Part 2 out of 36
he can have. I oppose no objection to that; but I reserve
Monsieur Naigeon for myself. The good God is good for the
The Bishop clapped his hands.
"That's talking!" he exclaimed. "What an excellent and really
marvellous thing is this materialism! Not every one who wants it
can have it. Ah! when one does have it, one is no longer a dupe,
one does not stupidly allow one's self to be exiled like Cato,
nor stoned like Stephen, nor burned alive like Jeanne d'Arc. Those
who have succeeded in procuring this admirable materialism have the joy
of feeling themselves irresponsible, and of thinking that they can devour
everything without uneasiness,--places, sinecures, dignities, power,
whether well or ill acquired, lucrative recantations, useful treacheries,
savory capitulations of conscience,--and that they shall enter
the tomb with their digestion accomplished. How agreeable that is!
I do not say that with reference to you, senator. Nevertheless, it is
impossible for me to refrain from congratulating you. You great
lords have, so you say, a philosophy of your own, and for yourselves,
which is exquisite, refined, accessible to the rich alone,
good for all sauces, and which seasons the voluptuousness of
life admirably. This philosophy has been extracted from the depths,
and unearthed by special seekers. But you are good-natured princes,
and you do not think it a bad thing that belief in the good
God should constitute the philosophy of the people, very much
as the goose stuffed with chestnuts is the truffled turkey of the poor."
THE BROTHER AS DEPICTED BY THE SISTER
In order to furnish an idea of the private establishment of the Bishop
of D----, and of the manner in which those two sainted women subordinated
their actions, their thoughts, their feminine instincts even,
which are easily alarmed, to the habits and purposes of the Bishop,
without his even taking the trouble of speaking in order to explain them,
we cannot do better than transcribe in this place a letter from
Mademoiselle Baptistine to Madame the Vicomtess de Boischevron,
the friend of her childhood. This letter is in our possession.
D----, Dec. 16, 18--.
MY GOOD MADAM: Not a day passes without our speaking of you.
It is our established custom; but there is another reason besides.
Just imagine, while washing and dusting the ceilings and walls,
Madam Magloire has made some discoveries; now our two chambers hung
with antique paper whitewashed over, would not discredit a chateau
in the style of yours. Madam Magloire has pulled off all the paper.
There were things beneath. My drawing-room, which contains no furniture,
and which we use for spreading out the linen after washing,
is fifteen feet in height, eighteen square, with a ceiling which
was formerly painted and gilded, and with beams, as in yours.
This was covered with a cloth while this was the hospital.
And the woodwork was of the era of our grandmothers. But my room
is the one you ought to see. Madam Magloire has discovered,
under at least ten thicknesses of paper pasted on top, some paintings,
which without being good are very tolerable. The subject is
Telemachus being knighted by Minerva in some gardens, the name
of which escapes me. In short, where the Roman ladies repaired
on one single night. What shall I say to you? I have Romans,
and Roman ladies [here occurs an illegible word], and the whole train.
Madam Magloire has cleaned it all off; this summer she is going
to have some small injuries repaired, and the whole revarnished,
and my chamber will be a regular museum. She has also found in a
corner of the attic two wooden pier-tables of ancient fashion.
They asked us two crowns of six francs each to regild them,
but it is much better to give the money to the poor; and they
are very ugly besides, and I should much prefer a round table
I am always very happy. My brother is so good. He gives all he
has to the poor and sick. We are very much cramped. The country
is trying in the winter, and we really must do something for those
who are in need. We are almost comfortably lighted and warmed.
You see that these are great treats.
My brother has ways of his own. When he talks, he says that a bishop
ought to be so. Just imagine! the door of our house is never fastened.
Whoever chooses to enter finds himself at once in my brother's room.
He fears nothing, even at night. That is his sort of bravery,
He does not wish me or Madame Magloire feel any fear for him.
He exposes himself to all sorts of dangers, and he does not like to
have us even seem to notice it. One must know how to understand him.
He goes out in the rain, he walks in the water, he travels in winter.
He fears neither suspicious roads nor dangerous encounters,
Last year he went quite alone into a country of robbers. He would
not take us. He was absent for a fortnight. On his return nothing
had happened to him; he was thought to be dead, but was perfectly well,
and said, "This is the way I have been robbed!" And then he opened
a trunk full of jewels, all the jewels of the cathedral of Embrun,
which the thieves had given him.
When he returned on that occasion, I could not refrain from
scolding him a little, taking care, however, not to speak except
when the carriage was making a noise, so that no one might hear me.
At first I used to say to myself, "There are no dangers which will
stop him; he is terrible." Now I have ended by getting used to it.
I make a sign to Madam Magloire that she is not to oppose him.
He risks himself as he sees fit. I carry off Madam Magloire,
I enter my chamber, I pray for him and fall asleep. I am at ease,
because I know that if anything were to happen to him, it would
be the end of me. I should go to the good God with my brother
and my bishop. It has cost Madam Magloire more trouble than it did
me to accustom herself to what she terms his imprudences. But now
the habit has been acquired. We pray together, we tremble together,
and we fall asleep. If the devil were to enter this house,
he would be allowed to do so. After all, what is there for us
to fear in this house? There is always some one with us who is
stronger than we. The devil may pass through it, but the good God
This suffices me. My brother has no longer any need of saying
a word to me. I understand him without his speaking, and we
abandon ourselves to the care of Providence. That is the way
one has to do with a man who possesses grandeur of soul.
I have interrogated my brother with regard to the information
which you desire on the subject of the Faux family. You are aware
that he knows everything, and that he has memories, because he
is still a very good royalist. They really are a very ancient
Norman family of the generalship of Caen. Five hundred years ago
there was a Raoul de Faux, a Jean de Faux, and a Thomas de Faux,
who were gentlemen, and one of whom was a seigneur de Rochefort.
The last was Guy-Etienne-Alexandre, and was commander of a regiment,
and something in the light horse of Bretagne. His daughter,
Marie-Louise, married Adrien-Charles de Gramont, son of the Duke
Louis de Gramont, peer of France, colonel of the French guards,
and lieutenant-general of the army. It is written Faux, Fauq,
Good Madame, recommend us to the prayers of your sainted relative,
Monsieur the Cardinal. As for your dear Sylvanie, she has done well
in not wasting the few moments which she passes with you in writing
to me. She is well, works as you would wish, and loves me.
That is all that I desire. The souvenir which she sent through you
reached me safely, and it makes me very happy. My health is not
so very bad, and yet I grow thinner every day. Farewell; my paper
is at an end, and this forces me to leave you. A thousand good wishes.
P.S. Your grand nephew is charming. Do you know that he will soon
be five years old? Yesterday he saw some one riding by on horseback
who had on knee-caps, and he said, "What has he got on his knees?"
He is a charming child! His little brother is dragging an old broom
about the room, like a carriage, and saying, "Hu!"
As will be perceived from this letter, these two women understood
how to mould themselves to the Bishop's ways with that special feminine
genius which comprehends the man better than he comprehends himself.
The Bishop of D----, in spite of the gentle and candid air which
never deserted him, sometimes did things that were grand, bold,
and magnificent, without seeming to have even a suspicion of the fact.
They trembled, but they let him alone. Sometimes Madame Magloire essayed
a remonstrance in advance, but never at the time, nor afterwards.
They never interfered with him by so much as a word or sign,
in any action once entered upon. At certain moments, without his
having occasion to mention it, when he was not even conscious
of it himself in all probability, so perfect was his simplicity,
they vaguely felt that he was acting as a bishop; then they were
nothing more than two shadows in the house. They served him passively;
and if obedience consisted in disappearing, they disappeared.
They understood, with an admirable delicacy of instinct, that certain
cares may be put under constraint. Thus, even when believing
him to be in peril, they understood, I will not say his thought,
but his nature, to such a degree that they no longer watched over him.
They confided him to God.
Moreover, Baptistine said, as we have just read, that her brother's
end would prove her own. Madame Magloire did not say this,
but she knew it.
THE BISHOP IN THE PRESENCE OF AN UNKNOWN LIGHT
At an epoch a little later than the date of the letter cited
in the preceding pages, he did a thing which, if the whole town
was to be believed, was even more hazardous than his trip across
the mountains infested with bandits.
In the country near D---- a man lived quite alone. This man,
we will state at once, was a former member of the Convention.
His name was G----
Member of the Convention, G---- was mentioned with a sort of horror
in the little world of D---- A member of the Convention--can you
imagine such a thing? That existed from the time when people
called each other thou, and when they said "citizen." This man
was almost a monster. He had not voted for the death of the king,
but almost. He was a quasi-regicide. He had been a terrible man.
How did it happen that such a man had not been brought before
a provost's court, on the return of the legitimate princes?
They need not have cut off his head, if you please; clemency must
be exercised, agreed; but a good banishment for life. An example,
in short, etc. Besides, he was an atheist, like all the rest of
those people. Gossip of the geese about the vulture.
Was G---- a vulture after all? Yes; if he were to be judged by the
element of ferocity in this solitude of his. As he had not voted
for the death of the king, he had not been included in the decrees
of exile, and had been able to remain in France.
He dwelt at a distance of three-quarters of an hour from the city,
far from any hamlet, far from any road, in some hidden turn
of a very wild valley, no one knew exactly where. He had there,
it was said, a sort of field, a hole, a lair. There were no neighbors,
not even passers-by. Since he had dwelt in that valley, the path
which led thither had disappeared under a growth of grass.
The locality was spoken of as though it had been the dwelling of
Nevertheless, the Bishop meditated on the subject, and from time
to time he gazed at the horizon at a point where a clump of trees
marked the valley of the former member of the Convention, and he said,
"There is a soul yonder which is lonely."
And he added, deep in his own mind, "I owe him a visit."
But, let us avow it, this idea, which seemed natural at the first blush,
appeared to him after a moment's reflection, as strange, impossible,
and almost repulsive. For, at bottom, he shared the general impression,
and the old member of the Convention inspired him, without his being
clearly conscious of the fact himself, with that sentiment which
borders on hate, and which is so well expressed by the word estrangement.
Still, should the scab of the sheep cause the shepherd to recoil?
No. But what a sheep!
The good Bishop was perplexed. Sometimes he set out in that direction;
then he returned.
Finally, the rumor one day spread through the town that a sort of
young shepherd, who served the member of the Convention in his hovel,
had come in quest of a doctor; that the old wretch was dying,
that paralysis was gaining on him, and that he would not live over
night.--"Thank God!" some added.
The Bishop took his staff, put on his cloak, on account of his too
threadbare cassock, as we have mentioned, and because of the evening
breeze which was sure to rise soon, and set out.
The sun was setting, and had almost touched the horizon when the
Bishop arrived at the excommunicated spot. With a certain beating
of the heart, he recognized the fact that he was near the lair.
He strode over a ditch, leaped a hedge, made his way through a fence
of dead boughs, entered a neglected paddock, took a few steps
with a good deal of boldness, and suddenly, at the extremity of the
waste land, and behind lofty brambles, he caught sight of the cavern.
It was a very low hut, poor, small, and clean, with a vine nailed
against the outside.
Near the door, in an old wheel-chair, the arm-chair of the peasants,
there was a white-haired man, smiling at the sun.
Near the seated man stood a young boy, the shepherd lad.
He was offering the old man a jar of milk.
While the Bishop was watching him, the old man spoke: "Thank you,"
he said, "I need nothing." And his smile quitted the sun to rest
upon the child.
The Bishop stepped forward. At the sound which he made in walking,
the old man turned his head, and his face expressed the sum total
of the surprise which a man can still feel after a long life.
"This is the first time since I have been here," said he, "that any
one has entered here. Who are you, sir?"
The Bishop answered:--
"My name is Bienvenu Myriel."
"Bienvenu Myriel? I have heard that name. Are you the man whom
the people call Monseigneur Welcome?"
The old man resumed with a half-smile
"In that case, you are my bishop?"
"Something of that sort."
The member of the Convention extended his hand to the Bishop,
but the Bishop did not take it. The Bishop confined himself
to the remark:--
"I am pleased to see that I have been misinformed. You certainly
do not seem to me to be ill."
"Monsieur," replied the old man, "I am going to recover."
He paused, and then said:--
"I shall die three hours hence."
Then he continued:--
"I am something of a doctor; I know in what fashion the last hour
draws on. Yesterday, only my feet were cold; to-day, the chill
has ascended to my knees; now I feel it mounting to my waist;
when it reaches the heart, I shall stop. The sun is beautiful,
is it not? I had myself wheeled out here to take a last look
at things. You can talk to me; it does not fatigue me. You have
done well to come and look at a man who is on the point of death.
It is well that there should be witnesses at that moment. One has
one's caprices; I should have liked to last until the dawn, but I
know that I shall hardly live three hours. It will be night then.
What does it matter, after all? Dying is a simple affair.
One has no need of the light for that. So be it. I shall die
The old man turned to the shepherd lad:--
"Go to thy bed; thou wert awake all last night; thou art tired."
The child entered the hut.
The old man followed him with his eyes, and added, as though
speaking to himself:--
"I shall die while he sleeps. The two slumbers may be good neighbors."
The Bishop was not touched as it seems that he should have been.
He did not think he discerned God in this manner of dying; let us
say the whole, for these petty contradictions of great hearts must
be indicated like the rest: he, who on occasion, was so fond of
laughing at "His Grace," was rather shocked at not being addressed
as Monseigneur, and he was almost tempted to retort "citizen."
He was assailed by a fancy for peevish familiarity, common enough
to doctors and priests, but which was not habitual with him.
This man, after all, this member of the Convention, this representative
of the people, had been one of the powerful ones of the earth;
for the first time in his life, probably, the Bishop felt in a mood to
Meanwhile, the member of the Convention had been
surveying him with a modest cordiality, in which one
could have distinguished, possibly, that humility
which is so fitting when one is on the verge of returning to dust.
The Bishop, on his side, although he generally restrained his curiosity,
which, in his opinion, bordered on a fault, could not refrain from
examining the member of the Convention with an attention which,
as it did not have its course in sympathy, would have served his
conscience as a matter of reproach, in connection with any other man.
A member of the Convention produced on him somewhat the effect of being
outside the pale of the law, even of the law of charity. G----, calm,
his body almost upright, his voice vibrating, was one of those
octogenarians who form the subject of astonishment to the physiologist.
The Revolution had many of these men, proportioned to the epoch.
In this old man one was conscious of a man put to the proof.
Though so near to his end, he preserved all the gestures of health.
In his clear glance, in his firm tone, in the robust movement of
his shoulders, there was something calculated to disconcert death.
Azrael, the Mohammedan angel of the sepulchre, would have turned back,
and thought that he had mistaken the door. G---- seemed to be dying
because he willed it so. There was freedom in his agony. His legs
alone were motionless. It was there that the shadows held him fast.
His feet were cold and dead, but his head survived with all the power
of life, and seemed full of light. G----, at this solemn moment,
resembled the king in that tale of the Orient who was flesh above
and marble below.
There was a stone there. The Bishop sat down. The exordium
"I congratulate you," said he, in the tone which one uses for
a reprimand. "You did not vote for the death of the king, after all."
The old member of the Convention did not appear to notice the
bitter meaning underlying the words "after all." He replied.
The smile had quite disappeared from his face.
"Do not congratulate me too much, sir. I did vote for the death
of the tyrant."
It was the tone of austerity answering the tone of severity.
"What do you mean to say?" resumed the Bishop.
"I mean to say that man has a tyrant,--ignorance. I voted for the death
of that tyrant. That tyrant engendered royalty, which is authority
falsely understood, while science is authority rightly understood.
Man should be governed only by science."
"And conscience," added the Bishop.
"It is the same thing. Conscience is the quantity of innate science
which we have within us."
Monseigneur Bienvenu listened in some astonishment to this language,
which was very new to him.
The member of the Convention resumed:--
"So far as Louis XVI. was concerned, I said `no.' I did not think
that I had the right to kill a man; but I felt it my duty to
exterminate evil. I voted the end of the tyrant, that is to say,
the end of prostitution for woman, the end of slavery for man,
the end of night for the child. In voting for the Republic,
I voted for that. I voted for fraternity, concord, the dawn.
I have aided in the overthrow of prejudices and errors. The crumbling
away of prejudices and errors causes light. We have caused the
fall of the old world, and the old world, that vase of miseries,
has become, through its upsetting upon the human race, an urn
"Mixed joy," said the Bishop.
"You may say troubled joy, and to-day, after that fatal return
of the past, which is called 1814, joy which has disappeared!
Alas! The work was incomplete, I admit: we demolished the ancient
regime in deeds; we were not able to suppress it entirely in ideas.
To destroy abuses is not sufficient; customs must be modified.
The mill is there no longer; the wind is still there."
"You have demolished. It may be of use to demolish, but I distrust
a demolition complicated with wrath."
"Right has its wrath, Bishop; and the wrath of right is an element
of progress. In any case, and in spite of whatever may be said,
the French Revolution is the most important step of the human race
since the advent of Christ. Incomplete, it may be, but sublime.
It set free all the unknown social quantities; it softened spirits,
it calmed, appeased, enlightened; it caused the waves of civilization
to flow over the earth. It was a good thing. The French Revolution is
the consecration of humanity."
The Bishop could not refrain from murmuring:--
The member of the Convention straightened himself up in his
chair with an almost lugubrious solemnity, and exclaimed,
so far as a dying man is capable of exclamation:--
"Ah, there you go; '93! I was expecting that word. A cloud had
been forming for the space of fifteen hundred years; at the end
of fifteen hundred years it burst. You are putting the thunderbolt
on its trial."
The Bishop felt, without, perhaps, confessing it, that something
within him had suffered extinction. Nevertheless, he put a good
face on the matter. He replied:--
"The judge speaks in the name of justice; the priest speaks
in the name of pity, which is nothing but a more lofty justice.
A thunderbolt should commit no error." And he added, regarding the
member of the Convention steadily the while, "Louis XVII.?"
The conventionary stretched forth his hand and grasped the Bishop's arm.
"Louis XVII.! let us see. For whom do you mourn? is it for
the innocent child? very good; in that case I mourn with you.
Is it for the royal child? I demand time for reflection.
To me, the brother of Cartouche, an innocent child who was hung
up by the armpits in the Place de Greve, until death ensued,
for the sole crime of having been the brother of Cartouche, is no
less painful than the grandson of Louis XV., an innocent child,
martyred in the tower of the Temple, for the sole crime of having
been grandson of Louis XV."
"Monsieur," said the Bishop, "I like not this conjunction of names."
"Cartouche? Louis XV.? To which of the two do you object?"
A momentary silence ensued. The Bishop almost regretted having come,
and yet he felt vaguely and strangely shaken.
The conventionary resumed:--
"Ah, Monsieur Priest, you love not the crudities of the true.
Christ loved them. He seized a rod and cleared out the Temple.
His scourge, full of lightnings, was a harsh speaker of truths.
When he cried, `Sinite parvulos,' he made no distinction between the
little children. It would not have embarrassed him to bring together
the Dauphin of Barabbas and the Dauphin of Herod. Innocence, Monsieur,
is its own crown. Innocence has no need to be a highness.
It is as august in rags as in fleurs de lys."
"That is true," said the Bishop in a low voice.
"I persist," continued the conventionary G---- "You have mentioned
Louis XVII. to me. Let us come to an understanding. Shall we
weep for all the innocent, all martyrs, all children, the lowly
as well as the exalted? I agree to that. But in that case, as I
have told you, we must go back further than '93, and our tears must
begin before Louis XVII. I will weep with you over the children
of kings, provided that you will weep with me over the children
of the people."
"I weep for all," said the Bishop.
"Equally!" exclaimed conventionary G----; "and if the balance
must incline, let it be on the side of the people. They have been
Another silence ensued. The conventionary was the first to break it.
He raised himself on one elbow, took a bit of his cheek between
his thumb and his forefinger, as one does mechanically when one
interrogates and judges, and appealed to the Bishop with a gaze full
of all the forces of the death agony. It was almost an explosion.
"Yes, sir, the people have been suffering a long while. And hold!
that is not all, either; why have you just questioned me and talked
to me about Louis XVII.? I know you not. Ever since I have been
in these parts I have dwelt in this enclosure alone, never setting
foot outside, and seeing no one but that child who helps me.
Your name has reached me in a confused manner, it is true, and very
badly pronounced, I must admit; but that signifies nothing: clever men
have so many ways of imposing on that honest goodman, the people.
By the way, I did not hear the sound of your carriage; you have left
it yonder, behind the coppice at the fork of the roads, no doubt.
I do not know you, I tell you. You have told me that you are the Bishop;
but that affords me no information as to your moral personality.
In short, I repeat my question. Who are you? You are a bishop;
that is to say, a prince of the church, one of those gilded men
with heraldic bearings and revenues, who have vast prebends,--
the bishopric of D---- fifteen thousand francs settled income,
ten thousand in perquisites; total, twenty-five thousand francs,--
who have kitchens, who have liveries, who make good cheer,
who eat moor-hens on Friday, who strut about, a lackey before,
a lackey behind, in a gala coach, and who have palaces, and who roll
in their carriages in the name of Jesus Christ who went barefoot!
You are a prelate,--revenues, palace, horses, servants, good table,
all the sensualities of life; you have this like the rest,
and like the rest, you enjoy it; it is well; but this says
either too much or too little; this does not enlighten me upon
the intrinsic and essential value of the man who comes with the
probable intention of bringing wisdom to me. To whom do I speak?
Who are you?"
The Bishop hung his head and replied, "Vermis sum--I am a worm."
"A worm of the earth in a carriage?" growled the conventionary.
It was the conventionary's turn to be arrogant, and the Bishop's
to be humble.
The Bishop resumed mildly:--
"So be it, sir. But explain to me how my carriage, which is a few
paces off behind the trees yonder, how my good table and the moor-hens
which I eat on Friday, how my twenty-five thousand francs income,
how my palace and my lackeys prove that clemency is not a duty,
and that '93 was not inexorable.
The conventionary passed his hand across his brow, as though
to sweep away a cloud.
"Before replying to you," he said, "I beseech you to pardon me.
I have just committed a wrong, sir. You are at my house, you are
my guest, I owe you courtesy. You discuss my ideas, and it becomes
me to confine myself to combating your arguments. Your riches and
your pleasures are advantages which I hold over you in the debate;
but good taste dictates that I shall not make use of them. I promise
you to make no use of them in the future."
"I thank you," said the Bishop.
"Let us return to the explanation which you have asked of me.
Where were we? What were you saying to me? That '93 was inexorable?"
"Inexorable; yes," said the Bishop. "What think you of Marat
clapping his hands at the guillotine?"
"What think you of Bossuet chanting the Te Deum over the dragonnades?"
The retort was a harsh one, but it attained its mark with the
directness of a point of steel. The Bishop quivered under it;
no reply occurred to him; but he was offended by this mode of alluding
to Bossuet. The best of minds will have their fetiches, and they
sometimes feel vaguely wounded by the want of respect of logic.
The conventionary began to pant; the asthma of the agony
which is mingled with the last breaths interrupted his voice;
still, there was a perfect lucidity of soul in his eyes. He went on:--
"Let me say a few words more in this and that direction;
I am willing. Apart from the Revolution, which, taken as a whole,
is an immense human affirmation, '93 is, alas! a rejoinder.
You think it inexorable, sir; but what of the whole monarchy, sir?
Carrier is a bandit; but what name do you give to Montrevel?
Fouquier-Tainville is a rascal; but what is your opinion as to
Lamoignon-Baville? Maillard is terrible; but Saulx-Tavannes,
if you please? Duchene senior is ferocious; but what epithet
will you allow me for the elder Letellier? Jourdan-Coupe-Tete is
a monster; but not so great a one as M. the Marquis de Louvois.
Sir, sir, I am sorry for Marie Antoinette, archduchess and queen;
but I am also sorry for that poor Huguenot woman, who, in 1685,
under Louis the Great, sir, while with a nursing infant, was bound,
naked to the waist, to a stake, and the child kept at a distance;
her breast swelled with milk and her heart with anguish;
the little one, hungry and pale, beheld that breast and cried
and agonized; the executioner said to the woman, a mother and a nurse,
`Abjure!' giving her her choice between the death of her infant
and the death of her conscience. What say you to that torture
of Tantalus as applied to a mother? Bear this well in mind sir:
the French Revolution had its reasons for existence; its wrath will
be absolved by the future; its result is the world made better.
From its most terrible blows there comes forth a caress for the
human race. I abridge, I stop, I have too much the advantage;
moreover, I am dying."
And ceasing to gaze at the Bishop, the conventionary concluded
his thoughts in these tranquil words:--
"Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions.
When they are over, this fact is recognized,--that the human race
has been treated harshly, but that it has progressed."
The conventionary doubted not that he had successively conquered
all the inmost intrenchments of the Bishop. One remained, however,
and from this intrenchment, the last resource of Monseigneur
Bienvenu's resistance, came forth this reply, wherein appeared
nearly all the harshness of the beginning:--
"Progress should believe in God. Good cannot have an impious servitor.
He who is an atheist is but a bad leader for the human race."
The former representative of the people made no reply. He was seized
with a fit of trembling. He looked towards heaven, and in his glance
a tear gathered slowly. When the eyelid was full, the tear trickled
down his livid cheek, and he said, almost in a stammer, quite low,
and to himself, while his eyes were plunged in the depths:--
"O thou! O ideal! Thou alone existest!"
The Bishop experienced an indescribable shock.
After a pause, the old man raised a finger heavenward and said:--
"The infinite is. He is there. If the infinite had no person,
person would be without limit; it would not be infinite;
in other words, it would not exist. There is, then, an _I_.
That _I_ of the infinite is God."
The dying man had pronounced these last words in a loud voice,
and with the shiver of ecstasy, as though he beheld some one.
When he had spoken, his eyes closed. The effort had exhausted him.
It was evident that he had just lived through in a moment the
few hours which had been left to him. That which he had said
brought him nearer to him who is in death. The supreme moment
The Bishop understood this; time pressed; it was as a priest that
he had come: from extreme coldness he had passed by degrees to
extreme emotion; he gazed at those closed eyes, he took that wrinkled,
aged and ice-cold hand in his, and bent over the dying man.
"This hour is the hour of God. Do you not think that it would
be regrettable if we had met in vain?"
The conventionary opened his eyes again. A gravity mingled
with gloom was imprinted on his countenance.
"Bishop," said he, with a slowness which probably arose more
from his dignity of soul than from the failing of his strength,
"I have passed my life in meditation, study, and contemplation.
I was sixty years of age when my country called me and commanded
me to concern myself with its affairs. I obeyed. Abuses existed,
I combated them; tyrannies existed, I destroyed them; rights and
principles existed, I proclaimed and confessed them. Our territory
was invaded, I defended it; France was menaced, I offered my breast.
I was not rich; I am poor. I have been one of the masters of
the state; the vaults of the treasury were encumbered with specie
to such a degree that we were forced to shore up the walls,
which were on the point of bursting beneath the weight of gold
and silver; I dined in Dead Tree Street, at twenty-two sous.
I have succored the oppressed, I have comforted the suffering.
I tore the cloth from the altar, it is true; but it was to bind up
the wounds of my country. I have always upheld the march forward
of the human race, forward towards the light, and I have sometimes
resisted progress without pity. I have, when the occasion offered,
protected my own adversaries, men of your profession. And there
is at Peteghem, in Flanders, at the very spot where the Merovingian
kings had their summer palace, a convent of Urbanists, the Abbey
of Sainte Claire en Beaulieu, which I saved in 1793. I have done
my duty according to my powers, and all the good that I was able.
After which, I was hunted down, pursued, persecuted, blackened,
jeered at, scorned, cursed, proscribed. For many years past,
I with my white hair have been conscious that many people think they
have the right to despise me; to the poor ignorant masses I present
the visage of one damned. And I accept this isolation of hatred,
without hating any one myself. Now I am eighty-six years old;
I am on the point of death. What is it that you have come to ask
"Your blessing," said the Bishop.
And he knelt down.
When the Bishop raised his head again, the face of the conventionary
had become august. He had just expired.
The Bishop returned home, deeply absorbed in thoughts which
cannot be known to us. He passed the whole night in prayer.
On the following morning some bold and curious persons attempted
to speak to him about member of the Convention G----; he contented
himself with pointing heavenward.
From that moment he redoubled his tenderness and brotherly feeling
towards all children and sufferers.
Any allusion to "that old wretch of a G----" caused him to fall
into a singular preoccupation. No one could say that the passage
of that soul before his, and the reflection of that grand conscience
upon his, did not count for something in his approach to perfection.
This "pastoral visit" naturally furnished an occasion for a murmur
of comment in all the little local coteries.
"Was the bedside of such a dying man as that the proper place
for a bishop? There was evidently no conversion to be expected.
All those revolutionists are backsliders. Then why go there?
What was there to be seen there? He must have been very curious indeed
to see a soul carried off by the devil."
One day a dowager of the impertinent variety who thinks
herself spiritual, addressed this sally to him, "Monseigneur,
people are inquiring when Your Greatness will receive the red
cap!"--"Oh! oh! that's a coarse color," replied the Bishop.
"It is lucky that those who despise it in a cap revere it in a hat."
We should incur a great risk of deceiving ourselves, were we to conclude
from this that Monseigneur Welcome was "a philosophical bishop,"
or a "patriotic cure." His meeting, which may almost be designated
as his union, with conventionary G----, left behind it in his mind
a sort of astonishment, which rendered him still more gentle.
That is all.
Although Monseigneur Bienvenu was far from being a politician,
this is, perhaps, the place to indicate very briefly what his
attitude was in the events of that epoch, supposing that Monseigneur
Bienvenu ever dreamed of having an attitude.
Let us, then, go back a few years.
Some time after the elevation of M. Myriel to the episcopate,
the Emperor had made him a baron of the Empire, in company with many
other bishops. The arrest of the Pope took place, as every one knows,
on the night of the 5th to the 6th of July, 1809; on this occasion,
M. Myriel was summoned by Napoleon to the synod of the bishops
of France and Italy convened at Paris. This synod was held at
Notre-Dame, and assembled for the first time on the 15th of June,
1811, under the presidency of Cardinal Fesch. M. Myriel was one
of the ninety-five bishops who attended it. But he was present
only at one sitting and at three or four private conferences.
Bishop of a mountain diocese, living so very close to nature,
in rusticity and deprivation, it appeared that he imported among
these eminent personages, ideas which altered the temperature
of the assembly. He very soon returned to D---- He was interrogated
as to this speedy return, and he replied: "I embarrassed them.
The outside air penetrated to them through me. I produced on them
the effect of an open door."
On another occasion he said, "What would you have? Those gentlemen
are princes. I am only a poor peasant bishop."
The fact is that he displeased them. Among other strange things,
it is said that he chanced to remark one evening, when he found
himself at the house of one of his most notable colleagues: "What
beautiful clocks! What beautiful carpets! What beautiful liveries!
They must be a great trouble. I would not have all those superfluities,
crying incessantly in my ears: `There are people who are hungry!
There are people who are cold! There are poor people! There are
Let us remark, by the way, that the hatred of luxury is not
an intelligent hatred. This hatred would involve the hatred of
the arts. Nevertheless, in churchmen, luxury is wrong, except in
connection with representations and ceremonies. It seems to reveal
habits which have very little that is charitable about them.
An opulent priest is a contradiction. The priest must keep close
to the poor. Now, can one come in contact incessantly night and day
with all this distress, all these misfortunes, and this poverty,
without having about one's own person a little of that misery,
like the dust of labor? Is it possible to imagine a man near a brazier
who is not warm? Can one imagine a workman who is working near
a furnace, and who has neither a singed hair, nor blackened nails,
nor a drop of sweat, nor a speck of ashes on his face? The first
proof of charity in the priest, in the bishop especially, is poverty.
This is, no doubt, what the Bishop of D---- thought.
It must not be supposed, however, that he shared what we call the "ideas
of the century" on certain delicate points. He took very little part
in the theological quarrels of the moment, and maintained silence
on questions in which Church and State were implicated; but if he
had been strongly pressed, it seems that he would have been found
to be an ultramontane rather than a gallican. Since we are making
a portrait, and since we do not wish to conceal anything, we are
forced to add that he was glacial towards Napoleon in his decline.
Beginning with 1813, he gave in his adherence to or applauded all
hostile manifestations. He refused to see him, as he passed through
on his return from the island of Elba, and he abstained from ordering
public prayers for the Emperor in his diocese during the Hundred Days.
Besides his sister, Mademoiselle Baptistine, he had two brothers,
one a general, the other a prefect. He wrote to both with tolerable
frequency. He was harsh for a time towards the former, because,
holding a command in Provence at the epoch of the disembarkation
at Cannes, the general had put himself at the head of twelve hundred
men and had pursued the Emperor as though the latter had been a person
whom one is desirous of allowing to escape. His correspondence
with the other brother, the ex-prefect, a fine, worthy man who
lived in retirement at Paris, Rue Cassette, remained more affectionate.
Thus Monseigneur Bienvenu also had his hour of party spirit, his hour
of bitterness, his cloud. The shadow of the passions of the moment
traversed this grand and gentle spirit occupied with eternal things.
Certainly, such a man would have done well not to entertain any
political opinions. Let there be no mistake as to our meaning:
we are not confounding what is called "political opinions" with the
grand aspiration for progress, with the sublime faith, patriotic,
democratic, humane, which in our day should be the very foundation
of every generous intellect. Without going deeply into questions
which are only indirectly connected with the subject of this book,
we will simply say this: It would have been well if Monseigneur
Bienvenu had not been a Royalist, and if his glance had never been,
for a single instant, turned away from that serene contemplation
in which is distinctly discernible, above the fictions and the hatreds
of this world, above the stormy vicissitudes of human things,
the beaming of those three pure radiances, truth, justice, and charity.
While admitting that it was not for a political office that God
created Monseigneur Welcome, we should have understood and admired
his protest in the name of right and liberty, his proud opposition,
his just but perilous resistance to the all-powerful Napoleon.
But that which pleases us in people who are rising pleases us less
in the case of people who are falling. We only love the fray
so long as there is danger, and in any case, the combatants
of the first hour have alone the right to be the exterminators
of the last. He who has not been a stubborn accuser in prosperity
should hold his peace in the face of ruin. The denunciator
of success is the only legitimate executioner of the fall.
As for us, when Providence intervenes and strikes, we let it work.
1812 commenced to disarm us. In 1813 the cowardly breach of silence
of that taciturn legislative body, emboldened by catastrophe,
possessed only traits which aroused indignation. And it was a crime
to applaud, in 1814, in the presence of those marshals who betrayed;
in the presence of that senate which passed from one dunghill
to another, insulting after having deified; in the presence of that
idolatry which was loosing its footing and spitting on its idol,--
it was a duty to turn aside the head. In 1815, when the supreme
disasters filled the air, when France was seized with a shiver
at their sinister approach, when Waterloo could be dimly discerned
opening before Napoleon, the mournful acclamation of the army
and the people to the condemned of destiny had nothing laughable
in it, and, after making all allowance for the despot, a heart
like that of the Bishop of D----, ought not perhaps to have failed
to recognize the august and touching features presented by the embrace
of a great nation and a great man on the brink of the abyss.
With this exception, he was in all things just, true, equitable,
intelligent, humble and dignified, beneficent and kindly,
which is only another sort of benevolence. He was a priest,
a sage, and a man. It must be admitted, that even in the political
views with which we have just reproached him, and which we are
disposed to judge almost with severity, he was tolerant and easy,
more so, perhaps, than we who are speaking here. The porter of
the town-hall had been placed there by the Emperor. He was an old
non-commissioned officer of the old guard, a member of the Legion
of Honor at Austerlitz, as much of a Bonapartist as the eagle.
This poor fellow occasionally let slip inconsiderate remarks,
which the law then stigmatized as seditious speeches. After the
imperial profile disappeared from the Legion of Honor, he never
dressed himself in his regimentals, as he said, so that he should
not be obliged to wear his cross. He had himself devoutly removed
the imperial effigy from the cross which Napoleon had given him;
this made a hole, and he would not put anything in its place.
"I will die," he said, "rather than wear the three frogs upon
my heart!" He liked to scoff aloud at Louis XVIII. "The gouty
old creature in English gaiters!" he said; "let him take himself
off to Prussia with that queue of his." He was happy to combine
in the same imprecation the two things which he most detested,
Prussia and England. He did it so often that he lost his place.
There he was, turned out of the house, with his wife and children,
and without bread. The Bishop sent for him, reproved him gently,
and appointed him beadle in the cathedral.
In the course of nine years Monseigneur Bienvenu had, by dint
of holy deeds and gentle manners, filled the town of D----
with a sort of tender and filial reverence. Even his conduct
towards Napoleon had been accepted and tacitly pardoned, as it were,
by the people, the good and weakly flock who adored their emperor,
but loved their bishop.
THE SOLITUDE OF MONSEIGNEUR WELCOME
A bishop is almost always surrounded by a full squadron of
little abbes, just as a general is by a covey of young officers.
This is what that charming Saint Francois de Sales calls somewhere "les
pretres blancs-becs," callow priests. Every career has its aspirants,
who form a train for those who have attained eminence in it.
There is no power which has not its dependents. There is no fortune
which has not its court. The seekers of the future eddy around
the splendid present. Every metropolis has its staff of officials.
Every bishop who possesses the least influence has about him
his patrol of cherubim from the seminary, which goes the round,
and maintains good order in the episcopal palace, and mounts guard
over monseigneur's smile. To please a bishop is equivalent to getting
one's foot in the stirrup for a sub-diaconate. It is necessary to walk
one's path discreetly; the apostleship does not disdain the canonship.
Just as there are bigwigs elsewhere, there are big mitres in the Church.
These are the bishops who stand well at Court, who are rich,
well endowed, skilful, accepted by the world, who know how to pray,
no doubt, but who know also how to beg, who feel little scruple
at making a whole diocese dance attendance in their person,
who are connecting links between the sacristy and diplomacy,
who are abbes rather than priests, prelates rather than bishops.
Happy those who approach them! Being persons of influence,
they create a shower about them, upon the assiduous and the favored,
and upon all the young men who understand the art of pleasing,
of large parishes, prebends, archidiaconates, chaplaincies,
and cathedral posts, while awaiting episcopal honors. As they
advance themselves, they cause their satellites to progress also;
it is a whole solar system on the march. Their radiance casts a gleam
of purple over their suite. Their prosperity is crumbled up behind
the scenes, into nice little promotions. The larger the diocese
of the patron, the fatter the curacy for the favorite. And then,
there is Rome. A bishop who understands how to become an archbishop,
an archbishop who knows how to become a cardinal, carries you
with him as conclavist; you enter a court of papal jurisdiction,
you receive the pallium, and behold! you are an auditor, then a
papal chamberlain, then monsignor, and from a Grace to an Eminence
is only a step, and between the Eminence and the Holiness there is
but the smoke of a ballot. Every skull-cap may dream of the tiara.
The priest is nowadays the only man who can become a king in a
regular manner; and what a king! the supreme king. Then what a
nursery of aspirations is a seminary! How many blushing choristers,
how many youthful abbes bear on their heads Perrette's pot of milk!
Who knows how easy it is for ambition to call itself vocation?
in good faith, perchance, and deceiving itself, devotee that
Monseigneur Bienvenu, poor, humble, retiring, was not accounted
among the big mitres. This was plain from the complete absence
of young priests about him. We have seen that he "did not take"
in Paris. Not a single future dreamed of engrafting itself on
this solitary old man. Not a single sprouting ambition committed
the folly of putting forth its foliage in his shadow. His canons
and grand-vicars were good old men, rather vulgar like himself,
walled up like him in this diocese, without exit to a cardinalship,
and who resembled their bishop, with this difference, that they
were finished and he was completed. The impossibility of growing
great under Monseigneur Bienvenu was so well understood, that no
sooner had the young men whom he ordained left the seminary than they
got themselves recommended to the archbishops of Aix or of Auch,
and went off in a great hurry. For, in short, we repeat it,
men wish to be pushed. A saint who dwells in a paroxysm of abnegation
is a dangerous neighbor; he might communicate to you, by contagion,
an incurable poverty, an anchylosis of the joints, which are useful
in advancement, and in short, more renunciation than you desire;
and this infectious virtue is avoided. Hence the isolation of
Monseigneur Bienvenu. We live in the midst of a gloomy society.
Success; that is the lesson which falls drop by drop from the slope
Be it said in passing, that success is a very hideous thing. Its false
resemblance to merit deceives men. For the masses, success has almost
the same profile as supremacy. Success, that Menaechmus of talent,
has one dupe,--history. Juvenal and Tacitus alone grumble at it.
In our day, a philosophy which is almost official has entered into
its service, wears the livery of success, and performs the service
of its antechamber. Succeed: theory. Prosperity argues capacity.
Win in the lottery, and behold! you are a clever man. He who
triumphs is venerated. Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth!
everything lies in that. Be lucky, and you will have all the rest;
be happy, and people will think you great. Outside of five or six
immense exceptions, which compose the splendor of a century,
contemporary admiration is nothing but short-sightedness. Gilding
is gold. It does no harm to be the first arrival by pure chance,
so long as you do arrive. The common herd is an old Narcissus who
adores himself, and who applauds the vulgar herd. That enormous ability
by virtue of which one is Moses, Aeschylus, Dante, Michael Angelo,
or Napoleon, the multitude awards on the spot, and by acclamation,
to whomsoever attains his object, in whatsoever it may consist.
Let a notary transfigure himself into a deputy: let a false
Corneille compose Tiridate; let a eunuch come to possess a harem;
let a military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle of
an epoch; let an apothecary invent cardboard shoe-soles for the army
of the Sambre-and-Meuse, and construct for himself, out of this
cardboard, sold as leather, four hundred thousand francs of income;
let a pork-packer espouse usury, and cause it to bring forth seven
or eight millions, of which he is the father and of which it is
the mother; let a preacher become a bishop by force of his nasal drawl;
let the steward of a fine family be so rich on retiring from service
that he is made minister of finances,--and men call that Genius,
just as they call the face of Mousqueton Beauty, and the mien
of Claude Majesty. With the constellations of space they confound
the stars of the abyss which are made in the soft mire of the puddle
by the feet of ducks.
WHAT HE BELIEVED
We are not obliged to sound the Bishop of D---- on the score
of orthodoxy. In the presence of such a soul we feel ourselves
in no mood but respect. The conscience of the just man should
be accepted on his word. Moreover, certain natures being given,
we admit the possible development of all beauties of human virtue
in a belief that differs from our own.
What did he think of this dogma, or of that mystery? These secrets
of the inner tribunal of the conscience are known only to the tomb,
where souls enter naked. The point on which we are certain is,
that the difficulties of faith never resolved themselves into
hypocrisy in his case. No decay is possible to the diamond.
He believed to the extent of his powers. "Credo in Patrem,"
he often exclaimed. Moreover, he drew from good works that amount
of satisfaction which suffices to the conscience, and which whispers
to a man, "Thou art with God!"
The point which we consider it our duty to note is, that outside
of and beyond his faith, as it were, the Bishop possessed an excess
of love. In was in that quarter, quia multum amavit,--because he
loved much--that he was regarded as vulnerable by "serious men,"
"grave persons" and "reasonable people"; favorite locutions of our
sad world where egotism takes its word of command from pedantry.
What was this excess of love? It was a serene benevolence
which overflowed men, as we have already pointed out, and which,
on occasion, extended even to things. He lived without disdain.
He was indulgent towards God's creation. Every man, even the best,
has within him a thoughtless harshness which he reserves for animals.
The Bishop of D---- had none of that harshness, which is peculiar
to many priests, nevertheless. He did not go as far as the Brahmin,
but he seemed to have weighed this saying of Ecclesiastes: "Who knoweth
whither the soul of the animal goeth?" Hideousness of aspect,
deformity of instinct, troubled him not, and did not arouse
his indignation. He was touched, almost softened by them.
It seemed as though he went thoughtfully away to seek beyond
the bounds of life which is apparent, the cause, the explanation,
or the excuse for them. He seemed at times to be asking God to
commute these penalties. He examined without wrath, and with the
eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest, that portion
of chaos which still exists in nature. This revery sometimes
caused him to utter odd sayings. One morning he was in his garden,
and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking behind him,
unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the ground;
it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard
"Poor beast! It is not its fault!"
Why not mention these almost divinely childish sayings of kindness?
Puerile they may be; but these sublime puerilities were peculiar
to Saint Francis d'Assisi and of Marcus Aurelius. One day he
sprained his ankle in his effort to avoid stepping on an ant.
Thus lived this just man. Sometimes he fell asleep in his garden,
and then there was nothing more venerable possible.
Monseigneur Bienvenu had formerly been, if the stories anent
his youth, and even in regard to his manhood, were to be believed,
a passionate, and, possibly, a violent man. His universal suavity
was less an instinct of nature than the result of a grand conviction
which had filtered into his heart through the medium of life,
and had trickled there slowly, thought by thought; for, in a character,
as in a rock, there may exist apertures made by drops of water.
These hollows are uneffaceable; these formations are indestructible.
In 1815, as we think we have already said, he reached his seventy-fifth
birthday, but he did not appear to be more than sixty. He was
not tall; he was rather plump; and, in order to combat this tendency,
he was fond of taking long strolls on foot; his step was firm,
and his form was but slightly bent, a detail from which we do not
pretend to draw any conclusion. Gregory XVI., at the age of eighty,
held himself erect and smiling, which did not prevent him from
being a bad bishop. Monseigneur Welcome had what the people term
a "fine head," but so amiable was he that they forgot that it was fine.
When he conversed with that infantile gayety which was one of his charms,
and of which we have already spoken, people felt at their ease with him,
and joy seemed to radiate from his whole person. His fresh and
ruddy complexion, his very white teeth, all of which he had preserved,
and which were displayed by his smile, gave him that open and easy
air which cause the remark to be made of a man, "He's a good fellow";
and of an old man, "He is a fine man." That, it will be recalled,
was the effect which he produced upon Napoleon. On the first encounter,
and to one who saw him for the first time, he was nothing, in fact,
but a fine man. But if one remained near him for a few hours,
and beheld him in the least degree pensive, the fine man became
gradually transfigured, and took on some imposing quality,
I know not what; his broad and serious brow, rendered august
by his white locks, became august also by virtue of meditation;
majesty radiated from his goodness, though his goodness ceased not
to be radiant; one experienced something of the emotion which one
would feel on beholding a smiling angel slowly unfold his wings,
without ceasing to smile. Respect, an unutterable respect,
penetrated you by degrees and mounted to your heart, and one felt
that one had before him one of those strong, thoroughly tried,
and indulgent souls where thought is so grand that it can no longer
be anything but gentle.
As we have seen, prayer, the celebration of the offices of religion,
alms-giving, the consolation of the afflicted, the cultivation
of a bit of land, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, renunciation,
confidence, study, work, filled every day of his life. Filled is
exactly the word; certainly the Bishop's day was quite full to the brim,
of good words and good deeds. Nevertheless, it was not complete
if cold or rainy weather prevented his passing an hour or two in his
garden before going to bed, and after the two women had retired.
It seemed to be a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for
slumber by meditation in the presence of the grand spectacles of the
nocturnal heavens. Sometimes, if the two old women were not asleep,
they heard him pacing slowly along the walks at a very advanced
hour of the night. He was there alone, communing with himself,
peaceful, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the
serenity of the ether, moved amid the darkness by the visible
splendor of the constellations and the invisible splendor of God,
opening his heart to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown.
At such moments, while he offered his heart at the hour when
nocturnal flowers offer their perfume, illuminated like a lamp amid
the starry night, as he poured himself out in ecstasy in the midst
of the universal radiance of creation, he could not have told himself,
probably, what was passing in his spirit; he felt something take
its flight from him, and something descend into him. Mysterious
exchange of the abysses of the soul with the abysses of the universe!
He thought of the grandeur and presence of God; of the future eternity,
that strange mystery; of the eternity past, a mystery still
more strange; of all the infinities, which pierced their way into
all his senses, beneath his eyes; and, without seeking to comprehend
the incomprehensible, he gazed upon it. He did not study God;
he was dazzled by him. He considered those magnificent conjunctions
of atoms, which communicate aspects to matter, reveal forces by
verifying them, create individualities in unity, proportions in extent,
the innumerable in the infinite, and, through light, produce beauty.
These conjunctions are formed and dissolved incessantly;
hence life and death.
He seated himself on a wooden bench, with his back against a
decrepit vine; he gazed at the stars, past the puny and stunted
silhouettes of his fruit-trees. This quarter of an acre,
so poorly planted, so encumbered with mean buildings and sheds,
was dear to him, and satisfied his wants.
What more was needed by this old man, who divided the leisure
of his life, where there was so little leisure, between gardening
in the daytime and contemplation at night? Was not this narrow
enclosure, with the heavens for a ceiling, sufficient to enable
him to adore God in his most divine works, in turn? Does not this
comprehend all, in fact? and what is there left to desire beyond it?
A little garden in which to walk, and immensity in which to dream.
At one's feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; over head
that which one can study and meditate upon: some flowers on earth,
and all the stars in the sky.
WHAT HE THOUGHT
One last word.
Since this sort of details might, particularly at the present moment,
and to use an expression now in fashion, give to the Bishop of D----
a certain "pantheistical" physiognomy, and induce the belief,
either to his credit or discredit, that he entertained one of
those personal philosophies which are peculiar to our century,
which sometimes spring up in solitary spirits, and there take on a form
and grow until they usurp the place of religion, we insist upon it,
that not one of those persons who knew Monseigneur Welcome would
have thought himself authorized to think anything of the sort.
That which enlightened this man was his heart. His wisdom was made
of the light which comes from there.
No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no,
there is nothing to indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses.
The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid. He would
probably have felt a scruple at sounding too far in advance certain
problems which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds.
There is a sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma;
those gloomy openings stand yawning there, but something
tells you, you, a passer-by in life, that you must not enter.
Woe to him who penetrates thither!
Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure
speculation, situated, so to speak, above all dogmas, propose their
ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers discussion.
Their adoration interrogates. This is direct religion, which is
full of anxiety and responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.
Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes
and digs deep into its own bedazzlement. One might almost say,
that by a sort of splendid reaction, it with it dazzles nature;
the mysterious world which surrounds us renders back what it
has received; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated.
However that may be, there are on earth men who--are they men?--
perceive distinctly at the verge of the horizons of revery the
heights of the absolute, and who have the terrible vision of the
infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome was one of these men;
Monseigneur Welcome was not a genius. He would have feared those
sublimities whence some very great men even, like Swedenborg and Pascal,
have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these powerful reveries
have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths one approaches
to ideal perfection. As for him, he took the path which shortens,--
He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah's mantle;
he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events;
he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had
nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him.
This humble soul loved, and that was all.
That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration
is probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can
love too much; and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts,
Saint Theresa and Saint Jerome would be heretics.
He inclined towards all that groans and all that expiates.
The universe appeared to him like an immense malady; everywhere he
felt fever, everywhere he heard the sound of suffering, and,
without seeking to solve the enigma, he strove to dress the wound.
The terrible spectacle of created things developed tenderness in him;
he was occupied only in finding for himself, and in inspiring others
with the best way to compassionate and relieve. That which exists
was for this good and rare priest a permanent subject of sadness
which sought consolation.
There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction
of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned
everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other;
he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was
the whole of his doctrine. One day, that man who believed himself
to be a "philosopher," the senator who has already been alluded to,
said to the Bishop: "Just survey the spectacle of the world:
all war against all; the strongest has the most wit. Your love
each other is nonsense."--"Well," replied Monseigneur Welcome,
without contesting the point, "if it is nonsense, the soul should shut
itself up in it, as the pearl in the oyster." Thus he shut himself up,
he lived there, he was absolutely satisfied with it, leaving on one side
the prodigious questions which attract and terrify, the fathomless
perspectives of abstraction, the precipices of metaphysics--all those
profundities which converge, for the apostle in God, for the atheist
in nothingness; destiny, good and evil, the way of being against being,
the conscience of man, the thoughtful somnambulism of the animal,
the transformation in death, the recapitulation of existences
which the tomb contains, the incomprehensible grafting of successive
loves on the persistent _I_, the essence, the substance, the Nile,
and the Ens, the soul, nature, liberty, necessity; perpendicular problems,
sinister obscurities, where lean the gigantic archangels of the
human mind; formidable abysses, which Lucretius, Manou, Saint Paul,
Dante, contemplate with eyes flashing lightning, which seems
by its steady gaze on the infinite to cause stars to blaze forth there.
Monseigneur Bienvenu was simply a man who took note of the exterior
of mysterious questions without scrutinizing them, and without
troubling his own mind with them, and who cherished in his own
soul a grave respect for darkness.
BOOK SECOND--THE FALL
THE EVENING OF A DAY OF WALKING
Early in the month of October, 1815, about an hour before sunset,
a man who was travelling on foot entered the little town of D----
The few inhabitants who were at their windows or on their thresholds
at the moment stared at this traveller with a sort of uneasiness.
It was difficult to encounter a wayfarer of more wretched appearance.
He was a man of medium stature, thickset and robust, in the prime
of life. He might have been forty-six or forty-eight years old.
A cap with a drooping leather visor partly concealed his face,
burned and tanned by sun and wind, and dripping with perspiration.
His shirt of coarse yellow linen, fastened at the neck by a small
silver anchor, permitted a view of his hairy breast: he had a cravat
twisted into a string; trousers of blue drilling, worn and threadbare,
white on one knee and torn on the other; an old gray, tattered blouse,
patched on one of the elbows with a bit of green cloth sewed on
with twine; a tightly packed soldier knapsack, well buckled and
perfectly new, on his back; an enormous, knotty stick in his hand;
iron-shod shoes on his stockingless feet; a shaved head and a long
The sweat, the heat, the journey on foot, the dust, added I know
not what sordid quality to this dilapidated whole. His hair was
closely cut, yet bristling, for it had begun to grow a little,
and did not seem to have been cut for some time.
No one knew him. He was evidently only a chance passer-by. Whence
came he? From the south; from the seashore, perhaps, for he made his
entrance into D---- by the same street which, seven months previously,
had witnessed the passage of the Emperor Napoleon on his way
from Cannes to Paris. This man must have been walking all day.
He seemed very much fatigued. Some women of the ancient market town
which is situated below the city had seen him pause beneath the trees
of the boulevard Gassendi, and drink at the fountain which stands
at the end of the promenade. He must have been very thirsty:
for the children who followed him saw him stop again for a drink,
two hundred paces further on, at the fountain in the market-place.
On arriving at the corner of the Rue Poichevert, he turned to the left,
and directed his steps toward the town-hall. He entered, then came
out a quarter of an hour later. A gendarme was seated near the door,
on the stone bench which General Drouot had mounted on the 4th
of March to read to the frightened throng of the inhabitants of D----
the proclamation of the Gulf Juan. The man pulled off his cap
and humbly saluted the gendarme.
The gendarme, without replying to his salute, stared attentively
at him, followed him for a while with his eyes, and then entered
There then existed at D---- a fine inn at the sign of the Cross
of Colbas. This inn had for a landlord a certain Jacquin Labarre,
a man of consideration in the town on account of his relationship
to another Labarre, who kept the inn of the Three Dauphins in Grenoble,
and had served in the Guides. At the time of the Emperor's landing,
many rumors had circulated throughout the country with regard to this
inn of the Three Dauphins. It was said that General Bertrand,
disguised as a carter, had made frequent trips thither in the month
of January, and that he had distributed crosses of honor to the
soldiers and handfuls of gold to the citizens. The truth is,
that when the Emperor entered Grenoble he had refused to install
himself at the hotel of the prefecture; he had thanked the mayor,
saying, "I am going to the house of a brave man of my acquaintance";
and he had betaken himself to the Three Dauphins. This glory
of the Labarre of the Three Dauphins was reflected upon the Labarre
of the Cross of Colbas, at a distance of five and twenty leagues.
It was said of him in the town, "That is the cousin of the man
The man bent his steps towards this inn, which was the best in
the country-side. He entered the kitchen, which opened on a level
with the street. All the stoves were lighted; a huge fire blazed
gayly in the fireplace. The host, who was also the chief cook,
was going from one stew-pan to another, very busily superintending
an excellent dinner designed for the wagoners, whose loud talking,
conversation, and laughter were audible from an adjoining apartment.
Any one who has travelled knows that there is no one who indulges
in better cheer than wagoners. A fat marmot, flanked by white
partridges and heather-cocks, was turning on a long spit before
the fire; on the stove, two huge carps from Lake Lauzet and a trout
from Lake Alloz were cooking.
The host, hearing the door open and seeing a newcomer enter,
said, without raising his eyes from his stoves:--
"What do you wish, sir?"
"Food and lodging," said the man.
"Nothing easier," replied the host. At that moment he turned his head,
took in the traveller's appearance with a single glance, and added,
"By paying for it."
The man drew a large leather purse from the pocket of his blouse,
and answered, "I have money."
"In that case, we are at your service," said the host.
The man put his purse back in his pocket, removed his knapsack from
his back, put it on the ground near the door, retained his stick
in his hand, and seated himself on a low stool close to the fire.
D---- is in the mountains. The evenings are cold there in October.
But as the host went back and forth, he scrutinized the traveller.
"Will dinner be ready soon?" said the man.
"Immediately," replied the landlord.
While the newcomer was warming himself before the fire, with his back
turned, the worthy host, Jacquin Labarre, drew a pencil from his pocket,
then tore off the corner of an old newspaper which was lying on a small
table near the window. On the white margin he wrote a line or two,
folded it without sealing, and then intrusted this scrap of paper
to a child who seemed to serve him in the capacity both of scullion
and lackey. The landlord whispered a word in the scullion's ear,
and the child set off on a run in the direction of the town-hall.
The traveller saw nothing of all this.
Once more he inquired, "Will dinner be ready soon?"
"Immediately," responded the host.
The child returned. He brought back the paper. The host unfolded
it eagerly, like a person who is expecting a reply. He seemed to
read it attentively, then tossed his head, and remained thoughtful
for a moment. Then he took a step in the direction of the traveller,
who appeared to be immersed in reflections which were not very serene.
"I cannot receive you, sir," said he.
The man half rose.
"What! Are you afraid that I will not pay you? Do you want me
to pay you in advance? I have money, I tell you."
"It is not that."
"You have money--"
"Yes," said the man.
"And I," said the host, "have no room."
The man resumed tranquilly, "Put me in the stable."
"The horses take up all the space."
"Very well!" retorted the man; "a corner of the loft then, a truss
of straw. We will see about that after dinner."
"I cannot give you any dinner."
This declaration, made in a measured but firm tone, struck the
stranger as grave. He rose.
"Ah! bah! But I am dying of hunger. I have been walking since sunrise.
I have travelled twelve leagues. I pay. I wish to eat."
"I have nothing," said the landlord.
The man burst out laughing, and turned towards the fireplace
and the stoves: "Nothing! and all that?"
"All that is engaged."
"By messieurs the wagoners."
"How many are there of them?"
"There is enough food there for twenty."
"They have engaged the whole of it and paid for it in advance."
The man seated himself again, and said, without raising his voice,
"I am at an inn; I am hungry, and I shall remain."
Then the host bent down to his ear, and said in a tone which made
him start, "Go away!"
At that moment the traveller was bending forward and thrusting
some brands into the fire with the iron-shod tip of his staff;
he turned quickly round, and as he opened his mouth to reply,
the host gazed steadily at him and added, still in a low voice:
"Stop! there's enough of that sort of talk. Do you want me to tell
you your name? Your name is Jean Valjean. Now do you want me to tell
you who you are? When I saw you come in I suspected something;
I sent to the town-hall, and this was the reply that was sent to me.
Can you read?"
So saying, he held out to the stranger, fully unfolded, the paper
which had just travelled from the inn to the town-hall, and from
the town-hall to the inn. The man cast a glance upon it.
The landlord resumed after a pause.
"I am in the habit of being polite to every one. Go away!"
The man dropped his head, picked up the knapsack which he had
deposited on the ground, and took his departure.
He chose the principal street. He walked straight on at a venture,
keeping close to the houses like a sad and humiliated man.
He did not turn round a single time. Had he done so, he would have
seen the host of the Cross of Colbas standing on his threshold,
surrounded by all the guests of his inn, and all the passers-by in
the street, talking vivaciously, and pointing him out with his finger;
and, from the glances of terror and distrust cast by the group,
he might have divined that his arrival would speedily become an event
for the whole town.
He saw nothing of all this. People who are crushed do not look
behind them. They know but too well the evil fate which follows them.
Thus he proceeded for some time, walking on without ceasing,
traversing at random streets of which he knew nothing, forgetful of
his fatigue, as is often the case when a man is sad. All at once
he felt the pangs of hunger sharply. Night was drawing near.
He glanced about him, to see whether he could not discover some shelter.
The fine hostelry was closed to him; he was seeking some very humble
public house, some hovel, however lowly.
Just then a light flashed up at the end of the streets; a pine
branch suspended from a cross-beam of iron was outlined against
the white sky of the twilight. He proceeded thither.
It proved to be, in fact, a public house. The public house
which is in the Rue de Chaffaut.
The wayfarer halted for a moment, and peeped through the window into
the interior of the low-studded room of the public house, illuminated by
a small lamp on a table and by a large fire on the hearth. Some men
were engaged in drinking there. The landlord was warming himself.
An iron pot, suspended from a crane, bubbled over the flame.
The entrance to this public house, which is also a sort of an inn,
is by two doors. One opens on the street, the other upon a small yard
filled with manure. The traveller dare not enter by the street door.
He slipped into the yard, halted again, then raised the latch timidly
and opened the door.
"Who goes there?" said the master.
"Some one who wants supper and bed."
"Good. We furnish supper and bed here."
He entered. All the men who were drinking turned round.
The lamp illuminated him on one side, the firelight on the other.
They examined him for some time while he was taking off his knapsack.
The host said to him, "There is the fire. The supper is cooking
in the pot. Come and warm yourself, comrade."
He approached and seated himself near the hearth. He stretched
out his feet, which were exhausted with fatigue, to the fire;
a fine odor was emitted by the pot. All that could be distinguished
of his face, beneath his cap, which was well pulled down,
assumed a vague appearance of comfort, mingled with that other
poignant aspect which habitual suffering bestows.
It was, moreover, a firm, energetic, and melancholy profile.
This physiognomy was strangely composed; it began by seeming humble,
and ended by seeming severe. The eye shone beneath its lashes
like a fire beneath brushwood.
One of the men seated at the table, however, was a fishmonger who,
before entering the public house of the Rue de Chaffaut,
had been to stable his horse at Labarre's. It chanced that he
had that very morning encountered this unprepossessing stranger
on the road between Bras d'Asse and--I have forgotten the name.
I think it was Escoublon. Now, when he met him, the man, who then
seemed already extremely weary, had requested him to take him
on his crupper; to which the fishmonger had made no reply except
by redoubling his gait. This fishmonger had been a member half
an hour previously of the group which surrounded Jacquin Labarre,
and had himself related his disagreeable encounter of the morning
to the people at the Cross of Colbas. From where he sat he made
an imperceptible sign to the tavern-keeper. The tavern-keeper went
to him. They exchanged a few words in a low tone. The man had
again become absorbed in his reflections.
The tavern-keeper returned to the fireplace, laid his hand abruptly
on the shoulder of the man, and said to him:--
"You are going to get out of here."
The stranger turned round and replied gently, "Ah! You know?--"
"I was sent away from the other inn."
"And you are to be turned out of this one."
"Where would you have me go?"
The man took his stick and his knapsack and departed.
As he went out, some children who had followed him from the Cross
of Colbas, and who seemed to be lying in wait for him, threw stones
at him. He retraced his steps in anger, and threatened them
with his stick: the children dispersed like a flock of birds.
He passed before the prison. At the door hung an iron chain
attached to a bell. He rang.
The wicket opened.
"Turnkey," said he, removing his cap politely, "will you have
the kindness to admit me, and give me a lodging for the night?"
A voice replied:--
"The prison is not an inn. Get yourself arrested, and you will
The wicket closed again.
He entered a little street in which there were many gardens.
Some of them are enclosed only by hedges, which lends a cheerful
aspect to the street. In the midst of these gardens and hedges
he caught sight of a small house of a single story, the window
of which was lighted up. He peered through the pane as he had
done at the public house. Within was a large whitewashed room,
with a bed draped in printed cotton stuff, and a cradle in one corner,
a few wooden chairs, and a double-barrelled gun hanging on the wall.
A table was spread in the centre of the room. A copper lamp
illuminated the tablecloth of coarse white linen, the pewter
jug shining like silver, and filled with wine, and the brown,
smoking soup-tureen. At this table sat a man of about forty,
with a merry and open countenance, who was dandling a little child
on his knees. Close by a very young woman was nursing another child.
The father was laughing, the child was laughing, the mother
The stranger paused a moment in revery before this tender
and calming spectacle. What was taking place within him?
He alone could have told. It is probable that he thought that
this joyous house would be hospitable, and that, in a place
where he beheld so much happiness, he would find perhaps a little pity.
He tapped on the pane with a very small and feeble knock.
They did not hear him.
He tapped again.
He heard the woman say, "It seems to me, husband, that some one
"No," replied the husband.
He tapped a third time.
The husband rose, took the lamp, and went to the door, which he opened.
He was a man of lofty stature, half peasant, half artisan.
He wore a huge leather apron, which reached to his left shoulder,
and which a hammer, a red handkerchief, a powder-horn, and all
sorts of objects which were upheld by the girdle, as in a pocket,
caused to bulge out. He carried his head thrown backwards;
his shirt, widely opened and turned back, displayed his bull neck,
white and bare. He had thick eyelashes, enormous black whiskers,
prominent eyes, the lower part of his face like a snout;
and besides all this, that air of being on his own ground,
which is indescribable.
"Pardon me, sir," said the wayfarer, "Could you, in consideration
of payment, give me a plate of soup and a corner of that shed
yonder in the garden, in which to sleep? Tell me; can you?
"Who are you?" demanded the master of the house.
The man replied: "I have just come from Puy-Moisson. I have
walked all day long. I have travelled twelve leagues. Can you?--
if I pay?"
"I would not refuse," said the peasant, "to lodge any respectable
man who would pay me. But why do you not go to the inn?"
"There is no room."
"Bah! Impossible. This is neither a fair nor a market day.
Have you been to Labarre?"
The traveller replied with embarrassment: "I do not know.
He did not receive me."
"Have you been to What's-his-name's, in the Rue Chaffaut?"
The stranger's embarrassment increased; he stammered, "He did
not receive me either."
The peasant's countenance assumed an expression of distrust;
he surveyed the newcomer from head to feet, and suddenly exclaimed,
with a sort of shudder:--
"Are you the man?--"
He cast a fresh glance upon the stranger, took three steps backwards,
placed the lamp on the table, and took his gun down from the wall.
Meanwhile, at the words, Are you the man? the woman had risen,
had clasped her two children in her arms, and had taken refuge
precipitately behind her husband, staring in terror at the stranger,
with her bosom uncovered, and with frightened eyes, as she murmured
in a low tone, "Tso-maraude."
 Patois of the French Alps: chat de maraude, rascally marauder.
All this took place in less time than it requires to picture it
to one's self. After having scrutinized the man for several moments,
as one scrutinizes a viper, the master of the house returned
to the door and said:--
"For pity's sake, a glass of water," said the man.
"A shot from my gun!" said the peasant.
Then he closed the door violently, and the man heard him shoot
two large bolts. A moment later, the window-shutter was closed,
and the sound of a bar of iron which was placed against it was
Night continued to fall. A cold wind from the Alps was blowing.
By the light of the expiring day the stranger perceived,
in one of the gardens which bordered the street, a sort of hut,
which seemed to him to be built of sods. He climbed over the wooden
fence resolutely, and found himself in the garden. He approached
the hut; its door consisted of a very low and narrow aperture,
and it resembled those buildings which road-laborers construct for
themselves along the roads. He thought without doubt, that it was,
in fact, the dwelling of a road-laborer; he was suffering from cold
and hunger, but this was, at least, a shelter from the cold.
This sort of dwelling is not usually occupied at night. He threw
himself flat on his face, and crawled into the hut. It was warm there,
and he found a tolerably good bed of straw. He lay, for a moment,
stretched out on this bed, without the power to make a movement,
so fatigued was he. Then, as the knapsack on his back was in
his way, and as it furnished, moreover, a pillow ready to his hand,
he set about unbuckling one of the straps. At that moment,
a ferocious growl became audible. He raised his eyes. The head
of an enormous dog was outlined in the darkness at the entrance of
It was a dog's kennel.
He was himself vigorous and formidable; he armed himself with his staff,
made a shield of his knapsack, and made his way out of the kennel
in the best way he could, not without enlarging the rents in his rags.
He left the garden in the same manner, but backwards, being obliged,
in order to keep the dog respectful, to have recourse to that
manoeuvre with his stick which masters in that sort of fencing
designate as la rose couverte.
When he had, not without difficulty, repassed the fence, and found
himself once more in the street, alone, without refuge, without shelter,
without a roof over his head, chased even from that bed of straw
and from that miserable kennel, he dropped rather than seated himself
on a stone, and it appears that a passer-by heard him exclaim,
"I am not even a dog!"
He soon rose again and resumed his march. He went out of the town,
hoping to find some tree or haystack in the fields which would afford
He walked thus for some time, with his head still drooping.
When he felt himself far from every human habitation, he raised
his eyes and gazed searchingly about him. He was in a field.
Before him was one of those low hills covered with close-cut stubble,
which, after the harvest, resemble shaved heads.
The horizon was perfectly black. This was not alone the obscurity
of night; it was caused by very low-hanging clouds which seemed
to rest upon the hill itself, and which were mounting and filling
the whole sky. Meanwhile, as the moon was about to rise, and as
there was still floating in the zenith a remnant of the brightness
of twilight, these clouds formed at the summit of the sky a sort
of whitish arch, whence a gleam of light fell upon the earth.
The earth was thus better lighted than the sky, which produces
a particularly sinister effect, and the hill, whose contour was poor
and mean, was outlined vague and wan against the gloomy horizon.
The whole effect was hideous, petty, lugubrious, and narrow.
There was nothing in the field or on the hill except a deformed tree,
which writhed and shivered a few paces distant from the wayfarer.
This man was evidently very far from having those delicate habits
of intelligence and spirit which render one sensible to the mysterious
aspects of things; nevertheless, there was something in that sky,
in that hill, in that plain, in that tree, which was so profoundly
desolate, that after a moment of immobility and revery he turned
back abruptly. There are instants when nature seems hostile.
He retraced his steps; the gates of D---- were closed. D----, which had
sustained sieges during the wars of religion, was still surrounded
in 1815 by ancient walls flanked by square towers which have been
demolished since. He passed through a breach and entered the town again.
It might have been eight o'clock in the evening. As he was not
acquainted with the streets, he recommenced his walk at random.
In this way he came to the prefecture, then to the seminary.
As he passed through the Cathedral Square, he shook his fist at
At the corner of this square there is a printing establishment.
It is there that the proclamations of the Emperor and of the Imperial
Guard to the army, brought from the Island of Elba and dictated
by Napoleon himself, were printed for the first time.
Worn out with fatigue, and no longer entertaining any hope,
he lay down on a stone bench which stands at the doorway of this
At that moment an old woman came out of the church. She saw the man
stretched out in the shadow. "What are you doing there, my friend?"
He answered harshly and angrily: "As you see, my good woman,
I am sleeping." The good woman, who was well worthy the name,
in fact, was the Marquise de R----
"On this bench?" she went on.
"I have had a mattress of wood for nineteen years," said the man;
"to-day I have a mattress of stone."
"You have been a soldier?"
"Yes, my good woman, a soldier."
"Why do you not go to the inn?"
"Because I have no money."
"Alas!" said Madame de R----, "I have only four sous in my purse."
"Give it to me all the same."
The man took the four sous. Madame de R---- continued: "You cannot
obtain lodgings in an inn for so small a sum. But have you tried?
It is impossible for you to pass the night thus. You are cold
and hungry, no doubt. Some one might have given you a lodging out
"I have knocked at all doors."
"I have been driven away everywhere."
The "good woman" touched the man's arm, and pointed out to him
on the other side of the street a small, low house, which stood
beside the Bishop's palace.
"You have knocked at all doors?"
"Have you knocked at that one?"
PRUDENCE COUNSELLED TO WISDOM.
That evening, the Bishop of D----, after his promenade through the town,
remained shut up rather late in his room. He was busy over a great
work on Duties, which was never completed, unfortunately. He was
carefully compiling everything that the Fathers and the doctors
have said on this important subject. His book was divided into
two parts: firstly, the duties of all; secondly, the duties
of each individual, according to the class to which he belongs.
The duties of all are the great duties. There are four of these.
Saint Matthew points them out: duties towards God (Matt. vi.);
duties towards one's self (Matt. v. 29, 30); duties towards one's
neighbor (Matt. vii. 12); duties towards animals (Matt. vi.
20, 25). As for the other duties the Bishop found them pointed out
and prescribed elsewhere: to sovereigns and subjects, in the Epistle
to the Romans; to magistrates, to wives, to mothers, to young men,
by Saint Peter; to husbands, fathers, children and servants,
in the Epistle to the Ephesians; to the faithful, in the Epistle
to the Hebrews; to virgins, in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
Out of these precepts he was laboriously constructing a harmonious whole,
which he desired to present to souls.
At eight o'clock he was still at work, writing with a good deal
of inconvenience upon little squares of paper, with a big book open
on his knees, when Madame Magloire entered, according to her wont,
to get the silver-ware from the cupboard near his bed. A moment later,
the Bishop, knowing that the table was set, and that his sister
was probably waiting for him, shut his book, rose from his table,
and entered the dining-room.
The dining-room was an oblong apartment, with a fireplace,
which had a door opening on the street (as we have said),
and a window opening on the garden.
Madame Magloire was, in fact, just putting the last touches
to the table.
As she performed this service, she was conversing
with Mademoiselle Baptistine.
A lamp stood on the table; the table was near the fireplace.
A wood fire was burning there.
One can easily picture to one's self these two women, both of whom
were over sixty years of age. Madame Magloire small, plump, vivacious;
Mademoiselle Baptistine gentle, slender, frail, somewhat taller
than her brother, dressed in a gown of puce-colored silk, of the
fashion of 1806, which she had purchased at that date in Paris,
and which had lasted ever since. To borrow vulgar phrases,
which possess the merit of giving utterance in a single word to an idea
which a whole page would hardly suffice to express, Madame Magloire
had the air of a peasant, and Mademoiselle Baptistine that of a lady.
Madame Magloire wore a white quilted cap, a gold Jeannette cross
on a velvet ribbon upon her neck, the only bit of feminine jewelry
that there was in the house, a very white fichu puffing out from a gown
of coarse black woollen stuff, with large, short sleeves, an apron
of cotton cloth in red and green checks, knotted round the waist
with a green ribbon, with a stomacher of the same attached by two pins
at the upper corners, coarse shoes on her feet, and yellow stockings,
like the women of Marseilles. Mademoiselle Baptistine's gown
was cut on the patterns of 1806, with a short waist, a narrow,
sheath-like skirt, puffed sleeves, with flaps and buttons.
She concealed her gray hair under a frizzed wig known as the baby wig.
Madame Magloire had an intelligent, vivacious, and kindly air;
the two corners of her mouth unequally raised, and her upper lip,
which was larger than the lower, imparted to her a rather crabbed
and imperious look. So long as Monseigneur held his peace,
she talked to him resolutely with a mixture of respect and freedom;
but as soon as Monseigneur began to speak, as we have seen,
she obeyed passively like her mistress. Mademoiselle Baptistine did
not even speak. She confined herself to obeying and pleasing him.
She had never been pretty, even when she was young; she had large,
blue, prominent eyes, and a long arched nose; but her whole visage,
her whole person, breathed forth an ineffable goodness, as we stated
in the beginning. She had always been predestined to gentleness;
but faith, charity, hope, those three virtues which mildly warm the soul,
had gradually elevated that gentleness to sanctity. Nature had made
her a lamb, religion had made her an angel. Poor sainted virgin!
Sweet memory which has vanished!
Mademoiselle Baptistine has so often narrated what passed at
the episcopal residence that evening, that there are many people
now living who still recall the most minute details.
At the moment when the Bishop entered, Madame Magloire was talking
with considerable vivacity. She was haranguing Mademoiselle Baptistine
on a subject which was familiar to her and to which the Bishop was
also accustomed. The question concerned the lock upon the entrance door.
It appears that while procuring some provisions for supper,
Madame Magloire had heard things in divers places. People had spoken
of a prowler of evil appearance; a suspicious vagabond had arrived
who must be somewhere about the town, and those who should take it
into their heads to return home late that night might be subjected
to unpleasant encounters. The police was very badly organized,
moreover, because there was no love lost between the Prefect and
the Mayor, who sought to injure each other by making things happen.
It behooved wise people to play the part of their own police,
and to guard themselves well, and care must be taken to duly close,
bar and barricade their houses, and to fasten the doors well.
Madame Magloire emphasized these last words; but the Bishop had just
come from his room, where it was rather cold. He seated himself
in front of the fire, and warmed himself, and then fell to thinking