Part 4 out of 13
has lost every human creature she loved on earth, had a rose-tree
she was fond of, and every day she found upon it just one bloom. And
though she longed to gather the flower for herself she would not do
so, but always placed it before the picture of the Christ. And God
saw her do this, as He sees everything. At last, quite suddenly she
died, and when she found herself in Heaven, there were such crowds
and crowds of angels about her that she was bewildered, and could
not find her way. All at once she saw a pathway edged with roses
before her, and one of the angels said, 'These are all the roses you
gave to our Lord on earth, and He has made them into a pathway for
you which will lead you straight to those you love!' And so with
great joy she followed the windings of the path, seeing her roses
blossoming all the way, and she found all those whom she had loved
and lost on earth waiting to welcome her at the end!"
"A pretty fancy," said the Cardinal smiling, "And, as not even a
thought is wasted, who knows if it might not prove true?"
"Surely the beautiful must be the true always!" said Manuel.
"Not so, my child,--a fair face may hide an evil soul."
"But only for a little while," answered the boy, "The evil soul must
leave its impress on the face in time, if life lasts long enough."
"That is quite possible," said Bonpre, "In fact, I think it often
happens,--only there are some people who simulate the outward show
of goodness and purity perfectly, while inwardly 'they are as
ravening wolves,' and they never seem to drop the mask. Others
again--" Here he paused and looked anxiously at his young companion,
"I wonder what you will be like when you grow up, Manuel!"
"But if I never grow up, what then?" asked Manuel with a smile.
"Never grow up? You mean--"
"I mean if I die," said Manuel, "or pass through what is called
dying before I grow up?"
"God forbid!" said the Cardinal gently, "I would have you live--"
"But why," persisted Manuel, "since death is a better life?"
Bonpre looked at him wistfully.
"But if you grow up and are good and great, you may be wanted in the
world," he said.
An expression of deep pain swept like a shadow across the boy's fair
"Oh no!" he said quietly, "the world does not want me! And yet I
love the world--not because it is a world, for there are millions
upon millions of worlds,--they are as numerous as flowers in a
garden--but because it is a sorrowful world,--a mistaken world,--and
because all the creatures in it have something of God in them. Yes,
I love the world!--but the world does not love me."
He spoke in a tone of gentle pathos, with the resigned and patient
air of one who feels the burden of solitude and the sense of
miscomprehension. And closing the Testament he held he rested his
clasped hands upon it, and for a moment seemed lost in sorrowful
"I love you," said the Cardinal tenderly, "And I will take care of
you as well as I can."
Manuel looked up at him.
"And that will be well indeed, my lord Cardinal!" he said softly,
"And you serve a Master who will hereafter say to you, remembering
your goodness,--'Verily, in asmuch as ye have done it unto the least
of my brethren ye have done it unto Me.'"
He smiled; and the Cardinal meeting his glance wondered whether it
was the strong level light of the sinking sun through the window-
pane that made such a glory shine upon his face, and gave such a
brilliancy to his deep and steadfast eyes.
Meanwhile, Angela Sovrani was detained in her studio by the
fascinating company and bewildering chatter of a charming and very
well-known personage in Europe,--a dainty, exquisitely dressed piece
of femininity with the figure of a sylph and the complexion of a
Romney "Lady Hamilton,"--the Comtesse Sylvie Hermenstein, an Austro-
Hungarian of the prettiest and most bewitching type, who being a
thorough bohemienne in spirit, and having a large fortune at her
disposal, travelled everywhere, saw everything, and spent great sums
of money not only in amusing herself, but in doing good wherever she
went. By society in general, she was voted "thoroughly heartless,"--
when as a matter of fact she had too much heart, and gave her
"largesse" of sympathy somewhat too indiscriminately. Poor people
worshipped her,--the majority of the rich envied her because most of
them had ties and she had none. She might have married scores of
times, but she took a perverse pleasure in "drawing on" her admirers
till they were just on the giddy brink of matrimony,--then darting
off altogether she left them bewildered, confused, and not a little
"They tell me I cannot love, cara mia," she was saying now to Angela
who sat in pleased silence, studying her form, her colouring, and
her animated expression; with all the ardour of an artist who knows
how difficult it is to catch the swift and variable flashes of
beauty on the face of a pretty woman, who is intelligent as well as
personally charming. "They tell me I have no heart at all. Me--
Sylvie!--no heart! Helas!--I am all heart! But to love one of those
stupid heavy men, who think that just to pull a moustache and smile
is sufficient to make a conquest--ah, no!--not for me! Yet I am now
in love!--truly!--ah, you laugh!--" and she laughed herself, shaking
her pretty head, adorned with its delicate "creation" in gossamer
and feathers, which was supposed to be a hat--"Yes, I am in love
with the Marquis Fontenelle! Ah!--le beau Marquis! He is so
extraordinary!--so beautiful!--so wicked! It must be that I love
him, or why should I trouble myself about him?"
She spread out her tiny gloved hands appealingly, with a delightful
little shrug of her shoulders, and again Angela laughed.
"He is good-looking, certainly," she said, "He is very like
Miraudin. They might almost be brothers."
"Miraudin, ce cher Miraudin!" exclaimed the Comtesse gaily, "The
greatest actor in Europe! Yes, truly!--I go to the theatre to look
at him and I almost fancy I am in love with him instead of
Fontenelle, till I remember he stage-manages;--ah!--then I shudder!-
-and my shudder kills my love! After all it is only his resemblance
to the Marquis that causes the love,--and perhaps the shudder!"
"Sylvie, Sylvie!" laughed Angela, "Can you not be serious? What do
"I mean what I say," declared Sylvie, "Miraudin used to be the
darling of all the sentimental old maids and little school-girls who
did not know him off the stage. In Paris, in Rome, in Vienna, in
Buda-Pesth--always a conqueror of ignorant women who saw him in his
beautiful 'make-up'! Yes, he was perfectly delightful,--this big
Miraudin, till he became his own manager and his own leading actor
as well! Helas! What it is to be a manager! Do you know? It is to
keep a harem like a grand Turk;--and woe betide the woman who joins
the company without understanding that she is to be one of the many!
The sultana is the 'leading lady'. Poor Miraudin!--he must have many
little faggots to feed his flame! Oh, you look so shocked! But the
Marquis is just like him,--he also stage-manages."
"In what way?"
"Ah, he has an enormous theatre,--the world! A big stage,--society!
The harem is always being replenished! And he plays his part so
well! He has what the wise-acrescall 'perverted morals',--they are
so charming!--and he will not marry. He says, 'Why give myself to
one when I can make so many happy!' And why will not I, Sylvie
Hermenstein, be one of those many? Why will I not yield to the
embraces of Monsieur le beau Marquis? Not to marry him,--oh, no! so
free a bird could not have his wings clipped! And why will I not see
the force of this?--"
She stopped, for Angela sprang towards her exclaiming,
"Sylvie! Do you mean to tell me that the Marquis Fontenelle is such
"Tais-toi! Dear little flame of genius, how you blaze!" cried
Sylvie, catching her friend by the hand and kissing it, "Do not call
Fontenelle a villain--he is too charming!--and he is only like a
great many other men. He is a bold and passionate person; I rather
like such characters,--and I really am afraid--afraid--" here she
hesitated, then resumed, "He loves me for the moment, Angela, and I-
-I very much fear I love him for a little longer than that! C'est
terrible! He is by no means worthy of it,--no, but what does that
matter! We women never count the cost of loving--we simply love! If
I see much of him I shall probably sink into the Quartier Latin of
love--for there is a Quartier Latin as well as a high class Faubourg
in the passion,--I prefer the Faubourg I confess, because it is so
high, and respectable, and clean, and grand--but--"
"Sylvie," said Angela determinedly, "You must come away from Paris,-
-you must not see this man--"
"That is what I have arranged to do," said Sylvie, her beautiful
violet eyes flashing with mirth and malice intermingled, "I am
flying from Paris . . . I shall perhaps go to Rome in order to be near
you. You are a living safety in a storm,--you are so serene and
calm. And then you have a lover who believes in the ideal and
Angela smiled,--and Sylvie Hermenstein noted the warm and tender
flush of pleasure that spread over her fair face.
"Yes, Florian is an idealist," she said, "There is nothing of the
brute in him."
"And you think Fontenelle a brute?" queried Sylvie, "Yes, I suppose
he is; but I have sometimes thought that all men are very much
alike,--except Florian!" She paused, looking rather dubiously, and
with a touch of compassion at Angela, "Well!--you deserve to be
happy, child, and I hope you will be! For myself, I am going to run
away from Monsieur le Marquis with as much speed as if I had stolen
"It is the best thing you can do," said Angela with a little sigh of
relief, "I am glad you are resolved."
Comtesse Sylvie rose from her chair and moved about the studio with
a pretty air of impatience.
"If his love for me could last," she said, "I might stay! I would
love him with truth and passion, and I would so influence him that
he should become one of the most brilliant leading men of his time.
For he has all the capabilities of genius,--but they are dormant,--
and the joys of self-indulgence appeal to him more strongly than
high ambition and attainment. And he could not love any women for
more than a week or a month at most,--in which temperament he
exactly resembles the celebrated Miraudin. Now I do not care to be
loved for a week or a month--I wish to be loved for always,--for
always!" she said with emphasis, "Just as your Florian loves you."
Angela's eyes grew soft and pensive.
"Few men are like Florian," she said. Again Sylvie looked at her
doubtfully, and there was a moment's silence. Then Sylvie resumed.
"Will you help me to give a little lesson to Monsieur le Marquis,
"Willingly, if I can. But how?"
"In this way. It is a little drama! To-morrow is Saturday and you
'receive.' 'Tout Paris', artistic Paris, at any rate, flocks to your
studio. Your uncle, the Cardinal Bonpre, is known to be with you,
and your visitors will be still more numerous. I have promised
Fontenelle to meet him here. I am to give him his answer--"
"To what?" enquired Angela.
"To his proposal."
"Dear me, no!" And Sylvie smiled, but there was a look of pain in
her eyes, "He has an idyllic house buried in the Foret St. Germain,
and he wants me to take possession . . . you know the rest! He is a
villain? Yes--he is like Miraudin, who has a luxurious flat in Paris
and sends each lady of his harem there in turn. How angry you look!
But, my dear, I am not going to the house in the Foret, and I shall
not meet him here. He will come--looking charming as usual, and he
will wait for me; but I shall not arrive. All I want you to do for
me is to receive him very kindly, talk to him very sweetly, and tell
him quite suddenly that I have left Paris."
"What good will that do?" enquired Angela, "Could you not write it
"Of course I could write it to him but--" Here Sylvie paused and
turned away her head. Angela, moved by quick instinct, went to her
and put her arm around her waist.
"Now there are tears in your eyes, Sylvie," she said, "You are
suffering for this man's heartlessness and cruelty. For it IS
heartless,--it is insulting, and selfish, and cruel to offer you
nothing but dishonour if he knows you love him."
Sylvie took out a tiny cobweb of a lace handkerchief and dried her
"No, I will not have him called heartless, or cruel," she said, "He
is merely one of his class. There are hundreds like him in Paris.
Never mind my tears!--they are nothing. There are hundreds of women
who would accept his proposals,--and he thinks I must be like them,-
-ready to fall into his arms like a ripe peach at a touch! He thinks
all I say to him is an assumed affectation of virtue, and that he
can easily break down that slight barricade. He tells me I am a
charming preacher, but that he could never learn anything from
sermons!" She laughed, "Oh, he is incorrigible! But I want you to
let him know that for once he is mistaken. Will you? And you shall
not have to say even the smallest figment of an untruth,--your news
will be quite correct--for I leave Paris to-morrow morning."
She was very quiet now as she spoke--her brilliant eyes were dark
with thought, and her delicate face wore a serious, almost
"Dear Sylvie!" said Angela, kissing her soft cheek, "You really care
for this wretched man?"
"I am not sure," she answered with a touch of hesitation in her
voice, "I think I do--and yet despise myself for it!--but--who knows
what wonders change of air and scene may work! You see, if I go away
he will forget at once, and will trouble himself about me no more."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Well, no, I cannot be quite certain,--you see no woman has ever
avoided him,--it will be quite a new experience for him, and a
strange one!" Her laughter rippled out musically on the air.
"Positively I do not think he will ever get over it!"
"I begin to understand," said Angela, "You wish to make this callous
man of the world realise that a woman may be beautiful, and
brilliant, and independent, and yet live a pure, good life amid
"Yes,--I wish him to feel that all women are not to be led away by
flattery, or even by the desire to be loved, which is the hardest
temptation of all to resist! Nothing so hard as that, Angela!
Nothing so hard! I have often thought what a contemptible creature
Goethe's Gretchen was to allow herself to be tempted to ruin with a
box of jewels! Jewels! Worthless baubles! I would not cross the road
to look at the biggest diamond in the world! But to be loved! To
feel that you are all in all to one man out of the whole world! That
would be glorious! That I have never felt--that I shall never know!"
Angela looked at her sympathetically,--what a strange thing it was,
she thought, that this pretty creature, with her winsome, bright,
bewitching ways, should be craving for love, while she, Angela
Sovrani, was elected to the happiness of having the absolute
devotion of such an ideal lover as Florian Varillo!
"But I am becoming quite tragic in my remarks," went on Sylvie,
resuming her usual gaiety, "Melodramatic, as they say! If I go on in
this manner I shall qualify to be the next 'leading lady' to
Miraudin! Quelle honneur! Good-bye Angela;--I will not tell you
where I am going lest Fontenelle should ask you,--and then you would
have to commit yourself to a falsehood,--it is enough to say I have
"Shall I see you again soon?" said Angela, holding her by both hands
and looking at her anxiously.
"Yes, very soon, before the winter is over at any rate. You sweet,
calm, happy Angela! I wonder if anything could ever whip you in a
"Would you like to see me in a stormy humour?" asked Angela,
"No, not exactly;--but,--you are TOO quiet,--too secure--too
satisfied in your art and your surroundings; and you do not enter at
all into the passions and griefs of other people. You are absorbed
in your love and your work,--a beautiful existence! Only I hope the
gods will not wake you up some day!"
"I am not asleep," said Angela, "nor dreaming."
"Yes you are! You dream of beautiful things,--and the world is full
of ugly ones; you dream of love and constancy, and purity,--and the
world is full of spite, and hate, and bribery, and wickedness; you
have a world of your own,--but Angela, it is a glass world!--in
which only the exquisite colours of your own soul are reflected,
take care that the pretty globe does not break!--for if it does you
will never be able to put it together again! Adieu!"
"Adieu!" and Angela returned her loving embrace with equal
affection, "I will announce your departure to the Marquis Fontenelle
"You will? Sweet Angela! And when you hear from me, and know where I
am, you will write me a long, long letter and tell me how he looked,
and what he said, and whether he seemed sorry or indifferent, or
angry, or ashamed--or--"
Before she could finish the sentence the studio door was thrown
open, and the servant announced, "Monsieur le Marquis Fontenelle!"
A moment's flashing glance of half-amused dismay at Angela, and the
Comtesse Sylvie had vanished. Passing quickly behind one of the
several tall tapestry screens that adorned the studio, she slipped
away through a little private door at which Angela's "models"
presented themselves, a door which led into the garden and then into
the Bois, and making straight for her carriage which was in waiting
round the corner, she sprang into it and was rapidly driven away.
Meanwhile, Angela Sovrani, rather bewildered by her friend's swift
departure, was left alone to face the Marquis, who entered almost on
the heels of the servant who announced him, and in one swift survey
of the studio saw that the object of his search was not there.
Concealing his disappointment, however, under an admirable show of
elegant indifference, he advanced towards Angela and saluted her
with a courtly old-world grace that very well became his handsome
face and figure.
"I must apologise for this intrusion," he said, speaking in deep,
soft accents which gave a singular charm to his simplest words,
"But--to be quite frank with you--I thought I should find the
Comtesse Hermenstein here."
Angela smiled. In her heart she considered the man a social
reprobate, but it was impossible to hear him speak, and equally
impossible to look at him without a vague sense of pleasure in his
"Sylvie was here a moment ago," she answered, still smiling.
The Marquis took one or two quick impulsive steps forward--then
checking himself, stopped short, and selecting a chair deliberately
"I understand!" he said, "She wished to avoid me, and she has done
so. Well!--I would not run after her for the world. She must be
Angela looked at him with a somewhat puzzled air. She felt herself
in a delicate and awkward position. To be of any use in this affair
now seemed quite impossible. Her commission was to have told the
Marquis that Sylvie had left Paris, but she could not say that now
as Sylvie was still in the city. Was she supposed to know anything
about the Marquis's dishonourable proposals to her friend? Surely
not! Then what was she to do? She stood hesitating, glancing at the
fine, clear-cut, clean-shaven face of Fontenelle, the broad
intellectual brows, and the brilliant hazel eyes with their languid,
half-satirical expression, and her perplexity increased. Certainly
he was a man with a grand manner,--the manner of one of those never-
to-be-forgotten haughty and careless aristocrats of the "Reign of
Terror" who half redeemed their vicious lives by the bravery with
which they faced the guillotine. Attracted, yet repelled by him,
Angela had always been,--even when she had known no more of him than
is known of a casual acquaintance met at different parties and
reunions, but now that she was aware of Sylvie's infatuation, the
mingled attraction and revulsion became stronger, and she caught
herself wishing fervently that the Marquis would rouse himself from
his lethargy of pleasure, and do justice to the capabilities which
Nature had evidently endowed him with, if a fine head and noble
features are to be taken as exponents of character. Fontenelle
himself, meanwhile, leaning carelessly back in the chair he had
taken, looked at her with a little quizzical lifting of his
"You are very silent, mademoiselle," he broke out at last, "Have you
nothing to say to me?"
At this straight question Angela recovered her equanimity.
"I HAD something to say to you, Marquis," she answered quietly, "but
it was to have been said to-morrow."
"To-morrow? Ah, yes! You receive your world of art to-morrow," he
said, "and I was to come and meet la Comtesse,--and of course she
would not have been here! I felt that by a natural instinct!
Something psychological--something occult! I saw her carriage pass
my windows up the Champs Elysees,--and I followed in a common
fiacre. I seldom ride in a common fiacre, but this time I did so. It
was an excitement--la chasse! I saw the little beauty arrive at your
door,--I gave her time to pour out all her confidences,--and then I
arranged with myself and le bon Dieu to escort her home."
"You arranged well," said Angela, inclined to laugh at his easy
audacity, "but le bon Dieu was evidently not of your opinion,--and
you must remember that the most excellent arrangements are not
always carried out."
"True!" and Fontenelle smiled, "In the case of the fascinating
Sylvie, I do not know when I have had so much trouble about a woman.
It is interesting, but vexatious. Sometimes I think I shall have to
give up and gallop off the hunting-field altogether--"
"Excuse me, Marquis," said Angela coldly, "Sylvie Hermenstein is my
friend--pray understand that I cannot allow her to be spoken of in
the tone of badinage you are pleased to assume."
He looked up with a curious air of surprise and mock penitence.
"Pardon! But there is no badinage at all about the very serious
position in which I find myself," he said, "You, mademoiselle, as a
woman, have not the slightest idea of the anxiety and trouble your
charming sex gives to ours. That is, of course, when you are
charming--which is not always. Now Sylvie, your friend Sylvie--is so
distinctly charming that she becomes provoking and irritating. I am
sure she has told you I am a terrible villain . . ."
"She has never said so,--never spoken one word against you!"
"No? That is curious--very curious! But then Sylvie is curious. You
see the position is this;--I wish to give her all I am worth in the
world, but she will not have it,--I wish to love her, but she will
not be loved--"
"Perhaps," said Angela, gaining courage to speak plainly, "Perhaps
your love is not linked with honour?"
"Honour?" echoed the Marquis, lifting his finely arched eyebrows,
"You mean marriage? No--I confess I am not guilty of so much
impudence. For why should the brilliant Sylvie become the Marquise
Fontenelle? It would be a most unhappy fate for her, because if
there WERE a Marquise Fontenelle, my principles would oblige me to
"You would detest your own wife!" said Angela surprised.
"Naturally! It is the fashion. To love one's wife would be petite
bourgoisie--nothing more absurd! It is the height of good form to
neglect one's wife and adore one's mistress,--the arrangement works
perfectly and keeps a man well balanced,--perpetual complaint on one
side, perpetual delight on the other."
He laughed, and his eyes twinkled satirically.
"Are you serious?" asked Angela.
"I never was more serious in my life," declared the Marquis
emphatically, "With all my heart I wish to make the delicious pink
and white Sylvie happy,--I am sure I could succeed in my way. If I
should ever allow myself to do such a dull thing as to marry,--
imagine it!--such a dull and altogether prosy thing!--my gardener
did it yesterday;--I should of course choose a person with a
knowledge of housekeeping and small details,--her happiness it would
be quite unnecessary to consider. The maintenance of the
establishment, the servants, and the ever increasing train of
milliners and dressmakers would be enough to satisfy Madame la
Marquise's ambitions. But for Sylvie,--half-fairy, half-angel as she
is,--there must be poetry and moonlight, flowers, and romance, and
music, and tender nothings,--marriage does not consort with these
delights. If you were a little school-girl, dear Donna Sovrani, I
should not talk to you in this way,--it would not be proper,--it
would savour of Lord Byron, and Maeterlinck, and Heinrich Heine, and
various other wicked persons. It would give you what the dear
governesses would call 'les idees folles', but being an artist, a
great artist, you will understand me. Now, you yourself--you will
"I am to be married next year if all is well, to Florian Varillo,"
said Angela, "Surely you know that?"
"I have heard it, but I will not believe it," said the Marquis
airily, "No, no, you will never marry this Florian! Do not tell me
of it! You yourself will regret it. It is impossible! You could not
submit to matrimonial bondage. If you were plain and awkward I
should say to you, marry, and marry quickly, it is the only thing
for you!--but being what you are, charming and gifted, why should
you be married? For protection? Every man who has once had the
honour of meeting you will constitute himself your defender by
natural instinct. For respectability? Ah, but marriage is no longer
respectable,--the whole estate of matrimony is as full of bribery
and corruption as the French War Office."
He threw himself back in his chair and laughed, running one hand
through his hair with a provoking manner of indifferent ease and
"I cannot argue with you on the matter," said Angela, rather
vexedly, "Your ideas of life never will be mine,--women look at
these things differently . . ."
"Poor dear women! Yes!--they do," said the Marquis, "And that is
such a pity,--they spoil all the pleasure of their lives. Now, just
think for a moment what your friend Sylvie is losing! A devoted,
ardent and passionate lover who would spare no pains to make her
happy,--who would cherish her tenderly, and make her days a dream of
romance! I had planned in my mind such a charming boudoir for
Sylvie, all ivory and white satin,--flowers, and a soft warm light
falling through the windows,--imagine Sylvie, with that delicate
face of hers and white rose skin, a sylph clad in floating lace and
drapery, seen in a faint pink hue as of a late sunset! You are an
artist, mademoiselle, and you can picture the fairy-like effect! I
certainly am not ashamed to say that this exquisite vision occupies
my thoughts,--it is a suggestion of beauty and deliciousness in a
particularly ugly and irksome world,--but to ask such a dainty
creature as Sylvie to be my housekeeeper, and make up the
tradesmen's books, I could not,--it would be sheer insolence on my
part,--it would be like asking an angel just out of heaven to cut
off her wings and go downstairs and cook my dinner!"
"You please yourself and your own fanciful temperament by those
arguments," said Angela,--"but they are totally without principle.
Oh, why," and raising her eyes, she fixed them on him with an
earnest look, "Why will you not understand? Sylvie is good and
pure,--why would you persuade her to be otherwise?"
Fontenelle rose and took one or two turns up and down the room
"I expect you will never comprehend me," he said at last, stopping
before Angela, "In fact, I confess sometimes I do not comprehend
myself. Of course Sylvie is good and pure--I know that;--I should
not be so violently in love with her if she were not--but I do not
see that her acceptance of me as a lover would make her anything
else than good and pure. Because I know that she would be faithful
"Faithful to you--yes!--while you were faithless to her!" said
Angela, with a generous indignation in her voice, "You would expect
her to be true while you amused yourself with other women. A one-
sided arrangement truly!"
The Marquis seemed unmoved.
"Every relation between the sexes is one-sided," he declared, "It is
not my fault! The woman gives all to one,--the man gives a little to
many. I really am not to blame for falling in with this general
course of things. You look very angry with me, Donna Sovrani, and
your eyes positively abash me;--you are very loyal to your friend
and I admire you for it; but after all, why should you be so hard
upon me? I am no worse than Varillo."
Angela started, and her cheeks crimsoned.
"Than Varillo? What do you mean?"
"Well, Varillo has Pon-Pon,--of course she is useful--what he would
do without her I am sure I cannot imagine,--still she IS Pon-Pon."
He paused, checked by Angela's expression.
"Please explain yourself, Marquis," she said in cold, calm accents,
"I am at a loss to understand you."
Fontenelle glanced at her and saw that her face had grown as pale as
it was recently flushed, and that her lips were tightly set; and in
a vague way he was sorry to have spoken. But he was secretly chafing
at everything,--he was angry that Sylvie had escaped him,--and
angrier still that Donna Sovrani should imply by her manner, if not
by her words, that she considered him an exceptional villain, when
he himself was aware that nearly all the men of his "Cercle"
"Pon-Pon is Signor Varillo's model," he said curtly, "I thought you
were aware of it. She appears in nearly all his pictures."
Angela breathed again.
"Oh, is that all!" she murmured, and laughed.
Fontenelle opened his eyes a little, amazed at her indifference.
What a confiding, unsuspecting creature was this "woman of genius"!
This time, however, he was discreet, and kept his thoughts to
"That is all," he said, "But . . . artists have been known to admire
their models in more ways than one."
"Yes," said Angela tranquilly, "But Florian is entirely different to
The Marquis was moved to smile, but did not. He merely bowed with a
deep and reverential courtesy.
"You have reason to know him best," he said, "and no doubt he
deserves your entire confidence. For me--I willingly confess myself
a vaurien--but I assure you I am not as bad as I seem. Your friend
Sylvie is safe from me."
Angela's eyes lightened,--her mind was greatly relieved.
"You will leave her to herself--" she began.
"Certainly I will leave her to herself. She will not like it, but I
will do it! She is going away to-morrow,--I found that out from her
maid. Why will you beautiful ladies keep maids? They are always
ready to tell a man everything for twenty or forty francs. So
simple!--so cheap!--Sylvie's maid is my devoted adherent,--and why?-
-not only on account of the francs, but because I have been careful
to secure her sweetheart as my valet, and he depends upon me to set
him up in business. So you see how easy it is for me to be kept
aware of all my fair lady's movements. This is how I learned that
she is going away to-morrow--and this is why I came here to-day. She
has given me the slip--she has avoided me and now I will avoid her.
We shall see the result. I think it will end in a victory for me."
"Never!" said Angela, "You will never win Sylvie to your way of
thinking, but it is quite possible she may win you!"
"That would be strange indeed," said the Marquis lightly, "The world
is full of wonders, but that would be the most wonderful thing that
ever happened in it! Commend me to the fair Comtesse, Mademoiselle,
and tell her it is _I_ who am about to leave Paris."
"Where are you going?" asked Angela impulsively.
"Ah, feminine curiosity!" said the Marquis laughing, "How it leaps
out like a lightning flash, even through the most rigid virtue!
Chere Mademoiselle, where I am going is my own secret, and not even
your appealing looks will drag it out of me! But I am in no hurry to
go away; I shall not fly off by the midnight train, or the very
early one in the morning, as your romantic friend the Comtesse
Sylvie will probably do,--I have promised the Abbe Vergniaud to hear
him preach on Sunday. I shall listen to a farewell sermon and try to
benefit by it,--after that I take a long adieu of France;--be good
enough to say to the Countesse with my humblest salutations!"
He bowed low over Angela's hand, and with a few more light parting
words took his graceful presence out of the room, and went down the
stairs humming a tune as he departed.
After he had gone Angela sat for some minutes in silence thinking.
Then she went to her desk and wrote a brief note to the Comtesse as
"Dear Sylvie: Dismiss your maid. She is in the employ of Fontenelle
and details to him all your movements. He has been here for half an
hour and tells me that he takes a long adieu of France after Sunday,
and he has promised me to LEAVE YOU TO YOURSELF. I am sure you are
glad of this. My uncle and I go to Rome next week.
She sealed and marked the envelope "private", and ringing the bell
for her man-servant requested him to deliver it himself into the
hands of the Comtesse Hermenstein. This matter dismissed from her
mind she went to a portfolio full of sketches, and turned them over
and over till she came to one dainty, small picture entitled,
"Phillida et les Roses". It was a study of a woman's nude figure set
among branching roses, and was signed "Florian Varillo". Angela
looked at it long and earnestly,--all the delicate flesh tints
contrasting with the exquisite hues of red and white roses were
delineated with wonderful delicacy and precision of touch, and there
was a nymph-like grace and modesty about the woman's form and the
drooping poise of her head, which was effective yet subtle in
suggestion. Was it a portrait of Pon-Pon? Angry with herself Angela
tried to put the hateful but insinuating thought away from her,--it
was the first slight shadow on the fairness of her love-dream,--and
it was like one of those sudden clouds crossing a bright sky which
throws a chill and depression over the erstwhile smiling landscape.
To doubt Florian seemed like doubting her own existence. She put the
"Phillida" picture back in the portfolio and paced slowly to and fro
in her studio, considering deeply. Love and Fame--Fame and Love! She
had both,--and yet Aubrey Leigh had said such fortune seldom fell to
the lot of a woman as to possess the two things together. Might it
not be her destiny to lose one of them? If so, which would she
prefer to keep? Her whole heart, her whole impulses cried out,
"Love"! Her intellect and her ambitious inward soul said, "Fame"!
And something higher and greater than either heart, intellect, or
soul whispered to her inmost self, "Work!--God bids you do what is
in you as completely as you can without asking for a reward of
either Love or Fame." "But," she argued with herself, "for a woman
Love is so necessary to the completion of life." And the inward
monitor replied, "What kind of Love? Ephemeral or immortal? Art is
sexless;--good work is eternal, no matter whether it is man or woman
who has accomplished it." And then a great sigh broke from Angela's
lips as she thought, "Ah, but the world will never own woman's work
to be great even if it be so, because men give the verdict, and
man's praise is for himself and his own achievements always." "Man's
praise," went on the interior voice, "And what of God's final
justice? Have you not patience to wait for that, and faith to work
for it?" Again Angela sighed; then happening to look up; in the
direction of the music-gallery which occupied one end of her studio
where the organ was fitted, she saw a fair young face peering down
at her over the carved oak railing, and recognised Manuel. She
smiled;--her two or three days' knowledge of him had been more than
sufficient to win her affection and interest.
"So you are up there!" she said, "Is my uncle sleeping?"
"No," replied Manuel, "he is writing many letters to Rome. Will you
come and play to me?"
"Willingly!" and Angela went lightly up the winding steps of the
gallery, "But you have been out all day,--are you not tired?"
"No, not now. I WAS weary,--very weary of seeing and hearing so many
false things . . ."
"False things?" echoed Angela thoughtfully, as she seated herself at
the organ, "What were they?"
"Churches principally," said Manuel quietly; "How sad it is that
people should come into those grand buildings looking for Christ and
never finding Him!"
"But they are all built for the worship of Christ," said Angela,
pressing her small white fingers on the organ keys, and drawing out
one or two deep and solemn sounds by way of prelude, "Why should you
think He is not in them?"
"He cannot be," answered Manuel, "They are all unlike Him! Remember
how poor he was!--He told His followers to despise all riches and
worldly praise!--and now see how the very preachers try to obtain
notice and reward for declaring His simple word! The churches seem
quite empty of Him,--and how empty too must be the hearts and souls
of all the poor people who go to such places to be comforted!"
Angela did not reply,--her hands had unconsciously wandered into the
mazes of a rich Beethoven voluntary, and the notes, firm, grand, and
harmonious, rolled out in the silence with a warm deep tenderness
that thrilled the air as with a rhythmic beat of angels' wings. Lost
in thought, she scarcely knew what she played, nor how she was
playing,--but she was conscious of a sudden and singular exaltation
of spirit,--a rush of inward energy that was almost protest,--a
force which refused to be checked, and which seemed to fill her to
the very finger tips with ardours not her own,--martyrs going to the
destroying flames might have felt as she felt then. There was a
grave sense of impending sorrow hanging over her, mingled with a
strong and prayerful resolve to overcome whatever threatened her
soul's peace,--and she played on and on, listening to the rushing
waves of sound which she herself evoked, and almost losing herself
in a trance of thought and vision. And in this dreamy,
supersensitive condition, she imagined that even Manuel's face fair
and innocent as it was, grew still more beautiful,--a light, not of
the sun's making, seemed to dwell like an aureole in his clustering
hair and in his earnest eyes,--and a smile sweeter than any she had
ever seen, seemed to tremble on his lips as she looked at him.
"You are thinking beautiful things," he said gently, "And they are
all in the music. Shall I tell you about them?"
She nodded assent, while her fingers, softly pressing out the last
chord of Beethoven's music, wandered of their own will into the
melancholy pathos of a Schubert "Reverie."
"You are thinking of the wonderful plan of the world," he said,--"Of
all the fair and glorious things God has made for those who love
Him! Of the splendour of Faith and Hope and Courage,--of the soul's
divine origin and responsibility,--and all the joy of being able to
say to the Creator of the whole universe, 'Our Father!' You are
thinking--because you know--that not a note of the music you are
playing now fails to reach the eternal spheres,--echoing away from
your touch, it goes straight to its mark,--sent with the soul's
expression of love and gratitude, it flies to the centre of the
soul's worship. Not a pulsation of true harmony is lost! You are
thinking how grand it is to live a sweet and unsullied life, full of
prayer and endeavour, keeping a spirit white and clean as the light
itself, a spirit dwelling on the verge of earth but always ready to
fly heavenward!--You are thinking that no earthly reward, no earthly
love, no earthly happiness, though good in itself, can ever give you
such perfect peace and joy as is found in loving, serving, and
obeying God, and suffering His will to be entirely worked in you!"
Angela listened, deeply moved--her heart throbbed quickly,--how
wonderfully the boy expressed himself!--with what sweetness,
gentleness, and persuasion! She would have ceased playing, but that
something imperative urged her to go on,--and Manuel's soft voice
thrilled her strangely when he spoke again, saying--
"You know now--because your wise men are beginning to prove it--that
you can in very truth send a message to heaven."
"To heaven!" murmured Angela, "That is a long way! We know we can
send messages in a flash of lightfrom one part of the world to
another--but then there must be people to receive them--"
"And heaven is composed of millions of worlds," said Manuel, "'In my
Father's house are many mansions!" And from all worlds to all
worlds--from mansion to mansion, the messages flash! And there are
those who receive them, with such directness as can admit of no
error! And your wise men might have known this long ago if they had
believed their Master's word, 'Whatsoever is whispered in secret
shall be proclaimed on the housetops.' But you will all find out
soon that it is true, and that everything you say, and that every
prayer you utter God hears."
"My mother is in heaven," said Angela wistfully, "I wish I could
send her a message!"
"Your very wish has reached her now!" said Manuel, "How is it
possible that you in the spirit could ardently wish to communicate
with one so beloved and she not know it! Love would be no use then,
and there would be a grave flaw in God's perfect creation."
Angela ceased playing, and turned round to face the young speaker.
"Then you think we never lose those we love? And that they see us
and hear us always?"
"They must do so," said Manuel, "otherwise there would be cruelty in
creating the grace of love at all. But God Himself is Love. Those
who love truly can never be parted,--death has no power over their
souls. If one is on earth and one in heaven, what does it matter? If
they were in separate countries of the world they could hear news of
each other from time to time,--and so they can when apparent death
has divided them."
"How?" asked Angela with quick interest.
"Your wise men must tell you," said Manuel, with a grave little
smile, "I know no more than what Christ has said,--and He told us
plainly that not even a sparrow shall fall to the ground without our
Father. 'Fear not,' He said, 'Ye are more than many sparrows.' So,
as there is nothing which is useless, and nothing which is wasted,
it is very certain that love, which is the greatest of all things,
cannot lose what it loves."
Angela's eyes filled with tears, she knew not why, "Love which is
the greatest of all things cannot lose what it loves!"--How
wonderfully tender was Manuel's voice as he spoke these words!
"You have very sweet thoughts, Manuel," she said, "You would be a
great comfort to anyone in sorrow."
"That is what I have always wished to be," he answered, "But you are
not in sorrow yet,--that is to come!"
She looked up quickly.
"You think I shall have some great trouble?" she asked, with a
little tremour in her accents.
"Yes, most surely you will!" replied Manuel, "No one in the world
ever tried to be good and great at the same time without suffering
miscomprehension and bitter pain. Did not Christ say, 'In the world
ye shall have tribulation'?"
"Yes,--and I have often wondered why," said Angela musingly.
"Only that you might learn to love God best," answered Manuel with a
delicate inflexion of compassion in his voice, "And that you might
know for certain and beyond all doubt that this life is not all.
There is something better--greater--higher!--a glory that is worth
winning because immortal. 'In the world ye shall have tribulation'--
yes, that is true!--but the rest of the saying is true also--'Be of
good cheer,--I have overcome the world'!"
Moved by an impulse she could not understand, Angela suddenly turned
and extended her hands with an instinctive grace that implied
reverence as well as humility. The boy clasped them lightly then let
them go,--and without more words went softly away and left her.
The Church of Notre Dame de Lorette in Paris with its yellow stucco
columns, and its hideous excess of paint and gilding, might be a
ball-room designed after the newest ideas of a vulgar nouveau riche
rather than a place of sanctity. The florid-minded Blondel, pupil of
the equally florid-minded Regnault, hastily sketched in some of the
theatrical frescoes in the "Chapel of the Eucharist," and a
misguided personage named Orsel, splashed out the gaudy decorations
of the "Chapel of the Virgin." The whole edifice glares at the
spectator like a badly-managed limelight, and the tricky,
glittering, tawdry effect blisters one's very soul. But here may be
seen many little select groups out of the hell of Paris,--fresh from
the burning as it were, and smelling of the brimstone,--demons who
enjoy their demonism,--satyrs, concerning whom, one feels that their
polished boots are cleverly designed to cover their animal hoofs,
and that skilful clothiers have arranged their garments so that
their tails are not perceived. But that hoofs and tails are existent
would seem to be a certainty. Here sometimes will sing a celebrated
tenor, bulky and brazen,--pouring out from his bull-throat such
liquid devotional notes as might lift the mind of the listener to
Heaven ifone were not so positive that a moral fiend sang them;--
here sometimes may be seen the stout chanteuse who is the glory of
open-air cafes in the Champs Elysees, kneeling with difficulty on a
velvet hassock and actually saying prayers. And one must own that it
is an exhilarating and moving sight to behold such a woman
pretending to confess her sins, with the full delight of them
written on her face, and the avowed intention of committing them all
over again manifesting itself in every turn of her head, every grin
of her rouged lips, and every flash of her painted eyes! For these
sections out of the French "Inferno," Notre Dame de Lorette is a
good place to play penitence and feign prayer;--the Madeleine is too
classic and serene and sombre in its interior to suggest anything
but a museum, from which the proper custodian is absent,--Notre Dame
de Paris reeks too much with the blood of slain Archbishops to be
altogether comfortable,--St. Roch in its "fashionable" congregation,
numbers too many little girls who innocently go to hear the music,
and who have not yet begun to paint their faces, to suit those whose
lives are all paint and masquerade,--and the "Lorette" is just the
happy medium of a church where, Sham being written on its walls, one
is scarcely surprised to see Sham in the general aspect of its
worshippers. Among the ugly columns, and against the heavy ceiling
divided into huge raised lumps of paint and gilding, Abbe
Vergniaud's voice had often resounded,--and his sermons were looked
forward to as a kind of witty entertainment. In the middle or the
afterwards of a noisy Mass,--Mass which had been "performed" with
perhaps the bulky tenor giving the "Agnus Dei," with as sensually
dramatic an utterance as though it were a love-song in an opera, and
the "basso," shouting through the "Credo," with the deep musical
fury of the tenor's jealous rival,--with a violin "interlude," and a
'cello "solo,"--and a blare of trumpets at the "Elevation," as if it
were a cheap spectacle at a circus fair,--after all this
melodramatic and hysterical excitement it was a relief to see the
Abbe mount the pulpit stairs, portly but lightfooted, his black
clerical surtout buttoned closely up to his chin, his round
cleanshaven face wearing a pious but suggestive smile, his eyes
twinkling with latent satire, and his whole aspect expressing,
"Welcome excellent humbugs! I, a humbug myself, will proceed to
expound Humbug!" His sermons were generally satires on religion,--
satires delicately veiled, and full of the double-entendres so dear
to the hearts of Parisians,--and their delight in him arose chiefly
from never quite knowing what he meant to imply, or to enforce. Not
that his hearers would have followed any counsel even if he had been
so misguided as to offer it; they did not come to hear him "preach"
in the full sense of the word,--they came to hear him "say things,"-
-witty observations on the particular fad of the hour--sharp
polemics on the political situation--or what was still more
charming, neat remarks in the style of Rochefoucauld or Montaigne,
which covered and found excuses for vice while seemingly condemning
viciousness. There is nothing perhaps so satisfactory to persons who
pride themselves on their intellectuality, as a certain kind of
spurious philosophy which balances virtue and vice as it were on the
point of a finger, and argues prettily on the way the two can be
easily merged into each other, almost without perception. "If
without perception, then without sin," says the sophist; "it is
merely a question of balance." Certainly if generosity drifts into
extravagance you have a virtue turned into a vice;--but there is one
thing these spurious debaters cannot do, and that is to turn a vice
into a virtue. That cannot be done, and has never been done. A vice
is a vice, and its inherent quality is to "wax fat and gross," and
to generally enlarge itself;--whereas, a virtue being a part of the
Spiritual quality and acquired with difficulty, it must be
continually practised, and guarded in the practice, lest it lapse
into vice. We are always forgetting that we have been, and still are
in a state of Evolution,--out of the Beast God has made Man,--but
now He expects us, with all the wisdom, learning and experience He
has given us, to evolve for ourselves from Man the Angel,--the
supreme height of His divine intention. Weak as yet on our spiritual
wings, we hark back to the Beast period only too willingly, and
sometimes not all the persuasion in the world can lift us out of the
mire wherein we elect to wallow. Nevertheless, there must be and
will be a serious day of reckoning for any professing priest of the
Church, or so-called "servant of the Gospel", who by the least word
or covert innuendo, gives us a push back into prehistoric slime and
loathliness,--and that there are numbers who do so, no one can deny.
Abbe Vergniaud had flung many a pebble of sarcasm at the half-
sinking faith of some of his hearers with the result that he had
sunk it altogether. In his way he had done as much harm as the
intolerant bigot, who when he finds persons believing devoutly in
Christ, but refusing to accept Church-authority, considers such
persons atheists and does not hesitate to call them so. The
"Pharisees" in Christian doctrine are as haughty, hypocritical and
narrow as the Pharisees whom Jesus calls "ravening wolves," and
towhom He said, "Ye shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for
ye neither go in yourselves, NEITHER SUFFER YE THEM THAT ARE
ENTERING TO GO IN," and "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous
unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." The
last words, it may be said, will apply fittingly to more than one-
half of the preachers of the Gospel at the present day!
It was a brilliant, soft autumnal Sunday morning when Cardinal
Bonpre, mindful of Abbe Vergniaud's request that he should be
present to hear him preach, took his slow and thoughtful way to the
church of the Lorette, accompanied by his niece Angela and Manuel.
The building was crammed, and had not the Abbe been previously
careful to reserve seats, and to mention the Cardinal's name to the
custodian, he would have scarcely obtained admission. As it was,
however, he passed slowly up the centre aisle without hindrance,
followed by Manuel and Angela, and watched by a good many
inquisitive persons, who wondered as they looked, who the boy was
that walked after His Eminence with such easy self-possession,--with
such a noble and modest bearing, and with such a strangely
thoughtful face. A few whispered and nudged each other as "the
Sovrani" passed them, dressed in her usual quiet black, her head
slightly bent and her eyes downcast. The Marquis Fontenelle, seated
in an attitude which suggested a languid indifference to all persons
and events, lifted his bright hazel eyes as she passed,--and a
sudden wave of consciousness swept over him,--uneasy consciousness
that perhaps this small slight woman despised him. This was not
quite a pleasant reflection for a man and a Marquis to boot,--one
who could boast of an ancient and honourable family pedigree dating
back to the fighting days of Coeur-de-Lion and whose coat-of-arms
was distinguished by three white lilies of France on one of its
quarterings. The lilies of France!--emblems of honour, loyalty,
truth, and chivalry!--what smudged and trampled blossoms they seem
to day! He frowned as this fancy crossed his mind, and turned his
eyes away from the following of Angela's slight form up the aisle;
and his glance fell instead on a face he detested, because it was
almost the counterpart of his own,--the face of the great French
actor Miraudin. The same clean-shaven classic face and clustering
hair,--the same glittering, amorous hazel eyes;--the same charming
and kindly smile,--all these attributes were in Miraudin's face,
indefinably coarsened, while in Fontenelle's they remained refined
and inicative of the highest breeding. The Marquis moved uneasily in
his seat,--he saw himself in the famous actor,--himself as he would
be, if he continued his career of self-indulgence,--for Miraudin
though gifted with a genius that could move all Paris to the wildest
excesses of admiration, was in private life known as a man of
detestable reputation, whose liaisons with women were endless, but
who, in his extreme egotism and callousness had never been known to
yield to the saving grace of a "grande passion,"--one of those
faithful passions which sometimes make the greatness of both man and
woman concerned, and adorn the pages of dull history with the
brilliancy of deathless romance. Was he, Guy Beausire de Fontenelle
no better, no nobler, no higher, in his desires and ambitions than
Miraudin? What was he doing with the three lilies emblazoned on his
escutcheon? He thought with a certain fretful impatience of Sylvie,
of her captivating grace, her tender eyes, her sweet laughter, and
sweeter smile. She had seemed to him a mere slight creation of the
air and the moonbeams,--something dainty that would have melted at a
touch, and dropped into his mouth, as it were, like a French bon-
bon. So he, man-like, had judged, and now lo!--the little ethereal
creature had suddenly displayed a soul of adamant--hard and pure,
and glittering as a diamond,--which no persuasion could break or
bend. She had actually kept her word!--she had most certainly left
Paris. The Marquis knew that, by the lamentable story of her
dismissed maid who had come to him with hysterical tears, declaring
that "Madame" had suddenly developed a "humeur incroyable"--and had
gone away alone,--alone, save for a little dusky-skinned Arab boy
whom she had once brought away from Biskra and had trained as an
attendant,--her "gouvernante" and companion, Madame Bozier, and her
old butler who had known her from childhood. Fontenelle felt that
the dismissal of the maid who had been such a convenient spy for
him, was due to Angela Sovrani's interference, and though angry, he
was conscious of feeling at the same time mean in himself, and
miserable. To employ a servant to play the spy on her mistress, and
report to him her actions and movements, might be worthy of a
Miraudin, but was it quite the thing for a Marquis Fontenelle?
Thinking over these things his handsome face grew flushed and anon
pale again, as from time to time he stole a vexed side glance at the
easy Miraudin,--so like him in features and--unfortunately so
equally like him in morals! Meanwhile, the music of the Mass surged
round him, in thunders of the organ, wailings of violins, groaning
of 'cellos, and flutings of boys' and men's voices,--and as the
cloudy incense rose upon the air he began to weave strange fancies
in his mind, and to see in the beams of sunlight falling through the
stained glass windows a vision of the bright face of Sylvie looking
down upon him with a half-tender, half-reproving smile,--a smile
that seemed to say, "If thou lovest me, set the grace of honour on
thy love!" These were strange thoughts for him to entertain, and he
was almost ashamed of them,--but as long as the melodies of the Mass
kept rolling on and reverberating around him he could not help
thinking of them; so that he was relieved when a pause came,--the
interval for the sermon,--and Abbe Vergniaud, leisurely mounting the
steps of the pulpit, stood surveying the congregation with the
composed yet quizzical air for which he was celebrated, and waiting
till the rustling, fidgeting, coughing, snuffing, toe-scraping
noises of the congregation had settled down into comparative
silence. His attitude during this interval was suggestive. It
implied contempt, wearied patience, resignation, and a curious touch
of defiance. Holding himself very erect he rested his left hand on
the elaborate sculptured edge of the pulpit,--it was the hand on
which he usually wore his ring, a diamond of purest lustre,--but on
this occasion the jewel had been removed and the white, firm
fingers, outlined against the pulpit edge, looked as though they had
just relaxed their grasp of something that had been more or less of
a trouble to retain. Nothing perhaps is so expressive as a hand,--
the face can disguise itself,--even the eyes can lie,--but the hand
never. Its shape, its movements, its attitude in repose, give a more
certain clue to character and disposition than almost any other
human feature. Thus, with the Abbe, while his left hand suggested a
"letting go," his right hand, which held a small black-bound
Testament implied defiance, grip, resolve and courage. And when the
people seated immediately around the pulpit lifted their eyes
expectantly to the popular preacher's face, several of the more
observant noticed something in his look and manner which was
unfamiliar and curiously disconcerting. If it be true, as there is
every reason to believe it is, that each human being unconsciously
gives out an "aura" of his interior personality which is made more
or less powerful to attract or repel by the nature of his
intentions, and which affects the "aura" of those with whom he is
brought in contact, then Abbe Vergniaud was this morning creating
all unawares to himself a very singular impression of uneasiness.
Some of the persons thus uncomfortably influenced coughed violently
in an instinctive attempt to divert or frustrate the preacher's
mood, but even the most persistent cougher must cease coughing at
some time or another--and the Abbe was evidently determined to wait
for an absolute silence before he spoke. At last silence came, and
he opened the Testament. Holding it up to the view of the
congregation, he began with all that easy eloquence which the French
tongue gives to a cultured speaker,--his voice full and sonorous,
reaching distinctly to every part of the crowded church.
"This," he said, "is a small book which you all pretend to know. It
is so small a book that it can easily be read through in an hour. It
is the Testament;--or the Last Will and Command to the world of one
Jesus Christ, who was crucified on account of His Divinity more than
eighteen hundred years ago. I mention the fact, in case any of you
have forgotten it! It is generally understood that this book is the
message of God and the key of Faith;--upon it our churches and
religious systems are founded;--by its teaching we are supposed to
order our conduct of life--and yet,--though as I have said, it is a
very small book, and would not take you an hour to read it--none of
you know any thing about it! That is a strange thing, is it not?"
Here he leaned over the pulpit edge, and his bright eyes, coldly
satiric, flashed a comprehensive glance over the whole congregation.
"Yes, it is a strange thing, but I affirm it true,--that none of you
know anything whatever about the contents of this small volume which
is the foundation of the Christian Faith! You never read it
yourselves,--and if we priests read it to you, you never remember
it! It is a locked Mystery,--perhaps, for all we know, the greatest
mystery in the world,--and the one most worth probing! For the days
seem to be coming, if they have not already come, which were
prophesied by St. John the Divine, whom certain 'clever' men of the
time have set down as mad;--days which were described as 'shaking
the powers of heaven and creating confusion on the earth.' St. John
said some strange things; one thing in particular, concerning this
very book, which reads thus;--'I saw in the right hand of Him that
sat upon the throne a book sealed with seven seals. And I saw a
strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice; Who is worthy to open
and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven or in earth was
able to open the book neither to look thereon. And I wept much
because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book,
neither to look thereon.' But St. John the Divine was mad, we are
told,--madness and inspiration being judged as one and the same
thing. Well, if in these statements he is supposed to prove his
madness, I consider a doubt must be set upon everyone's sanity. For
his words are an exact description of the present period of the
world's existence and its attitude towards the Gospel of Christ,--
'NO MAN IS FOUND WORTHY TO LOOSE THE SEALS OF THE BOOK OR TO LOOK
THEREON.' But I am not going to talk to you about the seven seals.
They adequately represent our favourite 'seven deadly sins,' which
have kept the book closed since the days of the early martyrs;--and
are likely to keep it closed still. Nor shall I speak of our
unworthiness to read what we have never taken the trouble to rightly
understand,--for all this would be waste of time. It is part of our
social sham to pretend we know the Gospel,--and it is a still
greater sham to assume that we have ever tried in the smallest
degree to follow its teaching. What we know of these teachings has
influenced us unconsciously, but the sayings in the Gospel of Christ
are in very truth as enveloped in mystery to each separate
individual reader as the oracles of the ancient Egyptians were to
the outside multitude. And why? Merely because, to comprehend the
teaching of Jesus we should have to think,--and we all hate
thinking. It is too much exertion,--and exertion itself is
unpleasant. A quarter of an hour's hard thinking will convince each
one of us that he or she is a very worthless and ridiculous person,
and we strongly object to any process which will, in itself, bring
us to that conclusion. I say 'we' object,--that is, I and you;
particularly I. I admit at once that to appear worthless and
ridiculous to the world has always seemed to me a distressing
position, and one to be avoided. Worthless and ridiculous in my own
eyes I have always been,--but that is not your affair. It is
strictly mine! And though I feel I am not worthy 'to loose the seals
of the book or look thereon,' there is one passage in it which
strikes me as particularly applicable to the present day, and from
it I will endeavour to draw a lesson for your instruction, though
perhaps not for your entertainment."
Here he paused and glanced at his hearers with an indefinable
expression of mingled scorn and humour.
"What an absurdity it is to talk of giving a 'lesson' to you!--you
who will barely listen to a friend's advice,--you who will never
take a hint for your mental education or improvement, you who are
apt to fly into a passion, or take to the sulks when you are ever so
slightly contradicted. Tiens, tiens! c'est drole! Now the words I am
about to preach from, are supposed to have been uttered by Divine
lips; and if you thoroughly believed this, you would of your own
accord kneel down and pray that you might receive them with full
comprehension and ready obedience. But you do not believe;--so I
will not ask you to kneel down in mockery, or feign to pray when you
are ignorant of the very spirit of prayer! So take the words,--
without preparation, without thought, without gratitude, as you take
everything God gives you, and see what you can make of them. 'The
light of the body is the eye,--if therefore thine eye be single, thy
whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy
whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is
in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!'"
Here he closed the Testament, and rested it edgewise on the pulpit
cushion, keeping one hand firmly clasped upon it as he turned
himself about and surveyed the whole congregation.
"What is the exact meaning of the words, 'IF THINE EYE BE SINGLE'?
It is an expressive term; and in its curt simplicity covers a
profound truth. 'If thine eye,' namely,--the ability to see,--'be
single,' that is straight and clear, without dimness or obliquity,--
'thy whole body shall be full of light.' Christ evidently did not
apply this expression to the merely physical capability of sight,--
but to the moral and mental, or psychic vision. It matters nothing
really to the infinite forces around us, whether physically
speaking, we are able to see, or whether we are born blind; but
spiritually, it is the chief necessity of our lives that we should
be able to see straight morally. Yet that is what we can seldom or
never do. Modern education, particularly education in France,
provides us at once with a double psychic lens, and a side-squint
into the bargain! Seeing straight would be too primitive and simple
for us. But Christ says, 'If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall
be full of darkness.' Now this word 'evil,' as set in juxtaposition
to the former term 'single,' evidently implies a double sight or
perverted vision. With this 'evil,' or double sight, our whole body
'shall be full of darkness.' Very well, my friends, if this be
true,--(and you surely must believe it true, otherwise you would not
support churches for the exposition of the truth as spoken by the
Founder of our Faith;--) then we are children of the dark indeed! I
doubt if one amongst us,--for I include myself with you,--can be
said to see clearly with a straight psychic vision. The straight
psychic vision teaches us that God is the Creator of all things,--
God is Light and Love,--God desires good from us, and from every
particle of his creation;--but the double or perverted line of sight
offers a different view and declares, 'This life is short and offers
many pleasures. I cannot be sure of God because I have never seen
Him;--the Universe is certainly very majestic, and somewhat
startling to me in its exact mathematical proportions; but I have no
more to do with it than has a grain of sand;--my lot is no more
important than that of the midge in the sunbeam;--I live,--I breed--
I die;--and it matters to no one but myself how I do these three
things, provided I satisfy my nature.' This is the Philosophy of the
Beast, and it is just now very fashionable. It is 'la haute mode'
both in France, and England, Italy, and Spain. Only young America
seem to be struggling for a Faith,--a Christian Faith;--it has
almost, albeit faintly and with a touching indecision, asked for
such a Faith from the Pope,--who has however declared it to be
impossible in these words addressed to Cardinal Gibbons, 'Discussion
of the principles of the Church cannot be tolerated even in the
United States. There can only be one interpreter, the Pope. In the
matter of discipline, concessions may be allowed, but in doctrine
none.' Mark the words, 'cannot be tolerated'! Consider what
stability a Faith can have whose principles may not be discussed!
Yet the authority of the Church is, we are told the authority of God
Himself. How is this? We can discuss God and His principles. He
'tolerates' us while we search for His laws, and stand amazed and
confounded before His marvellous creation. The more we look for Him
the more He gives Himself gloriously to us; and Christ declares
'Seek and ye shall find,'--the Church says 'Seek and ye shall not be
tolerated'! How are we to reconcile these two assertions? We do not
reconcile them; we cannot; it is a case of double sight,--oblique
and perverted psychic vision. Christ spoke plainly;--the Church
speaks obscurely. Christ gave straight commands,--we fly in the face
of them and openly disobey them. Truth can always be 'discussed,'
and Truth MUST be 'tolerated' were a thousand Holy Fathers to say it
nay! But note again the further words to America, 'There can only be
one interpreter,--the Pope. In the matter of discipline, concessions
may be allowed, but in doctrine none.' Let us examine into this
doctrine. It is the doctrine of Christ, plain and straightforward;
enunciated in such simple words that even a child can understand
them. But the Church announces with a strident voice that there can
only be one interpreter,--the Pope. Nevertheless Truth has a more
resonant voice than even that of the Church. Truth cries out at this
present day, 'Unless you will listen to Me who am the absolute
utterance of God, who spake by the prophets, who spake through
Christ,--who speaks through Christ and all things still,--your
little systems, your uncertain churches, your inefficient creeds,
your quarrelsome sects, shall crumble away into dust and ruins! For
humanity is waiting for the true Church of Christ; the one pure
House of Praise from which all sophistry, all superstition and
vanity shall have fled, and only God in the Christ-Miracle and the
perfection of His Creation shall remain!' And there is no more sure
foundation for this much-needed House of Praise than the Catholic
Church,--the word 'catholic' being applied in its widest sense,
meaning a 'Universal' answering to the needs of all;--and I am
willing to maintain that the ROMAN Catholic Church has within it the
vital germ of a sprouting perfection. If it would utterly discard
pomp and riches, if it would set its dignity at too high an estimate
for any wish to meddle in temporal or political affairs, if it would
firmly trample down all superstition, idolatry and bigotry, and 'use
no vain repetition as the heathen do'--to quote Christ's own words,-
-if in place of ancient dogma and incredible legendary lore, it
would open its doors to the marvels of science, the miracles and
magnificence daily displayed to us in the wonderful work of God's
Universe, then indeed it might obtain a lasting hold on mankind. It
might conquer Buddhism, and Christianize the whole earth. But--'If
thine eye be evil thy whole body shall be full of darkness,'--and
while the Church remains double-sighted we are bound also to see
double. And so we listen with a complete and cynical atheism to the
conventional statement that 'one man alone' shall interpret Christ's
teaching to us of the Roman following,--and this man an old frail
teacher, whose bodily and intellectual powers are, in the course of
nature, steadily on the decline. Why we ask, must an aged man be
always elected to decide on the teaching of the ever-young and
deathless Christ?--to whom the burden of years was unknown, and
whose immortal spirit, cased for a while in clay, saw ever the rapt
vision of 'old things being made new'? In all other work but this of
religious faith, men in the prime of life are selected to lead,--men
of energy, thought, action, and endeavour,--but for the sublime and
difficult task of lifting the struggling human soul out of low
things to lofty, an old man, weak, and tottering on the verge of the
grave, is set before us as our 'infallible' teacher! There is
something appalling in the fact, that look where we may, no
profession holds out much chance of power or authority to any man
past sixty, but the Head of the Church may be so old that he can
hardly move one foot before the other, yet he is permitted to be
declared the representative of the ever-working, ever-helping, ever-
comforting Christ, who never knew what it was to be old! Enough,
however of this strange superstition which is only one of many in
the Church, and which are all the result of double or perverted
sight,--I come to the last part of the text which runs, 'If
therefore the light in thee be darkness how great is that darkness.'
IF THEREFORE THE LIGHT IN THEE BE DARKNESS! My friends, that is
exactly my condition, and has been my condition ever since I was
twenty. The light in me has been darkness. The intellectual quality
of my brain which has helped me to attain my present false position
among you . . ."
Here he paused, for there was a distinct movement of surprise among
his audience, which till now, had remained to a man so still that
the buzz of a fly on the window-pane sounded almost as loud as the
drone of a bag-pipe,--then with a faint smile on his lips he
"I hope you all heard my words distinctly! I said, the false
position I have attained among you. I repeat it lest there should be
any mistake. It IS a false position and always has been. I have
never for an instant believed half what I have asked you to believe!
And I have preached to you what I have never dreamed of practising!
Yet I venture to say that I am not worse than most of my brethren.
The intellectual men of France, whether clergy or laity, are in a
difficult situation. Their brains are keen and clear; and,
intellectually speaking, they are totally unable to accept the
Church superstitions of the tenth and twelfth centuries. But in
rejecting superstition it would have been quite possible to have
held them fast to a sublime faith in God and an Immortal Future, had
the Church caught them when slipping, and risen to the mental demand
made upon her resources. But the old worn-out thunder of the
Vatican, which lately made a feeble noise in America, has rolled
through France with the same assertion, 'Discussion cannot be
tolerated'; and what has been the result? Simply this,--that all the
intellectual force of the country is arrayed against priestcraft;--
and the spirit of an insolent, witty, domineering atheism and
materialism rules us all. Even young children can be found by the
score who laugh at the very idea of a God, and who fling a jeer at
the story of the Crucifixion of Christ,--while vice and crime are
tolerated and often excused. Moral restraint is being less and less
enforced, and the clamouring for sensual indulgence has become so
incessant that the desire of the whole country, if put into one
line, might be summed up in the impotent cry of the Persian
voluptuary Omar Khayyam to his god, 'Reconcile the law to my
desires'. This is as though a gnat should seek to build a cathedral,
and ask for the laws of architecture to be altered in order to suit
his gnat-like capacity. The Law is the Law; and if broken, brings
punishment. The Law makes for good,--and if we pull back for evil,
destroys us in its outward course. Vice breeds corruption in body
and in soul; and history furnishes us with more than sufficient
examples of that festering disease. It is plainly demanded of us
that we should assist God's universe in its way towards perfection;
if we refuse, and set a drag on the majestic Wheel, we are ourselves
crushed in its progress. Here is where our Church errs in the
present generation. It is setting itself as a drag on the Wheel.
Meanwhile, Truth advances every day, and with no uncertain voice
proclaims the majesty of God. Heaven's gates are thrown open;--the
secrets of the stars are declared,--the mysteries of light and sound
are discovered; and we are approaching possibly to the time when the
very graves shall give up their dead, and the secrets of all men's
hearts shall be made manifest. Yet we go on lying, deceiving,
cajoling, humbugging each other and ourselves;--living a daily life
of fraud and hypocrisy, with a sort of smug conviction in our souls
that we shall never be found out. We make a virtue of animalism, and
declare the Beast-Philosophy to be in strict keeping with the order
of nature. We gloat over our secret sins, and face the world with a
brazen front of assumed honour. Oh, we are excellent liars all! But
somehow we never seem to think we are fools as well! We never
remember that all we do and all we say, is merely the adding of
figures to a sum which in the end must be made up to the grand
total, and paid! Every figure tells;--the figure 'nought'
especially, puts an extra thousand on the whole quantity! But the
light in us being darkness, how great is that darkness! So great
that we refuse to look an inch before us! We will not see, we will
not understand,--we utterly decline to accept any teaching or advice
which might inflict some slight inconvenience on our own Ego. And so
we go on day after day, till all at once a reckoning is called and
death stares us in the face. What! So soon finished? All over? Must
we go at once, and no delay? Must we really and truly drop all our
ridiculous lies and conventions and be sent away naked-souled into
the Living Unknown? Not the Dead Unknown remember!--for nothing is
actually dead! The whole universe palpitates and burns with ever re-
created life. What have we done with the past life?--and what shall
we do with this other life? Oh, but there is no time to ask
questions now,--we should have asked them before; the hour of
departure is come, and there is not a moment's breathing time! Our
dear friends (if we have any), and our paid doctors and servants
stand around us awe-struck,--they watch out last convulsive shudder-
-and weep--not so much for sorrow sometimes as terror,--and then
when all is over, they say we are 'gone'. Yes,--we are gone--but
where? Well, we shall each of us find that out, my friends, when we
pass away from Popes, Churches, Creeds, and Conventions to the
majesty of the actual Glory! Shall we pray then? Shall we weep?
Shall we talk of rituals? Shall we say this or that form of prayer
was the true one?--this or that creed was the 'only' one? Shall we
complain of our neighbours?--or shall we not suddenly realise that
there never was but one way of life and progress through creation,--
the good and pure, the truthful and courageous, as taught with
infinite patience by the God-Man, and that wheresoever we have
followed our own inclinations rather than His counsel, then our OWN
action, not God's punishment, condemns us,--our OWN words, not
God's, re-echo back our sins upon ourselves!"
He paused, looking everywhere around him,--all his hearers were
listening with an almost breathless attention.
"Oh, yes! I know the charm of sin!" he continued with mingled
mockery and passion vibrating in his voice;--"The singular
fascination of pure devilry! All of you know it too,--those of you
who court the world's applause on the stage, or in the salons of art
and literature, and who pretend that by your work you are elevating
and assisting humanity, while in your own private lives you revel in
such vice as the very dogs you keep might be ashamed of! There is no
beast so bestial as man at his worst! And some of you whom I know,
glory in being seen at your worst always. There are many among you
here to-day whose sole excuse for a life of animalism is, that it is
your nature, 'I live according to my temperament,--my disposition,--
I do not wish to change myself--you cannot change me; I am as I am
made'! So might the thief argue as he steals his neighbour's money,-
-so may the murderer console himself as he stabs his victim! 'It is
my nature to stab and to steal--it is my nature to live as a beast--
I do not wish to change; you cannot change me'. Now if these
arguments were true, and hold good, man would be still where he
begun,--in the woods and caves,--an uncouth savage with nothing save
an animal instinct to lead him where he could find food. But even
this earliest instinct, savage though it was, taught him that
something higher than himself had made him, and so he began to creep
on by slow degrees towards that higher at once; hence instinct led
to reason, and reason to culture and civilization. And now having
touched as high a point of experience and knowledge as the ancient
Assyrians and Egyptians attained before their decline, he is
beginning even as they did, to be weary and somewhat afraid of what
lies beyond in the as yet unfathomed realms of knowledge; and he
half wishes to creep back again on all-fours to the days when he was
beast merely. The close contemplation of the Angel terrifies him,--
he dare not grow his wings! Further than life, as life appears to
him on its material side, he is afraid to soar,--what lies in the
far distance he dare not consider! This is where the Pause comes in
all progress,--the hesitation, the doubt, the fear;--the moment when
the Creature draws so near to his Creator that he is dazzled and
confounded. And it is a strange fact that he is always left alone,--
alone with his own Will, in every such grand crisis. He has been
helped so much by divine influences, that he is evidently considered
strong enough to decide his own fate. He is strong enough,--he has
sufficient reason and knowledge to decide it for the Highest, if he
would. But, with national culture goes national luxury,--the more
civilised a community, the greater its bodily ease,--the more
numerous the temptations against which we are told we must fight.
Spirit flies forward--Body pulls back. But Spirit is one day bound
to win! We have attained in this generation a certain knowledge of
Soul-forces--and we are on a verge, where, if we hesitate, we are
lost, and must recoil upon our own Ego as the centre of all desire.
But if we go on boldly and leave our own Ego behind, we shall see
the gates of Heaven opening indeed, and all the Mysteries unveiled!
How often we pause on the verge of better things, doubting whether
to rise or grovel! The light in us is darkness, and how great is
that darkness! Such is the state of mind in which I, your preacher,
have found myself for many years! I do not know whether to rise or
grovel,--to sink or soar! To be absolutely candid with you, I am
quite sure that I should not sink in your opinion for confessing
myself to be as outrageous in my conceptions of mortality as many of
you are. You would possibly pretend to be ashamed of me, but in your
hearts you would like me all the better. The sinking or the soaring
of my nature has therefore nothing whatever to do with you. It is a
strictly personal question. But what I specially wish to advise you
of this morning,--taking myself as an example,--is that none of you,
whether inclined to virtue or to vice, should remain such arrant
fools as to imagine that your sins will not find you out. They
will,--the instant they are committed, their sole mission is to
start on your track, and hunt you down! I cannot absolutely vouch to
you that there is a God,--but I am positive there is a hidden
process of mathematics going on in the universe which sums up our
slightest human affairs with an exactitude which at the least is
amazing. Twenty-five years ago I did a great wrong to a human
creature who was innocent, and who absolutely trusted me. There is
no crime worse than this, yet it seemed to me quite a trifling
affair,--an amusement--a nothing! I was perfectly aware that by some
excessively straightlaced people it might be termed a sin; but my
ideas of sin were as easy and condoning as yours are. I never
repented it,--I can hardly say I ever thought of it,--if I did I
excused myself quickly, and assured my own conscience in the usual
way, that the fault was merely the result of circumstances over
which I had no control. Oh, those uncontrollable circumstances! How
convenient they are! And what a weak creature they make of man, who
at other times than those of temptation, is wont to assert himself
master of this planet! Master of a planet and cannot control a vice!
Excellent! Well,--I never, as I say, thought of the wrong I had
done,--but if _I_ forgot it, some One or some Thing remembered it!
Yes--remembered it!--put it down--chronicled it with precision as to
time and place,--and set it, a breathing fact, before me in my old
age,--a living witness of my own treachery."
He paused, the congregation stirred,--the actor Miraudin looked up
at him with a surprised half-smile. Angela Sovrani lifted her
beautiful violet eyes towards him in amazed compassion,--Cardinal
Bonpre, recalling the Abbe previous confession to him, bent his
head, deeply moved.
"Treachery," resumed Vergniaud determinedly, "Is always a covert
thing. We betray each other in the dark, with silent foot-steps and
sibilant voices. We whisper our lies. We concoct our intrigues with
carefully closed doors. I did so. I was a priest of the Roman Church
as I am now; it would never have done for a priest to be a social
sinner! I therefore took every precaution to hide my fault;--but out
of my lie springs a living condemnation; from my carefully concealed
hypocrisy comes a blazonry of truth, and from my secret sin comes an
open vengeance . . ."
At the last words the loud report of a pistol sounded through the
building . . . there was a puff of smoke, a gleam of flame, and a bullet
whizzed straight at the head of the preacher! The congregation rose,
en masse, uttering exclamations of terror,--but before anyone could
know exactly what had happened the smoke cleared, and the Abbe
Vergniaud was seen leaning against the steps of the pulpit, pale but
uninjured, and in front of him stood the boy Manuel with arms
outstretched, and a smile on his face. The bullet had split the
pulpit immediately above him. An excited group assembled round them
immediately, and the Abbe was the first to speak.
"I am not hurt!--" he said quickly--"See to the boy! He sprang in
front of me and saved my life."
But Manuel was equally unhurt, and waived aside all enquiries and
compliments. And while eager questions were poured out and answered,
a couple of gendarmes were seen struggling in the centre of the
church with a man who seemed to have the power of a demon, so fierce
and frantic were his efforts to escape.
"Ah, voila! The assassin!" cried Miraudin, hastening to give
"The assassin!" echoed a dozen other persons pressing in the same
Vergniaud heard, and gave one swift glance at Cardinal Bonpre who,
though startled by the rapidity and excitement of the scene that had
occurred, was equal to the occasion, and understood his friend's
appeal at once, even before he said hurriedly,
"Monseigneur! Tell them to let him go!--or--bring him face to face
The Cardinal endeavoured to pass through the crowd, but though some
made way for him on account of his ecclesiastical dignity, others
closed in, and he found it impossible to move more than a few steps.
Then Vergniaud, moved by a sudden resolve, raised himself a little,
and resting one hand on the shoulder of Manuel, who still remained
on the steps of the pulpit in front of him, he called,
"Let Monsieur the assassin come here to me! I have a word to say to
Through the swaying, tumultuous, murmuring throng came a sudden
stillness, and everyone drew back as the gendarmes responding to
Abbe Vergniaud's command, pushed their way along, dragging and
hustling their prisoner between them,--a young black-browed, black-
eyed peasant with a handsome face and proud bearing, whose defiant
manner implied that having made one fierce struggle for liberty and
finding it in vain, he was now disdainfully resigned to the
inevitable. When brought face to face with the Abbe he lifted his
head, and flashed his dark eyes upon him with a look of withering
contempt. His lips parted,--he seemed about to speak when his glance
accidentally fell upon Manuel,--then something caused him to
hesitate,--he checked himself on the very verge of speech and
remained silent. The Abbe surveyed him with something of a quizzical
half-admiring smile, then addressing the gendarmes he said,
"Let him go!"
The men looked up astonished, doubting whether they had heard
"Let him go!" repeated the Abbe firmly, "I have no accusation to
make against him. Had he killed me he would have been perfectly
justified! Let him go!"
"Cher Abbe!" remonstrated the Marquis Fontenelle, who had made
himself one of the group immediately around the pulpit, "Is not this
a mistake on your part? Let me advise you not to be so merciful . . ."
"'Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy'"! quoted the
Abbe with a strange smile, while his breath came and went quickly,
and his face grew paler as he spoke. "Set him free, messieurs, if
you please! I decline to prosecute my own flesh and blood! I will be
answerable for his future conduct,--I am entirely answerable for his
past! He is my son!"
No one ever afterwards quite knew how the crowd in the church broke
up and dispersed itself after this denouement. For a few minutes the
crush of people round the pulpit was terrific; all eyes were fixed
on the young black-browed peasant who had so nearly been a
parricide,--and on the father who publicly exonerated him,--and then
there came a pressing towards the doors which was excessively
dangerous to life and limb. Cardinal Bonpre, greatly moved by the
whole unprecedented scene, placed himself in front of Angela as a
shield and defence from the crowd; but before he had time to
consider how he should best pilot her through the pushing and
scrambling throng, a way was made for him by Manuel, who,--with a
quiet step and unruffled bearing,--walked through the thickest
centre of the crowd, which parted easily on either side of him, as
though commanded to do so by some unheard but absolute authority.
Admiring and wondering glances were turned upon the boy, whose face
shone with such a grave peace and sweetness;--he had saved the
Abbe's life, the people whispered, by springing up the steps of the
pulpit, and throwing himself between the intended victim and the
bullet of his assailant. Who was he? Where did he come from? No one
knew;--he was merely the attendant of that tall ascetic-looking
Cardinal, the uncle of the famous Sovrani. So the words ran from
mouth to mouth, as Felix Bonpre and his niece moved slowly through
the throng, following Manuel;--then, when they had passed, there
came a general hubbub and confusion once more, and the people
hustled and elbowed each other through the church regardless of
consequences, eager to escape and discuss among themselves the
sensation of the morning.
"C'est un drame! Un veritable drame!" said Miraudin, pausing, as he
found himself face to face with the Marquis Fontenelle.
Fontenelle stared haughtily.
"Did you speak to me, Monsieur?" he enquired, glancing the actor up
and down with an air of supreme disdain.
Miraudin laughed carelessly.
"Yes, I spoke to you, Marquis!" he replied, "I said that the public
confession of our dear priest Vergniaud was a veritable drame!"
"An unfortunate scandal in the Church!" said Fontenelle curtly.
"Yes!" went on the unabashed Miraudin, "If it were on the stage it
would be taken as a matter of course. An actor's follies help to
populate the world. But a priest's petite faute would seem to
suggest the crushing down of a universe!"
"Custom and usage make the rule in these things," said Fontenelle
turning away, "I have the honour to wish you good-day, Monsieur!"
"One moment!" said the actor smiling, "There is a curious personal
resemblance between you and me, Monsieur le Marquis! Have you ever
noticed it? We might almost be brothers by our looks--and also I
believe by our temperaments!"
Fontenelle's hazel eyes flashed angrily.
"I think not!" he said coldly, "A certain resemblance between
totally unrelated persons is quite common. For the rest, we are
Again Miraudin laughed.
"As you will, Marquis!" and he raised his hat with a light, half-
mocking air, "Au revoir!"
Fontenelle scarcely acknowledged the salutation,--he was too much
annoyed. He considered it a piece of insolence on Miraudin's part to
have addressed him at all without previous introduction. It was true
that the famous actor was permitted a license not granted to the
ordinary individual,--as indeed most actors are. Even princes, who
hedge themselves round with impassable barriers to certain of their
subjects who are in all ways great and worthy of notice, unbend to
the Mime who today takes the place of the Court-jester, and allow
him to enter the royal presence, often bringing his newest wanton
with him. And there was not the slightest reason for the Marquis
Fontenelle to be at all particular in his choice of acquaintances.
Yet somehow or other, he was. The fine and sensitive instincts of a
gentleman were in him, and though in the very depths of his own
conscience he knew himself to be as much of a social actor as
Miraudin was a professional one,--though he was aware that his
passions were as sensual, and therefore as vulgar, (for sensuality
is vulgarity), there was a latent pride in him which forbade him to
set himself altogether on the same level. And now as he walked away
haughtily, his fine aristocratic head lifted a little higher in air
than usual, he was excessively irritated--with everything and
everybody, but with himself in particular. Abbe Vergniaud's sermon
had stung him in several ways, and the startling FINALE had vexed
him still more.
"What folly!" he thought, as he entered his luxuriously appointed
flat, and threw himself into a chair with a kind of angry weariness,
"How utterly stupid of Vergniaud to blazon the fact that he is no
better than other men, in the full face of his congregation! He must
be mad! A priest of the Roman Church publicly acknowledging a
natural son! [Footnote: ROME, August 19, 1899--A grave scandal has
just burst upon the world here. The Gazetta di Venezia having
attacked the bishops attending the recent conclave of "Latin
America," that is, Spanish-speaking America, as men of loose
morality, the Osservatore Cattolico, the Vatican organ, replied
declaring that the life of the bishops present at the conclave was
above suspicion. The Gazetta di Venezia responds, affirming that the
majority of the bishops brought with them to Rome their mistresses,
and in some instances their children. The Gazetta offers to disclose
the names of these bishops, and demands that the Pope shall satisfy
the Catholic world by taking measures against them.--Central News.]
Has ever such a thing been heard of! And the result is merely to
create scandal and invite his own disgrace! A quoi bon!"
He lit a cigarette and puffed at it impatiently. His particular
"code" of morality had been completely upset;--things seemed to have
taken a turn for general offence, and the simplest thoughts became
like bristles in his brain, pricking him uncomfortably in various
sore and sensitive places. Then, added to his general sense of
spleen was the unpleasant idea that he was really in love, where he
had never meant to be in love. "In love", is a wide term nowadays,
and covers a multitude of poor and petty passing emotions,--and it
is often necessary to add the word "really" to it, in order to
emphasise the fact that the passion has perhaps,--and even then it
is only a perhaps,--taken a somewhat lasting form. Why could not
Sylvie Hermenstein have allowed things to run their natural course?-
-this natural course being according to Fontenelle, to drop into his
arms when asked, and leave those arms again with equal alacrity also
when asked! It would have been quite pleasant and satisfactory to
him, the Marquis;--and for Sylvie--well!--for Sylvie, she would soon
have got over it! Now there was all this fuss and pother about
virtue! Virtue, quotha! In a woman, and in Paris! At this time of
day! Could anything be more preposterous and ridiculous!
"One would imagine I had stumbled into a convent for young ladies,"
he grumbled to himself, "What with Sylvie actually gone, and that
pretty pattern of chastity, Angela Sovrani, preaching at me with her
big violet eyes,--and now Vergniaud who used to be 'bon camarade et
bon vivant', branding himself a social sinner--really one would
imagine that some invisible Schoolmaster was trying to whip me into
order . . ."
"Peut-on entrer?" called a clear voice outside at this juncture, and
without waiting for permission the speaker entered, a very pretty
woman in an admirably fitting riding habit, which she held daintily
up with one gloved hand, extending the other as she came to the
Marquis who gracefully bent over it and kissed it.
"Charme de vous voir Princesse!" he murmured.
"Not at all! Spare me your falsehoods!" was the gay reply,
accompanied by a dazzling smile, "You are not in the least charmed,
nothing,--nobody charms you,--I least of all! Did you not see me in
church? No! Where were your eyes? On the courageous Vergniaud, who
so nearly gave us the melancholy task of arranging a 'Chapelle
ardente' for him this afternoon?" She laughed, and her eyes twinkled
maliciously,--then she went on, "Do you know he is quite a
delightful boy,--the peasant son and assassin? I think of taking him
to my Chateau and making something of him. I waited to see the whole
play out, and bring you the news. Papa Vergniaud has gone home with
his good-looking offspring--then Cardinal Bonpre--do you know the
"By reputation merely," replied the Marquis, setting a chair for his
fair visitor, "And as the uncle of Donna Sovrani."
"Oh, reputation is nothing," laughed the lady, known as the
Princesse D'Agramont, an independent beauty of great wealth and
brilliant attainments, "Your butler can give you a reputation, or
take it away from you! But the Cardinal's reputation is truly
singular. It is goodness, merely! He is so good that he has become
actually famous for it! Now I once thought that to become famous for
goodness must surely imply that the person so celebrated had a very
hypocritical nature,--the worst of natures indeed;--that of
pretending to be what he was not,--but I was mistaken. Cardinal
Bonpre IS good. Absolutely sincere and noble--therefore a living
marvel in this age!"
"You are pleased to be severe, Princesse," said the Marquis, "Is
sincerity so difficult to find?"
"The most difficult of virtues!" answered the Princesse, lightly
tapping out a little tune with the jewelled handle of her riding
whip on the arm of her chair, "That is why I like horses and dogs so
much--they are always honest. And for that reason I am now inclined
to like Abbe Vergniaud whom I never liked before. He has turned
honest! To-day indeed he has been as straightforward as if he were
not a man at all!--and I admire him for it. He and his son will be
my guests at the Chateau D'Agramont."
"What a very strange woman you are!" said Fontenelle, with a certain
languid admiration beginning to glimmer in his eyes, "You always do
things that nobody else would dare do--and yet . . . no lovers!"
She turned herself swiftly round and surveyed him with a bright
scorn that swept him as with a lightning flash from head to heel.
"Lovers! Who would be bored by them! Such delightful company! So
unselfish in their demands--so tender and careful of a woman's
feelings! Pouf! Cher ami!--you forget! I was the wife of the late
"That explains a great many of your moods certainly," said the
"Does it not? Le beau Louis!--romantic Louis!--poet Louis!--musician
Louis!--Louis, who talked pretty philosophies by the hour,--Louis
who looked so beautiful by moonlight,--who seemed fastidious and
refined to a degree that was almost ethereal!--Louis who swore, with
passion flashing in his eyes, that I was the centre of the universe
to him, and that no other woman had ever occupied, would ever
occupy, or SHOULD ever occupy his thoughts!--yes, he was an ideal
lover and husband indeed!" said the Princesse smiling coldly, "I
gave him all my life and love, till one day, when I found I was
sharing his caresses with my plumpest dairymaid, who called him "HER
Louis"! Then I thought it was time to put an end to romance. TIENS!"
and she gave a little shrug and sigh, "It is sad to think he died of
The Marquis laughed.
"You are incorrigible, belle Loyse!" he said, "You should write
these things, not speak them."
"Really! And do I not write them? Yes, you know I do, and that you
envy me my skill. The Figaro is indebted to me for many admirable
essays. At the same time I do not give you permission to call me
"Forgive me!" and the Marquis folded his hands with an air of mock
"Perhaps I will, presently," and she laughed, "But meanwhile I want
you to do something for me."
"Toujours a votre service, madame!" and Fontenelle bowed profoundly.
"How theatrical you look! You are alarmingly like Miraudin;--and one
MUST draw the line at Miraudin! This is a day of truth according to
the Abbe Vergniaud; how dare you say you are at my service when you
do not mean it?"
"Princesse, I protest . . ."
"Oh, protest as much as you like,--on the way to Rome!"
The Marquis started.
"Yes, to Rome. I am going, and I want someone to look after me. Will
you come? All Paris will say we have eloped together." She laughed
The Marquis stood perplexed and silent.
"Well, what is it?" went on the Princesse gaily, "Is there some
faint sense of impropriety stealing over you? Not possible! Dear me,
your very muscles are growing rigid! You will not go?"
"Madame, if you will permit me to be frank with you,--I would rather
"A la bonheur!--then I have you!" And the Princesse rose, a dazzling
smile irradiating her features, "You have thrown open your heart!
You have begun to reform! You love Sylvie Hermenstein--yes!--you
positively LOVE her!"
"Princesse--" began the Marquis, "I assure you--"
"Assure me nothing!" and she looked him straight in the eyes, "I
know all about it! You will not journey with me because you think
the Comtesse Sylvie will hear of it, and put a wrong construction on
your courtesy. You wish to try for once, to give her no cause for
doubting you to be sans peur et sans reproche. You wish to make her
think you something better than a sort of Miraudin whose amorous
inclinations are not awakened by one woman, but by women! And so you
will not do anything which, though harmless in itself, may seem
equivocal. For this you refuse the friendly invitation of one of the
best known 'society leaders' in Europe! CHER Marquis!--it is a step
in the right direction! Adieu!"
"You are not going so soon," he said hurriedly, "Wait till I
explain . . ."
"There is nothing to explain!" and the pretty Princesse gave him her
hand with a beneficent air, "I am very pleased with you. You are
what the English call 'good boy'! Now I am going to see the Abbe and
place the Chateau D'Agramont at his disposal while he is waiting to
be excommunicated,--for of course he will be excommunicated--"
"What does it matter!--Who cares?" said the Marquis recklessly.
"It does not matter, and nobody cares--not in actual Paris. But very
very nice people in the suburbs, who are morally much worse than the
Abbe, will perhaps refuse to receive him. That is why my doors are
open to him, and also to his son."
"Original, as usual!"
"Perfectly! I am going to write a column for the Figaro on the
amazing little scene of this morning. Au revoir! My poor horse has
been waiting too long already,--I must finish my ride in the Bois,
and then go to Angela Sovrani; for all the dramatis personae of to-
day's melodrama are at her studio, I believe."
"Who is that boy with the Cardinal?" asked the Marquis suddenly.
"You have noticed him? I also. A wonderful face! A little acolyte,
no doubt. And so you will not go to Rome with me?"
"I think not," and Fontenelle smiled.
"Comme il vous plaira! I will tell Sylvie."
"The Comtesse Hermenstein is not in Paris."
"No!" and the Princesse laughed mischievously, "She is in Rome! She
must have arrived there this morning. Au revoir, Marquis!" Another
dazzling smile, and she was gone.
Fontenelle stood staring after her in amazement. Sylvie was in Rome
then? And he had just refused to accompany the Princesse D'Agramont
thither! A sudden access of irritation came over him, and he paced
the room angrily. Should he also go to Rome? Never! It would seem
too close a pursuit of a woman who had by her actions distinctly
shown that she wished to avoid him. Now he would prove to her that
he also had a will of his own. HE would leave Paris;--he would go--
yes, he would go to Africa! Everybody went to Africa. It was
becoming a fashionable pasture-land for disappointed lives. He would
lose himself in the desert,--and then--then Sylvie would be sorry
when she did not know where he was or what he was doing! But also,--
he in his turn would not know where Sylvie was, or what she was
doing! This was annoying. It was certain that she would not remain
in Rome a day longer than she chose to,--well!--then where would she
go? In Africa he would find some difficulty in tracing her
movements. On second thoughts he resolved that he would lose himself
in another fashion--and would go to Rome to do it!
"She shall not know I am there!" he said to himself, with a kind of
triumph in his own decision, "I shall amuse myself--I shall see her-
-but she shall not see me."
Satisfied with this as yet vague plan of entertainment, he began at
once making his arrangements for departure;--meanwhile, the
Princesse D'Agramont riding gracefully through the Bois on her
beautiful Arab, was amusing herself with her thoughts, and weighing
the PROS and CONS of the different lives of her friends, without
giving the slightest consideration to her own. Here was a strange
nature,--as a girl she had been intensely loving, generous and warm-
hearted, and she had adored her husband with exceptional faith and
devotion. But the handsome Prince's amours were legion, though he
had been fairly successful in concealing them from his wife, till
the unlucky day when she had found him making desperate love to a
common servant,--and after that her confidence, naturally, was at an
end. One discovery led to another,--and the husband around whom she
had woven her life's romance, sank degraded in her sight, never to
rise again. She was of far too dignified and proud a nature to allow
her sense of outrage and wrong to be made public, and though she