Part 3 out of 5
explained by reason of the astonishment produced by such a first
meeting. And so the great man remained convinced that I had had
intercourse with a Salamander. I felt some scruples at deceiving
him, but I was compelled to do it and, besides, he deceived himself
to such a degree that it was hardly possible to add anything to his
illusions. So I ascended peacefully to my room, went to bed, and
blew the candle out at the end of the most glorious day of my life.
Jahel comes to my Room--What the Abbé saw on the Stairs--His
Encounter with Mosaïde.
Jahel kept her word. On the second day after, she scratched at my
door. We were a great deal more comfortable in my room than we had
been in M. d'Asterac's study, and what had taken place at our first
meeting was but child's play in comparison to what love inspired us
at our second opportunity. She tore herself out of my arms at the
dawn with a thousand oaths to join me again very soon, calling me
her soul, her life, her dearest sweetheart.
That day I rose very late. When I reached the library, my master was
already sitting over the papyrus of Zosimus, his pen in one hand,
his magnifying-glass in the other, and worthy of the admiration of
anyone having due consideration for good literature.
"Jacques Tournebroche," he said to me, "the principal difficulty of
this reading consists in not a few of the letters being easily
confounded with others, and it is important for the success of the
deciphering to make a list of the characters lending themselves to
similar mistakes, because by not taking such precautions we are
running the risk of employing the wrong terminations, to our eternal
shame and just vituperation. I have to-day already committed some
ridiculous blunders. It must have been because, since daybreak, my
mind has been troubled by what I saw last night, and of which I will
give you an account.
"I woke up in the morning twilight, and I felt a longing for a glass
of that light white wine about which I made yesterday my compliments
to M. d'Asterac, if you remember. For there exists, my son, between
white wine and the crowing of the cock a sympathy, doubtless dating
from Noah's time, and I am certain that if Saint Peter, in that
sacred night he passed in the yard of the great high priest, had had
just a mouthful of Moselle claret or only wine of Orleans, he never
would have disowned Jesus Christ before the cock crowed a second
time. But in no sense, my boy, have we to regret that bad action; it
was of the utmost importance that the prophecies were fulfilled, and
if Peter, or Cephas, had not committed on that very night the worst
of infamies, he would not now be the greatest saint in heaven, and
the corner-stone of our holy Church, to the confusion of honest men
according to the world, who have to see the keys of their eternal
bliss held by a dastardly knave. O salutary example, which, drawing
man out of the fallacious inspirations of human honour, leads him on
the road of salvation! O masterly disposition of religion! O divine
wisdom, exalting the meek and wretched to the humiliation of the
haughty! O marvel! O mystery! To the eternal shame of the Pharisees
and lawyers, a common mariner of the Lake of Tiberias, who by his
gross cowardice had become the laughing-stock of the kitchen wenches
who warmed themselves with him in the courtyard of the high priest,
a churl and a dastard, who denied his master and his faith before
slatterns certainly not so pretty by far as the chamber-maid of the
bailiff's wife at Séez, wears the triple crown, the pontifical ring
on his finger and rules over princes and bishops, over kings and
emperors, is invested with the right to bind and loose; the most
respectable of men, the most honest dame, cannot enter heaven unless
he gives them admission.
"But tell me, Tournebroche, my boy, at what part of my narrative had
I arrived when I got muddled over that great Saint Peter, the prince
of apostles? If I remember well I spoke to you of a glass of white
wine I drank at daybreak. I came down to the pantry in my shirt, and
took out of a certain cupboard, the key of which I had prudently
kept by me the day before, a bottle, the contents of which I emptied
with no little pleasure. Afterwards reascending the stairs I met,
between the second and third flights, a tiny damsel clad as a
pierrot, who descended the steps. She seemed to be mightily afraid,
and fled into the farthest corner of the passage. I followed her,
caught her, took her in my arms, and kissed her in a sudden and
irresistible outbreak of sympathy. Don't blame me, my boy; in my
place you would have done as much, perhaps more. It was a pretty
girl, reminding me of the serving-maid of the bailiff's wife, but
with more vivacity in her looks. She did not dare to scream. She
whispered breathless in my ear: 'Leave me, leave me; you're mad!'
Look here, Tournebroche, I still have the marks of her finger nails
on my wrist. O that I could keep as vivid on my lips the impression
of the kiss she gave me!"
"What, Monsieur Abbé," I exclaimed, "she gave you a kiss?"
"Be sure, my boy, that in my place you would have had one too--that
is to say, if you, as I did, seized the opportunity. I believe I
told you that I held the damsel in close embrace. She tried to fly
from me, she suppressed her screams, she murmured groans. 'For
heaven's sake, leave me! It begins to be light, a moment more and I
am lost.' Her fears, her fright, her danger--who could be barbarous
enough not to be affected by them? I am not inhuman. I gave her
freedom at the price of a kiss, which she gave me quickly. On my
word, I never enjoyed a more delicious one."
At this part of his tale, my dear tutor, raising his nose to sniff a
pinch of snuff, became aware of my confusion and pain, which he
thought to be utter astonishment, and continued to say:
"Jacques Tournebroche, all that remains for me to tell will astonish
you still more. To my regret I let the pretty girl go, but curiosity
tempted me to follow her. I went down the stairs after her, saw her
cross the lobby, go out by a little door opening on the fields in
the direction where the park extends farthest, and run up the lane.
I followed swiftly. I was quite sure that she would not go far,
dressed as a pierrot and wearing a night-cap. She took the path
wherein the mandrakes dwell. My curiosity doubled, and I followed
her up to Mosaïde's lodge. At this moment the hideous Jew appeared
at a window in his dressing-gown and monstrous headgear, like one of
those figures who show themselves at the stroke of noon, outside
those old clocks more Gothic and more ridiculous than the churches
wherein they are kept, for the enjoyment of the yokels and the
profit of the beadle.
"He discovered me, hidden as I was behind the foliage, at the very
moment when that pretty girl, fleet as Galatea, slipped into the
lodge. It looked as if I had followed her up in the manner, way and
habit of those satyrs of which we have spoken of late when
conferring on the finest passages of Ovid. My dress could but add to
such resemblance--did I tell you, my boy, that I wore only a shirt?
Seeing me, Mosaide's eyes vomited fire. Out of his dirty yellow
greatcoat he drew a neat little stiletto and shook it through the
window with an arm in no way weighed down by age. He roared
bilingual curses on me. Yes, Tournebroche, my grammatical knowledge
authorises me to say that his curses were bilingual, that Spanish,
or rather Portuguese, was mixed in them with Hebrew. I went into a
rage at not being able to catch their exact sense, as I do not know
these languages, although I can recognise them by certain sounds
which are frequent when they are spoken. It is very possible that he
accused me of wanting to corrupt that girl, whom I believe to be his
niece Jahel, whom, as you will remember, M. d'Asterac has repeatedly
mentioned to us. As such his invectives were rather flattering to
me, as I have become, my boy, by the progress of age and the
fatigues of an agitated life, so that I cannot aspire any longer to
the love of juvenile maidens. Alas! should I become a bishop that is
a dish of which I shall never taste. I am sorry for it. But it is no
good to be closely attached to the perishable things of this world,
and we are compelled to leave what leaves us. Accordingly Mosaïde,
brandishing his stiletto, squalled out his hoarse sounds mingled
with sharp yelpings in such a manner that I felt insulted, as well
as vituperated, in a chant or song. And without flattering myself,
my dear boy, I can say that I have been treated as a rake and a
seducer in a tune solemn and ceremonious. When yonder Mosaide
brought his imprecations to an end, I endeavoured to let him have my
reply in two languages also. I replied in a mixture of Latin and
French that he was a manslayer and a sacrilegist, who murdered tiny
babes and stabbed sacred hosts. The fresh morning wind blowing
between my naked legs reminded me that I wore a shirt only. I felt
somewhat embarrassed, because it is evident, my boy, that a man
without breeches is in a state highly inconvenient to speak of
sacred truth, to confound error and to prevent crime. Withal I gave
him a prodigious sketch of his outrages, and I threatened him with
the terrors of justice both human and divine."
"What do you say, my good master?" I nearly screamed, "yonder
Mosaïde, who has such a pretty niece, kills newborn babes and stabs
"I don't know anything about him," M. Jérôme Coignard replied, "and
besides cannot know it. But those crimes are his, they are of his
race, and I can charge him with them without slandering him. I place
on that miscreant's back a long array of flagitious ancestors. You
cannot have remained ignorant of all that is said of the Jews and of
their abominable rites. You may see in an ancient cosmography of
Munster in Westphalia a drawing representing some Jews mutilating a
child; they are recognisable by the wheel or round of cloth they
wear on their clothes in sign of infamy. For all that I do not
believe these misdeeds to be of their daily and domestic use. I also
doubt that the majority of Israelites are inclined to outrage the
holy wafers. To accuse them of doing so would be to believe that
they are as deeply convinced of the divinity of our Lord Jesus
Christ as we are ourselves. Sacrilege without faith is unbelievable,
and the Jew who stabbed a host rendered by that very deed a sincere
homage to the truth of transubstantiation. These are fables, my boy,
to be left to the ignorant and, if I throw them in the face of that
horrible Mosaïde, I do it less by the counsels of sound criticism
than by the impressive suggestions of resentment and anger."
"Oh! sir," I said, "you might have contented yourself with
reproaching him for the murder of the Portuguese he killed in the
frenzy of his jealousy; that certainly was a murder."
"What!" broke out my good master. "Mosaïde has killed a Christian?
He is dangerous, my dear Tournebroche. You'll have to come to the
same conclusion that I have arrived at myself about this adventure.
It is quite certain that his niece is the mistress of M. d'Asterac,
whose room she doubtless had just left when I met her on the stairs.
"I am too religious a man not to be sorry that so amiable a person
comes of the Jewish race, who crucified Jesus Christ. Alas! do not
doubt, my dear boy, that villain Mordecai is the uncle of an Esther
who does not need to macerate six months in myrrh to become worthy
of the bed of a king. That old spagyric raven is not the man fit for
such a beauty, and I am rather inclined to take an interest in her
"Mosaïde will have to hide her very secretly and carefully; should
she show herself once only at the promenade or the theatre, she
would have all the world at her feet on the following morning. Don't
you wish to see her, Tournebroche?"
I replied that I wished it very much. And then both of us drove
deeper in our Greek.
Outside Mademoiselle Catherine's House--We are invited in by M.
d'Anquetil--The Supper--The Visit of the Owner and the horrible
That evening my tutor and I happened to be in the Rue du Bac, and as
it was rather warm M. Jerome Coignard said to me:
"Jacques Tournebroche, my son, would it be agreeable to you to turn
to the left, into the Rue de Grenelle, in quest of a tavern--that's
to say, to some place where we could get a pot of wine for two sous?
I am rather short of cash, my boy, and strongly suppose you to be no
better off. M. d'Asterac, who possibly can make gold, does not give
any to his secretaries and servants, as we well know, to our cost,
you and I. He leaves us in a lamentable state. I have never a penny
in my pocket, and it will become necessary to remedy that evil by
industry and artifice. It is a fine thing to bear poverty with an
even mind, like Epictetus of glorious memory. But it is an exercise
I am tired of and which has become tedious by habit. I feel it is
high time for a change of virtue, and to insinuate myself into the
possession of wealth without being possessed by it, which certainly
is the noblest state to be reached by the soul of a philosopher. I
shall feel myself obliged, very soon, to earn profits of some kind
to show that my sagacity has not failed me during my prosperity. I
am in search of the means to reach such an issue; my mind is
occupied by it, Tournebroche."
And as my dear tutor spoke with a noble distinction of that matter,
we came near the pretty dwelling wherein M. de la Gueritude had
lodged Mademoiselle Catherine. "You'll recognise it, she had said to
me, by the roses on the balcony." There was not light enough to see
the roses, but I fancied I could smell them. Advancing a few yards I
saw her at the window watering flowers. She recognised me, laughed,
and threw me kisses with her chubby little hand. Upon that a hand
passing through the open window slapped her cheek. In her surprise
she let the water jug slip out of her hand, it fell down into the
street, at a hair's breadth from my tutor's head. The slapped beauty
disappeared from the window, and the ear-boxer appeared; he leaned
out and shouted:
"Thank God, sir, you are not the Capuchin. I cannot stand seeing my
mistress throw kisses to that stinking beast, who continually prowls
under this window. For once I have not to blush at her choice. You
look quite an honest man, and I believe I have seen you before. Do
me the honour to come up. Within a supper is prepared. You'll do me
a real favour to partake of it, as well as the abbé, who has just
had a pot of water thrown over his head, and shakes himself like a
wetted dog. After supper we'll have a game of cards, and at daybreak
we'll go hence to cut one another's throats. But that will be purely
and simply an act of civility and only to do you honour, sir, for,
in truth, that girl is not worth the thrust of a sword. She is a
hussy. I'll never see her any more."
I recognised in the speaker, the Monsieur d'Anquetil whom I had seen
a short time ago excite his followers so vehemently to spike Friar
Ange. Now he spoke with courtesy and treated me as a gentleman. I
understood all the favour he conferred on me by his consent to cut
my throat. Nor was my dear tutor less sensible of so much urbanity,
and after having shaken himself he said to me:
"Jacques Tournebroche, my son, we cannot say nay to such a gracious
Already two lackeys had come down bearing torches. They led us to a
room where a collation had been prepared on a table lit up by wax
candles burning in two silver candelabra. M. d'Anquetil invited us
to be seated, and my good master tied his napkin round his throat.
He already had a thrush on his fork when heart-rending sobs were to
"Don't take any notice of yonder noise," said M. d'Anquetil, "it's
only Catherine, whom I have locked in that room."
"Ah! sir; you must forgive her," said my kind-hearted tutor, looking
sadly on the gold-brown toasted little bird on his fork. "The
pleasantest meat tastes bitter when seasoned with tears and moans.
Could you have the heart to let a woman cry? Reprieve this one, I
beg of you! Is she then so blamable for having thrown a kiss to my
young pupil, who was her neighbour and companion in the days of
their common mediocrity, at a time when this pretty girl's charms
were only famous under the vine arbour of the _Little Bacchus_? It
was but an innocent action, as much so as a human, and particularly
a woman's, action can ever be innocent, and altogether free of the
original stain. Allow me also to say, sir, that jealousy is a Gothic
sentiment, a sad reminder of barbaric customs, which has no business
to survive in a delicate, well-born soul."
"Monsieur l'Abbé," inquired M. d'Anquetil, "on what grounds do you
presume me to be jealous? I am not! But I cannot stand a woman
"We are playthings of the winds," said my tutor, and sighed.
"Everything laughs at us, the sky, the stars, rain and shadow,
zephyr and light and woman. Let Catherine sup with us. She is pretty
and will enliven our table. Whatever she may have done, that kiss
and the rest, do not render her the less pleasant to look at. The
infidelities of women do not spoil their beauty. Nature, pleased to
adorn them, is indifferent to their faults; follow her, and forgive
I seconded my tutor's entreaties, and M. d'Anquetil consented to
free the prisoner. He went to the door of the room from whence the
cries came, unlocked it, and called Catherine, whose only reply was
to redouble her wailing.
"Gentlemen," her lover said to us, "there she is lying flat on her
belly, her head plunged in the pillows, and at every sob raising her
rump ridiculously. Look at that. It is for such we take so much
trouble and commit so many absurdities! Catherine, come to supper."
But Catherine did not move, and continued to cry. He pulled her by
the arm, by the waist. She resisted. He became more pressing, and
"Come, darling, get up."
But she was stubborn, would not change place, and stuck there,
holding to pillows and mattress.
At last her lover lost patience, swore, and shouted rudely:
"Get up, slut!"
At once she got up, and, smiling amid her tears, took his arm and
came with him to the dining-room, looking the very picture of a
She sat down between M. d'Anquetil and me, her head inclined on the
shoulder of her lover the while her foot felt for mine under the
"Gentlemen," said our host, "forgive my vivacity, an impulse I
cannot regret, because it gives me the honour to entertain you at
this place. To say the truth, I cannot endure all the whims of this
pretty girl, and I have been very suspicious since I surprised her
with her Capuchin."
"My dear friend," Catherine said, pressing at the sama time her foot
on mine, "your jealousy goes astray. You should know that my only
liking is for M. Jacques."
"She jests," said M. d'Anquetil.
"Do not doubt of it," said I. "It is quite evident that she loves
you, and you alone."
"Without flattering myself," he replied, "I have somehow attracted
her attachment. But she is coquettish and fickle."
"Give me something to drink," said the abbe.
M. d'Anquetil passed him the demijohn and exclaimed:
"By gad! abbé, you who belong to the Church, you'll tell us why
women love Capuchins."
M. Coignard wiped his lips and said:
"The reason is that Capuchins love humbly, and never refuse
anything. Another reason is that neither reflection nor courtesy
weakens their natural instincts. Sir, yours is a generous wine."
"You do me too much honour," replied M. d'Anquetil. "It is M. de la
Guéritude's. I have taken his mistress. I may as well take his
"Nothing is more equitable," said my tutor. "I see, with pleasure,
that you rise above prejudices."
"Do not praise me, abbe, more than I deserve. My birth renders easy
to me what may be difficult for the vulgar. A commoner is compelled
to have some restraint in all his doings. He is tied down to rigid
probity; but a gentleman enjoys the honour of fighting for his king
and his pleasure, and does not need to encumber himself with foolish
trifles. I have seen active service under M. de Villars, and in the
War of Succession, and have also run the risk of being killed
without any reason in the battle of Parma. The least you can do is
to leave me free to lick my servants, to balk my creditors, and
take, if it please me, the wives of my friends--likewise their
"You speak nobly," said my good master, "and you are careful to
maintain the prerogatives of the nobility."
"I have not," replied M. d'Anquetil, "those scruples which
intimidate the crowd of ordinary men, and which I consider good only
to stop the timorous and restrain the wretched."
"Well spoken!" said my tutor.
"I do not believe in virtue," replied the other.
"You're right," said my master again. "With his quite peculiar
shape, the human animal could not be virtuous without being somewhat
deformed. Look, for an example, on this pretty girl supping with us;
on her beautiful bosom, her marvellously rounded form, and the rest.
In what part of her enchanting body could she lodge a grain of
virtue? There is no room for it; everything is so firm, so juicy,
solid, and plump! Virtue, like the raven, nests in ruins. Her
dwellings are the cavities and wrinkles of the human body. I myself,
sir, who, since my childhood, have meditated over the austere
principles of religion and philosophy, could not insinuate into
myself a minimum of virtue otherwise than by means of constitutional
flaws produced by sufferings and age. And ever more I absorbed less
virtue than pride. In doing so I got into the habit of addressing to
the Divine Creator of this world the following prayer: 'My Lord,
preserve me from virtue if it is to lead me from godliness.' Ah!
godliness; this it is possible and necessary to attain. That is our
decent ending. May we reach it some day! In the meantime, give me
something to drink."
"I'll confess," said M. d'Anquetil, "that I do not believe in a
"Now, for once, sir, I must blame you," said the abbé "One must
believe in God, and all the truths of our holy religion."
M. d'Anquetil protested.
"You make game of us, abbé, and take us to be worse ninnies than we
really are. As I have said, I do not believe either in God or devil,
and I never go to Mass--the king's Mass alone excepted. The sermons
of the priests are stories for old women, bearable, perhaps, in such
times as when my grandmother saw the Abbé de Choisy, dressed as a
woman, distribute the holy bread at the Church of Saint Jacques du
Haut Pas. In those times there may have been religion; to-day there
is none, thank God!"
"By all the Saints and all the devils, don't speak like that, my
friend," exclaimed Catherine. "As sure as that pie stands on this
table God exists! And if you want a proof of it, let me say, that
when, last year, on a certain day, I was in direful distress and
penury, I went, on the advice of Friar Ange, to burn a wax candle in
the Church of the Capuchins, and on the following I met M. de la
Guéritude at the promenade, who gave me this house, with all the
furniture it contains, the cellar full of wine, some of which we
enjoy to-night, and sufficient money to live honestly."
"Fie! fie!" said M. d'Anquetil, "the idiot makes God Almighty
interfere in dirty affairs. This shocks and wounds one's feelings,
even if one is an atheist."
"My dear sir," said my good tutor, "it is a great deal better to
compromise God in dirty business, as does that simple-minded girl,
than, as you do, to chase Him out of the world He has created. If He
has not expressly sent that burly contractor to Catherine, His
creature, He at least suffered her to meet him. We are ignorant of
His ways, and what this simpleton says contains more truth, maybe
mixed and alloyed with blasphemy, than all the vain words a
reprobate draws out of the emptiness of his heart. Nothing is more
despicable than the libertinism of mind that the youth of our days
make a show of. Your words make me shiver. Am I to reply to them by
proofs out of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the fathers?
Shall I make you hear God speaking to the patriarchs and to the
prophets: _Si locutus est Abraham et semini ejus in saecula?_
Shall I spread out before you the traditions of the Church? Invoke
against you the authority of both Testaments? Blind you with
Christ's miracles, and His words as miraculous as His deeds? No! I
will not arm myself with those holy weapons. I fear too much to
pollute them in such a fight, which is not at all solemn. In her
prudence the Church warns us not to risk turning edification into a
scandal. Therefore I will not speak, sir, of that wherewith I have
been fed on the steps of sanctuaries. But, without violating the
chaste modesty of my soul, and without exposing to profanation the
sacred mysteries, I'll show you God overawing human reason, I'll
show you it by the philosophy of pagans, and by the tittle-tattle of
ungodly persons. Yes, sir, I'll make you avow that you recognise
Him, against your own free will. Much as you want to pretend He does
not exist you cannot but agree that, if a certain order prevails in
this world, such order is divine--flows out of the spring and
fountain of all order."
"I agree," replied M. d'Anquetil, reclining in his armchair and
fondling his finely shaped calves.
"Therefore, take care," said my good tutor. "When you say that God
does not exist what else are you doing but linking thought,
directing reason, and manifesting in your innermost soul, the
principle of all thought, and all reason, which is God? Is it
possible only to attempt to establish that He is not, without
illuminating, by the most paltry reasoning, which still is
reasoning, some remains of the harmony He has established in the
"Abbé," replied M. d'Anquetil, "you are a humorous sophist. It is
well known in our days that this world is the work of chance, and it
is superfluous to speak of a providence, since natural philosophers
have discovered, by means of their telescopes, that winged frogs are
living on the moon."
"Well, sir," replied my good master, "I am in no way angry that
winged frogs are living on the moon; such kind of marsh-birds are
very worthy inhabitants of a world which has not been sanctified by
the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. True, we only know the minor
part of the universe, and it is quite possible, as M. d'Asterac
says--who is a bit of a fool--that this earth is no more than a spot
of mud in the infinity of worlds. Maybe the astronomer Copernicus
was not altogether dreaming when he taught that, mathematically, the
earth is not the centre of creation. I have also read that an
Italian of the name of Galileo, who died miserably, shared
Copernicus' opinion, and in our days we see little M. de Fontenelle
entertaining the same ideas. But all this is but a vain imagination,
fit only to unhinge weak minds. What does it matter if the physical
world is larger or smaller, of one shape or another? It is quite
sufficient that it can be duly considered only by intelligence and
reason for God to be manifest therein.
"If a wise man's meditations could be of some use to you, sir, I
will inform you how such proof of God's existence, better than the
proof of St. Anselm, and quite independent of that resulting from
Revelation, appeared to me suddenly in unclouded limpidity. It was
at Séez, five and twenty years ago when I was the bishop's
librarian. The gallery windows opened on a courtyard where, every
morning, I saw a kitchen wench clean the saucepans. She was young,
tall, sturdy. A slight down, shadowlike, over her lips lent
irritating and proud gracefulness to her countenance. Her entangled
hair, meagre bosom, and long, naked arms were worthy of an Adonis or
a Diana. She was of a boyish beauty. I loved her for it, loved her
strong, red hands. All in all that girl evoked in me a longing as
rude and brutal as herself. You know how imperious such longings
are. I made her understand by sign and word. Without the slightest
hesitation she quickly let me know that my longings were not
stronger than hers, and appointed the very next night for a meeting,
to take place in the loft, where she slept on the hay, by gracious
permission of the bishop, whose saucepans she cleaned. Impatiently I
waited for the night. When at last her shadow covered the earth I
climbed, by means of a ladder, to the loft, where the girl expected
me. My first thought was to embrace her, my second to admire the
links which brought me into her arms. For, sir, a young
ecclesiastic--a kitchen wench--a ladder--a bundle of hay. What a
train! What regulation! What a concourse of pre-established
harmonies! What a concatenation of cause and effect! What a proof of
God's existence! I was strangely struck by it, and mightily glad I
am to be able to add this profane demonstration to the reasons
furnished by theology, which are, however, amply sufficient."
"Abbé," said Catherine, "the only weak point in your story is that
the girl had a meagre bosom. A woman without breasts is like a bed
without pillows. But don't you know, d'Anquetil, what we might do?"
"Yes," said he, "play a game of ombre, which is played by three."
"If you will," she said. "But, dear, have the pipes brought in.
Nothing is pleasanter than to smoke a pipe of tobacco when drinking
A lackey brought the cards and pipes, which we lit. Soon the room
was full of dense smoke, wherein our host and the Abbé Coignard
played gravely at piquet.
Luck followed my dear tutor up to the moment when M. d'Anquetil,
fancying he saw him for the third time score fifty-five when he had
only made forty points, called him a Greek, a villainous trickster,
a Knight of Transylvania, and threw a bottle at his head, which
broke on the table, flooding it with wine.
"Well, sir," said the abbé, "you'll have to take the trouble to open
another bottle: we are thirsty."
"With pleasure," replied M. d'Anquetil. "But, abbé, know that a
gentleman does not mark points he has not made, and does not cheat
at cards except at the king's card-table, round which all sorts of
people are assembled, to whom one owes nothing. On any other table
it is a vile action. Abbé, say, do you want to be looked on as an
"It is remarkable," said my good tutor, "that you blame at cards or
dice a practice so much commended in the art of war, politics and
trade; in each of these people glorify themselves by correcting the
injuries of fortune. It is not that I do not pique myself on honesty
when playing at cards. Thank God, I always play straight, and you
must have been dreaming, sir, when you fancied I had marked points I
did not make. Had it been otherwise, I would appeal to the example
given by the blessed Bishop of Geneva, who did not scruple to cheat
at cards. But I cannot defend myself against the reflection that at
play men are much more sensitive than in serious business, and that
they employ the whole of their probity at the backgammon board,
where it incommodes them but indifferently, whereas they put it
entirely in the background in a battle or a treaty of peace, where
it would be troublesome. Polyænus, sir, has written, in the Greek
language a book on Stratagems, wherein is shown to what excess
deceit is pushed by the great leaders."
"Abbé," said M. d'Anquetil, "I have not read your Polyænus, and do
not think I ever shall read him. But like every true gentleman, I
have been to the wars. I have served the king for eighteen months.
It is the noblest of all professions. I'll tell you exactly what war
is. I may tell the secret of it, as nobody is present to listen but
yourself, some bottles, yonder gentleman whom I intend to kill very
shortly, and that girl, who begins to undress herself."
"Yes," said Catherine, "I undress, and will keep only my chemise on,
because I feel too hot."
"Well then," M. d'Anquetil continued, "whatever may be printed of it
in the gazettes, war consists, above all things, of stealing the
pigs and chickens of peasants. Soldiers in the fields have no other
"You are right," said M. Coignard, "and in days of yore it was the
saying in Gaul that the soldier's best friend was Madame Marauding.
But I beg of you not to kill my pupil, Jacques Tournebroche."
"Ouf!" exclaimed Catherine, arranging the lace of her chemise on her
bosom. "Now I feel easier."
"Abbé," replied M. d'Anquetil, "honour compels me to do it."
But my kind-hearted tutor went on:
"Sir, Jacques Tournebroche is very useful to me for the translation,
I have undertaken, of Zosimus the Panopolitan. I would give you many
thanks not to fight him before the finishing touch has been given to
that grand work."
"To the deuce with your Zosimus," said M. d'Anquetil. "To the deuce
with him! Do you hear, abbé! I'll send him to the deuce, as a king
would do with his first mistress."
And he sang:
"Pour dresser un jeune courrier
Et l'affermir sur l'étrier
Il lui fallait une routière
Laire lan laire."
"What's that Zosimus?"
"Zosimus, sir, Zosimus of Panopolis, was a learned Greek, who
flourished at Alexandria in the third century of the Christian era,
and wrote treatises on the spagyric art."
"Do you fancy it matters to me? Why do you translate it?
"Battons le fer quand il est chaud
Dit-elle, en faisant sonner haut
Le nom de sultan première
Laire lan laire."
"Sir," said my dear tutor, "I quite agree with you; there is no
practical utility in it, and by it the course of the world will not
be changed in the slightest. But making clearer by annotations and
comments this treatise, which that Greek compiled for his sister
Catherine interrupted him by singing in a high-pitched voice:
"Je veux en dépit des jaloux
Qu'on fasse duc mon epoux
Lasse de le voir secretairev
Laire lan laire."
And my tutor continued:
"--I contribute to the treasure of knowledge gathered by erudite
men, and bring forward one stone of my own for a monument to true
history, which is a better one than the chronicles of war and
treaties; for, sir, the nobility of man--"
Catherine continued to sing:
"Je sais bien qu'on murmurera
Que Paris nous chansonnera
Mais tant pis pour le sot vulgaire
Laire lan laire."
And my dear tutor went on:
"--is thought. And concerning that, it is not indifferent to know
what idea the Egyptians had formed of the nature of metals and the
qualities of the primitive substance."
The Abbé Jerôme Coignard, having come to the end of his discourse,
emptied a big glass of wine, while Catherine sang:
"Par l'épée ou par le fourreau
Devenir due est toujours beau
Il n'importe le maniére
Laire lan laire."
"Abbé," said M. d'Anquetil, "you do not drink, and in spite of such
abstinence you lose your reason. In Italy, during the War of
Succession, I was under the orders of a brigadier who translated
Polybius. But he was an idiot. Why translate Zosimus?"
"If you want my true reason," replied the abbé, "because I find some
sensuality in it."
"That's something like!" protested M. d'Anquetil. "But in what can
M. Tournebroche, who at this moment is caressing my mistress, assist
"With the knowledge of Greek I have given him."
M. d'Anquetil turned round to me and said:
"What, sir, you know Greek! You are not then a gentleman?"
"No, sir," I replied, "I am not. My father is the banner-bearer of
the Guild of Parisian Cooks."
"Well, under such conditions it is impossible for me to kill you.
Kindly accept my excuses. But, abbé, you don't drink. You imposed
upon me. I believed you to be a real good tippler, and wished you to
become my chaplain as soon as I could set up my own establishment."
However, M. Coignard did drink all that the bottle contained, and
Catherine, inclining to me, whispered in my ear:
"Jacques, I feel that I shall never love anyone but you."
These words, spoken by a really fine woman clad in no other wrapper
than a chemise, troubled me to the extreme. Catherine ended by
fuddling me entirely, by making me drink out of her own glass, an
action passing unobserved in the confusion of a supper which had
overheated the heads of us all.
M. d'Anquetil knocked off the neck of a bottle on the corner of the
table and filled our bumpers; from this moment on, I cannot give a
reliable account of what was said and done around me. One incident I
remember: Catherine treacherously emptying her glass into her
lover's neck, between the nape and the collar of his coat; and M.
d'Anquetil retorting by pouring the contents of two or three bottles
over the girl. Wearing nothing beyond her chemise, it changed
Catherine into a kind of mythological figure of a humid species like
nymphs and naiads. She cried herself into a rage and twisted in
At that very moment, in the silence of the night, we heard knocks at
the house door. We became suddenly motionless and dumb, like people
The knocks soon redoubled in strength and frequency. M. d'Anquetil
was the first to break the silence by questioning himself aloud,
swearing horribly the while, who the deuce the pesterers could be.
My good tutor, to whom the most ordinary circumstances often
inspired admirable maxims, rose and said with unction and gravity:
"What does it matter whose hand knocks so violently at closed doors
for a vulgar, perhaps ridiculous, reason? Do not let us seek to
know, and consider them as knocking on the door of our hardened and
corrupted souls. At each knock let us say to ourselves: This one is
to give us notice to amend and think on the salvation we neglect in
the turmoil of our pleasures, that other one is to remind us of
eternity. In that way we shall draw the utmost profit out of an
incident which, after all, is as paltry as it is frivolous."
"You're humorous, abbé," said M. d'Anquetil; "to judge by the
sturdiness of their knocks, they'll burst the door open."
And as a fact the knocker resounded like thunder.
"They are robbers," exclaimed the soaked girl. "Jesus! We shall be
massacred; it is our chastisement for having sent away the little
friar. Many times I have told you. M. d'Anquetil, that misfortune
comes to houses from which a Capuchin has been driven.'
"Hear the stupid!" replied M. d'Anquetil. "That damned monk makes
her believe any imbecility he chooses to dish her up. Thieves would
be more polite, or at least more discreet. I rather think it is the
"The watch! Worse and worse," said Catherine.
"Bah!" M. d'Anquetil exclaimed, "we'll lick them."
My dear tutor took the precaution to put one bottle in one of his
pockets, and as an equipoise another bottle in the other pocket. The
house shook all over from the furious knocks. M. d'Anquetil, whose
military qualities were aroused by the knocker's onslaught, after
"Ah! Ah! Ah! Do you know who knocks? It is M. de la Gueritude with
his full-bottomed periwig and two big flunkeys carrying lighted
"That's not possible," said Catherine, "at this very moment he is in
bed with his old woman."
"Then it is his ghost," said M. d'Anquetil. "And the ghost also
wears his periwig, which is so ridiculous that any self-respecting
spectre would refuse to copy it."
"Do you speak the truth, and not jeer at me?" asked Catherine." Is
it really M. de la Guéritude?"
"It's himself, Catherine, if I may believe my own eyes/'
"Then I am lost!" exclaimed the poor girl. "Women are indeed
unhappy! They are never left in peace. What will become of me? Would
you not hide, gentlemen, in some of the cupboards?"
"That could be done," said M. Jerome Coignard, "as far as we are
concerned, but how are we to hide all those empty bottles, mostly
smashed, or at least broken necked; the remains of that demijohn M.
d'Anquetil threw at me; that tablecloth; those plates, candelabra
and mademoiselle's chemise, which in its soaked state is nothing but
a transparent veil encircling her beauty?"
"It is true," said Catherine, "yonder idiot has drenched my chemise,
and I am catching cold. But listen. Perhaps M. d'Anquetil could hide
in the top room, and I would make the abbé my uncle and Jacques my
"No good at all," said M. d'Anquetil. "I'll go myself and kindly ask
M. de la Gueritude to have supper with us."
We urged him, all of us--my tutor, Catherine and I--to keep quiet;
we entreated him, hung on his neck. It was useless. He got hold of a
candelabra and descended the stairs. Trembling we followed him. He
unlocked the door. M. de la Guéritude was there, exactly as M.
d'Anquetil had described him, with his periwig, between two flunkeys
bearing torches. M. d'Anquetil saluted with the utmost correctness
"Accord us the favour to come in, sir. You'll find some persons as
amiable as singular. Tournebroche, to whom Mam'selle Catherine
throws kisses from the window, and a priest who believes in God."
Wherewith he bowed respectfully.
M. de la Gueritude was of the dry sort, very tall, and little
inclined to the enjoyment of a joke. That of M. d'Anquetil provoked
him strongly, and his anger rose when he saw my good tutor, one
bottle in hand and two peeping out of his pockets, and by the look
of Catherine with her wet chemise sticking to her body.
"Young man," he said in an icy fit of passion to M. d'Anquetil, "I
have the honour to know your father, of whom I will inquire, not
later than to-morrow, the name of the town to which the king shall
send you to meditate over the shame of your behaviour and
impertinence. That worthy nobleman, to whom I have lent some money I
do not reclaim, can refuse me nothing. And our well-beloved Prince,
who is in precisely the same position as your father, has always a
kindness for me. Consider it a matter done. I have settled, thank
God, others more difficult. Now as to that lady yonder, of whom
neither repentance nor improvement can be expected. I'll say to-
morrow before noon, two words to the Lieutenant of Police, whom I
know to be well disposed, to send her to the spittel. I have nothing
else to say to you. This house is my property, I have paid for it
and I intend to enter when I like." Then, turning to his flunkeys,
and pointing out my tutor and myself with his walking stick, he
"Throw these two drunkards out."
M. Jérome Coignard was commonly of an exemplary forbearance, and he
used to say that he owed his gentleness to the vicissitudes of life;
chance having treated him as the sea treats the pebbles--that is,
polishing them by means of the rolling of flood and ebb. He could
easily stand insults, as much by Christian spirit as by philosophy.
But what helped him best thereto was his deep-rooted contempt of
mankind, not excepting himself. However, for once he lost all
measure and forgot all prudence.
"Hold your tongue, vile publican," he shouted and brandished a
bottle like a crowbar. "If yonder rascals dare to approach me I'll
smash their heads, to teach them respect for my cloth, which proves
in an ample way my sacred calling."
In the faint glimmer of the torches, shiny from sweat, his eyes
starting out of their sockets, his coat unbuttoned, and his big
belly half out of his breeches, he looked a fellow not easy to be
got rid of. The lackeys hesitated.
"Out with him, out with him," shouted M. de la Guéritude; "out with
this bag of wine! Can't you see that all you have to do is to push
him in the gutter, where he'll remain till the scavengers throw him
into the dustcart? I would throw him out myself were I not afraid to
pollute my clothes."
My good tutor flew into a passion, and shouted in a voice worthy to
sound in a church:
"You odious money-monger, infamous partisan, barbarous evildoer, you
pretend this house to be yours? So that everyone may know it belongs
to you, inscribe on the door the gospel word _Aceldema_, which
in our language means Bloodmoney. And then we'll let the master
enter his dwelling. Thief, robber, murderer, write with the piece of
charcoal I throw in your face, write with your own filthy hand, on
the floor, your title deed. Bloodmoney of the widow and orphans,
bloodmoney of the just. _Aceldema_. If not, out with you, man
of quantities! We'll remain."
M. de la Gueritude had never in his life heard anything of this
sort, and thought he had to deal with a madman, as one might easily
suppose, and, more for defence than attack, he raised his big stick.
My good tutor, out of his senses, threw a bottle at the head of the
contractor, who fell headlong on the floor, howling, "He has killed
me!" And as he was swimming in red wine he really looked as though
murdered. Both the flunkeys wanted to throw themselves on the
murderer, and one of them, a burly fellow, tried to grasp him, when
M. Coignard gave the fellow such a butt that he rolled in the stream
beside the financier.
Unluckily he rose quickly, and, arming himself with a still burning
torch, jumped into the passage, where bad luck awaited him. My good
master was no longer there; he had taken to his heels. But M.
d'Anquetil was still there with Catherine, and he it was who
received the burning torch on his forehead, an outrage he could not
stand. He drew his sword, and drove it to the hilt in the unlucky
knave's stomach, teaching him, at his own expense, how fatal it may
be to attack a gentleman. Now M. Coignard had not got twenty yards
away from the house when the other lackey, a tall fellow, with the
limbs of a daddy-longlegs, ran after him, shouting for the guard.
"Stop him! Stop him!" The footman ran faster than the abbé, and we
could see him, at the corner of the Rue Saint Guillaume, extending
his arms to catch M. Coignard by the collar of his gown. But my dear
tutor, who had more than one trick, veering abruptly, got behind the
fellow, tripped him up, and sent him on to a stone post, where he
got his head broken. It was done before M. d'Anquetil and I, running
to the abbé's assistance, could reach him. We could not leave M.
Coignard in this pressing danger.
"Abbe," said M. d'Anquetil, "give me your hand. You're a gallant
"I really cannot help thinking," my good master replied, "that I
have been somewhat murderously inclined; but I am not cruel enough
to be proud of it. I am quite satisfied so long as I am not
reproached too vehemently. Such violence does not lie in my habits,
and as you can see, sir, I am better fitted to lecture from the
chair of a college on belles-lettres than I am to fight with lackeys
at the corner of a street."
"Oh!" replied M. d'Anquetil, "that's not the worst of the whole
business. I fully believe you have knocked the Farmer-general on the
"Is it true?" questioned the abbé.
"As true as that I have perforated with my sword yonder scoundrel's
"Under such circumstances we ought to ask pardon of God, to whom
alone we are responsible for the blood shed by us, and secondly to
hasten to the nearest fountain, there to wash ourselves, because I
perceive that my nose is bleeding."
"Right you are, abbé," said M. d'Anquetil; "for the blackguard now
dying in the gutter has cut my forehead. What an impertinence!"
"Forgive him," said the abbé, "as you wish to be forgiven yourself."
At the place where the Rue de Bac loses itself in the fields, we
fortunately found along the wall of a hospital a little bronze
Triton, shooting a spirt of water into a stone tub. We stopped to
wash and drink, for our throats were dry.
"What have we done," said my master, "and how could I have lost my
temper, usually so peaceable? True men must not be judged by their
deeds, which depend on circumstances, but rather, on the example of
God our Father, by their secret thoughts and their deepest
"And Catherine," I asked, "what has become of her through this
"I left her," was M. d'Anquetil's answer, "breathing into the mouth
of her financier, to revive him. But she had better save her breath.
I know La Gueritude. He is pitiless. He'll send her to the spittel,
perhaps to America. I am sorry for her. She was a fine girl. I did
not love her, but she was mad after me. And, an extraordinary state
of things, I am now without a mistress."
"Don't bother," said my good tutor. "You'll soon find another, not
different, or hardly differing in essentials, from her. What you
look for in a woman, as it appears to me, is common to all females."
"It is clear," said M. d'Anquetil, "that we are in danger: I of
being sent to the Bastille, you, abbé, together with your pupil,
Tournebroche, who certainly has not killed anybody, of being
"That's but too true," said my good master. "We have to look out for
safety. Perhaps it will be necessary to leave Paris, where, no
doubt, we shall be wanted; and even to fly to Holland. Alas! I
foresee that there I shall write lampoons for ballet girls with that
same hand which has been employed to annotate right amply the
alchemistic treatises of Zosimus the Panopolitan."
"Listen to me, abbé," said M. d'Anquetil, "I have a friend who will
hide us at his country seat for any length of time. He lives within
four miles of Lyons, in a country horrid and wild, where nothing is
to be seen but poplars, grass and woods. There we must go. There
we'll wait till the storm is over. We'll pass the time hunting and
shooting. But we must at once find a post-chaise or, better still, a
"I know where to get that," said the abbé. "At the _Red Horse_
hotel, at the Circus of the Bergères, you can have good horses, as
well as all sorts of vehicles. I made the acquaintance of the
landlord at the time I was secretary to Madame de Saint Ernest. He
liked to oblige people of quality. I am not quite sure if he is
still alive, but he ought to have a son like himself. Have you
"I have with me a rather large sum," replied M. d'Anquetil, "and I
am glad of it, as I cannot dream of going home, where the constables
will not fail to be on the lookout to arrest and conduct me to the
Chatelet. I forgot my servants, whom I left in Catherine's house,
and I do not know what has become of them. I thrashed them, and
never paid their wages, and withal I am not sure of their fidelity.
In whom can you have confidence? Let's be off at once for the Circus
of the Bergères."
"Sir," said the abbé, "I'll make you a proposal, hoping it may be
agreeable to you. We are living, Tournebroche and I, in an
alchemistic and ramshackle castle at the Cross of the Sablons, where
we can easily stay for a dozen hours without being seen by anyone.
There we will take you and wait quietly till our carriage is ready.
The advantage is that the Sablons is very near the Circus of the
M. d'Anquetil had nothing against the abbé's proposal, and so we
resolved in front of the Triton, who blew the water out of his fat
cheeks, to go first to the Cross of the Sablons, and to hire, later
on, at the _Red Horse_ hotel, a travelling coach for our
journey to Lyons.
"I want to inform you, gentlemen," said my dear tutor, "that of the
three bottles I took care to carry with me, one was broken on the
head of M. de la Guéritude, another one was smashed in my pocket
during my flight. They are both regretted. The third, against all
hope, has been preserved. Here it is!"
Pulling it out of his pocket, he placed it on the edge of the
"That's well," sail M, d'Anquetil. "You have some wine, I have dice
and cards in my pocket. We can play."
"It is true," said my good master, "that is a pleasant pastime. A
pack of cards is a book of adventure, of the kind called romances.
It is so far superior to other books of a similar kind that it can
be made and read at the same time, and that it is not necessary to
have brains to make it, nor knowledge of reading to read it. It is a
marvellous work, also, in that it offers a regular and new sense
every time its pages are shuffled. It is a contrivance never to be
too much admired, because out of mathematical principles it extracts
thousands on thousands of curious combinations, and so many singular
affinities that it is believed, contrary to all truth, that in it
are discoverable the secrets of hearts, the mystery of destinies and
the arcanum of the future. What I have said is particularly
applicable to the tarot of the Bohemians, which is the finest of all
games, piquet not excepted. The invention of cards must be ascribed
to the ancients, and as far as I am concerned--I have, to speak
candidly, no kind of documentary evidence for my assertion--I
believe them to be of Chaldean origin. But in their present
appearance the piquet cards cannot be traced further back than to
King Charles VII., if what is said in a learned essay, that I
remember to have read at Séez, is true, that the queen of hearts is
an emblematical likeness of the beautiful Agnes Sorel, and that the
queen of spades is, under the name of Pallas, no other than that
Jeanne Dulys, better known as Joan of Arc, who by her bravery re-
established the business of the French monarchy and was afterwards
boiled to death by the English, in a cauldron, shown for two
farthings at Rouen, where I have seen it in passing through that
city. Certain historians pretend that she was burnt alive at the
stake. It is to be read in the works of Nicole Gilles and in
Pasquier that St Catherine and St Margaret appeared to her.
Certainly it was not God who sent these saints to her, because there
is no person of any learning and solid piety who does not know that
Margaret and Catherine were invented by Byzantine monks, whose
abundant and barbarous imaginations have altogether muddled up the
martyrology. It is a ridiculous impiety to pretend that God made two
saints who never existed appear to Jeanne Dulys. However, the
ancient chroniclers were not afraid to publish it. Why have they not
said that God sent to the Maid of Orleans the fair Yseult, Mélusine,
Berthe the Bigfooted, and all the other heroines of the romances of
chivalry the existence of whom is not more fabulous that that of the
two virgins, Catherine and Margaret? M. de Valois, in the last
century, rose with full reason against these clumsy fables, as much
opposed to religion as error is to truth. It is desirable that an
ecclesiastic learned in history undertook to show the distinction
between real saints and saints such as Margaret, Luce or Lucie,
Eustache, and perhaps Saint George, about whom I have my doubts.
"If on a future day I should be able to retire to some beautiful
abbey, possessing a rich library, I will devote to this task the
remainder of a life, half worn out in frightful tempests and
frequent shipwrecks. I am longing for a harbour of refuge, and I
have the desire and the taste for a chaste repose suitable to my age
While M. Coignard was holding this memorable discourse, M.
d'Anquetil, without listening to the abbé's words, was seated on the
edge of the fountain, shuffling the cards and swearing like a
trooper, because it was too dark to play a game of piquet.
"You are right," said my good master; "it is a bad light, and I am
somewhat displeased over it, less because I cannot play cards than
because I have a desire to read a few pages of the 'Consolations' of
Boethius, of which I always carry a small edition, so as to have it
handy when something unfortunate overcomes me, as has been the case
this day. It is a cruel disgrace, sir, for a man of my calling to be
a homicide, and liable at any moment to be locked up in one of the
ecclesiastical prisons. I feel that a single page of that admirable
book would strengthen my heart, crushed by the very idea of the
Having spoken, he let himself gently slide over the edge of the
basin, so deep that the best part of his body went into the water.
But not taking the slightest notice, and hardly feeling it, he took
the Boethius out of his pocket--it was really there--and putting his
spectacles on, wherein one glass only remained, and that one cracked
in three places, he looked in the little book for the page most
appropriate for his present situation. He doubtless would have found
it, and extracted from it new strength, if the rotten state of his
barnacles, the tears that came into his eyes, and the feeble light
which came from the sky, had permitted him to search for it. Very
soon he had to confess that he was unable to see a wink, and became
angry with the moon, who showed her pointed sickle on the edge of a
cloud. He reproached her and heaped bitter invectives on her. He
"Luminary obscene, mischievous and libidinous, you never tire of
illuminating men's wickedness, and you deny a ray of your light to
him who searches for virtuous maxims!"
"The more so, abbé, as this bitch of a moon gives just light enough
to find our way along the streets, and not sufficient to play a game
of piquet. Let's go at once to the castle you spoke of, where I have
to slip in without being seen."
That was good advice, and after we had drunk the wine to the last
drop we took the road, all three of us, to the Cross of the Sablons.
I walked with M. d'Anquetil. My good tutor, hindered by the water
his breeches had soaked in, followed us, crying, moaning and
Our Return--We smuggle M. d'Anquetil in--M. d'Asterac on Jealousy--
M. Jérome Coignard in Trouble--What happened while I was in the
Laboratory--Jahel persuaded to elope.
The morning light already pricked our jaded eyes when we reached the
green door to the park. We had not to use the knocker, as some time
ago the porter had given us the keys of his domain. It was agreed
that my good tutor, with d'Anquetil, should cautiously advance in
the shadow of the lane, and that I should remain behind on the
lookout for the faithful Criton, and the kitchen boys who might
perhaps see us coming along. This arrangement, which was nothing but
reasonable, was to turn out rather badly for me. My two companions
had gone up without being discovered, and reached my room, where we
had decided to hide M. d'Anquetil until the moment of escape in the
post-chaise, but as I was climbing the second flight of steps I met
M. d'Asterac, in a red damask gown, carrying a silver candlestick.
He put, as he habitually did, his hand on my shoulder.
"Hello! my son," he said, "are you not very happy, having broken off
all intercourse with women, and by that escaped all dangers of bad
company? With the august maidens of the air you need not be in fear
of quarrels, scuffles, injurious and violent rows which usually
occur with creatures following a loose life. In your solitude, which
delights the fairies, you enjoy a delicious peace."
I thought at first that he mocked me. But I soon found out that
nothing was further from his thoughts.
"I am pleased to have met you, my son," he continued, "and will
thank you to come with me to my studio for a moment."
I followed him. He unlocked, with a key nearly an ell long, that
confounded room where I had seen the glare of infernal fires. When
we were inside the laboratory he asked me to kindly make up the
smouldering fire. I threw some short logs into the furnace, where I
don't know what was steaming, exhaling a suffocating odour. While he
was occupied with his black cookery, cupellating and matrassing, I
remained seated on a settle, and, against my will, closed my eyes.
He made me reopen them to admire a green earthenware vessel, with a
glass top, which he had in his hand.
"You ought to know, my son," he said, "that this subliming pot is
called aludel. It contains a liquid to be looked at with the
greatest attention, as it is nothing less than the mercury of the
philosophers. Do not suppose that it is to keep its present dark
colour for ever. Soon it will change to white and in that state will
change all metals into silver. Hereafter, by my art and industry, it
will turn red, and acquire the virtue of transmuting silver into
gold. It certainly would be of advantage to you that, shut in this
laboratory, you should not leave it before these sublime operations
have fully taken place, a process which cannot require more than two
or three months. But as to ask you to do so would perhaps be
imposing too hard a restriction on your youth, be satisfied, for
this time, to observe the preludes of the work, while putting, if
you please, as much wood on the fire as possible."
Having said that he returned to his phials and retorts, and I could
not help thinking of the sad position wherein ill-luck and
imprudence had placed me.
"Alas!" I said to myself, and threw logs into the fire, "at this
very moment the constables are searching for my good tutor and
myself; perhaps we shall have to go to prison, certainly we have to
leave this castle. I have in default of money, at least board and an
honourable position. I shall never again dare to stand before M.
d'Asterac, who believes me to have passed the night in the silent
voluptuousness of magic, which perhaps would have been better for
me. Alas! I'll never more see Mosaide's niece, Mademoiselle Jahel,
who at night-time woke me in my room in such a charming way. No
doubt she will forget me. Perhaps she'll love someone else, and
bestow on him the same caresses as she gave to me." The idea of such
an infidelity became unbearable. But as the world goes, one has to
be ready for anything.
"My son," M. d'Asterac began to say again, "you do not sufficiently
feed the athanor. I see that you are still not fully convinced of
the excellency of fire, which is capable of ripening this mercury
and transforming it into the wonderful fruit I expect to gather very
soon. More wood! The fire, my son, is the superior element; I have
told you enough, and now I'll show you an example. On a very cold
day last winter, visiting Mosaide in his lodge, I found him sitting,
his feet on a warming pan. I observed that the subtle particles of
fire escaping from the pan had power enough to inflate and lift up
the folds of his gown, wherefrom I inferred, that had the fire been
hotter, it would have raised Mosaide himself into the air, of which
he is certainly worthy, and that, if it should be possible to close
into some kind of a vessel a very large quantity of such fire
particles, it would be possible to sail on the clouds as easily as
we sail on the sea, and to visit the Salamanders in their aerial
abodes, a problem I shall keep in mind. I do not despair of
constructing such a fireship. But let us go back to our work of
putting wood on the fire."
He kept me for some time in the glow of the laboratory whence I
wanted to escape as quickly as possible, to join Jahel, whom I was
anxious to inform of my misfortune. At last he left me, and I
thought myself free, a hope shortly to be disappointed by his
"It is rather mild this morning," he said, "but the sky is somewhat
cloudy. Would it please you to go for a walk in the park with me
before returning to the translation of Zosimus the Panopolitan,
which will be a great honour to you and your tutor if you finish it
as you have begun?"
With much regret I followed him into the park, where he said to me:
"I am not sorry, my son, to be alone with you, to warn you, as it is
high time to do, against a great danger by which you may be
threatened one day; I reproach myself not to have thought of warning
you before, as what I shall communicate to you is of the utmost
And speaking in this way, he led me through the grand avenue which
leads down to the marshes of the Seine, whence Rueil is to be seen
and Mont Valerien with its calvary. It was his usual walk. The alley
was practicable in spite of some dead trees which had fallen across
"It is important for you to know to what you expose yourself by
betraying your Salamander. I do not want to interrogate you as to
what intercourse you have had with that superhuman person I have
been fortunate enough to make you acquainted with. I dare say you
feel somewhat reluctant to discuss it. Possibly you deserve praise
for that. If the Salamanders have not, m what concerns the
discretion of their lovers, the same ideas that court ladies and
tradeswomen have, it is not less true that it is the special quality
of beautiful amours to be unutterable, and that it would profane a
grand sentiment to spread it abroad.
"But your Salamander (of which I could easily find the name if I had
any idle curiosity) has perhaps omitted to give you information
about one of the most violent passions--jealousy; this character is
common to them. Know well, my son, Salamanders are not to be
betrayed without punishment awaiting you. Their vengeance on the
perjurer is of the cruelest. The divine Paracelsus gives one
example, which will suffice to inspire in you a salutary fear.
"There was in the German town of Staufen a spagyric philosopher who
had, like yourself, connection with a Salamander. He was depraved
enough to deceive her with a woman, certainly pretty, but not more
beautiful than a woman can be. One evening, having supper with his
new mistress in company with some friends, they saw a thigh of
marvellous beauty shining over their heads. The Salamander exposed
it to impress on them all, that she did not deserve the wrong
inflicted by her lover; after that the outraged celestial struck
down the unfaithful lover with apoplexy. The vulgar, who are made to
be deceived, believed his to be a natural death; the initiated knew
by whose hand he was slain. I owed you this advice, my son, and this
They were less useful to me than M. d'Asterac thought. Listening to
them I mused on other subjects of alarm. Without doubt my face must
have betrayed the state of anxiety I was in; because the great
cabalist, having looked at me, asked me if I was not afraid that an
engagement, guarded by conditions so severe, would be troublesome to
"I am able to reassure you," he added. "The jealousy of a Salamander
is awakened only by rivalry with women, and to speak truly it is
more resentment, indignation, disgust, than real jealousy. The souls
of the Salamanders are too noble, their intelligence too subtle, to
envy one another, and to give way to a sentiment pertaining to the
barbarity wherein humanity is still half plunged. On the contrary
they delight to share with their playmates the joys they taste
beside a sage, and are pleased to bring to their lovers the most
beautiful of their sisters. Very soon you'll experience that, as a
fact, they push politeness to the point I mentioned, and not a year,
nay not six months, will pass before your room will be the trysting
place of five or six daughters of the light, who will untie before
you their sparkling girdles. Do not be afraid, my son, to answer
their caresses. Your own fairy love will not take umbrage. How could
she be offended, wise as she is? And on your side, do not get
irritated if your Salamander leaves you for a moment to visit
another philosopher. Consider that the proud jealousy men bring into
the union of the sexes is but a savage sentiment, founded on the
most ridiculous of illusions. It rests on the idea that a woman
belongs to you because she has given herself to you, which is
nothing but a play on words."
While making this speech, M. d'Asterac had turned into the lane of
the mandrakes, where we could see Mosaide's cottage, half hidden by
foliage, when suddenly an appalling voice burst upon us and made my
heart beat faster--hoarse sounds, accompanied by a sharp gnashing,
and on getting nearer the sounds seemed to be modulated, and each
phrase ended in a sort of very feeble melody, which could not be
listened to without shuddering.
Advancing a few paces we could, by listening closely, understand the
sense of the strange words. The voice said:
"Hear the malediction with which Elisha cursed the insolent and
mirthful children. Listen to the anathema Barak flung on Meros.
"I curse thee in the name of Archithuriel, who is also called the
lord of battles, and holds the flaming sword. I doom thee to
perdition in the name of Sardaliphonos, who presents to his master
the flowers and garlands of merit offered by the children of Israel.
"Be cursed, hound! Anathema, swine!"
Looking from whence the voice came, we could see Mosaide on the
threshold of his house, standing erect, his arms raised, his hands
in the form of fangs, with nails crooked, appearing inflamed by the
fiery light of the sun. His head was covered with his dirty tiara,
and he was enveloped in his gorgeous gown, showing when flying open
his meagre bow-legs in ragged breeches. He looked like some begging
magician, immortal, and very old. His eyes glared, and he said:
"Be cursed in the name of all globes, be cursed in the name of all
wheels, be cursed in the name of the mysterious beasts Ezekiel saw."
Out he stretched his long arms, ending in claws, and continued:
"In the name of the globes, in the name of the wheels, in the name
of the mysterious beasts, descend among those who are no more."
We advanced a few paces between the half-grown trees to see the
object over which Mosaide extended his arms and his anger, and
discovered, to our great surprise, M. Jérome Coignard, hanging by a
lapel of his gown on an evergreen thorn bush. The night's disorder
was visible all over his body; his collar and his shoes torn, his
stockings smeared with mud, his shirt open, all reminded me of our
common misadventures, and, worse than all, the swelling of his nose
spoilt entirely the noble and smiling expression which never left
I ran up to him and unhooked him so luckily off the thorns that only
a small piece of his breeches stuck to them. Mosaide, having had his
say, re-entered the cottage. As he wore only slippers I could
observe that his legs fitted right into the middle of his feet, so
that the heel stuck out behind pretty nearly as much as the forefoot
in front, a singular deformation, rendering his walking uncouth,
which otherwise would have been noble and full of dignity.
"Jacques Tournebroche! my dear boy," said my tutor, with a sigh,
"that Jew must be Isaac Laquedem in person, so to blaspheme in all
languages. He vowed me to a death near and violent with an enormous
abundance of metaphors, and he called me a pig in fourteen distinct
languages, if I counted them correctly. I could believe him to be
the Antichrist, and he does not want some of the signs by which that
enemy of God is to be recognised. Under any circumstances he is a
dirty Jew, and never has the wheel as a brand of infamy been exposed
on the vestments of a worse or more rabid miscreant. As for himself,
he not only deserves the wheel formerly attached to the garments of
Jews, but also that other wheel on which scoundrels have their bones
And my good master, mightily angry in his turn, shook his fist in
the direction where Mosaide had disappeared, and accused him of
crucifying children and devouring the flesh of new-born babes.
M. d'Asterac went up to him and touched his breast with the ruby he
used to wear on his finger.
"It is useful," said the great cabalist, "to know the peculiar
qualities of precious stones. Rubies soothe resentments, and you'll
soon see the Abbé Coignard regain his natural suavity."
My dear tutor smiled already, less by virtue of the stone than by
the influence of a philosophy which raised this admirable man above
all human passions, for I feel it my duty to say, at the very moment
my narrative becomes clouded and sad, that M. Jérome Coignard has
given me examples of wisdom under circumstances in which it is but
rarely met with.
We inquired the cause of the quarrel, but easily understood by the
vagueness of his embarrassed replies that he did not intend to
satisfy our curiosity. I surmised at once that Jahel was mixed up
with it in some way, when I heard with the gnashing of Mosaide's
voice the grating of locks and bolts, and later on the noise, in the
lodge, of a violent dispute between uncle and niece. When we tried
again to bring my tutor to some explanation, he said:
"Hate for Christians is deeply rooted in every Jew's heart, and
yonder Mosaide is an execrable example of it. I fancy I discovered
in his horrible yelpings some parts of the imprecations the
Amsterdam synagogue vomited in the last century on a little Dutch
Jew called Baruch or Benedict, but better known under the name of
Spinoza, for having framed a philosophy which has been perfectly
refuted, as soon as it was brought to public knowledge, by excellent
theologians. But this old Mordecai has added to it, so it seems to
me, many and much more horrible imprecations, and I confess to
having somewhat resented them. For a moment I thought of escaping by
flight this torrent of abuse, when to my dismay I found myself
entangled in yonder thorn, and sticking to it by different parts of
my clothes and skin so fast that I really expected to have to leave
the one or the other behind me. I should still be there, in smarting
agony, if Tournebroche, my dear pupil, had not freed me."
"The thorns count for nothing," said M. d'Asterac, "but I'm afraid,
Monsieur l'Abbé, that you have trodden on a mandrake."
"Mandrakes," replied the abbé, "are certainly the least of my
"You're wrong," said M. d'Asterac. "It suffices to tread on a
mandrake to become involved in a love crime, and perish by it
"Ah! sir," my dear tutor replied, "here are all sorts of dangers,
and I become aware that it was necessary to be closely shut in
between the eloquent walls of the 'Asteracian,' which is the queen
of libraries. For having left it for a moment only, I get the beasts
of Ezekiel thrown at my head, not to speak of anything else."
"Would you kindly give me news of Zosimus the Panopolitan?" inquired
"He goes on," replied my master; "goes on nicely, though slowly at
"Do not forget, abbé," said the cabalist, "that possession of the
greatest secrets is attached to the knowledge of those ancient
"I think of it, sir, with solicitude," said the abbé.
M. d'Asterac, after this assurance, left us standing at the statue
of the faun, who continued to play the flute without taking any
notice of his head, fallen into the grass. He disappeared rapidly
between the trees, looking for Salamanders.
My tutor linked his arm in mine with the air of one who can at last
"Jacques Tournebroche, my son, I must not conceal from you that this
very morning, in the attics of the castle, a rather peculiar chance
meeting has taken place, while you were kept in the room of yonder
mad fire-blower. I plainly heard him ask you to assist him for a
moment in his cooking, which is a great deal less savoury and
Christian than that of Master Leonard your father. Alas! when shall
I be lucky enough to see again the cookshop of the _Queen
Pédauque_ and the bookshop of M. Blaizot, with the sign of
_Saint Catherine_, where I enjoyed myself so heartily thumbing
the books newly arrived from The Hague and Amsterdam!"
"Alas!" I exclaimed, the tears coming into my eyes, "when shall I
return to it again? When shall I return to the Rue St Jacques again,
where I was born, and see my dear parents, who'll feel burning shame
when they hear of our misfortunes? But do be so good, my dear tutor,
as to explain that strange encounter you said you had this very
morning, and also the events of the day."
M. Jérome Coignard willingly consented to give me all the
enlightenment I wished for. He did it in the following words:
"Know then, my dear boy, that I reached the upper storey of the
castle without hindrance in company with M. d'Anquetil, whom I like
well enough, although rude and uncultured. His mind is possessed
neither of fine knowledge nor deep curiosity. But youth's vivacity
sparkleth pleasantly with him, and the ardour of his blood results
in amusing sallies. He knows the world as well as he knows women,
because he is above them, and without any kind of philosophy. It's a
great frankness on his part to call himself an atheist. His
ungodliness is without malice, and will disappear with the
exuberance of his sensuality. In his soul God has no other enemies
than horses, cards and women. In the mind of a real libertine, like
M. Bayle for example, truth has to meet more formidable and
malicious adversaries. But, my dear boy, I give you a character
sketch instead of the plain narrative you wish to have of me.
"I'll satisfy you. Let's see. Having arrived at the top storey of
the castle in company with M. d'Anquetil, I made the young gentleman
enter your room, and wished him, in accordance with the promise we
made him at the Triton fountain, to use the room as his own. He did
so willingly, undressed, and, keeping nothing on but his boots, went
into your bed, the curtains of which he closed so as not to be
incommoded by the bright morning light, and was not long before he
was sound asleep.
"As to myself, my dear boy, having reached my room, tired as I was,
I did not want to go to rest before I had looked up in my Boethius
one or two sentences appropriate to my state of mind. I could not
find the very one fit for it. It must not be forgotten that this
great thinker had not had occasion to meditate on the disgrace of
having broken the head of a Farmer-general with a bottle out of his
own cellar. But I was able to pick up here and there, in his
admirable treatise, some maxims applicable to present conjunctures.
Having done so, I drew the night-cap over my eyes, recommended my
soul to God, and quietly went to sleep. After what seemed to me,
without being able to measure it, a very short space of time--be
mindful, my son, that our actions are the only measure for time,
which, if I may say so, is suspended for us by sleep--I felt my arm
pulled, and heard a voice shouting in my ear: 'Eh! Abbé! Eh! Abbé,
wake up!' Half dozing as I was, I believed it was a constable
wanting to conduct me to the officer, and I deliberated with myself
the easiest way in which I could break his head, and rapidly came to
the conclusion that the candlestick would be the handiest weapon. It
is unhappily, too true, my dear boy, that having once stepped aside
from the road of kindness and equity, where the wise man walks with
a firm and prudent step, one becomes compelled to sustain violence
by violence and cruelty by cruelty, thereby proving that a first
fault leads invariably to other faults--evil always follows evil
done. One has to be reminded of this if one wants to fully
understand the lives of the Roman emperors, of whom M. Crevier has
given such an exact account. Those princes were not born more evilly
disposed than other men. Caius, surnamed Caligula, was wanting
neither in natural spirit nor in judgment, and was quite capable of
friendship. Nero had an inborn liking for virtue, and his
temperament disposed him towards all that is grand and sublime. Both
of them were led by a first fault on the nefarious, villainous road
whereon they walked to their miserable end. Their history is
cleverly treated in M. Crevier's book. I knew that remarkable writer
when he was a teacher of literature and history at the College of
Beauvais, as I might be teaching to-day, had my life not been
crossed by a thousand impediments, and if the natural easiness of my
spirit had not drawn me into the manifold snares laid in my way. M.
Crevier, my boy, led a pure life; his morals were severe, and I have
myself heard him say that a woman who had broken her conjugal vows
was capable of the crimes of murder and incendiarism. I repeat this
saying of his, to impress you with the saintly austerity of that
"But, once more, I digress, and I must hasten to return to my
narrative. Well, as I have said, I thought a constable had come to
arrest me, and I could see myself in one of the archbishop's
dungeons, when I opened my eyes and recognised the features and
voice of M. d'Anquetil. 'Abbé,' said that young gentleman to me, 'I
have just had a singular adventure in Tournebroche's room. During my
sleep a woman entered my room, glided into my bed, and awoke me with
a shower of caresses, tender epithets, sweet murmurings, and
passionate kisses. I pushed the curtains back to see the features of
my good luck. She was dark and had ardent eyes, one of the finest
women I have ever held in my arms. But all at once she screamed and
jumped out, violently angry, but not quick enough to prevent me
catching her in the passage and pressing her closely in my arms. She
began by striking me and scratching my face. After having lacerated
it sufficiently to satisfy her outraged womanly honour, we began to
explain ourselves. She was well pleased to learn that I am a
gentleman, and none of the poorest, and sooner than I might have
expected I ceased to be odious to her, and she began to be tender
with me, when a scullion appeared in the passage; his appearance put
her to flight at once.
"'I am quite aware,' said M. d'Anquetil, 'that that admirable girl
had come for another than myself; she must have entered the wrong
room, and the surprise frightened her. I did my best to reassure
her, and should doubtless have won her amity had not that sot of a
scullion come between us.'
"I confirmed him in that supposition. We put our heads together to
get an idea of the man for whom that beautiful woman had ventured on
such an early morning visit, and were easily agreed that it could be
no other but that old fool d'Asterac--you know, Tournebroche, I
suspected him before--who awaits her intimacy in an adjoining room,
if not, and without your knowledge, in your own. Are you not of the
"Nothing is more credible," I replied.
"No doubt it is so. That sorcerer amuses himself when he talks to us
of his Salamanders. The truth is, he caresses that amazingly pretty
girl. He's an impostor."
I asked my tutor to favour me with the continuance of his narrative.
He willingly complied and said:
"Well, my dear boy, I'll briefly report the remainder of M.
d'Anquetil's discourse. I know very well that it's rather
commonplace, almost vulgar, to lay much stress on trifling
circumstances. It is, on the contrary, some sort of duty to express
them in the fewest possible words, to condense them carefully and
reserve the tempting abundance of word-flow to moral instruction and
exhortation, which may be hurled as the avalanches are hurled from
the mountains. On this principle I shall have mentioned enough of M.
d'Anquetil's sayings when I have told you that he impressed on me
that yonder young girl's beauty, charms, and accomplishments are
quite extraordinary. In the end he inquired of me if I knew her name
and position. And I replied to him that, from his description of
her, I was pretty sure that she was Rabbi Mosaide's niece Jahel,
whom by a lucky accident I had embraced one night on that very same
staircase, with this difference only, that my luck occurred between
the first and second flights of steps. 'I hope and trust,' said M.
d'Anquetil, 'that there may be other differences too, for, as far as
I am concerned, I embraced her very closely. I am also sorry that,
as you say, she is a Jewess, as, without believing in God, I feel
that I should have liked better for her to be a Christian. But can
anyone be sure of his own family? Who knows if she has not been
kidnapped as a child? Jews and gypsies steal children daily. And we
do not, as a rule, remember sufficiently that the Holy Virgin was
born a Jewess. But let her be Jewess or not, she pleases me; I want
her and shall have her!' Such were that reckless youngster's words.
But allow me, my boy, to sit down on yonder moss-covered stone; last
night's work, my fights, my flight, too, have nearly broken my
He sat down, took his snuff-box out of his pocket, and looked quite
disconsolate when he found it void of tobacco.
I took a seat at his side, agitated, crestfallen. Coignard's
discourse caused me acute pain. I cursed Fate for having given my
place to a brute at the very moment when my beloved mistress had
come to bring me her most passionate tenderness, expecting to find
me in my bed, the while I had to throw logs of wood on the fire in
the alchemist's furnace. The but too probable inconstancy of Jahel
tore my heart to pieces, and I could have wished that my dear tutor
had been more discreet with my rival. So I took the liberty to
reproach him mildly for his disclosure of Jahel's name.
"Sir," I said, "was it not somewhat imprudent to furnish such
indications to a gentleman so luxurious and violent as M.
M. Coignard seemed not to hear what I said, and continued his
"My snuff-box has unfortunately opened itself in my pocket during
the fight at Catherine's house, and the tobacco it contained, mixed
with the wine of the broken bottle, has formed a quite disgusting
paste. I do not dare ask Criton to grind down a few leaves for me;
the hard and cold features of that servant and judge inspire me with
awe. I suffer from the want of snuff, as my nose is irksome in
consequence of the shock I had last night, and I am quite
disconcerted by my failure to satisfy the never-tiring wants of that
nose of mine. I shall have to bear the misfortune quietly, till M.
d'Anquetil may, perhaps, let me have a few grains out of his box.
Now to return to that young gentleman, he said expressly to me: 'I
love that girl. Know, abbé, that I am resolved to take her with us
in the post-chaise should I be compelled to stay here a week, a
month, six months or longer; I will not go away without her.' I
represented all the dangers to him, which might occur through any
delay in our departure. He said he did not care a rap for those
dangers, less so as they were smaller for him than for us. 'You,
abbé, you and Tournebroche are both in danger of being hanged; my
risk is the Bastille only, where I can get cards and girls, and
whence my family could, and would, soon deliver me, as my father
would interest some duchess or some ballet dancer in my doom, and my
mother, devotee as she has become, could and would still get the
assistance of one or other of the royal princes. It is irrevocably
fixed; I take Jahel with me or I remain here. You and Tournebroche
are at liberty to hire a post-chaise of your own.'
"The cruel boy knows but too well that we have not the means to do
it. I tried to make him change his mind. I became pressing,
unctuous, parental. It was no use, and I wasted on him an eloquence
which, employed in the pulpit of a parish church, would have brought
me a full reward in honour and coin. Alas! my dear boy, it seems to
be written that none of my actions will ever produce any kind of
savoury fruit, and for me ought to have been written the following
words from Ecclesiastes:--_'Quid habet am plius homo de universe
labore suo, quo laborat sub sole?_' Far from bringing him to
reason, my discourses strengthened the young nobleman's obstinacy,
and I cannot deny that he actually counted on me for the success of
his desires, and pressed me to go to Jahel and induce her to fly
with him, promising her the gift of a trousseau of Dutch linen, of
plate, jewels and a handsome annuity."
"Oh, sir!" I exclaimed, "this M. d'Anquetil is very insolent. What
do you think will be Jahel's reply to his propositions when she
knows of them?"
"My boy, she knows by now, and I think she will accept them."
"If such is the case," I said, "then Mosaide must be warned."
"That he is already," replied my tutor. "You have just assisted at
the outbreak of his rage."
"What, sir?" said I, with much warmth, "you have informed yonder Jew
of the disgrace awaiting his family! That's nice of you! Allow me to
embrace you. But, if so, Mosaide's wrath threatened M. d'Anquetil,
and not yourself?"
The abbé replied with an air of nobility and honesty, with a natural
indulgence for human weaknesses, an obliging sweetness, and the
imprudent kindness of an easy heart--by all of which men are often
induced to do inconsiderate things and expose themselves to the
severity of the futile judgments of mankind:
"I will not keep it a secret from you, my dear Tournebroche, that,
giving way to the pressing solicitations of that young gentleman, I
obligingly promised to go on his errand to Jahel and to neglect
nothing to induce her to elope with him."
"Alas!" I exclaimed, "you did, sir. I cannot fully tell how deeply
your action wounds and affects me."
"Tournebroche," replied he sternly, "you speak like a Pharisee. One
of the fathers, as amiable as he was austere, has said: 'Turn your
eyes on yourself and take care not to judge the doings of others.
Judging others is an idle labour; usually one is erring, often
sinning, by so doing, but by examining and judging oneself your
labour will always be fruit-bearing.' It is written, 'Thou shalt not
be afraid of the judgment of men,' and the Apostle Paul said that he
did not trouble himself about being judged by men. If I refer to
some of the finest texts in morals it is to enlighten you,
Tournebroche, to make you return to the humble and sweet modesty
which suits you, and not to defend my innocence, when the multitude
of my iniquities weighs on me and bears me down. It is difficult not
to glide into sin, and proper not to fall into despondency at every
step one takes on this earth, whereon everything participates, at
one and the same time, in the original curse, and the redemption
effected by the blood of the Son of God. I do not want to colour my
faults, and I freely confess that the embassy I undertook at the
request of M. d'Anquetil is an outcome of Eve's downfall, and it
was, to say it bluntly, one of the numberless consequences, on the
wrong side, of the humble and painful sentiment which I now feel,
and is drawn out of the desire and hope of my eternal welfare. You
have to represent to yourself mankind balancing between damnation
and redemption to understand me truly when I say that at the present
hour I am sitting on the good end of the seesaw after having been
this very morning on the wrong end. I freely avow that in passing
through the mandrake lane, from whence Mosaide's cottage is to be
seen, I hid behind an ivy-thorn bush, waiting for Jahel to appear at
her window. Very soon she came. I showed myself, and beckoned her to
come down. She came as soon as she was able to escape her uncle's
vigilance. I gave her a brief report of the events of the night, of
which she had not known. I informed her of M. d'Anquetil's impetuous
plans, and represented to her how important it was for her own
interest, and for my and your safety, to make our escape sure by
coming with us. I made the young nobleman's promises glitter before
her eyes and said to her: 'If you consent to go with him to-night
you'll have a solid annuity, inscribed at the Hotel de Ville, and an
outfit richer than any ballet dancer or Abbess of Panthémont may
get, and a cupboard full of the finest silver.' 'He thinks me to be
one of those creatures," she said; 'he is an impudent fellow.' 'He
loves you,' I replied; 'you could not expect to be venerated?' 'I
must have an olio pot,' she said, 'an olio pot, and the heaviest
one. Did he mention the olio pot? Go, Monsieur Abbé, and tell him.'
'What shall I tell him?' 'That I am an honest girl.' 'And what
else?' 'That he is very audacious!' 'Is that all, Jahel? Think on
our safety!' 'Tell him that I shall not depart before he has given
me his legally worded written promise for everything.' 'He'll do it,
consider it as done. 'Oh, monsieur, I will not consent to anything
if he does not consent to have lessons given me by M. Couperin; I
want to study music.
"We had just reached this item of our negotiations when, unhappily,
Mosaide surprised us, and without having overheard our conversation
got the scent of its meaning.
"He called me at once a suborner, and heaped outrageous insults on
me. Jahel went and hid herself in her own room, and I remained alone
exposed to the fury of that God-killer, in the state you found me,
and out of which you helped me, you dear boy! As a fact, I may say
that the business had been concluded, the elopement assented to, our
flight assured. The wheels and Ezekiel's beasts are of no value
against a heavy silver olio pot. I am only afraid that yonder old
Mordecai has imprisoned his niece too securely."
"I must avow," I replied, without disguising my satisfaction, "that
I heard a loud noise of keys and bolts at the very moment I freed
you from the midst of the thorns. But is it really true, that Jahel
agreed so quickly to your propositions, which have not been quite
decorous, and which, for certain, you did not make with an easy
heart? I am abashed; and, say, my good master, did she not speak of
me, not mention my name, with a sigh or otherwise?"
"No, my boy, she did not pronounce your name, at least not in an
audible way. Neither did I hear her mention the name of M. d'Asterac
her lover, which ought to have been nearer to her feelings than
yours. But do not be surprised by her forgetting the alchemist. It
is not sufficient to possess a woman to impress on her soul a
profound and durable mark. Souls are almost impenetrable, a fact
showing the cruel emptiness of love. The wise man ought to say to
himself, I am nothing in the nothingness which that creature is. To
hope that you could leave a remembrance in a woman's heart is
equivalent to trying to impress a seal on running water. And
therefore let us never nurse the wish to establish ourselves in what
is fleeting and let us attach ourselves to that which never dies."
"After all," I said, "Jahel is locked and bolted up, and one may
rely on the vigilance of her guardian."
"My son, this very evening she has to join us at the _Red
Horse_. Twilight is favourable to evasions, abductions, stealthy
movements and underhand actions. We have to trust to the cunning of
that girl. As to you, be sure to attend at the Circus of the
Bergères in the dusk. You know M. d'Anquetil is not patient, and it
quite the man to start without you."
When he gave me this counsel, the luncheon bell sounded.
"Have you by chance," he said to me, "a needle and thread? My
garments are torn at more than one place, and I should like to
repair them as much as possible before going to luncheon. Especially
my breeches do not leave me without some apprehension. They are so
much torn that, should I not promptly mend them, I run the risk of
losing them altogether."
Our last Dinner at M. d'Asterac's Table--Conversation of M. Jerome
Coignard and M. d'Asterac--A Message from Home--Catherine in the
Spittel--We are wanted for Murder--Our Flight--Jahel causes me much
Misery--Account of the Journey--The Abbe Coignard on Towns--Jahel's
Midnight Visit--We are followed--The Accident--M. Jerome Coignard is
I took my accustomed place that day at the dining-table of the
cabalist, oppressed by the idea that I sat down at it for the last
time. Jahel's treachery had saddened my soul. Alas! thought I, my
most fervent wish had been to fly with her, a wish which looked like
being granted, and was now fulfilled in a very cruel manner. Again
and again I admired my beloved tutor's wisdom who, on a day when I
desired too vivaciously the success of some affair, answered with
the following citation: _"Et tributt eis petitionem eorum."_ My
sorrows and anxieties spoilt my appetite, and I partook sparingly of
the dishes served. However, my dear tutor had preserved the
unalterable gracefulness of his soul.
He abounded in amiable discourse, and one might have said that he
was one of those sages which Telemachus shows us conversing in the
shades of the Elysian Fields, and not a man pursued as a murderer
and reduced to a roving and miserable life. M. d'Asterac, believing
that I had passed the night at the cookshop, kindly inquired after
my parents, and, as he could not abstract himself for a single
moment from his visions, said:
"When I speak of that cook as being your father it is quite
understood that I express myself in a worldly sense, and not
according to nature. Nothing proves, my son, that you have not been
begot by a Sylph. It is the very thing I prefer to believe, in so
far as your spirit, still delicate, shall grow in strength and
"Oh, sir! don't speak like that,' replied my tutor, and smiled. "You
oblige him to hide his spirit so as not to damage his mother's good
name. But if you knew her better you could not but think with me
that she never had any intercourse with a Sylph; she is a good
Christian who has never accomplished the work of the flesh with any
other man than her husband, and who carries her virtue written
distinctly on her features, very different from the mistress of that
other cookshop, Madame Quonion, about whom they talked so much in
Paris, as well as in the provinces, in the days of my youth. Have
you never heard of her, sir? Her lover was M. Mariette, who later on
became secretary to M. d'Angervilliers. He was a stout man, who left
a jewel every time he visited his beloved; one day a Cross of
Lorraine or a Holy Ghost; another day a watch or a chatelaine, or
perhaps a handkerchief, a fan, a box. For her sake he rifled the
jewellers and seamstresses of the fair of St Germain. He gave her so
much that, finding his shop decorated like a shrine, the master-cook
became suspicious that all that wealth could not have been honestly
acquired. He watched her, and very soon surprised her with her
lover. It must be said that the husband was but a jealous fellow. He
flew into a temper, and gained nothing by it, but very much the
reverse. For the amorous couple, plagued by his wrangling, swore to
get rid of him. M. Mariette had no little influence. He got a
_lettre de cachet_ in the name of that unhappy Quonion. On a
certain day the perfidious woman said to her husband:
"Take me, I beg of you, on Sunday next out to dinner somewhere in
the country. I promise myself uncommon pleasure from such an
"She became caressing and pressing, and the husband, flattered,
agreed to all her demands. On the Sunday, he got with her into a
paltry hackney coach to go to Porcherons. But they had hardly got to
Roule when a posse of constables placed in readiness by Marietta
arrested him, and took him to Bicetre, from whence he was sent to
the Mississippi, where he still remains. Someone composed a song
which finished thus:
'Un mari sage et commode
N'ouvre les yeux qu'a demi
II vaut mieux etre a la mode,
Que de voir Mississippi.'
And such is, doubtless, the most solid lesson to be derived from the
example given by Quonion the cook.
"As to the story itself, it only needs to be narrated by a Petronius
or by an Apuleius to equal the best Milesian fables. The moderns are
inferior to the ancients in epic poetry and tragedy. But if we do
not surpass the Greeks and Latins in story-telling it is net the
fault of the ladies of Paris, who never cease enriching the material
for tales by their ingenious and graceful inventions. You certainly
know, sir, the stories of Boccaccio. I am sure that had that
Florentine lived in our days in France he would make of Quonion's
misfortune one of his pleasantest tales. As far as I am myself
concerned I have been reminded of it at this table for the sole
purpose, and by the effect of contrast, to make the virtue of Madame
Leonard Tournebroche shine. She is the honour of cookshops, of which
Madame Quonion is the disgrace. Madame Tournebroche, I dare affirm
it, has never abandoned those ordinary commonplace virtues the
practice of which is recommended in marriage, which is the only
contemptible one of the seven sacraments."
"I do not deny it," said M. d'Asterac. "But Mistress Tournebroche
would be still more estimable if she should have had intercourse
with a Sylph, as Semiramis had and Olympias and the mother of that
grand pope Sylvester II."
"Ah, sir," said the Abbé Coignard, "you are always talking to us of
Sylphs and Salamanders. Now, in simple good faith, have you ever
seen any of them?"
"As clearly as I see you this very moment," replied M. d'Asterac,
"and certainly closer, at least as far as Salamanders are
"That is not sufficient, my dear sir, to make me believe in their
existence, which is against the teachings of the Church. For one may
be seduced by illusions. The eyes, and all our senses, are
messengers of error and couriers of lies. They delude us more than
they teach us, and bring us but uncertain and fugitive images. Truth
escapes them, because truth is eternal, and invisible like
"Ah!" said M. d'Asterac, "I did not know you were so philosophical,
nor of so subtle a mind."
"That's true," replied my good master. "There are days on which my
soul is heavier, and with preference attached to bed and table. But
last night I broke a bottle on the head of an extortioner, and my
mind is very much exalted over it. I feel myself capable of
dissipating the phantoms which are haunting you, and to blow off all
that mist. For after all, sir, these Sylphs are but vapours of your
M. d'Asterac stopped him with a kind gesture and said:
"I beg your pardon, abbé; do you believe in demons?"
"Without difficulty I can reply," said my good master, "that I
believe of demons all that is reported of them in the Scriptures,
and that I reject as error and superstition all and every belief in
spells, charms and exorcism. Saint Augustine teaches that when the
Scriptures exhort us to resist the demons, it requires us to resist
our passions and intemperate appetites. Nothing is more detestable
than the deviltries wherewith the Capuchins frighten old women."
"I see," said M. d'Asterac, "you do your best to think as an honest
man. You hate as much as I do myself the coarse superstitions of the
monks. But, after all, you do believe in demons, and I have not had
much trouble to make you avow it. Know, then, that they are no other
than Sylphs and Salamanders, ignorance and fear have disfigured them
in timid imaginations. But, as a fact, they are beautiful and
virtuous. I will not lead you in the ways of the Salamanders, as I
am not quite sure of the purity of your morals; but I can see no
impediment, abbé, to a frequentation of the Sylphs, who inhabit the
fields of air, and voluntarily approach man in a spirit of
friendliness and affection, so that they have been rightly named
helping genii. Far from driving us to perdition, as the theologians
believe, who change them into devils, they protect and safeguard
their terrestrial friends. I could make you acquainted with
numberless examples of the help they give. But to be short I'll
repeat to you one single case which was told to me by Madame la
Maréchale de Grancey herself. She was middle-aged, and a widow for
several years, when, one night, in her bed, she received the visit