Part 4 out of 5
of a Sylph, who said to her: 'Madame, have a search made in the
wardrobe of your deceased husband. In the pocket of a pair of his
breeches a letter will be found, which, if it became known, would
ruin M. des Roches, my good friend and yours. Find that letter and
"The maréchale promised not to neglect this recommendation and
inquired after news of the defunct maréchal from the Sylph, who,
however, disappeared without giving any reply. On waking she
summoned her women, and bade them look if some of the late
maréchal's garments remained in his wardrobe. The attendants
reported that nothing was left, and that the lackeys had sold them
all to old clothes dealers. Madame de Grancey insisted on her women
trying to find at least one pair of breeches.
"Having searched in every corner they finally discovered a very old-
fashioned pair of black satin, embroidered with carnations, and
handed them to their mistress, who found a letter in one of the
pockets, which contained more than would have been needed to
incarcerate M. des Roches in one of the state prisons. She burned
the letter at once, and so that gentleman was saved by his good
friends the Sylph and the maréchale.
"Are such, I ask you, abbé, the manners of demons? But let me give
you another startling hit on the matter, which will impress you
more, and will I am sure go to the heart of a learned man such as
yourself. It is doubtless known to you that the Academy of Dijon is
rich in wits. One of them, whose name cannot be unknown to you,
living in the last century, prepared with great labour an edition of
Pindar. One night, worrying over five verses the sense of which he
could not disentangle, so much was the text corrupt, he dozed off,
quite despairing, at cockcrow. During his sleep, a Sylph, who wished
him well, transported his spirit to Stockholm into the palace of
Queen Christina, conducted him to the library, and took from one of
the shelves a manuscript of Pindar's showing him the difficult
passage. The five verses were there, as well as two or three
annotations which rendered them perfectly intelligible.
"In the violence of his contentment, our savant woke up, struck a
light, and pencilled down the verses as they appeared to him in his
sleep. After that he went to sleep again profoundly. On the
following morning, thinking over his night's adventure, he at once
resolved to try to get a confirmation. M. Descartes happened at that
very time to be in Sweden, reading to the queen on philosophy. Our
Pindarist knew him, but was on still closer terms with M. Chanut,
the Swedish ambassador in France. He wrote requesting him to forward
a letter to M. Descartes, in which he asked him to be informed if
there really was in the queen's library at Stockholm a manuscript of
Pindar containing the version he mentioned. M. Descartes, an
extremely courteous man, replied to the academician of Dijon that,
as a fact, her Majesty possessed a manuscript of Pindar, and that he
had himself read there the verses, with the various readings
contained in the letter."
M. d'Asterac, who had been peeling an apple during his narration,
looked at M. Coignard to enjoy the success of his discourse.
My dear tutor smiled and said:
"Ah, sir! I clearly see that I flattered myself with an idle hope,
and that one cannot make you give up your vain imaginations. I
confess with a good grace that you have shown us an ingenious Sylph,
and that I actually wish for such an obliging secretary. His
assistance would be particularly useful to me on two or three
passages in Zosimus the Panopolitan which are very obscure. Could
you not be so good as to give me the means to evoke, if necessary,
some Sylph librarian as expert as that of Dijon?"
M. d'Asterac replied gravely:
"That's a secret, abbé, that I will willingly unveil to you. But be
warned that you would be a lost man should you communicate it to a
"Don't be uneasy," said the abbé. "I have a strong desire to know so
fine a secret, but I will not conceal from you that I do not expect
any effect from it, as I do not believe in Sylphs. Instruct me, if
"You request me?" replied the cabalist. "Well, then, know that
whenever you want the assistance of a Sylph, you have but to
pronounce the simple word _Agla_, and the sons of the air will
at once come to you. But understand, M. Abbé, that the word must be
spoken by the heart as well as by the lips, and that faith alone
gives it its virtue. Without faith it is nothing but a useless
murmur. Pronounce it as I do at this moment, putting in it neither
soul nor wish, it has, even in my own mouth, but a very slight
power, and at the utmost some of the children of light, if they have
heard it, glide into this room, the light shadows of light. I've
divined rather than seen them on yonder curtain, and they have
vanished when hardly visible. Neither you nor your pupil has
suspected their presence. But had I pronounced that magic word with
real fervour you would have seen them appear in all their splendour.
They are of a charming beauty. Now, sir, I have entrusted you with a
grand and useful secret. Let me say again, do not divulge it
imprudently. And do not sneer at the example of the Abbé de Villars,
who, for having revealed their secrets, was murdered by the Sylphs,
on the road to Lyons."
"On the Lyons road?" said my good tutor. "How strange!"
M. d'Asterac left us suddenly.
"I will now for the last time," said the abbé, "visit that noble
library where I have enjoyed such austere pleasures and which I
shall never see again. Do not fail, Tournebroche, to be at nightfall
at the Bergères Circus."
I promised to be there; it was my intention to lock myself in my
room for the purpose of writing to M. d'Asterac, and my dear
parents, asking them to kindly excuse me for not taking personal
leave of them, as I had to fly after an adventure wherein I was more
unlucky than guilty.
When I reached the door of my room, I heard heavy snoring from
within. Peeping in I saw M. d'Anquetil in my bed, sleeping, his
sword at the bedside, playing cards strewn all over the quilt. For a
moment I felt tempted to run him through with his own sword, but the
temptation did not last, and I left him sleeping. Notwithstanding my
grief I could not help laughing when I thought that Jahel, being
locked and bolted in by Mosaide, could not rejoin him.
So I went to my tutor's room, to write my letters, where I disturbed
five or six rats, who had begun to make a meal off his Boethius,
which had remained on the night table. I wrote to my mother and to
M. d'Asterac, and I composed the most touching epistle to Jahel. My
tears fell on this when I read it over for a second time. "Perhaps,"
I said to myself, "the faithless girl will cry too, and her tears
will mix with mine."
Then, overwhelmed as I was by fatigue and sorrow, I threw myself on
my tutor's bed, and soon went off into a kind of semi-sleep,
troubled by dreams, erotic and sinister. I was awakened by the
taciturn Criton, who had entered the room and presented to me, on a
silver salver, a sort of curling paper, whereon a few badly written
words were scribbled in pencil. Someone expected me at once outside
the castle. The note was signed "Friar Ange, unworthy Capuchin." I
went as quickly as I could, and found the little friar seated on the
bank of a ditch in a state of pitiable dejection. Wanting strength
to get up, he looked at me with his big dog's eyes, nearly human and
full of tears; his sighs moved his beard and chest. In a tone which
really pained me he said:
"Alas! Monsieur Jacques, the hour of trial has come to Babylon, as
it is said in the prophets. At the request of M. de la Guéritude,
the Lieutenant of Police had Mam'selle Catherine taken by the
constables to the spittel, from whence she'll be sent to America by
the next convoy. I was informed of it by Jeannette the hurdy-gurdy
player, who saw Catherine brought in a cart to the spittel, as she
left it herself after having been cured of an evil ailment by the
surgeon's art--at least I hope so, please God! And Catherine is to
be transported, and no reprieve to be expected."
And Friar Ange at this point in his discourse groaned and shed tears
abundantly. After doing my best to console him I asked if he had
nothing else to tell me.
"Alas! M. Jacques," he replied. "I have intimated the essential, and
the remainder floats in my head like the Spirit of God on the
waters, without comparison if you please. The matter is dark
altogether. Catherine's misfortune has taken away my senses. It
needed the necessity of giving you important news to bring me to the
threshold of this cursed house, where you live in company with all
sorts of devils, and it was with dismay, and after having recited
the prayer of Saint Francis, that I ventured to knock at the door
for the purpose of handing to a lackey the note I wrote to you. I do
not know if you have been able to read it, as I have but little
practice in forming letters, and the paper was not of the best to
write on, but you see it is the honour of our holy order not to give
way to the vanities of our century! Ah! Catherine at the spittel!
Catherine in America! Is it not enough to break the hardest heart?
Jeannette herself wept abundantly, and did so in spite of her
jealousy of Catherine, who prevails over her in youth and beauty
just as Saint Francis surpasses in holiness all the other blessed
ones. Ah, M. Jacques! Catherine in America! Such are the strange
ways of Providence. Alas! our holy religion is true, and King David
was right in saying that we are like the grass of the field--is not
Catherine at the spittel? The stones on which I am sitting are
happier man I, notwithstanding that I wear the signs of a Christian
and a monk. Catherine at the spittel!"
He sobbed again. I waited till the torrent of his sorrow had passed
away, and then asked him if he had any news of my parents.
"M. Jacques," he replied, "'tis they who have sent me to you, bearer
of a pressing message. I must tell you that they are not very happy,
through the fault of Master Léonard, your father, who passes in
drinking and gambling all the days God has given him. And savoury
fumes of roasting geese and fowls do not now arise to the signboard
of _Queen Pédauque_ swinging sadly in the damp wind which rusts
it. Where are the times when the smell of your father's cookshop
perfumed the Rue Saint Jacques, from the _Little Bacchus_ to
the _Three Maids_? Since yonder sorcerer visited it, everything
wastes away, beasts and men, in consequence of the spell he has
thrown on it. And vengeance divine is manifest there since that fat
Abbé Coignard made his entry, and I was cast out. It was the
beginning of the evil, inaugurated by M. Coignard, who prides
himself on the depths of his knowledge, and the distinction of his
manners. Pride is the spring of all evil. Your pious mother was very
wrong, M. Jacques, not to have been satisfied with such teaching as
I charitably gave you, and which would have made you fit to
superintend the cooking, to manage the larding, and to carry the
banner of the guild after the demise, the funeral service and the
obsequies of your worthy father, which cannot be very far off, as
all life is transitory and he drinks to excess."
It may be easily understood how sorely I was afflicted by this news.
My tears and those of Friar Ange mixed freely together. However, I
inquired after my mother.
Friar Ange replied:
"God, who afflicted Rachel in Rama, has sent to your mother,
Monsieur Jacques, sundry tribulations for her good, and to chastise
Master Léonard for the sin he committed by maliciously expelling, in
my humble person, our Lord Jesus Christ from his cookshop. He has
transferred most of the purchasers of poultry and pies to the
daughter of Madame Quonion, who turns the spit at the other end of
the Rue Saint Jacques. Your mother sees with sorrow that the other
house is blessed at the cost of her own, and that her shop is now
deserted to such a degree that, figuratively speaking, moss covers
its threshold. She is sustained in her trials, firstly, by her
devotion to Saint Francis; secondly, by the consideration of the
progress of your worldly position, which enables you to wear a sword
like a man of condition.
"But this second consolation has been much shaken by the constables
calling this very morning at the cookshop to take you into custody,
and carry you to the Bicetre Prison, to break stones for a year or
two. It was Catherine who denounced you to M. de la Guéritude, but
you must not blame her for it; she did her duty as a Christian by
confessing the truth. She accused you and the Abbé Coignard of being
M. d'Anquetil's accomplices, and gave a faithful account of all the
murder and bloodshed perpetrated in the course of that terrible
night. Alas! her truthfulness was of no use; she was carried to the
spittel. It's downright horrible to think of it."
At this point of his story, the little friar covered his face with
his hands and sobbed and cried anew.
Night had come, and I was afraid to fail in my appointment. Pulling
the little friar out of the ditch, I put him on his feet, and wished
him to keep me company on my walk along the Saint Germain road to
the Circus of the Bergères. He obeyed me willingly. Sadly walking by
my side, he asked my assistance in disentangling the mixed-up
threads of his thoughts. I put him back to where the constables came
to search for me at the cookshop.
"As they could not find you," he continued, "they wanted to take
your father. Master Léonard pretended he did not know where you were
hidden. Your mother said the same, and took her sacred oath on it.
May God forgive her, Monsieur Jacques, as evidently she perjured
herself. The constables began to get cross. Your father reasoned
well with them, and took them to have a drink with him, after which
they parted quite friendly. Meanwhile your mother went after me to
the _Three Maids_, where I was soliciting alms according to the
holy rules of my order. She sent me to you to warn you that
immediate flight is your only safety, as the Lieutenant of Police
would soon discover your retreat."
Listening to this sad news, I walked with a quicker step, and we
passed the bridge of Neuilly.
On the rather steep hill leading to the circus, the elms of which
soon became visible, the little friar said with a dying voice:
"Your mother particularly asked me to warn you of the danger you are
in, and handed to me a little bag she had secreted under her dress.
I cannot find it," he added, after having felt all over his body.
"How do you expect me to find anything after losing Catherine? She
was devoted to Saint Francis, and lavish of alms, and now they have
treated her like a harlot, and will shave her head; it's
heartbreaking to think that she will look like a milliner's doll,
and be shipped in that state to America, where she runs the risk of
dying by fever and being eaten by cannibal savages."
When he ended this discourse with a sigh we had reached the circus.
To the left, the inn of the _Red Horse_ showed its roof over a
double row of elms, its dormer windows with their pulleys, while
under the foliage the gateway was to be seen wide open.
I slackened my walk, and the little friar sat down on the roots of a
"Friar Ange," I said to him, "you mentioned a satchel my dear mother
handed you for me."
"Quite right; she wished me so to do," replied the little Capuchin,
"and I have put it somewhere so safely that I cannot remember where,
and you ought to know, Monsieur Jacques, that I could not have lost
it for any other reason but from too much carefulness."
I rather sharply said that I did not believe he had lost the
satchel, and should he not find it at once I would search for it
He understood and, sighing deeply, brought out from under his frock
a little bag made of coloured calico, and handed it to me. It
contained a crown piece and a medal with the effigy of the Black
Virgin of Chartres, which I kissed fervently, shedding tears of
tenderness and repentance. The little friar took out of his large
pockets a parcel of coloured prints and prayers, badly illuminated,
made a rapid selection, and gave me two or three of them, those he
considered the most useful to pilgrims, travellers, and all
wandering people, saying:
"They are blessed and of good effect against danger of death and
sickness. You have only to recite the text printed on them, or to
lay them on the skin of your body, I give them to you, M. Jacques,
for the love of God. Do not forget to give me an alms. Keep in mind
that I beg in the name of Saint Francis. He'll protect you, without
fail, if you assist the most unworthy of his sons, and that is
Listening to his speech, I saw in the doubtful twilight a post-
chaise and four come out of the gateway of the _Red Horse_ inn,
heard the whips cracking and the horses pawing the ground when the
driver stopped on the highroad, close to the tree on the roots of
which Friar Ange was sitting. It was not an ordinary post-chaise,
but a very large, clumsy vehicle, having room to seat four, and a
small coupe in front. I looked at it for a minute or two, when up
the hill came M. d'Anquetil, with Jahel, carrying several parcels
under her cloak and wearing a mob-cap. M. Coignard followed them,
loaded with five or six books wrapped up in an old thesis. When they
reached the carriage the post boys lowered the carriage steps, and
my beautiful mistress, raising her skirt like a balloon, ascended
into the carriage, pushed from behind by M. d'Anquetil.
I ran towards them and shouted:
"Stop, Jahel! Stop, sir!"
But the seducer only pushed the perfidious girl the more, and her
charming rounded figure quickly disappeared. Preparing himself to
climb after her, one foot on the steps, he looked at me with
"Oh! Monsieur Tournebroche! You would then take from me all my
mistresses! Jahel after Catherine. Do you do it for a wager?"
But I did not hear what he said, and continued to call Jahel, the
while Friar Ange, having risen from his seat under the elm-tree,
came up to the carriage door, and offered to M. d'Anquetil pictures
of Saint Roch, a prayer to be recited during the shoeing of a horse,
another against fever, and asked him for charity with a mournful
I should have stopped there the whole of the night, calling Jahel,
if my good tutor had not got hold of me and pushed me inside the
large compartment of the carriage, which he entered after me.
"Let them have the _coupé_ by themselves," he said to me, "and
let us travel in the large compartment. I have been looking for you,
Tournebroche, and, not to withhold anything from you, had quite made
up my mind to depart without you when, happily, I discovered you in
company with the Capuchin under yonder elm-tree. We could not delay
any longer, as M. de la Guéritude has given sharp orders to look
everywhere for us. He has a long arm, having lent money to the
The carriage was moving on, but Friar Ange clung to the door, with
hand outstretched, begging pitifully.
I sank into the cushions.
"Alas, sir," I exclaimed, "did you not tell me that Jahel was locked
"My son," replied my good master, "not too much confidence may be
placed in women, who always play their tricks on the jealous and
their locks. If the door is closed, they jump out of the window. You
have no idea, my dear Tournebroche, of the cunning of women. The
ancients have reported admirable examples of it, and many a one
you'll find in Apuleius, where they are sprinkled like salt in the
'Metamorphoses.' But the best example is given in an Arabian tale
recently brought to Europe by M. Galand, and which I will tell you.
"Schariar, Sultan of Tartary, and his brother, Schahzenan, walked
one day on the seashore, when they saw rise suddenly above the waves
a black column, moving towards the shore. They recognised it as a
genie of the most ferocious kind, in the form of an immensely tall
giant, carrying on his head a glass case locked with four iron
locks. Both were seized with dismay, so much so that they hid
themselves in the fork of a tree standing near. The genie however
came on shore, and brought the glass case to the tree where the two
princes were hiding. Then he lay down and soon went to sleep. His
outstretched legs reached the sea, and his breathing shook earth and
heaven. During his terrifying repose the cover of the glass case
rose by itself, and out of it came a woman with a majestic body and
of the most perfect beauty. She raised her head--"
Here I interrupted his narrative, which I had hardly-listened to,
"Ah! sir, what do you think Jahel and M. d'Anquetil are saying at
this moment, all by themselves in the _coupé_?'
"I don't know," replied my dear tutor: "it's their business, not
ours. But let me finish the Arabian tale, which is full of sense.
You've interrupted me inconsiderately, Tournebroche, at the very
moment when the damsel, looking up, discovered the two princes in
the tree. She made them a sign to come down; but desirous as they
were to respond to the appeal of a person of so much beauty, they
were afraid to approach so terrible a giant. Seeing that they
hesitated she said to them in an undertone: 'Come down at once, or I
wake up the genie.' Her resolute and resolved countenance made them
understand that it was not a vain threat, and that the safest, as
also the most pleasant, thing to do was to go down without delay,
which they did as quietly as possible, so as not to wake the giant.
The lady, taking their hands, led them somewhat farther away under
the trees, and gave them to understand very clearly that she was
ready at once to give herself to both. Gracefully they accepted the
beauty's offer, and as they were men of courage, fear did not spoil
their enjoyment. Having obtained from both what she had wished for,
and seeing that each of the two princes wore a ring, she asked them
for their rings. Returning to the glass case where she lived, she
took out of it a chaplet of rings, and showed it to the princes.
"Do you know what is the meaning of this chaplet of rings? They are
those of all the men for whom I have had the same kindness as for
you. Their number, all told, is ninety-eight. I keep them as
souvenirs, for that same reason, and to complete the century I have
asked for yours. And now to-day I have had a full hundred lovers, in
spite of the vigilance and care of yonder giant, who never leaves
me. He may lock me in the glass case as much as he likes, and hide
me in the depths of the sea. I deceive him as often as I please."
"That ingenious apologue," added my good tutor, "shows you that the
women of the Orient, who are shut up and cloistered, are as cunning
as their sisters of the Occident, who are free of their movements.
Whenever a woman wants something there is no husband, lover, father,
uncle, or tutor able to prevent her carrying out her will. And
therefore, my dear boy, you ought not to be surprised that to
deceive that old Mordecai was but child's play for Jahel, whose
perverse spirit is made up of all the cuteness of our she-geldings
and the perfidy of the Orient. I guess her to be as ardent in
sensual pleasure, as greedy after gold and silver; altogether a
worthy descendant of the race of Aholah and Aholibah.
"She is of an acid and mordant beauty, and I do not deny that
somehow she excites me, although age, sublime meditations, and the
miseries of an agitated life have sufficiently mortified in me the
lust of the flesh. You're suffering over the success of M.
d'Anquetil's adventure with her, wherefore I reckon that you feel
much more than I do the sharp tooth of desire, and that jealousy is
tearing you. And that's the reason you blame an action, irregular
certainly, contrary to vulgar propriety, but withal indifferent in
character, or at least not adding much to the universal evil.
Inwardly you condemn me for having had a part in it, and you fancy
you defend the principle of chaste living when you do nothing except
from the prompting of your passions. Such is the way, my dear boy,
that we colour for the use of our own eyes our worst instincts.
Human morals have no other origin. Confess, however, that it would
have been a pity to leave such a fine girl for a single day longer
with that old lunatic. Acknowledge that M. d'Anquetil, young and
handsome, is a better mate for such a delicious creature, and resign
yourself to accept what cannot be altered. Such wisdom is difficult
to practise; but it would have been more difficult still, had your
own mistress been taken from you. In such a case you'd feel the iron
teeth torture your flesh, filling your soul with images odious and
precise. This consideration, my boy, ought to ease your present
sufferings. Besides, life is full of labour and pain. It is this
which evokes in us the just hope of an eternal beatitude."
Thus spoke my good tutor, while the elms of the king's highway
passed quickly before our eyes. I did not let him know that he
irritated my griefs in trying to soothe them, and that he, without
being aware of it, had laid his finger on my wound.
Our first stoppage was at Juvisy, where we arrived in the rain early
in the morning. Entering the post inn I found Jahel in the corner of
the fireplace, where five or six fowls were roasting on a spit. She
was warming her feet, and showed part of a silken stocking, which
was a great trouble to me, because it brought her leg to my mind. I
seemed to see all the beauty of her satin skin, the down, and all
other striking circumstances. M. d'Anquetil was leaning on the back
of the chair whereon she was sitting, holding her cheeks with his
hands. He called her his soul and his life, asked her if she was
hungry, and on her saying yes, he went out to give the necessary
Remaining alone with the unfaithful one I looked in her eyes, which
reflected the flames of the fire.
"Ah! Jahel," I exclaimed, "I am very unhappy; you have betrayed me,
and you no longer love me."
"Who says that I do not love you any more?" she asked, and looked at
me with her velvety eyes of flame.
"Alas! mademoiselle, your conduct shows it sufficiently."
"But, Jacques, could you envy the trousseau of Dutch linen and the
godroon plate that the gentleman is to present me with! I only ask
for your forbearance till he has fulfilled his promises, and after
that you'll see that I am still to you as I was at the Croix-des-
"And in the meantime, Jahel? Alas! he will enjoy your favours."
"I feel," she replied, "that that will be a trifle, and that nothing
will efface the strength of the feeling you have inspired me with.
Do not torment yourself with such mere nothings; they are only of
value by your idea of them."
"Oh!" I exclaimed, "my idea of them is horrible, and I am really
afraid that I shall not be able to survive your treachery."
She looked at me with a somewhat mocking sympathy, and said with a
"Believe me, my friend, neither of us will die of it. Think,
Jacques, that I am in want of plate and linen. Be prudent, do not
show the feelings that agitate you, and I promise to reward you for
your discretion, later on."
This hope softened somewhat my poignant grief. The innkeeper's wife
laid on the table the lavender-scented cloth, the pewter plates,
goblets and pitchers. I was very hungry, and when M. d'Anquetil, in
company with the abbé, re-entered the dining-hall, inviting us to
eat a morsel with him, I willingly sat down between Jahel and my
dear old tutor. We were afraid of being followed, so after having
put away three omelets and a couple of spring chickens we resumed
our journey. We resolved, seeing the danger of pursuit, to pass
every halting place without stopping as far as Sens, where we
decided to stay the night.
My imagination went horribly to that night at Sens, thinking that
there Jahel's treachery would be completed. And so much was I
troubled by those but too legitimate apprehensions that I listened
with but half an ear to the discourse of my good master, to whom
every trifling incident of our journey suggested the most admirable
My jealous fears were not groundless. We alighted at the best inn at
Sens, that paltry hostelry of _The Armed Man_. Supper hardly
over, M. d'Anquetil took Jahel with him to his room, which was next
to mine. You may believe that I could not enjoy a wink of sleep.
Jumping out of bed at daybreak, I left my chamber of torture. I
seated myself under the waggoner's porch, where the postboys drank
white wine and played the deuce with the servants. I remained there
two or three hours contemplating my misery. The horses were already
harnessed when Jahel appeared under the porch, shivering all over,
under her black cloak. I could not bear the sight of her, and turned
my moistened eyes away. She came to me, sat close to me on the
stone, and told me sweetly not to be disconsolate, as what I thought
monstrous was but a trifle; that one has to be reasonable; that I
was too much a man of spirit to want a woman for myself alone; that
if one wished for that one had to take a housekeeper without brains
or beauty, and even then it was a big risk to run.
"And now, Jacques," she added somewhat hurriedly, "I must leave you,
and quickly; I can hear the steps of M. d'Anquetil descending the
She pressed a hasty kiss on my burning lips, giving and prolonging
it with the violent voluptuousness of fear, as the spurred boots of
her sweetheart made the wooden steps of the stairs creak, and the
intriguer was in fear of losing her Dutch linen trousseau and her
godroon silver pot.
The postboy lowered the steps of the _coupé_, but M. d'Anquetil
asked Jahel if it would not be more pleasant to travel all four
together in the large compartment, and I recognised that that was
the first effect of his intimacy with Jahel, and that the full
satisfaction of his desires had left it less agreeable to be alone
with her. My good old tutor had taken care to provide himself with
five or six bottles of white wine from the cellar of _The Armed
Man_, which he laid under the cushions, and which we drank to
overcome the monotony of the journey.
At midday we arrived at Joigny, a neat and pretty town. Foreseeing
that my ready money would be all used before we could arrive at the
end of our journey, and finding the idea intolerable of letting M.
d'Anquetil pay my part in the travelling expenses unless I was
compelled to do so by the most unavoidable necessity, I resolved to
sell a ring and a medallion, gifts from my mother, and went about
the town in quest of a jeweller ready to buy them. I discovered one
in the square opposite the church, who sold crosses and chains in a
shop under the sign of _The Good Faith_. What was my astonishment
to find in this very shop, before the counter, my good master, showing
to the jeweller five or six little diamonds, and asking the shopman what
price he would offer for those stones. I recognised them immediately as
those which M. d'Asterac had shown us.
The jeweller examined the stones, and looking at the abbé from under
his spectacles said:
"Sir, these stones would be of great value if they were genuine. But
they are not, and no touchstone is needed to find that out. These
are nothing but glass beads, good only for children to play with, or
to be used in the crown of a village Holy Virgin, where they would
have a charming effect."
Having listened to that reply, M. Coignard picked up his diamonds
and turned his back on the jeweller. In so doing he became aware of
my presence, and looked rather confused over it. I brought my
business to an end promptly, and meeting my dear old tutor at the
shop door I mildly reproached him with the wrong he had done to
himself, as well as to his companions, by taking these stones, which
for his greater guilt might have been real.
"My son," he replied, "God, to keep me innocent of crime, willed
these stones to be false and a mere sham. I avow to you that I did
wrong to take them. You seem sorry about it; it's a leaf of my
life's book I should like to tear out, like some others not so neat
and immaculate as they ought to be. I understand deeply all that is
reprehensible in my conduct. But no man has a right to be entirely
cast down when he is faulty, and just now, and in this special case,
I think I ought to say of myself, in the words of an illustrious
learned man: 'Consider your great frailty, of which you make but too
often a show; and withal it is for your salvation that such things
should rise up in the road of your life. Not everything is lost for
you if oftentimes you find yourself afflicted and rudely tempted;
and if you succumb to temptation you're a man, not a god; you're
flesh and blood, not an angel. How could you expect to remain always
in a state of virtue when the angels in heaven and the first man in
Eden could not remain faithful to virtue?' Such are, my dear
Tournebroche, the only conversations adapted to the present state of
my soul. But, after this unhappy occurrence, which I do not wish to
dwell on longer, is it not time to return to the inn, there to
drink, in company with the postboys, who are simpleminded and of
easy intercourse, one or more bottles of country wine?"
I quite agreed, and we soon reached the hostelry, where we found M.
d'Anquetil, who, returning like ourselves from the town, had brought
some playing cards. He played a game of piquet with my tutor, and
when we resumed our journey they continued to play in the carriage.
That rage for play which occupied my rival gave me occasion for an
undisturbed conversation with Jahel, who liked very much to chat
with me, since she was left to herself. Her talk had a kind of
bitter sweetness for me. Reproaching her for her perfidy and
unfaithfulness, I gave vent to my grief in feeble or violent
"Alas! Jahel!" I said, "the memory and the image of your tenderness,
which made but lately my dearest delight, have become a cruel
torture to me when I think that to-day you belong to another person,
whereas formerly you were mine."
"A woman does not behave equally to all men."
And when I prolonged my lamentations and reproaches to excess she
"I am quite aware that I have caused you some pain. But that is no
reason for you to plague me a hundred times a day with your useless
M. d'Anquetil when he lost was in a bad temper and molested Jahel,
while she, anything but patient, threatened to write to her Uncle
Mosaïde to come and fetch her back. These quarrels were at first
rather pleasant to me, and gave me no small hopes; but after a
repeated renewal of them I became rather anxious, as they were
always followed by impetuous reconciliations, which exploded
suddenly into kisses and lascivious whisperings. M. d'Anquetil could
hardly bear my presence. He had on the other hand a vivid tenderness
for my good tutor, which he well deserved for his always joyful
humour and the incomparable elegance of his mind. They played and
drank together with a daily growing sympathy. Knee to knee, so as to
steady the table whereon they played cards they laughed, bantered,
chaffed each other, and if occasionally they became angry, and threw
the cards in one another's face, and swore at each other with such
oaths as would have made the boxers of Port Saint Nicolas or the
bargemen of the Mail blush, M. d'Anquetil swore by God Almighty, the
Holy Virgin and all the saints, that in all his life he had never
met with a worse thief than the Abbé Coignard. Notwithstanding it
remained clearly evident that he liked my good tutor; and it was a
real pleasure, as soon as one of these quarrels had terminated, to
listen to his laughter as he said:
"Abbé, you'll be my almoner and play piquet with me. You'll also
have to hunt with us. In the remotest corner of the Perche we will
look out for a horse strong enough to carry your weight, and you'll
get hunting clothes like the ones I saw worn by the Bishop of Uzès.
It is, besides, high time you had a new suit of clothes; your
breeches, abbé, hardly keep on your behind."
Jahel also inclined towards the irresistible charm with which my
dear tutor influenced all mankind. She made up her mind to repair,
if possible, all the disorders of his dress. First she tore up one
of her gowns and used the pieces to patch up the coat and breeches
of my venerable friend; she also made him a present of a laced
handkerchief to use as a band. My good tutor accepted these little
presents with a dignity full of graciousness. More than once I had
occasion to observe that he was a gallant when talking to women. He
took a lively interest in them without ever showing the slightest
indiscretion. He praised them with the science of a connoisseur,
giving them counsels out of his long experience, diffusing over them
the unlimited indulgence of a heart always ready to forgive any kind
of human weakness, and withal, never omitted any occasion to make
them understand the great and useful truths.
We arrived on the fourth day of our journey at Montbard, and
alighted on a hill, from which we could overlook the whole town,
which appeared in a small space as if it had been painted on canvas
by a clever limner anxious to reproduce every detail.
"Look," my dear old tutor said, "on these steeples, towers, roofs,
which rise up out of the green. It is a town, and without actually
searching for its history and name, it is well to contemplate it as
the worthiest subject of meditation we may encounter on the surface
of the world. As a fact any town furnishes material for speculations
of the spirit. The postboys tell us that yonder is Montbard, a place
utterly unknown to me. Nevertheless I am not afraid to affirm, by
analogy, that the people living therein resemble ourselves, are
egotistic cowards, perfidious gluttons, dissolute. Otherwise they
could not be human beings and descendants of Adam, at once miserable
and venerable, and in whom all our instincts, down to the most
ignoble, have their august origin. The only possible doubtful matter
with yonder people, is to know if they are more inclined to food or
to procreation. But a doubt is hardly permissible; a philosopher
will soundly opine that hunger is for these unhappy ones a more
pressing necessity than love. In the greenness of my youth I
believed that the human animal is before all things inclined to
sexual intercourse. But that was a wanton error, as it is quite
clear that human beings are more interested in conserving their own
life than in giving life to others. Hunger is the axis of humanity;
but after all, as it seems to be useless to discuss the matter any
further, I'll say, with your permission, that the life of mortals
has two poles--hunger and love. And here it is that one has to open
ears and soul! These hideous creatures who are born only to devour
or to embrace furiously, one the other, live together under the sway
of laws which precisely interdict their satisfying that double and
fundamental concupiscence. These ingenious animals, having become
citizens, voluntarily impose on themselves all sorts of privations;
they respect the property of their neighbours, which is prodigious,
if you take their avaricious nature into consideration; they observe
the rules of modesty, which is an enormous hypocrisy, but generally
consists in but seldom speaking of that of which they think without
ceasing. Then, let's be true and honest, gentlemen, when we look on
a woman, we do not attach our thoughts to the beauties of her soul
or the pleasantness of her spirit; when we approach her we have in
view principally her natural form. And the amiable creatures know it
so well that they have their dresses made by the fashionable
dressmakers and take good care not only not to veil their charms,
but to exaggerate them by all sorts of artifices. And Mademoiselle
Jahel, who certainly is not a savage, would be distressed if, on
her, art had gained the advantage over nature to such a degree as to
prevent the fulness of her bosom and the roundness of her thighs
being seen. And so it is that, since Adam's fall, we see mankind
hungry and incontinent. Why do they, when assembled in towns, impose
on themselves privations of all kinds, and submit to a rule of life
contrary to their own corrupted nature? It is said that they find it
advantageous, and that they feel that their individual security
depends on such restriction. But that would be to suppose them to
have too much reasoning power, and, what's more, a false reasoning,
because it is absurd to save one's life at the expense of all that
makes it reasonable and valuable. It is further said that fear keeps
them obedient, and it is true that prison, gallows and wheels are
excellent assurers of submission to existing laws. But it is also
certain that prejudice conspires with the laws, and it is not easy
to see how compulsion could have been universally established. Laws
are said to be the necessary conformity of things; but we have
become aware that that conformity is contradictory to nature, and
far from being necessary. Therefore, gentlemen, I'll look for the
source and origin of the laws not in man, but outside man, and I
should think that, being strangers to mankind, they derive from God,
who not only formed with His own mysterious hands earth and water,
plants and animals, but the people also, and human society. I'm
inclined to believe that the laws come direct from Him, from His
first decalogue, and that they are inhuman because they are divine.
It must be well understood that I here consider the codes in their
principles and in their essence, without taking note of their
ridiculous diversities and their pitiable complications. The details
of customs and prescriptions, the written as well as the oral, are
man's work, and to be despised. But do not let us be afraid to
recognise that the town is a divine institution. As a result, every
government ought to be theocratic. One priest, famous for the part
he took in the declaration of 1682, M. Bossuet, was not in error,
when he wanted to form the rules of polity after the maxims of the
Scriptures; and if he has pitiably failed in this endeavour, you
have to accuse the weakness of his genius alone, which was too
narrowly attached to examples taken from the books of Judges and
Kings, without seeing that God, when He works on this world,
proportions Himself to time and space, and knows the difference
between Frenchmen and Israelites. The city established under His
true and sole legitimate authority will not be the town of Joshua,
Saul and David; it will rather be the town of the gospels, the town
of the poor, where working-man and prostitute will not be humiliated
by the Pharisee. Oh, sirs, how excellent it would be to extract from
the Scriptures a polity more beautiful and more saintly than that
which was extracted therefrom by that rocky and sterile M. Bossuet!
What a city, more harmonious than that erected by the sounds of the
lyre of Orpheus, could be built on the maxims of Jesus Christ, on
the day when His priests, no more sold to emperors and kings,
manifest themselves as the true princes of the people!"
While, standing round my good master, we listened to his discourse,
we were, without noticing it, surrounded by a troop of beggars, who,
limping, shivering, spitting, frightening the sparrows, shook their
swellings and deformities, spreading evil smells and suffocating us
with their blessings. They struggled passionately for some small
silver pieces M. d'Anquetil threw among them, fell to the ground,
and rolled in the dust.
"It's painful to look on these people," said Jahel with a sigh.
"'That pity," said M. Coignard, "suits you like a jewel,
Mademoiselle Jahel; your sighs ornament your bosom heaving under
them like a breath each of us would like to respire from your lips.
But allow me to say that such tenderness, which is not less touching
from being an interested one, troubles you inwardly by a comparison
of yonder miserable beings with yourself, and by the instinctive
idea that your young body touches, so to say, this hideous,
ulcerated and mutilated flesh, as in truth it is bound and attached
to them in as far as members of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In
consequence you cannot look on such corruption of a human body
without seeing it at the same time as a possibility of your own
body. And these wretches have shown themselves to you like prophets,
announcing that sickness and death are the lot of the family of Adam
in this world. For this very reason you sighed, mademoiselle.
"As a fact, there is not the slightest reason to believe yonder
ulcerated and verminous beggars less happy than kings and queens. It
must not be said that they are poorer, if, as it appears, that
farthing picked up by that crippled woman, and which she presses on
her heart in frantic joy, seems to her more precious than a pearl
collar is to the mistress of a prince-bishop of Cologne and
Salzburg. To really understand our spiritual and true interests we
should rather envy the life of that cripple who crawls towards us on
his hands than that of the King of France or the Emperor of Germany,
Being equal before God, they perhaps have peace in their hearts,
which the other has not, and the invaluable treasure of innocence.
But hold up your petticoats, mademoiselle, for fear that you
introduce the vermin with which I see they are covered."
Such was my good tutor's speech, and we all listened willingly.
At the distance of three leagues from Montbard, one of the harnesses
broke, and, the postboys having failed to bring rope with them, we
were detained on the road, as the place of the accident was far from
any human dwelling. My good master and M. d'Anquetil whiled away the
time by playing and sympathetic quarrels, of which they had made a
habit. While the young nobleman was surprised to see his opponent
turn up the king oftener than seemed possible by the laws of chance,
Jahel, full of emotion, asked me in a whisper if I could not see
behind us a carriage in one of the turnings of the road. Looking
back to the place she indicated, I could actually see a kind of
Gothic vehicle of a ridiculous and strange form.
"Yonder carriage," said Jahel, "stopped at the same moment as ours.
That means that we are followed. I am curious to discover the
features of the people travelling in that vehicle. I feel very
uneasy about it. Does not one of the travellers wear a very narrow
and high headgear? The carriage very much resembles the one in which
my uncle brought me, when a child, to Paris after he had killed the
Portuguese. It remained, I believe, in one of the coach-houses at
the Castle of Sablons. It really seems to be the same, of horrible
memory, because I remember my uncle in it, fuming with rage. You
cannot conceive, Jacques, how violent his hate is. I myself had to
bear his rage the day I came away. He locked me in my room and
vomited the most horrible curses on the Abbé Coignard. I shiver when
I think what his rage must have been when he found my room empty and
the sheets still attached to the window by which I left to fly with
"You ought to say with M. d'Anquetil."
"How punctilious you are! Did we not depart together? Yonder
carriage torments me, it is so much like my uncle's."
"Be sure, Jahel, that it's the carriage of some honest Burgundian,
who goes about his business and does not think of us."
"You don't know," said Jahel. "I'm afraid."
"You cannot fear, however, that your uncle could run after you in
his state of decrepitude. He does not occupy himself with anything
but cabala and Hebraic dreams."
"You don't know him," she replied, and sighed. "He is occupied with
naught but myself. He loves me as much as he hates the rest of the
universe. He loves me in a manner--
"In a manner?"
"--In all the manners--in short he loves me."
"Jahel, I shudder to hear you. Good heavens: that Mosaide loves you
without that disinterestedness which is so admirable in an old man,
and so well suited for an uncle? Tell me all, Jahel-all!"
"Oh! you can tell it better than I, Jacques."
"I remain stupid. At his age, is it possible?"
"My dear friend, your skin is white, and your soul also. Everything
astonishes you. That candour is your most striking charm. You're
deceived by anyone who wants to deceive you. They make you believe
that Mosaide is a hundred and thirty years old; but he is hardly
older than sixty. They told you that for years he lived in the Great
Pyramid, but as a fact he has been a banker at Lisbon. And it
depended only on me to pass in your eyes as a Salamander."
"What, Jahel, do you tell me the truth? Your uncle--"
"Yes, and that is the secret of his jealousy. He believes the Abbé
Coignard to be his rival. He disliked him instinctively, at first
sight. But it is a great deal worse since he overheard a few words
of the conversation I had with that good abbé in the thorn bush, and
I'm sure he hates him now as the cause of my flight and my
elopement. For, after all, I've been abducted, my friend; a fact
that ought to enhance my worth in your eyes. I was certainly very
ungrateful to leave so good an uncle. But I could not endure any
longer the slavery he kept me in. And I also had an ardent wish to
become rich, and it is very natural, is it not, to wish for all the
good things when one is young and pretty? We have but one life, and
that is short enough. No one has taught me all the fine lies about
the immortality of the soul."
"Alas! Jahel," I exclaimed, in an ardour of love, provoked by her
own coolness. "Alas! I did not want anything else with you at the
Chateau des Sablons. What was wanting for your happiness?"
She made me a sign to show that M. d'Anquetil was observing us. The
harness had been repaired and our carriage rolled on again along the
road bordered on both sides by vineyards.
We stopped at Nuits to sup and to sleep. My dear tutor drank half-a-
dozen bottles of Burgundy, which warmed up his eloquence
marvellously. M. d'Anquetil kept him company, glass in hand, but to
hold his own in conversation also was a thing of which this nobleman
was not quite capable.
The meat was good, the beds were bad. M. Coignard slept in the lower
chamber, under the stairs, in the same feather bed with the host and
his wife, and all three thought they would be suffocated. M.
d'Anquetil with Jahel took the upstairs room, where the bacon and
the onions were suspended on hooks driven into the ceiling. I myself
climbed by means of a ladder to a loft and stretched out on a bundle
of straw. Being awakened by the moonlight, a ray of which fell into
my eyes, I suddenly saw Jahel in her night-cap coming through the
trap door. At a cry that I gave she put her finger to her lips.
"Hush!" she said to me, "Maurice is as drunk as a stevedore and a
marquis. He sleeps the sleep of Noah."
"Who is Maurice?" I inquired, rubbing my eyes.
"It's Anquetil. Who did you think it was?"
"Nobody, but I did not know that his name was Maurice."
"It's not long that I knew it myself, but never mind."
"You are right, Jahel, it's of no importance."
She was in her chemise, and the moonlight fell like drops of milk on
her naked shoulders. She slipped down at my side, called me by the
sweetest of names and by the most horrid of coarse names, in
whispers sounding out of her lips like heavenly murmurs. And then
she became dumb, and kissed me with the kisses she alone was able to
give, and in comparison with which the caresses of any other woman
were but an insipidity.
The constraint and the silence enhanced the furious tension of my
nerves. Surprise, the joy of revenge, and, perhaps, a somewhat
perverse jealousy inflamed my desires. The elastic firmness of her
flesh and the supple violence of the movements wherewith she
enveloped me demanded, promised, and deserved the most ardent
caresses. We became aware, during that wonderful night, of
voluptuousness the abyss of which borders on suffering.
When I came down to the innyard in the morning I met M. d'Anquetil,
who, now that I had deceived him, appeared to me less odious than
formerly. On his part he felt better inclined to me than he had yet
done since we started on our travels. He talked familiarly to me,
with sympathy and confidence; his only reproach was that I did not
show to Jahel all the regard and attention she deserved, and did not
give her the care an honest man ought to bestow on every woman.
"She complains," he said, "of your want of civility. Take care, my
dear Tournebroche; I should be sorry for a difference to arise
between her and yourself. She's a pretty girl, and loves me
The carriage had rolled on for more than an hour when Jahel put her
head out of the coach window and said to me:
"The other carriage has reappeared. I should like to discover the
features of the two men who occupy it, but I cannot."
I replied that at such a distance, and in the morning mist, it would
be impossible to discern them.
"But," she exclaimed, "those are not faces."
"What else do you want them to be?" I questioned, and burst out
Now, in her turn, she inquired of me what silly idea had sprung into
my brain to laugh so stupidly and said:
"They are not faces, they are masks. Yonder two men follow us and
I informed M. d'Anquetil that seemingly an ugly carriage followed
us. But he asked me to let him alone.
"If all the hundred thousand devils were on our track," he
exclaimed, "I should not care a rap for it as I have enough to do to
look after that obese old abbé who plays his tricks with the cards
in the most artful way, and who robs me of my money. I almost
suspect, Tournebroche, you call my attention to yonder coach for the
purpose of aiding and abetting that old sharper. Cannot a carriage
be on the same road as ours without causing you anxiety?"
Jahel whispered to me:
"I predict, Jacques, that yonder carriage brings trouble for us. I
have a presentiment of it, and my presentiments have never failed to
"Do you want to make me believe that you have the gift of prophecy?"
Gravely, she replied:
"Yes; I have."
"What, you are a prophetess!" I cried, smiling. "Here is something
"You sneer and you doubt because you have never seen a prophetess so
near at hand. How did you wish them to look?"
"I thought that they must be virgins."
"That's not necessary," she replied, with assurance.
The threatening carriage had disappeared at a turning of the road.
But Jahel's uneasiness had, without his acknowledging it, impressed
M. d'Anquetil, who ordered the postboys to hurry their horses,
promising them extra good tips. And by an excess of care he passed
to each of them a bottle of the wine that the abbé had placed in
reserve in the bottom of the carriage.
The postillions made their horses feel the stimulus that the wine
gave to them.
"You can calm yourself, Jahel," said he; "at the speed we are going
that antique coach, drawn by the horses of the Apocalypse, will
never catch us."
"We run like cats on hot bricks," said the abbé.
"If only it would last!" said Jahel.
We saw the vineyards on our right disappear rapidly. On the left the
River Saône ran slowly. Like a hurricane we passed the bridge of
Tournus. The town itself rose on the other side of the river on a
hill crowned by the walls of an abbey, proud as a fortress.
"That," said the abbé, "is one of the numberless Benedictine abbeys
which are strewn like so many gems on the robe of ecclesiastical
Gaul. If it had pleased God that my destiny should match my
character I should have lived an obscure life, gay and sweet, in one
of these abodes. There is no other religious order I hold in such
high esteem, for their doctrines as well as for their morals, as the
Benedictines. They have admirable libraries. Happy he who wears
their habit and follows their holy rules! It may be from the
inconvenience I feel at this moment in being shaken to pieces in
this carriage, which no doubt will very soon be upset by sinking
into one of the many holes of this confounded road, or it may
perhaps be the effect of age, which is the time for retreat and
grave thinking; whatever be the cause I wish more ardently than ever
to seat myself at a table in one of those venerable galleries, where
books plenty and choice are assembled in quiet and silence. I prefer
their entertainment to that of men, and my dearest wish is to wait,
in the work of the spirit, for the hour in which it will please God
to call me from this earth. I shall write history, and by preference
that of the Romans at the decline of the Republic, because it is
full of great actions and examples. I'll divide my zeal between
Cicero, Saint John Chrysostom and Boethius and my modest and
fruitful life would resemble the garden of the old man of Tarentum.
"I have experienced different manners of living, and I think the
best is to give oneself to study, to look on peacefully at the
vicissitudes of men, and to prolong, by the spectacle of centuries
and empires, the brevity of our days. But order and continuity are
needed. And that's the very thing that has always been wanting in my
existence. If, as I hope, I am able to disentangle myself from the
bad position I'm in just now, I'll do my best to find an honourable
and safe asylum in some learned abbey where _bonnes lettres_
are held in honour and respect. I can see myself there already,
enjoying the illustrious peace of science. Could I obtain the good
offices of the Sylph assistants of whom that old fool d'Asterac
speaks, and who appear, it is said, when they are invoked by the
cabalistic name of AGLA--"
At the very moment my dear tutor spoke these words a violent shock
brought down a rain of glass on our heads, in such confusion that I
felt myself blinded, as well as suffocated under Jahel's petticoats,
while the abbe complained in a smothered voice that M. d'Anquetil's
sword had broken the remainder of his teeth, and over my head Jahel
screamed fit to tear to pieces all the air of the Burgundian
valleys. M. d'Anquetil, in rough, barrack-room style, promised to
get the postboys hanged. When at last I was able to rise, he had
already jumped out through a broken window. We followed him, my dear
tutor and I, by the same exit, and then all three of us pulled Jahel
out of the overturned vehicle. No harm had been done to her, and her
first thought was to adjust her head-dress.
"Thank God!" said my tutor, "I have not suffered any other damage
than the loss of a tooth, and that was neither whole nor white. Time
had already effected its decay." M. d'Anquetil, legs astride and
arms akimbo, examined the carriage.
"The rascals," he said, "have put it in a nice state. If the horses
are got up they will break it all to pieces. Abbé, that carriage is
no good for anything else but to play spillikins with."
The horses had fallen topsy-turvy, one on the other, and were
kicking furiously. In a heap of croups and legs and steaming
bellies, one of the postboys was buried, his boots in the air. The
other was spitting blood in the ditch, where he had been thrown. M.
d'Anquetil shouted to them:
"Idiots! I really don't know why I do not spit you on my sword."
"Sir," said Abbé Coignard, "would it not be better to get that poor
fellow out of the midst of these horses wherein he is entangled?"
We all went to work with a will, and when the horses were freed and
raised we were able to discover the extent of the damage done. One
of the springs was broken, one of the wheels also, and one of the
"Fetch a smith," ordered M. d'Anquetil.
"There is no smith in the neighbourhood," was the postboy's reply.
"A mechanic of some kind."
"There is none."
"There is no saddler."
We looked round. To the west the vineyards extended to the horizon
their long peaceful lines. On the hill smoke came out of a chimney
near a steeple. On the other side, the Saone, veiled by a light
mist, lost itself slowly in the calm running of her flowing waters.
The shadows of the poplars elongated themselves on the banks. The
shrill cry of a bird pierced the deep silence.
"Where are we?" asked M. d'Anquetil.
"At two full leagues from Tournus," replied the postillion, spitting
blood, "and at least four leagues from Mâcon."
And, extending his arm towards the smoking chimney:
"Up there, that village ought to be Vallars, but it's not up to
"Blast you!" roared M. d'Anquetil.
While the horses struggled we went near the carriage, which was
lying sadly on its side.
The little postboy who had been taken out from the midst of the
"As to the spring, that could be mended by a strong piece of wood.
It will only make the carriage shake you more. But there is the
broken wheel! And, worst of all, my hat is under it, smashed to
"Damn your hat!" said M. d'Anquetil.
"Your lordship may not be aware that it was quite new," was the
postboy's meek reply.
"And the window glasses are broken!" sighed Jahel, seated on a
portmanteau, at the side of the road.
"If it were but the glasses," said M. Coignard, "a remedy could soon
be found by lowering the blinds, but the bottles cannot be in the
same state as the windows. I must look to it as soon as the coach
can be raised. I am also in fear for my Boethius, which I had placed
under the cushions with some other good books."
"It does not matter," said M. d'Anquetil. "I have the cards in my
waistcoat pocket. But shall we not get any supper?"
"I had thought of it," said the abbé. "It is not in vain that God
has given to the use of men the animals who crowd the earth, the sky
and the water. I am an excellent angler; the care necessary to
allure the fish particularly suits my meditative mind, and the River
Orne has seen me managing my line while meditating on the eternal
verities. Do not trouble over your supper. If Mademoiselle Jahel
will be good enough to give me one of the pins which keep her
garments together I'll soon make a hook of it, to enable me to fish
in yonder river, and I flatter myself I shall return before
nightfall laden with two or three carp, that we will grill over a
"I am quite aware," said Jahel, "that we are reduced to somewhat of
a savage state. But I could not give you a pin, abbé, without your
giving me something in exchange for it; otherwise our friendship
would be jeopardised. And that I do not want in any case."
"Then I will make an advantageous exchange, mademoiselle: I'll pay
for your pin with a kiss."
And, taking the pin out of Jahel's hand, he kissed her on both
cheeks with inconceivable courtesy, gracefulness and decency.
After having lost plenty of time, a reasonable step was at last
taken. The big postillion, who no longer spat blood, was sent to
Tournus on one of the horses to bring back with him a blacksmith;
the other boy was ordered to light a fire, as the air became fresh,
and a sharp wind was rising.
We discovered on the road, a hundred paces from the place of our
breakdown, a cliff of soft stone, the foot of which was quarried in
several places. We resolved to wait in one of those caves, warming
ourselves until the return of the boy sent to Tournus. The second
boy tied the three remaining horses to the trunk of a tree, near our
cavern. The abbé, who had made a fishing rod with the branch of a
willow-tree, some string, a cork and a pin, went a-fishing as much
for his philosophical and meditative inclination as for the sake of
bringing us back fish. M. d Anquetil, remaining with Jahel and me in
the grotto, proposed a game of _l'ombre,_ which is played by
three, and which he said, being a Spanish game, was the very one for
persons as adventurous as ourselves. And true it is that, in that
quarry, in a deserted road, our little company would not have been
unworthy to figure in some of the adventures of Don Quixote in which
menials take such a strong interest. And so we played _l'ombre._ I
committed a great many errors, and my impetuous partner got cross,
when the noble and laughing face of my good tutor became visible at
the light of our fire. He untied his handkerchief, and took out of
it some four or five small fish, which he opened with his knife,
decorated with the image of the late king, dressed as a Roman
emperor, standing on a triumphal column; and cleaned them with
dexterity, as if he had never lived anywhere else than in the midst
of the fishwomen at the market. He excelled as much in trifles as
in matters of the greatest importance. Arranging the fish on the embers,
"I will tell you, in all confidence, that following the river in
search of a favourable place for fishing, I perceived the
apocalyptic coach which frightens Mademoiselle Jahel. It stopped
somewhat behind our carriage. You ought to have seen it pass by
while I was fishing, and mademoiselle's soul ought to have been
comforted by it."
"We have not seen it," replied Jahel.
"Then it may have moved on only after the night had become dark. But
at least you heard it rumbling?"
"We have not," said Jahel.
"It is then that this night is blind as well as deaf. It is not to
be supposed that yonder coach, which had not a wheel broken, not a
horse lamed, would have remained standing still on the road. What
"Yes, what for?" said Jahel.
"Our supper," said my good tutor, "reminds me of the simplicity of
the repasts described in the Bible, where the pious traveller
divided with an angel, on the bank of the river, the fishes of the
Tigris. But we are in want of bread, salt and wine. I'll try to take
out of our coach the provisions put there, and look if by a
fortunate chance some bottles have remained intact. There are
occasions when glass remains whole but steel is broken.
Tournebroche, my son, give me your steel; and you, mademoiselle, do
not fail to turn the grilling fish. I'll be back in a moment."
He left. His somewhat heavy tread sounded in a de crescendo, and
soon we could hear him no more.
"This very night," said M. d'Anquetil, "reminds me of the night
before the battle of Parma. You may be aware that I have served
under Villars and been in the War of Succession. I was with the
scouts. We could not see anything. That's one of the best ruses of
war. Men are sent out to reconnoitre the enemy who return without
having reconnoitred anything. But reports are drawn up, after the
battle, and then it is that the tacticians are triumphant. Thus, at
nine o'clock at night, I was sent out scouting with twelve men--"
And he gave us a narrative of the War of Succession and of his
amours in Italy; his story had lasted for well-nigh a quarter of an
hour when he exclaimed:
"That rascal of an abbé does not come back. I bet he drinks all the
wine which remained in the coach."
Thinking that my dear tutor might possibly be embarrassed, I rose
and went to help him. It was a moonless night, and if the sky was
resplendent in the light of thousands of stars, the earth was clad
in a darkness which my eyes, dazzled by the light of the flames,
could not pierce.
Having walked about fifty steps on the black road. I heard a
terrible cry, which did not sound as if coming from a human breast,
a cry altogether unlike all cries I had heard before, a horrible
cry. I ran in the direction from whence came this clamour of fatal
distress. But fear and darkness checked my steps. Arrived at last at
the place where our coach lay on the road, shapeless and enlarged by
the night, I found my dear tutor seated on the side of the ditch,
bent double. Trembling I asked him:
"What's the matter? Why did you shout?"
"Yes; why did I shout?" he said, in a new and altered voice. "I did
not know I had cried out. Tournebroche, did you not see a man? He
struck me in the dark, very fiercely; he gave me a blow with his
"Come," I said to him, "get up, my dear master."
Having risen he fell back heavily on the ground.
I tried to raise him, and my hands became moist when I touched his
"Bleeding? I'm a dead man. He has killed me. I thought that it was
but a blow with the fist. But it's a wound, and I feel that I shall
never recover from it."
"Who struck you, my dear tutor?"
"It was the Jew. I did not see him, but I know it was he. How can I
know that it was the Jew, when I did not see him? Yes; how is it?
What strange things! It's not to be believed, is it, Tournebroche? I
have the taste of death in my mouth, which cannot be defined. It was
to be, my God! But why rather here than somewhere else? That's the
mystery! _'Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini--Domine exaudi
For a short time he prayed in a low voice, then:
"Tournebroche, my son," he said to me, "take the two bottles I found
in the coach and have placed here beside me. I can do no more.
Tournebroche, where do you think the wound is? It's in the back I
suffer most, and it seems to me that life runs out by the legs. My
spirits are going."
Murmuring these words he fainted softly in my arms. I tried to carry
him, but I had only strength enough to lay him lengthwise on the
ground. Opening his shirt, I discovered the wound; it was in the
breast; very small, and bleeding little. I tore my wristbands to
pieces and laid them on the wound; I called out, shouted for help.
Soon I thought I heard help coming from the side of Tournus, and I
recognised M. d'Asterac. Unexpected as the meeting was, I did not
actually feel surprised; too deeply was I the prey of the immense
sorrow I felt holding in my arms, dying, that best of all masters.
"What's the matter, my son?" asked the alchemist.
"Help me, sir," I replied, "the Abbé Coignard is dying. Mosaide has
"It is true," said M. d'Asterac, "that Mosaide has come here in an
old chariot in pursuit of his niece, and that I have accompanied him
to exhort you, my son, to return to your employment with me. Since
yesterday we came near your coach, which we saw break down just now
in a rut. At that very moment Mosaide alighted from the carriage,
and it may be that he wanted to take a walk, or perhaps he made
himself invisible, as he can do. I have not seen him again. It is
possible that he has already found his niece to curse her; such is
the intention. But he has not killed M. Coignard. It is the Elves,
my son, who have killed your master, to punish him for the
disclosure of their secrets. Nothing is surer than that."
"Ah! sir," I exclaimed, "what does it matter, if it was the Jew or
the Elves who killed him; we must assist him."
"On the contrary, my son," replied M. d'Asterac, "it is of the
greatest importance. For should he have been stricken by a human
hand it would be easy for me to cure him by magic operation; but
having provoked the Elves he could never escape their infallible
As he spoke, M. d'Anquetil and Jahel, having heard my shouts,
approached, with the postboy, who carried a lantern.
"What," said Jahel, "is M. Coignard unwell?"
And kneeling close to my good tutor, she raised his head and made
him inhale the smell of her salts.
"Mademoiselle," I said to her, "you're the cause of his death, which
is the vengeance for your abduction. Mosaide has killed him."
From my dying master she lifted up her face pale with horror and
shining with tears.
"And you too," she said, "believe that it's easy to be a pretty girl
without causing mischief?"
"Alas!" I replied, "what you say is but too true. But we have lost
the best of men."
At this moment Abbé Coignard sighed deeply, opened his eyes, called
for his book of Boethius, and fainted again into unconsciousness.
The postboy thought it would be best to carry the wounded man to the
village of Vallars, which was only half-a-league distant.
"I'll go," he said, "to fetch the steadiest of the horses which
remain. We'll tie the poor fellow securely on it, and lead it slowly
ahead. I think him very ill. He looks exactly like the courier who
was murdered at Saint Michel on the same road, at four stages from
here, near Senecy, where my sweetheart lives. That poor devil moved
his eyelids and turned up the whites of his eyes like a bad woman,
saving your presence, gentlemen. And your abbé did the same when
mam'selle tickled his nose with her bottle. It's a bad sign with a
wounded man; girls don't die of it when they turn their eyes up in
that fashion. Your lordships know it well. And there is some
distance, thank God! between the little death and the great. But
it's the same turning up of the eyes... Remain, gentlemen, I'll go
and fetch the horse."
"This rustic is amusing," said M. d'Anquetil, "with his turned-up
eyes and his bad women. I've seen in Italy soldiers who died on the
battlefield with a fixed look and eyes starting out of their head.
There are no rules for dying of a wound, actually not even in the
military service, where exactitude is pushed to the extreme. But
will you, Tournebroche, in default of a better qualified person,
present me to yonder gentleman in black, who wears diamond studs,
and whom I reckon to be M. d'Asterac?"
"Ah! sir," I replied, "consider the presentation to be made. I have
no other feelings but to assist my dear tutor."
"Be it so!" said M. d'Anquetil.
And approaching M. d'Asterac:
"Sir, I have taken your mistress away: I'm ready to answer for my
"Sir," replied M. d'Asterac. "Grace be to heaven! I have no
connection with any woman, and do not understand what you mean."
At this very moment the postboy returned with a horse. My dear tutor
had slightly recovered. We lifted him up, all four of us, and put
him with the greatest difficulty on the horse, where we tied him as
securely as possible. And we went off. I held him on one side, M.
d'Anquetil on the other. The postboy led the horse and carried the
lantern. M. d'Asterac had returned to his carriage. All went well as
long as we kept on the highroad; but when it became necessary to
climb the small lanes of the vineyards, my dear master, slipping at
every movement of the horse, lost the rest of his little strength,
and fainted away again. We thought it best to take him off the horse
and carry him in our arms. The postboy held him under the arms and I
by the legs. The ascent was very rough, and I expected to fall at
least four times with my living cross, on the stones of the path. At
last the hill became easier. We entered a small lane bordered by
bushes, and soon discovered on our left the first roofs of Vallars.
We laid our burden softly on the turf, and for a moment took breath.
Lifting up the abbe again, we carried him into the village.
A pink light appeared eastwards on the horizon. The morning star, in
the pale sky, shone as white and peaceful as the moon, the light
crescent of which paled away in the west The birds began to chirp;
my master sighed heavily.
Jahel ran before us, knocking at the doors, in quest of a bed and a
surgeon. Carrying baskets and panniers the vine-growers went grape-
gathering. One of them said to Jahel that Gaulard on the market
place lodges man and beast.
"As to the surgeon, Coquebert, you'll see him yonder under the
shaving plate which serves as his trade sign. He leaves his house to
go to his vineyard."
He was a very polite little man. He told us that he had a bed free
in his house, as a short time ago his daughter had got married.
By his order, his wife, a stout dame wearing a white cap covered by
a felt hat, put sheets on the bed in the lower chamber. She helped
us to undress the Abbe Coignard and to put him to bed. And then she
went out to fetch the vicar.
In the meanwhile M. Coquebert examined the wound
"You see," I said, "it's small, and bleeds but little."
"That's not good at all," he replied, "and I do not like it, my dear
young gentleman. I like a large wound which bleeds freely."
"I see," said M. d'Anquetil, "that for a leech and a village squirt
your test is not a bad one. Nothing is worse than those little but
deep wounds which look a mere nothing. Tell me of a nice cut across
the face. It's pleasant to look on, and heals in no time. But know,
my good sir, that this wounded man is my chaplain, and plays piquet
with me. Are you the man to put him on his legs again,
notwithstanding your looks, which are rather those of a vet?"
"At your service," replied the barber-surgeon, bowing profoundly.
"But I also set broken bones and treat wounds. I'll examine this
"Make haste, sir," I said.
"Patience!" he replied. "First of all the wound must be washed, and
I must wait till the water gets warm."
My good tutor, a little restored, said slowly, but with a fairly
"Lamp in hand, he'll visit the corners of Jerusalem, and what is
hidden in darkness will be brought to light."
"What do you mean, dear master?"
"Don't, my son," he replied; "I'm entertaining the sentiments fit
for my state."
"The water is hot," the barber said to me. "Hold the basin close to
the bed. I'll wash the wound."
And while he pressed on my tutor's breast a sponge soaked in hot
water, the vicar entered the room with Madame Coquebert. He had a
basket and a pair of vine shears in his hand.
"Here is then the poor man," said he. "I was going to my vineyard,
but that of Jesus Christ has to be attended to first; my son," he
said as he approached the stricken abbé, "offer your wound to our
Lord. Perhaps it's not so serious as it's thought to be. And for the
rest, we must obey God's will."
Turning to the barber, he asked:
"Is it very urgent, M. Coquebert, or could I go to my vineyard? The
white ones can wait; it's not bad if they do get a little overripe,
and a little rain would only produce more and better wine. But the
red must be gathered at once."
"You speak the truth, Monsieur le Cure," M. Coquebert replied. "I've
in my vineyard some grapes which cover themselves with a certain
moisture, and which escape the sun only to perish by the rain."
"Alas!" said the vicar, "humidity and drought are the two enemies of
"Nothing is truer," said the barber, "but I'll inspect the wound."
Having said so he pushed one of his fingers into the wound.
"Ah! Torturer!" exclaimed the patient.
"Remember," said the vicar, "that our Lord forgave His torturers."
"They were not barbarous," said the abbe.
"That's a wicked word," said the vicar.
"You must not torment a dying man for his jokes," said my good
master. "But I suffer horribly; that man assassinates me and I die
twofold. The first time was by the hands of a Jew."
"What does he mean?" asked the vicar.
"It is best, reverend sir," said the barber, "not to trouble
yourself about it. You must never want to hear the talk of a
patient. They are only dreams."
"Coquebert," said the vicar, "you don't speak well. Patients'
confessions must be listened to, and some Christians who never in
all their lives said a good word may, at the end, pronounce words
which open Paradise to them."
"I spoke temporally only," said the barber.
"Monsieur le Cure," I said, "the Abbe Coignard, my good master, does
not wander in his mind, and it is but too true that he has been
murdered by a Jew of the name of Mosaide."
"In that case," replied the vicar, "he has to see a special favour
of God, who willed that he perishes by the hand of a nephew of those
who crucified His Son. The behaviour of Providence is always
admirable. M. Coquebert, can I go to my vineyard?"
"You can, sir," replied the barber. "The wound is not a good one,
but yet not of the kind by which one dies at once. It's one of those
wounds which play with the wounded like a cat with a mouse, and with
such play time may be gained."
"That's well," said the vicar. "Let's thank God, my son, that He
lets you live, but life is precarious and transitory. One must
always be ready to quit it."
My good tutor replied earnestly:
"To be on the earth without being of it, to possess without being in
possession, for the fashion of this world passes away."
Picking up his shears and his basket, the vicar said:
"Better than by your cloak and shoes, which I see on yonder
cupboard, I recognise by your speech that you belong to the Church
and lead a holy life. Have you been ordained?"
"He is a priest," I said, "a doctor of divinity and a professor of
"Of which diocese?" queried the vicar.
"Of Seez in Normandy, a suffragan of Rouen."
"An important ecclesiastical province," said the vicar, "but less
important by antiquity and fame than the diocese of Reims, of which
I am a priest."
And he went away. M. Jerome Coignard passed the day easily. Jahel
wanted to remain the night with him. At about eleven o'clock I left
the house of M. Coquebert and went in search of a bed at the inn of
M. Gaulard. I found M. d'Asterac in the market place. His shadow in
the moonlight covered nearly all the surface. He laid his hands on
my shoulder as he was wont to do, and said with his customary
"It's time for me to assure you, my son, that I have accompanied
Mosa'ide for nothing else than this. I see you cruelly tormented by
the goblins. Those little spirits of the earth have attacked you,
deceiving you with all sorts of phantasmagoria, seducing you by a
thousand lies, and finally forcing you to fly from my house."
"Alas! sir," I replied, "it's quite true that I left your house in
apparent ingratitude, for which I beg your pardon. But I have been
persecuted by the constables, and not by goblins. And my dear tutor
has been murdered. That's not a phantasmagoria."
"Do not doubt," the great man answered, "that the unhappy abbe has
been mortally wounded by the Sylphs, whose secrets he has revealed.
He has stolen from a sideboard some stones, which were the work of
the Sylphs, and which they left unfinished, and still very different
from diamonds in brilliancy as well as in purity.
"It was that avidity, and the indiscreet pronouncing of the name of
Agla, which has angered them. You must know, my son, that it is
impossible for philosophers to arrest the vengeance of this
"I have heard from a supernatural voice, and also from Criton's
reports, of the sacrilegious larceny M. Coignard committed by which
he flattered himself to find out the art by which Salamanders,
Sylphs, and Gnomes ripen the morning dew and insensibly change it
into crystals and diamonds."
"Alas! sir, I assure you he thought of no such thing, and that it
was that horrible Mosa'ide who stabbed him with a stiletto on the
My words very much displeased M. d'Asterac, who urged me in the most
pressing manner never to repeat them again.
"Mosaide," he further said, "is a good enough cabalist to reach his
enemies without going to the trouble of running after them. Know, my
son, that, had he wanted to kill M. Coignard, he could have done it
easily from his own room by a magic operation. I see that you're
still ignorant of the first elements of the science. The truth is
that this learned man, informed by the faithful Criton of the flight
of his niece, hired post-horses to rejoin her and eventually carry
her back to his house, which he certainly would have done, had he
discovered in the mind of that unhappy girl the slightest idea of
regret and repentance. But, finding her corrupted by debauchery, he
preferred to excommunicate and curse her by the globes, the wheels
and the beasts of Ezekiel. That is precisely what he has done under
my eyes in the calashr where he lives alone, so as not to partake of
the bed and table of Christians."
I kept mute, astonished by such dreams, but this extraordinary man
talked to me with an eloquence which troubled me deeply.
"Why," he said, "do you not let yourself be enlightened by the
counsels of philosophers? What kind of wisdom do you oppose to mine?
Consider that yours is less in quantity without differing in
essence. To you as well as to me nature appears as an infinity of
figures, which have to be recognised and classified, and which form
a sequence of hieroglyphics. You can easily distinguish some of
those signs to which you attach a sense, but you are too much
inclined to be content with the vulgar and the literal, and you do
not search enough for the ideal and the symbolic. And withal the
world is comprehensible only as a symbol, and all you see in the
universe is naught but an illuminated writing, which vulgar men
spell without understanding it. Be afraid, my son, to imitate the
universal bray in the style of the learned ones who congregate in
the academies. Rather receive of me the key of all knowledge."
For a moment he stopped speaking, and then continued in a more
"You are persecuted, my son, by enemies less terrible than Sylphs.
And your Salamander will not have any difficulty in freeing you from
the goblins as soon as you request her to do so. I repeat that I
came here with Mosa'ide for no other purpose than to give you this
good advice, and to press you to return to me and continue your
work. I quite understand that you want to assist your unhappy master
till the end. You have full license to do it. But afterwards do not
fail to return to my house. Adieu! I'll return this very night to
Paris with that great Mosaide whom you have accused so unjustly."
I promised him all he wanted, and crawled into my miserable bed,
where I fell asleep, weighed down as I was by fatigue and suffering.
Illness of M. Jerome Coignard
The next morning, at daybreak, I returned to the surgeon's house,
and there found Jahel at the bedside of my dear tutor, sitting
upright on a straw chair, with her head wrapped up in her black
cape, attentive, grave and docile, like a sister of charity. M.
Coignard, very red, dozed.
"The night was not a good one," she said to me in a whisper. "He has
talked, he sang, he called me Sister Germaine, and has made
proposals to me. I am not offended, but it is a proof that his mind
"Alas!" I exclaimed, "if you had not betrayed me, Jahel, to ramble
about the country in company with a gallant, my dear master would
not lie in bed stabbed in his breast."
"It is the misery of our friend," she replied, "that causes me
bitter regrets. As for the rest, it is not worth while to think of
it, and I cannot understand, Jacques, how you can occupy your mind
with it just now."
"I think of it always."
"For my part, I hardly think of it. You are the cause of three-
fourths of your own unhappiness."
"What do you mean by that, Jahel?"
"I mean, my friend, that I have given the cloth, but that you do the
embroidery, and that your imagination enriches far too much the
plain reality. I give you my oath that the present hour I cannot
remember the quarter of what causes you grief, and you meditate over
it so obstinately that your rival is more present to your mind than
I am myself. Do not think of it any more, and let me give the abbe a
cooling drink, for he wakes up."
At this very moment M. Coquebert approached the bedside, his
instrument-case in hand, dressed the wound anew, and said aloud that
the wound was on the best way to heal up. But taking me aside he
"I can assure you, sir, that the good abbe will not die from the
wound he has received, but to tell the truth I am afraid it will be
difficult for him to escape from a pleurisy caused by his wound. He
is at present the prey of a heavy fever. But here comes the vicar"
My good master recognised him without any difficulty, and inquired
after his health.
"Better than the grapes," replied the vicar. "They are all spoiled
by _fleurebers_ and vermin, against which the clergy of Dijon
organised this year a fine procession with cross and banners. Next
year a still finer one will have to be arranged, and more candles
burnt. It also will be necessary for the official to excommunicate
anew the flies which destroy the grapes."
"Vicar," said my good master, "it is said that you seduce the girls
in your vineyards. Fie! it is not right at your age. In my youth,
like you I had a weakness for the creatures. But time has altered me
very much, and quite lately I let a nun pass without saying anything
to her. You do otherwise with the damsels and the bottles, vicar.
But you do worse by not celebrating the masses you have been paid
for, and by trafficking the goods and chattels of the Church. You
are a bigamist and a simoniac."
Hearing this discourse the vicar was painfully surprised; his mouth
remained open, and his cheeks dropped wistfully on both sides of his
big face. And at last, with eyes on the ground, he sighed:
"What an unworthy attack on the character of my profession! What
talk for a man so near the tribunal of God! Oh, Monsieur l'Abbé, is
it for you to speak in that way, you who have lived a holy life and
studied in so many books?"
My dear master raised himself on his elbows. The fever gave him,
unhappily, that jovial mien of his that we had always liked so much.
"It is true," he said, "that I have studied the ancient authors. But
I have read much less than the second vicar of the Bishop of Séez,
for, as he had the look and the mind of an ass, he was able to read
two pages at the same time, one with each eye. What do you say to
that, you villain of a vicar, you old seducer, who runs after the
chicks by moonlight? Vicar, your lady friend is built like a witch.
She has hairs on her chin, she's the barber-surgeon's wife. He is
fully a cuckold, and well he deserves it, that homunculus, whose
whole medical science consists in the art of blood-letting and
giving a clyster."
"God Almighty! What does he say?" exclaimed Madame Coquebert, "for
sure he has the devil in him."
"I have heard the talk of many delirious patients," said M.
Coquebert, "but not one has said such wicked things."
"I am discovering," said the vicar, "that we'll have more trouble
than we expected to conduct this unhappy man to a peaceful end.
There is a biting humour in his nature and impurities I did not find
out at first. His speech is malicious, and unfit for a priest and a
"It's the effect of the fever," said the barber-surgeon. "But,"
continued the vicar, "that fever, if it's not stopped, will bring
him to hell. He has gravely offended against what is due to a
priest. But still, I'll come back to-morrow and exhort him, for I
owe him, by the example of our Lord, unlimited compassion. But I
have my doubts about it. Unhappily there is a break in my winepress,
and all the labourers are in the vineyard. Coquebert, do not fail to
give word to the carpenter, and to call me to your patient if he
should suddenly get worse. These are many troubles, Coquebert!"
The following day was such a good one for M. Coignard that we hoped
he would remain with us. He drank meat broth, and was able to rise
in his bed. He talked to each of us with his accustomed grace and
sweetness. M. d'Anquetil, who dwelt at Gaulard's, came to see him,
end rather indiscreetly asked him to play piquet Smiling, my good
master promised to do so next week. But in the evening the fever
returned. With pale eyes swiming in unspeakable terror, and
shivering and chattering teeth, he shouted:
"There he is, the old fornicator. He is the son of Judas Iscariot
begot on a female devil, taking the form of a goat. But hanged he
will be on his father's fig-tree, and his intestines will gush out
to earth. Arrest him. ...He kills me! I feel cold!"
But a moment later he threw the blanket off and complained of the
"I'm very thirsty," he said. "Give me some wine! And let it be cool!
Madame Coquebert, hasten to cool it in the fountain: the day will be
a burning one."
It was night-time, he confounded the hours in his head.
"Be quick," he also said to Madame Coquebert, "but do not be as
simple as the bell-ringer of the Cathedral of Seez, who, going to
lift out of the fountain some bottles he had put there to cool, saw
his own shadow in ihe water and shouted: 'Hello, gentleman; come and
help me. There are on the other side some Antipodeans, who'll drink
our wine if we don't take good care.'"
"He is jovial," said Madame Coquebert. "But just now he talked of me
in a manner quite indecent Should I have deceived Coquebert I
certainly would not have done it with the vicar, out of regard for
his profession and his age."
This very moment the vicar entered the room and asked:
"Well, abbe, what are your dispositions now? What is there new?"
"Thank God," answered M. Coignard, "there is nothing new in my soul,
for, as said Saint Chrysostom, beware of new things. Don't walk in
untrodden ways, one wanders without end when one commences to
wander. I have had that sad experience, and lost myself for having
followed untrodden roads. I have listened to my own counsels, and
they have conducted me to the abyss. Vicar, I am a poor sinner, the
number of my iniquities oppresses me."
"These are fine words," said the vicar. "'Tis God Himself who
dictates them to you. I recognise His inimitable style. Do you want
to advance somewhat the salvation of your soul?"
"Willingly," said M. Coignard. "My impurities rise against me. I see
big ones and small. I see red ones and black. I see infinitesimals
which ride on dogs and pigs, and I see others which are fat and
naked, with breasts like leather bottles, bellies in great folds,
and thighs of enormous size."
"Is it possible," said the vicar, "that you can see as distinctly as
that? But if your faults are such as you say, it would be better not
to describe them and to be content to detest them in your own mind."
"Would you, then, vicar," replied the abbe, "that my sins were all
made like an Adonis? Don't let us speak of it any more. And you,
barber, give me a drink. Do you know M. de la Musardiere?"
"Not that I know of," said M. Coquebert.
"Then know," replied my dear master, "that he was very taken with
"That's the way," interrupted the vicar, "by which the devil takes
his advantage over men. But what subject do you follow, my son?"
"You'll soon know," said my good master. "M. de la Musardiere gave
an appointment to a virgin in a stable. She went, and he let her go
away just as she entered it. Do you know why?"
"I do not," said the vicar, "but let us leave it."
"Not at all," continued M. Coignard. "You ought to know that he took
good care to have no intercourse with her as he was afraid of
begetting a horse, on which account he would have been subject to
"Ah!" said the barber, "he ought rather to have been afraid to
engender an ass."
"Doubtless," said the vicar. "But such talk does not advance us on
the road to heaven. It would be useful to retake the good way. But a
little while ago you spoke so edifyingly!"
Instead of giving reply, my good master began to sing, with rather a
"Pour mettre en gout le roi Louison
On a pris quinze mirlitons
Qui tous le balai ont roll
"If you want to sing, my son," said the vicar, "you'd better sing a
fine Burgundian Christmas carol. You'd rejoice your soul by it and
"With pleasure," replied my dear tutor. "There are some by Guy
Barozai which, I think, in their apparent rusticity, to be finer
than diamonds and more precious than gold. This one, for example:
'Lor qu'au lai saison qu'ai jaule
Au monde Jesu-chri vin
L'ane et le beu l'echaufin
De le leu sofle dans l'etaule.
Que d'ane et de beu je sai
Dans ce royaume de Gaule,
Que d'ane et de beu je sai
Qui n'en a rien pas tan fai.'"
The surgeon, his wife and the vicar sang together:
"Que d'ane et de beu je sai
Dans ce royaume de Gaule,
Que d'ane et de beu je sai
Qui n'en a rien pas tan fai."
And my good master replied in a weaker voice:
"Mais le pu beo de l'histoire
Ce fut que l'ane et le beu
Ainsin passire to deu
La nuit sans manger ni boire
Que d'ane et de beu je sai
Couver de pane et de moire
Que d'ane et de beu je sai
Que n'en a rien pas tan fai!"
Then he let his head fall on the pillow and sang no more.
"There is good in this Christian," said the vicar, "much good, and a
while ago he really edified me with his beautiful sentences. But I
am not without a certain apprehension, as everything depends on the
end, and nobody knows what's hidden at the bottom of the basket God
in His kindness wills that one single moment brings us salvation,
but this moment must be the last one, so that everything depends on
a single minute, in comparison with which the whole life does not
count. That's what makes me tremble for the patient, over whom
angels and devils are furiously quarrelling. But one must never
despair of divine mercy."
Death of M. Jérôme Coignard
Two days passed in cruel alternations. After that my good master
became extremely weak.
"There is no more hope," M. Coquebert told me. "Look how his head
lies on the pillow, how thin his nose is."
As a fact, my good master's nose, formerly big and red, was nothing
now but a bent blade, livid like lead.
"Tournebroche, my son," he said to me in a voice still full and
strong but of a sound quite strange to me, "I feel that I have but a
short time to live. Go and fetch that good priest, that he may
listen to my confession."
The vicar was in his vineyard. There I went.
"The vintage is finished," he said, "and more abundant than I had
hoped for; now let's go and help that poor fellow."