Part 1 out of 36
by Victor Hugo
The Works of Victor Hugo
Translated by Isabel F. Hapgood
BOOK FIRST.--A JUST MAN
I. M. Myriel
II. M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome
III. A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop
IV. Works corresponding to Words
V. Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long
VI. Who guarded his House for him
VIII. Philosophy after Drinking
IX. The Brother as depicted by the Sister
X. The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light
XI. A Restriction
XII. The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome
XIII. What he believed
XIV. What he thought
BOOK SECOND.--THE FALL
I. The Evening of a Day of Walking
II. Prudence counselled to Wisdom
III. The Heroism of Passive Obedience
IV. Details concerning the Cheese-Dairies of Pontarlier
VI. Jean Valjean
VII. The Interior of Despair
VIII. Billows and Shadows
IX. New Troubles
X. The Man aroused
XI. What he does
XII. The Bishop works
XIII. Little Gervais
BOOK THIRD.--IN THE YEAR 1817
I. The Year 1817
II. A Double Quartette
III. Four and Four
IV. Tholomyes is so Merry that he sings a Spanish Ditty
V. At Bombardas
VI. A Chapter in which they adore Each Other
VII. The Wisdom of Tholomyes
VIII. The Death of a Horse
IX. A Merry End to Mirth
BOOK FOURTH.--TO CONFIDE IS SOMETIMES TO DELIVER INTO A PERSON'S POWER
I. One Mother meets Another Mother
II. First Sketch of Two Unprepossessing Figures
III. The Lark
BOOK FIFTH.-- THE DESCENT
I. The History of a Progress in Black Glass Trinkets
III. Sums deposited with Laffitte
IV. M. Madeleine in Mourning
V. Vague Flashes on the Horizon
VI. Father Fauchelevent
VII. Fauchelevent becomes a Gardener in Paris
VIII. Madame Victurnien expends Thirty Francs on Morality
IX. Madame Victurnien's Success
X. Result of the Success
XI. Christus nos Liberavit
XII. M. Bamatabois's Inactivity
XIII. The Solution of Some Questions connected with the
I. The Beginning of Repose
II. How Jean may become Champ
BOOK SEVENTH.--THE CHAMPMATHIEU AFFAIR
I. Sister Simplice
II. The Perspicacity of Master Scaufflaire
III. A Tempest in a Skull
IV. Forms assumed by Suffering during Sleep
VI. Sister Simplice put to the Proof
VII. The Traveller on his Arrival takes Precautions
VIII. An Entrance by Favor
IX. A Place where Convictions are in Process of Formation
X. The System of Denials
XI. Champmathieu more and more Astonished
BOOK EIGHTH.--A COUNTER-BLOW
I. In what Mirror M. Madeleine contemplates his Hair
II. Fantine Happy
III. Javert Satisfied
IV. Authority reasserts its Rights
V. A Suitable Tomb
I. What is met with on the Way from Nivelles
III. The Eighteenth of June, 1815
V. The Quid Obscurum of Battles
VI. Four o'clock in the Afternoon
VII. Napoleon in a Good Humor
VIII. The Emperor puts a Question to the Guide Lacoste
IX. The Unexpected
X. The Plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean
XI. A Bad Guide to Napoleon; a Good Guide to Bulow
XII. The Guard
XIII. The Catastrophe
XIV. The Last Square
XVI. Quot Libras in Duce?
XVII. Is Waterloo to be considered Good?
XVIII. A Recrudescence of Divine Right
XIX. The Battle-Field at Night
BOOK SECOND.--THE SHIP ORION
I. Number 24,601 becomes Number 9,430
II. In which the reader will peruse Two Verses which are
of the Devil's Composition possibly
III. The Ankle-Chain must have undergone a Certain Preparatory
Manipulation to be thus broken with a Blow from a Hammer
BOOK THIRD.--ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PROMISE MADE TO THE DEAD WOMAN
I. The Water Question at Montfermeil
II. Two Complete Portraits
III. Men must have Wine, and Horses must have Water
IV. Entrance on the Scene of a Doll
V. The Little One All Alone
VI. Which possibly proves Boulatruelle's Intelligence
VII. Cosette Side by Side with the Stranger in the Dark
VIII. The Unpleasantness of receiving into One's House a Poor
Man who may be a Rich Man
IX. Thenardier at his Manoeuvres
X. He who seeks to better himself may render his Situation Worse
XI. Number 9,430 reappears, and Cosette wins it in the Lottery
BOOK FOURTH.--THE GORBEAU HOVEL
I. Master Gorbeau
II. A Nest for Owl and a Warbler
III. Two Misfortunes make One Piece of Good Fortune
IV. The Remarks of the Principal Tenant
V. A Five-Franc Piece falls on the Ground and produces a Tumult
BOOK FIFTH.--FOR A BLACK HUNT, A MUTE PACK
I. The Zigzags of Strategy
II. It is Lucky that the Pont d'Austerlitz bears
III. To Wit, the Plan of Paris in 1727
IV. The Gropings of Flight
V. Which would be Impossible with Gas Lanterns
VI. The Beginning of an Enigma
VII. Continuation of the Enigma
VIII. The Enigma becomes Doubly Mysterious
IX. The Man with the Bell
X. Which explains how Javert got on the Scent
BOOK SIXTH.--LE PETIT-PICPUS
I. Number 62 Rue Petit-Picpus
II. The Obedience of Martin Verga
VI. The Little Convent
VII. Some Silhouettes of this Darkness
VIII. Post Corda Lapides
IX. A Century under a Guimpe
X. Origin of the Perpetual Adoration
XI. End of the Petit-Picpus
I. The Convent as an Abstract Idea
II. The Convent as an Historical Fact
III. On What Conditions One can respect the Past
IV. The Convent from the Point of View of Principles
VI. The Absolute Goodness of Prayer
VII. Precautions to be observed in Blame
VIII. Faith, Law
BOOK EIGHTH.--CEMETERIES TAKE THAT WHICH IS COMMITTED THEM
I. Which treats of the Manner of entering a Convent
II. Fauchelevent in the Presence of a Difficulty
III. Mother Innocente
IV. In which Jean Valjean has quite the Air of having read
V. It is not Necessary to be Drunk in order to be Immortal
VI. Between Four Planks
VII. In which will be found the Origin of the Saying: Don't
lose the Card
VIII. A Successful Interrogatory
BOOK FIRST.--PARIS STUDIED IN ITS ATOM
II. Some of his Particular Characteristics
III. He is Agreeable
IV. He may be of Use
V. His Frontiers
VI. A Bit of History
VII. The Gamin should have his Place in the Classifications
VIII. In which the Reader will find a Charming Saying of the
IX. The Old Soul of Gaul
X. Ecce Paris, ecce Homo
XI. To Scoff, to Reign
XII. The Future Latent in the People
XIII. Little Gavroche
BOOK SECOND.--THE GREAT BOURGEOIS
I. Ninety Years and Thirty-two Teeth
II. Like Master, Like House
IV. A Centenarian Aspirant
V. Basque and Nicolette
VI. In which Magnon and her Two Children are seen
VII. Rule: Receive No One except in the Evening
VIII. Two do not make a Pair
BOOK THIRD.--THE GRANDFATHER AND THE GRANDSON
I. An Ancient Salon
II. One of the Red Spectres of that Epoch
IV. End of the Brigand
V. The Utility of going to Mass, in order to become a
VI. The Consequences of having met a Warden
VII. Some Petticoat
VIII. Marble against Granite
BOOK FOURTH.--THE FRIENDS OF THE ABC
I. A Group which barely missed becoming Historic
II. Blondeau's Funeral Oration by Bossuet
III. Marius' Astonishments
IV. The Back Room of the Cafe Musain
V. Enlargement of Horizon
VI. Res Angusta
BOOK FIFTH.--THE EXCELLENCE OF MISFORTUNE
I. Marius Indigent
II. Marius Poor
III. Marius Grown Up
IV. M. Mabeuf
V. Poverty a Good Neighbor for Misery
VI. The Substitute
BOOK SIXTH.--THE CONJUNCTION OF TWO STARS
I. The Sobriquet; Mode of Formation of Family Names
II. Lux Facta Est
III. Effect of the Spring
IV. Beginning of a Great Malady
V. Divers Claps of Thunder fall on Ma'am Bougon
VI. Taken Prisoner
VII. Adventures of the Letter U delivered over to Conjectures
VIII. The Veterans themselves can be Happy
BOOK SEVENTH.--PATRON MINETTE
I. Mines and Miners
II. The Lowest Depths
III. Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse
IV. Composition of the Troupe
BOOK EIGHTH.--THE WICKED POOR MAN
I. Marius, while seeking a Girl in a Bonnet encounters a
Man in a Cap
II. Treasure Trove
IV. A Rose in Misery
V. A Providential Peep-Hole
VI. The Wild Man in his Lair
VII. Strategy and Tactics
VIII. The Ray of Light in the Hovel
IX. Jondrette comes near Weeping
X. Tariff of Licensed Cabs, Two Francs an Hour
XI. Offers of Service from Misery to Wretchedness
XII. The Use made of M. Leblanc's Five-Franc Piece
XIII. Solus cum Solo, in Loco Remoto, non cogitabuntur
orare Pater Noster
XIV. In which a Police Agent bestows Two Fistfuls on a Lawyer
XV. Jondrette makes his Purchases
XVI. In which will be found the Words to an English Air
which was in Fashion in 1832
XVII. The Use made of Marius' Five-Franc Piece
XVIII. Marius' Two Chairs form a Vis-a-Vis
XIX. Occupying One's Self with Obscure Depths
XX. The Trap
XXI. One should always begin by arresting the Victims
XXII. The Little One who was crying in Volume Two
BOOK FIRST.--A FEW PAGES OF HISTORY
I. Well Cut
II. Badly Sewed
III. Louis Philippe
IV. Cracks beneath the Foundation
V. Facts whence History springs and which History ignores
VI. Enjolras and his Lieutenants
I. The Lark's Meadow
II. Embryonic Formation of Crimes in the Incubation of Prisons
III. Apparition to Father Mabeuf
IV. An Apparition to Marius
BOOK THIRD.--THE HOUSE IN THE RUE PLUMET
I. The House with a Secret
II. Jean Valjean as a National Guard
III. Foliis ac Frondibus
IV. Change of Gate
V. The Rose perceives that it is an Engine of War
VI. The Battle Begun
VII. To One Sadness oppose a Sadness and a Half
VIII. The Chain-Gang
BOOK FOURTH.--SUCCOR FROM BELOW MAY TURN OUT TO BE SUCCOR FROM ON HIGH
I. A Wound without, Healing within
II. Mother Plutarque finds no Difficulty in explaining a Phenomenon
BOOK FIFTH.--THE END OF WHICH DOES NOT RESEMBLE THE BEGINNING
I. Solitude and Barracks Combined
II. Cosette's Apprehensions
III. Enriched with Commentaries by Toussaint
IV. A Heart beneath a Stone
V. Cosette after the Letter
VI. Old People are made to go out opportunely
BOOK SIXTH.--LITTLE GAVROCHE
I. The Malicious Playfulness of the Wind
II. In which Little Gavroche extracts Profit from Napoleon the Great
III. The Vicissitudes of Flight
III. Slang which weeps and Slang which laughs
IV. The Two Duties: To Watch and to Hope
BOOK EIGHTH.--ENCHANTMENTS AND DESOLATIONS
I. Full Light
II. The Bewilderment of Perfect Happiness
III. The Beginning of Shadow
IV. A Cab runs in English and barks in Slang
V. Things of the Night
VI. Marius becomes Practical once more to the Extent of
Giving Cosette his Address
VII. The Old Heart and the Young Heart in the Presence
of Each Other
BOOK NINTH.--WHITHER ARE THEY GOING?
I. Jean Valjean
III. M. Mabeuf
BOOK TENTH.--THE 5TH OF JUNE, 1832
I. The Surface of the Question
II. The Root of the Matter
III. A Burial; an Occasion to be born again
IV. The Ebullitions of Former Days
V. Originality of Paris
BOOK ELEVENTH.--THE ATOM FRATERNIZES WITH THE HURRICANE
I. Some Explanations with Regard to the Origin of Gavroche's
Poetry. The Influence of an Academician on this Poetry
II. Gavroche on the March
III. Just Indignation of a Hair-dresser
IV. The Child is amazed at the Old Man
V. The Old Man
I. History of Corinthe from its Foundation
II. Preliminary Gayeties
III. Night begins to descend upon Grantaire
IV. An Attempt to console the Widow Hucheloup
VII. The Man recruited in the Rue des Billettes
VIII. Many Interrogation Points with Regard to a Certain
Le Cabuc, whose Name may not have been Le Cabuc
BOOK THIRTEENTH.--MARIUS ENTERS THE SHADOW
I. From the Rue Plumet to the Quartier Saint-Denis
II. An Owl's View of Paris
III. The Extreme Edge
BOOK FOURTEENTH.--THE GRANDEURS OF DESPAIR
I. The Flag: Act First
II. The Flag: Act Second
III. Gavroche would have done better to accept Enjolras' Carbine
IV. The Barrel of Powder
V. End of the Verses of Jean Prouvaire
VI. The Agony of Death after the Agony of Life
VII. Gavroche as a Profound Calculator of Distances
BOOK FIFTEENTH.--THE RUE DE L'HOMME ARME
I. A Drinker is a Babbler
II. The Street Urchin an Enemy of Light
III. While Cosette and Toussaint are Asleep
IV. Gavroche's Excess of Zeal
BOOK FIRST.--THE WAR BETWEEN FOUR WALLS
I. The Charybdis of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the
Scylla of the Faubourg du Temple
II. What Is to Be Done in the Abyss if One Does Not Converse
III. Light and Shadow
IV. Minus Five, Plus One
V. The Horizon Which One Beholds from the Summit of a Barricade
VI. Marius Haggard, Javert Laconic
VII. The Situation Becomes Aggravated
VIII. The Artillery-men Compel People to Take Them Seriously
IX. Employment of the Old Talents of a Poacher and That
Infallible Marksmanship Which Influenced the
Condemnation of 1796
XI. The Shot Which Misses Nothing and Kills No One
XII. Disorder a Partisan of Order
XIII. Passing Gleams
XIV. Wherein Will Appear the Name of Enjolras' Mistress
XV. Gavroche Outside
XVI. How from a Brother One Becomes a Father
XVII. Mortuus Pater Filium Moriturum Expectat
XVIII. The Vulture Becomes Prey
XIX. Jean Valjean Takes His Revenge
XX. The Dead Are in the Right and the Living Are Not in the Wrong
XXI. The Heroes
XXII. Foot to Foot
XXIII. Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk
BOOK SECOND.--THE INTESTINE OF THE LEVIATHAN
I. The Land Impoverished by the Sea
II. Ancient History of the Sewer
V. Present Progress
VI. Future Progress
BOOK THIRD.--MUD BUT THE SOUL
I. The Sewer and Its Surprises
III. The "Spun" Man
IV. He Also Bears His Cross
V. In the Case of Sand, as in That of Woman, There Is a
Fineness Which Is Treacherous
VI. The Fontis
VII. One Sometimes Runs Aground When One Fancies That
One Is Disembarking
VIII. The Torn Coat-Tail
IX. Marius Produces on Some One Who Is a Judge of the
Matter, the Effect of Being Dead
X. Return of the Son Who Was Prodigal of His Life
XI. Concussion in the Absolute
XII. The Grandfather
BOOK FOURTH.--JAVERT DERAILED
BOOK FIFTH.--GRANDSON AND GRANDFATHER
I. In Which the Tree with the Zinc Plaster Appears Again
II. Marius, Emerging from Civil War, Makes Ready for
III. Marius Attacked
IV. Mademoiselle Gillenormand Ends by No Longer Thinking
It a Bad Thing That M. Fauchelevent Should Have
Entered With Something Under His Arm
V. Deposit Your Money in a Forest Rather than with a Notary
VI. The Two Old Men Do Everything, Each One After His
Own Fashion, to Render Cosette Happy
VII. The Effects of Dreams Mingled with Happiness
VIII. Two Men Impossible to Find
BOOK SIXTH.--THE SLEEPLESS NIGHT
I. The 16th of February, 1833
II. Jean Valjean Still Wears His Arm in a Sling
III. The Inseparable
IV. The Immortal Liver
BOOK SEVENTH.--THE LAST DRAUGHT FROM THE CUP
I. The Seventh Circle and the Eighth Heaven
II. The Obscurities Which a Revelation Can Contain
BOOK EIGHTH.--FADING AWAY OF THE TWILIGHT
I. The Lower Chamber
II. Another Step Backwards
III. They Recall the Garden of the Rue Plumet
IV. Attraction and Extinction
BOOK NINTH.--SUPREME SHADOW, SUPREME DAWN
I. Pity for the Unhappy, but Indulgence for the Happy
II. Last Flickerings of a Lamp Without Oil
III. A Pen Is Heavy to the Man Who Lifted the
IV. A Bottle of Ink Which Only Succeeded in Whitening
V. A Night Behind Which There Is Day
VI. The Grass Covers and the Rain Effaces
So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of
damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid
the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to
divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century--
the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman
through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light--
are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part
of the world;--in other words, and with a still wider significance,
so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature
of Les Miserables cannot fail to be of use.
HAUTEVILLE HOUSE, 1862.
BOOK FIRST--A JUST MAN
In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D----
He was an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied
the see of D---- since 1806.
Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real
substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous,
if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here
the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him
from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false,
that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in
their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.
M. Myriel was the son of a councillor of the Parliament of Aix;
hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar. It was said that
his father, destining him to be the heir of his own post, had married
him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty, in accordance with a
custom which is rather widely prevalent in parliamentary families.
In spite of this marriage, however, it was said that Charles Myriel
created a great deal of talk. He was well formed, though rather short
in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the whole of the first
portion of his life had been devoted to the world and to gallantry.
The Revolution came; events succeeded each other with precipitation;
the parliamentary families, decimated, pursued, hunted down,
were dispersed. M. Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy at the very
beginning of the Revolution. There his wife died of a malady of
the chest, from which she had long suffered. He had no children.
What took place next in the fate of M. Myriel? The ruin of the French
society of the olden days, the fall of his own family, the tragic
spectacles of '93, which were, perhaps, even more alarming to the
emigrants who viewed them from a distance, with the magnifying powers
of terror,--did these cause the ideas of renunciation and solitude
to germinate in him? Was he, in the midst of these distractions,
these affections which absorbed his life, suddenly smitten with one
of those mysterious and terrible blows which sometimes overwhelm,
by striking to his heart, a man whom public catastrophes would
not shake, by striking at his existence and his fortune? No one
could have told: all that was known was, that when he returned
from Italy he was a priest.
In 1804, M. Myriel was the Cure of B---- [Brignolles]. He was already
advanced in years, and lived in a very retired manner.
About the epoch of the coronation, some petty affair connected
with his curacy--just what, is not precisely known--took him
to Paris. Among other powerful persons to whom he went to solicit
aid for his parishioners was M. le Cardinal Fesch. One day,
when the Emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy Cure,
who was waiting in the anteroom, found himself present when His
Majesty passed. Napoleon, on finding himself observed with a certain
curiosity by this old man, turned round and said abruptly:--
"Who is this good man who is staring at me?"
"Sire," said M. Myriel, "you are looking at a good man, and I
at a great man. Each of us can profit by it."
That very evening, the Emperor asked the Cardinal the name of the Cure,
and some time afterwards M. Myriel was utterly astonished to learn
that he had been appointed Bishop of D----
What truth was there, after all, in the stories which were invented
as to the early portion of M. Myriel's life? No one knew.
Very few families had been acquainted with the Myriel family before
M. Myriel had to undergo the fate of every newcomer in a little town,
where there are many mouths which talk, and very few heads which think.
He was obliged to undergo it although he was a bishop, and because he
was a bishop. But after all, the rumors with which his name was
connected were rumors only,--noise, sayings, words; less than words--
palabres, as the energetic language of the South expresses it.
However that may be, after nine years of episcopal power and of
residence in D----, all the stories and subjects of conversation
which engross petty towns and petty people at the outset had fallen
into profound oblivion. No one would have dared to mention them;
no one would have dared to recall them.
M. Myriel had arrived at D---- accompanied by an elderly spinster,
Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister, and ten years his junior.
Their only domestic was a female servant of the same age
as Mademoiselle Baptistine, and named Madame Magloire, who,
after having been the servant of M. le Cure, now assumed
the double title of maid to Mademoiselle and housekeeper to Monseigneur.
Mademoiselle Baptistine was a long, pale, thin, gentle creature;
she realized the ideal expressed by the word "respectable"; for it
seems that a woman must needs be a mother in order to be venerable.
She had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been nothing
but a succession of holy deeds, had finally conferred upon her
a sort of pallor and transparency; and as she advanced in years
she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness.
What had been leanness in her youth had become transparency in
her maturity; and this diaphaneity allowed the angel to be seen.
She was a soul rather than a virgin. Her person seemed made
of a shadow; there was hardly sufficient body to provide for sex;
a little matter enclosing a light; large eyes forever drooping;--
a mere pretext for a soul's remaining on the earth.
Madame Magloire was a little, fat, white old woman, corpulent
and bustling; always out of breath,--in the first place,
because of her activity, and in the next, because of her asthma.
On his arrival, M. Myriel was installed in the episcopal palace with
the honors required by the Imperial decrees, which class a bishop
immediately after a major-general. The mayor and the president
paid the first call on him, and he, in turn, paid the first call
on the general and the prefect.
The installation over, the town waited to see its bishop at work.
M. MYRIEL BECOMES M. WELCOME
The episcopal palace of D---- adjoins the hospital.
The episcopal palace was a huge and beautiful house, built of stone
at the beginning of the last century by M. Henri Puget, Doctor of
Theology of the Faculty of Paris, Abbe of Simore, who had been Bishop
of D---- in 1712. This palace was a genuine seignorial residence.
Everything about it had a grand air,--the apartments of the Bishop,
the drawing-rooms, the chambers, the principal courtyard, which was
very large, with walks encircling it under arcades in the old
Florentine fashion, and gardens planted with magnificent trees.
In the dining-room, a long and superb gallery which was situated
on the ground-floor and opened on the gardens, M. Henri Puget had
entertained in state, on July 29, 1714, My Lords Charles Brulart
de Genlis, archbishop; Prince d'Embrun; Antoine de Mesgrigny,
the capuchin, Bishop of Grasse; Philippe de Vendome, Grand Prior
of France, Abbe of Saint Honore de Lerins; Francois de Berton
de Crillon, bishop, Baron de Vence; Cesar de Sabran de Forcalquier,
bishop, Seignor of Glandeve; and Jean Soanen, Priest of the Oratory,
preacher in ordinary to the king, bishop, Seignor of Senez.
The portraits of these seven reverend personages decorated this apartment;
and this memorable date, the 29th of July, 1714, was there engraved
in letters of gold on a table of white marble.
The hospital was a low and narrow building of a single story,
with a small garden.
Three days after his arrival, the Bishop visited the hospital.
The visit ended, he had the director requested to be so good as to
come to his house.
"Monsieur the director of the hospital," said he to him, "how many
sick people have you at the present moment?"
"That was the number which I counted," said the Bishop.
"The beds," pursued the director, "are very much crowded against
"That is what I observed."
"The halls are nothing but rooms, and it is with difficulty
that the air can be changed in them."
"So it seems to me."
"And then, when there is a ray of sun, the garden is very small
for the convalescents."
"That was what I said to myself."
"In case of epidemics,--we have had the typhus fever this year;
we had the sweating sickness two years ago, and a hundred patients
at times,--we know not what to do."
"That is the thought which occurred to me."
"What would you have, Monseigneur?" said the director. "One must
resign one's self."
This conversation took place in the gallery dining-room on the
The Bishop remained silent for a moment; then he turned abruptly
to the director of the hospital.
"Monsieur," said he, "how many beds do you think this hall alone
"Monseigneur's dining-room?" exclaimed the stupefied director.
The Bishop cast a glance round the apartment, and seemed to be
taking measures and calculations with his eyes.
"It would hold full twenty beds," said he, as though speaking
to himself. Then, raising his voice:--
"Hold, Monsieur the director of the hospital, I will tell you something.
There is evidently a mistake here. There are thirty-six of you,
in five or six small rooms. There are three of us here,
and we have room for sixty. There is some mistake, I tell you;
you have my house, and I have yours. Give me back my house;
you are at home here."
On the following day the thirty-six patients were installed
in the Bishop's palace, and the Bishop was settled in the hospital.
M. Myriel had no property, his family having been ruined by
the Revolution. His sister was in receipt of a yearly income
of five hundred francs, which sufficed for her personal wants at
the vicarage. M. Myriel received from the State, in his quality
of bishop, a salary of fifteen thousand francs. On the very day
when he took up his abode in the hospital, M. Myriel settled on
the disposition of this sum once for all, in the following manner.
We transcribe here a note made by his own hand:--
NOTE ON THE REGULATION OF MY HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES.
For the little seminary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,500 livres
Society of the mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 "
For the Lazarists of Montdidier . . . . . . . . . . 100 "
Seminary for foreign missions in Paris . . . . . . 200 "
Congregation of the Holy Spirit . . . . . . . . . . 150 "
Religious establishments of the Holy Land . . . . . 100 "
Charitable maternity societies . . . . . . . . . . 300 "
Extra, for that of Arles . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 "
Work for the amelioration of prisons . . . . . . . 400 "
Work for the relief and delivery of prisoners . . . 500 "
To liberate fathers of families incarcerated for debt 1,000 "
Addition to the salary of the poor teachers of the
diocese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,000 "
Public granary of the Hautes-Alpes . . . . . . . . 100 "
Congregation of the ladies of D----, of Manosque, and of
Sisteron, for the gratuitous instruction of poor
girls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,500 "
For the poor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6,000 "
My personal expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,000 "
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,000 "
M. Myriel made no change in this arrangement during the entire
period that he occupied the see of D---- As has been seen, he called
it regulating his household expenses.
This arrangement was accepted with absolute submission by
Mademoiselle Baptistine. This holy woman regarded Monseigneur of D----
as at one and the same time her brother and her bishop, her friend
according to the flesh and her superior according to the Church.
She simply loved and venerated him. When he spoke, she bowed;
when he acted, she yielded her adherence. Their only servant,
Madame Magloire, grumbled a little. It will be observed that
Monsieur the Bishop had reserved for himself only one thousand
livres, which, added to the pension of Mademoiselle Baptistine,
made fifteen hundred francs a year. On these fifteen hundred
francs these two old women and the old man subsisted.
And when a village curate came to D----, the Bishop still found means
to entertain him, thanks to the severe economy of Madame Magloire,
and to the intelligent administration of Mademoiselle Baptistine.
One day, after he had been in D---- about three months, the Bishop said:--
"And still I am quite cramped with it all!"
"I should think so!" exclaimed Madame Magloire. "Monseigneur has
not even claimed the allowance which the department owes him
for the expense of his carriage in town, and for his journeys
about the diocese. It was customary for bishops in former days."
"Hold!" cried the Bishop, "you are quite right, Madame Magloire."
And he made his demand.
Some time afterwards the General Council took this demand under
consideration, and voted him an annual sum of three thousand francs,
under this heading: Allowance to M. the Bishop for expenses
of carriage, expenses of posting, and expenses of pastoral visits.
This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses;
and a senator of the Empire, a former member of the Council
of the Five Hundred which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was
provided with a magnificent senatorial office in the vicinity
of the town of D----, wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu,
the minister of public worship, a very angry and confidential
note on the subject, from which we extract these authentic lines:--
"Expenses of carriage? What can be done with it in a town of less
than four thousand inhabitants? Expenses of journeys? What is the
use of these trips, in the first place? Next, how can the posting
be accomplished in these mountainous parts? There are no roads.
No one travels otherwise than on horseback. Even the bridge
between Durance and Chateau-Arnoux can barely support ox-teams.
These priests are all thus, greedy and avaricious. This man played
the good priest when he first came. Now he does like the rest;
he must have a carriage and a posting-chaise, he must have luxuries,
like the bishops of the olden days. Oh, all this priesthood!
Things will not go well, M. le Comte, until the Emperor has freed us
from these black-capped rascals. Down with the Pope! [Matters were
getting embroiled with Rome.] For my part, I am for Caesar alone."
On the other hand, this affair afforded great delight to Madame Magloire.
"Good," said she to Mademoiselle Baptistine; "Monseigneur began with
other people, but he has had to wind up with himself, after all.
He has regulated all his charities. Now here are three thousand
francs for us! At last!"
That same evening the Bishop wrote out and handed to his sister
a memorandum conceived in the following terms:--
EXPENSES OF CARRIAGE AND CIRCUIT.
For furnishing meat soup to the patients in the hospital. 1,500 livres
For the maternity charitable society of Aix . . . . . . . 250 "
For the maternity charitable society of Draguignan . . . 250 "
For foundlings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 "
For orphans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 "
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,000 "
Such was M. Myriel's budget.
As for the chance episcopal perquisites, the fees for marriage bans,
dispensations, private baptisms, sermons, benedictions, of churches
or chapels, marriages, etc., the Bishop levied them on the wealthy
with all the more asperity, since he bestowed them on the needy.
After a time, offerings of money flowed in. Those who had and
those who lacked knocked at M. Myriel's door,--the latter in search
of the alms which the former came to deposit. In less than a year
the Bishop had become the treasurer of all benevolence and the cashier
of all those in distress. Considerable sums of money passed through
his hands, but nothing could induce him to make any change whatever
in his mode of life, or add anything superfluous to his bare necessities.
Far from it. As there is always more wretchedness below than there
is brotherhood above, all was given away, so to speak, before it
was received. It was like water on dry soil; no matter how much
money he received, he never had any. Then he stripped himself.
The usage being that bishops shall announce their baptismal
names at the head of their charges and their pastoral letters,
the poor people of the country-side had selected, with a sort of
affectionate instinct, among the names and prenomens of their bishop,
that which had a meaning for them; and they never called him
anything except Monseigneur Bienvenu [Welcome]. We will follow
their example, and will also call him thus when we have occasion
to name him. Moreover, this appellation pleased him.
"I like that name," said he. "Bienvenu makes up for the Monseigneur."
We do not claim that the portrait herewith presented is probable;
we confine ourselves to stating that it resembles the original.
A HARD BISHOPRIC FOR A GOOD BISHOP
The Bishop did not omit his pastoral visits because he had converted
his carriage into alms. The diocese of D---- is a fatiguing one.
There are very few plains and a great many mountains; hardly any roads,
as we have just seen; thirty-two curacies, forty-one vicarships,
and two hundred and eighty-five auxiliary chapels. To visit all
these is quite a task.
The Bishop managed to do it. He went on foot when it was in
the neighborhood, in a tilted spring-cart when it was on the plain,
and on a donkey in the mountains. The two old women accompanied him.
When the trip was too hard for them, he went alone.
One day he arrived at Senez, which is an ancient episcopal city.
He was mounted on an ass. His purse, which was very dry at that moment,
did not permit him any other equipage. The mayor of the town came
to receive him at the gate of the town, and watched him dismount
from his ass, with scandalized eyes. Some of the citizens were
laughing around him. "Monsieur the Mayor," said the Bishop,
"and Messieurs Citizens, I perceive that I shock you. You think
it very arrogant in a poor priest to ride an animal which was used
by Jesus Christ. I have done so from necessity, I assure you,
and not from vanity."
In the course of these trips he was kind and indulgent, and talked
rather than preached. He never went far in search of his arguments
and his examples. He quoted to the inhabitants of one district
the example of a neighboring district. In the cantons where they
were harsh to the poor, he said: "Look at the people of Briancon!
They have conferred on the poor, on widows and orphans, the right
to have their meadows mown three days in advance of every one else.
They rebuild their houses for them gratuitously when they are ruined.
Therefore it is a country which is blessed by God. For a whole century,
there has not been a single murderer among them."
In villages which were greedy for profit and harvest, he said:
"Look at the people of Embrun! If, at the harvest season, the father
of a family has his son away on service in the army, and his daughters
at service in the town, and if he is ill and incapacitated, the cure
recommends him to the prayers of the congregation; and on Sunday,
after the mass, all the inhabitants of the village--men, women,
and children--go to the poor man's field and do his harvesting
for him, and carry his straw and his grain to his granary."
To families divided by questions of money and inheritance he said:
"Look at the mountaineers of Devolny, a country so wild that the
nightingale is not heard there once in fifty years. Well, when the
father of a family dies, the boys go off to seek their fortunes,
leaving the property to the girls, so that they may find husbands."
To the cantons which had a taste for lawsuits, and where the farmers
ruined themselves in stamped paper, he said: "Look at those good peasants
in the valley of Queyras! There are three thousand souls of them.
Mon Dieu! it is like a little republic. Neither judge nor bailiff
is known there. The mayor does everything. He allots the imposts,
taxes each person conscientiously, judges quarrels for nothing,
divides inheritances without charge, pronounces sentences gratuitously;
and he is obeyed, because he is a just man among simple men."
To villages where he found no schoolmaster, he quoted once more the
people of Queyras: "Do you know how they manage?" he said. "Since a
little country of a dozen or fifteen hearths cannot always support
a teacher, they have school-masters who are paid by the whole valley,
who make the round of the villages, spending a week in this one,
ten days in that, and instruct them. These teachers go to the fairs.
I have seen them there. They are to be recognized by the quill
pens which they wear in the cord of their hat. Those who teach
reading only have one pen; those who teach reading and reckoning
have two pens; those who teach reading, reckoning, and Latin have
three pens. But what a disgrace to be ignorant! Do like the people
Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples,
he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases
and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence
of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.
WORKS CORRESPONDING TO WORDS
His conversation was gay and affable. He put himself on a level
with the two old women who had passed their lives beside him.
When he laughed, it was the laugh of a schoolboy. Madame Magloire
liked to call him Your Grace [Votre Grandeur]. One day he rose
from his arm-chair, and went to his library in search of a book.
This book was on one of the upper shelves. As the bishop was rather
short of stature, he could not reach it. "Madame Magloire," said he,
"fetch me a chair. My greatness [grandeur] does not reach as far as
One of his distant relatives, Madame la Comtesse de Lo, rarely
allowed an opportunity to escape of enumerating, in his presence,
what she designated as "the expectations" of her three sons.
She had numerous relatives, who were very old and near to death,
and of whom her sons were the natural heirs. The youngest of the
three was to receive from a grand-aunt a good hundred thousand
livres of income; the second was the heir by entail to the title
of the Duke, his uncle; the eldest was to succeed to the peerage
of his grandfather. The Bishop was accustomed to listen in silence
to these innocent and pardonable maternal boasts. On one occasion,
however, he appeared to be more thoughtful than usual, while Madame
de Lo was relating once again the details of all these inheritances
and all these "expectations." She interrupted herself impatiently:
"Mon Dieu, cousin! What are you thinking about?" "I am thinking,"
replied the Bishop, "of a singular remark, which is to be found,
I believe, in St. Augustine,--`Place your hopes in the man from whom
you do not inherit.'"
At another time, on receiving a notification of the decease of
a gentleman of the country-side, wherein not only the dignities
of the dead man, but also the feudal and noble qualifications
of all his relatives, spread over an entire page: "What a stout
back Death has!" he exclaimed. "What a strange burden of titles
is cheerfully imposed on him, and how much wit must men have,
in order thus to press the tomb into the service of vanity!"
He was gifted, on occasion, with a gentle raillery, which almost
always concealed a serious meaning. In the course of one Lent,
a youthful vicar came to D----, and preached in the cathedral.
He was tolerably eloquent. The subject of his sermon was charity.
He urged the rich to give to the poor, in order to avoid hell,
which he depicted in the most frightful manner of which he was capable,
and to win paradise, which he represented as charming and desirable.
Among the audience there was a wealthy retired merchant, who was
somewhat of a usurer, named M. Geborand, who had amassed two millions
in the manufacture of coarse cloth, serges, and woollen galloons.
Never in his whole life had M. Geborand bestowed alms on any poor wretch.
After the delivery of that sermon, it was observed that he gave a sou
every Sunday to the poor old beggar-women at the door of the cathedral.
There were six of them to share it. One day the Bishop caught sight
of him in the act of bestowing this charity, and said to his sister,
with a smile, "There is M. Geborand purchasing paradise for
When it was a question of charity, he was not to be rebuffed even
by a refusal, and on such occasions he gave utterance to remarks
which induced reflection. Once he was begging for the poor in a
drawing-room of the town; there was present the Marquis de Champtercier,
a wealthy and avaricious old man, who contrived to be, at one
and the same time, an ultra-royalist and an ultra-Voltairian. This
variety of man has actually existed. When the Bishop came to him,
he touched his arm, "You must give me something, M. le Marquis."
The Marquis turned round and answered dryly, "I have poor people
of my own, Monseigneur." "Give them to me," replied the Bishop.
One day he preached the following sermon in the cathedral:--
"My very dear brethren, my good friends, there are thirteen hundred
and twenty thousand peasants' dwellings in France which have but
three openings; eighteen hundred and seventeen thousand hovels which
have but two openings, the door and one window; and three hundred
and forty-six thousand cabins besides which have but one opening,
the door. And this arises from a thing which is called the tax
on doors and windows. Just put poor families, old women and little
children, in those buildings, and behold the fevers and maladies
which result! Alas! God gives air to men; the law sells it to them.
I do not blame the law, but I bless God. In the department
of the Isere, in the Var, in the two departments of the Alpes,
the Hautes, and the Basses, the peasants have not even wheelbarrows;
they transport their manure on the backs of men; they have no candles,
and they burn resinous sticks, and bits of rope dipped in pitch.
That is the state of affairs throughout the whole of the hilly
country of Dauphine. They make bread for six months at one time;
they bake it with dried cow-dung. In the winter they break this
bread up with an axe, and they soak it for twenty-four hours,
in order to render it eatable. My brethren, have pity! behold
the suffering on all sides of you!"
Born a Provencal, he easily familiarized himself with the dialect of
the south. He said, "En be! moussu, ses sage?" as in lower Languedoc;
"Onte anaras passa?" as in the Basses-Alpes; "Puerte un bouen moutu
embe un bouen fromage grase," as in upper Dauphine. This pleased
the people extremely, and contributed not a little to win him
access to all spirits. He was perfectly at home in the thatched
cottage and in the mountains. He understood how to say the grandest
things in the most vulgar of idioms. As he spoke all tongues,
he entered into all hearts.
Moreover, he was the same towards people of the world and towards
the lower classes. He condemned nothing in haste and without
taking circumstances into account. He said, "Examine the road
over which the fault has passed."
Being, as he described himself with a smile, an ex-sinner, he had none
of the asperities of austerity, and he professed, with a good deal
of distinctness, and without the frown of the ferociously virtuous,
a doctrine which may be summed up as follows:--
"Man has upon him his flesh, which is at once his burden
and his temptation. He drags it with him and yields to it.
He must watch it, cheek it, repress it, and obey it only at the
last extremity. There may be some fault even in this obedience;
but the fault thus committed is venial; it is a fall, but a fall
on the knees which may terminate in prayer.
"To be a saint is the exception; to be an upright man is the rule.
Err, fall, sin if you will, but be upright.
"The least possible sin is the law of man. No sin at all is the
dream of the angel. All which is terrestrial is subject to sin.
Sin is a gravitation."
When he saw everyone exclaiming very loudly, and growing angry
very quickly, "Oh! oh!" he said, with a smile; "to all appearance,
this is a great crime which all the world commits. These are
hypocrisies which have taken fright, and are in haste to make
protest and to put themselves under shelter."
He was indulgent towards women and poor people, on whom the burden
of human society rest. He said, "The faults of women, of children,
of the feeble, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the fault
of the husbands, the fathers, the masters, the strong, the rich,
and the wise."
He said, moreover, "Teach those who are ignorant as many things
as possible; society is culpable, in that it does not afford
instruction gratis; it is responsible for the night which it produces.
This soul is full of shadow; sin is therein committed. The guilty
one is not the person who has committed the sin, but the person
who has created the shadow."
It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own
of judging things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel.
One day he heard a criminal case, which was in preparation and on
the point of trial, discussed in a drawing-room. A wretched man,
being at the end of his resources, had coined counterfeit money,
out of love for a woman, and for the child which he had had by her.
Counterfeiting was still punishable with death at that epoch.
The woman had been arrested in the act of passing the first false
piece made by the man. She was held, but there were no proofs
except against her. She alone could accuse her lover, and destroy
him by her confession. She denied; they insisted. She persisted in
her denial. Thereupon an idea occurred to the attorney for the crown.
He invented an infidelity on the part of the lover, and succeeded,
by means of fragments of letters cunningly presented, in persuading
the unfortunate woman that she had a rival, and that the man was
deceiving her. Thereupon, exasperated by jealousy, she denounced
her lover, confessed all, proved all.
The man was ruined. He was shortly to be tried at Aix with
his accomplice. They were relating the matter, and each one was
expressing enthusiasm over the cleverness of the magistrate.
By bringing jealousy into play, he had caused the truth to burst
forth in wrath, he had educed the justice of revenge. The Bishop
listened to all this in silence. When they had finished, he inquired,--
"Where are this man and woman to be tried?"
"At the Court of Assizes."
He went on, "And where will the advocate of the crown be tried?"
A tragic event occurred at D---- A man was condemned to death
for murder. He was a wretched fellow, not exactly educated,
not exactly ignorant, who had been a mountebank at fairs, and a writer
for the public. The town took a great interest in the trial.
On the eve of the day fixed for the execution of the condemned man,
the chaplain of the prison fell ill. A priest was needed to attend
the criminal in his last moments. They sent for the cure.
It seems that he refused to come, saying, "That is no affair
of mine. I have nothing to do with that unpleasant task, and with
that mountebank: I, too, am ill; and besides, it is not my place."
This reply was reported to the Bishop, who said, "Monsieur le Cure
is right: it is not his place; it is mine."
He went instantly to the prison, descended to the cell of the
"mountebank," called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to him.
He passed the entire day with him, forgetful of food and sleep,
praying to God for the soul of the condemned man, and praying the
condemned man for his own. He told him the best truths, which are
also the most simple. He was father, brother, friend; he was bishop
only to bless. He taught him everything, encouraged and consoled him.
The man was on the point of dying in despair. Death was an abyss to him.
As he stood trembling on its mournful brink, he recoiled with horror.
He was not sufficiently ignorant to be absolutely indifferent.
His condemnation, which had been a profound shock, had, in a manner,
broken through, here and there, that wall which separates us
from the mystery of things, and which we call life. He gazed
incessantly beyond this world through these fatal breaches,
and beheld only darkness. The Bishop made him see light.
On the following day, when they came to fetch the unhappy wretch,
the Bishop was still there. He followed him, and exhibited himself
to the eyes of the crowd in his purple camail and with his episcopal
cross upon his neck, side by side with the criminal bound with cords.
He mounted the tumbril with him, he mounted the scaffold with him.
The sufferer, who had been so gloomy and cast down on the preceding day,
was radiant. He felt that his soul was reconciled, and he hoped
in God. The Bishop embraced him, and at the moment when the knife
was about to fall, he said to him: "God raises from the dead him
whom man slays; he whom his brothers have rejected finds his Father
once more. Pray, believe, enter into life: the Father is there."
When he descended from the scaffold, there was something in his look
which made the people draw aside to let him pass. They did not know
which was most worthy of admiration, his pallor or his serenity.
On his return to the humble dwelling, which he designated,
with a smile, as his palace, he said to his sister, "I have just
Since the most sublime things are often those which are the
least understood, there were people in the town who said,
when commenting on this conduct of the Bishop, "It is affectation."
This, however, was a remark which was confined to the drawing-rooms.
The populace, which perceives no jest in holy deeds, was touched,
and admired him.
As for the Bishop, it was a shock to him to have beheld the guillotine,
and it was a long time before he recovered from it.
In fact, when the scaffold is there, all erected and prepared,
it has something about it which produces hallucination.
One may feel a certain indifference to the death penalty,
one may refrain from pronouncing upon it, from saying yes or no,
so long as one has not seen a guillotine with one's own eyes:
but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent;
one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against.
Some admire it, like de Maistre; others execrate it, like Beccaria.
The guillotine is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte;
it is not neutral, and it does not permit you to remain neutral.
He who sees it shivers with the most mysterious of shivers.
All social problems erect their interrogation point around
this chopping-knife. The scaffold is a vision. The scaffold
is not a piece of carpentry; the scaffold is not a machine;
the scaffold is not an inert bit of mechanism constructed of wood,
iron and cords.
It seems as though it were a being, possessed of I know not what
sombre initiative; one would say that this piece of carpenter's
work saw, that this machine heard, that this mechanism understood,
that this wood, this iron, and these cords were possessed of will.
In the frightful meditation into which its presence casts the soul
the scaffold appears in terrible guise, and as though taking part in
what is going on. The scaffold is the accomplice of the executioner;
it devours, it eats flesh, it drinks blood; the scaffold is a sort
of monster fabricated by the judge and the carpenter, a spectre
which seems to live with a horrible vitality composed of all the death
which it has inflicted.
Therefore, the impression was terrible and profound; on the day
following the execution, and on many succeeding days, the Bishop
appeared to be crushed. The almost violent serenity of the
funereal moment had disappeared; the phantom of social justice
tormented him. He, who generally returned from all his deeds
with a radiant satisfaction, seemed to be reproaching himself.
At times he talked to himself, and stammered lugubrious monologues
in a low voice. This is one which his sister overheard one evening
and preserved: "I did not think that it was so monstrous.
It is wrong to become absorbed in the divine law to such a degree
as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone.
By what right do men touch that unknown thing?"
In course of time these impressions weakened and probably vanished.
Nevertheless, it was observed that the Bishop thenceforth avoided
passing the place of execution.
M. Myriel could be summoned at any hour to the bedside of the sick
and dying. He did not ignore the fact that therein lay his greatest
duty and his greatest labor. Widowed and orphaned families had
no need to summon him; he came of his own accord. He understood
how to sit down and hold his peace for long hours beside the man
who had lost the wife of his love, of the mother who had lost
her child. As he knew the moment for silence he knew also the moment
for speech. Oh, admirable consoler! He sought not to efface sorrow
by forgetfulness, but to magnify and dignify it by hope. He said:--
"Have a care of the manner in which you turn towards the dead.
Think not of that which perishes. Gaze steadily. You will perceive
the living light of your well-beloved dead in the depths of heaven."
He knew that faith is wholesome. He sought to counsel and calm
the despairing man, by pointing out to him the resigned man,
and to transform the grief which gazes upon a grave by showing him
the grief which fixes its gaze upon a star.
MONSEIGNEUR BIENVENU MADE HIS CASSOCKS LAST TOO LONG
The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts
as his public life. The voluntary poverty in which the Bishop
of D---- lived, would have been a solemn and charming sight
for any one who could have viewed it close at hand.
Like all old men, and like the majority of thinkers, he slept little.
This brief slumber was profound. In the morning he meditated for an hour,
then he said his mass, either at the cathedral or in his own house.
His mass said, he broke his fast on rye bread dipped in the milk
of his own cows. Then he set to work.
A Bishop is a very busy man: he must every day receive the
secretary of the bishopric, who is generally a canon, and nearly
every day his vicars-general. He has congregations to reprove,
privileges to grant, a whole ecclesiastical library to examine,--
prayer-books, diocesan catechisms, books of hours, etc.,--charges
to write, sermons to authorize, cures and mayors to reconcile,
a clerical correspondence, an administrative correspondence;
on one side the State, on the other the Holy See; and a thousand
matters of business.
What time was left to him, after these thousand details of business,
and his offices and his breviary, he bestowed first on the necessitous,
the sick, and the afflicted; the time which was left to him from
the afflicted, the sick, and the necessitous, he devoted to work.
Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had
but one word for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening.
"The mind is a garden," said he.
Towards mid-day, when the weather was fine, he went forth and took
a stroll in the country or in town, often entering lowly dwellings.
He was seen walking alone, buried in his own thoughts, his eyes
cast down, supporting himself on his long cane, clad in his wadded
purple garment of silk, which was very warm, wearing purple stockings
inside his coarse shoes, and surmounted by a flat hat which allowed
three golden tassels of large bullion to droop from its three points.
It was a perfect festival wherever he appeared. One would have said
that his presence had something warming and luminous about it.
The children and the old people came out to the doorsteps for the Bishop
as for the sun. He bestowed his blessing, and they blessed him.
They pointed out his house to any one who was in need of anything.
Here and there he halted, accosted the little boys and girls,
and smiled upon the mothers. He visited the poor so long as he
had any money; when he no longer had any, he visited the rich.
As he made his cassocks last a long while, and did not wish to
have it noticed, he never went out in the town without his wadded
purple cloak. This inconvenienced him somewhat in summer.
On his return, he dined. The dinner resembled his breakfast.
At half-past eight in the evening he supped with his sister,
Madame Magloire standing behind them and serving them at table.
Nothing could be more frugal than this repast. If, however, the Bishop
had one of his cures to supper, Madame Magloire took advantage
of the opportunity to serve Monseigneur with some excellent fish
from the lake, or with some fine game from the mountains. Every cure
furnished the pretext for a good meal: the Bishop did not interfere.
With that exception, his ordinary diet consisted only of vegetables
boiled in water, and oil soup. Thus it was said in the town,
when the Bishop does not indulge in the cheer of a cure, he indulges
in the cheer of a trappist.
After supper he conversed for half an hour with Mademoiselle Baptistine
and Madame Magloire; then he retired to his own room and set to writing,
sometimes on loose sheets, and again on the margin of some folio.
He was a man of letters and rather learned. He left behind him
five or six very curious manuscripts; among others, a dissertation
on this verse in Genesis, In the beginning, the spirit of God
floated upon the waters. With this verse he compares three texts:
the Arabic verse which says, The winds of God blew; Flavius Josephus
who says, A wind from above was precipitated upon the earth;
and finally, the Chaldaic paraphrase of Onkelos, which renders it,
A wind coming from God blew upon the face of the waters.
In another dissertation, he examines the theological works of Hugo,
Bishop of Ptolemais, great-grand-uncle to the writer of this book,
and establishes the fact, that to this bishop must be attributed
the divers little works published during the last century, under the
pseudonym of Barleycourt.
Sometimes, in the midst of his reading, no matter what the book
might be which he had in his hand, he would suddenly fall into
a profound meditation, whence he only emerged to write a few
lines on the pages of the volume itself. These lines have often
no connection whatever with the book which contains them. We now
have under our eyes a note written by him on the margin of a quarto
entitled Correspondence of Lord Germain with Generals Clinton,
Cornwallis, and the Admirals on the American station. Versailles,
Poincot, book-seller; and Paris, Pissot, bookseller, Quai des Augustins.
Here is the note:--
"Oh, you who are!
"Ecclesiastes calls you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you
the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty;
Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth;
John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls
you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation
calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion,
and that is the most beautiful of all your names."
Toward nine o'clock in the evening the two women retired and betook
themselves to their chambers on the first floor, leaving him alone
until morning on the ground floor.
It is necessary that we should, in this place, give an exact idea
of the dwelling of the Bishop of D----
WHO GUARDED HIS HOUSE FOR HIM
The house in which he lived consisted, as we have said, of a ground floor,
and one story above; three rooms on the ground floor, three chambers
on the first, and an attic above. Behind the house was a garden,
a quarter of an acre in extent. The two women occupied the first floor;
the Bishop was lodged below. The first room, opening on the street,
served him as dining-room, the second was his bedroom, and the
third his oratory. There was no exit possible from this oratory,
except by passing through the bedroom, nor from the bedroom,
without passing through the dining-room. At the end of the suite,
in the oratory, there was a detached alcove with a bed, for use
in cases of hospitality. The Bishop offered this bed to country
curates whom business or the requirements of their parishes brought
The pharmacy of the hospital, a small building which had been added
to the house, and abutted on the garden, had been transformed into
a kitchen and cellar. In addition to this, there was in the garden
a stable, which had formerly been the kitchen of the hospital,
and in which the Bishop kept two cows. No matter what the quantity
of milk they gave, he invariably sent half of it every morning
to the sick people in the hospital. "I am paying my tithes,"
His bedroom was tolerably large, and rather difficult to warm
in bad weather. As wood is extremely dear at D----, he hit upon
the idea of having a compartment of boards constructed in the
cow-shed. Here he passed his evenings during seasons of severe cold:
he called it his winter salon.
In this winter salon, as in the dining-room, there was no other furniture
than a square table in white wood, and four straw-seated chairs.
In addition to this the dining-room was ornamented with an
antique sideboard, painted pink, in water colors. Out of a similar
sideboard, properly draped with white napery and imitation lace,
the Bishop had constructed the altar which decorated his oratory.
His wealthy penitents and the sainted women of D---- had more than
once assessed themselves to raise the money for a new altar for
Monseigneur's oratory; on each occasion he had taken the money and
had given it to the poor. "The most beautiful of altars," he said,
"is the soul of an unhappy creature consoled and thanking God."
In his oratory there were two straw prie-Dieu, and there was
an arm-chair, also in straw, in his bedroom. When, by chance,
he received seven or eight persons at one time, the prefect,
or the general, or the staff of the regiment in garrison, or several
pupils from the little seminary, the chairs had to be fetched from
the winter salon in the stable, the prie-Dieu from the oratory,
and the arm-chair from the bedroom: in this way as many as eleven
chairs could be collected for the visitors. A room was dismantled
for each new guest.
It sometimes happened that there were twelve in the party;
the Bishop then relieved the embarrassment of the situation by
standing in front of the chimney if it was winter, or by strolling
in the garden if it was summer.
There was still another chair in the detached alcove, but the straw
was half gone from it, and it had but three legs, so that it was of
service only when propped against the wall. Mademoiselle Baptistine
had also in her own room a very large easy-chair of wood, which had
formerly been gilded, and which was covered with flowered pekin;
but they had been obliged to hoist this bergere up to the first story
through the window, as the staircase was too narrow; it could not,
therefore, be reckoned among the possibilities in the way of furniture.
Mademoiselle Baptistine's ambition had been to be able to purchase
a set of drawing-room furniture in yellow Utrecht velvet,
stamped with a rose pattern, and with mahogany in swan's neck style,
with a sofa. But this would have cost five hundred francs at least,
and in view of the fact that she had only been able to lay by forty-two
francs and ten sous for this purpose in the course of five years,
she had ended by renouncing the idea. However, who is there who has
attained his ideal?
Nothing is more easy to present to the imagination than the Bishop's
bedchamber. A glazed door opened on the garden; opposite this was
the bed,--a hospital bed of iron, with a canopy of green serge; in the
shadow of the bed, behind a curtain, were the utensils of the toilet,
which still betrayed the elegant habits of the man of the world:
there were two doors, one near the chimney, opening into the oratory;
the other near the bookcase, opening into the dining-room. The bookcase
was a large cupboard with glass doors filled with books; the chimney
was of wood painted to represent marble, and habitually without fire.
In the chimney stood a pair of firedogs of iron, ornamented above
with two garlanded vases, and flutings which had formerly been
silvered with silver leaf, which was a sort of episcopal luxury;
above the chimney-piece hung a crucifix of copper, with the silver
worn off, fixed on a background of threadbare velvet in a wooden
frame from which the gilding had fallen; near the glass door
a large table with an inkstand, loaded with a confusion of papers
and with huge volumes; before the table an arm-chair of straw;
in front of the bed a prie-Dieu, borrowed from the oratory.
Two portraits in oval frames were fastened to the wall on each side
of the bed. Small gilt inscriptions on the plain surface of the cloth
at the side of these figures indicated that the portraits represented,
one the Abbe of Chaliot, bishop of Saint Claude; the other, the Abbe
Tourteau, vicar-general of Agde, abbe of Grand-Champ, order of Citeaux,
diocese of Chartres. When the Bishop succeeded to this apartment,
after the hospital patients, he had found these portraits there,
and had left them. They were priests, and probably donors--two reasons
for respecting them. All that he knew about these two persons was,
that they had been appointed by the king, the one to his bishopric,
the other to his benefice, on the same day, the 27th of April,
1785. Madame Magloire having taken the pictures down to dust,
the Bishop had discovered these particulars written in whitish
ink on a little square of paper, yellowed by time, and attached
to the back of the portrait of the Abbe of Grand-Champ with four wafers.
At his window he had an antique curtain of a coarse woollen stuff,
which finally became so old, that, in order to avoid the expense
of a new one, Madame Magloire was forced to take a large seam
in the very middle of it. This seam took the form of a cross.
The Bishop often called attention to it: "How delightful that is!"
All the rooms in the house, without exception, those on the ground
floor as well as those on the first floor, were white-washed,
which is a fashion in barracks and hospitals.
However, in their latter years, Madame Magloire discovered beneath
the paper which had been washed over, paintings, ornamenting the
apartment of Mademoiselle Baptistine, as we shall see further on.
Before becoming a hospital, this house had been the ancient
parliament house of the Bourgeois. Hence this decoration.
The chambers were paved in red bricks, which were washed every week,
with straw mats in front of all the beds. Altogether, this dwelling,
which was attended to by the two women, was exquisitely clean from top
to bottom. This was the sole luxury which the Bishop permitted.
He said, "That takes nothing from the poor."
It must be confessed, however, that he still retained from his
former possessions six silver knives and forks and a soup-ladle,
which Madame Magloire contemplated every day with delight,
as they glistened splendidly upon the coarse linen cloth.
And since we are now painting the Bishop of D---- as he was in reality,
we must add that he had said more than once, "I find it difficult
to renounce eating from silver dishes."
To this silverware must be added two large candlesticks of
massive silver, which he had inherited from a great-aunt. These
candlesticks held two wax candles, and usually figured on the Bishop's
chimney-piece. When he had any one to dinner, Madame Magloire
lighted the two candles and set the candlesticks on the table.
In the Bishop's own chamber, at the head of his bed, there was
a small cupboard, in which Madame Magloire locked up the six
silver knives and forks and the big spoon every night.
But it is necessary to add, that the key was never removed.
The garden, which had been rather spoiled by the ugly buildings
which we have mentioned, was composed of four alleys in cross-form,
radiating from a tank. Another walk made the circuit of the garden,
and skirted the white wall which enclosed it. These alleys left
behind them four square plots rimmed with box. In three of these,
Madame Magloire cultivated vegetables; in the fourth, the Bishop
had planted some flowers; here and there stood a few fruit-trees.
Madame Magloire had once remarked, with a sort of gentle malice:
"Monseigneur, you who turn everything to account, have, nevertheless, one
useless plot. It would be better to grow salads there than bouquets."
"Madame Magloire," retorted the Bishop, "you are mistaken.
The beautiful is as useful as the useful." He added after a pause,
"More so, perhaps."
This plot, consisting of three or four beds, occupied the Bishop almost
as much as did his books. He liked to pass an hour or two there,
trimming, hoeing, and making holes here and there in the earth,
into which he dropped seeds. He was not as hostile to insects
as a gardener could have wished to see him. Moreover, he made no
pretensions to botany; he ignored groups and consistency; he made not
the slightest effort to decide between Tournefort and the natural method;
he took part neither with the buds against the cotyledons, nor with
Jussieu against Linnaeus. He did not study plants; he loved flowers.
He respected learned men greatly; he respected the ignorant still more;
and, without ever failing in these two respects, he watered his
flower-beds every summer evening with a tin watering-pot painted green.
The house had not a single door which could be locked. The door
of the dining-room, which, as we have said, opened directly on the
cathedral square, had formerly been ornamented with locks and bolts
like the door of a prison. The Bishop had had all this ironwork removed,
and this door was never fastened, either by night or by day,
with anything except the latch. All that the first passerby had
to do at any hour, was to give it a push. At first, the two women
had been very much tried by this door, which was never fastened,
but Monsieur de D---- had said to them, "Have bolts put on your rooms,
if that will please you." They had ended by sharing his confidence,
or by at least acting as though they shared it. Madame Magloire
alone had frights from time to time. As for the Bishop, his thought
can be found explained, or at least indicated, in the three lines
which he wrote on the margin of a Bible, "This is the shade
of difference: the door of the physician should never be shut,
the door of the priest should always be open."
On another book, entitled Philosophy of the Medical Science,
he had written this other note: "Am not I a physician like them?
I also have my patients, and then, too, I have some whom I call
Again he wrote: "Do not inquire the name of him who asks a shelter
of you. The very man who is embarrassed by his name is the one
who needs shelter."
It chanced that a worthy cure, I know not whether it was the cure
of Couloubroux or the cure of Pompierry, took it into his head
to ask him one day, probably at the instigation of Madame Magloire,
whether Monsieur was sure that he was not committing an indiscretion,
to a certain extent, in leaving his door unfastened day and night,
at the mercy of any one who should choose to enter, and whether,
in short, he did not fear lest some misfortune might occur
in a house so little guarded. The Bishop touched his shoulder,
with gentle gravity, and said to him, "Nisi Dominus custodierit domum,
in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt eam," Unless the Lord guard the house,
in vain do they watch who guard it.
Then he spoke of something else.
He was fond of saying, "There is a bravery of the priest as well
as the bravery of a colonel of dragoons,--only," he added,
"ours must be tranquil."
It is here that a fact falls naturally into place, which we must
not omit, because it is one of the sort which show us best what sort
of a man the Bishop of D---- was.
After the destruction of the band of Gaspard Bes, who had infested
the gorges of Ollioules, one of his lieutenants, Cravatte, took refuge
in the mountains. He concealed himself for some time with his bandits,
the remnant of Gaspard Bes's troop, in the county of Nice;
then he made his way to Piedmont, and suddenly reappeared in France,
in the vicinity of Barcelonette. He was first seen at Jauziers,
then at Tuiles. He hid himself in the caverns of the Joug-de-l'Aigle,
and thence he descended towards the hamlets and villages through
the ravines of Ubaye and Ubayette.
He even pushed as far as Embrun, entered the cathedral one night,
and despoiled the sacristy. His highway robberies laid waste the
country-side. The gendarmes were set on his track, but in vain.
He always escaped; sometimes he resisted by main force. He was a
bold wretch. In the midst of all this terror the Bishop arrived.
He was making his circuit to Chastelar. The mayor came to meet him,
and urged him to retrace his steps. Cravatte was in possession
of the mountains as far as Arche, and beyond; there was danger even
with an escort; it merely exposed three or four unfortunate gendarmes
to no purpose.
"Therefore," said the Bishop, "I intend to go without escort."
"You do not really mean that, Monseigneur!" exclaimed the mayor.
"I do mean it so thoroughly that I absolutely refuse any gendarmes,
and shall set out in an hour."
"Monseigneur, you will not do that!"
"There exists yonder in the mountains," said the Bishop, a tiny
community no bigger than that, which I have not seen for three years.
They are my good friends, those gentle and honest shepherds. They own
one goat out of every thirty that they tend. They make very pretty
woollen cords of various colors, and they play the mountain airs
on little flutes with six holes. They need to be told of the good
God now and then. What would they say to a bishop who was afraid?
What would they say if I did not go?"
"But the brigands, Monseigneur?"
"Hold," said the Bishop, "I must think of that. You are right.
I may meet them. They, too, need to be told of the good God."
"But, Monseigneur, there is a band of them! A flock of wolves!"
"Monsieur le maire, it may be that it is of this very flock
of wolves that Jesus has constituted me the shepherd. Who knows
the ways of Providence?"
"They will rob you, Monseigneur."
"I have nothing."
"They will kill you."
"An old goodman of a priest, who passes along mumbling his prayers?
Bah! To what purpose?"
"Oh, mon Dieu! what if you should meet them!"
"I should beg alms of them for my poor."
"Do not go, Monseigneur. In the name of Heaven! You are risking
"Monsieur le maire," said the Bishop, "is that really all?
I am not in the world to guard my own life, but to guard souls."
They had to allow him to do as he pleased. He set out, accompanied
only by a child who offered to serve as a guide. His obstinacy
was bruited about the country-side, and caused great consternation.
He would take neither his sister nor Madame Magloire. He traversed
the mountain on mule-back, encountered no one, and arrived safe
and sound at the residence of his "good friends," the shepherds.
He remained there for a fortnight, preaching, administering the sacrament,
teaching, exhorting. When the time of his departure approached,
he resolved to chant a Te Deum pontifically. He mentioned it to
the cure. But what was to be done? There were no episcopal ornaments.
They could only place at his disposal a wretched village sacristy, with
a few ancient chasubles of threadbare damask adorned with imitation lace.
"Bah!" said the Bishop. "Let us announce our Te Deum from the pulpit,
nevertheless, Monsieur le Cure. Things will arrange themselves."
They instituted a search in the churches of the neighborhood.
All the magnificence of these humble parishes combined would not have
sufficed to clothe the chorister of a cathedral properly.
While they were thus embarrassed, a large chest was brought and
deposited in the presbytery for the Bishop, by two unknown horsemen,
who departed on the instant. The chest was opened; it contained
a cope of cloth of gold, a mitre ornamented with diamonds,
an archbishop's cross, a magnificent crosier,--all the pontifical
vestments which had been stolen a month previously from the treasury
of Notre Dame d'Embrun. In the chest was a paper, on which
these words were written, "From Cravatte to Monseigneur Bienvenu."
"Did not I say that things would come right of themselves?" said
the Bishop. Then he added, with a smile, "To him who contents himself
with the surplice of a curate, God sends the cope of an archbishop."
"Monseigneur," murmured the cure, throwing back his head with a smile.
"God--or the Devil."
The Bishop looked steadily at the cure, and repeated
with authority, "God!"
When he returned to Chastelar, the people came out to stare at him
as at a curiosity, all along the road. At the priest's house in
Chastelar he rejoined Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire,
who were waiting for him, and he said to his sister: "Well! was
I in the right? The poor priest went to his poor mountaineers
with empty hands, and he returns from them with his hands full.
I set out bearing only my faith in God; I have brought back the
treasure of a cathedral."
That evening, before he went to bed, he said again: "Let us
never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without,
petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers;
vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves.
What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think
only of that which threatens our soul."
Then, turning to his sister: "Sister, never a precaution on the part
of the priest, against his fellow-man. That which his fellow does,
God permits. Let us confine ourselves to prayer, when we think
that a danger is approaching us. Let us pray, not for ourselves,
but that our brother may not fall into sin on our account."
However, such incidents were rare in his life. We relate those
of which we know; but generally he passed his life in doing the
same things at the same moment. One month of his year resembled
one hour of his day.
As to what became of "the treasure" of the cathedral of Embrun,
we should be embarrassed by any inquiry in that direction.
It consisted of very handsome things, very tempting things,
and things which were very well adapted to be stolen for the benefit
of the unfortunate. Stolen they had already been elsewhere.
Half of the adventure was completed; it only remained to impart
a new direction to the theft, and to cause it to take a short trip
in the direction of the poor. However, we make no assertions
on this point. Only, a rather obscure note was found among
the Bishop's papers, which may bear some relation to this matter,
and which is couched in these terms, "The question is, to decide
whether this should be turned over to the cathedral or to the hospital."
PHILOSOPHY AFTER DRINKING
The senator above mentioned was a clever man, who had made
his own way, heedless of those things which present obstacles,
and which are called conscience, sworn faith, justice, duty: he had
marched straight to his goal, without once flinching in the line
of his advancement and his interest. He was an old attorney,
softened by success; not a bad man by any means, who rendered
all the small services in his power to his sons, his sons-in-law,
his relations, and even to his friends, having wisely seized upon,
in life, good sides, good opportunities, good windfalls.
Everything else seemed to him very stupid. He was intelligent,
and just sufficiently educated to think himself a disciple of Epicurus;
while he was, in reality, only a product of Pigault-Lebrun. He
laughed willingly and pleasantly over infinite and eternal things,
and at the "Crotchets of that good old fellow the Bishop."
He even sometimes laughed at him with an amiable authority in the
presence of M. Myriel himself, who listened to him.
On some semi-official occasion or other, I do not recollect what,
Count*** [this senator] and M. Myriel were to dine with the prefect.
At dessert, the senator, who was slightly exhilarated, though still
perfectly dignified, exclaimed:--
"Egad, Bishop, let's have a discussion. It is hard for a senator and
a bishop to look at each other without winking. We are two augurs.
I am going to make a confession to you. I have a philosophy of my own."
"And you are right," replied the Bishop. "As one makes one's philosophy,
so one lies on it. You are on the bed of purple, senator."
The senator was encouraged, and went on:--
"Let us be good fellows."
"Good devils even," said the Bishop.
"I declare to you," continued the senator, "that the Marquis
d'Argens, Pyrrhon, Hobbes, and M. Naigeon are no rascals.
I have all the philosophers in my library gilded on the edges."
"Like yourself, Count," interposed the Bishop.
The senator resumed:--
"I hate Diderot; he is an ideologist, a declaimer, and a revolutionist,
a believer in God at bottom, and more bigoted than Voltaire.
Voltaire made sport of Needham, and he was wrong, for Needham's
eels prove that God is useless. A drop of vinegar in a spoonful
of flour paste supplies the fiat lux. Suppose the drop to be larger
and the spoonful bigger; you have the world. Man is the eel.
Then what is the good of the Eternal Father? The Jehovah hypothesis
tires me, Bishop. It is good for nothing but to produce shallow people,
whose reasoning is hollow. Down with that great All, which torments me!
Hurrah for Zero which leaves me in peace! Between you and me,
and in order to empty my sack, and make confession to my pastor,
as it behooves me to do, I will admit to you that I have good sense.
I am not enthusiastic over your Jesus, who preaches renunciation and
sacrifice to the last extremity. 'Tis the counsel of an avaricious
man to beggars. Renunciation; why? Sacrifice; to what end?
I do not see one wolf immolating himself for the happiness of
another wolf. Let us stick to nature, then. We are at the top;
let us have a superior philosophy. What is the advantage of
being at the top, if one sees no further than the end of other
people's noses? Let us live merrily. Life is all. That man has
another future elsewhere, on high, below, anywhere, I don't believe;
not one single word of it. Ah! sacrifice and renunciation are
recommended to me; I must take heed to everything I do; I must
cudgel my brains over good and evil, over the just and the unjust,
over the fas and the nefas. Why? Because I shall have to render
an account of my actions. When? After death. What a fine dream!
After my death it will be a very clever person who can catch me.
Have a handful of dust seized by a shadow-hand, if you can.
Let us tell the truth, we who are initiated, and who have raised
the veil of Isis: there is no such thing as either good or evil;
there is vegetation. Let us seek the real. Let us get to the bottom
of it. Let us go into it thoroughly. What the deuce! let us go
to the bottom of it! We must scent out the truth; dig in the
earth for it, and seize it. Then it gives you exquisite joys.
Then you grow strong, and you laugh. I am square on the bottom,
I am. Immortality, Bishop, is a chance, a waiting for dead
men's shoes. Ah! what a charming promise! trust to it, if you like!
What a fine lot Adam has! We are souls, and we shall be angels,
with blue wings on our shoulder-blades. Do come to my assistance:
is it not Tertullian who says that the blessed shall travel from star
to star? Very well. We shall be the grasshoppers of the stars.
And then, besides, we shall see God. Ta, ta, ta! What twaddle all
these paradises are! God is a nonsensical monster. I would not say
that in the Moniteur, egad! but I may whisper it among friends.
Inter pocula. To sacrifice the world to paradise is to let
slip the prey for the shadow. Be the dupe of the infinite!
I'm not such a fool. I am a nought. I call myself Monsieur le
Comte Nought, senator. Did I exist before my birth? No. Shall I exist
after death? No. What am I? A little dust collected in an organism.
What am I to do on this earth? The choice rests with me:
suffer or enjoy. Whither will suffering lead me? To nothingness;
but I shall have suffered. Whither will enjoyment lead me?
To nothingness; but I shall have enjoyed myself. My choice is made.
One must eat or be eaten. I shall eat. It is better to be the tooth
than the grass. Such is my wisdom. After which, go whither I
push thee, the grave-digger is there; the Pantheon for some of us:
all falls into the great hole. End. Finis. Total liquidation.
This is the vanishing-point. Death is death, believe me.
I laugh at the idea of there being any one who has anything to tell
me on that subject. Fables of nurses; bugaboo for children;
Jehovah for men. No; our to-morrow is the night. Beyond the tomb
there is nothing but equal nothingness. You have been Sardanapalus,
you have been Vincent de Paul--it makes no difference. That is
the truth. Then live your life, above all things. Make use of
your _I_ while you have it. In truth, Bishop, I tell you that I
have a philosophy of my own, and I have my philosophers. I don't
let myself be taken in with that nonsense. Of course, there must
be something for those who are down,--for the barefooted beggars,
knife-grinders, and miserable wretches. Legends, chimeras, the soul,
immortality, paradise, the stars, are provided for them to swallow.
They gobble it down. They spread it on their dry bread.
He who has nothing else has the good. God. That is the least