whether the freethinkers or the priests would win the day.
At this moment we are certainly not in a brilliant position, but we
must keep up our courage. We shall end by giving them a good licking,
which will make us masters of the town for good.'

'That's certain,' replied Marc, delighted with the fine valour
displayed by the ambitious contractor, who, at heart, was a worthy man.

'Particularly,' continued Darras, 'as Philis won't dare to take any
serious step, for, in his turn, he has only a majority of two, such as
rendered me so timid. He is condemned to mark time, and will live in
constant fear of some slight change which may place him in a minority.
I know by experience what that means!'

He made merry over it in a noisy way. He harboured against Philis the
hatred of a big and healthy man with a sound stomach and a sound brain,
who was chagrined by the sight of the new Mayor's lean little figure,
dark, hard face, pointed nose and thin lips. Philis had retired from
business as a tilt and awning maker, at the time of his wife's death,
and, though possessed of an income of some ten thousand francs a year,
the real origin of which remained somewhat obscure, he lived in great
retirement, attended by a single servant, a huge fair creature of whom
evil tongues spoke very badly. Her master had a daughter named Octavie,
twelve years of age, now with the nuns of the Visitation at Beaumont,
and a son, Raymond, ten years old, who was a boarder at the Jesuit
College of Valmarie, pending the time when he might enter the military
school of St. Cyr. Having thus rid himself of his children, the new
Mayor led a close, narrow life, most careful in all his religious
observances, ever in conference with the black frocks, and really
acting as the executor of the Congregations' decisions. His election
as Mayor was sufficient proof of the acute stage which the religious
crisis had reached in that town of Maillebois, which the struggle
between the Republic and the Church was ravaging.

'And so I may go forward,' said Marc; 'you will support me with the
minority of the Council?'

'Why, certainly!' cried Darras. 'Only, be reasonable, don't give us too
big an affair to deal with.'

On the very morrow the contest began; and apparently it was Savin,
the clerk, the father of the twin boys, Achille and Philippe, who was
chosen to strike the first blow. At all events, on leaving his office
in the evening, he came to the school to pick a quarrel with the master.

'You know what I am--is that not so, Monsieur Froment?' said he. 'I am
a radical Republican, and nobody can suspect me of conspiring with the
priests. Nevertheless, on behalf of a number of parents I have come
to ask you to replace that crucifix which you removed, for religion
is necessary for children as well as for women.... No priests in the
school, I agree to that; but Christ, remember it, was the first of
Republicans and revolutionaries!'

Marc, however, desired to know the names of the other parents whom
Savin represented. 'If you have not come merely on your own behalf,'
said he, 'will you tell me what families have delegated you?'

'Oh! "delegated"--that is not quite correct. I have seen Doloir the
mason, and Bongard the farmer, and have found that they blame you as I
myself do. Only, it is always compromising to protest and give one's
signature--is that not so? I myself risk a good deal by coming forward,
on account of my superiors. But the voice of my conscience as the
father of a family speaks too loudly for me to act otherwise. How shall
I ever manage those two scapegraces of mine, Achille and Philippe,
if you do not frighten them a little with fear of the punishment of
God and the torments of hell? Look at my big girl, Hortense, who is
so good in every respect, and who was admired by all Maillebois when
she took her first Communion this year! By taking her to church,
Mademoiselle Rouzaire has made her really perfect. Compare your work
with Mademoiselle Rouzaire's, compare my two boys with my daughter. By
that comparison alone you stand condemned, Monsieur Froment.'

Marc smiled in his quiet way. The amiable Hortense, a pretty
and precocious girl of thirteen, one of Mademoiselle Rouzaire's
favourites, occasionally contrived to climb over the wall separating
the playgrounds of the two schools, in order that she might hide away
in corners with lads of her own age. Even as Savin had suggested,
the young man had often compared his pupils, from whom by degrees
he obtained a little more reason and truth, with the pupils of the
schoolmistress, his neighbour--the affectedly prim and gentle little
girls who were fed on clerical pap, falsehood, and hypocrisy, and
perturbed, even secretly spoilt, by the corrupting influence of the
mysterious. Marc would have liked to have seen his boys and those girls
together--those girls who were now reared and educated apart, from whom
everything was hidden, whose minds and whose senses were heated by all
the fires of mysticism. They would then have ceased to climb over walls
to go in search of so-called sin, the forbidden fruit of damnation and
delight. Yes, only a system of mixed schools could ensure the health
and strength of the free and happy nation of to-morrow.[2]

[Footnote 2: This problem seems to have been solved in the United
States, where, judging by official reports, the mingling of the sexes
in the schools is extensive. Thence (I judge the matter as an European)
must have come the very great and distinctly beneficial influence
exercised by American women on the national character. Perhaps it is
not too much to say that, apart from such incentives as a mere desire
to gain money, the women of the United States have largely helped to
make their race the most enterprising and progressive in the world. As
for the influence of mixed schools on morals, Americans have repeatedly
assured me that it has been the best possible.--_Trans._]

To Savin, however, Marc merely said: 'Mademoiselle Rouzaire does her
duty as she understands it; and I do mine in the same way.... If
families would only help me, the good work of training and education
would progress more rapidly.'

At this Savin lost his temper. Lean and puny, buttoned up in his shabby
frock coat, he drew himself erect on his little legs: 'Do you insinuate
that I give bad examples to my children?' he asked.

'Oh! certainly not. Only everything that I teach them here is
afterwards contradicted by what they see in the world around them. They
find truthfulness regarded as dangerous audacity, and reason condemned
as being insufficient, incapable of forming honest men.'

Marc indeed was greatly grieved that he should be thwarted so often
by his pupils' parents, when he dreamt of obtaining from them the
necessary help to hasten the emancipation of the humble. If on leaving
school every day the children had only found in their homes some
realisation of their lessons, some practice of the social duties and
rights in which they were instructed, how much easier and swifter
would have been the march of improvement! Such collaboration was even
indispensable; the schoolmaster could not suffice for many things,
the most delicate, the most useful, when his pupils' parents did not
continue his work in the same spirit and complete it. The master and
the parents ought to have gone hand in hand towards the same goal
of truth and justice. And how sad it was when, instead of obtaining
the parents' help, the master saw them destroying the little good
he effected, unconscious for the most part of what they were doing,
yielding simply to the incoherence of their ideas and their lives.

But Savin was again speaking. 'Briefly,' said he, 'you will hang up
that cross again, Monsieur Froment, if you wish to please us all, and
live on good terms with us, which is what we desire, for you are not a
bad schoolmaster.'

Marc smiled again. 'Thank you,' he said. 'But why did not Madame Savin
accompany you? She, at any rate, would have been playing her proper
part, for she follows the observances of the Church--I know it.'

'She is religious, as all respectable women ought to be,' the clerk
answered dryly. 'I would rather have her go to Mass than take a lover.'

He looked at Marc suspiciously, consumed as he was by sickly jealousy,
regarding every man as a possible rival. Why did the schoolmaster
regret that his wife had not accompanied him? Had she not twice called
at the school recently under the pretext of explaining to the master
why Achille and Philippe had been absent on sundry occasions? For some
time past he, Savin, had compelled her to confess regularly once a week
to Father Théodose, the Superior of the Capuchins, for it had occurred
to him that the shame of avowal might stay her in her course along the
road to infidelity. On her side, if in earlier times she had followed
the Church observances merely in order to secure peace at home--for
she was quite destitute of faith--she now repaired with some alacrity
to the tribunal of penitence, for, like the other young devotees who
dreamt of Father Théodose, she had rid herself of earlier prejudices,
and begun to regard him as a superb and most delightful man.

'As it happens,' said Marc, with some little maliciousness, in response
to Savin's declaration, 'I had the pleasure of meeting Madame Savin
last Thursday. She was leaving the chapel on the Place des Capucins,
and we had a brief chat. As all her words to me were most gracious, I
thought I might express my regret at not seeing her with you to-day.'

The husband made a doleful gesture. His everlasting suspicions had
reached such a point that he himself now went to Beaumont to deliver
the bead work which he allowed his wife to do in secret in order to add
a few indispensable coppers to his meagre salary. Their case was one
of hidden wretchedness, with all the torments that make hells of the
homes of needy employés, burdened with children, the embittered husband
becoming an unbearable despot, and the gentle and pretty wife resigning
herself in silence until she at last discovers some consolation.

'My wife neither has nor ought to have any opinion but mine,' Savin
ended by declaring. 'It is in her name as well as my own, and in the
names of many other parents--I repeat it--that I have made this
application to you.... It is now for you to decide if you will act upon
it. You will think the matter over.'

'I have thought it over, Monsieur Savin,' replied Marc, who had become
grave again. 'Before removing that crucifix I understood fully what I
was going to do; and since it is no longer there, I shall certainly not
put it up again.'

On the following day a report spread through Maillebois that a
deputation of parents, fathers and mothers, had called upon the
schoolmaster, and that there had been a stormy explanation, a frightful
scandal. But Marc soon understood whence the attack had really come,
for chance acquainted him with the circumstances which had led to
Savin's visit. Though pretty Madame Savin took no real interest in the
affair, absorbed as she was in her desire for a little more personal
happiness, she had none the less served as an instrument in the hands
of Father Théodose; for it was on being approached by her, on the
Capuchin's behalf, that her husband had repaired to a secret interview
with the latter, which interview had prompted him to call on Marc and
endeavour to check a state of things which was so prejudicial to family
morality and good order. No crucifixes in the schools indeed! Would
that not mean indiscipline among the boys, and shamelessness among
the girls and their mothers also? So the lean and little Savin, the
Republican and anti-clerical, unhinged by his wretched spoilt life and
his idiotic jealousy, had set forth to champion the cause of virtue,
like an authoritarian, a topsy-turvy Catholic, who pictured the human
paradise as a gaol, in which everything human ought to be subdued and

Besides, behind Father Théodose, Marc readily divined Brother Fulgence
and his assistants, Brothers Gorgias and Isidore, who hated the secular
school more than ever since it had been taking pupils from them. And
behind the Brothers came Fathers Philibin and Crabot of the College
of Valmarie, those powerful personages whose skilful unseen hands
had been directing the whole campaign ever since the monstrous Simon
affair. The accomplices in that slumbering crime seemed determined to
defend it by other deeds of iniquity. At the outset Marc had guessed
where the whole band, from the lowest to the highest, was crouching.
But how could one seize and convict them? If Father Crabot, amiable
and worldly, still showed himself constantly among the fine society
of Beaumont, busily directing the steps of his penitents and ensuring
the rapid fortune of his former pupils, his assistant, Father Philibin,
had virtually disappeared, restricting himself entirely, so it seemed,
to his absorbing duties as manager at Valmarie. Nothing transpired
of the stealthy work which was so ardently pursued in the darkness,
every moment being employed to ensure the triumph of the good cause.
All that Marc himself could detect was the espionage attending his own
movements. He was tracked with priestly caution, black figures were
constantly prowling around him. None of his visits to the Lehmanns,
none of his conversations with David could have remained unknown.
And, as Salvan had said, the others tracked him because he was an
impassioned soldier of truth and justice, because he was a witness who
already possessed certain proofs, and whose avenging cry must be thrust
back into his throat, even by extermination if necessary. To that
task the frock and cassock wearers devoted themselves with increasing
audacity, joined even by poor Abbé Quandieu, who felt grieved at having
to place religion at the service of such iniquitous work, but who
resigned himself to it in obedience to the behests of his Bishop, the
mournful Monseigneur Bergerot, whom he visited every week at Beaumont
to take his orders and console him in his defeat. Bishop and priest
cast the cloak of their ministry over the sore devouring the Church
whose respectful sons they were, hiding meantime their tears and their
fears, unwilling to acknowledge the mortal danger into which they saw
religion sinking.

One evening Mignot, on coming into the school from the playground, said
to Marc in a fury:

'It's getting quite disgusting, monsieur! I've again caught
Mademoiselle Rouzaire spying on us from the top of a ladder!'

Indeed, whenever the schoolmistress fancied that she would not
be detected, she set a ladder against the wall dividing the two
playgrounds, in order that she might ascertain what was going on in the
boys' school. And Mignot accused her of sending secret reports on the
subject to Mauraisin every week.

'Oh! let her pry,' Marc answered gaily. 'But there is no occasion for
her to tire herself by climbing a ladder. I'll set the door wide open
for her, if she desires it.'

'Ah! no, not that!' cried the assistant. 'Let her keep her place! If
she tries it on again, I shall go round and pull her down by the legs!'

Marc, to his great satisfaction, was now gradually completing the
conquest of Mignot. The latter, like a peasant's son whose one desire
was to escape the plough, a man of average mind and character, who like
so many others thought solely of his immediate interests, had always
shown himself distrustful with Simon. Indeed, nothing good could come
from a Jew, and so he had deemed it prudent to keep aloof from him. At
the time of the trial, therefore, though he was sufficiently honest to
refrain from overwhelming the innocent prisoner, he had not given the
good and truthful evidence which might have saved him. At a later stage
he had likewise placed himself on the defensive with Marc, with whom he
thought it would be foolish to ally himself if he desired advancement.
For nearly a whole year, therefore, he had displayed hostility, taking
his meals at an eating-house, grudging the help he gave in the school
work, and freely blaming his principal's attitude. At that time indeed
he had been very thick with Mademoiselle Rouzaire, and willing, it
seemed, to place himself at the orders of the Congregations. But
Marc, instead of evincing any perturbation, had treated his assistant
with unremitting kindness, as if he were desirous of giving him all
necessary time to reflect and understand that his real interest lay on
the side of truth and equity.

Indeed, in Marc's opinion, that big, calm young fellow, whose only
passion was angling, offered an interesting subject for experiment.
Though he became cowardly when he thought of the future, and was
somewhat spoilt by the environment of ferocious egotism in which he
found himself, there was nothing absolutely evil in his nature. In
fact, he might be made an excellent school teacher and even a man of
most upright mind if he were helped, sustained by one of energy and
intelligence. The idea of experimenting in that sense attracted Marc,
who felt well pleased as, little by little, he gained the confidence
and affection of this wanderer, thereby proving the truth of the axiom
in which he set all his hopes of future deliverance--that there is
no man, even one on the road to perdition, who may not be made an
artisan of progress. Mignot had been won over by the active gaiety, the
beneficent glow of truth and justice which Marc set around him. He now
took his meals with his principal, and had become, as it were, a member
of the family.

'It is wrong of you not to distrust Mademoiselle Rouzaire,' he resumed.
'You have no idea, monsieur, of what she is capable. She would betray
you a dozen times over in order to obtain good reports from her friend

Then, being in a confidential mood, he related how she had repeatedly
urged him to listen at keyholes and report to her. He knew her well;
she was a terrible woman, harsh and avaricious, despite all her
varnish of exaggerated courtesy; and though she was big and bony,
with a flat, freckled face, quite destitute of any charm, she ended
by seducing everybody. As she herself boasted, she knew how to act.
To the anti-clericals who angrily reproached her for taking her girls
so often to church, she replied that she was compelled to comply with
the desires of the parents under penalty of losing her pupils. To the
clericals she gave the most substantial pledges, convinced as she was
that they were the stronger party and that on their influence depended
the best appointments even in the secular school world. In reality
she was guided solely by her own interests, as she understood them,
having inherited the instincts of a petty trader from her parents, who
had kept a fruiterer's shop at Beaumont. She had not married, because
she preferred to live as she listed, and, although she did not carry
on with the priests, as was maliciously rumoured by evil tongues, it
seemed certain that she had a soft spot in her heart for handsome
Mauraisin, who, like the little man he was, admired women built after
the fashion of gendarmes. Again, it was not true that she got drunk,
though she was very fond of sweet liqueurs. If she occasionally looked
very red when afternoon lessons began, it was simply because she ate
abundantly and her digestive organs were out of order.

Marc made an indulgent gesture. 'She does not keep her school badly,'
said he; 'the only thing that grieves me is the spirit of narrow
pietism which she introduces into all her teaching. My boys and her
girls are separated by an abyss, not merely by a wall. And when they
meet one another, later, and think of marrying, they will belong to
different worlds. But is not that the traditional custom? The warfare
of the sexes largely arises from it.'

The young man did not mention the chief cause of his rancour against
Mademoiselle Rouzaire, the reason which had impelled him to keep
aloof from her. This was her abominable conduct in Simon's case. He
remembered the quiet effrontery with which she had played the game of
the Congregations at the trial at Beaumont, how she had heaped impudent
falsehoods on the innocent prisoner, how she had accused him of giving
immoral and anti-patriotic lessons to his pupils. And so Marc's
intercourse with her since his appointment to Maillebois had never gone
beyond the limits of strict politeness, such as the proximity of their
homes required. She, however, having seen the young man strengthen his
position, in such wise that his sudden downfall could now hardly be
anticipated, had made attempts at reconciliation; for, in her anxiety
to be always on the stronger side, she was not the woman to turn her
back on the victorious. She had manœuvred particularly with the object
of ingratiating herself with Geneviève, but the latter in this matter
had hitherto shared Marc's opinions and kept her at a distance.

'At all events, monsieur,' Mignot concluded, 'I advise you to keep your
eyes open. If I had listened to La Rouzaire I should have betrayed you
a score of times. She never ceased questioning me about you, repeating
to me that I was a stupid and would never succeed in getting into a
decent position.... But you showed me great kindness, and you don't
know what horrid things you saved me from; for one soon listens to
those creatures when they promise you every kind of success. And, as I
am on this subject, I hope you will excuse me if I venture to give you
some advice. You ought to warn Madame Froment.'

'Warn her? What do you mean?'

'Yes, yes, I don't keep my eyes in my pockets. For some time past I
have seen La Rouzaire prowling around your wife. It is "dear madame"
here, a smile or a caress there, all kinds of advances, which would
make me tremble if I were in your shoes.'

Marc, who felt greatly astonished, made a pretence of smiling: 'Oh! my
wife has nothing to fear, she is warned,' said he. 'It is difficult for
her to behave impolitely with a neighbour, particularly when one is
connected by similar duties.'

Mignot did not insist, but he shook his head doubtfully, for his
intercourse with the Froments had acquainted him with the secret drama
which was slowly gathering in their home. However, it seemed as if
he were unwilling to say all he knew. And Marc, on his side also,
became silent, again mastered by the covert dread, the unacknowledged
weakness which assailed and paralysed him whenever the possibility of a
struggle between Geneviève and himself presented itself to his mind.

All at once the attack of the Congregations, which he had been
anticipating ever since his visit to Salvan, took place. The campaign
began with a virulent report from Mauraisin on the subject of the
removal of the crucifix, and the scandal caused among the boys'
parents by that act of religious intolerance. Savin's protest was duly
recorded, and the Doloir and Bongard families were cited among those
who blamed the proceeding. The incident was one of exceptional gravity,
according to the Inspector, for it had occurred in a clerical-minded
town, reputed for its frequent and numerously attended pilgrimages--a
town indeed where it was necessary for the secular school to make
concessions if it was to escape defeat from its Congregational rival.
Mauraisin concluded, therefore, in favour of the removal of the
schoolmaster, a sectarian of the worst kind, who had thus incautiously
compromised the university cause. And his indictment was completed by
the recital of a number of little facts, the harvest of all the daily
espionage carried on by Mademoiselle Rouzaire, whose docile little
girls, ever at Mass or at the Catechism classes, were contrasted with
the idle, rebellious, unbelieving lads trained by that anarchist
master, Froment.

Three days later Marc learnt that Count Hector de Sanglebœuf, the
Catholic deputy, accompanied by two of his colleagues, had made an
application on the subject to Prefect Hennebise. Sanglebœuf was
evidently acquainted with Mauraisin's report, even if he had not helped
to draft it in conjunction with his friend Father Crabot, who so
frequently visited La Désirade; and the idea undoubtedly was to take
that report as a basis in demanding the dismissal of Marc.

Hennebise, whose policy was to live at peace with everybody, and
who constantly urged his subordinates to refrain from stirring up
trouble, must have felt very worried by the incident, which might
lead to disastrous complications. The Prefect's feelings were with
Sanglebœuf, but it was dangerous to adhere publicly to the reactionary
cause; so, while sympathising with the fiery anti-Semite deputy, he
explained that he was not master of the situation, for the law was
precise and prevented him from removing a schoolmaster unless that
step were proposed to him by Academy Inspector Le Barazer. With some
relief, therefore, the Prefect referred the gentlemen to the Inspector,
to whose office, which was also in the Préfecture buildings, they
immediately repaired.

Le Barazer, an ex-professor who had become a prudent diplomatist,
listened to them with a great show of attentive deference. He was a
man of fifty, with a broad full-coloured face, and as yet scarcely
a grey hair. He had grown up hating the Empire, and as he regarded
secular education as one of the foundation stones of the Republic, he
pursued by all available means the task of crushing the Congregational
schools, whose triumph in his estimation would have killed France. But
experience had shown him the danger of violent action, and he adhered
to a long meditated and prudent course, which led some extremists
to regard him as a very lukewarm Republican. Yet he was associated
with some extraordinary victories achieved by long years of discreet
and patient action. At Sanglebœuf's first words he made a show of
disapproving Marc's removal of the crucifix, which, said he, was a
useless demonstration, though he pointed out that nothing in the laws
compelled the schoolmasters to allow religious emblems in the schools.
It was all a mere question of usage, and he discreetly allowed it to be
seen that this usage scarcely had his approval. Then, as Sanglebœuf,
losing his temper, proclaimed himself a defender of the Church, and
described the schoolmaster of Maillebois as a shameless individual
who had stirred up the entire population against him, the Inspector
placidly promised that he would study the question with all the care it

But Sanglebœuf wished to know if he had not received a report from his
subordinate, Mauraisin; and whether that report did not suffice to
show the gravity of the evil, the demoralisation, which could only be
arrested by the immediate removal of the schoolmaster. At this question
Le Barazer feigned great surprise. What report? Ah! yes, the quarterly
report from the Elementary Inspector! Were its contents known, then? In
any case, those reports were purely administrative, and merely supplied
certain elements of appreciation for the Academy Inspector, whose duty
it was to make personal inquiries. And thereupon Le Barazer dismissed
the gentlemen, after again promising to take their application into
full account.

A month went by, and nothing reached Marc, who daily expected a
summons to the Préfecture. Le Barazer was doubtless following his usual
tactics in order to gain time and exhaust the determination of the
other side. Even as his friend Salvan had foretold, he was covertly
supporting the young schoolmaster. But it was essential that the
affair should not be aggravated, that increasing scandal should not
compel his intervention; for assuredly he would not defend Marc beyond
certain limits, but would end by sacrificing him if he thought that
course expedient in order that the rest of his slow and opportunist
campaign against the Congregational schools might not be interfered
with. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse at Maillebois. _Le
Petit Beaumontais_, yielding to an inspiration which could be easily
identified, started a vile campaign against Marc. As usual, it began
with brief and vague paragraphs: Abominations were taking place in a
neighbouring little town, and if necessary precise information would
be given. Then schoolmaster Froment was plainly named, and under the
headline 'The Scandal of Maillebois,' which was repeated almost daily,
the paper published an extraordinary collection of tittle-tattle, the
results of a pretended inquiry among the pupils and their parents, in
which the schoolmaster was accused of the blackest crimes.

People were quite upset by these so-called revelations; the good
Brothers and the Capuchins helped to spread terror abroad, and devotees
never passed the Communal school without crossing themselves. Marc
became conscious that he was in great peril; and Mignot bravely began
to pack up his belongings, feeling certain that he would be swept away
with his principal, whose side he had taken. Meantime Mademoiselle
Rouzaire affected the most victorious airs when she conducted her girls
to Mass; Father Théodose in his chapel, and even Curé Quandieu in his
pulpit at St. Martin's, foretold the approaching restoration of God
among the infidels, by which they meant that the crucifix would be soon
set up again, with all solemnity, in the secular school; and, as a last
blow, Marc, on meeting Darras, found him very cold, resolved to abandon
him, for fear of losing the support of the minority of the Municipal

'What can you expect, my dear fellow,' said the ex-Mayor; 'you have
gone too far; we cannot follow you, at present at all events.... That
blackbeetle Philis is watching me, and I should merely share your fate,
which would be useless.'

In his despair Marc hastened to Salvan, whom he regarded as the only
faithful supporter remaining to him. And he found him thoughtful,
gloomy, almost embarrassed.

'Things are going badly,' said he. 'Le Barazer remains silent,
seemingly anxious, and such a furious campaign is being waged around
him that I fear he may abandon you.... Perhaps you acted too hastily.'

Marc's heart was wrung by a pang of grief, for he interpreted those
last words as signifying that even Salvan abandoned him. 'You, you as
well, my master!' he exclaimed.

But Salvan, full of emotion, caught hold of his hands. 'No, no, my
lad, you must not doubt me; I remain on your side with all my heart.
Only you can have no idea of the difficulties in which all of us have
been placed by your action, simple and logical though it was. This
Training College is suspected, denounced as a hot-bed of irreligion.
Depinvilliers profits by it to exalt the services which the chaplain
of his Lycée renders to the cause of national pacification, the
reconcilement of all parties in the bosom of the Church. Even our
Rector, the peaceable Forbes, is full of concern, fearing lest his
tranquillity should be destroyed. Le Barazer, no doubt, is skilful, but
does he possess the necessary strength of resistance?'

'What is to be done, then?'

'Nothing: one must wait. I can only repeat to you that you must show
yourself prudent and courageous. For the rest we must rely on the force
of truth and justice.'

During the next two months Marc displayed much brave serenity amid the
outrages by which he was assailed each day. As if ignorant of the muddy
tide beating against his door, he pursued his duties with wondrous
gaiety and uprightness. Never had he accomplished more important or
more useful work, devoting himself to his pupils, and teaching them, as
much by example as by words, how necessary it was to continue working
and to retain one's love for truth and justice amid the very worst
events. To the filth, the bitter insults flung at him by his fellow
townsmen, he replied with gentleness, kindliness, and sacrifice. He
strove to make the children better than their fathers, he sowed the
happy future in the furrows of the hateful present, he redeemed the
crime of others at the cost of his own happiness. It was the thought of
the young ones around him, the duty of helping to save them a little
more each day from error and falsehood, that lent him so much calmness
and enabled him to await the blow he expected with a quiet smile, like
one who, every evening, felt well satisfied with the work accomplished
during the day.

At last, one morning, _Le Petit Beaumontais_ announced that the
revocation of 'the ignoble poisoner of Maillebois' was signed. On
the previous day Marc had heard of a fresh visit which the Count de
Sanglebœuf had paid to the Préfecture, and he ceased to hope; his ruin
was about to be consummated. The evening proved a very trying one.
Whenever he quitted his classroom, and his boys, with their smiling
faces and their fair and their dark little pates, were no longer near
to remind him of the good time coming, he sank into sadness, and
only after a struggle recovered the courage which he needed for the
morrow. And so that particular evening proved particularly bitter. He
thought of his work, destined to be so brutally interrupted--of those
dearly-loved boys, whom he had taught perhaps for the last time, and
whom he would not be allowed to save. They would be taken from him,
handed over to some deformer of intellect and character, and it was the
wreck of his ministry that made his heart bleed. He went to bed in such
a gloomy mood that Geneviève gently, silently, cast her arms about him,
as she still did occasionally from an impulse of wifely affection.

'You are worried, are you not, my poor darling?' she whispered.

He did not answer immediately. He knew that she shared his views
less than ever, and he always avoided painful explanations in spite
of his secret remorse at allowing her to drift away from him without
attempting an effort to make her wholly his own. Indeed, if he himself
had again ceased to call on her mother and grandmother, he lacked the
courage to forbid her visits to that icy little house, though he well
divined that their happiness was greatly endangered there. Each time
that Geneviève returned from the Place des Capucins he felt that she
belonged to him a little less than before. Recently, while the whole
clerical pack was barking at his heels, he had learnt that the ladies
had denied him on every side, blushing for their connection as if it
were some unmerited shame that soiled their family.

'Why don't you answer me, dear?' Geneviève began again. 'Don't you
think that I share your sorrow?'

He felt touched, and, returning her embrace, replied: 'Yes, I am
grieved. But it is about matters in which you do not feel as I do, and,
as I don't wish to reproach you, what is the use of confiding them to
you? Still I may say I fear that in a few days we shall be here no

'How is that?'

'Oh! I shall certainly be sent elsewhere if I am not dismissed
altogether. It is all over ... and we shall have to go away, I know not

She raised a cry of delight: 'Oh, my dear! so much the better! That is
the best thing that can happen to us.'

He felt astonished, for her meaning at first escaped him. And when he
questioned her she seemed somewhat embarrassed, and endeavoured to
recall her words: 'Oh, I say that because, of course, it would be all
the same to me if I did have to go away with you and our Louise. One
may be happy anywhere.' But when he pressed her she added: 'Besides,
if we went elsewhere we should no longer be worried by all the horrid
things which go on here, and which might end by making us quarrel.
I should be so happy if we could be alone in some little nook where
nobody would come between us, where nothing from outside would try to
separate us. Oh! let us go away to-morrow, dear!'

Several times already, in moments of affectionate self-abandonment,
Marc had noticed in his wife that same dread of rupture, that desire,
that need to remain wholly his. It was as if she said to him: 'Keep me
on your heart, carry me away, so that none may tear me from your arms.
I feel that I am being parted from you a little more each day, I shiver
with the great chill which comes over me when I am no longer in your
embrace.' And, with his dread of the inevitable, nothing could have
upset him more.

'Go away, my love?' he answered; 'it is not enough to go away. But what
joy you give me, and how grateful I feel to you for comforting me like

Several more days elapsed and still the terrible letter expected from
the Préfecture did not arrive. No doubt this was due to the fact that
a fresh incident began to impassion the district and divert public
attention from the secular school of Maillebois. For some time past
Abbé Cognasse of Jonville, whose triumph was complete, had been
meditating a great stroke, striving to induce Mayor Martineau to
allow the parish to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In
all likelihood the idea had not come from the Abbé himself for every
Thursday morning during the previous month he had been seen going to
the College of Valmarie, where he had long conferences with Father
Crabot. And a remark made by Férou, the schoolmaster at Le Moreux, was
circulating, filling some folk with indignation and amusing others.

'If those dirty Jesuits bring their bullock's heart here, I will spit
in their faces,' he had said.

Henceforth the worship of the Sacred Heart was absorbing the whole
Christian faith, developing into a new Incarnation, a new Catholicism.
The sickly vision of a poor creature stricken with hysteria--the sad
and ardent Marie Alacoque--that real, gory heart half wrenched from
an open bosom, was becoming the symbol of a baser faith, degraded,
lowered to supply a need of carnal satisfaction. The ancient and
pure worship of an immaterial Jesus, who had risen on high to join
the Father, seemed to have become too delicate for modern souls
lusting for terrestrial enjoyment; and it had been resolved to serve
the very flesh of Jesus, His heart of flesh, to devotees, by way of
daily sustenance, such as superstition and brutishness required. It
was like a premeditated onslaught on human reason, an intentional
degradation of the religion of former times in order that the mass of
believers, bowed beneath the weight of falsehood, might become yet
more stupefied and more servile. With the religion of the Sacred Heart
only tribes of idolaters were left, fetichists who adored offal from
a slaughter-house, and carried it, banner-wise, on a pike-head. And
all the genius of the Jesuits was found therein--the humanisation of
religion, God coming to man since centuries of effort had failed to
lead man to God. It was necessary to give the ignorant multitude the
only deity it understood, one made in its own image, gory and dolorous
like itself, an idol of violent hues, whose brutish materiality would
complete the transformation of the faithful into a herd of fat beasts,
fit for slaughter. All conquests effected on reason are conquests
effected on liberty, and it had become necessary to reduce France to
that savage worship of the Sacred Heart, fit for the aborigines of some
undiscovered continent, in order to hold it in submission beneath the
imbecility of the Church's dogmas.

The first attempts had been made on the very morrow of the great
defeats, amid the grief arising from the loss of the two provinces.
Then already the Church had availed herself of the public confusion
to endeavour to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart--France, which
after being chastised so heavily by the hand of God, repented of her
sins. And at last, on the highest summit of that great revolutionary
city of Paris, the Church had reared that Sacred Heart, palpitating and
gory red like the hearts which one sees hanging from hooks in butchers'
shops. From that summit it bled over the entire land, to the farthest
depths of the country districts. And if at Montmartre it kindled the
adoration of the gentility, of ladies and gentlemen belonging to the
administrative services, the magistracy and the army, with what emotion
must it not infect the simple, the ignorant, and the devout of the
villages and hamlets! It became the national emblem of repentance, of
the country's self-relinquishment in the hands of the Church. It was
embroidered in the centre of the tricolor flag, whose three colours
became mere symbols of the azure of heaven, the lilies of the Virgin,
and the blood of the martyrs. And huge, swollen, and streaming with
gore, it hung thus like the new Deity of degenerate Catholicism,
offered to the base superstition of enslaved France.

At first it had been Father Crabot's idea to triumph at Maillebois,
the chief place in the canton, by consecrating that little town to the
Sacred Heart. But he had become anxious, for at Maillebois there was a
manufacturing suburb inhabited by some hundreds of working men who were
beginning to send Socialist representatives to the Municipal Council.
Thus, in spite of the Brothers and the Capuchins, he had feared some
sensational repulse. All considered, it was better to act at Jonville,
where the ground appeared well prepared. If successful there, one might
always repeat the experiment on a larger stage, some other time.

Abbé Cognasse now reigned at Jonville, which schoolmaster Jauffre
had gradually handed over to him. Jauffre's guiding principle was
a very simple one. As Clericalism was sweeping through the region,
why should he not allow it to waft him to the headmastership of some
important school at Beaumont? Thus, after prompting his wife to make
advances to the parish priest, he himself had openly gone over to
the Church, ringing the bell, chanting at the offices, taking his
pupils to Mass every Sunday. Mayor Martineau, who, following Marc, had
been an anti-clerical in former times, was at first upset by the new
schoolmaster's doings. But what could he say to a man who was so well
off and who explained so plausibly that it was wrong to be against the
priests? Thus Martineau was shaken in his ideas and allowed the other
to follow his course, till, at last, prompted thereto by the beautiful
Madame Martineau, he himself declared to the parish council that it was
best to live in agreement with the curé. After that, a year sufficed
for Abbé Cognasse to become the absolute master of the parish, his
influence no longer being counterbalanced by that of the schoolmaster,
who, indeed, willingly walked behind him, confident that he would
derive a handsome profit from his submissiveness.

Nevertheless, when the idea of consecrating Jonville to the Sacred
Heart was propounded, some dismay and resistance arose. Nobody knew
whence that idea had come, nobody could have said by whom it had been
first mooted. However, Abbé Cognasse, with his eager militant nature,
immediately made it his business in the hope of gaining great personal
glory should he be the first priest of the region to win an entire
parish over to God. He made such a stir, indeed, that Monseigneur
Bergerot, in despair at the threat of a new superstition, and grieved
by its base idolatry, summoned him to Beaumont, where, however, after
a scene which proved, it was rumoured, both terrible and pathetic, the
Bishop once again was compelled to give way. But, on two occasions, the
parish council of Jonville held tumultuous meetings, several members
angrily desiring to know what profit they would all derive from the
consecration of the parish to the Sacred Heart. For a moment it seemed
as if the affair were condemned and buried. But Jauffre also made a
trip to Beaumont, and, though nobody guessed exactly what personage he
saw there, he no sooner came back than, in a gentle, insidious manner,
he resumed the negotiations with the parish council.

The question was what the parish would gain by consecrating itself
to the Sacred Heart. Well, first of all, several ladies of Beaumont
promised presents to the church, a silver chalice, an altar cloth, some
flower vases, and a big statue of the Saviour, with a huge, flaming,
bleeding heart painted on it. Then, too, said Jauffre, there was talk
of giving a dowry of five hundred francs to the most deserving Maiden
of the Virgin when she married. But the council seemed to be most
impressed by the promise of setting up a branch establishment of the
Order of the Good Shepherd, where two hundred girls would work at
fine linen, chemises, petticoats, and knickers, for some of the great
Parisian shops. The peasants at once pictured all their daughters
working for the good Sisters, and speculated on the large amount
of money which such an establishment would probably bring into the

At last it was decided that the ceremony should take place on June
10 (a Sunday), and, as Abbé Cognasse pointed out, never was festival
favoured by brighter sunshine. For three days his servant, the terrible
Palmyre, with the help of Madame Jauffre and the beautiful Madame
Martineau, had been decorating the church with evergreens and hangings,
lent by the inhabitants. The ladies of Beaumont, Présidente Gragnon,
Générale Jarousse, Préfete Hennebise--and even, so it was said, Madame
Lemarrois, the wife of the radical mayor and deputy,--had presented
the parish with a superb tricolor flag on which the Sacred Heart was
embroidered, with the motto: 'God and Country.' And Jauffre himself was
to carry that flag, walking on the right hand of the Mayor of Jonville.
An extraordinary concourse of important personages arrived during
the morning: many notabilities of Beaumont, with the ladies who had
presented the flag; Philis, the Mayor of Maillebois, with the clerical
majority of his council, as well as a shoal of cassocks and frocks; a
grand-vicar, delegated by Monseigneur the Bishop, Father Théodose and
other Capuchins, Brother Fulgence and his assistant Brothers, Father
Philibin and even Father Crabot, both of whom were surrounded and
saluted with the greatest deference. But people noticed the absence of
Abbé Quandieu, who, according to his own account, had been laid up by a
violent attack of gout at the last moment.

At three o'clock in the afternoon a band of music, which had come from
the chief town, struck up an heroic march on the Place de l'Église.
Then appeared the parish councillors, all wearing their scarves, and
headed by Mayor Martineau and schoolmaster Jauffre, the latter of whom
grasped the staff of his flag with both hands. A halt ensued until the
band had finished playing. A dense crowd of peasant families in their
Sunday best, and ladies in full dress, had gathered round, waiting.
Then, all at once, the principal door of the church was thrown wide
open, and Curé Cognasse appeared in rich sacerdotal vestments, followed
by numerous members of the clergy, the many priests who had hastened
to Jonville from surrounding spots. Chants arose, and all the people
prostrated themselves devoutly during the solemn blessing of the flag.
The pathetic moment came when Mayor Martineau and the members of the
council knelt beneath the folds of the symbolic standard, which Jauffre
held slantwise above them in order that one might the better see the
gory heart embroidered amid the three colours. And then in a loud voice
the Mayor read the deed officially consecrating the parish of Jonville
to that heart.

Women wept and men applauded. A gust of blissful insanity arose into
the clear sunlight, above the blare of the brass instruments and the
beating of the drums which had again struck up a triumphal march. And
the procession entered the church, the clergy, the Mayor, and the
council, still and ever attended by the schoolmaster and the flag. Then
came the benediction of the Holy Sacrament; the monstrance glittering
like a great star on the altar, amid all the lighted candles, while
the municipality again knelt down most devoutly. And afterwards Abbé
Cognasse began to speak with fiery eloquence, exulting at the sight of
the representatives of civil authority sheltering themselves beneath
the banner of the Sacred Heart, prostrating themselves before the Holy
Sacrament, abdicating all pride and rebellion in the hands of the
Deity, relying on Him alone to govern and save France. Did not this
signify the end of impiety, the Church mistress of men's souls and
bodies, sole representative of power and authority on earth? Ah! she
would not long delay to restore happiness to her well-beloved eldest
Daughter, who at last repented of her errors, submitted, and sought
nothing but salvation. Every parish would end by following the example
of Jonville, the whole country would give itself to the Sacred Heart,
France would recover her empire over the world by the worship of the
national flag now transformed into the flag of Jesus! Cries of ecstatic
intoxication burst forth, and the splendid ceremony came to an end in
the sacristy, whither the council, headed by the Mayor, repaired to
sign the deed on parchment which set forth that the whole parish of
Jonville had for ever consecrated itself to the Divine Heart, the civil
power piously renouncing its claims in favour of the religious power.

But when the party quitted the church a scandalous scene occurred.
Among the crowd was Férou, the schoolmaster at Le Moreux, clad in a
wretched, tattered frock coat and looking more emaciated, more ardent
than ever. He had sunk to the worst tortures of indebtedness, he was
pursued for francs and half francs which he had borrowed, for he
could no longer obtain on credit the six pounds of bread which he
needed daily to feed his exhausted wife and his three lean and ailing
daughters. Even before it was due, his paltry salary of a hundred
francs a month disappeared in that ever-widening gulf, and the little
sum which he received as parish clerk was constantly being attached by
creditors. His growing and incurable misery had increased the contempt
of the peasants who were all at their ease, and who looked askance at
knowledge as it did not even feed the master appointed to teach it. And
Férou, the only man of intelligence and culture in that abode of dense
ignorance, grew more and more exasperated at the thought that he, the
man who knew, should be the poor one, whereas the ignorant were rich.
Feverish rebellion against such social iniquity came upon him, he was
maddened by the sufferings of those who were dear to him, and dreamt of
destroying this abominable world by violence.

As he stood there he caught sight of Saleur, the Mayor of Le Moreux,
who, wishing to make himself agreeable to the triumphant Abbé Cognasse,
had come over to Jonville, arrayed in a fine new frock coat. Peace now
reigned between his parish and the priest, though the latter still
grumbled at having to walk several miles to say Mass for people who
might very well have kept a priest of their own. However, all the
esteem which had departed from the thin, ghastly, ill-paid, penniless,
and deeply indebted schoolmaster had now gone to the sturdy and
flourishing priest who was so much better off, and who turned every
baptism, wedding, and burial into so much money. Beaten, as was only
natural, in that unequal duel, Férou was no longer able to control his

'Well, Monsieur Saleur,' he exclaimed, 'here's a carnival and no
mistake! Aren't you ashamed to lend yourself to such ignominy?'

Though Saleur was not at heart with the priests, this remark vexed him.
He construed it as an attack upon his own _bourgeois_ position as an
enriched grazier, living on his income in a pretty house, repainted
and decorated at his own expense. So he sought for dignified words of
reprimand: 'You would do better to keep quiet, Monsieur Férou. The
shame belongs to those who can't even succeed sufficiently to lead
respectable lives.'

Irritated by this rejoinder, which smacked of the low standard of
morality that brought him so much suffering, Férou was about to reply
when his anger was diverted by the sight of Jauffre.

'Ah! colleague,' said he, 'so it's you who carry their banner of
falsehood and imbecility! That's a fine action for an educator of the
lowly and humble ones of our democracy! You know very well that the
priest's gain is the schoolmaster's loss.'

Jauffre, like a man who had an income of his own, and who, moreover,
was well pleased with what he had done, replied with compassionate yet
crushing contempt: 'Before judging others, my poor comrade, you would
do well to provide your daughters with shifts to hide their nakedness!'

At this Férou lost all self-control. With his unkempt hair bristling
on his head, and a savage gleam in his wild eyes, he waved his long
arms and cried: 'You gang of bigots! you pack of Jesuits! Carry your
bullock's heart about, worship it, eat it raw, and become, if you can,
even more bestial and imbecile than you are already!'

A crowd gathered around the blasphemer, hoots and threats arose, and
things would have turned out badly for him if Saleur, like a prudent
Mayor, alarmed for the good name of his commune, had not extricated him
from the hostile throng and led him away by the arm.

On the morrow the incident was greatly exaggerated; on all sides people
talked of execrable sacrilege. Indeed, _Le Petit Beaumontais_ related
that the schoolmaster of Le Moreux had spat on the national flag of the
Sacred Heart at the very moment when worthy Abbé Cognasse was blessing
that divine emblem of repentant and rescued France. And in its ensuing
number it announced that the revocation of schoolmaster Férou was a
certainty. If that were so, the consequences would be serious, for as
Férou had not completed his term of ten years' duty as a teacher he
would have to perform some years' military service. And, again, while
he was in barracks, what would become of his wife and daughters, those
woeful creatures for whom he was already unable to provide? He gone,
would they not utterly starve to death?

When Marc heard of what had happened he went to see Salvan at Beaumont.
This time the newspaper's information was correct, the revocation of
Férou was about to be signed, Le Barazer was resolved on it. And as
Marc nevertheless begged his old friend to attempt some intervention,
the other sadly refused to do so.

'No, no, it would be useless,' he said; 'I should simply encounter
inflexible determination. Le Barazer cannot act otherwise; at least,
such is his conviction. Opportunist as he is, he finds in that course
a means of ridding himself of the other difficulties of the present
time.... And you must not complain too much; for if his severity falls
on Férou it is in order that he may spare you.'

At this Marc burst into protest, saying how much he was upset and
grieved by such a _dénouement_.

'But you are not responsible, my dear fellow,' Salvan replied. 'He
is casting that prey to the clericals because they require one, and
because he thus hopes to save a good workman like yourself. It is
a very _distinguée_ solution, as somebody said to me yesterday....
Ah! how many tears and how much blood must necessarily flow for the
slightest progress to be accomplished, how many poor corpses must fill
up the ditches in order that the heroes may pass on!'

Salvan's forecast was fulfilled to the very letter. Two days afterwards
Férou was dismissed, and, rather than resign himself to military
service, he fled to Belgium, full of exasperation at the thought that
justice should be denied him. He hoped to find some petty situation at
Brussels, which would enable him to send for his wife and children, and
make himself a new home abroad. He even ended by declaring that he felt
relieved at having escaped from the university galleys, and that he now
breathed freely, like a man who was at last at liberty to think and act
as he listed.

Meantime his wife installed herself with her three little girls in two
small, sordid rooms at Maillebois, where, with all bravery, she at
once began to ply her needle as a seamstress, though she found herself
unable to earn enough for daily bread. Marc visited her and helped
her as far as he could, feeling quite heartbroken at the sight of her
pitiable wretchedness. And a remorseful feeling clung to him, for the
affair of the crucifix appeared to be forgotten amid the keen emotion
roused by the sacrilege of Jonville and the revocation which had
followed it. _Le Petit Beaumontais_ triumphed noisily, and the Count de
Sanglebœuf promenaded the town with victorious airs as if his friends,
the Brothers, the Capuchins, and the Jesuits, had now become the
absolute masters of the department. And then life followed its course,
pending the time when the struggle would begin again, on another field.

One Sunday Marc was surprised to see his wife come home carrying a
Mass-book. 'What! have you been to church?' he asked her.

'Yes,' she answered,' I have just taken the Communion.' He looked at
her, turning pale the while, penetrated by a sudden chill, a quiver,
which he strove to hide. 'You do that now, and you did not tell me of
it?' said he.

On her side she feigned astonishment, though, according to her wont,
she remained very calm and gentle: 'Tell you of it--why?' she asked.
'It is a matter of conscience. I leave you free to act according to
your views, so I suppose I may act according to mine.'

'No doubt; all the same, for the sake of a good understanding between
us, I should have liked to have known.'

'Well, you know now. I do not hide it, as you may see. But we shall,
none the less, remain good friends, I hope.'

She added nothing more, and he lacked the strength to tell her of all
that he felt seething within him, to provoke the explanation which he
knew to be imperative. But the day remained heavy with silence. This
time some connecting link had certainly snapped and sundered them.


Some months elapsed, and day by day Marc found himself confronted by
the redoubtable question: Why had he married a woman whose belief was
contrary to his own? Did not he and Geneviève belong to two hostile
spheres, divided by an abyss, and would not their disagreement bring
them the most frightful torture? Some scientists were suggesting that
when people desired to marry they should undergo proper examination,
and provide themselves with certificates setting forth that they were
free from all physical flaws. The young man for his part felt convinced
that all such certificates ought also to state that the holder's heart
and mind were free from every form of inherited or acquired imbecility.
Two beings, ignorant one of the other, coming from different worlds,
as it were, with contradictory and hostile notions, could only torture
and destroy each other. And yet how great an excuse was, at the outset,
furnished by the imperious blindness of love, and how difficult it was
to solve the question in some particular cases, which were often those
instinct with most charm and tenderness!

Marc did not yet accuse Geneviève--he merely dreaded lest she should
become a deadly weapon in the hands of those priests and monks against
whom he was waging war. As the Church had failed to strike him down
by intriguing with his superiors, it must now be thinking of dealing
him a blow in the heart by destroying his domestic happiness. That was
essentially the device of the Jesuits, the everlasting manœuvre of
the father-confessor, who helps on the work of Catholic domination in
stealthy fashion, like a worldly psychologist well acquainted with the
passions and the means they offer for triumphing over the human beast,
who, fondled and satiated, may then be strangled. To glide into a home,
to set oneself between husband and wife, to capture the latter and
thereby destroy the man whom the Church wishes to get rid of, no easier
and more widely adopted stratagem than this is known to the black
whisperers of the confessional.

The Church, having taken possession of woman, has used her as its most
powerful weapon of propaganda and enthralment. At the first moment
an obstacle certainly arose. Was not woman all shame and perdition,
a creature of sin, and terror, before whom the very saints trembled?
Vile nature had set its trap in her, she was the source of life, she
was life itself, the contempt of which was taught by the Church. And
so for a moment the latter denied a soul to woman, the creature from
whom men of purity fled to the desert, in danger of succumbing if the
evening breeze wafted to them merely the odour of her hair. Beauty
and passion being cast out of the religious system, she became the
mere embodiment of all that was condemned, all that was regarded as
diabolical, denounced as the craft of Satan, all against which prayer,
mortification, and strict and perpetual chastity were enjoined. And
in the desire to crush sexuality in woman, the ideal woman was shown
sexless, and a virgin was enthroned as queen of heaven.

But the Church ended by understanding the irresistible sexual power of
woman over man, and in spite of its repugnance, in spite of its terror,
decided to employ it as a means to conquer and enchain man. That great
flock of women, weakened by an abasing system of education, terrorised
by the fear of hell, degraded to the status of serfs by the hatred and
harshness of priests, might serve as an army. And as man was ceasing
to believe and turning aside from the altars, an effort to bring him
back to them might be attempted with the help of woman's Satanic but
ever victorious charm. She need only withhold herself from man, and he
would follow her to the very foot of the shrines. In this, no doubt,
there was much immoral inconsistency; but had not the Church lost much
of its primitive sternness, and had not the Jesuits appeared upon
the scene to fight the great fight on the new field of casuistry and
accommodation with the world? From that time, then, the Church handled
woman more gently and skilfully than before. It still refused to take
her to wife, for it feared and loathed her as the embodiment of sin,
but it employed her to ensure its triumph. Its policy was to keep her
to itself, by stupefying her as formerly, by holding her in a state
of perpetual mental infancy. That much ensured, it turned her into a
weapon of war, confident that it would vanquish incredulous man by
setting pious woman before him. And in woman the Church always had a
witness at the family hearth, and was able to exert its influence even
in the most intimate moments of conjugal life, whenever it desired to
plunge resisting men into the worst despair. Thus, at bottom, woman
still remained the human animal, and the priests merely made use of her
in order to ensure the triumph of their creed.

Marc easily reconstituted the early phases of Geneviève's life: in
childhood, the pleasant convent of the Sisters of the Visitation, with
all sorts of devout attractions; the evening prayer on one's knees
beside the little white bed; the providential protection promised to
those who were obedient; the lovely stories of Christians saved from
lions, of guardian angels watching over children, and carrying the
pure souls of the well-beloved to heaven, such indeed as Monsieur
le Curé related in the dazzling chapel. Afterwards came years of
skilful preparation for the first Communion, with the extraordinary
mysteries of the Catechism enshrouded in fearsome obscurity, for ever
disturbing the reason, and kindling all the perverse fever of mystical
curiosity. Then in the first troublous hour of maidenhood the young
girl, enraptured with her white gown, her first bridal gown, was
affianced to Jesus, united to the divine lover, whose gentle sway she
accepted for ever; and man might come afterwards, he would find himself
forestalled by an influence which would dispute his possession of her
with all the haunting force of remembrance. Again and again throughout
her life woman would see the candles sparkling, feel the incense
filling her with languor, hark back to the wakening of her senses amid
the mysterious whispering of the confessional and the languishing
rapture of the Holy Table. She would spend her youth encompassed by
the worst prejudices, nourished with the errors and falsehoods of
ages, and, above all things, kept in close captivity in order that
nothing of the real world might reach her. Thus the girl of sixteen
or seventeen, on quitting the good Sisters of the Visitation, was a
miracle of perversion and stultification, one whose natural vision had
been dimmed, one who knew nothing of herself nor of others, and who in
the part she would play in love and wifehood would bring, apart from
her beauty, nought save religious poison, the evil ferment of every
disorder and every suffering.

Marc pictured Geneviève, somewhat later, in the devout little house on
the Place des Capucins. It was there that he had first seen her in the
charge of her grandmother and mother, the chief care of whose vigilant
affection had been to complete the convent work by setting on one
side everything that might have made the girl a creature of truth and
reason. It was enough that she should follow the Church's observances
like an obedient worshipper; she was told that she need take no
interest in other things; she was prepared for life by being kept
quite blind to it. Some effort on Marc's part was already necessary
to enable him to recall her such as she had been at the time of their
first interviews--delightfully fair, with a refined and gentle face, so
desirable too with the flush of her youth, the penetrating perfume of
her blond beauty, that he only vaguely remembered whether she had then
shown much intelligence and sense. A gust of passion had transported
them both; he had felt that she shared his flame; for, however chilling
might have been her education, she had inherited from her father a real
craving for love.

In matters of intellect she was doubtless no fool; he must have deemed
her similar to other young girls, of whom one knows nothing; and
certainly he had resolved to look into all that after their marriage.
But when he now recalled their first years at Jonville he perceived
how slight had been his efforts to know her better and make her more
wholly his own. They had spent those years in mutual rapture, in such
passionate intoxication that they had remained unconscious even of
their moral differences. She showed real intelligence in many things,
and he had not cared to worry her about the singular gaps which he had
occasionally discovered in her understanding. As she ceased to follow
the observances of the Church he imagined that he had won her over to
his views, though he had not even taken the trouble to instruct her in
them. He now suspected that there must have been some little cowardice
on his part, some dislike of the bother of re-educating her entirely,
and also some fear of encountering obstacles, and spoiling the adorable
quietude of their love. Indeed, as their life was all happiness, why
should he have sought a cause of strife, particularly as he had felt
convinced that their great love would suffice to ensure their good
understanding whatever might arise?

But now the crisis was at hand, heavy with menace. When Salvan had
interested himself in the marriage he had pointed out to Marc that if
husband and wife were ill-assorted there was always some fear for the
future; and to tranquillise his own conscience with respect to the
young man's case it had been necessary that he should accept the view
adopted by Marc, that when a young couple adored one another it was
possible for the husband to make his wife such as he desired her to be.
Indeed, when an ignorant young girl is handed over to a man whom she
loves, is it not in his power to re-create her in his own image? He
is her god, and may mould her afresh by the sovereign might of love.
Such is the theory, but how often is it put into practice? Languor,
blindness, come upon the man himself; and in Marc's case it was only
long afterwards that he had realised how ignorant he had really
remained of Geneviève's mind--a mind which, awaking according to the
play of circumstances, revealed itself at last as that of an unknown,
antagonistic woman.

The effects of the warm bath of religiosity in which Geneviève had
grown up were still there. The adored woman, whom Marc had imagined
to be wholly his own, was possessed by the indelible, indestructible
past, in which he had no share whatever. He perceived with stupefaction
that they had nothing in common, that though he had made her wife
and mother, he had in no degree modified her brain, fashioned from
her cradle days by skilful hands. Ah! how bitterly he now regretted
that, in the first months of their married life, he had not striven to
conquer the mind that existed behind the charming face which he had
covered with his kisses! He ought not to have abandoned himself to his
happiness, he ought to have striven to re-educate the big child who
hung so amorously about his neck. As it had been his desire to make
her entirely his own, why had he not shown himself a prudent, sensible
man, whose reason remained undisturbed by the joys of love? If he
suffered now it was by reason of his vain illusions, his idleness, and
his egotism in refraining from action, from the fear of spoiling the
felicity of his dalliance.

But the danger had now become so serious that he resolved to contend
with it. A last excuse for avoiding anything like rough intervention
remained to him: respect for another's freedom, tolerance of whatever
might be the sincere faith of his life's companion. With amorous
weakness he had consented to a religious marriage, and subsequently to
the baptism of his daughter Louise, and, in the same way, he now lacked
the strength to forbid his wife's attendance at Mass, Communion,
and Confession, if her belief lay in such observances. Yet times
had changed; he might have pleaded that at the date of his wedding,
and again at the period of his daughter's birth, he had been quite
indifferent to Church matters, whereas things were very different now
that he had formally rejected the Church and its creed. He had imposed
a duty on himself, he ought to set an example, he ought not to allow
in his own home that which he condemned in the homes of others. If
he, the secular schoolmaster, who showed such marked hostility to the
interference of priests in the education of the young, should suffer
his wife to go to Mass and take little Louise with her, would he not
render himself liable to reproach? Nevertheless, he did not feel that
he had the right to prevent those things, so great was his innate
respect for liberty of conscience. Thus, confronted as he was by the
imperious necessity of defending his happiness, he perceived no other
available weapons, particularly in his own home, than discussion,
persuasion, and the daily teaching of life in all that it has of a
logical and healthful nature. That which he ought to have done at the
outset, he must attempt now, not only in order to win his Geneviève
over to healthy human truth, but also to prevent their dear Louise from
following her into the deadly errors of Roman Catholicism.

For the moment, however, the case of Louise, now seven years of
age, seemed less urgent. Moreover, though Marc was convinced that a
child's first impressions are the keenest and the most tenacious,
circumstances compelled a waiting policy with respect to his little
girl. He had been obliged to let her attend the neighbouring school,
where Mademoiselle Rouzaire was already filling her mind with Bible
history. There were also prayers at the beginning and at the end of
lessons, Sunday attendance at Mass, benedictions and processions. The
schoolmistress had certainly bowed assent with a sharp smile when Marc
had exacted from her a promise that his daughter should not be required
to follow any religious exercises. But the girl was still so young that
it seemed ridiculous to insist on preserving her from contamination
in this fashion; besides which, Marc was not always at hand to make
sure whether she said prayers with the other children or not. That
which disgusted him with Mademoiselle Rouzaire was less the clerical
zeal which seemed to consume her than her hypocrisy, the keen personal
interest which guided all her actions. The woman's lack of real
faith, her mere exploitation of religious sentimentality for her own
advantage, was so apparent that even Geneviève, whose uprightness still
remained entire, was wounded by it, and for this reason had repulsed
the other's advances.

The schoolmistress, indeed, wishing to worm her way into Marc's home
and scenting the possibility of a drama there, had suddenly manifested
great friendship for her neighbour. What delight and glory it would be
if she could render the Church a service in that direction, separate
the wife from the husband, and strike the secular schoolmaster down
at his own fireside! She therefore showed herself very amiable and
insinuating, ever keeping on the watch behind the party-wall, hoping
for some opportunity which would enable her to intervene and console
the 'poor persecuted little wife.' At times she risked allusions,
expressions of sympathy, words of advice: 'It was so sad when husband
and wife were not of the same faith! And assuredly one must not wreck
one's soul, so it was best to offer some gentle resistance.' On two
occasions Mademoiselle Rouzaire had the pleasure of seeing Geneviève
shed tears. But afterwards the young wife, feeling very uneasy,
drew away from her, and avoided all further confidential chats.
That mealy-mouthed woman, with her 'gendarme' build, her fondness
for anisette, and her chatter about the priests,--'who, after all,
were not different from other men, and of whom it was wrong to speak
badly,'--inspired her with unconquerable repugnance. Thus repulsed,
Mademoiselle Rouzaire felt her hatred for her neighbours increase, and
visited her spite on little Louise by instructing her most carefully in
religious matters, in spite of the paternal prohibition.

If Marc was not seriously concerned as yet about his daughter, he
understood that it was urgent he should act in order to prevent his
beloved Geneviève from being wrested from him. It was now plain to
him that her religious views had revived at her grandmother's house.
The pious little home on the Place des Capucins was like a hot-bed of
mystical contagion, where a faith, which had not been extinguished,
but which had died down amid the first joys of human love, was bound
to be fanned into flame once more. Had they remained at Jonville in
loving solitude, he, Marc, might have sufficed for Geneviève's yearning
passion. But at Maillebois foreign elements had intervened between
them. That terrible Simon case had brought about the first snap, and
then had come its consequences, the struggle between himself and the
Congregations, and the liberating mission which he had undertaken.
Besides, they had no longer remained alone; a stream of people and
things now flowed between them, growing ever wider and wider, and they
could already foresee the day when they would be utter strangers, one
to the other.

At present Geneviève met some of Marc's bitterest enemies at Madame
Duparque's. The young man learnt at last that the terrible grandmother,
after years of humble solicitation, had obtained the favour of being
included among Father Crabot's penitents. The Rector of Valmarie
usually reserved his services as confessor for the fine ladies of
Beaumont, and only some very powerful reasons could have induced him
to confess that old _bourgeoise_, who, socially, was of no account
whatever. And not only did he receive her at the chapel of Valmarie,
but he did her the honour to repair to the Place des Capucins whenever
an attack of gout confined her to her armchair. He there met other
personages of the cloth, Abbé Quandieu, Father Théodose, and Brother
Fulgence, who became partial to that pious nook all shadows and
silence, that well-closed little house where their conclaves, it
seemed, might pass unperceived. Nevertheless, rumours circulated,
some evil-minded people saying that the house was indeed the clerical
faction's secret headquarters, the hidden laboratory, where its most
important resolutions were prepared. Yet how could one seriously
suspect the modest dwelling of two old ladies, who certainly had every
right to receive their friends? The latter's shadows were scarcely
seen; Pélagie, the servant, swiftly and softly closed the door upon
them; not a face ever appeared at the windows, not a murmur filtered
through the sleepy little façade. Everything was very dignified--great
deference was shown for that highly respectable dwelling.

But Marc regretted that he had not gone there more frequently.
Assuredly he had made a great mistake in abandoning Geneviève to the
two old ladies, allowing her to spend whole days in their company with
little Louise. His presence would have counteracted the contagion
of that sphere; had he been there the others would have restrained
the stealthy attacks which, as he well realised, they made upon his
ideas and his person. Geneviève, as if conscious of the danger with
which the peace of her home was threatened, occasionally offered some
resistance, struggling to avoid hostilities with the husband whom
she still loved. For instance, on returning to the observances of
the Church, she had chosen Abbé Quandieu as her confessor instead of
Father Théodose, whom Madame Duparque had sought to impose on her. The
young woman was conscious of the warlike ardour that lurked behind
the Capuchin's handsome face, his beautifully-kept black beard, and
his glowing eyes, which filled his penitents with dreams of rapture;
whereas the Abbé was a prudent and gentle man, a fatherly confessor,
whose frequent silence was full of sadness--one, too, in whom she
vaguely divined a friend, one who suffered from the fratricidal warfare
of the times, and longed for peace among all workers of good will.
Geneviève, indeed, was yet at a stage of loving tenderness, when her
mind, though gradually becoming clouded, still manifested some anxiety
before it finally sank into mystical passion. But day by day she was
confronted by more serious assaults, and yielded more and more to the
disturbing influence of her relatives, whose unctuous gestures and
caressing words slowly benumbed her. In vain did Marc now repair more
frequently to the Place des Capucins; he could no longer arrest the
poison's deadly work.

As yet, however, there was no attempt to enforce authority, no brutal
roughness. Geneviève was merely enticed, flattered, cajoled, with
gentle hands. And no violent words were spoken of her husband; on the
contrary, he was said to be a man deserving of all pity, a sinner whose
salvation was most desirable. The unhappy being! He knew not what
incalculable harm he was doing to his country, how many children's
souls he was wrecking, sending to hell, through his obstinate rebellion
and pride! Then, at first vaguely, and afterwards more and more
plainly, a desire was expressed in Geneviève's presence that she might
devote herself to the most praiseworthy task of converting that sinner,
redeeming that guilty man, whom, in her weakness, she still loved. What
joy and glory would be hers if she should lead him back to religion,
arrest his rageful work of destruction, save him, and thereby save
his innocent victims from eternal damnation! For several months, with
infinite craft, the young woman was in this wise worked upon, prepared
for the enterprise expected of her, with the evident hope of bringing
about conjugal rupture by fomenting a collision between the two
irreconcilable principles which she and her husband represented--she
a woman of the past, full of the errors of the ages--he a man of free
thought, marching towards the future. And in time the much-sought,
inevitable developments appeared.

The conjugal life of Marc and Geneviève grew sadder every day--that
life so gay and loving once, when their kisses had perpetually mingled
with their merry laughter. They had not yet reached the quarrelling
stage; but, as soon as they found themselves alone together and
unoccupied, they felt embarrassed. Something of which they never
spoke seemed to be growing up between them, chilling them more and
more, prompting them to enmity. On Marc's side there was a growing
consciousness that she who was bound up with every hour of his life,
she whom he embraced at night, was a woman foreign to him, one whose
ideas and sentiments he reprobated. And on Geneviève's side there was
a similar feeling, an exasperating conviction that she was regarded as
an ignorant, unreasonable child, one who was still adored but with a
love laden with much dolorous compassion. Thus their first wounds were

One night, when they were in bed, encompassed by the warm darkness,
while Marc held Geneviève in a mute embrace as if she were some sulking
child, she suddenly burst into bitter sobs, exclaiming: 'Ah! you love
me no longer!'

'No longer love you, my darling!' he replied; 'why do you say that?'

'If you loved me you would not leave me in such dreadful sorrow! You
turn away from me more and more each day. You treat me as if I were
some ailing creature, sickly or insane. Nothing that I may say seems
of any account to you. You shrug your shoulders at it. Ah! I feel it
plainly, you are growing more and more impatient; I am becoming a
worry, a burden to you.'

Though Marc's heart contracted, he did not interrupt her, for he wished
to learn everything.

'Yes,' she resumed, 'unhappily for me I can see things quite plainly.
You take more interest in the last of your boys than you do in me.
When you are downstairs with the boys, in the classroom, you become
impassioned, you pour out your whole soul, you exert yourself to
explain the slightest things to them, and laugh and play with them like
an elder brother. But directly you come upstairs you get gloomy again;
you can think of nothing to say to me, you look ill at ease, like a
man who's worried by his wife and tired of her.... Ah! God, God, how
unhappy I am!'

Again she burst into sobs.

Then Marc, making up his mind, gently responded: 'I dared not tell
you the cause of my sadness, darling, but if I suffer it is precisely
because I find in you all that you reproach me with. You are never
with me now. You spend whole days elsewhere, and when you come home
you bring with you an air of unreason and death, which ravages our
poor home. It is you who no longer speak to me. Your mind is always
wandering, deep in some dim dream, even while you are sewing, or
serving the meals, or attending to our little Louise. It is you who
treat me with indulgent pity, as if I were a guilty man, perhaps one
unconscious of his crime; and it is you who will soon have ceased to
love me, if you refuse to open your eyes to a little reasonable truth.'

But she would not admit it; she interrupted each sentence that came
from him with protests full of vehemence and stupefaction: I! I! It
is I whom you accuse! I tell you that you no longer love me, and you
dare to assert that I am losing my love for you!' Then, casting aside
all restraint, revealing the innermost thoughts that haunted her day
by day, she continued: 'Ah! how happy are the women whose husbands
share their faith! I see some in church who are always accompanied by
their husbands. How delightful it must be for husband and wife to place
themselves conjointly in the hands of God! Those homes are blessed,
they indeed have but one soul, and there is no felicity that heaven
does not shower on them!'

Marc could not restrain a slight laugh, at once very gentle and
distressful. 'So now, my poor wife,' he said, 'you think of trying to
convert me?'

'What harm would there be in that?' she answered eagerly. 'Do you
imagine I do not love you enough to feel frightful grief at the
thought of the deadly peril you are in? You do not believe in future
punishment, you brave the wrath of heaven; but for my part I pray
heaven every day to enlighten you, and I would give--ah! willingly--ten
years of my life to be able to open your eyes, and save you from the
terrible catastrophes which threaten you. Ah! if you would only love
me, and listen to me, and follow me to the land of eternal delight!'

She trembled in his embrace, she glowed with such a fever of superhuman
desire that he was thunderstruck, for he had not imagined the evil to
be so deep. It was she who catechised him now, who tried to win him to
her faith, and he felt ashamed, for was she not doing what he himself
ought to have done the very first day--that is, strive to convert her
to his own views? He could not help expressing his thoughts aloud, and
unluckily he said: 'It is not you yourself who is speaking; you have
been given a task full of danger for the happiness of both of us.'

At this she began to lose her temper: 'Why do you wound me like that?'
she asked. 'Do you think I am incapable of acting for myself--from
personal conviction and affection? Am I senseless, then--so stupid
and docile that I can only serve as an instrument? Besides, even if
people--who are worthy of all respect, and whose sacred character you
disregard--do speak to me about you in a brotherly way which would
surprise you--ought you not rather to be moved by it, ought you not to
yield to such loving-kindness?... God, who might strike you down, holds
out His arms to you ... yet when He makes use of me and my love to lead
you back to Him you can only jest and treat me as if I were a foolish
little girl repeating a lesson!... Ah! we understand each other no
longer, and it is that which grieves me so much!'

While she spoke he felt his fear and desolation increasing. 'That
is true,' he repeated slowly, 'we no longer understand one another.
Words no longer have the same meaning for us, and every reproach that
I address to you, you address to me. Which of us will break away from
the other? Which of us loves the other and works for the other's
happiness?... Ah! I am the guilty one and I greatly fear that it is too
late for me to repair my fault. I ought to have taught you where to
find truth and equity.'

At these words, so suggestive of his profession, her rebellion became
complete. 'Yes, for you I am always a foolish pupil who knows nothing
and whose eyes require to be opened. But it is I who know where truth
and justice are to be found. You have not the right to speak those

'Not the right!'

'No; you have plunged into that monstrous error, that ignoble Simon
affair, in which your hatred of the Church blinds you and urges you
to the worst iniquity. When a man like you goes so far as to override
all truth and justice in order to strike and befoul the ministers of
religion, it is better to believe that he has lost his senses.'

This time Marc reached the root of the quarrel which Geneviève was
picking with him. The Simon case lay beneath everything else, it was
that alone which had inspired all the discreet and skilful manœuvring
of which he beheld the effects. If his wife were enticed away from him
at her relatives' home, if she were employed as a weapon to strike him
a deadly blow, it was especially in order that an artisan of truth, a
possible justiciary, might be smitten in his person. It was necessary
to suppress him, for his destruction alone could ensure the impunity of
the real culprits.

His voice trembled with deep grief as he answered: 'Ah! Geneviève, this
is more serious. There will be an end to our home if we can no longer
agree on so clear and so simple a question. Are you no longer on my
side, then, in that painful affair?'

'No, certainly not.'

'You think poor Simon guilty?'

'Why, there is no doubt of it! The reasons you give for asserting his
innocence repose on no foundation whatever! I should like you to hear
the persons whose purity of life you dare to suspect! And as you fall
into such gross error respecting a case in which everything is so
evident, a case which is settled beyond possibility of appeal, how can
I place the slightest faith in your other notions, your fanciful social
system, in which you begin by suppressing religion?'

He had taken her in his arms again, and was holding her in a tight
embrace. Ah! she was right. Their slowly increasing rupture had
originated in their divergence of views on that question of truth
and justice, in reference to which others had managed to poison her
understanding. 'Listen, Geneviève,' he said; 'there is only one truth,
one justice. You must listen to me, and our agreement will restore our

'No, no!'

'But, Geneviève, you must not remain in such darkness when I see light
all around me; it would mean separation forever.'

'No, no, let me be! You tire me; I won't even listen.'

She wrenched herself from his embrace and turned her back upon him.
He vainly sought to clasp her again, kissing her and whispering
gentle words; she would not move, she would not even answer. A chill
swept down on the conjugal couch, and the room seemed black as ink,
dolorously lifeless, as if the misfortune which was coming had already
annihilated everything.

From that time forward Geneviève became more nervous and ill-tempered.
Much less consideration was now shown for her husband at her
grandmother's house; he was attacked in her presence in an artfully
graduated manner, as by degrees her affection for him was seen to
decline. Little by little he became a public malefactor, one of
the damned, a slayer of the God she worshipped. And the rebellion
to which she was thus urged re-echoed in her home in bitter words,
in an increase of discomfort and coldness. Fresh quarrels arose at
intervals, usually at night, when they retired to rest, for in the
daytime they saw little of each other, Marc then being busy with his
boys and Geneviève being constantly absent, now at church, now at her
grandmother's. Thus their life was gradually quite spoilt. The young
woman showed herself more and more aggressive, while her husband, so
tolerant by nature, in his turn ended by manifesting irritation.

'My darling, I shall want you to-morrow during afternoon lessons,' he
said one evening.

'To-morrow? I can't come,' she replied; 'Abbé Quandieu will be
expecting me. Besides, you need not rely on me for anything.'

'Won't you help me, then?'

'No, I detest everything you do. Damn yourself if you choose; but I
have to think of my salvation.'

'Then each is to go his own way?'

'As you please.'

'Oh! darling, darling, is it you who speak like that? Are they going to
change your heart after fogging your mind? So now you are altogether on
the side of the corrupters and poisoners?'

'Be quiet, be quiet, you unhappy man! It is your work which is all
falsehood and poison. You blaspheme; your justice and your truth are
filthy; and it is the devil--yes, the devil--who teaches those wretched
children of yours, whom I no longer even pity, for they must be stupid
indeed to remain here!'

'My poor darling, how is it possible that you, once so intelligent, can
say such foolish things?'

'When a man finds women foolish he leaves them to themselves.'

Thereupon, in his turn losing his temper, Marc, indeed, left her to
herself, making no effort to win her back by a loving caress as in
former days. It often happened that they were unable to get to sleep;
they lay in bed, side by side, with their eyes wide open in the
darkness, silent and motionless, as if the little space which separated
them had become an abyss.

Marc was particularly afflicted by the growing hatred which Geneviève
manifested against his school, against the dear children whom he so
passionately strove to teach. At each fresh dispute she expressed
herself so bitterly that it seemed as if she became jealous of the
little ones when she saw him treat them so affectionately, endeavour
so zealously to make them sensible and peaceable. At bottom, indeed,
Geneviève's quarrel with Marc had no other cause; for she herself was
but a child, one of those who needed to be taught and freed, but who
rebelled and clung stubbornly to the errors of the ages. And in her
estimation all the affection which her husband lavished on his boys
was diverted from herself. As long as he should busy himself with them
in such a fatherly fashion, she would be unable to conquer him, carry
him away into the divine and rapturous stultification, in which she
would fain have seen him fall asleep in her arms. The struggle at last
became concentrated on that one point. Geneviève no longer passed the
classroom without feeling an inclination to cross herself, like one who
was utterly upset by the diabolical work accomplished there, who was
irritated by her powerlessness to wrest from such impious courses the
man whose bed she still shared.

Months, even years went by, and the battle between Marc and Geneviève
grew fiercer. But no imprudent haste was displayed at the home of her
relatives, for the Church has all eternity before her to achieve her
ends. Besides, leaving on one side that vain marplot, Brother Fulgence,
Father Théodose and Father Crabot were too skilled in the manipulation
of souls to overlook the necessity of proceeding slowly with a woman
of passionate nature, whose mind was an upright one when mysticism did
not obscure and pervert it. As long as she should love her husband,
as long as there should be no conjugal rupture, the work they had
undertaken would not be complete. And it required a long time to uproot
and extirpate a great love from a woman's heart and flesh in such wise
that it might never grow again. Thus Geneviève was left in the hands
of Abbé Quandieu, so that he might gently rock her to sleep before
more energetic action was attempted. Meantime, the others contented
themselves with watching her. It was a masterpiece of delicate,
gradual, but certain spell working.

Another affair helped to disturb Marc's home. He took a great deal of
interest in Madame Férou, who had installed herself with her three
daughters in a wretched lodging at Maillebois, where she had sought
work as a seamstress while awaiting a summons from her husband, the
dismissed schoolmaster, who had fled to Brussels to seek employment
there. But the wretched man's endeavours had proved fruitless. He had
found himself unable even to provide for his own wants; and tortured
by separation, exasperated by exile, he had lost his head and returned
to Maillebois with the bravado of one whom misery pursues and who can
know no worse misfortune than that already befalling him. Denounced
on the very next day, he was seized by the military authorities as a
deserter, and Salvan had to intervene actively to save him from being
incorporated at once in some disciplinary company. He was now in
garrison in a little Alpine town, at the other end of France, while his
wife and daughters, scarcely possessed of shelter and clothes, often
found themselves without bread.

Marc also had exerted himself on Férou's behalf at the time of his
arrest. He had then seen him for a few minutes and was unable to
forget him. That poor, big, haggard fellow lingered in his mind like
the victim, _par excellence_, of social abomination. Doubtless he had
made his retention in office impossible, even as Mauraisin said; but
how many excuses there were for this shepherd's son who had become a
schoolmaster, who had been starved for years, who had been treated
with so much scorn on account of his poverty, who had been cast to the
most extreme views by his circumstances: he, a man of intelligence and
learning, who found himself possessing nothing, knowing not one joy of
life, whereas ignorant brutes possessed and enjoyed all around him. And
the long iniquity had ended in brutal barrack-life far away from those
who were dear to him, and who were perishing of misery.

'Is it not enough to goad one into turning everything upside down?'
he had cried to Marc at their brief interview, his eyes flashing
while he waved his long bony arms. 'I signed, it's true, a ten years'
engagement which exempted me from barrack-life if I gave those ten
years to teaching. And it's true also that I gave only eight years, as
I was revoked for having said what I thought about the black-frocks'
revolting idolatry! But was it I who cancelled my engagement? And
after casting me brutally adrift, without any means of subsistence,
isn't it monstrous to seize me and claim payment of my old debt to the
army, in such wise that my wife and children must remain with nobody
to earn a living for them? The eight years I spent in the university
penitentiary, where a man who believes in truth is allowed neither
freedom of speech nor freedom of action, were not enough for them! They
insist on robbing me of two more years, on shutting me up in their gaol
of blood and iron, and reducing me to that life of passive obedience
which is the necessary apprenticeship for devastation and massacre, the
mere thought of which exasperates me! Ah! it's too much. I've given
them quite enough of my life, and they will end by maddening me if they
ask me for more.'

Alarmed at finding him so excited, Marc tried to calm him by promising
to do all he could for his wife and daughters. In two years' time he
would be released, and then some position might be found for him, and
he would be able to begin his life afresh. But Férou remained gloomy,
and growled angry words: 'No, no, I'm done for. I shall never get
through those two years quietly. They know it well, and it's to get the
chance of killing me like a mad dog that they are sending me yonder.'

Then he inquired who had replaced him at Le Moreux, and on hearing
that it was a man named Chagnat, an ex-assistant teacher at Brévannes,
a large parish of the region, he began to laugh bitterly. Chagnat,
a dusky little man with a low brow and retreating mouth and chin,
was the personification of the perfect beadle--not a hypocrite like
Jauffre, who made use of religion as a means to advancement, but
a shallow-brained bigot, such a dolt indeed as to believe in any
nonsensical trash that fell from the priest's lips. His wife, a huge
carroty creature, was yet more stupid than himself. And Férou's bitter
gaiety increased when he learnt that Mayor Saleur had completely
abdicated in favour of that idiot Chagnat, whom Abbé Cognasse employed
as a kind of sacristan-delegate to rule the parish on his behalf.

'When I told you long ago,' said Férou, 'that all that dirty gang, the
priests, the good Brothers, and the good Sisters, would eat us up and
reign here, you wouldn't believe me; you declared that my mind was
diseased! Well, now it has come to pass; they are your masters, and
you'll see into what a fine mess they will lead you. It disgusts one to
be a man: a stray dog is less to be pitied. And as for myself I've had
quite enough of it all. I'll bring things to an end if they plague me.'

Nevertheless Férou was sent off to join his regiment, and another
three months went by, the wretchedness of his unhappy wife steadily
increasing. She, once so fair and pleasant with her bright and fresh
round face, now looked twice as old as she really was, aged betimes
by hard toil and want. She still found very little work, and spent an
entire winter month fireless, almost without bread. To make matters
worse, her eldest daughter fell ill with typhoid fever, and lay
perishing in the icy garret into which the wind swept through every
chink in the door and window. Marc, who in a discreet way had already
given alms to the poor woman, at last begged his wife to entrust her
with some work.

Although Geneviève spoke of Férou even as those whom she met at her
grandmother's house spoke of him, saying that he had blasphemously
insulted the Sacred Heart and was a sacrilegist, she felt stirred by
the story of his wife's bitter want. 'Yes,' she said to her husband,
'Louise needs a new frock; I have the stuff, and I will take it to that

'Thank you for her. I will go with you,' Marc replied.

On the following day they repaired together to Madame Férou's sordid
lodging, whence her landlord threatened to expel her as she was in
arrears with her rent. Her eldest daughter was now near her death; and
when the Froments arrived she herself and her two younger girls were
sobbing in heartrending fashion amid the fearful disorder of the place.
For a moment Marc and Geneviève remained standing there, amazed and
unable to understand the situation.

'You haven't heard it, you haven't heard it, have you?' Madame Férou
at last exclaimed. 'Well, it's done now; they are going to kill him.
Ah! he guessed it; he said that those brigands would end by having his

She went on speaking in a disjointed fashion amid her sobs, and Marc
was thus able to extract from her the distressful story. Férou, as was
inevitable, had turned out a very bad soldier, and unfavourably noted
by his superiors, treated with the utmost harshness as a revolutionary,
he had carried a quarrel with his corporal so far as to rush on the
latter and kick and pommel him. For this he had been court-martialled,
and they were now about to send him to a military _bagnio_ in Algeria,
where he would be drafted into one of those disciplinary companies,
among which the abominable tortures of the old ages are still practised.

'He will never come back, they will murder him!' his wife continued in
a fury. 'He wrote to bid me good-bye; he knows that he will soon be
killed.... And what shall I do? What will become of my poor children?
Ah! the brigands, the brigands!'

Marc listened, sorely grieved, unable to think of a word of
consolation, whereas Geneviève began to show signs of impatience.
'But, my dear Madame Férou,' she exclaimed, 'why should they kill your
husband? The officers of our army are not in the habit of killing their
men. You increase your own distress by your unjust thoughts.'

'They are brigands, I tell you!' the unhappy woman repeated with
growing violence. 'What! my poor Férou starved for eight years,
discharging the most ungrateful duties, and he is taken for another
two years and treated like a brute beast, simply because he spoke like
a sensible man! And now what was bound to happen has happened; he is
sent to the galleys, where they'll end by murdering him after dragging
him from agony to agony! No, no, I won't have it! I'll go and tell them
that they are all a band of brigands--brigands!'

Marc endeavoured to calm her. He, all kindliness and equity, was
shocked by such excessive social iniquity. But what could those on whom
it recoiled, the wife and children, do, crushed as they were beneath
the millstone of tragic fate? 'Be reasonable,' said he. 'We will try to
do something; we will not forsake you.'

But Geneviève had become icy cold. That wretched home where the mother
was wringing her hands, where the poor puny girls were sobbing and
lamenting, no longer inspired her with any pity. She no longer even saw
the eldest daughter, wrapped in the shreds of a blanket and looking so
ghastly as she gazed at the scene with dilated, expressionless eyes,
unable even to weep, such was her weakness. Erect and rigid, still
carrying the little parcel formed of the stuff for Louise's new frock,
the young woman slowly said: 'You must place yourself in the hands of
God. Cease to offend Him, for He might punish you still more.'

A laugh of terrible scorn came from Madame Férou: 'Oh! God is too busy
with the rich to pay attention to the poor!' she cried. 'It was in His
name that we were reduced to this misery, it is in His name that they
are going to murder my poor husband!'

At this Geneviève was carried away by anger: 'You blaspheme! You
deserve no help!' said she. 'If you had only shown a little religious
feeling, I know persons who would have helped you already.'

'But I ask you for nothing, madame,' the poor woman answered. 'Yes, I
know that help has been refused me because I do not go to confession.
Even Abbé Quandieu, who is so charitable, does not dare to include me
among his poor.... But I am not a hypocrite, I simply endeavour to earn
my bread by work.'

'Well, then, apply for work to the wretched madmen who regard the
priests and the officers as brigands!'

And thereupon Geneviève hurried away in a passion, carrying with her
the stuff for her daughter's frock. Marc was obliged to follow her,
though he quivered with indignation. And halfway down the stairs he
could restrain himself no longer. 'You have just done a bad action!' he


'How? A God of kindness would be charitable to all. Your God of wrath
and punishment is but a monstrous phantasy.... It is not necessary that
one should humble oneself to deserve assistance, it is sufficient that
one should suffer.'

'No, no! Those who sin deserve their sufferings! Let them suffer if
they persist in impiety. My duty is to do nothing for them.'

That same evening, when they were alone, the quarrel began afresh, and
Marc, on his side, for the first time became violent, unable as he
was to forgive Geneviève's lack of charity. Hitherto he had fancied
that her mind alone was threatened, but was it not evident now that
her heart also would be spoilt? And that night irreparable words were
spoken, husband and wife realised what an abyss had been dug between
them by invisible hands. Then both relapsed into silence in the black
room full of grief and pain, and on the morrow they did not exchange a

Moreover, a source of constant disputes, one which was bound to make
rupture inevitable, had now sprung up. Louise would be soon ten years
old, and the question of sending her to Abbé Quandieu's Catechism
classes, in order that she might be prepared for her first Communion,
presented itself. Marc, after begging Mademoiselle Rouzaire to
exempt his daughter from all religious exercises, had noticed that
the schoolmistress took no account of his request, but crammed the
child with orisons and canticles as she did with her other pupils.
But he was obliged to close his eyes to it, for he realised that the
schoolmistress was only too anxious to have a chance of appealing
to Geneviève on the subject in order to create trouble in his home.
When the Catechism question arose, however, he desired to act firmly,
and watched for an opportunity to have a decisive explanation with
Geneviève. That opportunity presented itself naturally enough on the
day when Louise, returning from her lessons, said to her mother in her
father's presence: 'Mamma, Mademoiselle Rouzaire told me to ask you to
see Abbé Quandieu, so that he may put my name down for his Catechism

'All right, my dear, I will go to see him to-morrow.'

Marc, who was reading, quickly raised his head: 'Excuse me, my dear,
but you will not go to Abbé Quandieu.'

'Why not?'

'It is simple enough. I do not wish Louise to follow the Catechism
lessons because I do not wish her to make her first Communion.'

Geneviève did not immediately lose her temper, but laughed as if with
ironical compassion: 'You are out of your senses, my friend,' said she.
'Not make her first Communion indeed! Why in that case how would you
find a husband for her? What a casteless, shameless position you would
give her throughout her life! Besides, you allowed her to be baptised,
you allowed her to learn her Bible history and prayers, so it is
illogical on your part to forbid the Catechism and the Communion.'

Marc also kept his temper for the moment, and answered quietly: 'You
are right, I was weak, and for that very reason I am resolved to be
weak no longer. I showed all tolerance for your belief as long as the
child remained quite young, and hung about your skirts. A daughter,
it is said, ought to belong more particularly to her mother, and I am
willing that it should be so until the time comes when the question of
the girl's moral life, her whole future, presents itself. Surely the
father then has a right to intervene?'

Geneviève waved her hand impatiently and her voice began to tremble
as she answered: 'I wish Louise to follow the Catechism lessons, you
don't wish her to do so. If we have equal rights over the child we may
go on disputing for ever without reaching a solution. What I desire
seems to you idiotic, and what you desire appears to me abominable.'

'Oh! what I desire, what I desire! My desire simply is that my daughter
shall not be prevented from exercising her own free will later on....
The question now is to profit by her childishness in order to deform
her mind and heart, poison her with lies, and render her for ever
incapable of becoming human and sensible. And that is what I desire to
prevent. But I do not wish to impose my will on her, I simply wish to
ensure her the free exercise of her will at a later date.'

'But how do you provide for that? What is to be done with this big

'It is only necessary to let her grow up and to open her eyes to every
truth. When she is twenty she will decide who is right--you or I; and
if she should then think it sensible and logical she will revert to the
Catechism and make her first Communion.'

At this Geneviève exploded: 'You are really mad! You say such absurd
things before the child that I feel ashamed of you!'

Marc also lost patience. 'Absurd, my poor wife? It is your notions
that are absurd! And I won't have my child's mind perverted with such

'Be quiet! be quiet!' she cried. 'You don't know what you wrench from
me when you speak like that! Yes, you tear away all my love for you,
all our happiness, which I should still like to save!... But how are
we to agree if words no longer have the same meaning for us, if what
you declare to be absurd is for me the divine and the eternal?... And
is not your fine logic at fault? How can Louise choose between your
ideas and mine if you now prevent me from having her instructed as I
desire?... I do not prevent you from telling her whatever you wish, but
I must be free to take her to the Catechism class.'

Marc was already weakening: 'I know the theory,' said he. 'The child
enlightened by both the father and the mother, with the right of
choosing between their views later on. But is that right left intact
when a full course of religious training, aggravating the child's long
Catholic heredity, deprives her of all power of thinking and acting
freely? The father, who is so imperfectly armed, can do little when
he talks truth and sense to a girl whose senses and whose heart are
disturbed by others. And when she has grown up amid the pomps of the
Church, its terrifying mysteries and its mystical absurdities, it is
too late for her to revert to a little sense--her mind has been warped
for ever.'

'If you have your right as a father,' Geneviève retorted violently, 'I
have my right as a mother. You are not going to take my daughter from
me when she is only ten years old and still has so much need of me. It
would be monstrous! I am an honest woman, and I mean to make Louise
an honest woman too.... She shall go to the Catechism class, and, if
necessary, I myself will take her!'

Marc, who had risen from his chair, made a furious gesture of protest,
but he had strength enough to restrain the violent, the supreme words
which would have precipitated immediate rupture. What could he say,
what could he do? As usual, he recoiled from the fearful prospect of
seeing his home destroyed, his happiness changed into hourly torture.
He still loved that woman who showed herself so narrow-minded and
particularly so stubborn; there still lingered on his lips the taste
of hers; and he could not forget, he could not obliterate, the happy
days of their early married life, the powerful bond then formed between
them, that child who was the flesh of their flesh, and now the cause
of their quarrels. Like many others before him he felt he was driven
into a corner, whence he could not extricate himself unless he took to
brutal courses--tore the child from her mother's arms, and plunged the
house into desolation and commotion every day. And there was too much
gentleness, too much kindness, in his nature; he lacked the cold energy
that was requisite for a struggle in which his own heart and the hearts
of those he loved must bleed. On that field then he was foredoomed to

Louise had listened in silence, without moving, to the dispute between
her father and mother. For some time past, whenever she had seen them
thus at variance, her large brown eyes had glanced from one to the
other with an expression of sad and increasing surprise.

'But, papa,' she now said, amid the painful silence which had fallen,
'why don't you wish me to go to the Catechism class?'

She was very tall for her age, and had a calm and gentle face, in which
the features of the Duparques and the Froments were blended. Though
she was still only a child, she displayed keen intelligence, and a
thirst for information which constantly impelled her to ply her father
with questions. And she worshipped him, and showed also great affection
for her mother, who attended to all her wants with a kind of loving

'So you think, papa,' she resumed, 'that if things which are not
reasonable are told me at the Catechism class I shall accept them?'

Marc, in spite of his emotion, could not help smiling. 'Reasonable or
not,' said he, 'you must of necessity accept them.'

'But you will explain them to me?'

'No, my dear; they are, and must remain, unexplainable.'

'But you explain to me everything I ask you when I come back from
Mademoiselle Rouzaire's and haven't understood some lesson.... It is
thanks to you that I am often the first of my class.'

'If you came back from Abbé Quandieu's there would be nothing for me to
explain to you,' Marc answered, 'for the essential characteristic of
the pretended truths of the Catechism is that they are not accessible
to our reason.'

'Ah! how funny!'

For a moment Louise remained silent, in meditation, her glance
wandering far away. Then, still with a pensive expression on her face,
she slowly gave utterance to her thoughts. 'It's funny; when things
haven't been explained to me and I don't understand them I recollect
nothing about them, it is as if they didn't exist. I close my eyes and
see nothing. Everything is black. And then, however much I may try, I'm
the last of the class.'

She looked charming with her serious little face, well balanced as she
already was, going instinctively towards all that was good, clear, and
sensible. Whenever an attempt was made to force into her head things
whose sense escaped her, or which seemed to her to be wrong, she smiled
in a quiet way and passed them by.

But Geneviève now intervened, saying with some irritation, 'If your
father cannot explain the Catechism to you I will do so.'

At this Louise immediately ran to kiss her mother as if she feared she
had offended her: 'That's it, mamma, you will hear me my lessons. You
know that I always try my best to understand.' And, turning towards
her father, she gaily resumed, 'You see, papa, you may as well let me
go to the Catechism, particularly as you say yourself that one ought
to learn everything, so that one may be the better able to judge and

Then, once again, Marc gave way, having neither the strength nor the
means to act otherwise. He reproached himself with his weakness; but
such was his craving for affection that it was impossible for him to be
otherwise than weak when he thought of his devastated home where the
struggle each day became more painful.

The rupture was soon to be precipitated, however, by a final incident.
Years had elapsed since Marc's arrival at Maillebois, and there had
been all sorts of changes among his pupils. Sébastien Milhomme, his
favourite, now fifteen years of age, was by his advice preparing
himself for admission into the Training College of Beaumont, having
secured his elementary certificate already in his twelfth year.
Four other boys had left the school with similar certificates--the
two Doloirs and the twin Savins. Auguste Doloir had now embraced
his father's calling as a mason, while his brother Charles had been
apprenticed to a locksmith. As for Savin, he had declined to follow
Marc's advice and make schoolmasters of his sons, for he did not
wish to see them starve, said he, in an ungrateful calling which
everybody held in contempt. So he had proudly placed Achille with a
process-server and was looking about him for some petty employment
which would suit Philippe.

Meantime, the hard-headed Fernand Bongard had quietly returned to his
father's farm to till the ground, having failed to gain a certificate,
though in Marc's hands he had acquired more understanding than his
parents possessed. As for the girls who had quitted Mademoiselle
Rouzaire, Angèle Bongard, who was more intelligent than her brother,
had duly carried a certificate to the farm, where, like the shrewd
ambitious young person she was, quite capable of keeping accounts, she
dreamt of improving her position. Then Hortense Savin, still without a
certificate at sixteen years of age, had become a very pretty brunette,
extremely devout and sly. She had remained a Handmaiden of the Virgin,
and her father dreamt of a fine marriage for her, though there were
rumours of a mysterious seduction, the consequences of which she each
day found it more difficult to hide.

Of course several new boys had come to Marc's school, replacing their
elders there. There was another little Savin, Jules, whom Marc
remembered having seen as an infant at the time of the Simon case; and
there was another little Doloir, Léon, born subsequent to the affair,
and now nearly seven years old. Later on the children's children would
be coming to the school, and if Marc were left at his post perhaps he
would teach them also, thus facilitating another step to humanity, ever
on the march towards increase of knowledge.

But Marc was particularly concerned about one of his new boys, one whom
he had greatly desired to have at the school. This was little Joseph,
Simon's son, who had now almost completed his eleventh year. For a
long time Marc had not dared to expose him to the taunts and blows of
the other boys. Then, thinking that their passions had calmed down
sufficiently, he had made the venture, applying to Madame Simon and the
Lehmanns, and promising them that he would keep a good watch over the
lad. For three years now he had had Joseph in the school, and, after
defending him against all sorts of vexations, had prevailed on the
other boys to treat him with some good fellowship. Indeed, he even made
use of the lad as a living example when seeking to inculcate principles
of tolerance, dignity, and kindness.

Joseph was a very handsome boy, in whom his mother's beauty was
blended with his father's intelligence; and the dreadful story of his
father's fate, with which it had been necessary to acquaint him, seemed
to have ripened him before his time. Usually grave and reserved, he
studied with a sombre ardour, intent on being always the first of his
class, as if, by that triumph, to raise himself above all outrage.
His dream, his express desire, which Marc encouraged, was to become a
schoolmaster, for in this he boyishly pictured a kind of _revanche_
and rehabilitation. No doubt it was Joseph's fervour, the passionate
gravity of that clever and handsome boy, which the more particularly
struck little Louise, whose senior he was by nearly three years. At all
events she became his great friend, and they were well pleased whenever
they found themselves together.

At times Marc kept Joseph after lessons, and at times also his sister
Sarah came to fetch him. Then, if Sébastien Milhomme, as was sometimes
the case, happened to be at Marc's, a delightful hour was spent. The
four children agreed so well that they never quarrelled. Sarah, whom
her mother feared to confide to others as she did her boy, was, at ten
years of age, a most charming child, gentle and loving; and Sébastien,
five years her elder, treated her with the playful affection of an
elder brother. Geneviève alone manifested violent displeasure when the
four children happened to meet in her rooms. She found in this another
cause for anger with her husband. Why had he brought those Jews into
their home? There was no need for her daughter to compromise herself by
associating with the children of that horrid criminal who had been sent
to the galleys! Thus this also helped to bring about quarrels in the

At last came the fated catastrophe. One evening, when the four young
people were playing together after lessons, Sébastien suddenly felt
ill. He staggered as if intoxicated, and Marc had to take him to his
mother's. On the morrow the boy was unable to leave his bed, a terrible
attack of typhoid fever prostrated him, and for three weeks his life
hung in the balance. It was a frightful time for his mother, Madame
Alexandre, who remained at his bedside, no longer setting foot in the
shop downstairs. Moreover, since the Simon affair she had gradually
withdrawn from it, leaving her sister-in-law, Madame Edouard, to
conduct the business in accordance with their joint interests. As a
matter of fact, Madame Edouard, who was the man in their partnership,
was designated for the directorship by the triumph of the clerical
party. The custom of the secular school was sufficiently insured by
the presence of Madame Alexandre behind her, and for her own part she
intended to increase her business among the devotees of the town with
the help of her son Victor, who had lately left the Brothers' school.

He was now a big, squarely-built youth of seventeen, with a large head,
a harsh face, and fierce eyes. He had failed to secure an elementary
certificate, having always shown himself an execrable pupil; and he now
dreamt of enlisting and becoming a general as in the old days, when
he had played at war with his cousin Sébastien, taken him prisoner,
and pommelled him passionately. Meantime, as he was not old enough for
soldiering, he lived in idleness, making his escape from the shop as
often as possible--for he hated having to stand behind a counter and
sell paper and pens--and roaming through Maillebois in the company of
his old schoolfellow Polydor, the son of Souquet the road-mender, and
the nephew of Pélagie, Madame Duparque's servant.

Polydor, a pale and artful youth, whose taste for idleness was
extraordinary, desired to become an Ignorantine by way of flattering
the inclinations of his aunt, from whom he thereby extracted little
presents. Moreover, by embracing this religious calling he would
not have to break stones on the roads as his father did, and, in
particular, he would escape barrack-life, the thought of which quite
horrified him. Though in other respects Victor and Polydor had
different tastes, they were in full agreement as to the delight of
roaming about from morn till night with their hands in their pockets,
to say nothing of their goings on with the little hussies of the
factory quarter of the town, whom they met in the fields near the
Verpille. In this wise, Victor being always out and about, and Madame
Alexandre remaining beside her son, Madame Edouard, since Sébastien had
fallen so seriously ill, found herself quite without assistance in the
shop, where she busied herself with her customers and gaily counted up
her takings, which were often large.

Marc went every evening to ascertain the condition of his pupil, and
thus he became a daily spectator of a heartrending drama--the bitter
grief of a mother who saw death taking her son a little further from
her every hour. That gentle, fair, pale-faced Madame Alexandre, who had
loved her husband passionately, had been leading a cloistered life,
as it were, ever since his death, all her restrained passion going to
that son of hers, who was fair and gentle like herself. Fondled, almost
spoilt by that loving mother, Sébastien regarded her with a kind of
filial idolatry, as if she were a divine mother whom he could never
requite for all her delightful gifts. They were united by a strong, a
powerful bond of tender affection, one of those infinite affections in
which two beings mingle and blend to such a point that neither can quit
the other without wrenching away his or her heart.

When Marc reached the little dark, close room over the stationery shop,
he often found Madame Alexandre forcing back her tears and striving
to smile at her son, who lay there already emaciated and burning with

'Well, Sébastien, are you better to-day?' the master would ask.

'Oh! no, Monsieur Froment, I'm no better at all--no better at all.'

He could scarcely speak, his voice was faint, his breath came short.
But the red-eyed, shuddering mother exclaimed gaily: 'Don't listen to
him, Monsieur Froment, he is much better, we shall pull him through it.'

When, however, she had escorted the schoolmaster to the landing, and
stood there with him after closing the door of the room, she broke down.

'Ah! God, he is lost, my poor child is lost! Is it not abominable, so
strong and handsome as he was! His poor face is reduced to nothing; he
has only his eyes left! Ah! God, God, I feel I shall die with him.'

But she stifled her cries, roughly wiped away her tears, and put on
her smile once more before returning to the chamber of suffering where
she spent hours and hours, without sleep, without help, ever fighting
against death.

One evening Marc found her sobbing on her knees beside the bed, her
face close pressed to the sheets. Her son could no longer hear or see
her. Since the previous night he had been overpowered by his malady,
seized with delirium. And now that he had neither ears to hear her nor
eyes to see her, she abandoned herself to her frightful grief, and
cried it aloud: 'My child, my child! What have I done that my child
should be stolen from me? So good a son, who was all my heart as I was
his! What can I have done then? What can I have done?'

She rose and, grasping Marc's hands, pressed them wildly. 'Tell me,
monsieur, you who are just,' said she. 'Is it not impossible to suffer
so much, to be stricken like this if one be free from all blame?... It
would be monstrous to be punished when one has done no wrong. Is it not
so? This, then, can only be an expiation, and if that were true, ah! if
I knew, if I knew it were so!...'

She seemed a prey to some horrible struggle. For some days past anguish
had been making her restless. Yet she did not speak out that evening;
it was only on the morrow that, on Marc's arrival, she hastened towards
him, as if carried away by an eager desire to have it all over. In the
bed near her lay Sébastien, scarce able to breathe.

'Listen, Monsieur Froment,' said she, 'I must confess myself to you.
The doctor has just left, my son is dying, only a prodigy can save
him.... And now my fault stifles me. It seems to me that it is I who
am killing my son--I who am punished by his death for having made him
speak falsely long ago, and for having clung so stubbornly to that
falsehood later on, in order to have peace and quietness in my home,
when another, an innocent man, was suffering the worst torture....
Ah! for many, many days the struggle has been going on within me,
lacerating my heart!'

Marc listened, amazed, not daring as yet to give a meaning to her words.

'You remember, Monsieur Froment,' she resumed, 'you remember that
unhappy man Simon, the schoolmaster who was condemned for the murder
of little Zéphirin. For more than eight years he has been in penal
servitude, and you have often told me of all he suffered yonder,
horrible things which made me feel quite ill.... I should have liked to
speak out--yes, I swear it! I was often on the point of relieving my
conscience, for remorse haunted me so dreadfully.... But cowardice came
over me; I thought of my son's peace, of all the worries I should cause
him.... Ah! how stupid, how foolish I was; I remained silent for the
sake of his happiness, and now death is taking him from me--taking him,
it's certain, because I wrongly remained silent!'

She paused, gesticulating wildly, as if Justice, the eternal, were
falling on her like a thunderbolt.

'And so, Monsieur Froment, I must relieve my mind. Perhaps there
is still time--perhaps Justice will take pity on me if I repair my
fault.... You remember the writing slip, and the search which was made
for another copy of it. On the day after the crime Sébastien told you
that he had seen one in the hands of his cousin Victor, who had brought
it from the Brothers' school; and that was true. But that same day we
were frightened to such a point that my sister-in-law compelled my son
to tell a falsehood by saying that he had made a mistake.... A long
while afterwards I found that slip forgotten in an old copybook which
Victor had given to Sébastien, and later Sébastien, who felt worried by
his falsehood, acknowledged it to you. When he came home and told me of
his confession, I was filled with alarm, and in my turn I lied--first
of all to him, saying, in order to quiet his scruples, that the paper
no longer existed, as I had destroyed it. And that assuredly is the
wrong-doing for which I am punished. The paper still exists; I never
dared to burn it; some remaining honesty restrained me. And here, here
it is, Monsieur Froment! Rid me of it, rid me of that abominable paper,
for it is that which has brought misfortune and death into the house!'

She hastened to a wardrobe, and from under a pile of linen she drew
Victor's old copybook, in which the writing slip had been slumbering
for eight years past. Marc looked at it, thunderstruck. At last, there
was the document which he had believed to be destroyed, there was the
'new fact' which he had sought so long! The slip he held appeared to
be in all respects similar to the one which had figured at the trial.
There were the words '_Aimez vous les uns les autres_'; there was the
illegible paraph recalling the one which the experts had pretended to
identify with Simon's initials; and it was difficult to contend that
the slip had not come from the Brothers' school, for Victor himself
had copied it in his book, a whole page of which was filled with the
words inscribed on it. But all at once Marc was dazed. There, in the
left-hand corner of the slip--the corner missing in the copy which had
been used in evidence at the trial--was an imprint, quite plain and
quite intact, of the stamp with which the Brothers stamped everything
belonging to their school. A sudden light was thus shed on the affair:
somebody had torn away the corner of the copy found in Zéphirin's room
in order to annihilate the stamp and put Justice off the scent.

Quivering with excitement, carried away by gratitude and sympathy, Marc
grasped the poor mother's hands. 'Ah, madame,' he exclaimed, 'you have
done a great and worthy action, and may death take pity and restore
your son to you!'

At that moment they perceived that Sébastien, who had given no sign
of consciousness since the previous evening, had just opened his eyes
and was looking at them. They felt profoundly stirred. The ailing lad
evidently recognised Marc, but he was not yet free from delirium.
'What beautiful sunshine, Monsieur Froment,' he stammered in a faint
voice. 'I'll get up and you'll take me with you. I'll help you to give

His mother ran to him and kissed him wildly. 'Make haste to get well,
make haste to get well, my boy! Neither of us must ever more tell a
falsehood, we must be always good and just!'

As Marc quitted the room he found that Madame Edouard, hearing a noise,
had come upstairs. The door having remained open she had witnessed the
whole scene, and had seen him place her son's old copybook and the slip
in the inner pocket of his coat. She followed him down the stairs in
silence, but when they reached the shop she stopped him, saying, 'I
am in despair, Monsieur Froment. You must not judge us severely; we
are only two poor lone women, and find it difficult indeed to earn a
little competence for our old age.... I don't ask you to give me that
paper back. You are going to make use of it, and I cannot oppose you:
I understand it fully. Only this is a real catastrophe for us....
And again, do not think me a bad woman if I try to save our little

Indeed she was not a bad woman; it merely happened that she had no
faith, no passion, apart from the prosperity of that humble stationery
business. She had already reflected that if the secular school should
gain the day, it would merely be necessary for her to retire into the
background and allow Madame Alexandre to direct the shop. Nevertheless,
this was hardly a pleasant prospect, given her business instincts and
her fondness for domineering over others. So she strove to lighten the
catastrophe as far as possible.

'You might content yourself with utilising the slip, without producing
my son's copybook,' said she. 'Besides, it has just occurred to me
that you might arrange a story and say, for instance, that I happened
to find the slip and gave it to you. That would show us in a suitable
_rôle_, and we could then openly pass over to your side, with the
certainty that you would be victorious.'

In spite of his emotion Marc could not refrain from smiling. 'It is, I
think, madame, easiest and most honourable to tell the truth,' said he.
'Your _rôle_ will nevertheless remain praiseworthy.'

At this she seemed to feel somewhat reassured. 'Really,' she replied,
'you think so? Of course I ask nothing better than that the truth
should become known if we do not have to suffer from it.'

Marc had complaisantly taken the copybook and the slip from his pocket
in order to show her exactly what he was carrying away. And she was
telling him that she fully recognised both book and slip when, all at
once, her son Victor came in from some escapade, accompanied by his
friend Polydor Souquet. While twisting about and laughing over some
prank known to themselves alone, the two young fellows glanced at the
copy-slip, and Polydor at once expressed the liveliest surprise.

'Hallo!' he exclaimed, 'the paper!'

But when Marc quickly raised his head, struck as he was by that
exclamation, and divining that a little more of the truth lurked behind
it, the youth reassumed his usual sleepy, hypocritical expression and
tried to recall his words.

'What paper? Do you know it, then?' Marc asked him.

'I? No.... I said the paper because--because it is a paper.'

Marc could draw nothing further from him. As for Victor, he continued
to sneer as if he were amused to find that old affair cropping up once
more. Ah! yes, the copy-slip which he had brought home from school one
day long ago, and which that little fool Sébastien had made such a fuss
about! But Madame Edouard still felt ashamed, and when Marc withdrew
she accompanied him outside to beg him to do all he could to spare
them worry. She had just thought of General Jarousse, their cousin,
who would certainly not be pleased if the affair were revived. He had
formerly done them the great honour to call on them and explain that
when one's country might suffer from the truth being made known it
was infinitely preferable and far more glorious to tell a lie. And if
General Jarousse should be angered, whatever would she do with her son
Victor, who relied on his relative's protection to become a general in
his turn?

That evening Marc was to dine at Madame Duparque's, whither he still
repaired at times, as he was unwilling that Geneviève should always go
alone. Polydor's exclamation still haunted him, for he felt that the
truth lurked behind it; and it so happened that when he reached the
ladies' house, with Geneviève and Louise, he caught sight of the young
fellow whispering eagerly to his aunt Pélagie in the kitchen. Moreover,
the ladies' greeting was so frigid that Marc divined in it some threat.
During the last few years Madame Berthereau, Geneviève's mother, had
been declining visibly, ever in an ailing state, full also of a kind
of despairing sadness amid her resignation. But Madame Duparque, the
grandmother, though she was now seventy-one, remained combative,
terrible, implacable in her faith. In order that Marc might fully
understand for what exceptional reasons she thought it right to receive
him, she never invited anybody else when he dined at her house. By this
course she hoped also to make him understand that his position was that
of a pariah, and that it was impossible to ask honest folk to meet him.

That evening, then, as on previous occasions, silence and embarrassment
reigned during the meal, and by the hostile demeanour of the others,
and particularly by the brusqueness of Pélagie, who served at table,
Marc became fully convinced that some storm was about to burst on him.
Until the dessert was served, however, Madame Duparque restrained
herself like a _bourgeoise_ intent on playing her part as mistress of
the house correctly. At last, when Pélagie came in with some apples and
pears, she said to her: 'You may keep your nephew to dinner, I give you

The old servant in her scolding, aggressive voice replied: 'Ah! the
poor boy needs to recruit himself after the violence that was done him
this afternoon.'

At this Marc suddenly understood everything. The ladies had been made
acquainted with his discovery of the copy-slip by Polydor, who, for
some reason which remained obscure, had hastened to tell everything to
his aunt.

'Oh, oh!' said Marc, who could not help laughing, 'who was it that
wanted to do violence to Polydor? Was it I, by chance, when the dear
boy ventured to bamboozle me so pleasantly by feigning stupidity at
Mesdames Milhommes' this afternoon?'

Madame Duparque, however, would not allow such a serious matter to be
treated in that ironical fashion. She proceeded to unbosom herself
without any show of anger, but in that rigid, cutting manner of hers
which suffered no reply. Was it possible that the husband of her dear
Geneviève still thought of reviving the abominable affair of that
man Simon, that vile assassin, who had been so justly condemned,
who deserved no pity whatever, and who ought indeed to have been
guillotined? True, there was a monstrous legend of his innocence which
evil-minded folk hoped to make use of in order to shake religion and
hand France over to the Jews. And now, after obstinately searching
among all that filth, Marc pretended that he had found the proof, the
famous new fact, which had been announced so many times already. A
fine proof indeed, a strip of paper, which had come nobody knew whence
nor how, the invention of a pack of children who either lied or were

'Grandmother,' Marc quietly answered, 'it was agreed that we should
not speak of those matters any more. I have not ventured to make the
slightest allusion to them; it is you who begin again. But what good
can a dispute do? My conviction is absolute.'

'And you know the real culprit, and you intend to denounce him to
justice?' asked the old lady, quite beside herself.


At this Pélagie, who was beginning to clear away, could not restrain
herself. 'In any case it isn't Brother Gorgias, I can answer for that!'
she suddenly cried.

Marc, enlightened by these words, turned towards her. 'Why do you say
that?' he asked.

'Because on the evening of the crime Brother Gorgias accompanied my
nephew Polydor to his father's, on the road to Jonville, and got back
to the school before eleven o'clock. Polydor and other witnesses
testified to that at the trial.'

Marc was still gazing fixedly at the old woman, but his mind was
busy at work. That which he had long suspected was becoming a moral
certainty. He could picture the Brother accompanying Polydor, then
returning homeward, pausing before Zéphirin's open window, and talking
to the boy. At last he climbed over the low window bar, the better
perhaps to see the pictures which the lad had set out on his table.
Then, however, came the horrid impulse, abominable madness... and,
the child strangled, the murderer fled by the window, which he still
left wide open. It was from his own pocket that he had taken that copy
of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ to use it as a gag, never noticing in his
perturbation that the copy-slip was with the newspaper. And on the
morrow, when the crime was discovered, it was Father Philibin, who,
finding himself unable to destroy the slip, as Mignot had seen it, had
been obliged to content himself with tearing away the corner on which
the stamp was impressed, thus at all events removing all positive proof
of the place whence the slip had come.

Slowly and gravely Marc answered Pélagie: 'Brother Gorgias is the
culprit, everything proves it, and I swear it is so!'

Indignant protests arose around the table. Madame Duparque was stifling
with indignation. Madame Berthereau, whose mournful eyes went from
her daughter to her son-in-law, whose rupture she sorely dreaded,
made a gesture of supreme despair. And while little Louise, who paid
great attention to her father's words, remained there quietly, never
stirring, Geneviève sprang to her feet and quitted the table, saying:

'You would do better to hold your tongue! It will soon be quite
impossible for me to remain near you: you will end by making me hate

Later that same evening, when Louise had gone to sleep and the husband
and the wife also lay in bed, there came a moment of profound silence
in their dark room. Since dinner neither had spoken to the other. But
Marc was always the first to try to make friends, for he could not bear
the suffering which their quarrels brought him. Now, however, when he
gently sought to embrace Geneviève, she nervously pushed him away,
quivering as if with repulsion.

'No: let me be!'

Hurt by her manner, he did not insist. And the silence fell heavily
again. At last she resumed: 'There is one thing I have not yet told
you.... I believe that I am _enceinte_.'

At this, full of happy emotion, her husband drew near to her again,
anxious to press her to his heart. 'Oh! my dear, dear wife, what good
news! Now we shall indeed belong to each other once more.'

But she freed herself from his clasp with even more impatience than
before, as if his presence near her brought her real suffering. 'No,
no, let me be,' she repeated; 'I am not well. I sha'n't be able to
sleep; it fidgets me to feel you stirring near me.... It will be better
to have two beds if things go on like this.'

Not another word passed between them. They lapsed into silence,
speaking neither of the Simon affair nor of the tidings which Geneviève
had so abruptly announced. Only the sound of their heavy breathing was
to be heard in the dark and lifeless room. Neither was asleep, but
neither could penetrate the other's anxious, painful thoughts; it was
as if they inhabited two different worlds, parted by a distance of many
thousand leagues. And vague sobs seemed to come from far away, from the
very depths of the black and dolorous night, bewailing the death of
their love.


After a few days' reflection Marc made up his mind and requested David
to meet him one evening at the Lehmanns' in the Rue du Trou.

For nearly ten years the Lehmanns had been living in their dim and damp
little house, amid public execration. When, as sometimes happened,
bands of clericals and anti-Semites came down and threatened the
shop, they hastily put up the shutters and continued working by the
smoky light of two lamps. All their Maillebois customers, even their
co-religionists, having forsaken them, they were dependent on the
piece-work they did for Paris clothiers dealing in ready-made goods.
And that hard and ill-paid work kept old Lehmann and his mournful wife
bent on their board for fourteen hours a day, and yielded scarcely
enough money to provide food for themselves, Rachel, and her children,
all of whom were huddled there in dismal distress, without a joy or
a hope in life. Even now, after so many years, passing pedestrians
spat on their doorstep to show how fully they loathed and hated that
filthy den, whither, so the legend ran, Simon the murderer had brought
Zéphirin's blood, while it was still warm, to use it in some vile deed
of witchcraft. And nowadays to that abode of intense wretchedness
and deep, cloistered grief came Simon's letters, briefer and more
infrequent than formerly, yet still and ever telling the tale of the
innocent man's long agony.

Those letters alone had the power of stirring Rachel into life, of
drawing her from the torpor and resignation in which she spent most of
her days. Her once beautiful countenance was now but a ruin, ravaged by
her tears. She lived only for her children: Sarah, whom she still kept
beside her, fearing to expose her to the insults of the malicious, and
Joseph, whom Marc defended at the school. The dreadful story of their
father's fate had long been hidden from them, but it had been necessary
to tell them the truth at last, partly in order to spare them much
painful doubt and cogitation. Nowadays, whenever a letter arrived from
the penal settlement yonder, it was read in their presence; and those
bitter trials inculcated virility of nature in them, and helped to
ripen their budding minds. After each perusal their mother took them
in her arms, repeating that nowhere under the skies was there a more
honest, a more noble, a loftier-minded man than their father. She swore
to them that he was innocent, she told them of the awful martyrdom
he endured, she prophesied to them that he would some day be freed,
rehabilitated, and acclaimed; and she asked them to love and revere
him when that day should dawn, to encompass him with a worship whose
sweetness might enable him to forget his many years of torture.

And yet would the unhappy man live until that day of truth and justice?
It was a miracle that he had not succumbed already, among the brutes
who crucified him. To survive, he had needed an extraordinary amount of
moral energy, the frigid power of resistance, the well-balanced logical
temperament with which nature had fortunately endowed him. Still, his
last letters gave cause for increasing anxiety, he was evidently at
the end of his strength, quite overcome. And Rachel's fears reached
such a point that, without pausing to consult anybody, she, usually
so languid, repaired one morning to La Désirade to see Baron Nathan,
who was then staying there with the Sanglebœufs. She took with her
the last letter she had received from her husband in order to show it
to the Baron, meaning to beg him--triumphant Jew that he was, one of
the gold-kings of the world--to exert his great influence in order to
obtain a little pity for the poor, wretched, crucified Jew who was
suffering yonder. And she came home in tears, shuddering, as if she had
just left some dazzling and fearsome place. She could hardly remember
what had happened. The Baron, the bloated renegade, had received her
with a stern countenance, as if angered by her audacity. Perhaps it
was his daughter, a white-faced, frigid lady, whom she had found with
him. She could not tell exactly how they had got rid of her, but it was
with words of refusal, such as might have been addressed to a beggar.
Then she had found herself outside again, half-blinded by the wealth
accumulated at that splendid abode of La Désirade, with its sumptuous
reception-rooms, its running waters, and its white statues. And since
that fruitless attempt she had relapsed into the mournful, waiting
attitude of former days, ever garbed in black, like a living statue of
mutely protesting grief in the midst of persecution.

The only person on whom Marc relied in that home of wretchedness and
suffering was David, whose mind was so clear, whose heart was so
upright and so firm. Ever since the condemnation of Simon Marc had
seen him striving, evincing neither impatience, nor weakness, nor
despair, despite all the difficulties of his task. Indeed, David's
faith remained entire; he was convinced of his brother's innocence,
and felt certain that he would some day prove it. He had understood
at the outset that he would need some money to achieve his task,
and he had arranged his life accordingly. He outwardly resumed the
direction of the sand and gravel pits, which he had leased from Baron
Nathan, in such wise that everybody believed that he conducted the
business personally; but in reality the chief responsibility fell
upon his foreman, who was devoted to him. And the profits, being
handled prudently, sufficed for David's other work, his real mission,
the investigations which he carried on so discreetly. Some people,
who believed him to be a miser, accused him of earning large sums of
money, and yet giving no help to his sister-in-law, who shared the
wretched home of the Lehmanns, where incessant toil led only to a life
of privations. At one moment also an attempt was made to dispossess
David of his sand and gravel pits, the Sanglebœufs threatening him with
an action-at-law, which was evidently prompted by Father Crabot. The
Jesuit, indeed, was conscious of the stealthy, underhand efforts which
that silent but active man was making, and would have liked to drive
him from the district, or at least to cripple his resources. But David
fortunately held a thirty years' lease from Baron Nathan, and thus he
was still able to carry on the business which ensured him the money he

His principal efforts had been long concentrated on the illegal
communication which President Gragnon was said to have made to the
jurors in their retiring room, when the proceedings in Simon's trial
were over. After interminable inquiries David had collected enough
information to picture the scene in its broad lines: the jurors,
assailed by certain scruples, had sent for the presiding judge in
order to question him about the penalties their verdict might entail;
and the judge, in order to silence their scruples, had shown them an
old letter of Simon's, which had been placed in his hands a moment
previously. This letter, an insignificant note to a friend, acquired
importance from the fact that it was followed by a postscript, signed
with a paraph identical with the one which figured on the incriminating
copy-slip. This singular document, produced at the last moment without
the knowledge of the prisoner or his counsel, had assuredly led to
the verdict of 'Guilty.' But how was David to establish all this?
How could he induce one of the jurors to testify to the facts, the
revelation of which would have brought about an immediate revision
of the proceedings, particularly if--as David felt convinced--the
postscriptum of the letter and its initialling were forgeries? He had
long endeavoured to act, through others, on the foreman of the jury,
Architect Jacquin, a devout and very upright Catholic; and he believed
that he had lately disturbed that man's conscience by acquainting
him with the illegality of the judge's communication under the
circumstances. If, in addition, he could prove that the postscriptum
and the paraph had been forged, Jacquin would speak out.

When Marc repaired to the Rue du Trou to keep the appointment he
had made with David, he found the little shop shut, the house quite
dark and lifeless. The family had prudently taken refuge in the back
parlour, where Lehmann and his wife were working by lamplight; and it
was there that the stirring scene took place in the presence of the
quivering Rachel and her children, whose eyes were all ablaze.

Before speaking out, however, Marc wished to ascertain what point David
had now reached in his investigations.

'Oh! things are moving, but still very, very slowly,' the other
answered. 'Jacquin is one of those fair-minded Christians who worship
a Deity of love and equity. At one moment I felt alarmed, for I
discovered that Father Crabot was bringing the greatest pressure to
bear on him through every possible intermediary. But I am now easy on
that point--Jacquin will act only as his conscience may direct.... The
difficulty is to get at the document in order that it may be examined
by experts.'

'But did not Gragnon destroy it?' Marc inquired.

'It seems not. Having shown it to the jurors he did not dare to do so,
but simply placed it with the papers in the case, among which it must
still be. At least, such is the conviction of Delbos, based on certain
information he has obtained. Thus the question is to exhume it from
among the records, and it is not easy to devise a plausible motive for
doing so.... Nevertheless, we are making progress.' And after a pause
David added: 'And you, my friend, have you any good news?'

'Yes, good and great news.'

Then Marc slowly recounted all that had happened: Sébastien's illness,
Madame Alexandre's despair, followed by her remorse and terror,
which had prompted her to hand him the long-sought duplicate of the
copy-slip, on which duplicate one found both the stamp of the Brothers'
school and a paraph which undoubtedly represented Brother Gorgias's
initials. 'Here it is,' said Marc. 'There, you see, is the stamp, in
the very corner which was torn away from the copy found near little
Zéphirin's body. We fancied that it might have been bitten off by the
victim, but Father Philibin at least had time to tear it off; on that
point the recollections of Mignot, my assistant, are precise.... Now,
look at the paraph. It is identical with the other which figured at the
trial, but it is more legible, and one can fully distinguish Brother
Gorgias's initials,[1] that is an F and a G interlaced, which the
experts, Masters Badoche and Trabut, with extraordinary aberration,
persisted in declaring to be an L and an S, otherwise your brother's
initials.... My conviction is now absolute: the culprit is Brother
Gorgias, and none other.'

[Footnote 1: Brother Gorgias = Frère Gorgias.]

With passionate eagerness they all stared at the narrow yellow strip of
paper produced by Marc, and scrutinised it in the pale lamplight. The
old Lehmanns quitted their sewing and thrust their faces forward as if
reviving to life. Rachel had emerged from her torpor, and stood there
quivering, while the two children, Joseph and Sarah, their eyes aflame,
pushed one another in order that they might see the better. Finally
David, amid the deep silence of that mourning home, took the paper from
Marc and examined it.

'Yes, yes,' he said, 'my conviction is the same as yours. What was
suspected has now become certain. Brother Gorgias is the guilty man!'

A long discussion followed; all the facts were recalled in succession,
and united in one sheaf. They threw light on each other, and all tended
to the same conclusion. Apart from the material proofs which were
beginning to come in, there was a moral certainty, the demonstration as
it were of a mathematical problem, which reasoning sufficed to solve.
No doubt obscurity still hung around a few points, such as the presence
of the copy-slip in the Brother's pocket, and the fate of the corner on
which the stamp had been impressed. But all the rest seemed certain:
Gorgias returning home on the night of the crime, chance bringing him
before Zéphirin's open and lighted window, temptation, and afterwards
murder; then, on the morrow, chance likewise bringing Father Philibin
and Brother Fulgence on the scene in such wise that they became mixed
up in the tragedy and were forced to act in order to save one of their
fellows. And how plainly did the mutilation of the copy-slip designate
the culprit, whose name was virtually proclaimed also by the fierce
campaign which had ensued, the great efforts which the Church had made
in order to shield him, and cause an innocent man to be sentenced in
his stead. Moreover, each day now brought fresh light, and before long
the whole huge edifice of falsehood would crumble.

'So that is the end of our wretchedness!' exclaimed old Lehmann,
becoming quite gay. 'It will only be necessary to show that paper and
Simon will be restored to us.'

The two children were already dancing with delight, repeating in
blissful accents: 'Oh! papa will come back! papa will come back!'

But David and Marc remained grave. They knew how difficult and
dangerous the situation still was. Questions of the greatest weight
and gravity had to be settled: how were they to make use of that
newly-discovered document, what course was to be followed in applying
for a revision of the trial? Thus Marc answered softly: 'One must think
it over, one must wait a little longer.'

At this Rachel, relapsing into tears, stammered amid her sobs: 'Wait!
wait for what? For the poor man to die yonder, amid the torture of
which he complains?'

Once more the dark little house sank into mourning. All felt that their
unhappiness was not yet over. After their keen momentary delight came
frightful anxiety as to what the morrow might bring forth.

'Delbos alone can guide us,' said David by way of conclusion. 'If you
are willing, Marc, we will go to see him on Thursday.'

'Quite so: call for me on Thursday.'

In ten years Advocate Delbos had risen to a remarkable position at
Maillebois. The Simon affair, that compromising case, the brief in
which had been prudently declined by all his colleagues and bravely
accepted by himself, had decided his future. At that time he had been
merely a peasant's son, imbued with some democratic instincts and
gifted with eloquence. But, while studying the affair and gradually
becoming the impassioned defender of the truth, he had found himself
in presence of all the _bourgeois_ forces coalescing in favour of
falsehood and the maintenance of every social iniquity. And this had
ended by making him a militant Socialist, one who felt convinced that
the salvation of the country could come solely from the masses. By
degrees the whole revolutionary party of the town had grouped itself
around him, and at the last elections he had forced a second ballot on
the radical Lemarrois, who had been deputy for twenty years. And if
Delbos still suffered in his immediate interests from the circumstance
that he had defended a Jew charged with every crime, he was gradually
rising to a lofty position by the firmness of his faith and the quiet
valour of his actions, going forward to victory with gay and virile

As soon as Marc had shown him the copy-slip obtained from Madame
Alexandre, the advocate raised a loud cry of delight: 'At last we hold
them!' And turning towards David he added: 'This gives us a second new
fact. The first is the letter--a forgery, no doubt--which was illegally
communicated to the jury.... We must try to find it among the papers
of the case.... And the second is this copy-slip, bearing the stamp of
the Brothers' school, and a paraph which is evidently that of Brother
Gorgias. It will, I think, be easier and more effective to use this
second proof.'

'Then what do you advise me to do?' asked David. 'My idea is to write
a letter to the Minister of Justice on behalf of my sister-in-law, a
letter formally denouncing Brother Gorgias as the perpetrator of the
crime, and applying for the revision of my brother's case.'

Delbos had become thoughtful again. 'That would undoubtedly be the
correct course,' said he, 'but it is a delicate matter, and we must
not act too hastily.... Let us return for a moment to the illegal
communication of that letter, which it will be so difficult for us
to prove as long as we cannot induce Architect Jacquin to relieve
his conscience. You remember Father Philibin's evidence--his vague
allusion to a paper signed by your brother with a flourish, similar
to that on the incriminating copy-slip--a paper about which he would
give no precise information--being bound, said he, by confessional
secrecy? Well, I am convinced that he was then alluding to the very
letter which was placed in Judge Gragnon's hands at the last moment,
for which reason, like you, I suspect it to be forged. But these are
only suppositions, theories; and we need proofs. Now, if we drop that
matter, and, for the time at all events, content ourselves with this
duplicate copy of the writing slip, on which the school stamp appears,
and on which the initialling is much plainer, we still find ourselves
face to face with some puzzling, obscure points. Without lingering too
much over the question how it happened that such a slip was in the
Brother's pocket at the moment of the crime--a point which it is rather
difficult to explain--I am very worried by the disappearance of the
corner on which the school stamp must have been impressed; and I should
like to find that corner before acting, for I can foresee all sorts of
objections which will be raised in opposition to us, in order to throw
the affair into a muddle.'

Marc looked at him in astonishment. 'What! find that corner? It would
be a wonderful chance if we should do so! We even admitted that it
might have been torn away by the victim's teeth.'

'Oh! that is not credible,' Delbos answered. 'Besides, in that case
the fragment would have been found on the floor. Nothing was found,
so the corner was intentionally torn off. Besides, we here detect
the intervention of Father Philibin, for, as you have told me, your
assistant Mignot remembers that at his first glance the copy-slip
appeared to him to be intact, and that he felt surprised when, after
losing sight of it for a moment, he saw it still in Father Philibin's
hands and mutilated. So there is no doubt on the point; the corner was
torn away by Father Philibin. Throughout the campaign it was he, always
he who turned up at decisive moments to save the culprit! And this is
why I should like to have complete proof--that is to say, the little
fragment of paper which he carried away with him.'

At this David in his turn expressed his surprise: 'You think that he
kept it?'

'Certainly I think so. At all events he may have kept it. Philibin is
a taciturn man, extremely dexterous, however coarse and heavy he may
look. He must have preserved that fragment as a weapon for his own
defence, as a means of keeping a hold over his accomplices. I nowadays
suspect that, influenced by some motive which remains obscure, he was
the great artisan of the iniquity. Perhaps he was merely guided by a
spirit of fidelity towards his chief, Father Crabot; perhaps there
has been some skeleton between them since that suspicious affair of
the donation of Valmarie; perhaps too Philibin was actuated simply by
militant faith and a desire to promote the triumph of the Church. At
all events he's a terrible fellow, a man of determination and action,
by the side of whom that noisy, empty Brother Fulgence is merely a vain

Marc had begun to ponder. 'Father Philibin, Father Philibin.... Yes,
I was altogether mistaken about him. Even after the trial I still
thought him a worthy man, a man of upright nature, even if warped by
his surroundings.... Yes, yes, he was the great culprit, the artisan of
forgery and falsehood.'

But David again turned to Delbos: 'Suppose,' said he, 'that Philibin
should have kept the corner which he tore from the slip, you surely
don't expect that he will give it to you, if you ask him for it--do

'Oh! no,' the advocate answered with a laugh. 'But before attempting
anything decisive I should like to reflect, and ascertain if there is
no means of securing the irrefutable proof. Moreover, a demand for the
revision of a case is a very serious matter, and nothing ought to be
left to chance.... Let me complete our case if I can; give me a few
days--two or three weeks if necessary--and then we will act.'

On the morrow Marc understood by his wife's manner that her grandmother
had spoken out and that the Congregations, from Father Crabot to the
humblest of the Ignorantines, were duly warned. The affair suddenly
burst into life again, there came increasing agitation and alarm.
Informed as they were of the discovery of the duplicate copy-slip,
conscious that the innocent man's family were now on the road to the
truth, hourly expecting to see Brother Gorgias denounced, the guilty
ones, Brother Fulgence, Father Philibin, and Father Crabot, returned
to the fray, striving to hide their former crime by committing fresh
ones. They divined that the masterpiece of iniquity which they had
reared so laboriously, and defended so fiercely, was now in great
peril, and, yielding to that fatality whereby one lie inevitably leads
to endless others, they were ready for the worst deeds in order to
save their work from destruction. Besides, it was no mere question of
protecting themselves, the salvation of the Church would depend on the
battle. If the infamous structure of falsehood should collapse, would
not the Congregations be buried beneath it? The Brothers' school would
be ruined, closed, while the secular school triumphed; the Capuchins'
business would be seriously damaged, customers would desert them, their
shrine of St. Antony of Padua would be reduced to paltry profits; the
college of Valmarie likewise would be threatened, the Jesuits would
be forced to quit the region which they now educated under various
disguises; and all religious influence would decline, the breach in the
flanks of the Church would be enlarged, and free thought would clear
the highway to the future. How desperate therefore was the resistance,
how fiercely did the whole clerical army arise in order that it might
not be compelled to cede aught of the wretched region of error and
dolour, which, for ages, it had steeped in night!

Before Brother Gorgias was even denounced, his superiors felt it
necessary to defend him, to cover him at all costs, to forestall
the threatened attack, by concocting a story which might prove his
innocence. At the first moment, however, there was terrible confusion;
the Brother was seen hurrying wildly, on his long thin legs, along
the streets of Maillebois and the roads of the neighbourhood. With
his eagle beak set between his projecting cheek-bones, his deep black
eyes, with their thick brows, and his grimacing mouth, he resembled a
fierce, scoffing bird of prey. In the course of one day he was seen
on the road to Valmarie, then quitting the residence of Philis, the
Mayor of Maillebois, then alighting from a train which had brought him
from Beaumont. Moreover, both in the town and the surrounding country
many cassocks and frocks were encountered hurrying hither and thither,
thus testifying to a perfect panic. It was only on the morrow that the
meaning of the agitation was made evident by an article in _Le Petit
Beaumontais_, announcing in violent language that the whole Simon
affair was to be revived by the friends of the ignoble Jew, who were
about to agitate the region by denouncing a worthy member of one of the
religious Orders, the holiest of men.

Brother Gorgias was not yet named, but from that moment a fresh
article appeared every day, and by degrees the version of the affair
which the Brother's superiors had concocted was set out in opposition
to the version which, it was foreseen, would be given by David, though
the latter had revealed it to nobody. However, the desire of the
clericals was to wreck it beforehand. Everything was flatly denied. It
was impossible that Brother Gorgias could have paused before Zéphirin's
window on the night of the crime, for witnesses had proved that he
had already returned to the school at half-past ten o'clock. Besides,
the initialling on the copy-slip was not his, for the experts had
fully recognised Simon's handwriting. And everything could be easily
explained. Simon, having procured a writing slip, had imitated the
Brother's paraph, which he had found in one of Zéphirin's copybooks.
Then, as he knew that the slips were stamped at the Brothers' school,
he had torn off one corner with diabolical cunning, in order to create
a belief in some precaution taken by the murderer; his infernal object
being to cast the responsibility of his own crime on some servant of
God, and thereby gratify the hatred of the Church which possessed
him---Jew that he was, fated to everlasting damnation. And this
extravagant story, repeated every day, soon became the _credo_ of the
readers whom the newspaper debased and poisoned with its falsehoods.

It should be mentioned, however, that at the first moment there was
a little uncertainty and hesitation, for other explanations had
been circulated, and Brother Gorgias himself appeared to have made
some curious statements. Formerly hidden away in the background,
now suddenly thrust into full light, this Brother Gorgias was an
extraordinary character. The Countess de Quédeville, the former owner
of Valmarie, had endeavoured to transform his father, Jean Plumet, a
poacher, into a kind of gamekeeper. He, the son, had never known his
mother, a hussy who rambled about the woods, for she had disappeared
soon after his birth. Then his father had been shot one night by an
old fellow poacher, and the boy, at that time twelve years old, had
remained at Valmarie, protected by the Countess, and becoming the
playfellow of her grandson Gaston, with the exact circumstances of
whose death, while walking out with Father Philibin, he was doubtless
well acquainted, as well as with all that had ensued when the last of
the Quédevilles died and bequeathed the estate to Father Crabot. The
two Jesuits had never ceased to take an interest in him, and it was
thanks to them that he had become an Ignorantine, in spite, it was
said, of serious circumstances which tended to prevent it. For these
reasons certain evil-minded folk suspected the existence of some corpse
between the two Jesuit fathers and their compromising inferior.

At the same time Brother Gorgias was cited as an admirable member of
his cloth, one truly imbued with the Holy Spirit. He possessed faith,
that sombre, savage faith which pictures man as a weakling, a prey
to perpetual sin, ruled by an absolute master, a Deity of wrath and
punishment. That Deity alone reigned; it was for the Church to visit
His wrath upon the masses, whose duty it became to bow their heads
in servile submission until the day of resurrection dawned amid the
delights of the heavenly kingdom. He, Brother Gorgias, often sinned
himself, but he invariably confessed his transgression with a vehement
show of repentance, striking his breast with both fists, and humbling
himself in the mud. Then he rose again, absolved, at rest, displaying
the provoking serenity of a pure conscience. He had paid his debt,
and he would owe nothing more until the weakness of his flesh should
cast him into sin again. As a lad he had roamed the woods, growing up
amid poaching and thieving, and hiding himself away with the little
hussies of the district. Later, after joining the Ignorantines, he had
displayed the keenest appetites, showing himself a big eater, a hard
drinker, with inclinations towards lubricity and violence. But, as he
said in that strangely-compounded, humble, scoffing, threatening way of
his to Fathers Philibin and Crabot, whenever they reproached him for
some too serious prank: did not everybody sin? did not everybody need
forgiveness? Half amusing, half alarming them, he won their pardon, so
sincere and stupendous did his remorse appear--remorse which sometimes
impelled him to fast for a week at a stretch, and to wear hair-cloths,
studded with small sharp nails, next to his skin. It was indeed on
this account that he had been always well noted by his superiors, who
recognised that he possessed the genuine religious spirit--the spirit
which, when his monkish vices ran riot, atoned for them with the
avenging flagellation of penitence.

Now, on the revival of the Simon case, Brother Gorgias made the mistake
of saying too much in the course of his first confidential chats with
the writers of _Le Petit Beaumontais_. No doubt his superiors had
not yet expressly imposed their own version on him, and he was too
intelligent to be blind to its exceeding absurdity. As another copy of
the writing slip, one bearing his paraph, had been discovered, it must
have seemed to him ridiculous to deny that this paraph was his writing.
All the experts in the world would never prevent full light from being
thrown on that point. Thus he gave some inkling of a version of his
own, one which was more reasonable than that of his superiors, and in
which a part of the truth appeared. For instance, he allowed it to be
supposed that he had indeed halted for a moment outside Zéphirin's open
window on the night of the crime, that he had engaged in a friendly
chat with the little hunchback, and that he had scolded him on seeing
on his table a copy-slip which he had taken from the school without
permission. Next, however, had come falsehood. He, Gorgias, had gone
off, the child had closed his window, then Simon must have come and
have committed the horrid crime, Satan suddenly inspiring him to make
use of the copy-slip, after which he had opened the window afresh, in
order to let it appear that the murderer had fled that way.

But, although this version of the affair was at the first moment given
by the newspaper, which declared that it emanated from a most reliable
source, it was on the morrow contradicted energetically, even by
Brother Gorgias himself, who repaired expressly to the newspaper office
to enter his protest. He then swore on the gospel that he had gone
straight home on the evening of the crime, and that the initialling
on the copy-slip was a forgery in Simon's handwriting, even as the
experts had demonstrated. As a matter of fact he was compelled to
accept the concoction of his superiors in order that he might be backed
up and saved by them. He grumbled over it, and shrugged his shoulders
impatiently, for it seemed to him an extremely stupid version; but at
the same time he bowed to the decision of the others, even though he
foresaw that their system of defence must eventually crumble to pieces.

At this moment Brother Gorgias, with his scoffing impudence and his
heroic mendacity, was really superb. But, then, was not the Deity
behind him? Was he not lying in order to save Holy Church, knowing too
that absolution would wash away his sin? He even dreamt of the palms of
martyrdom; each pious act of infamy that he perpetrated would entitle
him to another joy in heaven! From that moment, then, he became
merely a docile instrument in the hands of Brother Fulgence, behind
whom Father Philibin was secretly acting under the discreet orders of
Father Crabot. Their tactics were to deny everything, even what was
self-evident, for fear lest the smallest breach in the sacred wall
of the Congregations should prove the beginning of inevitable ruin;
and although their absurd version of the affair might seem idiotic to
people possessed of logical minds, it would none the less long remain
the only truth accepted by the mass of the faithful, with whom they
could presume to do anything, knowing as they did their boundless,
fathomless credulity.

The clericals, then, having assumed the offensive without waiting for
Gorgias to be denounced, Brother Fulgence in particular displayed the
most intemperate zeal. At times of great emotion, his father, the mad
doctor who had died in an asylum, seemed to revive in him. With his
brain all fogged, unhinged by vanity and ambition, he yielded to the
first impulse that came to him, ever dreaming of doing some mighty
service to the Church, which would raise him to the head of his Order.
Thus, in the earlier stages of the Simon affair, he had lost the little
common-sense which he had previously shown, for he had hoped that
the case would yield him the glory he coveted; and now that it was
revived he once more became delirious. He was constantly to be seen
hurrying along the streets of Maillebois, little, dark, and lean, with
the folds of his gown flying about him as if a gale were carrying him
away. Whenever he entered into conversation he defended his school
with passionate eagerness, calling on heaven to witness the angelic
purity of his assistants. As for the abominable rumours which had been
circulated long ago respecting some Brothers who had been so horribly
compromised that it had been necessary to conjure them away with the
greatest speed--all those infamous tales were inventions of the devil.

In this respect, perhaps, however contrary to the truth his vehement
declarations might be, Brother Fulgence, in the first instance, made
them in all good faith, for he lived very much in another world,
far from mere reason. But he soon found himself caught beneath the
millstone of falsehood; it became necessary that he should lie
knowingly and deliberately, and he did so at last with a kind of devout
rage, for the very love of God. Was he not, himself, chaste? Had he
not always wrestled against temptation? That was so; and he therefore
made it his duty to guarantee the absolute chastity of his entire
Order; he answered for the Brothers who stumbled by the way, he denied
to laymen the right of judging them, for the laymen belonged merely to
the flock, they knew nought of the temple. If, then, Brother Gorgias
had sinned, he owed account of it to God only, not to man. As a member
of a religious Order he had ceased to be liable to human justice. In
this way, consumed by his craving to thrust himself forward, Brother
Fulgence went on and on, impelled by skilful and discreet hands which
piled all responsibilities upon his shoulders.

It was not difficult to divine that Father Philibin stood behind him
in the gloom--Father Philibin, who, in his turn, was the instrument of
Father Crabot. But how supple and how powerful a one, retaining his
personality even amidst his obedience! He willingly exaggerated the
characteristics of his peasant origin, affecting the heavy _bon-homie_
of some rough-hewed son of the soil; yet he was full of the shrewdest
craft, endowed with the patience needed for long enterprises, which he
conducted with wonderful dexterity. He was always striving to attain
some mysterious object, but he made no stir, he showed no personal
ambition; the only joy he coveted was that of seeing his work prosper.
Supposing him to be possessed of faith, it must have been a desire to
serve his superiors and the Church that impelled him to fight on like
an unknown unscrupulous soldier. As Prefect of the Studies at Valmarie
he there kept a watch over everything, busied himself with everything;
for, however massive his build, he was very active. Mingling with the
pupils of the college, playing with them, watching them, studying them,
diving to the very depths of their souls, ascertaining everything
he could about their relatives and their friends, he possessed the
master's all-seeing eye, the mind which stripped the brains and hearts
of others.

At times, it was said, he shut himself up with Father Crabot, the
Rector, who affected to direct the establishment from on high, never
attending personally to the education of the boys; and to him Father
Philibin communicated his notes, his reports, his many documents
containing the most complete and secret particulars about each pupil.
It was asserted that Father Crabot, who prudently made it a principle
to keep no papers whatever, did not approve of Philibin's practice
of collecting and cataloguing documents. Yet, in recognition of his
great services, he let him do so, regarding himself meantime as the
directing hand, the superior mind which made use of the other. Indeed,
did he not reign from his austere little cell over all the fine folk
of the department? Did not the ladies whom he confessed, the families
whose children were educated at Valmarie, belong to him by virtue of
the might of his sacred ministry? He flattered himself that it was he
who wove and disposed the huge net in which he hoped to capture one
and all, when in reality it was more frequently Father Philibin who
covertly prepared the various campaigns and ensured victory. In the
Simon case, in particular, the latter seemed to have been the hidden
artisan who recoiled from no task, however dark and base it might be,
the politic man whom nothing could disgust, who had remained the friend
of that vicious but well-informed youth, Georges Plumet,--nowadays the
terrible Brother Gorgias,--following him through life, protecting him
because he was as dangerous as useful, and doing all that could be
done to extricate him from that frightful affair, the murder of little
Zéphirin, in order no doubt that he, Philibin himself, might not come
to grief in it, in the company of his superior, Father Crabot, that
glory of the Church.

Now, once again, Maillebois became impassioned, though as yet there
were only rumours of the criminal devices which the Jews were preparing
in order to set the devoted Brother Gorgias, that holy man, revered by
the entire district, in the place of that infamous scoundrel Simon.
Extraordinary efforts were made to induce the school children's
parents--even those whose children attended the secular school--to
condemn the revival of the affair. People talked as if the streets
had been mined by some hidden band of scoundrels, the enemies of God
and France, who had resolved to blow up the town as soon as a certain
signal should reach them from abroad. At a sitting of the Municipal
Council, Mayor Philis ventured to allude to a vague danger threatening
the locality, and denounced the Jews who were secretly piling up
millions for the diabolical work. Then, becoming more precise, he
condemned the impious doings of the schoolmaster, that Marc Froment, of
whom he had hitherto failed to rid the town. But he was still watching
him, and this time he hoped that he would compel the Academy Inspector
to show exemplary severity.

The successive versions which _Le Petit Beaumontais_ had given of
Marc's share in the revival of the affair had cast confusion into
the minds of many folk. There was certainly a question of a document
found at the house of Mesdames Milhomme, the stationers; but some
people spoke also of another abominable forgery perpetrated by Simon,
and others of a crushing document which proved the complicity of
Father Crabot. The only certain thing was that General Jarousse had
paid another visit to his cousin, Madame Edouard, that poor relation
whose existence he so willingly forgot. One morning he had been seen
arriving and rushing into the little shop, whence he had emerged half
an hour later, looking extremely red. And the result of his tempestuous
intervention was that Madame Alexandre, and her son Sébastien,
now convalescent, started on the morrow for the South of France,
while Madame Edouard continued to manage the shop to the complete
satisfaction of the clerical customers. She ascribed the absence of her
sister-in-law to the latter's maternal anxiety, for only a sojourn in
a warm climate would restore Sébastien to health; but as a matter of
fact she was quite ready to recall Madame Alexandre in the interests
of their business, should the secular school prove victorious in the
coming contest.

Amid the rumbling of the great storm which was rising, Marc endeavoured
to discharge his duties as schoolmaster with all correctitude. The
affair was now in David's hands, and in that respect he, Marc, merely
had to wait until he could assist him with his evidence. Thus never had
he devoted himself more entirely to his pupils, striving to inspire
them with reason and kindliness, for his active share in the reparation
of one of the most monstrous iniquities of the age had filled him with
greater fervour than ever for the cause of human solidarity. With
Geneviève he showed himself very affectionate, endeavouring to avoid
all subjects on which they disagreed, attentive only, it seemed, to
those little trifles which are yet of great importance in one's daily
life. But whenever his wife returned from a visit to her relations he
divined that she was nervous, impatient, more and more exasperated
with him, her mind being full of stories which she had heard from his
enemies. Thus he could not always avoid quarrels, which gradually
became more and more venomous and deadly.

One evening hostilities broke out on the subject of that unhappy man
Férou. Tragic tidings had reached Marc during the day: a sergeant,
to whom Férou had behaved rebelliously, had shot him dead with a
revolver. Marc, on going to see the widow, had found her in her
wretched home, weeping and begging death to take her also, together
with her younger daughters, even as it had compassionately taken the
eldest one already. Marc felt that Férou's frightful fate was the
logical _dénouement_ of his career: the poor schoolmaster, scorned,
embittered to the point of rebellion, driven from his post, deserting
in order that he might not have to pay to the barracks the debt which
he had already paid in part to the school, then conquered by hunger,
forcibly incorporated in the army when he returned to succour his
despairing wife and children, and ending like a mad dog, yonder, under
the flaming sky, amid the torturing life of a disciplinary company.
At the same time, in presence of the sobbing wife and her stupefied
daughters, in presence of those poor ragged waifs whom the iniquity of
the social system cast into the last agony, Marc's brotherly and humane
nature was stirred to furious protest. Even in the evening he had
not calmed down, and forgot himself so far as to speak of the affair
to Geneviève, while she was still moving about their bedroom before
withdrawing to a small adjoining chamber, where, of recent times, she
had slept by herself.

'Do you know the news?' said he. 'A sergeant has blown poor Férou's
brains out, in some mutiny, in Algeria.'


'Yes, I saw Madame Férou this afternoon; she is quite out of her
mind.... It was really deliberate, premeditated murder. I don't know
if General Jarousse, who showed himself so harsh in Férou's case, will
sleep at ease to-night. In any case some of the blood of that poor
madman, who was turned into a wild beast, will cling to his hands.'

'It would be very foolish of the general not to sleep!' Geneviève
quickly retorted, interpreting Marc's words as an attack on her

He made a gesture of mingled sorrow and indignation. But, recollecting
the position, he regretted that he had named the general, for the
latter was one of Father Crabot's dearest penitents, and at one moment
there had been some thought of using him for a military _coup d'état_.
A Bonapartist by repute, with a decorative, corpulent figure, he was
very severe with his men, though jovial at bottom, and fond of the
table and wenches. Of course there was no harm in that; but, after
some negotiations, the clericals found that he was decidedly too big a
fool for their purpose; and so he remained a mere possible makeshift
for their party, though they still treated him with some consideration.

'When we first knew the Férou family at Le Moreux,' Marc gently
resumed, 'they were already so poor, so burdened with work and worries
in their wretched school, that I cannot think of that unhappy man, that
master, tracked and destroyed like a wolf, without a feeling of anguish
and compassion.'

At this Geneviève, thoroughly upset, her earlier displeasure turning
into a kind of nervous exasperation, burst into tears. 'Yes, yes! I
understand you perfectly--I am a heartless creature, eh? You began by
thinking me a fool, and now you believe I have an evil heart. How is
it possible for us to continue loving one another if you treat me as
though I were a stupid and malicious woman?'

Astonished and grieved at having provoked such an outburst Marc wished
to pacify his wife. But she became quite wild. 'No, no! it is all over
between us. As you hate me more and more each day, it is best that we
should separate at once, without waiting till unworthy things happen!'

Then she rushed into the little room where she now slept, and locked
the door with no gentle hand. He, when he saw it thus shut upon him,
remained in despair, with tears welling to his eyes. Hitherto that
door had always been left open, and, though the husband and wife had
no longer shared the same bed, they had remained in a degree together,
able to converse with one another. But now came total separation:
henceforth they would live as strangers.

On the following evenings Geneviève in the same manner locked herself
in her room. Then, having acquired that habit, she never showed herself
to Marc until she was fully dressed. As the time approached for the
birth of the child she expected, she displayed increasing repugnance
for the slightest caress, the merest touch, even, on the part of her
husband. He had ascribed this at first to her state of health; but he
became surprised as her repulsion developed more and more into hatred,
for it seemed to him that the advent of another child ought to have
drawn them more closely together. And his anxiety augmented; for if,
on the one hand, he was aware that as long as man and woman are united
by love no rupture is possible, for the bitterest quarrels evaporate
amid their kisses, on the other he knew that, as soon as virtual
divorce is agreed upon, the slightest conflict may prove deadly, beyond
possibility of reconciliation; indeed, it often happens when homes are
seen collapsing in a seemingly inexplicable manner, that everything can
be traced back to the severance of the carnal bond, the tie of passion.
As long as Geneviève had hung about his neck Marc had not feared the
attempts which were made to take her from him. He knew that she was
his, he knew that no power in the world could conquer love. But if
she ceased to regard him with love and passion, would not the fierce
efforts of his enemies at last wrest her from him? And, as day by day
he saw her become colder and colder, his heart was wrung by increasing,
intolerable anxiety.

At one moment some little enlightenment came to him with respect to
the change in his wife's manner. He learnt that she had quitted Abbé
Quandieu to take as her confessor Father Théodose, the Superior of the
Capuchins, who stage-managed so cleverly the miracles of St. Antony
of Padua. The reason given for this change was the discomfort, the
unappeased hungry state in which she was left by the ministrations of
the priest of St. Martin's. He was now too lukewarm for her ardent
faith; whereas handsome Father Théodose, whose fervour was so lofty,
would nourish her with the wholemeal bread of mysticism, which she
needed to satisfy her. In reality, it was Father Crabot, now sovereign
lord at Madame Duparque's house, who had decided on this change,
doubtless in order to hasten victory after proceeding with such artful

It never occurred to Marc to suspect Geneviève of any base intrigue
with the Capuchin, that superbly-built man, Christlike in features but
of dark complexion, whose large glowing eyes and frizzy beard sent his
penitents into raptures. Marc knew his wife to be possessed of too
much loyalty and too much dignity, both of mind and body--a dignity
that had never forsaken her even in moments of the most passionate
rapture. But without carrying matters as far as that, was it not
admissible that the growing influence of Father Théodose was in part
the domination of a handsome man over a woman who was still young--a
man, too, godlike in appearance, and godlike claiming obedience? After
her pious conversations with Father Théodose, after the long hours she
spent in the confessional, Geneviève returned to her husband quivering,
distracted, such as he had never seen her when she retuned from her
visits to Abbé Quandieu. In her intercourse with her new confessor she
was certainly forming some mystical passion, finding some new food
for her craving nature. Perhaps, too, the monk availed himself of her
perturbed state of health to terrorise her. Indeed, was not the father
of the child she bore one of the damned? She repeatedly spoke of that
child in a despairing way, as if seized with a kind of terror, like one
of those mothers who dread lest they should give birth to a monster.
And if that happily should not come to pass, how would she protect the
child from surrounding sin, whither might she carry her babe to save
it from the contamination of its father's sacrilegious home? All this
threw a little light on Geneviève's rupture with Marc--a rupture in
which there might well be remorse at the thought that her child was
also the child of an unbeliever; then a vow that she would never more
be the mother of that unbeliever's children; and, finally, a perversion
and exasperation of love, which dreamt of finding satisfaction
henceforth in the _au-delà_ of desire. Yet how much still remained
obscure, and how cruelly did Marc suffer as he saw himself forsaken by
that adored wife, whom the Church was wrenching from his arms, in order
that by torturing him it might annihilate him and his work of human

One day, on returning home after one of her long conferences with
Father Théodose, Geneviève, who looked both excited and exhausted, said
to Louise, who at that moment came in from school: 'To-morrow at five
o'clock you will have to go to confession at the Capuchins'. If you do
not confess, you will no longer be received at the Catechism class.'

But Marc resolutely intervened. While allowing Louise to follow the
Catechism class, he had hitherto strongly opposed her attendance at
confession. 'Louise will not go to the Capuchins',' he said, firmly.
'You know, my dear, that I have given way on every other point, but I
will not allow the child to go to confession.'

'Why not?' exclaimed Geneviève, still restraining herself.

'I cannot repeat my reasons before the child. But you know them, and I
will not allow my daughter's mind to be soiled, under the pretext of
absolving her of trivial faults, which her parents alone need know and

An explanation, indeed, had taken place between Marc and Geneviève on
this subject. In his opinion it was most loathsome and abominable that
a little girl should be initiated to the passions of the flesh by a man
who, by his very vow of chastity, might be led to every curiosity and
every sexual aberration. For ten priests who might be prudent, it was
sufficient there should be one of unbalanced mind, and then confession
became filth, to which risk Marc refused to expose his daughter Louise.
Besides, in that disturbing promiscuity, that secret colloquy amid the
mystical, enervating atmosphere and gloom of a chapel, there was not
merely the possibility of demoralisation for a girl only twelve years
old,--an anxious age, when the senses begin to quicken,--there was
also a seizure of her mind and person; for whatever she might become
later, girl, wife, and mother, she would always remain the initiate of
that minister, who by his very questions had violated her modesty, and
thereby affianced her to his jealous Deity. From that time forward,
indeed, woman, by her avowals, belonged to her confessor, became his
trembling, obedient thing, ever ready to do his behests, to serve, in
his hands, as an instrument of investigation and enthralment.

'If our daughter should be guilty of any fault,' Marc resumed, 'she
shall confess it to you or me, whenever she feels a need to do so. That
will be more logical and cleaner.'

Geneviève shrugged her shoulders, like one who deemed that solution
to be both blasphemous and grotesque. 'I won't discuss the matter any
further with you,' she said. 'But just tell me this--if you prevent
Louise from going to confession, how will she be able to go to her
first Communion?'

'Her first Communion? But is it not settled that she will wait till her
twentieth birthday in order to decide that question herself? I have
let her go to the Catechism class, even as she goes to her _cours_ of
history and sciences--that is, in order that she may form an opinion
and decide later on.'

At this Geneviève's anger mastered her. She turned towards her
daughter: 'And you, Louise, what do you think; what do you desire?'

The child, whose usually gay face had become quite grave, had listened
to her father and mother in silence. Whenever such quarrels arose, she
endeavoured to remain neutral from a fear of embittering matters. Her
intelligent eyes glanced from one to the other of her parents as if
begging that they would not make themselves unhappy on her account,
for she was grieved indeed to find that she was so constantly the cause
of their disputes. But, though she showed great deference and affection
for her mother, the latter felt that she inclined towards her father,
whom indeed she worshipped, and whose firm sense and passion for truth
and equity she had inherited.

For a moment Louise remained as if undecided, looking at her parents
in her usual affectionate way. Then she gently said: 'What I think,
what I wish, mamma? Why, I should much like it to be whatever you and
papa might agree upon. But does papa's desire seem to you so very
unreasonable? Why not wait a little?'

The mother, quite beside herself, refused to listen any further. 'That
is not an answer, my girl,' she cried. 'Remain with your father since
you can no longer show me either respect or obedience! You will end,
between you, by driving me from the house!'

Then she rushed away and shut herself up in her little room, as she
always did nowadays whenever she encountered the slightest opposition.
This was her method of ending their quarrels, and on each occasion she
seemed to draw farther and farther away from her husband and her child,
to set more and more space between herself and the dearly-loved family
fireside of other days.

Her belief that attempts were being made to influence her daughter in
order that the child might cast off her authority was strengthened
by a fresh incident. After long and skilful manœuvring, Mademoiselle
Rouzaire had at last secured the post of first assistant teacher at
Beaumont, which post she had coveted for years. Inspector Le Barazer
had yielded in the matter to the pressing applications of the clerical
deputies and senators, at the head of whom Count Hector de Sanglebœuf
marched with the noisy bustling gait of a great captain. But to
compensate politically for this step, Le Barazer, with his usual
maliciousness, had caused the vacant post at Maillebois to be assigned
to Mademoiselle Mazeline, the schoolmistress at Jonville, whose good
sense Marc so greatly admired. Perhaps, also, the Academy Inspector,
who still covertly supported Marc, had desired to place a friend beside
him, one whose object would be the same as his own, who would not try
to thwart him at every step, as Mademoiselle Rouzaire had done. At
all events, when Mayor Philis, in the name of the Municipal Council,
complained to Le Barazer of this appointment, which, said he, would
place the little girls of Maillebois in the hands of an unbelieving
woman, the Academy Inspector affected great astonishment. What! had
he not acted in accordance with Count Hector de Sanglebœuf's pressing
application? Was it his fault if, owing to promotions among the
school staff, a most meritorious person, of whom no parents had ever
complained, had become entitled in due order to the post at Maillebois?

As a matter of fact, Mademoiselle Mazeline's _début_ in the town proved
very successful. People were struck by her gay serenity, the maternal
manner in which from the very first day she gained the affection of
her pupils. All gentleness and zeal, she directed her efforts in such
wise that her daughters, as she called them, might become worthy
women, wives, and mothers. But she did not take them to Mass, and she
suppressed processions, prayers, and Catechism lessons. Before long,
therefore, a few other mothers, who belonged to the clerical faction,
like Geneviève, began to protest. Indeed, though she had no cause to
congratulate herself on her intercourse with Mademoiselle Rouzaire,
whose intrigues had disturbed her home, she now seemed to regret her,
and spoke of the new schoolmistress as a most suspicious character, who
was capable of the blackest enterprises.

'You hear me, Louise,' she said one day; 'if Mademoiselle Mazeline
should say anything wrong to you, you must tell me. I won't allow my
daughter's soul to be stolen from me!'

Marc could not refrain from intervening. 'Mademoiselle Mazeline
stealing souls!' said he; 'that's foolish! When we were at Jonville you
used to admire her, as I did. No woman has a loftier mind or a more
tender heart.'

'Oh! naturally you back her up,' Geneviève replied; 'you are well
fitted to understand each other. Go and join her, hand our daughter
over to her, since I am no longer of any account!'

Then, once again, Geneviève hastened to her room, where little Louise
had to join her, weep with her, and entreat her for hours before she
could be induced to attend to the home again.

All at once some almost incredible news reached Maillebois, throwing
the town into no little emotion. Advocate Delbos, who had gone to Paris
and addressed himself to some of the Government departments, laying
before the officials the famous duplicate copy-slip furnished by
Madame Alexandre, had prevailed on them--by what high influence nobody
knew--to order a perquisition in Father Philibin's rooms at Valmarie.
The extraordinary part of the affair was the lightning-like speed with
which this perquisition was made, the Commissary of Police arriving at
the College quite unexpectedly, then at once examining the collection
of documents formed by the Prefect of the Studies, and, in the second
portfolio he opened, discovering an envelope, already yellow with age,
which contained the fragment of the copy-slip torn off so long ago.
There was no question of denying its authenticity, for when placed in
position at the corner of the mutilated slip it fitted exactly.

It was added that Father Philibin, whom Father Crabot--utterly upset
by the affair--immediately interrogated, had made a frank confession,
explaining his conduct by a kind of instinctive impulse, his hand
having acted before his mind had time to think, so great had been
his anxiety on seeing the stamp of the Brother's school upon the
copy-slip, when he found the latter in Zéphirin's room. If he had
remained silent afterwards, this was because a careful study of the
affair had convinced him that Simon was indeed the culprit, and had
intentionally made use of what was evidently a gross forgery in order
to injure religion. Thus Father Philibin gloried in his act, for by
tearing off that corner and afterwards preserving silence, he had
behaved like a hero who set Holy Church high above the justice of men.
Would not a vulgar accomplice have destroyed the fragment? As the
reverend Father had preserved it, could one not understand that it had
been his intention to re-establish all the facts whenever it might
become advisable to do so? Such was the language held by some of his
partisans, but there were folk who attributed the preservation of the
fragment to his mania for keeping even the smallest scraps of paper,
and who thought also that he had wished to remain in possession of a
weapon which might prove useful against others.

It was said that Father Crabot, who for his part destroyed even the
cards which visitors left for him, was exasperated with his colleague,
and that in his surprise and fury at the first moment he had cried:
'What! I gave him orders to burn everything, and he kept that!' In
any case, on the evening of the day when the discovery was made by
the Commissary, Father Philibin, against whom as yet no warrant had
been issued, disappeared. When pious souls anxiously inquired what had
become of him, they were told that Father Poirier, the Provincial of
Beaumont, had decided to send him to a convent in Italy to observe a
retreat; and there, as if engulfed, he was at once buried in eternal

The revision of Simon's case now appeared to be inevitable. Delbos
sent for David and Marc, in order to decide in what form the necessary
application to the Minister of Justice should be made. The discovery of
the long-missing corner of the copy-slip would alone suffice for the
sentence of the Court of Beaumont to be quashed, and the advocate was
of opinion that they ought to content themselves with this discovery,
and, for the time at all events, leave on one side the illegal
communication which Judge Gragnon had made to the jurors. Moreover,
the circumstances of that communication, now difficult of proof, would
be brought to light during the new investigations which must ensue.
Meantime, as the truth in the matter of the copy-slip was manifest,
as the report of the handwriting experts was entirely upset, the
origin of the stamped and initialled slip constituting such a damaging
element in the case that Father Philibin had practised dissimulation
and falsehood to conceal it, the advocate considered it best to assail
Brother Gorgias without more ado. When Marc and David quitted Delbos
that decision had been adopted; and on the morrow David addressed to
the Minister a letter in which he formally accused Brother Gorgias of
having committed a heinous offence on little Zéphirin, and murdered
him, for which crimes his, David's, brother Simon had been in penal
servitude for ten years.

Emotion then reached a climax. On the day after the discovery of the
corner of the copy-slip among Father Philibin's papers, there had come
an hour of lassitude and discomfiture among the most ardent supporters
of the Church. This time the battle really seemed to be lost, and _Le
Petit Beaumontais_ even printed an article in which the conduct of the
reverend Jesuit was roundly blamed. But two days later the faction had
recovered its self-possession, and the very same newspaper proceeded
to canonise theft and falsehood. St. Philibin, hero and martyr, was
portrayed amid a setting of palms, and with a halo about his head. A
legend likewise arose, showing the reverend Father in a remote convent
of the Apennines, surrounded by wild forests. There, wearing a
hair-cloth next his skin, he prayed devoutly both by day and by night,
and offered himself in sacrifice for the sins of the world. And on the
back of the pious little pictures which circulated, showing him on his
knees, there was a prayer by repeating which the faithful might gain

The resounding accusation launched against Brother Gorgias fully
restored to the clericals their rageful determination to attack and
conquer, convinced as they were that the victory of the Jew would shake
the Congregations in a terrible fashion and leave a gaping breach in
the very heart of the Church. All the anti-Simonists of former days
rose up again, more uncompromising than ever, eager to conquer or to
die. And the old battle began afresh on every side; on one hand all
the free-minded men who believed in truth and equity and looked to the
future, on the other all the reactionaries, the believers in authority,
who clung to the past with its God of wrath, and based salvation
on priests and soldiers. The Municipal Council of Maillebois again
quarrelled about schoolmaster Froment, families were rent asunder,
the Brothers' pupils and Marc's stoned one another on the Place de
la République after lessons. Then, too, the fine society of Beaumont
was utterly upset, such was the feverish anxiety of all who had
participated in any way in Simon's trial.

For one man, such as Salvan, who rejoiced with Marc at each successive
interview, how many there were who no longer slept o' nights at the
thought that all the iniquity which had been buried was about to be
exhumed! Fresh elections were impending, and the politicians feared
lest they should be unseated. Lemarrois, the Radical, the ex-Mayor
of Beaumont, once the town's indispensable man, was terrified by the
rise of Delbos's popularity; Marcilly, the amiable _arriviste_, ever
anxious to be on the winning side, floundered in uncertainty, no longer
knowing which party to support; the reactionary senators and deputies,
headed by the fierce Hector de Sanglebœuf, resisted desperately as
they saw the storm, which might sweep them away, rising all round. In
the government world and the university world the anxiety was no less
keen; Prefect Hennebise lamented that he could not stifle the affair;
Rector Forbes, losing his depth, cast everything upon the shoulders of
Academy Inspector Le Barazer, who alone remained calm and smiling amid
the tempest, while Depinvilliers, the Director of the Lycée, took his
daughters to Mass despairingly, even as one may throw oneself into a
river, and Inspector Mauraisin, in anguish and astonishment at the turn
which things were taking, wondered if the time had not come to go over
to the Freemasons.[2]

[Footnote 2: The French Freemasons are largely identified with
Republican and anti-Catholic views.--_Trans._]

But the emotion was particularly keen in the judicial world, for did
not a revision of the former trial mean a new trial directed against
the judges who had conducted the first proceedings? and if the
papers in the case should be exhumed and examined would not terrible
revelations ensue? Investigating Magistrate Daix, that unlucky honest
man, who was haunted by remorse for having yielded to his wife's
covetous ambition, looked livid when he repaired in silence each
morning to his office at the Palace of Justice. And if Raoul de La
Bissonnière, the dapper Public Prosecutor, made, on the contrary, an
excessive show of good humour and ease of mind, one could divine that
he did so from a torturing desire to prevent his fears from being
seen. As for Presiding Judge Gragnon, who was the most compromised
of all, he seemed to have aged quite suddenly; his face had become
heavy, his shoulders bent beneath some invisible weight, and he
dragged his big body about with shuffling steps, unless he noticed
that he was being watched, when, with a suspicious glance, he made
an effort to draw himself erect. Meantime the gentlemen's ladies had
once more transformed their _salons_ into hotbeds of intrigue, barter,
and propaganda. And from the _bourgeois_ to their servants, from the
servants to the tradespeople, from the tradespeople to the working
classes, the whole population followed on, becoming more and more
crazed amid the tempest which cast men and things into general dementia.

The sudden self-effacement of Father Crabot, whose tall and elegant
figure and whose handsome gowns of fine cloth were so well known at the
reception hour in the Avenue des Jaffres, was much remarked. He ceased
to show himself there, and a proof of excellent taste and profound
piety was detected in his desire for retreat and meditation, of which
his friends spoke with devout emotion. As Father Philibin also had
disappeared, the only one of the superior ecclesiastics who remained
in the front rank was Brother Fulgence, who somehow always contrived
to act in a compromising way, bestirring himself too much, showing
indeed such clumsiness at each step he took that nasty rumours began to
circulate among the clericals, in accordance, no doubt, with some order
from Valmarie to sacrifice the Brother.

But the hero, the extraordinary figure of the time, one that became
more and more amazing every day, was Brother Gorgias, who met the
accusation brought against him with prodigious audacity. On the very
evening of the day when David's letter denouncing him was made public,
he hastened to the office of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ to answer it,
insulting the Jews, inventing extraordinary stories, clothing true
facts with falsehoods of genius, fit to disturb the soundest minds.
He scoffed, too, asking if schoolmasters were in the habit of walking
about with copy-slips in their pockets; and he denied everything,
both paraph and stamp, explaining that Simon, who had imitated his
handwriting, might very well have procured a stamp from the Brothers'
school, or even have had one made. It was idiotic; but he nevertheless
proclaimed this version in such a thundering voice and with such
violent gestures that it was accepted, and became official truth. From
that moment _Le Petit Beaumontais_ showed no hesitation; it adopted the
story of the forged stamp as it had adopted that of the forged paraph,
the whole theory of abominable premeditation on the part of Simon,
who, in committing his crime, had sought with infernal cunning to cast
it upon a holy man, in order to soil the Church! And this imbecile
invention impassioned all the folk who were brutified by centuries
of Catechism and bondage. Brother Gorgias rose to be a martyr of the
Faith, like Father Philibin.

He could no longer show himself without being acclaimed, women kissed
the hem of his frock, children asked him to bless them, while he,
impudent and triumphant, harangued the crowds, and indulged in the
most extravagant mummery, like a popular idol, a mountebank before a
booth, certain of applause. Yet, behind all that assurance, those who
were warned, who knew the truth, detected the anxious distress of that
wretched man who was forced to play a part, the folly and fragility of
which he was the first to recognise. And it was evident that in him
one simply had an actor on the stage, a tragic puppet whose strings
were pulled by invisible hands. Though Father Crabot had hidden himself
away, humbly cloistered himself in his bare, cold cell at Valmarie,
his black shadow still passed across the scene, and one could divine
that his were the dexterous hands which pulled the strings, pushed the
puppets forward, and toiled for the triumph of the Congregations.

Amid the greatest commotion, and despite the opposition of all the
coalesced reactionary forces, the Minister of Justice was obliged
to lay the application for revision, drawn up by David on behalf of
Madame Simon and her children, before the Court of Cassation. This was
truth's first victory, and for a moment the clerical faction seemed
to be overwhelmed. But on the morrow the struggle began afresh. Even
the Court of Cassation was cast into the mud, insulted every morning,
accused of having sold itself to the Jews. _Le Petit Beaumontais_
enumerated the amounts which had been paid, libelled the presiding
judge, the general prosecutor, and the counsellors by relating all
sorts of abominable stories about their private lives, which stories
were inventions from beginning to end. During the two months occupied
by the preparation of the case the river of filth never ceased to
flow; no manœuvre, however iniquitous, no lie, even no crime, was
left untried to stay the march of inexorable justice. At last, after
memorable discussions, during which several judges gave a high example
of healthy common-sense and courageous equity, superior to all passion,
the Court gave its decision, which, although foreseen, burst on its
slanderers like a thunderclap. It retained the cause, declared that
there was ground for revision, and recognised the necessity of an
investigation, which it decided to conduct itself.

That evening Marc, when afternoon lessons were over, found himself
alone in his little garden, in the warm twilight of springtime.
Louise had not yet come in from school, for Mademoiselle Mazeline,
whose favourite pupil she had become, sometimes kept her with her.
As for Geneviève, ever since _déjeuner_, she had been absent at her
grandmother's, where, indeed, she now spent nearly all her time. And,
despite the fresh perfume which the lilacs shed in the warm air,
Marc, as he paced the garden paths, was pursued by bitter, torturing
thoughts of his devastated home. He had not given way on the subject
of Confession--indeed, his daughter had lately quitted the Catechism
class, the priest having refused to receive her any longer if she did
not come to him by way of the Confessional. But, morning and evening
alike, Marc had to contend against the attacks of his wife, who was
exasperated, maddened, by the idea that Louise would be damned, and
that she herself would be virtually an accomplice in it as she could
not find the strength to take the girl in her arms and carry her to the
tribunal of penitence. She remembered her own adorable first Communion,
the loveliest day of her life, with her white gown, the incense, the
candles, the gentle Jesus to whom she had so sweetly affianced herself,
and who had remained her only real spouse, the spouse of a divine love,
the delights of which--she vowed it--were the only ones which she would
taste henceforth. But was her daughter to be robbed of such felicity,
degraded, reduced to the level of the beasts of the field, which knew
no religion? She could not bear such a thought, but sought every
possible opportunity to wring a consent from her husband, changing the
family hearth into a battlefield, where the most futile incidents gave
rise to endless bickering.

The night was falling, slowly and peacefully; and Marc, on whom for
the moment a feeling of great lassitude had come, felt astonished that
he should be able to resist his wife with a courage which was cruel
for her, himself, and their daughter. All his old spirit of tolerance
came back; he had allowed his daughter to be baptised, so might he
not also allow her to make her first Communion? The reasons which his
wife urged, reasons to which he had long bowed--respect of individual
liberty, the rights of a mother, the rights of conscience--were
not without weight. In a home the mother necessarily became the
educator and initiator, particularly when girls were in question. To
take no account of her ideas, to oppose the desires of her mind and
heart, meant surely the wrecking of the home. Nought was left of the
bond of agreement which a home requires to flourish, all happiness
was destroyed, the parents and their child lapsed into horrible
warfare--that warfare from which Marc's own home, once so united and
so sweet, now suffered. And thus, while pacing the narrow paths of his
little garden, across which the shadows were spreading, Marc asked
himself whether and in what manner he might give way again in order to
restore a little peace and happiness.

A feeling of remorse tortured him; for was not his misfortune due to
himself? His share of responsibility had become manifest to him more
than once, and he had asked himself why, on the morrow of his marriage,
he had not endeavoured to win Geneviève over to his own belief. At that
time, amid the first revelation of love, she had indeed belonged to
him, she had cast herself into his arms with all confidence, ready to
mingle with him, in such wise that they might be of one flesh and one
mind. He alone, at that unique hour of life, might have had the power
to wrest the woman from the priest, and turn the child of the ages,
bending beneath the dread of hell, into the conscious companion of his
own existence, a companion whose mind would be freed, opened to truth
and equity.

At the time of their earliest quarrels Geneviève herself had cried it
to him: 'If you suffer because we do not think the same, it is your
own fault! You should have taught me. I am such as I was made, and the
misfortune is that you did not know how to make me anew!'

She had got far beyond that point now; she did not allow that he could
possibly influence her, such had become the unshakable pride of her
faith. Nevertheless, he bitterly recalled his lost opportunity, and
deplored his egotistical adoration during the delightful springtime
of their married life, when he had never ceased to admire her beauty,
without a thought of diving into her conscience and enlightening her.
True, he had not then imagined that he would become an artisan of truth
such as he was to-day; he had accepted certain compromises, imagining
that he was strong enough to remain the master. Indeed, all his present
torture arose from his whilom masculine vanity, the blind weakness of
his early love.

He knew that now, and as he paused before a lilac bush, whose flowers,
open since the previous day, were shedding a penetrating perfume
around, a sudden flame, a renewed desire to fight and conquer, arose
within him. Even if he had formerly failed in his duty, was that a
reason for him to fail in it now, by allowing his daughter to wreck her
life in the same way as her mother had wrecked hers? Such remissness
on his part would be the more unpardonable as he had taken on himself
the task of saving the children of others from the falsehoods of the
centuries. Perhaps it might be allowable for some obscurely situated
man to put up with the doings of a bigot wife, who was intent on
crazing her daughter with foolish and dangerous practices; but how
could he accept such a position--he who had removed the crucifix
from his classroom, he whose teaching was strictly secular, he who
openly proclaimed the necessity of saving woman from the Church if one
desired to build the Happy City? Would not his acceptance of such a
position be the fullest possible confession of impotence? It would
be the denial and the annihilation of his mission. He would lose all
power, all authority to ask others to do that which he could or would
not do himself in his own home. And what an example of hypocrisy
and egotistical weakness would he not give to his daughter, who was
acquainted with his ideas, and knew him to be opposed to Confession and
Communion. Would she not wonder why he tolerated at home the actions
which he condemned when their neighbours were in question? Would it
not seem to her that he thought one way and acted another? Ah! no, no,
tolerance had become impossible; he could no longer give way unless
he desired to see his work of deliverance crumble beneath universal

Once more Marc began to walk to and fro under the paling sky, where
the first stars were beginning to twinkle. One of the triumphs of the
Church was that freethinking parents did not remove their children
from its control, bound as they were by social usages, and fearful of
scandal. There was an apprehension among them that they might fail to
start their sons in life, or find husbands for their daughters, if
the children did not at least pass through the formal routine of the
sacraments. So who would begin, who would set the example? No doubt
it would be necessary to wait a very long time for a general change,
the time which science might require to destroy dogma as a matter of
usage, even as it had already destroyed it as a matter of sense. Yet it
was the duty of brave minds to set the first examples, examples which
the Church dreaded, and which nowadays impelled it to make so many
efforts to retain the support and favour of women, whom it had so long
brutalised, treated as daughters of the devil, responsible for all the
sins of the world.

It seemed to Marc that the Jesuits, who by a stroke of genius had
resolved to adapt the Deity to the requirements of human passions,
were the real artisans of the great movement which had placed women
as instruments of political and social conquest in the hands of the
priests. The Church had cursed human love, and now it employed it.
It had treated woman as a monster of lewdness, from whom it was the
duty of the Saints to flee; yet now it caressed her, loaded her with
flattery, made her the ornament and mainstay of the sanctuary, having
resolved to exploit her power over man.

Indeed sexuality flames among the candles of the altars, the priests
nowadays accept it as a means of grace, use it as a trap in which
they hope to recapture and master man. Does not all the disunion,
the painful quarrel of contemporary society, spring from the divorce
existing between man and woman, the former half freed, the latter still
a serf, a petted, hallucinated slave of expiring Catholicism? The
problem lies in that; we men should not leave the Church to profit by
the mystical rapture in which it steeps our daughters and our wives, we
should wrest from it the merit of the spurious deliverance it brings to
them, we should deliver them really from all their fancies, and take
them from the Church to ourselves, since indeed they are ours, even as
we are theirs.

Marc reflected that there were three forces in presence: man, woman,
and the Church, and instead of woman and the Church being arrayed
against man, it was necessary that man and woman should be arrayed
against the Church. Besides, were not man and wife one? Neither could
act without the other, whereas united in flesh and in mind they became
invincible, the very force of life, the very embodiment of happiness
in the midst of conquered nature. And the one, sole, true solution
suddenly became manifest to Marc: woman must be taught, enlightened,
she must be set in her rightful place as our equal and our companion,
for only the freed woman can free man.

At the moment when, calmed and comforted, Marc was regaining the
courage he needed to continue fighting, he heard Geneviève come in,
and went to join her in the classroom where a little vague light
still lingered. He found her standing there, and though the birth of
the child she expected was now near at hand, she carried herself so
upright, in such an aggressive posture, with such brilliant eyes, that
he felt a supreme storm to be imminent.

'Well, are you pleased?' she asked him curtly.

'Pleased with what, my darling?'

'Ah! you don't know then.... So I shall have the pleasure of being
the first to give you the great news.... Your heroic efforts have
been successful, the news has just arrived by telegraph. The Court of
Cassation has decided in favour of the revision of the affair.'

Marc raised a cry of intense joy, unwilling to notice the tone of
furious irony in which Geneviève had announced the triumph: 'At last!
So there are some real judges after all! The innocent man will suffer
no longer.... But is the news quite certain?'

'Yes, yes, quite certain, I had it from honourable people to whom it
was telegraphed. Yes, the abomination is complete and you may well

In Geneviève's quivering bitterness there was an echo of the violent
scene which, doubtless, she had just witnessed at her grandmother's
house, whither some priest or monk, some friend of Father Crabot's,
had hastened to impart the tidings of the catastrophe which imperilled

But Marc, as if determined not to understand, opened his arms to
his wife, saying: 'Thank you; I could not have had a better-loved
messenger. Kiss me!'

Geneviève brushed him aside with a gesture of hatred. 'Kiss you!' she
cried. 'Why? Because you have been the artisan of an infamous deed;
because this criminal victory over religion rejoices you? It is your
country, your family, yourself, that you cast into the mire in order to
save that filthy Jew, the greatest scoundrel in all the world!'

'Do not say such things,' replied Marc in a gentle, entreating way,
seeking to pacify her. 'How can you repeat such monstrous words, you
who used to be so intelligent and so kind-hearted? Is it true, then,
that error is so contagious that it may obscure the soundest minds?
Just think a little. You know all; Simon is innocent; and to leave
him still in penal servitude would be frightful iniquity--a source of
social rottenness which would end by destroying the nation.'

'No, no!' she cried, with a kind of mystical exaltation; 'Simon is
guilty--men of recognised holiness accused him, and accuse him still;
and to regard him as innocent it would be necessary to discard all
faith in religion, to believe God Himself capable of error! No, no! he
must stay at the galleys, for on the day of his release nothing divine,
nothing that one may revere, would be left on earth!'

Marc was becoming impatient. 'I cannot understand,' said he, 'how we
can disagree on so clear a question of truth and justice. Heaven has
nothing to do with this.'

'It has. There is no truth or justice outside heaven!'

'Ah! that is the gist of it all--that explains our disagreement and
torture! You would still think as I do if you had not set heaven
between us! And you will come back to me on the day when you consent
to live on earth and show a healthy mind and a sisterly heart. There
is only one truth, one justice, such as science establishes under the
control of human certainty and solidarity!'

Geneviève was becoming exasperated: 'Let us come to the point once and
for all,' she retorted. 'It is my religion that you wish to destroy!'

'Yes,' he cried; 'it is against your Roman Catholicism that I
fight--against the imbecility of its teaching, the hypocrisy of
its practices, the perversion of its worship, its deadly action on
children and women, and its social injuriousness. The Roman Catholic
Church--that is the enemy of whom we must first clear the path. Before
the social question, before the political question, comes the religious
question, which bars everything. We shall never be able to take a
single forward step unless we begin by striking down that Church, which
corrupts, and poisons, and murders. And, understand me fully, that is
the reason why I am resolved not to allow our Louise to confess and
communicate. I should feel that I was not doing my duty, that I was
placing myself in contradiction with all my principles and lessons, if
I were to allow such things. And on the morrow I should have to leave
this school and cease to teach the children of others, for lack of
having both the loyalty and the strength to guide my own child towards
truth, the only real and only good truth. Thus I shall not yield on
the matter; our daughter herself will come to a decision when she is

Geneviève, now quite beside herself, was on the point of replying, when
Louise came in, followed by Mademoiselle Mazeline, who, having detained
her after lessons, wished to explain that she had been teaching her a
difficult crochet stitch. Short and slight, possessed of no beauty, but
extremely charming with her broad face, her large, loving mouth, and
her fine black eyes glowing with ardent sympathy, the schoolmistress
called from the threshold: 'Why, have you no light? I want to show you
the clever work of a good little girl.'

But Geneviève, without listening, sternly called the child to her. 'Ah!
so it's you, Louise. Come here a moment. Your father is again torturing
me about you. He is now positively opposed to your making your first
Communion. Well, I insist on your doing so this year. You are twelve
years old, you can delay the matter no longer without causing a
scandal. But before deciding on my course, I wish to know what your own
views are.'

Tall as she was already, Louise looked almost a little woman, showing
a very intelligent face, in which her mother's refined features seemed
to mingle in an expression of quiet good sense, which she had inherited
from her father. With an air of affectionate deference she answered:
'My views! Oh, mamma, I can have none. Only I thought it was all
settled, as papa's only desire is that I should wait till my majority.
Then I will tell you my views!'

'Is that how you answer me, unhappy child?' cried her mother, whose
irritation was increasing. 'Wait! still wait! when your father's
horrible lessons are evidently corrupting you, and robbing me more and
more of your heart!'

At this moment Mademoiselle Mazeline made the mistake of intervening,
but she did so like a good soul who was grieved by this quarrel in a
home whose happiness in former days had greatly touched her. 'Oh, my
dear Madame Froment!' she said, 'your Louise is very fond of you, and
what she said just now was very reasonable.'

Geneviève turned violently towards the schoolmistress: 'Attend to your
own affairs, mademoiselle. I won't inquire into your share in all this;
but you would do well to teach your pupils to respect God and their
parents!... This is not your home, remember!'

Then, as the schoolmistress withdrew, heavy at heart and saying nothing
for fear lest she might embitter the quarrel, the mother again turned
to the girl:

'Listen to me, Louise ... and you, Marc, listen to me also.... I have
had enough of it, I swear to you that I have had enough of it, that
what has occurred this evening, what has just been said, has filled
the cup to overflowing.... You You no longer have any love for me, you
torture me in my faith, and you try to drive me from the house.'

Her daughter, full of distress and agitation, was weeping in a corner
of the large, dim room, and the heart of her husband, who stood there
motionless, bled as he heard those supreme, rending words. Both he and
the child raised the same protest: 'Drive you from the house!'

'Yes, you do all you can to render it unbearable!... Indeed, it is
impossible for me to remain longer in a spot where all is scandal,
error, and impiety, where every word and every gesture wound and shock
me. I have been told twenty times that it was not a fit place for me,
and I will not damn myself with you, so I am going away, returning
whence I came!'

She cried those last words aloud with extraordinary vehemence.

'To your grandmother's, eh?' exclaimed Marc.

'To my grandmother's, yes! That is an asylum, a refuge full of
sovereign peace. They at least know how to understand and love me
there! I ought never to have quitted that pious home of my youth.
Good-bye! There is nothing here to detain either my body or my soul!'

She went towards the door, with a fierce, set face, but, owing to her
condition, with somewhat unsteady steps. Louise was still sobbing
violently. But Marc, making a last effort, resolutely strove to bar the

'In my turn,' he said, 'I beg you to listen to me. You wish to return
whence you came, and I am not surprised at it, for I know that every
effort has been made there to wrest you from me. It is a house of
mourning and vengeance.... But you are not alone, remember; there is
the child you bear, and you cannot take it from me in that way to hand
it over to others.'

Geneviève was standing before her husband, who, on his side, leant
against the door. She seemed to increase in stature, to become yet
more resolute and stubborn as she cast in his face these words: 'I am
going away expressly in order to take that child from you, and place it
beyond the reach of your abominable influence. I will not have you make
a pagan of that child and ruin it in mind and heart as you have ruined
this unhappy girl here. It is my child, I suppose, and you surely don't
mean to beat me under pretence of keeping it? Come, get away from that
door, and let me go!'

He did not answer, he was making a superhuman effort to abstain from
force, such as anger suggested. For a moment they looked at one another
in the last faint gleam of the expiring light.

'Get away from that door!' she repeated harshly. Understand that I
have quite made up my mind. You do not desire a scandal, do you? You
would have nothing to gain by it; you would be dismissed and prevented
from continuing what you call your great work--the teaching of those
children, whom you have preferred to me, and whom you will turn into
brigands with your fine lessons.... Yes, be prudent, take care of
yourself for the sake of your school, a school of the damned, and let
me return to my God, who, some day, will chastise you!'

'Ah! my poor wife,' he murmured in a faint voice, for her words had
wounded him to the heart. 'Fortunately it is not you yourself who
speak; it is those wretched people who are making use of you as a
deadly weapon against me. I recognise their words, the hope of a drama,
the desire to see me dismissed, my school closed, my work destroyed. It
is still because I am a witness, a friend of Simon, whose innocence I
shall soon help to establish, that they wish to strike me down, is it
not? And you are right, I do not desire a scandal which would please so
many people.'

'Then let me go,' she repeated stubbornly.

'Yes, by and by. Before then I wish you to know that I still love
you, love you even more than ever, because you are a poor sick child,
attacked by one of those contagious fevers, which it takes so much time
to cure. But I do not despair, for at bottom you are a good and healthy
creature, sensible and loving when you choose, and some day you will
awaken from your nightmare.... Besides, we have lived together for
nearly fourteen years, I made you wife and mother, and even though I
neglected to re-mould you entirely, the many things which have come to
you from me will continue to assert themselves.... You will come back
to me, Geneviève.'

She laughed with an air of bravado. 'I do not think so,' she said.

'You will come back to me,' he repeated, in a voice instinct with
conviction. 'When you know and understand the truth, the love you have
borne me will do the rest; and you have a tender heart, you are not
capable of long injustice.... I have never done you violence, I have
constantly respected your wishes, and now, as you wish it, go to your
folly, follow it till it is exhausted, as there is no other means of
curing you of it.'

He drew aside from the door to make way for her, and she for a moment
seemed to hesitate amid the quivering gloom which was enshrouding that
dear and grief-stricken home. It had become so dark that Marc could no
longer see her face, which had contracted while she listened to him.
But all at once she made up her mind, exclaiming in a choking voice:

Then Louise, lost amid the darkness, sprang forward in her turn,
wishing to prevent her mother's departure: 'Oh! mamma, mamma, you
cannot go away like this! We, who love you so well--we, who only want
you to be happy----'

But the door had closed, and the only response was a last, distant cry,
half stifled by a sound of rapid footsteps: 'Good-bye! good-bye!'

Then, sobbing and staggering, Louise fell into her father's arms; and,
sinking together upon one of the forms of the classroom, they long
remained there, weeping together. Night had completely fallen now,
nothing but the faint sound of their sobs was to be heard in the large
dark room. The deep silence of abandonment and mourning filled the
empty house. The wife, the mother, had gone, stolen from the husband
and the child, in order that they might be tortured, cast into despair.
Before Marc's tearful eyes there rose the whole machination, the
hypocritical, underhand efforts of years, which now wrenched from him
the wife whom he adored, in order to weaken him and goad him into some
sudden rebellion which would sweep both his work and himself away. His
heart bled, but he had found the strength to accept his torture, and
none would ever know his distress, for none could see him sobbing with
his daughter in the darkness of his deserted home, like a poor man who
had nought left him save that child, and who was seized with terror at
the thought that she likewise might be wrested from him, some day.

A little later that same evening, as Marc had to conduct a course
of evening lessons for adults, the four gas jets of the classroom
were lighted, and students flocked in. Several of his former pupils,
artisans and young men of modest commercial pursuits, assiduously
followed these courses of history, geography, physical and natural
science. And for an hour and a half Marc, installed at his desk, spoke
on very clearly, contending with error and conveying a little truth to
the minds of the humble. But all the time frightful grief was consuming
him, his home was pillaged, destroyed, his love bewailed the lost wife
whom he would find no longer overhead, in the room once warm with
tender love, and now so cold.

Nevertheless, like the obscure hero he was, he bravely pursued his



Directly the Court of Cassation started on its inquiry, David and
Marc, meeting one evening in the Lehmanns' dark little shop, decided
that it would be best to abstain from all agitation, and remain in the
background. Now that the idea of a revision of the case was accepted,
the family's great joy and hope had restored its courage. If the
inquiry should be loyally conducted by the Court, Simon's innocence
would surely be recognised, and acquittal would become certain. So
it would suffice to remain wakeful and watchful of the march of the
affair, without exhibiting any doubt of the conscientiousness and
equity of the highest judges in the land.

There was only one thing which prevented the joy of those poor people
from becoming perfect. The news of Simon's health was still far from
good; and might he not succumb over yonder before the triumph? The
Court had declared that there were no grounds for bringing him back
to France before its final judgment, and it seemed likely that the
inquiry might last several months. In spite of all this, however, David
remained full of superb confidence, relying on the wonderful strength
of resistance which his brother had hitherto displayed. He knew him,
and he tranquillised the others, even made them laugh, by telling
stories of Simon's youth, anecdotes which showed him retiring within
himself with singular force of will, thoughtful both of his dignity and
of the happiness of those near to him. So the interview between Marc,
David, and the Lehmanns ended, and they separated, resolved to show
neither anxiety nor impatience, but to behave as if the victory were
already won.

From that time, then, Marc shut himself up in his school, attending
to his pupils from morn till night, giving himself to them with an
abnegation, a devotion, which seemed to increase in the midst of
obstacles and suffering. While he was busy with them in the classroom,
while he acted as their big brother, striving to apportion the bread of
knowledge among them, he forgot some of his torture, he suffered less
from the ever-bleeding wound in his heart. But in the evenings, when he
found himself alone in the home whence love had fled, he relapsed into
frightful despair, and wondered how it would be possible for him to
continue living in dark and chilly widowerhood. Some little relief came
to him on the return of Louise from Mademoiselle Mazeline's; and yet,
when the lamp had been lighted for the evening meal, what long spells
of silence fell between the father and the daughter, each plunged into
inconsolable wretchedness by the departure of the wife, the mother,
whose desertion haunted them! They tried to escape from their pursuing
thoughts by talking of the petty incidents of the day. But everything
brought them back to her; they ended by talking of her alone, drawing
their chairs together, and taking each other's hands, as if to warm
each other in their solitude. And all their evenings ended in that
fashion, the daughter seated on her father's lap with one arm around
his neck, and both sobbing and quivering beside the smoky lamp. The
home was dead; the absent one had carried away its life, its warmth,
its light.

Yet Marc did nothing to compel Geneviève to return to him. Indeed, he
did not wish to be indebted in any way to such rights as it might be
possible for him to enforce. The idea of a scandal, a public dispute,
was odious to him; and not only had he resolved that he would not fall
into the trap set by those who had induced Geneviève to forsake him,
relying in this connection on some conjugal drama which would bring
about his revocation, but he also set all his hope in the sole force of
love. Geneviève would surely reflect and return home. In particular, it
seemed impossible that she would keep her expected child for herself
alone. As soon as possible after its birth she would bring it to him,
since it belonged to both of them. Even if the Church had succeeded in
perverting her as a loving woman, surely it would be unable to kill her
motherly feelings. And as a mother she would come back, and remain with
the child. The latter's birth was near at hand, so there would not be
more than a month to wait.

By degrees, after hoping for this _dénouement_, by way of consoling
himself, Marc began to regard it as a certainty. And, like a good
fellow, who did not wish to part mother and daughter, he sent Louise
to spend Thursday and Sunday afternoons with Geneviève at Madame
Duparque's, although that dark, dank, pious house had already brought
him so much suffering. Perhaps he unknowingly found some last,
melancholy satisfaction in this indirect intercourse, as well as a
means of maintaining a tie between himself and the absent one. Whenever
Louise came home after spending several hours with her mother, she
brought a little of Geneviève with her; and on those evenings her
father kept her longer than usual on his knees, and questioned her
eagerly, longing for tidings, even though they might make him suffer.

'How did you find her to-day, my dear?' he would ask. 'Does she laugh a
little? Does she seem pleased? Did she play with you?'

'No, no, father.... You know very well that she has long ceased to
play. But she still had a little gaiety when she was here, and now she
looks sad and ill.'


'Oh! not ill enough to remain in bed. On the contrary, she cannot keep
from moving about, and her hands are burning hot, as if she had the

'And what did you do, my dear?'

'We went to Vespers, as we do every Sunday. Then we returned to
grandmamma's for some refreshment. There was a monk there, whom I did
not know, some missionary, who told us stories of savages.'

Then Marc remained silent for a moment, full of great bitterness of
spirit, but unwilling to judge the mother in the daughter's presence,
or to give the latter an order to disobey her by refusing to accompany
her to church. At last he resumed gently: 'And did she speak to you of
me, my dear?'

'No, no, father.... Nobody there speaks to me of you, and as you told
me never to speak first about you, it is just as if you did not exist.'

'All the same, grandmother is not angry with you?'

'Grandmamma Duparque hardly looks at me, and I prefer that; for she
has such eyes that she frightens me when she scolds.... But Grandmamma
Berthereau is very kind, especially when there is nobody there to see
her. She gives me sweets, and takes me in her arms and kisses me ever
so much.'

'Grandmamma Berthereau!'

'Why, yes. One day even she told me that I ought to love you very much.
She is the only one who has ever spoken to me of you.'

Marc again relapsed into silence, for he did not wish his daughter to
be initiated too soon into the wretchedness of life. He had always
suspected that the doleful, silent Madame Berthereau, once so well
loved by her husband, now led a life of agony beneath the bigoted rule
of her mother, that harsh Madame Duparque. And he felt that he might
possibly have an ally in the younger woman, though, unfortunately, one
whose spirit was so broken that she might never find the courage to
speak or act.

'You must be very affectionate with Grandmamma Berthereau,' said Marc
to Louise, by way of conclusion. 'Though she may not say it, I think
she is grieved as we are.... And mind you kiss your mother for both of
us, she will feel that I have joined in your caress.'

'Yes, father.'

Thus did the long evening pass away, bitter but quiet, in the wrecked
home. Whenever, on a Sunday, the daughter returned with some bad
tidings--speaking, for instance, of a sick headache or some affection
of the nerves from which the mother now suffered--the father remained
full of anxiety until the ensuing Thursday. That nervous affection did
not surprise him, he trembled lest his poor wife should be consumed in
the perverse and imbecile flames of mysticism. But if on the following
Thursday his daughter told him that mamma had smiled, and inquired
about the little cat she had left at home, he revived to hope, and
laughed with satisfaction and relief. Then, once again, he composed
himself to await the return of the dear absent one, who would surely
come back with her new-born babe at her breast.

Since Geneviève's departure Mademoiselle Mazeline, by the force of
things, had become a _confidente_, an intimate for Marc and Louise.
She brought the child home almost every evening, after lessons, and
rendered little services in that disorganised home where there was
no longer any housewife. The dwellings of the schoolmaster and the
schoolmistress almost touched one another; there was only a little
yard to be crossed, while in the rear a gate facilitated communication
between the two gardens. Thus the intercourse became closer,
particularly as Marc felt great sympathy for Mademoiselle Mazeline,
whom he regarded as a most courageous and excellent woman. He had
learnt to esteem her at Jonville in former times on finding that she
was quite free from superstition, and strove to endow her pupils with
solid minds and loving hearts. And now at Maillebois he felt intense
friendship for her, so well did she realise his ideal of the educating,
initiating woman, the only one capable of liberating future society.
Marc was now thoroughly convinced that no serious progress would ever
be effected if woman did not accompany man, and even precede him,
on the road to the Happy City. And how comforting it was to meet at
least one of those pioneers, one who was both very intelligent and
very kind-hearted, all simplicity too, accomplishing her work of
salvation as if it were one of the natural functions of her being!
Thus Mademoiselle Mazeline became for Marc, amid his torture, a friend
prized for her serenity and gaiety, one who imparted consolation and

He was profoundly touched by the schoolmistress's sympathy and
obligingness. She frequently spoke of Geneviève with anxious affection,
devising excuses for her, explaining her case like a sensible woman
who regarded lack of sense in others with sympathetic compassion. And
she particularly begged of Marc that he would not be violent, that he
would not behave like an egotistical and jealous master, one of those
for whom a wife is a slave, a thing handed over to them by the laws.
Without doubt Mademoiselle Mazeline had much to do with the prudence
which Marc evinced in striving to remain patient and relying on sense
and love to convince Geneviève and bring her back to him. Finally, the
schoolmistress endeavoured with so much delicacy to replace the absent
mother with Louise that she became, as it were, the light of that
mournful home, where father and daughter shivered at the thought of
their abandonment.

During those first fine days of the year Mademoiselle Mazeline
frequently found herself of an evening with Marc and Louise in their
little garden behind the school. The schoolmistress had merely to open
the gate of communication, whose bolts were drawn back on either side,
and neighbourly intercourse followed. Indeed she somewhat neglected her
own garden for the schoolmaster's, where a table and a few chairs were
set out under some lilac bushes. They jestingly called this spot 'the
wood,' as if they had sought shelter under some large oaks on a patch
of forest land. Then the scanty lawn was likened to a great meadow,
the two flower borders became royal _parterres_; and after the day's
hard work it was pleasant indeed to chat there, amid the quietude of

One evening, Louise, who had been reflecting with all a big girl's
gravity, suddenly inquired: 'Mademoiselle, why have you never married?'

At this the schoolmistress laughed good naturedly. 'Oh, my darling,
have you never looked at me!' she answered. 'A husband is not easily
found when one has such a big nose as mine, and no figure.'

The girl looked at her mistress with astonishment, for never had she
thought her ugly. True enough, Mademoiselle Mazeline did not possess
a fine figure, and her nose was too large, her face a broad one, with
a bumpy forehead and projecting cheek bones. But her admirable eyes
smiled so tenderly that her whole countenance became resplendent with

'You are very pretty,' declared Louise in a tone of conviction. 'If I
were a man I should like to marry you.'

Marc felt very much amused, while Mademoiselle Mazeline gave signs of
restrained emotion, tinged somewhat with melancholy. 'It would seem
that the men haven't the same taste as you, my dear,' said she, as she
recovered her quiet gaiety. 'When I was between twenty and twenty-five
I would willingly have married, but I met nobody who wished for me. And
I should not think of marrying now, when I am six and thirty.'

'Why not?' Marc inquired.

'Oh! because the time has passed.... An humble elementary teacher, born
of poor parents, hardly tempts the marrying men. Where can one be found
willing to burden himself with a wife who earns little, who is tied to
heavy duties, and compelled to live in the depths of some out of the
way region? If she is not lucky enough to marry a schoolmaster, and
share her poverty with his, she inevitably becomes an old maid.... I
long since gave up all idea of marriage, and I am happy all the same.'

But she quickly added: 'Of course marriage is necessary; a woman ought
to marry, for she does not live, she does not fulfil her natural
destiny, unless she becomes wife and mother. No real health or
happiness exists for any human creature apart from his or her complete
florescence. And in teaching my girls I never forget that they are
destined to have husbands and children some day.... Only, when one is
forgotten, sacrificed as it were, one has to arrange for oneself some
little corner of content. Thus, I have cut out for myself my share of
work, and I don't complain so much, for, in spite of everything, I have
succeeded in becoming a mother. All the children of others, all the
dear little girls with whom I busy myself from morning till evening,
belong to me. I am not alone, I have a very large family.'

She laughed as she thus referred to her admirable devotion in the
simple way of one who seemed to feel that she was under obligations to
all the pupils who consented to become the children of her mind and

'Yes,' said Marc by way of conclusion, 'when life shows itself harsh to
any of us the disinherited one must behave kindly to life. That is the
only way to prevent misfortune.'

On most occasions when Marc and Mademoiselle Mazeline met in the little
garden, over which the twilight stole, their talk was of Geneviève.
This was particularly the case on those evenings when Louise, after
spending the afternoon at Madame Duparque's, returned with news of
her mother. One day she came back in a state of much emotion, for her
mother, whom she had accompanied to the Capuchin Chapel to witness
some great ceremony in honour of St. Antony of Padua, had fainted away
there, and had been carried to Madame Duparque's in a disquieting

'They will end by killing her!' cried Marc despairingly.

But Mademoiselle Mazeline, wishing to comfort him, evinced stubborn

'No, no, when all is said your Geneviève has only an ailing mind, she
is physically healthy and strong. Some day, you'll see, my friend, her
intelligence, helped by her heart, will win the victory.... And what
could you expect? She is paying for her mystical education and training
in one of those convents whence, as long as they remain unclosed, the
evils which assail women, and the disasters of married life, will
always come. You must forgive her, she is not the real culprit. She
suffers from the long heredity bequeathed to her by her forerunners,
possessed, terrorised, and stupefied by the Church.'

Overcome by sadness, Marc, though his daughter was present, could not
restrain a low plaint, a spontaneous avowal: 'Ah, for her sake and mine
it would have been better if we had never married! She could not become
my helpmate, my other self!'

'But whom would you have married, then?' the schoolmistress inquired.
'Where would you have found a girl of the middle class who had not been
brought up under Catholic rule, possessed with error and falsehoods?
The wife you needed, my poor friend, with your free mind--an artisan
of the future as you are--still remains to be created. Perhaps just a
few specimens exist, but even they are tainted by atavism and faulty

Then, with a laugh, she added in her gentle yet resolute way: 'But you
know that I am trying to form such companions as may be needed by the
men who have freed themselves from dogmas, and who thirst for truth and
equity. Yes, I am trying to provide wives for the young fellows whom
you, on your side, are training.... As for yourself, my friend, you
were merely born too soon.'

Thus conversing, the schoolmaster and the schoolmistress, those humble
pioneers of the future social system, forgot in some measure the
presence of the big girl of thirteen who listened to them in silence,
but with her ears wide open. Marc had discreetly refrained from giving
any direct lessons to his daughter. He contented himself with setting
her an example, and she loved him dearly because he showed so much
goodness of heart, sincerity, and equity. The mind of that big girl was
slowly awakening to reason, but she did not dare to intervene as yet in
the conversation of her father and mademoiselle; though assuredly she
derived profit from it, even if, like other children, when their elders
forget themselves so far as to speak before them of things regarded
as being above their intelligence, she appeared neither to hear nor
to understand. With her glance wandering away into the falling night,
her lips scarcely stirred by a faint quiver, she was always learning,
classifying in her little head all the ideas that emanated from those
two persons whom, with her mother, were the ones she loved best in the
world. And one day, after a conversation of the kind, a remark, which
escaped her as she emerged from one of her deep reveries, showed that
she had perfectly understood.

'When I marry,' said she, 'I shall want a husband whose ideas are like
papa's, so that we may discuss things and come to an agreement. And if
we both think alike, it will all go well.'

This manner of resolving the problem greatly amused Mademoiselle
Mazeline. Marc on his side was moved, for he felt that some of his
own passion for truth, his clear firm mind, was appearing in his
daughter. Doubtless, while a child's brain is yet dimly developing, it
is difficult to foretell what will be the woman's mature intellect.
Yet Marc thought he had grounds for believing that Louise would prove
sensible and healthy, free from many errors. And this probability was
very sweet to him, as if indeed he awaited from his daughter the help,
the loving mediation, which by bringing the absent one back to the home
would re-establish all the ties so tragically severed.

However, the news which Louise brought from the Place des Capucins grew
worse and worse. As the time for her child's birth drew near, Geneviève
became more and more gloomy, more and more capricious and bad tempered,
in such wise that at times she even rejected her daughter's caresses.
She had had several more fainting fits, and was giving way, it seemed,
to increasing religious exaltation, after the fashion of those patients
who, disappointed by the inefficacy of certain drugs, double and double
the dose until at last they poison themselves. Thus, one delightful
evening, while Mademoiselle Mazeline sat with the others in the flowery
garden, the news which Louise communicated rendered the schoolmistress
so anxious that she made a proposal to Marc.

'Shall I go to see your wife, my friend?' she asked. 'She showed some
affection for me in former times, and perhaps she might listen to me if
I were to talk sense to her.'

'But what would you say to her?' Marc replied.

'Why, that her place is beside you, that she still loves you though
she knows it not; that her sufferings are all due to a frightful
misunderstanding; and that she will only be cured when she returns to
you with that dear child, the thought of whom is stifling her like

Tears had risen to the eyes of Marc, who felt quite upset by the
schoolmistress's words. But Louise quickly intervened: 'Oh, no,
mademoiselle,' she said, 'don't go to see mamma; I advise you not to.'

'Why not, my darling?'

The girl blushed, and became greatly embarrassed. She knew not how
to explain in what contemptuous and hateful terms the schoolmistress
was spoken of at the little house on the Place des Capucins. But
Mademoiselle Mazeline understood, and, like a woman accustomed to
misrepresentation, she gently asked: 'Does your mamma no longer like
me, then? Do you fear she might receive me badly?'

'Oh! mamma does not say much,' Louise ended by confessing; 'it is the

Then Marc, overcoming his emotion, resumed, 'The child is right, my
friend. Your visit might become painful, and it would probably have no
effect. None the less, I thank you for your kindness; I know how warm
your heart is.'

A long spell of silence ensued. The sky overhead was beautifully clear,
and quietude descended from the vast vault of azure, where the sun was
expiring in a roseate flush. A few carnations, a few wallflowers, in
the little garden borders perfumed the mild air. And nothing more was
said that evening by Marc and his friend as they lingered, steeped in
melancholy, amid the delightful close of a fine day.

The inevitable had duly come to pass. A week had not elapsed after
Geneviève's departure from her home before all Maillebois was talking
of a scandalous intrigue carried on publicly by the schoolmaster and
the schoolmistress. In the daytime, it was said, they constantly left
their classrooms to join one another, and they spent their evenings
together in the garden of the boys' school, where they could be plainly
distinguished from certain neighbouring windows. And the abominable
thing was the constant presence of little Louise, who mingled with
it all. The vilest reports speedily began to circulate. Passers-by
pretended that they had heard Marc and Mademoiselle Mazeline singing,
and laughing over, filthy songs. Then a legend sprang up, it being
plainly established that if Geneviève had quitted her home it was
in a spirit of legitimate revolt and disgust, and in order to avoid
association with that other woman, that godless creature who depraved
the little girls confided to her care. Thus there was not merely a
question of restoring Louise to her mother; in order to save the
children of Maillebois from perdition, the schoolmaster and the
schoolmistress must be stoned and driven away.

Some of these rumours reached Marc's ears; but he, realising by their
imbecile violence whence they emanated, merely shrugged his shoulders.
As the Congregations had not managed to secure a scandal in connection
with Geneviève's departure, they were resuming their underhand work
of slander, striving to embitter the new state of things. They had
failed to bring about Marc's revocation by taking his wife from him,
but perhaps they might succeed by accusing him of keeping a mistress.
Moreover, this would cast a slur on the secular schools, and was dirty
work well suited to clerics who do not shrink from any lies to ensure
the triumph of religion. Since the revival of the Simon case, Father
Crabot, no doubt, had been leading a cloistered life, and, besides,
he seemed to occupy too high a position to stoop to such abominable
inventions; but all the cassocks and frocks of Maillebois were astir,
Brothers and Capuchins ever winging their flight, like a covey of black
gowns, over the road to Valmarie. They returned, looking very busy; and
then, in all the confessional boxes of the region, in quiet corners
of the chapels, and in the parlours of the convents, came endless
whispering with excited female devotees, who grew terribly indignant at
all the horrors they heard. Thence those horrors spread in undertones
and hints to families, tradespeople, and dependents. Yet if Marc felt
angry, it was only at the thought that ignoble tales were surely being
whispered to Geneviève herself, in order to make their separation

A month elapsed, and it seemed to Marc that the birth of the expected
child must be imminent. After counting the days with feverish longing
he felt astonished at receiving no news, when one Thursday morning
Pélagie presented herself at the school and drily requested that
Mademoiselle Louise might not be sent to see her mamma that afternoon.
Then, as Marc, recognising her voice, hastened to the door and demanded
an explanation, the servant ended by informing him that Madame's
accouchement had taken place on the Monday evening, and that she was
not at all in a favourable state of health. That said, Pélagie took
to her heels, feeling worried that she had spoken, for she had been
told to say nothing. Marc, on his side, remained confounded. What! his
wife's relations acted as if he did not exist. A child was born to
him, and nobody informed him of it! And such rebellion, such a need of
protest, arose within him that he at once put on his hat and repaired
to the ladies' house.

When Pélagie opened the door she almost choked, thunderstruck, as she
was, by his audacity. But with a wave of the arm he brushed her aside,
and without a word walked into the little drawing-room where, according
to their wont, Madame Duparque was knitting beside the window, while
Madame Berthereau, seated a little in the rear, slowly continued some
embroidery. The little room, which smelt as usual of dampness and
mouldiness, seemed to be slumbering amid the deep silence and the
dismal light coming from the square.

But the grandmother, amazed and indignant at the sight of Marc, sprang
abruptly to her feet: 'What! you take such a liberty as this, sir! What
do you want? Why have you come here?' she cried.

The incredible violence of this greeting, when Marc himself was swayed
by such legitimate anger, restored his calmness.

'I have come to see my child,' he answered; 'why was I not warned?'

The old lady, who had remained rigidly erect, seemed to understand on
her side also that passion might place her in a position of inferiority.

'I had no reason to warn you,' she replied; 'I was waiting for
Geneviève to request me to do so.'

'And she did not ask you?'


All at once Marc fancied that he understood the position. In the person
of his wife the Church had not only striven to kill the loving woman,
it had wished to kill the mother also. If Geneviève, on the eve of her
delivery, had not returned to him in accordance with his hopes, if she
had hidden herself away as if she were ashamed, the reason must be
that her child had been imputed to her as a crime. In order to keep
her in that house they must have filled her mind with fear and horror,
as if she were guilty of some sin, for which she would never obtain
absolution unless she severed every tie that had united her to Satan.

'Is the baby a boy?' Marc asked.

'Yes, a boy.'

'Where is he? I wish to see and kiss him.'

'He is no longer here.'

'No longer here!'

'No, he was baptised yesterday under the name of the blessed Saint
Clément, and has gone away to be nursed.'

'But that is a crime!' Marc cried, with a pang of grief. 'It is not
right to baptise a child without its father's consent, or to send it
away, abduct it in that fashion! What! Geneviève, Geneviève, who nursed
Louise with such motherly delight, is not to nurse her little Clément!'

Madame Duparque, still fully retaining her composure, gave a little
grunt of satisfaction, pleased as she was in her rancour to see him
suffer. 'A Catholic mother,' she answered, 'always has the right to
have her child baptised, particularly when she has reason to suspect
that its salvation may be imperilled by its father's atheism. And as
for keeping the child here, there could be no thought of such a thing;
it would have done neither the child itself, nor anybody, any good.'

Things were indeed such as Marc had fancied. The child had been
regarded as the progeny of the devil, its birth had been awaited like
that of Antichrist, and it had been necessary to baptise it, and send
it away with all speed in order to avert the greatest misfortunes.
Later, it might be taken back, an attempt might be made to consecrate
it to the Deity and make a priest of it, in order to appease the divine
anger. In this wise the pious little home of the Place des Capucins
would not undergo the shame of sheltering that child, its father
would not soil the house by coming to kiss it, and as it would not be
constantly before its mother's eyes the latter would be delivered from
remorseful thoughts.

Marc, however, having by an effort calmed himself, exclaimed firmly: 'I
wish to see Geneviève.'

With equal decision Madame Duparque replied: 'You cannot see her.'

'I wish to see Geneviève,' he repeated. 'Where is she? Upstairs in her
old room? I shall know how to find her.'

He was already walking towards the door when the grandmother barred
his passage. 'You cannot see her, it is impossible,' said she. 'You
do not wish to kill her, do you? The sight of you would give her the
most terrible shock. She nearly died during her accouchement. For two
days past she has been pale as death, unable to speak. At the least
feverishness she loses her senses, the child had to be taken away
without letting her see it. Ah! you may be proud of your work; Heaven
chastises all whom you have contaminated!'

Then Marc, no longer restraining himself, relieved his heart in low
and quivering words: 'You evil woman! you have grown old in practising
the dark cruelty of your Deity, and now you seek to annihilate your
posterity.... You will pursue the work of withering your race as long
as it retains in its flesh one drop of blood, one spark of human
kindness. Ever since her widowhood you have banished your daughter
here from life and its sweetness, you have deprived her of even the
strength to speak and complain. And if your granddaughter is dying
upstairs, as the result of having been wrenched from her husband and
her child, it is also because you agreed to it, for you alone served as
the instrument of the abominable authors of this crime.... Ah! yes, my
poor, my adored Geneviève, how many lies, how many frightful impostures
were needed to take her from me! And here she has been so stupefied,
so perverted by black bigotry and senseless practices that she is no
longer woman, nor wife, nor mother. Her husband is the devil, whom she
may never see again lest she should fall into hell; her babe is the
offspring of sin, and she would be in peril of damnation should she
give it her breast.... Well, listen, such crimes will not be carried
out to the very end. Life always regains the upper hand, it drives away
the darkness and its delirious nightmares at each fresh dawn. You will
be vanquished, I am convinced of it, and I even feel less horror than
pity for you, wretched old woman that you are, without either mind or

Madame Duparque had listened, preserving her usual expression of
haughty severity, and not even attempting to interrupt. 'Is that all!'
she now inquired. 'I am aware that you have no feelings of respect.
As you deny God, how could one expect you to show any deference for
a grandmother's white hair? Nevertheless, in order to show you how
mistaken you are in accusing me of cloistering Geneviève, I will let
you pass.... Go upstairs to her, kill her at your ease, you alone will
be responsible for the fearful agony into which the sight of you will
cast her.'

As she finished the old lady moved away from the door, and, returning
to her seat near the window, resumed her knitting without the slightest
sign of emotion, such as might have made another's hands tremble.

Marc on his side for a moment remained motionless, bewildered, at a
loss what to do. Was it possible for him to see Geneviève, talk to
her, strive to convince her and win her back at such a time as this?
He realised how inopportune, how perilous even, such an effort would
be. So without a word of adieu he slowly went towards the door. But a
sudden thought made him turn.

'Since the child is no longer here, give me the address of the nurse,'
he said.

Madame Duparque returned no answer, but continued to manipulate her
knitting needles with her long, withered fingers in the same regular
fashion as before.

'You won't give me the nurse's address?' Marc repeated.

There came a fresh pause, and at last the old woman ended by saying:
'It is not my business to give it you. Go and ask Geneviève for it,
since your idea is to kill the poor child.'

Fury then overcame Marc. He sprang to the window and shouted in the
grandmother's impassive face: 'You must give me the nurse's address
this moment, at once!'

She, however, was still silently braving him with her clear eyes
fixed upon his face when Madame Berthereau, now utterly distracted,
intervened. At the outset of the dispute she had stubbornly kept her
head bent over her embroidery, like one who was resigned to everything,
who had become cowardly, and wished to avoid compromising herself for
fear of great personal worries. But when Marc, while reproaching Madame
Duparque with her harsh and fanatical tyranny, had alluded to all that
she herself had suffered since her widowhood in that bigoted home, she
had yielded to increasing emotion, to the tears which, long forced
back, again rose from her heart and almost choked her. She forgot some
of her silent timidity; after long years she raised her head once more,
and became impassioned. And when she heard her mother refuse to give
that poor, robbed, tortured man the address of his child's nurse, she
at last rebelled, and cried the address aloud:

'The nurse is a Madame Delorme, at Dherbecourt, near Valmarie!'

At this, suddenly roused from her rigidity, Madame Duparque sprang to
her feet with the nimbleness of a young woman, waving her arm the while
as if to strike down the audacious creature whom she still treated as a
child, though she was more than fifty years old.

'Who allowed you to speak, my girl? Are you going to relapse into your
past weakness?' she cried. 'Are years of penitence powerless to efface
the fault of a wicked marriage? Take care! Sin is still within you, I
feel it is so, in spite of all your apparent resignation. Why did you
speak without my orders?'

For a moment Madame Berthereau, who still quivered with love and pity,
was able to resist. 'I spoke,' said she, 'because my heart bleeds and
protests. We have no right to refuse Marc the nurse's address.... Yes,
yes, what we have done is abominable!'

'Be quiet!' cried her mother furiously.

'I say that it was abominable to separate the wife from the husband,
and then to separate the child from both.... Never would Berthereau, my
poor dead husband, who loved me so much, never would he have allowed
love to be slain like that, had he been alive.'

'Be quiet! Be quiet!'

Erect, looking taller than ever in the vigorous leanness of her three
and seventy years, the old woman repeated that cry in such an imperious
voice that her white-haired daughter, seized with terror, surrendered,
and again bent her head over her embroidery. And heavy silence fell
while she shook with a slight convulsive tremor, and tears coursed
slowly down her withered cheeks, which so many other tears, shed
secretly, had ravaged.

Marc had been thunderstruck by the sudden outburst of that poignant
family drama, the existence of which he hitherto had merely suspected.
He felt intense sympathy for that sad widow who, for more than ten
years past, had been hebetated, crushed down by maternal despotism,
exercised in the name of a jealous and revengeful God. And if the poor
woman had not defended his Geneviève, if she had abandoned her and him
to the dark fury of the terrible grandmother, he forgave her for her
shuddering cowardice on seeing how greatly she suffered herself.

But Madame Duparque had again recovered her quiet composure. 'You
see, sir,' she said, 'your presence here brings scandal and violence.
Everything you touch becomes corrupt, your breath suffices to taint
the atmosphere of the spot where you are. Here is my daughter, who had
never ventured to raise her voice against me, but as soon as you enter
the house she lapses into disobedience and insult.... Go, sir, go to
your dirty work! Leave honest folk alone, and work for your filthy Jew,
though he will end by rotting where he is, it is I who predict it, for
God will never suffer his venerable servants to be defeated.'

In spite of the emotion which made him quiver, Marc could not refrain
from smiling as he heard those last words. 'Ah! you have come to the
point,' he said, gently. 'The affair, alone, is at the bottom of all
this, is it not so? And it is the friend, the defender of Simon who
must be annihilated by dint of persecution and moral torture. Well,
take heed of this, make no mistake; sooner or later truth and justice
will win the victory, Simon will some day leave his prison, and the
real culprits, the liars, the workers of darkness and death, will some
day be swept away with their temples whence for ages past they have
terrorised and stupefied mankind!'

Then, turning towards Madame Berthereau, who had sunk once more into
silent prostration, he added yet more gently: 'And I shall wait for
Geneviève. Tell her when she is able to understand you that I am
waiting for her. I shall wait as long as she is not restored to me.
Even if it be only after years, she will come back to me, I know it....
Suffering does not count; it is necessary to suffer a great deal to win
the day, and to enjoy, at last, a little happiness.'

Then, with his heart lacerated, swollen with bitterness, yet retaining
its courage, he withdrew. Madame Duparque had resumed her everlasting
knitting, and it seemed to Marc that the little house he quitted sank
once more into the cold gloom which came to it from the neighbouring

A month slipped away. Mark learnt that Geneviève was slowly recovering.
One Sunday Pélagie came for Louise, who in the evening told her father
that she had found her mother looking very thin and broken, but able
to go downstairs and seat herself at table, with the others, in the
little dining-room. Fresh hope then came to Marc, the hope of seeing
Geneviève return to him as soon as she should be able to walk from the
Place des Capucins to the school. Assuredly she must have reflected,
her heart must have awakened during her sufferings. Thus he started at
the slightest sound he heard, imagining it was she. But the weeks went
by, and the invisible hands which had taken her from him were doubtless
barricading the doors and windows in order to detain her yonder. He
then sank into deep sadness, though without losing his invincible
faith, his conviction that he would yet conquer by force of truth and
love. He found consolation during those dark days in going, as often as
possible, to see his little son Clément, at the nurse's, in that pretty
village of Dherbecourt, which looked so fresh and bright amid the
meadows of the Verpille, among the poplar and willow trees. He there
spent a delightfully comforting hour, hoping perhaps that some happy
chance would lead to a meeting with Geneviève beside the dear baby's
cradle. But she was said to be still too weak to go to see her son,
whom the nurse took to her on appointed days.

From that time Marc remained waiting. Nearly a year had elapsed
since the Court of Cassation had begun its inquiry, which had been
retarded by all sorts of complications, impeded by many obstacles,
which were incessantly arising, thanks to the subterranean craft of
the evil powers. At the Lehmanns' house, after the keen delight which
had welcomed the first judgment ordering the inquiry, despair was
reappearing now that things moved so slowly and the news of Simon
was so bad. The Court, while deeming it useless to have him brought
back to France immediately, had caused him to be informed that it
was considering the revision of his case. But in what state would
he return? Would he not succumb to his long sufferings before that
constantly adjourned return could be effected? Even David, who was so
firm and brave, now felt frightened. And the whole region suffered
from that long wait full of anguish; it ravaged Maillebois like an
exhausting crisis, the prolongation of which kept all social life in
suspense. And it began to turn to the advantage of the anti-Simonists,
who had recovered from the effects of the terrible discovery made at
Father Philibin's. By degrees, availing themselves of the slowness of
the proceedings and the false news prompted by the very secrecy of
the inquiry, they again made a show of triumphing, and prophesied the
certain and crushing overthrow of the Simonists. The lies and insults
of great occasions again found place in the infamous articles of _Le
Petit Beaumontais_. Then, at a ceremony in honour of St. Antony of
Padua, Father Théodose, speaking from the pulpit, ventured to allude
to God's approaching triumph over the accursed race of Judas. Brother
Fulgence, also, was again seen rushing like a whirlwind along the
streets and across the squares, seemingly very busy and exultant, as if
indeed he were dragging the chariot of the Church behind him in some
triumphal procession.

As for Brother Gorgias, whom the Congregations began to consider a
very compromising personage, attempts were made to cloister him as
much as possible, though his friends did not yet dare to conjure him
away into some safe retreat, like Father Philibin. In this matter, as
it happened, Brother Gorgias was not an easy customer to deal with,
he delighted to show himself and astonish people by playing the part
of a holy man who negotiated his salvation direct with Heaven. On two
occasions he created a scandal by boxing the ears of some children who
did not preserve a sufficiently sanctimonious demeanour on quitting
the Brothers' school. Thus Mayor Philis, who, being a punctilious
formalist, was scared by the other's extraordinary and violent piety,
thought it his duty to intervene in the very interests of religion.
The question came before the Municipal Council, where, by the way,
Darras, still in a minority, was now evincing the more prudence as he
did not despair of becoming Mayor again, with a larger majority than
formerly, should the Simon case only turn out well. Meantime he avoided
all occasions of speaking of it, keeping his lips sealed, feeling very
anxious whenever he saw the monks and the priests again taking the
side of the wall in Maillebois, as if it were for ever their conquered

But bad though the news might be, Marc forced himself to remain
hopeful. He was very much encouraged by the brave fidelity of his
assistant, Mignot, who each day took a larger share in his life of
devotion and battle. A singular moral phenomenon had manifested itself
in this transformation in which one observed the slowly increasing
influence of a master over a disciple, who at first had rebelled,
then had been won back and gradually absorbed. In former times nobody
would have suspected there was such heroic stuff in Mignot as now
began to appear. In the affair he had behaved in a most equivocal
manner, helping on the charges against Simon, and particularly
endeavouring to avoid everything compromising. It had seemed as if
his only thoughts were of his own advancement. Neither good nor bad,
he had been liable at that time to turn out well or ill, according to
circumstances and associates. And Marc had come, and had proved to
be the man of intellect and will who was to decide the fate of that
conscience, embellish it, and raise it to a perception of truth and
justice. The lesson shone forth, luminous and positive; example, the
teaching of a hero, sufficed to make other heroes arise from among the
vague dim masses of average folk. On two occasions during the last ten
years there had been a desire to appoint Mignot as head-master in a
neighbouring little village, but he had declined the offer, preferring
to remain by the side of Marc, whose influence over him had become
so great that he spoke of never leaving him, of remaining to the end
his faithful disciple, resolutely sharing his victory or defeat. In
the same way, after postponing in a spirit of expectant prudence the
question whether he would marry or not, he had decided to remain a
bachelor, saying that it was too late for him to seek a wife, and that
his pupils had now become his family. Besides, did he not take his
meals at Marc's, where he was greeted as a brother, making that home
his own, and enjoying all the delights of the nearest ties, those which
are drawn closer and closer as, by degrees, one thinks and feels the
same as one's fellow?

Thus the slow sundering of Marc and Geneviève had proved extremely
painful to Mignot, and since Geneviève's departure he was in despair.
He now again took his meals at a neighbouring eating house in order not
to increase the embarrassment of that stricken home where no housewife
was left. But he gave proof of respectful affection for his principal,
and endeavoured to console him. If he did not join him and keep him
company every evening after dinner, it was from a delicate feeling
of discretion, an unwillingness to obtrude himself when Marc was
alone with his daughter. He held back also when Mademoiselle Mazeline
was there, feeling that she would prove more useful to the forsaken
husband, more expert, with her sisterly hands, in assuaging the pain of
his wounds. And when he saw Marc plunging into the deepest melancholy,
ready to surrender to his sufferings, he as yet knew of only one way of
bringing joy and hope to his face again, which was to reproach himself
with his testimony at Simon's former trial, and vow that at the coming
one he would publicly relieve his conscience and cry the truth aloud!
Ah! yes, he would swear that Simon was innocent, he was convinced of it
now that a stream of light had illumined his memory.

However, the slow progress made by the Court of Cassation continued
to encourage the anti-Simonists in their desperate campaign, and
the onslaught of slander directed against Marc became fiercer than
ever. One morning a rumour spread through Maillebois that he and
Mademoiselle Mazeline had been seen under circumstances which left no
doubt whatever of their guilt. And ignoble particulars were given, the
inventions, evidently, of overheated pious minds. At the same time
the story remained unreal, for it was impossible to find a single
witness, and different versions began to circulate, contradictory in
character though tending to make the affair appear yet more horrible.
It was Mignot who, feeling very anxious, ventured to warn Marc of the
gravity of the scandal; and this time it was not sufficient for the
schoolmaster to meet the ignominious charges of his enemies with the
haughty silence of disdain. He spent a frightful day, wrestling with
his feelings, his heart rent by the fresh sacrifice which his work
demanded of him. When twilight came, however, he had made up his mind;
and, according to habit, he repaired to the little garden where he
spent such a pleasant and comforting hour every evening in the company
of Mademoiselle Mazeline. And as she was already there, also looking
very thoughtful and sad as she sat under the lilac bushes, he took a
seat in front of her. For a moment he looked at her without speaking;
then he said:

'My dear friend, something has happened which grieves me very much,
and I wish to relieve my heart before Louise joins us.... We cannot
continue meeting every day, as we have done. I even think we should
do well if we abstained in future from all intercourse.... It is a
question of real farewell; it is necessary we should part, my friend.'

She had listened without giving any sign of surprise; it was as if
she had known beforehand what he wished to say. Indeed, in a sad
but courageous voice she answered: 'Yes, my friend, it was for that
very farewell that I came here this evening. There is no necessity
for you to urge me to it, for, like you, I feel that it is a painful
necessity.... Somebody has told me everything. In presence of such
infamy our only weapons are abnegation and renouncement.'

A long interval of silence fell under the broad, calm sky, where
the daylight was slowly dying. A penetrating odour came from the
wallflowers, while a little freshness returned to the grass,
warmed by the sunshine. And Marc resumed, in an undertone: 'Those
unfortunate men who live outside the pale of simple nature and good
sense can in no wise deal with man and woman without imputing to them
the filth harboured by their own minds, which the idea of sin has
perverted. For them woman is but a she-devil, whose contact corrupts
everything--tenderness, affection, friendship.... I I had foreseen what
has happened, but I turned a deaf ear to it all, unwilling as I was to
give them the satisfaction of seeing that I heeded their slanders. But
if I myself can afford to shrug my shoulders, there is the question of
you, my friend, and that of Louise, who, so I heard to-day, is likewise
being assailed with this mud.... Thus they are again victorious, and
will rejoice at having added another great grief to all the others.'

'For me it will be the hardest of all,' Mademoiselle Mazeline answered,
with much emotion. 'I shall not merely lose the pleasure of our evening
conversations; I shall have the sorrow of feeling that I am of no
further use to you, and have left you yet more lonely and unhappy.
Forgive me for that vain thought, my friend; but it made me so happy
to help you in your work, and to fancy I gave you some comfort and
support! And now I shall never think of you without picturing you
forsaken, alone--even friendless.... Ah! there are certainly some very
detestable people in the world.'

Marc made a trembling gesture, which betrayed his grief. 'It was what
they wished to do,' said he; 'yes, they wished to isolate me and reduce
me by turning every affection around me into a void. And I will admit
to you that this is the only wound which really makes me suffer. All
the rest, the attacks, the insults, the threats, spur me on, intoxicate
me with a desire to become heroic. But to be struck in the person of
those who belong to me, to see them soiled, poisoned, cast as victims
among the cruelty and shame of the struggle--that is a frightful thing,
which tortures me and makes me cowardly.... They have taken my poor
wife, now they are separating you from me, and--I quite expect it--they
will end by carrying off my daughter.'

Mademoiselle Mazeline, whose eyes were filling with tears, endeavoured
to silence him. 'Take care, my friend,' she said; 'here is Louise

But he quickly retorted: 'I need not take care. I was waiting for her.
She must be told what has been decided.' And as the smiling girl came
forward and seated herself between them, he added: 'My darling, in a
moment you must make a little nosegay for Mademoiselle. I want her
to have a few of our flowers before I bolt the door between the two

'Bolt the door--why, father?'

'Because Mademoiselle must not come here again. Our friend is being
taken from us, as your mother was taken.'

Louise remained thoughtful and grave during the deep silence which
followed. After looking at her father, she looked at Mademoiselle
Mazeline. But she asked for no explanations; she seemed to understand,
all sorts of precocious thoughts passed like faint shadows over the
pure and lofty brow which she had inherited from her father, while
loving distress softened her eyes.

'I will go and make the nosegay,' she said at last, 'and you shall give
it to Mademoiselle, father.'

Then, while the girl went seeking the freshest flowers along the
borders, the others spent a few sad yet sweet minutes together. They
no longer spoke, but their thoughts mingled in brotherly, sisterly
fashion, thoughts which dwelt only on the happiness of others, the
reconciliation of the sexes, the education and liberation of woman, who
in her turn would liberate man. And this was human solidarity in all
its broadness, with all the binding and absolute ties which friendship
can set between two creatures, man and woman, apart from love. He was
her brother, she was his sister. Thus did they ponder; and the night,
which was falling more and more swiftly over the balmy garden, brought
them a restful freshness amid their sorrow.

'Here is the nosegay, father,' said Louise, approaching; 'I have tied
it with a bit of grass.'

Then Mademoiselle Mazeline stood up, and Marc gave her the nosegay. All
three next went towards the door. When they reached it, they remained
standing there, still saying nothing, but simply feeling happy at
delaying their parting for a moment. At last Marc set the door wide
open, and Mademoiselle Mazeline, after passing into her own garden,
turned round and, for the last time, looked at Marc, whose daughter had
cast her arms about him while resting her head against his shoulder.

'Good-bye, my friend.'

'Good-bye, my friend.'

That was all, the door was slowly closed; and on either side the bolts
were gently pushed forward. But they had become rusty, and raised a
little plaintive cry, which seemed very sad. Everything was over, blind
hatred had slain something that was good and consoling.

Another month elapsed. Marc now had only his daughter beside him,
and he felt his abandonment and solitude increasing. Louise, of
course, still attended Mademoiselle Mazeline's school, and under
the inquisitive eyes of the girls the mistress tried to evince no
preference for her, but to treat her exactly as she treated the others.
The child no longer lingered behind after class-time, but hastened home
to prepare her lessons beside her father. And if the schoolmaster and
the schoolmistress happened to meet, they merely bowed to each other,
refraining from any exchange of words, apart from such as might be
necessitated by their duties.

This attitude was very much remarked and discussed in Maillebois.
Reasonable people were pleased to see they did their best to put an
end to the horrid reports which had been circulated: but the others
sneered, saying that it was all very well to save appearances, but
this did not prevent the lovers from meeting secretly. Thus infamous
reports again began to circulate. When Marc heard of them from Mignot
he sank into bitter discouragement. There came hours when, his courage
failing, he asked of what use it was for him to wreck his life and
renounce every happiness, if no sacrifice was to be held in account by
the malicious. Never had his solitude been so bitter, so hard to bear.
As soon as at nightfall he found himself alone with Louise in the cold,
deserted house, despair came over him at the thought that if he should
some day lose his child nobody would be left to love him and warm his

The girl lighted the lamp and seated herself at her little table,
saying: 'Papa, I am going to write my history exercise, before I go to

'That's right, my darling, work,' he answered.

Then, amid the deep silence of the empty house, anguish came upon him.
He could no longer continue correcting his pupils' exercises, but rose
and walked heavily up and down the room. In this wise he long went on
tramping to and fro in the gloom beyond the circle of light which fell
from the lamp-shade. And, at times, as he passed behind his daughter
he leant over her, and brusquely kissed her hair, tears gathering the
while in his eyes.

'Oh! what is the matter, papa?' asked Louise. 'You are distressing
yourself again.'

A hot tear had fallen on her brow. Then, turning round, she took hold
of her father with her caressing arms and compelled him to sit down
near her. 'It is not reasonable of you, papa, to distress yourself like
that when we are alone,' she said. 'You are so brave in the daytime,
but one would think you felt frightened in the evening, just as I used
to do when I did not like to remain without a light.... But as you have
work to do, you ought to work.'

He tried to laugh. 'So it is you who are now the sensible grown-up
person, my darling,' said he. 'But you are right, certainly; I will get
to work again.'

Then, however, as he continued looking at her, his eyes again clouded,
and he once more began to kiss her hair, wildly, distractedly.

'What is the matter? What is the matter?' she stammered, deeply
stirred, and, in her turn, shedding tears. 'Why do you kiss me like
that, papa?'

In quivering accents he then confessed his terror, acknowledged how
menacing he found all the surrounding gloom: 'Ah, if at least you
remain with me, my child, if at least they do not rob me of you as

She could find no answer to that plaint, but she caressed him, and they
wept together. At last, having succeeded in inducing him to turn to his
pupils' exercises, she herself reverted to her history lesson. But when
a few minutes had elapsed anxiety came on Marc again, he was compelled
to rise from his chair, and walk, walk, without a pause. One might have
thought he was pursuing his lost happiness athwart all the silence and
darkness of his wrecked home.

Louise had lately completed her thirteenth year, so that the time
when the first Communion is usually made had quite come; and all the
devotees of Maillebois were indignant to see such a big girl remaining
religionless, refusing to go to confession, and no longer even
attending Mass. And naturally she was compassionately called a victim,
crushed down beneath the brutal authority of her father, who by way of
sacrilege, it was said, made her spit on the crucifix every morning and
evening. Moreover, Mademoiselle Mazeline assuredly gave her lessons
of diabolical depravity. But was it not a crime to leave that poor
girl's soul in a state of perdition, in the power of two of the damned,
whose notorious misconduct horrified every conscience? Thus, there was
talk of energetic action, of organising demonstrations to compel that
unnatural father to restore the daughter to her mother, the pious woman
whom he had driven away by the loathsome baseness of his life.

Accustomed as Marc was to insults, he only felt anxious when he thought
of the violent scenes to which Louise must be subjected at the ladies'
house. Her mother, still in an ailing state, was content to treat her
coldly, with silent sadness, leaving Madame Duparque to thunder in
the name of her angry Deity, and quicken the infernal flames under
Satan's cauldrons. Ought not a big girl, already in her fourteenth
year, to feel ashamed of living like a savage, like one of those dogs,
who know nothing of religion and are driven from the churches? Was she
not frightened by the thought of the eternal chastisement which would
fall on her, the boiling oil, the iron forks, the red hot hooks, the
prospect of being lacerated, boiled, and roasted during thousands after
thousands of centuries? When Louise, on returning home in the evening,
told Marc of those threats, he shuddered to think that such attempts
should be made to capture her conscience by fright, and tried to read
her eyes in order to ascertain if she were shaken.

She at times seemed moved, but then things which were really too
abominable were told her. And in her quiet, sensible way she would
remark: 'It is really droll, papa, that the good God should be so
spiteful! Grandmamma said to-day that if I once missed going to Mass
the devil would cut my feet into little pieces through all eternity....
It would be very unjust; besides, it seems to me hardly possible.'

After such remarks her father felt a little easier in mind. Unwilling
as he was to do any violence to his daughter's growing intelligence,
he entered into no direct discussion of the strange lessons which
she received at the ladies' house; he contented himself with some
general teaching, based on reason, and appealing to the child's sense
of truth, justice, and kindness. He was delighted by the precocious
wakening of good sense which he noticed in her, a craving for logic and
certainty which she must have inherited from him. It was with joy that
he saw a woman with a clear, strong mind and a tender heart already
emerging from the weak girl, who still retained in many respects the
childishness of her years. And if he felt anxious, it was from a fear
lest the promise of a beautiful harvest should be destroyed. He only
recovered his calmness when the girl astonished him by reasoning things
as if she were already a grown woman full of sense.

'Oh! I am very polite, you know, with grandmamma,' she said one day. 'I
tell her that if I do not go to confession or make my first Communion,
it is because I am waiting till I am twenty years old, as you asked me
to do.... That seems to me very reasonable. And, by keeping to that,
I am very strong; for when one has reason on one's side one is always
very strong, is it not so?'

At times, too, in spite of her affection and deference for her mother,
she said with a smile, in a gentle, jesting way: 'You remember, papa,
that mamma said she would explain the Catechism to me, and I answered
her, "Yes, mamma, you shall hear me my lessons. You know that I try
my best to understand." Well, as I never understood anything at
the Catechism class, mamma wished to explain matters to me. But,
unfortunately, I still understand nothing whatever of it.... It puts
me into great embarrassment. I feel afraid I may grieve her, and all I
can do is to pretend that I suddenly understand something. But I must
look very stupid, for she always interrupts the lesson as if she were
angry, and calls me foolish.... The other day, when she was talking of
the mystery of the Incarnation, she repeated that it was not a question
of understanding but of believing; and as I unluckily told her that
I could not believe without understanding, she said that was one of
your phrases, papa, and that the devil would take both of us.... Oh, I
cried, I cried!'

She smiled, however, as she spoke of it, and added in a lower tone:
'Instead of making me think more as mamma does, the Catechism has
rather taken me away from her ideas. There are too many things in it
that worry my mind. It is wrong of mamma to try to force them into my

Her father could have kissed her. Was he to have the joy of finding
in his daughter an exception, one of those well-balanced little minds
that ripen early, in which sense seems to grow as in some propitious
soil? Other girls, at that troublous hour of maidenhood, are still so
childish and so greatly disturbed by the quiver which comes upon them
that they easily fall a prey to fairy tales and mystical reveries.
How rare would be his luck if his own girl should escape the fate of
her companions, whom the Church seized and conquered at a disturbing
hour of life. Tall, strong, and very healthy, she was already a young
woman, though there were days when she became quite childish once more,
amusing herself with trifles, saying silly things, returning to her
doll, with which she held extraordinary conversations. And on those
days anxiety came back to her father; he trembled as he observed that
there was still so much puerility in her nature, and wondered if the
others might not yet steal her from him, and end by obscuring her mind,
whose dawn was so limpid and so fresh.

'Ah, yes, papa, what my doll said just now was very silly! But what can
you expect? She's not very sensible yet.'

'And do you hope to make her sensible, my darling?'

'I scarcely know. Her head is so hard. With Bible history she does
fairly well; she can recite that by heart. But with grammar and
arithmetic she is a real blockhead.'

Then she laughed. That sorry home might be empty and icy cold, she
none the less filled it with childish gaiety, as sonorous as April's
trumpet-wind. But the days went by, and with the lapse of time Louise
became more serious and thoughtful. On returning from her Thursday and
Sunday visits to her mother she sank into long, silent reveries. Of an
evening, while she was working beside the lamp, she paused at times to
give her father a long look, full of sorrowful affection. And at last
came that which was bound to come.

It was a warm evening, and a storm was threatening, the heavens
were heavy with a mass of inky clouds. The father and the daughter,
according to their habit, sat working in the little circular patch of
light which fell from the lamp-shade; and through the window, set wide
open upon the dark and slumbering town, some moths flew in, they alone
disturbing the profound silence with the slight quiver of their wings.
Louise, who had spent the afternoon at the house on the Place des
Capucins, seemed very tired. It was as if her brow was laden with some
weighty thought. Leaning over her exercise paper, she ceased writing
and reflected. And, at last, making up her mind to set down her pen,
she spoke out amid the deep, mournful quietude of the house.

'Papa, I want to tell you something which grieves me very much. I shall
certainly cause you very great, great sorrow; and that is why I did not
have the courage to tell you of it before. But I have made up my mind
now not to go to bed before telling you of what I want to do--for it
seems to me so reasonable and necessary.'

Marc had immediately looked up, a pang, a feeling of terror coming
to his heart, for by the girl's tremulous voice he guessed that the
supreme disaster was at hand. 'What is it, my darling?' he asked.

'Well, papa, I have been turning the matter over in my head all day,
and it seems to me that, if you think as I do, I ought to go and live
with mamma at grandmother's.'

Marc, thoroughly upset, began by protesting violently: 'What, think
as you do! No, no, I won't allow it! I mean to keep you here, I will
prevent you from forsaking me.'

'Oh! papa,' she murmured distressfully, 'think it over, only just a
little, and you will see that I am right.'

But he did not listen, he had risen and was walking wildly about the
dim room. 'I have only you left me, and you think of going away! My
wife has been taken from me, and now my daughter is to be taken, and
I am to remain alone, stripped, forsaken, without an affection left!
Ah! I felt that this _coup de grâce_ was coming, I foresaw that those
abominable hands, working in the darkness, would tear away the last
shred of my heart.... But no! no! this is too much, never will I
consent to such a separation!'

And stopping short before his daughter, he continued roughly: 'Have you
also had your mind and heart spoilt that you no longer love me?... At
each of your visits to your grandmother's I am put on trial--is it not
so?--and infamous things are said about me in order to detach you from
me. It is a question--eh?--of saving you from the damned and restoring
you to the good friends of those ladies, who will turn you into a
hypocrite and a lunatic.... And you listen to my enemies, and yield to
their constant obsession by forsaking me.'

Louise, in despair, her eyes full of tears, raised her hands
entreatingly. 'Papa, papa, calm yourself!' she cried. 'I assure you
that you are mistaken, mamma has never allowed anything evil to be said
about you before me. Grandmother, no doubt, does not like you, and she
would often do well to keep quiet when I am there. It would be telling
a falsehood to say that she does not do all she can to get me to join
mamma and live with her. But I swear to you that neither she nor any
of the others has anything to do with what I propose.... You know very
well that I never tell you stories. It is I myself who have thought it
all over, and come to the conclusion that our separation would be a
good and sensible thing.'

'A good thing--that you should forsake me! Why, it would kill me!'

'No, you will understand--and you are so brave!... Sit down and listen
to me.'

She gently compelled him to seat himself again in front of her. And,
taking his hands in hers caressingly, she reasoned with him like a
shrewd little woman.

'Everybody at grandmother's,' said she, 'is convinced that you alone
turn me away from religion. You weigh on me, it is said, you impose
your ideas on me, and if I could only escape from you I should go to
confession to-morrow and make my first Communion.... So why should I
not prove to them that they are mistaken? To-morrow I will go and live
at grandmother's, and then they will see for themselves, they will
have to admit how mistaken they have been, for nothing will prevent
me from giving them always the same answer: "I have promised not to
make my first Communion before I am twenty, in order that the full
responsibility of such an action may be mine only, and I shall keep my
promise, I shall wait."'

Marc made a gesture of doubt. 'My poor child,' said he, 'you don't know
them, they will have broken down your resistance and have conquered you
in a few weeks' time. You are still only a little girl.'

In her turn Louise rebelled. 'Ah! it is not nice of you, papa, to think
there is so little seriousness in me! I am a little girl, it is true,
but your little girl, and proud of it!'

She spoke those words with such childish bravery that he could not
help smiling. That darling daughter, in whom he every now and again
recognised himself, in whom he found thoughtfulness and logic blended
with passionate earnestness, warmed his heart. He looked at her, and
found her very pretty and very sensible, with a face which was both
firm and proud, and bright eyes, whose frankness was admirable. And he
continued listening while she, keeping his hands in her own, set forth
the reasons which prompted her to join her mother in the devout little
house of the Place des Capucins. Without any reference to the frightful
slanders which were current, she let him understand that it would
be well for them not to brave public opinion. As people said on all
sides that her right place was at the ladies' house, she was willing
to repair thither; and though she was only thirteen years of age, she
would certainly be its most sensible inmate, folk would see if the work
she did there did not prove the best.

'No matter, my child,' Marc said at last with an air of great
lassitude, 'you will never convince me of the necessity of a rupture
between you and me.'

She felt that he was weakening. 'But it is not a rupture papa,' she
exclaimed; 'I have gone to see mamma twice a week, and I shall come to
see you, more often than that, too.... Besides, don't you understand?
Perhaps mamma will listen to me a little when I am beside her. I shall
speak to her of you, I shall tell her how much you still love her, how
you weep for her. And--who knows?--she will reflect, and perhaps I
shall bring her back to you.'

Then the tears of both began to flow. They gave way to their emotion
in each other's arms. The father was upset by the deep charm of that
daughter in whom so much puerility still mingled with so much sense,
goodness, and hopefulness. And the girl yielded to her heart, like one
ripened before her time by things of which she was vaguely conscious,
but which she would have been unable to explain.

'Do, then, as you please,' Marc ended by stammering amid his tears.
'But if I yield, don't think that I approve, for my whole being rebels
and protests.'

That was the last evening they spent together. The warm night remained
of an inky blackness. There seemed to be not a breath of air. And
not a sound came through the open window from the resting town. Only
the silent moths flew in, scorching themselves by contact with the
lamp. The storm did not burst, and until very late the father and the
daughter, speaking no further, remained, one in front of the other,
seated at their table, as if busy with their work, but simply happy at
being together yet a little longer, amid the far-spreading peaceful

How frightful, however, did the following evening prove for Marc! His
daughter had left him, and he was absolutely alone in that empty and
dismal dwelling. After the wife, the child--he had nobody to love him
now, all his heart had been torn from him, bit by bit. Moreover, in
order that he might not even have the consolation of friendship, he
had been compelled, by base slanders, to cease all intercourse with
the one woman whose lofty sisterly mind might have sustained him. The
complete wrecking of his life, of the approach of which he had long
been conscious, was now effected; the stealthy work of destruction,
performed by hateful, invisible hands bent on undermining him and
throwing him down on the ruins of his own work, was accomplished.
And now, no doubt, the others believed they held him, bleeding from
a hundred wounds, tortured and forsaken, strengthless in his blasted
dwelling, that soiled and deserted home, where he was left in agony.
And, indeed, on that first evening of solitude he was really a beaten
man, and his enemies might well have thought him at their mercy had
they been able to see him coming and going in the pale twilight with a
staggering gait, like some wretched stricken beast seeking a shadowy
nook there to lie down and die.

The times were, in truth, frightful. The worst possible news was
current respecting the inquiry of the Court of Cassation, whose
slowness seemed to hide a desire to bury the affair. In vain had Marc
hitherto compelled himself to hope: each day his dread increased
lest he should hear of Simon's death before the revision of the case
should be an accomplished fact. During that mournful time he pictured
everything as lost, revision rejected, his long efforts proving
useless, truth and justice finally slain--an execrable social crime, a
shameful catastrophe, which would engulf the whole country. The thought
of it filled him with a kind of pious horror, sent a chilling shudder
of dread through his veins. And, besides that public disaster, there
was the disaster of his own life, which weighed upon him more and more.
Now that Louise was no longer there, moving his heart with her charming
ways, inspiriting him with her precocious sense and courage, he asked
himself how he could have been mad enough to let her go to the ladies'
house. She was but a child, she would be conquered in a few weeks by
the all-powerful Church, which for ages past had been victorious over
woman. She had been taken from him; she would never be restored to him,
indeed he would never see her more. And it was he who had sent that
still defenceless victim to error. His work, he himself, and those who
belonged to him, were all annihilated; and at the thought of it he sank
into heartrending despair.

Eight o'clock struck, and Marc had not yet found the strength to seat
himself and dine alone in that room, which now had become quite dim,
when he heard a timid knock at the door. And great was his astonishment
when in came Mignot, who at first found it difficult to explain himself.

'You see, Monsieur Froment,' he began, 'as you announced to me this
morning the departure of your little Louise, an idea came to me, and
I've been turning it over in my mind all day.... So, this evening,
before going to dine at the eating house----'

He paused, seeking his words.

'What, haven't you dined yet, Mignot!' Marc exclaimed.

'Why, no, Monsieur Froment.... You see, my idea was to come and dine
with you, to keep you company a little. But I hesitated and lost
time.... If it would please you, however, now that you are alone, I
might board with you again. Two men can always agree. We could do
the cooking, and surely get through the housework together. Are you
agreeable? It would please me very much.'

A little joy had returned to Marc's heart; and, with a smile tinged
with emotion, he replied: 'I am quite willing.... You are a good
fellow, Mignot.... There, sit down, we will begin by dining together.'

And they dined, face to face, the master relapsing the while into his
bitterness of spirit, the assistant rising every now and then very
quietly to fetch a plate or a piece of bread, amid the melancholy calm
of evening.


Then, during the months and months that the inquiry of the Court of
Cassation lasted, Marc again had to shut himself up in his school, and
devote himself, body and soul, to his task of instructing the humble,
and rendering them more capable of truth and justice.

Among the hopes and the despairs which continued to enfever him,
according as the news he heard proved good or bad, there was one
thought that haunted him more and more. Long previously, at the very
outset of the affair, he had wondered why France, all France, did not
rise to exact the release of the innocent prisoner. One of his dearest
illusions had been his belief in a generous France, a magnanimous and
just France, which many times already had passionately espoused the
cause of equity, and which would surely prove its goodness of heart
yet once again by striving its utmost to repair the most execrable of
judicial errors. And the painful surprise he had experienced on finding
the country so stolid and indifferent after the trial at Beaumont now
increased daily, became more and more torturing; for in the earlier
stages of the affair he had been able to excuse it, realising that
people were ignorant of the true facts and poisoned with lies. But now,
when so much light had been cast on the affair, so much truth made
manifest, he could find no possible explanation for such prolonged and
such shameful slumber in iniquity. Had France been changed, then? Was
it no longer the liberator? Since it now knew the truth, why did it
not rise _en masse_, instead of remaining an obstacle, a blind, deaf
multitude barring the road?

And Marc always returned in thought to his starting-point, when the
necessity of his humble work as a schoolmaster had become apparent to
him. If France still slept the heavy sleep of conscienceless matter, it
was because France did not yet know enough. A shudder came upon him:
how many generations, how many centuries would be needed for a people,
nourished with truth, to become capable of equity? For nearly fifteen
years he had been endeavouring to train up just men, a generation
had already passed through his hands, and he asked himself what was
really the progress that had been effected. Whenever he met any of his
old pupils he chatted with them, and compared them both with their
parents, who were less freed from the original clay, and with the boys
who nowadays attended his school, and whom he hoped to free yet more
than their forerunners. Therein lay his great task, the mission he had
undertaken at a decisive hour of his life, and prosecuted throughout
all his sufferings, doubting its efficacy in occasional moments of
weariness, but on the morrow always taking it up again with renewed

One bright August evening, having strolled along the road to Valmarie
as far as Bongard's farm, Marc perceived Fernand, his former pupil,
who was returning home with a scythe on his shoulder. Fernand had
lately married Lucile, the daughter of Doloir, the mason; he now being
five-and-twenty, and she nineteen years of age. They had long been
friends, having played together in the old days on leaving school; and
that evening the young wife, a little blonde, with a gentle, smiling
demeanour, was also there, seated in the yard and mending some linen.

'Well, Fernand, are you satisfied? Is there a good crop of wheat this
year?' Marc inquired.

Fernand still had a heavy face with a hard and narrow brow, and his
words came slowly as in his childish days. 'Oh! Monsieur Froment,' he
replied, 'one can never be satisfied; there's too much worry with this
wretched land, it takes more than it gives.'

As his father, though barely fifty years of age, was already heavy
of limb, tortured by rheumatic pains, Fernand, on finishing his term
of military service, had resolved to help him, instead of seeking
employment elsewhere. And the struggle at the farm was the same bitter
one as of old, the family living from father to son on the fields
whence it seemed to have sprung, and toiling and moiling blindly in its
stubborn ignorance and neglect of progress.

'Ah! no, one is never satisfied,' Fernand slowly resumed; 'even you are
not over-pleased with things, Monsieur Froment, in spite of all you

Marc detected in those words some of the jeering contempt for knowledge
which was to be expected from a hard-headed, sleepy dunce who in his
school-days had found it difficult to remember a single lesson.
Moreover, Fernand's remark embodied a prudent allusion to the events
which were upsetting the whole region, and Marc availed himself of this
circumstance to inquire into his former pupil's views.

'Oh! I am always pleased when my boys learn their lessons fairly well,
and don't tell too many stories,' he said gaily. 'You know that very
well; just remember.... Besides, I received to-day some good news about
the affair to which I have been attending so long. Yes, the innocence
of my poor friend Simon is about to be recognised for good.'

At this Fernand manifested great embarrassment, his countenance became
heavier, and the light in his eyes died away. 'But that's not what some
folk say,' he remarked.

'What do they say, then?'

'They say that the judges have found out more things about the old

'What things are those?'

'Oh, all sorts, it seems.'

At last Fernand consented to explain himself, and started on a
ridiculous yarn. The Jews, said he, had given a big sum of money, five
millions of francs, to their co-religionist Simon in order that he
might get a Brother of the Christian Doctrine guillotined. Simon having
failed in his plan, the five millions were lying in a hiding-place,
and the Jews were now striving to get Brother Gorgias sent to the
galleys--even if in doing so they should drown France in blood--in
order that Simon might return and dig up the treasure, the hiding-place
of which was known only to himself.

'Come, my lad,' Marc answered, quite aghast, 'surely you don't believe
such absurdity!'

'Well, why not?' rejoined the young peasant, who looked only half awake.

'Why, because your good sense ought to rebel against it. You know how
to read, you know how to write, and I flattered myself also that I had
in some degree awakened your mind and taught you how to distinguish
between truth and falsehood.... Come, come, haven't you remembered
anything of what you learnt when you were with me?'

Fernand waved his hand in a tired, careless way. 'If one had to
remember everything, Monsieur Froment, one would have one's head
too full,' he said. 'I have only told you what I hear people saying
everywhere. Folks who are far cleverer than I am give their word of
honour that it's true.... Besides, I read something like it in _Le
Petit Beaumontais_ the day before yesterday. And since it's in print
there must surely be some truth in it.'

Marc made a gesture of despair. What! he had not overcome ignorance
more than that after all his years of striving! That young fellow
remained the easiest prey for error and falsehood, he blindly accepted
the most stupid inventions, he possessed neither the freedom of mind
nor the sense of logic necessary to enable him to weigh the fables
which he read in his newspaper. So great indeed was his credulity that
it seemed to disturb even his wife, the blonde Lucile.

'Oh!' said she, raising her eyes from her work, 'a treasure of five
millions, that is a great deal of money.'

Though Lucile had failed to secure a certificate, she had been
one of Mademoiselle Rouzaire's passable pupils, and her mind now
seemed to have awakened. It was said she was pious. In former days
the schoolmistress had somewhat proudly cited her as an example,
on account of the glib manner in which she recited the long Gospel
narrative of the Passion without making a single mistake. But since
her marriage, though one still found in her the sly submissiveness and
the hypocritical restrictions of a woman on whom the Church had set
its mark, she had ceased to follow the usual observances. And she even
discussed things a little.

'Five millions in a hiding-place,' Marc repeated, 'five millions
slumbering there, pending the return of my poor Simon--it's madness!
But what of all the new documents that have been discovered, all the
proofs against Brother Gorgias?'

Lucile was becoming bolder. With a pretty laugh she exclaimed: 'Oh!
Brother Gorgias isn't worth much. He may well have a weight on his
conscience, though all the same it would be as well to leave him quiet
on account of religion.... But I've also read the newspapers, and
they've made me reflect.'

'Ah! well,' concluded Fernand, 'one would never finish if one had to
reflect after reading. It's far better to remain quiet in one's corner.'

Marc was again about to protest when a sound of footsteps made him
turn his head, and he perceived old Bongard and his wife, who also had
just returned from the fields, with their daughter, Angèle. Bongard,
who had heard his son's last words, at once addressed himself to the

'What the lad says is quite true, Monsieur Froment. It's best not to
worry one's mind with reading so much stuff.... In my time we did not
read the papers at all, and we were no worse off. Isn't that so, wife?'

'Sure it is!' declared La Bongard energetically.

But Angèle, who, in spite of her hard nut, had won a certificate
at Mademoiselle Rouzaire's by force of stubbornness, smiled in a
knowing manner. An inner light, fighting its way through dense matter,
occasionally illumined the whole of her face, which with its short
nose and large mouth remained at other moments so dull and heavy. In a
few weeks' time Angèle was to marry Auguste Doloir, her sister-in-law
Lucile's brother, a big strapping fellow, following, like his father,
the calling of a mason, and the girl already indulged in ambitious
dreams for him, some start in business on his own account when she
should be beside him to guide his steps.

In response to her father's words she quietly remarked: 'Well, for my
part I much prefer to know things. One can never succeed unless one
does. Everybody deceives and robs one.... You yourself, mamma, would
have given three _sous_ too many to the tinker yesterday if I had not
run through his bill.'

They all jogged their heads; and then Marc, in a thoughtful mood,
resumed his walk. That farmyard, where he had just lingered for a few
minutes, had not changed since the now far-distant day of Simon's
arrest, when he had entered it seeking for favourable evidence. The
Bongards had remained the same, full of crass, suspicious, silent
ignorance, like poor beings scarce raised from the soil, who ever
trembled lest they should be devoured by others bigger and stronger
than themselves. And the only new element was that supplied by the
children, whose progress, however, was of the slightest; for if
they knew a little more than their parents they had been weakened
by the incompleteness of their education, and had fallen into other
imbecilities. Yet, after all, they had taken a step forward, and the
slightest step forward on mankind's long road must tend to hope.

A few days later Marc repaired to Doloir's, in order to speak to him of
an idea which he had at heart. Auguste and Charles, the mason's elder
sons, had formerly belonged to his school, and their younger brother,
Léon,[1] had lately achieved great success there, having won his
certificate already in his twelfth year. For that very reason, however,
he was about to quit the school, and his departure worried Marc, for,
desirous as the latter was of securing good recruits for the elementary
education staff, of which Salvan spoke to him at times so anxiously, he
dreamt of making the lad a schoolmaster.

On reaching the flat over the wineshop in the Rue Plaisir, where the
mason still dwelt, Marc found Madame Doloir alone for the moment
with Léon, though the men would soon be home from work. She listened
to the schoolmaster very attentively in her serious and somewhat
narrow-minded way, like a good housewife who only thought of the family
interests; and then she answered: 'Oh, Monsieur Froment, I don't think
it possible. We shall have need of Léon: we mean to apprentice him
at once. Where could we find the money to enable him to continue his
studies? Things like that cost too much even when they cost nothing.'
And turning to the boy she added: 'Isn't that so? A carpenter's trade
suits you best. My own father was a carpenter.'

But Léon, whose eyes glittered, was bold enough to declare his
preference. 'Oh no, mamma,' said he, 'I should be so pleased if I could
continue learning.'

Marc was backing up the boy when Doloir came in, accompanied by his
elder sons. Auguste worked for the same master as his father, and on
their way home they had called for Charles, who was employed by a
neighbouring locksmith. On learning what was afoot Doloir quickly sided
with his wife, who was regarded as the clever one of the home, the
maintainer of sound traditions. True, she was an honest and a worthy
woman, but one who clung stubbornly to routine and who showed much
narrow egotism. And her husband, though he put on airs of bravado,
like an old soldier whose ideas had been broadened by regimental life,
invariably bowed to her decisions.

[Footnote 1: In the author's proofs of the earlier part of _Vérité_
Doloir the mason is said to have a young son named Léon; Savin, the
clerk, having one called Jules (see _ante_, p. 60). Some confusion
seems to have arisen subsequently in M. Zola's mind with respect to
these boys, for in later passages of the French original the name of
Jules is given to Doloir's child, and that of Léon to Savin's. This
error would undoubtedly have been rectified but for M. Zola's sudden
death. In the present translation Jules has been changed to Léon, and
Léon to Jules, wherever necessary.--_Trans._]

'No, no, Monsieur Froment,' he said, 'I don't think it possible.'

'Come, let us reason a little,' Marc answered patiently; 'I will
undertake to prepare Léon for the Training School. There we shall
obtain a scholarship for him; so it will cost you absolutely nothing.'

'But what of his food all that time?' the mother asked.

'Well, just one more when there are several at table does not mean a
great expense.... One may well risk a little for a child when he gives
one such bright hopes.'

At this the two elder brothers began to laugh, like good-natured
fellows who felt amused by the proud yet anxious bearing of their

'I say, youngster, so you are to be the great man of the family, eh?'
exclaimed Auguste. 'But don't put on too much side, for we won our
certificates also. That sufficed for us; we had enough and to spare
of all the things that one finds in books.... For my own part I much
prefer to temper my mortar.' And, addressing the schoolmaster, Auguste
continued gaily: 'Ah! didn't I worry you, Monsieur Froment! I could
never keep still; there were days, I remember, when I revolutionised
the whole class. Fortunately Charles was a little more reasonable.'

'No doubt,' said Charles, smiling in his turn, 'only I always ended by
following you, for I didn't wish to be thought timid or stupid.'

'Stupid! no, no,' responded Auguste by way of conclusion: 'we were only
wrong-headed and idle.... And nowadays we offer you every apology,
Monsieur Froment. And I agree with you: I think that if Léon has a
taste that way he ought to be helped on. Dash it all! one must be on
the side of progress!'

Those words gave much pleasure to Marc, who thought it as well to
rest content with them that day, and to postpone the task of finally
prevailing over the parents. However, continuing his conversation
with Auguste for a moment, he told him that he had lately seen his
betrothed, Angèle Bongard, a shrewd little person who seemed determined
to make her way in life. Then, seeing the young man laugh again and
look very much flattered, Marc thought of pursuing his investigations
and ascertaining what might be the views of his former pupil on the
question which interested him so deeply.

'I also saw Fernand Bongard, your brother-in-law,' he said; 'you
remember when he was at school with you----'

The brothers again became hilarious. 'Fernand? Oh! he had a hard nut
and no mistake,' said Auguste.

'Yes, and do you know, in that unfortunate Simon affair, Fernand
believes that a treasure of five millions of francs, given by the Jews,
is hidden away somewhere in readiness for the unhappy prisoner whenever
one may succeed in bringing him back from the galleys, and setting a
Brother of the Christian Doctrine in his place.'

As these words fell from Marc's lips Madame Doloir became very grave,
drawing her little figure together, and then remaining motionless;
while her husband on his side made a gesture of annoyance, and muttered
between his teeth: 'That's another matter which my wife rightly enough
does not wish us to meddle with.'

But Auguste, who seemed very much amused, exclaimed: 'Yes, I know, the
story of the treasure which appeared in _Le Petit Beaumontais_. I'm not
surprised at Fernand swallowing that yarn.... Five millions hidden in
the ground--it's nonsense!'

At this his father looked vexed, and emerged from his reserve. 'A
treasure,' said he, 'why not? You are not so clever as you fancy,
youngster. You don't know what the Jews are capable of. I knew a
corporal in my regiment, who had been a servant to a Jewish banker.
Well, every Saturday he saw that banker send casks full of gold to
Germany--all the gold of France, as he used to say.... We are sold,
that's quite certain.'

But Auguste, who never showed any great respect for anybody, retorted:
'Ah! no, father, you must not dish up the old stories of your regiment.
I've just come back from barracks, you know; and it's all too
stupid.... You'll soon see that for yourself, my poor Charles.'

Auguste, indeed, had lately finished his term of military service, and
Charles in his turn would have to join the colours in October.

'And for my part,' Auguste continued, 'I can't swallow that absurd yarn
of five millions buried at the foot of a tree, and waiting to be dug up
on some moonlight night.... At the same time that does not prevent me
from thinking that one would do well to leave that man Simon yonder,
without troubling one's brains any more about his innocence.'

Marc, who had felt pleased by the intelligent things said by his former
pupil, was painfully surprised by that sudden conclusion. 'How is
that?' he inquired. 'If Simon is innocent, just think of the torture
he has undergone! We should never be able to offer him sufficient

'Oh! innocent--that remains to be proved. Though I often read what is
printed, my mind only gets the more fogged by it.'

'That is because you only read falsehoods,' said Marc. 'Remember, it
is now known that the copy-slip came from the Brothers' school. The
corner which was torn off, and which was found at Father Philibin's, is
the proof of it; and the ridiculous blunder which the experts made is
demonstrated, for the paraph is certainly in the handwriting of Brother

'Ah! I don't know all that,' Auguste answered. 'How can I read
everything that is printed? As I said just now, the more people try to
explain the affair to me, the less I understand of it. But, after all,
as the experts and the Court formerly ascribed the copy-slip to the
prisoner, the simplest thing is to believe that it was really his.'

From that opinion Auguste would not retreat in spite of all the efforts
of Marc, who, after imagining for a moment that the young fellow
possessed a free mind, was pained to discover that he had such narrow
views, and such a faint perception of truth.

'Well, that is sufficient,' at last said Madame Doloir, in the
authoritative manner of a prudent woman. 'You must excuse me, Monsieur
Froment, if I ask you to talk no more of that affair here. You do as
you please on your side, and I have nothing to say against it. Only,
for poor folk like ourselves it is best that we should not meddle with
what does not concern us.'

'But it would concern you, madame, if one of your sons should be taken
and sent to the galleys in spite of his innocence. And we are fighting,
remember, to prevent such monstrous injustice from ever being repeated.'

'Perhaps so, Monsieur Froment; but one of my sons won't be taken, for,
as it happens, I try to get on well with everybody, even the priests.
The priests are very strong, you see, and I would rather not have them
after me.'

Thereupon Doloir was moved to intervene in a patriotic way: 'Oh! I
don't care a curse about the priests,' he exclaimed. 'It's a question
of defending the country, and the Government allows us to be
humiliated by the English!'

'You also will please to keep quiet,' his wife immediately retorted.
'It is best to leave both the Government and the priests alone. Let's
try to get bread to eat--that will be far better.'

Then Doloir had to bend his head in spite of the circumstance that
among his mates he posed as being a Socialist, though he hardly knew
the meaning of the word. As for Auguste and Charles, though they
belonged to a better-taught generation, they sided with their mother,
almost spoilt as they were by their ill-digested semi-education, too
ignorant as yet to recognise the law of human solidarity which demands
that the happiness of each should be compounded of the happiness of
all. Only little Léon, with his ardent thirst for knowledge, remained
impassioned, full of anxiety also as to the turn which things were

Marc, who was sorely grieved, felt that further discussion would
be useless. So, taking his departure, he contented himself with
saying: 'Well, madame, I will see you again, and I hope to persuade
you to allow Léon to continue his studies so that he may become a

'Quite so, Monsieur Froment,' the mother answered; 'but remember it
must not cost us a _sou_, for in any case we shall be sadly out of

Some bitter thoughts came over Marc as he returned home. As in the case
of the Bongards he was reminded of the visit he had made to the Doloirs
on the day of Simon's arrest. Those sorry folk, who were condemned to
a life of excessive toil and who imagined they defended themselves by
remaining in darkness and taking no interest in what went on around
them, had in no way changed. They were determined that they would
know nothing, for fear lest knowledge should bring them increase of
wretchedness. The sons, no doubt, were rather more enlightened than the
parents, but not enough to engage in any work of truth. And if they had
begun to reason, and no longer believed in idiotic fables, how much
ground there still remained for their children to cover before their
minds should be freed completely from error! It was grievous indeed
that the march of progress should be so slow; and yet it was necessary
to remain content, if one desired to retain enough courage to pursue
the arduous task of teaching and delivering the humble.

On another occasion, a little later, Marc happened to meet Savin the
clerk, with whom he had had some unpleasant quarrels at the time when
that embittered man's twin sons, Achille and Philippe, had attended
the school. Savin had then thought it good policy to serve the Church,
although he publicly pretended to have nothing to do with it, for he
was continually dreading lest he should offend his superiors. However,
two catastrophes, which fell upon him in rapid succession, steeped him
in irremediable bitterness. First of all, things took a very bad turn
with his pretty daughter, Hortense--that model pupil, in whose ardent
fervour at her first Communion Mademoiselle Rouzaire had gloried, but
who in reality was full of precocious hypocrisy. Savin, recognising
the girl's beauty, had dreamt of marrying her to the son of one of
his superiors, but, instead of that, he was compelled to marry her
to a milkman's assistant, who led her astray. Then, to complete the
clerk's mortification and despair, he discovered that his wife, the
refined and tender-hearted Marguerite, had become unfaithful to him. In
spite of her repugnance he had long compelled her to go to confession
and Communion, holding that religion was a needful curb for feminine
depravity; but, as it happened, her frequent attendance at the chapel
of the Capuchins, whose superior, Father Théodose, was her confessor,
led to her downfall, for that same holy man became her lover. The
facts were never exactly known, for no scandal was raised by Savin,
who, however great his rage, was overcome by the irony of things. It
was he himself, indeed, who, by his imbecile jealousy, had turned his
previously faithful wife into the path of infidelity. But if he raised
no great outcry, people declared that he revenged himself terribly
on the unhappy woman in the abominable hell which their home had now

Having cause to hate the priests and the monks, Savin had drawn a
trifle nearer to Marc. On the day when they met in the street the
clerk had just quitted his office, and was walking along with a sour
and sleepy face, like some old circus horse half stupefied by his
never-varying round of duties. On perceiving the schoolmaster he seemed
to wake up: 'Ah! I am pleased to meet you, Monsieur Froment,' he said.
'It would be very kind of you to come as far as my rooms, for my son
Philippe is causing me great anxiety by his idleness, and you are the
only person who knows how to lecture him.'

'Willingly,' replied Marc, who was always desirous of seeing and
judging things.

On reaching the dismal little lodging in the Rue Fauche they found
Madame Savin--who still looked charming in spite of her four-and-forty
years--engaged on some bead flowers which had to be delivered that
same evening. Since his misfortune the clerk was no longer ashamed
of letting people see his wife toil as if she were a mere workwoman.
Perhaps, indeed, he hoped it would be thought that she was expiating
her transgression. In former times he had evinced much pride in her
when she went out wearing a lady's bonnet, but now she might well put
on an apron and contribute to the support of the family. He himself
also neglected his appearance, and had given up wearing frock coats.

No sooner did he enter the flat than he became brutal: 'You've taken
possession of the whole room as usual!' he shouted. 'Where can I ask
Monsieur Froment to sit down?'

Gentle, timid, and somewhat red of face, his wife hastened to gather up
her reels and boxes. 'But when I work, my friend,' she said, 'I need
some room. Besides, I did not expect you home so soon.'

'Yes, yes, I know, you never expect _me_!'

Those words, in which, perhaps, there was some cruel allusion to what
had happened, quite upset the unfortunate woman. One thing which her
husband did not forgive her was her lover's handsomeness, particularly
as he knew that he himself was so puny and sickly; and nothing enraged
himself more than to read his wife's excuse in her clear eyes. However,
she now bent her head, and made herself as small as possible, while she
resumed her work.

'Sit down, Monsieur Froment,' said Savin. 'As I was telling you just
now, that big fellow yonder drives me to despair. He is now nearly
two-and-twenty, he has already tried two or three trades, and all he
seems to be good for is to watch his mother work and pass her the beads
she may require.'

Young Philippe, indeed, was sitting in a corner of the room, silent
and motionless, like one who strove to keep in the background. Madame
Savin, amidst her humiliation, had given him a tender glance, to which
he had responded by a slight smile as if by way of consolation. One
could detect that he and his mother were linked together by some
bond of suffering. Pale, and of poor health, the sly, cowardly,
and mendacious schoolboy of former times had become a sorry young
fellow, quite destitute, it seemed, of energy, who sought a refuge in
his mother's kindness of heart; she, still so young in appearance,
looking like an elder sister, one who also suffered, and who therefore
sympathised with him.

'Why did you not listen to me?' Marc exclaimed in answer to the clerk;
'we would have made a schoolmaster of him.'

But Savin protested: 'Ah! no, indeed. Rather than that I prefer to
have him on my hands. To cram one's brains at school till one is over
twenty, then start at a paltry salary of sixty francs a month, and
work for more than ten years before earning a hundred--do you call
that a profession? A schoolmaster, indeed! Nobody cares to become one
nowadays; even the poorest peasants would rather break stones on the

'But I thought I had persuaded you to let your son Jules enter the
Training College?' Marc rejoined. 'Don't you intend to make him an
elementary teacher?'

'Oh, dear, no. I've put him with an artificial-manure merchant. He's
barely sixteen, and he is already earning twenty francs a month. He
will thank me for it later on.'

Marc made a gesture expressive of his regret. He remembered having seen
Jules as a babe in swaddling clothes in his mother's arms. Later, the
lad, from his seventh to his fourteenth year, had become one of his
pupils--a pupil who evinced much higher intelligence than his elder
brothers, and who inspired great hopes. Like the master, Madame Savin,
no doubt, was worried that her youngest boy's studies had been cut
short by his father; for, again raising her beautiful eyes, she glanced
at Marc furtively and sadly.

'Come,' said her husband to the latter, 'what advice can you give me?
And first of all can't you make that big idler feel ashamed of his
sloth? As you were his master, perhaps he will listen to you.'

At that moment, however, Achille, the other son, came in, returning
from the process-server's office where he was now employed. He had made
a start there as an errand boy when he was fifteen, and though nearly
seven years had elapsed he did not yet earn enough to keep himself.
Paler and of even poorer blood than his brother Philippe, he had
remained a beardless stripling, sly, pusillanimous, and distrustful as
in his school-days, ever ready to denounce a comrade in order to escape
personal punishment. He seemed surprised on seeing his former master,
and, after bowing to him, he said, doubtless in a spirit of malice:
'I don't know what there can be in _Le Petit Beaumontais_ to-day, but
people are almost fighting for copies at Mesdames Milhomme's. It must
certainly be something more about that beastly affair.'

Marc already knew that the paper contained a fresh rectification,
brimful of extraordinary mendacious impudence, on the part of Brother
Gorgias; and he decided to avail himself of this opportunity to sound
the young men. 'Oh!' said he, 'whatever _Le Petit Beaumontais_ may
attempt with its stories of buried millions, and its superb denials of
well-established facts, everybody is beginning to admit that Simon is

At this the twins shrugged their shoulders, and Achille in his drawling
way replied: 'Oh! only imbeciles believe in those buried millions, and
it's true that they are lying too much: one can see it. But what does
it all matter to us?'

'Eh? what does it matter to you?' the schoolmaster exclaimed, surprised
and failing to understand.

'Yes, what interest is there for us in that affair with which we have
been plagued so long?'

Then Marc gradually became impassioned.

'My poor lads, I feel sorry for you,' he said; 'you admit Simon's
innocence, do you not?'

'Well--yes. It is by no means clear, as yet; but when one has read
things attentively it does seem that he may be innocent.'

'In that case, do not your feelings rebel at the idea that he is in

'Oh! it certainly isn't amusing for him,' Achille admitted; 'but there
are so many other innocent people in prison. Besides, the officials may
release him for all I care.... One has quite enough worries of one's
own, so why should one spoil one's life by meddling with the troubles
of others?'

Then Philippe, in a more gentle voice, expressed his opinion, saying:
'I don't bother about that affair, for it would worry me too much.
I can understand that it would be one's duty to act if one were the
master. But when one can do nothing whatever, the best way is to ignore
it all and keep quiet.'

In vain did Marc censure the indifference, the cowardly egotism, and
desertion which those words implied. The great voice, the irresistible
will of the people, said he, was compounded of individual protests, the
protests of the humblest and the weakest. Nobody could claim exemption
from his duty, the action of one single isolated individual might
suffice to modify destiny. Besides, it was not true to say that only
one person's fate was at stake in the struggle, all the members of the
nation were jointly and severally interested, for each defended his
own liberty by protecting that of his fellow. And then what a splendid
opportunity it was to accomplish at one stroke the work of a century
of slow political and social progress. On one side all the forces of
reaction were leagued against an unhappy, innocent man for the sole
purpose of keeping the old Catholic and monarchical scaffoldings erect;
and on the other, all who were bent on ensuring the triumph of the
future, all who believed in reason and liberty, had gathered together
from the four points of the compass, and united in the name of truth
and justice. And an effort on the part of the latter ought to suffice
to throw the former beneath the remnants of those old, worm-eaten
scaffoldings which were cracking on all sides. The scope of the affair
had expanded: it was no longer merely the case of a poor innocent man
who had been wrongly convicted; for that man had become the incarnation
of the martyrdom of all mankind, which must be wrested from the prison
of the ages. The release of Simon indeed would mean increase of freedom
for the people of France and an acceleration of its march towards more
dignity and happiness.

But Marc suddenly lapsed into silence, for he saw that Achille and
Philippe were looking at him in bewilderment, their weak eyes blinking
in their pale and sickly faces.

'Oh! Monsieur Froment, what's all that? When you put so many things
into the affair we can't follow you, that's certain. We know nothing of
those things, we can do nothing.'

Savin for his part had listened, sneering and fidgeting, though
unwilling to interrupt. Now, however, turning to the schoolmaster,
he exploded. 'All that is humbug--excuse me for saying so, Monsieur
Froment. Simon innocent--well, that's a matter on which I have my
doubts. I don't conceal it; I'm of the same opinion as formerly, and
I read nothing; I would rather let myself be killed than consent to
swallow a line of all the trash that is published. And, mind, I don't
say that because I like the priests. The dirty beasts--why, I wish a
pestilence would sweep them all away! Only, when there is a religion,
there is one. It's the same with the army. The army is the blood of
France. I am a Republican, I am now a Freemason, I will go so far as to
say that I am a Socialist, in the good sense of the word; but, before
everything else, I am a Frenchman, and I won't have people setting
their hands on what constitutes the grandeur of my country. Simon then
is guilty; everything proves it: public sentiment, the proofs submitted
to the Court, his condemnation, and the ignoble trafficking carried on
by the Jews in order to save him. And if, by a miracle, he should not
be guilty, the misfortune for the country would be too great; it would
be absolutely necessary that he should be guilty all the same.'

Confronted by so much blindness, blended with so much folly, Marc could
only bow. And he was about to withdraw when Savin's daughter Hortense
made her appearance with her little girl Charlotte, now nearly seven
years of age. Hortense was no longer the good-looking young person of
former days; compelled to marry her seducer, the milkman's assistant,
and lead with him a hard and toilsome life of poverty, she appeared
faded and careworn. Savin, moreover, received her without cordiality,
full of spite as he was, ashamed of that marriage which had mortified
his pride. Only the grace and keen intelligence of little Charlotte
assuaged, in some slight degree, his intensely bitter feelings.

'Good-morning, grandpapa; good-morning, grandmamma,' said the child.
'You know, I have been first in reading again, and Mademoiselle
Mazeline has given me the medal.'[1]

She was a charming little girl, and Madame Savin, dropping her beads at
once, took her on her lap, kissing her and feeling consoled and happy.
But the child, turning towards Marc, with whom she was well acquainted,
resumed: 'You know, I was the first, Monsieur Froment. It's fine--isn't
it?--to be the first!'

[Footnote 1: In French elementary schools the child who becomes first
in his or her class is given a medal which is worn pinned to jacket or
frock. Should the position be lost the medal has to be restored to the
teacher, who then transfers it to the more successful pupil.--_Trans._]

'Yes, my dear,' said the master, 'it is very nice to be first. And I
know that you are always very good. Mind, you must always listen to
Mademoiselle Mazeline, because she will make a very clever and sensible
little woman of you--one who will be very happy and who will give a
deal of happiness to all her family around her.'

At this Savin again began to growl: Happiness to all her family,
indeed! Well, that would be something new, for neither the grandmother
nor the mother had given any happiness to him. And if Mademoiselle
Mazeline should perform such a miracle as to turn a girl into something
decent and useful, he would go to tell Mademoiselle Rouzaire of
it. Then, annoyed at seeing his wife laugh, brightened as she was,
rejuvenated, so to say, by the companionship of the child, he bade her
get on with her work, speaking in so rough a voice that, as the unhappy
woman again lowered her head over her bead flowers, her eyes filled
with tears.

But Marc had now risen, and the clerk thereupon reverted to the matter
he had at heart: 'So you can give me no advice about my big idler,
Philippe?... Don't you think that, through Monsieur Salvan, who is the
friend of Monsieur Le Barazer, you might get him some petty situation
at the Préfecture?'

'Yes, certainly, I might try. I will speak to Monsieur Salvan about it,
I promise you.'

Marc then withdrew, and, on reaching the street, walked slowly, his
head bent, while he summed up the results of his visits to the parents
of his former pupils. No doubt he had found Achille and Philippe
possessed of riper and broader minds than Auguste and Charles, the
sons of Doloir the mason, even as he had found the latter freed from
the low credulity of Fernand, the son of the peasant Bongard. But at
the Savins' he had once again observed the blind obstinacy of the
father, who had learnt nothing, forgotten nothing, but still lingered
in the same old rut of error; whilst even the evolution of the sons
towards more reason and logic remained a very slight one. Just a
little step had been taken, no more, and with that Marc had to remain
content. He felt sad indeed when he compared all his efforts during a
period of nearly fifteen years with the little amelioration which had
resulted from them. And he shuddered as he thought of the vast amount
of labour, devotion, and faith which would be required throughout the
humble world of the elementary teachers, before they would succeed
in transforming the brutified, soiled, enthralled, lowly ones and
suffering ones into free and conscious men. Generations indeed would be
necessary for that to be effected.

The thought of poor Simon haunted Marc amid the grief he felt at having
failed to raise a people of truth and justice, such as would have the
strength of mind to rebel against the old iniquity and repair it. The
nation still refused to be the noble, generous, and equitable nation,
in which he had believed so long; and both his mind and his heart were
pained, for he could not accustom himself to the idea of a France
steeped in idiotic fanaticism. Then, however, a bright vision flitted
before his eyes; he again saw little Charlotte, so wide-awake and so
delighted at being the first of her class, and he began to hope once
more. The future belonged to the children; and might not some of those
charming little ones take giant steps when firm and upright minds
should direct them towards the light?

However, as Marc drew near to the school, another meeting brought a
pang to his heart. He encountered Madame Férou carrying a bundle--some
work which she was taking home with her. Having lost her eldest
children, who had succumbed more to want than to disease, she now
lived with her remaining girl in a frightful hovel, where they worked
themselves almost to death, without ever earning enough to satisfy
their hunger. As she glided along the street with downcast eyes,
as if ashamed of her poverty, Marc stopped her. She was no longer
the plump and pleasant-looking blonde, with fleshy lips and large,
bright, prominent eyes, whom he had known in past years, but a poor,
squat, careworn woman, aged before her time. 'Well, Madame Férou,' he
inquired, 'does the sewing prosper a little?'

She began to stammer, then at last regained some confidence: 'Oh!
things never prosper, Monsieur Froment,' she said; 'we may tire our
eyes out, but we are lucky when we manage to earn twenty-five _sous_ a
day between us.'

'And what about the application for relief which you sent to the
Préfecture, as a schoolmaster's widow?'

'Oh, they never answered me, and when I ventured to call there in
person, I really thought I should be arrested. A big dark man with
a fine beard asked me what I meant by daring to recall the memory
of my husband, the deserter and Anarchist, who was condemned by
court-martial, and then shot like a mad dog. And he frightened me so
much that I still tremble when I think of it.'

Then, as Marc, who was quivering, remained silent, the unhappy woman,
growing bolder and bolder, resumed: 'Good heavens! My poor Férou a mad
dog! You knew him when we were at Le Moreux. At first he only dreamt
of devotion, fraternity, truth, and justice; and it was by dint of
wretchedness, persecution, and iniquity that they ended by maddening
him. When he left me, never to return, he said to me: "France is done
for; it has been completely rotted by the priests, poisoned by a filthy
press, plunged into such a morass of ignorance and credulity that one
will never be able to extricate it!" ... And you see, Monsieur Froment,
he was right!'

'No, no! He wasn't right, Madame Férou; one must never despair of one's

But her blood was now up, and she retorted: 'I tell you that he _was_
right! Haven't you any eyes to see? Are not affairs shameful at Le
Moreux, where that man Chagnat, the creature of the priests, does
nothing but debase and stupefy the children--to such a point, indeed,
that for years past not a single one of them has been able to obtain
a certificate of elementary studies? And then Monsieur Jauffre, your
successor, does some fine work at Jonville in order to please Abbé
Cognasse. At the rate they are all going, France will have forgotten
how to read and write before ten years are over!'

She drew herself up as she spoke, and, consumed by hatred and rancour,
the rancour of a poor downtrodden woman overcome by social injustice,
she went on to prophesy: 'You hear me, Monsieur Froment. I tell you
that France is done for! Nothing good nor just will ever come from her
again; she will sink to the level of all those dead nations on whom
Catholicism has preyed like vermin and rottenness!'

Then, still quivering with the excitement which had prompted that
outburst, and trembling at having dared to say so much, she glided away
with humble and anxious mien, returning to the den of suffering where
her pale and silent daughter awaited her.

Marc remained confounded; it was as if he had heard Férou himself
calling from his grave, crying aloud the bitter pessimism, the savage
protest, dictated by the cruel sufferings of his life. And, making all
allowance for rancorous exaggeration, there was great truth in the
widow's words. Chagnat, indeed, was still brutifying Le Moreux, and
Jauffre, under the stubborn and narrow-minded sway of Abbé Cognasse,
was completing his deadly work at Jonville, in spite of the covert
rage he experienced at finding that his services remained so long
unrecognised, when, by rights, he ought to have been appointed at once
to the headmastership of a school at Beaumont. And the great work of
elementary education scarcely made more progress in any part of the
region. Nearly all the schools of Beaumont were still in the power
of timid masters and mistresses who, thinking of their advancement,
wished to remain on good terms with the Church. Mademoiselle Rouzaire
achieved great success by her devout zeal, while Doutrequin, that
Republican of the early days, whom patriotic alarm had gradually cast
into reaction, remained, though he was now on the retired list, a
personage of great influence, one whose lofty character was cited to
newcomers by way of example. How could young teachers believe in the
innocence of Simon, and fight against the Congregational schools,
when such a man, a combatant of 1870, a friend of the founder of the
Republic, set himself on the side of the Congregations in the name of
the country threatened by the Jews? For one Mademoiselle Mazeline, who
ever firmly inculcated sense and kindliness, for one Mignot, won by
example to the good cause, how many cowards and traitors there were,
and how very slowly did the teaching staff progress in breadth of mind,
generosity, and devotion, in spite of the reinforcements which came to
it every year from the training schools! Yet Salvan persevered in his
work of regeneration, full of ardent faith, convinced that the humble
schoolmaster alone would save the country from being annihilated by
the Clericals, when he himself should at last possess a free mind and
the capacity to teach truth and justice. As Salvan ever repeated, the
worth of the nation depended on the worth of the schoolmasters. And if
the march of progress was so slow, it was because the work of evolution
by which good masters might be produced had to be spread over several
generations, even as several generations of pupils would be needed
before a just nation, freed from error and falsehood, could spring into

Having reached that conclusion as the result of his inquiries and the
despairing call which seemed to have come to him from Férou's grave,
Marc only retained a feverish eagerness to continue the battle and
increase his efforts. For some time past he had been busying himself
with what were called 'after-school' enterprises, established in order
to maintain a link between the masters and their former pupils, whom
the laws took from them at thirteen years of age. Friendly societies
were being founded on all sides, and some of the organisers dreamt of
federating all those of the same _arrondissement_, then those of the
same department, and finally all similar societies in France. Moreover,
there were patronage societies, mutual relief and pension funds; but
Marc, with the object he had in view, attached most importance to
the classes for adults which he held of an evening at his school.
Mademoiselle Mazeline, on her side also, had set an excellent example
and won very great success by giving occasional evening lessons in
cookery, family hygiene, and home nursing to those of her former pupils
who were now big girls. And such numbers of young people applied to
her that she ended by sacrificing her Sunday afternoons in order to
instruct those who could not conveniently attend of an evening. It
made her so happy, she said, to help her girls to become good wives
and mothers, able to keep house and shed gaiety, health, and happiness
around them.

Marc, in the same way, opened his school on three evenings every week,
summoned back the boys who had left him, and endeavoured to complete
their education with respect to all the practical questions of life. He
sowed good seed in those young brains unsparingly, saying to himself
that he would be well rewarded for his pains if but one grain out
of every hundred should germinate and bear fruit. And he interested
himself particularly in the few pupils whom he induced to enter the
teaching profession, keeping them near him, and preparing them right
zealously for the preliminary examinations at the Training College. On
his side, indeed, he devoted his Sunday afternoons to those private
lessons, and when evening came he was as delighted as if he had been
indulging in the greatest amusement.

One of Marc's victories at this juncture was to prevail on Madame
Doloir to allow him to continue educating little Léon, in order that
the boy might enter the Training College in due course. The dearest
of all Marc's former pupils, Sébastien Milhomme, was there already;
and Sébastien's mother, Madame Alexandre, had on her side returned to
the stationery shop, though she discreetly remained in the background,
for fear lest she might scare away the clerical customers. And Salvan,
like Marc, had now become very much attached to Sébastien, regarding
him as one of those future missionaries of good tidings, whom he
desired to disseminate through the country districts. Recently also,
at the beginning of a new term, Marc had experienced the satisfaction
of confiding to his old friend yet another pupil, none other than
Joseph Simon, the innocent man's son, who, in spite of every painful
obstacle, had resolved to become a schoolmaster like his father, hoping
to conquer on the very field where the dear stricken prisoner had
fought with so tragical a result. Thus Sébastien and Joseph had met
again, each inspired with the same zeal, the same faith, their old bond
of friendship tightened by yet closer sympathy than before. And what
pleasant hours they spent whenever an afternoon's holiday enabled them
to go to Maillebois, together, to shake hands with their former master!

While things were thus slowly moving, Marc, with respect to his home
troubles, remained in suspense, one day despairing and the morrow
reviving to hope. In vain had he relied on Geneviève returning to him,
enlightened at last and saved from the poison; at present he set his
only consolation in the quiet firmness of his daughter Louise. She,
as she had promised to do, came to see him every Thursday and Sunday,
invariably gay and full of gentle resolution. He dared not question
her about her mother, respecting whom she seldom volunteered any
information, for having no good news to give she doubtless regarded
the subject as painful. Louise would now soon be sixteen, and with
increase of age she became the better able to understand the cause of
their sufferings. She would have been pleased indeed could she have
become the mediator, the healer, the one to place the parents she
loved so well in each other's arms once more. On the days when she
detected extreme impatient anguish in her father's glance, she referred
discreetly to the frightful situation which haunted them.

'Mamma is still very poorly,' she would say; 'it is necessary to be
very careful, and I dare not as yet talk to her as to a friend. But
I have hopes. There are times when she takes me in her arms, and
presses me to her so tightly that I nearly suffocate, while her eyes
fill with tears. At other times, it is true, she becomes harsh and
unjust--accuses me of not loving her--complains, indeed, that nobody
has ever loved her.... You see, father, one must be very kind to her,
for she must suffer frightfully, thinking as she does that she will
never more be able to content her heart.'

Then Marc, in his excitement, cried: 'But why does she not come back
here? I still love her to distraction, and if she still loved me, we
might be so happy.'

But Louise, in a sorrowful, gentle, caressing way, placed her hand over
his mouth: 'No, no, papa, do not let us talk of that! I did wrong to
begin--it can only make us grieve the more. We must wait.... I am now
beside mamma; and some day she will surely see that only we two love
her. She will listen to me and follow me.'

At other times the girl arrived at her father's with glittering eyes
and a determined bearing, as if she had just emerged from some contest.
Marc noticed it, and said to her: 'You have been disputing with your
grandmother again!'

'Ah! you can see it? Well, it's true, she kept me for a good hour this
morning trying to shame and terrify me about my first Communion. She
speaks to me as if I were the vilest of creatures, describes to me
all the abominable tortures of hell, and seems quite stupefied and
scandalised by what she calls my inconceivable obstinacy.'

At this Marc brightened up, feeling somewhat reassured. He had so
greatly feared that his daughter might prove as weak as other girls,
and was happy to find that she remained so firm and strong-minded even
when he was no longer present to support her. But emotion came upon him
when he pictured her in the midst of persistent attacks, scoldings, and
scenes, which left her no peace.

'My poor child!' said he, 'how much courage you need! Those constant
quarrels must be very painful to you.'

But she, having now quite recovered her composure, answered, smiling:
'Quarrels? Oh! no, papa. I am too respectful with grandmamma to quarrel
with her. It is she who is always getting angry and threatening me. I
listen to her very deferentially, without ever making the slightest
interruption. And when she has quite finished, after beginning two or
three times afresh, I content myself with saying very gently: "But how
can I help it, grandmamma? I promised papa that I would wait until I
was twenty before deciding whether I would make my first Communion or
not; and as I swore it, I will keep my word." You see, I never depart
from that answer. I know it by heart, and repeat it without changing
a word. That makes me invincible. And I sometimes begin to pity poor
grandmamma, for she flies into such a temper, banging the door in my
face as soon as ever I begin that phrase!'

In the depths of her heart Louise suffered from that perpetual warfare;
but on observing her father's delight, she prettily cast her arms
around his neck, and added, 'You see, you may be quite easy, I am
really your daughter. Nobody will ever make me do anything when I have
decided that I won't do it!'

The girl also had to carry on a battle with her grandmother in order
to continue her studies, resolved as she was to devote herself to the
teaching profession. In this respect she fortunately had the support of
her mother, who regarded the future as being very uncertain by reason
of the increasing avarice which Madame Duparque displayed towards her
family. The old lady preferred to devote her little fortune to pious
works; and since giving an asylum to Geneviève and her daughter she had
insisted upon their paying for their board, in this respect wishing
to annoy Marc, who consequently had to make his wife a considerable
allowance out of his meagre salary. Perhaps Madame Duparque--advised
in this matter as in others by her good friends, those masters of
intrigue, whose unseen hands pulled every string--had hoped that
Marc would respond by a refusal, and that a scandal would ensue. But
he could live on very little, and he consented immediately, as if
indeed he were well pleased to remain the paterfamilias, the worker,
and supporter of those who belonged to him. And although straitened
circumstances aggravated his solitude, the meals he shared with Mignot
becoming extremely frugal, he did not suffer, for it was sufficient
for him to know that Geneviève had appeared moved by his willingness
to provide for her, and that she found in this pecuniary question a
motive to approve of Louise's resolution to pursue her studies in order
to ensure her future. Thus the girl, who had already obtained her
elementary certificate, continued to take lessons from Mademoiselle
Mazeline, preparing herself for the superior certificate examination,
which circumstance gave rise to further disputes with Madame Duparque,
who was exasperated by all the science which it had become the fashion
to impart to young girls, when, in her opinion, the catechism ought to
have sufficed them. And as Louise always answered every protest in her
extremely deferential manner: 'Yes, grandmamma; certainly, grandmamma,'
the old lady grew more exasperated than ever, and ended by picking
quarrels with Geneviève, who, losing patience, occasionally answered

One day while Marc was listening to the news his daughter gave him, he
became quite astonished. 'Does mamma quarrel with grandmother then?' he

'Oh, yes, papa. This was even the second or third time. And mamma,
you know, does not beat about the bush. She loses her temper at once,
answers back in a loud voice, and then goes to sulk in her room as she
used to do here before she left.'

Marc listened, unwilling to give utterance to the secret delight, the
hope, which was rising within him.

'And does Madame Berthereau take part in these discussions?' he resumed.

'Oh, grandmamma Berthereau never says anything. She sides with mamma
and me, I think; but she does not dare to support us openly for fear of
worries.... She looks very sad and very ailing.'

However, months went by, and Marc saw none of his hopes fulfilled.
It must be said that he observed great discretion in questioning his
daughter, for it was repugnant to him to turn her into a kind of spy
for the purpose of keeping himself informed of everything that occurred
in the dismal little house on the Place des Capucins. For weeks at a
time when Louise ceased to speak of her own accord, Marc relapsed into
anxious ignorance, again losing all hope of Geneviève's return. His
only consolation then lay in his daughter's presence beside him for a
few hours on Thursdays and Sundays. On those days also it occasionally
happened that the two chums of the Beaumont Training College, Joseph
Simon and Sébastien Milhomme, arrived at the Maillebois school about
three o'clock, and remained there until six, happy to meet their friend
Louise, who like themselves was all aglow with youth and courage and
faith. Their long chats were enlivened by merry laughter, which left
some gaiety in the mournful home throughout the ensuing week. Marc, who
felt comforted by these meetings, at times requested Joseph to bring
his sister Sarah from the Lehmanns', and likewise told Sébastien that
he would be happy to see his mother, Madame Alexandre, accompany him.
The schoolmaster would have been delighted to gather a number of worthy
folk, all the forces of the future, around him. At those affectionate
meetings the sympathies of former times revived, acquiring a strength
full of gentleness and gaiety, drawing Sébastien and Sarah, Joseph and
Louise together; while the master, smiling and content to await victory
at the hands of those who represented to-morrow, allowed good Mother
Nature, beneficent love, to do their work.

All at once, amidst the disheartening delays of the Court of Cassation,
at a moment when courage was forsaking David and Marc, they received a
letter from Delbos acquainting them with some great news and requesting
them to call on him. They did so in all haste. The great news--destined
to burst on Beaumont like a thunderclap--was that, after a long and
cruel struggle, Jacquin, the diocesan architect and foreman of the jury
which had convicted Simon, had at last felt it absolutely necessary to
relieve his conscience. Very pious, attending confession and Communion,
strict in his faith, and in all respects an upright man, Jacquin had
ended by feeling anxious with respect to his salvation, asking himself
whether, as he was in possession of the truth, it was possible for him
to keep silent any longer without incurring the risk of damnation. It
was said that his confessor, feeling extremely perplexed, not daring
to decide the question himself, had advised him to consult Father
Crabot, and that if the architect had remained silent several months
longer it was on account of the great pressure brought to bear on him
by the Jesuit, who, in the name of the Church's political interests,
had prevented him from speaking out. If, however, Jacquin was unable to
keep his terrible secret any longer, it was precisely by reason of the
anguish he felt as a Christian, one who believed that the Christ had
descended upon earth to ensure the triumph of truth and justice. And
the knowledge which consumed him was that of Judge Gragnon's illegal
communication to the jury in the Simon case of a document unknown
either to the prisoner or to his counsel. Summoned to the retiring room
to enlighten the jurymen respecting the penalty which might attach
to their verdict, the judge had shown them a letter received by him
a moment previously, a letter from Simon to a friend, followed by a
postscript and a paraph, which last was similar to the one on the
copy-slip tendered as evidence. It was to this same letter and this
paraph that Father Philibin had alluded in his sensational evidence;
and now it had been established that if the body of the letter was
indeed in Simon's handwriting, the postscript and the paraph were
assuredly impudent forgeries, in fact gross ones, by which a child even
would hardly have been deceived.

Thus David and Marc found Delbos triumphant: 'Ah! didn't I tell you
so?' he exclaimed. 'That illegal communication is now proved! Jacquin
has written to the President of the Court of Cassation, confessing the
truth, and asking to be heard.... I knew that the letter was among the
papers of the case, for Gragnon had not dared to destroy it. But how
difficult it was to have it produced and submitted to the examination
of experts! I scented a forgery; I felt that we were confronted by
some more of the handiwork of that terrible Father Philibin! Ah! that
man, how heavy and common he looked! But the more I fathom the affair
the greater do his talents, his suppleness, artfulness, and audacity
appear. He was not content with tearing off the stamped corner of the
copy-slip, he also falsified one of Simon's letters, so arranging
matters that this letter might prevail over the jury at the last
moment. Yes, assuredly that forgery was his work!'

However, David, who had met with so many deceptions, retained some
fears. 'But are you sure,' he asked, 'that Jacquin, who is the diocesan
architect and at the mercy of the priests, will remain firm to the end?'

'Quite sure. You don't know Jacquin. He is not at the mercy of the
priests; he is one of the few Christians who are governed solely
by their consciences. Some extraordinary things have been told me
respecting his interviews with Father Crabot. At first the Jesuit
spoke in a domineering way, in the name of his imperative Deity, who
forgives and even glorifies the worst deeds when the salvation of the
Church is in question. But Jacquin answered back in the name of a good
and equitable God, the God of the innocent and the just, who tolerates
neither error, nor falsehood, nor crime. I wish I had been present;
that battle between the mere believer and the political agent of a
crumbling religion must have been a fine spectacle. However, I have
been told that it was the Jesuit who ended by humbling himself, and
entreating Jacquin, though he failed to prevent him from doing his

'All the same,' Marc interrupted, 'it took Jacquin a very long time to
relieve his conscience.'

'Oh! no doubt; I don't say that his duty became manifest to him at
once. For years, however, he did not know that President Gragnon's
communication was illegal. Almost all jurors are similarly situated;
they know nothing of the law, and take as correct whatever the chief
magistrates may say to them. When Jacquin learnt the truth he hesitated
evidently, and for years and years went about with a burden on his
conscience, saying nothing, however, for fear of scandal. We shall
never know the sufferings and the struggles of that man, who went
regularly to confession and Communion, ever terrified by the thought
that he was perhaps damning himself for all eternity. However, I can
assure you that when he became certain that the document was a forgery,
he no longer hesitated; he resolved to speak out, even if by doing
so he should cause the cathedral of Saint Maxence to fall, for on no
account was he disposed to disregard what he deemed to be his duty
towards God.'

Then Delbos, like a man who, after long efforts, was at last reaching
his goal, gaily summed up the situation, and David and Marc went off
radiant with hope.

But how great was the commotion in Beaumont when Jacquin's letter to
the Court of Cassation, his confession and his offer of evidence became
known. Judge Gragnon hastily closed his doors, refusing to answer
the journalists who applied to him, wrapping himself, as it were, in
haughty silence. He was no longer a jovial, sarcastic sportsman and
pursuer of pretty girls. People said that he was quite overwhelmed by
the blow which had thus fallen on him on the eve of his retirement from
the bench, at the moment when he was expecting to receive the collar of
a Commandership in the Legion of Honour. Of recent years his wife, the
once beautiful Madame Gragnon, having passed the age for reading poetry
with General Jarousse's young officers, had decided to occupy herself
in converting him, pointing out to him no doubt all the advantages of a
pious old age; and he followed her to confession and Communion, giving
a lofty example of fervent Catholicism, which explained the passionate
zeal with which Father Crabot had tried to prevent Jacquin from
relieving his conscience. The Jesuit, indeed, wished to save Gragnon, a
believer of great importance and influence, of whom the Church was very

Moreover, the whole judicial world of Beaumont sided with the presiding
judge, defending the conviction and condemnation of Simon as its own
work, its masterpiece, which none might touch without committing
high treason against the country. Behind that fine assumption of
indignation, however, there was base, shivering dread--dread of the
galleys, dread lest the gendarmes should set their heavy hands some
evening on the black or red robes, furred with ermine, whose wearers
had imagined themselves to be above the laws. The handsome Raoul de La
Bissonnière was no longer public prosecutor at Beaumont, he had been
transferred to the neighbouring Appeal Court of Mornay, where he was
growing embittered by his failure to secure a post in Paris, in spite
of all his suppleness and skill under every succeeding government.
On the other hand, Investigating Magistrate Daix had not quitted the
town, where he had been promoted to the rank of counsellor; but he
was still tortured by his terrible wife, whose ambition and craving
for luxury made his home a hell. It was said that Daix, seized with
remorse like Jacquin, was on the point of throwing off his wife's
acrimonious authority, and relating how he had cowardly yielded to her
representations, and sent Simon for trial, at the very moment when,
from lack of proof, he was about to stay further proceedings. Thus
the Palais de Justice was all agog, swept by gusts of fear and anger,
pending the advent of the cataclysm which would at last annihilate the
ancient worm-eaten framework of so-called human justice.

The political world of Beaumont was no less shaken, no less distracted.
Lemarrois, the Deputy and Mayor, felt that the Radical Republican views
he had long professed were losing their hold on the electorate, and
that he might be swept away in this supreme crisis which was bringing
the living strength of the people forward. Thus, in the much-frequented
_salon_ of his intelligent wife, the evolution towards reactionary
courses became more pronounced. Among those now often seen there was
Marcilly, once the representative of the intellectual young men,
the hope of the French mind, but now reduced to a kind of political
paralysis, bewildered by his inability to detect in which direction lay
his personal interests, and forced to inaction by the haunting fear
that if he should act in any particular way he might not be re-elected.
Then another visitor was General Jarousse, who, though a mere cipher,
now showed himself aggressive, spurred on, it seemed, by the perpetual
nagging of his little, dusky, withered wife. And Prefect Hennebise
also called at times, accompanied by the placid Madame Hennebise, each
desiring to live at peace with everybody, such being indeed the wish of
the government, whose motto was: 'No difficulties, only handshakes and
smiles.' There was great fear of 'bad' elections, as the department was
so enfevered by the revival of the Simon affair; and Marcilly and even
Lemarrois, though they did not own it, had resolved to ally themselves
secretly with Hector de Sanglebœuf and their other reactionary
colleagues in order to overcome the Socialist candidates, particularly
Delbos, whose success would become certain should he succeed in his
efforts on behalf of the innocent prisoner.

All this tended to the confusion which broke out directly people
heard of the intervention of Jacquin, by which the revision of the
case was rendered inevitable. The Simonists triumphed, and for a few
days the anti-Simonists seemed crushed. Nothing else was talked about
on the aristocratic promenade of Les Jaffres; and though _Le Petit
Beaumontais_, in order to inspirit its readers, declared every morning
that the revision of the case would be refused by a majority of two
to one, the friends of the Church remained plunged in desolation, for
private estimates indicated quite a different result.

Meantime the delight shown among the University men was very temperate.
Nearly all of them were Simonists, but they had hoped in vain so often
that they now scarcely dared to rejoice. Rector Forbes was relieved
to think that he would soon be rid of the case of that Maillebois
schoolmaster, Marc Froment, about whom he was so frequently assailed
by the reactionary forces. In spite of his desire to meddle with
nothing, Forbes had been obliged to confer with Le Barazer respecting
the necessity of an execution; and Le Barazer, whose own powers of
resistance were exhausted, foresaw the moment when policy would compel
him to sacrifice Marc. He had even mentioned it to Salvan, who had
shown deep grief at the announcement. When, however, Marc came to him
with the great news that made revision certain, the kind-hearted man
revived to gaiety and gave his friend quite a triumphal greeting. He
embraced him and then told him of the threatening danger from which the
favourable decision of the Court of Cassation alone would save him.

'If revision should not be granted, my dear fellow,' he said, 'you
would certainly be revoked, for this time you are deeply involved in
the affair, and all the reactionaries demand your head.... However,
the news you bring pleases me, for you are at last victorious, and our
secular schools triumph.'

'They need to do so,' Marc replied; 'our conquests over error and
ignorance are still so slight in spite of all your efforts to endow the
region with good masters.'

'Certainly a good many lives will be needed; but, no matter, we are
marching on, and we shall reach the goal,' Salvan responded with his
usual gesture expressive of unshakable hope.

Perhaps the best proof that Marc was really victorious was found by
him in the eager manner with which handsome Mauraisin, the Elementary
Inspector, rushed towards him, that same day, just as he had quitted

'Ah! my dear Monsieur Froment, I am very pleased to meet you,' the
Inspector exclaimed. 'We see each other so seldom apart from the
requirements of our duties.'

Since the revival of the affair, mortal anxiety had taken possession
of Mauraisin, who at an earlier stage had openly sided with the
anti-Simonists, convinced as he then was that the priests never allowed
themselves to be beaten. But now, if they should lose the game, how
would he be able to save himself? The idea of not being on the winning
side distressed him greatly.

Though nobody was passing in the street, he leant towards Marc to
whisper in his ear: 'For my part, you know, my dear Froment, I never
doubted Simon's innocence. I was convinced of it at bottom. Only it is
so necessary for public men like ourselves to remain prudent--is that
not so?'

For a long time past Mauraisin had been keeping his eye on Salvan's
post, hoping to secure it in due course; and in view of a possible
triumph of the Simonists he felt it would be as well to side with them
on the eve of victory. But as that victory was not yet quite certain he
did not wish to exhibit himself in their company. So he speedily took
leave of Marc, whispering, as he pressed his hand for the last time,
'Simon's triumph will be a triumph for all of us.'

On returning to Maillebois Marc perceived a change there also. Darras,
the ex-Mayor, whom he chanced to meet, did not rest content with bowing
to him discreetly, according to his wont, but stopped him in the middle
of the high street, and talked and laughed with him for more than ten
minutes. He, Darras, had been a Simonist at the outset, but since he
had lost his position as Mayor he had put his flag in his pocket, and
made it a habit to bolt his door before divulging what he thought.
If, therefore, he now openly chatted with Marc, it must have been
because Simon's acquittal seemed to him a certainty. As it happened,
Philis, the new Mayor, went by at that moment, gliding swiftly over the
pavement with his head bent and his eyes darting furtive glances around
him. This amused Darras, who with a knowing look at Marc exclaimed:
'What pleases some displeases others, is it not so, Monsieur Froment?
We all have our turns!'

Indeed a great change in public opinion gradually became manifest. Day
by day for several weeks Marc observed the increasing favour of the
cause he defended. However, the decisive importance of the success
already achieved became most manifest to him when he received a letter
from Baron Nathan, who was again staying at La Désirade, and who asked
him to call there with respect to a prize for the Communal School,
which he, the Baron, desired to found. Although Nathan, on two or
three occasions previously, had given a hundred francs or so to be
distributed in savings-bank deposits among the best pupils, Marc felt
that the offer of a prize at that juncture was only a pretext. So he
repaired to La Désirade full of wonder and curiosity.

He had not returned thither since the now distant day when he had
accompanied David on his attempt to interest the all-powerful Baron
in the cause of his accused and imprisoned brother. Marc remembered
the most trifling details of that visit, the skilful manner in which
the triumphant Jew, a king of finance and the father-in-law of a
Sanglebœuf, had shaken off the poor Jew, on whom public execration
had fallen. And now, on returning to La Désirade, Marc found that
its majesty and beauty had increased. Recently a million of francs
had been spent on new terraces and new fountains, which imparted an
aspect of sovereign grandeur to the parterres in front of the château.
Encompassed by plashing waters and a galaxy of marble nymphs, he ended
by reaching the steps, where two tall lackeys, in liveries of green
and gold, were waiting. On one of them conducting him to a little
drawing-room, where he was requested to wait, he remained alone for
a moment, and heard a confused murmur of voices in some neighbouring
room. Then two doors were shut, all became quiet, and finally Baron
Nathan entered with outstretched hand.

'Excuse me for having disturbed you, my dear Monsieur Froment,' he
said, 'but I know how devoted you are to your pupils, and I wish to
double the sum which I have been giving you of recent years. You are
aware that my ideas are broad, that I desire to reward merit wherever
it may be found, apart from all political and religious questions....
Yes, I make no difference between the congregational and the secular
schools; I am for all France.'

Short and somewhat bent, with a yellow face, a bald cranium, and a
large nose resembling the beak of a bird of prey, Nathan went on
talking, while Marc gazed at him. The schoolmaster knew that of recent
times the Baron had still further enriched himself by stealing a
hundred millions of francs in a colonial affair, a deed of rapine, the
huge booty of which he had been obliged to share with a Catholic bank.
And he had now plunged into fierce reaction, for as new millions were
added to his former ones he became more and more convinced that priests
and soldiers were needed to enable him to retain his ill-gotten wealth.
He was no longer content with having wormed his way, through his
daughter, into the ancient family of the Sanglebœufs: he now absolutely
denied his race, openly displaying a ferocious anti-Semitism, showing
himself a monarchist, a militarist, a respectful friend of those who
in olden time had burnt the Jews. Nevertheless--and this astonished
Marc--Nathan, whatever his wealth, still retained much of his racial
humility. A dread of the persecutions which had fallen on his ancestors
appeared in his anxious eyes as they glanced at the doors as if he
wished to be ready to slip under a table at the slightest sign of

'So it is settled,' he said, after all sorts of involved explanations,
'and you will dispose of these two hundred francs yourself, as you
please, for I have perfect confidence in your sagacity.'

Marc thanked him, but still failed to understand the meaning of it all.
Even a politic desire to remain on good terms with everybody, a wish to
be among the Simonists if they should win the battle, did not explain
that flattering and useless appointment, that over-cordial reception at
La Désirade. However, just as the schoolmaster was retiring, there came
an explanation.

Baron Nathan, having accompanied him to the drawing-room door, detained
him there, and with a keen smile, which seemed prompted by a sudden
inspiration, exclaimed: 'My dear Monsieur Froment, I am going to be
very indiscreet.... When I was informed of your arrival just now, I
happened to be with somebody, an important personage, who exclaimed,
"Monsieur Froment! Oh! I should be so pleased to have a moment's
conversation with him!" A cry from the heart in fact.'

The Baron paused, waiting a few seconds in the hope that he would be
questioned. Then, as Marc remained silent, he laughed and said in a
jesting way: 'You would be greatly surprised if I told you who the
personage was.' And as the schoolmaster still looked grave, remaining
on the defensive, Nathan blurted out everything: 'It was Father Crabot.
You did not expect that, eh?... But he came to lunch here this morning.
As you may know, he honours my daughter with his affection, and is a
frequent visitor here. Well, he expressed to me a desire to have some
conversation with you. Setting aside all matters of opinion, he is a
man of the rarest merit. Why should you refuse to see him?'

To this Marc, who at last understood the object of the appointment
given him, and whose curiosity was more and more aroused, quietly
responded: 'But I don't refuse to see Father Crabot. If he has anything
to say to me I will listen to him willingly.'

'Very good, very good!' exclaimed the Baron, delighted with the success
of his diplomacy. 'I will go to tell him.'

Again the two doors opened, one after the other, and a confused murmur
of voices once more reached the little drawing-room. Then all relapsed
into silence, and Marc was left waiting for some time. Having at last
drawn near to the window he saw the persons, whose voices he had
heard, step on to the adjoining terrace. And he recognised Hector de
Sanglebœuf and his wife, the still beautiful Léa, accompanied by their
good friend, the Marchioness de Boise, who, though her fifty-seventh
birthday was now past, remained a buxom blonde, the ruins of whose
beauty were magnificent. Nathan likewise appeared, and one could also
divine that Father Crabot was standing at the glass door of the grand
drawing-room, still talking to his hosts, who left him in possession of
the apartment in order that he might receive the visitor as if he were
at home.

The Marchioness de Boise seemed particularly amused by the incident.
Though she had originally resolved to disappear as soon as she should
be fifty, unwilling as she was to impose too old a mistress on Hector,
she had ended by making the château her permanent home. Besides, people
said that she was still adorable, so why should she not continue to
ensure the happiness of the husband whose marriage she had so wisely
negotiated, and of the wife whose tender friend she was? Thus age might
come but happiness still reigned at La Désirade, amid its luxurious
appointments and Father Crabot's discreet smiles and pious benisons.

As Marc looked out of the window and observed the terrible Sanglebœuf
waving his arms and shaking his carroty head, it seemed to him that
this clerical champion with the heavy face and the narrow, stubborn
brow was deploring the practice of so much diplomacy, the honour which
Father Crabot accorded to a petty anarchical schoolmaster by thus
receiving him. Sanglebœuf had never once fought in his cuirassier days,
but he always talked of sabring people. Although the Marchioness,
after securing his election as a deputy, had made him rally to the
Republic--in accordance with the Pope's express commands--he still and
ever prated about his regiment, and flew into a passion whenever there
was any question of the flag. Indeed, he would have committed blunder
upon blunder had it not been for that intelligent Marchioness, and this
was one of the reasons she gave for remaining near him, Again, on this
occasion, she had to intervene and lead him and his wife away, walking
slowly between them, in the direction of the park, and showing the
while much gaiety of mien, and motherliness of manner towards both.

Baron Nathan, however, had quickly returned to the grand drawing-room,
the glass door of which he closed; and almost immediately afterwards
Marc heard himself called:

'Kindly follow me, my dear Monsieur Froment.'

The Baron led him through a billiard-room; then, having opened the
drawing-room door, drew back and ushered him in, delighted, it seemed,
with the strange part he was playing, his body bowed in a posture which
again showed racial humility reviving in the triumphant king of finance.

'Please enter--you are awaited.'

Nathan himself did not enter, but discreetly closed the door and
disappeared; while Marc, amazed, found himself in the presence of
Father Crabot, who stood, in his long black gown, in the centre of the
spacious and sumptuous room, hung with crimson and gold. A moment's
silence followed.

The Jesuit, whose noble mien, whose lofty and elegant carriage Marc
well remembered, seemed to him to have greatly aged. His hair had
whitened, and his countenance was ravaged by all the terrible anxiety
he had experienced for some time past. But the caressing charm of his
voice, its grave and captivating modulations, had remained.

'As circumstances have brought us both to this friendly house,
monsieur,' said he, 'you will perhaps excuse me for having prompted an
interview which I have long desired. I am aware of your merits, I can
render homage to all convictions, when they are sincere, loyal, and

He went on speaking in this strain for some minutes, heaping praises
on his adversary as if to daze him and win him over. But the device
was too familiar and too childish to influence Marc, who, after bowing
politely, quietly awaited the rest, striving even to conceal his
curiosity, for only some very grave reason could have induced such a
man as Father Crabot to run the risk of such an interview.

'How deplorable it is,' the Jesuit at last exclaimed, 'that the
misfortunes of the times should separate minds so fit to understand
each other! Some of the victims of our dissensions are really to be
pitied. For instance, there is President Gragnon----'

Then, as a hasty gesture escaped the schoolmaster, he broke off in
order to interpolate a brief explanation. 'I name him,' he said,
'because I know him well. He is a penitent of mine--a friend. A loftier
soul, a more upright and loyal heart could be found nowhere. You are
aware of the frightful position in which he finds himself--that charge
of prevarication,[2] which means the collapse of his entire judicial
career. He no longer sleeps; you would pity him if you were to witness
his sufferings.'

[Footnote 2: The word 'Prevarication' is used in a legal sense,
as signifying the betrayal of the interests of one party in a
lawsuit by collusion with the other party. The French call this

At last Marc understood everything. They wished to save Gragnon, who
only yesterday had been an all-powerful son of the Church, which felt
it would be grievously maimed if he should be struck down.

'I can understand his torment,' Marc finally answered, 'but he is
paying the penalty of his transgression. A judge must know the laws,
and the illegal communication of which he was guilty had frightful

'No, no, I assure you, he acted in all simplicity,' the Jesuit
exclaimed. 'That letter which he received at the last moment seemed
to him without importance. He still had it in his hand when he was
summoned to the jurymen's retiring room, and he no longer remembers how
it happened that he showed it to them.'

Marc gave a little shrug of the shoulders. 'Well,' he responded, 'he
will only have to tell that to the new judges, if there should be a new
trial.... In any case I hardly understand your intervention with me. I
can do nothing.'

'Oh! do not say that, monsieur! We know how great your power is,
however modest your position may seem to be. And that is why I thought
of applying to you. Throughout this affair all thought and action and
willpower have been centred in you. You are the friend of the Simon
family, which will do whatever you advise. So, come, will you not spare
an unfortunate man, whose ruin is by no means indispensable for your

Father Crabot joined his hands and entreated his adversary so fervently
that the latter, again all astonishment, wondered what could be the
real reason of such a desperate appeal, such clumsy and impolitic
insistence. Did the Jesuit feel that the cause he defended was lost?
Did he possess private information which made him regard revision as a
certainty? In any case, matters had come to such a pass, that he was
now ready to leave something to the fire in order to save the rest. He
abandoned his former creatures, who were now too deeply compromised.
That poor Brother Fulgence had a befogged, unbalanced mind, spoilt by
excessive pride; disastrous consequences had attended his actions.
That unfortunate Father Philibin had always been full of faith, no
doubt; but then there were many gaps in his nature. He was deplorably
deficient in moral sense. As for the disastrous Brother Gorgias, Father
Crabot cast him off entirely; he was one of those adventurous, erring
sons of the Church, who become its curse. And if the Jesuit did not go
so far as to admit the possible innocence of Simon, he was, at least,
not far from believing Brother Gorgias capable of every crime.

'You see, my dear sir,' he said, 'I do not deceive myself; but there
are other men whom it would be really cruel to visit too severely for
mere errors. Help us to save them, and we will requite the service by
ceasing to contend with you in other matters.'

Never had Marc so plainly realised his strength, the very strength of
truth. He answered, engaging in quite a long discussion, desirous as
he was of forming a final opinion with respect to the merits of Father
Crabot. And his stupefaction increased as he fathomed the extraordinary
poverty of argument, the arrant clumsiness too, which accompanied
the vanity of this man, accustomed never to be contradicted. Was
this, then, the profound diplomatist whose crafty genius was feared
by everybody, and the presence of whose hand was suspected in every
incident, as if, indeed, he ruled the world? In this interview, which
had been prepared so clumsily, he showed himself a poor bewildered
individual, committing himself far more than was necessary, even
incompetent to defend his faith against one who was merely possessed of
sense and logic. A mediocrity--that was what he was--a mediocrity, with
a _façade_ of social gifts, which imposed on the man in the street. His
real strength lay in the stupidity of his flock, the submissiveness
with which the faithful bent low before his statements, which they
regarded as being beyond discussion. And Marc ended by understanding
that he was confronted by a mere show Jesuit, one of those who for
decorative purposes were allowed by their Order to thrust themselves
forward, shine, and charm, while, in the rear, other Jesuits--such, for
instance, as Father Poirier, the Provincial installed at Rozan, whose
name was never mentioned--directed everything like unknown sovereign
rulers hidden away in distant places of retreat.

Father Crabot, however, was shrewd enough to understand at last that
he was taking the wrong course with Marc, and he thereupon did what he
could to recover his lost ground. The whole ended by an exchange of
frigid courtesies. Then Baron Nathan, who must have remained listening
outside the door, reappeared, looking also very discomfited, with only
one remaining anxiety, which was to rid La Désirade as soon as possible
of the presence of that petty schoolmaster, who was such a fool that
he could not even understand his own interests. He escorted him to the
terrace and watched his departure. And Marc, as he went his way among
the parterres, the plashing waters, and the marble nymphs, again caught
a glimpse of the Marchioness de Boise, laughing affectionately with
her good friends Hector and Léa, as all three strolled slowly under the
far-spreading foliage.

On the evening of that same day Marc repaired to the Rue du Trou,
having given David an appointment at the Lehmanns'. He found them
all in a state of delirious joy, for a telegram from a friend in
Paris had just informed them that the Court of Cassation had at last
pronounced an unanimous judgment, quashing the proceedings of Beaumont,
and sending Simon before the Assize Court of Rozan. For Marc this
news was like a flash of light, and what he had regarded as Father
Crabot's folly seemed to him more excusable than before. The Jesuit
had evidently been well informed; that judgment had been known to
him; and, revision becoming a certainty, he had simply wished to save
those whom he thought might still be saved. And now, at the Lehmanns',
all were weeping with joy, for the long calamity was over. Wildly did
Joseph and Sarah kiss Rachel, their poor, aged, and exhausted mother.
Both children and wife were intoxicated by the thought of the return of
the father, the husband, for whom they had mourned and longed so much.
Outrage and torture were all forgotten, for acquittal was now certain;
nobody doubted it either at Maillebois or at Beaumont. And David and
Marc, those two brave workers in the cause of justice, also embraced
each other, drawn together by a great impulse of affection and hope.

But, as the days went by, anxiety arose once more. At the penal
settlement yonder Simon had fallen so dangerously ill that for a long
time yet it would be impossible to bring him back to France. Months and
months might elapse before the new trial would begin at Rozan. And thus
all necessary time was given to the spirit of injustice to revive and
spread once more in the midst of mendacity and the multitude's cowardly


During the year which followed, a year full of anxiety, uneasiness,
and contention, the Church made a supreme effort to regain her power.
Never had her position been more critical, more threatened, than during
that desperate battle, by which the duration of her empire might be
prolonged for a century, or perhaps two centuries, should she win it.
In order to do so it was necessary she should continue to educate and
train the youth of France, retain her sway over children and women,
and avail herself of the ignorance of the humble in such wise as to
mould them and make them all error, credulity, and submissiveness,
even as she needed them to be in order to reign. The day when she
might be forbidden to teach, when her schools would be closed, and
disappear, would prove for her the beginning of the end, when she would
be annihilated amidst a new and free people, which would have grown up
outside the pale of her falsehoods, cultivating an ideal of reason and
humanity. And the hour was a grave one. That Simon affair, with the
expected return and triumph of the innocent prisoner, might deal a most
terrible blow to the Congregational schools by glorifying the secular
ones. Meantime Father Crabot, who wished to save Judge Gragnon, was so
compromised himself that he had disappeared from society and hidden
himself, pale and trembling, in his lonely cell. Father Philibin, who
had been consigned to an Italian convent, was spending the remainder
of his days in penitence, unless indeed he were already dead. Brother
Fulgence, removed by his superiors in punishment for the discredit
which had fallen on his school, a third of whose pupils had already
quitted it, was said to have fallen dangerously ill in the distant
department whither he had been sent. Finally, Brother Gorgias had fled,
fearing that he might be arrested, and feeling that his principals were
forsaking him, willing to sacrifice him as an expiatory victim. And
this flight had increased the anxiety of the defenders of the Church,
who lived only with the thought of fighting a last and merciless battle
when the Simon affair should come before the Rozan Assize Court.

Marc also, while lamenting Simon's ill health, which delayed his
return to France, was preparing for that same battle, fully realising
its decisive importance. Almost every Thursday, sometimes with David,
sometimes alone, he repaired to Beaumont, calling first on Delbos, to
whom he made suggestions, and whom he questioned about the slightest
incidents of the week. And afterwards he went to see Salvan, who kept
him informed of the state of public opinion, every fluctuation of which
set all classes in the town agog. In this wise, then, one Thursday,
Marc paid a visit to the Training College, and on quitting it went down
the Avenue des Jaffres, where, close to the cathedral of St. Maxence,
he was upset by a most unexpected meeting.

On one of the deserted sidewalks of the avenue, at a spot where
scarcely anybody was ever seen after four o'clock, he perceived
Geneviève seated on a bench, and looking very downcast, weary, and
lonely in the cold shadow falling from the cathedral, whose proximity
encouraged the moss to grow on the trunks of the old elms.

For a moment Marc remained motionless, quite thunderstruck. He had
met his wife in Maillebois at long intervals, but invariably in the
company of Madame Duparque; and on those occasions she had passed
through the streets with absent-minded eyes, on her way, no doubt, to
some devotional exercise. This time, however, they found themselves
face to face, in perfect solitude, parted by none. Geneviève had seen
him, and was looking at him with an expression in which he fancied he
could detect great suffering, and an unacknowledged craving for help.
Thus he went forward, and even ventured to seat himself on the same
bench, though at some little distance from her, for fear lest he should
frighten her and drive her away.

Deep silence reigned. It was June, and the sun, descending towards the
horizon in a vast stretch of limpid sky, transpierced the surrounding
foliage with slender golden darts; while little wandering zephyrs
already began to cool the warm afternoon atmosphere. And Marc still
looked at his wife, saying nothing, but feeling deeply moved as he
noticed that she had grown thinner and paler, as if after a serious
illness. Her face, crowned by splendid fair hair, and with large eyes
which once had been all passion and gaiety, had not only become
emaciated, but had acquired an expression of ardent anxiety, the
torment of a parching thirst, which nothing could assuage. Her eyelids
quivered, and two tears, which she vainly tried to force back, coursed
down her cheeks. Then Marc began to speak--in such a way that it seemed
as if he had quitted her only the previous day, such indeed was his
desire to reassure her.

'Is our little Clément well?' he asked.

She did not answer immediately, for she feared, no doubt, that she
might reveal the emotion which was choking her. The little boy, who had
lately completed his fourth year, was no longer at Dherbecourt. Having
removed him from his nurse, Geneviève now kept him with her in spite of
all her grandmother's scoldings.

'He is quite well,' she said at last in a slightly tremulous voice,
though on her side also she strove to affect a kind of indifferent

'And our Louise,' Marc resumed, 'are you satisfied with her?'

'Yes: she does not comply with my desires; you have remained the
master of her mind; but she is well behaved, she studies, and I do not
complain of her.'

Silence fell again, embarrassment once more stayed their tongues. That
allusion to their daughter's first Communion, and the terrible quarrel
which had parted them, had been sufficient. Yet the virulence of that
quarrel was necessarily abating day by day, the girl herself having
assumed all responsibility by her quiet resolve to await her twentieth
year before making any formal confession of religious faith. In her
gentle way she had exhausted her mother's resolution; and indeed a
gesture of lassitude had escaped the latter when speaking of her, as
if she had referred to some long-desired happiness, all hope of which
had fled. A few moments went by, and then Marc gently ventured to put
another question to her: 'And you, my friend, you have been so ill: how
are you now?'

She shrugged her shoulders in a hopeless way, and was again obliged to
force back her tears. 'I? Oh, I have long ceased to know how I am! But
no matter, I resign myself to live since God gives me the strength to
do so.'

So great was Marc's distress, so deeply was his whole being stirred by
a quiver of loving compassion at the sight of such great suffering,
that a cry of intense anxiety sprang from his lips: 'Geneviève, my
Geneviève, what ails you? what is your torment? Tell me! Ah, if I
could only console you, and cure you!'

Thus speaking, he came nearer to her on the bench, near enough indeed
to touch the folds of her gown, but she hastily drew back. 'No, no,
we have nothing more in common,' she exclaimed. 'You can no longer
do anything for me, my friend, for we belong to different worlds....
Ah! if I were to tell you! But of what use would it be? You would not
understand me!'

Nevertheless, she went on speaking; and in short and feverish
sentences, never noticing that she was confessing herself, she told
him of her torture, her daily increasing anguish, for she had reached
one of those distressful hours when the heart instinctively opens
and overflows. She related how, unknown to Madame Duparque, she had
escaped that afternoon from Maillebois, in order to speak with a famous
missionary, Father Athanase, whose pious counsels were at that time
revolutionising the pious folk of Beaumont. The missionary was merely
sojourning there for a short time, but it was said that he had already
worked some marvellous cures--a blessing, a prayer, from his lips
having restored angelic calmness to the unappeasable souls of women who
were racked by their yearning for Jesus. And Geneviève had just left
the neighbouring cathedral, where for two hours she had remained in
prayer, after confessing to that holy man her unquenchable thirst for
divine happiness. But he had merely absolved her for what he called
excess of pride and human passion, and by way of penitence had told her
to occupy her mind with humble duties, such as the care of the poor
and the sick. In vain afterwards had she striven to humble, annihilate
herself, in the darkest, the loneliest chapel of St. Maxence; she had
not found peace, she had not satisfied her hunger; she still glowed
with the same craving--a return for the gift of her whole being to the
Deity, that gift which she had tendered again and again, though never
once had it brought real peace and happiness to her flesh and her heart.

As Marc listened to what she said, he began to suspect the truth, and
whatever might be his sadness at seeing his Geneviève so wretched, a
quiver of hope arose within him. Plainly enough, neither Abbé Quandieu
nor even Father Théodose had satisfied the intense need of love that
existed in her nature. She had known love, and she must still love
the man, the husband, whom she had quitted, and who adored her. Mere
mystical delights had left her unsatisfied and irritated. She was now
but the proud, stubborn daughter of Catholicism, who turns desperately
to harsher and more frantic religious practices, as to stronger
stupefacients, in order to numb the bitterness and rebellion induced
by increasing disillusion. Everything pointed to it: the revival of
motherliness in her nature, for she had taken little Clément back, and
busied herself with him, and she even found some consolation in Louise,
who exercised a gentle healing influence over her, leading her back a
little more each day towards the father, the husband. Then, also, there
were her dissensions with her terrible grandmother, and her dawning
dislike for the little house on the Place des Capucins, where she at
last felt she could no longer live, for its coldness, silence, and
gloom were deathly. And, after failing with Abbé Quandieu and Father
Théodose, her sufferings had led her to make a supreme attempt with
that powerful missionary, to whom she had transferred her faith, that
miracle-working confessor, whom she had hastened to consult in secret
for fear lest she might be prevented, and who, by way of relief, had
only been able to prescribe practices which, in the circumstances, were

'But, my Geneviève,' Marc cried again, carried away, losing all thought
of prudence, 'if you are thus beset, thus tortured, it is because you
lack our home! You are too unhappy: come back, come back, I entreat

Her pride bristled up, however, and she answered: 'No, no, I shall
never go back to you. I am not unhappy: it is untrue. I am punished for
having loved you, for having been part of you, for having had a share
in your crime. Grandmother does right to remind me of it when I am so
weak as to complain. I expiate your sin, God strikes me to punish you,
and it is your poison which burns me beyond hope of relief.'

'But, my poor wife, all that is monstrous. They are driving you mad!
If it is true that I set a new harvest in you, it is precisely on that
harvest that I rely to ensure our happiness some day. Yes, we became
so blended one with the other that we can never be wholly parted. And
you will end by returning to me: our children will bring you back. The
pretended poison which your foolish grandmother talks about is our love
itself; it is working in your heart, and it will bring you back.'

'Never!... God would strike us down, both of us,' she retorted. 'You
drove me from our home by your blasphemy. If you had really loved me,
you would not have taken my daughter from me, by refusing to let her
make her first Communion. How can I return to a home of impiety where
it would not even be allowable for me to pray? Ah! how wretched I am;
nobody, nobody loves me, and heaven itself will not open!'

She burst into sobs. Filled with despair by that frightful cry of
distress Marc felt that it would be useless and cruel to torture her
further. The hour for reunion had not yet come. Silence fell between
them once more, while in the distance, on the Avenue des Jaffres, the
cries of some children at play rose into the limpid evening atmosphere.

During their impassioned converse they had at last drawn nearer to each
other on the lonely bench; and now, seated side by side, they seemed to
be reflecting, their glances wandering away amid the golden dust of the
sunset. At last Marc spoke again, as if finishing his thoughts aloud:
'I do not think, my friend, that you gave for a moment any credit to
the abominable charges with which certain people wished to besmirch me
_à propos_ of my brotherly intercourse with Mademoiselle Mazeline.'

'Oh! no,' Geneviève answered quickly, 'I know you, and I know her. Do
not imagine that I have become so foolish as to believe all that has
been said to me.'

Then with some slight embarrassment she continued: 'It is the same with
me. Some people, I know it, have set me among the flock which Father
Théodose is said to have turned into a kind of _cour galante_. In the
first place I do not admit that anything of the kind exists. Father
Théodose is, perhaps, rather too proud of his person, but I believe
his faith to be sincere. Besides, I should have known how to defend
myself--you do not doubt it, I hope?'

In spite of his sorrow Marc could not help smiling slightly.
Geneviève's evident embarrassment indicated that there had been some
audacity on the part of the Capuchin, and that she had checked it.
Assuming this to be the case Marc felt the better able to understand
why she was so perturbed and embittered.

'I certainly do not doubt it,' he responded. 'I know you, as you know
me, and I am aware that you are incapable of wrong-doing. I have no
anxiety respecting Father Théodose on your account, whatever another
husband of my acquaintance may have to say.... Yet all the same I
regret that you were so badly advised as to quit worthy Abbé Quandieu
for that handsome monk.'

A fugitive blush which appeared on Geneviève's cheeks while her husband
was speaking told him that he had guessed aright. It was not without
a profound knowledge of woman in her earlier years, when an _amorosa_
may exist within the penitent, that Father Crabot had advised Madame
Duparque to remove her daughter from the charge of old Abbé Quandieu
and place her in that of handsome Father Théodose. The Catholic doctors
are well aware that love alone can kill love, and that a woman who
loves apart from Christ never wholly belongs to Christ. The return
of Geneviève to her husband and her sin was fatal unless she should
cease to love, or rather unless she should love elsewhere. But, as it
happened, Father Théodose was not expert in analysing human nature,
he had blundered with respect to the passionate yet loyal penitent
confided to his hands, and had thus precipitated the crisis, provoking
repugnance and rebellion in that distracted, suffering woman, who,
without as yet returning to sober reason, saw the glorious, mystical
stage-scenery of the religion of her childhood collapse around her.

Well pleased with the symptoms which he fancied he could detect, Marc
asked somewhat maliciously: 'And so Father Théodose is no longer your

Geneviève turned her clear eyes upon him, and answered plainly:
'No, Father Théodose does not suit me, and I have gone back to Abbé
Quandieu, who, as grandmother rightly says, lacks warmth, but who
quiets me at times, for he is very kind.'

For a moment she seemed to ponder. Then, in an undertone, she allowed
another avowal to cross her lips: 'All the same, the dear man does not
know how greatly he has increased the torment in which I live by what
he said to me about that abominable affair----'

She stopped short, and Marc, guessing the truth, becoming quite
impassioned now that this subject was broached, continued: 'The Simon
affair, eh? Abbé Quandieu believes Simon to be innocent, does he not?'

Geneviève had cast her eyes towards the ground. For a moment she
remained silent; then said, very faintly: 'Yes, he believes in his
innocence; he told me so with great mystery in the choir of his church,
at the foot of the altar, before our Lord who heard him.'

'And you yourself, Geneviève, tell me, do you now believe in Simon's

'No, I do not, I cannot. You must remember that I should never have
left you had I believed him innocent, for his innocence would have
meant the guilt of the defenders of God. You, by defending him, charged
God with error and falsehood.'

Marc well remembered the circumstances. He again saw his wife bring
him the news of the revision, growing exasperated at the sight of his
delight, exclaiming that there was no truth or justice outside heaven,
and at last fleeing from the house where her faith was outraged. And
now that she seemed to him to be shaken he desired more ardently than
ever to convince her of the truth, for he felt that he would win her
back as soon as with the triumph of truth her mind should awaken to the
necessity of justice.

'But once more, Geneviève, my Geneviève, it is impossible that you,
who are so upright and so sincere, whose mind is so clear when the
superstitions of your childhood do not cloud it--it is impossible that
you should believe such gross falsehoods. Inform yourself, read the

'But I am fully informed, I assure you, my friend; I have read

'You have read all the documents which have been published? All the
inquiry of the Court of Cassation?'

'Why, yes! I have read everything that has appeared in _Le Petit
Beaumontais_. You know very well that grandmother takes that paper
every morning.'

With a violent gesture Marc gave expression to his disgust and
indignation. 'Ah well, my darling, you are, indeed, fully informed!
The vile print you speak of is a sewer of poison, which disseminates
only filth and falsehood. Documents are falsified in it, texts are
mutilated, and the poor credulous minds of the poor and the lowly are
gorged with stupid fables.[1]... You are simply poisoned like many
other worthy folk.'

[Footnote 1: This is exactly what happened in the Dreyfus case. If,
apart from all those who, hating Dreyfus as a Jew, were resolved
_a priori_ to regard him as guilty whatever might be the evidence,
there are still millions of Frenchmen who honestly retain a belief in
his culpability, this is because scores of French newspapers--those
owned or patronised by the Nationalist party and the Roman Catholic
Church--deliberately falsified and mutilated documents and evidence,
serving to their readers only such particulars as tended to indicate
the prisoner's guilt. It is hardly too much to say that half of France
is still ignorant of the real facts of the Dreyfus case. We are often
told that the press has much power for good: never was its power for
evil more strikingly exemplified than in that lamentable affair, from
the effects of which France is still suffering.--_Trans._]

She herself, no doubt, was conscious that the folly and impudence of
_Le Petit Beaumontais_ were excessive, for again she cast down her
eyes, and looked distressed.

'Listen!' Marc resumed. 'Let me send you the complete verbatim report
of the Court's inquiry, with the documents annexed to it; and promise
me that you will read everything attentively and straightforwardly.'

But at this suggestion she vivaciously raised her head: 'No, no; send
me nothing. I do not wish it.'


'Because it is useless. There is no need for me to read anything.'

He looked at her, again feeling discouraged and grieved.

'Say rather that you won't read.'

'Well, yes, if you prefer it that way, I won't read anything. As
grandmother says: "What is the use of it?" Ought one not always to
distrust one's reason?'

'You won't read anything because you fear you might be convinced,
because you already doubt the things which, only yesterday, you
regarded as certainties.'

She interrupted him with a gesture of fatigue and unconcern, but he
continued: 'And the words of Abbé Quandieu pursue you; you ask yourself
with terror how a holy priest can believe in an innocence which, if
recognised, would compel you to curse all the years of error with which
you have tortured our poor home.'

This time she did not even make a gesture, but it was apparent that she
had resolved to listen no further. For a moment her glance remained
fixed on the ground. Then she slowly said: 'Do not amuse yourself by
increasing my sorrow. Our life has been shattered. It is all over. I
should deem myself still more guilty than now if I were to go back to
you. And what personal relief could it give you to imagine that I made
a mistake, and that I have not found my grandmother's house to be the
home of peace and faith in which I thought I was taking refuge? My
sufferings would not cure yours.'

This, as Marc felt, was almost a confession--an acknowledgment of her
secret regret at having quitted him, and of the anxious doubts into
which she had sunk. Once more, therefore, he exclaimed: 'But if you are
unhappy, say it! And come back; bring the children with you; the house
still awaits you! It would be great joy, great happiness.'

But she stood up and repeated, like one who obstinately remains blind
and deaf: 'I am not unhappy. I am being punished, and I will endure my
punishment to the end. And if you have any pity for me, remain here;
do not try to follow me. Should you meet me again, too, turn your head
away, for all is ended, all must be ended, between us.'

Then she went off along the deserted avenue, amid the paling gold of
the sunset, her figure quite sombre, tall, and slim; and all that Marc
could still see of her beauty was her splendid fair hair, which a last
sunbeam irradiated. He obediently refrained from moving, but, hoping
for a last glance of farewell, he watched her as she walked away. She
did not turn, however; she disappeared from view among the trees, while
the evening wind, now rising, passed with a chilling quiver beneath the

When Marc painfully rose to his feet, he was amazed to see his good
friend Salvan standing before him, with a happy smile on his lips. 'Ah!
my fine lover, so this is how I catch you giving assignations in lonely
corners! I saw you already some time ago, but remained watching, for
I did not wish to disturb you.... So this is why you remained with me
such a short time when you called at the college this afternoon, Master

Sadly shaking his head, Marc walked away beside his old friend.
'No, no,' he said, 'we merely met by chance, and my heart is quite

Then he recounted the meeting, and the long conversation from which he
had just emerged feeling more convinced than ever that the rupture was
definitive. Salvan, who had never consoled himself for having promoted
a marriage which, however happy at the outset, was ending so badly,
and who recognised that he had acted with great imprudence in wedding
free thought to the Church, listened attentively, ceasing to smile, yet
looking fairly satisfied.

'But that is not so bad,' he said at last. 'You surely did not expect
that our poor Geneviève would throw herself at your head, and entreat
you to take her back? When a woman leaves her husband to give herself
to God, as your wife did, her pride prevents her from acknowledging
in that way the distress she now feels at having failed to find the
contentment she anticipated. None the less, in my opinion, Geneviève is
passing through a frightful crisis, which may bring her back to you at
any moment.... If truth should enlighten her, she will act at once. She
has retained too much sense to be unjust.'

And again becoming gay and animated, Salvan went on: 'I never told you,
my friend, of the attempts I made with Madame Duparque of recent years.
As they resulted in nothing, there was no occasion for me to vaunt them
to you. However, when your wife acted so inconsiderately, when she
left you, I thought of giving her a little lecture, for I was an old
friend of her father's, and, besides, I had been her own guardian. That
circumstance naturally gave me admittance to the dismal little house
on the Place des Capucins. But you can have no idea of the ferocious
manner in which the terrible old grandmother received me. She would not
leave me alone with Geneviève for a moment, and she interrupted every
conciliatory phrase of mine with imprecations intended to fall on you.
Nevertheless, I think I managed to say what I wished to say. True, the
poor child was in no fit state to listen to me. When Catholic training
revives, the ravages which religious exaltation may cause in a woman's
brain are frightful. Geneviève, for her part, appeared well-balanced
and healthy when you married her; but that unfortunate Simon affair
sufficed to shatter all equilibrium. She would not even listen to me;
her answers were so wild and foolish as to make one's reason stagger.
Briefly, I was beaten. I was not exactly turned out of doors, but,
after two subsequent attempts made at long intervals, I lost all hope
of introducing a little reasonableness into that abode of insanity,
where poor Madame Berthereau, in spite of her sufferings, seemed the
only person who retained a little good sense.'

'You see very well that there is no hope,' responded Marc, who remained
very gloomy. 'One cannot reclaim people when they so stubbornly persist
in refusing to make themselves acquainted with the truth.'

'Why not?' asked Salvan. 'I'm done for, that's true. It would be
useless for me to make any fresh attempt; they would stop up their eyes
and ears beforehand in order to see and hear nothing. But remember
that you have the most powerful of helpers, the best of advocates, the
shrewdest of diplomatists, the most skilful of captains, and in fact
the most triumphant of conquerors at work in that house!'

He laughed, and, growing quite excited, resumed: 'Yes, yes, your
charming Louise, whom I'm very fond of, and whom I regard as a prodigy
of good sense and grace. The firm and yet gentle behaviour of that
young girl, ever since her twelfth year, has been that of a heroine.
I know of no loftier or more touching example. Seldom does one meet
with such precocious sense and courage. And she is all deference and
affection, even when she refuses to do what her mother desires, by
reason of her promise to you respecting her first Communion. Now that
she has acquired the right to keep that promise, you should see how
prettily, how sedately, she manœuvres to effect the conquest of that
house where everybody is against her. Even her grandmother becomes
tired of scolding. But her dexterity is most marvellous with her
mother, whom she encompasses with an active worship, with all sorts of
attentions, as if dealing with some convalescent patient whose physical
and moral strength must first of all be restored, in order that she may
afterwards return to ordinary life. She seldom speaks to her mother
of you, but she accustoms her to live in an atmosphere which is full
of you, full of your thoughts and your love. She is there like your
other self, never pausing in her endeavours to bring about the return
of the wife and mother, by reconnecting the severed bond with her own
caressing hands. And if your wife returns to you, my friend, it will
be the child who will bring her back, the all-powerful child, whose
presence ensures health and peace in one's home.'

Marc listened, feeling deeply moved, and reviving to hope. 'Ah! may it
be true,' said he; 'nevertheless my poor Geneviève is still very ill.'

'Let your little healer do her work,' Salvan responded: 'the kiss she
gives her mother every morning brings life with it.... If Geneviève
suffers such torture it is because life is struggling within her, and
wresting her a little more each day from the deadly crisis in which you
nearly lost her. As soon as good Mother Nature triumphs over mystical
imbecility, she and your children will be in your arms.... Come, my
friend, be brave. It would be hard indeed if, after restoring poor
Simon to his family, your own domestic happiness should not be assured
by the triumph of truth and justice.'

They shook hands in brotherly fashion, and Marc, who returned to
Maillebois somewhat comforted, found himself on the morrow in the thick
of the fight again. The flight of Brother Gorgias had had a disastrous
effect in the little town, and the great days of the affair were now
beginning afresh. There was not a house whose inmates did not quarrel
and fight over the possible guilt of that terrible Christian Brother,
who, in disappearing from the scene, had impudently written to _Le
Petit Beaumontais_ to explain that, as his cowardly superiors had
decided to abandon him to his enemies, he was about to place himself in
safety, in order that he might be free to defend himself when and how
he pleased.

A much more important feature of this letter was, however, a revised
statement which Gorgias made in it to account for the presence of the
famous copy-slip in the paper gag found near Zéphirin's body. No doubt
the complicated story of a forgery, invented by his leaders, who were
unwilling even to admit that the copy-slip had come from the Brothers'
school, had always been regarded by Gorgias as idiotic. He must have
thought it stupid to deny the origin of the slip and the authenticity
of the initialling. Although every expert in the world might ascribe
that initialling to Simon, it would remain his, Gorgias's, handiwork
in the estimation of all honest and sensible folk. However, as his
superiors had threatened to abandon him to his own resources if he
did not accept their version of the affair, he had resigned himself
and relinquished his own. It was to the latter that he now reverted,
for since the missing corner bearing the school stamp had been found
at Father Philibin's, he regarded his superiors' version as utterly
ridiculous. It seemed to him absurd to pretend, as the Congregations
did, that Simon had procured a stamp, or had caused one to be made,
with the deliberate intention of ruining the Brothers' school. Now,
therefore, realising that his supporters were on the point of forsaking
and sacrificing him, Gorgias left them of his own accord, and by way
of intimidation revealed a part of the truth. His new version, which
upset all the credulous readers of _Le Petit Beaumontais_, was that the
copy-slip had really come from the Brothers', and had been initialled
by himself, but that Zéphirin had assuredly taken it home with him from
the school, even as Victor Milhomme had taken a similar slip, in spite
of all prohibitions; and that Simon had thus found it on the table in
his victim's room on the night of the abominable crime.

A fortnight after the appearance of this version the newspaper
published a fresh letter from Brother Gorgias. He had taken refuge in
Italy, he said; but he abstained from supplying his exact address,
though he offered to return and give evidence at the approaching trial
at Rozan if he received a formal guarantee that his liberty would not
be interfered with. In this second letter he still called Simon a
loathsome Jew, and declared that he possessed overwhelming proof of
his guilt, which proof, however, he would only divulge to the jury
at the Assize Court. At the same time this did not prevent him from
referring to his superiors, notably Father Crabot, in aggressive and
outrageous terms fraught with all the bitter violence of an accomplice
once willingly accepted but now cast off and sacrificed. How idiotic,
said he, was their story of a forged school stamp! What a wretched
falsehood, when the truth might well be told! They were fools and
cowards, cowards especially, for had they not acted with the vilest
cowardice in abandoning him, Gorgias, the faithful servant of God,
after sacrificing both the heroic Father Philibin and the unhappy
Brother Fulgence? Of the latter he only spoke in terms of indulgent
contempt; Fulgence, said he, had been a sorry individual, unhinged,
and full of vanity; and the others, after allowing him all freedom to
compromise himself, had got rid of him by sending him to some distant
spot under the pretext that he was ill. As for Father Philibin, Gorgias
set him on a pinnacle, called him his friend, a hero of dutifulness,
one who displayed passive obedience to his chiefs, who on their side
employed him for the dirtiest work, and struck him down as soon as it
was to their interest to close his mouth. And this hero, who was now
suffering untold agony in a convent among the Apennines, was depicted
by Gorgias as a martyr of the faith, even as he had been depicted in
print, with a palm and a halo, by some of the ardent anti-Simonists.

From this point Gorgias proceeded to glorify himself with extraordinary
vehemence, wild and splendid impudence. He became superb; he displayed
such a mixture of frankness and falsehood, energy and duplicity, that,
if the fates had been propitious, this base rascal might assuredly have
become a great man. Even as his superiors were still pleased to admit,
he remained a model cleric, full of admirable, exclusive, militant
faith, one who assigned to the Church the royalty both of heaven and of
earth, and who regarded himself as the Church's soldier, privileged to
do everything in her defence. At the head of the Church was the Deity,
then came his superiors and himself, and when he had given an account
of his actions to his superiors and the Deity, the only thing left for
the rest of the world was submission. Moreover, his superiors were of
no account when he deemed them to be unworthy. In that case he remained
alone in the presence of heaven. Thus, on days of confession, when
God had absolved him, he regarded himself as the unique, the one pure
man, who owed no account of his actions to anybody, and who was above
all human laws. Was not this indeed the essential Catholic doctrine,
according to which the ministers of the faith are rightly amenable to
the divine authority alone? And was it not only a Father Crabot, full
of social cowardice, who could trouble himself about imbecile human
justice, and the stupid opinions of the multitude?

In this second letter, moreover, Brother Gorgias admitted, with a
serene lack of shame, that he himself occasionally sinned. He then
beat his breast, cried aloud that he was but a wolf and a hog, and
humbly cast himself in the dust at the feet of God. Having thus made
atonement, he became tranquil and continued to serve the Church in all
holiness until the clay of creation cast him into sin again, whereupon
fresh absolution became necessary. But in any case he was at least a
loyal Catholic, he had the courage to confess, and the strength to
endure penitence, whereas all those dignitaries of the Church, those
Superiors of the Religious Orders, of whom he complained so bitterly,
were liars and poltroons, who trembled before the consequences of their
transgressions--who, like base hypocrites, concealed them or else cast
them upon others in their terror of the judgment of men.

At the outset Brother Gorgias's passionate recriminations had seemed to
be prompted merely by his anger at being so brutally abandoned after
serving as a docile instrument; but at present veiled threats began
to mingle with his reproaches. If he himself had always paid for his
transgressions like a good Christian, there were others, he said, who
had not done so. Yet some day assuredly they would be forced to make
atonement, should they continue to try the patience of heaven, which
would well know how to set up an avenger, a justiciary to proclaim the
unconfessed, unpunished crimes. In saying this Gorgias was evidently
alluding to Father Crabot and the mysterious story of the acquisition
of the Countess de Quédeville's immense fortune--that splendid domain
of Valmarie, where the Jesuit College had been subsequently established.

Several confused versions of that story had been current, and certain
particulars were now recalled: The old but still beautiful Countess
becoming extremely pious, and engaging Father Philibin, then a young
man, as tutor to her grandson, Gaston, the last of the Quédevilles,
who was barely nine years old. Next, Father Crabot arriving at the
château and becoming the confessor, the friend, and some even said the
lover, of the still beautiful Countess. Finally, the accident, the
death of little Gaston, who had been drowned while walking out with
his tutor, his death allowing his grandmother to bequeath the family
estate and fortune to Father Crabot, through the medium of a clerical
banker of Beaumont. And it was also remembered that among little
Gaston's playmates there had been a gamekeeper's son, a lad named
Georges Plumet, whom the Jesuits of Valmarie subsequently protected and
assisted, and who was none other than the present Brother Gorgias.

The latter's violent language and threatening manner recalled all
those half-forgotten incidents, and revived the old suspicion that
some dark deed might link the gamekeeper's humble son to the powerful
clerics who ruled the region. Would that not explain the protection
which they had so long given him, the audacious manner in which they
had shielded him, and at last even made his cause their own? Doubtless
their first impulse had been to save the Church, but a little later
they had done their utmost to make that terrible Ignorantine appear
innocent; and if they had now sacrificed him, it must be because they
deemed it impossible to defend him any longer. Perhaps, too, Brother
Gorgias only wished to alarm them in order to wring from them as much
money as possible. That he did alarm them was certain; one could detect
that they were greatly disturbed by the letters and articles of that
dreadful chatterer, who was ever ready to beat his breast and cry his
sinfulness and that of others aloud. Moreover, in spite of the seeming
abandonment in which he was left, one could divine that he was still
protected, powerfully even if secretly; while his sudden intervals
of silence, which lasted at times for weeks, plainly indicated that
friendly messages and money had been sent to him.

His admissions and his threats quite upset the rank and file of
the clerical faction. It was horrible! He profaned the temple, he
exposed the secrets of the tabernacle to the unhealthy curiosity of
unbelievers! Nevertheless, a good many devout folk remained attached to
him, impressed by the uncompromising faith with which he bowed to God
alone, and refused to recognise any of the so-called rights of human
society. Besides, why should one not accept his version of the affair,
his admission that he had really initialled the copy-slip, that it had
been carried away by Zéphirin, and utilised by Simon for a diabolical
purpose? This version was less ridiculous than that of his superiors:
it even supplied an excuse for what Father Philibin had done, for one
could picture the latter losing his head, and tearing off the stamped
corner of the slip, in a moment of blind zeal for the safety of his
holy mother, the Church.

To tell the truth, however, a far greater number of laymen, those who
were faithful to Father Crabot, as well as nearly all the priests and
other clerics clung stubbornly to the Jesuits' revised version of the
incident--that of Simon forging the paraph, and using a false stamp. It
was an absurd idea, but the readers of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ became
all the more impassioned over it, for the invention of a false stamp
added yet another glaring improbability to the affair. Every morning
the newspaper repeated imperturbably that material proofs existed of
the making of that false stamp, and that the recondemnation of Simon by
the Rozan Assize Court could no longer be a matter of doubt for anybody.

The rallying word had been passed round, and all 'right-minded' people
made a show of believing that the Brothers' school would triumph as
soon as the impious adversaries of the unfortunate Brother Gorgias
should be confounded. The school greatly needed such a victory,
for, discredited as it was by the semi-confessions and unpleasant
discoveries of recent times, it had just lost two more of its pupils.
Only the final overthrow of Simon and his return to the galleys could
restore its lustre. Until then it was fit that Brother Fulgence's
successor should remain patiently in the background, while Father
Théodose, the Superior of the Capuchins,--who also triumphed, even when
others were being ruined,--skilfully exploited the situation by urging
his devotees to make little periodical offerings, such for instance
as two francs a month, to St. Antony of Padua, in order that the
saint might exert his influence to keep the good Brothers' school at

However, the most serious incident of the turmoil in the town was
supplied by Abbé Quandieu, who had long been regarded as a prudent
Simonist. At that time it had been said that Monseigneur Bergerot, the
Bishop, was behind him, even as Father Crabot was behind the Capuchins
and the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine. As usual, indeed, the
Seculars and the Regulars confronted each other, the priests resenting
the efforts which were made by the monks to divert all worship and
revenue to their own profit. And in this instance, as in fact in all
others, the better cause was that of the priests, whose conception of
the religion of Christ was more equitable and human than that of the
monks. Nevertheless, Monseigneur Bergerot had been defeated, and by his
advice Abbé Quandieu had submitted and had done penance by attending an
idolatrous ceremony at the Capuchin Chapel.

But all the disastrous disclosures and occurrences of recent
times--first Father Philibin shown guilty of perjury and forgery,
then Brother Fulgence spirited away after compromising himself, then,
too, Brother Gorgias absconding and almost confessing his guilt--had
stirred the parish priest of Maillebois to rebellion, and revived his
former belief in Simon's innocence. Nevertheless he would probably
have remained silent, in a spirit of discipline, if Abbé Cognasse,
the priest of Jonville, had not gone out of his way to allude to him
in a sermon, saying that an apostate priest, a hireling of the Jews,
a traitor to his God and his country, was unhappily at the head of a
neighbouring parish. On hearing this, Abbé Quandieu's Christian ardour
asserted itself; he could no longer control the grief he felt at seeing
'the dealers of the Temple,' as he called them, betraying the Saviour
who was all truth and justice. Thus, in his sermon on the following
Sunday, he spoke of certain baleful men who were slaying the Church by
their abominable complicity with the perpetrators of the vilest crimes.
One may picture the scandal, the agitation, that ensued in the clerical
world, particularly as it was asserted that Monseigneur Bergerot was
again behind Abbé Quandieu, and was determined this time that fanatical
and malignant sectarians should not be allowed to compromise religion
any further.

At last, while passion was thus running riot, the new trial began
before the Rozan Assize Court. It had been possible to bring Simon back
to France, though he was still ailing, imperfectly cured as yet of
the exhausting fevers which had delayed his return for nearly a year.
During the voyage it had been feared that he would not be put ashore
alive. Moreover, for fear of disorder, violence, and outrage, it had
been necessary to practise dissimulation with respect to the spot where
he would land, and bring him to Rozan at night time by roundabout ways
which none suspected. At present he was in prison near the Palace of
Justice, having only a street to cross in order to appear before his
judges. And pending that event he was closely watched and guarded,
defended also, like the important and disquieting personage he had
become, one with whose fate that of the whole nation was bound up.

The first person privileged to see him was Rachel his wife, whom
that reunion, after so many frightful years, cast into wild emotion.
Ah! what an embrace they exchanged! And how great was the grief she
displayed after that visit, so thin, so weak had she found him, so
aged, too, with his white hair! And he had showed himself so strange,
ignorant as he still was of the facts, for the brief communication
by which the Court of Cassation had informed him of the approaching
revision of his case had given no particulars. It had not surprised
him to hear of the revision, he had always felt that it would some day
take place; and this conviction, in spite of all his tortures, had
lent him the strength to live in order that he might once more see
his children and give them back a spotless name. But how dark was the
anguish in which he had remained plunged, his mind ever dwelling on the
frightful enigma of his condemnation, which he could not unravel! His
brother David and Advocate Delbos, who hastened to the prison, ended by
acquainting him with the whole monstrous affair, the terrible war which
had been waged for years respecting his case, between those perpetual
foes, the men of authoritarian views who defended the rotten edifice of
the past, and the men of free thought who went towards the future. Then
only did Simon understand the truth and come to regard his personal
sufferings as mere incidents, whose only importance arose from the fact
that they had led to a splendid uprising in the name of justice, which
would benefit all mankind. Moreover, he did not willingly speak of his
torments; he had suffered less from his companions, the thieves and
murderers around him, than from his keepers, those ferocious brutes who
were left free to act as they pleased, and who, like disciples of the
Marquis de Sade, took a voluptuous delight in torturing and killing
with impunity. Had it not been for the strength of resistance which
Simon owed to racial heredity, and his cold logical temperament, he
would twenty times have provoked his custodians to shoot him dead. And
at present he talked of all those things in a quiet way, and evinced a
naïve astonishment on being told of the extraordinary complications of
the drama of which he was the victim.

Having secured a citation as a witness, Marc obtained leave of absence,
and, a few days before the trial began, he took up his abode at Rozan,
where he found David and Delbos already in the thick of the supreme
battle. He was surprised by the nervousness and anxious thoughtfulness
of David, who was usually so brave and calm. And it seemed to him
that Delbos, as a rule so gaily valiant, was likewise uneasy. As a
matter of fact it was for the latter a very big affair, in which he
risked both his position as an advocate and his increasing popularity
as a Socialist leader. If he should win the case he would doubtless
end by beating Lemarrois at Beaumont; but unfortunately all sorts of
disquieting symptoms were becoming manifest. Indeed Marc himself, after
reaching Rozan full of hope, soon began to feel alarmed amid his new

Elsewhere, even at Maillebois, the acquittal of Simon appeared certain
to everybody possessed of any sense. Father Crabot's clients, in their
private converse, did not conceal the fact that they felt their cause
to be greatly endangered. The best news also came from Paris, where
the Ministers regarded a just _dénouement_ as certain, lulled into
confidence as they were by their agents' reports respecting the Court
and the jury. But the atmosphere was very different at Rozan, where
an odour of falsehood and treachery pervaded the streets, and found
its way into the depths of men's souls. This town, once the capital
of a province, and now greatly fallen from its former importance, had
retained all its monarchical and religious faith, all the antiquated
fanaticism of a past age, which elsewhere had disappeared.[2] Thus
it supplied an excellent battle-ground for the Congregations, which
absolutely needed a decisive victory if they were to retain their
teaching privileges and control the future. And never had Marc more
fully realised how deeply Rome was interested in winning that battle;
never had he more plainly detected that behind the slightest incidents
of that interminable and monstrous affair there was papal Rome,
clinging stubbornly to its dream of universal domination--Rome which,
at every step over the paving-stones of Rozan, he found at work there,
whispering, striving, and conquering.

[Footnote 2: If proof were wanted to show that by Rozan M. Zola means
Rennes, the fanatical ex-capital of Brittany, it would be found in the
passage given above.--_Trans._]

Delbos and David advised him to observe extreme prudence. They
themselves were guarded by detectives for fear of some ambush; and he,
on the very morrow of his arrival, found shadowy forms hovering around
him. Was he not Simon's successor, the secular schoolmaster, the enemy
of which the Church must rid itself if it desired to triumph? And the
stealthy hatred by which Marc felt himself to be encompassed, the
menace of an evil blow in some dark corner, sufficed to show him that
the battle had sunk to the very lowest level, and that his adversaries
were indeed those men of blind, bigoted violence, who through the ages
had tortured, burnt, and murdered their fellow-beings in their mad
dream of staying the march of mankind!

That much established, Marc understood the terror weighing on the town,
the dismal aspect of its houses, whose shutters remained closed, as
if an epidemic were raging. As a rule, there is little animation in
Rozan during the summer, and at that moment the town seemed emptier
than ever. Pedestrians hastened their steps, glancing anxiously around
them as they went their way in the broad sunshine; shopkeepers stood at
their windows, inspecting the streets as if they feared some massacre.
The selection of the jury particularly upset those trembling folk;
there was much melancholy jogging of heads when the names of the chosen
jurors were made public. It was evidently considered a disaster to have
one among one's relatives.

Churchgoers abounded among the petty _rentiers_, manufacturers, and
tradespeople of that clerical centre, where lack of religion was
regarded as a shameful blot, and proved extremely prejudicial to one's
pecuniary interests. Frantic was the pressure exercised by mothers
and wives, led by all the priests, abbés, and monks of the six parish
churches and the thirty convents, whose bells were always ringing. At
Beaumont, in former times, the Church had been obliged to work with
some discretion, for it had found itself in the presence of both an
old Voltairean _bourgeoisie_ and of revolutionary _faubourgs_. But
there was no need for it to beat about the bush in that sleepy city of
Rozan, whose traditions were entirely pious. The workmen's wives went
to Mass, the women of the middle class formed all sorts of religious
associations; and thus a holy crusade began; none refused to help in
defeating Simon. A week before the trial the whole town had become a
battlefield; there was not a house that did not witness some combat
waged for the good cause. The wretched jurors shut themselves up, no
longer daring to go out, for strangers accosted them in the streets,
terrified them with evil glances or passing words, in which there
lurked a threat to punish them in their pockets or their persons if
they did not behave as good Catholics, and re-condemn the dirty Jew.

Marc was rendered yet more anxious by some information he received
respecting Counsellor Guybaraud, who was to preside over the Assize
Court, and Procureur Pacart, who was to conduct the prosecution.
The first had been a pupil of the Valmarie Jesuits, to whom he owed
his rapid promotion, and had married a very wealthy and very pious
hunchbacked girl, whom he had received from their hands. The latter,
an ex-demagogue, had been vaguely compromised in some gambling affair,
and, becoming a frantic anti-semite, had rallied to the Church, from
which he expected a post in Paris. Marc felt particularly distrustful
of Pacart on observing how insidiously the anti-Simonists affected
anxiety respecting his attitude, as if indeed they feared some revival
of his revolutionary past. While they never ceased praising the lofty
conscientiousness of Guybaraud, they spoke of Pacart with all sorts
of reservations, in order, no doubt, to enable him to play the heroic
part of an honest man, overcome by the force of truth, on the day when
he would have to ask the jury for Simon's head. The very circumstance
that the clericals went about Rozan dolefully repeating that Pacart was
not on their side made Marc distrustful, for information from a good
source had acquainted him with the undoubted venality of this man, who
was ready for the vilest bargaining in his eager desire to regain a
semblance of honour in some high position.

However, the desperate and deadly battle became at Rozan a subterranean
one. The affair was not lightly prosecuted in drawing-rooms among
the smiles of ladies, as at Beaumont. Nor was there any question of a
liberal prelate like Monseigneur Bergerot resisting the Congregations
from a dread lest the Church should be submerged and swept away by the
rising tide of base superstition. This time the contest was carried
on in the darkness in which great social crimes take their course;
all that appeared on the surface was some turbid ebullition, a kind
of terror sweeping through the streets as through a city stricken
with a pestilence. And Marc's anguish arose particularly from that
circumstance. Instead of again witnessing the resounding clash of
Simonists and anti-Simonists, as at Beaumont, he was confronted by the
stealthy preparations for a dark crime, for which a Guybaraud and a
Pacart were doubtless the necessary chosen instruments.

Every evening David and Delbos repaired to the large room which Marc
had rented in a lonely street, and ardent friends of all classes
surrounded them. These formed the little sacred phalanx; each visitor
brought some news, contributed suggestions and courage. They were
determined that they would not despair. Indeed, after an evening spent
together they felt inspirited, ready for fresh encounters. And they
were aware that their enemies met in a neighbouring street, at the
house of a brother-in-law of Judge Gragnon, who, having been summoned
as a witness by the defence, was staying there, receiving all the
militant anti-Simonists of the town--a procession of frocks and gowns
that slipped into the house as soon as night had fallen. Father Crabot
had slept there twice, it was said, and had then returned to Valmarie,
where with a great display of humility he had cloistered himself in

Suspicious characters prowled about that sparsely populated district;
the streets were not safe; and, accordingly, when David and Delbos
quitted Marc at night, their friends accompanied them home in a band.
One night a shot was fired; but the detectives, though always on the
watch, could find nobody to arrest. But the favourite weapon of the
priests is venomous slander, moral murder, perpetrated in a cowardly
fashion in the dark. And Delbos became the chosen victim. On the very
day when the trial was to begin, the number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_
which reached Rozan contained an abominable disclosure, full of
mendacity, a shamefully travestied story, half a century old, about
the advocate's father. The elder Delbos, though of peasant stock,
had become a goldsmith, in a small way, in the neighbourhood of the
Bishop's residence at Beaumont; and the newspaper charged him with
having made away with certain sacred vessels which had been entrusted
to him for repair. The truth was that the goldsmith, robbed by a woman
whom he was unwilling to denounce, had found himself obliged to pay the
value of the stolen goods. There had been no prosecution; the affair
had remained obscure; but one had to read that filthy print to realise
to what depths of malevolence and ignominy certain men could descend.
That painful, forgotten, buried misfortune of the father's was cast in
the face of the son with an abundance of spurious particulars, vile
imaginings, set forth in language which was all outrage and mire. And
the desecrator of the grave, the murderously-minded libeller who wrote
those things, had plainly obtained the documents he published from the
very hands of Father Crabot, to whom they had been communicated, no
doubt, by some priestly archivist. It was hoped that this unexpected
bludgeon-blow would strike Delbos full in the heart, assassinate him
morally, discredit him as an advocate, annihilate him to such a point
that he would have neither the strength to speak nor the authority to
gain a hearing in the defence of Simon.

However, the trial began one Monday, a hot day in July. Apart from
Gragnon, whom it was intended to confront with Jacquin, the foreman
of the first jury, several witnesses had been cited for the defence.
Mignot, Mlle. Rouzaire, Daix, Mauraisin, Salvan, Sébastien and
Victor Milhomme, Polydor Souquet, the younger Bongards, Doloirs, and
Savins were all on the list. Fathers Crabot and Philibin, Brothers
Fulgence and Gorgias had also been cited, though it was known that the
last three would not appear. On the other side the Procureur de la
République had contented himself with recalling the witnesses for the
prosecution who had given evidence at the first trial. And the streets
of Rozan had at last become animated with witnesses, journalists, and
inquisitive folk, arriving in fresh batches by each succeeding train.
Already at six o'clock in the morning a crowd assembled near the Palace
of Justice eager to catch a glimpse of Simon. But a considerable
military force had been set on foot, the street was cleared, and Simon
crossed it between two rows of soldiers, set so closely together that
none of the onlookers could distinguish his features. It was then
eight o'clock. That early hour had been chosen in order to avoid the
oppressive heat of the afterpart of the day when one would have stifled
in the court-room.

The scene was very different from that presented by the brand new
assize-hall of Beaumont, where a profusion of gilding had glittered in
the crude light that streamed in by the lofty windows. At Rozan the
assizes were held in an ancient feudal castle; the hall was small and
low, panelled with old oak, and scarcely lighted by the windows of a
few deep bays. One might have thought the place to be one of those dark
chapels where the Inquisition pronounced sentence. Only a few ladies
could possibly be admitted, and all of them, moreover, wore sombre
garb. Most of the seats were occupied by the witnesses, and even the
little standing-room usually allowed to the public had to be curtailed.
The audience, packed since seven o'clock in that stern and mournful
room, preserved a relative silence, through which swept a stealthy
quiver. If the eyes of the onlookers remained ardent their gestures
were restrained; they had come there for a subterranean execution, a
work of suppression which had to be accomplished far from the light,
with the least noise possible.

As soon as Marc was seated beside David, who went in with the
witnesses, he experienced a feeling of anguish, a stifling sensation,
as if the walls were about to crumble and bury them. He had seen all
eyes turn in their direction. David, particularly, aroused great
curiosity. Then Marc felt moved, for Delbos had just come in, looking
pale but resolute amid the evil glances of most of the spectators, who
were eager to ascertain if he had been upset by the infamous article
which had appeared that morning. However, the advocate, as if arrayed
in an armour of valour and contempt, remained for some time standing
there, displaying only smiling strength and indifference.

Marc then interested himself in the jurors, scrutinising them as they
entered, one by one, anxious as he was to ascertain to what kind of
men the great task of reparation was confided. And he perceived the
insignificant faces of various petty tradespeople, petty _bourgeois_,
with a chemist, a veterinary surgeon, and two retired captains. On
all those faces one found an expression of mournful disquietude, the
signs of a desire to hide internal perturbation. The worries which
had assailed those men since their names had become known had pursued
them to that hall. Several had the wan countenances of devotees, of
shaven, canting beadles, while others, red and corpulent, looked
as if they had doubled their usual ration of brandy that morning in
order to instil a little courage into their paunches. Behind them one
could divine the entirety of that old priestly and military city with
its convents and its barracks; and one shuddered to think that those
men, whose minds and consciences had been deformed, stifled, by their
surroundings, should be entrusted with such a work of justice.

But a buzzing spread through the hall, and all at once Marc experienced
the most poignant thrill of emotion he had ever known. He had not seen
Simon since his return, and now he suddenly perceived him, standing
behind Delbos. And terrible was the apparition of that bent and
emaciated little man, with ravaged features and bald cranium, on which
only a few scanty white locks remained. What! that wreck, that puny
remnant of a man was his old comrade, whom he had known so vivacious
and refined! If Simon had never possessed any great physical gifts, if
his voice had been weak, his gestures inelegant, at least a brazier of
youth and faith had glowed within him. And the galleys had only given
back that poor, broken, crushed being, a mere shred of humanity, in
whom nought of the past subsisted save two flaming eyes, which alone
proclaimed the invincible will and courage he preserved. One recognised
him only by those eyes; and they, too, explained how he had been able
for so many years to resist suffering, for their expression told of
the world of fancy, of pure ideality, in which he had always lived.
Every glance was turned upon him, but he did not seem conscious of it,
such was the power he possessed of isolating himself. He gazed at the
assembly in an absent-minded way until at last a smile of infinite
tenderness came over his face as he perceived his brother David. Marc,
who sat beside the latter, then felt him tremble in every limb.

It was a quarter past eight o'clock when the usher's call rang out,
and the Court entered. The assembly arose and then sat down again.
Marc, who remembered the violence of the spectators at Beaumont, who
from growls had passed to vociferations, was astonished by the heavy
quietude preserved by the present onlookers, though he divined that
they were swayed by the same passions, and remained mutely eager for
slaughter, as if they were lying in ambush in some sombre nook. The
sight of the prisoner had scarcely wrung a low murmur from them; and
now while the judges took their seats, they relapsed into their
attitude of dark expectancy. Again, compared with the rough and jovial
Gragnon, the new presiding judge, Guybaraud, surprised one by his
perfect courtesy, his unctuous gestures, his insinuating speech. He
was a little man, whose manner was all smiles and gentleness, but an
odour of the sacristies seemed to emanate from his person, and his
grey eyes were as cold and as cutting as steel. Nor was the difference
less remarkable between the former Procureur de la République, the
brilliant Raoul de La Bissonnière, and Pacart, the present one, who
was very long, slender, and lean, with a yellow, baked face, as if he
were consumed by a desire to efface his equivocal past and make a rapid

After the first formalities, when the jury had been empanelled, an
usher called the names of the witnesses, who, one by one, withdrew.
Marc, like the others, had to leave the hall. Then, in a leisurely
way, President Guybaraud began to interrogate Simon, putting his
questions in a tone of voice that suggested the coldness of a blade,
handled with deadly skill and precision. That interminable examination,
which lingered over the slightest incidents of the old affair, and
insisted on the charge which the inquiry of the Court of Cassation
had destroyed, proved quite a surprise. Some clearing of the ground,
an examination on the questions set by the supreme jurisdiction,
was all that had been expected; but it at once became evident that
the Assize Court of Rozan did not intend to take any account of the
facts established by that jurisdiction, and that the presiding judge
meant to avail himself of his discretionary powers to deal with the
entire case from the very beginning. Soon, indeed, by the questions
which he asked, one understood that nothing of the old indictment had
been relinquished. It was again alleged that Simon had returned from
Beaumont by rail, that he had reached Maillebois at twenty minutes to
eleven o'clock, and that soon afterwards he had committed the crime. At
this point, however, the new version of the Jesuits--necessitated by
the discovery at Father Philibin's--was interpolated, and the prisoner
was accused of having procured a copy-slip, of having caused a false
stamp to be made, and of having forged on the slip the initials of
Brother Gorgias. Thus that childish story, which Gorgias himself had
deemed so idiotic that he had admitted the authenticity of the slip and
the paraph, was retained. While nothing was abandoned of the original
charges, a gross invention was brought forward in support of them;
and everything was again based on the famous report of the experts,
Masters Badoche and Trabut, who clung to their original statements in
spite of Brother Gorgias's formal admissions. And the Procureur de la
République, as if to leave no doubt of his own views, intervened in
order to extract precise statements from the prisoner with respect to
his denials on the question of the false stamp.

Simon's demeanour during that long examination was regarded as pitiful.
Many of his partisans had dreamt of him as a justiciar, armed with
the thunderbolts of heaven, and rising like an avenger from the
grave into which he had been thrust by iniquitous hands. And as he
answered politely in a voice which still quivered feverishly, and with
none of the outbursts that had been anticipated, the disappointment
was extreme. His enemies once more began to say that he virtually
confessed his crime, the ignominy of which they found stamped upon his
unprepossessing countenance. Only at one moment did he become excited,
display any passionate fervour. This was when the judge spoke to him
of the false stamp of which he heard for the first time. It should be
added that no proof was supplied respecting that stamp; the prosecution
contented itself with relating that an unknown workman had confided to
a woman that he had secretly done a curious job for the schoolmaster of
Maillebois. Confronted, however, by the sudden violence of Simon, the
judge did not insist on the point, particularly as Delbos had risen,
prepared to raise an 'incident.' And the public prosecutor merely added
that, though they had failed to find the unknown workman, he reserved
to himself the right of insisting on the serious probability of the
alleged occurrence.

In the evening, when David related what had occurred at that first
sitting, Marc, who divined some fresh iniquity, felt a pang at the
heart. Assuredly the greatest crime of all was now in preparation. He
was not astonished by the calm and unobtrusive bearing of Simon, who
was confident in the strength of his innocence, and incapable of an
outward show of emotion.[3] But he perfectly understood the bad effect
which had been produced; while, from the aggressive coldness of the
presiding judge, and the importance the latter gave to the most trivial
matters, already elucidated, he derived a disastrous impression, a
quasi-certainty that a fresh conviction was impending. On hearing him,
David, from whom he thought it wrong to hide his anxiety, could only
with difficulty restrain his tears, for he also had quitted the Palace
of Justice in despair, full of a dreadful presentiment.

[Footnote 3: This was a marked characteristic of the unfortunate
Captain Dreyfus, whose demeanour at the trial at Rennes produced
such an unfavourable impression on sundry foolish English 'special
correspondents,' that they veered round and began to regard the
prisoner as guilty, quite irrespective of the evidence. As one who has
witnessed many criminal trials, who has been a juror and the foreman of
a jury, I feel that everything that has been written to my knowledge in
English literature respecting the 'proper' demeanour of an innocent man
is nonsense and nothing else.--_Trans._.]

However, the following days, which were entirely devoted to the hearing
of evidence, brought back some courage and illusion. The former
witnesses for the prosecution were first examined, and one again
beheld a procession of railway employés and _octroi_ officials, who
contradicted one another on the question whether Simon, on the night
of the crime, had returned to Maillebois by train or on foot. Marc,
who wished to follow the case, had asked Delbos to have him called as
soon as possible, and this being done he gave evidence respecting the
discovery of poor little Zéphirin's body. He was then able to seat
himself once more beside David, who still occupied a corner of the
small space allotted to the witnesses. And thus Marc was present at
the first 'incident' raised by the counsel for the defence, who had
retained all his bravery and self-possession in spite of the cruel blow
which had lately struck him in the heart.

He rose to demand the attendance of Father Philibin and Brothers
Fulgence and Gorgias, who, said he, had been duly cited. But the
presiding judge briefly explained that the citations had reached
neither Father Philibin nor Brother Gorgias, both of whom, no doubt,
were abroad, though their exact whereabouts was not known. As for
Brother Fulgence, he was seriously ill, and had sent a medical
certificate to that effect. Delbos insisted, however, with respect to
Brother Fulgence, and ended by obtaining a promise that he should be
visited by a sworn medical man. Then, also, the advocate was unwilling
to content himself with a letter in which Father Crabot, while urging
his occupations, his confessional duties, as an excuse for absence,
declared that he knew nothing whatever of the affair; and, in spite of
the acrimonious intervention of the Procureur de la République, Delbos
again carried his point--that the Court should insist on the attendance
of the Rector of Valmarie. However, this first collision fomented
anger, and from that moment conflicts continually arose between the
judge and the advocate.

The day's sitting ended amidst an outburst of emotion, occasioned by
the unexpected character of the evidence given by assistant-teacher
Mignot. Mademoiselle Rouzaire, as bitter and as positive as ever, had
just reaffirmed that, at about twenty minutes to eleven o'clock, she
had heard the footsteps and the voice of Simon coming in and speaking
with Zéphirin--which evidence had weighed so heavily on the prisoner at
the previous trial--when Mignot, following her at the bar, retracted
the whole of his former statements in a tone of wondrous frankness
and emotion. He had heard nothing; he was now convinced of Simon's
innocence, and adduced the weightiest reasons. Mademoiselle Rouzaire
was then recalled, and there came a dramatic confrontation, in which
the schoolmistress ended by losing ground, becoming embarrassed in
her estimate of the hour, and finding nothing to answer when Mignot
pointed out that it was impossible to hear from her room anything that
took place in little Zéphirin's. Marc was recalled to confirm Mignot's
demonstration, and at the bar he found himself for a moment beside
Inspector Mauraisin, who, being asked for his opinion respecting the
prisoner and the witnesses, endeavoured to get out of his difficulty
by indulging in extravagant praise of Mademoiselle Rouzaire's merits,
while saying nothing particular against Mignot or Marc, or even Simon,
at a loss as he was to tell what turn the case might take.

The next two sittings of the Court proved even better for the defence.
The question of hearing a part of the evidence _in camera_, which
had impassioned people at the first trial, was not even put, for the
presiding judge did not dare to raise it. It was in public that he
interrogated Simon's former pupils, boys at the time of the crime but
now grown men, for the most part married. Fernand Bongard, Auguste
and Charles Doloir, Achille and Philippe Savin came in succession to
relate the little they remembered, and their statements were favourable
to the prisoner rather than the reverse. Thus ended the abominable
legend built up by the help of the former proceedings _in camera_, the
legend of horrible charges with which, it had been said, one could not
possibly soil the ears of an audience composed partially of women.

However, the sensational evidence of the sitting was that given by
Sébastien and Victor Milhomme. In accents of emotion Sébastien, now two
and twenty years of age, explained the falsehood of his childhood, the
alarm of his mother, the suppression of the truth, which he and she had
expiated after prolonged torture. And he stated the facts such as they
really were, how he had seen a copy-slip in the hands of his cousin
Victor, how that slip had disappeared, how it had been found again, and
given up when his mother, grief-stricken beside his bed of sickness,
had deemed herself punished for her bad action. As for Victor, when his
turn came to testify, in order to please his mother, who did not wish
to compromise the stationery business any further, he feigned total
forgetfulness, the obtuseness of a big fellow who had no memory. No
doubt he must have brought the copy-slip from the Brothers' school, as
it had been found, but he knew nothing, he could say nothing further.

Finally, another of the Brothers' former pupils, Polydor Souquet,
now a servant in a Beaumont convent, appeared at the bar, and was
questioned very pressingly by Delbos respecting the manner in which
Brother Gorgias had escorted him home on the night of the crime, the
incidents which had occurred on the road, the words that had been
exchanged, and the hour. But all that Delbos could extract from Polydor
were some evasive answers, and malicious glances promptly tempered
by an affectation of stupidity. How could one remember after so many
years? the witness asked. The excuse was too convenient, and the
Procureur de la République began to show signs of anxious impatience,
while the onlookers, though they failed to understand why the advocate
insisted so much with an apparently insignificant witness, felt as it
were a quiver of the truth passing through the atmosphere--the truth
suspected, but once more taking flight.

People were stirred again at the next sitting of the Court, though it
began with the interminable demonstrations of the experts, Masters
Badoche and Trabut, who, disregarding even the admissions of Brother
Gorgias himself, obstinately refused to recognise his initials, an F
and a G, in the incriminated paraph, in which they alone recognised
those of Simon, an E and an S interlaced, but, it was true, illegible.
For more than three hours these men piled argument upon argument,
demonstration on demonstration, calmly persevering in their lunacy.
And the marvel was that the presiding judge allowed them to go on, and
listened to them with manifest complacency, while the Procureur made
a show of taking notes, and asked the experts for precise information
on certain points, as if the prosecution still adopted their system.
In presence of this _mise-en-scène_, even reasonable people in the
hall began to hesitate. And, after all, why not? For in matters of
handwriting one could never tell.

But at the close of the sitting an incident, which did not last
ten minutes, upset everybody. Clad in black from head to foot,
ex-investigating Magistrate Daix, who had been cited by the defence,
appeared at the bar. He was scarcely fifty-six years old, but he looked
seventy; thin and bent, his hair quite white, his face so emaciated
that little of it, save the slender, blade-like nose, seemed to remain.
He had lately lost his wife, and people talked of the torturing life
which that ugly, coquettish, ambitious woman had led him in her despair
that nothing ever raised them from their narrow circumstances, not
even the condemnation of that Jew Simon, on which she had insisted
and from which she had hoped to derive so much. And now that his wife
was no longer beside him, Daix, timid and anxious, painstaking in his
profession, an honest man at heart, had come there to relieve his
conscience, distracted as he was by the deeds which had been wrung
from his weakness, his craving to have peace at home. He did not
positively speak of all those things, he did not even admit that after
his investigations he had felt that the only possible decision was an
order to stay further proceedings. But he allowed Delbos to question
him, and when his present opinion was asked, he replied plainly that
the inquiry of the Court of Cassation had destroyed his work, the
original indictment, and that for his own part he now regarded Simon
as innocent. Then he withdrew amidst the silent stupefaction of the
onlookers. The apparition of that man in mourning garb, the admissions
made by him in slow and sorrowful accents, had stirred every heart.

That evening, in Marc's large room, where Simon's friends met after
every sitting of the Court in order to discuss matters, Delbos
and David expressed keen satisfaction, a conviction that success
was almost certain now, so great, apparently, was the impression
which Daix's evidence had produced on the jury. Nevertheless, Marc
remained anxious. He told the others of certain rumours which were
circulating concerning the stealthy doings of ex-President Gragnon,
who had been carrying on a subterranean campaign ever since his
arrival at Rozan. Marc was aware that, even as the friends of the
defence met in his own room, in like way mysterious meetings took
place every night at Gragnon's in an adjoining street. And there the
partisans of the prosecution certainly decided on the line they would
pursue on the morrow, invented the answers which it would be best to
give, planned the incidents which they felt ought to be raised, in
particular preparing the evidence in accordance with the result of the
day's sitting. For instance, whenever that sitting was regarded as
unfavourable to the prosecution, one might be sure that there would
be some surprise detrimental to the prisoner, at the outset of the
sitting on the morrow. Moreover, Father Crabot had been again seen
slipping into Gragnon's house. Several people also declared that they
had seen young Polydor Souquet leaving it. And others alleged that at
a very late hour they had met in the street a lady and a gentleman who
looked extremely like Mademoiselle Rouzaire and Inspector Mauraisin.
But the worst was some mysterious work, which centred round those
jurors who were notoriously on the side of the Church, and of which
Marc obtained an inkling, though his informant could not give him full
particulars. Gragnon did not commit such a blunder as to ask those
men to call at his house, nor did he, indeed, address himself to them
personally; but he made others call on them, and show them, so it was
said, an irrefutable proof of Simon's guilt, a terrible document, which
the most serious reasons prevented him from making public, though he
was resolved to employ it, all the same, should the defence drive him
to extremities. And this information made Marc feel anxious, for he
scented some fresh abomination in it. Thus, on the evening of the day
when Daix had dealt the prosecution such a severe blow, he predicted to
his friends some deed of retaliation on the enemy's part, some sample
of the thunder which Gragnon, according to his own account, had in his

The following sitting of the Court was, indeed, one of the gravest and
most exciting. Jacquin, the foreman of the first jury, in his turn came
forward to relieve his conscience. In simple language he related how
President Gragnon, on being summoned by the jurors, who had wished
to consult him respecting the penalty attaching to their verdict, had
entered their room carrying a letter, and looking very much disturbed.
And he had shown them that letter, which bore Simon's signature,
followed by a postscriptum and a paraph, which last was identical with
the one on the copy-slip tendered as evidence. Several jurymen, who
had hesitated previously, then declared themselves convinced of the
prisoner's guilt. He, Jacquin, had retained no further doubts; and for
the peace of his conscience he had been well pleased at thus acquiring
certainty. At that time he had not known that such a communication
was illegal. It was only later that he had discovered such to be the
case, and had experienced great distress of mind until, at last, the
postscriptum and the paraph being recognised as forgeries, he had
resolved, like a good Christian, to make amends for his involuntary
error. A shudder of awe sped through those who heard him, when in his
quiet way he added a last detail: He had heard the very voice of Jesus
telling him to speak out, one evening when, tortured by remorse, he was
kneeling in a dim chapel of St. Maxence.

Then Gragnon was summoned to the bar, and at first tried the effect of
the rough frankness which he had so often assumed in his browbeating
judicial days. He was still fat, though his fears had made him pale;
and, striving to hide his prolonged anguish beneath the impudence of a
_bon vivant_, he pretended that he no longer remembered petty details.
And well--yes, he believed he had gone into the jurors' room carrying
the letter which he had just received. He had been upset by it, and
had shown it to the others in a moment of emotion, scarcely realising
the nature of his action, and being only desirous of establishing the
truth. He had never regretted that communication, so fully was he
convinced of the authenticity of the postscript and the paraph. In his
opinion the assertion that they were forgeries remained to be proved.
Then, as he formally charged Jacquin with having read the letter aloud
to the other jurors, and of having commented on it, the ex-foreman was
recalled, and a sharp dispute ensued. At last Gragnon convicted the
architect of some error or forgetfulness respecting the perusal of the
letter; and thereupon he triumphed while the spectators began to hiss
the honest witness, who from that moment was suspected of having sold
himself to the Jews.

In vain did Delbos repeatedly intervene, striving to exasperate Gragnon
and unmask him, by forcing him to an explosion, the production of
the famous document which it was said would clench everything. The
ex-judge, who retained all his self-possession, and who was satisfied
with having escaped immediate danger by casting a doubt on his
adversary's veracity, relapsed into evasive answers. It was noticed,
however, that one of the jurors caused a question to be put to him--a
question which nobody understood, but which was whether he did not
possess some knowledge of another document bearing on the authenticity
of the copy-slip. Gragnon answered enigmatically, that he abided by his
previous declarations, and was unwilling to enter into other matters,
however certain they might be. And thus that sitting of the Court,
which, at the outset, had seemed likely to ruin the prosecution, ended
to its advantage. In Marc's room in the evening, Simon's friends again
began to despair.

The examination of the witnesses dragged on during a few more sittings.
The doctor appointed to visit Brother Fulgence had returned with a
report that the Brother's condition was very serious, and that it was
impossible to bring him to Rozan. In like manner Father Crabot avoided
the embarrassment of attendance by feigning a sudden accident--a severe
sprain. In vain did Delbos make an application for his evidence to be
taken by commission. President Guybaraud, who at the outset had shown
himself so phlegmatic, now sabred everybody and everything in his
eagerness to bring the case to an end. He treated Simon harshly, as
if, indeed, he were already a condemned man; being emboldened to this
course by the singular calmness of the prisoner, who still listened to
the witnesses with curiosity and stupefaction, as if the extraordinary
adventures of somebody else were being recounted to him. Only on two or
three occasions did some extremely mendacious testimony prompt him to a
little rebellion; for the most part he contented himself with smiling
and shrugging his shoulders.

At last Pacart, the Procureur de la République, addressed the Court.
Tall and thin, he was addicted to long, nervous gestures, and affected
an unadorned, mathematically precise kind of eloquence. In presence of
the plainly-worded judgment of the Court of Cassation, his task was not
easy. But his tactics were very simple, he took no account of that
judgment, he did not once allude to the long inquiry which had ended
in a decision to send the affair for trial by another Assize Court. He
quietly reverted to the old indictment, based himself on the report of
the experts, and accepted the revised account of the copy-slip, holding
that the school-stamp as well as the initialling had been forged. He
even spoke of that stamp in a positive way, as if he held a proof that
it had been forged but could not produce it. As for Brother Gorgias, he
regarded him simply as an unfortunate man, perhaps mentally unhinged,
assuredly in need, and of a passionate nature--one who, after proving
an undisciplined and compromising son of the Church, had quitted it and
sold himself to the Jews. And Pacart concluded by asking the jurors
to put an end to this affair, which was so disastrous for the peace
of the country, by saying once more on which side the culprit really
was, whether among the Anarchists and the Cosmopolites--who sought
to destroy all belief in God and country--or among the men upholding
faith, respect, and tradition, to whom, for ages past, France had owed
her grandeur.

Then Delbos spoke during two sittings. Eager and nervous, endowed
with passionate eloquence, he also dealt with the affair from the
very beginning. But he did so in order to destroy the allegations
in the old indictment, with the help of the arguments supplied by
the Court of Cassation's inquiry. Not one of those allegations was
worth anything. It was proved that Simon had returned home on foot
on the night of the crime; that he had reached Maillebois at twenty
minutes to twelve o'clock, an hour after the crime had been committed.
Again, there was proof that the copy-slip had been stamped at the
Brothers' school and initialled by Brother Gorgias, whose admissions
on the subject were not even necessary, for counter experts, in a
memorable report addressed to the Court of Cassation, had destroyed
the extraordinary farrago of Masters Badoche and Trabut. Then Delbos
turned to the new story of the forged stamp. No proof of this had been
supplied. Nevertheless, he insisted on the subject; for he divined that
some supreme abomination lurked beneath all that stealthy manœuvring
compounded of mere allegation and reticence. A sick workman, it was
said, had told a woman a vague story about a stamp which he had made
for the Maillebois schoolmaster. Where was that woman? Who was she?
What was her calling? As nobody would or could reply, he (Delbos)
had a right to conclude that this story was one of those absurd lies
such as _Le Petit Beaumontais_ was in the habit of retailing. However,
if he was able to picture the whole crime as it must have taken
place--Brother Gorgias returning after he had escorted Polydor home,
pausing before Zéphirin's open window, finally entering the room, and
at last succumbing to his ungovernable passions--he admitted that there
was a gap in his narrative. Where had Gorgias found the copy-slip?
For the rascal was right when he jeeringly inquired if schoolmasters
usually walked about in the evening with copy-slips in their pockets.
Undoubtedly the number of _Le Petit Beaumontais_ had been in the pocket
of his own cassock, whence he had taken it in order to gag his victim.
And the slip must have been there also. But how had that happened?
Delbos suspected the truth, and if he had questioned Polydor Souquet
so pressingly it was in order to extract it from him. He had failed
in that endeavour, the witness having met him with an assumption of
hypocritical stupidity. But, after all, what did that obscure point
matter? Was not Gorgias's guilt absolutely manifest? His alleged alibi
was based solely on a series of false statements. Everything proved his
guilt--his flight, his semi-confessions, the criminal efforts made to
save him, and the dispersal of his accomplices--Father Philibin hiding
himself in some Italian convent; Brother Fulgence seeking refuge at a
distance, and shielding himself with a diplomatic illness; and Father
Crabot withdrawing to his cell, where Providence had visited him with
a very salutary sprain. Was it not also in order to save Gorgias that
President Gragnon had illegally communicated a forgery to the first
jurors, as had been proved by the evidence of architect Jacquin? Amidst
the accumulation of crimes, that one alone ought to have sufficed to
open the eyes of the most prejudiced. And Delbos ended by depicting
the frightful sufferings experienced by Simon, the fifteen years of
transportation which he had endured amidst the most cruel physical and
moral tortures, while ever stubbornly raising his cry of innocence.
The advocate added that, like the Procureur de la République, he also
desired to have the affair ended, but ended by an act of justice which
would redound to the honour of France; for if the innocent man should
be struck down again, the shame of France would be indescribable, and a
future full of incalculable evils would lie before her.

There was no reply from the prosecution, the case was closed, and the
jury at once withdrew to its retiring-room.[4] It was about eleven
o'clock in the morning, and for more than an hour the spectators
remained waiting, silent and anxious, in no wise resembling the
audience at Beaumont, which had been so tumultuous and violent.
The hall was very hot, and the atmosphere seemed as heavy as lead.
There was little conversation, though occasionally the Simonists
and the anti-Simonists glanced askance at one another. One might
have fancied oneself in some funeral chamber where the life or death
of a nation, the whole dolorous question of its future, was being
decided. At last the jury reappeared, the judges came in, and amidst
lugubrious silence the foreman arose: He was a little grey, lean man,
a goldsmith, enjoying the custom of the local clergy. His shrill voice
was distinctly heard. On the question of guilt the verdict was 'Yes,'
by a majority; while 'extenuating circumstances' were unanimously
granted. At Beaumont the jury had been unanimous with respect to guilt,
and only a small majority had favoured the admission of extenuating
circumstances. And now, after expediting the formalities, President
Guybaraud hastily pronounced a sentence of ten years' solitary
confinement. That done, he withdrew, and Pacart, the Procureur de la
République, followed him, after bowing to the jury as if to thank them.

[Footnote 4: At French criminal trials the judges no longer sum up
the evidence before the verdict is given. That privilege was taken
from them by a special law several years ago, in consequence of their
scandalous abuse of it.--_Trans._]

Marc, meantime, had glanced at Simon, on whose face he only detected a
kind of faint smile, a painful contraction of the lips. Delbos, beside
himself, was clenching his fists. David, whose emotion was too intense,
had not returned into Court, but was awaiting the decision outside. The
thunderbolt had fallen, and Marc felt a deadly chill in every vein.
It was a frigid horror: the supreme iniquity, in which just minds had
refused to believe, the crime of crimes, which had seemed impossible
a few hours earlier, which reason had rejected, had suddenly become
a monstrous reality. And there were no ferocious cries of joy, there
was no onslaught like that of cannibals rushing to a feast of blood,
as at Beaumont. Though the hall was full of rabid anti-Simonists, the
frightful silence continued, such was the horror which froze one and
all to their very bones. Only a long shudder, a stifled groan, sped
through the throng. And they went out without a word, without a push,
in a dark stream like some funeral assembly choking with emotion,
stricken with fear. And outside Marc found David sobbing.

So the Church was victorious--the Brothers' school would revive to
life, while the secular school would again become the ante-room of
hell, the satanic den where children were corrupted both in mind and
body. The desperate and gigantic effort made by the Congregations
and by almost all the clergy had again retarded their defeat, which
was certain in the future. For years, however, one would again
see the young generations stupefied by error, rotted by lies. The
forward march of mankind would be hampered afresh until the day when
free thought--invincible and still pursuing its course in spite of
everything--should at last deliver the people by science, which alone
could render it capable of truth and equity.

On the following evening, when Marc returned to Maillebois, exhausted
by fatigue and quite heart-broken, he found a letter of three lines
awaiting him: 'I have read the whole of the inquiry, I have followed
the trial. The most monstrous of crimes has been committed. Simon is


On the morrow, a Thursday, Marc, who had scarcely slept that night, had
just risen when he received an early visit from his daughter Louise.
She, having heard of his return, had escaped for a moment from her
grandmother's house. And, throwing her arms wildly about her father's
neck, she exclaimed: 'Oh! father, father, what a deal of sorrow you
must have had, and how pleased I am to be able to kiss you!'

A big girl nowadays, Louise was fully acquainted with the Simon affair,
and shared all the faith, all the passion for justice displayed by that
dearly-loved father, the master whose lofty mind was her guide. Thus
her cry was instinct with the revolt and despair into which she had
been cast by the monstrous proceedings at Rozan.

But, on thus seeing her before him and feeling her embrace, Marc
thought of Geneviève's letter, to which his sleeplessness that night
had been largely due. 'And your mother,' he asked, 'do you know that
she has written to me, and that she is now on our side?'

'Yes, yes, father, I know it. She spoke of it to me.... Ah! if I were
to tell you of all the quarrels there were when grandmother saw mamma
beginning to read everything, procuring documents which had never been
in the house before, and going out every morning to buy the full report
of the new trial. Grandmother wanted to burn everything, so mamma shut
herself up in her own room and spent all her time there.... And I also
read everything; mamma allowed me to do so. Oh! papa, what a dreadful
affair--that poor man, that poor innocent, overwhelmed by so many cruel
people! If I could, I should love you all the more for having loved and
defended him!'

She again threw her arms about her father's neck and kissed him
with heartfelt fervour. And he, in spite of his sufferings, began
to smile as if some delicious balm had somewhat calmed the smarting
of his wounds. And while he smiled he pictured his wife and his
daughter reading together, learning the truth, and at last returning
to him. 'Her letter, her dear letter,' he said in an undertone, 'what
consolation and hope it gave me! Will not joy return after so many

Then he anxiously questioned Louise: 'So your mother spoke to you of
me? Does she understand, does she regret our torments? I always felt
that she would come back to me when she knew the truth.'

But the girl prettily raised a finger to her lips. She, in her turn,
was smiling. 'Oh! papa,' she said, 'don't try to make me say what I
can't say yet. I should be telling a falsehood if I spoke positively.
Our affairs are in a good way, that is all.... Remain patient a
little longer, remain confident in your daughter, who tries to be as
reasonable and affectionate as you are.'

Then she gave him some bad news about Madame Berthereau. For several
years the latter had been suffering from a heart complaint, which
recent events seemed to have suddenly aggravated. Madame Duparque's
fits of anger, the outbursts with which she made the dark, dismal
little house shake at all hours of the day, proved very prejudicial
to the sick woman, for they brought on shuddering and stifling fits,
which she could hardly overcome. At present, in order to escape those
nervous frights, she no longer went down into the little sitting-room,
but remained on a couch in her bed-chamber, gazing from morn till night
at the deserted Place des Capucins, with those poor, melancholy eyes of
hers, in which one read such keen regret for the joys she had lost so
long ago.

'Oh! we don't amuse ourselves at all now,' Louise continued. 'Mamma
remains in her room, grandmamma Berthereau in hers, and grandmamma
Duparque goes up and down, bangs the doors, and quarrels with Pélagie
when she finds nobody to scold.... But I don't complain, for I shut
myself up as well, and work. Mamma has agreed to it, you know; I shall
go up for admission to the training school in six months' time, and I
hope to get in.'

Just at that moment, Sébastien Milhomme, who was free that day,
arrived from Beaumont, all anxiety to embrace his former master, of
whose return he had heard. And almost immediately afterwards came
Joseph and Sarah, who, on behalf of their mother and the Lehmanns,
whom the reconviction of Simon had overwhelmed, wished to thank Marc
for his heroic if vain efforts. The brother and sister related what a
thunderbolt had fallen on the wretched shop in the Rue du Trou on the
previous evening, when David had telegraphed the frightful tidings.
Madame Simon had preferred to await them there with her parents and her
children, such great hostility had she encountered in that clerical
town of Rozan, where, moreover, her modest means did not allow her
to live. And the mournful house was again in tears, acquainted only
with the iniquitous verdict and ignorant of what might now happen, all
decision as to the future being postponed until the return of David,
who, for the time, had remained near his brother.

The eyes of Joseph and Sarah were still red and swollen, for they had
spent a tearful, feverish night without a moment's quiet rest; and as,
while speaking of their father, they again began to sob, Sébastien,
carried away by his feelings, kissed his good friend Sarah, while
Louise, taking hold of Joseph's hands, and likewise shedding tears,
naïvely sought to console him somewhat by speaking of her great
affection for him. She was seventeen and he twenty. Sébastien was a
year or two older, and Sarah was eighteen. Marc felt moved as he saw
those young folk there before him, quivering with youth, intelligence,
and kindliness. And a thought, which had occurred to him and brought
him a delightful hope already in the days when he had seen them playing
as children, now returned. Might they not, indeed, be predestined
consorts, such as would produce the happy harvest of the future, who
would bring broader hearts and more liberal minds to the great work of

But although his daughter's visit gave Marc no little comfort for the
time, he became very downcast on the ensuing days, so distressful was
the spectacle which his poor poisoned and dishonoured country now
presented. The crime of crimes had been committed, and France did not
rise against it! During the long struggle for revision Marc had already
failed to recognise in her the generous, magnanimous, liberating,
and justice-dealing country to which he had dedicated such lofty and
passionate love. But never had he thought it possible that she would
sink to that base level, and become a deaf, harsh, sleepy, and cowardly
France, making her bed in shame and iniquity!

How many years and generations would be needed to arouse her from that
abominable somnolence? For a moment Marc despaired; he deemed his
country lost; it was as if he could hear Férou's maledictions arising
from the grave: 'France doomed, completely rotted by the priests,
poisoned by a filthy press, sunk in such a morass of ignorance and
credulity that never would one be able to extricate her.' On the morrow
of the monstrous verdict of Rozan he had still imagined an awakening to
be possible, he had awaited a rising of upright consciences and healthy
minds; but none had stirred, the bravest seemed to hide themselves away
in their corners, and the supreme ignominy took its course, thanks to
the universal imbecility and cowardice.

As he went about Maillebois, Marc caught sight of Darras, who now
pulled a very long face, though he was simply in despair at the
mayoralty again escaping him, owing to the triumph of the clerical
party. Then, on meeting Fernand Bongard, the Doloirs and the Savins,
his former pupils, Marc felt greatly distressed, for he now realised,
decisively, that he had been able to impart to them little if any
social equity and civic courage. Fernand shrugged his shoulders, bent
on knowing nothing. The Doloirs had again begun to doubt Simon's
innocence; while as for the twin Savins, if they remained convinced of
it, they argued that they could not effect a revolution by themselves,
and that, after all, one Jew more or less was a matter of no
importance. Terror reigned, people hurried home, resolved to compromise
themselves no further. Things were even worse at Beaumont, whither Marc
repaired to see if he could not arouse some influential people and
persuade them to attempt a last effort to have the infamous verdict set
aside. Lemarrois, to whom he thus ventured to apply, seemed to take
him for a madman; and discarding his usual courteous kindliness, he
plainly, almost roughly, told him that the affair was ended, and that
any attempt to revise it would be insane, for the country was utterly
sick and weary of the whole business. It had become most hurtful as
a basis for political action, and if the clerical reactionaries were
allowed an opportunity to exploit it any further, the Republic would
certainly be undone at the approaching elections. The elections indeed!
That was again the great argument. The only policy was to bury the
supreme iniquity in even deeper silence than after the first trial.
There was no need of any understanding to that effect. The deputies,
the senators, the prefect, the officials, all sank instinctively into
perfect silence, in the dread they felt at the thought of the twice
condemned but innocent man. And once again former Republicans and
Voltaireans like Lemarrois drew yet nearer to the Church, whose help
they thought they might require to resist the rising tide of Socialism.
Lemarrois, personally, had been pleased to see his adversary Delbos
defeated at Rozan, and in resorting to a cowardly policy of silence
he was largely influenced by a desire to let Simon's compromised
champions drown themselves. Amid that general _débâcle_ only Marcilly
retained his amiable smile. He had already held the portfolio of
Public Instruction in a Radical ministry, and felt certain of securing
it again, some day, in a Moderate one. And so convinced was he now
of the irresistible power of his suppleness and his freely-bestowed
hand-shakes that, alone amongst those to whom Marc applied, he gave him
a cordial greeting; and, without making any express promise, allowed
him to hope for everything should he (Marcilly) return to power.

For the moment the Congregations became triumphant. What a relief it
was to think that Father Crabot, his accomplices and his creatures,
were saved! Ex-presiding Judge Gragnon gave a grand dinner, followed by
a reception, to which flocked all the members of the judicial world,
with many functionaries and even university men. They smiled and shook
hands, well pleased at finding themselves alive after incurring such
serious danger. Every morning _Le Petit Beaumontais_ celebrated the
victory of the valiant soldiers of God and the country. Then, all at
once, it became silent, in compliance no doubt with some hint received
from exalted spheres. The fact was that amid all the stir of victory
everybody began to detect moral defeat. Fear of the morrow revived, and
it was deemed prudent to divert people's minds.

Moreover, the Rozan jurors had now made revelations; it was known that
they had convicted Simon merely by a majority of seven to five, and
that on quitting the court they had unanimously signed a recommendation
for pardon. They could not have confessed more plainly the mortal
embarrassment in which they had been placed, the cruel necessity of
confirming the former verdict of Beaumont, even though they retained
little doubt of the prisoner's innocence. And the extraordinary course
taken by that jury, which, in the most contradictory way, at one
moment condemned Simon and at another absolved him, tended to make his
innocence manifest to everybody. A pardon was felt to be so necessary
and so inevitable that nobody was surprised when one was signed a few
days later. _Le Petit Beaumontais_ thought fit to insult the dirty Jew
a last time, but even the managers of that unprincipled rag heaved a
sigh of relief, glad to be at last delivered from the abominable part
they had played for so many years.

David was beset by a final anguish, a frightful struggle of conscience,
in connection with that pardon. His brother's strength was quite spent,
fever consumed him, he was so exhausted, both physically and morally,
that, doubtless, he would merely return to prison to die there. And,
on the other hand, a weeping wife and children awaited him, still
hoping that they might save him by dint of care and love. Nevertheless,
David at first rejected the idea of a pardon, and, before everything
else, wished to consult Marc, Delbos, and the other valiant defenders
of the innocent prisoner; for he well understood that, even if the
pardon would not deprive Simon of the right of some day establishing
his innocence, it would rob the others of their most powerful means
of prosecuting that cause of justice to which they had given their
lives. But, however grieved they might be, all bowed to the suggestion
of a pardon, and David then accepted it. At the same time it was
felt by Marc and Delbos that the Congregations had good reason to be
triumphant, for, humanly, the Simon affair was ended by that pardon, in
consequence of which it would no longer stir the multitude to a sense
of equity and generosity.

The question of Simon's future was speedily settled. It was impossible
to take him back to Maillebois, where Madame Simon had decided to
remain a little longer with her children, Joseph and Sarah, who were
awaiting the reopening of the neighbouring training schools. David once
more took everything on himself. He had long previously formed his
plans, which were to dispose of his sand and gravel pits, and acquire a
marble quarry in a lonely valley of the Pyrenees--an excellent affair,
which a friend had recommended to him and which he had carefully
studied. He meant to remove Simon thither, taking him as a partner,
and assuredly the mountain air and the delight of active life would
restore his health within six months' time. As soon as the installation
should be effected Madame Simon might rejoin her husband, and even the
children might end the vacation in their father's company. All this was
carried into effect with remarkable precision and despatch. Simon was
conjured away from Rozan, which was still in an agitated state, and for
a time nobody even suspected that he had been removed. He travelled
unrecognised, vanishing with David into that lonely valley, embosomed
amid lofty peaks. It only became known by a newspaper article that his
family had joined him. From that moment he altogether disappeared, and
people even began to forget his existence.

On the very day when the Simon family found itself reunited in that
Pyrenean solitude, Marc repaired to the Training College of Beaumont,
whither an urgent letter from Salvan had summoned him. And as soon as
they had shaken hands they began to talk of the Simons, evoking the
sweet and touching scene which was being enacted far away--indeed at
the other end of France.

'We must all take it as our reward,' said Salvan. 'If we have not
yet managed to make the affair yield the great social lesson and the
penalties that attach to it, we have at least brought this happiness to
pass, we have restored the poor martyr to his wife and his children.'

'Yes,' said Marc, 'I have been thinking of it ever since this morning.
I can picture them all together, smiling, in peace, under the broad
blue sky. And, for that poor man so long fastened to his chain, what
a delight it must be to be able to walk about freely, inhaling the
freshness of the mountain springs, the pure odours of the plants and
trees! The dear children, too, and the dear wife, how happy they must
feel to see their dream realised, to have him beside them again, to
take him about like a big child just recovering from a severe illness,
and watch him reviving to health and strength!... You are right, it is
our reward--the only one.'

He paused, then added in a lower voice with some of the bitterness of
a combatant who laments that his weapon should have been broken in his
hand: 'Our _rôle_ is quite over. A pardon was inevitable, no doubt, but
it has deprived us of all power of action. We can only wait for the
crop of good grain we have sown--that is, if ever it will sprout up in
the hard ground where we have scattered it.'

'Oh! it will rise, never fear, my friend,' Salvan exclaimed. 'We must
never despair of our poor, great country. It may be deceived, it may
deceive itself, but it always returns to truth and reason. Let us rest
satisfied with our work, it will bear fruit in the future.' Then, after
a pause, he continued in a thoughtful way: 'But I agree with you that
our victory will not be immediate. The times are really execrable;
never have we passed through a more troublous and threatening period.
And, indeed, if I asked you to call to-day, it was in order to talk to
you of the present disquieting situation.'

Then he acquainted Marc with what he had learnt. Since the trial
at Rozan, all the recognised Simonists, all the brave men who had
become compromised in the affair, had found themselves exposed to the
vengeance of the Congregations, the hatred of the egotistical and
cowardly multitude. Undoubtedly they would be made to pay heavily in
their interests and their persons for the crime they had committed by
supporting the cause of truth and justice.

'Have you heard that nobody now bows to Delbos at the Palace of
Justice?' said Salvan. 'Half the cases confided to him have been
withdrawn. Clients regard him as being altogether too compromising.
He has to begin his career afresh; and at the next elections he will
certainly be defeated again, for the affair has led to disruption
even in the Socialist ranks.... For my own part, I shall probably be

'Dismissed? You!' interrupted Marc in accents of surprise and grief.

'Why, yes, my friend. You are not ignorant of the fact that Mauraisin
has long coveted my post. He never manœuvred otherwise than in order to
dislodge me. His prolonged flirtation with the Church party has been
simply a matter of tactics in order to secure its support in the hour
of victory. After the inquiry of the Court of Cassation he certainly
felt frightened, and began to say that he had always regarded Simon as
innocent. But, since Simon was reconvicted, Mauraisin has again been
barking with the clerical pack, feeling convinced that Le Barazer will
be compelled to dismiss me by the pressure brought to bear on him by
all the victorious reactionary forces. It will astonish me very much if
I am still here when the new term begins in October.'

Marc again began to express his grief; and, moreover, he refused to
believe Salvan. He recalled all the services which the latter had
rendered, and set forth the necessity of persevering with the great
work of saving France from falsehood and credulity. 'You cannot leave
before your task is accomplished,' he added; 'there remains so much
for you to do. Although Le Barazer has never spoken out plainly, he has
been at heart on our side, and I am sure that he will never be guilty
of such a bad action as to dismiss you.'

Salvan smiled somewhat sadly. 'In the first place,' he answered,
'nobody is indispensable; I may disappear, but others will rise to
continue the good work we have begun. Mauraisin may take my place, but
I am convinced that he will do no great harm, for he will not retain it
long, and he will be forced to follow in my footsteps. Some work, you
see, when once it has been begun, is accomplished by the very force of
human evolution, and remains independent of any particular, individual
men.... But one might think by the way you talk that you did not know
Le Barazer. We are, personally, of little account in his intricate
republican diplomacy. He was on our side, that is certain; he would be
with us still if we had won the battle. But our defeat has placed him
into the greatest possible embarrassment. He really has but one desire,
to save his work, the system of secular and compulsory education of
which he was one of the creators. Thus, as the Church has regained
power for the moment and threatens his work, he will resign himself
to necessary sacrifices and temporise until he is able to speak as a
master in his turn. Such is his nature, and we cannot alter him.'

Salvan continued in this strain, enumerating all the influences which
were being brought to bear on Le Barazer. Rector Forbes, who was
so desirous of quietude and who so greatly feared worries with the
minister, had plainly told him that he must satisfy the demands of
the opposition deputies. These, at the head of whom Count Hector de
Sanglebœuf distinguished himself by his violence, were making every
effort to secure the dismissal of all the notorious Simonists belonging
to the civil and the educational services. And none of the Republican
deputies, not even the radical Lemarrois, moved; indeed, they consented
to that hecatomb in order to pacify public opinion, anxious as they
were to lose as few electors as possible. At present, also, professors
and masters followed the example of Principal Depinvillier