The Revolt of the Angels
by Anatole France
THE WORKS OF ANATOLE FRANCE IN AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION EDITED BY
THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS
THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS
BY ANATOLE FRANCE
A TRANSLATION BY MRS. WILFRID JACKSON
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
NEW YORK: DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1914, by DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
PRINTED IN U. S. A
THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS
CONTAINING IN A FEW LINES THE HISTORY OF A FRENCH FAMILY
FROM 1789 TO THE PRESENT DAY
Beneath the shadow of St. Sulpice the ancient mansion of the
d'Esparvieu family rears its austere three stories between a moss-grown
fore-court and a garden hemmed in, as the years have elapsed, by ever
loftier and more intrusive buildings, wherein, nevertheless, two tall
chestnut trees still lift their withered heads.
Here from 1825 to 1857 dwelt the great man of the family, Alexandre
Bussart d'Esparvieu, Vice-President of the Council of State under the
Government of July, Member of the Academy of Moral and Political
Sciences, and author of an Essay on the Civil and Religious
Institutions of Nations, in three octavo volumes, a work
unfortunately left incomplete.
This eminent theorist of a Liberal monarchy left as heir to his name
his fortune and his fame, Fulgence-Adolphe Bussart d'Esparvieu, senator
under the Second Empire, who added largely to his patrimony by buying
land over which the Avenue de l'Impératice was destined ultimately to
pass, and who made a remarkable speech in favour of the temporal power
of the popes.
Fulgence had three sons. The eldest, Marc-Alexandre, entering the
army, made a splendid career for himself: he was a good speaker. The
second, Gaétan, showing no particular aptitude for anything, lived
mostly in the country, where he hunted, bred horses, and devoted
himself to music and painting. The third son, René, destined from his
childhood for the law, resigned his deputyship to avoid complicity in
the Ferry decrees against the religious orders; and later, perceiving
the revival under the presidency of Monsieur Fallières of the days of
Decius and Diocletian, put his knowledge and zeal at the service of the
From the Concordat of 1801 down to the closing years of the Second
Empire all the d'Esparvieus attended mass for the sake of example.
Though sceptics in their inmost hearts, they looked upon religion as an
instrument of government.
Mark and René were the first of their race to show any sign of
sincere devotion. The General, when still a colonel, had dedicated his
regiment to the Sacred Heart, and he practised his faith with a fervour
remarkable even in a soldier, though we all know that piety, daughter
of Heaven, has marked out the hearts of the generals of the Third
Republic as her chosen dwelling-place on earth.
Faith has its vicissitudes. Under the old order the masses were
believers, not so the aristocracy or the educated middle class. Under
the First Empire the army from top to bottom was entirely irreligious.
To-day the masses believe nothing. The middle classes wish to believe,
and succeed at times, as did Marc and René d'Esparvieu. Their brother
Gaétan, on the contrary, the country gentleman, failed to attain to
faith. He was an agnostic, a term commonly employed by the modish to
avoid the odious one of freethinker. And he openly declared himself an
agnostic, contrary to the admirable custom which deems it better to
withhold the avowal.
In the century in which we live there are so many modes of belief
and of unbelief that future historians will have difficulty in finding
their way about. But are we any more successful in disentangling the
condition of religious beliefs in the time of Symmachus or of Ambrose?
A fervent Christian, René d'Esparvieu was deeply attached to the
liberal ideas his ancestors had transmitted to him as a sacred
heritage. Compelled to oppose a Jacobin and atheistical Republic, he
still called himself Republican. And it was in the name of liberty that
he demanded the independence and sovereignty of the Church.
During the long debates on the Separation and the quarrels over the
Inventories, the synods of the bishops and the assemblies of the
faithful were held in his house. While the most authoritatively
accredited leaders of the Catholic party: prelates, generals, senators,
deputies, journalists, were met together in the big green drawing-room,
and every soul present turned towards Rome with a tender submission or
enforced obedience; while Monsieur d'Esparvieu, his elbow on the marble
chimney-piece, opposed civil law to canon law, and protested eloquently
against the spoliation of the Church of France, two faces of other
days, immobile and speechless, looked down on the modern crowd; on the
right of the fire-place, painted by David, was Romain Bussart, a
working-farmer at Esparvieu in shirt-sleeves and drill trousers, with a
rough-and-ready air not untouched with cunning. He had good reason to
smile: the worthy man laid the foundation of the family fortunes when
he bought Church lands. On the left, painted by Gérard in full-dress
bedizened with orders, was the peasant's son, Baron Emile Bussart
d'Esparvieu, prefect under the Empire, Keeper of the Great Seal under
Charles X, who died in 1837, churchwarden of his parish, with couplets
from La Pucelle on his lips.
René d'Esparvieu married in 1888 Marie-Antoinette Coupelle, daughter
of Baron Coupelle, ironmaster at Blainville (Haute Loire). Madame René
d'Esparvieu had been president since 1903 of the Society of Christian
Mothers. These perfect spouses, having married off their eldest
daughter in 1908, had three children still at homea girl and two
Léon, the younger, aged seven, had a room next to his mother and his
sister Berthe. Maurice, the elder, lived in a little pavilion
comprising two rooms at the bottom of the garden. The young man thus
gained a freedom which enabled him to endure family life. He was rather
good-looking, smart without too much pretence, and the faint smile
which merely raised one corner of his mouth did not lack charm.
At twenty-five Maurice possessed the wisdom of Ecclesiastes.
Doubting whether a man hath any profit of all his labour which he
taketh under the sun he never put himself out about anything. From his
earliest childhood this young hopeful's sole concern with work had been
considering how he might best avoid it, and it was through his
remaining ignorant of the teaching of the École de Droit that he
became a doctor of law and a barrister at the Court of Appeal.
He neither pleaded nor practised. He had no knowledge and no desire
to acquire any; wherein he conformed to his genius whose engaging
fragility he forbore to overload; his instinct fortunately telling him
that it was better to understand little than to misunderstand a lot.
As Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille expressed it, Maurice had received from
Heaven the benefits of a Christian education. From his childhood piety
was shown to him in the example of his home, and when on leaving
college he was entered at the École de Droit, he found the lore
of the doctors, the virtues of the confessors, and the constancy of the
nursing mothers of the Church assembled around the paternal hearth.
Admitted to social and political life at the time of the great
persecution of the Church of France, Maurice did not fail to attend
every manifestation of youthful Catholicism; he lent a hand with his
parish barricades at the time of the Inventories, and with his
companions he unharnessed the archbishop's horses when he was driven
out from his palace. He showed on all these occasions a modified zeal;
one never saw him in the front ranks of the heroic band exciting
soldiers to a glorious disobedience or flinging mud and curses at the
agents of the law.
He did his duty, nothing more; and if he distinguished himself on
the occasion of the great pilgrimage of 1911 among the
stretcher-bearers at Lourdes, we have reason to fear it was but to
please Madame de la Verdelière, who admired men of muscle. Abbé
Patouille, a friend of the family and deeply versed in the knowledge of
souls, knew that Maurice had only moderate aspirations to martyrdom. He
reproached him with his lukewarmness, and pulled his ear, calling him a
bad lot. Anyway, Maurice remained a believer.
Amid the distractions of youth his faith remained intact, since he
left it severely alone. He had never examined a single tenet. Nor had
he enquired a whit more closely into the ideas of morality current in
the grade of society to which he belonged. He took them just as they
came. Thus in every situation that arose he cut an eminently
respectable figure which he would have assuredly failed to do, had he
been given to meditating on the foundations of morality. He was
irritable and hot-tempered and possessed of a sense of honour which he
was at great pains to cultivate. He was neither vain nor ambitious.
Like the majority of Frenchmen, he disliked parting with his money.
Women would never have obtained anything from him had they not known
the way to make him give. He believed he despised them; the truth was
he adored them. He indulged his appetites so naturally that he never
suspected that he had any. What people did not know, himself least of
all,though the gleam that occasionally shone in his fine, light-brown
eyes might have furnished the hintwas that he had a warm heart and
was capable of friendship. For the rest, he was, in the ordinary
intercourse of life, no very brilliant specimen.
WHEREIN USEFUL INFORMATION WILL BE FOUND CONCERNING A
LIBRARY WHERE STRANGE THINGS WILL SHORTLY COME TO PASS
Desirous of embracing the whole circle of human knowledge, and
anxious to bequeath to the world a concrete symbol of his encyclopædic
genius and a display in keeping with his pecuniary resources, Baron
Alexandre d'Esparvieu had formed a library of three hundred and sixty
thousand volumes, both printed and in manuscript, whereof the greater
part emanated from the Benedictines of Ligugé.
By a special clause in his will he enjoined his heirs to add to his
library, after his death, whatever they might deem worthy of note in
natural, moral, political, philosophical, and religious science.
He had indicated the sums which might be drawn from his estate for
the fulfilment of this object, and charged his eldest son,
Fulgence-Adolphe, to proceed with these additions. Fulgence-Adolphe
accomplished with filial respect the wishes expressed by his
After him, this huge library, which represented more than one
child's share of the estate, remained undivided between the Senator's
three sons and two daughters; and René d'Esparvieu, on whom devolved
the house in the Rue Garancière, became the guardian of the valuable
collection. His two sisters, Madame Paulet de Saint-Fain and Madame
Cuissart, repeatedly demanded that such a large but unremunerative
piece of property should be turned into money. But René and Gaétan
bought in the shares of their two co-legatees, and the library was
saved. René d'Esparvieu even busied himself in adding to it, thus
fulfilling the intentions of its founder. But from year to year he
lessened the number and importance of the acquisitions, opining that
the intellectual output in Europe was on the wane.
Nevertheless, Gaétan enriched it, out of his funds, with works
published both in France and abroad which he thought good, and he was
not lacking in judgment, though his brothers would never allow that he
had a particle. Thanks to this man of leisurely and inquiring mind,
Baron Alexandre's collection was kept practically up to date. Even at
the present day the d'Esparvieu library, in the departments of
theology, jurisprudence, and history is one of the finest private
libraries in all Europe. Here you may study physical science, or to put
it better, physical sciences in all their branches, and for that matter
metaphysic or metaphysics, that is to say, all that is connected with
physics and has no other name, so impossible is it to designate by a
substantive that which has no substance, and is but a dream and an
illusion. Here you may contemplate with admiration philosophers
addressing themselves to the solution, dissolution, and resolution of
the Absolute, to the determination of the Indeterminate and to the
definition of the Infinite.
Amid this pile of books and booklets, both sacred and profane, you
may find everything down to the latest and most fashionable pragmatism.
Other libraries there are, more richly abounding in bindings of
venerable antiquity and illustrious origin, whose smooth and soft-hued
texture render them delicious to the touch; bindings which the gilder's
art has enriched with gossamer, lace-work, foliage, flowers, emblematic
devices, and coats of arms; bindings that charm the studious eye with
their tender radiance. Other libraries perhaps harbour a greater array
of manuscripts illuminated with delicate and brilliant miniatures by
artists of Venice, Flanders, or Touraine. But in handsome, sound
editions of ancient and modern writers, both sacred and profane, the
d'Esparvieu library is second to none. Here one finds all that has come
down to us from antiquity; all the Fathers of the Church, the
Apologists and the Decretalists, all the Humanists of the Renaissance,
all the Encylopædists, the whole world of philosophy and science.
Therefore it was that Cardinal Merlin, when he deigned to visit it,
There is no man whose brain is equal to containing all the
knowledge which is piled upon these shelves. Happily it doesn't
Monseigneur Cachepot, who worked there often when a curate in Paris,
was in the habit of saying:
I see here the stuff to make many a Thomas Aquinas and many an
Arius, if only the modern mind had not lost its ancient ardour for good
There was no gainsaying that the manuscripts formed the more
valuable portion of this immense collection. Noteworthy indeed was the
unpublished correspondence of Gassendi, of Father Mersenne, and of
Pascal, which threw a new light on the spirit of the seventeenth
century. Nor must we forget the Hebrew Bibles, the Talmuds, the
Rabbinical treatises, printed and in manuscript, the Aramaic and
Samaritan texts, on sheepskin and on tablets of sycamore; in fine, all
these antique and valuable copies collected in Egypt and in Syria by
the celebrated Moïse de Dina, and acquired at a small cost by Alexandre
d'Esparvieu in 1836, when the learned Hebraist died of old age and
poverty in Paris.
The Esparvienne library occupied the whole of the second floor of
the old house. The works thought to be of but mediocre interest, such
as books of Protestant exegesis of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, the gift of Monsieur Gaétan, were relegated unbound to the
limbo of the upper regions. The catalogue, with its various
supplements, ran into no less than eighteen folio volumes. It was quite
up to date, and the library was in perfect order. Monsieur Julien
Sariette, archivist and palæographer, who, being poor and retiring,
used to make his living by teaching, became, in 1895, tutor to young
Maurice on the recommendation of the Bishop of Agra, and with scarcely
an interval found himself curator of the Bibliothèque Esparvienne.
Endowed with business-like energy and dogged patience, Monsieur
Sariette himself classified all the members of this vast body. The
system he invented and put into practice was so complicated, the labels
he put on the books were made up of so many capital letters and small
letters, both Latin and Greek, so many Arabic and Roman numerals,
asterisks, double asterisks, triple asterisks, and those signs which in
arithmetic express powers and roots, that the mere study of it would
have involved more time and labour than would have been required for
the complete mastery of algebra, and as no one could be found who would
give the hours, that might be more profitably employed in discovering
the law of numbers, to the solving of these cryptic symbols, Monsieur
Sariette remained the only one capable of finding his way among the
intricacies of his system, and without his help it had become an utter
impossibility to discover, among the three hundred and sixty thousand
volumes confided to his care, the particular volume one happened to
require. Such was the result of his labours. Far from complaining about
it, he experienced on the contrary a lively satisfaction.
Monsieur Sariette loved his library. He loved it with a jealous
love. He was there every day at seven o'clock in the morning busy
cataloguing at a huge mahogany desk. The slips in his handwriting
filled an enormous case standing by his side surmounted by a plaster
bust of Alexandre d'Esparvieu. Alexandre wore his hair brushed straight
back, and had a sublime look on his face. Like Chateaubriand, he
affected little feathery side whiskers. His lips were pursed, his bosom
bare. Punctually at midday Monsieur Sariette used to sally forth to
lunch at a crèmerie in the narrow gloomy Rue des Canettes. It
was known as the Crèmerie des Quatre Évêques, and had once been
the haunt of Baudelaire, Theodore de Banville, Charles Asselineau, and
a certain grandee of Spain who had translated the Mysteries of Paris
into the language of the conquistadores. And the ducks that
paddled so nicely on the old stone sign which gave its name to the
street used to recognize Monsieur Sariette. At a quarter to one, to the
very minute, he went back to his library, where he remained until seven
o'clock. He then again betook himself to the Quatre Évêques, and
sat down to his frugal dinner, with its crowning glory of stewed
prunes. Every evening, after dinner, his crony, Monsieur Guinardon,
universally known as Père Guinardon, a scene-painter and
picture-restorer, who used to do work for churches, would come from his
garret in the Rue Princesse to have his coffee and liqueur at the
Quatre Évêques, and the two friends would play their game of
Old Guinardon, who was like some rugged old tree still full of sap,
was older than he could bring himself to believe. He had known
Chenavard. His chastity was positively ferocious, and he was for ever
denouncing the impurities of neo-paganism in language of alarming
obscenity. He loved talking. Monsieur Sariette was a ready listener.
Old Guinardon's favourite subject was the Chapelle des Anges in St.
Sulpice, in which the paintings were peeling off the walls, and which
he was one day to restore; when, that is, it should please God, for,
since the Separation, the churches belonged solely to God, and no one
would undertake the responsibility of even the most urgent repairs. But
old Guinardon demanded no salary.
Michael is my patron saint, he said. And I have a special
devotion for the Holy Angels.
After they had had their game of dominoes, Monsieur Sariette, very
thin and small, and old Guinardon, sturdy as an oak, hirsute as a lion,
and tall as a Saint Christopher, went off chatting away side by side
across the Place Saint Sulpice, heedless of whether the night were fine
or stormy. Monsieur Sariette always went straight home, much to the
regret of the painter, who was a gossip and a nightbird.
The following day, as the clock struck seven, Monsieur Sariette
would take up his place in the library, and resume his cataloguing. As
he sat at his desk, however, he would dart a Medusa-like look at anyone
who entered, fearing lest he should prove to be a book-borrower. It was
not merely the magistrates, politicians, and prelates whom he would
have liked to turn to stone when they came to ask for the loan of a
book with an air of authority bred of their familiarity with the master
of the house. He would have done as much to Monsieur Gaétan, the
library's benefactor, when he wanted some gay or scandalous old volume
wherewith to beguile a wet day in the country. He would have meted out
similar treatment to Madame René d'Esparvieu, when she came to look for
a book to read to her sick poor in hospital, and even to Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu himself, who generally contented himself with the Civil
Code and a volume of Dalloz. The borrowing of the smallest book seemed
like dragging his heart out. To refuse a volume even to such as had the
most incontestable right to it, Monsieur Sariette would invent
countless far-fetched or clumsy fibs, and did not even shrink from
slandering himself as curator or from casting doubts on his own
vigilance by saying that such and such a book was mislaid or lost, when
a moment ago he had been gloating over that very volume or pressing it
to his bosom. And when ultimately forced to part with a volume he would
take it back a score of times from the borrower before he finally
He was always in agony lest one of the objects confided to his care
should escape him. As the guardian of three hundred and sixty thousand
volumes, he had three hundred and sixty thousand reasons for alarm.
Sometimes he woke at night bathed in sweat, and uttering a cry of fear,
because he had dreamed he had seen a gap on one of the shelves of his
bookcases. It seemed to him a monstrous, unheard-of, and most grievous
thing that a volume should leave its habitat. This noble rapacity
exasperated Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, who, failing to understand the
good qualities of his paragon of a librarian, called him an old maniac.
Monsieur Sariette knew nought of this injustice, but he would have
braved the cruellest misfortune and endured opprobrium and insult to
safeguard the integrity of his trust. Thanks to his assiduity, his
vigilance and zeal, or, in a word, to his love, the Esparvienne library
had not lost so much as a single leaflet under his supervision during
the sixteen years which had now rolled by, this ninth of September,
WHEREIN THE MYSTERY BEGINS
At seven o'clock on the evening of that day, having as usual
replaced all the books which had been taken from their shelves, and
having assured himself that he was leaving everything in good order, he
quitted the library, double-locking the door after him. According to
his usual habit, he dined at the Crèmerie des Quatre Évêques,
read his newspaper, La Croix, and at ten o'clock went home to
his little house in the Rue du Regard. The good man had no trouble and
no presentiment of evil; his sleep was peaceful. The next morning at
seven o'clock to the minute, he entered the little room leading to the
library, and, according to his daily habit, doffed his grand
frock-coat, and taking down an old one which hung in a cupboard over
his washstand, put it on. Then he went in to his workroom, where for
sixteen years he had been cataloguing six days out of the seven, under
the lofty gaze of Alexandre d'Esparvieu. Preparing to make a round of
the various rooms, he entered the first and largest, which contained
works on theology and religion in huge cupboards whose cornices were
adorned with bronze-coloured busts of poets and orators of ancient
Two enormous globes representing the earth and the heavens filled
the window-embrasures. But at his first step Monsieur Sariette stopped
dead, stupefied, powerless alike to doubt or to credit what his eyes
beheld. On the blue cloth cover of the writing-table books lay
scattered about pell-mell, some lying flat, some standing upright. A
number of quartos were heaped up in a tottering pile. Two Greek
lexicons, one inside the other, formed a single being more monstrous in
shape than the human couples of the divine Plato. A gilt-edged folio
was all a-gape, showing three of its leaves disgracefully dog's-eared.
Having, after an interval of some moments, recovered from his
profound amazement, the librarian went up to the table and recognised
in the confused mass his most valuable Hebrew, French, and Latin
Bibles, a unique Talmud, Rabbinical treatises printed and in
manuscript, Aramaic and Samaritan texts and scrolls from the
synagoguesin fine, the most precious relics of Israel all lying in a
disordered heap, gaping and crumpled.
Monsieur Sariette found himself confronted with an inexplicable
phenomenon; nevertheless he sought to account for it. How eagerly he
would have welcomed the idea that Monsieur Gaétan, who, being a
thoroughly unprincipled man, presumed on the right gained him by his
fatal liberality towards the library to rummage there unhindered during
his sojourns in Paris, had been the author of this terrible disorder.
But Monsieur Gaétan was away travelling in Italy. After pondering for
some minutes Monsieur Sariette's next supposition was that Monsieur
René d'Esparvieu had entered the library late in the evening with the
keys of his manservant Hippolyte, who, for the past twenty-five years,
had looked after the second floor and the attics. Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu, however, never worked at night, and did not read Hebrew.
Perhaps, thought Monsieur Sariette, perhaps he had brought or allowed
to be brought to this room some priest, or Jerusalem monk, on his way
through Paris; some Oriental savant given to scriptural
exegesis. Monsieur Sariette next wondered whether the Abbé Patouille,
who had an enquiring mind, and also a habit of dog's-earing his books,
had, peradventure, flung himself on these talmudic and biblical texts,
fired with sudden zeal to lay bare the soul of Shem. He even asked
himself for a moment whether Hippolyte, the old manservant, who had
swept and dusted the library for a quarter of a century, and had been
slowly poisoned by the dust of accumulated knowledge, had allowed his
curiosity to get the better of him, and had been there during the
night, ruining his eyesight and his reason, and losing his soul poring
by moonlight over these undecipherable symbols. Monsieur Sariette even
went so far as to imagine that young Maurice, on leaving his club or
some nationalist meeting, might have torn these Jewish volumes from
their shelves, out of hatred for old Jacob and his modern posterity;
for this young man of family was a declared anti-semite, and only
consorted with those Jews who were as anti-semitic as himself. It was
giving a very free rein to his imagination, but Monsieur Sariette's
brain could not rest, and went wandering about among speculations of
the wildest extravagance.
Impatient to know the truth, the zealous guardian of the library
called the manservant.
Hippolyte knew nothing. The porter at the lodge could not furnish
any clue. None of the domestics had heard a sound. Monsieur Sariette
went down to the study of Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, who received him
in nightcap and dressing-gown, listened to his story with the air of a
serious man bored with idle chatter, and dismissed him with words which
conveyed a cruel implication of pity.
Do not worry, my good Monsieur Sariette; be sure that the books
were lying where you left them last night.
Monsieur Sariette reiterated his enquiries a score of times,
discovered nothing, and suffered such anxiety that sleep entirely
forsook him. When, on the following day at seven o'clock he entered the
room with the busts and globes, and saw that all was in order, he
heaved a sigh of relief. Then suddenly his heart beat fit to burst. He
had just seen lying flat on the mantelpiece a paper-bound volume, a
modern work, the boxwood paper-knife which had served to cut its pages
still thrust between the leaves. It was a dissertation on the two
parallel versions of Genesis, a work which Monsieur Sariette had
relegated to the attic, and which had never left it up to now, no one
in Monsieur d'Esparvieu's circle having had the curiosity to
differentiate between the parts for which the polytheistic and
monotheistic contributors were respectively responsible in the
formation of the first of the sacred books. This book bore the label R
> 3214-VIII/2. And this painful truth was suddenly borne in upon the
mind of Monsieur Sariette: to wit, that the most scientific system of
numbering will not help to find a book if the book is no longer in its
place. Every day of the ensuing month found the table littered with
books. Greek and Latin lay cheek by jowl with Hebrew. Monsieur Sariette
asked himself whether these nocturnal flittings were the work of
evil-doers who entered by the skylights to steal valuable and precious
volumes. But he found no traces of burglary, and, notwithstanding the
most minute search, failed to discover that anything had disappeared.
Terrible anxiety took possession of his mind, and he fell to wondering
whether it was possible that some monkey in the neighbourhood came down
the chimney and acted the part of a person engaged in study. Deriving
his knowledge of the habits of these animals in the main from the
paintings of Watteau and Chardin, he took it that, in the art of
imitating gestures or assuming characters they resembled Harlequin,
Scaramouch, Zerlin, and the Doctors of the Italian comedy; he imagined
them handling a palette and brushes, pounding drugs in a mortar, or
turning over the leaves of an old treatise on alchemy beside an
athanor. And so it was that, when, on one unhappy morning, he saw a
huge blot of ink on one of the leaves of the third volume of the
polyglot Bible bound in blue morocco and adorned with the arms of the
Comte de Mirabeau, he had no doubt that a monkey was the author of the
evil deed. The monkey had been pretending to take notes and had upset
the inkpot. It must be a monkey belonging to a learned professor.
Imbued with this idea, Monsieur Sariette carefully studied the
topography of the district, so as to draw a cordon round the group of
houses amid which the d'Esparvieu house stood. Then he visited the four
surrounding streets, asking at every door if there was a monkey in the
house. He interrogated porters and their wives, washer-women, servants,
a cobbler, a greengrocer, a glazier, clerks in bookshops, a priest, a
bookbinder, two guardians of the peace, children, thus testing the
diversity of character and variety of temper in one and the same
people; for the replies he received were quite dissimilar in nature;
some were rough, some were gentle; there were the coarse and the
polished, the simple and the ironical, the prolix and the abrupt, the
brief and even the silent. But of the animal he sought he had had
neither sight nor sound, when under the archway of an old house in the
Rue Servandoni, a small freckled, red-haired girl who looked after the
door, made reply:
There is Monsieur Ordonneau's monkey; would you care to see it?
And without another word she conducted the old man to a stable at
the other end of the yard. There on some rank straw and old bits of
cloth, a young macaco with a chain round his middle sat and shivered.
He was no taller than a five-year-old child. His livid face, his
wrinkled brow, his thin lips were all expressive of mortal sadness. He
fixed on the visitor the still lively gaze of his yellow eyes. Then
with his small dry hand he seized a carrot, put it to his mouth, and
forthwith flung it away. Having looked at the newcomers for a moment,
the exile turned away his head, as if he expected nothing further of
mankind or of life. Sitting huddled up, one knee in his hand, he made
no further movement, but at times a dry cough shook his breast.
It's Edgar, said the small girl. He is for sale, you know.
But the old book-lover, who had come armed with anger and
resentment, thinking to find a cynical enemy, a monster of malice, an
antibibliophile, stopped short, surprised, saddened, and overcome,
before this little being devoid of strength and joy and hope.
Recognising his mistake, troubled by the almost human face which
sorrow and suffering made more human still, he murmured Forgive me
and bowed his head.
WHICH IN ITS FORCEFUL BREVITY PROJECTS US TO THE LIMITS OF
THE ACTUAL WORLD
Two months elapsed; the domestic upheaval did not subside, and
Monsieur Sariette's thoughts turned to the Freemasons. The papers he
read were full of their crimes. Abbé Patouille deemed them capable of
the darkest deeds, and believed them to be in league with the Jews and
meditating the total overthrow of Christendom.
Having now arrived at the acme of power, they wielded a dominating
influence in all the principal departments of State, they ruled the
Chambers, there were five of them in the Ministry, and they filled the
Élysée. Having some time since assassinated a President of the Republic
because he was a patriot, they were getting rid of the accomplices and
witnesses of their execrable crime. Few days passed without Paris being
terror-stricken at some mysterious murder hatched in their Lodges.
These were facts concerning which no doubt was possible. By what means
did they gain access to the library? Monsieur Sariette could not
imagine. What task had they come to fulfil? Why did they attack sacred
antiquity and the origins of the Church? What impious designs were they
forming? A heavy shadow hung over these terrible undertakings. The
Catholic archivist feeling himself under the eye of the sons of Hiram
was terrified and fell ill.
Scarcely had he recovered, when he resolved to pass the night in the
very spot where these terrible mysteries were enacted, and to take the
subtle and dangerous visitors by surprise. It was an enterprise that
demanded all his slender courage. Being a man of delicate physique and
of nervous temperament, Monsieur Sariette was naturally inclined to be
fearful. On the 8th of January at nine o'clock in the evening, while
the city lay asleep under a whirling snowstorm, he built up a good fire
in the room containing the busts of the ancient poets and philosophers,
and ensconced himself in an arm-chair at the chimney corner, a rug over
his knees. On a small stand within reach of his hand were a lamp, a
bowl of black coffee, and a revolver borrowed from the youthful
Maurice. He tried to read his paper, La Croix, but the letters
danced beneath his eyes. So he stared hard in front of him, saw nothing
but the shadows, heard nothing but the wind, and fell asleep.
When he awoke the fire was out, the lamp was extinguished, leaving
an acrid smell behind. But all around, the darkness was filled with
milky brightness and phosphorescent lights. He thought he saw something
flutter on the table. Stricken to the marrow with cold and terror, but
upheld by a resolve stronger than any fear, he rose, approached the
table, and passed his hands over the cloth. He saw nothing; even the
lights faded, but under his fingers he felt a folio wide open; he tried
to close it, the book resisted, jumped up and hit the imprudent
librarian three blows on the head.
Monsieur Sariette fell down unconscious....
Since then things had gone from bad to worse. Books left their
allotted shelves in greater profusion than ever, and sometimes it was
impossible to replace them; they disappeared. Monsieur Sariette
discovered fresh losses daily. The Bollandists were now an imperfect
set, thirty volumes of exegesis were missing. He himself had become
unrecognisable. His face had shrunk to the size of one's fist and grown
yellow as a lemon, his neck was elongated out of all proportion, his
shoulders drooped, the clothes he wore hung on him as on a peg. He ate
nothing, and at the Crèmerie des Quatre Évêques he would sit
with dull eyes and bowed head, staring fixedly and vacantly at the
saucer where, in a muddy juice, floated his stewed prunes. He did not
hear old Guinardon relate how he had at last begun to restore the
Delacroix paintings at St. Sulpice.
Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, when he heard the unhappy curator's
alarming reports, used to answer drily:
These books have been mislaid, they are not lost; look carefully,
Monsieur Sariette, look carefully and you will find them.
And he murmured behind the old man's back:
Poor old Sariette is in a bad way.
I think, replied Abbé Patouille, that his brain is going.
WHEREIN EVERYTHING SEEMS STRANGE BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS
The Chapel of the Holy Angels, which lies on the right hand as you
enter the Church of St. Sulpice, was hidden behind a scaffolding of
planks. Abbé Patouille, Monsieur Gaétan, Monsieur Maurice, his nephew,
and Monsieur Sariette, entered in single file through the low door cut
in the wooden hoarding, and found old Guinardon on the top of his
ladder standing in front of the Heliodorus. The old artist, surrounded
by all sorts of tools and materials, was putting a white paste in the
crack which cut in two the High Priest Onias. Zéphyrine, Paul Baudry's
favourite model, Zéphyrine, who had lent her golden hair and polished
shoulders to so many Magdalens, Marguerites, sylphs, and mermaids, and
who, it is said, was beloved of the Emperor Napoleon III, was standing
at the foot of the ladder with tangled locks, cadaverous cheeks, and
dim eyes, older than old Guinardon, whose life she had shared for more
than half a century. She had brought the painter's lunch in a basket.
Although the slanting rays fell grey and cold through the leaded and
iron-barred window, Delacroix's colouring shone resplendent, and the
roses on the cheeks of men and angels dimmed with their glorious beauty
the rubicund countenance of old Guinardon, which stood out in relief
against one of the temple's columns. These frescoes of the Chapel of
the Holy Angels, though derided and insulted when they first appeared,
have now become part of the classic tradition, and are united in
immortality with the masterpieces of Rubens and Tintoretto.
Old Guinardon, bearded and long-haired, looked like Father Time
effacing the works of man's genius. Gaétan, in alarm, called out to
Carefully, Monsieur Guinardon, carefully. Do not scrape too much.
The painter reassured him.
Fear nothing, Monsieur Gaétan. I do not paint in that style. My art
is a higher one. I work after the manner of Cimabue, Giotto, and Beato
Angelico, not in the style of Delacroix. This surface here is too
heavily charged with contrast and opposition to give a really sacred
effect. It is true that Chenavard said that Christianity loves the
picturesque, but Chenavard was a rascal with neither faith nor
principlean infidel.... Look, Monsieur d'Esparvieu, I fill up the
crevice, I relay the scales of paint which are peeling. That is all....
The damage, due to the sinking of the wall, or more probably to a
seismic shock, is confined to a very small space. This painting of oil
and wax applied on a very dry foundation is far more solid than one
I saw Delacroix engaged on this work. Impassioned but anxious, he
modelled feverishly, scraped out, re-painted unceasingly; his mighty
hand made childish blunders, but the thing is done with the mastery of
a genius and the inexperience of a schoolboy. It is a marvel how it
The good man was silent, and went on filling in the crevice.
How classic and traditional the composition is, said Gaétan. Time
was when one could recognise nothing but its amazing novelty; now one
can see in it a multitude of old Italian formulas.
I may allow myself the luxury of being just, I possess the
qualifications, said the old man from the top of his lofty ladder.
Delacroix lived in a blasphemous and godless age. A painter of the
decadence, he was not without pride nor grandeur. He was greater than
his times. But he lacked faith, single-heartedness, and purity. To be
able to see and paint angels he needed that virtue of angels and
primitives, that supreme virtue which, with God's help, I do my best to
Hold your tongue, Michel; you are as big a brute as any of them.
Thus Zéphyrine, devoured with jealousy because that very morning on
the stairs she had seen her lover kiss the bread-woman's daughter, to
wit the youthful Octavie, who was as squalid and radiant as one of
Rembrandt's Brides. She had loved Michel madly in the happy days long
since past, and love had never died out in Zéphyrine's heart.
Old Guinardon received the flattering insult with a smile that he
dissembled, and raised his eyes to the ceiling, where the archangel
Michael, terrible in azure cuirass and gilt helmet, was springing
heavenwards in all the radiance of his glory.
Meanwhile Abbé Patouille, blinking, and shielding his eyes with his
hat against the glaring light from the window, began to examine the
pictures one after another: Heliodorus being scourged by the angels,
St. Michael vanquishing the Demons, and the combat of Jacob and the
All this is exceedingly fine, he murmured at last, but why has
the artist only represented wrathful angels on these walls? Look where
I will in this chapel, I see but heralds of celestial anger, ministers
of divine vengeance. God wishes to be feared; He wishes also to be
loved. I would fain perceive on these walls messengers of peace and of
clemency. I should like to see the Seraphim who purified the lips of
the prophet, St. Raphael who gave back his sight to old Tobias, Gabriel
who announced the Mystery of the Incarnation to Mary, the Angel who
delivered St. Peter from his chains, the Cherubim who bore the dead St.
Catherine to the top of Sinai. Above all, I should like to be able to
contemplate those heavenly guardians which God gives to every man
baptized in His name. We each have one who follows all our steps, who
comforts us and upholds us. It would be pleasant indeed to admire these
enchanting spirits, these beautiful faces.
Ah, Abbé! it depends on the point of view, answered Gaétan.
Delacroix was no sentimentalist. Old Ingres was not very far wrong in
saying that this great man's work reeks of fire and brimstone. Look at
the sombre, splendid beauty of those angels, look at those androgynes
so proud and fierce, at those pitiless youths who lift avenging rods
against Heliodorus, note this mysterious wrestler touching the
patriarch on the hip....
Hush, said Abbé Patouille. According to the Bible he is no angel
like the others; if he be an angel, he is the Angel of Creation, the
Eternal Son of God. I am surprised that the Venerable Curé of St.
Sulpice, who entrusted the decoration of this chapel to Monsieur Eugène
Delacroix, did not tell him that the patriarch's symbolic struggle with
Him who was nameless took place in profound darkness, and that the
subject is quite out of place here, since it prefigures the Incarnation
of Jesus Christ. The best artists go astray when they fail to obtain
their ideas of Christian iconography from a qualified ecclesiastic. The
institutions of Christian art form the subject of numerous works with
which you are doubtless acquainted, Monsieur Sariette.
Monsieur Sariette was gazing vacantly about him. It was the third
morning after his adventurous night in the library. Being, however,
thus called upon by the venerable ecclesiastic, he pulled himself
together and replied:
On this subject we may with advantage consult Molanus, De
Historia Sacrarum Imaginum et Picturarum, in the edition given us
by Noël Paquot, dated Louvain, 1771; Cardinal Frederico Borromeo, De
Pictura Sacra, and the Iconography of Didron; but this last work
must be read with caution.
Having thus spoken, Monsieur Sariette relapsed into silence. He was
pondering on his devastated library.
On the other hand, continued Abbé Patouille, since an example of
the holy anger of the angels was necessary in this chapel, the painter
is to be commended for having depicted for us in imitation of Raphael
the heavenly messengers who chastised Heliodorus. Ordered by Seleucus,
King of Syria, to carry off the treasures contained in the Temple,
Heliodorus was stricken by an angel in a cuirass of gold mounted on a
magnificently caparisoned steed. Two other angels smote him with rods.
He fell to earth, as Monsieur Delacroix shows us here, and was
swallowed up in darkness. It is right and salutary that this adventure
should be cited as an example to the Republican Commissioners of Police
and to the sacrilegious agents of the law. There will always be
Heliodoruses, but, let it be known, every time they lay their hands on
the property of the Church, which is the property of the poor, they
shall be chastised with rods and blinded by the angels.
I should like this painting, or, better still, Raphael's sublimer
conception of the same subject, to be engraved in little pictures fully
coloured, and distributed as rewards in all the schools.
Uncle, said young Maurice, with a yawn, I think these things are
simply ghastly. I prefer Matisse and Metzinger.
These words fell unheeded, and old Guinardon from his ladder held
Only the primitives caught a glimpse of Heaven. Beauty is only to
be found between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The antique,
the impure antique, which regained its pernicious influence over the
minds of the sixteenth century, inspired poets and painters with
criminal notions and immodest conceptions, with horrid impurities,
filth. All the artists of the Renaissance were swine, including
Then, perceiving that Gaétan was on the point of departure, Père
Guinardon assumed an air of bonhomie, and said to him in a confidential
Monsieur Gaétan, if you're not afraid of climbing up my five
flights, come and have a look at my den. I've got two or three little
canvases I wouldn't mind parting with, and they might interest you. All
good, honest, straightforward stuff. I'll show you, among other things,
a tasty, spicy little Baudouin that would make your mouth water.
At this speech Gaétan made off. As he descended the church steps and
turned down the Rue Princesse, he found himself accompanied by old
Sariette, and fell to unburdening himself to him, as he would have done
to any human creature, or indeed to a tree, a lamp-post, a dog, or his
own shadow, of the indignation with which the æsthetic theories of the
old painter inspired him.
Old Guinardon overdoes it with his Christian art and his
Primitives! Whatever the artist conceives of Heaven is borrowed from
earth; God, the Virgin, the Angels, men and women, saints, the light,
the clouds. When he was designing figures for the chapel windows at
Dreux, old Ingres drew from life a pure, fine study of a woman, which
may be seen, among many others, in the Musée Bonnat at Bayonne. Old
Ingres had written at the bottom of the page in case he should forget:
'Mademoiselle Cécile, admirable legs and thighs'and so as to make
Mademoiselle Cécile into a saint in Paradise, he gave her a robe, a
cloak, a veil, inflicting thus a shameful decline in her estate, for
the tissues of Lyons and Genoa are worthless compared with the youthful
living tissue, rosy with pure blood; the most beautiful draperies are
despicable compared with the lines of a beautiful body. In fact,
clothing for flesh that is desirable and ripe for wedlock is an
unmerited shame, and the worst of humiliations; and Gaétan, walking
carelessly in the gutter of the Rue Garancière, continued: Old
Guinardon is a pestilential idiot. He blasphemes Antiquity, sacred
Antiquity, the age when the gods were kind. He exalts an epoch when the
painter and the sculptor had all their lessons to learn over again. In
point of fact, Christianity has run contrary to art in so much as it
has not favoured the study of the nude. Art is the representation of
nature, and nature is pre-eminently the human body; it is the nude.
Pardon, pardon, purred old Sariette. There is such a thing as
spiritual, or, as one might term it, inward beauty, which, since the
days of Fra Angelico down to those of Hippolyte Flandrin, Christian art
But Gaétan, never hearing a word of all this, went on hurling his
impetuous observations at the stones of the old street and the
snow-laden clouds overhead:
The Primitives cannot be judged as a whole, for they are utterly
unlike each other. This old madman confounds them all together. Cimabue
is a corrupt Byzantine, Giotto gives hints of powerful genius, but his
modelling is bad, and, like children, he gives all his characters the
same face. The early Italians have grace and joy, because they are
Italians. The Venetians have an instinct for fine colour. But when all
is said and done these exquisite craftsmen enamel and gild rather than
paint. There is far too much softness about the heart and the colouring
of your saintly Angelico for me. As for the Flemish school, that's
quite another pair of shoes. They can use their hands, and in glory of
workmanship they are on a level with the Chinese lacquer-workers. The
technique of the brothers Van Eyck is a marvel, but I cannot discover
in their Adoration of the Lamb the charm and mystery that some have
vaunted. Everything in it is treated with a pitiless perfection; it is
vulgar in feeling and cruelly ugly. Memling may touch one perhaps; but
he creates nothing but sick wretches and cripples; under the heavy,
rich, and ungraceful robing of his virgins and saints one divines some
very lamentable anatomy. I did not wait for Rogier van der Wyden to
call himself Roger de la Pasture and turn Frenchman in order to prefer
him to Memling. This Rogier or Roger is less of a ninny; but then he is
more lugubrious, and the rigidity of his lines bears eloquent testimony
to his poverty-stricken figures. It is a strange perversion to take
pleasure in these carnivalesque figures when one can have the paintings
of Leonardo, Titian, Correggio, Velasquez, Rubens, Rembrandt, Poussin,
or Prud'hon. Really it is a perverted instinct.
Meanwhile the Abbé Patouille and Maurice d'Esparvieu were strolling
leisurely along in the wake of the esthete and the librarian. As a
general rule the Abbé Patouille was little inclined to talk theology
with laymen, or, for that matter, with clerics either. Carried away,
however, by the attractiveness of the subject, he was telling the
youthful Maurice all about the sacred mission of those guardian angels
which Monsieur Delacroix had so inopportunely excluded from his
picture. And in order to give more adequate expression to his thoughts
on such lofty themes, the Abbé Patouille borrowed whole phrases and
sentences from Bossuet. He had got them up by heart to put in his
sermons, for he adhered strongly to tradition.
Yes, my son, he was saying, God has appointed tutelary spirits to
be near us. They come to us laden with His gifts. They return laden
with our prayers. Such is their task. Not an hour, not a moment passes
but they are at our side, ready to help us, ever fervent and unwearying
guardians, watchmen that never slumber.
Quite so, Abbé, murmured Maurice, who was wondering by what
cunning artifice he could get on the soft side of his mother and
persuade her to give him some money of which he was urgently in need.
WHEREIN PÈRE SARIETTE DISCOVERS HIS MISSING TREASURES
Next morning Monsieur Sariette entered Monsieur René d'Esparvieu's
study without knocking. He raised his arms to the heavens, his few
hairs were standing straight up on his head. His eyes were big with
terror. In husky tones he stammered out the dreadful news. A very old
manuscript of Flavius Josephus; sixty volumes of all sizes; a priceless
jewel, namely, a Lucretius adorned with the arms of Philippe de
Vendôme, Grand Prior of France, with notes in Voltaire's own hand; a
manuscript of Richard Simon, and a set of Gassendi's correspondence
with Gabriel Naudé, comprising two hundred and thirty-eight unpublished
letters, had disappeared. This time the owner of the library was
He mounted in haste to the abode of the philosophers and the globes,
and there with his own eyes confirmed the magnitude of the disaster.
There were yawning gaps on many a shelf. He searched here and there,
opened cupboards, dragged out brooms, dusters, and fire-extinguishers,
rattled the shovel in the coke fire, shook out Monsieur Sariette's best
frock-coat that was hanging in the cloak-room, and then stood and gazed
disconsolately at the empty places left by the Gassendi portfolios.
For the past half-century the whole learned world had been loudly
clamouring for the publication of this correspondence. Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu had not responded to the universal desire, unwilling either
to assume so heavy a task, or to resign it to others. Having found much
boldness of thought in these letters, and many passages of more
libertine tendency than the piety of the twentieth century could
endure, he preferred that they should remain unpublished; but he felt
himself responsible for their safe-keeping, not only to his country but
to the whole civilized world.
How can you have allowed yourself to be robbed of such a treasure?
he asked severely of Monsieur Sariette.
How can I have allowed myself to be robbed of such a treasure?
repeated the unhappy librarian. Monsieur, if you opened my breast, you
would find that question engraved upon my heart.
Unmoved by this powerful utterance, Monsieur d'Esparvieu continued
with pent-up fury:
And you have discovered no single sign that would put you on the
track of the thief, Monsieur Sariette? You have no suspicion, not the
faintest idea, of the way these things have come to pass? You have seen
nothing, heard nothing, noticed nothing, learnt nothing? You must grant
this is unbelievable. Think, Monsieur Sariette, think of the possible
consequences of this unheard-of theft, committed under your eyes. A
document of inestimable value in the history of the human mind
disappears. Who has stolen it? Why has it been stolen? Who will gain by
it? Those who have got possession of it doubtless know that they will
be unable to dispose of it in France. They will go and sell it in
America or Germany. Germany is greedy for such literary monuments.
Should the correspondence of Gassendi with Gabriel Naudé go over to
Berlin, if it is published there by German savants, what a disaster,
nay, what a scandal! Monsieur Sariette, have you not thought of
Beneath the stroke of an accusation all the more cruel in that he
brought it against himself, Monsieur Sariette stood stupefied, and was
silent. And Monsieur d'Esparvieu continued to overwhelm him with bitter
And you make no effort. You devise nothing to find these
inestimable treasures. Make enquiries, bestir yourself, Monsieur
Sariette; use your wits. It is well worth while.
And Monsieur d'Esparvieu went out, throwing an icy glance at his
Monsieur Sariette sought the lost books and manuscripts in every
spot where he had already sought them a hundred times, and where they
could not possibly be. He even looked in the coke-box and under the
leather seat of his arm-chair. When midday struck he mechanically went
downstairs. At the foot of the stairs he met his old pupil Maurice,
with whom he exchanged a bow. But he only saw men and things as through
The broken-hearted curator had already reached the hall when Maurice
called him back.
Monsieur Sariette, while I think of it, do have the books removed
that are choking up my garden-house.
What books, Maurice?
I could not tell you, Monsieur Sariette, but there are some in
Hebrew, all worm-eaten, with a whole heap of old papers. They are in my
way. You can't turn round in the passage.
Who took them there?
I'm bothered if I know.
And the young man rushed off to the dining-room, the luncheon gong
having sounded quite a minute ago.
Monsieur Sariette tore away to the summer-house. Maurice had spoken
the truth. About a hundred volumes were there, on tables, on chairs,
even on the floor. When he saw them he was divided betwixt joy and
fear, filled with amazement and anxiety. Happy in the finding of his
lost treasure, dreading to lose it again, and completely overwhelmed
with astonishment, the man of books alternately babbled like an infant
and uttered the hoarse cries of a maniac. He recognised his Hebrew
Bibles, his ancient Talmuds, his very old manuscript of Flavius
Josephus, his portfolios of Gassendi's letters to Gabriel Naudé, and
his richest jewel of all, to wit, Lucretius adorned with the
arms of the Grand Prior of France, and with notes in Voltaire's own
hand. He laughed, he cried, he kissed the morocco, the calf, the
parchment, and vellum, even the wooden boards studded with nails.
As fast as Hippolyte, the manservant, returned with an armful to the
library, Monsieur Sariette, with a trembling hand, restored them
piously to their places.
OF A SOMEWHAT LIVELY INTEREST, WHEREOF THE MORAL WILL, I
HOPE, APPEAL GREATLY TO MY READERS, SINCE IT CAN BE
EXPRESSED BY THIS SORROWFUL QUERY: THOUGHT, WHITHER DOST
THOU LEAD ME? FOR IT IS A UNIVERSALLY ADMITTED TRUTH THAT
IT IS UNHEALTHY TO THINK AND THAT TRUE WISDOM LIES IN NOT
THINKING AT ALL
All the books were now once more assembled in the pious keeping of
Monsieur Sariette. But this happy reunion was not destined to last. The
following night twenty volumes left their places, among them the
Lucretius of Prior de Vendôme. Within a week the old Hebrew and
Greek texts had all returned to the summer-house, and every night
during the ensuing month they left their shelves and secretly went on
the same path. Others betook themselves no one knew whither.
On hearing of these mysterious occurrences, Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu merely remarked with frigidity to his librarian:
My poor Sariette, all this is very queer, very queer indeed.
And when Monsieur Sariette tentatively advised him to lodge a formal
complaint or to inform the Commissaire de Police, Monsieur d'Esparvieu
cried out upon him:
What are you suggesting, Monsieur Sariette? Divulge domestic
secrets, make a scandal! You cannot mean it. I have enemies, and I am
proud of it. I think I have deserved them. What I might complain about
is that I am wounded in the house of my friend, attacked with
unheard-of violence, by fervent loyalists, who, I grant you, are good
Catholics, but exceedingly bad Christians.... In a word, I am watched,
spied upon, shadowed, and you suggest, Monsieur Sariette, that I should
make a present of this comic-opera mystery, this burlesque adventure,
this story in which we both cut somewhat pitiable figures, to a set of
spiteful journalists? Do you wish to cover me with ridicule?
The result of the colloquy was that the two gentlemen agreed to
change all the locks in the library. Estimates were asked for and
workmen called in. For six weeks the d'Esparvieu household rang from
morning till night with the sound of hammers, the hum of centre-bits,
and the grating of files. Fires were always going in the abode of the
philosophers and globes, and the people of the house were simply
sickened by the smell of heated oil. The old, smooth, easy-running
locks were replaced, on the cupboards and doors of the rooms, by
stubborn and tricky fastenings. There was nothing but combinations of
locks, letter-padlocks, safety-bolts, bars, chains, and electric
All this display of ironmongery inspired fear. The lock-cases
glistened, and there was much grinding of bolts. To gain access to a
room, a cupboard, or a drawer, it was necessary to know a certain
number, of which Monsieur Sariette alone was cognisant. His head was
filled with bizarre words and tremendous numbers, and he got entangled
among all these cryptic signs, these square, cubic, and triangular
figures. He himself couldn't get the doors and the cupboards undone,
yet every morning he found them wide open, and the books thrown about,
ransacked, and hidden away. In the gutter of the Rue Servandoni a
policeman picked up a volume of Salomon Reinach on the identity of
Barabbas and Jesus Christ. As it bore the book-plate of the d'Esparvieu
library he returned it to the owner.
Monsieur René d'Esparvieu, not even deigning to inform Monsieur
Sariette of the fact, made up his mind to consult a magistrate, a
friend in whom he had complete confidence, to wit, a certain Monsieur
des Aubels, Counsel at the Law Courts, who had put through many an
important affair. He was a little plump man, very red, very bald, with
a cranium that shone like a billiard ball. He entered the library one
morning feigning to come as a book-lover, but he soon showed that he
knew nothing about books. While all the busts of the ancient
philosophers were reflected in his shining pate, he put divers
insidious questions to Monsieur Sariette, who grew uncomfortable and
turned red, for innocence is easily flustered. From that moment
Monsieur des Aubels had a mighty suspicion that Monsieur Sariette was
the perpetrator of the very thefts he denounced with horror; and it
immediately occurred to him to seek out the accomplices of the crime.
As regards motives, he did not trouble about them; motives are always
to be found. Monsieur des Aubels told Monsieur René d'Esparvieu that,
if he liked, he would have the house secretly watched by a detective
from the Prefecture.
I will see that you get Mignon, he said. He is an excellent
servant, assiduous and prudent.
By six o'clock next morning Mignon was already walking up and down
outside the d'Esparvieus' house, his head sunk between his shoulders,
wearing love-locks which showed from under the narrow brim of his
bowler hat, his eye cocked over his shoulder. He wore an enormous
dull-black moustache, his hands and feet were huge; in fact, his whole
appearance was distinctly memorable. He paced regularly up and down
from the nearest of the big rams' head pillars which adorn the Hôtel de
la Sordière to the end of the Rue Garancière, towards the apse of St.
Sulpice Church and the dome of the Chapel of the Virgin.
Henceforth it became impossible to enter or leave the d'Esparvieus'
house without feeling that one's every action, that one's very
thoughts, were being spied upon. Mignon was a prodigious person endowed
with powers that Nature denies to other mortals. He neither ate nor
slept. At all hours of the day and night, in wind and rain, he was to
be found outside the house, and no one escaped the X-rays of his eye.
One felt pierced through and through, penetrated to the very marrow,
worse than naked, bare as a skeleton. It was the affair of a moment;
the detective did not even stop, but continued his everlasting walk. It
became intolerable. Young Maurice threatened to leave the paternal roof
if he was to be so radiographed. His mother and his sister Berthe
complained of his piercing look; it offended the chaste modesty of
their souls. Mademoiselle Caporal, young Léon d'Esparvieu's governess,
felt an indescribable embarrassment. Monsieur René d'Esparvieu was sick
of the whole business. He never crossed his own threshold without
crushing his hat over his eyes to avoid the investigating ray and
without wishing old Sariette, the fons et origo of all the evil,
at the devil. The intimates of the household, such as Abbé Patouille
and Uncle Gaétan, made themselves scarce; visitors gave up calling,
tradespeople hesitated about leaving their goods, the carts belonging
to the big shops scarcely dared stop. But it was among the domestics
that the spying roused the most disorder.
The footman, afraid, under the eye of the police, to go and join the
cobbler's wife over her solitary labours in the afternoon, found the
house unbearable and gave notice. Odile, Madame d'Esparvieu's
lady's-maid, not daring, as was her custom after her mistress had
retired, to introduce Octave, the handsomest of the neighbouring
bookseller's clerks, to her little room upstairs, grew melancholy,
irritable and nervous, pulled her mistress's hair while dressing it,
spoke insolently, and made advances to Monsieur Maurice. The cook,
Madame Malgoire, a serious matron of some fifty years, having no more
visits from Auguste, the wine-merchant's man in the Rue Servandoni, and
being incapable of suffering a privation so contrary to her
temperament, went mad, sent up a raw rabbit to table, and announced
that the Pope had asked her hand in marriage. At last, after a
fortnight of superhuman assiduity, contrary to all known laws of
organic life, and to the essential conditions of animal economy,
Mignon, the detective, having observed nothing abnormal, ceased his
surveillance and withdrew without a word, refusing to accept a
gratuity. In the library the dance of the books became livelier than
That is all right, said Monsieur des Aubels. Since nothing comes
in nor goes out, the evil-doer must be in the house.
The magistrate thought it possible to discover the criminal without
police-warrant or enquiry. On a date agreed upon at midnight, he had
the floor of the library, the treads of the stairs, the vestibule, the
garden path leading to Monsieur Maurice's summer-house, and the
entrance hall of the latter, all covered with a coating of talc.
The following morning Monsieur des Aubels, assisted by a
photographer from the Prefecture, and accompanied by Monsieur René
d'Esparvieu and Monsieur Sariette, came to take the imprints. They
found nothing in the garden, the wind had blown away the coating of
talc; nothing in the summer-house either. Young Maurice told them he
thought it was some practical joke and that he had brushed away the
white dust with the hearth-brush. The real truth was, he had effaced
the traces left by the boots of Odile, the lady's-maid. On the stairs
and in the library the very light print of a bare foot could be
discerned, it seemed to have sprung into the air and to have touched
the ground at rare intervals and without any pressure. They discovered
five of these traces. The clearest was to be found in the abode of the
busts and spheres, on the edge of the table where the books were piled.
The photographer took several negatives of this imprint.
This is more terrifying than anything else, murmured Monsieur
Monsieur des Aubels did not hide his surprise.
Three days later the anthropometrical department of the Prefecture
returned the proofs exhibited to them, saying that they were not in the
After dinner Monsieur René showed the photographs to his brother
Gaétan, who examined them with profound attention, and after a long
No wonder they have not got this at the Prefecture; it is the foot
of a god or of an athlete of antiquity. The sole that made this
impression is of a perfection unknown to our races and our climates. It
exhibits toes of exquisite grace, and a divine heel.
René d'Esparvieu cried out upon his brother for a madman.
He is a poet, sighed Madame d'Esparvieu.
Uncle, said Maurice, you'll fall in love with this foot if you
ever come across it.
Such was the fate of Vivant Denon, who accompanied Bonaparte to
Egypt, replied Gaétan. At Thebes, in a tomb violated by the Arabs,
Denon found the little foot of a mummy of marvellous beauty. He
contemplated it with extraordinary fervour, 'It is the foot of a young
woman,' he pondered, 'of a princessof a charming creature. No
covering has ever marred its perfect shape.' Denon admired, adored, and
loved it. You may see a drawing of this little foot in Denon's atlas of
his journey to Egypt, whose leaves one could turn over upstairs,
without going further afield, if only Monsieur Sariette would ever let
us see a single volume of his library.
Sometimes, in bed, Maurice, waking in the middle of the night,
thought he heard the sound of pages being turned over in the next room,
and the thud of bound volumes falling on the floor.
One morning at five o'clock he was coming home from the club, after
a night of bad luck, and while he stood outside the door of the
summer-house, hunting in his pocket for his keys, his ears distinctly
heard a voice sighing:
Knowledge, whither dost thou lead me? Thought, whither dost thou
But entering the two rooms he saw nothing, and told himself that his
ears must have deceived him.
WHICH SPEAKS OF LOVE, A SUBJECT WHICH ALWAYS GIVES PLEASURE,
FOR A TALE WITHOUT LOVE IS LIKE BEEF WITHOUT MUSTARD: AN
Nothing ever astonished Maurice. He never sought to know the causes
of things and dwelt tranquilly in the world of appearances. Not denying
the eternal truth, he nevertheless followed vain things as his fancy
Less addicted to sport and violent exercise than most young people
of his generation, he followed unconsciously the old erotic traditions
of his race. The French were ever the most gallant of men, and it were
a pity they should lose this advantage. Maurice preserved it. He was in
love with no woman, but, as St. Augustine said, he loved to love. After
paying the tribute that was rightly due to the imperishable beauty and
secret arts of Madame de la Berthelière, he had enjoyed the impetuous
caresses of a young singer called Luciole. At present he was joylessly
experiencing the primitive perversity of Odile, his mother's
lady's-maid, and the tearful adoration of the beautiful Madame
Boittier. And he felt a great void in his heart.
It chanced that one Wednesday, on entering the drawing-room where
his mother entertained her friendswho were, generally speaking,
unattractive and austere ladies, with a sprinkling of old men and very
young peoplehe noticed, in this intimate circle, Madame des Aubels,
the wife of the magistrate at the Law Courts, whom Monsieur d'Esparvieu
had vainly consulted on the mysterious ransacking of his library. She
was young, he found her pretty, and not without cause. Gilberte had
been modelled by the Genius of the Race, and no other genius had had a
part in the work.
Thus all her attributes inspired desire, and nothing in her shape or
her being aroused any other sentiment.
The law of attraction which draws world to world moved young Maurice
to approach this delicious creature, and under its influence he offered
to escort her to the tea-table. And when Gilberte was served with tea,
We should hit it off quite well together, you and I, don't you
He spoke in this way, according to modern usage, so as to avoid
inane compliments and to spare a woman the boredom of listening to one
of those old declarations of love which, containing nothing but what is
vague and undefined, require neither a truthful nor an exact reply.
And profiting by the fact that he had an opportunity of conversing
secretly with Madame des Aubels for a few minutes, he spoke urgently
and to the point. Gilberte, so far as one could judge, was made rather
to awaken desire than to feel it. Nevertheless, she well knew that her
fate was to love, and she followed it willingly and with pleasure.
Maurice did not particularly displease her. She would have preferred
him to be an orphan, for experience had taught her how disappointing it
sometimes is to love the son of the house.
Will you? he said by way of conclusion.
She pretended not to understand, and with her little foie-gras
sandwich raised half-way to her mouth she looked at Maurice with
Will I what? she asked.
You know quite well.
Madame des Aubels lowered her eyes, and sipped her tea, for her
prudishness was not quite vanquished. Meanwhile Maurice, taking her
empty cup from her hand, murmured:
Saturday, five o'clock, 126 Rue de Rome, on the ground-floor, the
door on the right, under the arch. Knock three times.
Madame des Aubels glanced severely and imperturbably at the son of
the house, and with a self-possessed air rejoined the circle of highly
respectable women to whom the Senator Monsieur Le Fol was explaining
how artificial incubators were employed at the agricultural colony at
The following Saturday, Maurice, in his ground-floor flat, awaited
Madame des Aubels. He waited her in vain. No light hand came to knock
three times on the door under the arch. And Maurice gave way to
imprecation, inwardly calling the absent one a jade and a hussy. His
fruitless wait, his frustrated desires, rendered him unjust. For Madame
des Aubels in not coming where she had never promised to go hardly
deserved these names; but we judge human actions by the pleasure or
pain they cause us.
Maurice did not put in an appearance in his mother's drawing-room
until a fortnight after the conversation at the tea-table. He came
late. Madame des Aubels had been there for half an hour. He bowed
coldly to her, took a seat some way off, and affected to be listening
to the talk.
Worthily matched, a rich male voice was saying; the two
antagonists were well calculated to render the struggle a terrible and
uncertain one. General Bol, with unprecedented tenacity, maintained his
position as though he were rooted in the very soil. General Milpertuis,
with an agility truly superhuman, kept carrying out movements of the
most dazzling rapidity around his immovable adversary. The battle
continued to be waged with terrible stubbornness. We were all in an
agony of suspense....
It was General d'Esparvieu describing the autumn manoeuvres to a
company of breathlessly interested ladies. He was talking well and his
audience were delighted. Proceeding to draw a comparison between the
French and German methods, he defined their distinguishing
characteristics and brought out the conspicuous merits of both with a
lofty impartiality. He did not hesitate to affirm that each system had
its advantages, and at first made it appear to his circle of wondering,
disappointed, and anxious dames, whose countenances were growing
increasingly gloomy, that France and Germany were practically in a
position of equality. But little by little, as the strategist went on
to give a clearer definition of the two methods, that of the French
began to appear flexible, elegant, vigorous, full of grace, cleverness,
and verve; that of the Germans heavy, clumsy, and undecided. And slowly
and surely the faces of the ladies began to clear and to light up with
joyous smiles. In order to dissipate any lingering shadows of misgiving
from the minds of these wives, sisters, and sweethearts, the General
gave them to understand that we were in a position to make use of the
German method when it suited us, but that the Germans could not avail
themselves of the French method. No sooner had he delivered himself of
these sentiments than he was button-holed by Monsieur le Truc de
Ruffec, who was engaged in founding a patriotic society known as
Swordsmen All, of which the object was to regenerate France and
ensure her superiority over all her adversaries. Even children in the
cradle were to be enrolled, and Monsieur le Truc de Ruffec offered the
honorary presidency to General d'Esparvieu.
Meanwhile Maurice was appearing to be interested in a conversation
that was taking place between a very gentle old lady and the Abbé
Lapetite, Chaplain to the Dames du Saint Sang. The old lady, severely
tried of late by illness and the loss of friends, wanted to know how it
was that people were unhappy in this world.
How, she asked Abbé Lapetite, do you explain the scourges that
afflict mankind? Why are there plagues, famines, floods, and
It is surely necessary that God should sometimes remind us of his
existence, replied Abbé Lapetite, with a heavenly smile.
Maurice appeared keenly interested in this conversation. Then he
seemed fascinated by Madame Fillot-Grandin, quite a personable young
woman, whose simple innocence, however, detracted all piquancy from her
beauty, all savour from her bodily charms. A very sour, shrill-voiced
old lady, who, affecting the dowdy, woollen weeds of poverty, displayed
the pride of a great lady in the world of Christian finance, exclaimed
in a squeaky voice:
Well, my dear Madame d'Esparvieu, so you have had trouble here. The
papers speak darkly of robbery, of thefts committed in Monsieur
d'Esparvieu's valuable library, of stolen letters....
Oh, said Madame d'Esparvieu, if we are to believe all the
Oh, so, dear Madame, you have got your treasures back. All's well
that ends well.
The library is in perfect order, asserted Madame d'Esparvieu.
There is nothing missing.
The library is on the floor above this, is it not? asked young
Madame des Aubels, showing an unexpected interest in the books.
Madame d'Esparvieu replied that the library occupied the whole of
the second floor, and that they had put the least valuable books in the
Could I not go and look at it?
The mistress of the house declared that nothing could be easier. She
called to her son:
Maurice, go and do the honours of the library to Madame des
Maurice rose, and without uttering a word, mounted to the second
floor in the wake of Madame des Aubels.
He appeared indifferent, but inwardly he rejoiced, for he had no
doubt that Gilberte had feigned her ardent desire to inspect the
library simply to see him in secret. And, while affecting indifference,
he promised himself to renew those offers which, this time, would not
Under the romantic bust of Alexandre d'Esparvieu, they were met by
the silent shadow of a little wan, hollow-eyed old man, who wore a
settled expression of mute terror.
Do not let us disturb you, Monsieur Sariette, said Maurice. I am
showing Madame des Aubels round the library.
Maurice and Madame des Aubels passed on into the great room where
against the four walls rose presses filled with books and surmounted by
bronze busts of poets, philosophers, and orators of antiquity. All was
in perfect order, an order which seemed never to have been disturbed
from the beginning of things.
Only, a black void was to be seen in the place which, only the
evening before, had been filled by an unpublished manuscript of Richard
Simon. Meanwhile, by the side of the young couple walked Monsieur
Sariette, pale, faded, and silent.
Really and truly, you have not been nice, said Maurice, with a
look of reproach at Madame des Aubels.
She signed to him that the librarian might over-hear. But he
Take no notice. It is old Sariette. He has become a complete
idiot. And he repeated: No, you have not been at all nice. I awaited
you. You did not come. You have made me unhappy.
After a moment's silence, while one heard the low melancholy
whistling of asthma in poor Sariette's bronchial tubes, young Maurice
You are wrong.
Wrong not to do as I ask you.
Do you still think so?
You meant it seriously?
As seriously as can be.
Touched by his assurance of sincere and constant feeling, and
thinking she had resisted sufficiently, Gilberte granted to Maurice
what she had refused him a fortnight ago.
They slipped into an embrasure of the window, behind an enormous
celestial globe whereon were graven the Signs of the Zodiac and the
figures of the stars, and there, their gaze fixed on the Lion, the
Virgin, and the Scales, in the presence of a multitude of Bibles,
before the works of the Fathers, both Greek and Latin, beneath the
casts of Homer, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides,
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, Horace,
Seneca, and Epictetus, they exchanged vows of love and a long kiss on
Almost immediately Madame des Aubels bethought herself that she
still had some calls to pay, and that she must make her escape quickly,
for love had not made her lose all sense of her own importance. But she
had barely crossed the landing with Maurice when they heard a hoarse
cry and saw Monsieur Sariette plunge madly downstairs, exclaiming as he
Stop it, stop it; I saw it fly away! It escaped from the shelf by
itself. It crossed the room ... there it isthere! It's going
downstairs. Stop it! It has gone out of the door on the ground floor!
What? asked Maurice.
Monsieur Sariette looked out of the landing window, murmuring
It's crossing the garden! It's going into the summer-house. Stop
it, stop it!
But what is it? repeated Mauricein God's name, what is it?
My Flavius Josephus, exclaimed Monsieur Sariette. Stop it!
And he fell down unconscious.
You see he is quite mad, said Maurice to Madame des Aubels, as he
lifted up the unfortunate librarian.
Gilberte, a little pale, said she also thought she had seen
something in the direction indicated by the unhappy man, something
Maurice had seen nothing, but he had felt what seemed like a gust of
He left Monsieur Sariette in the arms of Hippolyte and the
housekeeper, who had both hastened to the spot on hearing the noise.
The old gentleman had a wound in his head.
All the better, said the housekeeper; this wound may save him
from having a fit.
Madame des Aubels gave her handkerchief to stop the blood, and
recommended an arnica compress.
WHEREIN IT IS SHOWN THAT, AS AN ANCIENT GREEK POET SAID,
NOTHING IS SWEETER THAN APHRODITE THE GOLDEN
Although he had enjoyed Madame des Aubels' favours for six whole
months, Maurice still loved her. True they had had to separate during
the summer. For lack of funds of his own he had had to go to
Switzerland with his mother, and then to stop with the whole family at
the Château d'Esparvieu. She had spent the summer with her mother at
Niort, and the autumn with her husband at a little Normandy seaside
place, so that they had hardly seen each other four or five times. But
since the winter, kindly to lovers, had brought them back to town
again, Maurice had been receiving her twice a week in his little flat
in the Rue de Rome, and received no one else. No other woman had
inspired him with feelings of such constancy and fidelity. What
augmented his pleasure was that he believed himself loved, and indeed
he was not unpleasing.
He thought that she did not deceive him, not that he had any reason
to think so, but it appeared right and fitting that she should be
content with him alone. What annoyed him was that she always kept him
waiting, and was unpunctual in coming to their meeting-place; she was
invariably late,at times very late.
Now on Saturday, January 30th, since four o'clock in the afternoon,
Maurice had been awaiting Madame des Aubels in the little pink room,
where a bright fire was burning. He was gaily clad in a suit of
flowered pyjamas, smoking Turkish cigarettes. At first he dreamt of
receiving her with long kisses, with hitherto unknown caresses. A
quarter of an hour having passed, he meditated serious and affectionate
reproaches, then after an hour of disappointed waiting he vowed he
would meet her with cold disdain.
At length she appeared, fresh and fragrant.
It was scarcely worth while coming, he said bitterly, as she laid
her muff and her little bag on the table and untied her veil before the
Never, she told her beloved, had she had such trouble to get away.
She was full of excuses, which he obstinately rejected. But no sooner
had she the good sense to hold her tongue than he ceased his
reproaches, and then nothing detracted from the longing with which she
The curtains were drawn, the room was bathed in warm shadows lit by
the dancing gleams of the fire. The mirrors in the wardrobe and on the
chimney-piece shone with mysterious lights. Gilberte, leaning on her
elbow, head on hand, was lost in thought. A little jeweller, a
trustworthy and intelligent man, had shown her a wonderfully pretty
pearl and sapphire bracelet; it was worth a great deal, and was to be
had for a mere nothing. He had got it from a cocotte down on her
luck, who was in a hurry to dispose of it. It was a rare chance; it
would be a huge pity to let it slip.
Would you like to see it, darling? I will ask the little man to let
me have it to show you.
Maurice did not actually decline the proposal. But it was clear that
he took no interest in the wonderful bracelet. When small jewellers
come across a great bargain, they keep it to themselves, and do not
allow their customers to profit by it. Moreover, jewellery means
nothing just now. Well-bred women have given up wearing it. Everyone
goes in for sport, and jewellery does not go with sport.
Maurice spoke thus, contrary to truth, because having given his
mistress a fur coat, he was in no hurry to give her anything more. He
was not stingy, but he was careful with his money. His people did not
give him a very large allowance, and his debts grew bigger every day.
By satisfying the wishes of his inamorata too promptly he feared to
arouse others still more pressing. The bargain seemed less wonderful to
him than to Gilberte; besides, he liked to take the initiative in
choosing his gifts. Above all, he thought that if he gave her too many
presents he would be no longer sure of being loved for himself.
Madame des Aubels felt neither contempt nor surprise at this
attitude; she was gentle and temperate, she knew men, and judged that
one must take them as one found them, that for the most part they do
not give very willingly, and that a woman should know how to make them
Suddenly a gas lamp was lighted in the street, and shone through the
gaps in the curtains.
Half-past six, she said. We must be on the move.
Pricked by the touch of Time's fleeting wing, Maurice was conscious
of reawakened desires and reanimated powers. A white and radiant
offering, Gilberte, with her head thrown back, her eyes half closed,
her lips apart, sunk in dreamy languor, was breathing slowly and
placidly, when suddenly she started up with a cry of terror.
Whatever is that?
Stay still, said Maurice, holding her back in his arms.
In his present mood, had the sky fallen it would not have troubled
him. But in one bound she escaped from him. Crouching down, her eyes
filled with terror, she was pointing with her finger at a figure which
appeared in a corner of the room, between the fire-place and the
wardrobe with the mirror. Then, unable to bear the sight, and nearly
fainting, she hid her face in her hands.
WHICH FAR SURPASSES IN AUDACITY THE IMAGINATIVE FLIGHTS OF
DANTE AND MILTON
Maurice at length turned his head, saw the figure, and perceiving
that it moved, was also frightened. Meanwhile, Gilberte was regaining
her senses. She imagined that what she had seen was some mistress whom
her lover had hidden in the room. Inflamed with anger and disgust at
the idea of such treachery, boiling with indignation, and glaring at
her supposed rival, she exclaimed:
A woman ... a naked woman too! You bring me into a room where you
allow your women to come, and when I arrive they have not had time to
dress. And you reproach me with arriving late! Your impudence is beyond
belief! Come, send the creature packing. If you wanted us both here
together, you might at least have asked me whether it suited me....
Maurice, wide-eyed and groping for a revolver that had never been
there, whispered in her ear:
Be quiet ... it is no woman. One can scarcely see, but it is more
like a man.
She put her hands over her eyes again and screamed harder than ever.
A man! Where does he come from? A thief. An assassin! Help! Help!
Kill him.... Maurice, kill him! Turn on the light. No, don't turn on
She made a mental vow that should she escape from this danger she
would burn a candle to the Blessed Virgin. Her teeth chattered.
The figure made a movement.
Keep away! cried Gilberte. Keep away!
She offered the burglar all the money and jewels she had on the
table if he would consent not to stir. Amid her surprise and terror the
idea assailed her that her husband, dissembling his suspicions, had
caused her to be followed, had posted witnesses, and had had recourse
to the Commissaire de Police. In a flash she distinctly saw before her
the long painful future, the glaring scandal, the pretended disdain,
the cowardly desertion of her friends, the just mockery of society, for
it is indeed ridiculous to be found out. She saw the divorce, the loss
of her position and of her rank. She saw the dreary and narrow
existence with her mother, when no one would make love to her, for men
avoid women who fail to give them the security of the married state.
And all this, why? Why this ruin, this disaster? For a piece of folly,
for a mere nothing. Thus in a lightning flash spoke the conscience of
Gilberte des Aubels.
Have no fear, Madame, said a very sweet voice.
Slightly reassured, she found strength to ask:
Who are you?
I am an angel, replied the voice.
What did you say?
I am an angel. I am Maurice's guardian angel.
Say it again. I am going mad. I do not understand....
Maurice, without understanding either, was indignant. He sprang
forward and showed himself; with his right hand armed with a slipper he
made a threatening gesture, and said in a rough voice:
You are a low ruffian; oblige me by going the way you came.
Maurice d'Esparvieu, continued the sweet voice, He whom you adore
as your Creator has stationed by the side of each of the faithful a
good angel, whose mission it is to counsel and protect him; it is the
invariable opinion of the Fathers, it is founded on many passages in
the Bible, the Church admits it unanimously, without, however,
pronouncing anathema upon those who hold a contrary opinion. You see
before you one of these angels, yours, Maurice. I was commanded to
watch over your innocence and to guard your chastity.
That may be, said Maurice; but you are certainly no gentleman. A
gentleman would not permit himself to enter a room at such a moment. To
be plain, what the deuce are you doing here?
I have assumed this appearance, Maurice, because, having henceforth
to move among mankind, I have to make myself like them. The celestial
spirits possess the power of assuming a form which renders them
apparent to the eye and to the touch. This shape is real, because it is
apparent, and all the realities in the world are but appearances.
Gilberte, pacified at length, was arranging her hair on her
The Angel pursued:
The celestial spirits adopt, according to their fancy, one sex or
the other, or both at once. But they cannot disguise themselves at any
moment, according to their caprice or fantasy. Their metamorphoses are
subject to constant laws, which you would not understand. Thus I have
neither desire nor power to transform myself under your eyes, for your
amusement or my own, into a lion, a tiger, a fly, or into a
sycamore-shaving like the young Egyptian whose story was found in a
tomb. I cannot change myself into an ass as did Lucius with the pomade
of the youthful Photis. For in my wisdom I had fixed beforehand the
hour of my apparition to mankind, nothing could hasten or delay it.
Impatient for enlightenment, Maurice asked for the second time:
Still, what are you up to here?
Joining her voice to his, Madame des Aubels asked: Yes, indeed,
what are you doing here?
The Angel replied:
Man, lend your ear. Woman, hear my voice. I am about to reveal to
you a secret on which hangs the fate of the Universe. In rebellion
against Him whom you hold to be the Creator of all things visible and
invisible, I am preparing the Revolt of the Angels.
Do not jest, said Maurice, who had faith and did not allow holy
things to be played with.
But the Angel answered reproachfully: What makes you think,
Maurice, that I am frivolous and given to vain words?
Come, come, said Maurice, shrugging his shoulders. You are not
going to revolt against
He pointed to the ceilingnot daring to finish.
But the Angel continued:
Do you not know that the sons of God have already revolted and that
a great battle took place in the heavens?
That was a long time ago, said Maurice, putting on his socks.
Then the Angel replied:
It was before the creation of the world. But nothing has changed
since then in the heavens. The nature of the Angels is no different now
from what it was originally. What they did then they could do again
No! It is not possible. It is contrary to faith. If you were an
angel, a good angel as you make out you are, it would never occur to
you to disobey your Creator.
You are in error, Maurice, and the authority of the Fathers
condemns you. Origen lays it down in his homilies that good angels are
fallible, that they sin every day and fall from Heaven like flies.
Possibly you may be tempted to reject the authority of this Father,
despite his knowledge of the Scriptures, because he is excluded from
the Canon of the Saints. If this be so, I would remind you of the
second chapter of Revelation, in which the Angels of Ephesus and
Pergamos are rebuked for that they kept not ward over their church. You
will doubtless contend that the angels to whom the Apostle here refers
are, properly speaking, the Bishops of the two cities in question, and
that he calls them angels on account of their ministry. It may be so,
and I cede the point. But with what arguments, Maurice, would you
counter the opinion of all those Doctors and Pontiffs whose unanimous
teaching it is that angels may fall from good into evil? Such is the
statement made by Saint Jerome in his Epistle to Damasus....
Monsieur, said Madame des Aubels, go away, I beg you.
But the Angel hearkened not, and continued:
Saint Augustine, in his True Religion, Chapter XIII; Saint
Gregory, in his Morals, Chapter XXIV; Isidore
Monsieur, let me get my things on; I am in a hurry.
In his treatise on The Greatest Good, Book I, Chapter XII;
Bede on Job
Oh, please, Monsieur ...
Chapter VIII; John of Damascus on Faith, Book II, Chapter
III. Those, I think, are sufficiently weighty authorities, and there is
nothing for it, Maurice, but to admit your error. What has led you
astray is that you have not duly considered my nature, which is free,
active, and mobile, like that of all the angels, and that you have
merely observed the grace and felicity with which you deem me so richly
endowed. Lucifer possessed no less, yet he rebelled.
But what on earth are you rebelling for? asked Maurice.
Isaiah, answered the child of light, Isaiah has already asked,
before you: 'Quomodo cecidisti de coelo, Lucifer, qui mane
oriebaris?' Hearken, Maurice. Before Time was, the Angels rose up
to win dominion over Heaven, the most beautiful of the Seraphim
revolted through pride. As for me, it is science that has inspired me
with the generous desire for freedom. Finding myself near you, Maurice,
in a house containing one of the vastest libraries in the world, I
acquired a taste for reading and a love of study. While, fordone with
the toils of a sensual life, you lay sunk in heavy slumber, I
surrounded myself with books, I studied, I pondered over their pages,
sometimes in one of the rooms of the library, under the busts of the
great men of antiquity, sometimes at the far end of the garden, in the
room in the summer-house next to your own.
On hearing these words, young d'Esparvieu exploded with laughter and
beat the pillow with his fist, an infallible sign of uncontrollable
Ah ... ah ... ah! It was you who pillaged papa's library and drove
poor old Sariette off his head. You know, he has become completely
Busily engaged, continued the Angel, in cultivating for myself a
sovereign intelligence, I paid no heed to that inferior being, and when
he thought to offer obstacles to my researches and to disturb my work I
punished him for his importunity.
One particular winter's night in the abode of the philosophers and
globes I let fall a volume of great weight on his head, which he tried
to tear from my invisible hand. Then more recently, raising, with a
vigorous arm composed of a column of condensed air, a precious
manuscript of Flavius Josephus, I gave the imbecile such a fright, that
he rushed out screaming on to the landing and (to borrow a striking
expression from Dante Alighieri) fell even as a dead body falls. He was
well rewarded, for you gave him, Madame, to staunch the blood from his
wound, your little scented handkerchief. It was the day, you may
remember, when behind a celestial globe you exchanged a kiss on the
mouth with Maurice.
Monsieur, said Madame des Aubels, with a frown, I cannot allow
But she stopped short, deeming it was an inopportune moment to
appear over-exacting on a matter of decorum.
I had made up my mind, continued the Angel impassively, to
examine the foundations of belief. I first attacked the monuments of
Judaism, and I read all the Hebrew texts.
You know Hebrew, then? exclaimed Maurice.
Hebrew is my native tongue: in Paradise for a long time we have
spoken nothing else.
Ah, you are a Jew. I might have deduced it from your want of tact.
The Angel, not deigning to hear, continued in his melodious voice:
I have delved deep into Oriental antiquities and also into those of
Greece and Rome. I have devoured the works of theologians,
philosophers, physicists, geologists, and naturalists. I have learnt. I
have thought. I have lost my faith.
What? You no longer believe in God?
I believe in Him, since my existence depends on His, and if He
should fail to exist, I myself should fall into nothingness. I believe
in Him, even as the Satyrs and the Mænads believed in Dionysus and for
the same reason. I believe in the God of the Jews and the Christians.
But I deny that He created the world; at the most He organised but an
inferior part of it, and all that He touched bears the mark of His
rough and unforeseeing touch. I do not think He is either eternal or
infinite, for it is absurd to conceive of a being who is not bounded by
space or time. I think Him limited, even very limited. I no longer
believe Him to be the only God. For a long time He did not believe it
Himself; in the beginning He was a polytheist; later, His pride and the
flattery of His worshippers made Him a monotheist. His ideas have
little connection; He is less powerful than He is thought to be. And,
to speak candidly, He is not so much a god as a vain and ignorant
demiurge. Those who, like myself, know His true nature, call Him
What's that you say?
Ialdabaoth. What's that?
I have already told you. It is the demiurge whom, in your
blindness, you adore as the one and only God.
You're mad. I don't advise you to go and talk rubbish like that to
I am not in the least sanguine, my dear Maurice, of piercing the
dense night of your intellect. I merely tell you that I am going to
engage Ialdabaoth in conflict with some hopes of victory.
Mark my words, you won't succeed.
Lucifer shook His throne, and the issue was for a moment in doubt.
What is your name?
Abdiel for the angels and saints, Arcade for mankind.
Well, my poor Arcade, I regret to see you going to the bad. But
confess that you are jesting with us. I could at a pinch understand
your leaving Heaven for a woman. Love makes us commit the greatest
follies. But you will never make me believe that you, who have seen God
face to face, ultimately found the truth in old Sariette's musty books.
No, you will never get me to believe that!
My dear Maurice, Lucifer was face to face with God, yet he refused
to serve Him. As to the kind of truth one finds in books, it is a truth
that enables us sometimes to discern what things are not, without ever
enabling us to discover what they are. And this poor little truth has
sufficed to prove to me that He in whom I blindly believed is not
believable, and that men and angels have been deceived by the lies of
There is no Ialdabaoth. There is God. Come, Arcade, do the right
thing. Renounce these follies, these impieties, dis-incarnate yourself,
become once more a pure Spirit, and resume your office of guardian
angel. Return to duty. I forgive you, but do not let us see you again.
I should like to please you, Maurice. I feel a certain affection
for you, for my heart is soft. But fate henceforth calls me elsewhere
towards beings capable of thought and action.
Monsieur Arcade, said Madame des Aubels, withdraw, I implore you.
It makes me horribly shy to be in this position before two men. I
assure you I am not accustomed to it.
RECOUNTS IN WHAT MANNER THE ANGEL, ATTIRED IN THE CAST-OFF
GARMENTS OF A SUICIDE, LEAVES THE YOUTHFUL MAURICE WITHOUT A
Reassure yourself, Madame, replied the apparition, your position
is not as risky as you say. You are not confronted with two men, but
with one man and an angel.
She examined the stranger with an eye which, piercing the gloom, was
anxiously surveying a vague but by no means negligible indication, and
Monsieur, is it quite certain that you are an angel?
The apparition prayed her to have no doubt about it, and gave some
precise information as to his origin.
There are three hierarchies of celestial spirits, each composed of
nine choirs; the first comprises the Seraphim, Cherubim, and the
Thrones; the second, the Dominations, the Virtues, and the Powers; the
third, the Principalities, the Archangels, and the Angels properly so
called. I belong to the ninth choir of the third hierarchy.
Madame des Aubels, who had her reasons for doubting this, expressed
at least one:
You have no wings.
Why should I, Madame? Am I bound to resemble the angels on your
holy-water stoups? Those feathery oars that beat the waves of the air
in rhythmic cadences are not always worn by the heavenly messengers on
their shoulders. Cherubim may be apterous. That all too beautiful
angelic pair who spent an anxious night in the house of Lot compassed
about by an Oriental hordethey had no wings! No, they appeared just
like men, and the dust of the road covered their feet, which the
patriarch washed with pious hand. I would beg you to observe, Madame,
that according to the Science of Organic Metamorphosis created by
Lamarck and Darwin, the wings of birds have been successively
transformed into fore-feet in the case of quadrupeds and into arms in
the case of the Linnæan primates. And you may remember, Maurice, that
by a rather annoying reversion to type, Miss Kate, your English nurse,
who used to be so fond of giving you a whipping, had arms very like the
pinions of a plucked fowl. One may say, then, that a being possessing
both arms and wings is a monster and belongs to the department of
Teratology. In Paradise we have Cherubim and Kerûbs in the shape of
winged bulls, but those are the clumsy inventions of an inartistic god.
It is nevertheless true, quite true, that the Victories of the Temple
of Athena Nike on the Athenian Acropolis are beautiful, and possess
both arms and wings; it is also true that the Victory of Brescia is
beautiful, with her outstretched arms and her long wings folded on her
mighty loins. It is one of the miracles of Greek genius to have known
how to create harmonious monsters. The Greeks never err. The Moderns
Yet on the whole, said Madame des Aubels, you have not the look
of a pure Spirit.
Nevertheless, I am one, Madame, if ever there was one. And it ill
becomes you, who have been baptised, to doubt it. Several of the
Fathers, such as St. Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and Clement of
Alexandria thought that the Angels were not purely spiritual, but
possessed a body formed of some subtile material. This opinion has been
rejected by the Church; hence I am merely Spirit. But what is spirit
and what is matter? Formerly they were contrasted as being two
opposites, and now your human science tends to reunite them as two
aspects of the same thing. It teaches that everything proceeds from
ether and everything returns to it, that the same movement transforms
the waves of air into stones and minerals, and that the atoms scattered
throughout illimitable space, form, by the varying speed of their
orbits, all the substance of this material world.
But Madame des Aubels was not listening. She had something on her
mind, and to put an end to her suspense, she asked:
How long have you been here?
I came with Maurice.
Wellthat's a nice thing! said she, shaking her head. But the
Angel continued with heavenly serenity:
Everything in the Universe is circular, elliptical, or hyperbolic,
and the same laws which rule the stars govern this grain of dust. In
the original and native movement of its substance, my body is
spiritual, but it may affect, as you perceive, this material state, by
changing the rhythm of its elements.
Having thus spoken he sat down in a chair on Madame des Aubels'
A clock struck outside.
Good heavens, seven o'clock! exclaimed Gilberte. What am I to say
to my husband? He thinks I am at that tea-party in the Rue de Rivoli.
We are dining with the La Verdelières to-night. Go away immediately,
Monsieur Arcade. I must get ready to go. I have not a second to lose.
The Angel replied that he would have willingly obeyed Madame des
Aubels had he been in a state to show himself decently in public, but
that he could not dream of appearing out of doors without any clothes.
Were I to walk naked in the street, he added, I should offend a
nation attached to its ancient habits, habits which it has never
examined. They are the basis of all moral systems. Formerly, he added,
the angels, in revolt like myself, manifested themselves to Christians
under grotesque and ridiculous appearances, black, horned, hairy, and
cloven-footed. Pure stupidity! They were the laughing-stock of people
of taste. They merely frightened old women and children and met with no
It is true he cannot go out as he is, said Madame des Aubels with
Maurice tossed his pyjamas and his slippers to the celestial
messenger. Regarded as outdoor habiliments they were not adequate.
Gilberte pressed her lover to run at once in quest of other clothes. He
proposed to go and get some from the concierge. She was violently
opposed to this. It would, she said, be madly imprudent to drag the
concierge into such an affair.
Do you want them to know that ... she exclaimed.
She pointed to the Angel and was silent.
Young d'Esparvieu went out to seek a clothes-shop.
Meanwhile, Gilberte, who could not delay any longer for fear of
causing a horrible society scandal, turned on the light and dressed
before the Angel. She did it without any awkwardness, for she knew how
to adapt herself to circumstances; and she took it that in such an
unheard-of encounter in which heaven and earth were mingled in
unutterable confusion it was permissible to retrench in modesty.
Moreover, she knew that she possessed a good figure and had garments
as dainty as the fashion demanded. As the apparition's sense of
delicacy would not permit him to don Maurice's pyjamas, Gilberte could
not help observing by the lamp-light that her suspicions were
well-founded, and that angels have the same appearance as men. Curious
to know if the appearance were real or imaginary she asked the child of
light if Angels were like monkeys, who, to win women, merely lack
Yes, Gilberte, replied Arcade, Angels are capable of loving
mortals. It is the teaching of the Scriptures. It is said in the
Seventh Book of Genesis, 'When men became numerous on the face of the
earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the
daughters of men were beautiful, and they took as wives all those which
Good heavens, cried Gilberte all at once, I shall never be able
to fasten my dress; it hooks down the back.
When Maurice entered the room he found the Angel on his knees tying
the shoes of the woman taken in flagrante delicto.
Taking her muff and her bag off the table she said:
I have not forgotten anything? No. Good-night, Monsieur Arcade.
Good-night, Maurice. I shall not forget to-day. And she vanished like
Here, said Maurice, throwing the Angel a bundle of clothes.
The young man, having seen some dismal rags lying among clarionettes
and clyster-pipes in the window of a second-hand shop, had bought for
nineteen francs the cast-off suit of some wretched sable-clad mortal
who had committed suicide. The Angel, with native majesty, took the
garments and put them on. Worn by him, they took on an unexpected
elegance. He took a step to the door.
So you are leaving me, said Maurice. It's settled, then? I very
much fear that, some day, you will bitterly regret this hasty action.
I must not look back. Adieu, Maurice.
Maurice timidly slipped five louis into his hand.
But when the Angel had passed through the door, and all that was to
be seen of him in the door-way was his uplifted heel, Maurice called
Arcade! I never thought of it! I have no guardian angel now!
Quite true, Maurice, you have one no longer.
Then what will become of me? One must have a guardian angel. Tell
me,are there not grave drawbacks,is there no danger in not having
Before replying, Maurice, I must ask you if you wish me to speak to
you according to your belief, which formerly was my own, according to
the teaching of the Church and the Catholic faith, or according to
I don't care a straw for your natural philosophy. Answer me
according to the religion I believe in, and which I profess, and in
which I wish to live and die.
Very well, my dear Maurice. The loss of your guardian angel will
probably deprive you of certain spiritual succour, of certain celestial
grace. I am expressing to you the unvarying opinion of the Church on
the matter. You will lack an assistance, a support, a consolation which
would have guided and confirmed you in the way of salvation. You will
have less strength to avoid sin, and as it was you hadn't much. In
fact, in spiritual matters, you will be without strength and without
joy. Adieu, Maurice; when you see Madame des Aubels, please remember me
You are going?
Arcade disappeared, and Maurice in the depths of an arm-chair sat
for a long time with his head in his hands.
WHEREIN IT IS SET FORTH HOW THE ANGEL MIRAR, WHEN BEARING
GRACE AND CONSOLATION TO THOSE DWELLING IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
OF THE CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES IN PARIS, BEHELD A MUSIC-HALL SINGER
NAMED BOUCHOTTE AND FELL IN LOVE WITH HER
Through streets filled with brown fog, pierced with white and yellow
lights, where horses exhaled their smoking breath and motors radiated
their rapid search-lights, the angel made his way, and, mingling with
the black flood of foot-passengers which rolled unceasingly along,
proceeded across the town from north to south till he came to the
lonely boulevards on the left bank of the river. Not far from the old
walls of Port Royal, a small restaurant flings night by night athwart
the pavement the clouded rays of its streaming windows. Coming to a
halt there, Arcade entered a room full of warm, savoury odours,
pleasing to the unfortunate beings faint with cold and hunger. Glancing
round him he beheld Russian Nihilists, Italian Anarchists, refugees,
conspirators, revolutionaries from every quarter of the globe,
picturesque old faces with tumbled masses of hair and beard that swept
downwards even as the torrent and the waterfall sweep over their rocky
bed. There were young faces of virginal coldness, expressions sombre
and wild, pale eyes of infinite sweetness, drawn faces, and, in a
corner, there were two Russian women, one extremely lovely, the other
hideous, but both resembling each other in their indifference to
ugliness and to beauty. But failing to find the face he sought, for
there were no angels in the room, he sat down at a small vacant marble
Angels, when driven by hunger, eat as do the animals of this earth,
and their food, transformed by digestive heat, becomes one with their
celestial substance. Seeing three angels under the oaks of Mamre,
Abraham offered them cakes, kneaded by Sarah, an whole calf, butter and
milk, and they ate. Lot, on receiving two angels in his house, ordered
unleavened bread to be baked, and they did eat. Arcade was given a
tough beef-steak by a seedy waiter, and he did eat. Nevertheless, his
dreams were of the sweet leisure, of the repose, of the delightful
studies he had quitted, of the heavy task he had undertaken, of the
toil, the weariness, the perils which he would have to endure, and his
soul was sad and his heart troubled.
As he was finishing his modest repast, a young man of poor
appearance and thinly clad entered the room, and rapidly surveying the
tables approached the angel and greeted him by the name of Abdiel,
because he himself was a celestial spirit.
I knew you would answer my call, Mirar, replied Arcade, addressing
his angelic brother in his turn by the name he formerly bore in heaven.
But Mirar was remembered no more in heaven since he, an Archangel, had
left the service of God. He was called Théophile Belais on earth, and
to earn his bread gave music lessons to small children in the day-time
and at night played the violin in dancing saloons.
It is you, dear Abdiel? replied Théophile. So here we are
reunited in this sad world. I am pleased to see you again. All the same
I pity you, for we lead a hard life here.
But Arcade answered:
Friend, your exile draws to an end. I have great plans. I will
confide them to you and associate you with them.
And Maurice's guardian angel, having ordered two coffees, revealed
his ideas and his projects to his companion: he told how, during his
visit on earth, he had abandoned himself to researches little practised
by celestial spirits and had studied theologies, cosmogonies, the
system of the Universe, theories of matter, modern essays on the
transformation and loss of energy. Having, he explained, studied
Nature, he had found her in perpetual conflict with the teachings of
the Master he served. This Master, greedy of praise, whom he had for a
long time adored, appeared to him now as an ignorant, stupid, and cruel
tyrant. He had denied Him, blasphemed Him, and was burning to combat
Him. His plan was to recommence the revolt of the angels. He wished for
war, and hoped for victory.
But, he added, it is necessary above all to know our strength and
that of our adversary. And he asked if the enemies of Ialdabaoth were
numerous and powerful on earth.
Théophile looked wonderingly at his brother. He appeared not to
understand the questions addressed him.
Dear compatriot, he said, I came at your invitation because it
was the invitation of an old comrade. But I do not know what you expect
of me, and I fear I shall be unable to help you in anything. I take no
hand in politics, neither do I stand forth as a reformer. I am not like
you, a spirit in revolt, a freethinker, a revolutionary. I remain
faithful, in the depths of my soul, to the Celestial Creator. I still
adore the Master I no longer serve, and I lament the days when
shrouding myself with my wings I formed with the multitude of the
children of light a wheel of flame around His throne of glory. Love,
profane love has alone separated me from God. I quitted heaven to
follow a daughter of men. She was beautiful and sang in music-halls.
They rose. Arcade accompanied Théophile, who was living at the other
end of the town, at the corner of the Boulevard Rochechouart and the
Rue de Steinkerque. While walking through the deserted streets he who
loved the singer told his brother of his love and his sorrows.
His fall, which dated from two years back, had been sudden.
Belonging to the eighth choir of the third hierarchy he was a bearer of
grace to the faithful who are still to be found in large numbers in
France, especially among the higher ranks of the officers of the army
One summer night, he said, as I was descending from Heaven, to
distribute consolations, the grace of perseverance and of good deaths
to divers pious persons in the neighbourhood of the Étoile, my eyes,
although well accustomed to immortal light, were dazzled by the fiery
flowers with which the Champs Élysées were sown. Great candelabra,
under the trees, marking the entrances to cafés and restaurants, gave
the foliage the precious glitter of an emerald. Long garlands of
luminous pearl surrounded the open-air enclosures where a crowd of men
and women sat closely packed listening to the sounds of a lively
orchestra, whose strains reached my ears confusedly.
The night was warm, my wings were beginning to grow tired. I
descended into one of the concerts and sat down, invisible, among the
audience. At this moment, a woman appeared on the stage, clad in a
short spangled frock. Owing to the reflection of the footlights and the
paint on her face all that was visible of the latter was the expression
and the smile. Her body was supple and voluptuous.
She sang and danced.... Arcade, I have always loved dancing and
music, but this creature's thrilling voice and insidious movements
created in me an uneasiness I had never known before. My colour came
and went. My eyelids drooped, my tongue clove to my mouth. I could not
leave the spot.
And Théophile related, groaning, how, possessed by desire for this
woman, he did not return to Heaven again, but, taking the shape of a
man, lived an earthly life, for it is written: In those days the sons
of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful.
A fallen angel, having lost his innocence along with the vision of
God, Théophile at heart still retained his simplicity of soul. Clad in
rags, filched from the stall of a Jewish hawker, he went to seek the
woman he loved. She was called Bouchotte and lodged in a small house in
Montmartre. He flung himself at her feet and told her she was adorable,
that she sang delightfully, that he loved her madly, that, for her, he
would renounce his family and his country, that he was a musician and
had nothing to eat. Touched by such youthful ingenuousness, candour,
poverty, and love, she fed, clothed, and loved him.
However, after long and painful struggles, he procured employment as
a music-teacher, and made some money, which he brought to his mistress,
keeping nothing for himself. From that time forward she loved him no
longer. She despised him for earning so little and did not conceal her
indifference, weariness, and disgust. She overwhelmed him with
reproaches, irony, and abuse, in spite of which she kept him, for she
had had experience of worse partners and was used to domestic quarrels.
For the rest, she led a busy, serious, and rather hard life as artist
and woman. Théophile loved her as he had loved her the first night, and
She overworks herself, he told his celestial brother, that is
what makes her so hard to please, but I am certain she loves me. I hope
soon to give her more comfort.
And he spoke at length of an operetta at which he was working and
which he hoped to have brought out at a Paris theatre. A young poet had
given him the libretto. It was the story of Aline, queen of Golconda,
after an eighteenth-century tale.
I am strewing it profusely with melodies, said Théophile; my
music comes from my heart. My heart is an inexhaustible source of
melody. Unfortunately nowadays people like recondite arrangements,
difficult scoring. They accuse me of being too fluid, too limpid, of
not imparting enough colour to my style, not aiming at stronger effects
in harmony and more vigorous contrasts. Harmony, harmony!... No doubt
it has given its merits, but it does not appeal to the heart. It is
melody which carries us away and ravishes us and brings smiles and
tears to our eyes. At these words he smiled and wept to himself. Then
he continued with emotion:
I am a fountain of melody. But the orchestration! there's the rub!
In Paradise, you know, Arcade, in the matter of instruments, we only
possess the harp, the psaltery, and the hydraulic organ.
Arcade was only listening to him with half an ear. He was meditating
plans which filled his soul and swelled his heart.
Do you know any angels in revolt? he asked his companion. As for
me, I know only one, Prince Istar, with whom I have exchanged a few
letters and who offered to share his attic with me while I was finding
a lodging in this town, where I believe rents are very high.
Of angels in revolt Théophile knew none. When he met a fallen spirit
who had formerly been one of his comrades he shook him by the hand, for
he was a faithful friend. Sometimes he saw Prince Istar. But he avoided
all those bad angels who shocked him by the violence of their opinions
and whose conversations plagued him to death.
Then you don't approve of me? asked the impulsive Arcade.
Friend, I neither approve of you nor blame you. I understand
nothing of the ideas which trouble you. Neither do I think it good for
an artist to concern himself with politics. One has quite sufficient to
occupy oneself with one's art.
He loved his profession, and had hopes of arriving one day, but
theatrical ways disgusted him. The only chance he saw of having his
piece played was to take one or twoperhaps threecollaborators, who,
without having done any work, would sign their names and share the
profits. Soon Bouchotte would fail to find engagements. When she
offered her services in some small hall the manager began by asking her
how many shares she was taking in the business. Such customs, thought
Théophile, were deplorable.
WHEREIN WE HEAR THE BEAUTIFUL ARCHANGEL ZITA UNFOLD HER
LOFTY DESIGNS AND ARE SHOWN THE WINGS OF MIRAR, ALL
MOTH-EATEN, IN A CUPBOARD
Thus talking, the two archangels had reached the Boulevard
Rochechouart. As his eye lighted on a tavern, whence, through the mist,
the light fell golden on the pavement, Théophile suddenly bethought
himself of the Archangel Ithuriel who, in the guise of a poor but
beautiful woman, was living in wretched lodgings on La Butte and came
every evening to read the papers at this tavern. The musician often met
her there. Her name was Zita. Théophile had never been curious enough
to enquire into the opinions entertained by this archangel, but it was
generally supposed that she was a Russian nihilist, and he took her to
be, like Arcade, an atheist and a revolutionary. He had heard
remarkable tales about her. People said she was an hermaphrodite, and
that as the active and passive principles were united within her in a
condition of stable equilibrium, she was an example of a perfect being,
finding in herself complete and continuous satisfaction, contented yet
unfortunate in that she knew not desire.
But, added Théophile, I have my doubts about it. I believe she's
a woman and subject to love, like everything else that has life and
breath in the Universe. Besides, someone caught her one day kissing her
hand to a strapping peasant fellow.
He offered to introduce his companion to her.
The two angels found her alone, reading. As they drew near she
lifted her great eyes in whose deeps of molten gold little sparks of
light were forever a-dance. Her brows were contracted into that austere
fold which we see on the forehead of the Pythian Apollo; her nose was
perfect and descended without a curve; her lips were compressed and
imparted a disdainful and supercilious air to her whole countenance.
Her tawny hair, with its gleaming lights, was carelessly adorned with
the tattered remnants of a huge bird of prey, her garments lay about
her in dark and shapeless folds. She was leaning her chin on a small
Arcade, who had but recently heard references made to this powerful
archangel, showed her marked esteem, and placed entire confidence in
her. He immediately proceeded to tell of the progress his mind had made
towards knowledge and liberty, of his lucubrations in the d'Esparvieu
library, of his philosophical reading, his studies of nature, his works
on exegesis, his anger and his contempt when he recognised the
deception of the demiurge, his voluntary exile among mankind, and,
finally, of his project to stir up rebellion in Heaven. Ready to dare
all against an odious master, whom he pursued with inextinguishable
hatred, he expressed his profound happiness at finding in Ithuriel a
mind capable of counselling and helping him in his great undertaking.
You are not a very old hand at revolutions, said Zita, smiling.
Nevertheless, she doubted neither his sincerity nor the firmness of
his declared resolve, and she congratulated him on his intellectual
That is what is most lacking in our people, she said, they do not
And she added almost immediately: But on what can intelligence
sharpen its wits, in a country where the climate is soft and existence
made easy? Even here, where necessity calls for intellectual activity,
nothing is rarer than a person who thinks.
Nevertheless, replied Maurice's guardian angel, man has created
science. The important thing is to introduce it into Heaven. When the
angels possess some notions of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and
physiology; when the study of matter shows them worlds in an atom, and
an atom in the myriads of planets; when they see themselves lost
between these two infinities; when they weigh and measure the stars,
analyse their composition, and calculate their orbits, they will
recognise that these monsters work in obedience to forces which no
intelligence can define, or that each star has its particular divinity,
or indigenous god; and they will realise that the gods of Aldebaran,
Betelgeuse, and Sirius are greater than Ialdabaoth. When at length they
come to scrutinise with care the little world in which their lot is
cast, and, piercing the crust of the earth, note the gradual evolution
of its flora and fauna and the rude origin of man, who, under the
shelter of rocks and in cave dwellings, had no God but himself; when
they discover that, united by the bonds of universal kinship to plants,
beasts, and men, they have successively indued all forms of organic
life, from the simplest and the most primitive, until they became at
length the most beautiful of the children of light, they will perceive
that Ialdabaoth, the obscure demon of an insignificant world lost in
space, is imposing on their credulity when he pretends that they issued
from nothingness at his bidding; they will perceive that he lies in
calling himself the Infinite, the Eternal, the Almighty, and that, so
far from having created worlds, he knows neither their number nor their
laws. They will perceive that he is like unto one of them; they will
despise him, and, shaking off his tyranny, will fling him into the
Gehenna where he has hurled those more worthy than himself.
Do you think so? murmured Zita, puffing out the smoke of her
cigarette.... Nevertheless, this knowledge by virtue of which you
reckon to enfranchise Heaven, has not destroyed religious sentiment on
earth. In countries where they have set up and taught this science of
physics, of chemistry, astronomy, and geology, which you think capable
of delivering the world, Christianity has retained almost all its sway.
If the positive sciences have had such a feeble influence on the
beliefs of mankind, it is not likely they will exercise a greater one
on the opinions of the angels, and nothing is of such dubious efficacy
as scientific propaganda.
What! exclaimed Arcade, you deny that Science has given the
Church its death-blow? Is it possible? The Church, at any rate, judges
otherwise. Science, which you believe has no power over her, is
redoubtable to her, since she proscribes it. From Galileo's dialogues
to Monsieur Aulard's little manuals she has condemned all its
discoveries. And not without reason.
In former days, when she gathered within her fold all that was
great in human thought, the Church held sway over the bodies as well as
over the souls of men, and imposed unity of obedience by fire and
sword. To-day her power is but a shadow and the elect among the great
minds have withdrawn from her. That is the state to which Science has
Possibly, replied the beautiful archangel, but how slowly, with
what vicissitudes, at the price of what efforts, of what sacrifices!
Zita did not absolutely condemn scientific propaganda, but she
anticipated no prompt or certain results from it. For her it was not so
much a question of enlightening the angels; the important thing was to
enfranchise them. In her opinion one only exerted a strong influence on
individuals, whoever they might be, by rousing their passions, and
appealing to their interests.
Persuade the angels that they will cover themselves with glory by
overthrowing the tyrant, and that they will be happier once they are
free; that is the most practical policy to attempt, and, for my own
part, I am devoting all my energies to its fulfilment. It is certainly
no light task, because the Kingdom of Heaven is a military autocracy
and there is no public opinion in it. Nevertheless, I do not despair of
starting an intellectual movement. I do not wish to boast, but no one
is more closely acquainted than I with the different classes of angelic
Throwing away her cigarette, Zita pondered for a moment, then, amid
the click of ivory balls on the billiard table, the clinking of
glasses, the curt voices of the players announcing their points, the
monotonous answers of the waiters to their customers, the Archangel
enumerated the entire population of the spirits of light.
We must not count on the Dominations, the Virtues, nor the Powers,
which compose the celestial lower middle class. I have no need to tell
you, for you know it as well as I, how selfish, base, and cowardly the
middle classes are. As to the great dignitaries, the Ministers, the
Generals, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim, you know what they are; they
will take no action. Let us, however, once prove ourselves the
stronger, and we shall have them with us. For if autocrats do not
readily acquiesce in their own downfall, once overthrown, all their
forces recoil upon themselves. It will be well to work the Army.
Entirely loyal as the Army is, it will allow itself to be influenced by
a clever anarchist propaganda. But our greatest and most constant
efforts ought to be brought to bear upon the angels of your own
category, Arcade; the guardian angels, who dwell upon earth in such
great numbers. They fill the lowest ranks of the hierarchy, are for the
most part discontented with their lot, and more or less imbued with the
ideas of the present century.
She had already conferred with the guardian angels of Montmartre,
Clignancourt, and Filles-du-Calvaire. She had devised the plan of a
vast association of Spirits on Earth with the view of conquering
To accomplish this task, she said, I have established myself in
France. But not because I had the folly to believe myself freer in a
republic than in a monarchy. Quite the contrary, for there is no
country where the liberty of the individual is less respected than in
France. But the people are indifferent to everything connected with
religion; nowhere else, therefore, should I enjoy such tranquillity.
She invited Arcade to unite his efforts to hers, and when they
separated at the door of the brasserie the steel shutter was
already making its groaning descent.
Above all, said Zita, you must meet the gardener. I will take you
to his rustic home one day.
Théophile, who had slumbered during all this talk, begged his friend
to come home with him and smoke a cigarette. He lived quite near in the
small street opposite, leading off the Boulevard. Arcade would see
Bouchotte, she would please him.
They climbed up five flights of stairs. Bouchotte had not yet
returned. A tin of sardines lay open on the piano. Red stockings coiled
about the arm-chairs.
It's a little place, but it's comfortable, said Théophile.
And gazing out of the window which looked out on the russet-coloured
night, with its myriad lights, he added, One can see the Sacré
Coeur. His hand on Arcade's shoulder, he repeated several times,
I am glad to see you.
Then, dragging his former companion in glory into the kitchen
passage, he put down his candlestick, drew a key from his pocket,
opened a cupboard, and, raising a linen covering, disclosed two large
You see, he said, I have preserved them. From time to time, when
I am alone, I go and look at them; it does me good.
And he dabbed his reddened eyes. He stood awhile, overcome by silent
emotion. Then, holding the candle near the long pinions which were
moulting their down in places, he murmured, They are eaten away.
You must put some pepper on them, said Arcade.
I have done so, replied the angelic musician, sighing. I have put
pepper, camphor, and powder on them. But nothing does any good.
WHICH REVEALS THE CHERUB TOILING FOR THE WELFARE OF HUMANITY
AND CONCLUDES IN AN ENTIRELY NOVEL MANNER WITH THE MIRACLE
OF THE FLUTE
The first night of his incarnation Arcade slept at the angel
Istar's, in a garret in that narrow, gloomy Rue Mazarine which wallows
along beneath the shadow of the old Institute of France. Istar, who had
been expecting him, had pushed against the wall the shattered retorts,
cracked pots, broken bottles, and odds and ends of iron stoves, which
made up the furniture of his room, and spread his clothes on the floor
to lie on, leaving his guest his folding-bed with its straw mattress.
The celestial spirits differ from one another in appearance
according to the hierarchy and the choir to which they belong, and
according to their own particular nature. They are all beautiful; but
in different fashion, and they do not all offer to the eye the soft
contours and dimpling smiles of childhood with its rosy lights and
pearly tints. Nor do they all adorn themselves with eternal youth, that
indefinable beauty that Greek art in its decline has imparted to its
most lovingly handled marbles, and whereof Christian painters have so
often timidly essayed to give us veiled and softened imitations. In
some of them the chin glows with tufts of hair, and the limbs are
furnished with such vigorous muscles that it seems as if serpents were
writhing beneath the skin. Some have no wings, others possess two,
four, or six; others again are formed entirely of conjoined pinions.
Many, and these not the least illustrious, take the form of superb
monsters, such as the Centaurs of fable; nay, one may even see some who
are living chariots, and wheels of fire. A member of the highest
celestial hierarchy, Istar belonged to the choir of Cherubim or Kerûbs
who see above them the Seraphim alone. In common with all the angelic
spirits of his rank he had formerly borne in Heaven the bodily shape of
a winged bull surmounted by the head of a horned and bearded man, and
carrying between his loins the attributes of generous fecundity. He was
vaster and more vigorous than any animal on earth, and when he stood
erect with outspread wings he covered with his shadow sixty archangels.
Such was Istar in his native home. There he radiated strength and
sweetness. His heart was full of courage and his soul benevolent.
Moreover, in those days he loved his lord. He believed him to be good
and yielded him faithful service. But even while guarding the portals
of his Master, he used to ponder unceasingly on the punishment of the
rebellious angels and the curse of Eve. His mind worked slowly but
profoundly. When, after a long course of centuries, he persuaded
himself that Ialdabaoth in creating the world had created evil and
death, he ceased to adore and to serve him. His love changed to hatred,
his veneration to contempt. He shouted his execrations in his face, and
fled to earth.
Embodied in human form and reduced to the stature of the sons of
Adam, he still retained some characteristics of his former nature. His
big protruding eyes, his beaked nose, his thick lips framed in a black
beard which descended in curls on to his chest recalled those Cherubs
of the tabernacle of Iahveh, of which the bulls of Nineveh afford us a
pretty accurate representation. He bore the name of Istar on earth as
well as in Heaven, and although exempt from vanity and free from all
social prejudice, he was immensely desirous of showing himself sincere
and truthful in all things. He therefore proclaimed the illustrious
rank in which his birth had placed him in the celestial hierarchy and
translated into French his title of Cherub by the equivalent one of
Prince, calling himself Prince Istar. Seeking shelter among mankind he
had developed an ardent love for them. While awaiting the coming of the
hour when he should deliver Heaven from bondage, he dreamed of the
salvation of regenerate humanity and was eager to consummate the
destruction of this wicked world, in order to raise upon its ashes, to
the sound of the lyre, a city radiant with happiness and love. A
chemist in the pay of a dealer in nitrates, he lived very frugally. He
wrote for newspapers with advanced views on liberty, spoke at public
meetings, and had got himself sentenced several times to several
months' imprisonment for anti-militarism.
Istar greeted his brother Arcade cordially, approved of his rupture
with the party of crime, and informed him of the descent of fifty of
the children of light who, at the present moment, formed a colony near
Val de Grace, imbued with a really excellent spirit.
It is simply raining angels in Paris, he said, laughing. Every
day some dignitary of the sacred palace falls on one's head, and soon
the Sultan of the Cherubs will have no one to make into Vizirs or
guards but the little unbreeched vagabonds of his pigeon coops.
Soothed by the good news, Arcade fell asleep, full of happiness and
He awoke in the early dawn and saw Prince Istar bending over his
furnaces, his retorts, and his test tubes. Prince Istar was working for
the good of humanity.
Every morning when Arcade woke he saw Prince Istar fulfilling his
work of tenderness and love. Sometimes the Kerûb, huddled up with his
head in his hands, would softly murmur a few chemical formulæ; at
others, drawing himself up to his full height, like a dark naked
column, with his head, his arms, nay, his entire bust clean out of the
sky-light window, he would deposit his melting-pot on the roof, fearing
the perquisition with which he was constantly menaced. Moved by an
immense pity for the miseries of the world wherein he dwelt in exile,
conscious perhaps of the rumours to which his name gave rise,
inebriated with his own virtue, he played the part of apostle to the
Human Race, and neglecting the task he had undertaken in coming to
earth, he forgot all about the emancipation of the angels. Arcade, who,
on the contrary, dreamed of nothing else but of conquering Heaven and
returning thither in triumph, reproached the Cherub with forgetting his
Prince Istar, with a great frank, uncouth laugh, acknowledged that
he had no preference for angels over men.
If I am doing my best, he replied to his celestial brother, if I
am doing my best to stir up France and Europe, it is because the day is
dawning which will behold the triumph of the social revolution. It is a
pleasure to cast one's seed on ground so well prepared. The French
having passed from feudalism to monarchy, and from monarchy to a
financial oligarchy, will easily pass from a financial oligarchy to
How erroneous it is, retorted Arcade, to believe in great and
sudden changes in the social order in Europe! The old order is still
young in strength and power. The means of defence at her disposal are
formidable. On the other hand, the proletariat's plan of defensive
organisation is of the vaguest description and brings merely weakness
and confusion to the struggle. In our celestial country all goes quite
otherwise. Beneath an apparently unchangeable exterior all is rotten
within. A mere push would suffice to overturn an edifice which has not
been touched for millions of centuries. Out-worn administration,
out-worn army, out-worn finance, the whole thing is more worm-eaten
than either the Russian or Persian autocracy.
And the kindly Arcade adjured the Cherub to fly first to the aid of
his brethren who, though dwelling amid the soft clouds with the sound
of citterns and their cups of paradisal wine around them, were in more
wretched plight than mankind bowed over the grudging earth. For the
latter have a conception of justice, while the angels rejoice in
iniquity. He exhorted him to deliver the Prince of Light and his
stricken companions and to re-establish them in their ancient honours.
Prince Istar allowed himself to be convinced.
He promised to put the sweet persuasiveness of his words and the
excellent formulæ of his explosives at the service of the celestial
revolution. He gave his promise.
To-morrow, he said.
And when the morrow came he continued his anti-militarist propaganda
at Issy-les-Moulineaux. Like the Titan Prometheus, Istar loved mankind.
Arcade, suffering from all the desires to which the sons of Adam are
subjected, found himself lacking in resources to satisfy them. Istar
gave him a start in a printing house in the Rue de Vaugirard where he
knew the foreman. Arcade, thanks to his celestial intelligence, soon
knew how to set up type and became, in a short time, a good compositor.
After standing all day in the whirring workroom, holding the
composing-stick in his left hand, and swiftly drawing the little leaden
signs from the case in the order required by the copy fixed in the
visorium, he would go and wash his hands at the pump and dine at
the corner bar, a newspaper propped up before him on the marble table.
Being now no longer invisible, he could not make his way into the
d'Esparvieu library, and was thus debarred from allaying his ardent
thirst for knowledge at that inexhaustible source. He went, of an
evening, to read at the library of Ste. Geneviève on the famous hill of
learning, but there were only ordinary books to be had there; greasy
things, covered with ridiculous annotations, and lacking many pages.
The sight of women troubled and unsettled him. He would remember
Madame des Aubels and her charm, and, although he was handsome, he was
not loved, because of his poverty and his workaday clothes. He saw much
of Zita, and took a certain pleasure in going for walks with her on
Sundays along the dusty roads which edge the grass-grown trenches of
the fortifications. They wandered, the pair of them, by wayside inns,
market-gardens, and green retreats, propounding and discussing the
vastest plans that ever stirred the world, and, occasionally, as they
passed along by some travelling circus, the steam organ of the
merry-go-round would furnish an accompaniment to their words as they
breathed fire and fury against Heaven.
Zita used often to say:
Istar means well, but he's a simple fellow. He believes in the
goodness of men and things. He undertakes the destruction of the old
world and imagines that anarchy of itself will create order and
harmony. You, Arcade, you believe in Science; you deem that men and
angels are capable of understanding, whereas, in point of fact, they
are only creatures of sentiment. You may be quite sure that nothing is
to be obtained from them by appealing to their intelligence; one must
rouse their interests and their passions.
Arcade, Istar, Zita, and three or four other angelic conspirators
occasionally foregathered in Théophile Belais' little flat, where
Bouchotte gave them tea. Though she did not know that they were
rebellious angels, she hated them instinctively, and feared them, for
she had had a Christian education, albeit she had sadly failed to keep
Prince Istar alone pleased her; she thought there was something
kind-hearted and an air of natural distinction about him. He stove in
the sofa, broke down the arm-chairs, and tore corners off sheets of
music to make notes, which he thrust into pockets invariably crammed
with pamphlets and bottles. The musician used to gaze sorrowfully at
the manuscript of his operetta, Aline, Queen of Golconda, with
its corners all torn off. The prince also had a habit of giving
Théophile Belais all sorts of things to take care ofmechanical
contrivances, chemicals, bits of old iron, powders, and liquids which
gave off noisome smells. Théophile Belais put them cautiously away in
the cupboard where he kept his wings, and the responsibility weighed
heavily upon him.
Arcade was much pained at the disdain of those of his fellows who
had remained faithful. When they met him as they went on their sacred
errands they regarded him as they passed by with looks of cruel hatred
or of pity that was crueller still.
He used to visit the rebel angels whom Prince Istar pointed out to
him, and usually met with a good reception, but as soon as he began to
speak of conquering Heaven, they did not conceal the embarrassment and
displeasure he caused them. Arcade perceived that they had no desire to
be disturbed in their tastes, their affairs, and their habits. The
falsity of their judgment, the narrowness of their minds, shocked him;
and the rivalry, the jealousy they displayed towards one another
deprived him of all hope of uniting them in a common cause. Perceiving
how exile debases the character and warps the intellect, he felt his
courage fail him.
One evening, when he had confessed his weariness of spirit to Zita,
the beautiful archangel said:
Let us go and see Nectaire; Nectaire has remedies of his own for
sadness and fatigue.
She led him into the woods of Montmorency and stopped at the
threshold of a small white house, adjoining a kitchen garden, laid
waste by winter, where far back in the shadows the light shone on
forcing-frames and cracked glass melon shades.
Nectaire opened the door to his visitors, and, after quieting the
growls of a big mastiff which protected the garden, led them into a low
room warmed by an earthenware stove.
Against the whitewashed wall, on a deal board, among the onions and
seeds, lay a flute ready to be put to the lips. A round walnut table
bore a stone tobacco-jar, a pipe, a bottle of wine and some glasses.
The gardener offered each of his guests a cane-seated chair, and
himself sat down on a stool by the table.
He was a sturdy old man; thick grey hair stood up on his head, he
had a furrowed brow, a snub-nose, a red face, and a forked beard.
The big mastiff stretched himself at his master's feet, rested his
short black muzzle on his paws, and closed his eyes. The gardener
poured out some wine for his guests, and when they had drunk and talked
a little, Zita said to Nectaire:
Please play your flute to us, you will give pleasure to my friend
whom I have brought to see you.
The old man immediately consented. He put the boxwood pipe to his
lips,so clumsy was it that it looked as if the gardener had fashioned
it himself,and preluded with a few strange runs. Then he developed
rich melodies in which the thrills sparkled like diamonds and pearls on
a velvet ground. Touched by cunning fingers, animated with creative
breath, the rustic pipe sang like a silver flute. There were no
over-shrill notes and the tone was always even and pure. One seemed to
be listening to the nightingale and the Muses singing together, the
soul of Nature and the soul of Man. And the old man ordered and
developed his thoughts in a musical language full of grace and daring.
He told of love, of fear, of vain quarrels, of all-conquering laughter,
of the calm light of the intellect, of the arrows of the mind piercing
with their golden shafts the monsters of Ignorance and Hate. He told
also of Joy and Sorrow bending their twin heads over the earth and of
Desire which brings worlds into being.
The whole night listened to the flute of Nectaire. Already the
evening star was rising above the paling horizon.
There they sat; Zita with hands clasped about her knees, Arcade, his
head leaning on his hand, his lips apart. Motionless they listened. A
lark, which had awakened hard by in a sandy field, lured by these novel
sounds, rose swiftly in the air, hovered a few seconds, then dropped at
one swoop into the musician's orchard. The neighbouring sparrows,
forsaking the crannies of the mouldering walls, came and sat in a row
on the window-ledge whence notes came welling forth that gave them more
delight than oats or grains of barley. A jay, coming for the first time
out of his wood, folded his sapphire wings on a leafless cherry tree.
Beside the drain-head, a large black rat, glistening with the greasy
water of the sewers, sitting on his hind legs, raised his short arms
and slender fingers in amazement. A field-mouse, that dwelt in the
orchard, was seated near him. Down from the tiles came the old tom-cat,
who retained the grey fur, the ringed tail, the powerful loins, the
courage, and the pride of his ancestors. He pushed against the
half-open door with his nose and approaching the flute-player with
silent tread, sat gravely down, pricking his ears that had been torn in
many a nocturnal combat; the grocer's white cat followed him, sniffing
the vibrant air and then, arching her back and closing her blue eyes,
listened in ravishment. Mice, swarming in crowds from under the boards,
surrounded them, and fearing neither tooth nor claw, sat motionless,
their pink hands folded voluptuously on their bosoms. Spiders that had
strayed far from their webs, with waving legs, gathered in a charmed
circle on the ceiling. A small grey lizard, that had glided on to the
doorstep, stayed there, fascinated, and, in the loft, the bat might
have been seen hanging by her nails, head down, now half-awakened from
her winter sleep, swaying to the rhythm of the marvellous flute.
WHEREIN WE SEE YOUNG MAURICE BEWAILING THE LOSS OF HIS
GUARDIAN ANGEL, EVEN IN HIS MISTRESS'S ARMS, AND WHEREIN WE
HEAR THE ABBÉ PATOUILLE REJECT AS VAIN AND ILLUSORY ALL
NOTIONS OF A NEW REBELLION OF THE ANGELS
A fortnight had elapsed since the angel's apparition in the flat.
For the first time Gilberte arrived before Maurice at the rendezvous.
Maurice was gloomy, Gilberte sulky. So far as they were concerned
Nature had resumed her drab monotony. They eyed each other languidly,
and kept glancing towards the angle between the wardrobe with the
mirror and the window, where recently the pale shade of Arcade had
taken shape, and where now the blue cretonne of the hangings was the
only thing visible. Without giving him a name (it was unnecessary)
Madame des Aubels asked:
You have not seen him since?
Slowly, sadly, Maurice turned his head from right to left, and from
left to right.
You look as if you missed him, continued Madame des Aubels. But
come, confess that he gave you a terrible fright, and that you were
shocked at his unconventionally.
Certainly he was unconventional, said Maurice without any
Tell me, Maurice, is it nothing to you now to be with me alone?...
You need an angel to inspire you. That is sad, for a young man like
Maurice appeared not to hear, and asked gravely:
Gilberte, do you feel that your guardian angel is watching over
I, not at all. I have never thought of him, and yet I am not
without religion. In the first place, people who have none are like
animals. And then one cannot go straight without religion. It is
Exactly, that's just it, said Maurice, his eyes on the violet
stripes of his flowerless pyjamas; when one has one's guardian angel
one does not even think about him, and when one has lost him one feels
So you miss this....
Well, the fact is....
Oh, yes, yes, you miss him. Well, my dear, the loss of such a
guardian angel as that is no great matter. No, no! he is not worth
much, that Arcade of yours. On that famous day, while you were out
getting him some clothes, he was ever so long fastening my dress, and I
certainly felt his hand.... Well, at any rate, don't trust him.
Maurice dreamily lit a cigarette. They spoke of the six days'
bicycle race at the winter velodrome, and of the aviation show at the
motor exhibition at Brussels, without experiencing the slightest
amusement. Then they tried love-making as a sort of convenient pastime,
and succeeded in becoming moderately absorbed in it; but at the very
moment when she might have been expected to play a part more in
accordance with a mutual sentiment, she exclaimed with a sudden start:
Good Heavens! Maurice, how stupid of you to tell me that my
guardian angel can see me. You cannot imagine how uncomfortable the
idea makes me.
Maurice, somewhat taken aback, recalled, a little roughly, his
mistress's wandering thoughts.
She declared that her principles forbade her to think of playing a
round game with angels.
Maurice was longing to see Arcade again and had no other thought. He
reproached himself for suffering him to depart without discovering
where he was going, and he cudgelled his brains night and day thinking
how to find him again.
On the bare chance, he put a notice in the personal column of one of
the big papers, running thus:
Arcade. Come back to your Maurice.
Day after day went by, and Arcade did not return.
One morning, at seven o'clock, Maurice went to St. Sulpice to hear
Abbé Patouille say Mass, then, as the priest was leaving the sacristy,
he went up to him and asked to be heard for a moment.
They descended the steps of the church together and in the bright
morning light walked round the fountain of the Quatre Évêques.
In spite of his troubled conscience and the difficulty of presenting so
extraordinary a case with any degree of credibility, Maurice related
how the angel Arcade had appeared to him and had announced his unhappy
resolve to separate from him and to stir up a new revolt of the spirits
of glory. And young d'Esparvieu asked the worthy ecclesiastic how to
find his celestial guardian again, since he could not bear his absence,
and how to lead his angel back to the Christian faith. Abbé Patouille
replied in a tone of affectionate sorrow that his dear child had been
dreaming, that he took a morbid hallucination for reality, and that it
was not permissible to believe that good angels may revolt.
People have a notion, he added, that they can lead a life of
dissipation and disorder with impunity. They are wrong. The abuse of
pleasure corrupts the intelligence and impairs the understanding. The
devil takes possession of the sinner's senses, penetrating even to his
soul. He has deceived you, Maurice, by a clumsy artifice.
Maurice objected that he was not in any way a victim of
hallucinations, that he had not been dreaming, that he had seen his
guardian angel with his eyes and heard him with his ears.
Monsieur l'Abbé, he insisted, a lady who happened to be with me
at the time,I need not mention her name,also saw and heard him.
And, moreover, she felt the angel's fingers straying ... well, anyhow,
she felt them.... Believe me, Monsieur l'Abbé, nothing could be more
real, more positively certain than this apparition. The angel was fair,
young, very handsome. His clear skin seemed, in the shadow, as if
bathed in milky light. He spoke in a pure, sweet voice.
That, alone, my child, the Abbé interrupted quickly, proves you
were dreaming. According to all the demonologies, bad angels have a
hoarse voice, which grates like a rusty lock, and even if they did
contrive to give a certain look of beauty to their faces, they cannot
succeed in imitating the pure voice of the good spirits. This fact,
attested by numerous witnesses, is established beyond all doubt.
But, Monsieur l'Abbé, I saw him. I saw him sit down, stark naked,
in an arm-chair on a pair of black stockings. What else do you want me
to tell you?
The Abbé Patouille appeared in no way disturbed by this
I say once more, my son, he replied, that these unhappy
illusions, these dreams of a deeply troubled soul, are to be ascribed
to the deplorable state of your conscience. I believe, moreover, that I
can detect the particular circumstance that has caused your unstable
mind thus to come to grief. During the winter in company with Monsieur
Sariette and your Uncle Gaétan, you came, in an evil frame of mind, to
see the Chapel of the Holy Angels in this church, then undergoing
repair. As I observed on that occasion, it is impossible to keep
artists too closely to the rules of Christian art; they cannot be too
strongly enjoined to respect Holy Writ and its authorized interpreters.
Monsieur Eugène Delacroix did not suffer his fiery genius to be
controlled by tradition. He brooked no guidance and, here, in this
chapel he has painted pictures which in common parlance we call lurid,
compositions of a violent, terrible nature which, far from inspiring
the soul with peace, quietude, and calm, plunge it into a state of
agitation. In them the angels are depicted with wrathful countenances,
their features are sombre and uncouth. One might take them to be
Lucifer and his companions meditating their revolt. Well, my son, it
was these pictures, acting upon a mind already weakened and undermined
by every kind of dissipation, that have filled it with the trouble to
which it is at present a prey.
But Maurice would have none of it.
Oh, no! Monsieur l'Abbé, he cried, it is not Eugène Delacroix's
pictures that have been troubling me. I didn't so much as look at them.
I am completely indifferent to that kind of art.
Well, then, my son, believe me: there is no truth, no reality, in
any of the story you have just related to me. Your guardian angel has
certainly not appeared to you.
But, Abbé, replied Maurice, who had the most absolute confidence
in the evidence of the senses, I saw him tying up a woman's shoe-laces
and putting on the trousers of a suicide.
And stamping his feet on the asphalt, Maurice called as witnesses to
the truth of his words the sky, the earth, all nature, the towers of
St. Sulpice, the walls of the great seminary, the Fountain of the
Quatre Évêques, the public lavatory, the cabmen's shelter, the
taxis and motor 'buses' shelter, the trees, the passers-by, the dogs,
the sparrows, the flower-seller and her flowers.
The Abbé made haste to end the interview.
All this is error, falsehood, and illusion, my child, said he.
You are a Christian: think as a Christian,a Christian does not allow
himself to be seduced by empty shadows. Faith protects him against the
seduction of the marvellous, he leaves credulity to freethinkers. There
are credulous people for youfreethinkers! There is no humbug they
will not swallow. But the Christian carries a weapon which dissipates
diabolical illusions,the sign of the Cross. Reassure yourself,
Maurice,you have not lost your guardian angel. He still watches over
you. It lies with you not to make this task too difficult nor too
painful for him. Good-bye, Maurice. The weather is going to change, for
I feel a burning in my big toe.
And Abbé Patouille went off with his breviary under his arm,
hobbling along with a dignity that seemed to foretell a mitre.
That very day, Arcade and Zita were leaning over the parapet of La
Butte, gazing down on the mist and smoke that lay floating over the
Is it possible, said Arcade, for the mind to conceive all the
pain and suffering that lie pent within a great city? It is my belief
that if a man succeeded in realising it, the weight of it would crush
him to the earth.
And yet, answered Zita, every living being in that place of
torment is enamoured of life. It is a great enigma!
Unhappy, ill-fated, while they live, the idea of ceasing to be is,
nevertheless, a horror to them. They look not for solace in
annihilation, it does not even bring them the promise of rest. In their
madness they even look upon nothingness with terror: they have peopled
it with phantoms. Look you at these pediments, these towers and domes
and spires that pierce the mist and rear on high their glittering
crosses. Men bow in adoration before the demiurge who has given them a
life that is worse than death, and a death that is worse than life.
Zita was for a long time lost in thought. At length she broke
There is something, Arcade, that I must confess to you. It was no
desire for a purer justice or wiser laws that hurried Ithuriel
earthward. Ambition, a taste for intrigue, the love of wealth and
honour, all these things made Heaven, with its calm, unbearable to me,
and I longed to mingle with the restless race of men. I came, and by an
art unknown to nearly all the angels, I learned how to fashion myself a
body which, since I could change it as the fancy seized me, to
whatsoever age and sex I would, has permitted me to experience the most
diverse and amazing of human destinies. A hundred times I took a
position of renown among the leaders of the day, the lords of wealth
and princes of nations. I will not reveal to you, Arcade, the famous
names I bore; know only that I was pre-eminent in learning, in the fine
arts, in power, wealth, and beauty, among all the nations of the world.
At last, it was but a few years since, as I was journeying in France,
under the outward semblance of a distinguished foreigner, I chanced to
be roaming at evening through the forest of Montmorency, when I heard a
flute unfolding all the sorrows of Heaven. The purity and sadness of
its notes rent my very soul. Never before had I hearkened to aught so
lovely. My eyes were wet with tears, my bosom full of sobs, as I drew
near and beheld, on the skirts of a glade, an old man like to a faun,
blowing on a rustic pipe. It was Nectaire. I cast myself at his feet,
imprinted kisses on his hands and on his lips divine, and fled away....
From that day forth, conscious of the littleness of human
achievements, weary of the tumult and the vanity of earthly things,
ashamed of my vast and profitless endeavours, and deciding to seek out
a loftier aim for my ambition, I looked upwards towards my skiey home
and vowed I would return to it as a Deliverer. I rid myself of titles,
name, wealth, friends, the horde of sycophants and flatterers and, as
Zita the obscure, set to work in indigence and solitude, to bring
freedom into Heaven.
And I, said Arcade, I too have heard the flute of Nectaire. But
who is this old gardener who can thus woo from a rude wooden pipe notes
that are so moving and so beautiful?
You will soon know, answered Zita.
WHEREIN MIRA THE SEERESS, ZÉPHYRINE, AND THE FATAL AMÉDÉE
ARE SUCCESSIVELY BROUGHT UPON THE SCENE, AND WHEREIN THE
NOTION OF EURIPIDES THAT THOSE WHOM ZEUS WISHES TO CRUSH HE
FIRST MAKES MAD, IS ILLUSTRATED BY THE TERRIBLE EXAMPLE OF
Disappointed at his failure to enlighten an ecclesiastic renowned
for his clarity of mind, and frustrated in the hope of finding his
angel again on the high road of orthodoxy, Maurice took it into his
head to resort to occultism and resolved to go and consult a seer. He
would have undoubtedly applied to Madame de Thèbes, but he had already
questioned her on the occasion of his early love troubles, and her
replies showed such wisdom that he no longer believed her to be a
soothsayer. He therefore had recourse to a fashionable medium, Madame
Mira. He had heard many examples quoted of the extraordinary insight of
this seeress, but it was necessary to present Madame Mira with some
object which the absent one had either touched or worn and to which her
translucent gaze had to be attracted. Maurice, trying to remember what
the angel had touched since his ill-fated incarnation, recollected that
in his celestial nudity he had sat down in an arm-chair on Madame des
Aubels' black stockings and that he had afterwards helped that lady to
Maurice asked Gilberte for one of the talismans required by the
clairvoyante. But Gilberte could not give him a single one, unless, as
she said, she herself were to play the part of the talisman. For the
angel had, in her case, displayed the greatest indiscretion, and such
agility that it was impossible always to forestall his enterprise. On
hearing this confession, which nevertheless told him nothing new,
Maurice lost his temper with the angel, calling him by the names of the
lowest animals and swearing he would give him a good kick when he got
him within reach of his foot. But his fury soon turned against Madame
des Aubels; he accused her of having provoked the insolence she now
denounced, and in his wrath he referred to her by all the zoological
symbols of immodesty and perversity. His love for Arcade was rekindled
in his heart, and burned with a more ardent flame than ever, and the
deserted youth, with outstretched arms and bended knees, invoked his
angel with sobs and lamentations.
During his sleepless nights it occurred to him that perhaps the
books the angel had turned over before his incarnation might serve as a
talisman. One morning, therefore, Maurice went up to the library and
greeted Monsieur Sariette, who was cataloguing under the romantic gaze
of Alexandre d'Esparvieu. Monsieur Sariette smiled, but his face was
deathly pale. Now that an invisible hand no longer upset the books
placed under his charge, now that tranquillity and order once more
reigned in the library, Monsieur Sariette was happy, but his strength
diminished day by day. There was little left of him but a frail and
One dies, in full content, of sorrow past.
Monsieur Sariette, said Maurice, you remember that time when your
books were disarranged every night, how armfuls disappeared, how they
were dragged about, turned over, ruined, and sent rolling
helter-skelter as far as the gutter in the Rue Palatine. Those were
great days! Point out to me, Monsieur Sariette, the books which
This proposition threw Monsieur Sariette into a melancholy stupor,
and Maurice had to repeat his request three times before he could make
the aged librarian understand. At length he pointed to a very ancient
Talmud from Jerusalem as having been frequently touched by those unseen
hands. An apocryphal Gospel of the third century, consisting of twenty
papyrus sheets, had also quitted its place time after time. Gassendi's
Correspondence too seemed to have been well thumbed.
But, added Monsieur Sariette, the book to which the mysterious
visitant devoted the most particular attention was undoubtedly a little
copy of Lucretius adorned with the arms of Philippe de Vendôme,
Grand Prieur de France, with autograph annotations by Voltaire, who, as
is well known, frequently visited the Temple in his younger days. The
fearsome reader who caused me such terrible anxiety never grew weary of
this Lucretius and made it his bedside book, as it were. His
taste was sound, for it's a gem of a thing. Alas! the monster made a
blot of ink on page 137 which perhaps the chemists with all the science
at their disposal will be powerless to erase.
And Monsieur Sariette heaved a profound sigh. He repented having
said all this when young d'Esparvieu asked him for the loan of the
precious Lucretius. Vainly did the jealous custodian affirm that
the book was being repaired at the binder's and was not available.
Maurice made it clear that he wasn't to be taken in like that. He
strode resolutely into the abode of the philosophers and the globes and
seating himself in an arm-chair said:
I am waiting.
Monsieur Sariette suggested his having another edition. There were
some that, textually, were more correct, and were, therefore,
preferable from the student's point of view. He offered him Barbou's
edition, or Coustelier's, or, better still, a French translation. He
could have the Baron des Coutures' versionwhich was perhaps a little
old-fashionedor La Grange's, or those in the Nisard and Panckouke
series; or, again, there were two versions of striking elegance, one in
verse and the other in prose, both from the pen of Monsieur de
Pongerville of the French Academy.
I don't need a translation, said Maurice proudly. Give me the
Prior de Vendôme's copy.
Monsieur Sariette went slowly up to the cupboard in which the jewel
in question was contained. The keys were rattling in his trembling
hand. He raised them to the lock and withdrew them again immediately
and suggested that Maurice should have the common Lucretius
published by Garnier.
It's very handy, said he with an engaging smile.
But the silence with which this proposal was received made it clear
that resistance was useless. He slowly drew forth the volume from its
place, and having taken the precaution to see that there wasn't a speck
of dust on the table-cloth, he laid it tremblingly thereon before the
great-grandson of Alexandre d'Esparvieu.
Maurice began to turn the leaves, and when he got to page 137 he saw
the stain which had been made with violet ink. It was about the size of
Ay, that's it, said old Sariette, who had his eye on the
Lucretius the whole time; that's the trace those invisible
monsters left behind them.
What, there were several of them, Monsieur Sariette? exclaimed
I cannot tell. But I don't know whether I have a right to have this
blot removed since, like the blot Paul Louis Courier made on the
Florentine manuscript, it constitutes a literary document, so to
Scarcely were the words out of the old fellow's mouth when the front
door bell rang and there was a confused noise of voices and footsteps
in the next room. Sariette ran forward at the sound and collided with
Père Guinardon's mistress, old Zéphyrine, who, with her tousled hair
sticking up like a nest of vipers, her face aflame, her bosom heaving,
her abdominal part like an eiderdown quilt puffed out by a terrific
gale, was choking with grief and rage. And amid sobs and sighs and
groans and all the innumerable sounds which, on earth, make up the
mighty uproar to which the emotions of living beings and the tumult of
nature give rise, she cried:
He's gone, the monster! He's gone off with her. He's cleared out
the whole shanty and left me to shift for myself with eighteenpence in
And she proceeded to give a long and incoherent account of how
Michel Guinardon had abandoned her and gone to live with Octavie, the
bread-woman's daughter, and she let loose a torrent of abuse against
A man whom I've kept going with my own money for fifty years and
more. For I've had plenty of the needful and known plenty of the upper
ten and all. I dragged him out of the gutter and now this is what I get
for it. He's a bright beauty, that friend of yours. The lazy scoundrel.
Why, he had to be dressed like a child, the drunken contemptible brute.
You don't know him yet, Monsieur Sariette. He's a forger. He turns out
Giottos, Giottos, I tell you, and Fra Angelicos and Grecos, as hard as
he can and sells them to art-dealersyes, and Fragonards too, and
Baudouins. He's a debauchee, and doesn't believe in God! That's the
worst of the lot, Monsieur Sariette, for without the fear of God....
Long did Zéphyrine continue to pour forth vituperations. When at
last her breath failed her, Monsieur Sariette availed himself of the
opportunity to exhort her to be calm and bring herself to look on the
bright side of things. Guinardon would come back. A man doesn't forget
anyone he's lived and got on well with for fifty years
These two observations only goaded her to a fresh outburst, and
Zéphyrine swore she would never forget the slight that had been put on
her; she swore she would never have the monster back with her any more.
And if he came to ask her to forgive him on his knees, she would let
him grovel at her feet.
Don't you understand, Monsieur Sariette, that I despise and hate
him, that he makes me sick?
Sixty times she voiced these lofty sentiments; sixty times she vowed
she would never have Guinardon back with her again, that she couldn't
bear the sight of him, even in a picture.
Monsieur Sariette made no attempt to oppose a resolve which, after
protestations such as these, he regarded as unshakable. He did not
blame Zéphyrine in the least. He even supported her. Unfolding to the
deserted one a purer future, he told her of the frailty of human
sentiment, exhorted her to display a spirit of renunciation and
enjoined her to show a pious resignation to the will of God.
Seeing, in truth, that your friend is so little worthy of affection
He was not suffered to continue. Zéphyrine flew at him, and shaking
him furiously by the collar of his frock-coat, she yelled, half choking
with rage: So little worthy of affection! Michel! Ah! my boy, you find
another more kind, more gay, more witty, you find another like him,
always young, yes, always. Not worthy of affection! Anyone can see you
don't know anything about love, you old duffer.
Taking advantage of the fact that Père Sariette was thus deeply
engaged, young d'Esparvieu slipped the little Lucretius into his
pocket, and strolled deliberately past the crouching librarian, bidding
him adieu with a little wave of the hand.
Armed with his talisman, he hastened to the Place des Ternes, to
interview Madame Mira. She received him in a red drawing-room where
neither owl nor frog nor any of the paraphernalia of ancient magic were
to be found. Madame Mira, in a prune-coloured dress, her hair powdered,
though already past her prime, was of very good appearance. She spoke
with a certain elegance and prided herself on discovering hidden things
by the help alone of Science, Philosophy, and Religion. She felt the
morocco binding, feigning to close her eyes, and looking meanwhile
through the narrow slit between her lids at the Latin title and the
coat of arms which conveyed nothing to her.
Accustomed to receive as tokens such things as rings, handkerchiefs,
letters, and locks of hair, she could not conceive to what sort of
individual this singular book could belong. By habitual and mechanical
cunning she disguised her real surprise under a feigned surprise.
Strange! she murmured, strange! I do not see quite clearly ... I
perceive a woman....
As she let fall this magic word, she glanced furtively to see what
sort of an effect it had and beheld on her questioner's face an
unexpected look of disappointment. Perceiving that she was off the
track, she immediately changed her oracle:
But she fades away immediately. It is strange, strange! I have a
confused impression of some vague form, a being that I cannot define,
and having assured herself by a hurried glance that, this time, her
words were going down, she expatiated on the vagueness of the person
and on the mist that enveloped him.
However, the vision grew clearer to Madame Mira, who was following a
clue step by step.
A wide street ... a square with a statue ... a deserted
street,stairs. He is there in a bluish roomhe is a young man, with
pale and careworn face. There are things he seems to regret, and which
he would not do again did they still remain undone.
But the effort at divination had been too great. Fatigue prevented
the clairvoyante from continuing her transcendental researches. She
spent her remaining strength in impressively recommending him who
consulted her to remain in intimate union with God if he wished to
regain what he had lost and succeed in his attempts.
On leaving Maurice placed a louis on the mantelpiece and went away
moved and troubled, persuaded that Madame Mira possessed supernatural
faculties, but unfortunately insufficient ones.
At the bottom of the stairs he remembered he had left the little
Lucretius on the table of the pythoness, and, thinking that the old
maniac Sariette would never get over its loss, went up to recover
possession of it.
On re-entering the paternal abode his gaze lighted upon a shadowy
and grief-stricken figure. It was old Sariette, who in tones as
plaintive as the wail of the November wind began to beg for his
Lucretius. Maurice pulled it carelessly out of his great-coat
Don't flurry yourself, Monsieur Sariette, said he. There the
Clasping the jewel to his bosom the old librarian bore it away and
laid it gently down on the blue table-cloth, thinking all the while
where he might safely hide his precious treasure, and turning over all
sorts of schemes in his mind as became a zealous curator. But who among
us shall boast of his wisdom? The foresight of man is short, and his
prudence is for ever being baffled. The blows of fate are ineluctable;
no man shall evade his doom. There is no counsel, no caution that
avails against destiny. Hapless as we are, the same blind force which
regulates the courses of atom and of star fashions universal order from
our vicissitudes. Our ill-fortune is necessary to the harmony of the
Universe. It was the day for the binder, a day which the revolving
seasons brought round twice a year, beneath the sign of the Ram and the
sign of the Scales. That day, ever since morning, Monsieur Sariette had
been making things ready for the binder. He had laid out on the table
as many of the newly purchased paper-bound volumes as were deemed
worthy of a permanent binding or of being put in boards, and also those
books whose binding was in need of repair, and of all these he had
drawn up a detailed and accurate list. Punctually at five o'clock, old
Amédée, the man from Léger-Massieu's, the binder in the Rue de
l'Abbaye, presented himself at the d'Esparvieu library and, after a
double check had been carried out by Monsieur Sariette, thrust the
books he was to take back to his master into a piece of cloth which he
fastened into knots at the four corners and hoisted on to his shoulder.
He then saluted the librarian with the following words, Good night,
all! and went downstairs.
Everything went off on this occasion as usual. But Amédée, seeing
the Lucretius on the table, innocently put it into the bag with
the others, and took it away without Monsieur Sariette's perceiving it.
The librarian quitted the home of the Philosophers and Globes in entire
forgetfulness of the book whose absence had been causing him such
horrible anxiety all day long. Some people may take a stern view of the
matter and call this a lapse, a defection of his better nature. But
would it not be more accurate to say that fate had decided that things
should come to pass in this manner, and that what is called chance, and
is in fact but the regular order of nature, had accomplished this
imperceptible deed which was to have such awful consequences in the
sight of man? Monsieur Sariette went off to his dinner at the Quatre
Évêques, and read his paper La Croix. He was tranquil and
serene. It was only the next morning when he entered the abode of the
Philosophers and Globes that he remembered the Lucretius.
Failing to see it on the table he looked for it everywhere, but without
success. It never entered his head that Amédée might have taken it away
by mistake. What he did think was that the invisible visitant had
returned, and he was mightily disturbed.
The unhappy curator, hearing a noise on the landing, opened the door
and found it was little Léon, who, with a gold-braided képi
stuck on his head, was shouting Vive la France and hurling dusters
and feather-brooms and Hippolyte's floor polish at imaginary foes. The
child preferred this landing for playing soldiers to any other part of
the house, and sometimes he would stray into the library. Monsieur
Sariette was seized with the sudden suspicion that it was he who had
taken the Lucretius to use as a missile and he ordered him, in
threatening tones, to give it back. The child denied that he had taken
it, and Monsieur Sariette had recourse to cajolery.
Léon, if you bring me back the little red book, I will give you
The child grew thoughtful; and in the evening, as Monsieur Sariette
was going downstairs, he met Léon, who said:
There's the book!
And, holding out a much-torn picture-book called The Story of
Gribouille, demanded his chocolates.
A few days later the post brought Maurice the prospectus of an
enquiry agency managed by an ex-employee at the Prefecture of Police;
it promised celerity and discretion. He found at the address indicated
a moustached gentleman morose and careworn, who demanded a deposit and
promised to find the individual.
The ex-police official soon wrote to inform him that very onerous
investigations had been commenced and asked for fresh funds. Maurice
gave him no more and resolved to carry on the search himself.
Imagining, not without some likelihood, that the angel would associate
with the wretched, seeing that he had no money, and with the exiled of
all nationslike himself, revolutionarieshe visited the
lodging-houses at St. Ouen, at la Chapelle, Montmartre, and the
Barrière d'Italie. He sought him in the doss-houses, public-houses
where they give you plates of tripe, and others where you can get a
sausage for three sous; he searched for him in the cellars at the
Market and at Père Momie's.
Maurice visited the restaurants where nihilists and anarchists take
their meals. There he came across men dressed as women, gloomy and
wild-looking youths, and blue-eyed octogenarians who laughed like
little children. He observed, asked questions, was taken for a spy, had
a knife thrust into him by a very beautiful woman, and the very next
day continued his search in beer-houses, lodging-houses, houses of
ill-fame, gambling-hells down by the fortifications, at the receivers
of stolen goods, and among the apaches.
Seeing him thus pale, harassed, and silent, his mother grew worried.
We must find him a wife, she said. It is a pity that Mademoiselle
de la Verdelière has not a bigger fortune.
Abbé Patouille did not hide his anxiety.
This child, he said, is passing through a moral crisis.
I am more inclined to think, replied Monsieur René d'Esparvieu,
that he is under the influence of some bad woman. We must find him an
occupation which will absorb him and flatter his vanity. I might get
him appointed Secretary to the Committee for the Preservation of
Country Churches, or Consulting Counsel to the Syndicate of Catholic
WHEREIN WE LEARN THAT SOPHAR, NO LESS EAGER FOR GOLD THAN
MAMMON, LOOKED UPON HIS HEAVENLY HOME LESS FAVOURABLY THAN
UPON FRANCE, A COUNTRY BLESSED WITH A SAVINGS BANK AND LOAN
DEPARTMENTS, AND WHEREIN WE SEE, YET ONCE AGAIN, THAT WHOSO
IS POSSESSED OF THIS WORLD'S GOODS FEARS THE EVIL EFFECTS OF
Meanwhile Arcade led a life of obscure toil. He worked at a
printer's in the Rue St. Benoît, and lived in an attic in the Rue
Mouffetard. His comrades having gone on strike, he left the workroom
and devoted his day to his propaganda. So successful was he that he won
over to the side of revolt fifty thousand of those guardian angels who,
as Zita had surmised, were discontented with their condition and imbued
with the spirit of the times. But lacking money, he lacked liberty, and
could not employ his time as he wished in instructing the sons of
Heaven. So, too, Prince Istar, hampered by want of funds, manufactured
fewer bombs than were needed, and these less fine. Of course he
prepared a good many small pocket machines. He had filled Théophile's
rooms with them, and not a day passed but he forgot some and left them
lying about on the seats in various cafés. But a nice bomb, easily
handled and capable of destroying many big mansions, cost him from
twenty to twenty-five thousand francs; and Prince Istar only possessed
two of this kind. Equally bent on procuring funds, Arcade and Istar
both went to make a request for money from a celebrated financier named
Max Everdingen, who, as everyone knows, is the managing director of the
biggest banking concern in France and indeed in the whole world. What
is not so well known is that Max Everdingen was not born of woman, but
is a fallen angel. Nevertheless, such is the truth. In Heaven he was
named Sophar, and guarded the treasures of Ialdabaoth, a great
collector of gold and precious stones. In the exercise of this function
Sophar contracted a love of riches which could not be satisfied in a
state of society in which banks and stock exchanges are alike unknown.
His heart flamed with an ardent love for the god of the Hebrews to whom
he remained faithful during a long course of centuries. But at the
commencement of the twentieth century of the Christian era, casting his
eyes down from the height of the firmament upon France, he saw that
this country, under the name of a Republic, was constituted as a
plutocracy and that, under the appearance of a democratic government,
high finance exercised sovereign sway, untrammelled and unchecked.
Henceforth life in the Empyrean became intolerable to him. He longed
for France as for the promised land, and one day, bearing with him all
the precious stones he could carry, he descended to earth and
established himself in Paris. This angel of cupidity did good business
there. Since his materialisation his face had lost its celestial
aspect; it reproduced the Semitic type in all its purity, and one could
admire the lines and the puckers which wrinkle the faces of bankers and
which are to be seen in the money-changers of Quintin Matsys.
His beginnings were humble and his success amazing. He married an
ugly woman and they saw themselves reflected in their children as in a
mirror. Baron Max Everdingen's large mansion, which rears itself on the
heights of the Trocadéro, is crammed with the spoils of Christian
The Baron received Arcade and Prince Istar in his study,one of the
most modest rooms in his mansion. The ceiling is decorated with a
fresco of Tiepolo, taken from a Venetian palace. The bureau of the
Regent, Philip of Orleans, is in this room, which is full of cabinets,
show-cases, pictures, and statues.
Arcade allowed his gaze to wander over the walls.
How comes it, my brother Sophar, said he, that you, in spite of
your Jewish heart, obey so ill the commandment of the Lord your God who
said: 'Thou shalt have no graven images'? for here I see an Apollo of
Houdon's and a Hebe of Lemoine's, and several busts by Caffieri. And,
like Solomon in his old age, O son of God, you set up in your
dwelling-place the idols of strange nations: for such are this Venus of
Boucher, this Jupiter of Rubens, and those nymphs that are indebted to
Fragonard's brush for the gooseberry jam which smears their gleaming
limbs. And here in this single show-case, Sophar, you keep the sceptre
of St. Louis, six hundred pearls of Marie Antoinette's broken necklace,
the imperial mantle of Charles V, the tiara wrought by Ghiberti for
Pope Martin V, the Colonna, Bonaparte's swordand I know not what
Mere trifles, said Max Everdingen.
My dear Baron, said Prince Istar, you even possess the ring which
Charlemagne placed on a fairy's finger and which was thought to be
lost. But let us discuss the business on which we have come. My friend
and I have come to ask you for money.
I can well believe it, replied Max Everdingen. Everyone wants
money, but for different reasons. What do you want money for?
Prince Istar replied simply:
To stir up a revolution in France.
In France! repeated the Baron, in France? Well, I shall give you
no money for that, you may be quite sure.
Arcade did not disguise the fact that he had expected greater
liberality and more generous help from a celestial brother.
Our project, he said, is a vast one. It embraces both Heaven and
Earth. It is settled in every detail. We shall first bring about a
social revolution in France, in Europe, on the whole planet; then we
shall carry war into the heavens, where we shall establish a peaceful
democracy. And to reduce the citadels of Heaven, to overturn the
mountain of God, to storm celestial Jerusalem, a vast army is needful,
enormous resources, formidable machines, and electrophores of a
strength yet unknown. It is our intention to commence with France.
You are madmen! exclaimed Baron Everdingen; madmen and fools!
Listen to me. There is not one single reform to carry out in France.
All is perfect, finally settled, unchangeable. You
hear?unchangeable. And to add force to his statement, Baron
Everdingen banged his fist three times on the Regent's bureau.
Our points of view differ, said Arcade sweetly. I think,
as does Prince Istar, that everything should be changed in this
country. But what boots it to dispute the matter? Moreover, it is too
late. We have come to speak to you, O my brother Sophar, in the name of
five hundred thousand celestial spirits, all resolved to commence the
universal revolution to-morrow.
Baron Everdingen exclaimed that they were crazy, that he would not
give a sou, that it was both criminal and mad to attack the most
admirable thing in the world, the thing which renders earth more
beautiful than heavenFinance. He was a poet and a prophet. His heart
thrilled with holy enthusiasm; he drew attention to the French Savings
Bank, the virtuous Savings Bank, that chaste and pure Savings Bank like
unto the Virgin of the Canticle who, issuing from the depths of the
country in rustic petticoat, bears to the robust and splendid Bankher
bridegroom, who awaits herthe treasures of her love; and drew a
picture of the Bank, enriched with the gifts of its spouse, pouring on
all the nations of the world torrents of gold, which, of themselves, by
a thousand invisible channels return in still greater abundance to the
blessed land from which they sprung.
By Deposit and Loan, he went on, France has become the New
Jerusalem, shedding her glory over all the nations of Europe, and the
Kings of the Earth come to kiss her rosy feet. And that is what you
would fain destroy? You are both impious and sacrilegious.
Thus spoke the angel of finance. An invisible harp accompanied his
voice, and his eyes darted lightning.
Meanwhile Arcade, leaning carelessly against the Regent's bureau,
spread out under the Banker's eyes various ground-plans,
underground-plans, and sky-plans of Paris with red crosses indicating
the points where bombs should be simultaneously placed in cellars and
catacombs, thrown on public ways, and flung by a flotilla of
aeroplanes. All the financial establishments, and notably the
Everdingen Bank and its branches, were marked with red crosses.
The financier shrugged his shoulders.
Nonsense! you are but wretches and vagabonds, shadowed by all the
police of the world. You are penniless. How can you manufacture all the
By way of reply, Prince Istar drew from his pocket a small copper
cylinder, which he gracefully presented to Baron Everdingen.
You see, said he, this ordinary-looking box. It is only necessary
to let it fall on the ground immediately to reduce this mansion with
its inmates to a mass of smoking ashes, and to set a fire going which
would devour all the Trocadéro quarter. I have ten thousand like that,
and I make three dozen a day.
The financier asked the Cherub to replace the machine in his pocket,
and continued in a conciliatory tone:
Listen to me, my friends. Go and start a revolution at once in
Heaven, and leave things alone in this country. I will sign a cheque
for you. You can procure all the material you need to attack celestial
And Baron Everdingen was already working up in his imagination a
magnificent deal in electrophores and war-material.
WHEREIN IS BEGUN THE GARDENER'S STORY, IN THE COURSE OF
WHICH WE SHALL SEE THE DESTINY OF THE WORLD UNFOLDED IN A
DISCOURSE AS BROAD AND MAGNIFICENT IN ITS VIEWS AS BOSSUET'S
DISCOURSE ON THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE IS NARROW AND
The gardener bade Arcade and Zita sit down in an arbour walled with
wild bryony, at the far end of the orchard.
Arcade, said the beautiful Archangel, Nectaire will perhaps
reveal to you to-day the things you are burning to know. Ask him to
Arcade did so and old Nectaire, laying down his pipe, began as
I knew him. He was the most beautiful of all the Seraphim. He shone
with intelligence and daring. His great heart was big with all the
virtues born of pride: frankness, courage, constancy in trial,
indomitable hope. Long, long ago, ere Time was, in the boreal sky where
gleam the seven magnetic stars, he dwelt in a palace of diamond and
gold, where the air was ever tremulous with the beating of wings and
with songs of triumph. Iahveh, on his mountain, was jealous of Lucifer.
You both know it: angels like unto men feel love and hatred quicken
within them. Capable, at times, of generous resolves, they too often
follow their own interests and yield to fear. Then, as now, they showed
themselves, for the most part, incapable of lofty thoughts, and in the
fear of the Lord lay their sole virtue. Lucifer, who held vile things
in proud disdain, despised this rabble of commonplace spirits for ever
wallowing in a life of feasts and pleasure. But to those who were
possessed of a daring spirit, a restless soul, to those fired with a
wild love of liberty, he proffered friendship, which was returned with
adoration. These latter deserted in a mass the mountain of God and
yielded to the Seraph the homage which That Other would fain have kept
for himself alone.
I ranked among the Dominations, and my name, Alaciel, was not
unknown to fame. To satisfy my mindthat was ever tormented with an
insatiable thirst for knowledge and understandingI observed the
nature of things, I studied the properties of minerals, air, and water.
I sought out the laws which govern nature, solid or ethereal, and after
much pondering I perceived that the Universe had not been formed as its
pretended Creator would have us believe; I knew that all that exists,
exists of itself and not by the caprice of Iahveh; that the world is
itself its own creator and the spirit its own God. Henceforth I
despised Iahveh for his imposture, and I hated him because he showed
himself to be opposed to all that I found desirable and good: liberty,
curiosity, doubt. These feelings drew me towards the Seraph. I admired
him, I loved him. I dwelt in his light. When at length it appeared that
a choice had to be made between him and That Other I ranged myself on
the side of Lucifer and knew no other aim than to serve him, no other
desire than to share his lot.
War having become inevitable, he prepared for it with indefatigable
vigilance and all the resourcefulness of a far-seeing mind. Making the
Thrones and Dominations into Chalybes and Cyclopes, he drew forth iron
from the mountains bordering his domain; iron, which he valued more
than gold, and forged weapons in the caverns of Heaven. Then in the
desert plain of the North he assembled myriads of Spirits, armed them,
taught them, and drilled them. Although prepared in secret, the
enterprise was too vast for his adversary not to be soon aware of it.
It might in truth be said that he had always foreseen and dreaded it,
for he had made a citadel of his abode and a warlike host of his
angels, and he gave himself the name of the God of Hosts. He made ready
his thunderbolts. More than half of the children of Heaven remained
faithful to him; thronging round him he beheld obedient souls and
patient hearts. The Archangel Michael, who knew not fear, took command
of these docile troops. Lucifer, as soon as he saw that his army could
gain no more in numbers or in warlike skill, moved it swiftly against
the foe, and promising his angels riches and glory marched at their
head towards the mountain upon whose summit stands the Throne of the
Universe. For three days our host swept onward over the ethereal
plains. Above our heads streamed the black standards of revolt. And
now, behold, the Mountain of God shone rosy in the orient sky and our
chief scanned with his eyes the glittering ramparts. Beneath the
sapphire walls the foe was drawn up in battle array, and, while we
marched clad in our iron and bronze, they shone resplendent in gold and
Their gonfalons of red and blue floated in the breeze, and
lightning flashed from the points of their lances. In a little while
the armies were only sundered one from the other by a narrow strip of
level and deserted ground, and at this sight even the bravest shuddered
as they thought that there in bloody conflict their fate would soon be
Angels, as you know, never die. But when bronze and iron, diamond
point or flaming sword tear their ethereal substance, the pain they
feel is more acute than men may suffer, for their flesh is more
exquisitely delicate; and should some essential organ be destroyed,
they fall inert and, slowly decomposing, are resolved into clouds and
during long æons float insensible in the cold ether. And when at length
they resume spirit and form they fail to recover full memory of their
past life. Therefore it is but natural that angels shrink from
suffering, and the bravest among them is troubled at the thought of
being reft of light and sweet remembrance. Were it otherwise the
angelic race would know neither the delight of battle nor the glory of
sacrifice. Those who, before the beginning of Time, fought in the
Empyrean for or against the God of Armies, would have taken part
without honour in mock battles, and it would not now become me to say
to you, my children, with rightful pride:
'Lo, I was there!'
Lucifer gave the signal for the onset and led the assault. We fell
upon the enemy, thinking to destroy him then and there and carry the
sacred citadel at the first onslaught. The soldiers of the jealous God,
less fiery, but no whit less firm than ours, remained immovable. The
Archangel Michael commanded them with the calmness and resolution of a
mighty spirit. Thrice we strove to break through their lines, thrice
they opposed to our ironclad breast the flaming points of their lances,
swift to pierce the stoutest cuirass. In millions the glorious bodies
fell. At length our right wing pierced the enemy's left and we beheld
the Principalities, the Powers, the Virtues, the Dominations, and the
Thrones turn and flee in full career; while the Angels of the Third
Choir, flying distractedly above them, covered them with a snow of
feathers mingled with a rain of blood. We sped in pursuit of them amid
the débris of chariots and broken weapons, and we spurred their nimble
flight. Suddenly a storm of cries amazed us. It grew louder and nearer.
With desperate shrieks and triumphal clamour the right wing of the
enemy, the giant archangels of the Most High, had flung themselves upon
our left flank and broken it. Thus we were forced to abandon the
pursuit of the fugitives and hasten to the rescue of our own shattered
troops. Our prince flew to rally them, and re-established the conflict.
But the left wing of the enemy, whose ruin he had not quite
consummated, no longer pressed by lance or arrow, regained courage,
returned, and faced us yet again. Night fell upon the dubious field.
While under the shelter of darkness, in the still, silent air stirred
ever and anon by the moans of the wounded, his forces were resting from
their toils, Lucifer began to make ready for the next day's battle.
Before dawn the trumpets sounded the reveille. Our warriors surprised
the enemy at the hour of prayer, put them to rout, and long and fierce
was the carnage that ensued. When all had either fallen or fled, the
Archangel Michael, none with him save a few companions with four wings
of flame, still resisted the onslaughts of a countless host. They fell
back ceaselessly opposing their breasts to us, and Michael still
displayed an impassible countenance. The sun had run a third of its
course when we commenced to scale the Mountain of God. An arduous
ascent it was: sweat ran from our brows, a dazzling light blinded us.
Weighed down with steel, our feathery wings could not sustain us, but
hope gave us wings that bore us up. The beautiful Seraph, pointing with
glittering hand, mounting ever higher and higher, showed us the way.
All day long we slowly clomb the lofty heights which at evening were
robed in azure, rose, and violet. The starry host appearing in the sky
seemed as the reflection of our own arms. Infinite silence reigned
above us. We went on, intoxicated with hope; all at once from the
darkened sky lightning darted forth, the thunder muttered, and from the
cloudy mountain-top fell fire from Heaven. Our helmets, our
breast-plates were running with flames, and our bucklers broke under
bolts sped by invisible hands. Lucifer, in the storm of fire, retained
his haughty mien. In vain the lightning smote him; mightier than ever
he stood erect, and still defied the foe. At length, the thunder,
making the mountain totter, flung us down pell-mell, huge fragments of
sapphire and ruby crashing down with us as we fell, and we rolled
inert, swooning, for a period whose duration none could measure.
* * * * *
I awoke in a darkness filled with lamentations. And when my eyes
had grown accustomed to the dense shadows I saw round me my companions
in arms, scattered in thousands on the sulphurous ground, lit by fitful
gleams of livid light. My eyes perceived but fields of lava, smoking
craters, and poisonous swamps.
Mountains of ice and shadowy seas shut in the horizon. A brazen sky
hung heavy on our brows. And the horror of the place was such that we
wept as we sat, crouched elbow on knee, our cheeks resting on our
But soon, raising my eyes, I beheld the Seraph standing before me
like a tower. Over his pristine splendour sorrow had cast its mantle of
'Comrades,' said he, 'we must be happy and rejoice, for behold we
are delivered from celestial servitude. Here we are free, and it were
better to be free in Hell than serve in Heaven. We are not conquered,
since the will to conquer is still ours. We have caused the Throne of
the jealous God to totter; by our hands it shall fall. Arise,
therefore, and be of good heart.'
Thereupon, at his command, we piled mountain upon mountain and on
the topmost peak we reared engines which flung molten rocks against the
divine habitations. The celestial host was taken unaware and from the
abodes of glory there issued groans and cries of terror. And even then
we thought to re-enter in triumph on our high estate, but the Mountain
of God was wreathed with lightnings, and thunderbolts, falling on our
fortress, crushed it to dust. After this fresh disaster, the Seraph
remained awhile in meditation, his head buried in his hands. At length
he raised his darkened visage. Now he was Satan, greater than Lucifer.
Steadfast and loyal the angels thronged about him.
'Friends,' he said, 'if victory is denied us now, it is because we
are neither worthy nor capable of victory. Let us determine wherein we
have failed. Nature shall not be ruled, the sceptre of the Universe
shall not be grasped, Godhead shall not be won, save by knowledge
alone. We must conquer the thunder; to that task we must apply
ourselves unwearyingly. It is not blind courage (no one this day has
shown more courage than have you) which will win us the courts of
Heaven; but rather study and reflection. In these silent realms where
we are fallen, let us meditate, seeking the hidden causes of things;
let us observe the course of Nature; let us pursue her with compelling
ardour and all-conquering desire; let us strive to penetrate her
infinite grandeur, her infinite minuteness. Let us seek to know when
she is barren and when she brings forth fruit; how she makes cold and
heat, joy and sorrow, life and death; how she assembles and disperses
her elements, how she produces both the light air we breathe and the
rocks of diamond and sapphire whence we have been precipitated, the
divine fire wherewith we have been scarred and the soaring thought
which stirs our minds. Torn with dire wounds, scorched by flame and by
ice, let us render thanks to Fate which has sedulously opened our eyes,
and let us rejoice at our lot. It is through pain that, suffering a
first experience of Nature, we have been roused to know her and to
subdue her. When she obeys us we shall be as gods. But even though she
hide her mysteries for ever from us, deny us arms and keep the secret
of the thunder, we still must needs congratulate ourselves on having
known pain, for pain has revealed to us new feelings, more precious and
more sweet than those experienced in eternal bliss, and inspired us
with love and pity unknown to Heaven.'
These words of the Seraph changed our hearts and opened up fresh
hope to us. Our hearts were filled with a great longing for knowledge
Meanwhile the Earth was coming into being. Its immense and nebulous
orb took on hourly more shape and more certainty of outline. The waters
which fed the seaweed, the madrepores and shellfish and bore the light
flotilla of the nautilus upon their bosom, no longer covered it in its
entirety; they began to sink into beds, and already continents
appeared, where, on the warm slime, amphibious monsters crawled. Then
the mountains were overspread with forests, and divers races of animals
commenced to feed on the grass, the moss, the berries on the trees, and
on the acorns. Then there took possession of cavernous shelters under
the rocks, a being who was cunning to wound with a sharpened stone the
savage beasts, and by his ruses to overcome the ancient denizens of
forest, plain, and mountain.
Man entered painfully on his kingdom. He was defenceless and naked.
His scanty hair afforded him but little protection from the cold. His
hands ended in nails too frail to do battle with the claws of wild
beasts, but the position of his thumb, in opposition to the rest of his
fingers, allowed him easily to grasp the most diverse objects and
endowed him with skill in default of strength. Without differing
essentially from the rest of the animals, he was more capable than any
others of observing and comparing. As he drew from his throat various
sounds, it occurred to him to designate by a particular inflexion of
the voice whatever impinged upon his mind, and by this sequence of
different sounds he was enabled to fix and communicate his ideas. His
miserable lot and his painstaking spirit aroused the sympathy of the
vanquished angels, who discerned in him an audacity equalling their
own, and the germ of the pride that was at once their glory and their
bane. They came in large numbers to be near him, to dwell on this young
earth whither their wings wafted them in effortless flight. And they
took pleasure in sharpening his talents and fostering his genius. They
taught him to clothe himself in the skins of wild beasts, to roll
stones before the mouths of caves to keep out the tigers and bears.
They taught him how to make the flame burst forth by twirling a stick
among the dried leaves and to foster the sacred fire upon the hearth.
Inspired by the ingenious spirits he dared to cross the rivers in the
hollowed trunks of cleft trees, he invented the wheel, the
grinding-mill, and the plough; the share tore up the earth and the
wound brought forth fruit, and the grain offered to him who ground it
divine nourishment. He moulded vessels in clay, and out of the flint he
fashioned various tools.
In fine, taking up our abode among mankind, we consoled them and
taught them. We were not always visible to them, but of an evening, at
the turn of the road, we would appear to them under forms often strange
and weird, at times dignified and charming, and we adopted at will the
appearance of a monster of the woods and waters, of a venerable old
man, of a beautiful child, or of a woman with broad hips. Sometimes we
would mock them in our songs or test their intelligence by some cunning
prank. There were certain of us of a rather turbulent humour who loved
to tease their women and children, but though lowly folk, they were our
brothers, and we were never loath to come to their aid. Through our
care their intelligence developed sufficiently to attain to mistaken
ideas, and to acquire erroneous notions of the relations of cause and
effect. As they supposed that some magic bond existed between the
reality and its counterfeit presentment, they covered the walls of
their caves with figures of animals and carved in ivory images of the
reindeer and the mammoth in order to secure as prey the creatures they
represented. Centuries passed by with infinite slowness while their
genius was coming to birth. We sent them happy thoughts in dreams,
inspired them to tame the horse, to castrate the bull, to teach the dog
to guard the sheep. They created the family and the tribe. It came to
pass one day that one of their wandering tribes was assailed by
ferocious hunters. Forthwith the young men of the tribe formed an
enclosed ring with their chariots, and in it they shut their women,
children, old people, cattle, and treasures, and from the platform of
their chariots they hurled murderous stones at their assailants. Thus
was formed the first city. Born in misery and condemned to do murder by
the law of Iahveh, man put his whole heart into doing battle, and to
war he was indebted for his noblest virtues. He hallowed with his blood
that sacred love of country which should (if man fulfils his destiny to
the very end) enfold the whole earth in peace. One of us, Dædalus,
brought him the axe, the plumb-line, and the sail. Thus we rendered the
existence of mortals less hard and difficult. By the shores of the
lakes they built dwellings of osier, where they might enjoy a
meditative quiet unknown to the other inhabitants of the earth, and
when they had learned to appease their hunger without too painful
efforts we breathed into their hearts the love of beauty.
They raised up pyramids, obelisks, towers, colossal statues which
smiled stiff and uncouth, and genetic symbols. Having learnt to know us
or trying at least to divine what manner of beings we were, they felt
both friendship and fear for us. The wisest among them watched us with
sacred awe and pondered our teaching. In their gratitude the people of
Greece and of Asia consecrated to us stones, trees, shadowy woods;
offered us victims, and sang us hymns; in fact we became gods in their
sight, and they called us Horus, Isis, Astarte, Zeus, Cybele, Demeter,
and Triptolemus. Satan was worshipped under the names of Evan,
Dionysus, Iacchus, and Lenæus. He showed in his various manifestations
all the strength and beauty which it is given to mortals to conceive.
His eyes had the sweetness of the wood-violet, his lips were brilliant
with the ruby-red of the pomegranate, a down finer than the velvet of
the peach covered his cheeks and his chin: his fair hair, wound like a
diadem and knotted loosely on the crown of his head, was encircled with
ivy. He charmed the wild beasts, and penetrating into the deep forests
drew to him all wild spirits, every thing that climbed in trees and
peered through the branches with wild and timid gaze. On all these
creatures fierce and fearful, that lived on bitter berries and beneath
whose hairy breasts a wild heart beat, half-human creatures of the
woodson all he bestowed loving-kindness and grace, and they followed
him drunk with joy and beauty. He planted the vine and showed mortals
how to crush the grapes underfoot to make the wine flow. Magnificent
and benign, he fared across the world, a long procession following in
his train. To bear him company I took the form of a satyr; from my brow
sprang two budding horns. My nose was flat and my ears were pointed.
Glands, like those of the goat, hung on my neck, a goat's tail moved
with my moving loins, and my hairy legs ended in a black cloven hoof
which beat the ground in cadence.
Dionysus fared on his triumphal march over the world. In his
company I passed through Lydia, the Phrygian fields, the scorching
plains of Persia, Media bristling with hoar-frost, Arabia Felix, and
rich Asia where flourishing cities were laved by the waves of the sea.
He proceeded on a car drawn by lions and lynxes, to the sound of
flutes, cymbals, and drums, invented for his mysteries. Bacchantes,
Thyades, and Mænads, girt with the dappled fawn-skin, waved the thyrsus
encircled with ivy. He bore in his train the Satyrs, whose joyous troop
I led, Sileni, Pans, and Centaurs. Under his feet flowers and fruit
sprang to life, and striking the rocks with his wand he made limpid
streams gush forth. In the month of the Vintage he visited Greece, and
the villagers ran forth to meet him, stained with the green and ruddy
juices of the plants, they wore masks of wood, or bark, or leaves; in
their hands they bore earthen cups, and danced wanton dances. Their
womenfolk, imitating the companions of the God, their heads wreathed
with green smilax, fastened round their supple loins skins of fawn or
goat. The virgins twined about their throats garlands of fig leaves,
they kneaded cakes of flour, and bore the Phallus in the mystic basket.
And the vine-dressers, all daubed with lees of wine, standing up in
their wains and bandying mockery or abuse with the passers-by, invented
Truly, it was not in dreaming beside a fountain, but by dint of
strenuous toil that Dionysus taught them to grow plants and to make
them bring forth succulent fruits. And while he pondered the art of
transforming the rough woodlanders into a race that should love music
and submit to just laws, more than once over his brow, burning with the
fire of enthusiasm, did melancholy and gloomy fever pass. But his
profound knowledge and his friendship for mankind enabled him to
triumph over every obstacle. O days divine! Beautiful dawn of life! We
led the Bacchanals on the leafy summits of the mountains and on the
yellow shores of the seas. The Naiads and the Oreads mingled with us at
our play. Aphrodite at our coming rose from the foam of the sea to
smile upon us.
THE GARDENER'S STORY, CONTINUED
When men had learned to cultivate the earth, to herd cattle, to
enclose their holy places within walls, and to recognise the gods by
their beauty, I withdrew to that smiling land girdled with dark woods
and watered by the Stymphalos, the Olbios, the Erymanthus, and the
proud Crathis, swollen with the icy waters of the Styx, and there, in a
green valley at the foot of a hill planted with arbutus, olive, and
pine, beneath a cluster of white poplars and plane trees, by the side
of a stream flowing with soft murmur amid tufted mastic trees, I sang
to the shepherds and the nymphs of the birth of the world, the origin
of fire, of the tenuous air, of water and of earth. I told them how
primeval men had lived wretched and naked in the woods, before the
ingenious spirits had taught them the arts; of God, too, I sang to
them, and why they gave Dionysus Semele to mother, because his desire
to befriend mankind was born amid the thunder.
It was not without effort that this people, more pleasing than all
the others in the eyes of the gods, these happy Greeks, achieved good
government and a knowledge of the arts. Their first temple was a hut
composed of laurel branches; their first image of the gods, a tree;
their first altar, a rough stone stained with the blood of Iphigenia.
But in a short time they brought wisdom and beauty to a point that no
nation had attained before them, that no nation has since approached.
Whence comes it, Arcade, this solitary marvel on the earth? Wherefore
did the sacred soil of Ionia and of Attica bring forth this
incomparable flower? Because nor priesthood, nor dogma, nor revelation
ever found a place there, because the Greeks never knew the jealous
It was his own grace, his own genius that the Greek enthroned and
deified as his God, and when he raised his eyes to the heavens it was
his own image that he saw reflected there. He conceived everything in
due measure; and to his temples he gave perfect proportion. All therein
was grace, harmony, symmetry, and wisdom; all were worthy of the
immortals who dwelt within them and who under names of happy choice, in
realised shapes, figured forth the genius of man. The columns which
bore the marble architrave, the frieze and the cornice were touched
with something human, which made them venerable; and sometimes one
might see, as at Athens and at Delphi, beautiful young girls
strong-limbed and radiant upstaying the entablature of treasure house
and sanctuary. O days of splendour, harmony, and wisdom!
Dionysus resolved to repair to Italy, whither he was summoned under
the name of Bacchus by a people eager to celebrate his mysteries. I
took passage in his ship decked with tendrils of the vine, and landed
under the eyes of the two brothers of Helen at the mouth of the yellow
Tiber. Already under the teaching of the god, the inhabitants of Latium
had learned to wed the vine to the young stripling elm. It was my
pleasure to dwell at the foot of the Sabine hills in a valley crowned
with trees and watered with pure springs. I gathered the verbena and
the mallow in the meadows. The pale olive-trees twisting their
perforated trunks on the slope of the hill gave me of their unctuous
fruit. There I taught a race of men with square heads, who had not,
like the Greeks, a fertile mind, but whose hearts were true, whose
souls were patient, and who reverenced the gods. My neighbour, a rustic
soldier, who for fifteen years had bowed under the burden of his
haversack, had followed the Roman eagle over land and sea, and had seen
the enemies of the sovereign people flee before him. Now he drove his
furrow with his two red oxen, starred with white between their
spreading horns, while beneath the cabin's thatch his spouse, chaste
and sedate of mien, pounded garlic in a bronze mortar and cooked the
beans upon the sacred hearth, And I, his friend, seated near by under
an oak, used to lighten his labours with the sound of my flute, and
smile on his little children, when the sun, already low in the sky, was
lengthening the shadows, and they returned from the wood all laden with
branches. At the garden gate where the pears and pumpkins ripened, and
where the lily and the evergreen acanthus bloomed, a figure of Priapus
carved out of the trunk of a fig tree menaced thieves with his
formidable emblem, and the reeds swaying with the wind over his head
scared away the plundering birds. At new moon the pious husbandman made
offering of a handful of salt and barley to his household gods crowned
with myrtle and with rosemary.
I saw his children grow up, and his children's children, who kept
in their hearts their early piety and did not forget to offer sacrifice
to Bacchus, to Diana, and to Venus, nor omit to pour fresh wines and
scatter flowers into the fountains. But slowly they fell away from
their old habits of patient toil and simplicity.
I heard them complain when the torrent, swollen with many rains,
compelled them to construct a dyke to protect the paternal fields, and
the rough Sabine wine grew unpleasing to their delicate palate. They
went to drink the wines of Greece at the neighbouring tavern; and the
hours slipped unheeded by, while within the arbour shade they watched
the dance of the flute player, practised at swaying her supple limbs to
the sound of the castanets.
Lulled by murmuring leaves and whispering streams, the tillers of
the soil took sweet repose, but between the poplars we saw along
borders of the sacred way vast tombs, statues, and altars arise, and
the rolling of the chariot wheels grew more frequent over the worn
stones. A cherry sapling brought home by a veteran told us of the
far-distant conquests of a Consul, and odes sung to the lyre related
the victories of Rome, mistress of the world.
All the countries where the great Dionysus had journeyed, changing
wild beasts into men, and making the fruit and grain bloom and ripen
beneath the passing of his Mænads, now breathed the Pax Romana. The
nursling of the she-wolf, soldier and labourer, friend of conquered
nations, laid out roads from the margin of the misty sea to the rocky
slopes of the Caucasus; in every town rose the temple of Augustus and
of Rome, and such was the universal faith in Latin justice that in the
gorges of Thessaly or on the wooded borders of the Rhine, the slave,
ready to succumb under his iniquitous burden, called aloud on the name
But why must it be that on this ill-starred globe of land and
water, all should perish and die and the fairest things be ever the
most fleeting? O adorable daughters of Greece! O Science! O Wisdom! O
Beauty! kindly divinities, you were wrapt in heavy slumber ere you
submitted to the outrages of the barbarians, who already in the marshy
wastes of the North and on the lonely steppes, ready to assail you,
bestrode bare-backed their little shaggy horses.
While, dear Arcade, the patient legionary camped by the borders of
the Phasis and the Tanais, the women and the priests of Asia and of
monstrous Africa invaded the Eternal City and troubled the sons of
Remus with their magic spells. Until now, Iahveh, the persecutor of the
laborious demons, was unknown to the world that he pretended to have
created, save to certain miserable Syrian tribes, ferocious like
himself, and perpetually dragged from servitude to servitude. Profiting
by the Roman peace which assured free travel and traffic everywhere,
and favoured the exchange of ideas and merchandise, this old God
insolently made ready to conquer the Universe. He was not the only one,
for the matter of that, to attempt such an undertaking. At the same
time a crowd of gods, demiurges, and demons, such as Mithra, Thammuz,
the good Isis, and Eubulus, meditated taking possession of the
peace-enfolded world. Of all the spirits, Iahveh appeared the least
prepared for victory. His ignorance, his cruelty, his ostentation, his
Asiatic luxury, his disdain of laws, his affectation of rendering
himself invisible, all these things were calculated to offend those
Greeks and Latins who had absorbed the teaching of Dionysus and the
Muses. He himself felt he was incapable of winning the allegiance of
free men and of cultivated minds, and he employed cunning. To seduce
their souls he invented a fable which, although not so ingenious as the
myths wherewith we have surrounded the spirits of our disciples of old,
could, nevertheless, influence those feebler intellects which are to be
found everywhere in great masses. He declared that men having committed
a crime against him, an hereditary crime, should pay the penalty for it
in their present life and in the life to come (for mortals vainly
imagine that their existence is prolonged in hell); and the astute
Iahveh gave out that he had sent his own son to earth to redeem with
his blood the debt of mankind. It is not credible that a penalty should
redress a fault, and it is still less credible that the innocent should
pay for the guilty. The sufferings of the innocent atone for nothing,
and do but add one evil to another. Nevertheless, unhappy creatures
were found to adore Iahveh and his son, the expiator, and to announce
their mysteries as good tidings. We should not be surprised at this
folly. Have we not seen many times indeed human beings who, poor and
naked, prostrate themselves before all the phantoms of fear, and rather
than follow the teaching of well-disposed demons, obey the commandments
of cruel demiurges? Iahveh, by his cunning, took souls as in a net. But
he did not gain therefrom, for his glorification, all that he expected.
It was not he, but his son, who received the homage of mankind, and who
gave his name to the new cult. He himself remained almost unknown upon
THE GARDENER'S STORY, CONTINUED
The new superstition spread at first over Syria and Africa; it won
over the seaports where the filthy rabble swarm, and, penetrating into
Italy, infected at first the courtesans and the slaves, and then made
rapid progress among the middle classes of the towns. But for a long
while the country-side remained undisturbed. As in the past, the
villagers consecrated a pine tree to Diana, and sprinkled it every year
with the blood of a young boar; they propitiated their Lares with the
sacrifice of a sow, and offered to Bacchusbenefactor of mankinda
kid of dazzling whiteness, or if they were too poor for this, at least
they had a little wine and a little flour from the vineyard and from
the fields for their household gods. We had taught them that it
sufficed to approach the altar with clean hands, and that the gods
rejoiced over a modest offering.
Nevertheless, the reign of Iahveh proclaimed its advent in a
hundred places by its extravagances. The Christians burnt books,
overthrew temples, set fire to the towns, and carried on their ravages
as far as the deserts. There, thousands of unhappy beings, turning
their fury against themselves, lacerated their sides with points of
steel. And from the whole earth the sighs of voluntary victims rose up
to God like songs of praise.
My shadowy retreat could not escape for long from the fury of their
On the summit of the hill which overlooked the olive woods,
brightened daily with the sounds of my flute, had stood since the
earliest days of the Pax Romana, a small marble temple, round as the
huts of our forefathers. It had no walls, but on a base of seven steps,
sixteen columns rose in a circle with the acanthus on the capitals,
bearing a cupola of white tiles. This cupola sheltered a statue of Love
fashioning his bow, the work of an Athenian sculptor. The child seemed
to breathe, joy was welling from his lips, all his limbs were
harmonious and polished. I honoured this image of the most powerful of
all the gods, and I taught the villagers to bear to him as an offering
a cup crowned with verbena and filled with wine two summers old.
One day, when seated as my custom was at the feet of the god,
pondering precepts and songs, an unknown man, wild-looking, with
unkempt hair, approached the temple, sprang at one bound up the marble
steps, and with savage glee exclaimed:
'Die, poisoner of souls, and joy and beauty perish with you.' He
spoke thus, and drawing an axe from his girdle raised it against the
god. I stayed his arm, I threw him down, and trampled him under my
'Demon,' he cried desperately, 'suffer me to overturn this idol,
and you may slay me afterwards.'
I heeded not his atrocious plea, but leaned with all my might on
his chest, which cracked under my knee, and, squeezing his throat with
my two hands, I strangled the impious one.
While he lay there, with purple face and lolling tongue, at the
feet of the smiling god, I went to purify myself at the sacred stream.
Then leaving this land, now the prey of the Christian, I passed through
Gaul and gained the banks of the Saône, whither Dionysus had, in days
gone by, carried the vine. The god of the Christians had not yet been
proclaimed to this happy people. They worshipped for its beauty a leafy
beech-tree, whose honoured branches swept the ground, and they hung
fillets of wool thereon. They also worshipped a sacred stream and set
up images of clay in a dripping grotto. They made offering of little
cheeses and a bowl of milk to the Nymphs of the woods and mountains.
But soon an apostle of sorrow was sent to them by the new God. He
was drier than a smoked fish. Although attenuated with fasting and
watching, he taught with unabated ardour all manner of gloomy
mysteries. He loved suffering, and thought it good; his anger fell upon
all that was beautiful, comely, and joyous. The sacred tree fell
beneath his hatchet. He hated the Nymphs, because they were beautiful,
and he flung imprecations at them when their shining limbs gleamed
among the leaves at evening, and he held my melodious flute in
aversion. The poor wretch thought that there were certain forms of
words wherewith to put to flight the deathless spirits that dwell in
the cool groves, and in the depths of the woods and on the tops of the
mountains. He thought to conquer us with a few drops of water over
which he had pronounced certain words and made certain gestures. The
Nymphs, to avenge themselves, appeared to him at nightfall and inflamed
him with desire which the foolish knave thought animal; then they fled,
their laughter scattered like grain over the fields, while their victim
lay tossing with burning limbs on his couch of leaves. Thus do the
divine nymphs laugh at exorcisers, and mock the wicked and their sordid
The apostle did not do as much harm as he wished, because his
teaching was given to the simple souls living in obedience to Nature,
and because the mediocrity of most of mankind is such that they gain
but little from the principles inculcated in them. The little wood in
which I dwelt belonged to a Gaul of senatorial family, who retained
some traces of Latin elegance. He loved his young freed-woman and
shared with her his bed of broidered purple. His slaves cultivated his
garden and his vineyard; he was a poet and sang, in imitation of
Ausonius, Venus whipping her son with roses. Although a Christian, he
offered me milk, fruit, and vegetables as if I were the genius of the
place. In return I charmed his idle moments with the music of my flute,
and I gave him happy dreams. In fact, these peaceful Gauls knew very
little of Iahveh and his son.
But now behold fires looming on the horizon, and ashes driven by
the wind fall within our forest glades. Peasants come driving a long
file of waggons along the roads or urging their flocks before them.
Cries of terror rise from the villages, 'The Burgundians are upon us!'
Now one horseman is seen, lance in hand, clad in shining bronze,
his long red hair falling in two plaits on his shoulders. Then come
two, then twenty, then thousands, wild and blood-stained; old men and
children they put to the sword, ay, even aged grandams whose grey hairs
cleave to the soles of the slaughterer's boots, mingled with the brains
of babes new-born. My young Gaul and his young freed-woman stain with
their blood the couch broidered with narcissi. The barbarians burn the
basilicas to roast their oxen whole, shatter the amphoræ, and drain the
wine in the mud of the flooded cellars. Their women accompany them,
huddled, half naked, in their war chariots. When the Senate, the
dwellers in the cities, and the leaders of the churches had perished in
the flames, the Burgundians, soddened with wine, lay down to slumber
beneath the arcades of the Forum. Two weeks later one of them might
have been seen smiling in his shaggy beard at the little child whom, on
the threshold of their dwelling, his fair-haired spouse gathers in her
arms; while another, kindling the fire of his forge, hammers out his
iron with measured stroke; another sings beneath the oak tree to his
assembled comrades of the gods and heroes of his race; and yet others
spread out for sale stones fallen from Heaven, aurochs' horns, and
amulets. And the former inhabitants of the country, regaining courage
little by little, crept from the woods where they had fled for refuge,
and returned to rebuild their burnt-down cabins, plough their fields,
and prune their vines.
Once more life resumed its normal course; but those times were the
most wretched that mankind had yet experienced. The barbarians swarmed
over the whole Empire. Their ways were uncouth, and as they nurtured
feelings of vengeance and greed, they firmly believed in the ransom of
The fable of Iahveh and his son pleased them, and they believed it
all the more easily in that it was taught them by the Romans whom they
knew to be wiser than themselves, and to whose arts and mode of life
they yielded secret admiration. Alas! the heritage of Greece and Rome
had fallen into the hands of fools. All knowledge was lost. In those
days it was held to be a great merit to sing among the choir, and those
who remembered a few sentences from the Bible passed for prodigious
geniuses. There were still poets as there were birds, but their verse
went lame in every foot. The ancient demons, the good genii of mankind,
shorn of their honours, driven forth, pursued, hunted down, remained
hidden in the woods. There, if they still showed themselves to men,
they adopted, to hold them in awe, a terrible face, a red, green, or
black skin, baleful eyes, an enormous mouth fringed with boars' teeth,
horns, a tail, and sometimes a human face on their bellies. The nymphs
remained fair, and the barbarians, ignorant of the winsome names they
bore in other days, called them fairies, and, imputing to them a
capricious character and puerile tastes, both feared and loved them.
We had suffered a grievous fall, and our ranks were sadly thinned;
nevertheless we did not lose courage and, maintaining a laughing aspect
and a benevolent spirit, we were in those direful days the real friends
of mankind. Perceiving that the barbarians grew daily less sombre and
less ferocious, we lent ourselves to the task of conversing with them
under all sorts of disguises. We incited them, with a thousand
precautions, and by prudent circumlocutions, not to acknowledge the old
Iahveh as an infallible master, not blindly to obey his orders, and not
to fear his menaces. When need was, we had recourse to magic. We
exhorted them unceasingly to study nature and to strive to discover the
traces of ancient wisdom.
These warriors from the Northrude though they werewere
acquainted with some mechanical arts. They thought they saw combats in
the heavens; the sound of the harp drew tears from their eyes; and
perchance they had souls capable of greater things than the degenerate
Gauls and Romans whose lands they had invaded. They knew not how to hew
stone or to polish marble; but they caused porphyry and columns to be
brought from Rome and from Ravenna; their chief men took for their seal
a gem engraved by a Greek in the days when Beauty reigned supreme. They
raised walls with bricks, cunningly arranged like ears of corn, and
succeeded in building quite pleasing-looking churches with cornices
upheld by consoles depicting grim faces, and heavy capitals whereon
were represented monsters devouring one another.
We taught them letters and sciences. A mouthpiece of their god, one
Gerbert, took lessons in physics, arithmetic, and music with us, and it
was said that he had sold us his soul. Centuries passed, and man's ways
remained violent. It was a world given up to fire and blood. The
successors of the studious Gerbert, not content with the possession of
souls (the profits one gains thereby are lighter than air), wished to
possess bodies also. They pretended that their universal and
prescriptive monarchy was held from a fisherman on the lake of
Tiberias. One of them thought for a moment to prevail over the loutish
Germanus, successor to Augustus. But finally the spiritual had to come
to terms with the temporal, and the nations were torn between two
Nations took shape amid horrible tumult. On every side were wars,
famines, and internecine conflicts. Since they attributed the
innumerable ills that fell upon them to their God, they called him the
Most Good, not by way of irony, but because to them the best was he who
smote the hardest. In those days of violence, to give myself leisure
for study I adopted a rôle which may surprise you, but which was
Between the Saône and the mountains of Charolais, where the cattle
pasture, there lies a wooded hill sloping gently down to fields watered
by a clear stream. There stood a monastery celebrated throughout the
Christian world. I hid my cloven feet under a robe and became a monk in
this Abbey, where I lived peacefully, sheltered from the men at arms
who to friend or foe alike showed themselves equally exacting. Man, who
had relapsed into childhood, had all his lessons to learn over again.
Brother Luke, whose cell was next to mine, studied the habits of
animals and taught us that the weasel conceives her young within her
ear. I culled simples in the fields wherewith to soothe the sick, who
until then were made by way of treatment to touch the relics of saints.
In the Abbey were several demons similar to myself whom I recognised by
their cloven feet and by their kindly speech. We joined forces in our
endeavours to polish the rough mind of the monks.
While the little children played at hop-scotch under the Abbey
walls our friends the monks devoted themselves to another game equally
unprofitable, at which, nevertheless, I joined them, for one must kill
time,that, when one comes to think of it, is the sole business of
life. Our game was a game of words which pleased our coarse yet subtle
minds, set school fulminating against school, and put all Christendom
in an uproar. We formed ourselves into two opposing camps. One camp
maintained that before there were apples there was the Apple; that
before there were popinjays there was the Popinjay; that before there
were lewd and greedy monks there was the Monk, Lewdness and Greed; that
before there were feet and before there were posteriors in this world
the kick in the posterior must have had existence for all eternity in
the bosom of God. The other camp replied that, on the contrary, apples
gave man the idea of the apple; popinjays the idea of the popinjay;
monks the idea of the monk, greed and lewdness, and that the kick in
the posterior existed only after having been duly given and received.
The players grew heated and came to fisticuffs. I was an adherent of
the second party, which satisfied my reason better, and which was, in
fact, condemned by the Council of Soissons.
Meanwhile, not content with fighting among themselves, vassal
against suzerain, suzerain against vassal, the great lords took it into
their heads to go and fight in the East. They said, as well as I can
remember, that they were going to deliver the tomb of the son of God.
They said so, but their adventurous and covetous spirit excited
them to go forth and seek lands, women, slaves, gold, myrrh, and
incense. These expeditions, need it be said, proved disastrous; but our
thick-headed compatriots brought back with them the knowledge of
certain crafts and oriental arts and a taste for luxury. Henceforth we
had less difficulty in making them work and in putting them in the way
of inventions. We built wonderfully beautiful churches, with daringly
pierced arches, lancet-shaped windows, high towers, thousands of
pointed spires, which, rising in the sky towards Iahveh, bore at one
and the same time the prayers of the humble and the threats of the
proud, for it was all as much our doing as the work of men's hands; and
it was a strange sight to see men and demons working together at a
cathedral, each one sawing, polishing, collecting stones, graving, on
capital and on cornice, nettles, thorns, thistles, wild parsley, and
wild strawberry,carving faces of virgins and saints and weird figures
of serpents, fishes with asses' heads, apes scratching their buttocks;
each one, in fact, putting his own particular talent,mocking,
sublime, grotesque, modest, or audacious,into the work and making of
it all a harmonious cacophony, a rapturous anthem of joy and sorrow, a
Babel of victory. At our instigation the carvers, the gold-smiths, the
enamellers, accomplished marvels and all the sumptuary arts flourished
at once; there were silks at Lyons, tapestries at Arras, linen at
Rheims, cloth at Rouen. The good merchants rode on their palfreys to
the fairs, bearing pieces of velvet and brocade, embroideries, orfrays,
jewels, vessels of silver, and illuminated books. Strollers and players
set up their trestles in the churches and in the public squares, and
represented, according to their lights, simple chronicles of Heaven,
Earth, and Hell. Women decked themselves in splendid raiment and lisped
In the spring when the sky was blue, nobles and peasants were
possessed with the desire to make merry in the flower-strewn meadows.
The fiddler tuned his instrument, and ladies, knights and demoiselles,
townsfolk, villagers and maidens, holding hands, began the dance. But
suddenly War, Pestilence, and Famine entered the circle, and Death,
tearing the violin from the fiddler's hands, led the dance. Fire
devoured village and monastery. The men-at-arms hanged the peasants on
the sign-posts at the cross-roads when they were unable to pay ransom,
and bound pregnant women to tree-trunks, where at night the wolves came
and devoured the fruit within the womb. The poor people lost their
senses. Sometimes, peace being re-established, and good times come
again, they were seized with mad, unreasoning terror, abandoned their
homes, and rushed hither and thither in troops, half naked, tearing
themselves with iron hooks, and singing. I do not accuse Iahveh and his
son of all this evil. Many ill things occurred without him and even in
spite of him. But where I recognise the instigation of the All Good (as
they called him) was in the custom instituted by his pastors, and
established throughout Christendom, of burning, to the sound of bells
and the singing of psalms, both men and women who, taught by the
demons, professed, concerning this God, opinions of their own.
THE GARDENER'S STORY, CONCLUDED
It seemed as if science and thought had perished for all eternity,
and that the earth would never again know peace, joy, and beauty.
But one day, under the walls of Rome, some workmen, excavating the
earth on the borders of an ancient road, found a marble sarcophagus
which bore carved on its sides simulacra of Love and the triumphs of
The lid being raised, a maiden appeared whose face shone with
dazzling freshness. Her long hair spread over her white shoulders, she
was smiling in her sleep. A band of citizens, thrilled with enthusiasm,
raised the funeral couch and bore it to the Capitol. The people came in
crowds to contemplate the ineffable beauty of the Roman maiden and
stood around in silence, watching for the awakening of the divine soul
held within this form of adorable beauty.
And it came to pass that the City was so greatly stirred by this
spectacle that the Pope, fearing, not without reason, the birth of a
pagan cult from this radiant body, caused it to be removed at night and
secretly buried. The precaution was vain, the labour fruitless. After
so many centuries of barbarism, the beauty of the antique world had
appeared for a moment before the eyes of men; it was long enough for
its image, graven on their hearts, to inspire them with an ardent
desire to love and to know.
Henceforth, the star of the God of the Christians paled and sloped
to its decline. Bold navigators discovered worlds inhabited by numerous
races who knew not old Iahveh, and it was suspected that he was no less
ignorant of them, since he had given them no news of himself or of his
son the expiator. A Polish Canon demonstrated the true motions of the
earth, and it was seen that, far from having created the world, the old
demiurge of Israel had not even an inkling of its structure. The
writings of philosophers, orators, jurisconsults, and ancient poets
were dragged from the dust of the cloisters and passing from hand to
hand inspired men's minds with the love of wisdom. The Vicar of the
jealous God, the Pope himself, no longer believed in Him whom he
represented on earth. He loved the arts and had no other care than to
collect ancient statues and to rear sumptuous buildings wherein were
displayed the orders of Vitruvius re-established by Bramante. We began
to breathe anew. Already the old gods, recalled from their long exile,
were returning to dwell upon earth. There they found once more their
temples and their altars. Leo, placing at their feet the ring, the
three crowns, and the keys, offered them in secret the incense of
sacrifices. Already Polyhymnia, leaning on her elbow, had begun to
resume the golden thread of her meditations; already, in the gardens,
the comely Graces and the Nymphs and Satyrs were weaving their mazy
dances, and at length the earth had joy once more within its grasp.
But, O calamity, unlucky fate,most tragic circumstance! A German
monk, all swollen with beer and theology, rose up against this
renaissance of paganism, hurled menaces against it, shattered it, and
prevailed single handed against the Princes of the Church. Inciting the
nations, he called upon them to undertake a reform which saved that
which was about to be destroyed. Vainly did the cleverest among us try
to turn him from his work. A subtle demon, on earth called Beelzebub,
marked him out for attack, now embarrassing him with learned
controversial argument, now tormenting him with cruel mockery. The
stubborn monk hurled his ink-pot at his head and went on with his
dismal reformation. What ultimately happened? The sturdy mariner
repaired, calked, and refloated the damaged ship of the Church. Jesus
Christ owes it to this shaveling that his shipwreck was delayed for
perhaps more than ten centuries. Henceforth things went from bad to
worse. In the wake of this loutish monk, this beer-swiller and brawler,
came that tall, dry doctor from Geneva, who, filled with the spirit of
the ancient Iahveh, strove to bring the world back again to the
abominable days of Joshua and the Judges of Israel. A maniac was he,
filled with cold fury, a heretic and a burner of heretics, the most
ferocious enemy of the Graces.
These mad apostles and their mad disciples made even demons like
myself, even the horned devils, look back longingly on the time when
the Son with his Virgin Mother reigned over the nations dazzled with
splendours: cathedrals with their stone tracery delicate as lace,
flaming roses of stained glass, frescoes painted in vivid colours
telling countless wondrous tales, rich orfrays, glittering enamel of
shrines and reliquaries, gold of crosses and of monstrances, waxen
tapers gleaming like starry galaxies amid the gloom of vaulted arches,
organs with their deep-toned harmonies. All this doubtless was not the
Parthenon, nor yet the Panathenæa, but it gladdened eyes and hearts; it
was, at all events, beauty. And these cursed reformers would not suffer
anything either pleasing or lovable. You should have seen them climbing
in black swarms over doorways, plinths, spires, and bell-towers,
striking with senseless hammers those images in stone which the demons
had carved working hand in hand with the master designers, those genial
saints and dear, holy women, and the touching idols of Virgin Mothers
pressing their suckling to their heart. For, to be just, a little
agreeable paganism had slipped into the cult of the jealous God. These
monsters of heretics were for extirpating idolatry. We did our best, my
companions and I, to hamper their horrible work, and I, for one, had
the pleasure of flinging down some dozens from the top of the porches
and galleries on to the Cathedral Square, where their detestable brains
got knocked out. The worst of it was that the Catholic Church also
reformed herself and grew more mischievous than ever. In the pleasant
land of France, the seminarists and the monks were inflamed with
unheard-of fury against the ingenious demons and the men of learning.
My prior was one of the most violent opponents of sound knowledge. For
some time past my studious lucubrations had caused him anxiety, and
perhaps he had caught sight of my cloven foot. The scoundrel searched
my cell and found paper, ink, some Greek books newly printed, and some
Pan-pipes hanging on the wall. By these signs he knew me for an evil
spirit and had me thrown into a dungeon where I should have eaten the
bread of suffering and drunk the waters of bitterness, had I not
promptly made my escape by the window and sought refuge in the wooded
groves among the Nymphs and the Fauns.
Far and wide the lighted pyres cast the odour of charred flesh.
Everywhere there were tortures, executions, broken bones, and tongues
cut out. Never before had the spirit of Iahveh breathed forth such
atrocious fury. However, it was not altogether in vain that men had
raised the lid of the ancient sarcophagus and gazed upon the Roman
During this time of great terror when Papists and Reformers
rivalled one another in violence and cruelty, amidst all these scenes
of torture, the mind of man was regaining strength and courage. It
dared to look up to the heavens, and there it saw, not the old Jew
drunk with vengeance, but Venus Urania, tranquil and resplendent. Then
a new order of things was born, then the great centuries came into
being. Without publicly denying the god of their ancestors, men of
intellect submitted to his mortal enemies, Science and Reason, and Abbé
Gassendi relegated him gently to the far-distant abyss of first causes.
The kindly demons who teach and console unhappy mortals, inspired the
great minds of those days with discourses of all kinds, with comedies
and tales told in the most polished fashion. Women invented
conversation, the art of intimate letter-writing, and politeness.
Manners took on a sweetness and a nobility unknown to preceding ages.
One of the finest minds of that age of reason, the amiable Bernier,
wrote one day to St. Evremond: 'It is a great sin to deprive oneself of
a pleasure.' And this pronouncement alone should suffice to show the
progress of intelligence in Europe. Not that there had not always been
Epicureans but, unlike Bernier, Chapelle, and Molière, they had not the
consciousness of their talent.
Then even the very devotees understood Nature. And Racine, fierce
bigot that he was, knew as well as such an atheistical physician as Guy
Patin, how to attribute to divers states of the organs the passions
which agitate mankind.
Even in my abbey, whither I had returned after the turmoil, and
which sheltered only the ignorant and the shallow thinker, a young
monk, less of a dunce than the rest, confided to me that the Holy
Spirit expresses itself in bad Greek to humiliate the learned.
Nevertheless, theology and controversy were still raging in this
society of thinkers. Not far from Paris in a shady valley there were to
be seen solitary beings known as 'les Messieurs,' who called themselves
disciples of St. Augustine, and argued with honest conviction that the
God of the Scriptures strikes those who fear Him, spares those who
confront Him, holds works of no account, and damnsshould He so wish
itHis most faithful servant; for His justice is not our justice, and
His ways are incomprehensible.
One evening I met one of these gentlemen in his garden, where he
was pacing thoughtfully among the cabbage-plots and lettuce-beds. I
bowed my horned head before him and murmured these friendly words: 'May
old Jehovah protect you, sir. You know him well. Oh, how well you know
him, and how perfectly you have understood his character.' The holy man
thought he discerned in me a messenger from Hell, concluded he was
eternally damned, and died suddenly of fright.
The following century was the century of philosophy. The spirit of
research was developed, reverence was lost; the pride of the flesh was
diminished and the mind acquired fresh energy. Manners took on an
elegance until then unknown. On the other hand, the monks of my order
grew more and more ignorant and dirty, and the monastery no longer
offered me any advantage now that good manners reigned in the town. I
could bear it no longer. Flinging my habit to the nettles, I put a
powdered wig on my horned brow, hid my goat's legs under white
stockings, and cane in hand, my pockets stuffed with gazettes, I
frequented the fashionable world, visited the modish promenades, and
showed myself assiduously in the cafés where men of letters were
to be found. I was made welcome in salons where, as a happy
novelty, there were arm-chairs that fitted the form, and where both men
and women engaged in rational conversation.
The very metaphysicians spoke intelligibly. I acquired great weight
in the town as an authority on matters of exegesis, and, without
boasting, I was largely responsible for the Testament of the curé
Meslier and The Bible Explained, brought out by the chaplains to
the King of Prussia.
At this time a comic and cruel misadventure befel the ancient
Iahveh. An American Quaker, by means of a kite, stole his thunderbolts.
I was living in Paris, and was at the supper where they talked of
strangling the last of the priests with the entrails of the last of the
kings. France was in a ferment; a terrible revolution broke out. The
ephemeral leaders of the disordered State carried on a Reign of Terror
amidst unheard-of perils. They were, for the most part, less pitiless
and less cruel than the princes and judges instituted by Iahveh in the
kingdoms of the earth; nevertheless, they appeared more ferocious,
because they gave judgment in the name of Humanity. Unhappily they were
easily moved to pity and of great sensibility. Now men of sensibility
are irritable and subject to fits of fury. They were virtuous; they had
moral laws, that is to say they conceived certain narrowly defined
moral obligations, and judged human actions not by their natural
consequences but by abstract principles. Of all the vices which
contribute to the undoing of a statesman, virtue is the most fatal; it
leads to murder. To work effectively for the happiness of mankind, a
man must be superior to all morals, like the divine Julius. God, so
ill-used for some time past, did not, on the whole, suffer excessively
harsh treatment from these new men. He found protectors among them, and
was adored under the name of the Supreme Being. One might even go so
far as to say that terror created a diversion from philosophy and was
profitable to the old demiurge, in that he appeared to represent order,
public tranquillity, and the security of person and property.
While Liberty was coming to birth amid the storm, I lived at
Auteuil, and visited Madame Helvetius, where freethinkers in every
branch of intellectual activity were to be met with. Nothing could be
rarer than a freethinker, even after Voltaire's day. A man who will
face death without trembling dare not say anything out of the ordinary
about morals. That very same respect for Humanity which prompts him to
go forth to his death, makes him bow to public opinion. In those days I
enjoyed listening to the talk of Volney, Cabanis, and Tracy. Disciples
of the great Condillac, they regarded the senses as the origin of all
our knowledge. They called themselves ideologists, were the most
honourable people in the world, and grieved the vulgar minds by
refusing them immortality. For the majority of people, though they do
not know what to do with this life, long for another that shall have no
end. During the turmoil, our small philosophical society was sometimes
disturbed in the peaceful shades of Auteuil by patrols of patriots.
Condorcet, our great man, was an outlaw. I myself was regarded as
suspect by the friends of the people, who, in spite of my rustic
appearance and my frieze coat, believed me to be an aristocrat, and I
confess that independence of thought is the proudest of all
One evening while I was stealthily watching the dryads of Boulogne,
who gleamed amid the leaves like the moon rising above the horizon, I
was arrested as a suspect, and put in prison. It was a pure
misunderstanding; but the Jacobins of those days, like the monks whose
place they had usurped, laid great stress on unity of obedience. After
the death of Madame Helvetius our society gathered together in the
salon of Madame de Condorcet. Bonaparte did not disdain to chat
with us sometimes.
Recognizing him to be a great man, we thought him an ideologist
like ourselves. Our influence in the land was considerable. We used it
in his favour, and urged him towards the Imperial throne, thinking to
display to the world a second Marcus Aurelius. We counted on him to
establish universal peace; he did not fulfil our expectations, and we
were wrong-headed enough to be wroth with him for our own mistake.
Without any doubt he greatly surpassed all other men in quickness
of intelligence, depth of dissimulation, and capacity for action. What
made him an accomplished ruler was that he lived entirely in the
present moment, and had no thoughts for anything beyond the immediate
and actual reality. His genius was far-reaching and agile; his
intelligence, vast in extent but common and vulgar in character,
embraced humanity, but did not rise above it. He thought what every
grenadier in the army thought; but he thought it with unprecedented
force. He loved the game of chance, and it pleased him to tempt fortune
by urging pigmies in their hundreds and thousands against each other.
It was the game of a child as big as the world. He was too wily not to
introduce old Iahveh into the game,Iahveh, who was still powerful on
earth, and who resembled him in his spirit of violence and domination.
He threatened him, flattered him, caressed him, and intimidated him. He
imprisoned his Vicar, of whom he demanded, with the knife at his
throat, that rite of unction which, since the days of Saul of old, has
bestowed might upon kings; he restored the worship of the demiurge,
sang Te Deums to him, and made himself known through him as God
of the earth, in small catechisms scattered broadcast throughout the
Empire. They united their thunders, and a fine uproar they made.
While Napoleon's amusements were throwing Europe into a turmoil, we
congratulated ourselves on our wisdom, a little sad, withal, at seeing
the era of philosophy ushered in with massacre, torture, and war. The
worst is that the children of the century, fallen into the most
distressing disorder, formed the conception of a literary and
picturesque Christianity, which betokens a degeneracy of mind really
unbelievable, and finally fell into Romanticism. War and Romanticism,
what terrible scourges! And how pitiful to see these same people
nursing a childish and savage love for muskets and drums! They did not
understand that war, which trained the courage and founded the cities
of barbarous and ignorant men, brings to the victor himself but ruin
and misery, and is nothing but a horrible and stupid crime when nations
are united together by common bonds of art, science, and trade.
Insane Europeans who plot to cut each others' throats, now that one
and the same civilisation enfolds and unites them all!
I renounced all converse with these madmen and withdrew to this
village, where I devoted myself to gardening. The peaches in my orchard
remind me of the sun-kissed skin of the Mænads. For mankind I have
retained my old friendship, a little admiration, and much pity, and I
await, while cultivating this enclosure, that still distant day when
the great Dionysus shall come, followed by his Fauns and his
Bacchantes, to restore beauty and gladness to the world, and bring back
the Golden Age. I shall fare joyously behind his car. And who knows if
in that day of triumph mankind will be there for us to see? Who knows
whether their worn-out race will not have already fulfilled its
destiny, and whether other beings will not rise upon the ashes and
ruins of what once was man and his genius? Who knows if winged beings
will not have taken possession of the terrestrial empire? Even then the
work of the good demons will not be ended,they will teach a winged
race arts and the joy of life.
WHEREIN WE ARE SHOWN THE INTERIOR OF A BRIC-A-BRAC SHOP, AND
SEE HOW PÈRE GUINARDON'S GUILTY HAPPINESS IS MARRED BY THE
JEALOUSY OF A LOVE-LORN DAME
Père Guinardon (as Zéphyrine had faithfully reported to Monsieur
Sariette) smuggled out the pictures, furniture, and curios stored in
his attic in the rue Princessehis studio he called itand used them
to stock a shop he had taken in the rue de Courcelles. Thither he went
to take up his abode, leaving Zéphyrine, with whom he had lived for
fifty years, without a bed or a saucepan or a penny to call her own,
except eighteenpence the poor creature had in her purse. Père Guinardon
opened an old picture and curiosity shop, and in it he installed the
The shop-front presented an attractive appearance: there were
Flemish angels in green copes, after the manner of Gérard David, a
Salomé of the Luini school, a Saint Barbara in painted wood of French
workmanship, Limoges enamel-work, Bohemian and Venetian glass, dishes
from Urbino. There were specimens of English point-lace which, if her
tale was true, had been presented to Zéphyrine, in the days of her
radiant girlhood, by the Emperor Napoleon III. Within, there were
golden articles that glinted in the shadows, while pictures of Christ,
the Apostles, high-bred dames, and nymphs also presented themselves to
the gaze. There was one canvas that was turned face to the wall so that
it should only be looked at by connoisseurs; and connoisseurs are
scarce. It was a replica of Fragonard's Gimblette, a brilliant
painting that looked as if it had barely had time to dry. Papa
Guinardon himself remarked on the fact. At the far end of the shop was
a king-wood cabinet, the drawers of which were full of all manner of
treasures: water-colours by Baudouin, eighteenth-century books of
illustrations, miniatures, and so forth.
But the real masterpiece, the marvel, the gem, the pearl of great
price, stood upon an easel veiled from public view. It was a
Coronation of the Virgin by Fra Angelico, an exquisitely delicate
thing in gold and blue and pink. Père Guinardon was asking a hundred
thousand francs for it. Upon a Louis XV chair beside an Empire
work-table on which stood a vase of flowers, sat the fair Octavie,
broidery in hand. She, having left her glistering rags behind her in
the garret in the rue Princesse, no longer presented the appearance of
a touched-up Rembrandt, but shone, rather, with the soft radiance and
limpidity of a Vermeer of Delft, for the delectation of the
connoisseurs who frequented the shop of Papa Guinardon. Tranquil and
demure, she remained alone in the shop all day, while the old fellow
himself was up aloft working away at the deuce knows what picture.
About five o'clock he used to come downstairs and have a chat with the
habitués of the establishment.
The most regular caller was the Comte Desmaisons, a thin, cadaverous
man. A strand of hair issued from the deep hollow under each
cheek-bone, and, broadening as it descended, shed upon his chin and
chest torrents of snow in which he was for ever trailing his long,
fleshless, gold-ringed fingers. For twenty years he had been mourning
the loss of his wife, who had been carried off by consumption in the
flower of her youth and beauty. Since then he had spent his whole life
in endeavouring to hold converse with the dead and in filling his
lonely mansion with second-rate paintings. His confidence in Guinardon
knew no bounds. Another client who was a scarcely less frequent visitor
to the shop was Monsieur Blancmesnil, a director of a large financial
establishment. He was a florid, prosperous-looking man of fifty. He
took no great interest in matters of art, and was perhaps an
indifferent connoisseur, but, in his case, it was the fair Octavie,
seated in the middle of the shop, like a song-bird in its cage, that
offered the attraction.
Monsieur Blancmesnil soon established relations with her, a fact
which Père Guinardon alone failed to perceive, for the old fellow was
still young in his love-affair with Octavie. Monsieur Gaétan
d'Esparvieu used to pay occasional visits to Père Guinardon's shop out
of mere curiosity, for he strongly suspected the old man of being a
And then that doughty swordsman, Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec, also
came to see the old antiquary on one occasion, and acquainted him with
a plan he had on foot. Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec was getting up a
little historical exhibition of small arms at the Petit Palais in aid
of the fund for the education of the native children in Morocco and
wanted Père Guinardon to lend him a few of the most valuable articles
in his collection.
Our first idea, he said, was to organise an exhibition to be
called 'The Cross and the Sword.' The juxtaposition of the two words
will make the idea which has prompted our undertaking sufficiently
clear to you. It was an idea pre-eminently patriotic and Christian
which led us to associate the Sword, which is the symbol of Honour,
with the Cross, which is the symbol of Salvation. It was hoped that our
work would be graced by the distinguished patronage of the Minister of
War and Monseigneur Cachepot. Unfortunately there were difficulties in
the way, and the full realisation of the project had to be deferred. In
the meantime we are limiting our exhibition to 'The Sword.' I have
drawn up an explanatory note indicating the significance of the
Having delivered himself of these remarks, Monsieur Le Truc de
Ruffec produced a pocket-case stuffed full of papers. Picking out from
a medley of judgment summonses and other odds and ends a little piece
of very crumpled paper, he exclaimed, Ah, here it is, and proceeded
to read as follows: 'The Sword is a fierce Virgin; it is par
excellence the Frenchman's weapon. And now, when patriotic
sentiment, after suffering an all too protracted eclipse, is beginning
to shine forth again more ardently than ever ...' and so forth; you
And he repeated his request for some really fine specimen to be
placed in the most conspicuous position in the exhibition to be held on
behalf of the little native children of Morocco, of which General
d'Esparvieu was to be honorary President.
Arms and armour were by no means Père Guinardon's strong point. He
dealt principally in pictures, drawings, and books. But he was never to
be taken unawares. He took down a rapier with a gilt colander-shaped
hilt, a highly typical piece of workmanship of the Louis XIII-Napoleon
III period, and presented it to the exhibition promoter, who, while
contemplating it with respect, maintained a diplomatic silence.
I have something better still in here, said the antiquary, and he
produced from his inner shopwhere it had been lying among the
walking-sticks and umbrellasa real demon of a sword, adorned with
fleurs-de-lys, a genuine royal relic. It was the sword of
Philippe-Auguste as worn by an actor at the Odéon when Agnès
de Méranie was being performed in 1846. Guinardon held it point
downwards, as though it were a cross, clasping his hands piously on the
cross-bar. He looked as loyal as the sword itself.
Have her for your exhibition, said he. The damsel is well worth
it. Bouvines is her name.
If I find a buyer for it, said Monsieur Le True de Ruffec,
twirling his enormous moustachios, I suppose you will allow me a
Some days later, Père Guinardon was mysteriously displaying a
picture to the Comte Desmaisons and Monsieur Blancmesnil. It was a
newly discovered work of El Greco, an amazingly fine example of the
Master's later style. It represented a Saint Francis of Assisi standing
erect upon Mont Alverno. He was mounting heavenward like a column of
smoke, and was plunging into the regions of the clouds a monstrously
narrow head that the distance rendered smaller still. In fine it was a
real, very real, nay, too real El Greco. The two collectors were
attentively scrutinizing the work, while Père Guinardon was belauding
the depth of the shadows and the sublimity of the expression. He was
raising his arms aloft to convey an idea of the greatness of
Theotocopuli, who derived from Tintoretto, whom, however, he surpassed
in loftiness by a hundred cubits.
He was chaste and pure and strong; a mystic, a visionary.
Comte Desmaisons declared that El Greco was his favourite painter.
In his inmost heart Blancmesnil was not so entirely struck with it.
The door opened, and Monsieur Gaétan quite unexpectedly appeared on
He gave a glance at the Saint Francis, and said:
Bless my soul!
Monsieur Blancmesnil, anxious to improve his knowledge, asked him
what he thought of this artist who was now so much in vogue. Gaétan
replied, glibly enough, that he did not regard El Greco as the
eccentric, the madman that people used to take him for. It was rather
his opinion that a defect of vision from which Theotocopuli suffered
compelled him to deform his figures.
Being afflicted with astigmatism and strabismus, Gaétan went on,
he painted the things he saw exactly as he used to see them.
Comte Desmaisons was not readily disposed to accept so natural an
explanation, which, however, by its very simplicity, highly commended
itself to Monsieur Blancmesnil.
Père Guinardon, quite beside himself, exclaimed:
Are you going to tell me, Monsieur d'Esparvieu, that Saint John was
astigmatic because he beheld a woman clothed with the sun, crowned with
stars, with the moon about her feet; the Beast with seven heads and ten
horns, and the seven angels robed in white linen that bore the seven
cups filled with the wrath of the Living God?
After all, said Monsieur Gaétan, by way of conclusion, people are
right in admiring El Greco if he had genius enough to impose his
morbidity of vision upon them. By the same token, the contortions to
which he subjects the human countenance may give satisfaction to those
who love suffering,a class more numerous than is generally supposed.
Monsieur, replied the Comte Desmaisons, stroking his luxuriant
beard with his long, thin hand, we must love those that love us.
Suffering loves us and attaches itself to us. We must love it if life
is to be supportable to us. In the knowledge of this truth lies the
strength and value of Christianity. Alas! I do not possess the gift of
Faith. It is that which drives me to despair.
The old man thought of her for whom he had been mourning twenty
years, and forthwith his reason left him, and his thoughts abandoned
themselves unresistingly to the morbid imaginings of gentle and
Having, he said, made a study of psychic matters, and having, with
the co-operation of a favourable medium, carried out experiments
concerning the nature and duration of the soul, he had obtained some
remarkable results, which, however, did not afford him complete
satisfaction. He had succeeded in viewing the soul of his dead wife
under the appearance of a transparent and gelatinous mass which bore
not the slightest resemblance to his adored one. The most painful part
about the whole experimentwhich he had repeated over and over
againwas that the gelatinous mass, which was furnished with a number
of extremely slender tentacles, maintained them in constant motion in
time to a rhythm apparently intended to make certain signs, but of what
these movements were supposed to convey there was not the slightest
During the whole of this narrative Monsieur Blancmesnil had been
whispering in a corner with the youthful Octavie, who sat mute and
still, with her eyes on the ground.
Now Zéphyrine had by no means made up her mind to resign her lover
into the hands of an unworthy rival. She would often go round of a
morning, with her shopping-basket on her arm, and prowl about outside
the curio shop. Torn betwixt grief and rage, tormented by warring
ideas, she sometimes thought she would empty a saucepanful of vitriol
on the head of the faithless one; at others that she would fling
herself at his feet, and shower tears and kisses on his precious hands.
One day, as she was thus eyeing her Michelher beloved but guilty
Michelshe noticed through the window the fair and youthful Octavie,
who was sitting with her embroidery at a table upon which, in a vase of
crystal, a rose was swooning to death. Zéphyrine, in a transport of
fury, brought down her umbrella on her rival's fair head, and called
her a bitch and a trollop. Octavie fled in terror, and ran for the
police, while Zéphyrine, beside herself with grief and love, kept
digging away with her old gamp at the Gimblette of Fragonard,
the fuliginous Saint Francis of El Greco, the virgins, the nymphs, and
the apostles, and knocked the gilt off the Fra Angelico, shrieking all
All those pictures there, the El Greco, the Beato Angelico, the
Fragonard, the Gérard David, and the BaudouinsGuinardon painted the
whole lot of them himself, the wretch, the scoundrel! That Fra Angelico
there, why I saw him painting it on my ironing-board, and that Gérard
David he executed on an old midwife's sign-board. You and that bitch of
yours, why, I'll do for the pair of you just as I'm doing for these
And tugging away at the coat of an aged collector who, trembling all
over, had hidden himself in the darkest corner of the shop, she called
him to witness to the crimes of Guinardon, perjurer and impostor. The
police had simply to tear her out of the ruined shop. As she was being
taken off to the station, followed by a great crowd of people, she
raised her fiery eyes to Heaven, crying in a voice choked with sobs:
But don't you know Michel? If you knew him, you would understand
that it is impossible to live without him. Michel! He is handsome and
good and charming. He is a very god. He is Love itself. I love him! I
love him! I love him! I have known men high up in the worldDukes,
Ministers of State, and higher still. Not one of them was worthy to
clean the mud off Michel's boots. My good, kind sirs, give him back to
WHEREIN WE ARE PERMITTED TO OBSERVE THE ADMIRABLE CHARACTER
OF BOUCHOTTE, WHO RESISTS VIOLENCE BUT YIELDS TO LOVE. AFTER
THAT LET NO ONE CALL THE AUTHOR A MISOGYNIST
On coming away from the Baron Everdingen's, Prince Istar went to
have a few oysters and a bottle of white wine at an eating-house in the
Market. Then, being prudent as well as powerful, he paid a visit to his
friend, Théophile Belais, for his pockets were full of bombs, and he
wanted to secrete them in the musician's cupboard. The composer of
Aline, Queen of Golconda was not at home. However, the Kerûb found
Bouchotte busily working up the rôle of Zigouille; for the young
artiste was booked to play the principal part in Les Apaches, an
operetta that was then being rehearsed in one of the big music halls.
The part in question was that of a street-walker who by her obscene
gestures lures a passer-by into a trap, and then, while her victim is
being gagged and bound, repeats with fiendish cruelty the lascivious
motions by which he had been led astray. The part required that she
should appear both as mime and singer, and she was in a state of high
enthusiasm about it.
The accompanist had just left. Prince Istar seated himself at the
piano, and Bouchotte resumed her task. Her movements were unseemly and
delicious. Her tawny hair was flying in all directions in wild
disordered curls; her skin was moist, it exhaled a scent of violets and
alkaline salts which made the nostrils throb; even she herself felt the
intoxication. Suddenly, inebriated with her intoxicating presence,
Prince Istar arose, and with never a word or a look, caught her into
his arms and drew her on to the couch, the little couch with the
flowered tapestry which Théophile had procured at one of the big shops
by promising to pay ten francs a month for a long term of years. Now
Istar might have solicited Bouchotte's favours; he might have invited
her to a rapid, and, withal, a mutual embrace, and, despite her
preoccupation and excitement, she would not have refused him. But
Bouchotte was a girl of spirit. The merest hint of coercion awoke all
her untamable pride. She would consent of her own accord, yes; but be
mastered, never! She would readily yield to love, curiosity, pity, to
less than that even, but she would die rather than yield to force. Her
surprise immediately gave place to fury. She fought her aggressor with
all her heart and soul.
With nails, to which fury lent an added edge, she tore at the cheeks
and eyelids of the Kerûb, and, though he held her as in a vice, she
arched herself so stiffly and made such excellent play with knee and
elbow, that the human-headed bull, blinded with blood and rage, was
sent crashing into the piano which gave forth a prolonged groan, while
the bombs, tumbling out of his pockets, fell on the floor with a noise
like thunder. And Bouchotte, with dishevelled locks, and one breast
bare, beautiful and terrible, stood brandishing the poker over the
prostrate giant, crying:
Be off with you, or I'll put your eyes out!
Prince Istar went to wash himself in the kitchen, and plunged his
gory visage into a basin where some haricot beans lay soaking; then he
withdrew without anger or resentment, for he had a noble soul.
Scarcely had he gone when the door-bell rang. Bouchotte, calling
upon the absent maid in vain, slipped on a dressing-gown and opened the
door herself. A young man, very correct in appearance and rather
good-looking, bowed politely, and apologising for having to introduce
himself, gave his name. It was Maurice d'Esparvieu.
Maurice was still seeking his guardian angel. Upheld by a desperate
hope, he sought him in the queerest places. He enquired for him at the
houses of sorcerers, magicians, and thaumaturgists, who in filthy
hovels lay bare the ineffable secrets of the future, and who, though
masters of all the treasures of the earth, wear trousers without any
seats to them, and eat pigs' brains. That very day, having been to a
back street in Montmartre to consult a priest of Satan, who practised
black magic by piercing waxen images, Maurice had gone on to
Bouchotte's, having been sent by Madame de la Verdelière, who, being
about to give a fête in aid of the fund for the Preservation of Country
Churches, was anxious to secure Bouchotte's services, since she had
suddenly becomeno one knew whya fashionable artiste.
Bouchotte invited the visitor to sit down on the little flowered
couch; at his request she seated herself beside him, and our young man
of fashion explained to the singer what Madame de la Verdelière desired
of her. The lady wished Bouchotte to sing one of those apache
songs which were giving such delight in the fashionable world.
Unfortunately Madame de la Verdelière could only offer a very modest
fee, one out of all proportion to the merits of the artiste, but then
it was for a good cause.
Bouchotte agreed to take part, and accepted the reduced fee with the
accustomed liberality of the poor towards the rich and of artists
towards society people. Bouchotte was not a selfish girl; the work for
the preservation of country churches interested her. She remembered
with sobs and tears her first communion, and she still retained her
faith. When she passed by a church she wanted to enter it, especially
in the evening. And so she did not love the Republic which had done its
utmost to destroy both the Church and the Army. Her heart rejoiced to
see the re-birth of national sentiment. France was lifting up her head.
What was most applauded in the music halls were songs about the
soldiers and the kind nuns. Meanwhile Maurice inhaled the odour of her
tawny hair, the subtle bitter perfume of her body, all the odours of
her person, and desire grew in him. He felt her near him on the little
couch, very warm and very soft. He complimented the artiste on her
great talent. She asked him what he liked best in all her repertory. He
knew nothing about it, still he made replies that satisfied her. She
had dictated them herself without knowing it. The vain creature spoke
of her talent, of her success, as she wished others to speak of them.
She never ceased talking of her triumphs, yet withal she was candour
itself. Maurice in all sincerity praised Bouchotte's beauty, her fresh
skin, her purity of line. She attributed this advantage to the fact
that she never made up and never put messes on her face. As to her
figure, she admitted that there was enough everywhere and none too
much, and to illustrate this assertion she passed her hand over all the
contours of her charming body, rising lightly to follow the delightful
curves on which she reposed.
Maurice was quite moved by it. It began to grow dark; she offered to
light up. He begged her to do nothing of the sort.
Their talk, at first gay and full of laughter, grew more intimate
and very sweet, with a certain languor in its tone. It seemed to
Bouchotte that she had known Monsieur Maurice d'Esparvieu for a long
time, and holding him for a man of delicacy, she gave him her
confidence. She told him that she was by nature a good woman, but that
she had had a grasping and unscrupulous mother. Maurice recalled her to
the consideration of her own beauty, and exalted by subtle flattery the
excellent opinion she had of herself. Patient and calculating, in spite
of the burning desire growing in him, he aroused and increased in the
desired one the longing to be still further admired. The dressing-gown
opened and slipped down of its own accord, the living satin of her
shoulders gleamed in the mysterious light of evening. Heso prudent,
so clever, so adroit,let her sink in his arms, ardent and half
swooning before she had even perceived she had granted anything at all.
Their breath and their murmurs intermingled. And the little flowery
couch sighed in sympathy with them.
When they recovered the power to express their feelings in words,
she whispered in his ear that his cheek was even softer than her own.
He answered, holding her embraced:
It is charming to hold you like this. One would think you had no
She replied, closing her eyes:
It is because I love you. Love seems to dissolve my bones; it makes
me as soft and melting as a pig's foot à la Ste. Menebould.
Hereupon Théophile came in, and Bouchotte called upon him to thank
Monsieur Maurice d'Esparvieu, who had been amiable enough to be the
bearer of a handsome offer from Madame la Comtesse de la Verdelière.
The musician was happy, feeling the quiet and peace of the house
after a day of fruitless applications, of colourless lessons, of
failure and humiliation. Three new collaborators had been thrust upon
him who would add their signatures to his on his operetta, and receive
their share of the author's rights, and he had been told to introduce
the tango into the Court of Golconda. He pressed young d'Esparvieu's
hand and dropped wearily on to the little couch, which, being now at
the end of its strength, gave way at the four legs and suddenly
And the angel, precipitated to the ground, rolled terror-struck on
to the watch, match-box and cigarette-case that had fallen from
Maurice's pocket, and on to the bombs Prince Istar had left behind him.
CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF THE VICISSITUDES THAT BEFEL THE
LUCRETIUS OF THE PRIOR DE VENDÔME
Léger-Massieu, successor to Léger senior, the binder, whose
establishment was in the rue de l'Abbaye, opposite the old Hôtel of the
Abbés of Saint Germain-des-Près, in the hotbed of ancient schools and
learned societies, employed an excellent but by no means numerous staff
of workmen, and served with leisurely deliberation a clientèle who had
learned to practise the virtue of patience. Six weeks had elapsed since
he had received the parcel of books that had been despatched by
Monsieur Sariette, but still Léger-Massieu had not yet put the work in
hand. It was not until fifty-three days had come and gone, that, after
calling over the books against the list that had been drawn up by
Monsieur Sariette, the binder gave them out to his workmen. The little
Lucretius with the Prior de Vendôme's arms not being mentioned on
the list, it was assumed that it had been sent by another customer.
And as it did not figure on any list of goods received it remained
shut up in a cupboard, from which Léger-Massieu's son, the youthful
Ernest, one day surreptitiously abstracted it, and slipped it into his
pocket. Ernest was in love with a neighbouring seamstress whose name
was Rose. Rose was fond of the country, and liked to hear the birds
singing in the woods, and in order to procure the wherewithal to take
her to Chatou one Sunday and give her a dinner, Ernest parted with the
Lucretius for ten francs to old Moranger, a second-hand dealer in
the rue Saint X, who displayed no great curiosity regarding the
origin of his acquisitions. Old Moranger handed over the volume, the
very same day, to Monsieur Poussard, an expert in books, of the
faubourg Saint Germain, for sixty francs. The latter removed the stamp
which disclosed the ownership of the matchless copy, and sold it for
five hundred francs to Monsieur Joseph Meyer, the well-known collector,
who handed it straight away for three thousand francs to Monsieur
Ardon, the bookseller, who immediately transferred it to Monsieur
R, the great Parisian bibliopolist, who gave six thousand for it,
and sold it again a fortnight later at a handsome profit to Madame la
Comtesse de Gorce. Well known in the higher ranks of Parisian society,
the lady in question is what was called in the seventeenth century a
curieuse, that is to say, a lover of pictures, books, and china. In
her mansion in the Avenue d'Jéna she possesses collections of works of
art which bear witness to the diversity of her knowledge and the
excellence of her taste. During the month of July, while the Comtesse
de Gorce was away at her château at Sarville in Normandy, the house in
the Avenue d'Jéna, being unoccupied, was visited one night by a thief
said to belong to a gang known as The Collectors, who made works of
art the special objects of their raids.
The police enquiry elicited the fact that the marauder had reached
the first floor by means of the waste-pipe, that he had then climbed
over the balcony, forced a shutter with a jemmy, broken a pane of
glass, turned the window-fastener, and made his way into the long
gallery. There he broke open several cupboards and possessed himself of
whatever took his fancy. His booty consisted for the most part of small
but valuable articles, such as gold caskets, a few ivory carvings of
the fourteenth century, two splendid fifteenth-century manuscripts, and
a volume which the Countess's secretary briefly described as a
morocco-bound book with a coat of arms on it, and which was none other
than the Lucretius from the d'Esparvieu library.
The malefactor, who was supposed to be an English cook, was never
discovered. But, two months or so after the theft, a well-dressed,
clean-shaven young man passed down the rue de Courcelles, in the
dimness of twilight, and went to offer the Prior de Vendôme's
Lucretius to Père Guinardon. The antiquary gave him four shillings
for it, examined it carefully, recognised its interest and its beauty,
and put it in the king-wood cabinet, where he kept his special
Such were the vicissitudes which, in the course of a single season,
befel this thing of beauty.
WHEREIN MAURICE FINDS HIS ANGEL AGAIN
The performance was over. Bouchotte in her dressing-room was taking
off her make-up, when the door opened softly and old Monsieur
Sandraque, her protector, came in, followed by a troop of her other
admirers. Without so much as turning her head, she asked them what they
meant by coming and staring at her like a pack of imbeciles, and
whether they thought they were in a tent at the Neuilly Fair, looking
at the freak woman.
Now, then, ladies and gentlemen, she rattled on derisively, just
put a penny in the box for the young lady's marriage-portion, and
she'll let you feel her legs,all made of marble!
Then, with an angry glance at the admiring throng, she exclaimed:
Come, off you go! Look alive!
She sent them all packing, her sweetheart Théophile among them,the
pale-faced, long-haired, gentle, melancholy, short-sighted, and dreamy
But recognizing her little Maurice, she gave him a smile. He
approached her, and leaning over the back of the chair on which she was
seated, congratulated her on her playing and singing, duly performing a
kiss at the end of every compliment. She did not let him escape thus,
and with reiterated enquiries, pressing solicitations, feigned
incredulity, obliged him to repeat his stock panegyrics three or four
times over, and when he stopped she seemed so disappointed that he was
forced to take up the strain again immediately. He found it trying, for
he was no connoisseur, but he had the pleasure of kissing her plump
curved shoulders all golden in the light, and of catching glimpses of
her pretty face in the mirror over the toilet-table.
You were delicious.
Really?... you think so?
Adorable ... div
Suddenly he gave a loud cry. His eyes had seen in the mirror a face
appear at the back of the dressing-room. He turned swiftly round, flung
his arms about Arcade, and drew him into the corridor.
What manners! exclaimed Bouchotte, gasping.
But, pushing his way through a troop of performing dogs, and a
family of American acrobats, young d'Esparvieu dragged his angel
towards the exit.
He hurried him forth into the cool darkness of the boulevard,
delirious with joy and wondering whether it was all too good to be
Here you are! he cried; here you are! I have been looking for you
a long time, Arcade,or Mirar if you like,and I have found you at
last. Arcade, you have taken my guardian angel from me. Give him back
to me. Arcade, do you love me still?
Arcade replied that in accomplishing the super-angelic task he had
set himself he had been forced to crush under foot friendship, pity,
love, and all those feelings which tend to soften the soul; but that,
on the other hand, his new state, by exposing him to suffering and
privation, disposed him to love Humanity, and that he felt a certain
mechanical friendship for his poor Maurice.
Well, then, exclaimed Maurice, if only you love me, come back to
me, stay with me. I cannot do without you. While I had you with me I
was not aware of your presence. But no sooner did you depart than I
felt a horrible blank. Without you I am like a body without a soul. Do
you know that in the little flat in the rue de Rome, with Gilberte by
my side, I feel lonely, I miss you sorely, and long to see you and to
hear you as I did that day when you made me so angry. Confess I was
right, and that your behaviour on that occasion was not that of a
gentleman. That you, you of so high an origin, so noble a mind, could
commit such an indiscretion is extraordinary, when one comes to think
about it. Madame des Aubels has not yet forgiven you. She blames you
for having frightened her by appearing at such an inconvenient moment,
and for being insolent and forward while hooking her dress and tying
her shoes. I, I have forgotten everything. I only remember that you are
my celestial brother, the saintly companion of my childhood. No,
Arcade, you must not, you cannot leave me. You are my angel; you are my
Arcade explained to young d'Esparvieu that he could no longer be
guiding angel to a Christian, having himself gone down into the pit.
And he painted a horrible picture of himself; he described himself as
breathing hatred and fury; in fact, an infernal spirit.
All nonsense! said Maurice, smiling, his eyes big with tears.
Alas! our ideas, our destiny, everything tends to part us, Maurice.
But I cannot stifle the tenderness I feel for you, and your candour
forces me to love you.
No, sighed Maurice. You do not love me. You have never loved me.
In a brother or a sister such indifference would be natural; in a
friend it would be ordinary; in a guardian angel it is monstrous.
Arcade, you are an abominable being. I hate you.
I have loved you dearly, Maurice, and I still love you. You trouble
my heart which I deemed encased in triple bronze. You show me my own
weakness. When you were a little innocent boy I loved you as tenderly
and purely as Miss Kate, your English governess, who caressed you with
so much fervour. In the country, when the thin bark of the plane trees
peels off in long strips and discloses the tender green trunk, after
the rains which make the fine sand run on the sloping paths, I showed
you how with that sand, those strips of bark, a few wild flowers, and a
spray of maidenhair fern to make rustic bridges, rustic shelters,
terraces, and those gardens of Adonis, which last but an hour. During
the month of May in Paris we raised an altar to the Virgin, and we
burnt incense before it, the scent of which, permeating all the house,
reminded Marcelline, the cook, of her village church and her lost
innocence, and drew from her floods of tears; it also gave your mother
a headache, your mother who, with all her wealth, was crushed with the
ennui that is common to the fortunate ones of this world. When you
went to college I interested myself in your progress, I shared your
work and your play, I pondered with you over arduous problems in
arithmetic, I sought the impenetrable meaning of a phrase of Julius
Cæsar's. What fine games of prisoners' base and football we had
together! More than once did we know the intoxication of victory, and
our young laurels were not soaked in blood or tears. Maurice, I did all
I could to protect your innocence, but I could not prevent your losing
it at the age of fourteen. Afterwards I regretfully saw you loving
women of all sorts, of divers ages, by no means beautiful, at least in
the eyes of an angel. Saddened at the sight, I devoted myself to study;
a fine library offered me resources rarely met with. I delved into the
history of religions; you know the rest.
But now, my dear Arcade, concluded young d'Esparvieu, you have
lost your position, your situation, you are entirely without resource.
You have lost caste, you are off the lines, a vagabond, a bare-footed
The Angel replied bitterly that, after all, he was a little better
clad at present than when he was wearing the slops of a suicide.
Maurice alleged in excuse that when he dressed his naked angel in a
suicide's slops, he was irritated with that angel's infidelity. But it
was useless to dwell on the past or to recriminate. What was really
needful was to consider what steps to take in future.
And he asked:
Arcade, what do you think of doing?
Have I not already told you, Maurice? To fight with Him who reigns
in the heavens, dethrone Him, and set up Satan in His stead.
You will not do it. To begin with it is not the opportune moment.
Opinion is not with you. You will not be in the swim, as papa says.
Conservatism and authority are all the go nowadays. We like to be
ruled, and the President of the Republic is going to parley with the
Pope. Do not be obstinate, Arcade. You are not as bad as you say. At
bottom you are like the rest of the world, you adore the good God.
I thought I had already explained to you, Maurice, that He whom you
consider God is actually but a demiurge. He is absolutely ignorant of
the divine world above him, and in all good faith believes himself to
be the true and only God. You will find in the History of the Church, by Monsignor DuchesneVol. I, page 162that this proud and
narrow-minded demiurge is named Ialdabaoth. My child, so as not to
ruffle your prejudices and to deal gently with your feelings in future,
that is the name I shall give him. If it should happen that I should
speak of him to you, I shall call him Ialdabaoth. I must leave you.
I shall not let you go thus. You have deprived me of my guardian
angel. It is for you to repair the injury you have caused me. Give me
Arcade objected that it was difficult for him to satisfy such a
demand. That having quarrelled with the sovereign dispenser of guardian
Spirits, he could obtain nothing from that quarter.
My dear Maurice, he added, smiling, ask for one yourself from
No,no,no, exclaimed Maurice. You have taken away my guardian
angel,give him back to me.
Alas! I cannot.
Is it, Arcade, because you are a revolutionary that you cannot?
An enemy of God?
A Satanic spirit?
Well, then, exclaimed young Maurice, I will be your guardian
angel,I will not leave you.
And Maurice d'Esparvieu took Arcade to have some oysters at P's.
That day, convoked by Arcade and Zita, the rebellious angels met
together on the banks of the Seine at La Jonchère, in a deserted and
tumble-down entertainment-hall that Prince Istar had hired from a
pot-house keeper called Barattan. Three hundred angels crowded together
in the stalls and boxes. A table, an arm-chair, and a collection of
small chairs were arranged on the stage, where hung the tattered
remnants of a piece of rustic scenery. The walls, coloured in distemper
with flowers and fruit, were cracked and stained with damp, and were
crumbling away in flakes. The vulgar and poverty-stricken appearance of
the place rendered the grandeur of the passions exhibited therein all
the more striking.
When Prince Istar asked the assembly to form its Committee, and
first of all to elect a President, the name that was renowned
throughout the world entered the minds of all present, but a religious
respect sealed their lips; and after a moment's silence, the absent
Nectaire was elected by acclamation. Having been invited to take the
chair between Zita and an angel of Japan, Arcade immediately began as
Sons of Heaven! My comrades! You have freed yourselves from the
bonds of celestial servitudeyou have shaken off the thrall of him
called Iahveh, but to whom we should here accord his veritable name of
Ialdabaoth, for he is not the creator of the worlds, but merely an
ignorant and barbarous demiurge, who having obtained possession of a
minute portion of the Universe has therein sown suffering and death.
Sons of Heaven, tell me, I charge you, whether you will combat and
All with one voice made answer:
And many speaking all together swore they would scale the mountain
of Ialdabaoth, and hurl down the walls of jasper and porphyry, and
plunge the tyrant of Heaven into eternal darkness.
But a voice of crystal pierced through the sullen murmur.
Tremble, ye impious, sacrilegious madmen! The Lord hath already
lifted his dread arm to smite you!
It was a loyal angel who, with an impulse of faith and love, envying
the glory of confessors and martyrs, jealous and eager, like his God
himself, to emulate man in the beauty of sacrifice, had flung himself
in the midst of the blasphemers, to brave them, to confound them, and
to fall beneath their blows. The assembly turned upon him with furious
unanimity. Those nearest to him overwhelmed him with blows. He
continued to cry, in a clear, ringing voice, Glory to God! Glory to
God! Glory to God!
A rebel seized him by the neck and strangled his praises of the
Almighty in his throat. He was thrown to the ground, trampled
underfoot. Prince Istar picked him up, took him by the wings between
his fingers, then rising like a column of smoke, opened a ventilator,
which no one else could have reached, and passed the faithful angel
through it. Order was immediately restored.
Comrades, continued Arcade, now that we have affirmed our stern
resolve, we must examine the possible plans of campaign, and choose the
best. You will therefore have to consider if we should attack the enemy
in full force, or whether it were better, by a lengthy and assiduous
propaganda, to win the inhabitants of Heaven to our cause.
War! War! shouted the assembled host.
And it seemed as if one could hear the sound of trumpets and the
rolling of drums.
Théophile, whom Prince Istar had dragged to the meeting, rose, pale
and unstrung, and, speaking with emotion, said:
Brethren, do not take ill what I am about to say; for it is the
friendship I have for you that inspires me. I am but a poor musician.
But, believe me, all your plans will come to naught before the Divine
Wisdom which has foreseen everything.
Théophile Belais sat down amid hisses. And Arcade continued:
Ialdabaoth foresees everything. I do not contest it. He foresees
everything, but in order to leave us our free will he acts towards us
absolutely as if he foresaw nothing. Every instant he is surprised,
disconcerted; the most probable events take him unawares. The
obligation which he has undertaken, to reconcile with his prescience
the liberty of both men and angels, throws him constantly into
inextricable difficulties and terrible dilemmas. He never sees further
than the end of his nose. He did not expect Adam's disobedience, and so
little did he anticipate the wickedness of men that he repented having
made them, and drowned them in the waters of the Flood, and all the
animals as well, though he had no fault to find with the animals. For
blindness he is only to be compared with Charles X, his favourite king.
If we are prudent it will be easy to take him by surprise. I think that
these observations will be calculated to reassure my brother.
Théophile made no reply. He loved God, but he was fearful of sharing
the fate of the faithful angel.
One of the best-informed Spirits of the assembly, Mammon, was not
altogether reassured by the remarks of his brother Arcade.
Bethink you, said this Spirit, Ialdabaoth has little general
culture, but he is a soldierto the marrow of his bones. The
organisation of Paradise is a thoroughly military organisation. It is
founded on hierarchy and discipline. Passive obedience is imposed there
as a fundamental law. The angels form an army. Compare this spot with
the Elysian Fields which Virgil depicts for you. In the Elysian Fields
reign liberty, reason, and wisdom. The happy shades hold converse
together in the groves of myrtle. In the Heaven of Ialdabaoth there is
no civil population. Everyone is enrolled, numbered, registered. It is
a barracks and a field for manoeuvres. Remember that.
Arcade replied that they must look at their adversary in his true
colours, and that the military organisation of Paradise was far more
reminiscent of the villages of King Koffee than of the Prussia of
Frederick the Great.
Already, said he, at the time of the first revolt, before the
beginning of Time, the conflict raged for two days, and Ialdabaoth's
throne was made to totter. Nevertheless, the demiurge gained the
victory. But to what did he owe it? To the thunderstorm which happened
to come on during the conflict. The thunderbolts falling on Lucifer and
his angels struck them down, bruised and blackened, and Ialdabaoth owed
his victory to the thunderbolts. Thunder is his sole weapon. He abuses
its power. In the midst of thunder and lightning he promulgates his
laws. 'Fire goeth before him,' says the Prophet. Now Seneca, the
philosopher, said that the thunderbolt in its fall brings peril to very
few, but fear to all. This remark was true enough for men of the first
century of the Christian era; it is no longer so for the angels of the
twentieth; all of which goes to prove that, in spite of his thunder, he
is not very powerful; it was acute terror that made men rear him a
tower of unbaked brick and bitumen. When myriads of celestial spirits,
furnished with machines which modern science puts at their disposal,
make an assault upon the heavens, think you, comrades, that the old
master of the solar system surrounded with his angels, armed as in the
time of Abraham, will be able to resist them? To this day the warriors
of the demiurge wear helmets of gold and shields of diamond. Michael,
his best captain, knows no other tactics than the hand-to-hand combat.
To him Pharaoh's chariots are still the latest thing, and he has never
heard of the Macedonian phalanx.
And young Arcade lengthily prolonged the parallel between the armed
herds of Ialdabaoth and the intelligent fighting men of the rebel army.
Then the question of pecuniary resources arose.
Zita asserted that there was enough money to commence war, that the
electrophores were in order, that an initial victory would obtain them
The discussion continued, amid turbulence and confusion. In this
parliament of angels, as in the synods of men, empty words flowed in
abundance. Disturbances grew more violent and more frequent as the time
for putting the resolution drew near. It was beyond question that
supreme command would be entrusted to him who had first raised the flag
of revolt. But as everyone aspired to act as Lucifer's Lieutenant, each
in describing the kind of fighting man to be preferred drew a portrait
of himself. Thus Alcor, the youngest of the rebellious angels, arose
and spoke rapidly as follows:
In Ialdabaoth's army, happily for us, the officers obtain their
posts by seniority. This being the case, there is little likelihood of
the command falling into the hands of a military genius, for men are
not made leaders by prolonged habits of obedience, and close attention
to minutiæ is not a good apprenticeship for the evolution of vast plans
of campaign. If we consult ancient and modern history, we shall see
that the greatest leaders were kings like Alexander and Frederick,
aristocrats like Cæsar and Turenne, or men impatient of red-tape like
Bonaparte. A routine man will always be poor or second-rate. Comrades,
let us appoint intelligent leaders, men in the prime of life, to
command us. An old man may retain the habit of winning victories, but
only a young man can acquire it!
Alcor then gave place to an angel of the philosophic order, who
mounted the rostrum and spoke thus:
War never was an exact science, a clearly defined art. The genius
of the race, or the brain of the individual, has ever modified it. Now
how are we to define the qualities necessary for a general in command
in the war of the future, where one must consider greater masses and a
larger number of movements than the intelligence of man can conceive?
The multiplication of technical means, by infinitely multiplying the
opportunities for mistake, paralyses the genius of those in command. At
a certain stage in the progress of military science, a stage which our
models, the Europeans, are about to reach, the cleverest leader and the
most ignorant become equalized by reason of their incapacity. Another
result of great modern armaments is, that the law of numbers tends to
rule with inflexible rigour. It is of course true that ten angels in
revolt are worth more than ten angels of Ialdabaoth; it is not at all
certain that a million rebellious angels are worth more than a million
of Ialdabaoth's angels. Great numbers, in war as elsewhere, annihilate
intelligence and individual superiority in favour of a sort of
exceedingly rudimentary collective soul.
A buzz of conversation drowned the voice of the philosophic angel,
and he concluded his speech in an atmosphere of general indifference.
The tribune then resounded with calls to arms and promises of
victory. The sword was held up to praise, the sword which defends the
right. The triumph of the angels in revolt was celebrated twenty times
beforehand, to the plaudits of a delirious crowd.
Cries of War! rose to the silent heavens; Give us war!
In the midst of these transports Prince Istar hoisted himself on to
the platform, and the floor creaked under his weight.
Comrades, said he, you wish for victory, and it is a very natural
desire, but you must be mouldy with literature and poetry if you expect
to obtain it from war. The idea of making war can nowadays only enter
the brain of a sottish bourgeois or a belated romantic. What is war? A
burlesque masquerade in the midst of which fatuous patriots sing their
stupid dithyrambs. Had Napoleon possessed a practical mind he would not
have made war; but he was a dreamer, intoxicated with Ossian. You cry,
'Give us war!' You are visionaries. When will you become thinkers? The
thinkers do not look for power and strength from any of the dreams
which constitute military art: tactics, strategy, fortifications,
artillery, and all that rubbish. They do not believe in war, which is a
phantasy; they believe in chemistry, which is a science. They know the
way to put victory into an algebraic formula.
And drawing from his pocket a small bottle, which he held up to the
meeting, Prince Istar exclaimed:
Victoryit is here!
WHEREIN WE SHALL SEE REVEALED A DARK AND SECRET MYSTERY AND
LEARN HOW IT COMES ABOUT THAT EMPIRES ARE OFTEN HURLED
AGAINST EMPIRES, AND RUIN FALLS ALIKE UPON THE VICTORS AND
THE VANQUISHED; AND THE WISE READER (IF SUCH THERE BEWHICH
I DOUBT) WILL MEDITATE UPON THIS IMPORTANT UTTERANCE: A WAR
IS A MATTER OF BUSINESS
The Angels had dispersed. At the foot of the slopes at Meudon,
seated on the grass, Arcade and Zita watched the Seine flowing by the
In this world, said Arcade, in this world, which we call a
cosmos, though it is but a microcosm, no thinking being can imagine
that he is able to destroy even one atom. At the utmost, all we can
hope for is that we shall succeed in modifying, here and there, the
rhythm of some group of atoms and the arrangement of certain cells.
That, when one thinks of it, must be the limit of our great enterprise.
And when we shall have set up the Contradictor in the place of
Ialdabaoth, we shall have done no more.... Zita, is the evil in the
nature of things or in their arrangement? That is what we ought to
know. Zita, I am profoundly troubled
Arcade, replied Zita, if to act we had to know the secret of
Nature, one would never act at all. And neither would one livesince
to live is to act. Arcade, is your resolution failing you already?
Arcade assured the beautiful angel that he was resolved to plunge
the demiurge into eternal darkness.
A motor-car passed by on the road, followed by a long trail of dust.
It stopped before the two angels, and the hooked nose of Baron
Everdingen appeared at the window.
Good morning, my celestial friends, good morning, said the
capitalist. Sons of Heaven, I am pleased to meet you. I have a word of
importance to say to you. Do not remain idledo not go to sleep. Arm!
Arm! You may be surprised by Ialdabaoth. You have a big war-fund.
Employ it without stint. I have just learnt that the Archangel Michael
has given large orders in Heaven for thunderbolts and arrows. If you
take my advice you will procure fifty thousand more electrophores. I
will take the order. Good day, angels. Long live the celestial
And Baron Everdingen flew by the flowery shores of Louveciennes in
the company of a pretty actress.
Is it true that they are taking up arms at the demiurge's? asked
It may be, replied Zita, that up there another Baron Everdingen
is inciting to arms.
The guardian angel of young Maurice remained pensive for some
moments. Then he murmured:
Can it be that we are the sport of financiers?
Pooh! said the beautiful archangel. War is a business. It has
always been a business.
Then they discussed at length the means of executing their immense
enterprise. Rejecting disdainfully the anarchistic proceedings of
Prince Istar, they conceived a formidable and sudden invasion of the
kingdom of Heaven by their enthusiastic and well-drilled troops.
Now Barattan, the innkeeper of La Jonchère, who had let the
entertainment-hall to the rebellious angels, was in the employ of the
secret police. In the reports he furnished to the Prefecture he
denounced the members of this secret meeting as meditating an attack on
a certain person whom they described as obtuse and cruel, and whom they
called Alaballotte. The agent believed this to be a pseudonym
denoting either the President of the Republic or the Republic itself.
The conspirators had unanimously given voice to threats against
Alaballotte, and one of them, a very dangerous individual,
well-known in anarchist circles, who had already several convictions
against him on account of writings and speeches of a seditious nature,
and who was known as Prince Istar or the Quéroube, had
brandished a bomb of very small calibre which seemed to contain a
formidable machine. The other conspirators were unknown to Barattan,
notwithstanding the fact that he frequented revolutionary circles. Many
among them were very young men, mere beardless youths. There were two
who, it appeared, had spoken with conspicuous vehemence; a certain
Arcade, dwelling in the Rue St. Jacques, and a woman of easy virtue
called Zita, living at Montmartre, both without visible means of
The affair seemed sufficiently serious to the Prefect of Police to
make him think it necessary to confer without delay with the President
of the Council.
The Third Republic was then going through one of those climacteric
periods during which the French nation, enamoured of authority and
worshipping force, gave itself up for lost because it was not governed
enough, and clamoured loudly for a saviour. The President of the
Council, and Minister of Justice, was only too eager to be that
longed-for saviour. Still, for him to play that part it was first
necessary that there should be a danger to face. Thus the news of a
plot was highly welcome to him. He questioned the Prefect of Police on
the character and importance of the affair. The Prefect of Police
explained that the people seemed to have money, intelligence, and
energy; but that they talked too much and were too numerous to
undertake secret and concerted action. The Minister, leaning back in
his arm-chair, pondered on the matter. The Empire writing-table at
which he was seated, the ancient tapestry which covered the walls, the
clock and the candelabra of the Restoration periodall, in this
traditional setting, reminded him of those great principles of
government which remain immutable throughout the succession of
régimes, of stratagem and of bluff. After brief reflexion, he
concluded that the plot must be allowed to grow and take shape, that it
would even be fitting to nurse it, to embroider it, to colour it, and
only to stifle it after having extracted every possible advantage from
He instructed the Prefect of Police to watch the affair closely, to
render him an account of what went on from day to day, and to confine
himself to the rôle of informer.
I rely on your well-known prudence; observe, and do not intervene.
The Minister lit a cigarette. He quite reckoned, with the help of
this plot, on silencing the Opposition, strengthening his own
influence, diminishing that of his colleagues, humiliating the
President of the Republic, and becoming the saviour of his country.
The Prefect of Police undertook to follow the ministerial
instructions, vowing inwardly all the while to act in his own way. He
had a watch put upon the individuals pointed out by Barattan, and
commanded his agents not to intervene, come what might. Perceiving that
he was a marked man, Prince Istarwho united prudence with
strengthwithdrew the bombs from the gutter outside his window where
he had hidden them, and changing from motor 'bus to tube, from tube to
motor 'bus, and choosing the most cunningly circuitous route, at length
deposited his machines with the angelic musician.
Every time he left his house in the Rue St. Jacques, Arcade found a
man of exaggerated smartness at his door, with yellow gloves and in his
tie a diamond bigger than the Regent. Being a stranger to the things of
this world, the rebellious angel paid no attention to the circumstance.
But young Maurice d'Esparvieu, who had undertaken the task of guarding
his guardian-angel, viewed this gentleman with uneasiness, for he
equalled in assiduity and surpassed in vigilance that Monsieur Mignon
who had formerly allowed his inquisitive gaze to wander from the rams'
heads on the Hôtel de la Sordière in the Rue Garancière to the apse of
the church of St. Sulpice. Maurice came two and three times a day to
see Arcade in his furnished rooms, warning him of the danger, and
urging him to change his abode.
Every evening he took his angel to night restaurants, where they
supped with ladies of easy virtue. There young d'Esparvieu would
foretell the issue of some coming glove-fight, and afterwards exert
himself to demonstrate to Arcade the existence of God, the necessity
for religion, and the beauties of Christianity, and adjure him to
renounce his impious and criminal undertakings wherefrom, he said, he
would reap but bitterness and disappointment.
For really, said the young apologist, if Christianity were false
it would be known.
The ladies approved of Maurice's religious sentiments, and when the
handsome Arcade uttered some blasphemy in language they could
understand, they put their hands to their ears and bade him be silent,
for fear of being struck down with him. For they believed that God, in
his omnipotence and sovereign goodness, taking sudden vengeance against
those who insulted him, was quite capable of striking down the innocent
with the guilty without meaning it.
Sometimes the angel and his guardian took supper with the angelic
musician. Maurice, who remembered from time to time that he was
Bouchotte's lover, was displeased to see Arcade taking liberties with
the singer. She had allowed him to do so ever since the day when, the
angelic musician having had the little flowery couch repaired, Arcade
and Bouchotte had made it a foundation for their friendship. Maurice,
who loved Madame des Aubels a great deal, also loved Bouchotte a
little, and was rather jealous of Arcade. Now jealousy is a feeling
natural to man and beast, and causes them, however slight the attack,
keen unhappiness. Therefore, suspecting the truth, which Bouchotte's
temperament and the angel's character made sufficiently obvious, he
overwhelmed Arcade with sarcasm and abuse, reproaching him with the
immorality of his ways. Arcade answered, tranquilly, that it was
difficult to subject physiological impulses to perfectly defined rules,
and that moralists encountered great difficulties in the case of
certain natural necessities.
Moreover, added Arcade, I freely acknowledge that it is almost
impossible systematically to constitute a natural moral law. Nature has
no principles. She furnishes us with no reason to believe that human
life is to be respected. Nature, in her indifference, makes no
distinction between good and evil.
You see, then, replied Maurice, that religion is necessary.
Moral law, replied the angel, which is supposed to be revealed to
us, is drawn in reality from the grossest empiricism. Custom alone
regulates morals. What Heaven prescribes is merely the consecration of
ancient customs. The divine law, promulgated amid fireworks on some
Mount Sinai, is never anything but the codification of human prejudice.
And from this factnamely, that morals changereligions which endure
for a long time, such as Judæo-Christianity, vary their moral law.
At any rate, said Maurice, whose intelligence was swelling
visibly, you will grant me that religion prevents much profligacy and
Except when it promotes crimeas, for instance, the murder of
Arcade, exclaimed Maurice, when I hear you argue, I rejoice that
I am not an intellectual.
Meanwhile Théophile, with his head bent over the piano, his face
hidden by the long fair veil of his hair, bringing down from on high
his inspired hands on to the keys, was playing and singing the full
score of Aline, Queen of Golconda.
Prince Istar used to come to their friendly reunions, his pockets
filled with bombs and bottles of champagne, both of which he owed to
the liberality of Baron Everdingen. Bouchotte received the Kerûb with
pleasure, since she saw in him the witness and the trophy of the
victory she had gained on the little flowered couch. He was to her as
the severed head of Goliath in the hands of the youthful David. And she
admired the prince for his cleverness as an accompanist, his vigour,
which she had subdued, and his prodigious capacity for drink.
One night, when young d'Esparvieu took his angel home in his car
from Bouchotte's house to the lodgings in the Rue St. Jacques, it was
very dark; before the door the diamond in the spy's necktie glittered
like a beacon; three cyclists standing in a group under its rays made
off in divers directions at the car's approach. The angel took no
notice, but Maurice concluded that Arcade's movements interested
various important people in the State. He judged the danger to be
pressing, and at once made up his mind.
The next morning he came to seek the suspect, to take him to the Rue
de Rome. The angel was in bed. Maurice urged him to dress and to follow
Come, said he. This house is no longer safe for you. You are
watched. One of these days you will be arrested. Do you wish to sleep
in gaol? No? Well, then, come. I will put you in a safe place.
The spirit smiled with some little compassion on his naïve
Do you not know, he said, that an angel broke open the doors of
the prison where Peter was confined, and delivered the apostle? Do you
believe me, Maurice, to be inferior in power to that heavenly brother
of mine, and do you suppose that I am unable to do for myself what he
did for the fisherman of the lake of Tiberias?
Do not count on it, Arcade. He did it miraculously.
Or by a stroke of luck, as a modern historian of the Church has it.
But no matter. I will follow you. Just allow me to burn a few letters
and to make a parcel of some books I shall need.
He threw some papers in the fire-place, put several volumes in his
pockets, and followed his guide to the car, which was waiting for them
not far off, outside the College of France. Maurice took the wheel.
Imitating the Kerûb's prudence, he made so many windings and turnings,
and so many rapid twists that he put all the swift and numerous
cyclists, speeding in pursuit, off the scent. At length, having left
wheelmarks in every direction all over the town, he stopped in the Rue
de Rome, before the first-door flat, where the angel had first
On entering the dwelling which he had left eighteen months before to
carry out his mission, Arcade remembered the irreparable past, and
breathing in the scent used by Gilberte, his nostrils throbbed. He
asked after Madame des Aubels.
She is very well, replied Maurice. A little plumper and very much
more beautiful for it. She still bears you a grudge for your forward
behaviour. I hope that she will one day forgive you, as I have forgiven
you, and that she will forget your offence. But she is still very
annoyed with you.
Young d'Esparvieu did the honours of his flat to his angel with the
manners of a well-bred man and the tender solicitude of a friend. He
showed him the folding bed which was opened every evening in the
entrance hall and pushed into a dark cupboard in the morning. He showed
him the dressing-table, with its accessories; the bath, the linen
cupboard, the chest of drawers; gave him the necessary information
regarding the heating and lighting; told him that his meals would be
brought and the rooms cleaned by the concierge, and showed him which
bell to press when he required that person's services. He told him also
that he must consider himself at home, and receive whom he wished.
WHICH TREATS OF A PAINFUL DOMESTIC SCENE
So long as Maurice confined his selection of mistresses to
respectable women, his conduct had called forth no reproach. It was a
different matter when he took up with Bouchotte. His mother, who had
closed her eyes to liaisons which, though guilty, were elegant and
discreet, was scandalised when it came to her ears that her son was
openly parading about with a music-hall singer. By dint of much prying
and probing, Berthe, Maurice's younger sister, had got to know of her
brother's adventures, and she narrated them, without any indignation,
to her young girl friends. His little brother Léon declared to his
mother one day, in the presence of several ladies, that when he was big
he, too, would go on the spree, like Maurice. This was a sore wound to
the maternal heart of Madame d'Esparvieu.
About the same time there occurred a family event of a very grave
nature which occasioned much alarm to Monsieur René d'Esparvieu. Drafts
were presented to him signed in his name by his son. His writing had
not been forged, but there was no doubt that it had been the son's
intention to pass off the signature as his father's. It showed a
perverted moral sense; whence it appeared that Maurice was living a
life of profligacy, that he was running into debt and on the point of
outraging the decencies. The paterfamilias talked the matter over with
his wife. It was arranged that he should give his son a very severe
lecture, hint at vigorous corrective measures, and that in due course
the mother should appear with gentle and sorrowing mien and endeavour
to soothe the righteous indignation of the father. This plan being
agreed upon, Monsieur René d'Esparvieu sent for his son to come to him
in his study. To add to the solemnity of the occasion, he had arrayed
himself in his frock-coat. As soon as Maurice saw it he knew there was
something serious in the wind. The head of the family was pale, and his
voice shook a little (for he was a nervous man), as he declared that he
would no longer put up with his son's irregular behaviour, and insisted
on an immediate and absolute reform. No more wild courses, no more
running into debt, no more undesirable companions, but work,
steadiness, and reputable connexions.
Maurice was quite willing to give a respectful reply to his father,
whose complaints, after all, were perfectly justified; but,
unfortunately, Maurice, like his father, was shy, and the frock-coat
which Monsieur d'Esparvieu had donned in order to discharge his
magisterial duty with greater dignity seemed to preclude the
possibility of any open and unconstrained intercourse. Maurice
maintained an awkward silence, which looked very much like insolence,
and this silence compelled Monsieur d'Esparvieu to reiterate his
complaints, this time with additional severity. He opened one of the
drawers in his historic bureau (the bureau on which Alexandre
d'Esparvieu had written his Essay on the Civil and Religious
Institutions of the World"), and produced the bills which Maurice had
Do you know, my boy, said he, that this is nothing more nor less
than forgery? To make up for such grave misconduct as that
At this moment Madame d'Esparvieu, as arranged, entered the room
attired in her walking-dress. She was supposed to play the angel of
forgiveness, but neither her appearance nor her disposition was
suitable to the part. She was harsh and unsympathetic. Maurice
harboured within him the seeds of all the ordinary and necessary
virtues. He loved his mother and respected her. His love, however, was
more a matter of duty than of inclination, and his respect arose from
habit rather than from feeling. Madame René d'Esparvieu's complexion
was blotchy, and having powdered herself in order to appear to
advantage at the domestic tribunal, the colour of her face suggested
raspberries sprinkled over with sugar. Maurice, being possessed of some
taste, could not help realising that she was ugly and rather
repulsively so. He was out of tune with her, and when she began to go
through all the accusations his father had brought against him, making
them out to be blacker than ever, the prodigal turned away his head to
conceal his irritation.
Your Aunt de Saint-Fain, she went on, met you in the street in
such disgraceful company that she was really thankful that you forbore
to greet her.
Aunt de Saint-Fain! Maurice broke out. I like to hear her talking
about scandals! Everyone knows the sort of life she has led, and now
the old hypocrite wants to
He stopped. He had caught sight of his father, whose face was even
more eloquent of sorrow than of anger. Maurice began to feel as though
he had committed murder, and could not imagine how he had allowed such
words to escape him. He was on the point of bursting into tears,
falling on his knees, and imploring his father to forgive him, when his
mother, looking up at the ceiling, said with a sigh:
What offence can I have committed against God, to have brought such
a wicked son into the world?
This speech struck Maurice as a piece of ridiculous affectation, and
it pulled him up with a jerk. The bitterness of contrition suddenly
gave place to the delicious arrogance of wrong-doing. He plunged wildly
into a torrent of insolence and revolt, and breathlessly delivered
himself of utterances quite unfit for a mother's ear.
If you will have it, mamma, rather than forbid me to continue my
friendship with a talented lyrical artist, you would be better employed
in preventing my elder sister, Madame de Margy, from appearing, night
after night, in society and at the theatres with a contemptible and
disgusting individual that everybody knows is her lover. You should
also keep an eye on my little sister Jeanne, who writes objectionable
letters to herself in a disguised hand, and then, pretending she has
found them in her prayer-book, shows them to you with assumed
innocence, to worry and alarm you. It would be just as well, too, if
you prevented my little brother Léon, a child of seven, from being
quite so much with Mademoiselle Caporal, and you might tell your
Get out, sir, I will not have you in the house! cried Monsieur
René d'Esparvieu, white with anger, pointing a trembling finger at the
WHEREIN WE SEE HOW THE ANGEL, HAVING BECOME A MAN, BEHAVES
LIKE A MAN, COVETING ANOTHER'S WIFE AND BETRAYING HIS
FRIEND. IN THIS CHAPTER THE CORRECTNESS OF YOUNG
D'ESPARVIEU'S CONDUCT WILL BE MADE MANIFEST
The angel was pleased with his lodging. He worked of a morning, went
out in the afternoon, heedless of detectives, and came home to sleep.
As in days gone by, Maurice received Madame des Aubels twice or thrice
a week in the room in which they had seen the apparition.
All went very well until one morning Gilberte, having, the night
before, left her little velvet bag on the table in the blue room, came
to find it, and discovered Arcade stretched on the couch in his
pyjamas, smoking a cigarette, and dreaming of the conquest of Heaven.
She gave a loud scream.
You, Monsieur! Had I thought to find you here, you may be quite
sure I should not ... I came to fetch my little bag, which is in the
next room. Allow me.... And she slipped past the angel, cautiously and
quickly, as if he were a brazier.
Madame des Aubels that morning, in her pale green tailor-made
costume, was deliciously attractive. Her tight skirt displayed her
movements, and her every step was one of those miracles of Nature which
fill men's hearts with amazement.
She reappeared, bag in hand.
Once moreI ask your pardon.... I never dreamt that....
Arcade begged her to sit down and to stay a moment.
I never expected, Monsieur, said she, that you would be doing the
honours of this flat. I knew how dearly Monsieur d'Esparvieu loved
you.... Nevertheless, I had no idea that....
The sky had suddenly grown overcast. A brownish glare began to steal
into the room. Madame des Aubels told him she had walked for her
health's sake, but a storm was brewing, and she asked if a carriage
could be called for her.
Arcade flung himself at Gilberte's feet, took her in his arms as one
takes a precious piece of china, and murmured words which, being
meaningless in themselves, expressed desire.
She put her hands over his eyes and on his lips, and exclaimed, I
And shaking with sobs, she asked for a drink of water. She was
choking. The angel went to her assistance. In this moment of extreme
peril she defended herself courageously. She kept saying: No!...
No!... I will not love you. I should love you too well....
Nevertheless she succumbed.
In the sweet familiarity which followed their mutual astonishment
she said to him:
I have often asked after you. I knew that you were an assiduous
frequenter of the playhouses at Montmartre,that you were often seen
with Mademoiselle Bouchotte, who, nevertheless, is not at all pretty. I
knew that you had become very smart, and that you were making a good
deal of money. I was not surprised. You were born to succeed. The day
of yourand she pointed at the spot between the window and the
wardrobe with the mirrorapparition, I was vexed with Maurice for
having given you a suicide's rags to wear. You pleased me.... Oh, it
was not your good looks! Don't think that women are as sensitive as
people say to outward attractions. We consider other things in love.
There is a sort ofWell, anyhow I loved you as soon as I saw you.
The shadows grew deeper.
You are not an angel, are you? Maurice believes you are; but he
believes so many things, Maurice. She questioned Arcade with her eyes
and smiled maliciously. Confess that you have been fooling him, and
that you are no angel?
I only aspire to please you; I will always be what you want me to
Gilberte decided that he was no angel; first, because one never is
an angel; secondly, for more detailed reasons which drew her thoughts
to the question of love. He did not argue the matter with her, and once
again words were found inadequate to express their feelings.
Outside, the rain was falling thick and fast, the windows were
streaming, lightning lit up the muslin curtains, and thunder shook the
panes. Gilberte made the sign of the Cross and remained with her head
hidden in her lover's bosom.
At this moment Maurice entered the room. He came in wet and smiling,
confident, tranquil, happy, to announce to Arcade the good news that
with his half-share in the previous day's race at Longchamps the angel
had won twelve times his stake. Surprising the lady and the angel in
their embrace, he became furious; anger gripped the muscles of his
throat, his face grew red with blood, and the veins stood out on his
forehead. He sprang with clenched fists towards Gilberte, and then
Interrupted motion was transformed into heat. Maurice fumed. His
anger did not arm him, like Archilochus, with lyrical vengeance. He
merely applied an offensive epithet to his unfaithful one.
Meanwhile she had recovered her dignified bearing. She rose, full of
modesty and grace, and gave her accuser a look which expressed both
offended virtue and loving forgiveness.
But as young d'Esparvieu continued to shower coarse and monotonous
insults on her, she grew angry in her turn.
You are a pretty sort of person, are you not? she said. Did I run
after this Arcade of yours? It was you who brought him here, and in
what a state, too! You had only one idea: to give me up to your friend.
Well, Monsieur, you can do as you likeI am not going to oblige you.
Maurice d'Esparvieu replied simply, Get out of it, you trollop!
And he made a motion as if to push her out. It pained Arcade to see his
mistress treated so disrespectfully, but he thought he lacked the
necessary authority to interfere with Maurice. Madame des Aubels, who
had lost none of her dignity, fixed young d'Esparvieu with her
imperious gaze, and said:
Go and get me a carriage.
And so great is the power of woman over a well-bred soul, in a
gallant nation, that the young Frenchman went immediately and told the
concierge to call a taxi. Madame des Aubels, with a studied exhibition
of charm in every movement, took leave of them, throwing Maurice the
contemptuous look that a woman owes to him whom she has deceived.
Maurice witnessed her departure with an outward expression of
indifference he was far from feeling. Then he turned to the angel clad
in the flowered pyjamas which Maurice himself had worn the day of the
apparition; and this circumstance, trifling in itself, added fuel to
the anger of the host who had been thus shamefully deceived.
Well, he said, you may pride yourself on being a despicable
individual. You have behaved basely, and all for nothing. If the woman
took your fancy, you had but to tell me. I was tired of her. I had had
enough of her. I would have willingly left her to you.
He spoke thus to hide his pain, for he loved Gilberte more than
ever, and the creature's treachery caused him great suffering. He
I was about to ask you to take her off my hands. But you have
followed your lower natureyou have behaved like a sweep.
If at this solemn moment Arcade had but spoken one word from his
heart, Maurice would have burst into tears, and forgiven his friend and
his mistress, and all three would have become content and happy once
again. But Arcade had not been nourished on the milk of human kindness.
He had never suffered, and did not know how to sympathise with
suffering. He replied with frigid wisdom:
My dear Maurice, that same necessity which orders and constrains
the actions of living beings, produces effects that are often
unexpected, and sometimes absurd. Thus it is that I have been led to
displease you. You would not reproach me if you had a good
philosophical understanding of nature; for you would then know that
free-will is but an illusion, and that physiological affinities are as
exactly determined as are chemical combinations, and, like them, may be
summed up in a formula. I think that, in your case, it might be
possible to inculcate these truths, but it would be a difficult task,
and maybe they would not bring you the serenity which eludes you. It is
fitting, therefore, that I should leave this spot, and
Stay, said Maurice.
Maurice had a very clear sense of social obligations. He put honour,
when he thought about it, above everything. So now he told himself very
forcibly that the outrage he had suffered could only be wiped out with
blood. This traditional idea instantly lent an unexpected nobility to
his speech and bearing.
It is I, Monsieur, said he, who will quit this place, never to
return. You will remain here, since you are a refugee. My seconds will
wait upon you.
The angel smiled.
I will receive them, if it gives you pleasure, but, bethink you, my
dear Maurice, I am invulnerable. Celestial spirits even when they are
materialised cannot be touched by point of sword or pistol shot.
Consider, my dear Maurice, the awkward situation in which this fatal
inequality puts me, and realise that in refusing to appoint seconds I
cannot give as a reason my celestial nature,it would be
Monsieur, replied the heir of the Bussart d'Esparvieu, you should
have thought of that before you insulted me.
Out he marched haughtily; but no sooner was he in the street than he
staggered like a drunken man. The rain was still falling. He walked
unseeing, unhearing, at haphazard, dragging his feet in the gutters
through pools of water, through heaps of mud. He followed the outer
boulevards for a long time, and at length, fordone with weariness, lay
down on the edge of a piece of waste land. He was muddied up to the
eyes, mud and tears smeared his face, the brim of his hat was dripping
with rain. A passer-by, taking him for a beggar, tossed him a copper.
He picked it up, put it carefully in his waistcoat pocket, and set off
to find his seconds.
WHICH TREATS OF AN AFFAIR OF HONOUR, AND WHICH WILL AFFORD
THE READER AN OPPORTUNITY OF JUDGING WHETHER, AS ARCADE
AFFIRMS, THE EXPERIENCE OF OUR FAULTS MAKES BETTER MEN AND
WOMEN OF US
The ground chosen for the combat was Colonel Manchon's garden, on
the Boulevard de la Reine at Versailles. Messieurs de la Verdelière and
Le Truc de Ruffec, who had both of them constant practice in affairs of
honour and knew the rules with great exactness, assisted Maurice
d'Esparvieu. No duel was ever fought in the Catholic world without
Monsieur de la Verdelière being present; and, in making application to
this swordsman, Maurice had conformed to custom, though not without a
certain reluctance, for he had been notorious as the lover of Madame de
la Verdelière; but Monsieur de la Verdelière was not to be looked upon
as a husband. He was an institution. As to Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec,
honour was his only known profession and avowedly his sole resource,
and when the matter was made the subject of ill-natured comment in
Society, the question was asked what finer career than that of honour
Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec could possibly have adopted. Arcade's
seconds were Prince Istar and Théophile. The celestial musician had not
voluntarily nor with a good grace taken a hand in this affair. He had a
horror of every kind of violence and disapproved of single combat. The
report of pistols and the clash of swords were intolerable to him, and
the sight of blood made him faint. This gentle son of Heaven had
obstinately refused to act as second to his brother Arcade, and to
bring him to the starting-point the Kerûb had had to threaten to break
a bottle of panclastite over his head.
Besides the combatants, the seconds, and the doctors, the only
people in the garden were a few officers from the barracks at
Versailles and several reporters. Although young d'Esparvieu was known
merely as a young man of family, and Arcade had never been heard of at
all, the duel had attracted quite a large crowd of inquisitive
individuals, and the windows of the adjoining houses were crammed with
photographers, reporters, and Society people. What had aroused much
curiosity was that a woman was known to be the cause of the quarrel.
Many mentioned Bouchotte, but the majority said it was Madame des
Aubels. It had been remarked upon, moreover, that duels in which
Monsieur de la Verdelière acted as second drew all Paris.
The sky was a soft blue, the garden all a-bloom with roses, a
blackbird was piping in a tree. Monsieur de la Verdelière, who, stick
in hand, conducted the affair, laid the points of the swords together,
Maurice d'Esparvieu attacked by doubling and beating the blade.
Arcade retired, keeping his sword in line. The first engagement was
without result. The seconds were under the impression that Monsieur
d'Esparvieu was in a grievous state of nervous irritability, and that
his adversary would wear him down. In the second encounter Maurice
attacked wildly, spread out his arms, and exposed his breast. He
attacked as he advanced, gave a straight thrust, and the point of his
sword grazed Arcade on the shoulder. The latter was thought to be
wounded. But the seconds ascertained with surprise that it was Maurice
who had received a scratch on the wrist. Maurice asserted that he felt
nothing, and Dr. Quille declared, after examination, that his client
might continue the fight. After the regulation quarter of an hour the
duel was resumed. Maurice attacked with fury. His adversary was
obviously nursing him, and, what disturbed Monsieur de la Verdelière,
seemed to be paying very little attention to his own defence. At the
opening of the fifth bout, a black spaniel that had got into the garden
no one knew how rushed out from a clump of rose-bushes, made its way on
to the space reserved for the combatants, and, in spite of sticks and
cries, ran in between Maurice's legs. The latter seemed as though his
arm were benumbed, merely gave a shoulder-thrust at his invulnerable
opponent. He then delivered a straight lunge and impaled his arm on his
adversary's sword, which made a deep wound just below the elbow.
Monsieur de la Verdelière stopped the fight, which had lasted an
hour and a half. Maurice was conscious of a painful shock. They laid
him down on a grassy bank against a wall covered with wistaria. While
the surgeon was dressing the wound Maurice called Arcade and offered
him his wounded hand. And when the victor, saddened with his victory,
advanced, Maurice embraced him tenderly, saying:
Be generous, Arcade; forgive my treachery. Now that we have fought,
I can ask you to be reconciled with me.
He embraced his friend, weeping, and whispered in his ear:
Come and see me, and bring Gilberte.
Maurice, who was still unreconciled with his parents, was taken to
the little flat in the Rue de Rome. No sooner was he stretched on the
bed at the far end of the bedroom where the curtains were drawn as on
the day of the apparition, than he saw Arcade and Gilberte appear. He
began to suffer greatly from his wound; his temperature was rising, but
he was at peace, happy and contented. Angel and woman, both in tears,
threw themselves at the foot of the bed. He took both their hands with
his left, smiled on them, and kissed them tenderly.
I am sure now that I shall never quarrel with either of you again;
you will deceive me no more. I now know you are capable of anything.
Gilberte, weeping, swore that Maurice had been misled by
appearances, that she had never betrayed him with Arcade, that she had
never betrayed him at all. And in a great gush of sincerity she
persuaded herself that this was so.
You wrong yourself, Gilberte, replied the wounded man. It did
happen; it had to. And it is well. Gilberte, you were basely false to
me with my best friend in this very room, and you were right. If you
had not been we should not be here, reunited, all three of us, and I
should not be at your side tasting the greatest happiness of my life.
Oh, Gilberte, how wrong of you to deny a perfect and accomplished
If you wish, my friend, replied Gilberte, a little acidly, I will
not deny it. But it will only be to please you.
Maurice made her sit down on the bed, and begged Arcade to be seated
in the arm-chair.
My friend, said Arcade, I was innocent. I became man. Straightway
I did evil. Then I became better.
Do not let us exaggerate things, said Maurice. Let's have a game
Scarcely, however, had the patient seen three aces in his hand and
called no trumps, than his eyes began to swim, the cards slipped from
his fingers, head fell heavily back on the pillow, and he complained of
a violent headache. Almost immediately, Madame des Aubels went off to
pay some calls, for she made a point of appearing in Society, in order
that the calmness and confidence of her demeanour might give the lie to
the various rumours that were current concerning her. Arcade saw her to
the door, and, with a kiss, inhaled from her a delicate perfume which
he brought back with him into the room where Maurice lay dozing.
I am perfectly content, murmured the latter, that things should
have happened as they have.
It was bound to be so, answered the Spirit. All the other angels
in revolt would have done as I did with Gilberte. 'Women,' saith the
Apostle, 'should pray with their heads covered, because of the angels,'
and the Apostle speaks thus because he knows that the angels are
disturbed when they look upon them and see that they are beautiful. No
sooner do they touch the earth than they desire to embrace mortal women
and fulfil their desire. Their clasp is full of strength and sweetness,
they hold the secret of those ineffable caresses which plunge the
daughters of men into unfathomable depths of delight. Laying upon the
lips of their happy victims a honey that burns like fire, making their
veins flow with torrents of refreshing flames, they leave them raptured
Stop your clatter, you unclean beast, cried the wounded one.
One word more! said the angel; just one other word, my dear
Maurice, to bear out what I say, and I will let you rest quietly.
There's nothing like having sound references. In order to assure
yourself that I am not deceiving you, Maurice, on this subject of the
amorous embraces of angels and women, look up Justin, Apologies,
I and II; Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book I, Chapter
III; Athenagoras, Concerning the Resurrection; Lactantius, Book
II, Chapter XV; Tertullian, On the Veil of the Virgins; Marcus
of Ephesus in Psellus; Eusebius, Præparatio Evangelica,
Book V, Chapter IV; Saint Ambrose, in his book on Noah and the Ark, Chapter V; Saint Augustine, in his City of God, Book XV,
Chapter XXIII; Father Meldonat, the Jesuit, Treatise on Demons,
page 248; Pierre Lebyer the King's Counsellor
Arcade, please, for pity's sake, be quiet; do, please do, and send
this dog away, cried Maurice, whose face was burning, and whose eyes
were starting from his head; for in his delirium he thought he saw a
black spaniel on his bed.
Madame de la Verdelière, who was assiduous in every modish and
patriotic practice, was reckoned, in the best French society, as one of
the most gracious of the great ladies interested in good works. She
came herself to ask for news of Maurice, and offered to nurse the
wounded man. But at the vehement instigation of Madame des Aubels,
Arcade shut the door in her face. Expressions of sympathy were showered
upon Maurice. Piled on the salver, visiting cards displayed their
innumerable little dogs' ears. Monsieur Le Truc de Ruffec was one of
the first to show his manly sympathy at the flat in the Rue de Rome,
and, holding out his loyal hand, asked young d'Esparvieu as one
honourable man to another for twenty-five louis to pay a debt of
Of course, my dear Maurice, that is the sort of thing one could not
ask of everybody.
The same day Monsieur Gaétan came to press his nephew's hand. The
latter introduced Arcade.
This is my guardian angel, whose foot you thought so beautiful when
you saw the print it had made on the tell-tale powder, uncle. He
appeared to me last year in this very room. You don't believe it? Well,
it is true, nevertheless.
Then turning towards the Spirit he said:
What say you, Arcade? The Abbé Patouille, who is a great theologian
and a good priest, does not believe that you are an angel; and Uncle
Gaétan, who doesn't know his catechism and hasn't a scrap of religion
in him, doesn't think so either. They deny you, the pair of them; the
one because he has faith, the other because he hasn't. After that you
may be sure that your history, if ever it comes to be narrated, will
scarcely appear credible. Moreover, the man that took it into his head
to tell your story would not be a man of taste, and would not come in
for much approval. For your story is not a pretty one. I love you, but
I sit in judgment upon you, too. Since you fell into atheism, you have
become an abominable scoundrel. A bad angel, a bad friend, a traitor,
and a homicide, for I suppose it was to bring about my death that you
sent that black spaniel between my legs on the duelling-ground.
The angel shrugged his shoulders and, addressing Gaétan, said:
Alas! Monsieur, I am not surprised at finding little credit in your
eyes. I have been told that you have fallen out with the
Judæo-Christian heaven, which is where I came from.
Monsieur, answered Gaétan, my faith in Jehovah is not
sufficiently strong to enable me to believe in his angels.
Monsieur, he whom you call Jehovah is really a coarse and ignorant
demiurge, and his name is Ialdabaoth.
In that case, Monsieur, I am perfectly ready to believe in him. He
is a narrow-minded ignoramus, is he? Then belief in his existence
offers me no further difficulty. How is he getting on?
Badly! We are going to lay him low next month.
Don't make too sure of that, Monsieur. You remind me of my
brother-in-law, Cuissart, who has been expecting to hear of the fall of
the Republic for the past thirty years.
You see, Arcade, exclaimed Maurice, Uncle Gaétan thinks as I do.
He knows you won't succeed.
And, pray, Monsieur Gaétan, what makes you think I shall not
Your Ialdabaoth is still very powerful in this world, if he isn't
in the other. In days gone by he used to be upheld by his priests, by
those who believed in him. Now he is supported by those who do not
believe in him, by the philosophers. A pedant of a fellow called
Picrochole has recently come on the scene who wants to make a bankrupt
of science in order to do a good turn to the Church. And just lately
Pragmatism has been invented for the express purpose of gaining credit
for religion in the minds of rationalists.
You have been studying Pragmatism?
Not I! I was frivolous once, and I went in for metaphysics. I read
Hegel and Kant. I have become serious with years, and now I only
trouble myself about things evident to the senses: what the eye can see
or what the ear can hear. Man is summed up in Art. All the rest is
Thus the conversation went on until evening; it was marked by
obscenities that would have brought a blushI will not say to a
cuirassier, for cuirassiers are frequently chaste, but even to a
Monsieur Sariette came to see his old pupil. When he entered the
room the bust of Alexandre d'Esparvieu seemed to take shape behind the
librarian's bald head. He drew near the bed. In the place of blue
curtains, mirrored wardrobe, and chimney-piece, there straightway came
into view the heavy-laden bookcases of the room of the globes and
busts, and the air was heavy with piles of papers, records, and files.
Monsieur Sariette could not be dissociated from his library; one could
not conceive of him or even see him apart from it. He himself was
paler, more vague, more shadowy, and more a creature of the fancy than
the fancies he evoked.
Maurice, who had grown very quiet, was sensible of this mark of
Sit down, Monsieur Sariette,you know Madame des Aubels. May I
introduce Arcade to you,my guardian angel. It was he who, while yet
invisible, pillaged your library for two years, made you lose all
desire for food and drink, and drove you to the verge of madness. He it
was who moved piles of books from the room of the busts to my
summer-house one day; under your very nose, he took away I know not
what precious volumes; and was the cause of your falling on the
staircase; another day he took a volume of Salomon Reinach's, and,
forced to go out with me (for he never left me, as I have learnt
later), he let the volume drop in the gutter of the Rue Princesse.
Forgive him, Monsieur Sariette,he had no pockets. He was invisible. I
bitterly regret, Monsieur Sariette, that all your old books were not
devoured by fire or swallowed up by a flood. They made my angel lose
his head. He became man, and now knows neither faith nor obedience to
laws. It is I, now, who am his guardian angel. God knows how it will
While listening to this speech, Monsieur Sariette's face took on an
expression of infinite, irreparable, eternal sadness; the sadness of a
mummy. Rising to take his leave, the sorrowful librarian murmured in
The poor child is very ill. He is delirious.
Maurice called the old man back.
Do stay, Monsieur Sariette. You shall have a game of bridge with
us. Monsieur Sariette, listen to my advice. Do not do as I diddo not
keep bad company. You will be lost. I shudder at the mere thought.
Monsieur Sariette, do not go yet. I have something very important to
ask you. When you come again, bring me a book on the truth of religion,
so that I may study it. I must restore to my guardian-angel the faith
which he has lost.
WHEREIN WE ARE LED TO MARVEL AT THE READINESS WITH WHICH AN
HONEST MAN OF TIMID AND GENTLE NATURE CAN COMMIT A HORRIBLE
Profoundly distressed by the dark utterances of young Maurice,
Monsieur Sariette took a motor-omnibus, and went to see Père Guinardon,
his friend, his only friend, the one person in the whole world whom it
gave him pleasure to see and hear. When Monsieur Sariette entered the
shop in the Rue de Courcelles, Guinardon was alone, dozing in the
depths of an antique arm-chair. His face, surrounded by his curly hair
and luxuriant beard, was crimson in hue. Little violet filaments spread
a network about the fleshy part of his nose, to which the wines of
Burgundy had imparted a purple tint; for there was no longer any
disguising the fact, Père Guinardon drank. Two feet away from him, on
the fair Octavie's work-table, a rose, all but withered, drooped in an
empty vase, and in a basket a piece of embroidery was lying unfinished
and neglected. The young Octavie's absences from the shop were growing
more and more frequent, and Monsieur Blancmesnil never called when she
was not there. The reason of this was that they were meeting three
times a week at five o'clock in a house close to the Champs Élysées.
Père Guinardon knew nothing of that. He did not know the full extent of
his misfortune, but he suffered.
Monsieur Sariette shook his old friend by the hand; but he did not
enquire for the young Octavie, for he refused to recognise the
connexion. He would sooner have talked about Zéphyrine, who had been so
cruelly deserted, and whom he hoped the old man would make his lawful
wife. But Monsieur Sariette was prudent. He contented himself with
asking Guinardon how he was.
Perfectly well, was Guinardon's reply; but he felt ill, for either
age and love-making had undermined his sturdy constitution, or else
young Octavie's faithlessness had dealt her lover a fatal blow. God be
praised, he went on, I still retain my powers of mind and body. I am
chaste. Be chaste, Sariette. Chastity is strength.
That evening Père Guinardon had taken some specially valuable books
out of the king-wood cabinet to show to a distinguished bibliophile,
Monsieur Victor Meyer, and after the latter's departure he had dropped
off to sleep without putting them back in their places. Books had an
attraction for Monsieur Sariette, and seeing these particular volumes
on the marble top of the cabinet, he began to examine them with
interest. The first one he looked at was La Pucelle, in morocco,
with the English continuation. Doubtless it pained his patriotic and
Christian heart to admire its text and illustrations, but a good copy
was always virtuous and pure in his sight. Continuing to chat very
affectionately with Guinardon, he picked up, one by one, the books
which the antiquary had, for one reason or anotherbinding,
illustrations, distinguished ownership, or scarcityadded to his
Suddenly a glorious shout of joy and love broke from his lips. He
had discovered the Lucretius of the Prior de Vendôme, his
Lucretius, and he was clasping it to his bosom.
Once again I behold you, he sighed, as he pressed it to his lips.
At first Père Guinardon could not quite make out what his old friend
was talking about; but when the latter declared to him that the volume
was from the d'Esparvieu collection, that it belonged to him, Sariette,
and that he was going to take it away without further ado, the
antiquary completely woke up, got on his legs, declared emphatically
that the book belonged to him, Guinardon, by right of true and lawful
purchase, and that he would not part with it unless he got five
thousand francs for it cash down.
You don't take in what I am telling you, answered Sariette. The
book belongs to the d'Esparvieu library; I must restore it to its
Pas de ça, Lisettehummed Guinardon.
The book belongs to me, I tell you!
You are crazy, my good Sariette!
And noticing that, as a matter of fact, the librarian had a
wandering look in his eye, he took the book from him, and tried to
change the conversation.
Have you seen, Sariette, that the rascals are going to rip up the
Palais Mazarin, and cover up the very heart and centre of the Old Town,
the finest and most venerable place in the whole of Paris, with the
deuce knows what works of art of theirs? They are worse than the
Vandals, for the Vandals, although they destroyed the buildings of
antiquity, did not replace them with hideous and disgusting erections
and atrocious bridges like the Pont d'Alexandre. And your poor Rue
Garancière, Sariette, has fallen a prey to the barbarians. What have
they done with the pretty bronze mask of the Palace fountain?
Monsieur Sariette never listened to a word of all this.
Guinardon, you have not understood me. Now listen. This book
belongs to the d'Esparvieu library. It was taken away, how or by whom I
know not. Dreadful and mysterious things went on in that library. But,
anyhow, the book was stolen. I need scarcely appeal to your sentiments
of scrupulous probity, my dear friend. You would not like to be
regarded as the receiver of stolen goods. Give me the book. I will
return it to Monsieur d'Esparvieu, who will duly requite you; of that
you may be sure. Rely on his generosity, and you will be acting like
the downright good fellow that you are.
The antiquary smiled a bitter smile.
Catch me relying on the generosity of that old curmudgeon of a
d'Esparvieu. Why, he'd skin a flea to get its coat. Look at me,
Sariette, old boy, and tell me if I look like a dunderhead. You know
perfectly well that d'Esparvieu refused to give fifty francs in a
second-hand shop for a portrait of Alexandre d'Esparvieu, the founder
of the family, by Hersent, and that consequently the founder of the
family has had to remain on the Boulevard Montparnasse, propped against
a Jew hawker's stall, just opposite the cemetery, where all the dogs of
the neighbourhood come and make water on him. Catch me trusting to
Monsieur d'Esparvieu's liberality! You've got some bright ideas in your
head, you have!
Very well, Guinardon, I myself will undertake to pay you any
indemnity that a board of arbitrators may fix upon. Do you hear?
Now don't go and do the handsome for people who won't give you so
much as a thank-you. This man, d'Esparvieu, has taken your knowledge,
your energies, your whole life for a salary that even a valet wouldn't
accept. So leave that idea alone. In any case it is too late. The book
Sold? To whom? asked Sariette in agonized tones.
What does that matter? You'll never see it again. You'll hear no
more about it; it's off to America.
To America! The Lucretius with the arms of Philippe de
Vendôme and marginalia in Voltaire's own hand! My Lucretius off
Père Guinardon began to laugh.
My dear Sariette, you remind me of the Chevalier des Grieux when he
learns that his darling mistress is to be transported to the
Mississippi. 'My dear mistress going to the Mississippi!' says he.
No! no! answered Sariette, very pale, this book shall not go to
America. It shall return, as it ought, to the d'Esparvieu library. Let
me have it, Guinardon.
The antiquary made a second attempt to put an end to an interview
that now looked as if it might take an ugly turn.
My good Sariette, you haven't told me what you think of my Greco.
You never so much as glanced at it. It is an admirable piece of work
all the same.
And Guinardon, putting the picture in a good light, went on:
Now just look at Saint Francis here, the poor man of the Lord, the
brother of Jesus. See how his fuliginous body rises heavenward like the
smoke from an agreeable sacrifice, like the sacrifice of Abel.
Give me the book, Guinardon, said Sariette, without turning his
head; give me the book.
The blood suddenly flew to Père Guinardon's head.
That's enough of it, he shouted, as red as a turkey-cock, the
veins standing out on his forehead.
And he dropped the Lucretius into his jacket pocket.
Straightway old Sariette flew at the antiquary, assailed him with
sudden fury, and, frail and weakly as he was, butted him back into
young Octavie's arm-chair.
Guinardon, in furious amazement, belched forth the most horrible
abuse on the old maniac and gave him a punch that sent him staggering
back four paces against the Coronation of the Virgin, by Fra
Angelico, which fell down with a crash. Sariette returned to the
charge, and tried to drag the book out of the pocket in which it lay
hid. This time Père Guinardon would really have floored him had he not
been blinded by the blood that was rushing to his head, and hit
sideways at the work-table of his absent mistress. Sariette fastened
himself on to his bewildered adversary, held him down in the arm-chair,
and with his little bony hands clutched him by the neck, which, red as
it was already, became a deep crimson. Guinardon struggled to get free,
but the little fingers, feeling the mass of soft, warm flesh about
them, embedded themselves in it with delicious ecstasy. Some unknown
force made them hold fast to their prey. Guinardon's throat began to
rattle, saliva was oozing from one corner of his mouth. His enormous
frame quivered now and again beneath the grasp; but the tremors grew
more and more intermittent and spasmodic. At last they ceased. The
murderous hands did not let go their hold. Sariette had to make a
violent effort to loose them. His temples were buzzing. Nevertheless he
could hear the rain falling outside, muffled steps going past on the
pavement, newspaper men shouting in the distance. He could see
umbrellas passing along in the dim light. He drew the book from the
dead man's pocket and fled.
The fair Octavie did not go back to the shop that night. She went to
sleep in a little entresol underneath the bric-a-brac stores which
Monsieur de Blancmesnil had recently bought for her in this same Rue de
Courcelles. The workman whose task it was to shut up the shop found the
antiquary's body still warm. He called Madame Lenain, the concierge,
who laid Guinardon on the couch, lit a couple of candles, put a sprig
of box in a saucer of holy water, and closed the dead man's eyes. The
doctor who was called in to certify the death ascribed it to apoplexy.
Zéphyrine, informed of what had happened by Madame Lenain, hastened
to the house, and sat up all night with the body. The dead man looked
as if he were sleeping. In the flickering light of the candles El
Greco's Saint mounted upwards like a wreath of smoke, the gold of the
Primitives gleamed in the shadows. Near the deathbed a little woman by
Baudouin was plainly discernible giving herself a douche. All through
the night Zéphyrine's lamentations could be heard fifty yards away.
He's dead, he's dead! she kept saying. My friend, my divinity, my
all, my loveBut no! he is not dead, he moves. It is I, Michel; I,
your Zéphyrine. Awake, hear me! Answer me; I love you; if ever I caused
you pain, forgive me. Dead! dead! O my God! See how beautiful he is. He
was so good, so clever, so kind. My God! My God! My God! If I had been
there he would not now be lying dead. Michel! Michel!
When morning came she was silent. They thought she had fallen
asleep. She was dead too.
WHICH DESCRIBES HOW NECTAIRE'S FLUTE WAS HEARD IN THE TAVERN
Madame de la Verdelière having failed to force an entrée as
sick-nurse, returned after several days had elapsed,during the
absence of Madame des Aubels,to ask Maurice d'Esparvieu for his
subscription to the French churches. Arcade led her to the bedside of
the convalescent. Maurice whispered in the angel's ear:
Traitor, deliver me from this ogress immediately, or you will be
answerable for the evil which will soon befall.
Be calm, said Arcade, with a confident air.
After the conventional complimentary flourishes, Madame de la
Verdelière signed to Maurice to dismiss the angel. Maurice feigned not
to understand. And Madame de la Verdelière disclosed the ostensible
reason of her visit.
Our churches, she said, our beloved country churches,what is to
become of them?
Arcade gazed at her angelically and sighed.
They will disappear, Madame; they will fall into ruin. And what a
pity! I shall be inconsolable. The church amid the villagers' cottages
is like the hen amidst her chickens.
Just so! exclaimed Madame de la Verdelière with a delighted smile.
It is just like that.
And the spires, Madame?
Oh, Monsieur, the spires!...
Yes, the spires, Madame, that stick up into the skies towards the
little Cherubim, like so many syringes.
Madame de la Verdelière incontinently left the place.
That same day Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille came to offer the wounded
man good counsel and consolation. He exhorted him to break with his bad
companions and to be reconciled to his family.
He drew a picture of the sorrowful father, the mother in tears,
ready to receive their long-lost child with open arms. Renouncing with
manly effort a life of profligacy and deluding joys, Maurice would
recover his peace and strength of mind, he would free himself from
devouring chimeras, and shake off the Evil Spirit.
Young d'Esparvieu thanked Abbé Patouille for all his kindness, and
made a protestation of his religious feelings.
Never, said he, have I had such faith. And never have I been in
such need of it. Just imagine, Monsieur l'Abbé, I have to teach my
guardian angel his catechism all over again, for he has quite forgotten
Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille heaved a deep sigh, and exhorted his dear
child to pray, there being no other resource but prayer for a soul
assailed by the Devil.
Monsieur l'Abbé, asked Maurice, may I introduce my guardian angel
to you? Do stay a moment; he has gone to get me some cigarettes.
And Abbé Patouille's fat cheeks drooped in token of affliction. But
almost immediately they plumped up again, as a sign of
light-heartedness. For in his heart there was matter for rejoicing.
Public opinion was improving. The Jacobins, the Freemasons, the
Coalitionists were everywhere in disgrace. The Smart Set led the way.
The Académie Française was of the right way of thinking. The number of
Christian schools was increasing by leaps and bounds. The young men of
the Quartier Latin were submitting to the Church, and the École Normale
exhaled the perfume of the seminary. The Cross was gaining the day; but
money was wanted,more money, always money.
After six weeks' rest, Maurice was allowed by his doctor to take a
drive. He wore his arm in a sling. His mistress and his friend went
with him. They drove to the Bois, and took a gentle pleasure in looking
upon the grass and the trees. They smiled on everything and everything
smiled on them. As Arcade had said, their faults had made them better.
By the unlooked-for ways of jealousy and anger, Maurice had attained to
calm and kindliness. He still loved Gilberte and he loved her with an
indulgent love. The angel still desired her as much as ever, but having
once possessed her, his desire had lost the sting of curiosity.
Gilberte forbore trying to please, and thereby pleased the more. They
drank milk at the Cascade, and found it good. They were all three
innocent. Arcade forgot the injustice of the old tyrant of the world.
But he was soon to be reminded of it.
On entering his friend's house, he found Zita awaiting him, looking
like a statue in ivory and gold.
You excite my pity, she said to him. The day is at hand the like
of which has never dawned since the beginning of Time, and perhaps will
never dawn again before the Sun enters with all its train into the
constellation of Hercules. We are on the eve of surprising Ialdabaoth
in his palace of porphyry, and you, who are burning to deliver the
heavens, who were so eager to enter in triumph into your emancipated
country,you suddenly forget your noble purpose and fall asleep in the
arms of the daughters of men. What pleasure can you find in intercourse
with these unclean little animals, composed, as they are, of elements
so unstable that they may be said to be in a state of constant
evanescence? O Arcade! I was indeed right to distrust you. You are but
an intellectual; you do but feel idle curiosity. You are incapable of
You misjudge me, Zita, replied the angel. It is the nature of the
sons of heaven to love the daughters of men. Corruptible though it be,
the material part of women and of flowers charms the senses none the
less. But not one of these little animals can make me forget my hatred
and my love, and I am ready to rise up against Ialdabaoth.
Zita expressed her satisfaction at seeing him in this resolute mood.
She urged him to pursue the accomplishment of this vast undertaking
with undiminished ardour. Nothing must be hurried or deferred.
A great action, Arcade, is made up of a multitude of small ones;
the most majestic whole is composed of a thousand minute details. Let
us neglect nothing.
She had come to take him to a meeting where his presence was
required. They were to take a census of the revolutionaries.
She added but one word:
Nectaire will be there.
When Maurice saw Zita, he deemed her lacking in attraction. She
failed to please him because she was perfectly beautiful and because
true beauty always caused him painful surprise. Zita inspired him with
antipathy when he learned that she was an angel in revolt and that she
had come to seek Arcade to take him away among the conspirators.
The poor child tried to retain his companion by all the means that
his wit and the circumstances afforded him. If his guardian angel would
only remain with him, he would take him to a magnificent boxing-match,
to a revue where he would witness the apotheosis of Poincaré, or,
lastly, to a certain house he knew of where he would behold women
remarkable for their beauty, talents, vices, or deformities. But the
angel would not allow himself to be tempted, and said he was going with
To plot the conquest of the skies.
Still the same nonsense! The conquest ofbut there, I proved to
you that it was neither possible nor desirable.
Good night, Maurice.
You are going? Well, I will accompany you.
And Maurice, his arm in a sling, went with Arcade and Zita all the
way to Clodomir's restaurant at Montmartre, where the tables were laid
in an arbour in the garden.
Prince Istar and Théophile were already there, with a little
creature who looked like a child, and was, in fact, a Japanese angel.
We are only waiting for Nectaire, said Zita.
And at that moment the old gardener noiselessly appeared. He took
his seat, and his dog lay down at his feet. French cooking is the best
in the world. It is a glory that will transcend all others when
humanity has grown wise enough to put the spit above the sword.
Clodomir served the angels, and the mortal who was with them, with a
soup made of cabbages and bacon, a loin of pork and kidneys cooked in
wine, thereby proving himself a real Montmartre cook, and showing that
he had not been spoilt by the Americans, who corrupt the most excellent
chefs of the City of Restaurants.
Clodomir brought forth some Bordeaux, which, though unrecorded among
the renowned vintages of Médoc, gave evidence by its choice and
delicate aroma of the high nobility of its origin. We must not omit to
chronicle that, after this wine and many others had been drunk, the
cellarman, in solemn state, produced a Burgundy choice and rare,
full-bodied yet not heavy, generous yet delicate, rich with the true
Burgundian mellowness, a noble and, withal, a somewhat heady wine, that
brought delight alike to mind and sense.
Hail to thee, Dionysus, greatest of the Gods! cried old Nectaire,
raising his glass on high. I drink to thee who wilt restore the Golden
Age, and give again to mortal men, who will become heroes as of old,
the grapes which the Lesbians used to cull, long since, from the vines
of Methymna; who wilt restore the vineyards of Thasus, the white
clusters of Lake Mareotis, the storehouses of Falernus, the vines of
the Tmolus, and the wine of Phanae, of all wines the king. And the
juice thereof shall be divine, and, as in old Silenus' day, men shall
grow drunk with Wisdom and with Love.
When the coffee was served, Prince Istar, Zita, Arcade, and the
Japanese angel took it in turns to give an account of the forces
assembled against Ialdabaoth. Angels, in exchanging eternal bliss for
the sufferings of an earthly life, grow in intelligence, acquire the
means of going astray and the faculty of self-contradiction.
Consequently their meetings, like those of men, are tumultuous and
confused. Did one of them deal in figures, the others immediately
called them in question. They could not add one number to another
without quarrelling, and arithmetic itself, subjected to passion, lost
its certitude. The Kerûb, who had brought with him the pious Théophile,
waxed indignant when he heard the musician praising the Lord, and
rained down such blows on his head as would have felled an ox. But the
head of a musician is harder than a bucranium, and the blows which
Théophile received did not avail to modify that angel's notion of
divine providence. Arcade, having at great length set up his scientific
idealism in opposition to Zita's pragmatism, the beautiful archangel
told him that he argued badly.
And you are surprised at that! exclaimed young Maurice's guardian
angel. I argue, like you, in the language of human beings. And what is
human language but the cry of the beasts of the forests or the
mountains, complicated and corrupted by arrogant anthropoids. How then,
Zita, can one be expected to argue well with a collection of angry or
plaintive sounds like that? Angels do not reason at all; men, being
superior to the angels, reason imperfectly. I will not mention the
professors who think to define the absolute with the aid of cries that
they have inherited from the pithecanthropoid monkeys, marsupials, and
reptiles, their ancestors! It is a colossal joke! How it would amuse
the demiurge, if he had any brains!
It was a beautiful starlight night. The gardener was silent.
Nectaire, said the beautiful archangel, play to us on your flute,
if you are not afraid that the Earth and Heaven will be stirred to
their depths thereby.
Nectaire took up his flute. Young Maurice lighted a cigarette. The
flame burnt brightly for a moment, casting back the sky and its stars
into the shadows, and then died out. And Nectaire sang of the flame on
his divine flute. The silvery voice soared aloft and sang:
That flame was a whole universe which fulfilled its destiny in less
than a minute. Suns and planets were formed therein. Venus Urania
apportioned the orbits of the wandering spheres in those infinite
spaces. Beneath the breath of Erosthe first of the gods,plants,
animals, and thoughts sprang into being. In the twenty seconds which
hurried by betwixt the life and death of those worlds, civilizations
were unfolded, and empires sank in long decline. Mothers shed tears,
and songs of love, cries of hatred, and sighs of victims rose upward to
the silent skies.
In proportion to its minuteness, that universe lasted as long as
this onewhereof we see a few atoms glittering above our headshas
lasted or will last. They are, one no less than the other, but a gleam
in the Infinite.
As the clear, pure notes welled up into the charmed air, the earth
melted into a soft mist, the stars revolved rapidly in their orbits,
the Great Bear fell asunder, its parts flew far and wide. Orion's belt
was shattered; the Pole Star forsook its magnetic axis. Sirius, whose
incandescent flame had lit up the far horizon, grew blue, then red,
flickered, and suddenly died out. The shaken constellations formed new
signs which were extinguished in their turn. By its incantations the
magic flute had compressed into one brief moment the life and the
movement of this universe which seems unchanging and eternal both to
men and angels. It ceased, and the heavens resumed their immemorial
aspect. Nectaire had vanished. Clodomir asked his guests if they were
pleased with the cabbage soup which, in order that it might be strong,
had been kept simmering for twenty-four hours on the fire, and he sang
the praises of the Beaujolais which they had drunk.
The night was mild. Arcade, accompanied by his guardian angel,
Théophile, Prince Istar, and the Japanese angel, escorted Zita home.
HOW A DREADFUL CRIME PLUNGES PARIS INTO A STATE OF TERROR
The city was asleep. Their footsteps rang loudly on the deserted
pavement. Having reached the corner of the Rue Feutrier, half-way up
Montmartre, the little company halted before the dwelling of the
beautiful angel. Arcade was talking about the Thrones and Dominations
with Zita, who, her finger on the bell, could not make up her mind to
ring. Prince Istar was tracing the mechanism of a new sort of bomb on
the pavement with the end of his stick, and bellowed so loudly that he
woke the sleeping citizens and stirred into activity the amatory
passions of the neighbouring Pasiphaës. Théophile was singing the
barcarole from the second act of Aline, Queen of Golconda at the
top of his voice. Maurice, his arm in a sling, was fencing left-handed
with the Japanese, striking sparks from the pavement, and crying A
hit! a hit! in a piercing voice.
Meanwhile Inspector Grolle at the corner of the next street was
dreaming. He had the bearing of a Roman legionary and displayed all the
characteristics of that proudly servile race, who, ever since men first
took to building cities, have been the mainstay of Empires and the
support of ruling houses. Inspector Grolle was very strong, but very
tired. He suffered from an arduous profession and from lack of food. He
was a man devoted to duty, but still a man, and he was unable to resist
the wiles, the charms, and the blandishments of the gay ladies whom he
met in swarms in the shadows along the empty streets and round about
pieces of waste ground; he loved them. He loved like a soldier under
arms. It tired him, but courage conquered fatigue. Though he had not
yet reached the middle of Life's way, he longed for sweet repose and
peaceful country pursuits. At the corner of the Rue Muller, on this
mild night, he stood lost in thought. He was dreaming of the house
where he was born, of the little olive wood, of his father's bit of
ground, of his old mother, bent with long and heavy labour, whom he
would never see again. Roused from his reverie by the nocturnal tumult,
Inspector Grolle turned the corner of the street, and looked rather
unfavourably at the band of loiterers, wherein his social instinct
suspected enemies of law and order. He was patient and resolute. After
a lengthy silence, he said, with awe-inspiring calm:
Move on, there!
But Maurice and the Japanese angel were fencing and heard nothing.
The musician heard nothing but his own melodies. Prince Istar was
absorbed in the explanation of explosive formulæ. Zita was discussing
with Arcade the greatest enterprise that had ever been conceived since
the solar system issued from its original nebula,and thus they all
remained unconscious of their surroundings.
Move on, I tell you! repeated Inspector Grolle.
This time the angels heard the solemn word of warning, but either
through indifference or contempt, they neglected to obey, and continued
their talk, their songs, and their cries.
So you want to be taken up, do you? shouted Inspector Grolle,
clapping his great hand on Prince Istar's shoulder.
The Kerûb was indignant at this vile contact, and with one blow from
his formidable fist sent the Inspector flying into the gutter. But
Constable Fesandet was already running to his comrade's aid, and they
both fell upon the Prince, whom they belaboured with mechanic fury, and
whom, notwithstanding his strength and weight, they would perchance
have dragged all bleeding to the police station, had not the Japanese
angel overset them one after the other without effort, and reduced them
to writhing and shrieking in the mud, before Maurice, Arcade, and Zita
had time to intervene. As to the angelic musician, he stood apart
trembling, and invoked the heavens.
At this moment two bakers who were kneading their dough in a
neighbouring cellar ran out at the noise, in their white aprons,
stripped to the waist. With an instinctive feeling for social
solidarity they took the side of the downfallen police. Théophile
conceived a just fear at the sight of them, and fled away; they caught
him and were about to hand him over to the guardians of the peace, when
Arcade and Zita tore him from their hands. The fight continued, unequal
and terrible, between the two angels and the two bakers. Like an
athlete of Lysippus in strength and beauty, Arcade smothered his heavy
adversary in his arms. The beautiful archangel drove her dagger into
the baker who had attacked her. A dark stream of blood flowed down over
his hairy chest, and the two white-capped supporters of the law sank to
Constable Fesandet had fainted face downwards in the gutter. But
Inspector Grolle, who had got up, blew a blast on his whistle loud
enough to be heard at the neighbouring police-station, and sprang upon
young Maurice, who, having but one arm with which to defend himself,
fired his revolver with his left hand at the inspector, who put his
hand to his heart, staggered, and dropped down. He gave a long sigh,
and the shadows of eternity darkened his eyes.
Meanwhile, windows opened one by one, and heads looked out on the
street. A sound of heavy steps approached. Two policemen on bicycles
debouched upon the street. Thereupon Prince Istar flung a bomb which
shook the ground, put out the gas, shattered some of the houses, and
enveloped the flight of young Maurice and the angels in a dense smoke.
Arcade and Maurice came to the conclusion that the safest thing to
do after this adventure was to return to the little flat in the Rue de
Rome. They would certainly not be sought for immediately and probably
not at all, the bomb thrown by the Kerûb having fortunately wiped out
all witnesses of the affair. They fell asleep towards dawn, and they
had not yet awoke at ten o'clock in the morning when the concierge
brought their tea. While eating his toast and butter and slice of ham,
young d'Esparvieu remarked to the angel:
I used to think that a murder was something very extraordinary.
Well, I was mistaken. It is the simplest, the most natural action in
And of most ancient tradition, replied the angel. For long
centuries it was both usual and necessary for man to kill and despoil
his fellows. It is still recommended in warfare. It is also honourable
to attempt human life in certain definite circumstances, and people
approved when you wanted to assassinate me, Maurice, because it
appeared to you that I had been intimate with your mistress. But
killing a police-inspector is not the action of a man of fashion.
Be silent, exclaimed Maurice, be silent, scoundrel! I killed the
poor Inspector instinctively, not knowing what I was doing. I am
grieved to my heart about it. But it is not I, it is you who are the
guilty one; you who are the murderer. It was you who lured me along
this path of revolt and violence which leads to the pit. You have been
my undoing. You have sacrificed my peace of mind, my happiness, to your
pride and your wickedness, and all in vain; for I warn you, Arcade, you
will not succeed in what you are undertaking.
The concierge brought in the newspapers. On seeing them Maurice grew
pale. They announced the outrage in the Rue de Ramey in huge headlines:
An Inspector killedTwo cyclist policemen and two bakers seriously
woundedThree houses blown up, numerous victims.
Maurice let the paper drop, and said in a weak, plaintive voice:
Arcade, why did you not slay me in the little garden at Versailles
amidst the roses, to the song of the blackbirds?
Meanwhile terror reigned in Paris. In the public squares, and in the
crowded streets, house-wives, string-bag in hand, grew pale as they
listened to the story of the crime, and consigned the perpetrators to
the most dreadful punishment. Shop-keepers, standing at the doors of
their shops, put it all down to the anarchists, syndicalists,
socialists, and radicals, and demanded that special measures should be
taken against them.
The more thoughtful people recognized the handiwork of the Jew and
the German, and demanded the expulsion of all aliens. Many vaunted the
ways of America and advocated lynching. In addition to the printed news
sinister rumours became current. Explosions had been heard at various
places; everywhere bombs had been discovered; everywhere individuals,
taken for malefactors, had been struck down by the popular arm and
given up to justice, torn to ribbons. On the Place de la République a
drunkard who was crying Down with the police was torn to pieces by
The President of the Council and Minister of Justice held long
conferences with the Prefect of Police, and they agreed to take
immediate action. In order to allay the excitement of the Parisians,
they arrested five or six hooligans out of the thirty thousand which
the Capital contains. The chief of the Russian police, believing he
recognised in this attack the methods of the Nihilists, demanded, on
behalf of his Government, that a dozen refugees should be given up. The
demand was immediately granted. Proceedings were also taken for certain
individuals to be extradited to ensure the safety of the King of Spain.
On learning of these energetic measures, Paris breathed once more,
and the evening papers congratulated the Government. There was
excellent news of the wounded. They were out of danger and identified
as their assailants all who were brought before them.
True, Inspector Grolle was dead; but two Sisters of Mercy kept vigil
at his side, and the President of the Council came and laid the Cross
of Honour on the breast of this victim of duty.
At night there were panics. In the Avenue de la Révolte the police,
noticing a travelling acrobat's caravan on a piece of waste ground,
took it for the retreat of a band of robbers. They whistled for help,
and when they were a goodly number, attacked the caravan. Some worthy
citizens joined them; fifteen thousand revolver-shots were fired, the
caravan was blown up with dynamite, and among the débris they found the
corpse of a monkey.
WHICH CONTAINS AN ACCOUNT OF THE ARREST OF BOUCHOTTE AND
MAURICE, OF THE DISASTER WHICH BEFELL THE D'ESPARVIEU
LIBRARY, AND OF THE DEPARTURE OF THE ANGELS
Maurice d'Esparvieu passed a terrible night. At the least sound he
seized his revolver that he might not fall alive into the hands of
justice. When morning came he snatched the newspapers from the hands of
the concierge, devoured them greedily, and gave a cry of joy; he had
just read that Inspector Grolle having been taken to the Morgue for the
post-mortem, the police-surgeons had only discovered bruises and
contusions of a very superficial nature, and stated that death had been
brought about by the rupture of an aneurism of the aorta.
You see, Arcade, he exclaimed triumphantly; you see I am not an
assassin. I am innocent. I could never have imagined how extremely
agreeable it is to be innocent.
Then he grew thoughtful, andno unusual phenomenonreflection
dissipated his gaiety.
I am innocent,but there is no disguising the fact, he said,
shaking his head, I am one of a band of malefactors. I live with
miscreants. You are in your right place there, Arcade, for you are
deceitful, cruel, and perverse. But I come of good family and have
received an excellent education, and I blush for it.
I also, said Arcade, have received an excellent education.
Where was that?
No, Arcade, no; you never had any education. If good principles had
been inculcated into you, you would still hold them. Such principles
are never lost. In my childhood I learnt to revere my family, my
country, my religion. I have not forgotten the lesson and I never
shall. Do you know what shocks me most in you? It is not your
perversity, your cruelty, your black ingratitude; it is not your
agnosticism, which may be borne with at a pinch; it is not your
scepticism, though it is very much out of date (for since the national
awakening there is no longer any scepticism in France);no, what
disgusts me in you is your lack of taste, the bad style of your ideas,
the inelegance of your doctrines. You think like an intellectual, you
speak like a freethinker, you have theories which reek of radicalism
and Combeism and all ignoble systems. Get along with you! you disgust
me. Arcade, my old friend, Arcade, my dear angel, Arcade, my beloved
child, listen to your guardian angel! Yield to my prayers, renounce
your mad ideas; become good, simple, innocent, and happy once more. Put
on your hat, come with me to Nôtre-Dame. We will say a prayer and burn
a candle together.
Meanwhile public opinion was still active in the matter; the leading
papers, the organs of the national awakening, in articles of real
elevation and real depth, unravelled the philosophy of this monstrous
attack which was revolting to the conscience. They discovered the real
origin, the indirect but effective cause in the revolutionary doctrines
which had been disseminated unchecked, in the weakening of social ties,
the relaxing of moral discipline, in the repeated appeals to every
appetite, to every greedy desire. It would be needful, so as to cut
down the evil at its root, to repudiate as quickly as possible all such
chimeras and Utopias as syndicalism, the income-tax, etc., etc., etc.
Many newspapers, and these not the least important, pointed out that
the recrudescence of crime was but the natural fruit of impiety and
concluded that the salvation of society lay in an unanimous and sincere
return to religion. On the Sunday which followed the crime the
congregations in the churches were noticed to be unusually large.
Judge Salneuve, who was entrusted with the task of investigation,
first examined the persons arrested by the police, and lost his way
among attractive but illusory clues; however, the report of the
detective Montremain, which was laid before him, put him on the right
road, and soon led him to recognise the miscreants of La Jonchère as
the authors of the crime of the Rue de Ramey. He ordered a search to be
made for Arcade and Zita, and issued a warrant against Prince Istar, on
whom the detectives laid hands as he was leaving Bouchotte's, where he
had been depositing some bombs of new design. The Kerûb, on learning
the detectives' intentions, smiled broadly and asked them if they had a
powerful motor-car. On their replying that they had one at the door, he
assured them that was all he wanted. Thereupon he felled the two
detectives on the stairs, walked up to the waiting car, flung the
chauffeur under a motor-'bus which was opportunely passing, and seized
the steering wheel under the eyes of the terrified crowd.
That same evening Monsieur Jeancourt, the Police Magistrate, entered
Théophile's rooms just when Bouchotte was swallowing a raw egg to clear
her voice, for she was to sing her new song, They haven't got any in
Germany, at the National Eldorado that evening. The musician was
absent. Bouchotte received the Magistrate, and received him with a
hauteur which intensified the simplicity of her attire; Bouchotte was
en déshabille. The worthy Magistrate seized the score of Aline,
Queen of Golconda, and the love-letters which the singer carefully
preserved in the drawer of the table by her bed, for she was an orderly
young woman. He was about to withdraw when he espied a cupboard, which
he opened with a careless air, and found machines capable of blowing up
half Paris, and a pair of large white wings, whose nature and use
appeared inexplicable to him. Bouchotte was invited to complete her
toilette, and, in spite of her cries, was taken off to the
Monsieur Salneuve was indefatigable. After the examination of the
papers seized in Bouchotte's house, and acting on the information of
Montremain, he issued a warrant for the arrest of young d'Esparvieu,
which was executed on Wednesday, the 27th May, at seven o'clock in the
morning, with great discretion. For three days Maurice had neither
slept nor eaten, loved nor lived. He had not a moment's doubt as to the
nature of the matutinal visit. At the sight of the police magistrate a
strange calm fell on him. Arcade had not returned to sleep in the flat.
Maurice begged the magistrate to wait for him, dressed with care, and
then accompanied the magistrate a calmness of mind which was barely
disturbed when the door of the Conciergerie closed on him. Alone in his
cell, he climbed upon the table to look out. His tranquillity was due
to his weariness of spirit, to his numbed senses, and to the fact that
he no longer stood in fear of arrest. His misfortune endowed him with
superior wisdom. He felt he had fallen into a state of grace. He did
not think too highly or too humbly of himself, but left his cause in
the hands of God. With no desire to cover up his faults, which he would
not hide even from himself, he addressed himself in mind to Providence,
to point out that if he had fallen into disorder and rebellion it was
to lead his erring angel back into the straight path. He stretched
himself on the couch and slept in peace.
On hearing of the arrest of a music-hall singer and of a young man
of fashion, both Paris and the provinces felt painful surprise. Deeply
stirred by the tragic accounts which the leading newspapers were
bringing out, the general idea was that the sort of people the
authorities ought to bring to justice were ferocious anarchists, all
reeking and dripping from deeds of blood and arson; but they failed to
understand what the world of Art and Fashion should have to do with
such things. At this news, which he was one of the last to hear, the
President of the Council and Keeper of the Seals started up in his
chair. The Sphinxes that adorned it were less terrible than he, and in
the throes of his angry meditation he cut the mahogany of his imperial
table with his penknife, after the manner of Napoleon. And when Judge
Salneuve, whose attendance he had commanded, appeared before him, the
President flung his penknife in the grate, as Louis XIV flung his cane
out of the window in the presence of Lauzun; and it cost him a supreme
effort to master himself and to say in a voice of suppressed fury:
Are you mad? Surely I said often enough that I meant the plot to be
anarchist, anti-social, fundamentally anti-social and
anti-governmental, with a shade of syndicalism. I have made it clear
enough that I wanted it kept within these lines; and what do you go and
make of it?... The vengeance of anarchists and aspirants to freedom?
Whom do you arrest? A singer adored of the nationalist public, and the
son of a man highly esteemed in the Catholic party, who receives our
bishops and has the entrée to the Vatican; a man who may be one
day sent as ambassador to the Pope. At one blow you alienate one
hundred and sixty Deputies and forty Senators of the Right on the very
eve of a motion to discuss the question of religious pacification; you
embroil me with my friends of to-day, with my friends of to-morrow. Was
it to find out if you were in the same dilemma as des Aubels that you
seized the love-letters of young Maurice d'Esparvieu? I can put your
mind at rest on that point. You are, and all Paris knows it. But it is
not to avenge your personal affronts that you are on the Bench.
Monsieur le Garde des Sceaux, murmured the Judge, nearly
apoplectic and in a choked voice. I am an honest man.
You are a fool ... and a provincial. Listen to me; if Maurice
d'Esparvieu and Mademoiselle Bouchotte are not released within half an
hour I will crush you like a piece of glass. Be off!
Monsieur René d'Esparvieu went himself to fetch his son from the
Conciergerie and took him back to the old house in the Rue Garancière.
The return was triumphant. The news had been disseminated that Maurice
had with generous imprudence interested himself in an attempt to
restore the monarchy, and that Judge Salneuve, the infamous freemason,
the tool of Combes and André, had tried to compromise the young man by
making him out to be an accomplice of a band of criminals.
That was what Abbé Patouille seemed to think, and he answered for
Maurice as for himself. It was known, moreover, that breaking with his
father, who had rallied to the support of the Republic, young
d'Esparvieu was on the high road to becoming an out-and-out Royalist.
The people who had an inside knowledge of things saw in his arrest the
vengeance of the Jews. Was not Maurice a notorious anti-Semite?
Catholic youths went forth to hurl imprecations at Judge Salneuve under
the windows of his residence in the Rue Guénégaud, opposite the Mint.
On the Boulevard du Palais a band of students presented Maurice with
a branch of palm. Maurice made a charming reply.
Maurice was overcome with emotion when he beheld the old house in
which his childhood had been spent, and fell weeping into his mother's
It was a great day, unhappily marred by one painful incident.
Monsieur Sariette, who had lost his reason as a consequence of the
shocking events that had taken place in the Rue de Courcelles, had
suddenly become violent. He had shut himself up in the library, and
there he had remained for twenty-four hours, uttering the most horrible
cries, and, turning a deaf ear alike to threats and entreaties, refused
to come out. He had spent the night in a condition of extreme
restlessness, for all night long the lamp had been seen passing rapidly
to and fro behind the curtains. In the morning, hearing Hippolyte
shouting to him from the court below, he opened the window of the Hall
of the Spheres and the Philosophers, and heaved two or three rather
weighty tomes on to the old valet's head. The whole of the domestic
staffmen, women, and boyshurried to the spot, and the librarian
proceeded to throw out books by the armful on to their heads. In view
of the gravity of the situation, Monsieur René d'Esparvieu did not
disdain to intervene. He appeared in night-cap and dressing-gown, and
attempted to reason with the poor lunatic, whose only reply was to pour
forth torrents of abuse on the man whom till then he had worshipped as
his benefactor, and to endeavour to crush him beneath all the Bibles,
all the Talmuds, all the sacred books of India and Persia, all the
Greek Fathers, and all the Latin Fathers, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint
Gregory Nazianzen, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, all the apologists,
ay! and under the Histoire des Variations, annotated by Bossuet
himself! Octavos, quartos, folios came crashing down, and lay in a
sordid heap on the courtyard pavement. The letters of Gassendi, of Père
Mersenne, of Pascal, were blown about hither and thither by the wind.
The lady's-maid who had stooped down to rescue some of the sheets from
the gutter got a blow on the head from an enormous Dutch atlas. Madame
René d'Esparvieu had been terrified by the ominous sounds, and appeared
on the scene without waiting to apply the finishing touches of powder
and paint. When he caught sight of her, old Sariette became more
violent than ever. Down they came one after another as hard as he could
pelt them; the busts of the poets, philosophers, and historians of
antiquityHomer, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus,
Thucydides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil,
Horace, Seneca, Epictetusall lay scattered on the ground. The
celestial sphere and the terrestrial globe descended with a terrifying
crash that was followed by a ghastly hush, broken only by the shrill
laughter of little Léon, who was looking down on the scene from a
window above. A locksmith having opened the library door, all the
household hastened to enter, and found the aged Sariette entrenched
behind piles of books, busily engaged in tearing and slashing away at
the Lucretius of the Prior de Vendôme annotated in Voltaire's
own hand. They had to force a way through the barricade. But the
maniac, perceiving that his stronghold was being invaded, fled away and
escaped on to the roof. For two whole hours he gave vent to shouts and
yells that were heard far and wide. In the Rue Garancière the crowd
kept growing bigger and bigger. All had their eyes fixed on the unhappy
creature, and whenever he stumbled on the slates, which cracked beneath
him, they gave a shout of terror. In the midst of the crowd, the Abbé
Patouille, who expected every moment to see him hurled into space, was
reciting the prayers for the dying, and making ready to give him the
absolution in extremis. There was a cordon of police round the
house keeping order. Someone summoned the fire-brigade, and the sound
of their approach was soon heard. They placed a ladder against the wall
of the house, and after a terrific struggle managed to secure the
maniac, who in the course of his desperate resistance had one of the
muscles of his arm torn out. He was immediately removed to an asylum.
Maurice dined at home, and there were smiles of tenderness and
affection when Victor, the old butler, brought on the roast veal.
Monsieur l'Abbé Patouille sat at the right hand of the Christian
mother, unctuously contemplating the family which Heaven had so
plentifully blessed. Nevertheless, Madame d'Esparvieu was ill at ease.
Every day she received anonymous letters of so insulting and coarse a
nature that she thought at first they must come from a discharged
footman. She now knew they were the handiwork of her youngest daughter,
Berthe, a mere child! Little Léon, too, gave her pain and anxiety. He
paid no attention to his lessons, and was given to bad habits. He
showed a cruel disposition. He had plucked his sister's canaries alive;
he stuck innumerable pins into the chair on which Mademoiselle Caporal
was accustomed to sit, and had stolen fourteen francs from the poor
girl, who did nothing but cry and dab her eyes and nose from morning
No sooner was dinner over than Maurice rushed off to the little
dwelling in the Rue de Rome, impatient to meet his angel again. Through
the door he heard a loud sound of voices, and saw assembled in the room
where the apparition had taken place, Arcade, Zita, the angelic
musician, and the Kerûb, who was lying on the bed, smoking a huge pipe,
carelessly scorching pillows, sheets, and coverlets. They embraced
Maurice, and announced their departure. Their faces shone with
happiness and courage. Alone, the inspired author of Aline, Queen of
Golconda, shed tears and raised his terrified gaze to heaven. The
Kerûb forced him into the party of rebellion by setting before him two
alternatives: either to allow himself to be dragged from prison to
prison on earth, or to carry fire and sword into the palace of
Maurice perceived with sorrow that the earth had scarcely any hold
over them. They were setting out filled with immense hope, which was
quite justifiable. Doubtless they were but a few combatants to oppose
the innumerable soldiers of the sultan of the heavens; but they counted
on compensating for the inferiority of their numbers by the
irresistible impetus of a sudden attack. They were not ignorant of the
fact that Ialdabaoth, who flatters himself on knowing all things,
sometimes allows himself to be taken by surprise. And it certainly
looked as if the first attack would have taken him unawares had it not
been for the warning of the archangel Michael. The celestial army had
made no progress since its victory over the rebels before the beginning
As regards armaments and material it was as out of date as the army
of the Moors. Its generals slumbered in sloth and ignorance. Loaded
with honours and riches, they preferred the delights of the banquet to
the fatigues of war. Michael, the commander-in-chief, ever loyal and
brave, had lost, with the passing of centuries, his fire and
enthusiasm. The conspirators of 1914, on the other hand, knew the very
latest and the most delicate appliances of science for the art of
destruction. At length all was ready and decided upon. The army of
revolt, assembled by corps each a hundred thousand angels strong, on
all the waste places of the earthsteppes, pampas, deserts, fields of
ice and snowwas ready to launch itself against the sky. The angels,
in modifying the rhythm of the atoms of which they are composed, are
able to traverse the most varied mediums. Spirits that have descended
on to the earth, being formed, since their incarnation, of too compact
a substance, can no longer fly of themselves, and to rise into ethereal
regions and then insensibly grow volatilized, have need of the
assistance of their brothers, who, though revolutionaries like
themselves, nevertheless, stayed behind in the Empyrean and remained,
not immaterial (for all is matter in the Universe), but gloriously
untrammelled and diaphanous. Certes, it was not without painful anxiety
that Arcade, Istar, and Zita prepared themselves to pass from the heavy
atmosphere of the earth to the limpid depths of the heavens. To plunge
into the ether there is need to expend such energy that the most
intrepid hesitate to take flight. Their very substance, while
penetrating this fine medium, must in itself grow fine-spun, become
vaporised, and pass from human dimensions to the volume of the vastest
clouds which have ever enveloped the earth. Soon they would surpass in
grandeur the uttermost planets, whose orbits they, invisible and
imponderable, would traverse without disturbing.
In this enterprisethe vastest that angels could undertaketheir
substance would be ultimately hotter than the fire and colder than the
ice, and they would suffer pangs sharper than death.
Maurice read all the daring and the pain of the undertaking in the
eyes of Arcade.
You are going? he said to him, weeping.
We are going, with Nectaire, to seek the great archangel to lead us
Whom do you call thus?
The priests of the demiurge have made him known to you in their
Unhappy being, sighed Maurice.
Arcade embraced him, and Maurice felt the angel's tears as they
dropped upon his cheek.
AND LAST, WHEREIN THE SUBLIME DREAM OF SATAN IS UNFOLDED
Climbing the seven steep terraces which rise up from the bed of the
Ganges to the temples muffled in creepers, the five angels reached, by
half-obliterated paths, the wild garden filled with perfumed clusters
of grapes and chattering monkeys, and, at the far end thereof, they
discovered him whom they had come to seek. The archangel lay with his
elbow on black cushions embroidered with golden flames. At his feet
crouched lions and gazelles. Twined in the trees, tame serpents turned
on him their friendly gaze. At the sight of his angelic visitors his
face grew melancholy. Long since, in the days when, with his brow
crowned with grapes and his sceptre of vine-leaves in his hand, he had
taught and comforted mankind, his heart had many times been heavy with
sorrow; but never yet, since his glorious downfall, had his beautiful
face expressed such pain and anguish.
Zita told him of the black standards assembled in crowds in all the
waste places of the globe; of the deliverance premeditated and prepared
in the provinces of Heaven, where the first revolt had long ago been
Prince, she went on, your army awaits you. Come, lead it on to
Friends, replied the great archangel, I was aware of the object
of your visit. Baskets of fruit and honeycombs await you under the
shade of this mighty tree. The sun is about to descend into the roseate
waters of the Sacred River. When you have eaten, you will slumber
pleasantly in this garden, where the joys of the intellect and of the
senses have reigned since the day when I drove hence the spirit of the
old Demiurge. To-morrow I will give you my answer.
Night hung its blue over the garden. Satan fell asleep. He had a
dream, and in that dream, soaring over the earth, he saw it covered
with angels in revolt, beautiful as gods, whose eyes darted lightning.
And from pole to pole one single cry, formed of a myriad cries, mounted
towards him, filled with hope and love. And Satan said:
Let us go forth! Let us seek the ancient adversary in his high
abode. And he led the countless host of angels over the celestial
plains. And Satan was cognizant of what took place in the heavenly
citadel. When news of this second revolt came thither, the Father said
to the Son:
The irreconcilable foe is rising once again. Let us take heed to
ourselves, and in this, our time of danger, look to our defences, lest
we lose our high abode.
And the Son, consubstantial with the Father, replied:
We shall triumph under the sign that gave Constantine the victory.
Indignation burst forth on the Mountain of God. At first the
faithful Seraphim condemned the rebels to terrible torture, but
afterwards decided on doing battle with them. The anger burning in the
hearts of all inflamed each countenance. They did not doubt of victory,
but treachery was feared, and eternal darkness had been at once decreed
for spies and alarmists.
There was shouting and singing of ancient hymns and praise of the
Almighty. They drank of the mystic wine. Courage, over-inflated, came
near to giving way, and a secret anxiety stole into the inner depths of
their souls. The archangel Michael took supreme command. He reassured
their minds by his serenity. His countenance, wherein his soul was
visible, expressed contempt for danger. By his orders, the chiefs of
the thunderbolts, the Kerûbs, grown dull with the long interval of
peace, paced with heavy steps the ramparts of the Holy Mountain, and,
letting the gaze of their bovine eyes wander over the glittering clouds
of their Lord, strove to place the divine batteries in position. After
inspecting the defences, they swore to the Most High that all was in
readiness. They took counsel together as to the plan they should
follow. Michael was for the offensive. He, as a consummate soldier,
said it was the supreme law. Attack, or be attacked,there was no
Moreover, he added, the offensive attitude is particularly
suitable to the ardour of the Thrones and Dominations.
Beyond that, it was impossible to obtain a word from the valiant
chief, and this silence seemed the mark of a genius sure of himself.
As soon as the approach of the enemy was announced, Michael sent
forth three armies to meet them, commanded by the archangels Uriel,
Raphael, and Gabriel. Standards, displaying all the colours of the
Orient, were unfurled above the ethereal plains, and the thunders
rolled over the starry floors. For three days and three nights was the
lot of the terrible and adorable armies unknown on the Mountain of God.
Towards dawn on the fourth day news came, but it was vague and
confused. There were rumours of indecisive victories; of the triumph
now of this side, now of that. There came reports of glorious deeds
which were dissipated in a few hours.
The thunderbolts of Raphael, hurled against the rebels, had, it was
said, consumed entire squadrons. The troops commanded by the impure
Zita were thought to have been swallowed up in the whirlwind of a
tempest of fire. It was believed that the savage Istar had been flung
headlong into the gulf of perdition so suddenly that the blasphemies
begun in his mouth had been forced backwards with explosive results. It
was popularly supposed that Satan, laden with chains of adamant, had
been plunged once again into the abyss. Meanwhile, the commanders of
the three armies had sent no messages. Mutterings and murmurs, mingling
with the rumours of glory, gave rise to fears of an indecisive battle,
a precipitate retreat. Insolent voices gave out that a spirit of the
lowest category, a guardian angel, the insignificant Arcade, had
checked and routed the dazzling host of the three great archangels.
There were also rumours of wholesale defection in the Seventh
Heaven, where rebellion had broken out before the beginning of Time,
and some had even seen black clouds of impious angels joining the
armies of the rebels on Earth. But no one lent an ear to the odious
rumours, and stress was laid on the news of victory which ran from lip
to lip, each statement readily finding confirmation. The high places
resounded with hymns of joy; the Seraphim celebrated on harp and
psaltery Sabaoth, God of Thunder. The voices of the elect united with
those of the angels in glorifying the Invisible and at the thought of
the bloodshed that the ministers of holy wrath had caused among the
rebels, sighs of relief and jubilation were wafted from the Heavenly
Jerusalem towards the Most High. But the beatitude of the most blessed,
having swelled to the utmost limit before due time, could increase no
more, and the very excess of their felicity completely dulled their
The songs had not yet ceased when the guards watching on the
ramparts signalled the approach of the first fugitives of the divine
army; Seraphim on tattered wing, flying in disorder, maimed Kerûbs
going on three feet. With impassive gaze, Michael, prince of warriors,
measured the extent of the disaster, and his keen intelligence
penetrated its causes. The armies of the living God had taken the
offensive, but by one of those fatalities in war which disconcert the
plans of the greatest captains, the enemy had also taken the offensive,
and the effect was evident. Scarcely were the gates of the citadel
opened to receive the glorious but shattered remnants of the three
armies, when a rain of fire fell on the Mountain of God. Satan's army
was not yet in sight, but the walls of topaz, the cupolas of emerald,
the roofs of diamond, all fell in with an appalling crash under the
discharge of the electrophores. The ancient thunderclouds essayed to
reply, but the bolts fell short, and their thunders were lost in the
deserted plains of the skies.
Smitten by an invisible foe, the faithful angels abandoned the
ramparts. Michael went to announce to his God that the Holy Mountain
would fall into the hands of the demon in twenty-four hours, and that
nothing remained for the Master of the Heavens but to seek safety in
flight. The Seraphim placed the jewels of the celestial crown in
coffers. Michael offered his arm to the Queen of Heaven, and the Holy
Family escaped from the palace by a subterranean passage of porphyry. A
deluge of fire was falling on the citadel. Regaining his post once
more, the glorious archangel declared that he would never capitulate,
and straightway advanced the standards of the living God. That same
evening the rebel host made its entry into the thrice-sacred city. On a
fiery steed Satan led his demons. Behind him marched Arcade, Istar, and
Zita. As in the ancient revels of Dionysus, old Nectaire bestrode his
ass. Thereafter, floating out far behind, followed the black standards.
The garrison laid down their arms before Satan. Michael placed his
flaming sword at the feet of the conquering archangel.
Take back your sword, Michael, said Satan. It is Lucifer who
yields it to you. Bear it in defence of peace and law. Then letting
his gaze fall on the leaders of the celestial cohorts, he cried in a
Archangel Michael, and you, Powers, Thrones, and Dominations, swear
all of you to be faithful to your God.
We swear it, they replied with one voice.
And Satan said:
Powers, Thrones, and Dominations, of all past wars, I wish but to
remember the invincible courage that you displayed and the loyalty
which you rendered to authority, for these assure me of the
steadfastness of the fealty you have just sworn to me.
The following day, on the ethereal plain, Satan commanded the black
standards to be distributed to the troops, and the winged soldiers
covered them with kisses and bedewed them with tears.
And Satan had himself crowned God. Thronging round the glittering
walls of Heavenly Jerusalem, apostles, pontiffs, virgins, martyrs,
confessors, the whole company of the elect, who during the fierce
battle had enjoyed delightful tranquillity, tasted infinite joy in the
spectacle of the coronation.
The elect saw with ravishment the Most High precipitated into Hell,
and Satan seated on the throne of the Lord. In conformity with the will
of God which had cut them off from sorrow they sang in the ancient
fashion the praises of their new Master.
And Satan, piercing space with his keen glance, contemplated the
little globe of earth and water where of old he had planted the vine
and formed the first tragic chorus. And he fixed his gaze on that Rome
where the fallen God had founded his empire on fraud and lie.
Nevertheless, at that moment a saint ruled over the Church. Satan saw
him praying and weeping. And he said to him:
To thee I entrust my Spouse. Watch over her faithfully. In thee I
confirm the right and power to decide matters of doctrine, to regulate
the use of the sacraments, to make laws and to uphold purity of morals.
And the faithful shall be under obligation to conform thereto. My
Church is eternal, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Thou art infallible. Nothing is changed.
And the successor of the apostles felt flooded with rapture. He
prostrated himself, and with his forehead touching the floor, replied:
O Lord, my God, I recognise Thy voice! Thy breath has been wafted
like balm to my heart. Blessed be Thy name. Thy will be done on Earth,
as it is in Heaven. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from
And Satan found pleasure in praise and in the exercise of his grace;
he loved to hear his wisdom and his power belauded. He listened with
joy to the canticles of the cherubim who celebrated his good deeds, and
he took no pleasure in listening to Nectaire's flute, because it
celebrated nature's self, yielded to the insect and to the blade of
grass their share of power and love, and counselled happiness and
freedom. Satan, whose flesh had crept, in days gone by, at the idea
that suffering prevailed in the world, now felt himself inaccessible to
pity. He regarded suffering and death as the happy results of
omnipotence and sovereign kindness. And the savour of the blood of
victims rose upward towards him like sweet incense. He fell to
condemning intelligence and to hating curiosity. He himself refused to
learn anything more, for fear that in acquiring fresh knowledge he
might let it be seen that he had not known everything at the very
outset. He took pleasure in mystery, and believing that he would seem
less great by being understood, he affected to be unintelligible. Dense
fumes of Theology filled his brain. One day, following the example of
his predecessor, he conceived the notion of proclaiming himself one god
in three persons. Seeing Arcade smile as this proclamation was made, he
drove him from his presence. Istar and Zita had long since returned to
earth. Thus centuries passed like seconds. Now, one day, from the
altitude of his throne, he plunged his gaze into the depths of the pit
and saw Ialdabaoth in the Gehenna where he himself had long lain
enchained. Amid the everlasting gloom Ialdabaoth still retained his
lofty mien. Blackened and shattered, terrible and sublime, he glanced
upwards at the palace of the King of Heaven with a look of proud
disdain, then turned away his head. And the new god, as he looked upon
his foe, beheld the light of intelligence and love pass across his
sorrow-stricken countenance. And lo! Ialdabaoth was now contemplating
the Earth and, seeing it sunk in wickedness and suffering, he began to
foster thoughts of kindliness in his heart. On a sudden he rose up, and
beating the ether with his mighty arms, as though with oars, he
hastened thither to instruct and to console mankind. Already his vast
shadow shed upon the unhappy planet a shade soft as a night of love.
And Satan awoke bathed in an icy sweat.
Nectaire, Istar, Arcade, and Zita were standing round him. The
finches were singing.
Comrades, said the great archangel, nowe will not conquer the
heavens. Enough to have the power. War engenders war, and victory
God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become
God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot; I love the Hell which
formed my genius. I love the Earth where I have done some good, if it
be possible to do any good in this fearful world where beings live but
by rapine. Now, thanks to us, the god of old is dispossessed of his
terrestrial empire, and every thinking being on this globe disdains him
or knows him not. But what matter that men should be no longer
submissive to Ialdabaoth if the spirit of Ialdabaoth is still in them;
if they, like him, are jealous, violent, quarrelsome, and greedy, and
the foes of the arts and of beauty? What matter that they have rejected
the ferocious Demiurge, if they do not hearken to the friendly demons
who teach all truths; to Dionysus, Apollo, and the Muses? As to
ourselves, celestial spirits, sublime demons, we have destroyed
Ialdabaoth, our Tyrant, if in ourselves we have destroyed Ignorance and
And Satan, turning to the gardener, said:
Nectaire, you fought with me before the birth of the world. We were
conquered because we failed to understand that Victory is a Spirit, and
that it is in ourselves and in ourselves alone that we must attack and