Part 7 out of 7

indissoluble ties to M. de la Marche. I would have died rather than
break my word, or marry any other than Bernard. Subsequently M. de la
Marche freed me from my promise with much delicacy and loyalty, and I
no longer thought of dying."

Edmee now withdrew, followed by all eyes and by a murmur of
approbation. No sooner had she passed out of the hall than she fainted
again; but this attack was without any grave consequences, and left no
traces after a few days.

I was so bewildered, so intoxicated by what she had just said, that
henceforth I could scarcely see what was taking place around me.
Wholly wrapped up in thoughts of my love, I nevertheless could not
cast aside all doubts; for, if Edmee had been silent about some of my
actions, it was also possible that she had exaggerated her affection
for me in the hope of extenuating my faults. I could not bring myself
to think that she had loved me before my departure for America, and,
above all, from the very beginning of my stay at Sainte-Severe. This
was the one thought that filled my mind; I did not even remember
anything further about the case or the object of my trial. It seemed
to me that the sole question at issue in this chill Areopagus was
this: Is he loved, or is he not? For me, victory or defeat, life or
death, hung on that, and that alone.

I was roused from these reveries by the voice of Abbe Aubert. He was
thin and wasted, but seemed perfectly calm; he had been kept in
solitary confinement and had suffered all the hardships of prison life
with the resignation of a martyr. In spite, however, of all
precautions, the clever Marcasse, who could work his way anywhere like
a ferret, had managed to convey to him a letter from Arthur, to which
Edmee had added a few words. Authorized by this letter to say
everything, he made a statement similar to that made by Patience, and
owned that Edmee's first words after the occurrence had made him
believe me guilty; but that subsequently, seeing the patient's mental
condition, and remembering my irreproachable behaviour for more than
six years, and obtaining a little new light from the preceding trial
and the public rumours about the possible existence of Antony Mauprat,
he had felt too convinced of my innocence to be willing to give
evidence which might injure me. If he gave his evidence now, it was
because he thought that further investigations might have enlightened
the court, and that his words would not have the serious consequences
they might have had a month before.

Questioned as to Edmee's feelings for me, he completely destroyed all
Mademoiselle Leblanc's inventions, and declared that not only did
Edmee love me ardently, but that she had felt an affection for me from
the very first day we met. This he affirmed on oath, though
emphasizing my past misdeeds somewhat more than Edmee had done. He
owned that at first he had frequently feared that my cousin would be
foolish enough to marry me, but that he had never had any fear for her
life, since he had always seen her reduce me to submission by a single
word or a mere look, even in my most boorish days.

The continuation of the trial was postponed to await the results of
the warrants issued for the arrest of the assassin. People compared my
trial to that of Calas, and the comparison had no sooner become a
general topic of conversation than my judges, finding themselves
exposed to a thousand shafts, realized very vividly that hatred and
prejudice are bad counsellors and dangerous guides. The sheriff of the
province declared himself the champion of my cause and Edmee's knight,
and he himself escorted her back to her father. He set all the police
agog. They acted with vigour and arrested John Mauprat. When he found
himself a prisoner and threatened, he betrayed his brother, and
declared that they might find him any night at Roche-Mauprat, hiding
in a secret chamber which the tenant's wife helped him to reach,
without her husband's knowledge.

They took the Trappist to Roche-Mauprat under a good escort, so that
he might show them this secret chamber, which, in spite of his genius
for exploring walls and timber-work, the old pole-cat hunter and mole-
catcher Marcasse had never managed to reach. They took me there,
likewise, so that I might help to find this room or passage leading to
it, in case the Trappist should repent of his present sincere
intentions. Once again, then, I revisited this abhorred manor with the
ancient chief of the brigands transformed into a Trappist. He showed
himself so humble and cringing in my presence, he made so light of his
brother's life, and expressed such abject submission that I was filled
with disgust, and after a few moments begged him not to speak to me
any more. Keeping in touch with the mounted police outside, we began
our search for the secret chamber. At first John had pretended that he
knew of its existence, without knowing its exact location now that
three-quarters of the keep had been destroyed. When he saw me,
however, he remembered that I had surprised him in my room, and that
he had disappeared through the wall. He resigned himself, therefore,
to taking us to it, and showing us the secret; this was very curious;
but I will not amuse myself by giving you an account of it. The secret
chamber was opened; no one was there. Yet the expedition had been made
with despatch and secrecy. It did not appear probable that John had
had time to warn his brother. The keep was surrounded by the police
and all the doors were well guarded. The night was dark, and our
invasion had filled all the inmates of the farm with terror. The
tenant had no idea what we were looking for, but his wife's agitation
and anxiety seemed a sure sign that Antony was still in the keep. She
had not sufficient presence of mind to assume a reassured air after we
had explored the first room, and that made Marcasse think that there
must be a second. Did the Trappist know of this, and was he pretending
ignorance? He played his part so well that we were all deceived. We
set to work to explore all the nooks and corners of the ruins again.
There was one large tower standing apart from the other buildings; it
did not seem as if this could offer any one a refuge. The staircase
had completely fallen in at the time of the fire, and there could not
be found a ladder long enough to reach the top story; even the
farmer's ladders tied together with ropes were too short. This top
story seemed to be in a state of good preservation and to contain a
room lighted by two loopholes. Marcasse, after examining the thickness
of the wall, affirmed that there might be a staircase inside, such as
might be found in many an old tower. But where was the exit? Perhaps
it was connected with some subterranean passage. Would the assassin
dare to issue from his retreat as long as we were there? If, in spite
of the darkness of the night and the silence of our proceedings, he
had got wind of our presence, would he venture into the open as long
as we continued on the watch at all points?

"That is not probable," said Marcasse. "We must devise some speedy
means of getting up there; and I see one."

He pointed to a beam at a frightful height, all blackened by the fire,
and running from the tower over a space of some twenty feet to the
garrets of the nearest building. At the end of this beam there was a
large gap in the wall of the tower caused by the falling-in of the
adjoining parts. In his explorations, indeed, Marcasse had fancied
that he could see the steps of a narrow staircase through this gap.
The wall, moreover, was quite thick enough to contain one. The mole-
catcher had never cared to risk his life on this beam; not that he was
afraid of its narrowness or its height; he was accustomed to these
perilous "crossings," as he called them; but the beam had been partly
consumed by the fire and was so thin in the middle that it was
impossible to say whether it would bear the weight of a man, even were
he as slender and diaphanous as the worthy sergeant. Up to the present
nothing had happened here of sufficient importance for him to risk his
life in the experiment. Now, however, the case was different. Marcasse
did not hesitate. I was not near him when he formed his plan; I should
have dissuaded him from it at all costs. I was not aware of it until
he had already reached the middle of the beam, the spot where the
burnt wood was perhaps nothing more than charcoal. How shall I
describe to you what I felt when I beheld my faithful friend in mid-
air, gravely walking toward his goal? Blaireau was trotting in front
of him as calmly as in the old days when it was a question of hunting
through bundles of hay in search of stoats and dormice. Day was
breaking, and the hildalgo's slim outline and his modest yet stately
bearing could be clearly seen against the gray sky. I put my hands to
my face; I seemed to hear the fatal beam cracking; I stifled a cry of
terror lest I should unnerve him at this solemn and critical moment.
But I could not suppress this cry, or help raising my head when I
heard two shots fired from the tower. Marcasse's hat fell at the first
shot; the second grazed his shoulder. He stopped a moment.

"Not touched!" he shouted at us.

And making a rush he was quickly across the aerial bridge. He got into
the tower through the gap and darted up the stairs, crying:

"Follow me, my lads! The beam will bear."

Immediately five other bold and active men who had accompanied him got
astride upon the beam, and with the help of their hands reached the
other end one by one. When the first of them arrived in the garret
whither Antony Mauprat had fled, he found him grappling with Marcasse,
who, quite carried away by his triumph and forgetting that it was not
a question of killing an enemy but of capturing him, set about lunging
at him with his long rapier as if he had been a weasel. But the sham
Trappist was a formidable enemy. He had snatched the sword from the
sergeant's hands, hurled him to the ground, and would have strangled
him had not a gendarme thrown himself on him from behind. With his
prodigious strength he held his own against the first three
assailants; but, with the help of the other two, they succeeded in
overcoming him. When he saw that he was caught he made no further
resistance and let his hands be bound together. They brought him down
the stairs, which were found to lead to the bottom of a dry well in
the middle of the tower. Antony was in the habit of leaving and
entering by means of a ladder which the farmer's wife held for him and
immediately afterwards withdrew. In a transport of delight I threw
myself into my sergeant's arms.

"A mere trifle," he said; "enjoyed it. I found that my foot was still
sure and my head cool. Ha! ha! old sergeant," he added, looking at his
leg, "old hidalgo, old mole-catcher, after this they won't make so
many jokes about your calves!"


If Anthony Mauprat had been a man of mettle he might have done me a
bad turn by declaring that he had been a witness of my attempt to
assassinate Edmee. As he had reasons for hiding himself before this
last crime, he could have explained why he had kept out of sight, and
why he had been silent about the occurrences at Gazeau Tower. I had
nothing in my favour except Patience's evidence. Would this have been
sufficient to procure my acquittal? The evidence of so many others was
against me, even that given by my friends, and by Edmee, who could not
deny my violent temper and the possibility of such a crime.

But Antony, in words the most insolent of all the "Hamstringers," was
the most cowardly in deeds. He no sooner found himself in the hands of
justice than he confessed everything, even before knowing that his
brother had thrown him over.

At his trial there were some scandalous scenes, in which the two
brothers accused each other in a loathsome way. The Trappist, whose
rage was kept in check by his hypocrisy, coldly abandoned the ruffian
to his fate, and denied that he had ever advised him to commit the
crime. The other, driven to desperation, accused him of the most
horrible deeds, including the poisoning of my mother, and Edmee's
mother, who had both died of violent inflammation of the intestines
within a short time of each other. John Mauprat, he declared, used to
be very skilful in the art of preparing poisons and would introduce
himself into houses under various disguises to mix them with the food.
He affirmed that, on the day that Edmee had been brought to Roche-
Mauprat, John had called together all his brothers to discuss plans
for making away with this heiress to a considerable fortune, a fortune
which he had striven to obtain by crime, since he had tried to destroy
the effects of the Chevalier Hubert's marriage. My mother's life, too,
had been the price paid for the latter's wish to adopt his brother's
child. All the Mauprats had been in favour of making away with Edmee
and myself simultaneously, and John was actually preparing the poison
when the police happened to turn aside their hideous designs by
attacking the castle. John denied the charges with pretended horror,
saying humbly that he had committed quite enough mortal sins of
debauchery and irreligion without having these added to his list. As
it was difficult to take Antony's word for them without further
investigation; as this investigation was almost impossible, and as the
clergy were too powerful and too much interested in preventing a
scandal to allow it, John Mauprat was acquitted on the charge of
complicity and merely sent back to the Trappist monastery; the
archbishop forbade him ever to set foot in the diocese again, and,
moreover, sent a request to his superiors that they would never allow
him to leave the convent. He died there a few years later in all the
terrors of a fanatic penitence very much akin to insanity.

It is probable that, as a result of feigning remorse in order to find
favour among his fellows, he had at last, after the failure of his
plans, and under the terrible asceticism of his order, actually
experienced the horrors and agonies of a bad conscience and tardy
repentance. The fear of hell is the only creed of vile souls.

No sooner was I acquitted and set at liberty, with my character
completely cleared, than I hastened to Edmee. I arrived in time to
witness my great-uncle's last moments. Towards the end, though his
mind remained a blank as to past events, the memory of his heart
returned. He recognised me, clasped me to his breast, blessed me at
the same time as Edmee, and put my hand into his daughter's. After we
had paid the last tribute of affection to our excellent and noble
kinsman, whom we were as grieved to lose as if we had not long
foreseen and expected his death, we left the province for some time,
so as not to witness the execution of Antony, who was condemned to be
broken on the wheel. The two false witnesses who had accused me were
flogged, branded, and expelled from the jurisdiction of the court.
Mademoiselle Leblanc, who could not exactly be accused of giving false
evidence, since hers had consisted of mere inferences from facts,
avoided the public displeasure by going to another province. Here she
lived in sufficient luxury to make us suspect that she had been paid
considerable sums to bring about my ruin.

Edmee and I would not consent to be separated, even temporarily, from
our good friends, my sole defenders, Marcasse, Patience, Arthur, and
the Abbe Aubert. We all travelled in the same carriage; the first two,
being accustomed to the open air, were only too glad to sit outside;
but we treated them on a footing of perfect equality. From that day
forth they never sat at any table but our own. Some persons had the
bad taste to express astonishment at this; we let them talk. There are
circumstances that obliterate all distinctions, real or imaginary, of
rank and education.

We paid a visit to Switzerland. Arthur considered this was essential
to the complete restoration of Edmee's health. The delicate,
thoughtful attentions of this devoted friend, and the loving efforts
we made to minister to her happiness, combined into the beautiful
spectacle of the mountains to drive away her melancholy and efface the
recollection of the troublous times through which we had just passed.
On Patience's poetic nature Switzerland had quite a magic effect. He
would frequently fall into such a state of ecstasy that we were
entranced and terrified at the same time. He felt strongly tempted to
build himself a chalet in the heart of some valley and spend the rest
of his life there in contemplation of Nature; but his affection for us
made him abandon this project. As for Marcasse, he declared
subsequently that, despite all the pleasure he had derived from our
society, he looked upon this visit as the most unlucky event of his
life. At the inn at Martigny, on our return journey, Blaireau, whose
digestion had been impaired by age, fell a victim to the excess of
hospitality shown him in the kitchen. The sergeant said not a word,
but gazed on him awhile with heavy eye, and then went and buried him
under the most beautiful rose-tree in the garden; nor did he speak of
his loss until more than a year later.

During our journey Edmee was for me a veritable angel of kindness and
tender thought; abandoning herself henceforth to all the inspirations
of her heart, and no longer feeling any distrust of me, or perhaps
thinking that I deserved some compensation for all my sufferings, she
repeatedly confirmed the celestial assurances of love which she had
given in public, when she lifted up her voice to proclaim my
innocence. A few reservations that had struck me in her evidence, and
a recollection of the damning words that had fallen from her lips when
Patience found her shot, continued, I must confess, to cause me pain
for some time longer. I thought, rightly perhaps, that Edmee had made
a great effort to believe in my innocence before Patience had given
his evidence. But on this point she always spoke most unwillingly and
with a certain amount of reserve. However, one day she quite healed my
wound by saying with her charming abruptness:

"And if I loved you enough to absolve you in my own heart, and defend
you in public at the cost of a lie, what would you say to that?"

A point on which I felt no less concern was to know how far I might
believe in the love which she declared she had had for me from the
very beginning of our acquaintance. Here she betrayed a little
confusion, as if, in her invincible pride, she regretted having
revealed a secret she had so jealously guarded. It was the abbe who
undertook to confess for her. He assured me that at that time he had
frequently scolded Edmee for her affection for "the young savage." As
an objection to this, I told him of the conversation between Edmee and
himself which I had overheard one evening in the park. This I repeated
with that great accuracy of memory I possess. However, he replied:

"That very evening, if you had followed us a little further under the
trees, you might have overheard a dispute that would have completely
reassured you, and have explained how, from being repugnant (I may
almost say odious) to me, as you then were, you became at first
endurable, and gradually very dear."

"You must tell me," I exclaimed, "who worked the miracle."

"One word will explain it," he answered; "Edmee loved you. When she
had confessed this to me, she covered her face with her hands and
remained for a moment as if overwhelmed with shame and vexation; then
suddenly she raised her head and exclaimed:

" 'Well, since you wish to know the absolute truth, I love him! Yes, I
love him! I am smitten with him, as you say. It is not my fault; why
should I blush at it? I cannot help it; it is the work of fate. I have
never loved M. de la Marche; I merely feel a friendship for him. For
Bernard I have a very different feeling--a feeling so strong, so
varied, so full of unrest, of hatred, of fear, of pity, of anger, of
tenderness, that I understand nothing about it, and no longer try to
understand anything.' "

" 'Oh, woman, woman!' I exclaimed, clasping my hands in bewilderment,
'thou art a mystery, an abyss, and he who thinks to know thee is
totally mad!'

" 'As many times as you like, abbe,' she answered, with a firmness in
which there were signs of annoyance and confusion, 'it is all the same
to me. On this point I have lectured myself more than you have
lectured all your flocks in your whole life. I know that Bernard is a
bear, a badger, as Mademoiselle Leblanc calls him, a savage, a boor,
and anything else you like. There is nothing more shaggy, more
prickly, more cunning, more malicious than Bernard. He is an animal
who scarcely knows how to sign his name; he is a coarse brute who
thinks he can break me in like one of the jades of Varenne. But he
makes a great mistake; I will die rather than ever be his, unless he
becomes civilized enough to marry me. But one might as well expect a
miracle. I try to improve him, without daring to hope. However,
whether he forces me to kill myself or to turn nun, whether he remains
as he is or becomes worse, it will be none the less true that I love
him. My dear abbe, you know that it must be costing me something to
make this confession; and, when my affection for you brings me as a
penitent to your feet and to your bosom, you should not humiliate me
by your expressions of surprise and your exorcisms! Consider the
matter now; examine, discuss, decide! Consider the matter now;
examine, discuss, decide! The evil is--I love him. The symptoms are--I
think of none but him, I see none but him; and I could eat no dinner
this evening because he had not come back. I find him handsomer than
any man in the world. When he says that he loves me, I can see, I can
feel that it is true; I feel displeased, and at the same time
delighted. M. de la Marche seems insipid and prim since I have known
Bernard. Bernard alone seems as proud, as passionate, as bold as
myself--and as weak as myself; for he cries like a child when I vex
him, and here I am crying, too, as I think of him.' "

"Dear abbe," I said, throwing myself on his neck, "let me embrace you
till I have crushed your life out for remembering all this."

"The abbe is drawing the long bow," said Edmee archly.

"What!" I exclaimed, pressing her hands as if I would break them. "You
have made me suffer for seven years, and now you repent a few words
that console me . . ."

"In any case do not regret the past," she said. "Ah, with you such as
you were in those days, we should have been ruined if I had not been
able to think and decide for both of us. Good God! what would have
become of us by now? You would have had far more to suffer from my
sternness and pride; for you would have offended me from the very
first day of our union, and I should have had to punish you by running
away or killing myself, or killing you--for we are given to killing in
our family; it is a natural habit. One thing is certain, and that is
that you would have been a detestable husband; you would have made me
blush for your ignorance; you would have wanted to rule me, and we
should have fallen foul of each other; that would have driven my
father to despair, and, as you know, my father had to be considered
before everything. I might, perhaps, have risked my own fate lightly
enough, if I had been alone in the world, for I have a strain of
rashness in my nature; but it was essential that my father should
remain happy, and tranquil, and respected. He had brought me up in
happiness and independence, and I should never have forgiven myself if
I had deprived his old age of the blessings he had lavished on my
whole life. Do not think that I am full of virtues and noble
qualities, as the abbe pretends; I love, that is all; but I love
strongly, exclusively, steadfastly. I sacrificed you to my father, my
poor Bernard; and Heaven, who would have cursed us if I had sacrificed
my father, rewards us to-day by giving us to each other, tried and not
found wanting. As you grew greater in my eyes I felt that I could
wait, because I knew I had to love you long, and I was not afraid of
seeing my passion vanish before it was satisfied, as do the passions
of feeble souls. We were two exceptional characters; our loves had to
be heroic; the beaten track would have led both of us to ruin."


We returned to Sainte-Severe at the expiration of Edmee's period of
mourning. This was the time that had been fixed for our marriage. When
we had quitted the province where we had both experienced so many
bitter mortifications and such grievous trials, we had imagined that
we should never feel any inclination to return. Yet, so powerful are
the recollections of childhood and the ties of family life that, even
in the heart of an enchanted land which could not arouse painful
memories, we had quickly begun to regret our gloomy, wild Varenne, and
sighed for the old oaks in the park. We returned, then, with a sense
of profound yet solemn joy. Edmee's first care was to gather the
beautiful flowers in the garden and to kneel by her father's grave and
arrange them on it. We kissed the hallowed ground, and there made a
vow to strive unceasingly to leave a name as worthy of respect and
veneration as his. He had frequently carried this ambition to the
verge of weakness, but it was a noble weakness, a sacred vanity.

Our marriage was celebrated in the village chapel, and the festivities
were confined to the family; none but Arthur, the abbe, Marcasse, and
Patience sat down to our modest banquet. What need had we of the
outside world to behold our happiness? They might have believed,
perhaps, that they were doing us an honour by covering the blots on
our escutcheon with their august presence. We were enough to be happy
and merry among ourselves. Our hearts were filled with as much
affection as they could hold. we were too proud to ask more from any
one, too pleased with one another to yearn for greater pleasure.
Patience returned to his sober, retired life, resumed the duties of
"great judge" and "treasurer" on certain days of the week. Marcasse
remained with me until his death, which happened towards the end of
the French Revolution. I trust I did my best to repay his fidelity by
an unreserved friendship and an intimacy that nothing could disturb.

Arthur, who had sacrificed a year of his life to us, could not bring
himself to abjure the love of his country, and his desire to
contribute to its progress by offering it the fruits of his learning
and the results of his investigations; he returned to Philadelphia,
where I paid him a visit after I was left a widower.

I will not describe my years of happiness with my noble wife; such
years beggar description. One could not resign one's self to living
after losing them, if one did not make strenuous efforts to avoid
recalling them too often. She gave me six children; four of these are
still alive, and all honourably settled in life. I have lived for
them, in obedience to Edmee's dying command. You must forgive me for
not speaking further of this loss, which I suffered only ten years
ago. I feel it now as keenly as on the first day, and I do not seek to
find consolation for it, but to make myself worthy of rejoining the
holy comrade of my life in a better world after I have completed my
period of probation in this. She was the only woman I ever loved;
never did any other win a glance from me or know the pressure of my
hand. Such is my nature; what I love I love eternally, in the past, in
the present, in the future.

The storms of the Revolution did not destroy our existence, nor did
the passions it aroused disturb the harmony of our private life. We
gladly gave up a large part of our property to the Republic, looking
upon it, indeed, as a just sacrifice. The abbe, terrified by the
bloodshed, occasionally abjured this political faith, when the
necessities of the hour were too much for the strength of his soul. He
was the Girondin of the family.

With no less sensibility, Edmee had greater courage; a woman and
compassionate, she sympathized profoundly with the sufferings of all
classes. She bewailed the misfortune of her age; but she never failed
to appreciate the greatness of its holy fanaticism. She remained
faithful to her ideas of absolute equality. At a time when the acts of
the Mountain were irritating the abbe, and driving him to despair, she
generously sacrificed her own patriotic enthusiasm; and her delicacy
would never let her mention in his presence certain names that made
him shudder, names for which she herself had a sort of passionate
veneration, the like of which I have never seen in any woman.

As for myself, I can truthfully say that it was she who educated me;
during the whole course of my life I had the profoundest respect for
her judgment and rectitude. When, in my enthusiasm, I was filled with
a longing to play a part as a leader of the people, she held me back
by showing how my name would destroy any influence I might have; since
they would distrust me, and imagine my aim was to use them as an
instrument for recovering my rank. When the enemy was at the gates of
France, she sent me to serve as a volunteer; when the Republic was
overthrown, and a military career came to be merely a means of
gratifying ambition, she recalled me, and said:

"You must never leave me again."

Patience played a great part in the Revolution. He was unanimously
chosen as judge of his district. His integrity, his impartiality
between castle and cottage, his firmness and wisdom will never be
forgotten in Varenne.

During the war I was instrumental in saving M. de la Marche's life,
and helping him to escape to a foreign country.

Such, I believe, said old Mauprat, are all the events of my life in
which Edmee played a part. The rest of it is not worth the telling. If
there is anything helpful in my story, try to profit by it, young
fellows. Hope to be blessed with a frank counsellor, a severe friend;
and love not the man who flatters, but the man who reproves. Do not
believe too much in phrenology; for I have the murderer's bump largely
developed, and, as Edmee used to say with grim humour, "killing comes
natural" to our family. Do not believe in fate, or, at least, never
advise any one to tamely submit to it. Such is the moral of my story.

After this old Bernard gave us a good supper, and continued conversing
with us for the rest of the evening without showing any signs of
discomposure or fatigue. As we begged him to develop what he called
the moral of his story a little further, he proceeded to a few general
considerations which impressed me with their soundness and good sense.

I spoke of phrenology, he said, not with the object of criticising a
system which has its good side, in so far as it tends to complete the
series of physiological observations that aim at increasing our
knowledge of man; I used the word phrenology because the only fatality
that we believe in nowadays is that created by our own instincts. I do
not believe that phrenology is more fatalistic than any other system
of this kind; and Lavater, who was also accused of fatalism in his
time, was the most Christian man the Gospel has ever formed.

Do not believe in any absolute and inevitable fate; and yet
acknowledge, in a measure, that we are moulded by instincts, our
faculties, the impressions of our infancy, the surroundings of our
earliest childhood--in short, by all that outside world which has
presided over the development of our soul. Admit that we are not
always absolutely free to choose between good and evil, if you would
be indulgent towards the guilty--that is to say, just even as Heaven
is just; for there is infinite mercy in God's judgments; otherwise His
justice would be imperfect.

What I am saying now is not very orthodox, but, take my word for it,
it is Christian, because it is true. Man is not born wicked; neither
is he born good, as is maintained by Jean Jacques Rousseau, my beloved
Edmee's old master. Man is born with more or less of passions, with
more or less power to satisfy them, with more or less capacity for
turning them to a good or bad account in society. But education can
and must find a remedy for everything; that is the great problem to be
solved, to discover the education best suited to each individual. If
it seems necessary that education should be general and in common,
does it follow that it ought to be the same for all? I quite believe
that if I had been sent to school when I was ten, I should have become
a civilized being earlier; but would any one have thought of
correcting my violent passions, and of teaching me how to conquer them
as Edmee did? I doubt it. Every man needs to be loved before he can be
worth anything; but each in a different way; one with never-failing
indulgence, another with unflinching severity. Meanwhile, until some
one solves the problem of making education common to all, and yet
appropriate to each, try to improve one another.

Do you ask me how? My answer will be brief: by loving one another
truly. It is in this way--for the manners of a people mould their laws
--that you will succeed in suppressing the most odious and impious of
all laws, the /lex talionis/, capital punishment, which is nothing
else than the consecration of the principle of fatality, seeing that
it supposes the culprit incorrigible and Heaven implacable.


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