The Wandering Jew, v6
Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by David Widger
and Pat Castevens
THE WANDERING JEW
By Eugene Sue
PART SECOND.--THE CHASTISEMENT. (Concluded.)
XXVI. A Good Genius
XXVII. The First Last, And the Last First
XXVIII. The Stranger
XXIX. The Den
XXX. An Unexpected Visit
XXXI. Friendly Services
XXXII. The Advice
XXXIII. The Accuser
XXXIV. Father d'Aigrigny's Secretary
XXXIX. Pierre Simon
A GOOD GENIUS.
The first of the two, whose arrival had interrupted the answer of the
notary, was Faringhea. At sight of this man's forbidding countenance,
Samuel approached, and said to him: "Who are you, sir?"
After casting a piercing glance at Rodin, who started but soon recovered
his habitual coolness, Faringhea replied to Samuel: "Prince Djalma
arrived lately from India, in order to be present here this day, as it
was recommended to him by an inscription on a medal, which he wore about
"He, also!" cried Gabriel, who had been the shipmate of the Indian Prince
from the Azores, where the vessel in which he came from Alexandria had
been driven into port: "he also one of the heirs! In fact, the prince
told me during the voyage that his mother was of French origin. But,
doubtless, he thought it right to conceal from me the object of his
journey. Oh! that Indian is a noble and courageous young man. Where is
The Strangler again looked at Rodin, and said, laying strong emphasis
upon his words: "I left the prince yesterday evening. He informed me
that, although he had a great interest to be here, he might possibly
sacrifice that interest to other motives. I passed the night in the same
hotel, and this morning, when I went to call on him, they told me he was
already gone out. My friendship for him led me to come hither, hoping
the information I should be able to give might be of use to the prince."
In making no mention of the snare into which he had fallen the day
before, in concealing Rodin's machinations with regard to Djalma, and in
attributing the absence of this latter to a voluntary cause, the
Strangler evidently wished to serve the socius, trusting that Rodin would
know how to recompense his discretion. It is useless to observe, that
all this story was impudently false. Having succeeded that morning in
escaping from his prison by a prodigious effort of cunning, audacity, and
skill, he had run to the hotel where he had left Djalma; there he had
learned that a man and woman, of an advanced age, and most respectable
appearance, calling themselves relations of the young Indian, had asked
to see him--and that, alarmed at the dangerous state of somnolency in
which he seemed to be plunged, they had taken him home in their carriage,
in order to pay him the necessary attention.
"It is unfortunate," said the notary, "that this heir also did not make
his appearance--but he has, unhappily, forfeited his right to the immense
inheritance that is in question."
"Oh! an immense inheritance is in question," said Faringhea, looking
fixedly at Rodin, who prudently turned away his eyes.
The second of the two personages we have mentioned entered at this
moment. It was the father of Marshal Simon, an old man of tall stature,
still active and vigorous for his age. His hair was white and thin. His
countenance, rather fresh-colored, was expressive at once of quickness,
mildness and energy.
Agricola advanced hastily to meet him. "You here, M. Simon!" he
"Yes, my boy," said the marshal's father, cordially pressing Agricola's
hand "I have just arrived from my journey. M. Hardy was to have been
here, about some matter of inheritance, as he supposed: but, as he will
still be absent from Paris for some time, he has charged me--"
"He also an heir!--M. Francis Hardy!" cried Agricola, interrupting the
"But how pale and agitated you are, my boy!" said the marshal's father,
looking round with astonishment. "What is the matter?"
"What is the matter?" cried Dagobert, in despair, as he approached the
foreman. "The matter is that they would rob your granddaughters, and
that I have brought them from the depths of Siberia only to witness this
"Eh?" cried the old workman, trying to recognize the soldiers face, "you
"You--the generous, devoted friend of my son!" cried the marshal's
father, pressing the hands of Dagobert in his own with strong emotion;
"but did you not speak of Simon's daughter?"
"Of his daughters; for he is more fortunate than he imagines," said
Dagobert. "The poor children are twins."
"And where are they?" asked the old man.
"In a convent."
"In a convent?"
"Yes; by the treachery of this man, who keeps them there in order to
"The Marquis d'Aigrigny."
"My son's mortal enemy!" cried the old workman, as he threw a glance of
aversion at Father d'Aigrigny, whose audacity did not fail him.
"And that is not all," added Agricola. "M. Hardy, my worthy and
excellent master, has also lost his right to this immense inheritance."
"What?" cried Marshal Simon's father; "but M. Hardy did not know that
such important interests were concerned. He set out hastily to join one
of his friends who was in want of him."
At each of these successive revelations, Samuel felt his trouble
increase: but he could only sigh over it, for the will of the testator
was couched, unhappily, in precise and positive terms.
Father d'Aigrigny, impatient to end this scene, which caused him cruel
embarrassment, in spite of his apparent calmness, said to the notary, in
a grave and expressive voice: "It is necessary, sir, that all this
should have an end. If calumny could reach me, I would answer
victoriously by the facts that have just come to light. Why attribute to
odious conspiracies the absence of the heirs, in whose names this soldier
and his son have so uncourteously urged their demands? Why should such
absence be less explicable than the young Indian's, or than M. Hardy's,
who, as his confidential man has just told us, did not even know the
importance of the interests that called him hither? Is it not probable,
that the daughters of Marshal Simon, and Mdlle. de Cardoville have been
prevented from coming here to-day by some very natural reasons? But,
once again, this has lasted too long. I think M. Notary will agree with
me, that this discovery of new heirs does not at all affect the question,
which I had the honor to propose to him just now; namely whether, as
trustee for the poor, to whom Abbe Gabriel made a free gift of all he
possessed, I remain notwithstanding his tardy and illegal opposition, the
only possessor of this property, which I have promised, and which I now
again promise, in presence of all here assembled, to employ for the
Greater Glory of the Lord? Please to answer me plainly, M. Notary; and
thus terminate the scene which must needs be painful to us all."
"Sir," replied the notary, in a solemn tone, "on my soul and conscience,
and in the name of law and justice--as a faithful and impartial executor
of the last will of M. Marius de Rennepont, I declare that, by virtue of
the deed of gift of Abbe Gabriel de Rennepont, you, M. l'Abbe d'Aigrigny,
are the only possessor of this property, which I place at your immediate
disposal, that you may employ the same according to the intention of the
These words pronounced with conviction and gravity, destroyed the last
vague hopes that the representatives of the heirs might till then have
entertained. Samuel became paler than usual, and pressed convulsively
the hand of Bathsheba, who had drawn near to him. Large tears rolled
down the cheeks of the two old people. Dagobert and Agricola were
plunged into the deepest dejection. Struck with the reasoning of the
notary, who refused to give more credence and authority to their
remonstrances than the magistrates had done before him, they saw
themselves forced to abandon every hope. But Gabriel suffered more than
any one; he felt the most terrible remorse, in reflecting that, by his
blindness, he had been the involuntary cause and instrument of this
So, when the notary, after having examined and verified the amount of
securities contained in the cedar box, said to Father d'Aigrigny: "Take
possession, sir, of this casket--" Gabriel exclaimed, with bitter
disappointment and profound despair: "Alas! one would fancy, under these
circumstances, that an inexorable fatality pursues all those who are
worthy of interest, affection or respect. Oh, my God!" added the young
priest, clasping his hands with fervor, "Thy sovereign justice will never
permit the triumph of such iniquity."
It was as if heaven had listened to the prayer of the missionary. Hardly
had he spoken, when a strange event took place.
Without waiting for the end of Gabriel's invocation, Rodin, profiting by
the decision of the notary, had seized the casket in his arms, unable to
repress a deep aspiration of joy and triumph. At the very moment when
Father d'Aigrigny and his socius thought themselves at last in safe
possession of the treasure, the door of the apartment in which the clock
had been heard striking was suddenly opened.
A woman appeared upon the threshold.
At sight of her, Gabriel uttered a loud cry, and remained as if
thunderstruck. Samuel and Bathsheba fell on their knees together, and
raised their clasped hands. The Jew and Jewess felt inexplicable hopes
reviving within them.
All the other actors in this scene appeared struck with stupor. Rodin--
Rodin himself--recoiled two steps, and replaced the casket on the table
with a trembling hand. Though the incident might appear natural enough--
a woman appearing on the threshold of a door, which she had just thrown
open--there was a pause of deep and solemn silence. Every bosom seemed
oppressed, and as if struggling for breath. All experienced, at sight of
this woman, surprise mingled with fear, and indefinable anxiety--for this
woman was the living original of the portrait, which had been placed in
the room a hundred and fifty years ago. The same head-dress, the same
flowing robe, the same countenance, so full of poignant and resigned
grief! She advanced slowly, and without appearing to perceive the deep
impression she had caused. She approached one of the pieces of
furniture, inlaid with brass, touched a spring concealed in the moulding
of gilded bronze, so that an upper drawer flew open, and taking from it a
sealed parchment envelope, she walked up to the table, and placed this
packet before the notary, who, hitherto silent and motionless, received
it mechanically from her.
Then, casting upon Gabriel, who seemed fascinated by her presence, a
long, mild, melancholy look, this woman directed her steps towards the
hall, the door of which had remained open. As she passed near Samuel and
Bathsheba, who were still kneeling, she stopped an instant, bowed her
fair head towards them, and looked at them with tender solicitude. Then,
giving them her hands to kiss, she glided away as slowly as she had
entered--throwing a last glance upon Gabriel. The departure of this
woman seemed to break the spell under which all present had remained for
the last few minutes. Gabriel was the first to speak, exclaiming, in an
agitated voice. "It is she--again--here--in this house!"
"Who, brother?" said Agricola, uneasy at the pale and almost wild looks
of the missionary; for the smith had not yet remarked the strange
resemblance of the woman to the portrait, though he shared in the general
feeling of amazement, without being able to explain it to himself.
Dagobert and Faringhea were in a similar state of mind.
"Who is this woman?" resumed Agricola, as he took the hand of Gabriel,
which felt damp and icy cold.
"Look!" said the young priest. "Those portraits have been there for more
than a century and a half."
He pointed to the paintings before which he was now seated, and Agricola,
Dagobert, and Faringhea raised their eyes to either side of the
fireplace. Three exclamations were now heard at once.
"It is she--it is the same woman!" cried the smith, in amazement, "and
her portrait has been here for a hundred and fifty years!"
"What do I see?" cried Dagobert, as he gazed at the portrait of the man.
"The friend and emissary of Marshal Simon. Yes! it is the same face that
I saw last year in Siberia. Oh, yes! I recognize that wild and sorrowful
air--those black eyebrows, which make only one!"
"My eyes do not deceive me," muttered Faringhea to himself, shuddering
with horror. "It is the same man, with the black mark on his forehead,
that we strangled and buried on the banks of the Ganges--the same man,
that one of the sons of Bowanee told me, in the ruins of Tchandi, had
been met by him afterwards at one of the gates of Bombay--the man of the
fatal curse, who scatters death upon his passage--and his picture has
existed for a hundred and fifty years!"
And, like Dagobert and Agricola, the stranger could not withdraw his eyes
from that strange portrait.
"What a mysterious resemblance!" thought Father d'Aigrigny. Then, as if
struck with a sudden idea, he said to Gabriel: "But this woman is the
same that saved your life in America?"
"It is the same," answered Gabriel, with emotion; "and yet she told me
she was going towards the North," added the young priest, speaking to
"But how came she in this house?" said Father d'Aigrigny, addressing
Samuel. "Answer me! did this woman come in with you, or before you?"
"I came in first, and alone, when this door was first opened since a
century and half," said Samuel, gravely.
"Then how can you explain the presence of this woman here?" said Father
"I do not try to explain it," said the Jew. "I see, I believe, and now I
hope." added he, looking at Bathsheba with an indefinable expression.
"But you ought to explain the presence of this woman!" said Father
d'Aigrigny, with vague uneasiness. "Who is she? How came she hither?"
"All I know is, sir, that my father has often told me; there are
subterraneous communications between this house and distant parts of the
"Oh! then nothing can be clearer," said Father d'Aigrigny; "it only
remains to be known what this woman intends by coming hither. As for her
singular resemblance to this portrait, it is one of the freaks of
Rodin had shared in the general emotion, at the apparition of this
mysterious woman. But when he saw that she had delivered a sealed packet
to the notary, the socius, instead of thinking of the strangeness of this
unexpected vision, was only occupied with a violent desire to quit the
house with the treasure which had just fallen to the Company. He felt a
vague anxiety at sight of the envelope with the black seal, which the
protectress of Gabriel had delivered to the notary, and was still held
mechanically in his hands. The socius, therefore, judging this a very
good opportunity to walk off with the casket, during the general silence
and stupor which still continued, slightly touched Father d'Aigrigny's
elbow, made him a sign of intelligence, and, tucking the cedar-wood chest
under his arm, was hastening towards the door.
"One moment, sir," said Samuel, rising, and standing in his path; "I
request M. Notary to examine the envelope, that has just been delivered
to him. You may then go out."
"But, sir," said Rodin, trying to force a passage, "the question is
definitively decided in favor of Father d'Aigrigny. Therefore, with your
"I tell you, sir," answered the old man, in a loud voice, "that this
casket shall not leave the house, until M. Notary has examined the
envelope just delivered to him!"
These words drew the attention of all, Rodin was forced to retrace his
steps. Notwithstanding the firmness of his character, the Jew shuddered
at the look of implacable hate which Rodin turned upon him at this
Yielding to the wish of Samuel, the notary examined the envelope with
attention. "Good Heaven!" he cried suddenly; "what do I see?--Ah! so
much the better!"
At this exclamation all eyes turned upon the notary. "Oh! read, read,
sir!" cried Samuel, clasping his hands together. "My presentiments have
not then deceived me!"
"But, sir," said Father d'Aigrigny to the notary, for he began to share
in the anxiety of Rodin, "what is this paper?"
"A codicil," answered the notary; "a codicil, which reopens the whole
"How, sir?" cried Father d'Aigrigny, in a fury, as he hastily drew nearer
to the notary, "reopens the whole question! By what right?"
"It is impossible," added Rodin. "We protest against it.
"Gabriel! father! listen," cried Agricola, "all is not lost. There is
yet hope. Do you hear, Gabriel? There is yet hope."
"What do you say?" exclaimed the young priest, rising, and hardly
believing the words of his adopted brother.
"Gentlemen," said the notary; "I will read to you the superscription of
this envelope. It changes, or rather, it adjourns, the whole of the
"Gabriel!" cried Agricola, throwing himself on the neck of the
missionary, "all is adjourned, nothing is lost!"
"Listen, gentlemen," said the notary; and he read as follows:
"'This is a Codicil, which for reasons herein stated, adjourns and
prorogues to the 1st day of June, 1832, though without any other change,
all the provisions contained in the testament made by me, at one o'clock
this afternoon. The house shall be reclosed, and the funds left in the
hands of the same trustee, to be distributed to the rightful claimants on
the 1st of June, 1832.
"`Villetaneuse, this 13th of February, 1682, eleven o'clock at night.
"'MARIUS DE RENNEPONT.'"
"I protest against this codicil as a forgery!" cried Father d'Aigrigny
livid with rage and despair.
"The woman who delivered it to the notary is a suspicious character,"
added Rodin. "The codicil has been forged."
"No, sir," said the notary, severely; "I have just compared the two
signatures, and they are absolutely alike. For the rest--what I said
this morning, with regard to the absent heirs, is now applicable to you--
the law is open; you may dispute the authenticity of this codicil.
Meanwhile, everything will remain suspended--since the term for the
adjustment of the inheritance is prolonged for three months and a half."
When the notary had uttered these last words, Rodin's nails dripped
blood; for the first time, his wan lips became red.
"Oh, God! Thou hast heard and granted my prayer!" cried Gabriel, kneeling
down with religious fervor, and turning his angelic face towards heaven.
"Thy sovereign justice has not let iniquity triumph!"
"What do you say, my brave boy?" cried Dagobert, who, in the first tumult
of joy, had not exactly understood the meaning of the codicil.
"All is put off, father!" exclaimed the smith; "the heirs will have three
months and a half more to make their claim. And now that these people
are unmasked," added Agricola, pointing to Rodin and Father d'Aigrigny,
"we have nothing more to fear from them. We shall be on our guard; and
the orphans, Mdlle. de Cardoville, my worthy master, M. Hardy, and this
young Indian, will all recover their own."
We must renounce the attempt to paint the delight, the transport of
Gabriel and Agricola, of Dagobert, and Marshal Simon's father, of Samuel
and Bathsheba. Faringhea alone remained in gloomy silence, before the
portrait of the man with the black-barred forehead. As for the fury of
Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin, when they saw Samuel retake possession of
the casket, we must also renounce any attempt to describe it. On the
notary's suggestion, who took with him the codicil, to have it opened
according to the formalities of the law, Samuel agreed that it would be
more prudent to deposit in the Bank of France the securities of immense
value that were now known to be in his possession.
While all the generous hearts, which had for a moment suffered so much,
were overflowing with happiness, hope, and joy, Father d'Aigrigny and
Rodin quitted the house with rage and death in their souls. The reverend
father got into his carriage, and said to his servants: "To Saint-Dizier
House!"--Then, worn out and crushed, he fell back upon the seat, and hid
his face in his hands, while he uttered a deep groan. Rodin sat next to
him, and looked with a mixture of anger and disdain at this so dejected
and broken-spirited man.
"The coward!" said he to himself. "He despairs--and yet--"
A quarter of an hour later, the carriage stopped in the Rue de Babylone,
in the court-yard of Saint-Dizier House.
THE FIRST LAST, AND THE LAST FIRST.
The carriage had travelled rapidly to Saint-Dizier House. During all the
way, Rodin remained mute, contenting himself with observing Father
d'Aigrigny, and listening to him, as he poured forth his grief and fury
in a long monologue, interrupted by exclamations, lamentations, and
bursts of rage, directed against the strokes of that inexorable destiny,
which had ruined in a moment the best founded hopes. When the carriage
entered the courtyard, and stopped before the portico, the princess's
face could be seen through one of the windows, half hidden by the folds
of a curtain; in her burning anxiety, she came to see if it was really
Father d'Aigrigny who arrived at the house. Still more, in defiance of
all ordinary rules, this great lady, generally so scrupulous as to
appearances, hurried from her apartment, and descended several steps of
the staircase, to meet Father d'Aigrigny, who was coming up with a
dejected air. At sight of the livid and agitated countenance of the
reverend father, the princess stopped suddenly, and grew pale. She
suspected that all was lost. A look rapidly exchanged with her old lover
left her no doubt of the issue she so much feared. Rodin humbly followed
the reverend father, and both, preceded by the princess, entered the
room. The door once closed, the princess, addressing Father d'Aigrigny,
exclaimed with unspeakable anguish: "What has happened?"
Instead of answering this question, the reverend father, his eyes
sparkling with rage, his lips white, his features contracted, looked
fixedly at the princess, and said to her: "Do you know the amount of
this inheritance, that we estimated at forty millions?"
"I understand," cried the princess; "we have been deceived. The
inheritance amounts to nothing, and all you have dare has been in vain."
"Yes, it has indeed been in vain," answered the reverend father, grinding
his teeth with rage; "it was no question of forty millions, but of two
hundred and twelve millions.
"Two hundred and twelve millions!" repeated the princess in amazement, as
she drew back a step. "It is impossible!"
"I tell you I saw the vouchers, which were examined by the notary."
"Two hundred and twelve millions?" resumed the princess, with deep
dejection. "It is an immense and sovereign power--and you have
renounced--you have not struggled for it, by every possible means, and
till the last moment?"
"Madame, I have done all that I could!--notwithstanding the treachery of
Gabriel, who this very morning declared that he renounced us, and
separated from the Society."
"Ungrateful!" said the princess, unaffectedly.
"The deed of gift, which I had the precaution to have prepared by the
notary, was in such good, legal form, that in spite of the objections of
that accursed soldier and his son, the notary had put me in possession of
"Two hundred and twelve millions!" repeated the princess clasping her
hands. "Verily it is like a dream!"
"Yes," replied Father d'Aigrigny, bitterly, "for us, this possession is
indeed a dream, for a codicil has been discovered, which puts off for
three months and a half all the testamentary provisions. Now that our
very precautions have roused the suspicion of all these heirs--now that
they know the enormous amount at stake--they will be upon their guard;
and all is lost."
"But who is the wretch that produced this codicil?"
"Some wandering creature, that Gabriel says he met in America, where she
saved his life."
"And how could this woman be there--how could she know the existence of
"I think it was all arranged with a miserable Jew, the guardian of the
house, whose family has had charge of the funds for three generations; he
had no doubt some secret instructions, in case he suspected the detention
of any of the heirs, for this Marius de Rennepont had foreseen that our
Company would keep their eyes upon his race."
"But can you not dispute the validity of this codicil?"
"What, go to law in these times--litigate about a will--incur the
certainty of a thousand clamors, with no security for success?--It is bad
enough, that even this should get wind. Alas! it is terrible. So near
the goal! after so much care and trouble. An affair that had been
followed up with so much perseverance during a century and a half!"
"Two hundred and twelve millions!" said the princess. "The Order would
have had no need to look for establishments in foreign countries; with
such resources, it would have been able to impose itself upon France."
"Yes," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, with bitterness; "by means of
education, we might have possessed ourselves of the rising generation.
The power is altogether incalculable." Then, stamping with his foot, he
resumed: "I tell you, that it is enough to drive one mad with rage! an
affair so wisely, ably, patiently conducted!"
"Is there no hope?"
"Only that Gabriel may not revoke his donation, in as far as concerns
himself. That alone would be a considerable sum--not less than thirty
"It is enormous--it is almost what you hoped," said the princess; "then
"Because it is evident that Gabriel will dispute this donation. However
legal it may be, he will find means to annul it, now that he is free,
informed as to our designs, and surrounded by his adopted family. I tell
you, that all is lost. There is no hope left. I think it will be even
prudent to write to Rome, to obtain permission to leave Paris for a
while. This town is odious to me!"
"Oh, yes! I see that no hope is left--since you, my friend, have decided
almost to fly."
Father d'Aigrigny was completely discouraged and broken down; this
terrible blow had destroyed all life and energy within him. He threw
himself back in an arm-chair, quite overcome. During the preceding
dialogue, Rodin was standing humbly near the door, with his old hat in
his hand. Two or three times, at certain passages in the conversation
between Father d'Aigrigny and the princess, the cadaverous face of the
socius, whose wrath appeared to be concentrated, was slightly flushed,
and his flappy eyelids were tinged with red, as if the blood mounted in
consequence of an interior struggle; but, immediately after, his dull
countenance resumed its pallid blue.
"I must write instantly to Rome, to announce this defeat, which has
become an event of the first importance, because it overthrows immense
hopes," said Father d'Aigrigny, much depressed.
The reverend father had remained seated; pointing to a table, he said to
Rodin, with an abrupt and haughty air:
The socius placed his hat on the ground, answered with a respectful bow
the command, and with stooping head and slanting walk, went to seat
himself on a chair, that stood before a desk. Then, taking pen and
paper, he waited, silent and motionless, for the dictation of his
"With your permission, princess?" said Father d'Aigrigny to Madame de
Saint-Dizier. The latter answered by an impatient wave of the hand, as
if she reproached him for the formal demand at such a time. The reverend
father bowed, and dictated these words in a hoarse and hollow voice: "All
our hopes, which of late had become almost certainties, have been
suddenly defeated. The affair of the Rennepont inheritance, in spite of
all the care and skill employed upon it, has completely and finally
failed. At the point to which matters had been brought, it is
unfortunately worse than a failure; it is a most disastrous event for the
Society, which was clearly entitled to this property, fraudulently
withdrawn from a confiscation made in our favor. My conscience at least
bears witness, that, to the last moment, I did all that was possible to
defend and secure our rights. But I repeat, we must consider this
important affair as lost absolutely and forever, and think no more about
Thus dictating, Father d'Aigrigny's back was turned towards Rodin. At a
sudden movement made by the socius, in rising and throwing his pen upon
the table, instead of continuing to write, the reverend father turned
round, and, looking at Rodin with profound astonishment, said to him:
"Well! what are you doing?"
"It is time to end this--the man is mad!" said Rodin to himself, as he
advanced slowly towards the fireplace.
"What! you quit your place--you cease writing?" said the reverend father,
in amazement. Then, addressing the princess, who shared in his
astonishment, he added, as he glanced contemptuously at the socius, "He
is losing his senses."
"Forgive him," replied Mme. de Saint-Dizier; "it is, no doubt, the
emotion caused by the ruin of this affair."
"Thank the princess, return to your place, and continue to write," said
Father d'Aigrigny to Rodin, in a tone of disdainful compassion, as, with
imperious finger, he pointed to the table.
The socius, perfectly indifferent to this new order, approached the
fireplace, drew himself up to his full height as he turned his arched
back, planted himself firmly on his legs, stamped on the carpet with the
heel of his clumsy, greasy shoes, crossed his hands beneath the flaps of
his old, spotted coat, and, lifting his head, looked fixedly at Father
d'Aigrigny. The socius had not spoken a word, but his hideous
countenance, now flushed, suddenly revealed such a sense of his
superiority, and such sovereign contempt for Father d'Aigrigny, mingled
with so calm and serene a daring, that the reverend father and the
princess were quite confounded by it. They felt themselves overawed by
this little old man, so sordid and so ugly. Father d'Aigrigny knew too
well the customs of the Company, to believe his humble secretary capable
of assuming so suddenly these airs of transcendent superiority without a
motive, or rather, without a positive right. Late, too late, the
reverend father perceived, that this subordinate agent might be partly a
spy, partly an experienced assistant, who, according to the constitutions
of the Order, had the power and mission to depose and provisionally
replace, in certain urgent cases, the incapable person over whom he was
stationed as a guard. The reverend father was not deceived. From the
general to the provincials, and to the rectors of the colleges, all the
superior members of the Order have stationed near them, often without
their knowledge, and in apparently the lowest capacities, men able to
assume their functions at any given moment, and who, with this view,
constantly keep up a direct correspondence with Rome.
From the moment Rodin had assumed this position, the manners of Father
d'Aigrigny, generally so haughty, underwent a change. Though it cost him
a good deal, he said with hesitation, mingled with deference: "You have,
no doubt, the right to command me--who hitherto have commanded." Rodin,
without answering, drew from his well-rubbed and greasy pocket-book a
slip of paper, stamped upon both sides, on which were written several
lines in Latin. When he had read it, Father d'Aigrigny pressed this
paper respectfully, even religiously, to his lips: then returned it to
Rodin, with a low bow. When he again raised his head, he was purple with
shame and vexation. Notwithstanding his habits of passive obedience and
immutable respect for the will of the Order, he felt a bitter and violent
rage at seeing himself thus abruptly deposed from power. That was not
all. Though, for a long time past, all relations in gallantry had ceased
between him and Mme. de Saint-Dizier, the latter was not the less a
woman; and for him to suffer this humiliation in presence of a woman was,
undoubtedly, cruel, as, notwithstanding his entrance into the Order, he
had not wholly laid aside the character of man of the world. Moreover,
the princess, instead of appearing hurt and offended by this sudden
transformation of the superior into a subaltern, and of the subaltern
into a superior, looked at Rodin with a sort of curiosity mingled with
interest. As a woman--as a woman, intensely ambitious, seeking to
connect herself with every powerful influence--the princess loved this
strange species of contrast. She found it curious and interesting to see
this man, almost in rags, mean in appearance, and ignobly ugly, and but
lately the most humble of subordinates look down from the height of his
superior intelligence upon the nobleman by birth, distinguished for the
elegance of his manners, and just before so considerable a personage in
the Society. From that moment, as the more important personage of the
two, Rodin completely took the place of Father d'Aigrigny in the
princess's mind. The first pang of humiliation over, the reverend
father, though his pride bled inwardly, applied all his knowledge of the
world to behave with redoubled courtesy towards Rodin, who had become his
superior by this abrupt change of fortune. But the ex-socius, incapable
of appreciating, or rather of acknowledging, such delicate shades of
manner, established himself at once, firmly, imperiously, brutally, in
his new position, not from any reaction of offended pride, but from a
consciousness of what he was really worth. A long acquaintance with
Father d'Aigrigny had revealed to him the inferiority of the latter.
"You threw away your pen," said Father d'Aigrigny to Rodin with extreme
deference, "while I was dictating a note for Rome. Will you do me the
favor to tell me how I have acted wrong?"
"Directly," replied Rodin, in his sharp, cutting voice. "For a long time
this affair appeared to me above your strength; but I abstained from
interfering. And yet what mistakes! what poverty of invention; what
coarseness in the means employed to bring it to bear!"
"I can hardly understand your reproaches," answered Father d'Aigrigny,
mildly, though a secret bitterness made its way through his apparent
submission. "Was not the success certain, had it not been for this
codicil? Did you not yourself assist in the measures that you now
"You commanded, then, and it was my duty to obey. Besides, you were just
on the point of succeeding--not because of the means you had taken--but
in spite of those means, with all their awkward and revolting brutality."
"Sir--you are severe," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"I am just. One has to be prodigiously clever, truly, to shut up any one
in a room, and then lock the door! And yet, what else have you done?
The daughters of General Simon?--imprisoned at Leipsic, shut up in a
convent at Paris! Adrienne de Cardoville?--placed in confinement.
Sleepinbuff--put in prison. Djalma?--quieted by a narcotic. One only
ingenious method, and a thousand times safer, because it acted morally,
not materially, was employed to remove M. Hardy. As for your other
proceedings--they were all bad, uncertain, dangerous. Why? Because they
were violent, and violence provokes violence. Then it is no longer a
struggle of keen, skillful, persevering men, seeing through the darkness
in which they walk, but a match of fisticuffs in broad day. Though we
should be always in action, we should always shrink from view; and yet
you could find no better plan than to draw universal attention to us by
proceedings at once open and deplorably notorious. To make them more
secret, you call in the guard, the commissary of police, the jailers, for
your accomplices. It is pitiable, sir; nothing but the most brilliant
success could cover such wretched folly; and this success has been
"Sir," said Father d'Aigrigny, deeply hurt, for the Princess de Saint-
Dizier, unable to conceal the sort of admiration caused in her by the
plain, decisive words of Rodin, looked at her old lover, with an air that
seemed to say, "He is right;"--"sir, you are more than severe in your
judgment; and, notwithstanding the deference I owe to you, I must
observe, that I am not accustomed--"
"There are many other things to which you are not accustomed," said
Rodin, harshly interrupting the reverend father; "but you will accustom
yourself to them. You have hitherto had a false idea of your own value.
There is the old leaven of the soldier and the worlding fermenting within
you, which deprives your reason of the coolness, lucidity, and
penetration that it ought to possess. You have been a fine military
officer, brisk and gay, foremost in wars and festivals, with pleasures
and women. These things have half worn you out. You will never be
anything but a subaltern; you have been thoroughly tested. You will
always want that vigor and concentration of mind which governs men and
events. That vigor and concentration of mind I have--and do you know
why? It is because, solely devoted to the service of the Company, I have
always been ugly, dirty, unloved, unloving--I have all my manhood about
In pronouncing these words, full of cynical pride, Rodin was truly
fearful. The princess de Saint-Dizier thought him almost handsome by his
energy and audacity.
Father d'Aigrigny, feeling himself overawed, invincibly and inexorably,
by this diabolical being, made a last effort to resist and exclaimed,
"Oh! sir, these boastings are no proofs of valor and power. We must see
you at work."
"Yes," replied Rodin, coldly; "do you know at what work?" Rodin was fond
of this interrogative mode of expression. "Why, at the work that you so
"What!" cried the Princess de Saint-Dizier; for Father d'Aigrigny,
stupefied at Rodin's audacity, was unable to utter a word.
"I say," resumed Rodin, slowly, "that I undertake to bring to a good
issue this affair of the Rennepont inheritance, which appears to you so
"You?" cried Father d'Aigrigny. "You?"
"But they have unmasked our maneuvers."
"So much the better; we shall be obliged to invent others."
"But they; will suspect us in everything."
"So much the better; the success that is difficult is the most certain."
"What! do you hope to make Gabriel consent not to revoke his donation,
which is perhaps illegal?"
"I mean to bring in to the coffers of the Company the whole of the two
hundred and twelve millions, of which they wish to cheat us. Is that
"It is clear--but impossible."
"And I tell you that it is, and must be possible. Do you not understand,
short-sighted as you are!" cried Rodin, animated to such a degree that
his cadaverous face became slightly flushed; "do you not understand that
it is no longer in our choice to hesitate? Either these two hundred and
twelve millions must be ours--and then the re-establishment of our
sovereign influence in France is sure--for, in these venal times, with
such a sum at command, you may bribe or overthrow a government, or light
up the flame of civil war, and restore legitimacy, which is our natural
ally, and, owing all to us, would give us all in return--"
"That is clear," cried the princess, clasping her hands in admiration.
"If, on the contrary," resumed Rodin, "these two hundred and twelve
millions fall into the hands of the family of the Renneponts, it will be
our ruin and our destruction. We shall create a stock of bitter and
implacable enemies. Have you not heard the execrable designs of that
Rennepont, with regard to the association he recommends, and which, by an
accursed fatality, his race are just in a condition to realize? Think of
the forces that would rally round these millions. There would be Marshal
Simon, acting in the name of his daughters--that is, the man of the
people become a duke, without being the vainer for it, which secures his
influence with the mob, because military spirit and Bonapartism still
represent, in the eyes of the French populace, the traditions of national
honor and glory. There would be Francis Hardy, the liberal, independent,
enlightened citizen, the type of the great manufacturer, the friend of
progress, the benefactor of his workmen. There would be Gabriel--the
good priest, as they say!--the apostle of the primitive gospel, the
representative of the democracy of the church, of the poor country curate
as opposed to the rich bishop, the tiller of the vine as opposed to him
who sits in the shade of it; the propagator of all the ideas of
fraternity, emancipation, progress--to use their own jargon--and that,
not in the name of revolutionary and incendiary politics, but in the name
of a religion of charity, love, and peace--to speak as they speak.
There, too, would be Adrienne de Cardoville, the type of elegance, grace,
and beauty, the priestess of the senses, which she deifies by refining
and cultivating them. I need not tell you of her wit and audacity; you
know them but too well. No one could be more dangerous to us than this
creature, a patrician in blood, a plebeian in heart, a poet in
imagination. Then, too, there would be Prince Djalma, chivalrous, bold,
ready for adventure, knowing nothing of civilized life, implacable in his
hate as in his affection, a terrible instrument for whoever can make use
of him. In this detestable family, even such a wretch as Sleepinbuff,
who in himself is of no value, raised and purified by the contact of
these generous and far from narrow natures (as they call them), might
represent the working class, and take a large share in the influence of
that association. Now do you not think that if all these people, already
exasperated against us, because (as they say) we have wished to rob them,
should follow the detestable counsels of this Rennepont--should unite
their forces around this immense fortune, which would strengthen them a
hundred-fold--do you not think that, if they declare a deadly war against
us, they will be the most dangerous enemies that we have ever had? I
tell you that the Company has never been in such serious peril; yes, it
is now a question of life and death. We must no longer defend ourselves,
but lead the attack, so as to annihilate this accursed race of Rennepont,
and obtain possession of these millions."
At this picture, drawn by Rodin with a feverish animation, which had only
the more influence from its unexpectedness, the princess and Father
d'Aigrigny looked at each other in confusion.
"I confess," said the reverend father to Rodin, "I had not considered all
the dangerous consequences of this association, recommended by M. de
Rennepont. I believe that the heir, from the characters we know them to
be possessed of, would wish to realize this Utopia. The peril is great
and pressing; what is to be done?"
"What, sir? You have to act upon ignorant, heroic, enthusiastic natures
like Djalma's--sensual and eccentric characters like Adrienne de
Cardoville's--simple and ingenuous minds like Rose and Blanche Simon's--
honest and frank dispositions like Francis Hardy's--angelic and pure
souls like Gabriel's--brutal and stupid instincts like Jacques--and can
you ask, "What is to be done?"
"In truth, I do not understand you," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"I believe it. Your past conduct shows as much," replied Rodin,
contemptuously. "You have had recourse to the lowest and most mechanical
contrivances, instead of acting upon the noble and generous passions,
which, once united, would constitute so formidable a bond; but which, now
divided and isolated, are open to every surprise, every seduction, every
attack! Do you, at length understand me? Not yet?" added Rodin,
shrugging his shoulders. "Answer me--do people die of despair?"
"May not the gratitude of successful love reach the last limits of insane
"May there not be such horrible deceptions, that suicide is the only
refuge from frightful realities?"
"May not the excess of sensuality lead to the grave by a slow and
"Are there not in life such terrible circumstances that the most worldly,
the firmest, the most impious characters, throw themselves blindly,
overwhelmed with despair, into the arms of religion, and abandon all
earthly greatness for sackcloth, and prayers, and solitude?"
"Are there not a thousand occasions in which the reaction of the passions
works the most extraordinary changes, and brings about the most tragic
catastrophes in the life of man and woman?"
"Well, then! why ask me, `What is to be done?' What would you say, for
example, if before three months are over, the most dangerous members of
this family of the Renneponts should come to implore, upon their knees,
admission to that very Society which they now hold in horror, and from
which Gabriel has just separated?"
"Such a conversion is impossible," cried Father d'Aigrigny.
"Impossible? What were you, sir, fifteen years ago?" said Rodin. "An
impious and debauched man of the world. And yet you came to us, and your
wealth became ours. What! we have conquered princes, kings, popes; we
have absorbed and extinguished in our unity magnificent intelligences,
which, from afar, shone with too dazzling a light; we have all but
governed two worlds; we have perpetuated our Society, full of life, rich
and formidable, even to this day, through all the hate, and all the
persecutions that have assailed us; and yet we shall not be able to get
the better of a single family, which threatens our Company, and has
despoiled us of a large fortune? What! we are not skillful enough to
obtain this result without having recourse to awkward and dangerous
violence? You do not know, then, the immense field that is thrown open
by the mutually destructive power of human passions, skillfully combined,
opposed, restrained, excited?--particularly," added Rodin, with a strange
smile, "when, thanks to a powerful ally, these passions are sure to be
redoubled in ardor and energy."
"What ally?" asked Father d'Aigrigny, who, as well as the Princess de
Saint-Dizier, felt a sort of admiration mixed with terror.
"Yes," resumed Rodin, without answering the reverend father; "this
formidable ally, who comes to our assistance, may bring about the most
astonishing transformations--make the coward brave, and the impious
credulous, and the gentle ferocious--"
"But this ally!" cried the Princess, oppressed with a vague sense of
fear. "This great and formidable ally--who is he?"
"If he comes," resumed Rodin, still impassible, "the youngest and most
vigorous, every moment in danger of death, will have no advantage over
the sick man at his last gasp."
"But who is this ally?" exclaimed Father d'Aigrigny, more and more
alarmed, for as the picture became darker, Rodin's face become more
"This ally, who can decimate a population, may carry away with him in the
shroud that he drags at his heels, the whole of an accursed race; but
even he must respect the life of that great intangible body, which does
not perish with the death of its members--for the spirit of the Society
of Jesus is immortal!"
"And this ally?"
"Oh, this ally," resumed Rodin, "who advances with slow steps, and whose
terrible coming is announced by mournful presentiments--"
These words, pronounced by Rodin in an abrupt voice, made the Princess
and Father d'Aigrigny grow pale and tremble. Rodin's look was gloomy and
chilling, like a spectre's. For some moments, the silence of the tomb
reigned in the saloon. Rodin was the first to break it. Still
impassible, he pointed with imperious gesture to the table, where a few
minutes before he had himself been humbly seated, and said in a sharp
voice to Father d'Aigrigny, "Write!"
The reverend father started at first with surprise; then, remembering
that from a superior he had become an inferior, he rose, bowed lowly to
Rodin, as he passed before him, seated himself at the table, took the
pen, and said, "I am ready."
Rodin dictated, and the reverend Father wrote as follows: "By the
mismanagement of the Reverend Father d'Aigrigny, the affair of the
inheritance of the Rennepont family has been seriously compromised. The
sum amounts to two hundred and twelve millions. Notwithstanding the
check we have received, we believe we may safely promise to prevent these
Renneponts from injuring the Society, and to restore the two hundred and
twelve millions to their legitimate possessors. We only ask for the most
complete and extensive powers."
A quarter of an hour after this scene, Rodin left Saint Dizier House,
brushing with his sleeve the old greasy hat, I which he had pulled off to
return the salute of the porter by a very low bow.
The following scene took place on the morrow of the day in which Father
d'Aigrigny had been so rudely degraded by Rodin to the subaltern position
formerly occupied by the socius.
It is well known that the Rue Clovis is one of the most solitary streets
in the Montagne St. Genevieve district. At the epoch of this narrative,
the house No. 4, in this street, was composed of one principal building,
through which ran a dark passage, leading to a little, gloomy court, at
the end of which was a second building, in a singularly miserable and
dilapidated condition. On the ground-floor, in front of the house, was a
half-subterraneous shop, in which was sold charcoal, fagots, vegetables,
and milk. Nine o'clock in the morning had just struck. The mistress of
the shop, one Mother Arsene, an old woman of a mild, sickly countenance,
clad in a brown stuff dress, with a red bandanna round her head, was
mounted on the top step of the stairs which led down to her door, and was
employed in setting out her goods--that is, on one side of her door she
placed a tin milk-can, and on the other some bunches of stale vegetables,
flanked with yellowed cabbages. At the bottom of the steps, in the
shadowy depths of the cellar, one could see the light of the burning
charcoal in a little stove. This shop situated at the side of the
passage, served as a porter's lodge, and the old woman acted as portress.
On a sudden, a pretty little creature, coming from the house, entered
lightly and merrily the shop. This young girl was Rose-Pompon, the
intimate friend of the Bacchanal Queen.--Rose-Pompon, a widow for the
moment, whose bacchanalian cicisbeo was Ninny Moulin, the orthodox
scapegrace, who, on occasion, after drinking his fill, could transform
himself into Jacques Dumoulin, the religious writer, and pass gayly from
dishevelled dances to ultramontane polemics, from Storm-blown Tulips to
Rose-Pompon had just quitted her bed, as appeared by the negligence of
her strange morning costume; no doubt, for want of any other head-dress,
on her beautiful light hair, smooth and well-combed, was stuck jauntily a
foraging-cap, borrowed from her masquerading costume. Nothing could be
more sprightly than that face, seventeen years old, rosy, fresh, dimpled,
and brilliantly lighted up by a pair of gay, sparkling blue eyes. Rose-
Pompon was so closely enveloped from the neck to the feet in a red and
green plaid cloak, rather faded, that one could guess the cause of her
modest embarrassment. Her naked feet, so white that one could not tell
if she wore stockings or not, were slipped into little morocco shoes,
with plated buckles. It was easy to perceive that her cloak concealed
some article which she held in her hand.
"Good-day, Rose-Pompon," said Mother Arsene with a kindly air; "you are
early this morning. Had you no dance last night?"
"Don't talk of it, Mother Arsene; I had no heart to dance. Poor Cephyse-
-the Bacchanal Queen--has done nothing but cry all night. She cannot
console herself, that her lover should be in prison."
"Now, look here, my girl," said the old woman, "I must speak to you about
your friend Cephyse. You won't be angry?"
"Am I ever angry?" said Rose-Pompon, shrugging her shoulders.
"Don't you think that M. Philemon will scold me on his return?"
"Scold you! what for?"
"Because of his rooms, that you occupy."
"Why, Mother Arsene, did not Philemon tell you, that, in his absence, I
was to be as much mistress of his two rooms as I am of himself?"
"I do not speak of you, but of your friend Cephyse, whom you have also
brought to occupy M. Philemon's lodgings."
"And where would she have gone without me, my good Mother Arsene? Since
her lover was arrested, she has not dared to return home, because she
owes ever so many quarters. Seeing her troubles. I said to her: `Come,
lodge at Philemon's. When he returns, we must find another place for
"Well, little lovey--if you only assure me that M. Philemon will not be
"Angry! for what? That we spoil his things? A fine set of things he has
to spoil! I broke his last cup yesterday--and am forced to fetch the
milk in this comic concern."
So saying, laughing with all her might, Rose-Pompon drew her pretty
little white arm from under her cloak, and presented to Mother Arsene one
of those champagne glasses of colossal capacity, which hold about a
"Oh, dear!" said the greengrocer in amazement; "it is like a glass
"It is Philemon's grand gala-glass, which they gave him when he took his
degrees in boating," said Rose-Pompon, gravely.
"And to think you must put your milk in it--I am really ashamed," said
"So am I! If I were to meet any one on the stairs, holding this glass in
my hand like a Roman candlestick, I should burst out laughing, and break
the last remnant of Philemon's bazaar, and he would give me his
"There is no danger that you will meet any one. The first-floor is gone
out, and the second gets up very late."
"Talking of lodgers," said Rose-Pompon, "is there not a room to let on
the second-floor in the rear house? It might do for Cephyse, when
Philemon comes back."
"Yes, there is a little closet in the roof--just over the two rooms of
the mysterious old fellow," said Mother Arsene.
"Oh, yes! Father Charlemagne. Have you found out anything more about
Dear me, no, my girl! only that he came this morning at break of day, and
knocked at my shutters. `Have you received a letter for me, my good
lady?' said he--for he is always so polite, the dear man!--'No, sir,'
said I.--`Well, then, pray don't disturb yourself, my good lady!' said
he; `I will call again.' And so he went away."
"Does he never sleep in the house?"
"Never. No doubt, he lodges somewhere else--but he passes some hours
here, once every four or five days."
"And always comes alone?"
"Are you quite sure? Does he never manage to slip in some little puss of
a woman? Take care, or Philemon will give you notice to quit," said
Rose-Pompon, with an air of mock-modesty.
"M. Charlemagne with a woman! Oh, poor dear man!" said the greengrocer,
raising her hands to heaven; "if you saw him, with his greasy hat, his
old gray coat, his patched umbrella, and his simple face, he looks more
like a saint than anything else."
"But then, Mother Arsene, what does the saint do here, all alone for
hours, in that hole at the bottom of the court, where one can hardly see
"That's what I ask myself, my dovey, what can he be doing? It can't be
that he comes to look at his furniture, for he has nothing but a flock-
bed, a table, a stove, a chair, and an old trunk."
"Somewhat in the style of Philemon's establishment," said Rose-Pompon.
"Well, notwithstanding that, Rosey, he is as much afraid that any one
should come into his room, as if we were all thieves, and his furniture
was made of massy gold. He has had a patent lock put on the door, at his
own expense; he never leaves me his key; and he lights his fire himself,
rather than let anybody into his room."
"And you say he is old?"
"Yes, fifty or sixty."
"Just fancy, little viper's eyes, looking as if they had been bored with
a gimlet, in a face as pale as death--so pale, that the lips are white.
That's for his appearance. As for his character, the good old man's so
polite!--he pulls off his hat so often, and makes you such low bows, that
it is quite embarrassing."
"But, to come back to the point," resumed Rose-Pompon, "what can he do
all alone in those two rooms? If Cephyse should take the closet, on
Philemon's return, we may amuse ourselves by finding out something about
it. How much do they want for the little room?"
"Why, it is in such bad condition, that I think the landlord would let it
go for fifty or fifty-five francs a-year, for there is no room for a
stove, and the only light comes through a small pane in the roof."
"Poor Cephyse!" said Rose, sighing, and shaking her head sorrowfully.
"After having amused herself so well, and flung away so much money with
Jacques Rennepont, to live in such a place, and support herself by hard
work! She must have courage!"
"Why, indeed, there is a great difference between that closet and the
coach-and-four in which Cephyse came to fetch you the other day, with all
the fine masks, that looked so gay--particularly the fat man in the
silver paper helmet, with the plume and the top boots. What a jolly
"Yes, Ninny Moulin. There is no one like him to dance the forbidden
fruit. You should see him with Cephyse, the Bacchanal Queen. Poor
laughing, noisy thing!--the only noise she makes now is crying."
"Oh! these young people--these young people!" said the greengrocer.
"Easy, Mother Arsene; you were young once."
"I hardly know. I have always thought myself much the same as I am now."
"And your lovers, Mother Arsene?"
"Lovers! Oh, yes! I was too ugly for that--and too well taken care of."
"Your mother looked after you, then?"
"No, my girl; but I was harnessed."
"Harnessed!" cried Rose-Pompon, in amazement, interrupting the dealer.
"Yes,--harnessed to a water-cart, along with my brother. So, you see,
when we had drawn like a pair of horses for eight or ten hours a day, I
had no heart to think of nonsense."
"Poor Mother Arsene, what a hard life," said Rose-Pompon with interest.
"In the winter, when it froze, it was hard enough. I and my brother were
obliged to be rough-shod, for fear of slipping."
"What a trade for a woman! It breaks one's heart. And they forbid
people to harness dogs!" added Rose-Pompon, sententiously.
"Why, 'tis true," resumed Mother Arsene. "Animals are sometimes better
off than people. But what would you have? One must live, you know. As
you make your bed, you must lie. It was hard enough, and I got a disease
of the lungs by it--which was not my fault. The strap, with which I was
harnessed, pressed so hard against my chest, that I could scarcely
breathe: so I left the trade, and took to a shop, which is just to tell
you, that if I had had a pretty face and opportunity, I might have done
like so many other young people, who begin with laughter and finish--"
"With a laugh t'other side of the mouth--you would say; it is true,
Mother Arsene. But, you see, every one has not the courage to go into
harness, in order to remain virtuous. A body says to herself, you must
have some amusement while you are young and pretty--you will not always
be seventeen years old--and then--and then--the world will end, or you
will get married."
"But, perhaps, it would have been better to begin by that."
"Yes, but one is too stupid; one does not know how to catch the men, or
to frighten them. One is simple, confiding, and they only laugh at us.
Why, Mother Arsene, I am myself an example that would make you shudder;
but 'tis quite enough to have had one's sorrows, without fretting one's
self at the remembrance."
"What, my beauty! you, so young and gay, have had sorrows?"
"Ah, Mother Arsene! I believe you. At fifteen and a half I began to
cry, and never left off till I was sixteen. That was enough, I think."
"They deceived you, mademoiselle?"
"They did worse. They treated me as they have treated many a poor girl,
who had no more wish to go wrong than I had. My story is not a three
volume one. My father and mother are peasants near Saint-Valery, but so
poor--so poor, that having five children to provide for, they were
obliged to send me, at eight years old, to my aunt, who was a charwoman
here in Paris. The good woman took me out of charity, and very kind it
was of her, for I earned but little. At eleven years of age she sent me
to work in one of the factories of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. I don't
wish to speak, ill of the masters of these factories; but what do they
care, if little boys and girls are mixed up pell-mell with young men and
women of eighteen to twenty? Now you see, there, as everywhere, some are
no better than they should be; they are not particular in word or deed,
and I ask you, what art example for the children, who hear and see more
than you think for. Then, what happens? They get accustomed as they
grow older, to hear and see things, that afterwards will not shock them
"What you say there is true, Rose-Pompon. Poor children! who takes any
trouble about them?--not their father or mother, for they are at their
"Yes, yes, Mother Arsene, it is all very well; it is easy to cry down a
young girl that has gone wrong; but if they knew all the ins and outs,
they would perhaps pity rather than blame her. To come back to myself--
at fifteen years old I was tolerably pretty. One day I had something to
ask of the head clerk. I went to him in his private room. He told me he
would grant what I wanted, and even take me under his patronage, if I
would listen to him; and he began by trying to kiss me. I resisted.
Then he said to me:--'You refuse my offer? You shall have no more work;
I discharge you from the factory.'"
"Oh, the wicked man!" said Mother Arsene.
"I went home all in tears, and my poor aunt encouraged me not to yield,
and she would try to place me elsewhere. Yes--but it was impossible; the
factories were all full. Misfortunes never come single; my aunt fell
ill, and there was not a sou in the house; I plucked up my courage, and
returned to entreat the mercy of the clerk at the factory. Nothing would
do. `So much the worse,' said he; `you are throwing away your luck. If
you had been more complying, I should perhaps have married you.' What
could I do, Mother Arsene?--misery was staring me in the face; I had no
work; my aunt was ill; the clerk said he would marry me--I did like so
"And when, afterwards, you spoke to him about marriage?"
"Of course he laughed at me, and in six months left me. Then I wept all
the tears in my body, till none remained--then I was very ill--and then--
I console myself, as one may console one's self for anything. After some
changes, I met with Philemon. It is upon him that I revenge myself for
what others have done to me. I am his tyrant," added Rose-Pompon, with a
tragic air, as the cloud passed away which had darkened her pretty face
during her recital to Mother Arsene.
"It is true," said the latter thoughtfully. "They deceive a poor girl--
who is there to protect or defend her? Oh! the evil we do does not
always come from ourselves, and then--"
"I spy Ninny Moulin!" cried Rose-Pompon, interrupting the greengrocer,
and pointing to the other side of the street. "How early abroad! What
can he want with me?" and Rose wrapped herself still more closely and
modestly in her cloak.
It was indeed Jacques Dumoulin, who advanced with his hat stuck on one
side, with rubicund nose and sparkling eye, dressed in a loose coat,
which displayed the rotundity of his abdomen. His hands, one of which
held a huge cane shouldered like a musket, were plunged into the vast
pockets of his outer garment.
Just as he reached the threshold of the door, no doubt with the intention
of speaking to the portress, he perceived Rose-Pompon. "What!" he
exclaimed, "my pupil already stirring? That is fortunate. I came on
purpose to bless her at the rise of morn!"
So saying, Ninny Moulin advanced with open arms towards Rose-Pompon who
drew back a step.
"What, ungrateful child!" resumed the writer on divinity. "Will you
refuse me the morning's paternal kiss?"
"I accept paternal kisses from none but Philemon. I had a letter from
him yesterday, with a jar of preserves, two geese, a bottle of home-made
brandy, and an eel. What ridiculous presents! I kept the drink, and
changed the rest for two darling live pigeons, which I have installed in
Philemon's cabinet, and a very pretty dove-cote it makes me. For the
rest, my husband is coming back with seven hundred francs, which he got
from his respectable family, under pretence of learning the bass viol,
the cornet-a-piston, and the speaking trumpet, so as to make his way in
society, and a slap-up marriage--to use your expression--my good child."
"Well, my dear pupil, we will taste the family brandy, and enjoy
ourselves in expectation of Philemon and his seven hundred francs."
So saying, Ninny Moulin slapped the pockets of his waistcoat, which gave
forth a metallic sound, and added: "I come to propose to you to embellish
my life, to-day and to-morrow, and even the day after, if your heart is
"If the announcements are decent and fraternal, my heart does not say
"Be satisfied; I will act by you as your grandfather, your great-
grandfather, your family portrait. We will have a ride, a dinner, the
play, a fancy dress ball, and a supper afterwards. Will that suit you?"
"On condition that poor Cephyse is to go with us. It will raise her
"Well, Cephyse shall be of the party."
"Have you come into a fortune, great apostle?"
"Better than that, most rosy and pompous of all Rose-Pom, pons! I am
head editor of a religious journal; and as I must make some appearance in
so respectable a concern, I ask every month for four weeks in advance,
and three days of liberty. On this condition, I consent to play the
saint for twenty-seven days out of thirty, and to be always as grave and
heavy as the paper itself."
"A journal! that will be something droll, and dance forbidden steps all
alone on the tables of the cafes."
"Yes, it will be droll enough; but not for everybody. They are rich
sacristans, who pay the expenses. They don't look to money, provided the
journal bites, tears, burns, pounds, exterminates and destroys. On my
word of honor, I shall never have been in such a fury!" added Ninny
Moulin, with a loud, hoarse laugh. "I shall wash the wounds of my
adversaries with venom of the finest vintage, and gall of the first
For his peroration, Ninny Moulin imitated the pop of uncorking a bottle
of champagne--which made Rose-Pompon laugh heartily.
"And what," resumed she, "will be the name of your journal of
"It will be called `Neighborly Love.'"
"Come! that is a very pretty name."
"Wait a little! there is a second title."
"Let us hear it."
"`Neighborly Love; or, the Exterminator of the Incredulous, the
Indifferent, the Lukewarm, and Others,' with this motto from the great
Bossuet: `Those who are not for us are against us.'"
"That is what Philemon says in the battles at the Chaumiere, when he
shakes his cane."
"Which proves, that the genius of the Eagle of Meaux is universal. I
only reproach him for having been jealous of Moliere."
"Bah! actor's jealousy," said Rose-Pompon.
"Naughty girl!" cried Ninny Moulin, threatening her with his finger.
"But if you are going to exterminate Madame de la Sainte-Colombo, who is
somewhat lukewarm--how about your marriage?"
"My journal will advance it, on the contrary. Only think! editor-In-
chief is a superb position; the sacristans will praise, and push, and
support, and bless me; I shall get La-Sainte-Colombe--and then, what a
life I'll lead!"
At this moment, a postman entered the shop, and delivered a letter to the
greengrocer, saying: "For M. Charlemagne, post-paid!"
"My!" said Rose-Pompon; "it is for the little mysterious old man, who has
such extraordinary ways. Does it come from far?"
"I believe you; it comes from Italy, from Rome," said Ninny Moulin,
looking in his turn at the letter, which the greengrocer held in her
hand. "Who is the astonishing little old man of whom you speak?"
"Just imagine to yourself, my great apostle," said Rose-Pompon, "a little
old man, who has two rooms at the bottom of that court. He never sleeps
there, but comes from time to time, and shuts himself up for hours,
without ever allowing any one to enter his lodging, and without any one
knowing what he does there."
"He is a conspirator," said Ninny Moulin, laughing, "or else a comer."
"Poor dear man," said Mother Arsene, "what has he done with his false
money? He pays me always in sous for the bit of bread and the radish I
furnish him for his breakfast."
"And what is the name of this mysterious chap?" asked Dumoulin.
"M. Charlemagne," said the greengrocer. "But look, surely one speaks of
the devil, one is sure to see his horns."
"Where's the horns?"
"There, by the side of the house--that little old man, who walks with his
neck awry, and his umbrella under his arm."
"M. Rodin!" ejaculated Ninny Moulin, retreating hastily, and descending
three steps into the shop, in order not to be seen. Then he added. "You
say, that this gentleman calls himself--"
"M. Charlemagne--do you know him?" asked the greengrocer.
"What the devil does he do here, under a false name?" said Jacques
Dumoulin to himself.
"You know him?" said Rose-Pompon, with impatience. "You are quite
"And this gentleman has two rooms in this house, and comes here
mysteriously," said Jacques Dumoulin, more and more surprised.
"Yes," resumed Rose-Pompon; "you can see his windows from Philemon's
"Quick! quick! let me go into the passage, that I may not meet him," said
And, without having been perceived by Rodin, he glided from the shop into
the passage, and thence mounted to the stairs, which led to the apartment
occupied by Rose-Pompon.
"Good-morning, M. Charlemagne," said Mother Arsene to Rodin, who made his
appearance on the threshold. "You come twice in a day; that is right,
for your visits are extremely rare."
"You are too polite, my good lady," said Rodin, with a very courteous
bow; and he entered the shop of the greengrocer.
 There are, really, ordinances, full of a touching interest for the
canine race, which forbid the harnessing of dogs.
Rodin's countenance, when he entered Mother Arsene's shop, was expressive
of the most simple candor. He leaned his hands on the knob of his
umbrella, and said: "I much regret, my good lady, that I roused you so
early this morning."
"You do not come often enough, my dear sir, for me to find fault with
"How can I help it, my good lady? I live in the country, and only come
hither from time to time to settle my little affairs."
"Talking of that sir, the letter you expected yesterday has arrived this
morning. It is large, and comes from far. Here it is," said the
greengrocer, drawing it from her pocket; "it cost nothing for postage."
"Thank you, my dear lady," said Rodin, taking the letter with apparent
indifference, and putting it into the side-pocket of his great-coat,
which he carefully buttoned over.
"Are you going up to your rooms, sir?"
"Yes, my good, lady."
"Then I will get ready your little provisions," said Mother Arsene; "as
usual, I suppose, my dear sir?"
"Just as usual."
"It shall be ready in the twinkling of an eye, sir."
So saying, the greengrocer took down an old basket; after throwing into
it three or four pieces of turf, a little bundle of wood, and some
charcoal, she covered all this fuel with a cabbage leaf; then, going to
the further end of the shop, she took from a chest a large round loaf,
cut off a slice, and selecting a magnificent radish with the eye of a
connoisseur, divided it in two, made a hole in it, which she filled with
gray salt joined the two pieces together again, and placed it carefully
by the side of the bread, on the cabbage leaf which separated the
eatables from the combustibles. Finally, taking some embers from the
stove, she put them into a little earthen pot, containing ashes, which
she placed also in the basket.
Then, reascending to her top step, Mother Arsene said to Rodin: "Here is
your basket, sir."
"A thousand thanks, my good lady," answered Rodin, and plunging his hand
into the pocket of his trousers, he drew forth eight sous, which he
counted out only one by one to the greengrocer, and said to her, as he
carried off his store: "Presently, when I come down again, I will return
your basket as usual."
"Quite at your service, my dear sir, quite at your service," said Mother
Rodin tucked his umbrella under his left arm, took up the greengrocer's
basket with his right hand, entered the dark passage, crossed the little
court and mounted with light step to the second story of a dilapidated
building; there, drawing a key from his pocket, he opened a door, which
he locked carefully after him. The first of the two rooms which he
occupied was completely unfurnished, as for the second, it is impossible
to imagine a more gloomy and miserable den. Papering so much worn, torn
and faded, that no one could recognize its primitive color, bedecked the
walls. A wretched flock-bed, covered with a moth-fretted blanket; a
stool, and a little table of worm-eaten wood; an earthenware stove, as
cracked as old china; a trunk with a padlock, placed under the bed--such
was the furniture of this desolate hole. A narrow window, with dirty
panes, hardly gave any light to this room, which was almost deprived of
air by the height of the building in front; two old cotton pocket-
handkerchiefs, fastened together with pins, and made to slide upon a
string stretched across the window, served for curtains. The plaster of
the roof, coming through the broken and disjointed tiles, showed the
extreme neglect of the inhabitant of this abode. After locking his door,
Rodin threw his hat and umbrella on the bed, placed his basket on the
ground, set the radish and bread on the table, and kneeling down before
his stove, stuffed it with fuel, and lighted it by blowing with vigorous
lungs on the embers contained in his earthen pot.
When, to use the consecrated expression, the stove began to draw, Rodin
spread out the handkerchiefs, which served him for curtains; then,
thinking himself quite safe from every eye, he took from the side-pocket
of his great-coat the letter that Mother Arsene had given him. In doing
so, he brought out several papers and different articles; one of these
papers, folded into a thick and rumpled packet, fell upon the table, and
flew open. It contained a silver cross of the Legion of Honor, black
with time. The red ribbon of this cross had almost entirely lost its
original color. At sight of this cross, which he replaced in his pocket
with the medal of which Faringhea had despoiled Djalma, Rodin shrugged
his shoulders with a contemptuous and sardonic air; then, producing his
large silver watch, he laid it on the table by the side of the letter
from Rome. He looked at this letter with a singular mixture of suspicion
and hope, of fear, and impatient curiosity. After a moment's reflection,
he prepared to unseal the envelope; but suddenly he threw it down again
upon the table, as if, by a strange caprice, he had wished to prolong for
a few minutes that agony of uncertainty, as poignant and irritating as
the emotion of the gambler.
Looking at his watch, Rodin resolved not to open the letter, until the
hand should mark half-past nine, of which it still wanted seven minutes.
In one of those whims of puerile fatalism, from which great minds have
not been exempt, Rodin said to himself: "I burn with impatience to open
this letter. If I do not open it till half-past nine, the news will he
favorable." To employ these minutes, Rodin took several turns up and
down the room, and stood in admiring contemplation before two old prints,
stained with damp and age, and fastened to the wall by rusty nails. The
first of these works of art--the only ornaments with which Rodin had
decorated this hole--was one of those coarse pictures, illuminated with
red, yellow, green, and blue, such as are sold at fairs; an Italian
inscription announced that this print had been manufactured at Rome. It
represented a woman covered with rags, bearing a wallet, and having a
little child upon her knees; a horrible hag of a fortune-teller held in
her hands the hand of the little child, and seemed to read there his
future fate, for these words in large blue letters issued from her mouth:
"Sara Papa" (he shall be Pope).
The second of these works of art, which appeared to inspire Rodin with
deep meditations, was an excellent etching, whose careful finish and
bold, correct drawing, contrasted singularly with the coarse coloring of
the other picture. This rare and splendid engraving, which had cost
Rodin six louis (an enormous expense for him), represented a young boy
dressed in rags. The ugliness of his features was compensated by the
intellectual expression of his strongly marked countenance. Seated on a
stone, surrounded by a herd of swine, that he seemed employed in keeping,
he was seen in front, with his elbow resting on his knee, and his chin in
the palm of his hand. The pensive and reflective attitude of this young
man, dressed as a beggar, the power expressed in his large forehead, the
acuteness of his penetrating glance, and the firm lines of the mouth,
seemed to reveal indomitable resolution, combined with superior
intelligence and ready craft. Beneath this figure, the emblems of the
papacy encircled a medallion, in the centre of which was the head of an
old man, the lines of which, strongly marked, recalled in a striking
manner, notwithstanding their look of advanced age, the features of the
young swineherd. This engraving was entitled THE YOUTH of SIXTUS V.; the
color print was entitled The Prediction.
In contemplating these prints more and more nearly, with ardent and
inquiring eye, as though he had asked for hopes or inspirations from
them, Rodin had come so close that, still standing, with his right arm
bent behind his head, he rested, as it were, against the wall, whilst,
hiding his left hand in the pocket of his black trousers, he thus held
back one of the flaps of his olive great-coat. For some minutes, he
remained in this meditative attitude.
Rodin, as we have said, came seldom to this lodging; according to the
rules of his Order, he had till now lived with Father d'Aigrigny, whom he
was specially charged to watch. No member of the Society, particularly
in the subaltern position which Rodin had hitherto held, could either
shut himself in, or possess an article of furniture made to lock. By
this means nothing interferes with the mutual spy-system, incessantly
carried on, which forms one of the most powerful resources of the Company
of Jesus. It was on account of certain combinations, purely personal to
himself, though connected on some points with the interests of the Order,
that Rodin, unknown to all, had taken these rooms in the Rue Clovis. And
it was from the depths of this obscure den that the socius corresponded
directly with the most eminent and influential personages of the sacred
college. On one occasion, when Rodin wrote to Rome, that Father
d'Aigrigny, having received orders to quit France without seeing his
dying mother, had hesitated to set out, the socius had added, in form of
postscriptum, at the bottom of the letter denouncing to the General of
the Order the hesitation of Father d'Aigrigny:
"Tell the Prince Cardinal that he may rely upon me, but I hope for his
active aid in return."
This familiar manner of corresponding with the most powerful dignitary of
the Order, the almost patronizing tone of the recommendation that Rodin
addressed to the Prince Cardinal, proved that the socius, notwithstanding
his apparently subaltern position, was looked upon, at that epoch, as a
very important personage, by many of the Princes of the Church, who wrote
to him at Paris under a false name, making use of a cipher and other
customary precautions. After some moments passed in contemplation,
before the portrait of Sixtus V., Rodin returned slowly to the table, on
which lay the letter, which, by a sort of superstitious delay, he had
deferred opening, notwithstanding his extreme curiosity. As it still
wanted some minutes of half-past nine, Rodin, in order not to lose time,
set about making preparations for his frugal breakfast. He placed on the
table, by the side of an inkstand, furnished with pens, the slice of
bread and the radish; then seating himself on his stool, with the stove,
as it were, between his legs, he drew a horn-handled knife from his
pocket, and cutting alternately a morsel of bread and a morsel of radish,
with a sharp, well-worn blade, he began his temperate repast with a
vigorous appetite, keeping his eye fixed on the hand of his watch. When
it reached the momentous hour, he unsealed the envelope with a trembling
It contained two letters. The first appeared to give him little
satisfaction; for, after some minutes, he shrugged his shoulders, struck
the table impatiently with the handle of his knife, disdainfully pushed
aside the letter with the back of his dirty hand, and perused the second
epistle, holding his bread in one hand, and with the other mechanically
dipping a slice of radish into the gray salt spilt on a corner of the
table. Suddenly, Rodin's hand remained motionless. As he progressed in
his reading, he appeared more and more interested, surprised, and struck.
Rising abruptly, he ran to the window, as if to assure himself, by a
second examination of the cipher, that he was not deceived. The news
announced to him in the letter seemed to be unexpected. No doubt, Rodin
found that he had deciphered correctly, for, letting fall his arms, not
in dejection, but with the stupor of a satisfaction as unforeseen as
extraordinary, he remained for some time with his head down, and his eyes
fixed--the only mark of joy that he gave being manifested by a loud,
frequent, and prolonged respiration. Men who are as audacious in their
ambition, as they are patient and obstinate in their mining and
countermining, are surprised at their own success, when this latter
precedes and surpasses their wise and prudent expectations. Rodin was
now in this case. Thanks to prodigies of craft, address, and
dissimulation, thanks to mighty promises of corruption, thanks to the
singular mixture of admiration, fear, and confidence, with which his
genius inspired many influential persons, Rodin now learned from members
of the pontifical government, that, in case of a possible and probable
occurrence, he might, within a given time, aspire, with a good chance of
success, to a position which has too often excited the fear, the hate, or
the envy of many sovereigns, and which has in turn, been occupied by
great, good men, by abominable scoundrels, and by persons risen from the
lowest grades of society. But for Rodin to attain this end with
certainty, it was absolutely necessary for him to succeed in that
project, which he had undertaken to accomplish without violence, and only
by the play and the rebound of passions skillfully managed. The project
was: To secure for the Society of Jesus the fortune of the Rennepont
This possession would thus have a double and immense result; for Rodin,
acting in accordance with his personal views, intended to make of his
Order (whose chief was at his discretion) a stepping-stone and a means of
intimidation. When his first impression of surprise had passed away--an
impression that was only a sort of modesty of ambition and self-
diffidence, not uncommon with men of really superior powers--Rodin looked
more coldly and logically on the matter, and almost reproached himself
for his surprise. But soon after, by a singular contradiction, yielding
to one of those puerile and absurd ideas, by which men are often carried
away when they think themselves alone and unobserved, Rodin rose
abruptly, took the letter which had caused him such glad surprise, and
went to display it, as it were, before the eyes of the young swineherd in
the picture: then, shaking his head proudly and triumphantly, casting his
reptile-glance on the portrait, he muttered between his teeth, as he
placed his dirty finger on the pontifical emblem: "Eh, brother? and I
After this ridiculous interpolation, Rodin returned to his seat, and, as
if the happy news he had just received had increased his appetite, he
placed the letter before him, to read it once more, whilst he exercised
his teeth, with a sort of joyous fury, on his hard bread and radish,
chanting an old Litany.
There was something strange, great, and, above all, frightful, in the
contrast afforded by this immense ambition, already almost justified by
events, and contained, as it were, in so miserable an abode. Father
d'Aigrigny (who, if not a very superior man, had at least some real
value, was a person of high birth, very haughty, and placed in the best
society) would never have ventured to aspire to what Rodin thus looked to
from the first. The only aim of Father d'Aigrigny, and even this he
thought presumptuous, was to be one day elected General of his Order--
that Order which embraced the world. The difference of the ambitious
aptitudes of these two personages is conceivable. When a man of eminent
abilities, of a healthy and vivacious nature, concentrates all the
strength of his mind and body upon a single point, remaining, like Rodin,
obstinately chaste and frugal, and renouncing every gratification of the
heart and the senses--the man, who revolts against the sacred designs of
his Creator, does so almost always in favor of some monstrous and
devouring passion--some infernal divinity, which, by a sacrilegious pact,
asks of him, in return for the bestowal of formidable power, the
destruction of every noble sentiment, and of all those ineffable
attractions and tender instincts with which the Maker, in His eternal
wisdom and inexhaustible munificence, has so paternally endowed His
During the scene that we have just described, Rodin had not perceived
that the curtain of a window on the third story of the building opposite
had been partially drawn aside, and had half-revealed the sprightly face
of Rose-Pompon, and the Silenus-like countenance of Ninny Moulin. It
ensued that Rodin, notwithstanding his barricade of cotton handkerchiefs,
had not been completely sheltered from the indiscreet and curious
examination of the two dancers of the Storm-blown Tulip.
 According to the tradition, it was predicted to the mother of Sixtus
V., that he would be pope; and, in his youth, he is said to have kept
AN UNEXPECTED VISIT.
Though Rodin had experienced much surprise on reading the second letter
from Rome, he did not choose that his answer should betray any such
amazement. Having finished his frugal breakfast, he took a sheet of
paper, and rapidly wrote in cipher the following note, in the short,
abrupt style that was natural to him when not obliged to restrain himself:
"The information does not surprise me. I had foreseen it all.
Indecision and cowardice always bear such fruit. This is not enough.
Heretical Russia murders Catholic Poland. Rome blesses the murderers,
and curses the victims.
"Let it pass.
"In return, Russia guarantees to Rome, by Austria, the bloody suppression
of the patriots of Romagna.
"That, too, is well.
"The cut-throat band of good Cardinal Albani is not sufficient for the
massacre of the impious liberals. They are weary of the task.
"Not so well. They must go on."
When Rodin had written these last words, his attention was suddenly
attracted by the clear and sonorous voice of Rose-Pompon, who, knowing
her Beranger by heart, had opened Philemon's window, and, seated on the
sill, sang with much grace and prettiness this verse of the immortal
"How wrong you are! Is't you dare say
That heaven ever scowls on earth?
The earth that laughs up to its blue,
The earth that owes it joy and birth?
Oh, may the wine from vines it warms,
May holy love thence fluttering down,
Lend my philosophy their charms,
To drive away care's direful frown!
So, firm let's stand,
Full glass in hand,
And all evoke
The God of honest folk!"
This song, in its divine gentleness, contrasted so strangely with the
cold cruelty of the few lines written by Rodin, that he started and bit
his lips with rage, as he recognized the words of the great poet, truly
Christian, who had dealt such rude blows to the false Church. Rodin
waited for some moments with angry impatience, thinking the voice would
continue; but Rose-Pompon was silent, or only continued to hum, and soon
changed to another air, that of the Good Pope, which she entoned, but
without words. Rodin, not venturing to look out of his window to see who
was this troublesome warbler, shrugged his shoulders, resumed his pen,
"To it again. We must exasperate the independent spirits in all
countries--excite philosophic rage all over Europe make liberalism foam
at the mouth--raise all that is wild and noisy against Rome. To effect
this, we must proclaim in the face of the world these three propositions.
1. It is abominable to assert that a man may be saved in any faith
whatever, provided his morals be pure. 2. It is odious and absurd to
grant liberty of conscience to the people. 3. The liberty of the press
cannot be held in too much horror.
"We must bring the Pap-fed man to declare these propositions in every
respect orthodox--show him their good effect upon despotic governments--
upon true Catholics, the muzzlers of the people. He will fall into the
snare. The propositions once published, the storm will burst forth. A
general rising against Rome--a wide schism--the sacred college divided
into three parties. One approves--the other blames--the third trembles.
The Sick Man, still more frightened than he is now at having allowed the
destruction of Poland, will shrink from the clamors, reproaches, threats,
and violent ruptures that he has occasioned.
"That is well--and goes far.
"Then, set the Pope to shaking the conscience of the Sick Man, to disturb
his mind, and terrify his soul.
"To sum up. Make everything bitter to him--divide his council--isolate
him--frighten him--redouble the ferocious ardor of good Albini--revive
the appetite of the Sanfedists--give them a gulf of liberals--let
there be pillage, rape, massacre, as at Cesena--a downright river of
Carbonaro blood--the Sick Man will have a surfeit of it. So many
butcheries in his name--he will shrink, be sure he will shrink--every day
will have its remorse, every night its terror, every minute its anguish;
and the abdication he already threatens will come at last--perhaps too
soon. That is now the only danger; you must provide against it.
"In case of an abdication, the grand penitentiary has understood me.
Instead of confiding to a general the direction of our Order, the best
militia of the Holy See, I should command it myself. Thenceforward this
militia would give me no uneasiness. For instance: the Janissaries and
the Praetorian Guards were always fatal to authority--why?--because they
were able to organize themselves as defenders of the government,
independently of the government; hence their power of intimidation.
"Clement XIV. was a fool. To brand and abolish our Company was an absurd
fault. To protect and make it harmless, by declaring himself the General
of the Order, is what he should have done. The Company, then at his
mercy, would have consented to anything. He would have absorbed us, made
us vassals of the Holy See, and would no longer have had to fear our
services. Clement XIV. died of the cholic. Let him heed who hears. In
a similar case, I should not die the same death."
Just then, the clear and liquid voice of Rose-Pompon was again heard.
Rodin bounded with rage upon his seat; but soon, as he listened to the
following verse, new to him (for, unlike Philemon's widow, he had not his
Beranger at his fingers' ends), the Jesuit, accessible to certain odd,
superstitious notions, was confused and almost frightened at so singular
a coincidence. It is Beranger's Good Pope who speaks--
"What are monarchs? sheepish sots!
Or they're robbers, puffed with pride,
Wearing badges of crime blots,
Till their certain graves gape wide.
If they'll pour out coin for me,
I'll absolve them--skin and bone!
If they haggle--they shall see,
My nieces dancing on their throne!
So laugh away!
Leap, my fay!
Only watch one hurt the thunder
First of all by Zeus under,
I'm the Pope, the whole world's wonder!"
Rodin, half-risen from his chair, with outstretched neck and attentive
eye, was still listening, when Rose-Pompon, flitting like a bee from
flower to flower of her repertoire, had already begun the delightful air
of Colibri. Hearing no more, the Jesuit reseated himself, in a sort of
stupor; but, after some minutes' reflection, his countenance again
brightened up, and he seemed to see a lucky omen in this singular
incident. He resumed his pen, and the first words he wrote partook, as
it were, of this strange confidence in fate.
"I have never had more hope of success than at this moment. Another
reason to neglect nothing. Every presentiment demands redoubled zeal. A
new thought occurred to me yesterday.
"We shall act here in concert. I have founded an ultra-Catholic paper
called Neighborly Love. From its ultramontane, tyrannical, liberticidal
fury, it will be thought the organ of Rome. I will confirm these
reports. They will cause new terrors.
"That will be well.
"I shall raise the question of the liberty of instruction. The raw
liberals will support us. Like fools, they admit us to equal rights;
when our privileges, our influence of the confessional, our obedience to
Rome, all place us beyond the circle of equal rights, by the advantages
which we enjoy. Double fools! they think us disarmed, because they have
disarmed themselves towards us.
"A burning question--irritating clamors--new cause of disgust for the
Weak Man. Every little makes a mickle.
"That also is very well.
"To sum up all in two words. The end is abdication--the means, vexation,
incessant torture. The Rennepont inheritance wilt pay for the election.
The price agreed, the merchandise will be sold."
Rodin here paused abruptly, thinking he had heard some noise at that door
of his, which opened on the staircase; therefore he listened with
suspended breath; but all remaining silent, he thought he must have been
deceived, and took up his pen:
"I will take care of the Rennepont business--the hinge on which will turn
our temporal operations. We must begin from the foundation--substitute
the play of interests, and the springs of passion, for the stupid club-
law of Father d'Aigrigny. He nearly compromised everything--and yet he
has good parts, knows the world, has powers of seduction, quick insight--
but plays ever in a single key, and is not great enough to make himself
little. In his stead, I shall know how to make use of him. There is
good stuff in the man. I availed myself in time of the full powers given
by the R. F. G.; I may inform Father d'Aigrigny, in case of need, of the
secret engagements taken by the General towards myself. Until now, I
have let him invent for this inheritance the destination that you know
of. A good thought, but unseasonable. The same end, by other means.
"The information was false. There are over two hundred millions. Should
the eventuality occur, what was doubtful must become certain. An immense
latitude is left us. The Rennepont business is now doubly mine, and
within three months, the two hundred millions will be ours, by the free
will of the heirs themselves. It must be so; for this failing, the
temporal part would escape me, and my chances be diminished by one half.
I have asked for full powers; time presses, and I act as if I had them.
One piece of information is indispensable for the success of my projects.
I expect it from you, and I must have it; do you understand me? The
powerful influence of your brother at the Court of Vienna will serve you
in this. I wish to have the most precise details as to the present
position of the Duke de Reichstadt--the Napoleon II. of the Imperialists.
Is it possible, by means of your brother, to open a secret correspondence
with the prince, unknown to his attendants?
"Look to this promptly. It is urgent. This note will he sent off to-
day. I shall complete it to-morrow. It will reach you, as usual, by the
hands of the petty shopkeeper."
At the moment when Rodin was sealing this letter within a double
envelope, he thought that he again heard a noise at the door. He
listened. After some silence, several knocks were distinctly audible.
Rodin started. It was the first time any one had knocked at his door,
since nearly a twelve-month that he occupied this room. Hastily placing
the letter in his great-coat pocket, the Jesuit opened the old trunk
under his bed, took from it a packet of papers wrapped in a tattered
cotton handkerchief, added to them the two letters in cipher he had just
received, and carefully relocked the trunk. The knocking continued
without, and seemed to show more and more impatience. Rodin took the
greengrocer's basket in his hand, tucked his umbrella under his arm, and
went with some uneasiness to ascertain who was this unexpected visitor.
He opened the door, and found himself face to face with Rose-Pompon, the
troublesome singer, and who now, with a light and pretty courtesy, said
to him in the most guileless manner in the world, "M. Rodin, if you
 On page 110 of Lamennais' Affaires de Rome, will be seen the
following admirable scathing of Rome by the most truly evangelical spirit
of our age: "So long as the issue of the conflict between Poland and her
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