The Wandering Jew, v9
Part 2 out of 3
BRANDY TO THE RESCUE.
After the lapse of some seconds, the singular rapping which had so much
surprised the guests, was again heard, but this time louder and longer.
"Waiter!" cried one of the party, "what in the devil's name is knocking?"
The waiter, exchanging with his comrades a look of uneasiness and alarm,
stammered Out in reply: "Sir--it is--it is--"
"Well! I suppose it is some crabbed, cross-grained lodger, some animal,
the enemy of joy, who is pounding on the floor of his room to warn us to
sing less loud," said Ninny Moulin.
"Then, by a general rule," answered sententiously the pupil of the great
painter, "if lodger or landlord ask for silence, tradition bids us reply
by an infernal uproar, destined to drown all his remonstrances. Such, at
least," added the scapegrace, modestly, "are the foreign relations that I
have always seen observed between neighboring powers."
This remark was received with general laughter and applause. During the
tumult, Morok questioned one of the waiters, and then exclaimed in a
shrill tone, which rose above the clamor: "I demand a hearing!"
"Granted!" cried the others, gayly. During the silence which followed
the exclamation of Morok, the noise was again heard; it was this time
quicker than before.
"The lodger is innocent," said Morok, with a strange smile, "and would be
quite incapable of interfering with your enjoyment."
"Then why does he keep up that knocking?" said Ninny Moulin, emptying his
"Like a deaf man who has lost his ear-horn?" added the young artist.
"It is not the lodger who is knocking" said Morok, in a sharp, quick
tone; "for they are nailing him down in his coffin." A sudden and
mournful silence followed these words.
"His coffin no, I am wrong," resumed Morok; "her coffin, I should say, or
more properly their coffin; for, in these pressing times, they put mother
and child together."
"A woman!" cried PLEASURE, addressing the writer; "is it a woman that is
"Yes, ma'am; a poor young woman about twenty years of age," answered the
waiter in a sorrowful tone. "Her little girl, that she was nursing, died
soon after--all in less than two hours. My master is very sorry that you
ladies and gents should be disturbed in this way; but he could not
foresee this misfortune, as yesterday morning the young woman was quite
well, and singing with all her might--no one could have been gayer than
Upon these words, it was as if a funeral pall had been suddenly thrown
over a scene lately so full of joy; all the rubicund and jovial faces
took an expression of sadness; no one had the hardihood to make a jest of
mother and child, nailed down together in the same coffin. The silence
became so profound, that one could hear each breath oppressed by terror:
the last blows of the hammer seemed to strike painfully on every heart;
it appeared as if each sad feeling, until now repressed, was about to
replace that animation and gayety, which had been more factitious than
sincere. The moment was decisive. It was necessary to strike an
immediate blow, and to raise the spirits of the guests, for many pretty
rosy faces began to grow pale, many scarlet ears became suddenly white;
Ninny Moulin's were of the number.
On the contrary, Sleepinbuff exhibited an increase of audacity; he drew
up his figure, bent down from the effects of exhaustion, and, with a
cheek slightly flushed, he exclaimed: "Well, waiter? are those bottles of
brandy coming? And the punch? Devil and all! are the dead to frighten
"He's right! Down with sorrow, and let's have the punch!" cried several
of the guests, who felt the necessity of reviving their courage.
"Begone, dull care!"
"Gentlemen, here is the punch," said a waiter, opening the door. At
sight of the flaming beverage, which was to reanimate their enfeebled
spirits, the room rang with the loudest applause.
The sun had just set. The room was large, being capable of dining a
hundred guests; and the windows were few, narrow, and half veiled by red
cotton curtains. Though it was not yet night, some portions of this vast
saloon were almost entirely dark. Two waiters brought the monster-punch,
in an immense brass kettle, brilliant as gold, suspended from an iron
bar, and crowned with flames of changing color. The burning beverage was
then placed upon the table, to the great joy of the guests, who began to
forget their past alarms.
"Now," said Jacques to Morok, in a taunting tone, "while the punch is
burning, we will have our duel. The company shall judge." Then, pointing
to the two bottles of brandy, which the waiter had brought, Jacques
added: "Choose your weapon!"
"Do you choose," answered Morok.
"Well! here's your bottle--and here's your glass. Ninny Moulin shall be
"I do not refuse to be judge of the field," answered the religious
writer, "only I must warn you, comrade, that you are playing a desperate
game, and that just now, as one of these gentlemen has said, the neck of
a bottle of brandy in one's mouth, is perhaps more dangerous than the
barrel of a loaded pistol."
"Give the word, old fellow!" said Jacques, interrupting Ninny Moulin, "or
I will give it myself."
"Since you will have it so--so be it!"
"The first who gives in is conquered," said Jacques.
"Agreed!" answered Morok.
"Come, gentlemen, attention! we must follow every movement," resumed
Ninny Moulin. "Let us first see if the bottles are of the same size--
equality of weapons being the foremost condition."
During these preparations, profound silence reigned in the room. The
courage of the majority of those present, animated for a moment by the
arrival of the punch, was soon again depressed by gloomy thoughts, as
they vaguely foresaw the danger of the contest between Morok and Jacques.
This impression joined to the sad thoughts occasioned by the incident of
the coffin, darkened by degrees many a countenance. Some of the guests,
indeed, continued to make a show of rejoicing, but their gayety appeared
forced. Under certain circumstances, the smallest things will have the
most powerful effect. We have said that, after sunset, a portion of this
large room was plunged in obscurity; therefore, the guests who sat in the
remote corners of the apartment, had no other light than the reflection
of the flaming punch. Now it is well known, that the flame of burning
spirit throws a livid, bluish tint over the countenance; it was therefore
a strange, almost frightful spectacle, to see a number of the guests, who
happened to be at a distance from the windows, in this ghastly and
The painter, more struck than all the rest by this effect of color,
exclaimed: "Look! at this end of the table, we might fancy ourselves
feasting with cholera-patients, we are such fine blues and greens."
This jest was not much relished. Fortunately, the loud voice of Ninny
Moulin demanded attention, and for a moment turned the thoughts of the
"The lists are open," cried the religious writer, really more frightened
than he chose to appear. "Are you ready, brave champions?" he added.
"We are ready," said Morok and Jacques.
"Present! fire!" cried Ninny Moulin, clapping his hands. And the two
drinkers each emptied a tumbler full of brandy at a draught.
Morok did not even knit his brow; his marble face remained impassible;
with a steady hand he replaced his glass upon the table. But Jacques, as
he put down his glass, could not conceal a slight convulsive trembling,
caused by internal suffering.
"Bravely done!" cried Ninny Moulin. "The quarter of a bottle of brandy
at a draught--it is glorious! No one else here would be capable of such
prowess. And now, worthy champions, if you believe me, you will stop
where you are."
"Give the word!" answered Jacques, intrepidly. And, with feverish and
shaking hand, he seized the bottle; then suddenly, instead of filling his
glass, he said to Morok: "Bah! we want no glasses. It is braver to drink
from the bottle. I dare you to it!"
Morok's only answer was to shrug his shoulders, and raise the neck of the
bottle to his lips. Jacques hastened to imitate him. The thin,
yellowish, transparent glass gave a perfect view of the progressive
diminution of the liquor. The stony countenance of Morok, and the pale
thin face of Jacques, on which already stood large drops of cold sweat,
were now, as well as the features of the other guests, illuminated by the
bluish light of the punch; every eye was fixed upon Morok and Jacques,
with that barbarous curiosity which cruel spectacles seem involuntarily
Jacques continued to drink, holding the bottle in his left hand;
suddenly, he closed and tightened the fingers of his right hand with a
convulsive movement; his hair clung to his icy forehead, and his
countenance revealed an agony of pain. Yet he continued to drink; only,
without removing his lips from the neck of the bottle, he lowered it for
an instant, as if to recover breath. Just then, Jacques met the sardonic
look of Morok, who continued to drink with his accustomed impassibility.
Thinking that he saw the expression of insulting triumph in Morok's
glance, Jacques raised his elbow abruptly, and drank with avidity a few
drops more. But his strength was exhausted. A quenchless fire devoured
his vitals. His sufferings were too intense, and he could no longer bear
up against them. His head fell backwards, his jaws closed convulsively,
he crushed the neck of the bottle between his teeth, his neck grew rigid,
his limbs writhed with spasmodic action, and he became almost senseless.
"Jacques, my good fellow! it is nothing," cried Morok, whose ferocious
glance now sparkled with diabolical joy. Then, replacing his bottle on
the table, he rose to go to the aid of Ninny Moulin, who was vainly
endeavoring to hold Sleepinbuff.
This sudden attack had none of the symptoms of cholera. Yet terror
seized upon all present; one of the women was taken with hysterics, and
another uttered piercing cries and fainted away. Ninny Moulin, leaving
Jacques in the hands of Morok, ran towards the door to seek for help,--
when that door was suddenly opened, and the religious writer drew back in
alarm, at the sight of the unexpected personage who appeared on the
The person before whom Ninny Moulin stopped in such extreme astonishment
was the Bacchanal Queen.
Pale and wan, with, hair in disorder, hollow cheeks, sunken eyes, and
clothed almost in rags, this brilliant and joyous heroine of so many mad
orgies was now only the shadow of her former self. Misery and grief were
impressed on that countenance, once so charming. Hardly had she entered
the room, when Cephyse paused; her mournful and unquiet gaze strove to
penetrate the half-obscurity of the apartment, in search of him she
longed to see. Suddenly the girl started, and uttered a loud scream.
She had just perceived, at the other side of a long table, by the bluish
light of the punch, Jacques struggling with Morok and one of the guests,
who were hardly able to restrain his convulsive movements.
At this sight Cephyse, in her first alarm, carried away by her affection,
did what she had so often done in the intoxication of joy and pleasure.
Light and agile, instead of losing precious time in making a long
circuit, she sprang at once upon the table, passed nimbly through the
array of plates and bottles, and with one spring was by the side of the
"Jacques!" she exclaimed, without yet remarking the lion-tamer, and
throwing herself on the neck of her lover. "Jacques! it is I--Cephyse!"
That well-known voice, that heart-piercing cry, which came from the
bottom of the soul, seemed not unheard by Sleepinbuff. He turned his
head mechanically towards the Bacchanal Queen, without opening his eyes,
and heaved a deep sigh; his stiffened limbs relaxed, a slight trembling
succeeded to the convulsions, and in a few seconds his heavy eyelids were
raised with an effort, so as to uncover his dull and wandering gaze.
Mute with astonishment, the spectators of this scene felt an uneasy
curiosity. Cephyse, kneeling beside her lover, bathed his hands in her
tears, covered them with kisses, and exclaimed, in a voice broken by
sobs, "It is I--Cephyse--I have found you again--it was not my fault that
I abandoned you! Forgive me, forgive--"
"Wretched woman!" cried Morok, irritated at this meeting, which might,
perhaps, be fatal to his projects; "do you wish to kill him? In his
present state, this agitation is death. Begone!" So saying, he seized
Cephyse suddenly by the arm, just as Jacques, waking, as it were, from a
painful dream, began to distinguish what was passing around him.
"You! It is you!" cried the Bacchanal Queen, in amazement, as she
recognized Morok, "who separated me from Jacques!"
She paused; for the dim eye of the victim, as it rested upon her, grew
"Cephyse!" murmured Jacques; "is it you?"
"Yes, it is I," answered she, in a voice of deep emotion; "who have come-
---I will tell you--"
She was unable to continue, and, as she clasped her hands together, her
pale, agitated, tearful countenance expressed her astonishment and
despair at the mortal change which had taken place in the features of
Jacques. He understood the cause of her surprise, and as he
contemplated, in his turn, the suffering and emaciated countenance of
Cephyse. he said to her, "Poor girl! you also have had to bear much
grief, much misery--I should hardly have known you."
"Yes," replied Cephyse, "much grief--much misery--and worse than misery,"
she added, trembling, whilst a deep blush overspread her pale features.
"Worse than misery?" said Jacques, astonished.
"But it is you who have suffered," hastily resumed Cephyse, without
answering her lover.
"Just now, I was going to make an end of it--your voice has recalled me
for an instant--but I feel something here," and he laid his hand upon his
breast, "which never gives quarter. It is all the same now--I have seen
you--I shall die happy."
"You shall not die, Jacques; I am here--"
"Listen to one, my girl. If I had a bushel of live coal in my stomach,
it could hardly burn me more. For more than a month, I have been
consuming my body by a slow fire. This gentleman," he added, glancing at
Morok, "this dear friend, always undertook to feed the flame. I do not
regret life; I have lost the habit of work, and taken to drink and riot;
I should have finished by becoming a thorough blackguard: I preferred
that my friend here should amuse himself with lighting a furnace in my
inside. Since what I drank just now, I am certain that it fumes like
"You are both foolish and ungrateful," said Morok, shrugging his
shoulders; "you held out your glass, and I filled it--and, faith, we
shall drink long and often together yet."
For some moments, Cephyse had not withdrawn her eyes from Morok. "I tell
you, that you have long blown the fire, in which I have burnt my skin,"
resumed Jacques, addressing Morok in a feeble voice, "so that they may
not think I die of cholera. It would look as if I had been frightened by
the part I played. I do not therefore reproach you, my affectionate
friend," added he, with a sardonic smile; "you dug my grave gayly--and
sometimes, when, seeing the great dark hole, into which I was about to
fall, I drew back a step--but you, my excellent friend, still pushed me
forward, saying, `Go on, my boy, go on!'--and I went on--and here I am--"
So saying, Sleepinbuff burst into a bitter laugh, which sent an icy
shudder through the spectators of this scene.
"My good fellow," said Morok, coolly, "listen to me, and follow my
"Thank you! I know your advice--and, instead of listening to you, I
prefer speaking to my poor Cephyse. Before I go down to the moles, I
should like to tell her what weighs on my heart."
"Jacques," replied Cephyse, "do not talk so. I tell you, you shall not
"Why, then, my brave Cephyse, I shall owe my life to you," returned
Jacques, in a tone of serious feeling, which surprised the spectators.
"Yes," resumed he, "when I came to myself, and saw you so poorly clad, I
felt something good about my heart--do you know why?--it was because I
said to myself, `Poor girl! she has kept her word bravely; she has chosen
to toil, and want, and suffer--rather than take another love--who would
have given her what I gave her as long as I could'--and that thought,
Cephyse, refreshed my soul. I needed it, for I was burning--and I burn
still," added he, clinching his fists with pain; "but that made me happy-
-it did me good--thanks, my good, brave Cephyse--yes, you are good and
brave--and you were right; for I never loved any but you in the wide
world; and if, in my degradation, I had one thought that raised me a
little above the filth, and made me regret that I was not better--the
thought was of you! Thanks then, my poor, dear love," said Jacques, whose
hot and shining eyes were becoming moist; "thanks once again," and he
reached his cold hand to Cephyse; "if I die, I shall die happy--if I
live, I shall live happy also. Give me your hand, my brave Cephyse!--you
have acted like a good and honest creature."
Instead of taking the hand which Jacques offered her, Cephyse, still
kneeling, bowed her head, and dared not raise her eyes to her lover.
"You don't answer," said he, leaning over towards the young girl; "you
don't take my hand--why is this?"
The unfortunate creature only answered by stifled sobs. Borne down with
shame, she held herself in so humble, so supplicating an attitude, that
her forehead almost touched the feet of her lover.
Amazed at the silence and conduct of the Bacchanal Queen, Jacques looked
at her with increasing agitation; suddenly he stammered out with
trembling lips, "Cephyse, I know you. If you do not take my hand, it is
Then, his voice failing, he added, in a dull tone, after a moment's
silence, "When, six weeks ago, I was taken to prison, did you not say to
me, 'Jacques, I swear that I will work--and if need be, live in horrible
misery--but I will live true!' That was your promise. Now, I know you
never speak false; tell me you have kept your word, and I shall believe
Cephyse only answered by a heart-rending sob, as she pressed the knees of
Jacques against her heaving bosom. By a strange contradiction, more
common than is generally thought--this man, degraded by intoxication and
debauchery, who, since he came out of prison, had plunged in every
excess, and tamely yielded to all the fatal incitements of Morok, yet
received a fearful blow, when he learned, by the mute avowal of Cephyse,
the infidelity, of this creature, whom he had loved in spite of
degradation. The first impulse of Jacques was terrible. Notwithstanding
his weakness and exhaustion, he succeeded in rising from his seat, and,
with a countenance contracted by rage and despair, he seized a knife,
before they had time to prevent him, and turned it upon Cephyse. But at
the moment he was about to strike, shrinking from an act of murder, he
hurled the knife far away from him, and falling back into the chair,
covered his face with his hands.
At the cry of Ninny Moulin, who had, though late, thrown himself upon
Jacques to take away the knife, Cephyse raised her head: Jacques's woeful
dejection wrung her heart; she rose, and fell upon his neck,
notwithstanding his resistance, exclaiming in a voice broken by sobs,
"Jacques, if you knew! if you only knew--listen--do not condemn me
without hearing me--I will tell you all, I swear to you--without
falsehood--this man," and she pointed to Morok, "will not dare deny what
I say; he came, and told me to have the courage to--"
"I do not reproach you. I have no right to reproach you. Let me die in
peace. I ask nothing but that now," said Jacques, in a still weaker
voice, as he repulsed Cephyse. Then he added, with a grievous and bitter
smile, "Luckily, I have my dose. I knew--what I was doing--when I
accepted the duel with brandy."
"No, you shall not die, and you shall hear me," cried Cephyse, with a
bewildered air; "you shall hear me, and everybody else shall hear me.
They shall see that it is not my fault. Is it not so, gentlemen? Do I
not deserve pity? You will entreat Jacques to forgive me; for if driven
by misery--finding no work--I was forced to this--not for the sake of any
luxury--you see the rags I wear--but to get bread and shelter for my
poor, sick sister--dying, and even more miserable than myself--would you
not have pity upon me? Do you think one finds pleasure in one's infamy?"
cried the unfortunate, with a burst of frightful laughter; then she
added, in a low voice, and with a shudder, "Oh, if you knew, Jacques! it
is so infamous, so horrible, that I preferred death to falling so low a
second time. I should have killed myself, had I not heard you were
here." Then, seeing that Jacques did not answer her, but shook his head
mournfully as he sank down though still supported by Ninny Moulin,
Cephyse exclaimed, as she lifted her clasped hands towards him, "Jacques!
one word--for pity's sake--forgive me!"
"Gentlemen, pray remove this woman," cried Morok; "the sight of her
causes my friend too painful emotions."
"Come, my dear child, be reasonable," said several of the guests, who,
deeply moved by this scene, were endeavoring to withdraw Cephyse from it;
"leave him, and come with us; he is not in any danger."
"Gentlemen! oh, gentlemen!" cried the unfortunate creature, bursting into
tears, and raising her hands in supplication; "listen to me--I will do
all that you wish me--I will go--but, in heaven's name, send for help,
and do not let him die thus. Look, what pain he suffers! what horrible
"She is right," said one of the guests, hastening towards the door; "we
must send for a doctor."
"There is no doctor to be found," said another; "they are all too busy."
"We will do better than that," cried a third; "the Hospital is just
opposite, and we can carry the poor fellow thither. They will give him
instant help. A leaf of the table will make a litter, and the table-
cloth a covering."
"Yes, yes, that is it," said several voices; "let us carry him over at
Jacques, burnt up with brandy, and overcome by his interview with
Cephyse, had again fallen into violent convulsions. It was the dying
paroxysm of the unfortunate man. They were obliged to tie him with the
ends of the cloth, so as to secure him to the leaf which was to serve for
a litter, which two of the guests hastened to carry away. They yielded
to the supplication of Cephyse, who asked, as a last favor, to accompany
Jacques to the Hospital. When the mournful procession quitted the great
room of the eating-house, there was a general flight among the guests.
Men and women made haste to wrap themselves in their cloaks, in order to
conceal their costumes. The coaches, which had been ordered in tolerable
number for the return of the masquerade, had luckily arrived. The
defiance had been fully carried out, the audacious bravado accomplished,
and they could now retire with the honors of war. Whilst a part of the
guests were still in the room, an uproar, at first distant, but which
soon drew nearer, broke out with incredible fury in the square of Notre-
Jacques had been carried to the outer door of the tavern. Morok and
Ninny Moulin, striving to open a passage through the crowd in the
direction of the Hospital, preceded the litter. A violent reflux of the
multitude soon forced them to stop, whilst a new storm of savage outcries
burst from the other extremity of the square, near the angle of the
"What is it then?" asked Ninny Moulin of one of those ignoble figures
that was leaping up before him. "What are those cries?"
"They are making mince-meat of a poisoner, like him they have thrown into
the river," replied the man. "If you want to see the fun, follow me
close," added he, "and peg away with your elbows, for fear you should be
Hardly had the wretch pronounced these words than a dreadful shriek
sounded above the roar of the crowd, through which the bearers of the
litter, preceded by Morok, were with difficulty making their way. It was
Cephyse who uttered that cry. Jacques (one of the seven heirs of the
Rennepont family) had just expired in her arms! By a strange fatality, at
the very moment that the despairing exclamation of Cephyse announced that
death, another cry rose from that part of the square where they were
attacking the poisoner. That distant, supplicating cry, tremulous with
horrible alarm, like the last appeal of a man staggering beneath the
blows of his murderers, chilled the soul of Morok in the midst of his
"Damnation!" cried the skillful assassin, who had selected drunkenness
and debauchery for his murderous but legal weapons; "it is the voice of
the Abbe d'Aigrigny, whom they have in their clutches!"
It is necessary to go back a little before relating the adventure of
Father d'Aigrigny, whose cry of distress made so deep an impression upon
Morok just at the moment of Jacques Rennepont's death. We have said that
the most absurd and alarming reports were circulating in Paris; not only
did people talk of poison given to the sick or thrown into the public
fountains, but it was also said that wretches had been surprised in the
act of putting arsenic into the pots which are usually kept all ready on
the counters of wine-shops. Goliath was on his way to rejoin Morok,
after delivering a message to Father d'Aigrigny, who was waiting in a
house on the Place de l'Archeveche. He entered a wine-shop in the Rue de
la Calandre, to get some refreshment, and having drunk two glasses of
wine, he proceeded to pay for them. Whilst the woman of the house was
looking for change, Goliath, mechanically and very innocently, rested his
hand on the mouth of one of the pots that happened to be within his
The tall stature of this man and his repulsive and savage countenance had
already alarmed the good woman, whose fears and prejudices had previously
been roused by the public rumors on the subject of poisoning; but when
she saw Goliath place his hand over the mouth of one of her pots, she
cried out in dismay: "Oh! my gracious! what are you throwing into that
pot?" At these words, spoken in a loud voice, and with the accent of
terror, two or three of the drinkers at one of the tables rose
precipitately, and ran to the counter, while one of them rashly
exclaimed: "It is a poisoner!"
Goliath, not aware of the reports circulated in the neighborhood, did not
at first understand of what he was accused. The men raised their voices
as they called on him to answer the charge; but he, trusting to his
strength, shrugged his shoulders in disdain, and roughly demanded the
change, which the pale and frightened hostess no longer thought of giving
"Rascal!" cried one of the men, with so much violence that several of the
passers-by stopped to listen; "you shall have your change when you tell
us what you threw in the pot!"
"Ha! did he throw anything into the wine-pot?" said one of the passers-
"It is, perhaps, a poisoner," said another.
"He ought to be taken up," added a third.
"Yes, yes," cried those in the house--honest people perhaps, but under
the influence of the general panic; "he must be taken up, for he has been
throwing poison into the wine-pots."
The words "He is a poisoner" soon spread through the group, which, at
first composed of three or four persons, increased every instant around
the door of the wine-shop. A dull, menacing clamor began to rise from
the crowd; the first accuser, seeing his fears thus shared and almost
justified, thought he was acting like a good and courageous citizen in
taking Goliath by the collar, and saying to him: "Come and explain
yourself at the guard-house, villain!"
The giant, already provoked at insults of which he did not perceive the
real meaning, was exasperated at this sudden attack; yielding to his
natural brutality, he knocked his adversary down upon the counter, and
began to hammer him with his fists. During this collision, several
bottles and two or three panes of glass were broken with much noise,
whilst the woman of the house, more and more frightened, cried out with
all her might; "Help! a poisoner! Help! murder!"
At the sound of the breaking windows and these cries of distress, the
passers-by, of whom the greater number believed in the stories about the
poisoners, rushed into the shop to aid in securing Goliath. But the
latter, thanks to his herculean strength, after struggling for some
moments with seven or eight persons, knocked down two of his most furious
assailants, disengaged himself from the others, drew near the counter,
and, taking a vigorous spring, rushed head-foremost, like a bull about to
butt, upon the crowd that blocked up the door; then, forcing a passage,
by the help of his enormous shoulders and athletic arms, he made his way
into the street, and ran with all speed in the direction of the square of
Notre-Dame, his garments torn, his head bare, and his countenance pale
and full of rage. Immediately, a number of persons from amongst the
crowd started in pursuit of Goliath, and a hundred voices exclaimed:
"Stop--stop the poisoner!"
Hearing these cries, and seeing a man draw near with a wild and troubled
look, a butcher, who happened to be passing with his large, empty tray on
his head, threw it against Goliath's shins, and taken by surprise, he
stumbled and fell. The butcher, thinking he had performed as heroic an
action as if he had encountered a mad dog, flung himself on Goliath, and
rolled over with him on the pavement, exclaiming: "Help! it is a
poisoner! Help! help!" This scene took place not far from the Cathedral,
but at some distance from the crowd which was pressing round the hospital
gate, as well as from the eating-house in which the masquerade of the
cholera then was. The day was now drawing to a close. On the piercing
call of the butcher, several groups, at the head of which were Ciboule
and the quarryman, flew towards the scene of the struggle, while those
who had pursued the pretended poisoner from the Rue de la Calandre,
reached the square on their side.
At sight of this threatening crowd advancing towards him, Goliath, whilst
he continued to defend himself against the butcher, who held him with the
tenacity of a bull-dog, felt that he was lost unless he could rid himself
of this adversary before the arrival of the rest; with a furious blow of
the fist, therefore, he broke the jaw of the butcher, who just then was
above him, and disengaging himself from his hold, he rose, and staggered
a few steps forward. Suddenly he stopped. He saw that he was
surrounded. Behind him rose the walls of the cathedral; to the right and
left, and in front of him, advanced a hostile multitude. The groans
uttered by the butcher, who had just been lifted from the ground covered
with blood, augmented the fury of the populace.
This was a terrible moment for Goliath: still standing alone in the
centre of a ring that grew smaller every second, he saw on all sides
angry enemies rushing towards him, and uttering cries of death. As the
wild boar turns round once or twice, before resolving to stand at bay and
face the devouring pack, Goliath, struck with terror, made one or two
abrupt and wavering movements. Then, as he abandoned the possibility of
flight, instinct told him that he had no mercy to expect from a crowd
given up to blind and savage fury--a fury the more pitiless as it was
believed to be legitimate. Goliath determined, therefore, at least to
sell his life dearly; he sought for a knife in his pocket, but, not
finding it, he threw out his left leg in an athletic posture, and holding
up his muscular arms, hard and stiff as bars of iron, waited with
intrepidity for the shock.
The first who approached Goliath was Ciboule. The hag, heated and out of
breath, instead of rushing upon him, paused, stooped down, and taking off
one of the large wooden shoes that she wore, hurled it at the giant's
head with so much force and with so true an aim that it struck him right
in the eye, which hung half out of its socket. Goliath pressed his hands
to his face, and uttered a cry of excruciating pain.
"I've made him squint!" said Ciboule, with a burst of laughter.
Goliath, maddened by the pain, instead of waiting for the attack, which
the mob still hesitated to begin, so greatly were they awed by his
appearance of herculean strength--the only adversary worthy to cope with
him being the quarryman, who had been borne to a distance by the surging
of the crowd--Goliath, in his rage, rushed headlong upon the nearest.
Such a struggle was too unequal to last long; but despair redoubled the
Colossus's strength, and the combat was for a moment terrible. The
unfortunate man did not fall at once. For some seconds, almost buried
amid a swarm of furious assailants, one saw now his mighty arm rise and
fall like a sledge hammer, beating upon skulls and faces, and now his
enormous head, livid and bloody, drawn back by some of the combatants
hanging to his tangled hair. Here and there sudden openings and violent
oscillations of the crowd bore witness to the incredible energy of
Goliath's defence. But when the quarryman succeeded in reaching him,
Goliath was overpowered and thrown down. A long, savage cheer in triumph
announced this fall; for, under such circumstances, to "go under" is "to
die." Instantly a thousand breathless and angry voices repeated the
cry of "Death to the poisoner!"
Then began one of those scenes of massacre and torture, worthy of
cannibals, horrible to relate, and the more incredible, that they happen
almost always in the presence, and often with the aid, of honest and
humane people, who, blinded by false notions and stupid prejudices, allow
themselves to be led into all sorts of barbarity, under the idea of
performing an act of inexorable justice. As it frequently happens, the
sight of the blood which flowed in torrents from Goliath's wounds
inflamed to madness the rage of his assailants. A hundred fists struck
at the unhappy man; he was stamped under foot, his face and chest were
beaten in. Ever and anon, in the midst of furious cries of "Death to the
poisoner!" heavy blows were audible, followed by stifled groans. It was
a frightful butchery. Each individual, yielding to a sanguinary frenzy,
came in turn to strike his blow; or to tear off his morsel of flesh.
Women--yes, women--mothers!--came to spend their rage on this mutilated
There was one moment of frightful terror. With his face all bruised and
covered with mud, his garments in rags, his chest bare, red, gaping with
wounds--Goliath, availing himself of a moment's weariness on the part of
his assassins, who believed him already, finished, succeeded, by one of
those convulsive starts frequent in the last agony, in raising himself to
his feet for a few seconds; then, blind with wounds and loss of blood,
striking about his arms in the air as if to parry blows that were no
longer struck, he muttered these words, which came from his mouth,
accompanied by a crimson torrent: "Mercy! I am no poisoner. Mercy!"
This sort of resurrection produced so great an effect on the crowd, that
for an instant they fell hack affrighted. The clamor ceased, and a small
space was left around the victim. Some hearts began even to feel pity;
when the quarryman, seeing Goliath blinded with blood, groping before him
with his hands, exclaimed in ferocious allusion to a well-known game:
"Now for blind-man's-bluff."
Then, with a violent kick, he again threw down the victim, whose head
struck twice heavily on the pavement.
Just as the giant fell a voice from amongst the crowd exclaimed: "It is
Goliath! stop! he is innocent."
It was Father d'Aigrigny, who, yielding to a generous impulse, was making
violent efforts to reach the foremost rank of the actors in this scene,
and who cried out, as he came nearer, pale, indignant, menacing: "You are
cowards and murderers! This man is innocent. I know him. You shall
answer for his life."
These vehement words were received with loud murmurs.
"You know that poisoner," cried the quarryman, seizing the Jesuit by the
collar; "then perhaps you are a poisoner too.
"Wretch," exclaimed Father d'Aigrigny, endeavoring to shake himself loose
from the grasp, "do you dare to lay hand upon me?"
"Yes, I dare do anything," answered the quarryman.
"He knows him: he's a poisoner like the other," cried the crowd, pressing
round the two adversaries; whilst Goliath, who had fractured his skull in
the fall, uttered a long death-rattle.
At a sudden movement of Father d'Aigrigny, who disengaged himself from
the quarryman, a large glass phial of peculiar form, very thick, and
filled with a greenish liquor, fell from his pocket, and rolled close to
the dying Goliath. At sight of this phial, many voices exclaimed
together: "It is poison! Only see! He had poison upon him."
The clamor redoubled at this accusation, and they pressed so close to
Abbe d'Aigrigny, that he exclaimed: "Do not touch me! do not approach
"If he is a poisoner," said a voice, "no more mercy for him than for the
"I a poisoner?" said the abbe, struck with horror.
Ciboule had darted upon the phial; the quarryman seized it from her,
uncorked it and presenting it to Father d'Aigrigny, said to him: "Now
tell us what is that?"
"It is not poison," cried Father d'Aigrigny.
"Then drink it!" returned the quarryman.
"Yes, yes! let him drink it!" cried the mob.
"Never," answered Father d'Aigrigny, in extreme alarm. And he drew back
as he spoke, pushing away the phial with his hand.
"Do you see? It is poison. He dares not drink it," they exclaimed.
Hemmed in on every side, Father d'Aigrigny stumbled against the body of
"My friends," cried the Jesuit, who, without being a poisoner, found
himself exposed to a terrible alternative, for his phial contained
aromatic salts of extraordinary strength, designed for a preservative
against the cholera, and as dangerous to swallow as any poison, "my good
friends, you are in error. I conjure you, in the name of heaven--"
"If that is not poison, drink it!" interrupted the quarryman, as he again
offered the bottle to the Jesuit.
"If he does not drink it, death to the poisoner of the poor!"
"Yes!--death to him! death to him!"
"Unhappy men!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, whilst his hair stood on end with
terror; "do you mean to murder me?"
"What about all those, that you and your mate have killed, you wretch?"
"But it is not true--and--"
"Drink, then!" repeated the inflexible quarryman; "I ask you for the last
"To drink that would be death," cried Father d'Aigrigny.
"Oh! only hear the wretch!" cried the mob, pressing closer to him; "he
has confessed--he has confessed!"
"He has betrayed himself!"
"He said, `to drink that would be death!'"
"But listen to me," cried the abbe, clasping his hands together; "this
Furious cries interrupted Father d'Aigrigny. "Ciboule, make an end of
that one!" cried the quarryman, spurning Goliath with his foot. "I will
begin this one!" And he seized Father d'Aigrigny by the throat.
At these words, two different groups formed themselves. One, led by
Ciboule, "made an end" of Goliath, with kicks and blows, stones and
wooden shoes; his body was soon reduced to a horrible thing, mutilated,
nameless, formless--a mere inert mass of filth and mangled flesh.
Ciboule gave her cloak, which they tied to one of the dislocated ankles
of the body, and thus dragged it to the parapet of the quay. There, with
shouts of ferocious joy, they precipitated the bloody remains into the
river. Now who does not shudder at the thought that, in a time of
popular commotion, a word, a single word, spoken imprudently, even by an
honest man, and without hatred, will suffice to provoke so horrible a
"Perhaps it is a poisoner!" said one of the drinkers in the tavern of the
Rue de la Calandre--nothing more--and Goliath had been pitilessly
What imperious reasons for penetrating the lowest depths of the masses
with instruction and with light--to enable unfortunate creatures to
defend themselves from so many stupid prejudices, so many fatal
superstitions, so much implacable fanaticism!--How can we ask for
calmness, reflection, self-control, or the sentiment of justice from
abandoned beings, whom ignorance has brutalized, and misery depraved, and
suffering made ferocious, and of whom society takes no thought, except
when it chains them to the galleys, or binds them ready for the
executioner! The terrible cry which had so startled Morok was uttered by
Father d'Aigrigny as the quarryman laid his formidable hand upon him,
saying to Ciboule: "Make an end of that one--I will begin this one!"
 This fact is historical. A man was murdered because a phial full of
ammonia was found upon him. On his refusal to drink it, the populace,
persuaded that the bottle contained poison, tore him to pieces.
IN THE CATHEDRAL.
Night was almost come, as the mutilated body of Goliath was thrown into
the river. The oscillations of the mob had carried into the street,
which runs along the left side of the cathedral, the group into whose
power Father d'Aigrigny had fallen. Having succeeded in freeing himself
from the grasp of the quarryman, but still closely pressed by the
multitude that surrounded him, crying, "Death to the poisoner!" he
retreated step by step, trying to parry the blows that were dealt him.
By presence of mind, address, and courage, recovering at that critical
moment his old military energy, he had hitherto been able to resist and
to remain firm on his feet--knowing, by the example of Goliath, that to
fall was to die. Though he had little hope of being heard to any
purpose, the abbe continued to call for help with all his might.
Disputing the ground inch by inch, he manoeuvred so as to draw near one
of the lateral walls of the church, and at length succeeded in ensconcing
himself in a corner formed by the projection of a buttress, and close by
a little door.
This position was rather favorable. Leaning with his back against the
wall, Father d'Aigrigny was sheltered from the attacks of a portion of
his assailants. But the quarryman, wishing to deprive him of this last
chance of safety, rushed upon him, with the intention of dragging him out
into the circle where he would have been trampled under foot. The fear
of death gave Father d'Aigrigny extraordinary strength, and he was able
once more to repulse the quarryman, and remain entrenched in the corner
where he had taken refuge. The resistance of the victim redoubled the
rage of the assailants. Cries of murderous import resounded with new
violence. The quarryman again rushed upon Father d'Aigrigny, saying,
"Follow me, friends! this lasts too long. Let us make an end of it."
Father d'Aigrigny saw that he was lost. His strength was exhausted, and
he felt himself sinking; his legs trembled under him, and a cloud
obscured his sight; the howling of the furious mob began to sound dull
upon his ear. The effects of violent contusions, received during the
struggle, both on the head and chest, were now very perceptible. Two or
three times, a mixture of blood and foam rose to the lips of the abbe;
his position was a desperate one.
"To be slaughtered by these brutes, after escaping death so often in
war!" Such was the thought of Father d'Aigrigny, as the quarryman rushed
Suddenly, at the very moment when the abbe, yielding to the instinct of
self-preservation, uttered one last call for help, in a heart-piercing
voice, the door against which he leaned opened behind him, and a firm
hand caught hold of him, and pulled him into the church. Thanks to this
movement, performed with the rapidity of lightning, the quarryman, thrown
forward in his attempt to seize Father d'Aigrigny, could not check his
progress, and found himself just opposite to the person who had come, as
it were, to take the place of the victim.
The quarryman stopped short, and then fell back a couple of paces, so
much was he amazed at this sudden apparition, and impressed, like the
rest of the crowd, with a vague feeling of admiration and respect at
sight of him who had come so miraculously to the aid of Father
d'Aigrigny. It was Gabriel. The young missionary remained standing on
the threshold of the door. His long black cassock was half lost in the
shadows of the cathedral; whilst his angelic countenance, with its border
of long light hair, now pale and agitated by pity and grief, was
illumined by the last faint rays of twilight. This countenance shone
with so divine a beauty, and expressed such touching and tender
compassion, that the crowd felt awed as, with his large blue eyes full of
tears, and his hands clasped together, he exclaimed, in a sonorous voice:
"Have mercy, my brethren! Be humane--be just!"
Recovering from his first feeling of surprise and involuntary emotion,
the quarryman advanced a step towards Gabriel, and said to him: "No mercy
for the poisoner! we must have him! Give him up to us, or we go and take
"You cannot think of it, my brethren," answered Gabriel; "the church is a
sacred place--a place of refuge for the persecuted."
"We would drag our prisoner from the altar!" answered the quarryman,
roughly; "so give him up to us."
"Listen to me, my brethren," said Gabriel, extending his arms towards
"Down with the shaveling!" cried the quarryman; "let us go in and hunt
him up in the church!"
"Yes, yes!" cried the mob, again led away by the violence of this wretch,
"down with the black gown!"
"They are all of a piece!"
"Down with them!"
"Let us do as we did at the archbishop's!"
"Or at Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois!"
"What do our likes care for a church?"
"If the priests defend the poisoners, we'll pitch them into the water
"I'll show you the lead!" cried the quarryman; and followed by Ciboule,
and a good number of determined men, he rushed towards Gabriel.
The missionary, who for some moments had watched the increasing fury of
the crowd, had foreseen this movement; hastily retreating into the
church, he succeeded, in spite of the efforts of the assailants, in
nearly closing the door, and in barricading it by the help of a wooden
bar, which he held in such a manner as would enable the door to resist
for a few minutes.
Whilst he thus defended the entrance, Gabriel shouted to Father
d'Aigrigny: "Fly, father! fly through the vestry! the other doors are
The Jesuit, overpowered by fatigue, covered with contusions, bathed in
cold sweat, feeling his strength altogether fail, and too soon fancying
himself in safety, had sunk, half fainting, into a chair. At the voice
of Gabriel, he rose with difficulty, and, with a trembling step,
endeavored to reach the choir, separated from the rest of the church by
an iron railing.
"Quick, father!" added Gabriel, in alarm, using every effort to maintain
the door, which was now vigorously assailed. "Make haste! In a few
minutes it will be too late. All alone!" continued the missionary, in
despair, "alone, to arrest the progress of these madmen!"
He was indeed alone. At the first outbreak of the attack, three or four
sacristans and other members of the establishment were in the church;
but, struck with terror, and remembering the sack of the archbishop's
palace, and of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, they had immediately taken
flight. Some of them had concealed themselves in the organ-loft and
others fled into the vestry, the doors of which they locked after them,
thus cutting off the retreat of Gabriel and Father d'Aigrigny. The
latter, bent double by pain, yet roused by the missionary's portentive
warning, helping himself on by means of the chairs he met with on his
passage, made vain efforts to reach the choir railing. After advancing a
few steps, vanquished by his suffering, he staggered and fell upon the
pavement, deprived of sense and motion. At the same moment, Gabriel, in
spite of the incredible energy with which the desire to save Father
d'Aigrigny had inspired him, felt the door giving way beneath the
formidable pressure from without.
Turning his head, to see if the Jesuit had at least quitted the church,
Gabriel, to his great alarm, perceived that he was lying motionless at a
few steps from the choir. To abandon the half-broken door, to run to
Father d'Aigrigny, to lift him in his arms, and drag him within the
railing of the choir, was for the young priest an action rapid as
thought; for he closed the gate of the choir just at the instant that the
quarryman and his band, having finished breaking down the door, rushed in
a body into the church.
Standing in front of the choir, with his arms crossed upon his breast,
Gabriel waited calmly and intrepidly for this mob, still more exasperated
by such unexpected resistance.
The door once forced, the assailants rushed in with great violence. But
hardly had they entered the church, than a strange scene took place. It
was nearly dark; only a few silver lamps shed their pale light round the
sanctuary, whose far outlines disappeared in the shadow. On suddenly
entering the immense cathedral, dark, silent, and deserted, the most
audacious were struck with awe, almost with fear in presence of the
imposing grandeur of that stony solitude. Outcries and threats died away
on the lips of the most furious. They seemed to dread awaking the echoes
of those enormous arches, those black vaults, from which oozed a
sepulchral dampness, which chilled their brows, inflamed with anger, and
fell upon their shoulders like a mantle of ice.
Religious tradition, routine, habit, the memories of childhood, have so
much influence upon men, that hardly had they entered the church, than
several of the quarryman's followers respectfully took off their hats,
bowed their bare heads, and walked along cautiously, as if to check the
noise of their footsteps on the sounding stones. Then they exchanged a
few words in a low and fearful whisper. Others timidly raised their eyes
to the far heights of the topmost arches of that gigantic building, now
lost in obscurity, and felt almost frightened to see themselves so little
in the midst of that immensity of darkness. But at the first joke of the
quarryman, who broke this respectful silence, the emotion soon passed
"Blood and thunder!" cried he; "are you fetching breath to sing vespers?
If they had wine in the font, well and good!"
These words were received with a burst of savage laughter. "All this
time the villain will escape!" said one.
"And we shall be done," added Ciboule.
"One would think we had cowards here, who are afraid of the sacristans!"
cried the quarryman.
"Never!" replied the others in chorus; "we fear nobody."
"Yes, yes--forward!" was repeated on all sides. And the animation, which
had been calmed down for a moment, was redoubled in the midst of renewed
tumult. Some moments after, the eyes of the assailants, becoming
accustomed to the twilight, were able to distinguish in the midst of the
faint halo shed around by a silver lamp, the imposing countenance of
Gabriel, as he stood before the iron railing of the choir.
"The poisoner is here, hid in some corner," cried the quarryman. "We
must force this parson to give us back the villain."
"He shall answer for him!"
"He took him into the church."
"He shall pay for both, if we do not find the other!"
As the first impression of involuntary respect was effaced from the minds
of the crowd, their voices rose the louder, and their faces became the
more savage and threatening, because they all felt ashamed of their
momentary hesitation and weakness.
"Yes, yes!" cried many voices, trembling with rage, "we must have the
life of one or the other!"
"Or of both!"
"So much the worse for this priest, if he wants to prevent us from
serving out our poisoner!"
"Death to him! death to him!"
With this burst of ferocious yells, which were fearfully re-echoed from
the groined arches of the cathedral, the mob, maddened by rage, rushed
towards the choir, at the door of which Gabriel was standing. The young
missionary, who, when placed on the cross by the savages of the Rocky
Mountains, yet entreated heaven to spare his executioners, had too much
courage in his heart, too much charity in his soul, not to risk his life
a thousand times over to save Father d'Aigrigny's--the very man who had
betrayed hire by such cowardly and cruel hypocrisy.
The quarryman, followed by his gang, ran towards Gabriel, who had
advanced a few paces from the choir-railing, and exclaimed, his eyes
sparkling with rage: "Where is the poisoner? We will have him!"
"Who has told you, my brethren, that he is a poisoner?" replied Gabriel,
with his deep, sonorous voice. "A poisoner! Where are the proofs--
witnesses or victims?"
"Enough of that stuff! we are not here for confession," brutally answered
the quarryman, advancing towards him in a threatening manner. "Give up
the man to us; he shall be forthcoming, unless you choose to stand in his
"Yes, yes!" exclaimed several voices; "they are `in' with one another!
One or the other we will have!"
"Very well, then; since it is so," said Gabriel, raising his head, and
advancing with calmness, resignation; and fearlessness; "he or me," added
he;--"it seems to make no difference to you--you are determined to have
blood--take mine, and I will pardon you, my friends; for a fatal delusion
has unsettled your reason."
These words of Gabriel, his courage, the nobleness of his attitude, the
beauty of his countenance, had made an impression on some of the
assailants, when suddenly a voice exclaimed: "Look! there is the
poisoner, behind the railing!"
"Where--where?" cried they.
"There--don't you see?--stretched on the floor."
On hearing this, the mob, which had hitherto formed a compact mass, in
the sort of passage separating the two sides of the nave, between the
rows of chairs, dispersed in every direction, to reach the railing of the
choir, the last and only barrier that now sheltered Father d'Aigrigny.
During this manoeuvre the quarryman, Ciboule, and others, advanced
towards Gabriel, exclaiming, with ferocious joy: "This time we have him.
Death to the poisoner!"
To save Father d'Aigrigny, Gabriel would have allowed himself to be
massacred at the entrance of the choir; but, a little further on, the
railing, not above four feet in height, would in another instant be
scaled or broken through. The Missionary lost all hope of saving the
Jesuit from a frightful death. Yet he exclaimed: "Stop, poor deluded
people!"--and, extending his arms, he threw himself in front of the
His words, gesture, and countenance, were expressive of an authority at
once so affectionate and so fraternal, that there was a momentary
hesitation amongst the mob. But to this hesitation soon succeeded the
most furious cries of "Death; death!"
"You cry for his death?" cried Gabriel, growing still paler.
"Well, let him die," cried the missionary, inspired with a sudden
thought; "let him die on the instant!"
These words of the young priest struck the crowd with amazement. For a
few moments, they all stood mute, motionless, and as it were, paralyzed,
looking at Gabriel in stupid astonishment.
"This man is guilty, you say," resumed the young missionary, in a voice
trembling with emotion. "You have condemned him without proof, without
witnesses--no matter, he must die. You reproach him with being a
poisoner; where are his victims? You cannot tell--but no matter; he is
condemned. You refuse to hear his defense, the sacred right of every
accused person--no matter; the sentence is pronounced. You are at once
his accusers, judges, and executioners. Be it so!--You have never seen
till now this unfortunate man, he has done you no harm, he has perhaps
not done harm to any one--yet you take upon yourselves the terrible
responsibility of his death--understand me well--of his death. Be it so
then! your conscience will absolve you--I will believe it. He must die;
the sacredness of God's house will not save him--"
"No, no!" cried many furious voices.
"No," resumed Gabriel, with increasing warmth; "no you have determined to
shed his blood, and you will shed it, even in the Lord's temple. It is,
you say, your right. You are doing an act of terrible justice. But why
then, so many vigorous arms to make an end of one dying man? Why these
outcries? this fury? this violence? Is it thus that the people, the
strong and equitable people, are wont to execute their judgments? No,
no; when sure of their right, they strike their enemies, it is with the
calmness of the judge, who, in freedom of soul and conscience, passes
sentence. No, the strong and equitable people do not deal their blows
like men blind or mad, uttering cries of rage, as if to drown the sense
of some cowardly and horrible murder. No, it is not thus that they
exercise the formidable right, to which you now lay claim--for you will
"Yes, we will have it!" shouted the quarryman, Ciboule, and others of the
more pitiless portion of the mob; whilst a great number remained silent,
struck with the words of Gabriel, who had just painted to them, in such
lively colors, the frightful act they were about to commit.
"Yes," resumed the quarryman, "it is our right; we have determined to
kill the poisoner!"
So saying, and with bloodshot eyes, and flushed cheek, the wretch
advanced at the head of a resolute group, making a gesture as though he
would have pushed aside Gabriel, who was still standing in front of the
railing. But instead of resisting the bandit, the missionary advanced a
couple of steps to meet him, took him by the arm, and said in a firm
And dragging, as it were, with him the stupefied quarryman, whose
companions did not venture to follow at the moment, struck dumb as they
were by this new incident, Gabriel rapidly traversed the space which
separated him from the choir, opened the iron gate, and, still holding
the quarryman by the arm, led him up to the prostrate form of Father
d'Aigrigny, and said to him: "There is the victim. He is condemned.
"I" cried the quarryman, hesitating; "I--all alone!"
"Oh!" replied Gabriel, with bitterness, "there is no danger. You can
easily finish him. Look! he is broken down with suffering; he has hardly
a breath of life left; he will make no resistance. Do not be afraid!"
The quarryman remained motionless, whilst the crowd, strangely impressed
with this incident, approached a little nearer the railing, without
daring to come within the gate.
"Strike then!" resumed Gabriel, addressing the quarryman, whilst he
pointed to the crowd with a solemn gesture; "there are the judges; you
are the executioner."
"No!" cried the quarryman, drawing back, and turning away his eyes; "I'm
not the executioner--not I!"
The crowd remained silent. For a few moments, not a word, not a cry,
disturbed the stillness of the solemn cathedral. In a desperate case,
Gabriel had acted with a profound knowledge of the human heart. When the
multitude, inflamed with blind rage, rushes with ferocious clamor upon a
single victim, and each man strikes his blow, this dreadful species of
combined murder appears less horrible to each, because they all share in
the common crime; and then the shouts, the sight of blood, the desperate
defence of the man they massacre, finish by producing a sort of ferocious
intoxication; but, amongst all those furious madmen, who take part in the
homicide, select one, and place him face to face with the victim, no
longer capable of resistance, and say to him, "Strike!"--he will hardly
ever dare to do so.
It was thus with the quarryman; the wretch trembled at the idea of
committing a murder in cold blood, "all alone." The preceding scene had
passed very rapidly; amongst the companions of the quarryman, nearest to
the railing, some did not understand an impression, which they would
themselves have felt as strongly as this bold man, if it had been said to
them: "Do the office of executioner!" These, therefore, began to murmur
aloud at his weakness. "He dares not finish the poisoner," said one.
"He is afraid."
"He draws back." Hearing these words, the quarryman ran to the gate,
threw it wide open, and, pointing to Father d'Aigrigny, exclaimed: "If
there is one here braver than I am, let him go and finish the job--let
him be, the executioner--come!"
On this proposal the murmurs ceased. A deep silence reigned once more in
the cathedral. All those countenances, but now so furious, became sad,
confused, almost frightened.
The deluded mob began to appreciate the ferocious cowardice of the action
it had been about to commit. Not one durst go alone to strike the half-
expiring man. Suddenly, Father d'Aigrigny uttered a dying rattle, his
head and one of his arms stirred with a convulsive movement, and then
fell back upon the stones as if he had just expired.
Gabriel uttered a cry of anguish, and threw himself on his knees close to
Father d'Aigrigny, exclaiming: "Great Heaven! he is dead!"
There is a singular variableness in the mind of a crowd, susceptible
alike to good or evil impressions. At the heart-piercing cry of Gabriel,
all these people, who, a moment before, had demanded, with loud uproar,
the massacre of this man, felt touched with a sudden pity. The words:
"He is dead!" circulated in low whispers through the crowd accompanied by
a slight shudder, whilst Gabriel raised with one hand the victim's heavy
head, and with the other sought to feel if the pulse still beat beneath
the ice-cold skin.
"Mr. Curate," said the quarryman, bending towards Gabriel, "is there
really no hope?"
The answer was waited for with anxiety, in the midst of deep silence.
The people hardly ventured to exchange a few words in whispers.
"Blessed be God!" exclaimed Gabriel, suddenly. "His heart beats."
"His heart beats," repeated the quarryman, turning his head towards the
crowd, to inform them of the good news.
"Oh! his heart beats!" repeated the others, in whispers.
"There is hope. We may yet save him," added Gabriel with an expression
of indescribable happiness.
"We may yet save him," repeated the quarryman, mechanically.
"We may yet save him," muttered the crowd.
"Quick, quick," resumed Gabriel, addressing the quarryman; "help me,
brother. Let us carry him to a neighboring house, where he can have
The quarryman obeyed with readiness. Whilst the missionary lifted Father
d'Aigrigny by holding him under the arms, the quarryman took the legs of
the almost inanimate body. Together, they carried him outside of the
choir. At sight of the formidable quarryman, aiding the young priest to
render assistance to the man whom he had just before pursued with menaces
of death, the multitude felt a sudden thrill of compassion. Yielding to
the powerful influence of the words and example of Gabriel, they felt
themselves deeply moved, and each became anxious to offer services.
"Mr. Curate, he would perhaps be better on a chair, that one could carry
upright," said Ciboule.
"Shall I go and fetch a stretcher from the hospital?" asked another.
"Mr. Curate, let me take your place; the body is too heavy for you."
"Don't trouble yourself," said a powerful man, approaching the missionary
respectfully; "I can carry him alone."
"Shall I run and fetch a coach, Mr. Curate?" said a young vagabond,
taking off his red cap.
"Right," said the quarryman; "run away, my buck!"
"But first, ask Mr. Curate if you are to go for a coach," said Ciboule,
stopping the impatient messenger.
"True," added one of the bystanders; "we are here in a church, and Mr.
Curate has the command. He is at home."
"Yes, yes; go at once, my child," said Gabriel to the obliging young
Whilst the latter was making his way through the crowd, a voice said:
"I've a little wicker-bottle of brandy; will that be of any use?"
"No doubt," answered Gabriel, hastily; "pray give it here. We can rub
his temples with the spirit, and make him inhale a little."
"Pass the bottle," cried Ciboule; "but don't put your noses in it!" And,
passed with caution from hand to hand, the flask reached Gabriel in
Whilst waiting for the coming of the coach, Father d'Aigrigny had been
seated on a chair. Whilst several good-natured people carefully
supported the abbe, the missionary made him inhale a little brandy. In a
few minutes, the spirit had a powerful influence on the Jesuit; he made
some slight movements, and his oppressed bosom heaved with a deep sigh.
"He is saved--he will live," cried Gabriel, in a triumphant voice; "he
will live, my brothers!"
"Oh! glad to hear it!" exclaimed many voices.
"Oh, yes! be glad, my brothers!" repeated Gabriel; "for, instead of being
weighed down with the remorse of crime, you will have a just and
charitable action to remember. Let us thank God, that he has changed
your blind fury into a sentiment of compassion! Let us pray to Him, that
neither you, nor those you love, may ever be exposed to such frightful
danger as this unfortunate man has just escaped. Oh, my brothers!" added
Gabriel, as he pointed to the image of Christ with touching emotion,
which communicated itself the more easily to others from the expression
of his angelic countenance; "oh, my brothers! let us never forget, that
HE, who died upon that cross for the defence of the oppressed, for the
obscure children of the people like to ourselves, pronounced those
affectionate words so sweet to the heart; `Love ye one another!'--Let us
never forget it; let us love and help one another, and we poor people
shall then become better, happier, just. Love--yes, love ye one another-
-and fall prostrate before that Saviour, who is the God of all that are
weak, oppressed, and suffering in this world!"
So saying, Gabriel knelt down. All present respectfully followed his
example, such power was there in his simple and persuasive words. At
this moment, a singular incident added to the grandeur of the scene. We
have said that a few seconds before the quarryman and his band entered
the body of the church, several persons had fled from it. Two of these
had taken refuge in the organ-loft, from which retreat they had viewed
the preceding scene, themselves remaining invisible. One of these
persons was a young man charged with the care of the organ, and quite
musician enough to play on it. Deeply moved by the unexpected turn of an
event which at first appeared so tragical, and yielding to an artistical
inspiration, this young man, at the moment when he saw the people
kneeling with Gabriel, could not forbear striking the notes. Then a sort
of harmonious sigh, at first almost insensible, seemed to rise from the
midst of this immense cathedral, like a divine aspiration. As soft and
aerial as the balmy vapor of incense, it mounted and spread through the
lofty arches. Little by little the faint, sweet sounds, though still as
it were covered, changed to an exquisite melody, religious, melancholy,
and affectionate, which rose to heaven like a song of ineffable gratitude
and love. And the notes were at first so faint, so covered, that the
kneeling multitude had scarcely felt surprise, and had yielded insensibly
to the irresistible influence of that enchanting harmony.
Then many an eye, until now dry and ferocious, became wet with tears--
many hard hearts beat gently, as they remembered the words pronounced by
Gabriel with so tender an accent: "Love ye one another!" It was at this
moment that Father d'Aigrigny came to himself--and opened his eyes. He
thought himself under the influence of a dream. He had lost his senses
in sight of a furious populace, who, with insult and blasphemy on their
lips, pursued him with cries of death even to the sanctuary of the
temple. He opened his eyes--and, by the pale light of the sacred lamps,
to the solemn music of the organ, he saw that crowd, just now so menacing
and implacable, kneeling in mute and reverential emotion, and humbly
bowing their heads before the majesty of the shrine.
Some minutes after, Gabriel, carried almost in triumph on the shoulders
of the crowd, entered the coach, in which Father d'Aigrigny, who by
degrees had completely recovered his senses, was already reclining. By
the order of the Jesuit, the coach stopped before the door of a house in
the Rue de Vaugirard; he had the strength and courage to enter this
dwelling alone; Gabriel was not admitted, but we shall conduct the reader
At the end of the Rue de Vaugirard, there was then a very high wall, with
only one small doorway in all its length. On opening this door, you
entered a yard surrounded by a railing, with screens like Venetian
blinds, to prevent your seeing between the rails. Crossing this
courtyard, you come to a fine large garden, symmetrically planted, at the
end of which stood a building two stories high, looking perfectly
comfortable, without luxury, but with all that cozy simplicity which
betokens discreet opulence. A few days had elapsed since Father
d'Aigrigny had been so courageously rescued by Gabriel from the popular
fury. Three ecclesiastics, wearing black gowns, white bands, and square
caps, were walking in the garden with a slow and measured step. The
youngest seemed to be about thirty years of age; his countenance was
pale, hollow, and impressed with a certain ascetic austerity. His two
companions, aged between fifty or sixty, had, on the contrary, faces at
once hypocritical and cunning; their round, rosy cheeks shone brightly in
the sunshine, whilst their triple chins, buried in fat, descended in soft
folds over the fine cambric of their bands. According to the rules of
their order (they belonged to the Society of Jesus), which forbade their
walking only two together, these three members of the brotherhood never
quitted each other a moment.
"I fear," said one of the two, continuing a conversation already begun,
and speaking of an absent person, "I fear, that the continual agitation
to which the reverend father has been a prey, ever since he was attacked
with the cholera, has exhausted his strength, and caused the dangerous
relapse which now makes us fear for his life."
"They say," resumed the other, "that never was there seen anxiety like to
"And moreover," remarked the young priest, bitterly, "it is painful to
think, that his reverence Father Rodin has given cause for scandal, by
obstinately refusing to make a public confession, the day before
yesterday when his situation appeared so desperate, that, between two
fits of a delirium, it was thought right to propose to him to receive the
"His reverence declared that he was not so ill as they supposed,"
answered one of the fathers, "and that he would have the last duties
performed when he thought necessary."
"The fact is, that for the last ten days, ever since he was brought here
dying, his life has been, as it were, only a long and painful agony; and
yet he continues to live."
"I watched by him during the first three days of his malady, with M.
Rousselet, the pupil of Dr. Baleinier," resumed the youngest father; "he
had hardly a moment's consciousness, and when the Lord did grant him a
lucid interval, he employed it in detestable execrations against the fate
which had confined him to his bed."
"It is said," resumed the other, "that Father Rodin made answer to his
Eminence Cardinal Malipieri, who came to persuade him to die in an
exemplary manner, worthy of a son of Loyola, our blessed founder"--at
these words, the three Jesuits bowed their heads together, as if they had
been all moved by the same spring--"it is said, that Father Rodin made
answer to his eminence: `I do not need to confess publicly; I WANT TO
LIVE, AND I WILL LIVE.'"
"I did not hear that," said the young priest, with an indignant air; "but
if Father Rodin really made use of such expressions, it is--"
Here, no doubt, reflection came to him just in time, for he stole a
sidelong glance at his two silent, impassible companions, and added: "It
is a great misfortune for his soul; but I am certain, his reverence has
"It was only as a calumnious report, that I mentioned those words," said
the other priest, exchanging a glance with his companion.
One of the garden gates opened, and one of the three reverend fathers
exclaimed, at the sight of the personage who now entered: "Oh! here is
his Eminence Cardinal Malipieri, coming to pay a visit to Father Rodin."
"May this visit of his eminence," said the young priest, calmly, "be more
profitable to Father Rodin than the last!"
Cardinal Malipieri was crossing the garden, on his way to the apartment
occupied by Rodin.
Cardinal Malipieri, whom we saw assisting at the sort of council held at
the Princess de Saint-Dizier's, now on his way to Rodin's apartment, was
dressed as a layman, but enveloped in an ample pelisse of puce-colored
satin, which exhaled a strong odor of camphor, for the prelate had taken
care to surround himself with all sorts of anti-cholera specifics.
Having reached the second story of the house, the cardinal knocked at a
little gray door. Nobody answering, he opened it, and, like a man to
whom the locality was well known, passed through a sort of antechamber,
and entered a room in which was a turn-up bed. On a black wood table
were many phials, which had contained different medicines. The prelate's
countenance seemed uneasy and morose; his complexion was still yellow and
bilious; the brown circle which surrounded his black, squinting eyes
appeared still darker than usual.
Pausing a moment, he looked round him almost in fear, and several times
stopped to smell at his anti-cholera bottle. Then, seeing he was alone,
he approached a glass over the chimney-piece, and examined with much
attention the color of his tongue; after some minutes spent in this
careful investigation, with the result of which he appeared tolerably
satisfied, he took some preservative lozenges out of a golden box, and
allowed them to melt in his mouth, whilst he closed his eyes with a
sanctified air. Having taken these sanitary precautions, and again
pressed his bottle to his nose, the prelate prepared to enter the third
room, when he heard a tolerably loud noise through the thin partition
which separated him from it, and, stopping to listen, all that was said
in the next apartment easily reached his ear.
"Now that my wounds are dressed, I will get up," said weak, but sharp and
"Do not think of it, reverend father," was answered in a stronger tone;
"it is impossible."
"You shall see if it is impossible," replied the other voice.
"But, reverend father, you will kill yourself. You are not in a state to
get up. You will expose yourself to a mortal relapse. I cannot consent
To these words succeeded the noise of a faint struggle, mingled with
groans more angry than plaintive, and the voice resumed: "No, no, father;
for your own safety, I will not leave your clothes within your reach. It
is almost time for your medicine; I will go and prepare it for you."
Almost immediately after, the door opened, and the prelate saw enter a
man of about twenty-five years of age, carrying on his arm an old olive
great-coat and threadbare black trousers, which he threw down upon a
This personage was Ange Modeste Rousselet, chief pupil of Dr. Baleinier;
the countenance of the young practitioner was mild, humble, and reserved;
his hair, very short in front, flowed down upon his neck behind. He made
a slight start in surprise on perceiving the cardinal, and bowed twice
very low, without raising his eyes.
"Before anything else," said the prelate, with his marked Italian accent,
still holding to his nose his bottle of camphor, "have any choleraic
"No, my lord; the pernicious fever, which succeeded the attack of
cholera, still continues."
"Very good. But will not the reverend father be reasonable? What was
the noise that I just heard?"
"His reverence wished absolutely to get up and dress himself; but his
weakness is so great, that he could not have taken two steps from the
bed. He is devoured by impatience, and we fear that this agitation will
cause a mortal relapse."
"Has Dr. Baleinier been here this morning?"
"He has just left, my lord."
"What does he think of the patient?"
"He finds him in the most alarming state, my lord. The night was so bad,
that he was extremely uneasy this morning. Father Rodin is at one of
those critical junctures, when a few hours may decide the life or death
of the patient. Dr. Baleinier is now gone to fetch what is necessary for
a very painful operation, which he is about to perform on the reverend
"Has Father d'Aigrigny been told of this?"
"Father d'Aigrigny is himself very unwell, as your eminence knows; he has
not been able to leave his bed for the last three days."
"I inquired about him as I came up," answered the prelate, "and I shall
see him directly. But, to return to Father Rodin, have you sent for his
confessor, since he is in a desperate state, and about to undergo a
"Dr. Baleinier spoke a word to him about it, as well as about the last
sacraments; but Father Rodin exclaimed, with great irritation, that they
did not leave him a moment's peace, that he had as much care as any one
for his salvation, and that--"
"Per Bacco! I am not thinking of him," cried the cardinal, interrupting
Ange Modeste Rousselet with his pagan oath, and raising his sharp voice
to a still higher key; "I am not thinking of him, but of the interests of
the Company. It is indispensable that the reverend father should receive
the sacraments with the most splendid solemnity, and that his end should
not only be Christian, but exemplary. All the people in the house, and
even strangers, should be invited to the spectacle, so that his edifying
death may produce an excellent sensation."
"That is what Fathers Grison and Brunet have already endeavored to
persuade his reverence, my lord; but your Eminence knows with what
impatience Father Rodin received this advice, and Dr. Baleinier did not
venture to persist, for fear of advancing a fatal crisis."
"Well, I will venture to do it; for in these times of revolutionary
impiety, a solemnly Christian death would produce a very salutary effect
on the public. It would indeed be proper to make the necessary
preparations to embalm the reverend father: he might then lie in state
for some days, with lighted tapers, according to Romish custom. My
secretary would furnish the design for the bier; it would be very
splendid and imposing; from his position in the Order, Father Rodin is
entitled to have everything in the most sumptuous style. He must have at
least six hundred tapers, and a dozen funeral lamps, burning spirits of
wine, to hang just over the body, and light it from above: the effect
would be excellent. We must also distribute little tracts to the people,
concerning the pious and ascetic life of his reverence--"
Here a sudden noise, like that of some piece of metal thrown angrily on
the floor, was heard from the next room, in which was the sick man, and
interrupted the prelate in his description.
"I hope Father Rodin has not heard you talk of embalming him, my lord,"
said Rousselet, in a whisper: "his bed touches the partition, and almost
everything is audible through it."
"If Father Rodin has heard me," answered the cardinal, sinking his voice,
and retiring to the other end of the room, "this circumstance will enable
me to enter at once on the business; but, in any case, I persist in
believing that the embalming and the lying in state are required to make
a good effect upon the public. The people are already frightened at the
cholera, and such funeral pomp would have no small influence on the
"I would venture to observe to your Eminence, that here the laws are
opposed to such exhibitions."
"The laws--already the laws!" said the cardinal, angrily; "has not Rome
also her laws? And is not every priest a subject of Rome? Is it not
But, not choosing, doubtless, to begin a more explicit conversation with
the young doctor, the prelate resumed, "We will talk of this hereafter.
But, tell me, since my last visit, has the reverend father had any fresh
attacks of delirium?"
"Yes, my lord; here is the note, as your Eminence commanded." So saying
Rousselet delivered a paper to the prelate. We will inform the reader
that this part of the conversation between Rousselet and the cardinal was
carried on at a distance from the partition, so that Rodin could hear
nothing of it, whilst that which related to the embalming had been
perfectly audible to him.
The cardinal, having received the note from Rousselet, perused it with an
expression of lively curiosity. When he had finished, he crumpled it in
his hand, and said, without attempting to dissemble his vexation, "Always
nothing but incoherent expression. Not two words together, from which
you can draw any reasonable conclusion. One would really think this man
had the power to control himself even in his delirium, and to rave about
insignificant matters only."
Then, addressing Rousselet, "You are sure that you have reported
everything that escaped from him during his delirium?"
"With the exception of the same phrases, that he repeated over and over
again, your Eminence may be assured that I have not omitted a single
word, however unmeaning."
"Show me into Father Rodin's room," said the prelate, after a moment's
"But, my lord," answered the young doctor, with some hesitation, "the fit
has only left him about an hour, and the reverend father is still very
"The more the reason," replied the prelate, somewhat indiscreetly.
Then, recollecting himself, he added, "He will the better appreciate the
consolations I have to offer. Should he be asleep, awake him, and
announce my visit."
"I have only orders to receive from your Eminence," said Rousselet,
bowing, and entering the next room.
Left alone, the cardinal said to himself, with a pensive air, "I always
come back to that. When he was suddenly attacked by the cholera, Father
Rodin believed himself poisoned by order of the Holy See. He must then
have been plotting something very formidable against Rome, to entertain
so abominable a fear. Can our suspicions be well founded? Is he acting
secretly and powerfully on the Sacred College? But then for what end?
This it has been impossible to penetrate, so faithfully has the secret
been kept by his accomplices. I had hoped that, during his delirium, he
would let slip some word that would put us on the trace of what we are so
much interested to discover. With so restless and active a mind,
delirium is often the exaggeration of some dominant idea; yet here I have
the report of five different fits--and nothing--no, nothing but vague,
The return of Rousselet put an end to these reflections. "I am sorry to
inform my lord that the reverend father obstinately refuses to see any
one. He says that he requires absolute repose. Though very weak, he has
a savage and angry look, and I should not be surprised if he overheard
your Eminence talk about embalming him."
The cardinal, interrupting Rousselet, said to him, "Did Father Rodin have
his last fit of delirium in the night?"
"Between three and half-past five this morning, my lord."
"Between three and half-past five," repeated the prelate, as if he wished
to impress this circumstance on his memory, "the attack presented no
"No, my lord; it consisted of rambling, incoherent talk, as your Eminence
may see by this note."
Then, as he perceived the prelate approaching Father Rodin's door,
Rousselet added, "The reverend father will positively see no one, my
lord; he requires rest, to prepare for the operation; it might be
Without attending to these observations, the cardinal entered Rodin's
chamber. It was a tolerably large room, lighted by two windows, and
simply but commodiously furnished. Two logs were burning slowly in the
fireplace, in which stood a coffee-pot, a vessel containing mustard-
poultice, etc. On the chimney-piece were several pieces of rag, and some
linen bandages. The room was full of that faint chemical odor peculiar
to the chambers of the sick, mingled with so putrid a stench, that the
cardinal stopped at the door a moment, before he ventured to advance
further. As the three reverend fathers had mentioned in their walk,
Rodin lived because he had said to himself, "I want to live, and I will
For, as men of timid imaginations and cowardly minds often die from the
mere dread of dying, so a thousand facts prove that vigor of character
and moral energy may often struggle successfully against disease, and
triumph over the most desperate symptoms.
It was thus with the Jesuit. The unshaken firmness of his character, the
formidable tenacity of his will (for the will has sometimes a mysterious
and almost terrific power), aiding the skillful treatment of Dr.
Baleinier, had saved him from the pestilence with which he had been so
suddenly attacked. But the shock had been succeeded by a violent fever,
which placed Rodin's life in the utmost peril. This increased danger had
caused the greatest alarm to Father d'Aigrigny, who felt, in spite of his
rivalry and jealousy, that Rodin was the master-spirit of the plot in
which they were engaged, and could alone conduct it to a successful
The curtains of the room was half closed, and admitted only a doubtful
light to the bed on which Rodin was lying. The Jesuit's features had
lost the greenish hue peculiar to cholera patients, but remained
perfectly livid and cadaverous, and so thin, that the dry, rugged skin
appeared to cling to the smallest prominence of bone. The muscles and
veins of the long, lean, vulture-like neck resembled a bundle of cords.
The head, covered with an old, black, filthy nightcap, from beneath which
strayed a few thin, gray hairs, rested upon a dirty pillow; for Rodin
would not allow them to change his linen. His iron-gray beard had not
been shaved for some time, and stood out like the hairs of a brush.
Under his shirt he wore an old flannel waistcoat full of holes. He had
one of his arms out of bed, and his bony hairy hand, with its bluish
nails, held fast a cotton handkerchief of indescribable color.
You might have taken him for a corpse, had it not been for the two
brilliant sparks which still burned in the depths of his eyes. In that
look, in which seemed concentrated all the remaining life and energy of
the man, you might read the most restless anxiety. Sometimes his
features revealed the sharpest pangs; sometimes the twisting of his
hands, and his sudden starts, proclaimed his despair at being thus
fettered to a bed of pain, whilst the serious interests which he had in
charge required all the activity of his mind. Thus, with thoughts
continually on the stretch, his mind often wandered, and he had fits of
delirium, from which he woke as from a painful dream. By the prudent
advice of Dr. Baleinier, who considered him not in a state to attend to
matters of--importance, Father d'Aigrigny had hitherto evaded Rodin's
questions with regard to the Rennepont affair, which he dreaded to see
lost and ruined in consequence of his forced inaction. The silence of
Father d'Aigrigny on this head, and the ignorance in which they kept him,
only augmented the sick man's exasperation. Such was the moral and
physical state of Rodin, when Cardinal Malipieri entered his chamber
against his will.
To understand fully the tortures of Rodin, reduced to inactivity by
sickness, and to explain the importance of Cardinal Malipieri's visit, we
must remember the audacious views of the ambitious Jesuit, who believed
himself following in the steps of Sixtus V., and expected to become his
equal. By the success of the Rennepont affair, to attain to the
generalship of his Order, by the corruption of the Sacred College to
ascend the pontifical throne, and then, by means of a change in the
statutes of the Company, to incorporate the Society of Jesus with the
Holy See, instead of leaving it independent, to equal and almost always
rule the Papacy--such were the secret projects of Rodin.
Their possibility was sanctioned by numerous precedents, for many mere
monks and priests had been suddenly raised to the pontifical dignity.
And as for their morality, the accession of the Borgias, of Julius II.,
and other dubious Vicars of Christ, might excuse and authorize the
pretensions of the Jesuits.
Though the object of his secret intrigues at Rome had hitherto been
enveloped in the greatest mystery, suspicions had been excited in regard
to his private communications with many members of the Sacred College. A
portion of that college, Cardinal Malipieri at the head of them, had
become very uneasy on the subject, and, profiting by his journey to
France, the cardinal had resolved to penetrate the Jesuit's dark designs.
If, in the scene we have just painted, the cardinal showed himself so
obstinately bent on having a conference with Rodin, in spite of the
refusal of the latter, it was because the prelate hoped, as we shall soon
see, to get by cunning at the secret, which had hitherto been so well
concealed. It was, therefore, in the midst of all these extraordinary
circumstances, that Rodin saw himself the victim of a malady, which
paralyzed his strength, at the moment when he had need of all his
activity, and of all the resources of his mind. After remaining for some
seconds motionless near the door, the cardinal, still holding his bottle
under his nose, slowly approached the bed where Rodin lay.
The latter, enraged at this perseverance, and wishing to avoid an
interview which for many reasons was singularly odious to him, turned his
face towards the wall, and pretended to be asleep. Caring little for
this feint, and determined to profit by Rodin's state of weakness, the
prelate took a chair, and, conquering his repugnance, sat down close to
the Jesuit's bed.
"My reverend and very dear father, how do you find yourself?" said he to
him, in a honeyed tone, which his Italian accent seemed to render still
more hypocritical. Rodin pretended not to hear, breathed hard, and made
no answer. But the cardinal, not without disgust, shook with his gloved
hand the arm of the Jesuit, and repeated in a louder voice: "My reverend
and very dear father, answer me, I conjure you!"
Rodin could not restrain a movement of angry impatience, but he continued
silent. The cardinal was not a man to be discouraged by so little; he
again shook the arm of the Jesuit, somewhat more roughly, repeating, with
a passionless tenacity that would have incensed the most patient person
in the world: "My reverend and very dear father, since you are not
asleep, listen to me, I entreat of you."
Irritable with pain, exasperated by the obstinacy of the prelate, Rodin
abruptly turned his head, fixed on the Roman his hollow eyes, shining
with lurid fire, and, with lips contracted by a sardonic smile, said to
him, bitterly: "You must be very anxious, my lord, to see me embalmed,
and lie in state with tapers, as you were saying just now, for you thus
to come to torment me in my last moments, and hasten my end!"
"Oh, my good father! how can you talk so?" cried the cardinal, raising
his hands as if to call heaven to witness to the sincerity of the tender
interest he felt for the Jesuit.
"I tell you that I heard all just now, my lord; for the partition is
thin," added Rodin, with redoubled bitterness.
"If you mean that, from the bottom of my soul, I desired that you should
make an exemplary and Christian end, you are perfectly right, my dear
father. I did say so; for, after a life so well employed, it would be
sweet to see you an object of adoration for the faithful!"
"I tell you, my lord," cried Rodin, in a weak and broken voice, "that it
is ferocious to express such wishes in the presence of a dying man.
Yes," he added, with growing animation, that contrasted strongly with his
weakness, "take care what you do; for if I am too much plagued and
pestered--if I am not allowed to breathe my last breath quietly--I give
you notice that you will force me to die in anything but a Christian
manner, and if you mean to profit by an edifying spectacle, you will be
This burst of anger having greatly fatigued Rodin, his head fell back
upon the pillow, and he wiped his cracked and bleeding lips with his old
"Come, come, be calm, my very dear father," resumed the cardinal, with a
patronizing air; "do not give way to such gloomy ideas. Doubtless,
Providence reserves you for great designs, since you have been already
delivered from so much peril. Let us hope that you will be likewise
saved from your present danger."
Rodin answered by a hoarse growl, and turned his face towards the wall.
The imperturbable prelate continued: "The views of Providence are not
confined to your salvation, my very dear father. Its power has been
manifested in another way. What I am about to tell you is of the highest
importance. Listen attentively."
Without turning his head, Rodin muttered in a tone of angry bitterness,
which betrayed his intense sufferings: "They desire my death. My chest
is on fire, my head racked with pain, and they have no pity. Oh, I
suffer the tortures of the damned!"
"What! already" thought the Roman, with a smile of sarcastic malice; then
he said aloud: "Let me persuade you, my very dear father--make an effort
to listen to me; you will not regret it."
Still stretched upon the bed, Rodin lifted his hands clasped upon his
cotton handkerchief with a gesture of despair, and then let them fall
again by his side.
The cardinal slightly shrugged his shoulders, and laid great stress on
what follows, so that Rodin might not lose a word of it: "My dear father,
it has pleased Providence that, during your fit of raving, you have made,
without knowing it, the most important revelations."
The prelate waited with anxious curiosity for the effect of the pious
trap he had laid for the Jesuit's weakened faculties. But the latter,
still turned towards the wall, did not appear to have heard him and
"You are, no doubt, reflecting on my words, my dear father," resumed the
cardinal; "you are right, for it concerns a very serious affair. I
repeat to you that Providence has allowed you, during your delirium, to
betray your most secret thoughts--happily, to me alone. They are such as
would compromise you in the highest degree. In short, during your
delirium of last night, which lasted nearly two hours, you unveiled the
secret objects of your intrigues at Rome with many of the members of the
The cardinal, rising softly, stooped over the bed to watch the expression
of Rodin's countenance. But the latter did not give him time. As a
galvanized corpse starts into strange and sudden motion, Rodin sprang
into a sitting posture at the last words of the prelate.
"He has betrayed himself," said the cardinal, in a low voice, in Italian.
Then, resuming his seat, he fixed on the Jesuit his eyes, that sparkled
with triumphant joy.
Though he did not hear the exclamation of Malipieri, nor remark the
expression of his countenance, Rodin, notwithstanding his state of
weakness, instantly felt the imprudence of his start. He pressed his
hand to his forehead, as though he had been seized with a giddiness;
then, looking wildly round him, he pressed to his trembling lips his old
cotton handkerchief, and gnawed it mechanically for some seconds.
"Your emotion and alarm confirm the sad discoveries I have made," resumed
the cardinal, still more rejoicing at the success of his trick; "and now,
my dear father," added he, "you will understand that it is for your best
interest to enter into the most minute detail as to your projects and
accomplices at Rome. You may then hope, my dear father, for the
indulgence of the Holy See--that is, if your avowals are sufficiently
explicit to fill up the chasms necessarily left in a confession made
Rodin, recovered from his first surprise, perceived, but too late, that
he had fallen into a snare, not by any words he had spoken, but by his
too significant movements. In fact, the Jesuit had feared for a moment
that he might have betrayed himself during his delirium, when he heard
himself accused of dark intrigues with Rome; but, after some minutes of
reflection, his common sense suggested: "If this crafty Roman knew my
secret, he would take care not to tell me so. He has only suspicions,
confirmed by my involuntary start just now."
Rodin wiped the cold sweat from his burning forehead. The emotion of
this scene augmented his sufferings, and aggravated the danger of his
condition. Worn out with fatigue, he could not remain long in a sitting
posture, and soon fell back upon the bed.
"Per Bacco!" said the cardinal to himself, alarmed at the expression of
the Jesuit's face; "if he were to die before he had spoken, and so escape
Then, leaning over the bed, the prelate asked: "What is the matter, my
very dear father?"
"I am weak, my lord--I am in pain--I cannot express what I suffer."
"Let us hope, my very dear father, that this crisis will have no fatal
results; but the contrary may happen, and it behooves the salvation of
your soul to make instantly the fullest confession. Were it even to
exhaust your strength, what is this perishable body compared to eternal
"Of what confession do you speak, my lord?" said Rodin, in a feeble and
yet sarcastic tone.
"What confession!" cried the amazed cardinal; "why, with regard to your
dangerous intrigues at Rome."
"What intrigues?" asked Rodin.
"The intrigues you revealed during your delirium," replied the prelate,
with still more angry impatience. "Were not your avowals sufficiently
explicit? Why, then, this culpable hesitation to complete them?"
"My avowals--were explicit--you assure me?" said Rodin, pausing after
each word for want of breath, but without losing his energy and presence
"Yes, I repeat it," resumed the cardinal; "with the exception of a few
chasms, they were most explicit."
"Then why repeat them?" said Rodin, with the same sardonic smile on his
"Why repeat them?" cried the angry prelate. "In order to gain pardon;
for if there is indulgence and mercy for the repentant sinner, there must
be condemnation and curses for the hardened criminal!"
"Oh, what torture! I am dying by slow fire!" murmured Rodin. "Since I
have told all," he resumed, "I have nothing more to tell. You know it
"I know all--doubtless, I know all," replied the prelate, in a voice of
thunder; "but how have I learned it? By confessions made in a state of
unconsciousness. Do you think they will avail you anything? No; the
moment is solemn--death is at hand, tremble to die with a sacrilegious
falsehood on your lips," cried the prelate, shaking Rodin violently by
the arm; "dread the eternal flames, if you dare deny what you know to be
the truth. Do you deny it?"
"I deny nothing," murmured Rodin, with difficulty. "Only leave me
"Then heaven inspires you," said the cardinal, with a sigh of
satisfaction; and, thinking he had nearly attained his object, he
resumed, "Listen to the divine word, that will guide you, father. You
"I was--delirious--and cannot--(oh! how I suffer!)" added Rodin, by way
of parenthesis; "and cannot therefore--deny--the nonsense--I may have
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