Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Penguin Island by Anatole France

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

In the Place du Palais on the sides of a river whose banks had during the
course of twelve centuries seen so great a history, fifty thousand persons
were tumultuously awaiting the result of the trial. Here were the heads of the
Anti-Pyrotist Association, among whom might be seen Prince des Boscenos, Count
Clena, Viscount Olive, and M. de La Trumelle; here crowded the Reverend Father
Agaric and the teachers of St. Mael College with their pupils; here the monk
Douillard and General Caraguel, embracing each other, formed a sublime group.
The market women and laundry women with spits, shovels, tongs, beetles, and
kettles full of water might be seen running across the Pont-Vieux. On the
steps in front of the bronze gates were assembled all the defenders of Pyrot
in Alca, professors, publicists, workmen, some conservatives, others Radicals
or Revolutionaries, and by their negligent dress and fierce aspect could be
recognised comrades Phoenix, Larrivee, Lapersonne, Dagobert, and Varambille.
Squeezed in his funereal frock-coat and wearing his hat of ceremony,
Bidault-Coquille invoked the sentimental mathematics on behalf of Colomban and
Colonel Hastaing. Maniflore shone smiling and resplendent on the topmost step,
anxious, like Leaena, to deserve a glorious monument, or to be given, like
Epicharis, the praises of history.

The seven hundred Pyrotists disguised as lemonade sellers, utter-merchants,
collectors of odds and ends, or anti-Pyrotists, wandered round the vast

When Colomban appeared, so great an uproar burst forth that, struck by the
commotion of air and water, birds fell from the trees and fishes floated on
the surface of the stream.

On all sides there were yells:

"Duck Colomban, duck him, duck him!"

There were some cries of "Justice and truth!" and a voice was even heard

"Down with the Army!"

This was the signal for a terrible struggle. The combatants fell in thousands,
and their bodies formed howling and moving mounds on top of which fresh
champions gripped each other by the throats. Women, eager, pale, and
dishevelled, with clenched teeth and frantic nails, rushed on the man, in
transports that, in the brilliant light of the public square, gave to their
faces expressions unsurpassed even in the shade of curtains and in the hollows
of pillows. They were going to seize Colomban, to bite him, to strangle,
dismember and rend him, when Maniflore, tall and dignified in her red tunic,
stood forth, serene and terrible, confronting these furies who recoiled from
before her in terror. Colomban seemed to be saved; his partisans succeeded in
clearing a passage for him through the Place du Palais and in putting him into
a cab stationed at the comer of the Pont-Vieux. The horse was already in full
trot when Prince des Boscenos, Count Clena, and M. de La Trumelle knocked the
driver off his seat. Then, making the animal back and pushing the spokes of
the wheels, they ran the vehicle on to the parapet of the bridge, whence they
overturned it into the river amid the cheers of the delirious crowd. With a
resounding splash a jet of water rose upwards, and then nothing but a slight
eddy was to be seen on the surface of the stream.

Almost immediately comrades Dagobert and Varambille, with the help of the
seven hundred disguised Pyrotists, sent Prince des Boscenos head foremost into
a river-laundry in which he was lamentably swallowed up.

Serene night descended over the Place du Palais and shed silence and peace
upon the frightful ruins with which it was strewed. In the mean time,
Colomban, three thousand yards down the stream, cowering beside a lame old
horse on a bridge, was meditating on the ignorance and injustice of crowds.

"The business," said he to himself, "is even more troublesome than I believed.
I foresee fresh difficulties."

He got up and approached the unhappy animal.

"What have you, poor friend, done to them?" said he. "It is on my account they
have used you so cruelly."

He embraced the unfortunate beast and kissed the white star on his forehead.
Then he took him by the bridle and led him, both of them limping, trough the
sleeping city to his house, where sleep soon allowed them to forget mankind.


In their infinite gentleness and at the suggestion of the common father of the
faithful, the bishops, canons, vicars, curates, abbots, and friars of
Penguinia resolved to hold a solemn service in the cathedral of Alca, and to
pray that Divine mercy would deign to put an end to the troubles that
distracted one of the noblest countries in Christendom, and grant to repentant
Penguinia pardon for its crimes against God and the ministers of religion.

The ceremony took place on the fifteenth of June. General Caraguel, surrounded
by his staff, occupied the churchwarden's pew. The congregation was numerous
and brilliant. According to M. Bigourd's expression it was both crowded and
select. In the front rank was to be seen M. de la Bertheoseille, Chamberlain
to his Highness Prince Crucho. Near the pulpit, which was to be ascended by
the Reverend Father Douillard, of the Order of St. Francis, were gathered, in
an attitude of attention with their hands crossed upon their wands of office,
the great dignitaries of the Anti-Pyrotist association, Viscount Olive, M. de
La Trumelle, Count Clena, the Duke d'Ampoule, and Prince des Boscenos. Father
Agaric was in the apse with the teachers and pupils of St. Mael College. The
right-hand transept and aisle were reserved for officers and soldiers in
uniform, this side being thought the more honourable, since the Lord leaned
his head to the right when he died on the Cross. The ladies of the
aristocracy, and among them Countess Clena, Viscountess Olive, and Princess
des Boscenos, occupied reserved seats. In the immense building and in the
square outside were gathered twenty thousand clergy of all sorts, as well as
thirty thousand of the laity.

After the expiatory and propitiatory ceremony the Reverend Father Douillard
ascended the pulpit. The sermon had at first been entrusted to the Reverend
Father Agaric, but, in spite of his merits, he was thought unequal to the
occasion in zeal and doctrine, and the eloquent Capuchin friar, who for six
months had gone through the barracks preaching against the enemies of God and
authority, had been chosen in his place.

The Reverend Father Douillard, taking as his text, "He hath put down the
mighty from their seat," established that all temporal power has God as its
principle and its end, and that it is ruined and destroyed when it turns aside
from the path that Providence has traced out for it and from the end to which
He has directed it.

Applying these sacred rules to the government of Penguinia, he drew a terrible
picture of the evils that the country's rulers had been unable either to
prevent or to foresee.

"The first author of all these miseries and degradations, my brethren," said
he, "is only too well known to you. He is a monster whose destiny is
providentially proclaimed by his name, for it is derived from the Greek word,
pyros, which means fire. Eternal wisdom warns us by this etymology that a Jew
was to set ablaze the country that had welcomed him."

He depicted the country, persecuted by the persecutors of the Church, and
crying in its agony:

"O woe! O glory! Those who have crucified my God are crucifying me!"

At these words a prolonged shudder passed through the assembly.

The powerful orator excited still greater indignation when he described the
proud and crime-stained Colomban, plunged into the stream, all the waters of
which could not cleanse him. He gathered up all the humiliations and all the
perils of the Penguins in order to reproach the President of the Republic and
his Prime Minister with them.

"That Minister," said he, "having been guilty of degrading cowardice in not
exterminating the seven hundred Pyrotists with their allies and defenders, as
Saul exterminated the Philistines at Gibeah, has rendered himself unworthy of
exercising the power. that God delegated to him, and every good citizen ought
henceforth to insult his contemptible government. Heaven will look favourably
on those who despise him. 'He hath put down the mighty from their seat.' God
will depose these pusillanimous chiefs and will put in their place strong men
who will call upon Him. I tell you, gentlemen, I tell you officers,
non-commissioned officers, and soldiers who listen to me, I tell you General
of the Penguin armies, the hour has come! If you do not obey God's orders, if
in His name you do not depose those now in authority, if you do not establish
a religious and strong government in Penguinia, God will none the less destroy
what He has condemned, He will none the less save His people. He will save
them, but, if you are wanting, He will do so by means of a humble artisan or a
simple corporal. Hasten! The hour will soon be past."

Excited by this ardent exhortation, the sixty thousand people present rose up
trembling and shouting: "To arms! To arms! Death to the Pyrotists! Hurrah for
Crucho!" and all of them, monks, women, soldiers, noblemen, citizens, and
loafers, who were gathered beneath the superhuman arm uplifted in the pulpit,
struck up the hymn, "Let us save Penguinia! They rushed impetuously from the
basilica and marched along the quays to the Chamber of Deputies.

Left alone in the deserted nave, the wise Cornemuse, lifting his arms to
heaven, murmured in broken accents:

"Agnosco fortunam ecclesiae penguicanae! I see but too well whither this will
lead us."

The attack which the crowd made upon the legislative palace was repulsed.
Vigorously charged by the police and Alcan guards, the assailants were already
fleeing in disorder, when the Socialists, running from the slums and led by
comrades Phoenix, Dagobert, Lapersonne, and Varambille, threw themselves upon
them and completed their discomfiture. MM. de La Trumelle and d'Ampoule were
taken to the police station. Prince des Boscenos, after a valiant struggle,
fell upon the bloody pavement with a fractured skull.

In the enthusiasm of victory, the comrades, mingled with an innumerable crowd
of paper-sellers and gutter-merchants, ran through the boulevards all night,
carrying, Maniflore in triumph, and breaking the mirrors of the cafes and the
glasses of the street lamps amid cries of "Down with Crucho! Hurrah for the
Social Revolution!" The Anti-Pyrotists in their turn upset the newspaper
kiosks and tore down the hoardings.

These were spectacles of which cool reason cannot approve and they were fit
causes for grief to the municipal authorities, who desired to preserve the
good order of the roads and streets. But, what was sadder for a man of heart
was the sight or the canting humbugs, who, from fear of blows, kept at an
equal distance from the two camps, and who, although they allowed their
selfishness and cowardice to be visible, claimed admiration for the generosity
of their sentiments and the nobility of their souls. They rubbed their eyes
with onions, gaped like whitings, blew violently into their handkerchiefs,
and, bringing their voices out of the depths of their stomachs, groaned forth:
"O Penguins, cease these fratricidal struggles; cease to rend your mother's
bosom!" As if men could live in society without disputes and without quarrels,
and as if civil discords were not the necessary conditions of national life
and progress. They showed themselves hypocritical cowards by proposing a
compromise between the just and the unjust, offending the just in his
rectitude and the unjust in his courage. One of these creatures, the rich and
powerful Machimel, a champion coward, rose upon the town like a colossus of
grief; his tears formed poisonous lakes at his feet and his sighs capsized the
boats of the fishermen.

During these stormy nights Bidault-Coquille at the top of his old
steam-engine, under the serene sky, boasted in his heart, while the shooting
stars registered themselves upon his photographic plates. He was fighting for
justice. He loved and was loved with a sublime passion. Insult and calumny
raised him to the clouds. A caricature of him in company with those of
Colomban, Kerdanic, and Colonel Hastaing was to be seen in the newspaper
kiosks. The Anti-Pyrotists proclaimed that he had received fifty thousand
francs from the big Jewish financiers. The reporters of the militarist sheets
held interviews regarding his scientific knowledge with official scholars, who
declared he had no knowledge of the stars, disputed his most solid
observations, denied his most certain discoveries, and condemned his most
ingenious and most fruitful hypotheses. He exulted under these flattering
blows of hatred and envy.

He contemplated the black immensity pierced by a multitude of lights, without
giving a thought to all the heavy slumbers, cruel insomnias, vain dreams,
spoilt pleasures, and infinitely diverse miseries that a great city contains.

"It is in this enormous city," said he to himself, "that the just and the
unjust are joining battle."

And substituting a simple and magnificent poetry for the multiple and vulgar
reality, he represented to himself the Pyrot affair as a struggle between good
and bad angels. He awaited the eternal triumph of the Sons of Light and
congratulated himself on being a Child of the Day confounding the Children of


Hitherto blinded by fear, incautious and stupid before the bands of Friar
Douillard and the partisans of Prince Crucho, the Republicans at last opened
their eyes and grasped the real meaning of the Pyrot affair. The deputies who
had for two years turned pale at the shouts of the patriotic crowds became,
not indeed more courageous, but altered their cowardice and blamed Robin
Mielleux for disorders which their own compliance had encouraged, and the
instigators of which they had several times slavishly congratulated. They
reproached him for having imperilled the Republic by a weakness which was
really theirs and a timidity which they themselves had imposed upon him. Some
of them began to doubt whether it was not to their interest to believe in
Pyrot's innocence rather than in his guilt, and thenceforward they felt a
bitter anguish at the thought that the unhappy man might have been wrongly
convicted and that in his aerial cage he might be expiating another man's
crimes. "I cannot sleep on account of it!" was what several members of
Minister Guillaumette's majority used to say. But these were ambitious to
replace their chief.

These generous legislators overthrew the cabinet, and the President of the
Republic put in Robin Mielleux's place, a patriarchal Republican with a
flowing beard, La Trinite by name, who, like most of the Penguins, understood
nothing about the affair, but thought that too many monks were mixed up in it.

General Greatauk before leaving the Ministry of War, gave his final advice to
Pariler, the Chief of the Staff.

"I go and you remain," said he, as he shook hands with him. "The Pyrot affair
is my daughter; I confide her to you, she is worthy of your love and your
care; she is beautiful. Do not forget that her beauty loves the shade, is
leased with mystery, and likes to remain veiled. Great her modesty with
gentleness. Too many indiscreet looks have already profaned her charms. . . .
Panther, you desired proofs and you obtained them. You have many, perhaps too
many, in your possession. I see that there will be many tiresome interventions
and much dangerous curiosity. If I were in your place I would tear up all
those documents. Believe me, the best of proofs is none at all. That is the
only one which nobody discusses."

Alas! General Panther did not realise the wisdom of this advice. The future
was only too thoroughly to justify Greatauk's perspicacity. La Trinite
demanded the documents belonging, to the Pyrot affair. Peniche, his Minister
of War, refused them in the superior interests of the national defence,
telling him that the documents under General Panther's care formed the hugest
mass of archives in the world. La Trinite studied the case as well as he
could, and, without penetrating to the bottom of the matter, suspected it of
irregularity. Conformably to his rights and prerogatives he then ordered a
fresh trial to be held. Immediately, Peniche, his Minister of War, accused him
of insulting the army and betraying the country and flung his portfolio at his
head. He was replaced by a second, who did the same. To him succeeded a third,
who imitated these examples, and those after him to the number of seventy
acted like their predecessors, until the venerable La Trinite groaned beneathe
the weight of bellicose portfolios. The seventy-first Minister of War, van
Julep, retained office. Not that he was in disagreement with so many and such
noble colleagues, but he had been commissioned by them generously to betray
his Prime Minister, to cover him with shame and opprobrium, and to convert the
new trial to the glory of Greatauk, the satisfaction of the Anti-Pyrotists,
the profit of the monks, and the restoration of Prince Crucho.

General van Julep, though endowed with high military virtues, was not
intelligent enough to employ the subtle conduct and exquisite methods of
Greatauk. He thought, like General Panther, that tangible proofs against Pyrot
were necessary, that they could never ave too many of them, that they could
never have even enough. He expressed these' sentiments to his Chief of Staff,
who was only too inclined to agree with them.

"Panther," said he, "we are at the moment when we need abundant and
superabundant proofs."

"You have said enough, General," answered Panther, "I will complete my piles
of documents."

Six months later the proofs against Pyrot filled two storeys of the Ministry
of War. The ceiling fell in beneath the weight of the bundles, and the
avalanche of falling documents crushed two head clerks, fourteen second
clerks, and sixty copying clerks, who were at work upon the ground floor
arranging a change in the fashion of the cavalry gaiters. The walls of the
huge edifice had to be propped. Passers-by saw with amazement enormous beams
and monstrous stanchions which reared themselves obliquely against the noble
front of the building, now tottering and disjointed, and blocked up the
streets, stopped the carriages, and presented to the motor-omnibuses an
obstacle against which they dashed with their loads of passengers.

The judges who had condemned Pyrot were not, properly speaking, judges but
soldiers. The judges who had condemned Colomban were real judges, but of
inferior rank, wearing seedy black clothes like church vergers, unlucky
wretches of judges, miserable judgelings. Above them were the superior judges
who wore ermine robes over their black gowns. These, renowned for their
knowledge and doctrine, formed a court whose terrible name expressed power. It
was called the Court of Appeal (Cassation) so as to make it clear that it was
the hammer suspended over the judgments and decrees of all other

One of these superior red Judges of the Supreme Court, called Chaussepied, led
a modest and tranquil life in a suburb of Alca. His soul was pure, his heart
honest, his spirit just. When he had finished studying his documents he used
to play the violin and cultivate hyacinths. Every Sunday he dined with his
neighbours the Mesdemoiselles Helbivore. His old age was cheerful and robust
and his friends often praised the amenity of his character.

For some months, however, he had been irritable and touchy, and when he opened
a newspaper his broad and ruddy face would become covered with dolorous
wrinkles and darkened with an angry purple. Pyrot was the cause of it. Justice
Chaussepied could not understand how an officer could have committed so black
a crime as to hand over eighty thousand trusses of military hay to a
neighbouring and hostile Power. And he could still less conceive how a
scoundrel should have found official defenders in Penguinia. The thought that
there existed in his country a Pyrot, a Colonel Hastaing, a Colomban, a
Kerdanic, a Phoenix, spoilt his hyacinths,his violin, his heaven, and his
earth, all nature, and even his dinner with the Mesdemoiselles Helbivore!

In the mean time the Pyrot case, having been presented to the Supreme Court by
the Keeper of Seals, it fell to Chaussepied to examine it and cover its
defects, in case any existed. Although as upright and honest as a man can be,
and trained by long habit to exercise his magistracy without fear or favour,
he expected to find in the documents he submitted to him proofs of certain
guilt and obvious criminality. After lengthened difficulties and repeated
refusals on the part of General Julep, Justice Chaussepied was allowed to
examine the documents. Numbered and initialed they ran to the number of
fourteen millions six hundred and twenty-six thousand three hundred and
twelve. As he studied them the judge was at first surprised, then astonished,
then stupefied, amazed, and, if I dare say so, flabbergasted. He found among
the documents prospectuses of new fancy shops, newspapers, fashion-plates,
paper bags, old business letters, exercise books, brown paper, green paper for
rubbing parquet floors, playing cards, diagrams, six thousand copies of the
"Key to Dreams," but not a single document in which any mention was made of


The appeal was allowed, and Pyrot was brought down from his cage. But the
Anti-Pyrotists did not regard themselves as beaten. The military judges
re-tried Pyrot. Greatauk, in this second affair, surpassed himself. He
obtained a second conviction; he obtained it by declaring that the proofs
communicated to the Supreme Court were worth nothing, and that great care had
been taken to keep back the good ones, since they ought to remain secret. In
the opinion of connoisseurs he had never shown so much address. On leaving the
court, as he passed through the vestibule with a tranquil step, and his hands
behind his back, amidst a crowd of sight-seers, a woman dressed in red and
with her face covered by a black veil rushed at him, brandishing a kitchen

"Die, scoundrel!" she cried. It was Maniflore. Before those present could
understand what was happening, the general seized her by the wrist, and with
apparent gentleness, squeezed it so forcibly that the knife fell from her
aching hand.

Then he picked it up and handed it to Maniflore.

"Madam," said he with a bow, "you have dropped a household utensil."

He could not prevent the heroine from being taken to the police-station; but
he had her immediately released and afterwards he employed all his influence
to stop the prosecution.

The second conviction of Pyrot was Greatauk's last victory.

Justice Chaussepied, who had formerly liked soldiers so much, and esteemed
their justice so highly,, being now enraged with the military judges, quashed
their judgments as a monkey cracks nuts. He rehabilitated Pyrot a second time;
he would, if necessary, have rehabilitated him five hundred times.

Furious at having been cowards and at having allowed themselves to be deceived
and made game of, the Republicans turned against the monks and clergy. The
deputies passed laws of expulsion, separation, and spoliation against them.
What Father Cornemuse had foreseen took place. That good monk was driven from
the Wood of Conils. Treasury officers confiscated his retorts and his stills,
and the liquidators divided amongst them his bottles of St. Oberosian liqueur.
The pious distiller lost the annual income of three million five hundred
thousand francs that his products procured for him. Father Agaric went into
exile, abandoning his school into the hands of laymen, who soon allowed it to
fall into decay. Separated from its foster-mother, the State, the Church of
Penguinia withered like a plucked flower.

The victorious defenders of the innocent man now abused each other and
overwhelmed each other reciprocally with insults and calumnies. The vehement
Kerdanic hurled himself upon Phoenix as if ready to devour him. The wealthy
Jews and the seven hundred Pyrotists turned away with disdain from the
socialist comrades whose aid they had humbly implored in the past.

"We know you no longer," said they. "To the devil with you and your social
justice. Social justice is the defence of property."

Having been elected a Deputy and chosen to be the leader of the new majority,
comrade Larrivee was appointed by the Chamber and public opinion to the
Premiership. He showed himself an energetic defender of the military tribunals
that had condemned Pyrot. When his former socialist comrades claimed a little
more justice and liberty for the employes of the State as well as for manual
workers, he opposed their proposals in an eloquent speech.

"Liberty," said he, "is not licence. Between order and disorder my choice is
made: revolution is impotence. Progress has no more formidable enemy than
violence. Gentlemen, those who, as I am, are anxious for reform, ought to
apply themselves before everything else to cure this agitation which enfeebles
government just as fever exhausts those who are ill. It is time to reassure
honest people."

This speech was received with applause. The government of the Republic
remained in subjection to the great financial companies, the army was
exclusively devoted to the defence of capital, while the fleet was designed
solely to procure fresh orders for the mine-owners. Since the rich refused to
pay their just share of the taxes, the poor, as in the past, paid for them.

In the mean time from the height of his old steamline, beneath the crowded
stars of night, Bidault-Coquille gazed sadly at the sleeping city. Maniflore
had left him. Consumed with a desire for fresh devotions and fresh sacrifices,
she had gone in company with a young Bulgarian to bear justice and vengeance
to Sofia. He did not regret her, having perceived after the Affair, that she
was less beautiful in form and in thought than he had at first imagined. His
impressions had been modified in the same direction concerning many other
forms and many other thoughts. And what was cruelest of all to him, he
regarded himself as not so great, not so splendid, as he had believed.

And he reflected:

"You considered yourself sublime when you had but candour and good-will. Of
what were you proud, Bidault-Coquille? Of having been one of the first to know
that Pyrot was innocent and Greatauk a scoundrel. But three-fourths of those
who defended Greatauk against the attacks of the seven hundred Pyrotists knew
that better than you. Of what then did you show yourself so proud? Of having
dared to say what you thought? That is civic courage, and, like military
courage, it is a mere result of imprudence. You have been imprudent. So far so
good, but that is no reason for praising yourself beyond measure. Your
imprudence was trifling; it exposed you to trifling perils; you did not risk
your head by it. The Penguins have lost that cruel and sanguinary pride which
formerly gave a tragic grandeur to their revolutions; it is the fatal result
of the weakening of beliefs and character. Ought one to look upon oneself as a
superior spirit for having shown a little more clear-sightedness than the
vulgar? I am very much afraid, on the contrary, Bidault-Coquille, that you
have given proof of a gross misunderstanding of the conditions of the moral
and intellectual development of a people. You imagined that social injustices
were threaded together like pearls and that it would be enough to pull off one
in order to unfasten the whole necklace. That is a very ingenuous conception.
You flattered yourself that at one stroke you were establishing justice in
your own country and in the universe. You were a brave man, an honest
idealist, though without much experimental philosophy. But go home to your own
heart and you will recognise that you had in you a spice of malice and that
our ingenuousness was not without cunning. You believed you were performing a
fine moral action. You said to yourself: 'Here am I, just and courageous once
for all. I can henceforth repose in the public esteem and the praise of
historians.' And now that you have lost your illusions, now that you know how
hard it is to redress wrongs, and that the task must ever be begun afresh, you
are going back to your asteroids. You are right; but go back to them with
modesty, Bidault-Coquille!"



"Only extreme things are tolerable." Count Robert de Montesquiou.


Madame Clarence, the widow of an exalted functionary of the Republic, loved to
entertain. Every Thursday she collected together some friends of modest
condition who took pleasure in conversation. The ladies who went to see her,
very different in age and rank, were all without money, and had all suffered
much. There was a duchess who looked like a fortune-teller and a
fortune-teller who looked like a duchess. Madame Clarence was pretty enough to
maintain some old liaisons, but not to form new ones, and she generally
inspired a quiet esteem. She had a very pretty daughter, who, since she had no
dower, caused some alarm among the male guests; for the Penguins were as much
afraid of portionless girls as they were of the devil himself. Eveline
Clarence, noticing their reserve and perceiving its cause, used to hand them
their tea with an air of disdain. Moreover, she seldom appeared at the parties
and talked only to the ladies or the very young people. Her discreet and
retiring presence put no restraint upon the conversation, since those who took
part in it thought either that as she was a young girl she would not
understand it, or that, being twenty-five years old, she might listen to

One Thursday therefore, in Madame Clarence's drawing-room, the conversation
turned upon love. The ladies spoke of it with pride, delicacy, and mystery,
the men with discretion and fatuity; everyone took an interest in the
conversation, for each one was interested in what he or she said. A great deal
of wit flowed; brilliant apostrophes were launched forth and keen repartees
were returned. But when Professor Haddi began to speak he overwhelmed

"It is the same with our ideas on love as with our ideas on everything else,"
said he, "they rest upon anterior habits whose very memory has been effaced.
In morals, the limitations that have lost their grounds for existing, the most
useless obligations, the cruelest and most injurious restraints, are because
of their profound antiquity and the mystery of their origin, the least
disputed and the least disputable as well as the most respected, and they are
those that cannot be violated without incurring the most severe blame. All
morality relative to the relations of the sexes is founded on this principle:
that a woman once obtained belongs to the man, that she is his property like
his horse or his weapons. And this having ceased to be true, absurdities
result from it, such as the marriage or contract of sale of a woman to a man,
with clauses restricting the right of ownership introduced as a consequence of
the gradual diminution of the claims of the possessor.

"The obligation imposed on a girl that she should bring her virginity to her
husband comes from the times when girls were married immediately they were of
a marriageable age. It is ridiculous that a girl who marries at twenty-five or
thirty should be subject to that obligation. You will, perhaps, say that it is
a present with which her husband, if she gets one at last, will be gratified;
but every moment we see men wooing married women and showing themselves
perfectly satisfied to take them as they find them.

"Still, even in our own day, the duty of girls is determined in religious
morality by the old belief that God, the most powerful of warriors, is
polygamous, that he has reserved all maidens for himself, and that men can
only take those whom he has left. This belief, although traces of it exist in
several metaphors of mysticism, is abandoned to-day, by most civilised
peoples. However, it still dominates the education of girls not only among our
believers, but even among our free-thinkers, who, as a rule, think freely for
the reason that they do not think at all.

"Discretion means ability to separate and discern. We say that a girl is
discreet when she knows nothing at all. We cultivate her ignorance. In spite
of all our care the most discreet know something, for we cannot conceal from
them their own nature and their own sensations. But they know badly, they know
in a wrong way. That is all we obtain by our careful education. . . ."

"Sir," suddenly said Joseph Boutourle, the High Treasurer of Alca, "believe
me, there are innocent girls, perfectly innocent girls, and it is a great
pity. I have known three. They married, and the result was tragical."

"I have noticed," Professor Haddock went on, "that Europeans in general and
Penguins in particular occupy themselves, after sport and motoring, with
nothing so much as with love. It is giving a great deal of importance to a
matter that has very little weight."

"Then, Professor," exclaimed Madame Cremeur in a choking voice, "when a woman
has completely surrendered herself to you, you think it is a matter of no

"No, Madame; it can have its importance," answered Professor Haddock, "but it
is necessary to examine if when she surrenders herself to us she offers us a
delicious fruit-garden or a plot of thistles and dandelions. And then, do we
not misuse words? In love, a woman lends herself rather than gives herself.
Look at the pretty Madame Pensee. . . ."

"She is my mother," said a tall, fair young man.

"Sir, I have the greatest respect for her," replied Professor Haddock; "do not
be afraid that I intend to say anything in the least offensive about her. But
allow me to tell you that, as a rule, the opinions of sons about their mothers
are not to be relied on. They do not bear enough in mind that a mother is a
mother only because she loved, and that she can still love. That, however, is
the case, and it would be deplorable were it otherwise. I have noticed, on the
contrary, that daughters do not deceive themselves about their mothers'
faculty for loving or about the use they make of it; they are rivals; they
have their eyes upon them."

The insupportable Professor spoke a great deal longer, adding indecorum to
awkwardness, and impertinence to incivility, accumulating incongruities,
despising what is respectable, respecting what is despicable; but no one
listened to him further.

During this time in a room that was simple without grace, a room sad for the
want of love, a room which, like all young girls' rooms, had something of the
cold atmosphere of a place of waiting about it, Eveline Clarence turned over
the pages of club annuals and prospectuses of charities in order to obtain
from them some acquaintance with society. Being convinced that her mother,
shut up in her own intellectual but poor world, could neither bring her out or
push her into prominence, she decided that she herself would seek the best
means of winning a husband. At once calm and obstinate, without dreams or
illusions, and regarding marriage as but a ticket of admission or a passport,
she kept before her mind a clear notion of the hazards, difficulties, and
chances of her enterprise. She had the art of pleasing and a coldness of
temperament that enabled her to turn it to its fullest advantage. Her weakness
lay in the fact that she was dazzled by anything that had an aristocratic air.

When she was alone with her mother she said:

"Mamma, we will go to-morrow to Father Douillard's retreat."


Every Friday evening at nine o'clock the choicest of Alcan society assembled
in the aristocratic church of St. Mael for the Reverend Father Douillard's
retreat. Prince and Princess des Boscenos, Viscount and Viscountess Olive, M.
and Madame Bigourd, Monsieur and Madame de La Trumelle were never absent. The
flower of the aristocracy might be seen there, and fair Jewish baronesses also
adorned it by their presence, for the Jewish baronesses of Alca were

This retreat, like all religious retreats, had for its object to procure for
those living in the world opportunities for recollection so that they might
think of their eternal salvation. It was also intended to draw down upon so
man noble and illustrious families the benediction of L. Orberosia, who loves
the Penguins. The Reverend Father Douillard strove for the completion of his
task with a truly apostolical zeal. He hoped to restore the prerogatives of
St. Orberosia as the patron saint of Penguinia and to dedicate to her a
monumental church on one of the hills that dominate the city. His efforts had
been crowned with great success, and for the accomplishing of this national
enterprise he had already united more than a hundred thousand adherents and
collected more than twenty millions of francs.

It was in the choir of St. Mael's that St. Orberosia's new shrine, shining
with gold, sparkling with precious stones, and surrounded by tapers and
flowers, had been erected.

The following account may be read in the "History of the Miracles of the
Patron Saint of Alca" by the Abbe Plantain:

"The ancient shrine had been melted down during the Terror and the precious
relics of the saint thrown into a fire that had been lit on the Place de
Greve; but a poor woman of great piety, named Rouquin, went by night at the
peril of her life to gather up the calcined bones and the ashes of the blessed
saint. She preserved them in a jam-pot, and when religion was again restored,
brought them to the venerable Cure of St. Maels. The woman ended her days
piously as a vendor of tapers and custodian of seats in the saint's chapel."

It is certain that in the time of Father Douillard, although faith was
declining, the cult of St. Orberosia, which for three hundred years had fallen
under the criticism of Canon Princeteau and the silence of the Doctors of the
Church, recovered, and was surrounded with more pomp, more splendour, and more
fervour than ever. The theologians did not now subtract a single iota from the
legend. They held as certainly established all the facts related by Abbot
Simplicissimus, and in particular declared, on the testimony of that monk,
that the devil, assuming a monk's form had carried off the saint to a cave and
had there striven with her until she overcame him. Neither places nor dates
caused them any embarrassment. They paid no heed to exegesis and took good
care not to grant as much to science as Canon Princeteau had formerly
conceded. They knew too well whither that would lead.

The church shone with lights and flowers. An operatic tenor sang the famous
canticle of St. Orberosia:

Virgin of Paradise
Come, come in the dusky night
And on us shed
Thy beams of light.

Mademoiselle Clarence sat beside her mother and in front of Viscount Clena.
She remained kneeling during a considerable time, for the attitude of prayer
is natural to discreet virgins and it shows off their figures.

The Reverend Father Douillard ascended the pulpit. He was a powerful orator
and could, at once melt, surprise, and rouse his hearers. Women complained
only that he fulminated against vice with excessive harshness and in crude
terms that made them blush. But they liked him none the less for it.

He treated in his sermon of the seventh trial of St. Orberosia, who was
tempted by the dragon which she went forth to combat. But she did not yield,
and she disarmed the monster. The orator demonstrated without difficulty that
we, also, by the aid of St. Orberosia, and strong in the virtue which she
inspires, can in our turn overthrow the dragons that dart upon us and are
waiting to devour us, the dragon of doubt, the dragon of impiety, the dragon
of forgetfulness of religious duties. He proved that the charity of St.
Orberosia was a work of social regeneration, and he concluded by an ardent
appeal to the faithful "to become instruments of the Divine mercy, eager
upholders and supporters of the charity of St. Orberosia, and to furnish it
with all the means which it required to take its flight and bear its salutary
fruits." *

* Cf. J. Ernest Charles in the "Censeur," May-August, 1907, p. 562, col. 2.

After the ceremony, the Reverend Father Douillard remained in the sacristy at
the disposal of those of the faithful who desired information concerning the
charity, or who wished to bring their contributions. Mademoiselle Clarence
wished to speak to Father Douillard, so did Viscount Clena. The crowd was
large, and a queue was formed. By chance Viscount Clena and Mademoiselle
Clarence were side by side and possibly they were squeezed a little closely to
each other by the crowd. Eveline had noticed this fashionable young man, who
was almost as well known as his father in the world of sport. Clena had
noticed her, and, as he thought her pretty, he bowed to her, then apologised
and pretended to believe that he had been introduced to the ladies, but could
not remember where. They pretended to believe it also.

He presented himself the following week at Madame Clarence's, thinking that
her house was a bit fast--a thing not likely to displease him--and when he saw
Eveline again he felt he had not been mistaken and that she was an extremely
pretty girl.

Viscount Clena had the finest motor-car in Europe. For three months he drove
the Clarences every day over hills and plains, through woods and valleys; they
visited famous sites and went over celebrated castles. He said to Eveline all
that could be said and did all that could be done to overcome her resistance.
She did not conceal from him that she loved him, that she would always love
him, and love no one but him. She remained grave and trembling by his side. To
his devouring passion she opposed the invincible defence of a virtue conscious
of its danger. At the end of three months, after having gone uphill and down
hill, turned sharp corners, and negotiated level crossings, and experienced
innumerable break-downs, he knew her as well as he knew the fly-wheel of his
car, but not much better. He employed surprises, adventures, sudden stoppages
in the depths of forests and before hotels, but he had advanced no farther. He
said to himself that it was absurd; then, taking her again in his car he set
off at fifty miles an hour quite prepared to upset her in a ditch or to smash
himself and her against a tree.

One day, having come to take her on some excursion, he found her more charming
than ever, and more provoking. He darted upon her as a storm falls upon the
reeds that border a lake. She bent with adorable weakness beneath the breath
of the storm, and twenty times was almost carried away by its strength, but
twenty times she arose, supple and, bowing to the wind. After all these shocks
one would have said that a light breeze had barely touched her charming stem;
she smiled as if ready to be plucked by a bold hand. Then her unhappy
aggressor, desperate, enraged, and three parts mad, fled so as not to kill
her, mistook the door, went into the bedroom of Madame Clarence, whom he found
putting on her hat in front of a wardrobe, seized her, flung her on the bed,
and possessed her before she knew what had happened.

The same day Eveline, who had been making inquiries, learned that Viscount
Clena had nothing but debts, lived on money given him by an elderly lady, and
promoted the sale of the latest models of a motor-car manufacturer. They
separated with common accord and Eveline began again disdainfully to serve tea
to her mother's guests.


In Madame Clarence's drawing-room the conversation turned upon love, and many
charming things were said about it.

"Love is a sacrifice," sighed Madame Cremeur.

"I agree with you," replied M. Boutourle with animation.

But Professor Haddock soon displayed his fastidious insolence.

"It seems to me," said he, "that the Penguin ladies have made a great fuss
since, through St. Mael's agency, they became viviparous. But there is nothing
to be particularly proud of in that, for it is a state they share in common
with cows and pigs, and even with orange and lemon trees, for the seeds of
these plants germinate in the pericarp."

"The self-importance which the Penguin ladies give themselves does not go so
far back as that," answered M. Boutourle. "It dates from the day when the holy
apostle gave them clothes. But this self-importance was long kept in
restraint, and displayed itself fully only with increased luxury of dress and
in a small section of society. For go only two leagues from Alca into the
country at harvest time, and you will see whether women are over-precise or

On that day M. Hippolyte Ceres paid his first call. He was a Deputy of Alca,
and one of the youngest members of the House. His father was said to have kept
a dram shop, but he himself was a lawyer of robust physique, a good though
prolix speaker, with a self-important air and a reputation for ability.

"M. Ceres," said the mistress of the house, "your constituency is one of the
finest in Alca."

"And there are fresh improvements made in it every day, Madame."

"Unfortunately, it is impossible to take a stroll through it any longer," said
M. Boutourle.

"Why?" asked M. Ceres.

"On account of the motors, of course."

"Do not give them a bad name," answered the Deputy. "They are our great
national industry."

"I know. The Penguins of to-day make me think of the ancient Egyptians.
According to Clement of Alexandria, Taine tells us--though he misquotes the
text--the Egyptians worshipped the crocodiles that devoured them. The Penguins
to-day worship the motors that crush them. Without a doubt the future belongs
to the metal beast. We are no more likely to go back to cabs than we are to go
back to the diligence. And the long martyrdom of the horse will come to an
end. The motor, which the frenzied cupidity of manufacturers hurls like a
juggernaut's car upon the bewildered people and of which the idle and
fashionable make a foolish though fatal elegance, will soon begin to perform
its true function, and putting its strength at the service of the entire
people, will behave like a docile, toiling monster. But in order that the
motor may cease to be injurious and become beneficent we must build roads
suited to its speed, roads which it cannot tear up with its ferocious tyres,
and from which it will send no clouds of poisonous dust into human lungs. We
ought not to allow slower vehicles or mere animals to go upon those roads, and
we should establish garages upon them and foot-bridges over them, and so
create order and harmony among the means of communication of the future. That
is the wish of every good citizen."

Madame Clarence led the conversation back to the improvements in M. Ceres'
constituency. M. Ceres showed his enthusiasm for demolitions, tunnelings,
constructions, reconstructions, and all other fruitful operations.

"We build to-day in an admirable style," said he; "everywhere majestic avenues
are being reared. Was ever anything as fine as our arcaded bridges and our
domed hotels!"

"You are forgetting that big palace surmounted an immense melon-shaped dome,"
grumbled by M. Daniset, an old art amateur, in a voice of restrained rage. "I
am amazed at the degree of ugliness which a modern city can attain. Alca is
becoming Americanised. Everywhere we are destroying all that is free,
unexpected, measured, restrained, human, or traditional among the things that
are left us. Everywhere we are destroying that charming object, a piece of an
old wall that bears up the branches of a tree. Everywhere we are suppressing
some fragment of light and air, some fragment of nature, some fragment of the
associations that still remain with us, some fragment of our fathers, some
fragment of ourselves. And we are putting up frightful, enormous, infamous
houses, surmounted in Viennese style by ridiculous domes, or fashioned after
the models of the 'new art' without mouldings, or having profiles with
sinister corbels and burlesque pinnacles, and such monsters as these
shamelessly peer over the surrounding buildings. We see bulbous protuberances
stuck on the fronts of buildings and we are told they are 'new art' motives. I
have seen the 'new art' in other countries, but it is not so ugly as with us;
it has fancy and it has simplicity. It is only in our own country that by a
sad privilege we may behold the newest and most diverse styles of
architectural ugliness. Not an enviable privilege!"

"Are you not afraid," asked M. Ceres severely, "are you not afraid that these
bitter criticisms tend to keep out of our capital the foreigners who flow into
it from all arts of the world and who leave millions behind them?"

"You may set your mind at rest about that," answered M. Daniset. "Foreigners
do not come to admire our buildings; they come to see our courtesans, our
dressmakers, and our dancing saloons."

"We have one bad habit," sighed M. Ceres, "it is that we calumniate

Madame Clarence as an accomplished hostess thought it was time to return to
the subject of love and asked M. Jumel his opinion of M. Leon Blum's recent
book in which the author complained. . . .

". . . That an irrational custom," went on Professor Haddock, "prevents
respectable young ladies from making love, a thing they would enjoy doing,
whilst mercenary girls do it too much and without getting any enjoyment out of
it. It is indeed deplorable. But M. Leon Blum need not fret too much. If the
evil exists, as he says it does, in our middle-class society, I can assure him
that everywhere else he would see a consoling spectacle. Among the people, the
mass of the people through town and country, girls do not deny themselves that

"It is depravity!" said Madame Cremeur.

And she praised the innocence of young girls in terms full of modesty and
grace. It was charming to hear her.

Professor Haddock's views on the same subject were, on the contrary, painful
to listen to.

"Respectable young girls," said he, "are guarded and watched over. Besides,
men do not, as a rule, pursue them much, either through probity, or from a
fear of grave responsibilities, or because the seduction of a young girl would
not be to their credit. Even then we do not know what really takes place, for
the reason that what is hidden is not seen. This is a condition necessary to
the existence of all society. The scruples of respectable young girls could be
more easily overcome than those of married women if the same pressure were
brought to bear on them, and for this there are two reasons: they have more
illusions, and their curiosity has not been satisfied. Women, for the most
part, have been so disappointed by their husbands that they have not courage
enough to begin again with somebody else. I myself have been met by this
obstacle several times in my attempts at seduction."

At the moment when Professor Haddock ended his unpleasant remarks,
Mademoiselle Eveline Clarence entered the drawing-room and listlessly handed
about tea with that expression of boredom which gave an oriental charm to her

"For my part," said Hippolyte Ceres, looking at her, "I declare myself the
young ladies' champion."

"He must be a fool," thought the girl.

Hippolyte Ceres, who had never set foot outside of his political world of
electors and elected, thought Madame Clarence's drawing-room most select, its
mistress exquisite, and her daughter amazingly beautiful. His visits became
frequent and he paid court to both of them. Madame Clarence, who now liked
attention, thought him agreeable. Eveline showed no friendliness towards him,
and treated him with a hauteur and disdain that he took for aristocratic
behaviour and fashionable manners, and he thought all the more of her on that
account. This busy man taxed his ingenuity to please them, and he sometimes
succeeded. He got them cards for fashionable functions and boxes at the Opera.
He furnished Mademoiselle Clarence with several opportunities of appearing to
great advantage and in particular at a garden party which, although given by a
Minister, was regarded as really fashionable, and gained its first success in
society circles for the Republic.

At that party Eveline had been much noticed and had attracted the special
attention of a young diplomat called Roger Lambilly who, imagining that she
belonged to a rather fast set, invited her to his bachelor's flat. She thought
him handsome and believed him rich, and she accepted. A little moved, almost
disquieted, she very nearly became the victim of her daring, and only avoided
defeat by an offensive measure audaciously carried out. This was the most
foolish escapade in her unmarried life.

Being now on friendly terms with Ministers and with the President, Eveline
continued to wear her aristocratic and pious affectations, and these won for
her the sympathy of the chief personages in the anti-clerical and democratic
Republic. M. Hippolyte Ceres, seeing that she was succeeding and doing him
credit, liked her still more. He even went so far as to fall madly in love
with her.

Henceforth, in spite of everything, she began to observe him with interest,
being curious to see if his passion would increase. He appeared to her without
elegance or grace, and not well bred, but active, clear-sighted, full of
resource, and not too great a bore. She still made fun of him, but he had now
won her interest.

One day she wished to test him. It was during the elections, when members of
Parliament were, as the phrase runs, requesting a renewal of their mandates.
He had an opponent, who, though not dangerous at first and not much of an
orator, was rich and was reported to be gaining votes every day. Hippolyte
Ceres, banishing both dull security and foolish alarm from his mind, redoubled
his care. His chief method of action was by public meetings at which he spoke
vehemently against the rival candidate. His committee held huge meetings on
Saturday evenings and at three o'clock on Sunday afternoons. One Sunday, as he
called on the Clarences, he found Eveline alone in the drawing-room. He had
been chatting for about twenty or twenty-five minutes, when, taking out his
watch, he saw that it was a quarter to three. The young girl showed herself
amiable, engaging, attractive, and full of promises. Ceres was fascinated, but
he stood up to go.

"Stay a little longer," said she in a pressing and agreeable voice which made
him promptly sit down again.

She was full of interest, of abandon, curiosity, and weakness. He blushed,
turned pale, and again got up.

Then, in order to keep him still longer, she looked at him out of two grey and
melting eyes, and though her bosom was heaving, she did not say another word.
He fell at her feet in distraction,, but once more looking at his watch, he
jumped up with a terrible oath.

"D--! a quarter to four! I must be off."

And immediately he rushed down the stairs.

From that time onwards she had a certain amount of esteem for him.


She was not quite in love with him, but she wished him to be in love with her.
She was, moreover, very reserved with him, and that not solely from any want
of inclination to be otherwise, since in affairs of love some things are due
to indifference, to inattention, to woman's instinct, to traditional custom
and feeling, to a desire to try one's power, and to satisfaction at seeing its
results. The reason of her prudence was that she knew him to be very much
infatuated and capable of taking advantage of any familiarities she allowed as
well as of reproaching her coarsely afterwards if she discontinued them.

As he was a professed anti-clerical and free-thinker, she thought it a good
plan to affect an appearance of piety in his presence and to be seen with
prayer-books bound in red morocco, such as Queen Marie Leczinska's or the
Dauphiness Marie Josephine's "The Last Two Weeks of Lent." She lost no
opportunity, either, of showing him the subscriptions that she collected for
the endowment of the national cult of St. Orberosia. Eveline did not act in
this way because she wished to tease him. Nor did it spring from a young
girl's archness, or a spirit of constraint, or even from snobbishness, though
there was more than a suspicion of this latter in her behaviour. It was but
her way of asserting herself, of stamping herself with a definite character,
of increasing her value. To rouse the Deputy's courage she wrapped herself up
in religion, just as Brunhild surrounded herself with flames so as to attract
Sigurd. Her audacity was successful. He thought her still more beautiful thus.
Clericalism was in his eyes a sign of good form.

Ceres was re-elected by an enormous majority and returned to a House which
showed itself more inclined to the Left, more advanced, and, as it seemed,
more eager for reform than its predecessor. Perceiving at once that so much
zeal was but intended to hide a fear of change, and a sincere desire to do
nothing, he determined to adopt a policy that would satisfy these aspirations.
At the beginning of the session he made a great speech, cleverly thought out
and well arranged, dealing with the idea that all reform ought to be put off
for a long time. He showed himself heated, even fervid; holding the principle
that an orator should recommend moderation with extreme vehemence. He was
applauded by the entire assembly. The Clarences listened to him from the
President's box and Eveline trembled in spite of herself at the solemn sound
of the applause. On the same bench the fair Madame Pensee shivered at the
intonations of his virile voice.

As soon as he descended from the tribune, Ceres, even while the audience were
still clapping, went without a moment's delay to salute the Clarences in their
box. Eveline saw in him the beauty of success, and as he leaned towards the
ladies, wiping his neck with his handkerchief and receiving their
congratulations with an air of modesty though not without a tinge of
self-conceit, the young girl glanced towards Madame Pensee and saw her,
palpitating and breathless, drinking in the hero's applause with her head
thrown backwards. It seemed as if she were on the point of fainting. Eveline
immediately smiled tenderly on M. Ceres.

The Alcan deputy's speech had a great vogue. In political "spheres" it was
regarded as extremely able. "We have at last heard an honest pronouncement,"
said the chief Moderate journal. "It is a regular programme!" they said in the
House. It was agreed that he was a man of immense talent.

Hippolyte Ceres had now established himself as leader of the radicals,
socialists, and anti-clericals, and they appointed him President of their
group, which was then the most considerable in the House. He thus found
himself marked out for office in the next ministerial combination.

After a long hesitation Eveline Clarence accepted the idea of marrying M.
Hippolyte Ceres. The great man was a little common for her taste. Nothing had
yet proved that he would one day reach the point where politics bring in large
sums of money. But she was entering her twenty-seventh year and knew enough of
life to see that she must not be too fastidious or show herself too difficult
to please.

Hippolyte Ceres was celebrated; Hippolyte Ceres was happy. He was no longer
recognisable; the elegance of his clothes and deportment had increased
tremendously. He wore an undue number of white gloves. Now that he was too
much of a society man, Eveline began to doubt if it was not worse than being
too little of one. Madame Clarence regarded the engagement with favour. She
was reassured concerning her daughter's future and pleased to have flowers
given her every Thursday for her drawing-room.

The celebration of the marriage raised some difficulties. Eveline was pious
and wished to receive the benediction of the Church. Hippolyte Ceres, tolerant
but a free-thinker, wanted only a civil marriage. There were many discussions
and even some violent scenes upon the subject. The last took place in the
young girl's room at the moment when the invitations were being written.
Eveline declared that if she did not go to church she would not believe
herself married. She spoke of breaking off the engagement, and of going abroad
with her mother, or of retiring into a convent. Then she became tender, weak,
suppliant. She sighed, and everything in her virginal chamber sighed in
chorus, the holy-water font, the palm-branch above her white bed, the books of
devotion on their little shelves, and the blue and white statuette of St.
Orberosia chaining the dragon of Cappadocia, that stood upon the marble
mantelpiece. Hippolyte Ceres was moved, softened, melted.

Beautiful in her grief, her eyes shining with tears, her wrists girt by a
rosary of lapis lazuli and, so to speak, chained by her faith, she suddenly
flung herself at Hippolyte's feet, and dishevelled, almost dying, she embraced
his knees.

He nearly yielded.

"A religious marriage," he muttered, "a marriage in church, I could make my
constituents stand that, but my committee would not swallow the matter so
easily. . . . Still I'll explain it to them . . . toleration, social
necessities . . . . They all send their daughters to Sunday school . . . . But
as for office, my dear I am afraid we are going to drown all hope of that in
your holy water."

At these words she stood up grave, generous, resigned, conquered also in her

"My dear, I insist no longer."

"Then we won't have a religious marriage. It will be better, much better not."

"Very well, but be guided by me. I am going to try and arrange everything both
to your satisfaction and mine."

She sought the Reverend Father Douillard and explained the situation. He
showed himself even more accommodating and yielding than she had hoped.

"Your husband is an intelligent man, a man of order and reason; he will come
over to us. You will sanctify him. It is not in vain that God has granted him
the blessing of a Christian wife. The Church needs no pomp and ceremonial
display for her benedictions. Now that she is persecuted, the shadow of the
crypts and the recesses of the catacombs are in better accord with her
festivals. Mademoiselle, when you have performed the civil formalities come
here to my private chapel in costume with M. Ceres. I will marry you, a
observe the most absolute discretion. I will obtain the necessary
dispensations from the Archbishop as well as all facilities regarding the
banns, confession-tickets, etc."

Hippolyte, although he thought the combination a little dangerous, agreed to
it, a good deal flattered, at bottom.

"I will go in a short coat," he said.

He went in a frock coat with white gloves and varnished shoes, and he

"Politeness demands. . . ."


The Ceres household was established with modest decency in a pretty flat
situated in a new building. Ceres loved his wife in a calm and tranquil
fashion. He was often kept late from home by the Commission on the Budget and
he worked more than three nights a week at a report on the postal finances of
which he hoped to make a masterpiece. Eveline thought she could twist him
round her finger, and this did not displease him. The bad side of their
situation was that they had not much money; in truth they had very little. The
servants of the Republic do not grow rich in her service as easily as people
think. Since the sovereign is no longer there to distribute favours, each of
them takes what he can, and his depredations, limited by the depredations of
all the others, are reduced to modest proportions. Hence that austerity of
morals that is noticed in democratic leaders. They can only grow rich during
periods of great business activity and then they find themselves exposed to
the envy of their less favoured colleagues. Hippolyte Ceres had for a long
time foreseen such a period. He was one of those who had made preparations for
its arrival. Whilst waiting for it he endured his poverty with dignity, and
Eveline shared that poverty without suffering as much as one might have
thought. She was in close intimacy with the Reverend Father Douillard and
frequented the chapel of St. Orberosia, where she met with serious society and
people in a position to render her useful services. She knew how to choose
among them and gave her confidence to none but those who deserved it. She had
gained experience since her motor excursions with Viscount Clena, and above
all she had now acquired the value of a married woman.

The deputy was at first uneasy about these pious practices, which were
ridiculed by the demagogic newspapers, but he was soon reassured, for he saw
all around him democratic leaders joyfully becoming reconciled to the
aristocracy and the Church.

They found that they had reached one of those periods (which often recur) when
advance had been carried a little too far. Hippolyte Ceres gave a moderate
support to this view. His policy was not a policy of persecution but a policy
of tolerance. He had laid its foundations in his splendid speech on the
preparations for reform. The Prime Minister was looked upon as too advanced.
He proposed schemes which were admitted to be dangerous to capital, and the
great financial companies were opposed to him. Of course it followed that the
papers of all views supported the companies. Seeing the danger increasing, the
Cabinet abandoned its schemes, its programme, and its opinions, but it was too
late. A new administration was already ready. An insidious question by Paul
Visire which was immediately made the subject of a resolution, and a fine
speech by Hippolyte Ceres, overthrew the Cabinet.

The President of the Republic entrusted the formation of a new Cabinet to this
same Paul Visire, who, though still very young, had been a Minister twice. He
was a charming man, spending much of his time in the green-rooms of theatres,
very artistic, a great society man, of amazing ability and industry. Paul
Visire formed a temporary ministry intended to reassure public feeling which
had taken alarm, and Hippolyte Ceres was invited to hold office in it.

The new ministry, belonging to all the groups in the majority, represented the
most diverse and contrary opinions, but they were all moderate and convinced
conservatives.* The Minister of Foreign Affairs was retained from the former
cabinet. He was a little dark man called Crombile, who worked fourteen hours a
day with the conviction that he dealt with tremendous questions. He refused to
see even his own diplomatic agents, and was terribly uneasy, though he did not
disturb anybody else, for the want of foresight of peoples is infinite and
that of governments is just as great.

* As this ministry exercised considerable influence upon the destinies of the
country and of the world, we think it well to give its composition: Minister
of the Interior and Prime Minister, Paul Visire; Minister of Justice, Pierre
Bouc; Foreign Affairs, Victor Crombile; Finance, Terrasson; Education,
Labillette; Commerce, Posts and Telegraphs, Hippolyte Ceres; Agriculture,
Aulac; Public Works, Lapersonne; War, General Debonnaire; Admiralty, Admiral
Vivier des Murenes.

The office of Public Works was given to a Socialist, Fortune Lapersonne. It
was then a political custom and one of the most solemn, most severe, most
rigorous, and if I may dare say so, the most terrible and cruel of all
political customs, to include a member of the Socialist party in each ministry
intended to oppose Socialism, so that the enemies of wealth and property
should suffer the shame of being attacked by one of their own party, and so
that they could not unite against these forces without turning to some one who
might possibly attack themselves in the future. Nothing but a profound
ignorance of the human heart would permit the belief that it was difficult to
find a Socialist to occupy these functions. Citizen Fortune Lapersonne entered
the Visire cabinet of his own free will and without any constraint; and he
found those who approved of his action even among his former friends, so great
was the fascination that power exercised over the Penguins!

General Debonnaire went to the War Office. He was looked upon as one of the
ablest generals in the army, but he was ruled by a woman, the Baroness
Bildermann, who, though she had reached the age of intrigue, was still
beautiful. She was in the pay of a neighbouring and hostile Power.

The new Minister of Marine, the worthy Admiral Vivier des Murenes, was
generally regarded as an excellent seaman. He displayed a piety that would
have seemed excessive in an anti-clerical minister, if the Republic had not
recognised that religion was of great maritime utility. Acting on the
instruction of his spiritual director, the Reverend Father Douillard, the
worthy Admiral had dedicated his fleet to St. Orberosia and directed canticles
in honour of the Alcan Virgin to be composed by Christian bards. These
replaced the national hymn in the music played by the navy.

Prime Minister Visire declared himself to be distinctly anticlerical but ready
to respect all creeds; he asserted that he was a sober-minded reformer. Paul
Visire and his colleagues desired reforms, and it was in order not to
compromise reform that they proposed none; for they were true politicians and
knew that reforms are compromised the moment they are proposed. The government
was well received, respectable people were reassured, and the funds rose.

The administration announced that four new ironclads would be put into
commission, that prosecutions would be undertaken against the Socialists, and
it formally declared its intention to have nothing to do with any
inquisitorial income-tax. The choice of Terrasson as Minister of Finance was
warmly approved by the press. Terrasson, an old minister famous for his
financial operations, gave warrant to all the hopes of the financiers and
shadowed forth a period of great business activity. Soon those three udders of
modern nations, monopolies, bill discounting, and fraudulent speculation, were
swollen with the milk of wealth. Already whispers were heard of distant
enterprises, and of planting colonies, and the boldest put forward in the
newspapers the project of a military and financial protectorate over Nigritia.

Without having yet shown what he was capable of, Hippolyte Ceres was
considered a man of weight. Business people thought highly of him. He was
congratulated on all sides for having broken with the extreme sections, the
dangerous men, and for having realised the responsibilities of government.

Madame Ceres shone alone amid the Ministers' wives. Crombile withered away in
bachelordom. Paul Visire had married money in the person of Mademoiselle
Blampignon, an accomplished, estimable, and simple lady who was always ill,
and whose feeble health compelled her to stay with her mother in the depths of
a remote province. The other Ministers' wives were not born to charm the
sight, and people smiled when they read that Madame Labillette had appeared at
the Presidency Ball wearing a headdress of birds of paradise. Madame Vivier
des Murenes, a woman of good family, was stout rather than tall, had a face
like a beef-steak and the voice of a newspaper-seller. Madame Debonnaire,
tall, dry, and florid, was devoted to young officers. She ruined herself by
her escapades and crimes and only regained consideration by dint of ugliness
and insolence.

Madame Ceres was the charm of the Ministry and its tide to consideration.
Young, beautiful, and irreproachable, she charmed alike society and the masses
by her combination of elegant costumes and pleasant smiles.

Her receptions were thronged by the great Jewish financiers. She gave the most
fashionable garden parties in the Republic. The newspapers described her
dresses and the milliners did not ask her to pay for them. She went to Mass;
she protected the chapel of St. Orberosia from the ill-will of the people; and
she aroused in aristocratic hearts the hope of a fresh Concordat.

With her golden hair, grey eyes, and supple and slight though rounded figure,
she was indeed pretty. She enjoyed an excellent reputation and she was so
adroit, and calm, so much mistress of herself, that she would have preserved
it intact even if she had been discovered in the very act of ruining it.

The session ended with a victory for the cabinet which, amid the almost
unanimous applause of the House, defeated a proposal for an inquisitorial tax,
and with a triumph for Madame Ceres who gave parties in honour of three kings
who were at the moment passing through Alca.


The Prime Minister invited Monsieur and Madame Ceres to spend a couple of
weeks of the holidays in a little villa that he had taken in the mountains,
and in which he lived alone. The deplorable health of Madame Paul Visire did
not allow her to accompany her husband, and she remained with her relatives in
one of the southern provinces.

The villa had belonged to the mistress of one of the last Kings of Alca: the
drawing-room retained its old furniture, and in it was still to be found the
Sofa of the Favourite. The country was charming; a pretty blue stream, the
Aiselle, flowed at the foot of the hill that dominated the villa. Hippolyte
Ceres loved fishing; when engaged at this monotonous occupation he often
formed his best Parliamentary combinations, and his happiest oratorical
inspirations. Trout swarmed in the Aiselle; he fished it from morning till
evening in a boat that the Prime Minister readily placed at is disposal.

In the mean time, Eveline and Paul Visire sometimes took a turn together in
the garden, or had a little chat in the drawing-room. Eveline, although she
recognised the attraction that Visire had for women, had hitherto displayed
towards him only an intermittent and superficial coquetry, without any deep
intentions or settled design. He was a connoisseur and saw that she was
pretty. The House and the Opera had deprived him of all leisure, but, in a
little villa, the grey eyes and rounded figure of Eveline took on a value in
his eyes. One day as Hippolyte Ceres was fishing in the Aiselle, he made her
sit beside him on the Sofa of the Favourite. Long rays of gold struck Eveline
like arrows from a hidden Cupid through the chinks of the curtains which
protected her from the heat and glare of a brilliant day. Beneath her white
muslin dress her rounded yet slender form was outlined in its grace and youth.
Her skin was cool and fresh, and had the fragrance of freshly mown hay. Paul
Visire behaved as the occasion warranted, and for her part, she was opposed
neither to the games of chance or of society. She believed it would be nothing
or a trifle; she was mistaken.

"There was," says the famous German ballad, "on the sunny side of the town
square, beside a wall whereon the creeper grew, a pretty little letter-box, as
blue as the corn-flowers, smiling and tranquil.

"All day long there came to it, in their heavy shoes, small shop-keepers, rich
farmers, citizens, the tax-collector and the policeman, and they put into it
their business letters, their invoices, their summonses their notices to pay
taxes, the judges' returns, and orders for the recruits to assemble. It
remained smiling and tranquil.

"With joy, or in anxiety, there advanced towards it workmen and farm servants,
maids and nursemaids, accountants, clerks, and women carrying their little
children in their arms; they put into it notifications of births. marriages,
and deaths, letters between engaged couples, between husbands and wives, from
mothers to their sons, and from sons to their mothers. It remained smiling and

"At twilight, young lads and young girls slipped furtively to it, and put in
love-letters, some moistened with tears that blotted the ink, others with a
little circle to show the place to kiss, all of them very long. It remained
smiling and tranquil.

"Rich merchants came themselves through excess of carefulness at the hour of
daybreak, and put into it registered letters, and letters with five red seals,
full of bank notes or cheques on the great financial establishments of the
Empire. It remained smiling and tranquil.

"But one day, Gaspar, whom it had never seen, and whom it did not know from
Adam, came to put in a letter, of which nothing is known but that it was
folded like a little hat. Immediately the pretty letter-box fell into a swoon.
Henceforth it remains no longer in its place; it runs through streets, fields,
and woods, girdled with ivy, and crowned with roses. It keeps running up hill
and down dale; the country policeman surprises it sometimes, amidst the corn,
in Gaspar's arms kissing him upon the mouth."

Paul Visire had recovered all his customary nonchalance. Eveline remained
stretched on the Divan of the Favourite in an attitude of delicious

The Reverend Father Douillard, an excellent moral theologian, and a man who in
the decadence of the Church has preserved his principles, was very right to
teach, in conformity with the doctrine of the Fathers, that while a woman
commits a great sin by giving herself for money, she commits a much greater
one by giving herself for nothing. For, in the first case she acts to support
her life, and that is sometimes not merely excusable but pardonable, and even
worthy of the Divine Grace, for God forbids suicide, and is unwilling that his
creatures should destroy themselves. Besides, in giving herself in order to
live, she remains humble, and derives no pleasure from it a thing which
diminishes the sin. But a woman who gives herself for nothing sins with
pleasure and exults in her fault. The pride and delight with which she burdens
her crime increase its load of moral guilt.

Madame Hippolyte Ceres' example shows the profundity of these moral truths.
She perceived that she had senses. A second was enough to bring about this
discovery, to change her soul, to alter her whole life. To have learned to
know herself was at first a delight. The {greek here} of the ancient
philosophy is not a precept the moral fulfilment of which procures any
pleasure, since one enjoys little satisfaction from knowing one's soul. It is
not the same with the flesh, for in it sources of pleasure may be revealed to
us. Eveline immediately felt an obligation to her revealer equal to the
benefit she had received, and she imagined that he who had discovered these
heavenly depths was the sole possessor of the key to them. Was this an error,
and might she not be able to find others who also had the golden key? It is
difficult to decide; and Professor Haddock, when the facts were divulged
(which happened without much delay as we shall see), treated the matter from
an experimental point of view, in a scientific review, and concluded that the
chances Madame C-- would have of finding the exact equivalent of M. V-- were
in the proportion of 305 to 975008. This is as much as to say that she would
never find it. Doubtless her instinct told her the same, for she attached
herself distractedly to him.

I have related these facts with all the circumstances which seemed to me
worthy of attracting the attention of meditative and philosophic minds. The
Sofa of the Favourite is worthy of the majesty of history; on it were decided
the destinies of a great people; nay, on it was accomplished an act whose
renown was to extend over the neighbouring nations both friendly and hostile,
and even over all humanity. Too often events of this nature escape the
superficial minds and shallow spirits who inconsiderately assume the task of
writing history. Thus the secret springs of events remain hidden from us. The
fall of Empires and the transmission of dominions astonish us and remain
incomprehensible to us, because we have not discovered the imperceptible
point, or touched the secret spring which when put in movement has destroyed
and overthrown everything. The author of this great history knows better than
anyone else his faults and his weaknesses, but he can do himself this
justice--that he has always kept the moderation, the seriousness, the
austerity, which an account of affairs of State demands, and that he has never
departed from the gravity which is suitable to a recital of human actions.


When Eveline confided to Paul Visire that she had never experienced anything
similar, he did not believe her. He had had a good deal to do with women and
knew that they readily say these things to men in order to make them more in
love with them. Thus his experience, as sometimes happens, made him disregard
the truth. Incredulous, but gratified all the same, he soon felt love and
something more for her. This state at first seemed favourable to his
intellectual faculties. Visire delivered in the chief town of his constituency
a speech full of grace, brilliant and happy, which was considered to be a

The re-opening of Parliament was serene. A few isolated jealousies, a few
timid ambitions raised their heads in the House, and that was all. A smile
from the Prime Minister was enough to dissipate these shadows. She and he saw
each other twice a day, and wrote to each other in the interval. He was
accustomed to intimate relationships, was adroit, and knew how to dissimulate;
but Eveline displayed a foolish imprudence: she made herself conspicuous with
him in drawing-rooms, at the theatre, in the House, and at the Embassies; she
wore her love upon her face, upon her whole person, in her moist glances, in
the languishing smile of her lips, in the heaving of her breast, in all her
heightened, agitated, and distracted beauty. Soon the entire country knew of
their intimacy. Foreign Courts were informed of it. The President of the
Republic and Eveline's husband alone remained in ignorance. The President
became acquainted with it in the country, through a misplaced police report
which found its way, it is not known how, into his portmanteau.

Hippolyte Ceres, without being either very subtle, or very perspicacious,
noticed that there was something different in his home. Eveline, who quite
lately had interested herself in his affairs, and shown, if not tenderness, at
least affection, towards him, displayed henceforth nothing but indifference
and repulsion. She had always had periods of absence, and made prolonged
visits to the Charity of St. Orberosia; now, she went out in the morning,
remained out all day, and sat down to dinner at nine o'clock in the evening
with the face of a somnambulist. Her husband thought it absurd; however, he
might perhaps have never known the reason for this; a profound ignorance of
women, a crass confidence in his own merit, and in his own fortune, might
perhaps have always hidden the truth from him, if the two lovers had not, so
to speak, compelled him to discover it.

When Paul Visire went to Eveline's house and found her alone, they used to
say, as they embraced each other; "Not here! not here!" and immediately they
affected an extreme reserve. That was their invariable rule. Now, one day,
Paul Visire went to the house of his colleague Ceres, with whom he had an
engagement. It was Eveline who received him, the Minister of Commerce being
delayed by a commission.

"Not here!" said the lovers, smiling.

They said it, mouth to mouth, embracing, and clasping each other. They were
still saying it, when Hippolyte Ceres entered the drawing-room.

Paul Visire did not lose his presence of mind. He declared to Madame Ceres
that he would give up his attempt to take the dust out of her eye. By this
attitude he did not deceive the husband, but he was able to leave the room
with some dignity.

Hippolyte Ceres was thunderstruck. Eveline's conduct appeared incomprehensible
to him; he asked her what reasons she had for it.

"Why? why?" he kept repeating continually, "why?"

She denied everything, not to convince him, for he had seen them, but from
expediency and good taste, and to avoid painful explanations. Hippolyte Ceres
suffered all the tortures of jealousy. He admitted it to himself, he kept
saying inwardly, "I am a strong man; I am clad in armour; but the wound is
underneath, it is in my heart," and turning towards his wife, who looked
beautiful in her guilt, he would say:

"It ought not to have been with him."

He was right--Eveline ought not to have loved in government circles.

He suffered so much that he took up his revolver, exclaiming: "I will go and
kill him!" But he remembered that a Minister of Commerce cannot kill his own
Prime Minister, and he put his revolver back into his drawer.

The weeks passed without calming his sufferings. Each morning he buckled his
strong man's armour over his wound and sought in work and fame the peace that
fled from him. Every Sunday he inaugurated busts, statues, fountains, artesian
wells, hospitals, dispensaries, railways, canals, public markets, drainage
systems, triumphal arches, and slaughter houses, and delivered moving speeches
on each of these occasions. His fervid activity devoured whole piles of
documents; he changed the colours of the postage stamps fourteen times in one
week. Nevertheless, he gave vent to outbursts of grief and rage that drove him
insane; for whole days his reason abandoned him. If he had been in the
employment of a private administration this would have been noticed
immediately, but it is much more difficult to discover insanity or frenzy in
the conduct of affairs of State. At that moment the government employees were
forming themselves into associations and federations amid a ferment that was
giving alarm both to the Parliament and to public feeling. The postmen were
especially prominent in their enthusiasm for trade unions.

Hippolyte Ceres informed them in a circular that their action was strictly
legal. The following day he sent out a second circular forbidding all
associations of government employees as illegal. He dismissed one hundred and
eighty postmen, reinstated them, reprimanded them--and awarded them
gratuities. At Cabinet councils he was always on the point of bursting forth.
The presence of the Head of the State scarcely restrained him within the
limits of the decencies, and as he did not dare to attack his rival he
consoled himself by heaping invectives upon General Debonnaire, the respected
Minister of War. The General did not hear them. for he was deaf and occupied
himself in composing verses for the Baroness Bildermann. Hippolyte Ceres
offered an indistinct opposition to everything the Prime Minister proposed. In
a word, he was a madman. One faculty alone escaped the ruin of his intellect:
he retained his Parliamentary sense, his consciousness of the temper of
majorities, his thorough knowledge of groups, and his certainty of the
direction in which affairs were moving.


The session ended calmly, and the Ministry saw no dangerous signs upon the
benches where the majority sat. It was visible, however, from certain articles
in the Moderate journals, that the demands of the Jewish and Christian
financiers were increasing daily, that the patriotism of the banks required a
civilizing expedition to Nigritia, and that the steel trusts, eager in the
defence of our coasts and colonies, were crying out for armoured cruisers and
still more armoured cruisers. Rumours of war began to be heard. Such rumours
sprang up every year as regularly as the trade winds; serious people paid no
heed to them and the government usually let them die away from their own
weakness unless they grew stronger and spread. For in that case the country
would be alarmed. The financiers only wanted colonial wars and the people did
not want any wars at all. It loved to see its government proud and even
insolent, but at the least suspicion that a European war was brewing, its
violent emotion would quickly have reached the House. Paul Visire was not
uneasy. The European situation was in his view completely reassuring. He was
only irritated by the maniacal silence of his Minister of Foreign Affairs.
That gnome went to the Cabinet meetings with a portfolio bigger than himself
stuffed full of papers, said nothing, refused to answer all questions, even
those asked him by the respected President of the Republic, and, exhausted by
his obstinate labours, took a few moments' sleep in his arm-chair in which
nothing but the top of his little black head was to be seen above the green

In the mean time Hippolyte Ceres became a strong man again. In company with
his colleague Lapersonne he formed numerous intimacies with ladies of the
theatre. They were both to be seen at night entering fashionable restaurants
in the company of ladies whom they over-topped by their lofty stature and
their new hats, and they were soon reckoned amongst the most sympathetic
frequenters of the boulevards. Fortune Lapersonne had his own wound beneath
his armour, His wife, a young milliner whom he carried off from a marquis, had
gone to live with a chauffeur. He loved her still, and could not console
himself for her loss, so that very often in the private room of a restaurant,
in the midst of a group of girls who laughed and ate crayfish, the two
ministers exchanged a look full of their common sorrow and wiped away an
unbidden tear.

Hippolyte Ceres, although wounded to the heart, did not allow himself to be
beaten. He swore that he would be avenged.

Madame Paul Visire, whose deplorable health forced her to live with her
relatives in a distant province, received an anonymous letter specifying that
M. Paul Visire, who had not a half-penny when he married her, was spending her
dowry on a married woman, E-- C--, that he gave this woman
thirty-thousand-franc motor-cars, and pearl necklaces costing twenty-five
thousand francs, and that he was going straight to dishonour and ruin. Madame
Paul Visire read the letter, fell into hysterics, and handed it to her father.

"I am going to box your husband's ears," said M. Blampignon; "he is a
blackguard who will land you both in the workhouse unless we look out. He may
be Prime Minister, but he won't frighten me."

When he stepped off the train M. Blampignon presented himself at the Ministry
of the Interior, and was immediately received. He entered the Prime Minister's
room in a fury.

"I have something to say to you, sir!" And he waved the anonymous letter.

Paul Visire welcomed him smiling.

"You are welcome, my dear father. I was going to write to you. . . . Yes, to
tell you of your nomination to the rank of officer of the Legion of Honour. I
signed the patent this morning."

M. Blampignon thanked his son-in-law warmly and threw the anonymous letter
into the fire.

He returned to his provincial house and found his daughter fretting and

"Well! I saw your husband. He is a delightful fellow. But then, you don't
understand how to deal with him."

About this time Hippolyte Ceres learned through a little scandalous newspaper
(it is always through the newspapers that ministers are informed of the
affairs of State) that the Prime Minister dined every evening with
Mademoiselle Lysiane of the Folies Dramatiques, whose charm seemed to have
made a great impression on him. Thenceforth Ceres took a gloomy joy in
watching his wife. She came in every evening to dine or dress with an air of
agreeable fatigue and the serenity that comes from enjoyment.

Thinking that she knew nothing, he sent her anonymous communications. She read
them at the table before him and remained still listless and smiling.

He then persuaded himself that she gave no heed to these vague reports, and
that in order to disturb her it would be necessary to enable her to verify her
lover's infidelity and treason for herself. There were at the Ministry a
number of trustworthy agents charged with secret inquiries regarding the
national defence. They were then employed in watching the spies of a
neighbouring and hostile Power who had succeeded in entering the Postal and
Telegraphic service. M. Ceres ordered them to suspend their work for the
present and to inquire where, when, and how, the Minister of the Interior saw
Mademoiselle Lysiane. The agents performed their missions faithfully and told
the minister that they had several times seen the Prime Minister with a woman,
but that she was not Mademoiselle Lysiane. Hippolyte Ceres asked them nothing
further. He was right; the loves of Paul Visire and Lysiane were but an alibi
invented by Paul Visire himself, with Eveline's approval, for his fame was
rather inconvenient to her, and she sighed for secrecy and mystery.

They were not shadowed by the agents of the Ministry of Commerce alone. They
were also followed by those of the Prefect of Police, and even by those of the
Minister of the Interior, who disputed with each other the honour of
protecting their chief. Then there were the emissaries of several royalist,
imperialist, and clerical organisations, those of eight or ten blackmailers,
several amateur detectives, a multitude of reporters, and a crowd of
photographers, who all made their appearance wherever these two took refuge in
their perambulating love affairs, at big hotels, small hotels, town houses,
country houses, private apartments, villas, museums, palaces, hovels. They
kept watch in the streets, from neighbouring houses, trees, walls,
stair-cases, landings, roofs, adjoining rooms, and even chimneys. The Minister
and his friend saw with alarm all round their bed room, gimlets boring through
doors and shutters, and drills making holes in the walls. A photograph of
Madame Ceres in night attire buttoning her boots was the utmost that had been

Paul Visire grew impatient and irritable, and often lost his good humour and
agreeableness. He came to the cabinet meetings in a rage and he, too, poured
invectives upon General Debonnaire--a brave man under fire but a lax
disciplinarian--and launched his sarcasms at against the venerable admiral
Vivier des Murenes whose ships went to the bottom without any apparent reason.

Fortune Lapersonne listened open-eyed, and grumbled scoffingly between his

"He is not satisfied with robbing Hippolyte Ceres of his wife, but he must go
and rob him of his catchwords too."

These storms were made known by the indiscretion of some ministers and by the
complaints of the two old warriors, who declared their intention of flinging
their portfolios at the beggar's head, but who did nothing of the sort. These
outbursts, far from injuring the lucky Prime Minister, had an excellent effect
on Parliament and public opinion, who looked on them as signs of a keen
solicitude for the welfare of the national army and navy. The Prime Minister
was the recipient of general approbation.

To the congratulations of the various groups and of notable personages, he
replied with simple firmness: "Those are my principles!" and he had seven or
eight Socialists put in prison.

The session ended, and Paul Visire, very exhausted, went to take the waters.
Hippolyte Ceres refused to leave his Ministry, where the trade union of
telephone girls was in tumultuous agitation. He opposed it with an unheard of
violence, for he had now become a woman-hater. On Sundays he went into the
suburbs to fish along with his colleague Lapersonne, wearing the tall hat that
never left him since he had become a Minister. And both of them, forgetting
the fish,, complained of the inconstancy of women and mingled their griefs.

Hippolyte still loved Eveline and he still suffered. However, hope had slipped
into his heart. She was now separated from her ]over, and, thinking to win her
back, he directed all his efforts to that end. He put forth all his skill,
showed himself sincere, adaptable, affectionate, devoted, even discreet; his
heart taught him the delicacies of feeling. He said charming and touching
things to the faithless one, and, to soften her, he told her all that he had

Crossing the band of his trousers upon his stomach.

"See," said he, "how thin I have got."

He promised her everything he thought could gratify a woman, country parties,
hats, jewels.

Sometimes he thought she would take pity on him.

She no longer displayed an insolently happy countenance. Being separated from
Paul, her sadness had an air of gentleness. But the moment he made a gesture
to recover her she turned away fiercely and gloomily, girt with her fault as
if with a golden girdle.

He did not give up, making himself humble, suppliant, lamentable.

One day he went to Lapersonne and said to him with tears in his eyes:

"Will you speak to her?"

Lapersonne excused himself, thinking that his intervention would be useless,
but he gave some advice to his friend.

"Make her think that you don't care about her, that you love another, and she
will come back to you."

Hippolyte, adopting this method, inserted in the newspapers that he was always
to be found in the company of Mademoiselle Guinaud of the Opera. He came home
late or did not come home at all, assumed in Eveline's presence an appearance
of inward joy impossible to restrain, took out of his pocket, at dinner, a
letter on scented paper which he pretended to read with delight, and his lips
seemed as in a dream to kiss invisible lips. Nothing happened. Eveline did not
even notice the change. Insensible to all around her, she only came out of her
lethargy to ask for some louis from her husband, and if he did not give them
she threw him a look of contempt, ready to upbraid him with the shame which
she poured upon him in the sight of the whole world. Since she had loved she
spent a great deal on dress. She needed money, and she had only her husband to
secure it for her; she was so far faithful to him.

He lost patience, became furious, and threatened her with his revolver. He
said one day before her to Madame Clarence:

"I congratulate you, Madame; you have brought up your daughter to be a wanton

"Take me away, Mamma," exclaimed Eveline. "I will get a divorce!"

He loved her more ardently than ever. In his jealous rage, suspecting her, not
without probability, of sending and receiving letters, he swore that he would
intercept them, re-established a censorship over the post, threw private
correspondence into confusion, delayed stock-exchange quotations, prevented
assignations, brought about bankruptcies, thwarted passions, and caused
suicides. The independent press gave utterance to the complaints of the public
and indignantly supported them. To justify these arbitrary measures, the
ministerial journals spoke darkly of plots and public dangers, and promoted a
belief in a monarchical conspiracy. The less well-informed sheets gave more
precise information, told of the seizure of fifty thousand guns, and the
landing of Prince Crucho. Feeling grew throughout the country, and the
republican organs called for the immediate meeting of Parliament. Paul Visire
returned to Paris, summoned his colleagues, held an important Cabinet Council,
and proclaimed through his agencies that a plot had been actually formed
against the national representation, but that the Prime Minister held the
threads of it in his hand, and that a judicial inquiry was about to be opened.

He immediately ordered the arrest of thirty Socialists, and whilst the entire
country was acclaiming him as its saviour, baffling the watchfulness of his
six hundred detectives, he secretly took Eveline to a little house near the
Northern railway station, where they remained until night. After their
departure, the maid of their hotel, as she was putting their room in order,
saw seven little crosses traced by a hairpin on the wall at the head of the

That is all that Hippolyte Ceres obtained as a reward of his efforts.


Jealousy is a virtue of democracies which preserves them from tyrants.
Deputies began to envy the Prime Minister his golden key. For a year his
domination over the beauteous Madame Ceres had been known to the whole
universe. The provinces, whither news and fashions only arrive after a
complete revolution of the earth round the sun, were at last informed of the
illegitimate loves of the Cabinet. The provinces preserve an austere morality;
women are more virtuous there than they are in the capital.

Various reasons have been alleged for this: Education, example, simplicity of
life. Professor Haddock asserts that this virtue of provincial ladies is
solely due to the fact that the heels of their shoes are low. "A woman," said
he, in a learned article in the "Anthropological Review", "a woman attracts a
civilized man in proportion as her feet make an angle with the ground. If this
angle is as much as thirty-five degrees, the attraction becomes acute. For the
position of the feet upon the ground determines the whole carriage of the
body, and it results that provincial women, since they wear low heels, are not
very attractive, and preserve their virtue with ease." These conclusions were
not generally accepted. It was objected that under the influence of English
and American fashions, low heels had been introduced generally without
producing the results attributed to them by the learned Professor; moreover,
it was said that the difference he pretended to establish between the morals
of the metropolis and those of the provinces is perhaps illusory, and that if
it exists, it is apparently due to the fact that great cities offer more
advantages and facilities for love than small towns provide. However that may
be, the provinces began to murmur against the Prime Minister, and to raise a
scandal. This was not yet a danger, but there was a possibility that it might
become one.

For the moment the peril was nowhere and yet everywhere. The majority remained
solid; but the leaders became stiff and exacting. Perhaps Hippolyte Ceres
would never have intentionally sacrificed his interests to his vengeance. But
thinking that he could henceforth, without compromising his own fortune,
secretly damage that of Paul Visire, he devoted himself to the skilful and
careful preparation of difficulties and perils for the Head of the Government.
Though far from equalling his rival in talent, knowledge, and authority, he
greatly surpassed him in his skill as a lobbyist. The most acute
parliamentarians attributed the recent misfortunes of the majority to his
refusal to vote. At committees, by a calculated imprudence, he favoured
motions which he knew the Prime Minister could not accept. One day his
intentional awkwardness provoked a sudden and violent conflict between the
Minister of the Interior, and his departmental Treasurer. Then Ceres became
frightened and went no further. It would have been dangerous for him to
overthrow the ministry too soon. His ingenious hatred found an issue by
circuitous paths. Paul Visire had a poor cousin of easy morals who bore his
name. Ceres, remembering this lady, Celine Visire, brought her into
prominence, arranged that she should become intimate with several foreigners,
and procured her engagements in the music-halls. One summer night, on a stage
in the Champs Elysees before a tumultuous crowd, she performed risky dances to
the sounds of wild music which was audible in the gardens where the President
of the Republic was entertaining Royalty. The name of Visire, associated with
these scandals, covered the walls of the town, filled the newspapers, was
repeated in the cafes and at balls, and blazed forth in letters of fire upon
the boulevards.

Nobody regarded the Prime Minister as responsible for the scandal of his
relatives, but a bad idea of his family came into existence, and the influence
of the statesman was diminished.

Almost immediately he was made to feel this in a pretty sharp fashion. One day
in the House, on a simple question, Labillette, the Minister of Religion and
Public Worship, who was suffering from an attack of liver, and beginning to be
exasperated by the intentions and intrigues of the clergy, threatened to close
the Chapel of St. Orberosia, and spoke without respect of the National Virgin.
The entire Right rose up in indignation; the Left appeared to give but a
half-hearted support to the rash Minister. The leaders of the majority did not
care to attack a popular cult which brought thirty millions a year into the
country. The most moderate of the supporters of the Right, M. Bigourd, made
the question the subject of a resolution and endangered the Cabinet. Luckily,
Fortune Lapersonne, the Minister of Public Works, always conscious of the
obligations of power, was able in the Prime Minister's absence to repair the
awkwardness and indecorum of his colleague, the Minister of Public Worship. He
ascended the tribune and bore witness to the respect in which the Government
held the heavenly Patron of the country, the consoler of so many ills which
science admitted its powerlessness to relieve.

When Paul Visire, snatched at last from Eveline's arms, appeared in the House,
the administration was saved; but the Prime Minister saw himself compelled to
grant important concessions to the upper classes. He proposed in Parliament
that six armoured cruisers should be laid down, and thus won the sympathies of
the Steel Trust; he gave new assurances that the income tax would not be
imposed, and he had eighteen Socialists arrested.

He was soon to find himself opposed by more formidable obstacles. The
Chancellor of the neighbouring Empire in an ingenious and profound speech upon
the foreign relations of his sovereign, made a sly allusion to the intrigues
that inspired the policy of a great country. This reference, which was receive
with smiles by the Imperial Parliament, was certain to irritate a punctilious
republic. It aroused the national susceptibility, which directed its wrath
against its amorous Minister. The Deputies seized upon a frivolous pretext to
show their dissatisfaction. A ridiculous incident, the fact that the wife of a
subprefect had danced at the Moulin Rouge, forced the minister to face a vote
of censure, and he was within a few votes of being defeated. According to
general opinion, Paul Visire had never been so weak, so vacillating, or so
spiritless, as on that occasion.

He understood that he could only keep himself in office by a great political
stroke, and he decided on the expedition to Nigritia. This measure was
demanded by the great financial and industrial corporations and was one which
would bring concessions of immense forests to the capitalists, a loan of eight
millions to the banking companies, as well as promotions and decorations to
the naval and military officers. A pretext presented itself; some insult
needed to be avenged, or some debt to be collected. Six battleships, fourteen
cruisers, and eighteen transports sailed up the mouth of the river
Hippopotamus. Six hundred canoes vainly opposed the landing of the troops.
Admiral Vivier des Murenes' cannons produced an appalling effect upon the
blacks, who replied to them with flights of arrows, but in spite of their
fanatical courage they were entirely defeated. Popular enthusiasm was kindled
by the newspapers which the financiers subsidised, and burst into a blaze.
Some Socialists alone protested against this barbarous, doubtful, and
dangerous enterprise. They were at once arrested.

At that moment when the Minister, supported by wealth, and now beloved by the
poor, seemed unconquerable, the light of hate showed Hippolyte Ceres alone the
danger, and looking with a gloomy joy at his rival, he muttered between his
teeth, "He is wrecked, the brigand!"

Whilst the country intoxicated itself with glory, the neighbouring Empire
protested against the occupation of Nigritia by a European power, and these
protests following one another at shorter and shorter intervals became more
and more vehement. The newspapers of the interested Republic concealed all
causes for uneasiness; but Hippolyte Ceres heard the growing menace, and
determined at last to risk everything, even the fate of the ministry, in order
to ruin his enemy. He got men whom he could trust to write and insert articles
in several of the official journals, which, seeming to express Paul Visire's
precise views, attributed warlike intentions to the Head of the Government.

These articles roused a terrible echo abroad, and they alarmed the public
opinion of a nation which, while fond of soldiers, was not fond of war.
Questioned in the House on the foreign policy of his government, Paul Visire
made a re-assuring statement, and promised to maintain a face compatible with
the dignity of a great nation. His Minister of Foreign Affairs, Crombile, read
a declaration which was absolutely unintelligible, for the reason that it was
couched in diplomatic language. The Minister obtained a large majority.

But the rumours of war did not cease, and in order to avoid a new and
dangerous motion, the Prime Minister distributed eighty thousand acres of
forests in Nigritia among the Deputies, and had fourteen Socialists arrested.
Hippolyte Ceres went gloomily about the lobbies, confiding to the Deputies of
his group that he was endeavouring to induce the Cabinet to adopt a pacific
policy, and that he still hoped to succeed. Day by day the sinister rumours
grew in volume, and penetrating amongst the public, spread uneasiness and
disquiet. Paul Visire himself began to take alarm. What disturbed him most
were the silence and absence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Crombile no
longer came to the meetings of the Cabinet. Rising at five o'clock in the
morning, he worked eighteen hours at his desk, and at last fell exhausted into
his waste-paper basket, from whence the registrars removed him, together with
the papers which they were going to sell to the military attaches of the
neighbouring Empire.

General Debonnaire believed that a campaign was imminent, and prepared for it.
Far from fearing war, he prayed for it, and confided his generous hopes to
Baroness Bildermann, who informed the neighbouring nation, which, acting on
her information, proceeded to a rapid mobilization.

The Minister of Finance unintentionally precipitated events. At the moment, he
was speculating for a fall, and in order to bring about a panic on the Stock
Exchange, he spread the rumour that war was now inevitable. The neighbouring
Empire, deceived by this action, and expecting to see its territory invaded,
mobilized its troops in all haste. The terrified Chamber overthrew the Visire
ministry by an enormous majority (814 votes to 7, with 28 abstentions). It was
too late. The very day of this fall the neighbouring and hostile nation
recalled its ambassador and flung eight millions of men into Madame Ceres'
country. War became universal, and the whole world was drowned in a torrent of


Half a century after the events we have just related, Madame Ceres died
surrounded with respect and veneration, in the eighty-ninth year of her age.
She had long been the widow of a statesman whose name she bore with dignity.
Her modest and quiet funeral was followed by the orphans of the parish and the
sisters of the Sacred Compassion.

The deceased left all her property to the Charity of St. Orberosia.

"Alas!" sighed M. Monnoyer, a canon of St. Mael, as he received the pious
legacy, "it was high time for a generous benefactor to come to the relief of
our necessities. Rich and poor, learned and ignorant are turning away from us.
And when we try to lead back these misguided souls, neither threats nor
promises, neither gentleness nor violence, nor anything else is now
successful. The Penguin clergy pine in desolation; our country priests,
reduced to following the humblest of trades, are shoeless, and compelled to
live upon such scraps as they can pick up. In our ruined churches the rain of
heaven falls upon the faithful, and during the holy offices they can hear the
noise of stones falling from the arches. The tower of the cathedral is
tottering and will soon fall. St. Orberosia is forgotten by the Penguins, her
devotion abandoned, and her sanctuary deserted. On her shrine, bereft of its
gold and precious stones, the spider silently weaves her web."

Hearing these lamentations, Pierre Mille, who at the age of ninety-eight years
had lost nothing of his intellectual and moral power, asked, the canon if he
did not think that St. Orberosia would one day rise out of this wrongful

"I hardly dare to hope so," sighed M. Monnoyer.

"It is a pity!" answered Pierre Mille. "Orberosia is a charming figure and her
legend is a beautiful one. I discovered the other day by the merest chance,
one of her most delightful miracles, the miracle of Jean Violle. Would you
like to hear it, M. Monnoyer?"

"I should be very pleased, M. Mille."

"Here it is, then, just as I found it in a fifteenth-century manuscript

"Cecile, the wife of Nicolas Gaubert, a jeweller on the Pont-au-Change, after
having led an honest and chaste life for many years, and being now past her
prime, became infatuated with Jean Violle, the Countess de Maubec's page, who
lived at the Hotel du Paon on the Place de Greve. He was not yet eighteen
years old, and his face and figure were attractive. Not being able to conquer
her passion, Cecile resolved to satisfy it. She attracted the page to her
house, loaded him with caresses, supplied him with sweetmeats and finally did
as she wished with him.

"Now one day, as they were together in the jeweller's bed, Master Nicholas
came home sooner than he was expected. He found the bolt drawn, and heard his
wife on the other side of the door exclaiming, 'My heart! my angel! my love!'
Then suspecting that she was shut up with a gallant, he struck great blows
upon the door and began to shout 'Slut! hussy! wanton! open so that I may cut
off your nose and ears!' In this peril, the jeweller's wife besought St.
Orberosia, and vowed her a large candle if she helped her and the little page,
who was dying of fear beside the bed, out of their difficulty.

"The saint heard the prayer. She immediately changed Jean Violle into a girl.
Seeing this, Cecile was completely reassured, and began to call out to her
husband: 'Oh! you brutal villain, you jealous wretch! Speak gently if you want
the door to be opened.' And scolding in this way, she ran to the wardrobe and
took out of it an old hood, a pair of stays, and a long grey petticoat, in
which she hastily wrapped the transformed page. Then when this was done,
'Catherine, dear Catherine,' said she, loudly, 'open the door for your uncle;
he is more fool than knave, and won't do you any harm." The boy who had become
a girl, obeyed. Master Nicholas entered the room and found in it a young maid
whom he did not know, and his wife in bed. 'Big booby,' said the latter to
him, 'don't stand gaping at what you see. just as I had come to bed because
had a stomach ache, I received a visit from Catherine, the daughter of my
sister Jeanne de Palaiseau, with whom we quarrelled fifteen years ago. Kiss
your niece. She is well worth the trouble.' The jeweller gave Violle a hug,
and from that moment wanted nothing so much as to be alone with her a moment,
so that he might embrace her as much as he liked. For this reason he led her
without any delay down to the kitchen, under the pretext of giving her some
walnuts and wine, and he was no sooner there with her than he began to caress
her very affectionately. He would not have stopped at that if St. Orberosia
had not inspired his good wife with the idea of seeing what he was about. She
found him with the pretended niece sitting on his knee. She called him a
debauched creature, boxed his ears, and forced him to beg her pardon. The next
day Violle resumed his previous form."

Having heard this story the venerable Canon Monnoyer thanked Pierre Mille for
having told it, and, taking up his pen, began to write out a list of horses
that would win at the next race meeting. For he was a book-maker's clerk.

In the mean time Penguinia gloried in its wealth. Those who produced the
things necessary for life, wanted them; those who did not produce them had
more than enough. "But these," as a member of the Institute said, "are
necessary economic fatalities." The great Penguin people had no longer either
traditions, intellectual culture, or arts. The progress of civilisation
manifested itself among them by murderous industry, infamous speculation, and
hideous luxury. Its capital assumed, as did all the great cities of the time,
a cosmopolitan and financial character. An immense and regular ugliness
reigned within it. The country enjoyed perfect tranquillity. It had reached
its zenith.



Alca is becoming Americanised.--M. Daniset.

And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of
the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.--Genesis xix. 25

{greek here](Herodotus, Histories, VII cii.)

Poverty hast ever been familiar to Greece, but virtue has been acquired,
having been accomplished by wisdom and firm laws.-- Henry Cary's Translation.

Book of the day: