Part 3 out of 5
"That is your business," answered the prince.
But already the park gates were opening to the formidable motor-car.
The dinner was sumptuous. They toasted the Dragon's crest. Everybody knows
that a closed goblet is a sign of sovereignty; so Prince Crucho and Princess
Gudrune, his wife, drank out of goblets that were covered-over like ciboriums.
The prince had his filled several times with the wines of Penguinia, both
white and red.
Crucho had received a truly princely education, and he excelled in motoring,
but was not ignorant of history either. He was said to be well versed in the
antiquities and famous deeds of his family; and, indeed, he gave a notable
proof of his knowledge in this respect. As they were speaking of the various
remarkable peculiarities that had been noticed in famous women,
"It is perfectly true," said he, "that Queen Crucha, whose name I bear, had
the mark of a little monkey's head upon her body."
During the evening Agaric had a decisive interview with three of the prince's
oldest councillors. It was decided to ask for funds from Crucho's
father-in-law, as he was anxious to have a king for son-in-law, from several
Jewish ladies, who were impatient to become ennobled, and, finally, from the
Prince Regent of the Porpoises, who had promised his aid to the Draconides,
thinking that by Crucho's restoration he would weaken the Penguins, the
hereditary enemies of his people. The three old councillors divided among
themselves the three chief offices of the Court, those of Chamberlain,
Seneschal, and High Steward, and authorised the monk to distribute the other
places to the prince's best advantage.
"Devotion has to be rewarded," said the three old councillors.
"And treachery also," said Agaric.
"It is but too true," replied one of them, the Marquis of Sevenwounds, who had
experience of revolutions.
There was dancing, and after the ball Princess Gudrune tore up her green robe
to make cockades. With her own hands she sewed a piece of it on the monk's
breast, upon which he shed tears of sensibility and gratitude.
M. de Plume, the prince's equerry, set out the same evening to look for a
III. THE CABAL
After his return to the capital of Penguinia, the Reverend Father Agaric
disclosed his projects to Prince Adelestan des Boscenos, of whose Draconian
sentiments he was well aware.
The prince belonged to the highest nobility. The Torticol des Boscenos went
back to Brian the Good, and under the Draconides had held the highest offices
in the kingdom. In 1179, Philip Torticol, High Admiral of Penguinia, a brave,
faithful, and generous, but vindictive man, delivered over the port of La
Crique and the Penguin fleet to the enemies of the kingdom, because he
suspected that Queen Crucha, whose lover he was, had been unfaithful to him
and loved a stable-boy. It was that great queen who gave to the Boscenos the
silver warming-pan which they bear in their arms. As for their motto, it only
goes back to the sixteenth century. The story of its origin is as follows: One
gala night, as he mingled with the crowd of courtiers who were watching the
fire-works in the king's garden, Duke John des Boscenos approached the Duchess
of Skull and put his hand under the petticoat of that lady, who made no
complaint at the gesture. The king, happening to pass, surprised them and
contented himself with saying, "And thus I find you." These four words became
the motto of the Boscenos.
Prince Adelestan had not degenerated from his ancestors. He preserved an
unalterable fidelity for the race of the Draconides and desired nothing so
much as the restoration of Prince Crucho, an event which was in his eyes to be
the fore-runner of the restoration of his own fortune. He therefore readily
entered into the Reverend Father Agaric's plans. He joined himself at once to
the monk's projects, and hastened to put him into communication with the most
loyal Royalists of his acquaintance, Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, Viscount
Olive, and M. Bigourd. They met together one night in the Duke of Ampoule's
country house, six miles eastward of Alca, to consider ways and means.
M. de La Trumelle was in favour of legal action.
"We ought to keep within the law," said he in substance. "We are for order. It
is by an untiring propaganda that we shall best pursue the realisation of our
hopes. We must change the feeling of the country. Our cause will conquer
because it is just."
The Prince des Boscenos expressed a contrary opinion. He thought that, in
order to triumph, just causes need force quite as much and even more than
unjust causes require it.
"In the present situation," said he tranquilly, "three methods of action
present themselves: to hire the butcher boys, to corrupt the ministers, and to
kidnap President Formose."
"It would be a mistake to kidnap Formose," objected M. de La Trumelle. "The
President is on our side."
The attitude and sentiments of the President of the Republic are explained by
the fact that one Dracophil proposed to seize Formose while another Dracophil
regarded him as a friend. Formose showed himself favourable to the Royalists,
whose habits he admired and imitated. If he smiled at the mention of the
Dragon's crest it was at the thought of putting it on his own head. He was
envious of sovereign power, not because he felt himself capable of exercising
it, but because he loved to appear so. According to the expression of a
Penguin chronicler, "he was a goose."
Prince des Boscenos maintained his proposal to march against Formose's palace
and the House of Parliament.
Count Clena was even still more energetic.
"Let us begin," said he, "by slaughtering, disembowelling, and braining the
Republicans and all partisans of the government. Afterwards we shall see what
more need be done."
M. de La Trumelle was a moderate, and moderates are always moderately opposed
to violence. He recognised that Count Clena's policy was inspired by a noble
feeling and that it was high-minded, but he timidly objected that perhaps it
was not conformable to principle, and that it presented certain dangers. At
last he consented to discuss it.
"I propose," added he, "to draw up an appeal to the people. Let us show who we
are. For my own part I can assure you that I shall not hide my flag in my
M. Bigourd began to speak.
"Gentlemen, the Penguins are dissatisfied with the new order because it
exists, and it is natural for men to complain of their condition. But at the
same time the Penguins are afraid to change their government because new
things alarm them. They have not known the Dragon's crest and, although they
sometimes say that they regret it, we must not believe them. It is easy to see
that they speak in this way either without thought or because they are in an
ill-temper. Let us not have any illusions about their feelings towards
ourselves. They do not like us. They hate the aristocracy both from a base
envy and from a generous love of equality. And these two united feelings are
very strong in a people. Public opinion is not against us, because it knows
nothing about us. But when it knows what we want it will not follow us. If we
let it be seen that we wish to destroy democratic government and restore the
Dragon's crest, who will be our partisans? Only the butcher-boys and the
little shopkeepers of Alca. And could we even count on them to the end? They
are dissatisfied, but at the bottom of their hearts they are Republicans. They
are more anxious to sell their cursed wares than to see Crucho again. If we
act openly we shall only cause alarm.
"To make people sympathise with us and follow us we must make them believe
that we want, not to overthrow the Republic, but, on the contrary, to restore
it, to cleanse, to purify, to embellish, to adorn, to beautify, and to
ornament it, to render it, in a word, glorious and attractive. Therefore, we
ought not to act openly ourselves. It is known that we are not favourable to
the present order. We must have recourse to a friend of the Republic, and, if
we are to do what is best, to a defender of this government. We have plenty to
choose from. It would be well to prefer the most popular and, if I dare say
so, the most republican of them. We shall win him over to us by flattery, by
presents, and above all by promises. Promises cost less than presents, and are
worth more. No one gives as much as he who gives hopes. It is not necessary
for the man we choose to be of brilliant intellect. I would even prefer him to
be of no great ability. Stupid people show an inimitable grace in roguery. Be
guided by me, gentlemen, and overthrow the Republic by the agency of a
Republican. Let us be prudent. But prudence does not exclude energy. If you
need me you will find me at your disposal."
This speech made a great impression upon those who heard it. The mind of the
pious Agaric was particularly impressed. But each of them was anxious to
appoint himself to a position of honour and profit. A secret government was
organised of which all those present were elected active members. The Duke of
Ampoule, who was the great financier of the party, was chosen treasurer and
charged with organising funds for the propaganda.
The meeting was on the point of coming to an end when a rough voice was heard
singing an old air:
Boscenos est un gros cochon;
On en va faire des andouilles
Des saucisses et du jambon
Pour le reveillon des pauv' bougres.
It had, for two hundred years, been a well-known song in the slums of Alca.
Prince Boscenos did not like to hear it. He went down into the street, and,
perceiving that the singer was a workman who was placing some slates on the
roof of a church, he politely asked him to sing something else.
"I will sing what I like," answered the man.
"My friend, to please me. . . ."
"I don't want to please you."
Prince Boscenos was as a rule good-tempered, but he was easily angered and a
man of great strength.
"Fellow, come down or I will go up to you," cried he, in a terrible voice.
As the workman, astride on his coping, showed no sign of budging, the prince
climbed quickly up the staircase of the tower and attacked the singer. He gave
him a blow that broke his jaw-bone and sent him rolling into a water-spout. At
that moment seven or eight carpenters, who were working on the rafters, heard
their companion's cry and looked through the window. Seeing the prince on the
coping they climbed along a ladder that was leaning on the slates and reached
him just as he was slipping into the tower. They sent him, head foremost, down
the one hundred and thirty-seven steps of the spiral staircase.
IV. VISCOUNTESS OLIVE
The Penguins had the finest army in the world. So had the Porpoises. And it
was the same with the other nations of Europe. The smallest amount of thought
will prevent any surprise at this. For all armies are the finest in the world.
The second finest army, if one could exist, would be in a notoriously inferior
position; it would be certain to be beaten. It ought to be disbanded at once.
Therefore, all armies are the finest in the world. In France the illustrious
Colonel Marchand understood this when, before the passage of the Yalou, being
questioned by some journalists about the Russo-Japanese war, he did not
hesitate to describe the Russian army as the finest in the world, and also the
Japanese. And it should be noticed that even after suffering the most terrible
reverses an army does not fall from its position of being the finest in the
world. For if nations ascribe their victories to the ability of their generals
and the courage of their soldiers, they always attribute their defeats to an
inexplicable fatality. On the other hand, navies are classed according to the
number of their ships. There is a first, a second, a third, and so on. So that
there exists no doubt as to the result of naval wars.
The Penguins had the finest army and the second navy in the world. This navy
was commanded by the famous Chatillon, who bore the title of Emiralbahr, and
by abbreviation Emiral. It is the same word which, unfortunately in a corrupt
form, is used to-day among several European nations to designate the highest
grade in the naval service. But as there was but one Emiral among the
Penguins, a singular prestige, if I dare say so, was attached to that rank.
The Emiral did not belong to the nobility. A child of the people, he was loved
by the people. They were flattered to see a man who sprang from their own
ranks holding a position of honour. Chatillon was good-looking and fortune
favoured him. He was not over-addicted to thought. No event ever disturbed his
The Reverend Father Agaric, surrendering to M. Bigourd's reasons and
recognising that the existing government could only be destroyed by one of its
defenders, cast his eyes upon Emiral Chatillon. He asked a large sum of money
from his friend, the Reverend Father Cornemuse, which the latter handed him
with a sigh. And with this sum he hired six hundred butcher boys of Alca to
run behind Chatillon's horse and shout, "Hurrah for the Emiral!" Henceforth
Chatillon could not take a single step without being cheered.
Viscountess Olive asked him for a private interview. He received her at the
Admiralty* in a room decorated with anchors, shells, and grenades.
* Or better, Emiralty.
She was discreetly dressed in greyish blue. A hat trimmed with roses covered
her pretty, fair hair, Behind her veil her eyes shone like sapphires. Although
she came of Jewish origin there was no more fashionable woman in the whole
nobility. She was tall and well shaped; her form was that of the year, her
figure that of the season.
"Emiral," said she, in a delightful voice, "I cannot conceal my emotion from
you. . . . It is very natural . . . before a hero."
"You are too kind. But tell me, Viscountess, what brings me the honour of your
"For a long time I have been anxious to see you, to speak to you. . . . So I
very willingly undertook to convey a message to you."
"Please take a seat."
"How still it is here."
"Yes, it is quiet enough."
"You can hear the birds singing."
"Sit down, then, dear lady."
And he drew up an arm-chair for her.
She took a seat with her back to the light.
"Emiral, I came to bring you a very important message, a message. . ."
"Emiral, have you ever seen Prince Crucho?"
"It is a great pity. He would be so delighted to see you! He esteems and
appreciates you. He has your portrait on his desk beside his mother's. What a
pity it is he is not better known! He is a charming prince and so grateful for
what is done for him! He will be a great king. For he will be king without
doubt. He will come back and sooner than people think. . . . What I have to
tell you, the message with which I am entrusted, refers precisely to. . ."
The Emiral stood up.
"Not a word more, dear lady. I have the esteem, the confidence of the
Republic. I will not betray it. And why should I betray it? I am loaded
honours and dignities."
"Allow me to tell you, my dear Emiral, that your honours and dignities are far
from equalling what you deserve. If your services were properly rewarded, you
would be Emiralissimo and Generalissimo, Commander-in-chief of the troops both
on land and sea. The Republic is very ungrateful to you."
"All governments are more or less ungrateful."
"Yes, but the Republicans are jealous of you. That class of person is always
afraid of his superiors. They cannot endure the Services. Everything that has
to do with the navy and the army is odious to them. They are afraid of you."
"That is possible."
"They are wretches; they are ruining the country. Don't you wish to save
"In what way?"
"By sweeping away all the rascals of the Republic, all the Republicans."
"What a proposal to make to me, dear lady!"
"It is what will certainly be done, if not by you, then by some one else. The
Generalissimo, to mention him alone, is ready to throw all the ministers,
deputies, and senators into the sea, and to recall Prince Crucho."
"Oh, the rascal, the scoundrel," exclaimed the Emiral.
"Do to him what he would do to you. The prince will know how to recognise your
services, He will give you the Constable's sword and a magnificent grant. I am
commissioned, in the mean time, to hand you a pledge of his royal friendship."
As she said these words she drew a green cockade from her bosom.
"What is that?" asked the Emiral.
"It is his colours which Crucho sends you."
"Be good enough to take them back."
"So that they may be offered to the Generalissimo who will accept them! . . .
No, Emiral, let me place them on your glorious breast."
Chatillon gently repelled the lady. But for some minutes he thought her
extremely pretty, and he felt this impression still more when two bare arms
and the rosy palms of two delicate hands touched him lightly. He yielded
almost immediately. Olive was slow in fastening the ribbon. Then when it was
done she made a low courtesy and saluted Chatillon with the title of
"I have been ambitious like my comrades," answered the sailor, "I don't hide
it, and perhaps I am so still; but u on my word of honour, when I look at you,
the only, desire I feel is for a cottage and a heart."
She turned upon him the charming sapphire glances that flashed from under her
"That is to be had also . . . what are you doing, Emiral?"
"I am looking for the heart."
When she left the Admiralty, the Viscountess went immediately to the Reverend
Father Agaric to give an account of her visit.
"You must go to him again, dear lady," said that austere monk.
V. THE PRINCE DES BOSCENOS
Morning and evening the newspapers that had been bought by the Dracophils
proclaimed Chatillon's praises and hurled shame and opprobrium upon the
Ministers of the Republic. Chatillon's portrait was sold through the streets
of Alca. Those young descendants of Remus who carry plaster figures on their
heads, offered busts of Chatillon for sale upon the bridges.
Every evening Chatillon rode upon his white horse round the Queen's Meadow, a
place frequented by the people of fashion. The Dracophils posted along the
Emiral's route a crowd of needy Penguins who kept shouting: "It is Chatillon
we want." The middle classes of Alca conceived a profound admiration for the
Emiral. Shopwomen murmured: "He is good-looking." Women of fashion slackened
the speed of their motor-cars and kissed hands to him as they passed, amidst
the hurrahs of an enthusiastic populace.
One day, as he went into a tobacco shop, two Penguins who were putting letters
in the box recognized Chatillon and cried at the top of their voices: "Hurrah
for the Emiral! Down with the Republicans." All those who were passing stopped
in front of the shop. Chatillon lighted his cigar before the eyes of a dense
crowd of frenzied citizens who waved their hats and cheered. The crowd kept
increasing, and the whole town, singing and marching behind its hero, went
back with him to the Admiralty.
The Emiral had an old comrade in arms, Under-Emiral Vulcanmould, who had
served with great distinction, a man as true as gold and as loyal as his
sword. Vulcanmould plumed himself on his thoroughgoing independence and he
went among the partisans of Crucho and the Minister of the Republic telling
both parties what he thought of them. M. Bigourd maliciously declared that he
told each party what the other party thought of it. In truth he had on several
occasions been guilty of regrettable indiscretions, which were overlooked as
being the freedoms of a soldier who knew nothing of intrigue. Every morning he
went to see Chatillon, whom he treated with the cordial roughness of a brother
"Well, old buffer, so you are popular," said he to him. "Your phiz is sold on
the heads of pipes and on liqueur bottles and every drunkard in Alca spits out
your name as he rolls in the gutter. . . . Chatillon, the hero of the
Penguins! Chatillon, defender of the Penguin glory! . . . Who would have said
it? Who would have thought it?"
And he laughed with his harsh laugh. Then changing his tone: "But, joking
aside, are you not a bit surprised at what is happening to you?"
"No, indeed," answered Chatillon.
And out went the honest Vulcanmould, banging the door behind him.
In the mean time Chatillon had taken a little flat at number 18 Johannes-Talpa
Street, so that he might receive Viscountess Olive. They met there every day.
He was desperately in love with her. During his martial and neptunian life he
had loved crowds of women, red, black, yellow, and white, and some of them had
been very beautiful. But before he met the Viscountess he did not know what a
woman really was. When the Viscountess Olive called him her darling, her dear
darling, he felt in heaven and it seemed to him that the stars shone in her
She would come a little late, and, as she put her ba,q on the table, she would
"Let me sit on your knee."
And then she would talk of subjects suggested by the pious Agaric,
interrupting the conversation with sighs and kisses. She would ask him to
dismiss such and such an officer, to give a command to another, to send the
squadron here or there. And at the right moment she would exclaim:
"How young you are, my dear!"
And he did whatever she wished, for he was simple, he was anxious to wear the
Constable's sword, and to receive a large grant; he did not dislike playing a
double part, he had a vague idea of saving Penguinia, and he was in love.
This delightful woman induced him to remove the troops that were at La Cirque,
the port where Crucho was to land. By this means it was made certain that
there would be no obstacle to prevent the prince from entering Penguinia.
The pious Agaric organised public meetings so as to keep up the agitation. The
Dracophils held one or two every day in some of the thirty-six districts of
Alca, and preferably in the poorer quarters. They desired to win over the
poor, for they are the most numerous. On the fourth of May a particularly fine
meeting was held in an old cattle-market, situated in the centre of a populous
suburb filled with housewives sitting on the doorsteps and children playing in
the gutters. There were present about two thousand people, in the opinion of
the Republicans, and six thousand according to the reckoning of the
Dracophils. In the audience was to be seen the flower of Penguin society,
including Prince and Princess des Boscenos, Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, M.
Bigourd, and several rich Jewish ladies.
The Generalissimo of the national army had come in uniform. He was cheered.
The committee had been carefully formed. A man of the people, a workman, but a
man of sound principles, M. Rauchin, the secretary of the yellow syndicate,
was asked to preside, supported by Count Clena and M. Michaud, a butcher.
The government which Penguinia had freely given itself was called by such
names as cesspool and drain in several eloquent speeches. But President
Formose was spared and no mention was made of Crucho or the priests.
The meeting was not unanimous. A defender of the modern State and of the
Republic, a manual labourer, stood up.
"Gentlemen," said M. Rauchin, the chairman, "we have told you that this
meeting would not be unanimous. We are not like our opponents, we are honest
men. I allow our opponent to speak. Heaven knows what you are going to hear.
Gentlemen, I beg of you to restrain as long as you can the expression of your
contempt, your disgust, and your indignation."
"Gentlemen," said the opponent. . . .
Immediately he was knocked down, trampled beneath the feet of the indignant
crowd, and his unrecognisable remains thrown out of the hall.
The tumult was still resounding when Count Clena ascended the tribune. Cheers
took the place of groans and when silence was restored the orator uttered
"Comrades, we are going to see whether you have blood in your veins. What we
have got to do is to slaughter, disembowel, and brain all the Republicans."
This speech let loose such a thunder of applause that the old shed rocked with
it, and a cloud of acrid and thick dust fell from its filthy walls and
worm-eaten beams and enveloped the audience.
A resolution was carried vilifying the government and acclaiming Chatillon.
And the audience departed singing the hymn of the liberator: "It is Chatillon
The only way out of the old market was through a muddy alley shut in by
omnibus stables and coal sheds. There was no moon and a cold drizzle was
coming down. The police, who were assembled in great numbers, blocked the
alley and compelled the Dracophils to disperse in little groups. These were
the instructions they had received from their chief, who was anxious to check
the enthusiasm of the excited crowd.
The Dracophils who were detained in the alley kept marking time and singing,
"It is Chatillon we want." Soon, becoming impatient of the delay, the cause of
which they did not know, they began to push those in front of them. This
movement, propagated along the alley, threw those in front against the broad
chests of the police. The latter had no hatred for the Dracophils. In the
bottom of their hearts they liked Chatillon. But it is natural to resist
aggression and strong men are inclined to make use of their strength. For
these reasons the police kicked the Dracophils with their hob-nailed boots. As
a result there were sudden rushes backwards and forwards. Threats and cries
mingled with the songs.
"Murder! Murder! . . . It is Chatillon we want! Murder! Murder!"
And in the gloomy alley the more prudent kept saying, "Don't push." Among
these latter, in the darkness, his lofty figure rising above the moving crowd,
his broad shoulders and robust body noticeable among the trampled limbs and
crushed sides of the rest, stood the Prince des Boscenos, calm, immovable, and
placid. Serenely and indulgently he waited. In the mean time, as the exit was
opened at regular intervals between the ranks of the police, the pressure of
elbows against the chests of those around the prince diminished and people
began to breathe again.
"You see we shall soon be able to go out," said that kindly giant, with a
pleasant smile. "Time and patience . . ."
He took a cigar from his case, raised it to his lips and struck a match.
Suddenly, in the light of the match, he saw Princess Anne, his wife, clasped
in Count Clena's arms. At this sight he rushed towards them, striking both
them and those around with his cane. He was disarmed, though not without
difficulty, but he could not be separated from his opponent. And whilst the
fainting princess was lifted from arm to arm to her carriage over the excited
and curious crowd, the two men still fought furiously. Prince des Boscenos
lost his hat, his eye-glass, his cigar, his necktie, and his portfolio full of
private letters and political correspondence; he even lost the miraculous
medals that he had received from the good Father Cornemuse. But he gave his
opponent so terrible a kick in the stomach that the unfortunate Count was
knocked through an iron grating and went, head foremost, through a glass door
and into a coal-shed.
Attracted by the struggle and the cries of those around, the police rushed
towards the prince, who furiously resisted them. He stretched three of them
gasping at his feet and put seven others to flight, with, respectively, a
broken jaw, a split lip, a nose pouring blood, a fractured skull, a torn ear,
a dislocated collar-bone, and broken ribs. He fell, however, and was dragged
bleeding and disfigured, with his clothes in rags, to the nearest
police-station, where, jumping about and bellowing, he spent the night.
At daybreak groups of demonstrators went about the town singing, "It is
Chatillon we want," and breaking the windows of the houses in which the
Ministers of the Republic lived.
VI. THE EMIRAL'S FALL
That night marked the culmination of the Dracophil movement. The Royalists had
no longer any doubt of its triumph. Their chiefs sent congratulations to
Prince Crucho by wireless telegraphy. Their ladies embroidered scarves and
slippers for him. M. de Plume had found the green horse.
The pious Agaric shared the common hope. But he still worked to win partisans
for the Pretender. They ought, he said, to lay their foundations upon the
With this design he had an interview with three Trade Union workmen.
In these times the artisans no longer lived, as in the days of the Draconides,
under the government of corporations. They were free, but they had no assured
pay. After having remained isolated from each other for a long time, without
help and without support, they had formed themselves into unions. The coffers
of the unions were empty, as it was not the habit of the unionists to pay
their subscriptions. There were unions numbering thirty thousand members,
others with a thousand, five hundred, two hundred, and so forth. Several
numbered two or three members only, or even a few less. But as the lists of
adherents were not published, it was not easy to distinguish the great unions
from the small ones.
After some dark and indirect steps the pious Agaric was put into communication
in a room in the Moulin de la Galette, with comrades Dagobert, Tronc, and
Balafille, the secretaries of three unions of which the first numbered
fourteen members, the second twenty-four, and the third only one. Agaric
showed extreme cleverness at this interview.
"Gentlemen," said he, "you and I have not, in most respects, the same
political and social views, but there are points in which we may come to an
understanding. We have a common enemy. The government exploits you and
despises us. Help us to overthrow it; we will supply you with the means so far
as we are able, and you can in addition count on our gratitude."
"Fork out the tin," said Dagobert.
The Reverend Father placed on the table a bag which the distiller of Conils
had given him with tears in his eyes.
"Done!" said the three companions.
Thus was the solemn compact sealed.
As soon as the monk had departed, carrying with him the joy of having won over
the masses to his cause, Dagobert, Tronc, and Balafille whistled to their
wives, Amelia, Queenie, and Matilda, who were waiting in the street for the
signal, and all six holding each other's hands, danced around the bag,
J'ai du bon pognon,
Tu n'l'auras pas Chatillon!
Hou! Hou! la calotte!
And they ordered a salad-bowl full of warm wine.
In the evening all six went through the street from stall to stall singing
their new song. The song became popular, for the detectives reported that
every day showed an increase of the number of workpeople who sang through the
J'ai du bon pognon;
Tu n'l'auras pas Chatillon!
Hou! Hou! la calotte!
The Dracophil agitation made no progress in the provinces. The pious Agaric
sought to find the cause of this, but was unable to discover it until old
Cornemuse revealed it to him.
"I have proofs," sighed the monk of Conils, "that the Duke of Ampoule, the
treasurer of the Dracophils, has brought property in Porpoisia with the funds
that he received for the propaganda."
The party wanted money. Prince des Boscenos had lost his portfolio in a brawl
and he was reduced to painful expedients which were repugnant to his impetuous
character. The Viscountess Olive was expensive. Cornemuse advised that the
monthly allowance of that lady should be diminished.
"She is very useful to us," objected the pious Agaric.
"Undoubtedly," answered Cornemuse, "but she does us an injury by ruining us."
A schism divided the Dracophils. Misunderstandings reigned in their councils.
Some wished that in accordance with the policy of M. Bigourd and the pious
Agaric, they should carry on the design of reforming the Republic. Others,
wearied by their long constraint, had resolved to proclaim the Dragon's crest
and swore to conquer beneath that sign.
The latter urged the advantage of a clear situation and the impossibility of
making a pretence much longer, and in truth, the public began to see whither
the agitation was tending and that the Emiral's partisans wanted to destroy
the very foundations of the Republic.
A report was spread that the prince was to land at La Cirque and make his
entry into Alca on a green horse.
These rumours excited the fanatical monks, delighted the poor nobles,
satisfied the rich Jewish ladies, and put hope in the hearts of the small
traders. But very few of them were inclined to purchase these benefits at the
price of a social catastrophe and the overthrow of the public credit; and
there were fewer still who would have risked their money, their peace, their
liberty, or a single hour from their pleasures in the business. On the other
hand, the workmen held themselves ready, as ever, to give a day's work to the
Republic, and a strong resistance was being formed in the suburbs.
"The people are with us," the pious Agaric used to say.
However, men, women, and children, when leaving their factories, used to shout
with one voice:
A bas Chatillon!
Hou! Hou! la calotte!
As for the government, it showed the weakness, indecision, flabbiness, and
heedlessness common to all governments, and from which none has ever departed
without falling into arbitrariness and violence. In three words it knew
nothing, wanted nothing, and would do nothing. Formose, shut in his
presidential palace, remained blind, dumb, deaf, huge, invisible, wrapped up
in his pride as in an eider-down.
Count Olive advised the Dracophils to make a last appeal for funds and to
attempt a great stroke while Alca was still in a ferment.
An executive committee, which he himself had chosen, decided to kidnap the
members of the Chamber of Deputies, and considered ways and means.
The affair was fixed for the twenty-eighth of July. On that day the sun rose
radiantly over the city. In front of the legislative palace women passed to
market with their baskets; hawkers cried their peaches, pears, and grapes; cab
horses with their noses in their bags munched their hay. Nobody expected
anything, not because the secret had been kept but because it met with nothing
but unbelievers. Nobody believed in a revolution, and from this fact we may
conclude that nobody desired one. About two o'clock the deputies began to
pass, few and unnoticed, through the side-door of the palace. At three o'clock
a few groups of badly dressed men had formed. At half past three black masses
coming from the adjacent streets spread over Revolution Square. This vast
expanse was soon covered by an ocean of soft hats, and the crowd of
demonstrators, continually increased by sight-seers, having crossed the
bridge, struck its dark wave against the walls of the legislative enclosure.
Cries, murmurs, and songs went up to the impassive sky. "It is Chatillon we
want!" "Down with the Deputies!" "Down with the Republicans!" "Death to the
Republicans!" The devoted band of Dracophils, led by Prince des Boscenos,
struck up the august canticle:
Vaillant et sage,
Plein de courage
Des le berceau!
Behind the wall silence alone replied.
This silence and the absence of guards encouraged and at the same time
frightened the crowd. Suddenly a formidable voice cried out:
And Prince des Boscenos was seen raising his gigantic form to the top of the
wall, which was covered with barbs and iron spikes. Behind him rushed his
companions, and the people followed. Some hammered against the wall to make
holes in it; others endeavoured to tear down the spikes and to pull out the
barbs. These defences had given way in places and some of the invaders had
stripped the wall and were sitting astride on the top. Prince des Boscenos was
waving an immense green flag. Suddenly the crowd wavered and from it came a
long cry of terror. The police and the Republican carabineers issuing out of
all the entrances of the palace formed themselves into a column beneath the
wall and in a moment it was cleared of its besiegers. After a long moment of
suspense the noise of arms was heard, and the police charged the crowd with
fixed bayonets. An instant afterwards and on the deserted square strewn with
hats and walking-sticks there reigned a sinister silence. Twice again the
Dracophils attempted to form, twice they were repulsed. The rising was
conquered. But Prince des Boscenos, standing on the wall of the hostile
palace, his flag in his hand, still repelled the attack of a whole brigade. He
knocked down all who approached him. At last he, too, was thrown down, and
fell on an iron spike, to which he remained hooked, still clasping the
standard of the Draconides.
On the following day the Ministers of the Republic and the Members of
Parliament determined to take energetic measures. In vain, this time, did
President Formose attempt to evade his responsibilities. The government
discussed the question of depriving Chatillon of his rank and dignities and of
indicting him before the High Court as a conspirator, an enemy of the public
good, a traitor, etc.
At this news the Emiral's old companions in arms, who the very evening before
had beset him with their adulations, made no effort to conceal their joy. But
Chatillon remained popular with the middle classes of Alca and one still heard
the hymn of the liberator sounding in the streets, "It is Chatillon we want."
The Ministers were embarrassed. They intended to indict Chatillon before the
High Court. But they knew nothing; they remained in that total ignorance
reserved for those who govern men. They were incapable of advancing any grave
charges against Chatillon. They could supply the prosecution with nothing but
the ridiculous lies of their spies. Chatillon's share in the plot and his
relations with Prince Crucho remained the secret of the thirty thousand
Dracophils. The Ministers and the Deputies had suspicions and even
certainties, but they had no proofs. The Public Prosecutor said to the
Minister of justice: "Very little is needed for a political prosecution! but I
have nothing at all and that is not enough." The affair made no progress. The
enemies of the Republic were triumphant.
On the eighteenth of September the news ran in Alca that Chatillon had taken
flight. Everywhere there was surprise and astonishment. People doubted, for
they could not understand.
This is what had happened: One day as the brave Under-Emiral Vulcanmould
happened, as if by chance, to go into the office of M. Barbotan, the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, he remarked with his usual frankness:
"M. Barbotan, your colleagues do not seem to me to be up to much; it is
evident that they have never commanded a ship. That fool Chatillon gives them
a deuced bad fit of the shivers."
The Minister, in sign of denial, waved his paper-knife in the air above his
"Don't deny it," answered Vulcanmould. "You don't know how to get rid of
Chatillon. You do not dare to indict him before the High Court because you are
not sure of being able to bring forward a strong enough charge. Bigourd will
defend him, and Bigourd is a clever advocate. . . . You are right, M.
Barbotan, you are right. It would be a dangerous trial."
"Ah! my friend," said the Minister, in a careless tone, "if you knew how
satisfied we are. . . . I receive the most reassuring news from my prefects.
The good sense of the Penguins will do justice to the intrigues of this
mutinous soldier. Can you suppose for a moment that a great people, an
intelligent, laborious people, devoted to liberal institutions which. . ."
Vulcanmould interrupted with a great sigh:
"Ah! If I had time to do it I would relieve you of your difficulty. I would
juggle away my Chatillon like a nutmeg out of a thimble. I would fillip him
off to Porpoisia."
The Minister paid close attention.
"It would not take long," continued the sailor. "I would rid you in a trice of
the creature. . . . But just now I have other fish to fry. . . . I am in a bad
hole. I must find a pretty big sum. But, deuce take it, honour before
The Minister and the Under-Emiral looked at each other for a moment in
silence. Then Barbotan said with authority:
"Under-Emiral Vulcanmould, get rid of this seditious soldier. You will render
a great service to Penguinia, and the Minister of Home Affairs will see that
your gambling debts are paid."
The same evening Vulcanmould called on Chatillon and looked at him for some
time with an expression of grief and mystery.
"My do you look like that?" asked the Emiral in an uneasy tone.
Vulcanmould said to him sadly:
"Old brother in arms, all is discovered. For the past half-hour the government
At these words Chatillon sank down overwhelmed.
"You may be arrested any moment. I advise you to make off."
And drawing out his watch:
"Not a minute to lose."
"Have I time to call on the Viscountess Olive?"
"It would be mad," said Vulcanmould, handing him a passport and a pair of blue
spectacles, and telling him to have courage.
"I will," said Chatillon.
"Good-bye! old chum."
"Good-bye and thanks! You have saved my life."
"That is the least I could do."
A quarter of an hour later the brave Emiral had left the city of Alca.
He embarked at night on an old cutter at La Cirque and set sail for Porpoisia.
But eight miles from the coast he was captured by a despatch-boat which was
sailing without lights and which was under, the flag of the Queen of the Black
Islands. That Queen had for a long time nourished a fatal passion for
Nunc est bibendum. Delivered from its fears and pleased at having escaped from
so great a danger, the government resolved to celebrate the anniversary of the
Penguin regeneration and the establishment of the Republic by holding a
President Formose, the Ministers, and the members of the Chamber and of the
Senate were present at the ceremony.
The Generalissimo of the Penguin army was present in uniform. He was cheered.
Preceded by the black flag of misery and the red flag of revolt, deputations
of workmen walked in the procession, their aspect one of grim protection.
President, Ministers, Deputies, officials, heads of the magistracy and of the
army, each, in their own names and in the name of the sovereign people,
renewed the ancient oath to live in freedom or to die. It was an alternative
upon which they were resolutely determined. But they preferred to live in
freedom. There were games, speeches, and songs.
After the departure of the representatives of the State the crowd of citizens
separated slowly and peaceably, shouting out, "Hurrah for the Republic!"
"Hurrah for liberty!" "Down with the shaven pates!"
The newspapers mentioned only one regrettable incident that happened on that
wonderful day. Prince des Boscenos was quietly smoking a cigar in the Queen's
Meadow when the State procession passed by. The prince approached the
Minister's carriage and said in a loud voice: "Death to the Republicans!" He
was immediately apprehended by the police, to whom he offered a most desperate
resistance. He knocked them down in crowds, but he was conquered by numbers,
and, bruised, scratched, swollen, and unrecognisable even to the eyes of. his
wife, he was dragged through the joyous streets into an obscure prison.
The magistrates carried on the case against Chatillon in a peculiar style.
Letters were found at the Admiralty which revealed the complicity of the
Reverend Father Agaric in the plot. Immediately public opinion was inflamed
against the monks, and Parliament voted, one after the other, a dozen laws
which restrained, diminished, limited, prescribed, suppressed, determined, and
curtailed, their rights, immunities, exemptions, privileges, and benefits, and
created many invalidating disqualifications against them.
The Reverend Father Agaric steadfastly endured the rigour of the laws which
struck himself personally, as well as the terrible fall of the Emiral of which
he was the chief cause. Far from yielding to evil fortune, he regarded it as
but a bird of passage. He was planning new political designs more audacious
than the first.
When his projects were sufficiently ripe he went one day to the Wood of
Conils. A thrush sang in a tree and a little hedgehog crossed the stony path
in front of him with awkward steps. Agaric walked with great strides,
muttering fragments of sentences to himself.
When he reached the door of the laboratory in which, for so many years, the
pious manufacturer bad distilled the golden liqueur of St. Orberosia, he found
the place deserted and the door shut. Having walked around the building he saw
in the backyard the venerable Cornemuse, who, with his habit pinned up, was
climbing a ladder that leant against the wall.
"Is that you, my dear friend?" said he to him. "What are you doing there?"
"You can see for yourself," answered the monk of Conils in a feeble voice,
turning a sorrowful look Upon Agaric. "I am going into my house."
The red pupils of his eyes no longer imitated the triumph and brilliance of
the ruby, they flashed mournful and troubled glances. His countenance had lost
its happy fulness. His shining head was no longer pleasant to the sight;
perspiration and inflamed blotches bad altered its inestimable perfection.
"I don't understand," said Agaric.
"It is easy enough to understand. You see the consequences of your plot.
Although a multitude of laws are directed against me I have managed to elude
the greater number of them. Some, however, have struck me. These vindictive
men have closed my laboratories and my shops, and confiscated my bottles, my
stills, and my retorts. They have put seals on my doors and now I am compelled
to go in through the window. I am barely able to extract in secret and from
time to time the juice of a few plants and that with an apparatus which the
humblest labourer would despise."
"You suffer from the persecution," said Agaric. "It strikes us all."
The monk of Conils passed his hand over his afflicted brow:
"I told you so, Brother Agaric; I told you that your enterprise would turn
"Our defeat is only momentary," replied Agaric eagerly. "It is due to purely
accidental causes; it results from mere contingencies. Chatillon was a fool;
he has drowned himself in his own ineptitude. Listen to me, Brother Cornemuse.
We have not a moment to lose. We must free the Penguin people, we must deliver
them from their tyrants, save them from themselves, restore the Dragon's
crest, reestablish the ancient State, the good State, for the honour of
religion and the exaltation of the Catholic faith. Chatillon was a bad
instrument; he broke in our hands. Let us take a better instrument to replace
him. I have the man who will destroy this impious democracy. He is a civil
official; his name is Gomoru. The Penguins worship him, He has already
betrayed his party for a plate of rice. There's the man we want!"
At the beginning of this speech the monk of Conils had climbed into his window
and pulled up the ladder.
"I foresee," answered he, with his nose through the sash, "that you will not
stop until you have us all expelled from this pleasant, agreeable, and sweet
land of Penguinia. Good night; God keep you!"
Agaric, standing before the wall, entreated his dearest brother to listen to
him for a moment:
"Understand your own interest better, Cornemuse! Penguinia is ours. What do we
need to conquer it? just one effort more . . . one more little sacrifice of
money and . . ."
But without listening further, the monk of Conils drew in his head and closed
BOOK VI. MODERN TIMES.
THE AFFAIR OF THE EIGHTY THOUSAND TRUSSES OF HAY
O Father Zeus, only save thou the sons of the Acheans from the darkness, and
make clear sky and vouchsafe sight to our eyes, and then, so it be but light,
slay us, since such is thy good pleasure. (Iliad, xvii. 645 et seq.)
I. GENERAL GREATAUK, DUKE OF SKULL
A short time after the flight of the Emiral, a middle-class Jew called Pyrot,
desirous of associating with the aristocracy and wishing to serve his country,
entered the Penguin army. The Minister of War, who at the time was Greatauk,
Duke of Skull, could not endure him. He blamed him for his zeal, his hooked
nose, his vanity, his fondness for study, his thick lips, and his exemplary
conduct. Every time the author of any misdeed was looked for, Greatauk used to
"It must be Pyrot!"
One morning General Panther, the Chief of the Staff, informed Greatauk of a
serious matter. Eighty thousand trusses of hay intended for the cavalry had
disappeared and not a trace of them was to be found.
Greatauk exclaimed at once:
"It must be Pyrot who has stolen them!"
He remained in thought for some time and said: "The more I think of it the
more I am convinced that Pyrot has stolen those eighty thousand trusses of
hay. And I know it by this: he stole them in order that he might sell them to
our bitter enemies the Porpoises. What an infamous piece of treachery!
"There is no doubt about it," answered Panther; "it only remains to prove it."
The same day, as he passed by a cavalry barracks, Prince des Boscenos heard
the troopers as they were sweeping out the yard, singing:
Boscenos est un gros cochon;
On en va faire des andouilles,
Des saucisses et du jambon
Pour le riveillon des pauy' bougres.
It seemed to him contrary to all discipline that soldiers should sing this
domestic and revolutionary refrain which on days of riot had been uttered by
the lips of jeering workmen. On this occasion he deplored the moral
degeneration of the army, and thought with a bitter smile that his old comrade
Greatauk, the head of this degenerate army, basely exposed him to the malice
of an unpatriotic government. And he promised himself that he would make an
improvement before long.
"That scoundrel Greatauk," said he to himself, "will, not remain long a
Prince des Boscenos was the most irreconcilable of the opponents of modem
democracy, free thought, and the government which the Penguins had voluntarily
given themselves. He had a vigorous and undisguised hatred for the Jews, and
he worked in public and in private, night and day, for the restoration of the
line of the Draconides. His ardent royalism was still further excited by the
thought of his private affairs, which were in a bad way and were hourly
growing worse. He had no hope of seeing an end to his pecuniary embarrassments
until the heir of Draco the Great entered the city of Alca.
When he returned to his house, the prince took out of his safe a bundle of old
letters consisting of a private correspondence of the most secret nature,
which he had obtained from a treacherous secretary. They proved that his old
comrade Greatauk, the Duke of Skull, had been guilty of jobbery regarding the
military stores and had received a present of no great value from a
manufacturer called Maloury. The very smallness of this present deprived the
Minister who had accepted it of all excuse.
The prince re-read the letters with a bitter satisfaction, put them carefully
back into his safe, and dashed to the Minister of War. He was a man of
resolute character. On being told that the Minister could see no one he
knocked down the ushers, swept aside the orderlies, trampled under foot the
civil and military clerks, burst through the doors, and entered the room of
the astonished Greatauk.
"I will not say much," said he to him, "but I will speak to the point. You are
a confounded cad. I have asked you to put a flea in the ear of General
Mouchin, the tool of those Republicans, and you would not do it. I have asked
you to give a command to General des Clapiers, who works for the Dracophils,
and who has obliged me personally, and you would not do it. I have asked you
to dismiss General Tandem, the commander of Port Alca, who robbed me of fifty
louis at cards, and who had me handcuffed when I was brought before the High
Court as Emiral Chatillon's accomplice. You would not do it. I asked you for
the hay and bran stores. You would not give them. I asked you to send me on a
secret mission to Porpoisia. You refused. And not satisfied with these
repeated refusals you have designated me to your Government colleagues as a
dangerous person, who ought to be watched, and it is owing to you that I have
been shadowed by the police. You old traitor! I ask nothing more from you and
I have but one word to say to you: Clear out; you have bothered us too long.
Besides, we will force the vile Republic to replace you by one of our own
party. You know that I am a man of my word. If in twenty-four hours you have
not handed in your resignation I will publish the Maloury dossier in the
But Greatauk calmly and serenely replied:
"Be quiet, you fool. I am just having a Jew transported. I am handing over
Pyrot to justice as guilty of having stolen eighty thousand trusses of hay."
Prince Boscenos, whose anger vanished like a dream, smiled.
"Is that true?"
"You will see."
"My congratulations, Greatauk. But as one always needs to take precautions
with you I shall immediately publish the good news. People will read this
evening about Pyrot's arrest in every newspaper in Alca . . . ."
And he went away muttering:
"That Pyrot! I suspected he would come to a bad end."
A moment later General Panther appeared before Greatauk.
"Sir," said he, "I have just examined the business of the eighty thousand
trusses of hay. There is no evidence against Pyrot."
"Let it be found," answered Greatauk. "Justice requires it. Have Pyrot
arrested at once."
All Penguinia heard with horror of Pyrot's crime; at the same time there was a
sort of satisfaction that this embezzlement combined with treachery and even
bordering on sacrilege, had been committed by a Jew. In order to understand
this feeling it is necessary to be acquainted with the state of public opinion
regarding the Jews both great and small. As we have had occasion to say in
this history, the universally detested and all powerful financial caste was
composed of Christians and of Jews. The Jews who formed part of it and on whom
the people poured all their hatred were the upper-class Jews. They possessed
immense riches and, it was said, held more than a fifth part of the total
property of Penguinia. Outside this formidable caste there was a multitude of
Jews of a mediocre condition, who were not more loved than the others and who
were feared much less. In every ordered State, wealth is a sacred thing: in
democracies it is the only sacred thing. Now the Penguin State was democratic.
Three or four financial companies exercised a more extensive, and above all,
more effective and continuous power, than that of the Ministers of the
Republic. The latter were puppets whom the companies ruled in secret, whom
they compelled by intimidation or corruption to favour themselves at the
expense of the State, and whom they ruined by calumnies in the press if they
remained honest. In spite of the secrecy of the Exchequer, enough appeared to
make the country indignant, but the middle-class Penguins had, from the
greatest to the least of them, been brought up to hold money in great
reverence, and as they all had property, either much or little, they were
strongly impressed with the solidarity of capital and understood that a small
fortune is not safe unless a big one is protected. For these reasons they
conceived a religious respect for the Jews' millions, and self-interest being
stronger with them than aversion, they were as much afraid as they were of
death to touch a single hair of one of the rich Jews whom they detested.
Towards the poorer Jews they felt less ceremonious and when they saw any of
them down they trampled on them. That is why the entire nation learnt with
thorough satisfaction that the traitor was a Jew. They could take vengeance on
all Israel in his person without any fear of compromising the public credit.
That Pyrot had stolen the eighty thousand trusses of hay nobody hesitated for
a moment to believe. No one doubted because the general ignorance in which
everybody was concerning the affair did not allow of doubt, for doubt is a
thing that demands motives. People do not doubt without reasons in the same
way that people believe without reasons. The thing was not doubted because it
was repeated everywhere and, with the public, to repeat is to prove. It was
not doubted because people wished to believe Pyrot guilty and one believes
what one wishes to believe. Finally, it was not doubted because the faculty of
doubt is rare amongst men; very few minds carry in them its germs and these
are not developed without cultivation. Doubt is singular, exquisite,
philosophic, immoral, transcendent, monstrous, full of malignity, injurious to
persons and to property, contrary to the good order of governments, and to the
prosperity of empires, fatal to humanity, destructive of the gods, held in
horror by heaven and earth. The mass of the Penguins were ignorant of doubt:
it believed in Pyrot's guilt and this conviction immediately became one of its
chief national beliefs and an essential truth in its patriotic creed.
Pyrot was tried secretly and condemned.
General Panther immediately went to the Minister of War to tell him the
"Luckily," said he, "the judges were certain, for they had no proofs."
"Proofs," muttered Greatauk, "Proofs, what do they prove? There is only one
certain, irrefragable proof--the confession of the guilty person. Has Pyrot
"He will confess, he ought to. Panther, we must induce him; tell him it is to
his interest. Promise him that, if he confesses, he will obtain favours, a
reduction of his sentence, full pardon; promise him that if he confesses his
innocence will be admitted, that he will be decorated. Appeal to his good
feelings. Let him confess from patriotism, for the flag, for the sake of
order, from respect for the hierarchy, at the special command of the Minister
of War militarily. . . . But tell me, Panther, has he not confessed already?
There are tacit confessions; silence is a confession."
"But, General, he is not silent; he keeps on squealing like a pig that he is
"Panther, the confessions of a guilty man sometimes result from the vehemence
of his denials. To deny desperately is to confess. Pyrot has confessed; we
must have witnesses of his confessions, justice requires them."
There was in Western Penguinia a seaport called La Cirque, formed of three
small bays and formerly greatly frequented by ships, but now solitary and
deserted. Gloomy lagoons stretched along its low coasts exhaling a pestilent
odour, while fever hovered over its sleepy waters. Here, on the borders of the
sea, there was built a high square tower, like the old Campanile at Venice,
from the side of which, close to the summit hung an open cage which was
fastened by a chain to a transverse beam. In the times of the Draconides the
Inquisitors of Alca used to put heretical clergy into this cage. It had been
empty for three hundred years, but now Pirot was imprisoned in it under the
guard of sixty warders, who lived in the tower and did not lose sight of him
night or day, spying on him for confessions that they might afterwards report
to the Minister of War. For Greatauk, careful and prudent, desired confessions
and still further confessions. Greatauk, who was looked upon as a fool, was in
reality a man of great ability and full of rare foresight.
In the mean time Pyrot, burnt by the sun, eaten by mosquitoes, soaked in the
rain, hail and snow, frozen by the cold, tossed about terribly by the wind,
beset by the sinister croaking of the ravens that perched upon his cage, kept
writing down his innocence on pieces torn off his shirt with a tooth-pick
dipped in blood. These rags were lost in the sea or fell into the hands of the
gaolers. But Pyrot's protests moved nobody because his confessions had been
III. COUNT DE MAUBEC DE LA DENTDULYNX
The morals of the Jews were not always pure; in most cases they were averse
from none of the vices of Christian civilization, but they retained from the
Patriarchal age a recognition of family, ties and an attachment to the
interests of the tribe. Pyrot's brothers, half-brothers, uncles, great-uncles,
first, second, and third cousins, nephews and great-nephews, relations by
blood and relations by marriage, and all who were related to him to the number
of about seven hundred, were at first overwhelmed by the blow that had struck
their relative, and they shut themselves up in their houses, covering
themselves with ashes and blessing the hand that had chastised them. For forty
days they kept a strict fast. Then they bathed themselves and resolved to
search, without rest, at the cost of any toil and at the risk of eve danger,
for the demonstration of an innocence which they did not doubt. And how could
they have doubted? Pyrot's innocence had been revealed to them in the same way
that his guilt had been revealed to Christian Penguinia's; for these things,
being hidden, assume a mystic character and take on the authority of religious
truths. The seven hundred Pyrotists set to work with as much zeal as prudence,
and made the most thorough inquiries in secret. They were everywhere; they
were seen nowhere. One would have said that, like the pilot of Ulysses, they
wandered freely over the earth. They penetrated into the War Office and
approached, under different disguises, the judges, the registrars, and the
witnesses of the affair. Then Greatauk's cleverness was seen. The witnesses
knew nothing; the judges and registrars knew nothing. Emissaries reached even
Pyrot and anxiously questioned him in his cage amid the prolonged moanings of
the sea and the hoarse croaks of the ravens. It was in vain; the prisoner knew
nothing. The seven hundred Pyrotists could not subvert the proofs of the
accusation because they could not know what they were, and they could not know
what they were because there were none. Pyrot's guilt was indefeasible through
its very nullity. And it was with a legitimate pride that Greatauk, expressing
himself as a true artist, said one day to General Panther: "This case is a
master-piece: it is made out of nothing." The seven hundred Pyrotists
despaired of ever clearing up this dark business, when suddenly they
discovered, from a stolen letter, that the eighty thousand trusses of hay had
never existed, that a most distinguished nobleman, Count de Maubec, had sold
them to the State, that he had received the price but had never delivered
them. Indeed seeing that he was descended from the richest landed proprietors
of ancient Penguinia, the heir of the Maubecs of Dentdulynx, once the
possessors of four duchies, sixty counties, and six hundred and twelve
marquisates, baronies, and viscounties, he did not possess as much land as he
could cover with his hand, and would not have been able to cut a single day'S
mowing of forage off his own domains. As to his getting a single rush from a
land-owner or a merchant, that would have been quite impossible, for everybody
except the Ministers of State and the Government officials knew that it would
be easier to get blood from a stone than a farthing from a Maubec.
The seven hundred Pyrotists made a minute inquiry concerning the Count Maubec
de la Dentdulynx's financial resources, and they proved that that nobleman was
chiefly supported by a house in which some generous ladies were ready to
furnish all comers with the most lavish hospitality. They publicly proclaimed
that he was guilty of the theft of the eighty thousand trusses of straw for
which an innocent man had been condemned and was now imprisoned in the cage.
Maubec belonged to an illustrious family which was allied to the Draconides.
There is nothing that a democracy esteems more highly than noble birth. Maubec
had also served in the Penguin army, and since the Penguins were all soldiers,
they loved their army to idolatry. Maubec, on the field of battle, had
received the Cross, which is a sign of honour among the Penguins and which
they valued even more highly than the embraces of their wives. All Penguinia
declared for Maubec, and the voice of the people which began to assume a
threatening tone, demanded severe punishments for the seven hundred
Maubec was a nobleman; he challenged the seven hundred Pyrotists to combat
with either sword, sabre, pistols, carabines, or sticks.
"Vile dogs," he wrote to them in a famous letter, "you have crucified my God
and you want my life too; I warn you that I will not be such a duffer as He
was and that I will cut off your fourteen hundred ears. Accept my boot on your
seven hundred behinds."
The Chief of the Government at the time was a peasant called Robin Mielleux, a
man pleasant to the rich and powerful, but hard towards the poor, a man of
small courage and ignorant of his own interests. In a public declaration he
guaranteed Maubec's innocence and honour, and presented the seven hundred
Pyrotists: to the criminal courts where they were condemned, as libellers, to
imprisonment, to enormous fines, and to all the damages that were claimed by
their innocent victim.
It seemed as if Pyrot was destined to remain for ever shut in the cage on
which the ravens perched. But all the Penguins being anxious to know and prove
that this Jew was guilty, all the proofs brought forward were found not to be
good, while some of them were also contradictory. The officers of the Staff
showed zeal but lacked prudence. Whilst Greatauk kept an admirable silence,
General Panther made inexhaustible speeches and every morning demonstrated in
the newspapers that the condemned man was guilty. He would have done better,
perhaps, if he had said nothing. The guilt was evident and what is evident
cannot be demonstrated. So much reasoning disturbed people's minds; their
faith, though still alive, became less serene. The more proofs one gives a
crowd the more they ask for.
Nevertheless the danger of proving too much would not have been great if there
had not been in Penguinia, as there are, indeed, everywhere, minds framed for
free inquiry, capable of studying a difficult question, and inclined to
philosophic doubt. They were few; they were not all inclined to speak, and the
public was by no means inclined to listen to them. Still, they did not always
meet with deaf ears. The great Jews, all the Israelite millionaires of Alca,
when spoken to of Pyrot, said: "We do not know the man"; but they thought of
saving him. They preserved the prudence to which their wealth inclined them
and wished that others would be less timid. Their wish was to be gratified.
Some weeks after the conviction of the seven hundred Pyrotists, a little,
gruff, hairy, short-sighted man left his house one morning with a paste-pot, a
ladder, and a bundle of posters and went about the streets pasting placards to
the walls on which might be read in large letters: Pyrot is innocent, Maubec
is guilty. He was not a bill-poster; his name was Colomban, and as the author
of sixty volumes on Penguin sociology he was numbered among the most laborious
and respected writers in Alca. Having given sufficient thought to the matter
and no longer doubting Pyrot's innocence, he proclaimed it in the manner which
he thought would be most sensational. He met with no hindrance while posting
his bills in the quiet streets, but when he came to the populous quarters,
every time he mounted his ladder, inquisitive people crowded round him and,
dumbfounded with surprise and indignation, threw at him threatening looks
which he received with the calm that comes from courage and short-sightedness.
Whilst caretakers and tradespeople tore down the bills he had posted, he kept
on zealously placarding, carrying his tools and followed by little boys who,
with their baskets under their arms or their satchels on their backs, were in
no hurry to reach school. To the mute indignation against him, protests and
murmurs were now added. But Colomban did not condescend to see or hear
anything. As, at the entrance to the Rue St. Orberosia, he was posting one of
his squares of paper bearing the words: Pyrot is innocent, Maubec is guilty,
the riotous crowd showed signs of the most violent anger. They called after
him, "Traitor, thief, rascal, scoundrel." A woman opened a window and emptied
a vase full of filth over his head, a cabby sent his hat flying from one end
of the street to the other by a blow of his whip amid the cheers of the crowd
who now felt themselves avenged. A butcher's boy knocked Colomban with his
paste-pot, his brush, and his posters, from the top of his ladder into the
gutter, and the proud Penguins then felt the greatness of their country.
Colomban stood up,, covered with filth, lame, and with his elbow injured, but
tranquil and resolute.
"Low brutes," he muttered, shrugging his shoulders.
Then he went down on all-fours in the gutter to look for his glasses which he
had lost in his fall. t was then seen that his coat was split from the collar
to the tails and that his trousers were in rags. The rancour of the crowd grew
On the other side of the street stretched the big St. Orberosian Stores. The
patriots seized whatever they could lay their hands on from the shop front,
and hurled at Colomban oranges, lemons, pots of jam, pieces of chocolate,
bottles of liqueurs, boxes of sardines, pots of foie gras, hams, fowls, flasks
of oil, and bags of haricots. Covered with the debris of the food, bruised,
tattered, lame, and blind, he took to flight, followed by the shop-boys,
bakers, loafers, citizens, and hooligans whose number increased each moment
and who kept shouting: "Duck him! Death to the traitor! Duck him!" This
torrent of vulgar humanity swept along the streets and rushed into the Rue St.
Mael. The police did their duty. From all the adjacent streets constables
proceeded and, holding their scabbards with their left hands, they went at
full speed in front of the pursuers. They were on the point of grabbing
Colomban in their huge hands when he suddenly escaped them by falling through
an open man-hole to the bottom of a sewer.
He spent the night there in the darkness, sitting close by the dirty water
amidst the fat and slimy rats. He thought of his task, and his swelling heart
filled with courage and pity. And when the dawn threw a pale ray of light into
the air-hole he got up and said, speaking to himself:
"I see that the fight will be a stiff one."
Forthwith he composed a memorandum in which he clearly showed that Pyrot could
not have stolen from the Ministry of War the eighty thousand trusses of hay
which it had never received, for the reason that Maubec had never delivered
them, though he had received the money. Colomban caused this statement to be
distributed in the streets of Alca. The people refused to read it and tore it
up in anger. The shop-keepers shook their fists at the distributers, who made
off, chased by angry women armed with brooms. Feelings grew warm and the
ferment lasted the whole day. In the evening bands of wild and ragged men went
about the streets yelling: "Death to Colomban!" The patriots snatched whole
bundles of the memorandum from the newsboys and burned them in the public
squares, dancing wildly round these bon-fires with girls whose petticoats were
tied up to their waists.
Some of the more enthusiastic among them went and broke the windows of the
house in which Colomban had lived in perfect tranquillity during his forty
years of work.
Parliament was roused and asked the Chief of the Government what measures he
proposed to take in order to repel the odious attacks made by Colomban upon
the honour of the National Arm and the safety of Penguinia. Robin Mielleux
denounced Colomban's impious audacity and proclaimed amid the cheers of the
legislators that the man would be summoned before the Courts to answer for his
The Minister of War was called to the tribune and appeared in it transfigured.
He had no longer the air, as in former days, of one of the sacred geese of the
Penguin citadels. Now, bristling, with outstretched neck and hooked beak, he
seemed the symbolical vulture fastened to the livers of his country's enemies.
In the august silence of the assembly he pronounced these words only:
"I swear that Pyrot is a rascal."
This speech of Greatauk was reported all over Penguinia and satisfied the
V. THE REVEREND FATHERS AGARIC AND CORNEMUSE
Colomban bore with meekness and surprise the weight of the general
reprobation. He could not go out without being stoned, so he did not go out.
He remained in his study with a superb obstinacy, writing new memoranda in
favour of the encaged innocent. In the mean time among the few readers that he
found, some, about a dozen, were struck by his reasons and began to doubt
Pyrot's guilt. They broached the subject to their friends and endeavoured to
spread the light that had arisen in their minds. One of them was a friend of
Robin Mielleux and confided to him his perplexities, with the result that he
was no longer received by that Minister. Another demanded explanations in an
open letter to the Minister of War. A third published a terrible pamphlet. The
latter, whose name was Kerdanic, was a formidable controversialist. The public
was unmoved. It was said that these defenders of the traitor had been bribed
by the rich Jews; they were stigmatized by the name of Pyrotists and the
patriots swore to exterminate them. There were only a thousand or twelve
hundred Pyrotists in the whole vast Republic, but it was believed that they
were everywhere. People were afraid of finding them in the promenades, at
meetings, at receptions, in fashionable drawing-rooms, at the dinner-table,
even in the conjugal couch. One half of the population was suspected by the
other half. The discord set all Alca on fire.
In the mean time Father Agaric, who managed his big school for young nobles,
followed events with anxious attention. The misfortunes of the Penguin Church
had not disheartened him. He remained faithful to Prince Crucho and preserved
the hope of restoring the heir of the Draconides to the Penguin throne. It
appeared to him that the events that were happening or about to happen in the
country, the state of mind of which they were at once the effect and the
cause, and the troubles that necessarily resulted from them might--if they
were directed, guided, and led by the profound wisdom of a monk--overthrow the
Republic and incline the Penguins to restore Prince Crucho, from whose piety
the faithful hoped for so much solace. Wearing his huge black hat, the brims
of which looked like the wings of Night, he walked through the Wood of Conils
towards the factory where his venerable friend, Father Cornemuse, distilled
the hygienic St. Orberosian liqueur, The good monk's industry, so cruelly
affected in the time of Emiral Chatillon, was being restored from its ruins.
One heard goods trains rumbling through the Wood and one saw in the sheds
hundreds of orphans clothed in blue, packing bottles and nailing up cases.
Agaric found the venerable Cornemuse standing before his stoves and surrounded
by his retorts. The shining pupils of the old man's eyes had again become as
rubies, his skull shone with its former elaborate and careful polish.
Agaric first congratulated the pious distiller on the restored activity of his
laboratories and workshops.
"Business is recovering. I thank God for it," answered the old man of Conils.
"Alas! it had fallen into a bad state, Brother Agaric. You raw the desolation
of this establishment. I need say no more."
Agaric turned away his head.
"The St. Orberosian liqueur," continued Cornemuse, "is making fresh conquests.
But none the less my industry remains uncertain and precarious. The laws of
ruin and desolation that struck it have not been abrogated, they have only
And the monk of Conils lifted his ruby eyes to heaven.
Agaric put his hand on his shoulder.
"What a sight, Cornemuse, does unhappy Penguinia present to us! Everywhere
disobedience, independence, liberty! We seethe proud, the haughty, the men of
revolt rising up. After having braved the Divine laws they now rear themselves
against human laws, so true is it that in order to be a good citizen a man
must be a good Christian. Colomban is trying to imitate Satan. Numerous
criminals are following his fatal example. They want, in their rage, to put
aside all checks, to throw off all yokes, to free themselves from the most
sacred bonds, to escape from the most salutary restraints. They strike their
country to make it obey them. But they will be overcome by the weight of
public animadversion, vituperation, indignation, fury, execration, and
abomination. That is the abyss to which they have been led by atheism, free
thought, and the monstrous claim to judge for themselves and to form their own
"Doubtless, doubtless," replied Father Cornemuse, shaking his head, "but I
confess that the care of distilling these simples has prevented me from
following public affairs. I only know that people are talking a great deal
about a man called Pyrot. Some maintain that he is guilty, others affirm that
he is innocent, but I do not clearly understand the motives that drive both
parties to mix themselves up in a business that concerns neither of them."
The pious Agaric asked eagerly:
"You do not doubt Pyrot's guilt?"
"I cannot doubt it, dear Agaric," answered the monk of Conils. "That would be
contrary to the laws of my country which we ought to respect as long as they
are not opposed to the Divine laws. Pyrot is guilty, for he has been
convicted. As to saying more for or against his guilt, that would be to erect
my own authority against that of the judges, a thing which I will take good
care not to do. Besides, it is useless, for Pyrot has been convicted. If he
has not been convicted because he is guilty, he is guilty because he has been
convicted; it comes to the same thing. I believe in his guilt as every good
citizen ought to believe in it; and I will believe in it as long as the
established jurisdiction will order me to believe in it, for it is not for a
private person but for a judge to proclaim the innocence of a convicted
person. Human justice is venerable even in the errors inherent in its fallible
and limited nature. These errors are never irreparable; if the judges do not
repair them on earth, God will repair them in Heaven. Besides I have great
confidence in general Greatauk, who, though he certainly does not look it,
seems to me to be an abler man than all those who are attacking him."
"Dearest Cornemuse," cried the pious Agaric, "the Pyrot affair, if pushed to
the point whither we can lead it by the help of God and the necessary funds,
will produce the greatest benefits. It will lay bare the vices of this
Anti-Christian Republic and will incline the Penguins to restore the throne of
the Draconides and the prerogatives of the Church. But to do that it is
necessary for the people to see the clergy in the front rank of its defenders.
Let us march against the enemies of the army, against those who insult our
heroes, and everybody will follow us."
"Everybody will be too many," murmured the monk of Conils, shaking his head.
"I see that the Penguins want to quarrel. If we mix ourselves up in their
quarrel they will become reconciled at our expense and we shall have to pay
the cost of the war. That is why, if you are guided by me, dear Agaric, you
will not engage the Church in this adventure."
"You know my energy; you know my prudence. I will compromise nothing. . . .
Dear Cornemuse, I only want from you the funds necessary for us to begin the
For a long time Cornemuse refused to bear the expenses of what he thought was
a fatal enterprise. Agaric was in turn pathetic and terrible. At last,
yielding to his prayers and threats, Cornemuse, with banging head and swinging
arms, went to the austere cell that concealed his evangelical poverty. In the
whitewashed wall under a branch of blessed box, there was fixed a safe. He
opened it, and with a sigh took out a bundle of bills which, with hesitating
hands, he gave to the pious Agaric.
"Do not doubt it, dear Cornemuse," said the latter, thrusting the papers into
the pocket of his overcoat, "this Pyrot affair has been sent us by God for the
glory and exaltation of the Church of Penguinia."
"I pray that you may be right!" sighed the monk of Conils.
And, left alone in his laboratory, he gazed, through his exquisite eyes, with
an ineffable sadness at his stoves and his retorts.
VI. THE SEVEN HUNDRED PYROTISTS
The seven hundred Pyrotists inspired the public with an increasing aversion.
Every day two or three of them were beaten to death in the streets. One of
them was publicly whipped, another thrown into the river, a third tarred and
feathered and led through a laughing crowd, a fourth had his nose cut off by a
captain of dragoons. They did not dare to show themselves at their clubs, at
tennis, or at the races; they put on a disguise when they went to the Stock
Exchange. In these circumstances the Prince des Boscenos thought it urgent to
curb their audacity and repress their insolence. For this purpose he joined
with Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, Viscount Olive, and M. Bigourd in
founding a great anti-Pyrotist association to which citizens in hundreds of
thousands, soldiers in companies, regiments, brigades, divisions, and army
corps, towns, districts, and provinces, all gave their adhesion.
About this time the Minister of War happening to visit one day his Chief of
Staff, saw with surprise that the large room where General Panther worked,
which was formerly quite bare, had now along each wall from floor to ceiling
in sets of deep pigeon-holes, triple and quadruple rows of paper bundles of
every as form and colour. These sudden and monstrous records had in a few days
reached the dimensions of a pile of archives such as it takes centuries to
"What is this?" asked the astonished minister.
"Proofs against Pyrot," answered General Panther with patriotic satisfaction.
"We had not got them when we convicted him, but we have plenty of them now."
The door was open, and Greatauk saw coming up the stair-case a long file of
porters who were unloading heavy bales of papers in the hall, and he saw the
lift slowly rising heavily loaded with paper packets.
"What are those others?" said he.
"They are fresh proofs against Pyrot that are now reaching us," said Panther.
"I have asked for them in every county of Penguinia, in every Staff Office and
in every Court in Europe. I have ordered them in every town in America and in
Australia, and in every factory in Africa, and I am expecting bales of them
from Bremen and a ship-load from Melbourne." And Panther turned towards the
Minister of War the tranquil and radiant look of a hero. However, Greatauk,
his eye-glass in his eye, was looking at the formidable pile of papers with
less satisfaction than uneasiness.
"Very good," said he, "very good! but I am afraid that this Pyrot business may
lose its beautiful simplicity. It was limpid; like a rock-crystal its value
lay in its transparency. You could have searched it in vain with a
magnifying-glass for a straw, a bend, a blot, for the least fault. When it
left my hands it was as pure as the light. Indeed it was the light. I give you
a pearl and you make a mountain out of it. To tell you the truth I am afraid
that by wishing to do too well you have done less well. Proofs! of course it
is good to have proofs, but perhaps it is better to have none at all. I have
already told you, Panther, there is only one irrefutable proof, the confession
of the guilty person (or if the innocent what matter!). The Pyrot affair, as I
arranged it, left no room for criticism; there was no spot where it could be
touched. It defied assault. t was invulnerable because it was invisible. Now
it gives an enormous handle for discussion. I advise you, Panther, to use your
paper packets with great reserve. I should be particularly grateful if you
would be more sparing of your communications to journalists. You speak well,
but you say too much. Tell me, Panther, are there any forged documents among
"There are some adapted ones."
"That is what I meant. There are some adapted ones. So much the better. As
proofs, forged documents, in general, are better than genuine ones, first of
all because they have been expressly made to suit the needs of the case, to
order and measure, and therefore they are fitting and exact. They are also
preferable because they carry the mind into an ideal world and turn it aside
from the reality which, alas! in this world is never without some alloy. . . .
Nevertheless, I think I should have preferred, Panther, that we had no proofs
The first act of the Anti-Pyrotist Association was to ask the Government
immediately to summon the seven hundred Pyrotists and their accomplices before
the High Court of Justice as guilty of high treason. Prince des Boscenos was
charged to speak on behalf of the Association and presented himself before the
Council which had assembled to hear him. He expressed a hope that the
vigilance and firmness of the Government would rise to the height of the
occasion. He shook hands with each of the ministers and as he passed General
Greatauk he whispered in his ear:
"Behave properly, you ruffian, or I will publish the Maloury dossier!"
Some days later by a unanimous vote of both Houses, on a motion proposed by
the Government, the Anti-Pyrotist Association was granted a charter
recognising it as beneficial to the public interest.
The Association immediately sent a deputation to Chitterlings Castle in
Porpoisia, where Crucho was eating the bitter bread of exile, to assure the
prince of the love and devotion of the Anti-Pyrotist members.
However, the Pyrotists grew in numbers, and now counted ten thousand. They had
their regular cafes on the boulevards. The patriots had theirs also, richer
and bigger, and every evening glasses of beer, saucers, match-stands, jugs,
chairs, and tables were hurled from one to the other. Mirrors were smashed to
bits, and the police ended the struggles by impartially trampling the
combatants of both parties under their hob-nailed shoes.
On one of these glorious nights, as Prince des Boscenos was leaving a
fashionable cafe in the company of some patriots, M. de La Trumelle pointed
out to him a little, bearded man with glasses, hatless, and having only one
sleeve to his coat, who was painfully dragging himself along the
"Look!" said he, "there is Colomban!"
The prince had gentleness as well as strength; he was exceedingly mild; but at
the name of Colomban his blood boiled. He rushed at the little spectacled man,
and knocked him down with one blow of his fist on the nose.
M. de La Trumelle then perceived that, misled by an undeserved resemblance, he
had mistaken for Colomban, M. Bazile, a retired lawyer, the secretary of the
Anti-pyrotist Association, and an ardent and generous patriot. Prince des
Boscenos was one of those antique souls who never bend. However, he knew how
to recognise his faults.
"M. Bazile," said he, raising his hat, "if I have touched your face with my
hand you will excuse me and you will understand me, you will approve of me,
nay, you will compliment me, you will congratulate me and felicitate me, when
you know the cause of that act. I took you for Colomban."
M. Bazile, wiping his bleeding nostrils with his handkerchief and displaying
an elbow laid bare by the absence of his sleeve:
"No, sir," answered he drily, "I shall not felicitate you, I shall not
congratulate you, I shall not compliment you, for your action was, at the very
least, superfluous; it was, I will even say, supererogatory. Already this
evening I have been three times mistaken for Colomban and received a
sufficient amount of the treatment he deserves. The patriots have knocked in
my ribs and broken my back, and, sir, I was of opinion that that was enough."
Scarcely had he finished this speech than a band of Pyrotists appeared, and
misled in their turn by that insidious resemblance, they believed that the
patriots were killing Colomban. They fell on Prince des Boscenos and his
companions with loaded canes and leather thongs, and left them for dead. Then
seizing Bazile they carried him in triumph, and in spite of his protests,
along the boulevards, amid cries of: "Hurrah for Colomban! Hurrah for Pyrot!"
At last the police, who had been sent after them, attacked and defeated them
and dragged them ignominiously to the station, where Bazile, under the name of
Colomban, was trampled on by an innumerable quantity of thick, hob-nailed
VII. BIDAULT-COQUILLE AND MANIFLORE, THE SOCIALISTS
Whilst the wind of anger and hatred blew in Alca, Eugine Bidault- Coquille,
poorest and happiest of astronomers, installed in an old steam-engine of the
time of the Draconides, was observing the heavens through a bad telescope, and
photographing the paths of the meteors upon some damaged photographic plates.
His genius corrected the errors of his instruments and his love of science
triumphed over the worthlessness of his apparatus. With an inextinguishable
ardour he observed aerolites, meteors, and fire-balls, and all the glowing
ruins and blazing sparks which pass through the terrestrial atmosphere with
prodigious speed, and as a reward for is studious vigils he received the
indifference of the public, the ingratitude of the State and the blame of the
learned societies. Engulfed in the celestial spaces he knew not what occurred
upon the surface of the earth. He never read the newspapers, and when he
walked through the town his mind was occupied with the November asteroids, and
more than once he found himself at the bottom of a pond in one of the public
parks or beneath the wheels of a motor omnibus.
Elevated in stature as in thought he respected himself and others. This was
shown by his cold politeness as well as by a very thin black frock coat and a
tall hat which gave to his person an appearance at once emaciated and sublime.
He took his meals in a little restaurant from which all customers less
intellectual than himself had fled, and thenceforth his napkin bound by its
wooden ring rested alone in the abandoned rack.
In this cook-shop his eyes fell one evening upon Colomban's memorandum in
favour of Pyrot. He read it as he was cracking some bad nuts and suddenly,
exalted with astonishment, admiration, horror, and pity, he forgot all about
falling meteors and shooting stars and saw nothing but the innocent man
hanging in his cage exposed to the winds of heaven and the ravens perching
That image did not leave him. For a week he had been obsessed by the innocent
convict, when, as he was leaving his cook-shop, he saw a crowd of citizens
entering a public-house in which a public meeting was going on. He went in.
The meeting was disorderly; they were yelling, abusing one another and
knocking one another down in the smoke-laden hall. The Pyrotists and the
Anti-Pyrotists spoke in turn and were alternately cheered and hissed at. An
obscure and confused enthusiasm moved the audience. With the audacity of a
timid and retired man Bidault-Coquille leaped upon the platform and spoke for
three-quarters of an hour. He spoke very quickly, without order, but with
vehemence, and with all the conviction of a mathematical mystic. He was
cheered. When he got down from the platform a big woman of uncertain age,
dressed in red, and wearing an immense hat trimmed with heroic feathers,
throwing herself into his arms, embraced him, and said to him:
"You are splendid!"
He thought in his simplicity that there was some truth in the statement.
She declared to him that henceforth she would live but for Pyrot's defence and
Colomban's glory. He thought her sublime and beautiful. She was Maniflore, a
poor old courtesan, now forgotten and discarded, who had suddenly become a
She never left him. They spent glorious hours together in doss-houses and in
lodgings beautified by their love, in newspaper offices, in meeting-halls and
in lecture-halls. As he was an idealist, he persisted in thinking her
beautiful, although she gave him abundant opportunity of seeing that she had
preserved no charm of any kind. From her past beauty she only retained a
confidence in her capacity for pleasing and a lofty assurance in demanding
homage. Still, it must be admitted that this Pyrot affair, so fruitful in
prodigies, invested Maniflore with a sort of civic majesty, and transformed
her, at public meetings, into an august symbol of justice and truth.
Bidault-Coquille and Maniflore did not kindle the least spark of irony or
amusement in a single Anti-Pyrotist, a single defender of Greatauk, or a
single supporter of the army. The gods, in their anger, had refused to those
men the precious gift of humour. They gravely accused the courtesan and the
astronomer of being spies, of treachery, and of plotting against their
country. Bidault-Coquille and Maniflore grew visibly greater beneath insult,
abuse, and calumny.
For long months Penguinia had been divided into two camps and, though at first
sight it may appear strange, hitherto the socialists had taken no part in the
contest. Their groups comprised almost all the manual workers in the country,
necessarily scattered, confused, broken up, and divided, but formidable. The
Pyrot affair threw the group leaders into a singular embarrassment. They did
not wish to place themselves either on the side of the financiers or on the
side of the army. They regarded the Jews, both great and small, as their
uncompromising opponents. Their principles were not at stake, nor were their
interests concerned in the affair. Still the greater number felt how difficult
it was growing for them to remain aloof from struggles in which all Penguinia
Their leaders called a sitting of their federation at the Rue de la
Queue-du-diable-St. Mael, to take into consideration the conduct they ought to
adopt in the present circumstances and in future eventualities.
Comrade Phoenix was the first to speak.
"A crime," said he, "the most odious and cowardly of crimes, a judicial crime,
has been committed. Military judges, coerced or misled by their superior
officers, have condemned an innocent man to an infamous and cruel punishment.
Let us not say that the victim is not one of our own party, that he belongs to
a caste which was, and always will be, our enemy. Our party is the party of
social justice; it can look upon no iniquity with indifference.
"It would be a shame for us if we left it to Kerdanic, a radical, to Colomban,
a member of the middle classes, and to a few moderate Republicans, alone to
proceed against the crimes of the army. If the victim is not one of us, his
executioners are our brothers' executioners, and before Greatauk struck down
this soldier he shot our comrades who were on strike.
"Comrades, by an intellectual, moral and material effort you must rescue Pyrot
from his torment, and in performing this generous act you are not turning
aside from the liberating and revolutionary task you have undertaken, for
Pyrot his become the symbol of the oppressed and of all the social iniquities
that now exist; by destroying one you make all the others tremble."
When Phoenix ended, comrade Sapor spoke in these terms:
"You are advised to abandon your task in order to do something with which you
have no concern. Why throw yourselves into a conflict where, on whatever side
you turn, you will find none but your natural, uncompromising, even necessary
opponents? Are the financiers to be less hated by us than the army? What inept
and criminal generosity is it that hurries you to save those seven hundred
Pyrotists whom you will always find confronting you in the social war?
"It is proposed that you act the part of the police for your enemies, and that
you are to re-establish for them the order which their own crimes have
disturbed. Magnanimity pushed to this degree changes its name.
"Comrades, there is a point at which infamy becomes fatal to a society.
Penguin society is being strangled by its infamy, and you are requested to
save it, to give it air that it can breathe. This is simply turning you into
"Leave is to smother itself and let us gaze at its last convulsions with
joyful contempt, only regretting that it has so entirely corrupted the soil on
which it has been built that we shall find nothing but poisoned mud on which
to lay the foundations of a new society."
When Sapor had ended his speech comrade Lapersonne pronounced these few words:
"Phoenix calls us to Pyrot's help for the reason that Pyrot is innocent. It
seems to me that that is a very bad reason. If Pyrot is innocent he has
behaved like a good soldier and has always conscientiously worked at his
trade, which principally consists in shooting the people. That is not a motive
to make the people brave all dangers in his defence. When it is demonstrated
to me that Pyrot is guilty and that he stole the army hay, I shall be on his
Comrade Larrivee afterwards spoke.
"I am not of my friend, Phoenix's opinion but I am not with my friend Sapor
either. I do not believe that the party is bound to embrace a cause as soon as
we are told that that cause is just. That, I am afraid, is a grievous abuse of
words and a dangerous equivocation. For social justice is not revolutionary
justice. They are both in perpetual antagonism: to serve the one is to oppose
the other. As for me, my choice is made. I am for revolutionary justice as
against social justice. Still, in the present case I am against abstention. I
say that when a lucky chance brings us an affair like this we should be fools
not to profit by it.
"How? We are given an opportunity of striking terrible, perhaps fatal, blows
against militarism. And am I to fold my arms? I tell you, comrades, I am not a
fakir, I have never been a fakir, and if there are fakirs here let them not
count on me. To sit in meditation is a policy without results and one which I
shall never adopt.
"A party like ours ought to be continually asserting itself. It ought to prove
its existence by continual action. We will intervene in the Pyrot affair but
we will intervene in it in a revolutionary manner; we will adopt violent
action. . . . Perhaps you think that violence is old-fashioned and
superannuated, to be scrapped along with diligences, hand-presses and aerial
telegraphy. You are mistaken. To-day as yesterday nothing is obtained except
by violence; it is the one efficient instrument. The only thing necessary is
to know how to use it. You ask what will our action be? I will tell you: it
will be to stir up the governing classes against one another, to put the army
in conflict with the capitalists, the government with the magistracy, the
nobility and clergy with the Jews, and if possible to drive them all to
destroy one another. To do this would be to carry on an agitation which would
weaken government in the same way that fever wears out the sick.
"The Pyrot affair, little as we know how to turn it to advantage, will put
forward by ten years the growth of the Social party and the emancipation of
the proletariat, by disarmament, the general strike, and revolution."
The leaders of the party having each expressed a different opinion, the
discussion was continued, not without vivacity. The orators, as always happens
in such a case, reproduced the arguments they had already brought forward,
though with less order and moderation than before. The dispute was prolonged
and none changed his opinion. These opinions, in the final analysis, were
reduced to two: that of Sapor and Lapersonne who advised abstention, and that
of Phoenix and Larrivee, who wanted intervention. Even these two contrary
opinions were united in a common hatred of the heads of the army and of their
justice, and in a common belief in Pyrot's innocence. So that public opinion
was hardly mistaken in regarding all the Socialist leaders as pernicious
As for the vast masses in whose name they spoke and whom they represented as
far as speech can express the impossible--as for the proletarians whose
thought is difficult to know and who do not know it themselves, it seemed that
the Pyrot affair did not interest them. It was too literary for them, it was
in too classical a style, and had an upper-middle-class and high-finance tone
about it that did not please them much.
VIII. THE COLOMBAN TRIAL
When the Colomban trial began, the Pyrotists were not many more than thirty
thousand, but they were every where and might be found even among the priests
and millionaires. What injured them most was the sympathy of the rich Jews. On
the other hand they derived valuable advantages from their feeble number. In
the first place there were among them fewer fools than among their opponents,
who were over-burdened with them. Comprising but a feeble minority, they
co-operated easily, acted with harmony, and had no temptation to divide and
thus counteract one another's efforts. Each of them felt the necessity of
doing the best possible and was the more careful of his conduct as he found
himself more in the public eye. Finally, they had every reason to hope that
they would gain fresh adherents, while their opponents, having had everybody
with them at the beginning, could only decrease.
Summoned before the judges at a public sitting, Colomban immediately perceived
that his judges were not anxious to discover the truth. As soon as he opened
his mouth the President ordered him to be silent in the superior interests of
the State. For the same reason, which is the supreme reason, the witnesses for
the defence were not heard. General Panther, the Chief of the Staff, appeared
in the witness-box, in full uniform and decorated with all his orders. He
deposed as follows:
"The infamous Colomban states that we have no proofs against Pyrot. He lies;
we have them. I have in my archives seven hundred and thirty-two square yards
of them which at five hundred pounds each make three hundred and sixty-six
That superior officer afterwards gave, with elegance and ease, a summary of
"They are of all colours and all shades," said he in substance, "they are of
every form--pot, crown, sovereign, grape, dove-cot, grand eagle, etc. The
smallest is less than the hundredth part of a square inch, the largest
measures seventy yards long by ninety yards broad."
At this revelation the audience shuddered with horror.
Greatauk came to give evidence in his turn. Simpler, and perhaps greater, he
wore a grey tunic and held his hands joined behind his back.
"I leave," said he calmly and in a slightly raised voice, "I leave to M.
Colomban the responsibility for an act that has brought our country to the
brink of ruin. The Pyrot affair is secret; it ought to remain secret. If it
were divulged the cruelest ills, wars, pillages, depredations, fires,
massacres, and epidemics would immediately burst upon Penguinia. I should
consider myself guilty of high treason if I uttered another word."
Some persons known for their political experience, among others M. Bigourd,
considered the evidence of the Minister of War as abler and of greater weight
than that of his Chief of Staff.
The evidence of Colonel de Boisjoli made a great impression.
"One evening at the Ministry of War," said that officer, "the attache of a
neighbouring Power told me that while visiting his sovereign's stables he had
once admired some soft and fragrant hay, of a pretty green colour, the finest
hay he had ever seen! 'Where did it come from?' I asked him. He did not
answer, but there seemed to me no doubt about its origin. It was the hay Pyrot
had stolen. Those qualities of verdure, softness, and aroma, are those of our
national hay. The forage of the neighbouring Power is grey and brittle; it
sounds under the fork and smells of dust. One can draw one own conclusions."
Lieutenant-Colonel Hastaing said in the witness-box, amid hisses, that he did
not believe Pyrot guilty. He was immediately seized by the police and thrown
into the bottom of a dungeon where, amid vipers, toads, and broken glass, he
remained insensible both to promises and threats.
The usher called:
"Count Pierre Maubec de la Dentdulynx."
There was deep silence, and a stately but ill-dressed nobleman, whose
moustaches pointed to the skies and whose dark eyes shot forth flashing
glances, was seen advancing toward the witness-box.
He approached Colomban and casting upon him a look of ineffable disdain:
"My evidence," said he, "here it is: you excrement!"
At these words the entire hall burst into enthusiastic applause and jumped up,
moved by one of those transports that stir men's hearts and rouse them to
extraordinary actions. Without another word Count Maubec de la Dentdulynx
All those present left the Court and formed a procession behind him. Prostrate
at his feet, Princess des Boscenos held his legs in a close embrace, but he
went on, stern and impassive, beneath a shower of handkerchiefs and flowers.
Viscountess Olive, clinging to his neck, could not be removed, and the calm
hero bore her along with him, floating on his breast like a light scarf.
When the court resumed its sitting, which it had been compelled to suspend,
the President called the experts.
Vermillard, the famous expert in handwriting, gave the results of his
"Having carefully studied," said he, "the papers found in Pyrot's house, in
particular his account book and his laundry books, I noticed that, though
apparently not out of the common, they formed an impenetrable cryptogram, the
key to which, however, I discovered. The traitor's infamy is to be seen in
every line. In this system of writing the words 'Three glasses of beer and
twenty francs for Adele' mean 'I have delivered thirty thousand trusses of hay
to a neighbouring Power! From these documents I have even been able to
establish the composition of the hay delivered by this officer. The words
waistcoat, drawers, pocket handkerchief, collars, drink, tobacco, cigars, mean
clover, meadowgrass, lucern, burnet, oats, rye-grass, vernal-grass, and common
cat's tail grass. And these are precisely the constituents of the hay
furnished by Count Maubec to the Penguin cavalry. In this way Pyrot mentioned
his crimes in a language that he believed would always remain indecipherable.
One is confounded by so much astuteness and so great a want of conscience."
Colomban, pronounced guilty without any extenuating circumstances, was
condemned to the severest penalty. The judges immediately signed a warrant
consuming him to solitary confinement.