Skip to main content

Full text of "The village rector"

See other formats


■:«feSS 



GIFT OF 
Jolin H. Llee. 




ZLcrBw 



i 



fW^'}'' 









^!^^*^wi 



THE COMEDY OF HUMAN LIFE 
By H. DE BALZAC 



SCENES FROM COUNTRY LIFE 



THE VILLAGE RECTOR 



BALZAC'S NOVELS. 

Translated by Miss K. P. Wormeley. 



Already Published: 
PERE GORIOT. 
DUCHESSE DE LAWGEAIS. 
RISE AND FALL OF CESAR BIROTTEAU. 
EUGENIE GRANDET. 
COUSIN PONS. 
THE COUNTRY DOCTOR. 
THE TA7VO BROTHERS. 
THE ALKAHEST. 
MODESTE MIGNON. 
THE MAGIC SKIN (Peau de Chagrin). 
COUSIN BETTE. 
LOUIS LAMBERT. 
BUREAUCRACY (Les Employes). 
SERAPHITA. 
SONS OF THE SOIL. 
FAME AND SORROA7V. 
THE LILY OF THE VALLEY. 
URSULA. 

AN HISTORICAL MYSTERY. 
ALBERT SAVARUS. 
BALZAC : A MEMOIR. 
PIERRETTE. 
THE CHOUANS. 
LOST ILLUSIONS. 
A GREAT MAN OF THE PROVINCES IN 

PARIS. 
THE BROTHERHOOD OF CONSOLATION. 
THE VILLAGE RECTOR. 



ROBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers, 
BOSTON. 



HONORH DE BALZAC 

// 

TRANSLATED BY 

KATHARINE PRESCOTT WORMELEY 



The Village RectoR' 

4W2 




ROBERTS BROTHERS 

3 SOMERSET STREET 

BOSTON 
1893 






FT OF 



Copyright, 1893, 
By Roberts Brothers. 



A// rights reserved. 



eintbergttg ^resg: 
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A. 



TO H^LENE. 

The tiniest boat is not launched upon the sea without 
the protection of some living emblem or revered name, 
placed upon it bj^ the mariners. In accordance with 
this time-honored custom, Madame, I praj^ you to be 
the protectress of this book now launched upon our 
literar}^ ocean ; and may the imperial name which the 
Church has canonized and your devotion has doubly 
sanctified for me guard it from perils. 

De Balzac. 



'96267 



CONTENTS. 



  

Page 

I. The Sauviats 1 

II. Veronique 17 

III. Marriage 31 

IV. The History of many Married Women in the 

Provinces 52 

V. Tascheron 65 

VI. Discussions and Christian Solicitudes . . 85 

VII. MoNTiGNAC 101 

VIII. The Rector of Montegnac 119 

IX. Denise 141 

X. Third Phase of Veronique's Life .... 158 

XL The Rector at Work 173 

XII. The Soul of Forests 184 

XIII. Farrabesche 192 

XIV. The Torrent of the Gabou 206 

XV. Story of a Galley-Slave 221 

XVI. Concerns one of the Blunders of the Nine- 
teenth Century 231 

XVII. The Revolution of July Judged at Mon- 

tJ&gnac 255 

XVIII. Catherine Curieux 279 

XIX. A Death Blow 295 

XX. The Last Struggle 316 

XXL Confession at the Gates of the Tomb . . 334 



THE VILLAGE RECTOR. 



THE SAUVIATS. 



In the lower town of Limoges, at the corner of the 
rue de la Vieille-Poste and the rue de la Cite might 
have been seen, a generation ago, one of those shops 
which were scarcel}" changed from the period of the 
middle-ages. Large tiles seamed with a thousand 
cracks la}^ on the soil itself, which was damp in places, 
and would have tripped up those who failed to observe 
the hollows and ridges of this singular flooring. The 
dusty walls exhibited a curious mosaic of wood and 
brick, stones and iron, welded together with a solidity 
due to time, possibl}^ to chance. For more than a 
hundred 3'ears the ceiling, formed of colossal beams, 
bent beneath the weight of the upper stories, though 
it had never given way under them. Built en colom- 
bage^ that is to say, with a wooden frontage, the 
whole fagade was covered with slates, so put on as to 
form geometrical figures, — thus preserving a naive 
image of the burgher habitations of the olden time. 

None of the windows, cased in wood and formerly 
adorned with carvings, now destro3'ed bj^ the action of 



2 The Village Hector. 

the weather, had continued plumb ; some bobbed for- 
ward, others tipped backward, while a few seemed 
disposed to fall apart ; all had a compost of earth, 
brought from heaven knows where, in the nooks and 
crannies hollowed by the rain, in which the spring-tide 
brought forth fragile flowers, timid creeping plants, and 
sparse herbage. Moss carpeted the roof and draped 
its supports. The corner pillar, with its composite 
masonry of stone blocks mingled with brick and peb- 
bles, was alarming to the eye by reason of its curva- 
ture ; it seemed on the point of giving way under the 
weight of the house, the gable of which overhung it by 
at least half a foot. The municipal authorities and 
the commissioner of highways did, eventualh', pull the 
old building down, after buying it, to enlarge the 
square. 

The pillar we have mentioned, placed at the angle 
of two streets, was a treasure to the seekers for Li- 
mousin antiquities, on account of its lovely sculptured 
niche in which was a Virgin, mutilated during the 
Revolution. All visitors with archaeological proclivities 
found traces of the stone sockets used to hold the 
candelabra in which public piety lighted tapers or 
placed its ex-votos and flowers. 

At the farther end of the shop, a worm-eaten wooden 
staircase led to the two upper floors which were in turn 
surmounted by an attic. The house, backing against 
two adjoining houses, had no depth and derived all its 
light from the front and side windows. Each floor 
had two small chambers only, lighted by single win- 
dows, one looking out on the rue de la Cite, the other 
on the rue de la Vieille-Poste. 



The Village Rector. 3 

In the middle-ages no artisan was better lodged. 
The house had evidently belonged in those times to 
makers of halberds and battle-axes, armorers in short, 
artificers whose work was not injured by exposure to 
the open air ; for it was impossible to see clearly 
within, unless the iron shutters were raised from each 
side of the building ; where were also two doors, one 
on either side of the corner pillar, as ma}- be seen in 
many shops at the corners of streets. From the sill of 
each door — of fine stone worn by the tread of centu- 
ries — a low wall about three feet high began ; in this 
wall was a groove or slot, repeated above in the beam 
by which the wall of each fagade was supported. From 
time immemorial the heav}^ shutters had been rolled 
along these grooves, held there by enormous iron 
bars, while the doors were closed and secured in the 
same manner ; so that these merchants and artificers 
could bar themselves into their houses as into a 
fortress. 

Examining the interior, which, during the first 
twenty years of this centurj^ was encumbered with old 
iron and brass, tires of wheels, springs, bells, anything 
in short which the destruction of buildings aflforded of 
old metals, persons interested in the relics of the old 
town noticed signs of the flue of a forge, shown by a 
long trail of soot, — a minor detail which confirmed the 
conjecture of archaeologists as to the original use to 
which the building was put. On the first floor (above 
the ground-floor) was one room and the kitchen ; on 
the floor above that were two bedrooms. The garret 
was used to put away articles more choice and delicate 
than those that lay pell-mell about the shop. 



4 The Village Rector. 

This house, hired in the first instance, was subse- 
quently bought b}' a man named Sauviat, a hawker or 
peddler who, from 1786 to 1793, travelled the country 
over a radius of a hundred and fifty miles around 
Auvergne, exchanging crockery of a common kind, 
plates, dishes, glasses, — in short, the necessary articles 
of the poorest households, — for old iron, brass, and lead, 
or any metal under an}^ shape it might lurk in. The 
Auvergnat would give, for instance, a brown earthen- 
ware saucepan worth two sous for a pound of lead, 
two pounds of iron, a broken spade or hoe or a cracked 
kettle ; and being invariably the judge of his own 
cause, he did the weighing. 

At the close of his third year Sauviat added the 
hawking of tin and copper ware to that of his pottery. 
In 1793 he was able to buy a chateau sold as part of 
the National domain, which he at once pulled to pieces. 
The profits were such that he repeated the process at 
several points of the sphere in which he operated ; 
later, these first successful essays gave him the idea of 
proposing something of a like nature on a larger scale 
to one of his compatriots who lived in Paris. Thus it 
happened that the " Bande Noire," so celebrated for 
its devastations, had its birth in the brain of old Sau- 
viat, the peddler, whom all Limoges afterward saw 
and knew for twenty-seven years in the rickety old 
shop among his cracked bells and rusty bars, chains 
and scales, his twisted leaden gutters, and metal rub- 
bish of all kinds. We must do him the justice to saj^ 
that he knew nothing of the celebrity or the extent of 
the association he originated ; he profited by his own 
idea onh' in proportion to the capital he entrusted to 
the since famous firm of Bresac. 



The Village Rector. 5 

Tired of frequenting fairs and roaming the country, 
the Auvergnat settled at Limoges, where he married, 
in 1797, the daughter of a coppersmith, a widower, 
named Champagnac. When his father-in-law died he 
bought the house in which he had been carrying on 
his trade of old-iron dealer, after ceasing to roam the 
country as a peddler. Sauviat was fifty years of age 
when he married old Champagnac's daughter, who was 
herself not less than thirty. Neither handsome nor 
pretty, she was nevertheless born in Auvergne, and 
the patois seemed to be the mutual attraction ; also 
she had the sturdy frame which enables women to bear 
hard work. In the first three years of their married 
life Sauviat continued to do some peddling, and his 
wife accompanied him, canying iron or lead on her 
back, and leading the miserable horse and cart full of 
Crocker}' with which her husband plied a disguised 
usur}'. Dark-skinned, high-colored, enjoying robust 
health, and showing when she laughed a brilliant set 
of teeth, white, long, and broad as almonds, Madame 
Sauviat had the hips and bosom of a woman made by 
Nature expressly for maternity. 

If this strong girl were not earlier married, the f^ult 
must be attributed t'o the Harpagon 'Mio dowry" her 
father practised, though he never read Moliere. Sauviat 
was not deterred by the lack of dowry ; besides, a man 
of fifty can't make difficulties, not to speak of the fact 
that such a wife would save him the cost of a servant. 
He added nothing to the furniture of his bedroom, 
where, from the day of his wedding to the day he left 
the house, twenty 3'ears later, there was never anj'thing 
but a single four-post bed, with valance and curtains of 



6 The Village Rector. 

green serge, a chest, a bureau, four chairs, a table, and 
a looking-glass, all collected from different localities. 
The chest contained in its upper section pewter plates, 
dishes, etc., each article dissimilar from the rest. The 
kitchen can be imagined from the bedroom. 

Neither husband nor wife knew how to read, ^ — a 
slight defect of education which did not prevent them 
from ciphering admirably and doing a most flourishing 
business. Sauviat never bought any article without 
the certaint}^ of being able to sell it for one hundred 
per cent profit. To relieve himself of the necessity of 
keeping books and accounts, he bought and sold for 
cash only. He had, moreover, such a perfect memory 
that the cost of any article, were it only a farthing, 
remained in his mind 3-ear after year, together with its 
accrued interest. 

Except during the time required for her household 
duties, Madame Sauviat was always seated in a rickety 
wooden chair placed against the corner pillar of the 
building. There she knitted and looked at the passers, 
watched over the old iron, sold and weighed it, and 
received payment if Sauviat was away making pur- 
chases. When at home the husband could be heard at 
daybreak pushing open his shutters ; the household 
dog rushed out into the street ; and Madame Sauviat 
presently came out to help her man in spreading upon 
the natural counter made by the low walls on either 
side of the corner of the house on the two streets, the 
multifarious collection of bells, springs, broken gun- 
locks, and the other rubbish of their business, which 
gave a poverty-stricken look to the establishment, 
though it usually contained as much as twenty thou- 



The Village Rector. 7 

sand francs' worth of lead, steel, iron, and other 
metals. 

Never were the former peddler and his wife known 
to speak of their fortune ; they concealed its amount 
as carefull}' as a criminal hides a crime ; and for years 
the}^ were suspected of shaving both gold and silver 
coins. When Champagnac died the Sauviats made no 
inventorv of his property- ; but they rummaged, with 
the intelligence of rats, into every nook and corner of 
the old man's house, left it as naked as a corpse, and 
sold the wares it contained in their own shop. 

Once a year, in December, Sauviat went to Paris in 
one of the public conveyances. The gossips of the 
neighborhood concluded that in order to conceal from 
others the amount of his fortune, he invested it him- 
self on these occasions. It was known later that, 
having been connected in his 3'outh with one of the 
most celebrated dealers in metal, an Auvergnat like 
himself, who was living in Paris, Sauviat placed his 
funds with the firm of Bresac, the mainspring and spine 
of that famous association known by the name of the 
" Bande Noire," which, as we have already said, took 
its rise from a suggestion made b}^ Sauviat himself. 

Sauviat was a fat little man with a weary face, 
endowed by Nature with a look of honesty which 
attracted customers and facilitated the sale of goods. 
His straightforward assertions, and the perfect indif- 
ference of his tone and manner, increased this impres- 
sion. In person, his naturally ruddy complexion was 
hardly perceptible under the black metallic dust which 
powdered his curly black hair and the seams of a face 
pitted with the small-pox. His forehead was not with- 



8 The Village Rector. 

out dignity- ; in fact, it resembled the well-known brow 
given by all painters to Saint Peter, the man of the 
people, the roughest, but withal the shrewdest, of the 
apostles. His hands were those of an indefatigable 
worker, — large, thick, square, and wrinkled with deep 
furrows. His chest was of seeming!}^ indestructible 
muscularity. He never relinquished his peddler's cos- 
tume, — thick, hobnailed shoes; blue stockings knit by 
his wife and hidden by leather gaiters ; bottle-green 
velveteen trousers ; a checked waistcoat, from which 
depended the brass key of his silver watch by an iron 
chain which long usage had polished till it shone like 
steel ; a jacket with short tails, also of velveteen, like 
that of the trousers ; and around his neck a printed 
cotton cravat much frayed by the rubbing of his 
beard. 

On Sundays and fete-days Sauviat wore a frock-coat 
of maroon cloth, so well taken care of that two new 
ones were all he bought in twent}' j^ears. The living 
of galley-slaves would be thought sumptuous in com- 
parison with that of the Sauviats, who never ate meat 
except on the great festivals of the Church. Before 
paying out the money absolutel}' needed for their daily 
subsistence, Madame Sauviat would feel in the two 
pockets hidden between her gown and petticoat, and 
bring forth a single well-scraped coin, — a crown of six 
francs, or perhaps a piece of fiftj'-five sous, — which 
she would gaze at for a long time before she could 
bring herself to change it. As a general thing the 
Sauviats ate herrings, dried peas, cheese, hard eggs in 
salad, vegetables seasoned in the cheapest manner. 
Never did they lay in provisions, except perhaps a 



The Village Rector. 9 

bunch of garlic or onions, whicli could not spoil and 
cost but little. The small amount of wood the}^ burned 
in winter they bought of itinerant sellers day by day. 
B}^ seven in -winter, by nine in summer, the household 
was in bed, and the shop was closed and guarded by 
a huge dog, which got its living from the kitchens in 
the neighborhood. Madame Sauviat used about three 
francs' worth of candles in the course of tlie year. 

The sober, toilsome life of these persons was bright- 
ened by one joy, but that was a natural 303% and for it 
they made their only known outlaj^s. In May, 1802, 
Madame Sauviat gave birth to a daughter. She was 
confined all alone, and went about her household work 
five days later. She nursed her child in the open air, 
seated as usual in her chair by the corner pillar, con- 
tinuing to sell old iron while the infant sucked. Her 
milk cost nothing, and she let her little daughter feed 
on it for two years, neither of them being the worse for 
the long nursing. 

Veronique (that was the infant's name) became the 
handsomest child in the Lower town, and every one 
who saw her stopped to look at her. The neighbors 
then noticed for the first time a trace of feeling in the 
old Sauriats, of which they had supposed them devoid. 
While the wife cooked the dinner the husband held the 
little one, or rocked it to the tune of an Auvergnat 
song. The workmen as they passed sometimes saw 
him motionless gazing at Veronique asleep on her 
mother's knees. He softened his harsh voice when he 
spoke to her, and wiped his hands on his trousers before 
taking her up. When Veronique tried to walk, the 
father bent his legs and stood at a little distance hold- 



10 The Village Rector. 

ing out his arms and making little grimaces which 
contrasted funnily with the rigid furrows of his stern, 
hard face. The man of iron, brass, and lead became 
a being of flesh and blood and bones. If he happened 
to be standing with his back against the corner pillar 
motionless, a cry from Veronique would agitate him 
and send him flying over the mounds of iron fragments 
to find her ; for she spent her childhood playing with 
the wreck of ancient castles heaped in the depths of 
that old shop. There were other days on which she 
went to play in the street or with the neighboring 
children ; but even then her mother's e3'e was always 
on her. 

It is not unimportant to say here that the Sauviats 
were eminently religious. At the very height of the 
Revolution they observed both Sunday and fete-days. 
Twice Sauviat came near having his head cut off for 
hearing mass from an unsworn priest. He was put in 
prison, being justly accused of helping a bishop, whose 
life he saved, to fly the countr3\ Fortunately the old- 
iron dealer, who knew the ways of bolts and bars, was 
able to escape ; nevertheless he was condemned to 
death by default, and as, by the bye, he never purged 
himself of that contempt, he may be said to have died 
dead. 

His wife shared his piety. The avariciousness of 
the household yielded to the demands of religion. The 
old-iron dealers gave their alms punctually at the sacra- 
ment and to all the collections in church. When the 
vicar of Saint-Etienne called to ask help for his poor, 
Sauviat or his wife fetched at once without reluctance 
or sour faces the sum they thought their fair share of 



The Village Rector. 11 

the parish duties. The mutilated Virgin on their 
corner pillar never failed (after 1799) to be wreathed 
with holly at Easter. In the summer season she was 
feted with bouquets kept fresh in tumblers of blue 
glass ; this was particularly the case after the birth of 
Veronique. On the da3'S of the processions the Sau- 
viats scrupulously hung their house with sheets cov- 
ered with flowers, and contributed money to the erec- 
tion and adornment of the altar, which was the pride 
and glory of the whole square. 

Veronique Sauviat was, therefore, brought up in a 
Christian manner. From the time she was seven 
3'ears old she was taught by a Gray sister from Au- 
vergne to whom the Sauviats had done some kindness 
in former times. Both husband and wife were obliging 
when the matter did not affect their pockets or con- 
sume their time, — like all poor folk who are cordially 
ready to be serviceable to others in their own way. 
The Gray sister taught Veronique to read and write ; 
she also taught her the history of the people of God, 
the catechism, the Old and the New Testaments, and a 
very little arithmetic. That was all ; the worthy sister 
thought it enough ; it was in fact too much. 

At nine years of age Veronique surprised the whole 
neighborhood with her beauty. Every one admired 
her face, which promised much to the pencil of artists 
who are always seeking a noble ideal. She was called 
" the Little Virgin " and showed signs already of a fine 
figure and great delicac}^ of complexion. Her Madonna- 
like face — for the popular voice had well named her — 
was surrounded by a wealth of fair hair, which brought 
out the purity of her features. Whoever has seen the 



12 The Village Rector. 

sublime Little Virgin of Titian in his great picture of 
the ^'Presentation," at Venice, will know whatVeronique 
was in her girlhood, — the same ingenuous candor, the 
same seraphic astonishment in her eyes, the same simple 
yet noble attitude, the same majesty of childhood in 
her demeanor. 

At eleven jears of age she had the small-pox, and 
owed her life to the care of Soeur Marthe. During 
the two months that their child was in danger the Sau- 
viats betrayed to the whole community the depth of 
their tenderness. Sauviat no longer went about the 
country to sales ; he sta3'ed in the shop, going upstairs 
and down to his daughter's room, sitting up with her 
every night in company with his wife. His silent 
anguish seemed so great that no one dared to speak to 
him ; his neighbors looked at him with compassion, 
but they only asked news of Veronique from Soeur 
Marthe. During the days when the child's danger 
reached a crisis, the neighbors and passers saw, for 
the first and only time in Sauviat's life, tears in his 
eyes and rolling down his hollow cheeks ; he did not 
wipe them, but stood for hours as if stupefied, not 
daring to go upstairs to his daughter's room, gazing 
before him and seeing nothing, so oblivious of all 
things that any one might have robbed him. 

Veronique was saved, but her beauty perished. Her 
face, once exquisitely colored with a tint in which 
brown and rose were harmoniously mingled, came out 
from the disease with a myriad of pits which thickened 
the skin, the flesh beneath it being deeply indented. 
Even her forehead did not escape the ravages of the 
scourge ; it turned brown and looked as though it were 



The Village Rector. 13 

hammered, like metal. Nothing can be more discord- 
ant than brick tones of the skin surrounded by golden 
hair ; they destroy all harmony. These fissures in the 
tissues, capriciously hollowed, injured the purity of the 
profile and the delicacy of the lines of the face, espe- 
cially that of the nose, the Grecian form of which was 
lost, and that of the chin, once as exquisitely rounded 
as a piece of white porcelain. The disease left nothing 
unharmed except the parts it was unable to reach, — 
the eyes and the teeth. She did not, however, lose 
the elegance and beauty of her shape, — neither the 
fulness of its lines nor the grace and suppleness of her 
waist. At fifteen Veronique was still a fine girl, and 
to the great consolation of her father and mother, a 
good and pious girl, busy, industrious, and domestic. 

After her convalescence and after she had made her 
first communion, her parents gave her the two chambers 
on the second floor for her own particular dwelling. 
Sauviat, so coarse in his way of living for himself and 
his wife, now had certain perceptions of what comfort 
might be ; a vague idea came to him of consoling his 
child for her great loss, which, as yet, she did not 
comprehend. The deprivation of that beauty which 
was once the pride and Joy of these two beings made 
Veronique the more dear and precious to them. Sau- 
viat came home one day, bearing a carpet he had 
chanced upon in some of his rounds, which he nailed 
himself on Veronique's floor. For her he saved from 
the sale of an old chateau the gorgeous bed of a fine 
lady, upholstered in red silk damask, with curtains and 
chairs of the same rich stuff. He furnished her two 
rooms with antique articles, of the true value of which 



14 The Village Rector. 

be was wholly ignorant. He bought mignonette and 
put the pots on the ledge outside her window ; and he 
returned from many of his trips with rose trees, or 
pansies, or an}^ kind of flower which gardeners or 
tavern-keepers would give him. 

If Veronique could have made comparisons and 
known the character, past habits, and ignorance of her 
parents she would have seen how much there was of 
affection in these little things ; but as it was, she simply 
loved them from her own sweet nature and without 
reflection. 

The girl wore the finest linen her mother could find 
in the shops. Madame Sauviat left her daughter at 
libert}^ to buy what materials she liked for her gowns 
and other garments ; and the father and mother were 
proud of her choice, which was never extravagant. 
Veronique was satisfied with a blue silk gown for 
Sundays and fete-days, and on working-days she wore 
merino in winter and striped cotton dresses in summer. 
On Sundays she went to church with her father and 
mother, and took a walk after vespers along the banks 
of the Vienne or about the environs. On other days 
she stayed at home, busy in filling worsted-work pat- 
terns, the payment for which she gave to the poor, — a 
life of simple, chaste, and exemplar}^ principles and 
habits. She did some reading together with her tap- 
estr}', but never in any books except those lent to her 
by the vicar of Saint-Etienne, a priest whom Soeur 
Marthe had first made known to her parents. 

All the rules of the Sauviat's domestic economy were 
suspended in favor of Veronique. Her mother de- 
lighted in giving her dainty things to eat, and cooked 



The Village Rector. 15 

her food separatel3\ The father and mother still ate 
their nuts and dry bread, their herrings and parched 
peas fricasseed in salt butter, while for Veronique 
nothing was thought too choice and good. 

"'Veronique must cost you a pretty penn}^," said a 
hatmaker who lived opposite to the Sauviats and had 
designs on their daughter for his son, estimating the 
fortune of the old-iron dealer at a hundred thousand 
francs. 

' ' Yes, neighbor, yes," pere Sauviat would say ; "if 
she asked me for ten crowns I 'd let her have them. 
She has all she wants ; but she never asks for any- 
thing ; she is as gentle as a lamb." 

Veronique was, as a matter of fact, absolutely igno- 
rant of the value of things. She had never wanted for 
anything ; she never saw a piece of gold till the day 
of her marriage ; she had no money of her own ; her 
mother bought and gave her everything she needed and 
wished for ; so that even when she wanted to give alms 
to a beggar, the girl felt in her mother's pocket for the 
coin. 

"If that's so," remarked the hatmaker, "she can't 
cost you much." 

"So you think, do 5'ou?" replied Sauviat. "You 
would n't get off under forty crowns a year, I can tell 
you that. Why, her room, she has at least a hundred 
crowns' worth of furniture in it ! But when a man has 
but one child, you know, he doesn't mind. The little 
we own will all go to her." 

" The little ! Why, 3'ou must be rich, pere Sauviat ! 
It is pretty nigh forty years that you have been doing 
a business in which there are no losses." 



16 The Village Rector, 

"Ha! I sha'n't go to the poorhouse for want of a 
thousand francs or so ! '^ replied the old-iron dealer. 

From the day when Veronique lost the soft beauty 
which made her girlish face the admiration of all who 
saw it, Pere Sauviat redoubled in activity. His busi- 
ness became so prosperous that he now went to Paris 
several times a year. Everj^ one felt that he wanted 
to compensate his daughter by force of money for what 
he called her "loss of profit." When Veronique was 
fifteen years old a change was made in the internal 
manners and customs of the household. The father 
and mother went upstairs in the evenings to their 
daughter's apartment, where Veronique would read to 
them, by the light of a lamp placed behind a glass globe 
full of water, the " Vie des Saints," the " Lettres Edi- 
fiantes," and other books lent by the vicar. Madame 
Sauviat knitted stockings, feelmg that she thus re- 
couped herself for the cost of oil. The neighbors could 
see through the window the old couple seated motion- 
less in their armchairs, like Chinese images, listening 
to their daughter, and admiring her with all the powers 
of their contracted minds, obtuse to everything that 
was not business or religious faith. 



The Village Bector. 17 



II. 

V]ERONIQUE. 

There are, no doubt, many young girls in the world 
as pure as Veronique, but none purer or more modest. 
Her confessions must have surprised the angels and 
rejoiced the Blessed Virgin. 

At sixteen years of age she was fully developed, and 
appeared the woman she was eventually to become. 
She was of medium height, neither her father nor her 
mother being tall ; but her figure was charming in its 
graceful suppleness, and in the serpentine curves labo- 
riousl}^ sought by painters and sculptors, — curves which 
Nature herself draws so delicatel^^ with her lissom out- 
lines, revealed to the eye of artists in spite of swathing 
linen and thick clothes, which mould themselves, in- 
evitably, upon the nude. Sincere, simple, and natural, 
Veronique set these beauties of her form into relief by 
movements that were wholly free from affectation. 
She brought out her "full and complete effect," if 
we may borrow that strong term from legal phraseo- 
logy. She had the plump arms of the Auvergnat 
women, the red and dimpled hand of a barmaid, and 
her strong but well-shaped feet were in keeping with 
the rest of her figure. 

At times there seemed to pass within her a marvellous 
and delightful phenomenon which promised to Love 

2 



18 The Village Rector, 

a woman concealed thus far from every e3'e. This 
phenomenon was perhaps one cause of the admiration 
her father and mother felt for her beauty, which they 
often declared to be divine, — to the great astonish- 
ment of their neighbors. The first to remark it were 
the priests of the cathedral and the worshippers with 
her at the same altar. When a strong emotion took 
possession of Veronique, — and the religious exaltation 
to which she jielded herself on receiving the commu- 
nion must be counted among the strongest emotions 
of so pure and candid a young creature, — an inward 
light seemed to efface for the m.oment all traces of the 
small-pox. The pure and radiant face of her childiiood 
reappeared in its pristine beauty. Though slightly 
veiled by the thickened surface disease had laid there, 
it shone with the mysterious brilliancy of a flower 
blooming beneath the water of the sea when the sun 
is penetrating it. Veronique was changed for a few 
moments ; the Little Virgin reappeared and then dis- 
appeared again, like a celestial vision. The pupils of 
her eyes, gifted with the power of great expansion, 
widened until they covered the whole surface of the 
blue iris except for a tiny circle. Thus the metamor- 
phose of the eye, which became as keen and vivid as 
that of an eagle, completed the extraordinary change in 
the face. Was it the storm of restrained passions ; was 
it some power coming from the depths of the soul, which 
enlarged the pupils in full daylight as they sometimes 
in other eyes enlarge by night, darkening the azure of 
those celestial orbs? 

However that may be, it was impossible to look 
indifferently at Veronique as she returned to her seat 



The Village Rector. 19 

from the altar where she had united herself with God, 
— a moment when she appeared to all the parish in 
her primitive splendor. At such moments her beauty 
eclipsed that of the most beautiful of women. What a 
charm was there for the man who loved her, guarding 
jealously that veil of flesh which hid the woman's soul 
from ever}' ej'e, — a veil which the hand of love might 
lift for an instant and then let drop over conjugal 
delights ! Veronique's lips were faultlessly curved and 
painted in the clear vermilion of her pure warm blood. 
Her chin and the lower part of her face were a little 
heavy, in the acceptation given by painters to that 
term, — a heaviness which is, according to the relent- 
less laws of physiogonom}' , the indication of an almost 
morbid vehemence in passion. She had above her 
brow, which was finelj' modelled and almost imperious, 
a magnificent diadem of hair, voluminous, redundant, 
and now of a chestnut color. 

From the age of sixteen to the day of her marriage 
Veronique's bearing was always thoughtful, and some- 
times melancholy. Living in such deep solitude, she 
was forced, like other solitary persons, to examine and 
consider the spectacle of that which went on within 
her, — the progress of her thought, the variety of the 
images in her mind, and the scope of feelings warmed 
and nurtured in a life so pure. 

Those who looked up from their lower level as they 
passed along the rue de la Cite might have seen, on 
all fine days, the daughter of the Sauviats sitting at 
her open window, sewing, embroidering, or pricking 
the needle through the canvas of her worsted- work, 
with a look that was often dreamy. Her head was 



20 The Village Rector. 

vividly defined among the flowers which poetized the 
brown and crumbling sills of her casement windows 
with their leaded panes. Sometimes the reflection of 
the red damask window-curtains added to the effect of 
that head, already so highl}- colored ; like a crimson 
flower she glowed in the aerial garden so carefully 
trained upon her window-sill. 

The quaint old house possessed therefore something 
more quaint than itself, — the portrait of a young girl 
worthy of Mieris, or Van Ostade, or Terburg, or 
Gerard Douw, framed in one of those old, defaced, 
half ruined windows the brushes of the old Dutch 
painters loved so well. When some stranger, sur- 
prised or interested by the building, stopped before it 
and gazed at the second stor}^ old Sauviat would poke 
his head beyond the overhanging projection, certain 
that he should see his daughter at her window. Then 
he would retreat into the shop rubbing his hands and 
sa^'ing to his wife in the Auvergne vernacular : — 

" Hey ! old woman ; they 're admiring your daughter ! " 

In 1820 an incident occurred in the simple unevent- 
ful life the girl was leading, which might have had no 
importance in the life of an}^ other young woman, but 
which, in point of fact, did no doubt exercise over 
Veronique's future a terrible influence. 

On one of the suppressed church fete-daj^s, when man}'' 
persons went about their daily labor, though the Sau- 
viats scrupulously closed their shop, attended mass, 
and took a walk, Veronique passed, on their way to 
the fields, a bookseller's stall on which lay a cop}^ of 
"Paul and Virginia." She had a fancy to buy it for 
the sake of the engraving, and her father paid a hun- 



The Village Rector. 21 

dred sous for the fatal volume, which he put into the 
pocket of his coat. 

'' Would n't it be well to show that book to Monsieur 
le vicaire before you read it ? " said her mother, to 
whom all printed books were a sealed m3'stery. 

" I thought of it," answered Veronique. 

The girl passed the whole night reading the story, — 
one of the most touching bits of writing in the French 
language. The picture of mutual love, half Bibhcal 
and worthy of the earlier ages of the world, ravaged 
her heart. A hand — was it divine or devilish ? — 
raised the veil which, till then, had hidden nature from 
her. The Little Virgin still existing in the beautiful 
young girl thought on the morrow that her flowers had 
never been so beautiful ; she heard their symbolic lan- 
guage, she looked into the depths of the azure sky with 
a fixedness that was almost ecstasy, and tears without 
a cause rolled down her cheeks. 

In the life of all w^omen there comes a moment when 
the}^ comprehend their destiny, — when their hitherto 
mute organization speaks peremptorily. It is not al- 
ways a man, chosen by some furtive involuntary glance, 
who awakens their slumbering sixth sense ; oftener 
it is some unexpected sight, the aspect of scenery, the 
coiip d'ceil of religious pomp, the harmony of nature's 
perfumes, a rosy dawn veiled in slight mists, the win- 
ning notes of some divinest music, or indeed any un- 
expected motion within the soul or within the body. 
To this lonelj' girl, buried in that old house, brought 
up by simple, half rustic parents, who had never heard 
an unfit word, whose pure unsullied mind had never 
known the slightest evil thought, — to the angelic pupil 



22 The Village Rector. 

of Soeur Marthe and the vicar of Saint-Etienne the 
revelation of love, the life of womanhood, came from 
the hand of genius through one sweet book. To any 
other mind, that book would have offered no danger: 
to her it was worse in its effects than an obscene tale. 
Corruption is relative. There are chaste and virgin 
natures which a single thought corrupts, doing all the 
more harm because no thought of the dutj^ of resist- 
ance has occurred. 

The next day Veronique showed the book to the 
good priest, who approved the purchase ; for what could 
be more childlike and innocent and pure than the his- 
tory of Paul and Virginia? But the warmth of the 
tropics, the beauty of the scenery, the almost puerile 
innocence of a love that seemed so sacred had done 
their work on Veronique. She was led by the sweet and 
noble achievement of its author to the worship of the 
Ideal, that fatal human religion ! She dreamed of a 
lover like Paul. Her thoughts caressed the voluptuous 
image of that balmy isle. Childlike, she named an 
island in the Vienne, below Limoges and nearly oppo- 
site to the Faubourg Saint-Martial, the lie de France. 
Her mind lived there in the world of fancy all young 
girls construct, — a world they enrich with their own 
perfections. She spent long hours at her window, 
looking at the artisans or the mechanics who passed it, 
the only men whom the modest position of her parents 
allowed her to think of. Accustomed, of course, to 
the idea of eventuallj' marrying a man of the people, 
she now became aware of instincts within herself which 
revolted from all coarseness. 

In such a situation she naturally made manj^ a 



The Village Rector, 23 

romance such as 3'oung girls are fond of weaving. Siie 
clasped the idea — perhaps with the natural ardor of a 
noble and virgin imagination — of ennobling one of 
those men, and of raising him to the height where her 
own dreams led her. She ma}' have made a Paul of 
some 3'oung man who caught her e3'e, merely to fasten 
her wild ideas to an actual being, as the mists of a 
damp atmosphere, touched hy frost, cr3'stallize on the 
branches of a tree by the wayside. She must have 
flung herself deep into the abysses of her dream, for 
though she often returned bearing on her brow, as if 
from vast heights, some luminous reflections, oftener 
she seemed to carry in her hand the flowers that grew 
beside a torrent she had followed down a precipice. 

On the warm summer evenings she would ask her 
father to take her on his arm to the banks of the 
Vienne, where she went into ecstasies over the beauties 
of the sk}^ and fields, the glories of the setting sun, or 
the infinite sweetness of the dewy evening. Her soul 
exhaled itself thenceforth in a fragrance of natural 
poesy. Her hair, until then simply wound about her 
head, she now curled and braided. Her dress showed 
some research. The vine which was running wild and 
naturally among the branches of the old elm, was trans- 
planted, cut and trained over a green and prett}' trellis. 

After the return of old Sauviat (then sevent}' 3'ears 
of age) from a trip to Paris in December, 1822, the 
vicar came to see him one evening, and after a few 
insignificant remarks he said suddenly : — 

"You had better think of marrying your daughter, 
Sauviat. At your age you ought not to put ofi" the 
accomplishment of so important a duty." 



24 The Village Rector, 

*'But is Veronique willing to be married?" asked 
the old man, startled. 

'' As you please, father," she said, lowering her 
eyes. 

*' Yes, we '11 marry her ! " cried stout Madame Sau- 
viat, smiling. 

" Why did n't you speak to me about it before I 
went to Paris, mother ? " said Sauviat. '' I shall have 
to go back there." 

Jerome-Baptiste Sauviat, a man in whose eyes money 
seemed to constitute the whole of happiness, who knew 
nothing of love, and had never seen in marriage anj^- 
thing but the means of transmitting property to another 
self, had long sworn to marry Veronique to some rich 
bourgeois, — so long, in fact, that the idea had assumed 
in his brain the characteristics of a hobby. His neigh- 
bor, the hat-maker, who possessed about two thousand 
francs a year, had already asked, on behalf of his son, 
to whom he proposed to give up his hat-making estab- 
lishment, the hand of a girl so well known in the 
neighborhood for her exemplary conduct and Christian 
principles. Sauviat had politely refused, without sa}'^- 
ing anything to Veronique. The da}' after the vicar — 
a very important personage in the eyes of the Sauviat 
household — had mentioned the necessit}^ of marrying 
Veronique, whose confessor he was, the old man shaved 
and dressed himself as for a fete-day, and went out 
without saying a word to his wife or daughter ; both 
knew very well, however, that the father was in search 
of a son-in-law. Old Sauviat went to Monsieur 
Graslin. 

Monsieur Graslin, a rich banker in Limoges, had, 



The Village Rector. 25 

like Sanviat himself, started from Auvergne without 
a penn}' ; he came to Limoges to be a porter, found 
a place as office-bo}' in a financial house, and there, 
like many other financiers, he made his wa}' by 
dint of econom}', and also through fortunate circum- 
stances. Cashier at twenty-five years of age, partner 
ten years later, in the firm of Ferret and Grossetete, 
he ended by finding himself tlie head of the house, after 
buying out the senior partners, both of whom retired 
into the countiy, leaving him their funds to manage in 
the business at a low interest. 

Pierre Graslin, then forty-seven years of age, was 
supposed to possess about six hundred thousand francs. 
The estimate of his fortune had lately increased through- 
out the department, in consequence of his outla}' in hav- 
ing built, in a new quarter of the town called the place 
d'Arbres (thus assisting to give Limoges an improved 
aspect), a fine house, the front of it 'being on a line 
with a public building with the fa(5'ade of which it cor- 
responded. This house had now been finished six 
months, but Pierre Graslin dela3'ed furnishing it ; it 
had cost him so much that he shrank from the further 
expense of living in it. His vanit3' had led him to 
transgress the wise laws by which he governed his life. 
He felt, with the good sense of a business man, that 
the interior of the house ought to correspond with the 
character of the outside. The furniture, silver-ware, 
and other needful accessories to the life he would have 
to lead in his new mansion would, he estimated, cost 
him nearly as much as the original building. In spite, 
therefore, of the gossip of tongues and the charitable 
suppositions of his neighbors, he continued to live on 



26 The Village Rector. 

in the damp, old, and dirty ground-floor apartment in 
the rue Montantmanigne where his fortune had been 
made. The pubUc carped, but Grashn had the approval 
of his former partners, who praised a resolution that 
was somewhat uncominon. 

A fortune and a position like those of Pierre Graslin 
naturally excited the greed of not a few in a small pro- 
vincial cit}^ During the last ten years more than one 
proposition of marriage had been intimated to Mon- 
sieur Graslin. But the bachelor state was so well 
suited to a man who was busy from morning till night, 
overrun with work, eager in the pursuit of mone^" as a 
hunter for game, and alwa3'S tired out with his day's 
labor, that Graslin fell into none of the traps laid for 
him b}' ambitious mothers who coveted so brilliant a 
position for their daughters. 

Graslin, another Sauviat in an upper sphere, did not 
spend more than forty sous a da}-, and clothed himself 
no better than his under-clerk. Two clerks and an 
office-boy sufficed him to cany on his business, which 
was immense through the multiplicity of its details. 
One clerk attended to the correspondence ; the other 
had charge of the accounts ; but Pierre Graslin was 
himself the soul, and body too, of the whole con- 
cern. His clerks, chosen from his own relations, 
were safe men, intelligent and as well-trained in the 
work as himself. As for the office-bo}^ he led the life 
of a truck horse, — up at five in the morning at all 
seasons, and never getting to bed before eleven at 
night. 

Graslin employed a charwoman by the day, an old 
peasant from Auvergne, who did his cooking. The 



The Village Rector, 27 

brown earthenware off which he ate, and the stout 
coarse linen which lie used, were in keeping with the 
character of his food. The old woman had strict 
orders never to spend more than three francs daily for 
the total expenses of the household. The office-boy 
was also man-of-all-work. The clerks took care of 
their own rooms. The tables of blackened wood, the 
straw chairs half unseated, the wretched beds, the 
counters and desks, in sliort, the whole furniture of 
house and office was not worth more than a thousand 
francs, Including a colossal iron safe, built into the 
wall, before which slept the man-of-all-work with two 
dogs at his feet. 

Graslin did not often go into societj', which, however, 
discussed him constantly. Two or three times a year 
he dined with the receiver-general, with whom his 
business brought him into constant intercourse. He 
also occasionall}^ took a meal at the prefecture ; for he 
had been appointed, much to his regret, a member of 
the Council-general of the department — "a waste of 
time," he remarked. Sometimes his brother bankers 
with whom he had dealings kept him to breakfast or 
dinner; and he was forced also to visit his former 
partners, who spent their winters in Limoges. He 
cared so little to keep up his relations to society that 
in twenty-five years Graslin had not offered so much 
as a glass of water to any one. When he passed along 
the street persons would nudge each other and say : 
'" That's JMonsieur Graslin;" meaning, "There's a 
man who came to Limoges without a penny and has 
now acquired an enormous fortune." The Auvergnat 
banker was a model which more than one father 



28 The Village Rector. 

pointed out to his son, and wives had been known to 
fling him in the faces of their husbands. 

We can now understand the reasons that led a man 
who had become the pivot of the financial machine of 
Limoges to repulse the various propositions of mar- 
riage which parents never ceased to make to him. The 
daughters of his partners, Messrs. ^ Ferret and Grosse- 
tete, were married before Graslin was in a position to 
take a wife ; but as each of these ladies had young 
daughters, the wiseheads of the community finally' con- 
cluded that old Ferret or old Grossetete had made an 
arrangement with Graslin to wait for one of his grand- 
daughters, and thenceforth the}' let him alone. 

Sauviat had watched the ascending career of his 
compatriot more attentively^ and seriously than any one 
else. He had known him from the time he first came 
to Limoges ; but their respective positions had changed 
so much, at least apparently, that their friendship, now 
become merely superficial, was seldom freshened. Still, 
in his relation as compatriot, Graslin never disdained 
to talk with Sauviat when they chanced to meet. Both 
continued to keep up their early tutoiement^ but onW 
in their native dialect. When the receiver-general of 
Bourges, the youngest of the brothers Grossetete, mar- 
ried his daughter in 1823 to the youngest son of Comte 
Fontaine, Sauviat felt sure that the Grossetetes would 
never allow Graslin to enter their famil}^ 

After his conference with the banker. Fere Sauviat 
returned home joyously. He dined that night in his 
daughter's room, and after dinner he said to his 
womenkind : — 

" Veronique will be Madame GrasUn." 



The Village Rector. 29 

" Madame Graslin ! " exclaimed Mere Sauviat, 
astounded. 

" Is it possible ? " said Veronique, to whom Graslin 
was personally unknown, and whose imagination re- 
garded him very much as a Parisian grisette would 
regard a Rothschild. 

" Yes, it is settled," said old Sauviat solemnly. 
" Graslin will furnish his house magnificently ; he is 
to give our daughter a fine Parisian carriage and the 
best horses to be found in the Limousin ; he will buy 
an estate worth five hundred thousand francs, and settle 
that and his town-house upon her. Veronique will be 
the first lady in Limoges, the richest in the department, 
and she can do what she pleases with Graslin." 

Veronique's education, her religious ideas, and her 
boundless afifection for her parents, prevented her from 
making a single objection ; it did not even cross her 
mind to think, that she had been disposed of without 
reference to her own will. On the morrow Sauviat 
went to Paris, and was absent for nearly a week. 

Pierre Graslin was, as can readily be imagined, not 
much of a talker ; he went straight and rapidly to 
deeds. A thing decided on was a thing done. In 
February, 1822, a strange piece of news burst like a 
thunderbolt on the town of Limoges. The h6tel Graslin 
was being handsomely furnished ; carriers' carts came 
day after day from Paris, and their contents were un- 
packed in the courtyard. Rumors flew about the town 
as to the beautj' and good taste of the modern or the 
antique furniture as it was seen to arrive. The great 
firm of Odiot and Company sent down a magnificent 
service of plate by the mail-coach. Three carriages, a 



30 The Village Rector. 

caleche, a coupe, and a cabriolet arrived, wrapped in 
straw with as much care as if they were jewels. 
" Monsieur Graslin is going to be married ! " 
These words were said by everj* pair of lips in 
Limoges in the course of a single evening, — in the 
salons of the upper classes, in the kitchens, in the shops, 
in the streets, in the suburbs, and before long through- 
out the whole surrounding countr}^ But to whom? No 
one could answer. Limoges had a mj'stery. 



The Village Rector, 31 



III. 



MARRIAGE. 

On tUe return of old Sauviat Graslin paid his first 
evening visit at half-past nine o'clock. Veronique was 
expecting him, dressed in her blue silk gown and muslin 
guimpe, over which fell a collaret made of lawn with a 
deep hem. Her hair was simply worn in two smooth 
bandeaus, gathered into a Grecian knot at the back of 
her head. She was seated on a tapestried chair beside 
her mother, who occupied a fine armchair with a carved 
back, covered with red velvet (evidently the relic of 
some old chateau), which stood beside the fireplace. A 
bright fire blazed on the hearth. On the chimney-piece, 
at either side of an antique clock, the value of which 
was wholly unknown to the Sauviats, six wax candles 
in two brass sconces twisted like vine- shoots, hghted 
the dark room and Veronique in all her budding prime. 
The old motlier was wearing her best gown. 

From the silent street, at that tranquil hour, through 
the soft shadows of the ancient stairway, Graslin ap- 
peared to the modest, artless Veronique, her mind still 
dwelling on the sweet ideas which Bernardin de Saint- 
Pierre had given her of love. 

Grashn, who was short and thin, had thick black 
hair like the bristles of a brush, which brought into 
vigorous relief a face as red as that of a drunkard 



32 The Village Hector, 

emeritus, and covered with suppurating pimples, either 
bleeding or about to burst. Without being caused by 
eczema or scrofula, these signs of a blood overheated 
b}' continual toil, anxiety, and the lust of business, by 
wakeful nights, poor food, and a sober life, seemed to 
partake of botli those diseases. In spite of the advice 
of his partners, his clerks, and his physician, the banker 
would never compel himself to take the healthful pre- 
cautions which might have prevented, or would at least 
modify, this malad}', which was slight at first, but had 
greatl}^ increased from year to year. He wanted to 
cure it, and would sometimes take baths or drink some 
prescribed potion ; but, hurried along on the current of 
his business, he soon neglected the care of his person. 
Sometimes he thought of suspending work for a time, 
travelling about, and visiting the noted baths for such 
diseases ; but where is the hunter after millions who 
is willing to stop short? 

In that blazing face shone two gra}^ eyes ra3^ed with 
green lines starting from the pupils, and speckled with 
brown spots, — two implacable eyes, full of resolution, 
rectitude, and shrewd calculation. Graslin's nose was 
short and turned up ; he had a mouth with thick lips, 
a prominent forehead, and high cheek-bones, coarse 
ears with large edges discolored by the condition of 
his blood, — in short, he was an ancient satyr in a 
black satin waistcoat, brown frock-coat, and white 
cravat. His strong and vigorous shoulders, which 
began life b}" bearing heavy burdens, were now rather 
bent ; and beneath this torso, unduly developed, came 
a pair of weak legs, rather badly affixed to the short 
thighs. His thin and hairy hands had the crooked 



The Village Rector. 33 

fingers of those whose business it is to handle mone}'. 
The habit of quick decision could be seen in the way 
the e3'ebrows rose into a point over each arch of the 
e3'e. Though the mouth was grave and pinched, its 
expression was that of inward kindliness ; it told of an 
excellent nature, sunk in business, smothered possibl}', 
though it might revive b^' contact with a woman. 

At this apparition Veronique's heart was violcntl}^ 
agitated ; blackness came before her eyes ; she thought 
she cried aloud ; but she reall}' sat there mute, with 
fixed and staring gaze. 

*■ ' Veronique, this is Monsieur Graslin," said old 
Sanviat. 

Veronique rose, curtsied, dropped back into her 
chair, and looked at her mother, who was smiling at 
the millionnaire, seeming, as did her father, so happy, 
— so happy that the poor girl found strength to hide 
her surprise and her violent repulsion. During the 
conversation which then took place something was 
said of Graslin's health. The banker looked naively 
into the mirror, with bevelled edges in an ebony 
frame. 

'' Mademoiselle," he said, " I am not good-looking." 

Thereupon he proceeded to explain the blotches on 
his face as the result of his overworked life. He 
related how he had constantly disobeyed his physi- 
cian's advice ; and remarked that he hoped to change 
his appearance altogether when he had a wife to rule 
his household, and take better care of him than he took 
of himself. 

"Is a man married for his face, compatriot?" said 
Sauviat, giving the other a hearty slap on the thigh. 

3 



34 The Village Rector. 

Graslin's speech went straight to those natural feel- 
ings which, more or less, fill the heart of every woman. 
The thought came into Veronique's mind that her face, 
too, had been destro3'ed by a horrible disease, and her 
Christian modesty rebuked her first impression. 

Hearing a whistle in the street, Graslin went down- 
stairs, followed by Sauviat. They speedily returned. 
The oflfice-bo3^ had brought the first bouquet, which was 
a little late in coming. When the banker exhibited this 
mound of exotic flowers, the fragrance of which com- 
pletelj' filled the room, and offered it to his future wife, 
Veronique felt a rush of conflicting emotions; she was 
suddenl}^ plunged into the ideal and fantastic world of 
tropical nature. Never before had she seen white 
camellias, never had she smelt the fragrance of the 
Alpine cistus, the Cape jessamine, the cedronella, the 
volcameria, the moss-rose, or an}' of the divine per- 
fumes which woo to love, and sing to the heart their 
h3'mns of fragrance. Graslin left Veronique that night 
in the grasp of such emotions. 

From this time forth, as soon as all Limoges was 
sleeping, the banker would slip along the walls to the 
Sauviats' house. There he would tap gently on the 
window-shutter; the dog did not bark; old Sauviat 
came down and let him in, and Graslin would then 
spend an hour or two with Veronique in the brown 
room, where Madame Sauviat always served him a 
true Auvergnat supper. Never did this singular lover 
arrive without a bouquet made of the rarest flowers 
from the greenhouse of his old partner. Monsieur 
Grossetete, the only person who as yet knew of the ap- 
proaching marriage. The man-of- all- work went every 



The Village Rector. 35 

evening to fetch the bunch, which Monsieur Grossetete 
made himself. 

Graslin made about fifty such visits in two months ; 
eacli time, beside the flowers, he brought with him some 
rich present, — rings, a watch, a gold chain, a worlv- 
box, etc. These inconceivable extravagances must be 
explained, and a word suffices. Veronique's dowry, 
promised by her father, consisted of nearly the whole 
of old Sauviat's property, namely, seven hundred and 
fifty thousand francs. The old man retained an income 
of eight thousand francs derived from the Funds, 
bought for him originally for sixty thousand francs in 
assignats by his correspondent Brezac, to whom, at the 
time of his imprisonment, he had confided that sum, 
and who kept it for him safely. These sixty thousand 
francs in assignats were the half of Sauviat's fortune at 
the time he came so near being guillotined. Brezac 
was also, at the same time, the faithful repository of 
the rest, namely, seven hundred louis d'or (an enor- 
mous sum at that time in gold), with which old Sauviat 
began his business once more as soon as he recovered 
his liberty. In thirty years each of those louis d'or 
had been transformed into a bank-note for a thousand 
francs, by means of the income from the Funds, of 
Madame Sauviat's inheritance from her father, old 
Champagnac, and of the profits accruing from the 
business and the accumulated interest thereon in the 
hands of the Brezac firm. Brezac himself had a lojal 
and honest friendship for Sauviat, — such as all 
Auvergnats are apt to feel for one another. 

So, whenever Sauviat passed the front of the Graslin 
mansion he had said to himself, " Veronique shall live 



36 The Village Rector. 

in that fine palace." He knew very well that no girl in 
all the department would have seven hundred and fifty 
thousand francs as a marriage portion, besides the expec- 
tation of two hundred and fifty thousand more. Gras- 
lin, his chosen son-in-law, would therefore infallibly marry 
Veronique ; and so, as we have seen, it came about. 

Every evening Veronique had her fresh bunch of 
flowers, which on the morrow decked her little salon 
and was carefully concealed from the neighbors. She 
admired the beautiful jewels, the pearls and diamonds, 
the bracelets, the rubies, gifts which assuredly gratify 
all the daughters of Eve. She thought herself less plain 
when she wore them. She saw her mother happy in 
the marriage, and she had no other point of view fj-om 
which to make comparisons. She was, moreover, totally 
ignorant of the duties or the purpose of marriage. She 
heard the solemn voice of the vicar of Saint-Etienne 
praising Graslin to her as a man of honor, with whom 
she would lead an honorable life. Thus it was that 
Veronique consented to receive Monsieur Graslin as 
her future husband. 

When it happens that in a life so withdrawn from the 
world, so solitary as that of Veronique, a single person 
enters it every day, that person cannot long remain 
indifferent; either he is hated, and the aversion, jus- 
tified by a deepening knowledge of his character, ren- 
ders him intolerable, or the habit of seeing bodily 
defects dims the eye to them. The mind looks about 
for compensations ; his countenance awakens curiosity ; 
its features brighten ; fleeting beauties appear in it. 
At last the inner, hidden beneath the outer, shows 
itself. Then, when first impressions' are fairly over- 



The Village Rector. 87 

come, the attachment felt is all the stronger, because 
the soul clings to it as its own creation. That is love. 
And here lies the reason of those passions conceived 
by beautiful beings for other beings apparentl}' ugly. 
The outward aspect, forgotten by affection, is no longer 
seen in a creature whose soul is deeply valued. Besides 
this, beauty, so necessar}- to a vv^oman, takes many 
strange aspects in man ; and there is as much diversity 
of feeling among women about the beauty of men as 
there is among men about the beauty of women. So, 
after deep reflection and much debating with herself, 
Veronique gave her consent to the publication of the 
banns. 

From that moment all Limoges rang with this inex- 
plicable afl^air, — inexplicable because no one knew the 
secret of it, namel}', the immensity of the dowr}'. Had 
that dowry been known Veronique could have chosen 
a husband where she pleased ; but even so, she might 
have made a mistake. 

Grashn was thought to be much in love. Uphol- 
sterers came from Paris to flt up the house. Nothing 
was talked of in Limoges but the profuse expenditures 
of the banker. The value of the chandeliers was cal- 
culated ; the gilding of the walls, the figures on the 
clocks, all were discussed ; the jardinieres, the calori- 
feres, the objects of luxury and novelt}', nothing was 
left unnoticed. In the garden of the hdtel Graslin, 
above the icehouse, was an aviary, and all the inhabi- 
tants of the town were presently surprised by the sight 
of rare birds, — Chinese pheasants, mysterious breeds 
of ducks. Every one flocked to see them. Monsieur 
and Madame Grossetete, an old couple who were highly 



38 The Village Rector. 

respected in Limoges, made several visits to the Sau- 
viats, accompanied by Graslin. Madame Grossetete, 
a most excellent woman, congratulated Veronique on 
her happy marriage. Tlius the Church, the famil}', 
societ}^, and all material things down to the most tri- 
vial, made themselves accomplices to bring about this 
marriage. 

In the month of April the formal invitations to the 
wedding were issued to all Graslin's friends and ac- 
quaintance. On a fine spring morning a caleche and 
a coupe, drawn by Limousin horses chosen by Mon- 
sieur Grossetete, drew up at eleven o'clock before the 
shop of the iron-dealer, bringing, to the great excite- 
ment of the neighborhood, the former partners of the 
bridegroom and the latter's two clerks. The street 
Was lined with spectators, all anxious to see the Sau- 
viats' daughter, on whose beautiful hair the most re- 
nowned hairdresser in Limoges had placed the bridal 
wreath and a costl}- veil of English lace. Veronique 
wore a gown of simple white muslin. A rather impos- 
ing assemblage of the most distinguished women in 
the society of the town attended the wedding in the 
cathedral, where the bishop, knowing the religious 
fervor of the Sauviats, deigned to marry Veronique 
himself. The bride was very generally voted plain. 

She entered her new house, and went from one sur- 
prise to another. A grand dinner was to precede the 
ball, to which Graslin had invited nearly all Limoges. 
The dinner, given to the bishop, the prefect, the judge 
of the court, the attorney-general, the mayor, the 
general, and Graslin's former partners with their wives, 
was a triumpli for the bride, who, like all other per- 



The Village Rector. 39 

sons who are simple and natural, showed charms that 
were not expected in her. Neither of the bridal pair 
could dance ; Veronique continued therefore to do the 
honors to her guests, and to win the esteem and good 
graces of nearly all the persons who were presented 
to her, asking Grossetete, who took an honest liking to 
her, for information about the company. She made no 
mistakes and committed no blunders. It was during 
this evening that the two former partners of the banker 
announced the amount of the dowry (immense for 
Limousin) given by the Sauviats to their daughter. 
At nine o'clock the old iron-dealer returned home and 
went to bed, leaving his wife to preside over the bride's 
retiring. It was said by every one throughout the 
town that Madame Graslin was very plain, though 
well made. 

Old Sauviat now wound up his business and sold his 
house in town. He bought a little country-place on 
the left bank of the Vienne between Limoges and Clu- 
zeau, ten minutes' walk from the suburb of Saint-Mar- 
tial, where he intended to finish his days tranquilly 
with his wife. The old couple had an apartment in 
the hotel Graslin and always dined once or twice a 
week with their daughter, who, as often, made their 
house in the country the object of her walks. 

This enforced rest almost killed old Sauviat. Hap- 
pily, Graslin found a means of occupying his father-in- 
law. In 1823 the banker was forced to take possession 
of a porcelain manufactory, to the proprietors of which 
he had advanced large sums, which they found them- 
selves unable to repay except by the sale of their fac- 
tory, which they made to him. By the help of his 



40 The Village Rector, 

business connections and by investing a large amount 
of propertj' in tlie concern, Graslin made it one of tiie 
finest manufactories of Limoges ware in the town. 
Aftei-wards lie resold it at a fine profit ; meantime he 
placed it under the superintendence of his father-in- 
law, who, in spite of his seventy two years, counted for 
much in the return of prosperity to the establishment, 
who himself renewed his 3"outh in the employment. 
Graslin was then able to attend to his legitimate busi- 
ness of banking without anxiety as to the manufactory. 
Sauviat died in 1827 from an accident. While tak- 
ing account of stock he fell into a charasse, — a sort 
of crate with an open grating in which the china was 
packed ; his leg was slightly injured, so slightly that 
he paid no attention to it ; gangrene set in ; he would 
not consent to amputation, and therefore died. The 
widow gave up about two hundred and fifty thousand 
francs which came to her from Sauviat's estate, reserv- 
ing only a stipend of two hundred francs a month, 
which amply sufficed for her wants. Graslin bound 
himself to pay her that sum duly. She kept her little 
house in the countr}-, and lived there alone without a 
servant and against the remonstrances of her daughter, 
who could not induce her to alter this determination, 
to which she clung with the obstinacy peculiar to old 
persons. Madame Sauviat came nearlj^ every day into 
Limoges to see her daughter, and the latter still con- 
tinued to make her mother's house, from which was a 
charming view of the river, the object of her walks. 
From the road leading to it could be seen that island 
long loved by Veronique and called by her the lie de 
France. 



The Village Rector. 41 

In order not to complicate our history of the Graslin 
household with the foregoing incidents, we have thought 
it best to end that of the Sauviats by anticipating 
events, which are moreover useful as explaining the 
private and hidden life which Madame Graslin now 
led. The old mother, noticing that Graslin's miserli- 
ness, which returned upon him, might hamper her 
daughter, was for some time unwilling to resign the 
property left to her hy her husband. But Veronique, 
unable to imagine a case in which a woman might 
desire the use of her own property, urged it upon her 
mother witli reasons of great generosity, and out of 
gratitude to Graslin for restoring to her the liberty and 
freedom of a young girl. But this is anticipating. 

The unusual splendor which accompanied Graslin's 
marriage had disturbed all his habits and constantly 
annoyed him. The mind of the great financier was a 
verj^ small one. Veronique had had no means of judg- 
ing the man with whom she was to pass her life. Dur- 
ing his fifty-five visits he had let her see nothing but the 
business man, the indefatigable worker, who conceived 
and sustained great enterprises, and analyzed public 
affairs, bringing them always to the crucial test of the 
Bank. Fascinated by the million offered to him by 
Sauviat, he showed himself generous by calculation. 
Carried awa}' by the interests of his marriage and by 
w^hat he called his " folh," nameh', the house which 
still goes by the name of the hotel Graslin, he did 
things on a large scale. Having bought horses, a 
caleche, and a coupe, he naturall}- used them to return 
the wedding visits and go to those dinners and balls, 
called the " retours de noces,'" which the heads of the 



42 The Village Rector. 

administration and the rich famiUes of Limoges gave 
to the newh' married pair. Under this impulsion, which 
carried him entire!}" out of his natural sphere, Graslin 
sent to Paris for a man-cook and took a reception day. 
For a year he kept the pace of a man who possesses a 
fortune of sixteen hundred thousand francs, and he 
became of course the most noted personage in Limoges. 
During this year he generously put into his wife's purse 
every month twenty-five gold pieces of twenty francs 
each. 

Society concerned itself much about Veronique from 
the day of her marriage, for she was a boon to its curi- 
osity, which has little to feed on in the provinces. 
Veronique was all the more studied because she had 
appeared in the social world like a phenomenon ; but 
once there, she remained always simple and modest, 
in the attitude of a person who is observing habits, 
customs, manners, things unknown to her, and en- 
deavoring to conform to them. Already voted ugly 
but well-shaped, she was now declared kindl}' but 
stupid. She was learning so many things, she had so 
much to hear and to see that her looks and speech did 
certainly give some reason for this judgment. She 
showed a sort of torpor which resembled lack of mind. 
Marriage, that hard calling, as she said, for which the 
Church, the Code, and her mother exhorted her to 
resignation and obedience, under pain of transgressing 
all human laws and causing irreparable evil, threw 
her into a dazed and dizzy condition, which amounted 
sometimes to a species of inward delirium. 

Silent and self-contained, she listened as much to 
herself as she did to others. Feeling within her the 



The Village Rector. 43 

most violent " difficulty of existing," to use an expres- 
sion of Fontenelle's, which was constantly increasing, 
she became terrified at herself. Nature resisted the 
commands of the mind, the body denied the will. The 
poor creature, caught in the net, wept on the breast of 
that great Mother of the poor and the afflicted, — she 
went for comfort to the Church ; her piety redoubled, 
she confided the assaults of the demon to her confessor ; 
she praj^ed to heaven for succor. Never, at any 
period of her life, did she fulfil her religious duties with 
such fervor. The despair of not loving her husband 
flung her violentl}' at the foot of the altar, where di- 
vine and consolatory voices urged her to patience. 
She was patient, she was gentle, and she continued to 
live on, hoping always for the happiness of maternity. 

"Did you notice Madame Graslin this morning?" 
the women would say to each other. " Marriage 
does n't agree with her ; she is actually green." 

"Yes," some of them would reply ; " but would j'ou 
have given your daughter to a man like Graslin ? No 
woman could marry him with impunity." 

Now that Graslin was married, all the mothers who 
had courted him for ten years past pursued him with 
sarcasms. 

Veronique grew visibl}" thinner and really ugly ; her 
eyes looked weary, her features coarsened, her manner 
was shy and awkward ; she acquired that air of cold 
and melanchol}^ rigidity for which the ultra-pious are 
so often blamed. Her skin took on a gra3'ish tone ; 
she dragged herself languidly about during this first 
year of married life, ordinarily so brilliant for a 3'oung 
wife. She tried to divert her mind by reading, profit- 



44 The Village Rector. 

ing by the liberty of married women to read what 
they please. She read the novels of Walter Scott, the 
poems of Lord Byron, the works of Schiller and of 
Goethe, and much else of modern and also ancient 
literature. She learned to ride a horse, to dance and 
to draw. She painted water-colors and m^ade sepia 
sketches, turning ardently to all those resources which 
women employ to bear the weariness of their solitude. 
She gave herself that second education which most 
women derive from a man, but which she derived from 
herself only. 

The natural superiority of a free, sincere spirit, 
brought up as it were in a desert and strengthened by 
religion, had given her a sort of untrammelled grandeur 
and certain needs, to which the provincial world she 
lived in offered no sustenance. All books pictured 
Love to her, and she sought for the evidence of its 
existence, but nowhere could she see the passion of 
which she read. Love was in her heart, like seeds in 
the earth, awaiting the action of the sun. Her deep 
melancholy, caused bj- constant meditation on herself, 
brought her back by hidden bj'-ways to the brilliant 
dreams of her girlish days. Many a time she must 
have lived again that old romantic poem, making her- 
self both the actor and the subject of it. Again she 
saw that island bathed in light, flowery, fragrant, 
caressing to her soul. Often her pallid e3'es wandered 
around a salon with piercing curiosity. The men were 
all like Graslin. She studied them, and then she 
seemed to question their wives ; but nothing on the 
faces of those women revealed an inward anguish like 
to hers, and she returned home sad and gloomy and 



The Village Rector. 45 

distressed about herself. The authors she had read 
in the morning answered to the feelings in her soul ; 
their thoughts pleased her ; but at night she heard only 
empty words, not even presented in a lively way, — 
dull, empt}', foolish conversations on petty local matters, 
or personalities of no interest to her. She was often 
surprised at the heat displayed in discussions which 
concerned no feeling or sentiment — to her the essence 
of existence, the soul of life. 

Often she was seen with fixed eyes, mentall}^ ab- 
sorbed, thinking no doubt of the days of her youthful 
ignorance spent in that chamber full of harmonies now 
forever passed awa3\ She felt a horrible repugnance 
against dropping into the gulf of pettiness in which 
the women among whom she lived were floundering. 
This repugnance, stamped on her forehead, on her lips, 
and ill-disguised, was taken for the insolence of a par- 
venue. Madame Graslin began to observe on all faces 
a certain coldness ; she felt in all remarks an acrimony, 
the causes of which were unknown to her, for she had 
no Intimate friend to enlighten or advise her. Injus- 
tice, which angers little minds, brings loftier souls to 
question themselves, and communicates a species of 
humility to them. Veronique condemned herself, en- 
deavoring to see her own faults. She tried to be affable ; 
they called her false. She grew more gentle still ; they 
said she was a hypocrite, and her pious devotion helped 
on the calumny, She spent money, gave dinners and 
balls, and they taxed her with pride. 

Unsuccessful in all these attempts, unjustl}" judged, 
rebuffed by the petty and tormenting pride which char- 
acterizes provincial society, where each individual is 



46 The Village Rector. 

armed with pretensions and their attendant uneasiness, 
Madame Graslin fell back into utter solitude. She 
returned with eagerness to the arms of the Churcli. 
Her great soul, clothed with so weak a flesh, showed 
her the multiplied commandments of Catholicism as so 
many stones placed for protection along the precipices 
of life, so mau}^ props brought by charitable hands to 
sustain human weakness on its wear}' way ; and she 
followed, with greater rigor than ever, even the smallest 
religious practices. 

On this the liberals of the town classed Madame 
Graslin among the devotes^ the ultras. To the different 
animosities Veronique had innocently acquired, the 
virulence of party feeling now added its periodical 
exasperation. But as this ostracism took nothing 
really from her, she quietly left society and lived in 
books which offered her such infinite resources. She 
meditated on what she read, she compared systems, 
she widened immeasurably the horizons of her intellect 
and the extent of her education ; in this way she 
opened the gates of her soul to curiosity. 

During this period of resolute stud}', in which religion 
supported and maintained her mind, she obtained the 
friendship of Monsieur Grossetete, one of those old 
men whose mental superiority grows rust}'^ in provincial 
life, but who, when they come in contact with an eager 
mind, recover something of their former brillianc}^ The 
good man took an earnest interest in Veronique, who, 
to reward him for the flattering warmth of heart which 
old men show to those they like, displa3'ed before him, 
and for the first time in her life, the treasures of her 
soul and the acquirements of her mind, cultivated so 



The Village Rector. 47 

secretly, and now full of blossom. An extract from a 
letter written by her about this time to Monsieur Gros- 
setete will show the condition of the mind of a woman 
who was later to give signal proofs of a firm and lofty 
nature : — 

"The flowers yon sent me for the ball were charm- 
ing, but the}^ suggested harsh reflections. Those pretty 
creatures gathered by you, and doomed to wilt upon 
my bosom to adorn a fete, made me think of others 
that live and die unseen in the depths of 3'our woods, 
their fragrance never inhaled by any one. I asked 
m3^self why I was dancing there, why I was decked 
with flowers, just as I ask God why he has placed me 
to live in this world. 

*' You see, my friend, all is a snare to the unhappy ; 
the smallest matter brings the sick mind back to its 
woes ; but the greatest evil of certain woes is the per- 
sistency which makes them a fixed idea pervading our 
lives. A constant sorrow ought rather to be a divine 
inspiration. You love flowers for themselves, whereas 
I love them as I love to listen to fine music. So, as I 
was saying, the secret of a mass of things escapes me. 
You, my old friend, you have a passion, — that of the 
horticulturist. When you return to town inspire me 
with that taste, so that I may rush to my greenhouse 
with eager feet, as j^ou go to 3'ours to watch the develop- 
ment of 3'our plants, to bud and bloom with them, to 
admire what 3'ou create, — tlie new colors, the unex- 
pected varieties, which expand and grow beneath 3^our 
eyes by virtue of your care. 

" M3' greenhouse, the one I watch, is filled with 



48 The Village Rector. 

suffering souls. The miseries I try to lessen sadden 
my heart ; and when I take them upon myself, when, 
after finding some young woman witiiout clothing for 
her babe, some old man wanting bread, I have supphed 
their needs, the emotions their distress and its relief 
have caused me do not suffice my soul. Ah, friend, I 
feel within me untold powers — for evil, possibly, — 
which nothing can lower, which the sternest commands 
of our religion are unable to abase ! Sometimes, when 
I go to see my mother, walking alone among the fields, 
I want to cry aloud, and I do so. It seems to me that 
my body is a prison in which some evil genius is hold- 
ing a shuddering creature while awaiting the mysterious 
words which are to burst its obstructive form. 

" But that comparison is not a just one. In me it 
seems to be the body tiiat seeks escape, if I may say 
so. Religion fills my soul, books and their riches 
occupy my mind. Wh}-, then, do I desire some an- 
guish which shall destro}* the enervating peace of my 
existence ? 

''Oh, if some sentiment, some mania, that I could cul- 
tivate, does not come into my life, I feel I shall sink at 
last into the gulf where all ideas are dulled, where char- 
acter deteriorates, motives slacken, virtues lose their 
backbone, and all the forces of the soul are scattered, 
— a gulf in which I shall no longer be the being Nature 
meant me to be ! 

" This is what my bitter complainings mean. But do 
not let them hinder you from sending me those flowers. 
Your friendship is so soothing and so full of loving- 
kindness that it has for the last few months almost 
reconciled me to myself. Yes, it makes me happy to 



The Village Rector, 49 

have 3'ou cast a glance upon my soul, at once so barren 
and so full of bloom ; and I am thankful for every 
gentle word you say to one who rides the phantom 
steed of dreams, and returns worn-out." 

At the end of the tlnrd year of his married life, 
Graslin, observing that his wife no longer used her 
horses, and finding a good market for them, sold them. 
He also sold the carriages, sent away the coachman, 
let the bishop have his man-cook, and contented him- 
self with a woman. He no longer gave the monthly 
sum to his wife, telling her that he would pay all bills. 
He thought himself the most fortunate of husbands in 
meeting no opposition whatever to these proceedings 
from the woman who had brought him a million of 
francs as a dowry. Madame Graslin, brought up from 
childhood without ever seeing money, or being made' 
to feel that it was an indispensable element in life, 
deserved no praise whatever for this apparent gener- 
osity. Graslin even noticed in a corner of the secretary 
all the sums he had ever given her, less the money she 
had bestowed in charity or spent upon her dress, the 
cost of which was much lessened by the profusion of 
her wedding trousseau. 

Graslin boasted of Veronique to all Limoges as being 
a model wife. He next regretted the money spent on 
the house, and he ordered the furniture to be all packed 
awa}' or covered up. His wife's bedroom, dressing- 
room, and boudoir were alone spared from these pro- 
tective measures ; which protect nothing, for furniture 
is injured just as much by being covered up as by being 
left uncovered. Graslin himself lived almost entirely 



50 The Village Rector, 

on the ground-floor of the house, where he had his 
office, and resumed his old business habits with avidity. 
He thought himself an excellent husband because he 
went upstairs to breakfast and dined with his wife ; but 
his unpunctuality was so great that it was not more 
than ten times a month that he began a meal with her ; 
he had exacted, out of courtes}", that she should never 
wait for him. Veronique did, however, always remain 
in the room while her husband took his meals, serving 
him herself, that she might at least perform voluntarily 
some of the visible obligations of a wife. 

The banker, to whom the things of marriage were 
very indifferent, and who had seen nothing in his wife 
but seven hundred and fifty thousand francs, had never 
once perceived Veronique's repugnance to him. Little 
by little he now abandoned Madame Graslin for his 
business. When he wished to put a bed in the room 
adjoining his office on the ground-floor, Veronique 
hastened to comply with the request. So that three 
years after their marriage these two ill-assorted beings 
returned to their original estate, each equally pleased 
and happy to do so. The monej'ed man, possessing 
eighteen hundred thousand francs, returned with all the 
more eagerness to his old avaricious habits because he 
had momentarily quitted them. His two clerks and the 
office-boy were better lodged and rather better fed, and 
that was the only diff'erence between the present and 
the past. His wife had a cook and maid (two indis- 
pensable servants) : but except for the actual neces- 
saries of life, not a penny left his coffers for his 
household. 

Happy in the turn which things were now taking, 



The Village Rector. 51 

Veroniqne saw in the evident satisfaction of the banker 
the absohition for this separation which she would never 
have asked for herself. She had no conception that 
she was as disagreeable to Graslin as Graslin was 
repulsive to her. This secret divorce made her both 
sad and jo3'ful. She had always looked to motherhood 
for an interest in life ; but up to this time (1828) the 
couple had had no prospect of a family. 



62 The Village Rector, 



IV. 



THE HISTORY OF MANY MARRIED WOMEN IN THE 
PROVINCES. 

So now, in her magnificent house and envied for her 
wealth by all the town, Madame Graslin recovered the 
solitude of her earl}' years in her father's house, less 
the glow of hope and the youthful joys of ignorance. 
She lived among the ruins of her castles In the air, 
enlightened by sad experience, sustained by religious 
faith, occupied by the care of the poor, whom she 
loaded with benefits. She made clothes for the babies, 
gave mattresses and sheets to those who slept on 
straw ; she went among the poor herself, followed by 
her maid, a girl from Auvergne whom her mother 
procured for her, and who attached herself body and 
soul to her mistress. Veronique made an honorable 
spy of her, sending her to discover the places where 
suflfering could be stilled, povert}' softened. 

This active benevolence, carried on with strict at- 
tention to religious duties, was hidden in the deepest 
secrecy and directed by the various rectors in the town, 
with whom Veronique had a full understanding in all 
her charitable deeds, so as not to suffer the money so 
needed for unmerited misfortunes to fall into the hands 
of vice. It was during this period of her life that she 



The Village Rector. 63 

won a friendship quite as strong and quite as precious 
as tiiat of old Grossetete. She became the beloved 
lamb of a distinguished priest, who was persecuted for 
his true merits, which were whoil}' misunderstood, one 
of the two grand-vicars of the diocese, named the Abbe 
Dutheil. 

This priest belonged to the portion of the French 
clergy who incline toward certain concessions, who 
would be glad to associate the Church with the people's 
interests, and so enable it to regain, through the appli- 
cation of true evangelical doctrine, its former influence 
over the masses, which it might then draw to closer 
relations with the monarchy. Whether it was that the 
Abbe Dutheil recognized the impossibility of enlighten- 
ing the court of Rome and the higher clergy on this 
point, or that he had consented to sacrifice his own 
opinions to those of his superiors^ it is certain that he 
remained within the limits of the strictest orthodoxy, 
being very well aware that any manifestation of his 
principles at the present time would deprive him of all 
chance of the episcopate. 

This eminent priest united in himself great Christian 
modesty and a noble character. Without pride or 
ambition he remained at his post and did his duty in 
the midst of perils. The liberals of the town were 
ignorant of the motives of his conduct ; they claimed 
him as being of their opinions and considered him a 
patriot, — a word which meant revolutionist in Catholic 
minds. Loved b}' his inferiors, who dared not, how- 
ever, proclaim his merits, feared by his equals who 
kept watch upon him, he was a source of embarrass- 
ment to the bishop. His virtues and his knowledge, 



64 The Village Rector, 

envied, no doubt, prevented persecution ; it was im- 
possible to complain of liim, ttiough he criticised 
franlily tlie political blunders by which both the throne 
and the clergy mutually compromised themselves. He 
often foretold results, but vainly, — like poor Cassandra, 
who was equally cursed before and after the disaster 
she predicted. Short of a revolution the Abbe Dutheil 
was likely to remain as he was, one of those stones 
hidden in the foundation wall on which the edifice 
rests. His utility was recognized and they left him 
in his place, like many other solid minds whose rise to 
power is the terror of mediocrities. If, like the Abbe 
de Lamennais, he had taken up his pen he would doubt- 
less, like him, have been blasted b}^ the court of Rome. 
The Abbe Dutheil was imposing in appearance. His 
exterior revealed the underlying of a profound nature 
always calm and equable on the surface. His tall 
figure and its thinness did not detract from the general 
effect of his lines, which recalled those by which the 
genius of Spanish painters delights to represent the 
great monastic meditators, and those selected at a later 
period by Thorwaldsen for the Apostles. The long, 
almost rigid folds of the face, in harmony with those 
of his vestment, had the grace which the middle- 
ages bring into relief in the mystical statues placed 
beside the portals of their churches. Gravity of 
thought, word, and accent, harmonized in this man 
and became him well. Seeing his dark eyes hollowed 
by austerities and surrounded by a brown circle ; see- 
ing, too, his forehead, yellow as some old stone, his 
head and hands almost fleshless, men desired to hear 
the voice and the instructions which issued from his 



The Village Rector, 55 

lips. This purely pb3-slcal grandeur which accords 
with moral grandeur, gave this priest a somewhat 
haughty and disdainful air, which was instantly coun- 
teracted to an observer b}^ his modesty and b}' his 
speech, though it did not predispose others in his favor. 
In some more elevated station these advantages would 
have obtained that necessary ascendency over the 
masses which the people wilUngly allow to men who 
are thus endowed. But superiors will not forgive their 
inferiors for possessing the externals of greatness, nor 
for displaying that majesty so prized by the ancients 
but so often lacicing to the administrators of modern 
power. 

By one of those strange freaks of circumstance which 
are never accounted for, the other vicar-general, the 
Abbe de Grancour, a stout little man with a rosy com- 
plexion and blue eyes, whose opinions were diametri- 
call}^ opposed to those of tlie Abbe Dutheil, liked to be 
in the latter's company, although he never testified this 
liking enough to put himself out of tlie good graces of 
the bishop, to whom he would have sacrificed eveiy- 
thing. The Abbe de Grancour believed in the merit of 
his colleague, recognized his talents, secretly accepted 
his doctrines, and condemned them openly ; for the little 
priest was one of tliose men whom superiority attracts 
and intimidates, — who dislike it and yet cultivate it. 
"He would embrace me and condemn me," the Abba 
Dutheil said of him. The Abbe de Grancour liad 
neither friends nor enemies ; he was therefore likely 
to live and die a vicar-general. He said he was drawn 
to visit Madame Graslin by the desire of counselling so 
religious and benevolent a person ; and the bishop 



56 The Village Rector. 

approved of his doing so, — Monsieur de Grancour's 
real object being to spend a few evenings witii the 
Abbe Dutheil in Veronique's salon. 

The two priests now came pretty regularly to see 
Madame Graslin, and make her a sort of report about 
her poor and discuss the best means of succoring and 
improving them. But Monsieur Graslin had now be- 
gun to tighten his purse-strings, having made the dis- 
cover}^, in spite of the innocent deceptions of his wife 
and her maid, that the money he paid did not go solely 
for household expenses and for dress. He was angry 
when he found out how much money his wife's charities 
cost him ; he called the cook to account, inquired into 
all the details of the housekeeping, and showed what 
a grand administrator he was by practically proving 
that his house could be splendidl}^ kept for three thou- 
sand francs a j^ear. Then he put his wife on an allow- 
ance of a hundred francs a month, and boasted of his 
liberality in so doing. The office-boy, who liked flow- 
ers, was made to take care of the garden on Sundays. 
Having dismissed the gardener, Graslin used the green- 
house to store articles conveyed to him as securitj' for 
loans. He let the birds in the aviary die for want of 
care, to avoid the cost of their food and attendance. 
And he even took advantage of a winter when there 
was no ice, to give up his icehouse and save the ex- 
pense of filling it. 

By 1828 there was not a single article of luxury in 
the house which he had not in some way got rid of 
Parsimony reigned unchecked in the hdtel Graslin. 
The master's face, greatly improved during the three 
years spent with his wife (who induced him to follow 



The Village Rector, 67 

his physician's advice), now became redder, more fiery, 
more blotched than before. Business had taken such 
proportions that it was necessary to promote the boy- 
of-all-work to the position of cashier, and to find some 
stout Auvergnat for the rougher service of the h6tel 
GrasUn. 

Thus, four years after her marriage, this ver}' rich 
woman could not dispose of a single penny by her own 
will. The avarice of her husband succeeded the avarice 
of her parents. Madame Graslin had never understood 
the necessity of money until the time came when her 
benevolence was checked. 

By the beginning of the year 1828 Veronique had 
entirely recovered the blooming health which had given 
such beaut}' to the innocent young girl sitting at her 
window in the old house in the rue de la Cite ; but by 
this time she had acquired a fine literar}' education, and 
was fullj^ able to think and to speak. An excellent 
judgment gave real depth to her words. Accustomed 
now to the little things of life, she wore the fashions 
of the period with infinite grace. When she chanced 
about this time to visit a salon she found herself — not 
without a certain inward surprise — received by all with 
respectful esteem. These changed feelings and this 
welcome were due to the two vicars-general and to old 
Grossetete. Informed by them of her noble hidden 
life, and the good deeds so constanth^ done in their 
midst, the bishop and a few influential persons spoke 
of Madame Graslin as a flower of true pietj^ a violet 
fragrant with virtues ; in consequence of which, one of 
those strong reactions set in, unknown to Veronique, 
which are none the less solid and durable because they 



58 The Village Rector. 

are long in coming. This change in public opinion 
gave additional influence to Veronique's salon, which 
was now visited b}- all the chief persons in the society 
of the town, in consequence of certain circumstances we 
shall now relate. 

Toward the close of this year the young Vicomte 
de Grandville was sent as deputy solicitor to the courts 
of Limoges. He came preceded by a reputation always 
given to Parisians in the provinces. A few da3^s after 
his arrival, during a soiree at the prefecture, he made 
answer to a rather foolish question, that the most ami- 
able, intelligent, and distinguished woman he had met 
in the town was Madame Graslin. 

" Perhaps you think her the handsomest also? " said 
the wife of the receiver-general. 

" I cannot think so in your presence, madame," 
he replied, "and therefore I am in doubt. Madame 
Graslin possesses a beauty which need inspire no jeal- 
ousy, for it seldom shows itself: she is only beautiful 
to those she loves ; you are beautiful to all the world. 
AYhen Madame Graslin's soul is moved b}^ true en- 
thusiasm, it sheds an expression upon her face which 
changes it completely. Her countenance is like a land- 
scape, — dull in winter, glorious in summer ; but the 
world will always see it in winter. When she talks 
with friends on some literary or philosophical topic, or 
on certain religious questions which interest her, she is 
roused into appearing suddenly an unknown woman of 
marvellous beauty." 

This declaration, which was caused by observing the 
phenomenon that formerly jnade Veronique so beautiful 
on her return from the holy table, made a great noise 



The Village Rector. 59 

in Limoges, where for a time the 3'Oung deputy, to 
whom the place of the procureur- general was said to 
be promised, played a leading part. In all provincial 
towns a man who rises a trifle above others becomes, 
for a period more or less protracted, the object of a 
liking which resembles enthusiasm, and which usually 
deceives the object of this ephemeral worship. It is to 
this social caprice that we owe so many local geniuses, 
soon ignored and their false reputations mortified. The 
men whom women make the fashion in this wa}' are 
oftener strangers than compatriots. 

In this particular case the admirers of the Vicomte 
de Grandville were not mistaken ; he was in truth a 
superior man. Madame Graslin was the only woman 
he found in Limoges with whom he could exchange 
ideas and keep up a varied conversation. A few 
months after his arrival, attracted by the increasing 
charm of Veronique's manners and conversation, he 
proposed to the Abbe Dutheil, and a few other of the 
remarkable men in Limoges, to meet in the evenings at 
Madame Graslin's house and play whist. At this time 
Madame Graslin was at home five evenings in the week 
to visitors, reserving two free days, as she said, for 
herself. 

When Madame Graslin had thus gathered about her 
the distinguished men we have mentioned, others were 
not sorry to give themselves the reputation of cleverness 
by seeking to join the same societ}'. Veronique also 
received three or fonr of the distinguished officers of 
the garrison and staflf; but the freedom of mind dis- 
played by her guests, and the tacit discretion enjoined 
by the manners of the best society, made her extremely 



60 The Village Rector, 

cautious as to the admission of those who now vied 
with each other to obtain her invitations. 

The other women in this provincial society were not 
without jealousy in seeing Madame Graslin surrounded 
b}' the most agrejable and distinguished men in the 
town ; but by this time Veronique's social power was 
all the stronger because it was exclusive ; she accepted 
the intimacy of four or five women only, and these were 
strangers in Limoges who had come from Paris with 
their husbands, and who held in horror the petty gossip 
of provincial life. If anj' one outside of this little clique 
of superior persons came in to make a visit, the con- 
versation immediately changed, and the habitues of the 
house tallied commonplace. 

The hdtel Graslin thus became an oasis where intel- 
ligent minds found relaxation and relief from the dul- 
ness of provincial life ; where persons connected with 
the government could express themselves freel}' on 
politics without fear of having their words taken down 
and repeated ; where all could satirize that which pro- 
voked satire, and where each individual abandoned his 
professional trammels and yielded himself up to his 
natural self. 

So, after being the most obscure young girl in all 
Limoges, considered ugh', dull, and vacant, Madame 
Grashu, at the beginning of the year 1828, was regarded 
as one of the leading personages in the town, and the 
most noted woman in society. No one went to see her 
in the mornings, for all knew her habits of benevolence 
and the regularity of her religious observances. She 
always went to early mass so as not to delay her hus- 
band's breakfast, for which, however, there was no 



The Village Rector. 61 

fixed hour, though she never failed to be present and 
to serve it herself. Graslin had trained his wife to 
this little ceremony. He continued to praise her on all 
occasions ; he thought her perfect ; she never asked 
him for anj'thing ; he could pile up louis upon louis, 
and spread his investments over a wide field of enter- 
prise through his relations with the Brezacs ; he sailed 
witli a fair wind and well freighted over the ocean of 
commerce, — his intense business interest keeping him 
in the still, thougli half-intoxicated, frenzy of gamblers 
watching events on the green table of speculation. 

During this happy period, and until the beginning of 
the year 1829, Madame Graslin attained, in the e3es 
of her friends, to a degree of beauty tliat was really 
extraordinary, the reasons of which they w^ere unable 
to explain. Tlie blue of the iris expanded like a flower, 
diminishing the dark circle of the pupil, and seeming to 
float in a liquid and languishing light that was full of 
love. Her forehead, illumined by thoughts and memo- 
ries of happiness, was seen to whiten like the zenith 
before the dawn, and its lines were purified by an 
inward fire. Her face lost those heated brown tones 
which betoken a disturbance of the liver, — that malady 
of vigorous constitutions, or of persons whose soul is 
distressed and whose aff*ections are thwarted. Her 
temples became adorably fresh and pure ; gleams of 
the celestial face of a Raff*aelle showed themselves 
now and then in hers, — a face hitherto obscured by 
the malady of grief, as the canvas of the great master 
is incrusted by time. Her hands seemed whiter ; her 
shoulders took on an exquisite fulness ; her graceful, 
animated movements gave to her supple figure its 
utmost charm. 



62 The Village Rector. 

The Limoges women accused her of being in love 
with Monsieur de Grandville, who certainly paid her 
assiduous attentions, to which Veronique opposed all 
the barriers of a conscientious resistance. The vis- 
count professed for her one of those respectful attach- 
ments which did not blind the habitual visitors of her 
salon. The priests and men of sense saw plainly that 
this affection, which was love on the part of the young 
man, did not go beyond the permissible line in Madame 
Graslin. Wear}^ at last of a resistance based on relig- 
ious principle, the Vicomte de Grandville consoled him- 
self (to the knowledge of his intimates) with other 
and easier friendships ; which did not, however, lessen 
his constant admiration and worship of the beautiful 
Madame Graslin, — such was the term by which she 
was designated in 1829. 

The most clear-sighted among those who surrounded 
her attributed the change which rendered Veronique 
increasingly charming to her friends to the secret de- 
light which all women, even the most religious, feel 
when they see themselves courted ; and to the satisfac- 
tion of living at last in a circle congenial to her mind, 
where the pleasure of exchanging ideas and the hap- 
piness of being surrounded b}' intelhgent and well- 
informed men and true friends, whose attachment deep- 
ened day by daj% had dispersed forever the weary 
dulness of her life. 

Perhaps, however, closer, more perceptive or scep- 
tical observers were needed than those who frequented 
the hotel Graslin, to detect the barbaric grandeur, the 
plebeian force of the People which lay deep-hidden in 
her soul. If sometimes her friends surprised her in a 



The Village Rector. 63 

torpor of meditation either gloomy or merel}' pensive, 
tliey knew she bore upon her heart the miseries of 
others, and had doubtless that morning been initiated 
in some fresh sorrow, or had penetrated to some haunt 
where vices terrify the soul with their candor. 

The viscount, now promoted to be procureur-general^ 
would occasional!}' blame her for certain unintelligent 
acts of charity b}' which, as he knew from his secret 
police-reports, she had given encouragement to criminal 
schemes. 

" If 3'ou ever want money for any of your paupers, 
let me be a sharer in your good deeds," said old 
Grossetete, talking Veronique's hand. 

" Ah ! " she replied with a sigh, " it is impossible to 
make everybody rich." 

At the beginning of this year an event occurred 
which was destined to change the whole interior life of 
this woman and to transform the splendid expression 
of her countenance into something far more interesting 
in the eyes of painters. 

Becoming uneasy about his health, Graslin, to his 
wife's despair, no longer desired to live on the ground- 
floor. He returned to the conjugal chamber and al- 
lowed himself to be nursed. The news soon spread 
throughout Limoges that Madame Graslin was preg- 
nant. Her sadness, mingled with jo}', struck the 
minds of her friends, who then for the first time per- 
ceived that in spite of her virtues she had been happy 
in the fact of living separate from her husband. Per- 
haps she had hoped for some better fate ever since the 
time when, as it was known, the attorney-general had 
declined to marry the richest heiress in the place, in 
order to keep his loyalty to her. 



64 The Village Rector, 

From this suggestion there grew up in the minds of 
the profound poh'ticians who played their whist at the 
hotel Graslin a belief that the viscount and the 3'oung 
wife had based certain hopes on the ill-health of the 
banker which were now frustrated. The^reat agita- 
tions which marked this period of Veronique's life, the 
anxieties which a first childbirth causes in every 
woman, and which, it is said, threatens special danger 
when she is past her first youth, made her friends more 
attentive than ever to her ; they vied with each other 
in showing her those little kindnesses which proved 
how warm and solid their affection really was. 



The Village Rector. 65 



TASCHERON. 

It was in this 3'ear that Limoges witnessed a ter- 
rible event and the singular drama of the Tascheron 
trial, in which the young Vicomte de Grandville dis- 
pla3'ed the talents which afterwards made him procu- 
reur general. 

An old man living in a lonely house in the suburb of 
Saint-Etienne was murdered. A large fruit-garden lay 
between the road and the house, which was also sepa- 
rated from the adjoining fields by a pleasure-garden, 
at the farther end of which were several old and dis- 
used greenhouses. In front of the house a rapid 
slope to the river bank gave a view of the Vienne. 
The courtyard, which also sloped downward, ended at 
a little wall, from which small columns rose at equal 
distances united b}' a railing, more, however, for or- 
nament than protection, for the bars of the railing were 
of painted wood. 

The old man, named Pingret, noted for his avarice, 
lived with a single woman-servant, a country -girl who 
did all the work of the house. He himself took care of 
his espaliers, trimmed his trees, gathered his fruit, and 
sent it to Limoges for sale, together with early vege- 
tables, in the raising of which he excelled. 



Q6 The Village Rector. 

The niece of this old man, and his sole heiress, mar- 
ried to a gentleman of small means living in Limoges, 
a Madame des Vanneaulx, had again and again nrged 
her uncle to hire a man to protect the house, pointing 
out to him that he would thus obtain the profits of cer- 
tain uncultivated ground where he now grew notliing 
but clover. But the old man steadil}" refused. More 
than once a discussion on the subject had cut into the 
whist-pla3'ing of Limoges. A few shrewd heads de- 
clared that the old miser buried his gold in tiiat clover- 
field. 

'' If I were Madame des Vanneaulx," said a wit, ''I 
should n't torment ni}^ uncle about it ; if somebody 
murders him, wh\', let him be murdered ! I sliould 
inherit the mone}'." 

Madame des Vanneaulx, however, wanted to keep 
her uncle, after the manner of tiie managers of the 
Italian Opera, who entreat their popular tenor to wrap 
up his throat, and give him their cloak if he happens to 
have forgotten his own. She had sent old Pingret a 
fine English mastiff, which Jeanne Malassis, the ser- 
vant-woman brouglit back the next day saying : — 

" Your uncle does n't want another mouth to feed." 

The result proved how well founded were the niece's 
fears. Pingret was murdered on a dark night, in the 
middle of his clover-field, where he may have been add- 
ing a few coins to a buried pot of gold. The servant- 
woman, awakened by the struggle, had the courage to 
go to the assistance of the old miser, and the murderer 
was under the necessit}' of killing her to suppress her 
testimon3\ This necessit}', which frequentl}' causes 
murderers to increase the number of their victims, is 
an evil produced by the fear of the death penalty. 



The Village Rector. 67 

This double murder was attended b\' curious cir- 
cumstances, which told as much for the prosecution as 
for the defence. After the neighbors had missed see- 
ing the little old Pingret and his maid for a whole 
morning and had gazed at his house through the 
wooden railings as they passed it, and seen that, con- 
trar}' to custom, the doors and windows were still 
closed, an excitement began in the Faubourg Saint- 
Etienne which presentl}' reached the rue de la Cloche, 
where Madame des Vanneaulx resided. 

The niece was always in expectation of some such 
catastrophe, and she at once notified the officers of the 
law, who went to the house and broke in the gate. 
They soon discovered in a clover patch four holes, and 
near two of these holes lay the fragments of earthen- 
ware pots, whicli had doubtless been full of gold the 
night before. In the other two holes, scarcely covered 
up, were the bodies of old Pingret and Jeanne Malas- 
sis, who had been buried with their clothes on. The 
poor girl had run to her master's assistance in her 
niglit-gown, with bare feet. 

While the procureur-du-roi^ the commissary of po- 
lice, and the examining magistrate were gathering all 
particulars for the basis of their action, the luckless 
des Vanneaulx picked up the broken pots and calcu- 
lated from their capacity' the sum lost. The magistrates 
admitted the correctness of their calculations and en- 
tered the sum stolen on their records as, in all proba- 
bilit}', a thousand gold coins to each pot. But were 
these coins fort3'-eight or forty, twent3'-four or twenty 
francs in value ? All expectant heirs in Limoges sym- 
pathized with the des Vanneaulx. The Limousin im- 



68 The Village Rector. 

agination was greatly stirred b}' the spectacle of the 
broken pots. As for old Pingret, who often sold vege- 
tables himself in the market, lived on bread and onions, 
never spent more than three hundred francs a 3'ear, 
obliged and disobliged no one, and had never done one 
atom of good in the suburb of Saint-Etienne where he 
lived, his death did not excite the slightest regret. 
Poor Jeanne Malassis' heroism, which the old miser, 
had she saved him, would certainly not have rewarded, 
was thought rash ; the number of souls who admired 
it was small in comparison with those who said : " For 
my part, I should have stayed in my bed." 

The police found neither pen nor ink wherewith to 
write their report in the bare, dilapidated, cold, and 
dismal house. Observing persons and the heir might 
then have noticed a curious inconsistency which may 
be seen in certain misers. The dread the little old 
man had of the slightest outlay showed itself in the 
non-repaired roof which opened its sides to the light 
and the rain and snow ; in the cracks of the walls ; in 
the rotten doors ready to fall at the slightest shock ; in 
the windows, where the broken glass was replaced by 
paper not even oiled. All the windows were without 
curtains, the fireplaces without mirrors or andirons ; 
the hearth was garnished with one log of wood and 
a few little sticks almost caked with the soot which 
had fallen down the chimney. There were two rickety 
chairs, two thin couches, a few cracked pots and 
mended plates, a one-armed armchair, a dilapidated bed, 
the curtains of which time had embroidered with a 
bold hand, a worm-eaten secretary where the miser 
kept his seeds, a pile of linen thickened by many 



The Village Rector, 69 

darns, and a heap of ragged garments, which existed 
only by the will of their master ; he being dead they 
dropped into shreds, powder, chemical dissolution, in 
fact I know not into what form of utter ruin, as soon 
as the heir or the officers of the law laid rough hands 
upon them ; thej^ disappeared as if afraid of being 
publicly sold. 

The population at Limoges was much concerned for 
these worth}' des Vanneaulx, who had two children ; 
and yet, no sooner did the law lay hands upon the 
reputed doer of the crime than the guilty personage 
absorbed attention, became a hero, and the des Van- 
neaulx were relegated into a corner of the picture. 

Toward the end of March Madame Graslin began 
to feel some of those pains which precede a first con- 
finement and cannot be concealed. The inquiry as to 
the murder was then going on, but the murderer had 
not as yet been arrested. 

Veronique now received her friends in her bedroom, 
where the}' played whist. For several days past Ma- 
dame Graslin had not left the house, and she seemed 
to be tormented b}' several of those caprices attributed 
to women in her condition. Her mother came to see 
her almost ever}' day, and the two women remained 
for hours in consultation. 

It was nine o'clock, and the card tables were still 
without plaN'ers, for every one was talking of the mur- 
der. Monsieur de Grandville entered the room. 

" We have arrested the murderer of old Pingret," 
he said, joyfull}'. 

" Who is it? " was asked on all sides. 

" A porcelain workman ; a man whose character has 



70 The Village Rector. 

always been excellent, and who was in a fair w^ay to 
make his fortune. He worked in your husband's old 
factory," added Monsieur de Grandville, turning to 
Madame Graslin. 

" AYhat is his name ? " asked Veronique, in a weak 
voice. 

" Jean-Frangois Tascheron." 

" Unhapp3^ man!" she answered. "Yes, I have 
often seen him ; my poor father recommended him to 
my care as some one to be looked after." 

"He left the factory before Sauviat's death," said 
her mother, " and went to that of Messrs. Philippart, 
who offered him higher wages — But m}' daughter is 
scarce!}' well enough for this exciting conversation," 
she added, calling attention to Madame Graslin, whose 
face was as white as her sheets. 

After that evening Mere Sauviat gave up her own 
home, and came, in spite of her sixty-six years, to sta}^ 
with her daughter and nurse her through her confine- 
ment. She never left the room ; Madame Graslin's 
friends found the old woman always at the bed's head 
bus}^ with her eternal knitting, — brooding over Vero- 
nique as she did when the girl had the small-pox, an- 
swering questions for her and often refusing to admit 
visitors. The maternal and filial love of mother and 
daughter was so well known in Limoges that these 
actions of Madame Sauviat caused no comment. 

A few days later, when the viscount, thinking to 
amuse the invalid, began to relate details which the 
whole town were eagerly demanding about Jean- 
FranQois Tascheron, Madame Sauviat again stopped 
him hastil}^ declaring that he would give her daughter 



The Village Rector. 71 

bad dreams. Veroniq^ue, however, looking fixedly at 
Monsieur de Grandville, asked him to finish what he 
was saying. Thus her friends, and she herself, were 
the first to know the results of the preliminary inquir}^ 
which would soon be made public. The following is 
a brief epitome of the facts on which the indictment 
found against the prisoner was based. 

Jean-FranQois Tascheron was the son of a small 
farmer burdened with a famil}-, who lived in the vil- 
lage of Montegnac. 

Twent}' 3'ears before this crime, which was famous 
throughout the Limousin, the canton of Montegnac was 
known for its evil ways. The saying was proverbial 
in Limoges that out of one hundred criminals in the 
department fifty belonged to the arrondissement of 
Montegnac. Since 1816, however, two years after a 
priest named Bonnet was sent there as rector, it had 
lost its bad reputation, and the inhabitants no longer 
sent their heav}^ contingent to the assizes. Tliis change 
was widely attributed to the influence acquired by the 
rector, Monsieur Bonnet, over a community which had 
lately been a hotbed for evil-minded persons whose 
actions dishonored the whole region. The crime of 
Jean-Frangois Tascheron brought back upon Montegnac 
its former ill-savor. 

By a curious trick of chance, the Tascherons were 
almost the only family in this village communit}' who 
had retained through its evil period the old rigid morals 
and religious habits which are nbticed b}^ the observers 
of to- da}" to be rapidly disappearing throughout the 
countr}" districts. This family had therefore formed 
a point of reliance to the rector, who naturallj^ bore it 



72 The Village Rector. 

on his heart. The Tascherons, remarkable for their 
uprightness, their union, their love of work, had never 
given other than good examples to Jean-FranQois. In- 
duced b}' the praiseworthy ambition of earning his 
living by a trade, the lad had left his native village, 
to the regret of his parents and friends, who greatly 
loved him, and had come to Limoges. During his two 
years' apprenticeship in a porcelain factory, his conduct 
was worthy of all praise ; no apparent , ill-conduct had 
led up to tiie horrible crime which was now to end his 
life. On the contrary, Jean-Francois Tascheron had 
given the time which other workmen were in the habit 
of spending in wine-shops and debauchery to study and 
self-improvement. 

The most searching and minute inquiry on the part 
of the provincial authorities (who have plent}- of time 
on their hands) failed to throw any light on the secrets 
of the young man's life. When the mistress of tlie 
humble lodging-house in which he lived was questioned 
she said she had never had a lodger whose jnoral con- 
duct was as blameless. He was naturally amiable and 
gentle, and sometimes ga}'. About a year before the 
commission of the crime, his habits changed : he slept 
away from home several times a month and often for 
consecutive nights ; but where, she did not know, though 
she thought, from the state of his shoes when he re- 
turned, that he must have been into the country. She 
noticed that although he appeared to have left the town, 
he never wore his heavy boots, but alwa3's a pair of 
light shoes. He shaved before starting, and put on 
clean linen. Hearing this, the police turned their atten- 
tion to houses of ill-fame and questionable resorts ; but 



The Village Rector. 73 

Jean-FranQois Tascheron was found to be wholly un- 
known among them. The authorities then made a 
search through the working-girl and grisette class ; 
but none of these women had had relations with the 
accused. 

A crime without a motive is unheard of, especially 
in a young man whose desire for education and whose 
laudable ambition gave him higher ideas and a superior 
judgment to that of other workmen. The police and 
the examining justice, finding themselves balked in the 
above directions, attributed the murder to a passion for 
gambling ; but after the most searching inquiries it was 
proved that Tascheron never played cards. 

At first Jean-FranQois intrenched himself in a system 
of flat denials, which, of course, in presence of a jury, 
would fall before proof; they seemed to show the col- 
lusion of some person either well versed in law or gifted 
with an intelligent mind. The following are the chief 
proofs the prosecution were prepared to present, and 
they are, as is frequently the case in trials for murder, 
both important and trifling ; to wit : — 

The absence of Tascheron during the night of the 
crime, and his refusal to saj^ where he was, for the 
accused did not offer to set up an alibi; a fragment 
of his blouse, torn off by the servant-woman in the 
struggle, found close b}' on a tree to which the wind 
had carried it ; his presence that evening near Pingret's 
house, which was noticed by passers and by persons 
living in the neighborhood, though it might not have 
been remembered unless for the crime ; a false key 
made by Tascheron which fitted the door opening to 
the fields ; this key was found carefully buried two feet 



74 The Village Rector. 

below one of the miser's holes, where Monsieur des 
Vanneaulx, digging deep to make sure there was not 
another layer of treasure-pots, chanced to find it ; the 
police, after many researches, found the different per- 
sons who had furnished Tascheron with the iron, loaned 
him the vice, and given him the file, with which the 
key was presumab]}^ made. 

The key was the first real clue. It put the police on 
the track of Tascheron, whom they arrested on the 
frontiers of the department, in a wood where he was 
awaiting the passage of a diligence. An hour later he 
would have started for America. 

Besides all this, and in spite of the care with which 
certain footmarks in the ploughed field and on the 
mud of the road had been effaced and covered up, the 
searchers had found in several places the imprint of 
shoes, which they carefully measured and described, 
and which were afterwards found to correspond with 
the soles of Tascheron's shoes taken from his lodgings. 
This fatal proof confirmed the statement of the land- 
lad}^ The authorities now attributed the crime to some 
foreign influence, and not to the man's personal inten- 
tion ; they believed he had accomplices, basing this 
idea on the impossibilit}^ of one man's carrying away 
the buried mone}- ; for however strong he might be, no 
man could carry twent3'-five thousand francs in gold to 
any distance. If each pot contained, as it was sup- 
posed to have done, about that sum, this would have 
required four trips to and from the clover-patch. Now, 
a singular circumstance went far to prove the hour at 
which the crime was committed. In the terror Jeanne 
Malassis must have felt on hearing her master's cries. 



The Village Rector. 75 

she knocked over, as she rose, the table at her bedside, 
on which la}' her watch, the onl}^ present the naiser had 
given her in five years. The mainspring was broken 
by the shock, and the hands had stopped at two in the 
morning. By the middle of March (the date of the 
murder) daylight dawns between five and six o'clock. 
To whatever distance the gold had been carried, 
Tascheron could not possibl}', under any apparent 
hypothesis, have transported it alone. 

The care with which some of the footsteps were 
eff"aced, while others, to which Tascheron's shoes fitted, 
remained, certainlj^ pointed to some mysterious assis- 
tant. Forced into hypotheses, the authorities once 
more attributed the crime to a desperate passion ; not 
finding any trace of the object of such a passion in 
the lower classes, they began to look higher. Perhaps 
some bourgeoise, sure of the discretion of a man who 
had the face and bearing of a hero, had been drawn 
into a romance the outcome of which was crime. 

This supposition was to some extent justified by the 
facts of the murder. The old man had been killed by 
blows with a spade ; evidently, therefore, the murder 
was sudden, unpremeditated, fortuitous. The lovers 
might have planned the robbery, but not the murder. 
The lover and the miser, Tascheron and Pingret, each 
under the influence of his master passion, must have 
met by the buried hoards, both drawn thither b}^ the 
gleaming of gold on the utter darkness of that fatal 
night. 

In order to obtain, if possible, some light on this 
latter supposition, the authorities arrested and kept in 
solitary confinement a sister of Jean-Franqois, to whom 



76 The Village Rector. 

he was much attached, hoping to obtain through her 
some clue to the m3'stery of her brother's private hfe. 
Denise Tascheron took refuge in total denial of any 
knowledge whatever, which gave rise to a suspicion 
that she did know something of the causes of the 
crime, although in fact she knew nothing. 

The accused himself showed points of character that 
were rare among the peasantry. He baffled the clever- 
est police-spies employed against him, without knowing 
their real character. To the leading minds of the mag- 
istracy his guilt seemed caused by the influence of 
passion, and not b}^ necessity or greed, as in the case 
of ordinary murderers, who usually pass through stages 
of crime and punishment before they commit the su- 
preme deed. Active and careful search was made in 
following up this idea ; but the uniform discretion of 
the prisoner gave no clue whatever to his prosecutoi's. 
The plausible theory of his attachment to a woman of 
the upper classes having once been admitted, Jean- 
Francois was subjected to the most insidious examina- 
tion upon it; but his caution triumphed over all the 
moral tortures the examining judge applied to him. 
When, making a final effort, that official told him that 
the person for whom he had committed the crime was 
discovered and arrested, his face did not change, and 
he replied ironically : — 

"I should like very much to see him." 
When the public were informed of these circum- 
stances, man}^ persons adopted the suspicions of the 
magistrates, which seemed to be confirmed by Tasche- 
ron's savage obstinacy in giving no account of himself. 
Increased interest was felt in a young man who was now 



The Village Rector, 77 

a problem. It is easy to see how these elements kept 
public curiosity on the qui vive, and with what eager 
interest the trial would be followed. But in spite of 
ever}' effort on the part of the police, the prosecution 
stopped short on the threshold of hypothesis ; it did 
not venture to go farther into the mystery where all 
was obscurity and danger. In certain judicial cases 
half-certainties are not sufficient for the judges to pro- 
ceed upon. Nevertheless the case was 'ordered for 
trial, In hopes that the truth would come to the surface 
when the case was brought into court, an ordeal under 
which many criminals contradict themselves. 

Monsieur Graslin was one of the jury ; so that either 
through her husband or through Monsieur de Grand- 
ville, the public prosecutor, Veronique knew all the 
details of the criminal trial which, for a fortnight, kept 
the department, and we may say all France, in a state 
of excitement. The attitude maintained by the accused 
seemed to justify the theory of the prosecution. More 
than once when the court opened, his eyes turned upon 
the brilliant assemblage of women who came to find 
emotions in a real drama, as though he sought for some 
one. Each time that the man's glance, clear, but im- 
penetrable, swept along those elegant ranks, a move- 
ment was perceptible, a sort of shock, as though each 
woman feared she might appear his accomplice under 
the inquisitorial eyes of judge and prosecutor. 

The hitherto useless efforts of the prosecution were 
now made public, also the precautions taken b}' the 
criminal to insure the success of his crime. It was 
shown that Jean -Francois Tascheron had obtained a 
passport for North America some months before the 



78 The Village Rector, 

crime was committed. Thus the plan of leaving France 
was fully formed ; the object of his passion must there- 
fore be a married woman ; for he would have no reason 
to flee the country with a young girl. Possibl}^ the 
crime had this one object in view, namely, to obtain 
sufficient means to support this unknown woman in 
comfort. 

The prosecution had found no passport issued to a 
woman for North America. In case she had obtained 
one in Paris, the registers of that city were searched, 
also those of the towns contiguous to Limoges, but 
without result. All the shrewdest minds in the com- 
munity followed the case with deep attention. While 
the more virtuous dames of the department attributed 
the wearing of pumps on a muddy road (an inexplicable 
circumstance in the ordinary lives of such shoes) to 
the necessity of noiselessly watching old Pingret, the 
men pointed out that pumps were very useful in silently 
passing through a house — up stairways and along cor- 
ridors — without discover}^ 

So Jean-FranQois Tascheron and his mistress (b}^ 
this time she was young, beautiful, romantic, for ever}^ 
one made a portrait of her) had evidently intended to 
escape with only one passport, to which they would 
forge the additional words, "and wife." The card 
tables were deserted at night in the various social 
salons, and malicious tongues discussed what women 
were known in March, 1829, to have gone to Paris, and 
what others could be making, openly or secretly, prepa- 
rations for a journej'. Limoges might be said to be 
enjoying its Fualdes trial, with an unknown and m3'ste- 
rious Madame Manson for an additional excitement. 



The Village Rector. 79 

Never was any provincial town so stirred to its depths as 
Limoges after each day's session. Nothing was talked 
of but the trial, all the incidents of which increased 
the interest felt for the accused, whose able answers, 
learnedly taken up, turned and twisted and commented 
upon, gave rise to ample discussions. When one of 
the jurors asked Tascheron why he had taken a pass- 
port for America, the man rephed that he had intended 
to establish a porcelain manufactory^ in that country. 
Thus, without committing himself to any line of defence, 
he covered his accomplice, leaving it to be supposed 
that the crime was committed, if at all, to obtain funds 
for this business venture. 

In the midst of such excitement it was impossible 
for Veronique's friends to refrain from discussing in 
her presence the progress of the case and the reticence 
of the criminal. Her health was extremely feeble ; but 
the doctor having advised her going out into the fresh 
air, she had on one occasion taken her mother's arm 
and walked as far as Madame Sauviat's house in the 
countr}', where she rested. On her return she endeav- 
ored to keep about until her husband came to his din- 
ner, which she alwaj's served to him herself. On this 
occasion Grashn, being detained in the court-room, did 
not come in till eight o'clock. She went into the dining- 
room as usual, and was present at a discussion which 
took place among a number of her friends who had 
assembled there. 

*' If my poor father were still living," she remarked 
to them, " we should know more about the matter ; 
possibly this man might never have become a criminal. 
I think you have all taken a singular idea about the 



80 The Village Rector, 

matter. You insist that love is at the bottom of the 
crime, and I agree with you there ; but why do you 
think this unknown person is a married woman ? He 
may have loved some young girl whose father and 
mother would not let her many him." 

"A young girl could, sooner or later, have married 
him legitimately," replied Monsieur Grandville. "Tas- 
cheron has no lack of patience : he had time to make 
sufficient means to support her while awaiting the time 
when all girls are at liberty to marr^^ against the 
wishes of their parents ; he need not have committed 
a crime to obtain her." 

"I did not know that a girl could marry in that 
way," said Madame Graslin ; '' but how is it that in a 
town like this, where all things are known, and where 
everybod}^ sees everything that happens to his neighbor, 
not the slightest clue to this woman has been obtained ? 
In order to love, persons must see each other and con- 
sequently be seen. What do you really think, you 
magistrates ? " she added, plunging a fixed look into 
the eyes of the procureur- general. 

'' We think that the woman belongs to the bourgeois 
or the commercial class." 

'-'- 1 don't agree with you,'' said Madame Graslin. 
"A woman of that class does not have elevated sen- 
timents." 

This reply drew all eyes on Veronique, and the 
whole company waited for an explanation of so para- 
doxical a speech. 

'' During the hours I lie awake at night I have not 
been able to keep my mind from dwelling on this m3's- 
terious affair," she said slowly, " and I think I have 



The Village Rector. 81 

fathomed Tascheron's motive. I believe the person he 
loves is a young girl, because a married woman has 
interests, if not feelings, which partly fill her heart 
and prevent her from yielding so completel}' to a great 
passion as to leave her home. There is such a thing 
as a love proceeding from passion which is half mater- 
nal, and to me it is evident that this man was loved 
bj^ a woman who wished to be his prop, his Providence. 
She must have put into her passion something of tlie 
genius that inspires the work of artists and poets, the 
creative force which exists in woman under another 
form ; for it is her mission to create men, not things. 
Our worlis are our children ; our children are the pic- 
tures, books, and statues of our lives. Are we not 
artists in their earliest education ? I say that this un- 
known woman, if slie is not a 3'ounggirl, has never been 
a mother but is filled with the maternal instinct ; she 
has loved this man to form bim, to develop him. It 
needs a feminine element in you men of law to detect 
these shades of motive, which too often escape you. 
If I had been your deput}'," she said, looking straight at 
the procureur-general^ "I should have found the guilty 
woman, if indeed there is any guilt about it. I agree 
with the Abbe Dutheil that these lovers meant to fly to 
America with the money of old Pingret. The theft led 
to the murder by the fatal logic which the punishment 
of death inspires. And so," she added with an appeal- 
ing look at Monsieur de Grand ville, "I think it would 
be merciful in you to abandon the theory of premedita- 
tion, for in so doing you would save the man's life. He 
is evidently a fine man in spite of his crime ; he might, 
perhaps, repair that crime by a great repentance if you 



82 The Village Rector. 

gave him time. The works of repentance ought to 
count for something in the judgment of the law. In 
these days is there nothing better for a human being to 
do than to give his hfe, or build, as in former times, a 
cathedral of Milan, to expiate his crimes ? " 

" Your ideas are noble, madame," said Monsieur 
de Grandville, " but, premeditation apart, Tascheron 
would still be liable to the penalty of death on account 
of the other serious and proved circumstances attend- 
ing the crime, — such as forcible entrance and burglary 
at night." 

" Then you think that he will certainly be found 
guilty ? " she said, lowering her eyelids. 

" I am certain of it," he said ; " the prosecution has 
a strong case." 

A shght tremor rustled Madame Graslin's dress. 

" I feel cold," she said. Taking her mother's arm 
she went to bed. 

" She seemed quite herself this evening," said her 
friends. 

The next da}' Veronique was much worse and kept 
her bed. When her physician expressed surprise at 
her condition she said, smiling : — 

" I told you that that walk would do me no good." 

Ever since the opening of the trial Tascheron's de- 
meanor had been equally devoid of hypocrisy or bra- 
vado. Veronique's physician, intending to divert liis 
patient's mind, tried to explain this demeanor, which 
the man's defenders were making the most of. The 
prisoner was misled, said the doctor, b}' the talents of 
his lawyer, and was sure of acquittal ; at times his 
face expressed a hope that was greater than that of 



The Village Rector. 83 

merely escaping death. The antecedents of the man 
(who was onl}^ twenty-three years old) were so at 
variance with the crime now charged to him that his 
legal defenders claimed his present bearing to be a 
proof of innocence ; besides, the overwhelming circum- 
stantial proofs of the theory of the prosecution were 
made to appear so weak bj' his advocate that the man 
was buoyed up by the lawyer's arguments. To save 
his client's life the lawyer made the most of the evident 
want of premeditation ; hypothetically he admitted the 
premeditation of the robbery but not of the murders, 
which were evidently (no matter who was the guilty 
party) the result of two unexpected struggles. Suc- 
cess, the doctor said, was really as doubtful for one 
side as for the other. 

After this visit of her physician Veronique received 
that of the procureur -general^ who was in the habit of 
coming in every morning on his way to the court-room. 

" I have read the arguments of yesterday," she said 
to him, *' and to-da}^ as I suppose, the evidence for 
the defence begins. I am so interested in that man 
that I should lilce to have him saved. Could n't 3'ou 
for once in your life forego a triumph ? Let his lawyer 
beat you. Come, make me a present of the man's 
life, and perhaps 3'Ou shall have mine some da}^ The 
able presentation of the defence by Tascheron's lawyer 
reallj^ raises a strong doubt, and — " 

" Wh}', you are quite agitated," said the viscount 
somewhat surprised. 

"Do you know why ?" she answered. "My hus- 
band has just remarked a most horrible coincidence, 
which is really enough in the present state of my 



84 The Village Rector. 

nerves, to cause my death. If 3-011 condemn this man 
to death it will be on the very day when I shall give 
birth to my child." 

*'Bat I. can't change the laws," said the lawyer. 

"Ah! you don't know how to love," she retorted, 
closing her eyes ; then she turned her head on the 
pillow and made him an imperative sign to leave the 
room. 

Monsieur Graslin pleaded strongly but in vain with 
his fellow-jurymen for acquittal, giving a reason which 
some of them adopted ; a reason suggested by his 
wife : — 

" If we do not condemn this man to death, but allow 
him to live, the des Vanneaulx will in the end recover 
their propert}^" 

This weight}" argument made a division of the jury, 
into five for condemnation against seven for acquittal, 
which necessitated an appeal to the court ; but the 
judge sided with the minority. According to the legal 
system of that day this action led to a verdict of guilty. 
When sentence was passed upon him Tascheron flew 
into a fury which was natural enough in a man full of 
life and strength, but which the court and jur}^ and 
lawyers and spectators had rarely witnessed in persons 
who were thought to be unjustly condemned. 



The Village Rector, 85 



VI. 

DISCUSSIONS AND CHRISTIAN SOLICITUDES. 

In spite of the verdict, the drama of this crime did 
not seem over so far as the community was concerned. 
So complicated a case gave rise, as usually happens 
under such circumstances, to two sets of diametrically 
opposite opinions as to the guilt of the hero, whom 
some declared to be an innocent and ill-used victim, 
and others the worst of criminals. 

The liberals held to Tascheron's innocence, less from 
conviction than for the satisfaction of opposing the 
government. 

" What an outrage," they said, " to condemn a man 
because his footprint is the size of another man's foot- 
print ; or because he will not tell where he spent the 
night, as if all young men would not rather die than 
compromise a woman. They prove he borrowed tools 
and bought iron, but have they proved he made that 
key ? They find a bit of blue linen hanging to the 
branch of a tree, possibl}' put there by old Pingret 
himself to scare the crows, though it happens to match 
a tear in Tascheron's blouse. Is a man's life to depend 
on such things as these? Jean-FranQois denies every- 
thing, and the prosecution has not produced a single 
witness who saw the crime or anything relating to it." 



86 The Village Rector. 

They talked over, enlarged upon, and paraphrased 
the arguments of the defence. " Old Pingret ! what was 
he ? — a cracked monej^-box ! " said the strong-minded. 
A few of the more determined progressists, denying 
the sacred laws of propert}', which the Saint-Simonians 
were alread}^ attacking under their abstract theories of 
political economy, went further. 

" Pere Pingret," they said, " was the real author of 
the crime. By hoarding his gold that man robbed the 
nation. What enterprises might have been made fruit- 
ful by his useless mone}^ ! He had barred the wa}" of 
industry, and was justly punished." 

They pitied the poor murdered servant-woman, but 
Denise, Tascheron's sister, who resisted the wiles of 
lawyers and did not give a single answer at the trial 
without long consideration of what she ought to sa}', 
excited the deepest interest. She became in their 
minds a figure to be compared (though in another 
sense) with Jeannie Deans, whose piet}', grace, mod- 
est}^ and beaut}' she possessed. 

FranQois Tascheron continued, therefore, to excite 
the curiosity of not only all the town but all the de- 
partment, and a few romantic women openl}^ testified 
their admiration for him. 

" If there is really in all this a love for some woman 
high above him," the\^ said, " then he is sureh^ no or- 
dinary man, and 3'ou will see that he will die well." 

The question, "Will he speak out, — will he not 
speak ? " gave rise to many a bet. 

Since the burst of rage with which Tascheron re- 
ceived his sentence, and which was so violent that it 
might have been fatal to persons about him in the 



The Village Rector, 87 

court-room if the gendarmes had not been there to 
master him, the condemned man threatened all who 
came near him with the fur}^ of a wild beast ; so that 
the jailers were obliged to put him into a strait-jacket, 
as much to protect his life as their own from the ef- 
fects of his anger. Prevented b}^ that controlling 
power from doing violence, Tascheron gave vent to his 
despair by convulsive jerks which horrified his guard- 
ians, and by words and looks which the middle-ages 
would have attributed to demoniacal possession. He 
was so .young that many women thought pitiful]}' of a 
life so full of passion about to be cut off forever. 
" The Last Da}^ of a Condemned Man,'' that mournful 
elegy, that useless plea against the penalt}^ of death 
(the mainstay of societjM), which had lately been pub- 
lished, as if expressly to meet this case, was the topic 
of all conversations. 

But, above all, in the mind of every one, stood that 
invisible unknown woman, her feet in blood, raised 
aloft by the trial as it were on a pedestal, — torn, no 
doubt, by horrible inward anguish and condemned to 
absolute silence within her home. Who was this Medea 
whom the public well-nigh admired, — the woman with 
that impenetrable brow, that white breast covering a 
heart of steel? Perhaps she was the sister or the 
cousin or the daughter or the wife of this one or of that 
one among them ! Alarm seemed to creep into the 
bosom of families. As Napoleon finelj' said, it is es- 
pecially in the domain of the imagination that the 
power of the Unknown is immeasurable. 

As for the hundred thousand francs stolen from 
Monsieur and Madame des Vanneaulx no efforts of 



88 The Village Rector. 

the police could find them ; and the obstinate silence 
of the criminal gave no clue. Monsieur de Grand ville 
tried the common means of holding out hopes of com- 
mutation of the sentence in case of confession ; but 
when he went to see the prisoner and suggest it the 
latter received him with such furious cries and epileptic 
contortions, such rage at being powerless to take him 
bj the throat, that he could do nothing. 

The law could onl}'- look to the influence of the 
Church at the last moment. The des Vanneaulx had 
frequently consulted with the Abbe Pascal, chaplain 
of the prison. This priest was not without the faculty 
of making prisoners listen to him, and he religiously 
braved Tascheron's violence, trying to get in a few 
words amid the storms of that powerful nature in con- 
vulsion. But this struggle of spiritual fatherhood 
against the hurricane of unchained passions, overcame 
the poor abbe completely. 

"The man has had his paradise here below," said 
the old man, in his gentle voice. 

Little Madame des Vanneaulx consulted her friends 
as to whether she ought to try a visit herself to the 
criminal. Monsieur des Vanneaulx talked of offering 
terms. In his anxiety to recover the money he actu- 
ally went to Monsieur de Grandville and asked for the 
pardon of his uncle's murderer if the latter would 
make restitution of the hundred thousand francs. The 
procicreur-general replied that the majesty of the crown 
did not stoop to such compromises. 

The des Vanneaulx then had recourse to the lawj'er 
who had defended Tascheron, and to him they offered 
ten per cent of whatever sum he could recover. This 



The Village Rector. 89 

lawj'er was the onty person before whom Tascheron 
was not violent. The heirs authorized him to offer the 
prisoner an additional ten per cent to be paid to his 
famil3^ In spite of all these inducements and his own 
eloquence, the law^'er could obtain nothing whatever 
from his client. The des Vanueaulx were furious ; they 
anathematized the unhapp}- man. 

"He is not only a murderer, but he has no sense of 
decency," cried Madame des Vanneaulx (ignorant of 
Fualdes' famous complaint), when she received word 
of the failure of the Abbe Pascal's efforts, and was told 
there was no hope of a reversal of the sentence by the 
court of appeals. 

" What good will our money do him in the place he 
is going to? " said her husband. " Murder can be con- 
ceived of, but useless theft is inconceivable. What 
da3's we live in, to be sure ! To think that people 
in good societ}' actually take an interest in such a 
wretch ! " 

*' He has no honor," said Madame des Vanneaulx. 

"But perhaps the restitution would compromise the 
woman he loves," said an old maid. 

" We would keep his secret," returned Monsieur des 
Vanneaulx. 

"Then j'ou would be compounding a felon j%" re- 
marked a lawyer. 

"Oh, the villain!" was Monsieur des Vanneaulx's 
usual conclusion. 

One of Madame Graslin's female friends related to 
her with much amusement these discussions of the des 
Vanneaulx. This lady, who was very intelligent, and 
one of those persons who form ideals and desire that 



90 The Village Rector. 

all things should attain perfection, regretted the vio- 
lence and savage temper of the condemned ; she would 
rather he had been cold and calm and dignified, she 
said. 

*'Do 3'ou not see," replied Veronique, "that he is 
thus avoiding their temptations and foiling their efforts ? 
He is making himself a wild beast for a purpose." 

"At any rate," said the lad}^, " he is not a well-bred 
man ; he is only a workman." 

"If he had been a well-bred man," said Madame 
Graslin, "he would soon have sacrificed that unknown 
woman." 

These events, discussed and turned and twisted in 
every salon, every household, commented on in a score 
of ways, stripped bare by the cleverest tongues in the 
community, gave, of course, a cruel interest to the exe- 
cution of the criminal, whose appeal was rejected after 
two months' delay by the upper court. What would 
probably be his demeanor in his last moments ? Would 
he speak out? Would he contradict himself? How would 
the bets be decided ? Who would go to see him exe- 
cuted, and who would not go, and how could it be done? 
The position of the localities, which in Limoges spares a 
criminal the anguish of a long distance to the scaff'old, 
lessens the number of spectators. The law courts which 
adjoin the prison stand at the corner of the rue du 
Palais and the rue du Pont-Herisson. The rue du 
Palais is continued in a straight line by the short 
rue de Monte-a-Regret, w4iich leads to the place des 
Arenes, where the executions take place, and which 
probabh" owes its name to that circumstance. There 
is therefore but little distance to go, few houses to 



The Village Rector. 91 

pass, and few windows to look from. No person in 
good societ}^ would be willing to mingle in the crowd 
which would fill the streets. 

But the expected execution was, to the great aston- 
ishment of the whole town, put off from daj' to daj^ for 
the following reason : — 

The repentance and resignation of great criminals on 
their way to death is one of the triumphs which the 
Church reserves for itself, — a triumph which seldom 
misses its effect on the popular mind. Repentance is 
so strong a proof of the power of religious ideas — 
taken apart from all Christian interest, though that, of 
course, is the chief object of the Church — that the 
clergy are alwa3's distressed b}^ a failure on such occa- 
sions. In July, 1829, such a failure was aggravated 
b}^ the spirit of party which envenomed ever}* detail in 
the life of the body politic. The liberal part3- rejoiced 
in the expectation that the priest-part3' (^ ^^^vva invented 
b}^ Montlosier, a royalist who went over to the consti- 
tutionals and was dragged by them far beyond his 
wishes), — that the priests would fail on so public an 
occasion before the eyes of the people. Parties en 
masse commit infamous actions which would cover a 
single man with shame and opprobrium ; therefore 
when one man alone stands in his guilt before the eyes 
of the masses, he becomes a Robespierre, a Jeffries, a 
Laubardemont, a species of expiatory altar on which 
all secret guilts hang their ex-votos. 

The authorities, sympathizing with the Church, de- 
layed the execution, parth' in the hope of gaining some 
conclusive information for themselves, and partly to 
allow religion an opportunity to prevail. 



92 The Village Rector. 

Nevertheless, their power was not unlimited, and the 
sentence must sooner or later be carried out. The 
same liberals who, out of mere opposition, had declared 
Tascheron innocent, and who had done their best to 
break down the verdict, now clamored because the 
sentence was not executed. When the opposition is 
consistent it invariably falls into such unreasonable- 
ness, because its object is not to have right on its own 
side, but to harass the authorities and put them in the 
wrong. 

Accordingly, about the beginning of August, the 
government officials felt their hand forced by that 
clamor, often so stupid, called "public opinion." The 
day for the execution was named. In this extremity 
the Abbe Dutheil took upon himself to propose to the 
bishop a last resource, the adoption of which caused 
the introduction into this judicial drama of a remark- 
able personage, who serves as bond between all the 
figures brought upon the scene of it, and who, by ways 
famihar to Providence, was destined to lead Madame 
Graslin along a path where her virtues were to shine 
with greater brilliancy as a noble benefactress and an 
angelic Christian woman. 

The episcopal palace at Limoges stands on a hill 
which slopes to the banks of the Vienne ; and its gar- 
dens, supported by strong walls topped with a balus- 
trade, descend to the river by terrace after terrace, 
according to the natural la}' of the land. The rise of 
this hill is such that the suburb of Saint-Etienne on the 
opposite bank seems to lie at the foot of the lower ter- 
race. From there, according to the direction in which 
a person walks, the Vienne can be seen either in a long 



The Village Rector. 93 

stretch or directly across it, in the midst of a fertile 
panorama. On the west, after the river leaves the em- 
bankment of the episcopal gardens, it turns toward 
the town in a gi'aceful curve which winds around the 
suburb of Saint-Martial. At a short distance be3'ond 
that suburb is a prett\' country house called Le Cluseau, 
the walls of which can be seen from the lower terrace 
of the bishop's palace, appearing, b}^ an effect of dis- 
tance, to blend with the steeples of the suburb. Oppo- 
site to Le Cluseau is the sloping island, covered with 
poplar and other trees, which Veronique in her girlish 
youth had named the lie de France. To the east the 
distance is closed b}' an amphitheatre of hills. 

The magic charm of the site and the rich simplicity 
of the building make this episcopal palace one of the 
most interesting objects in a town where the other edi- 
fices do not shine, either through choice of material or 
architecture. 

Long familiarized with the aspects which commend 
these gardens to all lovers of the picturesque, the Abbe 
Dutheil, who had induced the Abbe de Grancour to 
accompany him, descended from terrace to terrace, 
paying no attention to the rudd}^ colors, the orange 
tones, the violet tints, which the setting sun was casting 
on the old walls and balustrades of the gardens, on the 
river beneath them, and, in the distance, on the houses 
of the town. He was in search of the bishop, who was 
sitting on the lower terrace under a grape-vine arbor, 
where he often came to take his dessert and enjoy the 
charm of a tranquil evening. The poplars on the island 
seemed at this moment to divide the waters with the 
lengthening shadow of their yellowing heads, to which 



94 The Village Rector. 

the sun was lending the appearance of a golden foliage. 
The setting raj's, diversel_y reflected on masses of 
different greens, produced a magnificent harmony of 
melanchol}' tones. At the farther end of the valley a 
sheet of sparkling water ruffled by the breeze brought 
out the brown stretch of roofs in the suburb of Saint- 
Etienne. The steeples and roofs of Saint-Martial, 
bathed in light, showed through the tracer}^ of the 
grape-vine arbor. The soft murmur of the provincial 
town, half hidden by the bend of the river, the sweet- 
ness of the balmy air, all contributed to plunge the prel- 
ate into the condition of quietude prescribed by medical 
writers on digestion ; seemingly his e3'es were resting 
mechanicall}' on the right bank of the river, just where 
the long shadows of the island poplars touched it on 
the side toward Saint- Etienne, near the field where the 
twofold murder of old Pingret and his servant had been 
committed. But when his momentary felicity was inter- 
rupted by the arrival of the two grand vicars, and the 
difficulties they brought to him to solve, it was seen 
his eyes were filled with injpenetrable thoughts. The 
two priests attributed this abstraction to the fact of 
being bored, whereas, on the contrary, the prelate was 
absorbed in seeing in the sands of the Vienne the 
solution of the enigma then so anxiously sought for 
by the officers of justice, the des Vanneaulx, and the 
community at large. 

" Monseigneur," said the Abbe de Grancour, ap- 
proaching the bishop, " it is all useless; we shall 
certainly have the distress of seeing that unhappy 
Tascheron die an unbeliever. He vociferates the most 
horrible imprecations against religion ; he insults that 



The Village Rector. 96 

poor Abbe Pascal ; he spits upon the crucifix ; and 
means to die denying all, even hell." 

"He will shock the populace on the scaffold," said 
the Abbe Dutheil. " The great scandal and horror his 
conduct will excite ma}' hide our defeat and powerless- 
ness. In fact, as I have just been sa3-ing to Monsieur 
de Grancour, this very spectacle may drive other sin- 
ners into the arms of the Church." 

Troubled by these words, the bishop laid down upon 
a rustic wooden table the bunch of grapes at which he 
was picking, and wiped his fingers as he made a sign 
to the two grand vicars to be seated. 

"The Abb8 Pascal did not take a wise course," he 
said. 

"He is actually ill in his bed from the effects of his 
last scene with the man," said the Abbe de Grancour. 
"If it were not for that we might get him to explain 
more clearl}^ the difficulties that have defeated all the 
various efforts monseigneur ordered him to make." 

"The condemned man sings obscene songs at the 
highest pitch of his voice as soon as he sees any one of 
us, so as to drown every word we try to say to him," 
said a young priest who was sitting beside the bishop. 

This young man, who was gifted with a charming 
personality, had his I'ight arm resting on the table, while 
his white hand dropped negligently on the bunches of 
grapes, seeking the ripest, with the ease and assurance 
of an habitual guest or a favorite. He was both to the 
prelate, being the younger brother of Baron Eugene de 
Rastignac, to whom ties of family and also of affection 
had long bound the Bishop of Limoges. Aware of the 
want of fortune which devoted this young man to the 



96 The Village Rector. 

Church, the bishop took him as liis private secretary to 
give hiin time to wait for eventual preferment. The 
Abbe Gabriel bore a name which would lead him sooner 
or later to the highest dignities of the Church. 

''Did 3'ou go to see him, my son?" asked the 
bishop. 

"Yes, Monseigneur. As soon as I entered his cell 
the wretched man hurled the most disgusting epithets 
at you and at me. He behaved in such a manner that 
it was impossible for any priest to remain in his pres- 
ence. Might I give Monseigneur a word of advice? " 

"Let us listen to the words of wisdom which God 
Almighty sometimes puts into the mouths of children," 
said the bishop, smiling. 

" Well, you know he made Balaam's ass speak out,'* 
said the young abbe quickly. 

" But according to some commentators she did 
not know what she was saying," replied the bishop, 
laughinoj. 

The two grand vicars smiled. In the first place, the 
joke came from Monseigneur; next, it bore gently on the 
3'oung abbe, of whom the dignitaries and other ambi- 
tious priests grouped around the bishop were somewhat 
jealous. 

" My advice would be," resumed the .young man, " to 
ask Monsieur de Grandville to reprieve the man for the 
present. When Tascheron knows that he owes an ex- 
tension of his life to our intercession, he may pretend 
to listen to us, and if he listens — " 

'' He will persist in his present conduct, finding that 
it has won him that advantage," said the bishop, inter- 
rupting his favorite. "Messieurs," he said, after a 



The Village Rector. 97 

moniGnt's silence, " does the whole town know of these 
details?" 

'-'• There is not a household in which the}^ are not 
talked over," said the Abbs de Grancour. " The 
state in which our good Abbe Pascal was put b}' his 
last efforts is the present topic of conversation through- 
out the town." 

" AVhen is Tascheron to be executed?'* asked the 
bishop. 

"To-morrow, which is market-day;" replied Mon- 
sieur de Grancour. 

*' Messieurs," exclaimed the bishop, "religion must 
not be overset in this wa}^ Tlie more pubUc attention 
is attracted to the matter, the more I am determined to 
obtain a notable triumph. The Church is now in pres- 
ence of a great difficulty. We are called upon to do 
miracles in this manufacturing town, where the spirit 
of sedition against reHgious and monarchical principles 
^bas such deep root, where the system of inquiry born 
of protestantism (wliich in these days calls itself 
liberalism, prepared at any moment to take another 
name) extends into everything. Go at once to Mon- 
sieur de Grand ville ; he is wholly on our side, and say 
to him from me that we beg for a few days' reprieve. 
I will go myself and see that unhappy man." 

"You, Monseigneur ! " said the Abbs de Rastignac. 
" If you should fail, wouldn't that complicate matters? 
You ought not to go unless you are certain of success." 

"If Monseigneur will permit me to express my 
opinion," said the Abbe Dutheil, " I think I can sug- 
gest a means which may bring victory to religion in 
this sad case." 

7 



98 The Village Rector. 

The prelate answered with a sign of assent, so coldly 
given as to show how little credit he gave to his vicar- 
general. 

''If any one can influence that rebellious soul and 
bring it back to* God," continued the Abbe Dutheil, 
"it is the rector of the village in which he was born, 
Monsieur Bonnet." 

" One of 3'our proteges," remarked the bishop. 

" Monseigneur, Monsieur Bonnet is one of those men 
who protect themselves, both by their active virtues 
and their gospel work." 

This simple and modest reply was received in a 
silence which would have embarrassed any other man 
than the Abbe Dutheil. The three priests chose to 
see in it one of those hidden and unanswerable sar- 
casms which are characteristic of ecclesiastics, who con- 
trive to express what they want to sa}^ while observing 
the strictest decorum. In this case there was nothing 
of the kind. The Abbe Dutheil never thought of him- 
self and had no double meaning. 

"I have heard of Saint ArLstides for some time," 
said the bishop, smiling. " If I have left his light 
under a bushel I ma}^ have been unjust or prejudiced. 
Your liberals are always cr^'ing up Monsieur Bonnet as 
though he belonged to their part}'. I should like to 
judge for m^'self of this rural apostle. Go at once, 
messieurs, to Monsieur de Grandville, and ask for the 
reprieve ; I will await his answer before sending our 
dear Abbe Gabriel to Montegnac to fetch the saintly 
man. We will give his Blessedness a chance to do 
miracles.'* 

As he listened to these words of the prelate the Abbe 



The Village Rector. 99 

Dutheil reddened ; but he would not allow himself to 
take notice of the incivilities of the speech. The two 
grand vicars bowed in silence and withdrew, leaving 
the prelate alone with his secretar}-. 

" The secrets of the confession we are so anxious to 
obtain from the unhappj' man himself are no doubt 
buried there," said the bishop to his young abbe, 
pointing to the shadow of the poplars where it fell on 
a lonely house between the island and Saint-Etienne. 

"I have always thought so," replied Gabriel. "I 
am not a judge and I will not be an informer ; but if I 
were a magistrate I should have known the name of 
that woman who trembles at every sound, at every 
word, while forced to keep her features calm and 
serene under pain of going to the scaffold with her 
lover. She has nothing to fear, however. I have 
seen the man : he will carry the secret of that passionate 
love to the grave with him." 

"Ah! 3'ou sly fellow ! " said the bishop, twisting the 
ear of his secretar}' as he motioned to the space be- 
tween the island and the suburb of Saint-Etienne which 
the last gleams of the setting sun were illuminating, 
and on which the young abbe's e3'es were fixed. 
"That is the place where justice should have searched ; 
don't 3'ou think so ? " 

" I went to see the criminal to trj' the effect of my 
suspicions upon him," replied the young man. " I 
could not speak them out, for fear of compromising the 
woman for whose sake he dies." 

" Yes," said the bishop, " we will hold our tongues ; 
we are not the servants of human justice. One head is 
enough. Besides, sooner or later, the secret will be 
given to the Church.'* 



100 The Village Rector. 

The perspicacit}' which the habit of meditation gives 
to priests is far superior to that of lawyers or the 
police. By dint of contemplating from those terraces 
the scene of the crime, the prelate and his secretary 
had ended by perceiving circumstances unseen by 
others, in spite of all the investigations before and 
during the trial of the case. 

Monsieur de Grandville was playing whist at Ma- 
dame GrasKn's house ; it was necessary to await his 
return ; the bishop did not therefore receive his answer 
till nearly midnight. The Abbe Gabriel, to whom the 
prelate lent his carriage, started at two in the morn- 
ing for Monte'gnac. This region, which begins about 
twenty-five miles from the town, is situated in that part 
of the Limousin which lies at the base of the mountains 
of the Correze and follows the line of the Creuze. 
The young abbe left Limoges all heaving with expec- 
tation of the spectacle on the morrow, and still unaware 
that it would not take place. 



The Village Rector, IQJ , 



VII. 

MONTEGNAC. 

Priests and religious devotees have a tendency in 
the matter of payments to keep strictly to the letter of 
the law. Is this from poverty, or from the selfishness 
to which their isolation condemns them, thus encour- 
aging the natural incHnation of all men to avarice ; or 
is it from a conscientious parsimon}- which saves all it 
can for deeds of charity ? Each nature will give a 
different answer to this question. The difficulty of 
putting the hand into the pocket, sometimes concealed 
by a gracious kindliness, oftener unreservedly exhib- 
ited, is more particularly noticeable in travelling. 
Gabriel de Rastignac, the prettiest youth who had 
served before the altar for many a long day, gave only 
a thirty-sous jr)owr-^oire to the postilion. Consequently- 
he travelled slowh\ Postilions drive bishops and other 
clergy with the utmost care when they merel}' double 
the legal wage, and they run no risk of damaging the 
episcopal carriage for any such sum, fearing, they 
might say, to get themselves into trouble. The Abbe 
Gabriel, who was travelling alone for the first time, 
said, at each relay, in his dulcet voice i — 

'' Pray go faster, postilion." 

" We ph' the whip," replied an old postilion, " accord- 
ing to how the traveller plies his finger and thumb." 



102 The Village Rector. 

The young abbe flung himself back into a corner of 
the carriage unable to comprehend that answer. To 
occup}' the time he began to stud}- the country through 
which he was passing, making several mental excur- 
sions on foot among the hills through which the road 
winds between Bordeaux and Lyon. 

About fifteen miles from Limoges the landscape, 
losing tlie graceful flow of the Vienne through the un- 
dulating meadows of the Limousin, which in certain 
places remind one of Switzerland, especially about 
Saint-Leonard, takes on a harsh and melancholy as- 
pect. Here we come upon vast tracts of uncultivated 
land, sandy plains without herbage, hemmed in on the 
horizon by the summits of the Correze. These moun- 
tains have neither the abrupt rise of the Alpine ranges 
nor their splendid ridges ; neither the warm gorges 
and desolate peaks of the Apennines, nor the pictur- 
esque grandeur of the Pyrenees. Their undulating 
slopes, due to the action of water, prove the subsidence 
of some great natural catastrophe in which the floods 
retired slowly. This characteristic, common to most 
of the earth convulsions in France, has perhaps con- 
tributed, together with the climate, to the epitaph of 
douce bestowed by all Europe on our sunny France. 

Though this abrupt transition from the smiling land- 
scapes of the Limousin to the sterner aspects of La 
Marche and Auvergne may offer to the thinker and 
the poet, as he passes them on his wa}', an image of 
the Infinite, that terror of certain minds ; though it 
incites to re very the woman of the world, bored as she 
travels luxuriously in her carriage, — to the inhabitants 
of this region Nature is cruel, savage, and without 



Tke Village Rector. 103 

resources. The soil of these great gray plains is 
thankless. The vicinit}' of a capital town could alone 
reproduce the miracle worked in Brie during the last 
two centuries. Here, however, not onl}' is a town lack- 
ing, but also the great residences which sometimes 
give life to these hopeless deserts, where civilization 
languislies, where the agriculturist sees onlj' barren- 
ness, and the traveller finds not a single inn, nor that 
which, perchance, he is there to seek, — the picturesque. 

Great minds, however, do not dislike these barren 
wastes, necessar}' shadows in Nature's vast picture. 
Quite recently Fenimore Cooper has magnificently 
developed with his melancholy genius the poes}- of such 
solitudes, in his ''Prairie." These regions, unknown 
to botanists, covered b}" mineral refuse, round pebbles, 
and a sterile soil, cast defiance to civilization. France 
should adopt the onlj- solution to these diflficulties, as 
the British have done in Scotland, where patient, heroic 
agriculture has changed the arid wastes into fertile 
farms. Left in their savage and primitive state these 
uncultivated social and natural wastes give birth to 
discouragement, laziness, weakness resulting from poor 
food, and crime when needs become importunate. 

These few words present the past history of Mon- 
tegnac. What could be done in that great tract 
of barren land, neglected by the government, aban- 
doned by the nobility, useless to industr3% — what but 
war against society which disregarded its duty ? Con^ 
sequentl}', the inhabitants of Montegnac lived to a 
recent period, as the Highlanders , of Scotland lived 
in former times, by murder and rapine. From the 
mere aspect of this region a thinking man would under- 



104 The Village Rector. 

stand how, twenty years earlier, the inhabitants were at 
war with society. The great upland plain, flanked on 
one side by the valley of the Vienne, on the other by 
the charming valleys of La Marche, then by Auvergne, 
and bounded by the mountains of the Correze, is like 
(agriculture apart) the plateau of La Beauce, which 
separates the basin of the Loire from that of the Seine, 
also like those of Touraine and Berrj', and many other 
of the great upland plains which are cut like facets on 
the surface of France and are numerous enough to claim 
the attention of the wisest administrators. It is amaz- 
ing that while complaint is made of the influx of popu- 
lation to the social centres, the government does not 
emplo}^ the natural remedy of redeeming a region 
where, as statistics show, there are manj- million acres 
of waste land, certain parts of which, especially in 
Berry, have a soil from seven to eight feet deep. 

Many of these plains which might be covered by 
villages and made splendidly productive belong to 
obstinate communes, the authorities of which refuse to 
sell to those who would develop them, merely to keep 
the right to pasture cows upon them ! On all these 
useless, unproductive lands is written the word "In- 
capacity." All soils have some special fertilit}^ of 
their own. Arms and wills are readj' ; the thing lack- 
ing is a sense of duty combined with talent on the 
part of the government. In France, up to the present 
time, these upland plains have been sacrificed to the 
vallej'S ; the government has chosen to give all its 
help to those regions of country which can take care 
of themselves. 

Most of these luckless uplands are without water, 



The Village Beetor. 105 

the first essential for production. The mists which 
ought to fertilize the gray, dead soil b}- discharging 
oxygen upon it, sweep aci^oss it rapidly, driven by 
the wind, for want of trees which might arrest them 
and so obtain their nourishment. Merely to plant 
trees in such a region would be carrying a gospel to it. 
Separated from the nearest town or city by a distance 
as insurmountable to poor folk as though a desert la}' 
between them, with no means of reaching a market for 
their products (if they produced anything), close to an 
unexplored forest which supplied them with wood ^nd 
the uncertain livelihood of poaching, the inhabitants 
often suffered from hunger during the winters. The 
soil not being suitable for wheat, and the unfortunate 
peasantry having neither cattle of any kind nor farm- 
ing implements, they lived for the most part ou 
chestnuts. 

Any one who has studied zoological productions in a 
museum, or become personally aware of the indescrib- , 
able depression caused b}' the brown tones of all Euro- 
pean products, will understand how the constant sight 
of these gra}', arid plains must have affected the moral 
nature of the inhabitants, through the desolate sense of 
utter barrenness which they present to the eye. There, 
in those dismal regions, is neither coolness nor bright- 
ness, nor shade nor contrast, — none of all those ideas 
and spectacles of Nature which awaken and rejoice the 
heart ; even a stunted apple-tree would be hailed as a 
friend. 

A country road, recentl}' made, runs through the centre 
of this great plain, and meets the high-road. Upon it, 
at a distance of some fifteen miles from the high-road, 



106 The Village Rector. 

stands Montegnac, at the foot of a hill, as its name 
designates, the chief town of a canton or district in the 
Haute- Vienne. The hill is part of Montegnac, which 
thus unites a mountainous scenery with that of the 
plains. This district is a miniature Scotland, with its 
lowlands and highlands. Behind the hill, at the foot of 
which lies the village, rises, at a distance of about three 
miles, the first peak of the Correze mountains. The 
space between is covered by the great forest of Mon- 
tegnac, which clothes the hill, extends over the valley, 
and along the slopes of the mountain (though these are 
bare in some places), continuing as far as the highwa}^ 
to Aubusson, where it diminishes to a point near a 
steep embankment on that road. This embankment 
commands a ravine through which the post-road be- 
tween Bordeaux and L3'on passes. Travellers, either 
afoot or in carriages, were often stopped in the depths 
of this dangerous gorge by highwa3'men, whose deeds 
of violence went unpunished, for the site favored them ; 
they could instantly disappear, by ways known to them 
alone, into the inaccessible parts of the forest. 

Such a region was naturally out of reach of law. No 
one now travelled through it. Without circulation, 
neither commerce, industry, exchange of ideas, nor any 
of the means to wealth, can exist ; the material tri- 
umphs of civilization are always the result of the appli- 
cation of primitive ideas. Thought is invariably the 
point of departure and the goal of all social existence. 
The history of Montegnac is a proof of that axiom of 
social science. When at last the administration was 
able to concern itself with the needs and the material 
prosperity of this region of country, it cut down this 



The Village Rector. 107 

strip of forest, and stationed a detachment of gendar- 
merie near the ravine, which escorted the mail-coaches 
between the two rela3's ; but, to the shame of the gen- 
darmerie be it said, it was the gospel, and not the sword, 
the rector Monsieur Bonnet, and not Corporal Chervin, 
who won a civil victor}- b}" changing the morals of a 
population. This priest, filled with Christian tender- 
ness for the poor, hapless region, attempted to regener- 
ate it, and succeeded in the attempt. 

After travelling for about an hour over these plains, 
alternately stony and dusty, where the partridges 
flocked in tranquil coveys, their wings whirring with 
a dull, heav}' sound as the carriage came toward them, 
the Abbe Gabriel, like all other travellers on the same 
road, saw with satisfaction the roofs of Montegnac in 
the distance. At the entrance of the village was one of 
those curious post-relays which are seen onl}' in the 
remote parts of P^ ranee. Its sign was an oak board 
on which some pretentious postilion had carved the 
words, Pauste o clievos. blackening the letters with 
ink, and then nailing the board by its four corners 
above the door of a wretched stable in which there 
were no horses. The door, which was nearly always 
open, had a plank laid on the soil for its threshold, to 
protect the stable floor, which was lower than the road, 
from inundation when it rained. The discouraged trav- 
eller could see within worn-out, mildewed, and mended 
harnesses, certain to break at a plunge of the horses. 
The horses themselves were at work in the fields, or 
anywhere but in the stable. If by any chance they 
happen to be in their stalls, they are eating ; if they 
have finished eating, the postilion has gone to see his 



108 The Village Rector. 

aunt or his cousin, or is getting in tlie ha}^ or else he 
is asleep ; no one can say where he is ; the traveller 
has to wait till he is found, and he never comes till he 
has finished what he is about. When he does come he 
loses an immense amount of time looking for his jacket 
and his whip, or putting the collars on his horses. Near 
by, at the door of the post-house, a worthy woman is 
fuming even more than the traveller, in order to pre- 
vent the latter from complaining loudly. This is sure 
to be the wife of the post-master, whose husband is 
awa}' in the fields. 

The bishop's secretary left his carriage before a post- 
house of this kind, the walls of which resembled a 
geographical map, while the thatched roof, blooming 
like a flower-garden, seemed to be giving wa}- beneath 
the weight of stone-crop. After begging the post- 
mistress to have everything in readiness for his depar- 
ture in an hour's time, the abbe asked the way to the 
parsonage. The good woman showed him a lane which 
led to the church, telling him the rectory was close 
beside it. 

While the young abbe followed this lane, which was 
full of stones and closed on either side by hedges, the 
post-mistress questioned the postilion. Since starting 
from Limoges each postilion had informed his suc- 
cessor of the conjectures of the Limoges postilion as 
to the mission of the bishop's messenger. While the 
inhabitants of the town were getting out of bed and 
talking of the coming execution, a rumor spread among 
the country people that the bishop had obtained the 
pardon of the innocent man ; and much was said about 
the mistakes to which human justice was liable. If 



The Village Rector. 109 

Jean-Franqois was executed later, it is certain that he 
was regarded in the countrj' regions as a martyr. 

After taking a few steps along the lane, reddened by 
the autumn leaves, and black with mulberries and dam- 
sons, the Abbe Gabriel turned round with the instinc- 
tive impulse which leads us all to make acquaintance 
with a region which we see for the first time, — a sort of 
instinctive physical curiosity shared by dogs and horses. 

The position of Montegnac was explained to him as 
his eyes rested on various little streams flowing down 
the hillsides and on a little river, along the bank of 
which runs the count}^ road which connects the chief 
town of the arrondissement with the prefecture. Like 
all the villages of this upland plain, Montegnac is built 
of earth baked in the sun and moulded into square 
blocks. After a fire a house looks as if it had been 
built of brick. The roofs are of thatch. Poverty is 
everywhere visible. 

Before the village lay several fields of potatoes, rad- 
ishes, and rye, redeemed from the barren plain. On 
the slope of the hill were iri'igated meadows where the 
inhabitants raised horses, the famous Limousin breed, 
which is said to be a legacy of the Arabs when they 
descended by the Pyrenees into France and were cut 
to pieces by the battle-axes of the Franks under Charles 
Martel. The heights are barren. A hot, baked, red- 
dish soil shows a region where chestnuts flourish. The 
springs, carefully applied to irrigation, water the mead- 
ows only, nourishing the sweet, crisp grass, so fine and 
choice, which produces this race of delicate and high- 
strung horses, — not over-strong to bear fatigue, but 
showy, excellent for the country of their birth, though 



110 The Village Rector. 

subject to changes if transplanted. A few mulberry 
trees lately imported showed an intention of cultivating 
silk-worms. 

Like most of the villages in this world Montegnac 
had but one street, through which the high road passed. 
Nevertheless there was an upper and a lower Mon- 
tegnac, reached by lanes going up or going down from 
the main street. A line of houses standing along the 
brow of the hill presented the cheerful sight of ter- 
raced gardens, which were entered by flights of steps 
from the main street. Some had their steps of earth, 
others of pebbles ; here and there old women were 
sitting on them, knitting or watching children, and 
keeping up a conversation from the upper to the lower 
town across the usually peaceful street of the little vil- 
lage ; thus rumors spread easily and rapidly in Mon- 
tegnac. All the gardens, which were full of fruit-trees, 
cabbages, onions, and other vegetables, had bee-hives 
along their terraces. 

Another line of houses, running down from the main 
street to the river, the course of which was outhned b}^ 
thriving fields of hemp and the sorts of fruit trees 
which hke moisture, lay parallel with the upper town ; 
some of the houses, that of the post-house, for instance, 
were in a hollow, and were well-situated for certain 
kinds of work, such as weaving. Nearlj- all of them 
were shaded by walnut-trees, the tree par excellence 
of strong soils. 

On this side of the main street at the end farthest 
from the great plain was a dwelling-house, verv much 
larger and better cared for than those in other parts of 
the village ; around it were other houses equally well 



The Village Rector. Ill 

kept. This little hamlet, separated from the village by 
its gardens, was already called Les Tascherons, a 
name it keeps to the present day. 

The village itself amounted to very little, but thirty 
or more outlying farms belonged to it. In tlie valle}', 
leading down to the river, irrigating channels like those 
of La Marche and Berry indicated the flow of water 
around the village by the green fringe of verdure about 
them ; Montegnac seemed tossed in their midst like a 
vessel at sea. When a house, an estate, a village, a 
region, passes from a wretched condition to a prosper- 
ous one, without becoming either rich or splendid, life 
seems so easj', so natural to living beings, that the 
spectator may not at once suspect the enormous labor, 
infinite in petty detail, grand in persistency like the 
toil buried in a foundation wall, in short, the forgotten 
labor on which the whole structure rests. 

Consequently the scene that lay before him told noth- 
ing extraordinary to the young Abbe Gabriel as his 
eye took in the charming landscape. He knew nothing 
of the state of the region before the arrival of the 
rector, Monsieur Bonnet. The young man now went 
on a few steps and again saw, several hundred feet 
above the gardens of the upper village, the church and 
the parsonage, which he had seen already from a dis- 
tance confusedly mingling with the imposing ruins 
clothed with creepers of the old castle of Montegnac, 
one of the residences of the Navarreins family in the 
twelfth centur3\ 

The parsonage, a house originally built no doubt for 
the bailiff or game-keeper, was noticeable for a long 
raised terrace planted with lindens from which a fine 



112 The Village Rector. 

view extended over the country. The steps leading to 
this terrace and the walls which supported it showed 
their great age b}^ the ravages of time. The flat moss 
■which clings to stones had laid its dragon-green car- 
pet on each surface. The numerous families of the 
pellitories, the chamomiles, the mesembryanthemums, 
pushed their vaiied and abundant tufts through the 
loop-holes in the walls, cracked and fissured in spite of 
their thickness. Botany had lavished there its most ele- 
gant drapery of ferns of all kinds, snap-dragons with 
their violet mouths and golden pistils, the blue anchusa, 
the brown lichens, so that the old worn stones seemed 
mere accessories peeping out at intervals from this 
fresh growth. Along the terrace a box liedge, cut into 
geometric figures, inclosed a pleasure garden surround- 
ing the parsonage, above which the rock rose like a 
white wall surmounted by slender trees that drooped 
and swayed above it like plumes. 

The ruins of the castle looked down upon the house 
and church. The house, built of pebbles and mortar, 
had but one story surmounted by an enormous sloping 
roof with gable ends, in which were attics, no doubt 
*empt3% considering the dilapidation of their windows. 
The ground-floor had two rooms parted by a corridor, 
at the farther end of which was a wooden staircase 
leading to the second floor, which also had two rooms. 
A little kitchen was at the back of the building in a 
yard, where were the stable and coach-house, both 
unused, deserted, and worthless. The kitchen garden 
lay between the church and the house ; a ruined gallery 
led from the parsonage to the sacristy. 

When the young abbe saw the four windows with 



The Village Rector. 113 

their leaded panes, the brown and mossy walls, the 
door in common pine slit like a bundle of matches, far 
from being attracted by the adorable naivete of these 
details, the grace of the vegetations which draped the 
roof and the dilapidated wooden frames of the win- 
dows, the wealth of clambering plants escaping from 
every cranny, and the clasping tendrils of the grape- 
vine which looked into every window as if to bring 
smiling ideas to those within, he congratulated himself 
heartily on being a bishop in perspective instead of a 
village rector. 

This house, apparently always open, seemed to be- 
long to everybody. The Abbs Gabriel entered a room 
communicating with the kitchen, whicli was poorly fur- 
nished with an oak table on four stout legs, a tapes- 
tried armchair, a number of chairs all of wood, and an 
old chest by way of buffet. No one was in the kitchen 
except a cat which revealed the presence of a woman 
about the house. The other room served as a salon. 
Casting a glance about it the 3'oung priest noticed 
armchairs in natural wood covered with tapestr}- ; the 
woodwork and the rafters of the ceiling were of chest- 
nut which had turned as black as ebony. A tall clock 
in a green case painted with flowers, a table with a 
faded green cloth, several chairs, two candlesticks on 
the chimney-piece, between which was an Infant Jesus 
in wax under a glass case, completed the furniture of 
the room. The chimne3'-piece of wood with common 
mouldings was filled b}^ a fire-board covered bv a 
painting representing the Good Shepherd with a lamb 
over his shoulder, which was probabl}- the gift of 
some young girl, — the mayor's daughter, or the 



114 The Village Rector. 

judge's daughter, — in return for the pastor's care of 
her education. 

The forlorn condition of the house was distressing: to 
behold ; the walls, once whitewashed, were now dis- 
colored, and stained to a man's heiglit by constant 
friction. The staircase with its heavy baluster and 
wooden steps, though very clean, looked as if it might 
easil}" give wa}' under the feet. On the other side of 
the house, opposite to the entrance door, another door 
opening upon tlie kitchen garden enabled the Abbe 
de Rastignac to judge of the narrowness of that garden, 
which was closed at the back by a wall cut in the 
white and friable stone side of the mountain, against 
which espaliers were fastened, covered with grape-vines 
and fruit-trees so ill taken care of that their leaves 
were discolored with blight. 

The abbe returned upon his steps and walked along 
the paths of the first garden, from which he could see, 
in the distance bej'ond the village, the magnificent 
stretch of valley, a true oasis at the edge of the vast 
plains, which now, veiled b}' the light mists of morning, 
lay along the horizon like a tranquil ocean. Behind 
him could be seen, on one side, for a foil, the dark 
masses of the bronze-green forest; on the other, the 
church and the ruins of the castle perched on the rock 
and vividly detached upon the blue of the ether. The 
Abbe Gabriel, his feet creaking on the gravellj^ paths 
cut in stars and rounds and lozenges, looked down 
upon the village, where some of the inhabitants were 
already gazing up at him, and then at the fresh, cool 
valley, with its tangled paths, its river bordered with 
willows in dehghtful contrast to the endless plain, and 



The Village Rector. 115 

he was siiddenk seized by sensations which changed 
the nature of his thoughts ; he admired the sweet tran- 
quilHty of the place ; he felt the influence of that pure 
air ; he was conscious of the peace inspired by the 
revelation of a life brought back to Biblical simplicity ; 
he saw, confusedly, the beauties of this old parsonage, 
which he now re-entered to examine its details with 
greater interest. 

A little girl, employed, no doubt, to watch the house, 
though she was picking and eating fruit in the gar- 
den, heard the steps of a man with creaking shoes on 
the great square flags of the ground-floor rooms. She 
ran in to see who it was. Confused at being caught 
by a priest with a fruit in one hand and another 
in her mouth, she made no answer to the questions of 
the handsome young abbe. She had never imagined 
such an abbe, — dapper and spruce as hands could 
make him, in dazzling linen and fine black cloth with- 
out spot or wrinkle. 

" Monsieur Bonnet?" she said at last. "Monsieur 
Bonnet is saying mass, and Mademoiselle Ursule is at 
church." 

The Abbe Gabriel did not notice a covered way from 
the house to the church ; he went back to the road which 
led to the front portal, a species of porch with a slop- 
ing roof that faced the village. It was reached by a 
series of disjointed stone steps,- at the side of which la}' 
a ravine washed out by the mountain torrents and 
covered with noble elms planted by Sully the Protes- 
tant. This church, one of the poorest in France where 
there are many poor churches, was like one of those 
enormous barns with projecting doors covered by roofs 



116 The Village Rector. 

supported on brick or wooden pillars. Built, like the 
parsonage, of cobblestones and mortar, flanked by a 
face of solid rock, and roofed by the commonest round 
tiles, this church was decorated on the outside with 
the richest creations of sculpture, rich in light and 
shade and lavish!}' massed and colored by Nature, who 
understands such art as well as an}' Michael Angelo. 
Ivy clasped the walls with its nervous tendrils, show- 
ing stems amid its foliage like the veins on a lay figure. 
This mantle, flung by Time to cover the wounds he 
made, was starred by autumn flowers drooping from 
the crevices, which also gave shelter to numerous sing- 
ing birds. The rose-window above the projecting 
porch was adorned with blue campanula, like the 
first page of an illuminated missal. The side which 
communicated with the parsonage, toward the north, 
was not less decorated ; the wall was gra}' and red with 
moss and lichen ; but the other side and the apse, 
around which lay the cemetery, was covered with a 
wealth of varied bloom. A few trees, among others an 
almond-tree — one of the emblems of hope — had taken 
root in the broken wall ; two enormous pines standing 
close against the apsis served as lightning-rods. The 
cemetery, inclosed by a low, half-ruined wall, had for 
ornament an iron cross, mounted on a pedestal and 
hung with box, blessed at Easter, — one of tiiose af- 
fecting Christian thoughts forgotten in cities. The 
village rector is the only priest who, in these days, 
thinks to go among his dead and say to them each 
Easter morn, " Thou shalt live again ! " Here and 
there a few rotten wooden crosses stood up from the 
grassy mounds. 



The Village Rector. 117 

The interior of the church harmonized perfect!}^ witli 
the poetic tangle of the humble exterior, the luxury 
and art of which was bestowed by Time, for once in 
a way charitable. Within, the eye first went to the 
roof, lined with chestnut, to which age had given the 
richest tints of the oldest woods of Europe. This roof 
was supported at equal distances by strong shafts rest- 
ing on transversal beams. The four white-washed 
walls had no ornament whatever. Poverty had made 
the parish iconoclastic, whether it would or not. The 
church, paved and furnished with benches, was lighted 
by four arched windows with leaded panes. The altar, 
shaped like a tomb, was adorned b}' a large crucifix 
placed above a tabernacle in walnut with a few gilt 
mouldings, kept clean and shining, eight candlesticks 
economically made of wood painted white, and two 
china vases filled with artificial flowers such as the 
drudge of a money-changer would have despised, but 
with which God was satisfied. 

The sanctuary lamp was a night-wick placed in an 
old holy-water basin of plated copper hanging by silken 
cords, the spoil of some demolished chateau. The 
baptismal fonts were of wood ; so were the pulpit and 
a sort of cage provided for the church-wardens, the 
patricians of the village. An altar to the Virgin pre- 
sented to public admiration two colored lithographs in 
small gilt frames. The altar was painted white, 
adorned with artificial flowers in gilded wooden vases, 
and covered by a cloth edged with shabby and dis- 
colored lace. 

At the farther end of the church a long window en- 
tirely covered by a red calico curtain produced a magi- 



118 The Village Rector. 

cal effect. This crimson mantle cast a ros}^ tint upon 
the whitewashed walls ; a thought divine seemed to 
glow upon the altar and clasp the poor nave as if to 
warm it. The passage which led to the sacristy ex- 
hibited on one of its walls the patron saint of the vil- 
lage, a large Saint John the Baptist with his sheep, 
carved in wood and horribly painted. 

But in spite of all this poverty the church was not 
without some tender harmonies delightful to choice 
souls, and set in charming relief by their own colors. 
The rich dark tones of the wood relieved the white of 
the walls and blended with the triumphal crimson cast 
on the chancel. This trinity of color was a reminder 
of the grand Catholic doctrine. 

If surprise was the first emotion roused by this pitiful 
house of the Lord, surprise was followed speedily b}' 
admiration mingled with pity. Did it not truly ex- 
press the povertj^ of that poor region ? Was it not in 
harmony with the naive simplicity of the parsonage? 
The building was perfectly clean and well-kept. The 
fragrance of countr}' virtues exhaled within it ; nothing 
showed neglect or abandonment. Though rustic and 
poor and simple, prayer dwelt there ; those precincts 
had a soul, — a soul which was felt, though we might 
not fully explain to oar own souls how we felt it. 



The Village Rector. 119 



VIII. 



THE RECTOR OF MONTE GN AC. 



The Abbe Gabriel glided softly through the church 
so as not to disturb the devotions of two groups of 
persons on the benches near the high altar, which was 
separated from the nave at the place where the lamp 
was hung by a rather common balustrade, also of 
chestnut wood, and covered with a cloth intended for 
the communion. On either side of the nave a score of 
peasants, men and women, absorbed in fervent pra3'er, 
paid no attention to the stranger when he passed up 
the narrow passage between the two rows of seats. 

When the .young abbe stood beneath the lamp, whence 
he could see the two little transepts whicli formed a 
cross, one of which led to the sacristy, the other to the 
cemeter}', he noticed on the cemetery side a family 
clothed in black kneeling on the pavement, the tran- 
septs having no benches. The young priest knelt down 
on the step of the balustrade which separated the choir 
from the nave and began to pray, casting oblique 
glances at a scene which was soon explained to him. 
The gospel had been read. The rector, having re- 
moved his chasuble, came down from the altar and 
stood before the railing ; the young abbe, who foresaw 
this movement, leaned back against the wall, so that 



120 The Village Rector. 

Monsieur Bonnet did not see him. Ten o'clock was 
striking. 

" Bretliren," said the rector, in a voice of emotion, 
" at this very moment a child of this parish is paying 
his debt to human justice by enduring its last penalty, 
while we are offering the sacrifice of the mass for the 
peace of his soul. Let us unite in prayer to God, 
imploring Him not to turn His face from that child 
in these his last moments, and to grant to his repent- 
ance the pardon in heaven which is denied to him liere 
below. The sin of this unhappy man, one of those on 
whom we most relied for good examples, can only be 
explained b}^ his disregard of religious principles." 

Here the rector was interrupted by sobs from the 
kneeling group in mourning garments, whom the Abbs 
Gabriel recognized, b}' this show of affection, as the 
Tascheron family, although he did not know them. 
First among them was an old couple (septuagenarians) 
standing by the wall, their faces seamed with deep-cut, 
rigid wrinkles, and bronzed like a Florentine medal. 
These persons, stoically erect like statues, in their old 
darned clothes, were doubtless the grandfather and the 
grandmother of the criminal. Their glazed and red- 
dened eyes seemed to weep blood, their arms trembled 
so that the sticks on which they leaned tapped lightly 
on the pavement. Next, the father and the mother, 
their faces in their handkerchiefs, sobbed aloud. Around 
these four heads of the family knelt the two married 
sisters accompanied by their husbands, and three sons, 
stupefied with grief. Five little children on their knees, 
the oldest not seven years old, unable, no doubt, to 
understand what was happening, gazed and listened 



The Village Rector, 121 

with the torpid curiosity that characterizes the peas- 
antry, and is really the observation of physical things 
pushed to its highest limit. Lastly, the poor unmarried 
sister, imprisoned in the interests of justice, now re- 
leased, a martyr to fraternal affection, Denise Tasch- 
eron, was listening to the priest's words with a look 
that was partly bewildered and partly incredulous. 
For her, her brother could not die. She well repre- 
sented that one of the Three Marys who did not believe 
in the death of Christ, though she was present at the 
last agony. Pale, with dry eyes, like all those who 
have gone without sleep, her fresh complexion was 
alread}' faded, less by toil and field labor than by 
grief; nevertheless, she had many of the beauties of 
a countr}^ maiden, — a full, plump figure, finely shaped 
arms, rounded cheeks, and clear, pure ej^es, lighted at 
this instant with flashes of despair. Below the throat, 
a firm, fair skin, not tanned b}' the sun, betrayed the 
presence of a white and rosy flesh where the form was 
hidden. 

The married daughters wept ; their husbands, patient 
farmers, were grave and serious. The three brothers, 
profoundly sad, did not raise their eyes from the ground. 
In the midst of this dreadful picture of dumb despair 
and desolation, Denise and her mother alone showed 
S3'mptoms of revolt. 

The other inhabitants of the village united in the 
affliction of this respectable famil}- with a sincere and 
Christian pity which gave the same expression to the 
faces of all, — an expression amounting to horror when 
the rector's words announced that the knife was then 
falling on the neck of a young man whom they all knew 



122 The Village Hector. 

well from his very birth, and whom they had doubtless 
thought incapable of crime. 

The sobs which interrupted the short and simple allo- 
cution which the pastor made to his flock overcame him 
so much that he stopped and said no more, except to 
invite all present to fervent prayer. 

Though this scene was not of a nature to surprise a 
priest, Gabriel de Rastignac was too young not to be 
profoundly touched by it. As yet he had never exer- 
cised the priestty virtues ; he knew himself called to 
other functions ; he was not forced to enter the social 
breaches where the heart bleeds at the sight of woes : 
his mission was that of the higher clergy, who maintain 
the spirit of devotion, represent the highest intellect 
of the Church, and on eminent occasions display the 
priestly virtues on a larger stage, — like the illustrious 
bishops of Marseille and Meaux, and the archbishops 
of Aries and Cambrai. 

This little assemblage of country people weeping and 
praying for him who, as they supposed, was then 
being executed on a public square, among a crowd of 
persons come from all parts to swell the shame of such 
a death, — this feeble counterpoise of prayer and pity, 
opposed to the ferocious curiosity and just maledictions 
of a multitude, was enough to move any soul, especiall}^ 
when seen in that poor church. The Abbe Gabriel 
was tempted to go up to the Tascherons and say, — 

" Your son and brother is reprieved." 

But he did not like to disturb the mass ; and, more- 
over, he knew that a reprieve was only a dela}' of exe- 
cution. Instead of following the service, he was irre- 
sistibly drawn to a study of the pastor from whom 



TJie Village Rector. 123 

the clergy in Limoges expected the conversion of the 
criminal. 

Judging bj' the parsonage, Gabriel de Rastignac had 
made himself a portrait of Monsieur Bonnet as a stout, 
short man with a strong and red face, framed for toil, 
half a peasant, and tanned b}' the sun. So far from 
that, the 3'oung abbe met his equal. SHght and deli- 
cate in appearance, Monsieur Bonnet's face struck the 
e3'e at once as the typical face of passion given to the 
Apostles. It was almost triangular, beginning with a 
broad brow furrowed by wrinkles, and carried down 
from the temples to the chin in two sharp lines which 
defined his hollow cheeks. In this face, sallowed hy 
tones as yellow as those of a church taper, shone two 
blue ej'es that were luminous with faith, burning with 
eager hope. It was divided in two equal parts b}' a 
long nose, thin and straight, with well-cut nostrils, 
beneath which spoke, even when closed and voiceless, 
a large mouth, with strongly marked lips, from which 
issued, whenever he spoke aloud, one of those voices 
which go straight to the heart. The chestnut hair, 
which was thin and fine, and lay flat upon the head, 
showed a poor constitution maintained by a frugal diet. 
Will made the power of this man. 

Such were his personal distinctions. His short 
hands might have indicated in another man a tendency 
to coarse pleasures, and perhaps he had, like Socrates, 
conquered his temptations. His thinness was ungrace- 
ful, his shoulders were too prominent, his knees 
knocked together. The bodj', too much developed for 
the extremities, gave him the look of a hump-backed 
man without a hump. In short, his appearance was 



124 The Village Rector. 

not pleasing. None but those to whom the miracles 
of thought, faith, art are known could adore that 
flaming gaze of the martyr, that pallor of constancy, 
that voice of love, — distinctive characteristics of this 
village rector. 

This man, worthy of the primitive Church, which 
exists no longer except in the pictures of the sixteenth 
century and in the pages of Martyrology, was stamped 
with the die of the human greatness which most nearly 
approaches the divine greatness through Conviction, — 
that indetinable something which embellishes the com- 
monest form, gilds with glowmg tints the faces of men 
vowed to any worship, no matter what, and brings into 
the face of a woman glorified by a noble love a sort of 
light. Conviction is human will attaining to its high- 
est reach. At once both cause and effect, it impresses 
the coldest natures ; it is a species of mute eloquence 
which holds the masses. 

Coming down from the altar the rector caught the 
e3'e of the Abbe Gabriel and recognized him ; so that 
when the bishop's secretary reached the sacristy Ur- 
sule, to whom her master had already given orders, 
was waiting for him with a request that he would 
follow her. 

'' Monsieur," said Ursule, a woman of canonical age, 
conducting the Abbe de Rastignac by the gallery 
through the garden, " Monsieur Bonnet told me to ask 
if 3'ou had breakfasted. You must have left Limoges 
very early to get here by ten o'clock. I will soon have 
breakfast ready for 3'ou. Monsieur I'abbe will not 
find a table like that of Monseigneur the bishop in this 
poor village, but we will do the best we can. Monsieur 



The Village Rector. 125 

Bonnet will soon be in ; he has gone to comfort those 
poor people, the Tascherons. Their son has met with 
a terrible end to-day." 

" But," said the Abbe Gabriel, when he could get in 
a word, " where is the house of those worth}' persons? 
I must take Monsieur Bonnet at once to Limoges by 
order of the bishop. That unfortunate man will not 
be executed to-day ; Monseigneur has obtained a 
reprieve for him." 

''Ah!" exclaimed Ursule, whose tongue itched to 
spread the news about the village, " monsieur has 
plenty of time to carry them that comfort while I get 
breakfast ready. The Tascherons' house is beyond 
the village ; follow the path below that terrace and it 
will take you there." 

As soon as Ursule lost sight of the abbe she went 
down into the village to disseminate the news, and also 
to buy the things needed for the breakfast. 

The rector had been informed, while in church, of a 
desperate resolution taken b}' the Tascherons as soon 
as the}" heard that Jean-Frangois's appeal was rejected 
and that he had to die. These worth}' souls intended 
to leave the country, and their worldly goods were to 
be sold that very morning. Delays and formalities 
unexpected by them had hitherto postponed the sale. 
They had been forced to remain in their home until the 
execution, and drink each day the cup of shame. This 
determination had not been made public until the 
evening before the day appointed for the execution. 
The Tascherons had expected to leave before that 
fatal day ; but the proposed purchaser of their prop- 
erty was a stranger in those parts, and was prevented 



126 The Village Rector. 

from clinching the bargain by a delay in obtaining the 
money. Thus the hapless family were forced to bear 
their trouble to its end. The feeling which prompted 
this expatriation was so violent in these simple souls, 
little accustomed to compromise with their consciences, 
that the grandfather and grandmother, the father and 
the mother, the daughters and their husbands and the 
sons, in short, all who bore and had borne the name of 
Tascheron or were closely allied to it made ready to 
leave the country. 

This emigration grieved the whole community. The 
mayor entreated the rector to do his best to retain 
these worthy people. According to the new Code the 
father was not responsible for the son, and the crime of 
the father was no disgrace to the children. Together 
with other emancipations which have weakened pater- 
nal power, this system has led to the triumph of indi- 
vidualism, which is now permeating the whole of 
modern society. He who thinks on the things of the 
future sees the spirit of family destro3'ed, where the 
makers of the new Code have introduced freedom of 
will and equality. The Family must always be the 
basis of society. Necessarily temporary-, incessantly 
divided, recom posed to dissolve again, without ties 
between the future and the past, it cannot fulfil that 
mission ; the Family of the olden time no longer exists 
in France. Those who have proceeded to demolish 
the ancient edifice have been logical in dividing equally 
the family property, in diminishing the authority of the 
father, in suppressing great responsibilities ; but is 
the reconstructed social state as solid, with its young 
laws still untried, as it was under a monarchy, in spite 



The Village Rector. 127 

of the old abuses ? In losing the solidarit3' of families, 
societ}^ has lost that fundamental force which Montes- 
quieu discovered and named Honor. It has isolated 
interests in order to subjugate them ; it has sundered 
all to enfeeble all. Society reigns over units, over 
single figures agglomerated like grains of corn in a 
heap. Can the general interests of all take the place 
of Famih- ? Time alone can answer that question. 

Nevertheless, the old law still exists ; its roots have 
struck so deep that 3'ou will find it still living, as we 
find perennials in polar regions. Remote places are 
still to be found in the provinces where what are now 
called prejudices exist, where the family suffers in the 
crime of a child or a father. 

This sentiment made the place uninhabitable any 
longer to the Tascherons. Their deep religious feeling 
took them to church that morning ; for how could they 
let the mass be offered to God asking him to inspire 
their son with repentance that alone could restore to 
him life eternal, and not share in it ? Besides, they 
wished to bid farewell to the village altar. But their 
minds were made up and their plans already carried 
out. When the rector who followed them from church 
reached the principal house he found their bags and 
bundles ready for the journey. The purchaser of the 
propert}' was there with the money. The notar}' had 
drawn up the papers. In the yard behind the house 
was a carriole read}' harnessed to carr}' away the older 
couple with the money, and the mother of Jean-Fran- 
cois. The remainder of the family were to go on foot 
by night. 

At the moment when the 3'oung abbe entered the 



128 The Village Rector. 

low room in which the family were assembled the 
rector of Montegnac had exhausted all the resources of 
his eloquence. The old pair, now insensible to the 
violence of grief, were crouching in a corner on their 
bags and looking round them on their old hereditary' 
home, its farniture, and the new purchaser, and then 
upon each other as if to say : — 

" Did we ever think this thing could happen ?" 
These old people, who had long resigned their author- 
ity to their son, the father of the criminal, were, like kings 
on their abdication, reduced to the passive role of 
subjects and children. Tascheron, the father, was 
standing up ; he listened to the pastor, and replied to 
him in a low voice and by monosyllables. This man, 
who was about fortj^-eight years of age, had the noble 
face which Titian has given to so many of his Apostles, 
— a countenance full of faith, of grave and reflective 
integrity, a stern profile, a nose cut in a straight and 
projecting line, blue ej^es, a noble brow, regular feat- 
ures, black, crisp, wiry hair, planted on his head with 
that symmetry which gives a charm to these brown 
faces, bronzed by toil in the open air. It was easy to 
see that the rector's appeals were powerless against 
that inflexible will. 

Denise was leaning against the bread-box, looking 
at the notary, who was using that receptacle as a writing- 
table, seated before it in the grandmother's armchair. 
The purchaser was sitting on a stool beside him. The 
married sisters were laying a cloth upon the table, and 
serving the last meal the family were to take in its own 
house before expatriating itself to other lands and other 
skies. The sons were half-seated on the green serge 



The Village Rector. 129 

bed. The mother, busy beside the fire, was beating 
an omelet. The grandchildren crowded the door- 
waj', before which stood the incoming family of the 
purchaser. 

The old smoky room with its blackened rafters, 
through the window of which was visible a well-kept 
garden planted by the two old people, seemed in har- 
mony with the pent-up anguish which could be read on 
all their faces in diverse expressions. The meal was 
chiefly prepared for the notary, the purchaser, the men- 
kind, and the children. The father and mother, Denise 
and her sisters, were too unhappy to eat. There was 
a lofty, stern resignation in the accomplishment of these 
last duties of rustic hospitality. The Tascherons, men 
of the olden time, ended their days in that house as 
they had begun them, by doing its honors. This scene, 
without pretension, though full of solemnity, met the 
e3^es of the bishop's secretar}^ when he approached the 
village rector to fulfil the prelate's errand. 

"The son of these good people still lives," said 
Gabriel. 

At these words, heard by all in the deep silence, the 
two old people rose to their feet as if the last trump 
had sounded. The mother dropped her pan upon the 
fire ; Denise gave a cry of joy ; all the others stood by 
in petrified astonishment. 

" Jean-FranQois is pardoned!" cried the whole vil- 
lage, now rushing toward the house, having heard the 
news from Ursule. " Monseigneur the bishop — " 

" I knew he was innocent ! " cried the mother. 

"Will it hinder the purchase?" said the purchaser 
to the notary, who answered with a satisfying gesture. 

9 



130 The Village Rector. 

The Abbe Gabriel was now the centre of all eyes ; 
his sadness raised a suspicion of mistake. To avoid 
correcting it himself, he left the house, followed by the 
rector, and said to the crowd outside that the execution 
was only postponed for some days. The uproar sub- 
sided instantly into dreadful silence. When the Abbe 
Gabriel and the rector returned, the expression on the 
faces of the family was full of anguish ; the silence of 
the crowd was understood. 

^' My friends, Jean-FranQois is not pardoned," said 
the young abbe, seeing that the blow had fallen ; "but 
the state of his soul has so distressed Monseigneur that 
he has obtained a delay in order to save your son in 
eternit}'." 

" But he lives ! " cried Denise. 

The young abbe took the rector aside to explain to 
him the injurious situation in which the impenitence of 
his parishioner placed religion, and the duty the bishop 
imposed upon him. 

'' Monseigneur exacts my death," replied the rector. 
"I have already refused the entreaties of the family 
to visit their unhapp}^ son. Such a conference and the 
sight of his death would shatter me like glass. Ever}" 
man must work as he can. The weakness of my organs, 
or rather, the too great excitability of my nervous orga- 
nization, prevents me from exercising these functions 
of our ministry. I have remained a simple rector ex- 
pressly to be useful to my kind in a sphere in which I 
can really accomplish my Christian duty. I have care- 
full}^ considered how far I could satisfy this virtuous 
family and do my pastoral duty to this poor son ; but 
the verv idea of mounting- the scaffold with him, the 



The Village Rector. 131 

mere thought of assisting in those fatal preparations, 
sends a shudder as of death through my veins. It 
would not be asked of a mother ; and remember, mon- 
sieur, he was born in the bosom of my poor church." 

"So," said the Abbe Gabriel, "you refuse to obey 
Monseigneur?" 

" Monseigneur is ignorant of the state of my health ; 
he does not know that in a constitution like mine nature 
refuses — " said Monsieur Bonnet, looking at the 
younger priest. 

"There are times when we ought, like Belzunce at 
Marseille, to risk certain death," rephed the Abbe 
Gabriel, interrupting him. 

At this moment the rector felt a hand pulUng at his 
cassock ; he heard sobs, and turning round he saw the 
whole family kneeling before him. Young and old, 
small and great, all were stretching their suppHcating 
hands to him. One sole cry rose from their lips as he 
turned his face upon them : — 

" Save his soul, at least ! " 

The old grandmother it was who had pulled his cas- 
sock and was wetting it with her tears. 

" I shall obey, monsieur." 

That said, the rector was forced to sit down, for his 
legs trembled under him. The young secretary ex- 
plained the frenzied state of the criminal's mind. 

" Do 3'ou think," he said, as he ended his account, 
"that the sight of his young sister would shake his 
determination ? " 

" Yes, I do," replied the rector. " Denise, j'ou must 
go with us." 

"And I, too," said the mother. 



182 The Village Rector. 

"No!" cried the father; " tliat child no longer 
exists for us, and 3'ou know it. None of us shall 
see him." 

" Do not oppose what may be for his salvation," 
said the young abbe. "You will be responsible for 
his soul if you refuse us the means of softening it. 
His death may possibly do moi'e injury than his life 
has done." 

"She may go," said the father; "it shall be her 
punishment for opposing all the discipline I ever wished 
to give her son." 

The Abbe Gabriel and Monsieur Bonnet returned 
to the parsonage, where Denise and her mother were 
requested to come in time to start for Limoges with 
the two ecclesiastics. 

As the younger man walked along the path which 
followed the outskirts of upper Montegnac he was able 
to examine the village priest so warmly commended by 
the vicar-general less superficially than he did in church. 
He felt at once inclined in his favor, by the simple man- 
ners, the voice full of magic power, and the words in 
harmony with the voice of the village rector. The latter 
had only visited the bishop's palace once since the pre- 
late had taken Gabriel de Rastignac as secretary. He 
had hardly seen this favorite, destined for the episco- 
pate, though he knew how great his influence was. 
Nevertheless, he behaved with a dignified courtesy that 
plainly showed the sovereign independence which the 
Church bestows on rectors in their parishes. But the 
feelings of the young abbe, far from animating his face, 
gave it a stern expression ; it was more than cold, it 
was icy. A man capable of changing the moral condi- 



The Village Rector. 133 

tion of a whole population must surely possess some 
powers of observation, and be more or less of a physi- 
ognomist ; and even if the rector had no other science 
than that of goodness, he had just given proof of rare 
sensibility. He was therefore struck by the coldness 
with which the bishop's secretary met his courteous 
advances. Compelled to attribute this manner to some 
secret annoj-ance, the rector sought in his own mind to 
discover if he had wounded his guest, or in what way 
his conduct could seem blameworth}^ in the eyes of his 
superiors. 

An awkward silence ensued, which the Abbe de 
Rastignac broke by a speech that was full of aristo- 
cratic assumption. 

'' You have a very poor church, monsieur," he said. 

"It is too small," replied Monsieur Bonnet. " On the 
great fete-days the old men bring benches to the porch, 
and the young men stand outside in a circle ; but the 
silence is so great that all can hear my voice." 

Gabriel was silent for some moments. 

*' If the inhabitants are so religious how can you let 
the building remain in such a state of nudity?" he said 
at last. 

*^ Alas, monsieur, I have not the courage to spend 
the money which is needed for the poor on decorating 
the church, — the poor are the church. I assure you I 
should not be ashamed of my church if Monseigneur 
would visit it on the Fete-Dieu. The poor return on 
that day what they have received. Did you notice the 
nails which are placed at certain distances in the walls? 
They are used to hold a sort of trellis of iron wire on 
which the women fasten bouquets ; the church is fairly 



134 The Village Rector, 

clothed with flowers, and they keep fresh all day. My 
poor church, which you think so bare, is decked like a 
bride ; it is filled with fragrance ; even the floor is 
strewn with leaves, in the midst of which the}' make a 
path of scattered roses for the passage of the holy 
sacrament. That 's a day on which I do not fear com- 
l)arison with the pomps of Saint-Peter at Rome ; the 
Holy Father has his gold, and I my flowers, — to each 
his owm miracle. Ah ! monsieur, the village of Mon- 
tegnac is poor, but it is Catholic. In former times the 
inhabitants robbed travellers ; now travellers may leave 
a sack full of money where they please and they will 
find it in my house." 

" That result is to your glory," said Gabriel. 

^' It is not a question of myself," replied the rector, 
coloring at this labored compliment, "but of God's 
word, of the blessed bread — " 

'' Brown bread," remarked the abb^, smiling. 

" White bread only suits the stomachs of the rich," 
replied the rector, modesth'. 

The young abbe here took the hands of the older 
priest and pressed them cordially. 

'' Forgive me, monsieur," he said, suddenly making 
amends wath a look in his beautiful blue ej-es which 
went to the depths of the rector's soul. " Monseigneur 
told me to test your patience and your modesty, but I 
can't go any further ; I see alread}' how much injustice 
the praises of the liberals have done you." 

Breakfast was ready ; fresh eggs, butter, honey, 
fruits, cream, and coflfee were served by Ursule in the 
midst of flowers, on a white cloth laid upon the antique 
table in that old dining-room. The window which 



The Village Rector. 135 

looked upon the terrace was open ; clematis, with its 
white stars relieved in the centre by the yellow bunch 
of their crisped stamens, clasped the railing. A 
jasmine ran up one side, nasturtiums clambered over 
the other. Above, the reddening foliage of a vine 
made a rich border that no sculptor could have rendered, 
so exquisite was the tracery of its lace-work against the 
light. 

" Life is here reduced, you see, to its simplest expres- 
sion," said the rector, smiling, though his face did not 
lose the look which the sadness of his heart conveyed 
to it. '^If we had known of your arrival (but who 
could have foreseen your errand?) Ursule would have 
had some mountain trout for you ; there 's a brook in 
the forest where they are excellent. I forget, however, 
that this is August and the Gabou is now dry. My 
head is confused with all these troubles." 

" Then you like your life here ? " said the 3'oung 
abbe. 

''Yes, monsieur; if God wills, I shall die rector of 
Montegnac. I could have wished that my example 
were followed by certain distinguished men who have 
thought they did better things in becoming philanthro- 
pists. But modern philanthropy is an evil to society ; 
the principles of the Catholic religion can alone cure 
the diseases which permeate social bodies. Instead of 
describing those diseases and extending their ravages 
by complaining elegies, they sliould put their hand to 
the work and enter the Lord's vineyard as simple 
laborers. My task is far from being accomplished here, 
monsieur. It is not enough to reform the people, whom 
I found in a frightful condition of impiety and wicked- 



136 The Village Rector. 

ness ; I wish to die in the midst of a generation of true 
believers." 

" You have only done youY duty, monsieur," said the 
young man, still coldly, for his heart was stirred with 
envy. 

" Yes, monsieur," replied the rector, modestly, giving 
his companion a glance which seemed to sa}^ : Is this 
a further test? "I pray that all may do their duty 
throughout the kingdom." 

This remark, full of deep meaning, w^as still further 
emphasized b}- a tone of utterance, which proved that 
in 1829 this priest, as grand in thought as he was 
noble in humilitj' of conduct, and who subordinated his 
thoughts to those of his superiors, saw clearly into the 
destinies of both church and monarch}'. 

When the two afflicted women came the young abbe, 
very impatient to get back to Limoges, left the parson- 
age to see if the horses were harnessed. A few 
moments later he returned to say that all was read}'. 
All four then started under the eyes of the whole popu- 
lation of Montegnac, which was gathered in the roadwa}' 
before the post-house. The mother and sister kept 
silence. The two priests, seeing rocks ahead in many 
subjects, could neither talk indifferenth' nor allow them- 
selves to be cheerful. While seeking for some neutral 
subject the carriage crossed the plain, the aspect of 
which dreary region seemed to influence the duration 
of their melancholy silence. 

"How came 3'ou to adopt the ecclesiastical profes- 
sion?" asked the Abbe Gabriel, suddenly, with an 
impulsive curiosity which seized him as soon as the 
carriage turned into the high-road. 



The Village Rector, 137 

" I did not look upon the priesthood as a profession," 
replied the rector, simply. " I cannot understand how 
a man can become a priest for any other reason than 
the undefinable power of vocation. I know that many 
men have served in the Lord's vine3'ard who have pre- 
viously worn out their hearts in the service of passion ; 
some have loved hopelessl}^, others have had their love 
betrayed ; men have lost the flower of their lives in 
burying a precious wife or an adored mistress ; some 
have been disgusted with social life at a period when 
uncertainty hovers over everything, even over feelings, 
and doubt mocks tender certainties by calling them 
beliefs ; others abandon politics at a period when power 
seems to be an expiation and when the governed regard 
obedience as fatalit}-. Many leave a society without 
banners ; where opposing forces only unite to over- 
throw good. I do not think that an^^ man would give 
himself to God from a covetous motive. Some men 
have looked upon the priesthood as a means of regen- 
erating our country ; but, according to my poor lights, 
a priest^patriot is a meaningless thing. The priest can 
only belong to God. I did not wish to offer our Father 
— who nevertheless accepts all — the wreck of my 
heart and the fragments of my will ; I gave myself to 
him whole. In one of those touching theories of pagan 
religion, the victim sacrificed to the false gods goes to 
the altar decked with flowers. The significance of that 
custom has alwa}^ deeply touched me. A sacrifice is 
nothing without grace. M}^ life is simple and without 
the very slightest romance. My father, who has made 
his own way in the world, is a stern, inflexible man ; he 
treats his wife and his children as he treats himself. 



138 TJie Village Rector. 

I have never seen a smile upon his lips. His iron hand, 
his stern face, his gloom}^ rough activit}^, oppressed us 
all — wife, children, clerks and servants — under an 
almost savage despotism. I could — I speak for myself 
only — I could have accommodated myself to this life 
if the power thus exercised had had an equal repres- 
sion : but, captious and vacillating, he treated us 
all with intolerable alternations. We were always 
ignorant whether we were doing right or whether he 
considered us to blame ; and the horrible expectancy 
which results from that is torture in domestic life. A 
street life seems better than a home under such circum- 
stances. Had I been alone in the house I would have 
borne all from my father without murmuring ; but my 
heart was torn b}' the bitter, unceasing anguish of m}'' 
dear mother, whom I ardentl}^ loved and whose tears 
put me sometimes into a fur3^ in which I nearl}- lost my 
reason. My school days, when boys are usually so 
full of miser3^ and hard work, were to me a golden 
period. I dreaded holidays. My mother herself pre- 
ferred to come and see me. When I had finished my 
philosophical course and was forced to return home and 
become m}' father's clerk, I could not endure it more 
than a few months ; my mind, bewildered hy the fever 
of adolescence, threatened to give wa}^ On a sad 
autumn evening as I was walking alone with my mother 
along the Boulevard Bourdon, then one of the most 
melanchol}" parts of Paris, I poured my heart into hers, 
and I told her that I saw no possible life before me 
except in the Church. M}- tastes, ni}^ ideas, all that I 
most loved would be continuallj^ thwarted so long as 
my father lived. Under the cassock of a priest he 



The Village Rector. 139 

would be forced to respect me, and I might thus on 
certain occasions become the protector of ni}- famil}'. 
My mother wept much. Just at this period m}^ eldest 
brother (since a general and killed at Leipzig) had 
entered the arm3' as a private soldier, driven from his 
home for the same reasons that made me wish to be a 
priest. I showed m}^ mother that her best means of 
protection would be to marr}' m}' sister, as soon as she 
was old enough, to some man of strong character, and 
to look for help to this new famil}-. Under pretence of 
avoiding the conscription without costing m^- father a 
penn}' to buj' me off, I entered the seminarj- of Saint- 
Sulpice at the age of nineteen. Within those cele- 
brated old buildings I found a peace and happiness 
that were troubled onl}^ by the thought of my mother 
and ni}' sister's sufferings. Their domestic miserj', 
no doubt, went on increasing ; for whenever the}'' 
saw me they sought to strengthen my resolution. 
Perhaps I had been initiated into the secrets of charity, 
such as our great Saint Paul defines it, by my own trials. 
At any rate, I longed to stanch the wounds of the poor 
in some forgotten corner of the earth, and to prove by 
my example, if God would deign to bless my efforts, 
that the Catholic religion, judged by its actions for 
humanity, is the only true, the only beneficent and 
noble civilizing force. During the last days of my 
diaconate, grace, no doubt, enlightened me. I have 
fully forgiven my father, regarding him as the instru- 
ment of my destiny. My mother, though I wrote her 
a long and tender letter, explaining all things and 
proving to her that the finger of God was guiding me, 
my poor mother wept many tears as she saw my hair 



140 The Village Rector. 

cut off by the scissors of the Church. She knew her- 
self how many pleasures I renounced, but she did not 
know the secret glories to which I aspired. Women 
are so tender ! After I once belonged to God 1 felt a 
boundless peace ; I felt no needs, no vanities, none of 
those cares which trouble men so much. I knew that 
Providence would take care of me as a thing of its 
own. I entered a world from which all fear is banished; 
where the future is certain ; where all things are divine, 
even the silence. This quietude is one of the benefac- 
tions of grace. My mother could not conceive that a 
man could espouse a church. Nevertheless, seeing me 
happy, with a cloudless brow, she grew happier herself. 
After I was ordained 1 came to the Limousin to visit 
one of my paternal relations, who chanced to speak to 
me of the then condition of Montegnac. A thought 
darted into my mmd with the vividness of lightning, 
and I said to m3'self inwardly : ' Here is thy vineyard ! ' 
I came here, and you see, monsieur, that my history is 
very simple and uneventful." 

At this instant Limoges came in sight, bathed in the 
last rays of the setting sun. When the women saw it 
they could not restrain their tears ; they wept aloud. 



The Village Rector. 141 



IX. 



DENISE. 

The young man whom these two different loves were 
now on their way to comfort, who excited so much art- 
less curiosity, so much spurious S3'mpathy and true 
solicitude, was lying on his prison pallet in one of the 
condemned cells. A spy watched beside the door to 
catch, if possible, an}^ words that might escape him, 
either in sleep or in one of his violent furies ; so anx- 
ious were the officers of justice to exhaust all human 
means of discovering Jean-Franqois Tascheron's ac- 
complice and recover the sums stolen. 

The des Vanneaulx had promised a reward to the 
police, and the police kept constant watch on the 
obstinate silence of the prisoner. When the man on 
duty looked through a loophole made for the purpose 
he saw the convict always in the same position, bound 
in the straight-jacket, his head secured by a leather 
thong ever since he had attempted to tear the stuff of 
the jacket with his teeth. 

Jean-Francois gazed steadily at the ceiling with a 
fixed and despairing eye, a burning eye, as if reddened 
by the terrible thoughts behind it. He was a living 
image of the antique Prometheus ; the memory of some 
lost happiness gnawed at his heart. When the solici- 



142 The Village Rector. 

tor-general himself went to see him that magistrate 
could not help testifying his surprise at a character so 
obstinately persistent. No sooner did any one enter 
his cell than Jean-FranQois flew into a frenzy which 
exceeded the limits known to ph\'sicians for such 
attaclvs. The moment he heard tlie key turn in the 
lock or the bolts of the barred door slide, a light foam 
whitened his lips. 

Jean-FranQois Tascheron, then twenty-five years of 
age, was small but well-made. His wiry, crinkled 
hair, growing low on his forehead, indicated energy. 
His eyes, of a clear and luminous yellow, were too 
near the root of the nose, — a defect which gave him 
some resemblance to birds of prey. The face was 
round, of the warm brown coloring which marks the 
inhabitants of middle France. One feature of his 
pliysiognomy confirmed an assertion of Lavater as 
to persons who are destined to commit murder; 
his front teeth lapped each other. Nevertheless liis 
face bore all the characteristics of integrit}^ and a 
sweet and artless moral nature ; there was nothing 
surprising in the fact that a woman had loved him 
passionately. His fresh mouth with its dazzling teeth 
was charming, but the vermilion of the lips was of the 
red-lead tint which ' indicates repressed ferocit}', and, 
in many human beings, a free abandonment to pleas- 
ure. His demeanor show^ed none of the low habits of 
a workman. In the eyes of the women who were pres- 
ent at tlie trial it seemed evident that one of their sex 
had softened those muscles used to toil, had ennobled 
the countenance of the rustic, and given grace to his 
person. Women can always detect the traces of love 



The Village Rector. 143 

in a man, just as men can see in a woman whether, 
as the saying is, love has passed that way. 

Toward evening of the day we are now relating 
Jean Francois heard the sUding of bolts and the noise 
of the key in the lock. He turned his head violently 
and gave vent to the horrible growl with which his 
frenzies began ; but he trembled all over when the 
beloved heads of his sister and his mother stood out 
against the fading light, and behind them the face of 
the rector of Montegnac. 

"The wretches! is this why they keep me alive?" 
he said, closing his ej'es. 

Denise, who had lately been confined in a prison, 
was distrustful of everything ; the spy had no doubt 
hidden himself merely to return in a few moments. The 
girl flung herself on her brother, bent her tearful face 
to his and whispered : — 

" They may be listening to us." 

" Otherwise they would not have let you come here," 
he replied in a loud voice. " I have long asked the 
favor that none of ray family should be admitted here." 

" Oh ! how they have bound him ! " cried the mother. 
" My poor child ! my poor boy!" and she fell on her 
knees beside the pallet, hiding her head in the cassock 
of the priest, who was standing by her. 

" If Jean will promise me to be quiet," said the 
rector, " and not attempt to injure himself, and to 
behave properly while we are with him, I will ask to 
have him unbound ; but the least violation of his prom- 
ise will reflect on me." 

"I do so want to move as I please, dear Monsieur 
Bonnet," said the criminal, his ej^es moistening with 
tears, " that I give you my word to do as you wish." 



144 The Village Rector. 

The rector went out, and returned with the jailer, and 
the jacket was taken off. 

''You won't kill me to-night, will you?" said the 
turnkey. 

Jean made no answer. 

"Poor brother!" said Denise, opening a basket 
which had just passed through a vigorous examination. 
"Here are some of the things 3'ou like; I dare say 
they don't feed you for the love of God." 

She showed him some fruit, gathered as soon as the 
rector had told her she could go to the jail, and a galette 
his mother had immediately baked for him. This at- 
tention, which reminded him of his boyhood, the voice 
and gestures of his sister, the presence of his mother 
and the rector, brought on a reaction and he burst 
into tears. 

"Ah! Denise," he said, "I have not had a good 
meal for six months. 1 eat only when driven to it 
by hunger." 

The mother and sister went out and then returned ; 
with the natural housekeeping spirit of such women, 
who want to give their men material comfort, they soon 
had a supper for their poor child. In this the officials 
helped them ; for an order had been given to do all that 
could with safety be done for the condemned man. 
The des Vanneaulx had contributed, with melancholy 
hope, toward the comfort of the man from whom they 
still expected to recover their inheritance. Thus poor 
Jean-Franqois had a last glimpse of famil}' joys, if jo3's 
they could be called under such circumstances. 

"Is my appeal rejected?" he said to Monsieur 
Bonnet. 



The Village Rector. 145 

*' Yes, my child ; nothing is left for 3'ou to do but to 
make a Christian end This life is nothing in compari- 
son to that which awaits 3'ou ; you must think now of 
your eternal happiness. You can pay your debt to 
man with 3'our life, but God is not content with such 
a little thing as that." 

'^ Give up my life ! Ah ! you do not know all that I 
am leaving ! " 

Denise looked at her brother as if to warn him that 
even in matters of religion he must be cautious. 

*' Let us say no more about it," he resumed, eating 
the fruit with an avidity which told of his inward fire. 
*' When am I — " 

*' No, no ! say nothing of that before me ! " said the 
mother. 

'* But I should be easier in mind if I knew," he said, 
in a low voice to the rector. 

" Always the same nature," exclaimed Monsieur 
Bonnet. Then he bent down to the prisoner's ear and 
whispered, "If you will reconcile 3'ourself this night 
with God so that your repentance will enable me to 
absolve 3'ou, it will be to-morrow. We have already 
gained much in calming you," he said, aloud. 

Hearing these last words, Jean's lips turned pale, 
his eyes rolled up in a violent spasm, and an angry 
shudder passed through his frame. 

''Am I calm?" he asked himself. Happily his eyes 
encountered the tearful face of Denise, and he recovered 
his self-control. "So be it," he said to the rector; 
" there is no one but you to whom I would listen ; they 
have known how to conquer me." 

And he flung himself on his mother's breast. 
10 



146 The Village Rector. 

"My son," said the mother, weeping, "listen to 
Monsieur Bonnet ; he risks his hfe, the dear rector, in 
going with you to — " she hesitated, and then said, 
"to the gate of eternal life." 

Then she kissed Jean's head and held it to her breast 
for some moments. 

" Will he, indeed, go with me?" asked Jean, looking 
at the rector, who bowed his head in assent. " Well, 
yes, I will listen to him ; I will do all he asks of me." 

"You promise it?" said Denise. "The saving of 
j-our soul is what we seek. Besides, you would not 
have all Limoges and the village say that a Tascheron 
knew not how to die a noble death? And then, too, 
think that all 3'ou lose here you will regain in heaven, 
where pardoned souls will meet again." 

This superhuman effort parched the throat of the 
heroic girl. She was silent after this, like her mother, 
but she had triumphed. The criminal, furious at seeing 
his happiness torn from him b}- the law, now quivered 
at the sublime Catholic truth so simply expressed by 
his sister. All women, even young peasant-women 
like Denise, knovr how to touch these delicate chords ; 
for does not every woman seek to make love eternal? 
Denise had touched two chords, each most sensitive. 
Awakened pride called on the other virtues chilled by 
miser}- and hardened hy despair. Jean took his sister's 
hand and kissed it, and laid it on his heart in a deeply 
significant manner ; he applied it both gentlj^ and 
forcibly. 

"Yes," he said, "I must renounce all; this is the 
last beating of my heart, its last thought. Keep them, 
Denise." 



The Village Rector. 147 

And he gave her one of those glances by which a 
man in crucial moments tries to put his soul into the 
soul of another human being. 

This thought, this word, was, in truth, a last testa- 
ment, an unspoken legacy, to be as faithfully trans- 
mitted as it was trustfullj^ given. It was so fully 
understood b}' mother, sister, and priest, that they all 
with one accord turned their faces from each other, to 
hide their tears and keep the secret of their thoughts in 
their own breasts. Those few words were the dying 
agony of a passion, the farewell of a soul to the glorious 
things of earth, in accordance with true Cathohc renun- 
ciation. The rector, comprehending the majesty of all 
great human things, even criminal things, judged of 
this mysterious passion by the enormity of the sin. He 
raised his eyes to heaven as if to invoke the mercy of 
God. Thence come the consolations, the infinite ten- 
dernesses of the Catholic religion, — so humane, so 
gentle with the hand that descends to man, showing 
him the law of higher spheres ; so awful, so divine, 
with that other hand held out to lead him into heaven. 

Denise had now significantly shown the rector the 
spot by which to strike that rock and make the waters 
of repentance flow. But suddenly, as though the 
memories evoked were dragging him backward, Jean- 
FranQois gave the harrowing cry of the hyena when the 
hunters overtake it. 

"No, no!" he cried, faUing on his knees, "I will 
live ! Mother, give me your clothes ; I can escape ! 
Mercy, mercy ! Go see the king ; tell him — " 

He stopped, gave a horrible roar, and clung convul- 
sively to the rector's cassock. 



148 The Village Rector. 

" Go," said Monsieur Bonnet, in a low voice, to the 
agitated women. 

Jean heard the words ; he raised his head, gazed at 
his mother and sister, then he stooped and kissed their 
feet. 

" Let us say farewell now ; do not come back ; leave 
me alone with Monsieur Bonnet. You need not be un- 
eas}^ about me any longer," he said, pressing his mother 
and his sister to him with a strength in which he seemed 
to put all his life. 

" How is it we do not die of this?" said Denise to 
her mother as they passed through the wicket. 

It was nearly eight o'clock when this parting took 
place. At the gate of the prison the two women met 
the Abbe de Rastignac, who asked them news of the 
prisoner. 

''He will no doubt be reconciled with God," said 
Denise. " If repentance has not yet begun, he is very 
near it." 

The bishop was soon after informed that the clerg}^ 
would triumph on this occasion, and that the criminal 
would go to the scaffold with the most edifying religious 
sentiments. The prelate, with whom was the attorney- 
general, expressed a wish to see the rector. Monsieur 
Bonnet did not reach the palace before midnight. The 
Abbe Gabriel, who made many trips between the palace 
and the jail, judged it necessary to fetch the rector in 
the episcopal coach ; for the poor priest was in a state 
of exhaustion which almost deprived him of the use of 
his legs. The effect of his day, the prospect of the 
morrow, the sight of the secret struggle he had wit- 
nessed, and the full repentance which had at last over- 



The Village Rector. 149 

taken his stubborn lamb when the great reckoning of 
eternity was brought home to him, — all these things 
had combined to break down Monsieur Bonnet, whose 
nervous, electrical nature entered into the sufferings of 
others as though the}' were his own. Souls that re- 
semble that noble soul espouse so ardently the impres- 
sions, miseries, passions, sufferings of those in whom 
they are interested, that the}^ actually feel them, and in 
a horrible manner, too ; for they are able to measure 
their extent, — a knowledge which escapes others who 
are blinded by selfishness of heart or the paroxysm of 
grief. It is here that a priest like Monsieur Bonnet 
becomes an artist who feels, rather than an artist who 
judges. 

When the rector entered the bishop's salon and found 
there the two grand-vicars, the Abbe de Rastignac, Mon- 
sieur de Grandville, and the procureur-general^ he felt 
convinced that something more was expected of him. 

"Monsieur," said the bishop, ''have 3'ou obtained 
any facts which you can, witliout violating your duty, 
confide to the officers of the law for their guidance? " 

" Monseigneur, in order to give absolution to that 
poor, wandering child, I waited not onl}' till his repent- 
ance was as sincere and as complete as the Church 
could wish, but 1 have also exacted from him the resti- 
tution of the money." 

" This restitution," said the procureur - general^ 
*' brings me here to-night ; it will, of course, be made 
in such a way as to throw light on the mysterious parts 
of this affair. The criminal certainly had accomplices." 

"The interests of human justice," said the rector, 
" are not those for which I act. I am ignorant of how 



150 The Village Rector. 

the restitution will be made, but I know it will take 
place. In sending for me to minister to m}' parish- 
ioner, Monseigneur placed me under the conditions 
which give to rectors in their parishes the same powers 
which Monseigneur exercises in his diocese, — barring, 
of course, all questions of discipline and ecclesiastical 
obedience." 

" That is true," said the bishop. " But the question 
here is how to obtain from the condemned man volun- 
tar}^ information which ma}^ enlighten justice." 

'' My mission is to win souls to God," said Monsieur 
Bonnet. 

Monsieur de Grancour shrugged his shoulders slightl}', 
but his colleague, the Abbe Dutheil nodded his head in 
sign of approval. 

" Tascheron is no doubt endeavoring to shield some 
one, whom the restitution will no doubt bring to light," 
said the procureur-general. 

" Monsieur," rephed the rector, '' I know absolutely 
nothing which would either confute or justifv 3'our 
suspicion. Besides, the secrets of confession are 
inviolable." 

" Will the restitution really take place ?" asked the 
man of law. 

'' Yes, monsieur," replied the man of God. 

' ' That is enough for me," said the procureur-gen- 
eral, who relied on the police to obtain the required 
information ; as if passions and personal interests were 
not tenfold more astute than the police. 

The next day, this being market-day, Jean-Francois 
Tascheron was led to execution in a manner to satisfy 
both the pious and the political spirits of the town. 



The Village Rector. 151 

ExemplaiT in behavior, pious and humble, he kissed 
the crucifix which Monsieur Bonnet held to his lips 
with a trembling hand. The unhappy man was watched 
and examined ; his glance was particularly spied upon ; 
would his eyes rove in search of some one in the crowd 
or in a house ? His discretion did, as a matter of 
fact, hold firm to the last. He died as a Christian 
should, repentant and absolved. 

The poor rector was carried awaj^ unconscious from 
the foot of the scaflTold, though he did not even see the 
fatal knife. 

During the following night, on the high-road fifteen 
miles from Limoges, Denise, though nearly exhausted 
by fatigue and grief, begged her father to let her 
go again to Limoges and take with her Louis-Marie 
Tascheron, one of her brothers. 

'' What more have you to do in that town ? " asked 
her father, frowning. 

"Father," she said, " not onl}' must we pay the law- 
yer who defended him, but w^e must restore the money 
which he has hidden." 

"You are right," said the honest man, pulling out a 
leathern pouch he carried with him. 

" No, no," said Denise, ^' he is no longer your son. 
It is not for those who cursed him, but for those who 
loved him, to reward the lawyer." 

" We will wait for you at Havre," said the father. 

Denise and her brother returned to Limoges before 
daylight. When the police heard, later, of this return 
they were never able to discover where the brother and 
sister had hidden themselves. 

Denise and Louis went to the upper town cautiouslj", 



152 The Village Rector. 

about four o'clock that afternoon, gliding along in the 
shadow of the houses. The poor girl dared not raise 
her eyes, fearing to meet the glances of those who had 
seen her brother's execution. After calling on Mon- 
sieur Bonnet, who in spite of his weakness, consented 
to serve as father and guardian to Denise in the matter, 
they all went to the lawyer's house in the rue de la 
Comedie. 

" Good-morning, my poor children," said the law- 
yer, bowing to Monsieur Bonnet ; " how can I be of ser- 
vice to you ? Perhaps 3'ou would like me to claim your 
brother's body and send it to you ? " 

" No, monsieur," replied Denise, weeping at an idea 
which had never yet occurred to her. " I come to pay 
his debt to 3'ou — so far, at least, as money can pay an 
eternal debt." 

" Pray sit down," said the lawyer ; noticing that 
Denise and the rector were still standing. 

Denise turned away to take from her corset two notes 
of five hundred francs each, which were fastened by a 
pin to her chemise ; then she sat down and offered 
them to her brother's defender. The rector gave the 
lawyer a flashing look which was instantly moistened 
by a tear. 

" Keep the money for yourself, m}^ poor girl," said 
the lawyer. "The rich do not pay so generously for 
a lost cause." 

^' Monsieur," said Denise, " I cannot obe}^ you." 

*' Then the money is not yours ? " said the lawyer. 

'' You are mistaken," she replied, looking at Mon- 
sieur Bonnet as if to know whether God would be 
angry at the lie. 



The Village Rector. 153 

The rector kept his ej'es lowered. 

'' Well, then," said the lawyer, taking one note of 
five hundred francs and offering the other to the rector, 
''I will share it with the poor. Now, Denise, change 
this one, which is reall^^ mine," he went on, giving her 
the note, " for your velvet ribbon and your gold cross. 
I will hang the cross above my mantel to remind me 
of the best and purest 3'oung girl's heart I have ever 
known in my whole experience as a lawyer." 

'' I will give it to you without selling it," cried 
Denise, taking off her jeannette and offering it to him. 

" Monsieur," said the rector, '' I accept the five 
hundred francs to pa}' for the exhumation of the poor 
lad's body and its transportation to Montegnac. God 
has no doubt pardoned him, and Jean will rise with 
my flock on that last day when the righteous and the 
repentant will be called together to the right hand of 
the Father." 

*' So be it," replied the lawj^er. 

He took Denise b}' the hand and drew her toward him 
to kiss her forehead ; but the action had another motive. 

'' My child," he whispered, " no one in Montegnac 
has five-hundred-franc notes ; the}' are rare even at 
Limoges, where they are only taken at a discount 
This mone}' has been given to you ; 3'ou will not tell 
me b}' whom, and I don't ask 3'ou ; but listen to me : 
if 3'ou have anything more to do in this town relating 
to 3'our poor brother, take care ! You and Monsieur 
Bonnet and your brother Louis will be followed b}" 
police-spies. Your famil}^ is known to have left Mon- 
tegnac, and as soon as 3'ou are seen here 3'ou will be 
watched and surrounded before you are aware of it." 



154 The Village Rector. 

" Alas ! " she said. " I have nothing more to do 
here." 

" She is cautious," thought the law3'er, as he parted 
from her. " However, she is warned ; and I hope she 
will get safely off." 

During this last w^eek in September, when the weather 
was as warm as in summer, the bishop gave a dinner 
to the authorities of the place. Among the guests were 
the procureur-du-roi and the attorney-general. Some 
livel}^ discussions prolonged the party till a late hour. 
The company played whist and backgammon, a favorite 
game with the clergy. Toward eleven o'clock the pro- 
cureur-du-roi walked out upon the upper terrace. 
From the spot where he stood he saw a light on that 
island to which, on a certain evening, the attention of 
the bishop and the Abbe Gabriel had been drawn, — 
Veronique's " lie de France," — and the gleam recalled 
to \hQ prociireur^ s mind the unexplained m3'steries of the 
Tascheron crime. Then, reflecting that there could be 
no legitimate reason for a fire on that lonely island in the 
river at that time of night, an idea, which had already 
struck the bishop and the secretary, darted into his 
mind with the suddenness and briUiancy of the flame 
itself which was shining in the distance. 

'' We have all been fools ! " he cried ; " but this will 
give us the accomplices." 

He returned to the salon, sought out Monsieur de 
Grandville, said a few words in his ear, after which 
they both took leave. But the Abbe de Rastignac accom- 
panied them politely to the door ; he watched them as 
they departed, saw them go to the terrace, noticed the 



The Village Rector. 155 

fire on the island, and thought to himself, "She is 
lost ! " 

The emissaries of the law got there too late. Denise 
and Louis, whom Jean had taught to dive, were actually 
on the bank of the river at a spot named to them by 
Jean, but Louis Tascheron had alreadj^ dived four 
times, bringing up each time a bundle containing twenty 
thousand francs' worth of gold. The first sum was 
wrapped in a foulard handkerchief knotted by the four 
corners. This handkerchief, from which the water was 
instantly wrung, was thrown into a great fire of drift 
wood already lighted. Denise did not leave the fire 
till she saw every particle of the handkerchief con- 
sumed. The second sum was wrapped in a shawl, the 
third in a cambric handkerchief; these wrappings were 
instantly burned like the foulard. 

Just as Denise was throwing the wrapping of the 
fourth and last package into the fire the gendarmes, 
accompanied b}^ the commissary of police, seized that 
incriminating article, which Denise let them take with- 
out manifesting the least emotion. It was a handker- 
chief, on which, in spite of its soaking in the river, 
traces of blood could still be seen. When questioned as 
to what she was doing there, Denise said she was taking 
the stolen gold from the river according to her brother 
Jean's instructions. The commissar}' asked her why 
she was burning certain articles ; she said she was 
obeying her brother's last directions. When asked 
what those articles were she boldl}- answered, without 
attempting to deceive : "A foulard, a shawl, a cambric 
handkerchief, and the handkerchief now captured." 
The latter had belonged to her brother. 



156 The Village Rector. 

This discovery and its attendant circumstances made 
a great stir in Limoges. Tiie shawl, more especially, 
confirmed the belief that Tasclieron had committed the 
crime in the interests of some love affair. 

" He protects that woman after death," said one lady, 
hearing of these last discoveries, rendered harmless by 
the criminal's precautions. 

*' There may be some husband in Limoges who will 
miss his foulard," said the procureur-du-roi^ with a 
laugh, " but he will not dare speak of it." 

" Tliese matters of dress are really so compromising," 
said old Madame Ferret, " that I shall make a search 
through m}^ wardrobe this very evening." 

" Whose pretty little footmarks could he have taken 
such pains to efface while he left his own ? " said Mon- 
sieur de Grandville. 

"Pooh! I dare say she was an ugly woman," said 
the procureur-du-roi. 

" She has paid dearly for her sin," observed the 
Abbe de G rancour. 

" Do you know what this affair shows? " cried Mon- 
sieur de Grandville. " It shows what women have lost 
by the Revolution, which has levelled all social ranks. 
Passions of this kind are no longer met with except 
in men who still feel an enormous distance between 
themselves and their mistress." 

'^ You saddle love with many vanities," remarked the 
Abbe Dutheil. 

"What does Madame Graslin think?" asked the 
prefect. 

" What do you expect her to think? " said Monsieur 
de Grandville. " Her child was born, as she predicted 



The Village Rector, 157 

to me, on the morning of the execution ; she has not 
seen any one since then, for she is dangerously ill." 

A scene took place in another salon in Limoges which 
was almost comical. The friends of the des Vanneaulx 
came to congratulate them on the recovery of their 
property. 

'' Yes, but they ought to have pardoned that poor 
man," said Madame des Vanneaulx. " Love, and not 
greed, made him steal the mone}' ; he was neither 
vicious nor wicked." 

" He was full of consideration for us," said Monsieur 
des Vanneaulx ; " and if I knew where his famik had 
gone I would do something for them. The}- are very 
worthy people, those Tascherons." 



158 The Village Rector. 



X. 

THIRD PHASE OF VEKONIQUE's LIFE. 

When Madame Graslin recovered from the long ill- 
ness that followed the birth of her child, which was not 
till the close of 1829, an illness which forced her to 
keep her bed and remain in absolute retirement, she 
heard her husband talking of an important piece of 
business he was anxious to conclude. The ducal house 
of Navarreins had offered for sale the forest of Mon- 
tegnac and the uncultivated lands around it. 

Graslin had never yet executed the clause in his 
marriage contract which obliged him to invest his wife's 
fortune in lands ; up to this time he had preferred to 
employ the money in his bank, where he had fully 
doubled it. He now began to speak of this investment. 
Hearing him discuss it Veronique appeared to remember 
the name of Montegnac, and asked her husband to fulfil 
his engagement about her propert}^ by purchasing these 
lands. Monsieur Graslin then proposed to see the 
rector, Monsieur Bonnet, and inquire of him about the 
estate, which the Due de Navarreins was desirous of 
selUng because he foresaw the struggle which the Prince 
de Polignac was forcing on between liberalism and the 
house of Bourbon, and he augured ill of it ; in fact, the 



The Village Rector. 159 

duke was one of the boldest opposers of the coup 
d'etat. 

The duke had sent his agent to Limoges to negotiate 
the matter; telling him to accept any good sum of 
money, for he remembered the Revolution of 1789 too 
well not to profit by the lessons it had taught the aris- 
tocrac}^ This agent had now been a month laying siege 
to Graslin, the shrewdest and wariest business head in 
the Limousin, — the only man, he was told by practical 
persons, who was able to purchase so large a property 
and pay for it on the spot. The Abbe Dutheil wrote a 
line to Monsieur Bonnet, who came to Limoges at once, 
and was taken to the hotel Graslin. 

Veronique determined to ask the rector to dinner ; 
but the banker would not let him go up his wife's 
apartment until he had talked to him in his office for 
over an hour and obtained such information as fully 
satisfied him, and made him resolve to buy the forest 
and domains of Montegnac at once for the sum of five 
hundred thousand francs. He acquiesced readilj" in his 
wife's wish that this purchase and all others connected 
with it should be in fulfilment of the clause of the 
marriage contract relative to the investment of her 
dowry. Graslin was all the more ready to do so 
because this act of justice cost him nothing, he having 
doubled the original sum. 

At this time, when Graslin was negotiating the 
purchase, the Navarreins domains comprised the forest 
of Montegnac which contained about thirty thousand 
acres of unused land, the ruins of the castle, the 
gardens, park, and about five thousand acres of uncul- 
tivated land on the plain beyond Montegnac. Graslin 



160 The Village Rector. 

immediately bought other lands in order to make him- 
self master of the first peak in the chain of the 
Correzan mountains on which the vast forest of Mon- 
tegnac ended. Since the imposition of taxes the Due de 
Navarreins had never received more than fifteen thou- 
sand francs per annum from this manor, once among 
the richest tenures of the kingdom, the lands of whicli 
had escaped the sale of ''public domain" ordered by 
the Convention, on account probablj'^ of their barrenness 
and the known difficulty of reclaiming them. 

When the rector went at last to Madame Graslin's 
apartment, and saw the woman noted for her piety and 
for her intellect of whom he had heard speak, he could 
not restrain a gesture of amazement. Veronique had 
now reached the third phase of her life, that in wliich 
she was to rise into grandeur by the exercise of the 
highest virtues, — a phase in which she became another 
woman. To the Little Virgin of Titian, hidden at 
eleven years of age beneath a spotted mantle of small- 
pox, had succeeded a beautiful woman, noble and pas- 
sionate ; and from that woman, now wrung by inward 
sorrows, came forth a saint. 

Her skin bore the yellow tinge which colors the 
austere faces of abbesses who have been famous for 
their macerations. The attenuated temples were almost 
golden. The hps had paled, the red of an opened 
pomegranate was no longer on them, their color had 
changed to the pale pink of a Bengal rose. At the 
corners of the eyes, close to the nose, sorrows had made 
two shining tracks like mother-of-pearl, where tears had 
flowed ; tears which effaced the marks of small-pox and 
glazed the skin. Curiosity was invincibly' attracted to 



The Village Rector. 161 

that pearl}' spot, where the blue threads of the little veins 
tlirobbed precipitately, as though they were swelled by 
an influx of blood brought there, as it were, to feed the 
tears. The circle round the eyes was now a dark-brown 
that was almost black above the eyelids, which were 
horribly wrinkled. Tiie cheeks were hollow ; in their 
folds la}' the sign of solemn thoughts. The chin, which 
in youth was full and round, the flesh covering the 
muscles, was now shrunken, to the injury of its ex- 
pression, which told of an implacable religious severity 
exercised by this woman upon herself. 

At twenty-nine years of age Veronique's hair was 
scanty and already whitening. Her thinness was 
alarming. In spite of her doctor's advice she insisted 
on suckling her son. The doctor triumphed in the 
result ; and as he watched the changes he had foretold 
in Veronique's appearance, he often said : — 

" See the eff'ects of childbirth on a woman ! She 
adores that child ; I have often noticed that mothers 
are fondest of the children who cost them most.'* 

Veronique's faded eyes were all that retained even a 
memory of her youth. The dark blue of the iris still 
cast its passionate fires, to which the woman's life 
seemed to have retreated, deserting the cold, impas- 
sible face, and glowing with an expression of devotion 
when the welfare of a fellow-being was concerned. 

Thus the surprise, the dread of the rector ceased by 
degrees as he went on explaining to Madame GrasHn 
all the good that a large owner of property could do 
at Montegnac provided he lived there. Veronique's 
beaut}' came back to her for a moment as her eyes 
glowed with the light of an unhoped-for future. 

11 



162 The Village Rector. 

' ' I will live there," she said. " It shall be ray work. 
I will ask Monsieur Graslin for money, and I will 
gladly share in your religious enterprise. Montegnac 
shall be fertilized ; we will find some means to water 
those arid plains. Like Moses, 3'ou have struck a rock 
from which the waters will gush." 

The rector of Montegnac, when questioned by his 
friends in Limoges about Madame Graslin, spoke of 
her as a saint. 

The day after the purchase was concluded Monsieur 
Graslin sent an architect to Montegnac. The banker 
intended to restore the chateau, gardens, terrace, and 
park, and also to connect the castle grounds with the 
forest by a plantation. He set himself to make these 
improvements with vainglorious activity. 

A few months later Madame Graslin met with a 
great misfortune. In August, 1830, Graslin, overtaken 
by the commercial and banking disasters of that period, 
became involved by no fault of his own. He could not 
endure the thought of bankruptcy, nor that of losing 
a fortune of three millions acquired b}' forty years of 
incessant toil. The moral malad}^ which resulted from 
this anguish of mind aggravated the inflammatory 
disease always ready to break forth in his blood. He 
took to his bed. Since her confinement Veronique's 
regard for her husband had developed, and had over- 
thrown all the hopes of her admirer, Monsieur de 
Grandville. She strove to save her husband's life by 
unremitting care, with no result but that of prolonging 
for a few months the poor man's tortures ; but the 
respite was very useful to Grossetete, who, foreseeing 
the end of his former clerk and partner, obtained from 



The Village Rector. 163 

him all the information necessar}' for the prompt liqui- 
dation of the assets. 

Graslin died in April, 1831, and the widow's grief 
yielded onl}^ to Christian resignation. Veronique's 
first words, when the condition of Monsieur Graslin's 
affairs was made known to her, were that she aban- 
doned her own fortune to paj' the creditors ; but it was 
found that Graslin's own property was more than suffi- 
cient. Two months later, the liquidation, of which 
Grossetete took charge, left to Madame Graslin the 
estate of Montegnac and six hundred thousand francs, 
her whole personal fortune. The son's name remained 
untainted, for Graslin had injured no one's propert}', 
not even that of his wife. Francis Graslin, the son, 
received about one hundred thousand francs. 

Monsieur de Grandville, to whom Veronique's gran- 
deur of soul and noble qualities were well known, made 
her an offer of marriage ; but, to the surprise of all 
Limoges, Madame Graslin declined it, under pretext 
that the Church discouraged second marriages. Grosse- 
tete, a man of strong common-sense and sure grasp 
of a situation, advised Veronique to invest her property 
and what remained of Monsieur Graslin's in the Funds ; 
and he made the investment himself in one of the gov- 
ernment securities which offered special advantages at 
that time, namely, the Three-per-cents, which were then 
quoted at fifty. The child Francis received, therefore, 
six thousand francs a 3'ear, and his mother fortj" thou- 
sand. Veronique's fortune was still the largest in the 
department. 

When these affairs were all settled, Madame Graslin 
announced her intention of leaving: Limoges and takins: 



164 The Village Rector. 

up her residence at Montegnac, to be near Monsieur 
Bonnet. Siie sent for the rector to consult about the 
enterprise he was so anxious to carrj^ on at Montegnac, 
in which she desired to take part. But he endeavored 
unselfish!}^ to dissuade her, telUng her that her place 
was in the world and in societj'. 

"I was born of the people and I wish to return to 
the people," she replied. On which the rector, full of 
love for his village, said no more against Madame 
Graslin's apparent vocation ; and the less because she 
had actually put it out of her power to continue in 
Limoges, having sold the hdtel Graslin to Grossetete, 
who, to cover a sum that was due to him, took it at its 
proper valuation. 

The day of her departure, toward the end of August, 
1831, Madame Graslin's numerous friends accompanied 
her some distance out of the town. A few went as far 
as the first relay. Veronique was in an open carriage 
with her mother. The Abbe Dutheil (just appointed to 
a bishopric) occupied the front seat of the carriage with 
old Grossetete. As they passed through the place 
d'Aine, Veronique showed signs of a sudden shock ; 
her face contracted so that the play of the muscles 
could be seen ; she clasped her infant to her breast 
with a convulsive motion, which old Madame Sauviat 
concealed by instantl}' taking the child, for she seemed 
to be on the watch for her daughter's agitation. Chance 
willed that Madame Graslin should pass through the 
square in which stood the house she had formerly occu- 
pied with her father and mother in her girlish days ; she 
grasped her mother's hand while great tears fell from 
her eves and rolled down her cheeks. 



The Village Rector, 165 

After leaving Limoges she turned and looked back, 
seeming to feel an emotion of happiness which was 
noticed by all her friends. When Monsieur de Grand- 
ville, then a young man of twenty-five, whom she de- 
clined to take as a husband, kissed her hand with an 
earnest expression of regret, the new bishop noticed 
the strange manner in which the black pupil of Vero- 
nique's eyes suddenl}' spread over the blue of the iris, 
reducing it to a narrow circle. The e3'e betrayed un- 
mistakably some violent inward emotion. 

" I shall never see him again," she whispered to her 
mother, who received this confidence without betraying 
the slightest feeling in her old face. 

Madame Graslin was at that instant under the obser- 
vation of Grossetste, who was directly in front of her ; 
but, in spite of his shrewdness, the old banker did not 
detect the hatred which Veronique felt for the magis- 
trate, whom she nevertheless received at her house. 
But churchmen have far more perception than other 
men, and Monseigneur Dutheil suddenly startled Vero- 
nique with a priestl}' glance. 

^'Do you regret nothing in Limoges?" he asked 
her. 

*' Nothing, now that you are leaving it; and mon- 
sieur," she added, smiling at Grossetete, who was bid- 
ding her adieu, " will seldom be there." 

The bishop accompanied Madame Graslin as far as 
Montegnac. 

" I ought to walk this road in sackcloth and ashes," 
she said in her mother's ear as they went on foot up 
the steep slope of Saint-Leonard. 

The old woman put her finger on her lips and glanced 



166 The Village Rector. 

at the bishop, who was looking at the child with terrible 
attention. This gesture, and the luminous look in the 
prelate's eyes, sent a shudder through Veronique's body. 
At the aspect of the vast plains stretching their gray 
expanse before Montegnac the fire died out of her eyes, 
and an infinite sadness overcame her. Presently she 
saw the village rector coming to meet her, and together 
they returned to the carriage. 

"There is 3'our domain, madame," said Monsieur 
Bonnet, extending his hand toward the barren plain. 

A few moments more and the village of Montegnac, 
with its hill, on which the newly erected buildings struck 
the eye, came in sight, gilded by the setting sun, and 
full of the poesy born of the contrast between the beauti- 
ful spot and the surrounding barrenness, in which it lay 
like an oasis in the desert. Madame Graslin's ej'es 
filled suddenl}' with tears. The rector called her atten- 
tion to a broad white line like a gash on the mountain 
side. 

" See what m}^ parishioners have done to testify their 
gratitude to the lad}' of the manor," he said, pointing 
to the line, which was really a road; "we can now 
drive up to the chateau. This piece of road has been 
made by them without costing yon a penny, and two 
months hence we shall plant it with trees. Monseigneur 
will understand what trouble and care and devotion 
were needed to accomplish such a change." 

"Is it possible the^- have done that?" said the 
bishop. 

" Without accepting any paj^ment for their work, 
Monseigneur. The poorest put their hands to it, know- 
ing that it would bring a mother among them." 



The Village Rector. 167 

At the foot of the hill the travellers saw the whole 
population of the neighborhood, who were hghting fire- 
boxes and discharging a few guns ; then two of the 
prettiest of the village girls, dressed in white, came for- 
ward to offer Madame Graslin flowers and fruit. 

'' To be thus received in this village ! " she exclaimed, 
grasping the rector's hand as if she stood on the brink 
of a precipice. 

The crowd accompanied the carriage to the iron gates 
of the avenue. From there Madame Graslin could see 
her chateau, of which as 3'et she had onl\' caught 
glimpses, and she was thunderstruck at the magnifi- 
cence of the building. Stone is rare in those parts, 
the granite of the mountains being difficult to quarr3\ 
The architect employed by Graslin to restore the house 
had used brick as the chief substance of this vast con- 
struction. This was rendered less costly b}^ the fact 
that the forest of Montegnac furnished all the necessary- 
wood and clay for its fabrication. The framework of 
wood and the stone for the foundations also came from 
the forest ; otherwise the cost of the restorations would 
have been ruinous. The chief expenses had been those 
of transportation, labor, and salaries. Thus the money 
laid out was kept in the village, and greatl}^ bene- 
fited it. 

At first sight, and from a distance, the chateau 
presents an enormous red mass, threaded b}^ black lines 
produced by the pointing, and edged with gray ; for the 
window and door casings, the entablatures, corner 
stones, and courses between the stories, are of granite, 
cut in facets like a diamond. The courtyard, which 
forms a sloping oval like that of the Chateau de Ver- 



168 The Village Rector. 

sailles, is surrounded by brick walls divided into panels 
by projecting buttresses. At the foot of these walls 
are groups of rare shrubs, remarkable for the varied 
color of their greens. Two fine iron gates placed 
opposite to each other lead on one side to a terrace 
which overlooks Montegnac, on the other to the offices 
and a farm-house. 

The grand entrance-gate, to which the road just con- 
structed led, is flanked by two pretty lodges in the style 
of the sixteenth centur}'. The fagade on the court3'ard 
looking east has three towers, — one in the centre, 
separated from the two others by the main building of 
the house. The facade on the gardens, which is abso- 
lutely the same as the other, looks westward. The 
towers have but one window on the fagade ; the main 
building has three on each side of the middle tower. 
The latter, which is square like a campanile^ the corners 
being vermiculated, is noticeable for the elegance of a 
few carvings sparsely distributed. Art is timid in the 
provinces, and though, since 1829, ornamentation has 
made some progress at the instigation of certain writers, 
landowners were at that period afraid of expenses which 
the lack of competition and skilled workmen rendered 
serious. 

The corner towers, which have three stories with a 
single window in each, looking to the side, are covered 
with very high-pitched roofs surrounded by granite 
balustrades, and on each p3Tamidal slope of these roofs 
crowned at the top with the sharp ridge of a platform 
surrounded with a wrought iron railing, is another 
window carved like the rest. On each floor the corbels 
of the doors and windows are adorned with carvings 



The Village Rector. 169 

copied from those of the Genoese mansions. The 
corner tower with three windows to the south looks 
down on Montegnac ; the other, to the north, faces the 
forest. From the garden front the e3'e takes in that 
part of Montegnac wliich is still called Les Tascherons, 
and follows the high-road leading through the village 
to the chief town of the department. The fa9ade on 
the courtyard has a view of the vast plains semicircled 
b}^ the mountains of the Correze, on the side toward 
Montegnac, but ending in the far distance on a low 
horizon. The main building has only one floor above 
the ground-floor, covered with a mansarde roof in the 
olden style. The towers at each end are three stories in 
height. The middle tower has a stunted dome some- 
thing like that on the Pavilion de I'Horloge of the 
palace of the Tuileries, and in it is a single room forming 
a belvedere and containing the clock. As a matter of 
economy the roofs had all been made of gutter-tiles, 
the enormous weight of which was easily supported 
by the stout beams and uprights of the framework cut 
in the forest. 

Before his death Graslin had laid out the road which 
the peasantry had just built out of gratitude ; for these 
restorations (which Graslin called his folly) had dis- 
tributed several hundred thousand francs among the 
people ; in consequence of which Montegnac had con- 
siderably increased. Graslin had also begun, before his 
death, behind the offices on the slope of the hill leading 
down to the plain, a number of farm buildings, proving 
his intention to draw some profit from the hitherto 
uncultivated soil of the plains. Six journeyman- 
gardeners, who were lodged in the offices, were now at 



170 The Village Rector. 

work under orders of a head gardener, planting and 
completing certain works which Monsieur Bonnet had 
considered indispensable. 

The ground-floor apartments of the chateau, intended 
only for reception-rooms, had been sumptuously fur- 
nished ; the upper floor was rather bare, Monsieur Graslin 
having stopped for a time the work of furnishing it. 

'' Ah, Monseigneur ! " said Madame Graslin to the 
bishop, after going the rounds of the house, " I who 
expected to live in a cottage ! Poor Monsieur Graslin 
was extravagant indeed ! " 

"And you, "said the bishop, adding after a pause, 
as he noticed the shudder that ran through her frame 
at his first words, " you will be extravagant in charity ? " 

She took the arm of her mother, who was leading 
Francis by the hand, and went to the long terrace at the 
foot of which are the church and the parsonage, and 
from which the houses of the village can be seen in 
tiers. The rector carried off Monseigneur Dutheil to 
show him the different sides of the landscape. Before 
long the two priests came round to the farther end of 
the terrace, where the}^ found Madame Graslin and her 
mother motionless as statues. The old woman was 
wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, and her daughter 
stood with both hands stretched beyond the balustrade 
as though she were pointing to the church below. 

" What is the matter, madame ? " said the rector to 
Madame Sauviat. 

" Nothing," replied Madame Graslin, turning round 
and advancing a few steps to meet the priests ; " I did 
not know that I should have the cemetery under my 
eyes." 



The Village Rector. 171 

" You can put it elsewhere ; the law gives you that 
right." 

'•'• The law ! " she exclaimed with almost a cry. 

Again the bishop looked fixedly at Veronique. Dis- 
turbed b}" the dark glance with which the priest had 
penetrated the veil of flesh that covered her soul, drag- 
ging thence a secret hidden in a grave of that cemeter}', 
she said to him suddenly : — 

^' Well, yes!'' 

The priest laid his hand over his eyes and was 
silent for a moment as if stunned. 

^' Help my daughter," cried the old mother ; " she is 
fainting." 

"The air is so keen, it overcomes me," said Madame 
Graslin, as she fell unconscious into the arms of the 
two priests, who carried her into one of the lower 
rooms of the chateau. 

When she recovered consciousness she saw the priests 
on their knees praying for her. 

" Ma}^ the angel who visited you never leave jow ! " 
said the bishop, blessing her. " Farewell, my daughter." 

Overcome b}' those words Madame Graslin burst into 
tears. 
. " Tears will save her ! " cried her mother. 

'* In this world and in the next," said the bishop^ 
turning round as he left the room. 

The room to which they had carried Madame Graslin 
was on the first floor above the ground-floor of the 
corner tower, from which the church and cemetery and 
southern side of Montegnac could be seen. She deter- 
mined to remain there, and did so, more or less 
uncomfortably, with Aline her maid and little Francis. 



172 The Village Rector. 

Madame Sauviat, naturally, took another room near 
hers. 

It was several days before Madame Graslin recovered 
from the violent emotion which overcame her on that 
first evening, and her mother induced her to stay in 
bed at least during the mornings. At night, Veronique 
would come out and sit on a bench of the terrace from 
which her eyes could rest on the church and cemetery. 
In spite of Madame Sauviat's mute but persistent 
opposition, Madame Graslin formed an almost mono- 
maniacal habit of sitting in the same place, where she 
seemed to give way to the blackest melancholy. 

'' Madame will die," said Aline to the old mother. 

Appealed to b}' Madame Sauviat, the rector, who 
had wished not to seem intrusive, came henceforth 
ver}' frequently to visit Madame Graslin ; he needed 
onl}^ to be warned that her soul was sick. This true 
pastor took care to pay his visits at the hour when 
Veronique came out to sit at the corner of the terrace 
with her child, both in deep mourning. 



The Village Rector, 173 



XI. 



THE RECTOR AT WORK. 

It was now the beginning of October, and Nature 
was growing dull and sad. Monsieur Bonnet, per- 
ceiving in Veronique from the moment of her arrival 
at Montegnac the existence of an inward wound, 
thought it wisest to wait for the voluntary and com- 
plete confidence of a woman who would sooner or later 
become his penitent. 

One evening Madame Graslin looked at the rector 
with e3^es almost glazed with that fatal indecision often 
observable in persons who are cherishing the thought 
of death. From that moment Monsieur Bonnet hesi- 
tated no longer ; he set before him the duty of arresting 
the progress of this cruel moral malady. 

At first there was a brief struggle of empty words 
between the priest and Veronique, in which they both 
sought to veil their real thoughts. In spite of the cold, 
Veronique was sitting on the granite bench holding 
Francis on her knee. Madame Sauviat was standing 
at the corner of the terrace, purposely so placed as to 
hide the cemetery. Aline was waiting to take the 
child away. 

" I had supposed, madame," said the rector, who 
was now paying his seventh visit, ' ' that you were only 



174 The Village Rector. 

melancholy ; but I see," sinking his voice to a whisper, 
" that your soul is in despair. That feeling is neither 
Christian nor catholic." 

" But," she replied, looking to heaven with piercing 
eyes and letting a bitter smile flicker on her lips, 
" what other feeling does the Church leave to a lost 
soul unless it be despair?" 

As he heard these words the rector realized the vast 
extent of the ravages in her soul. 

" Ah ! '^ he said, " you are making this terrace your 
hell, when it ought to be your Calvary from which to 
rise to heaven." 

" I have no pride left to place me on such a pedes- 
tal," she answered, in a tone which revealed the self- 
contempt that lay within her. 

Here the priest, b}- one of those inspirations which 
are both natural and frequent in noble souls, the man 
of God lifted the child in his arms and kissed its fore- 
head, saying, in a fatherly voice, "Poor little one!" 
Then he gave it himself to the nurse, who carried it 
away. 

Madame Sauviat looked at her daughter, and saw 
the efflcacj^ of the rector's words ; for Veronique's e3'es, 
long dr}', were moist with tears. The old woman made 
a sign to the priest and disappeared. 

" Let us walk," said the rector to Veronique leading 
her along the terrace to the other end, from which Les 
Tascherons could be seen. "You belong to me ; I 
must render account to God for your sick soul." 

" Give me time to recover from my depression," she 
said to him. 

" Your depression comes from injurious meditation," 
he replied, quickly. 



The Village Rector. 175 

** Yes," she said, with the simplicit}^ of a grief which 
has reached the point of making no attempt at con- 
ceahnent. 

''I see plainly- that yon have fallen into the gulf of 
apathy," he cried. " If there is a degree of physical 
suffering at which all sense of modest}' expires, there 
is also a degree of moral suffering in which all vigor of 
soul is lost ; I know that." 

She was surprised to hear that subtle observation 
and to find such tender pity from this village rector ; 
but, as we have seen already, the exquisite delicacy 
which no passion had ever touched gave him the true 
maternal spirit for his flock. This mens divinior, this 
apostolic tenderness, places the priest above all other 
men and makes him, in a sense, divine. Madame 
Grashn had not as yet had enough experience of Mon- 
sieur Bonnet to know this beauty hidden in his soul 
like a spring, from which flowed grace and purity and 
true life. 

*' Ah ! monsieur," she cried, giving herself wholly up 
to him b}^ a gesture, a look, such as the dying give. 

"I understand you," he said. "What is to be 
done ? What will you become ? " 

They walked in silence the whole length of the balus- 
trade, facing toward the plain. The solemn moment 
seemed propitious to the bearer of good tidings, the 
gospel messenger, and he took it. 

" Suppose 3^ourself now in the presence of God," he 
said, in a low voice, mysteriously ; " what would you 
say to him ? " 

Madame Graslin stopped as though struck by a 
thunderbolt ; she shuddered ; then she said simply, in 
tones that brought tears to the rector's eyes : — 



176 The Village Rector. 

"I should sa}', as Jesus Christ said: 'Father, wh}^ 
hast thou forsaken me ? ' " 

•'Ah! Magdalen, that is the saying I expected of 
3'ou," cried Monsieur Bonnet, who could not help ad- 
miring her. " You see 3'ou are forced to appeal to 
God's justice ; j^ou invoke it ! Listen to me, madame. 
Religion is, by anticipation, divine justice. The Church 
claims for herself the right to judge the actions of the 
soul. Human justice is a feeble image of divine justice ; 
it is but a pale imitation of it applied to the needs of 
society." 

" What do you mean by that? " 

" You are not the judge of your own case, you are 
dependent upon God," said the priest; "you have 
neither the right to condemn yourself nor the right to 
absolve yourself. God, my child, is a great reverser of 
judgments." 

"Ah ! " she exclaimed. 

" He sees the origin of things, where we see onl}^ the 
things themselves." 

Veronique stopped again, struck by these ideas, that 
were new to her. 

" To you," said the brave priest, "to you whose soul 
is a great one, 1 owe other words than those I ought to 
give to my humble parishioners. You, whose mind and 
spirit are so cultivated, 3'Ou can rise to the sense divine 
of the Catholic religion, expressed by images and words 
to the poor and childlike. Listen to me attentively, for 
what I am about to say concerns 3'ou ; no matter how 
extensive is the point of view at which I place myself 
for a moment, the case is 3'Ours. JLaw, invented to 
protect society, is based on equalit3^ Societ3^, which 



The Village Rector. 177 

is nothing but an assemblage of acts, is based on ine- 
qualit}'. There is therefore lack of harmony between 
act and law. Ought society to march on favored or 
repressed by law ? In other words, ought law to be in 
opposition to the interior social movement for the main- 
tenance of society, or should it be based on that move- 
ment in order to guide it? All legislators have contented 
themselves with analyzing acts, indicating those that 
seemed to them blamable or criminal, and attaching 
punishments to such or rewards to others. That is 
human law ; it has neither the means to prevent sm, 
nor the means to prevent the return to sinfulness of 
those it punishes. Philanthropy is a sublime error ; 
it tortures the body uselessl}', it produces no balm to 
heal the soul. Philanthropy gives birth to projects, 
emits ideas, confides the execution of them to man, to 
silence, to labor, to rules, to things mute and power- 
less. Religion is above these imperfections, for it 
extends man's life beyond this world. Regarding us 
all as degraded from our high estate, religion has opened 
to us an inexhaustible treasure of indulgence. We are 
all more or less advanced toward our complete regene- 
ration ; no one is sinless ; the Church expects wrong- 
doing, even crime. Where societ}' sees a criminal to 
be expelled from its bosom, the Church sees a soul to 
save. More, far more than that ! Inspired by God, 
whom she studies and contemplates, the Church admits 
the inequalities of strength, she allows for the dispro- 
portion of burdens. If she finds us unequal in heart, 
in body, in mind, in aptitude, and value, she makes us 
all equal b}* repentance. Hence equality is no longer 
a vain word, for we can be, we are, all equal through 

12 



178 The Village Rector. 

feeling. From the formless fetichism of savages to the 
graceful inventions of Greece, or the profound and 
metaphysical doctrines of Egypt and India, whether 
taught in cheerful or in terrifying worship, there is a 
conviction in the soul of man — that of his fall, that of 
his sin — from which comes everywhere the idea of 
sacriiSce and redemption. The death of the Redeemer 
of the human race is an image of what we have to do 
for ourselves, — redeem our faults, redeem our errors, 
redeem our crimes ! All is redeemable ; Catholicism 
itself is in that word ; hence its adorable sacraments, 
which help the triumph of grace and sustain the sinner. 
To weep, to moan like Magdalen in the desert, is but 
the beginning ; the end is Action. Monasteries wept 
and acted ; they prayed and civilized ; they were the 
active agents of our divine religion. They built, planted, 
cultivated Europe ; all the while saving the treasures of 
learning, knowledge, human justice, politics, and art. 
We shall ever recognize in Europe the places where 
those radiant centres once were. Nearly all our modern 
towns are the children of monasteries. If you believe 
that God will judge 3'ou, the Church tells 3'ou by my 
voice that sin can be redeemed by works of repent- 
ance. The mighty hand of God weighs both the evil 
done and the value of benefits accomplished. Be 
yourself like those monasteries ; work here the same 
miracles. Your prayers must be labors. From your 
labors must come the good of those above whom you 
are placed by fortune, b}^ superiority of mind ; even 
this natural position of your dwelling is the image of 
your social situation." 

As he said the last words, the priest and Madame 



The Village Rector, 179 

Graslin turned to walk back toward the plains, and the 
rector pointed both to the village at the foot of the hill, 
and to the chateau commanding the whole landscape. 
It was then half-past four o'clock ; a glow of yellow 
sunlight enveloped the balustrade and the gardens, 
illuminated the chateau, sparkled on the gilded railings 
of the roof, lighted the long plain cut in two by the 
high-road, — a sad, gray ribbon, not bordered there by 
the fringe of trees which waved above it elsewhere on 
either side. 

When Veronique and Monsieur Bonnet had passed 
the main body of the chateau, they could see — beyond 
the courtyard, the stables, and the offices — the great 
forest of Montegnac, along which the yellow glow was 
gliding like a soft caress. Though this last gleam of 
the setting sun touched the tree-tops onl}', it enabled 
the eye to see distinctly the caprices of that marvellous 
tapestry which nature makes of a forest in autumn. 
The oaks were a mass of Florentine bronze, the walnuts 
and the chestnuts displa3'ed their blue-green tones, the 
early trees were putting on their golden foliage, and all 
these varied colors were shaded with the gray of barren 
spots. The trunks of trees already stripped of leafage 
showed their light-gray colonnades ; the russet, tawny, 
grayish colors, artistically blended by the pale reflec- 
tions of an October sun, harmonized with the vast 
uncultivated plain, green as stagnant water. 

A thought came into the rector's mind as he looked 
at this fine spectacle, mute in other ways, — for not a 
tree rustled, not a bird chirped, death was on the plain, 
silence in the forest ; here and there a little smoke from 
the village chimneys, that was all. The chateau seemed 



180 The Village Rector. 

as gloomy as its mistress. By some strange law all 
things about a dwelling imitate the one who rules there ; 
the owner's spirit hovers over it. Madame Graslin — 
her mind grasped by the rector's words, her soul struck 
by conviction, her heart affected in its tenderest emo- 
tions by the angelic quality of that pure voice — stopped 
short. The rector raised his arm and pointed to the 
forest. Veronique looked there. 

"Do you not think it has a vague resemblance to 
social life?" he said. "To each its destin3\ How 
many inequalities in that mass of trees ! Those placed 
the highest lack earth and moisture ; they die first." 

' ' Some there are whom the shears of the woman 
gathering fagots cut short in their prime," she said 
bitterly. 

"Do not fall back into those thoughts," said the 
rector sternly, though with indulgence still. " The 
misfortune of this forest is that it has never been cut. 
Do 3'ou see the phenomenon these masses present?" 

Veronique, to whose mind the singularities of forest 
nature suggested little, looked obediently at the forest 
and then let her eyes drop gently back upon the rector. 

"You do not notice," he said, perceiving from that 
look her total ignorance, "the lines where the trees of 
all species still hold their greenness ? " 

" Ah ! true," she said. "I see them now. Why is it? " 

"In that," replied the rector, "lies the future of 
Montegnac, and 3'our own fortune, an immense fortune, 
as I once explained to Monsieur Graslin. You see 
the furrows of those three dells, the mountain streams 
of which flow into the torrent of the Gabou. That 
torrent separates the forest of Montegnac from the 



The Village Rector, 181 

district which on this side adjoins ours. In September 
and October it goes dry, but in November it is full of 
water, the volume of which would be greatlj' increased 
b}' a partial clearing of the forest, so as to send all the 
lesser streams to join it. As it is, its waters do no 
good ; but if one or two dams were made between the 
two hills on either side of it, as they have done at 
Riquet, and at Saint-Ferreol — where they have made 
immense reservoirs to feed the Languedoc canal — 
this barren plain could be fertilized by judicious irri- 
gation through trenches and culverts managed by 
watergates ; sending the water when needed over these 
lands, and diverting it at other times to our little river. 
You could plant fine poplars along these water-courses 
and raise the finest cattle on such pasturage as you 
would then obtain. What is grass, but sun and water? 
There is quite soil enough on the plains to hold the 
roots ; the streams will furnish dew and moisture ; the 
poplars will hold and feed upon the mists, returning 
their elements to the herbage ; these are the secrets of 
the fine vegetation of valleys. If you undertook this 
work you would soon see hfe and joy and movement 
where silence now reigns, where the eye is saddened 
by barren fruitlessness. Would not that be a noble 
prayer to God? Such work would be a better occupa- 
tion of 3'our leisure than the indulgence of melancholy 
thoughts." 

Veronique pressed the rector's hand, answering with 
four brief words, but the}^ were grand ones : — 

'' It shall be done." 

*' You conceive the possibility of this great work," 
he went on ; " but you cannot execute it. Neither 



182 The Village Rector, 

you nor I have the necessar}^ knowledge to ac- 
complish an idea which might have come to all, but 
the execution of which presents immense difficulties ; 
for simple as it may seem, the matter requires the 
most accurate science with all its resources. Seek, 
therefore, at once for the proper human instruments 
who will enable you within the next dozen years to 
get an income of six or seven thousand louis out of 
the six thousand acres you irrigate and fertilize. Such 
an enterprise will make Montegnac at some future day 
the most prosperous district in the department. The 
forest, as yet, yields you no return, but sooner or 
later commerce will come here in search of its fine 
woods — those treasures amassed by time ; the only 
ones the production of which cannot be hastened or im- 
proved upon by man. The State may some day provide 
a way of transport from this forest, for many of the 
trees would make fine masts for the navy ; but it will 
wait until the increasing population of Montegnac 
makes a demand upon its protection ; for the State is 
like fortune, it comes onl}^ to the rich. This estate, 
well managed, will become, in course of time, one of 
the finest in France ; it will be the pride of 3'our grand- 
son, who may then find the chateau paltry, comparing 
it with its revenues." 

" Here," said Veronique, " is a future for m}^ life.'* 
'' A beneficent work such as that will redeem wrong- 
doing," said the rector. 

Seeing that she understood him, he attempted to 
strike another blow on this woman's intellect, judging 
rightly that in her the intellect led the heart, whereas 
in other women the heart is their road to intelligence. 



The Village Rector. 183 

"Do you know," he said after a pause, " the error 
in which 3'ou are Uving ? " 

She looked at him timidly. 

''Your repentance is as yet only a sense of defeat 
endured, — which is horrible, for it is nothing else than 
the despair of Satan ; such, perhaps, was the repen- 
tance of mankind before the coming of Jesus Christ. 
But our repentance, the repentance of Christians, is 
the horror of a soul struck down on an evil path, to 
whom, b}^ this ver}- shock, God has revealed himself. 
You are like the pagan Orestes ; make yourself another 
Paul." 

' ' Your words have changed me utterly," she cried. 
" Now — oh ! now I want to live." 

"The spirit conquers,'^ thought the modest rector, 
as he joyfully took his leave. He had cast nourishment 
before a soul hunted into secret despair by giving to 
its repentance the form of a good and noble action. 



184 The Village Rector, 



XII. 



THE SOUL OF FORESTS. 

Veronique wrote to Monsieur Grossetete on the 
morrow. A few days later she received from Limoges 
three saddle-horses sent by her old friend. Monsieur 
Bonnet found at Veronique's request, a 3'oung man, 
son of the postmaster, who was delighted to serve 
Veronique and earn good wages. This young fellow, 
small but active, with a round face, black eyes and 
hair, and named Maurice Champion, pleased Veronique 
very much and vi^as immediately inducted into his 
office, which was that of taking care of the horses and 
accompanying his mistress on her excursions. 

The head-forester of Montegnac was a former cav- 
alry-sergeant in the Royal guard, born at Limoges, 
whom the Due de Navarreins had sent to his estate at 
Montegnac to study its capabihties and value, in order 
that he might derive some profit from it. Jerome 
Colorat found nothing but waste land utterl}^ barren, 
woods unavailable for want of transportation, a ruined 
chateau, and enormous outlays required to restore the 
house and gardens. Alarmed, above all, by the beds 
of torrents strewn with granite rocks which seamed 
the forest, this honest but unintelligent agent was the 
real cause of the sale of the property. 



The Village Rector, 185 

" Colorat," said Madame Graslin to her forester, for 
whom she had sent, '* I shall probably ride out ever}^ 
morning, beginning with to-morrow. You know all 
the different parts of the land that belonged originally 
to this estate and those which Monsieur Graslin added 
to it : 1 wish you to go with me and point them out ; 
for I intend to visit every part of the property 
m3'self." 

The familj' within the chateau saw with joy the 
change that now appeared in Veronique's behavior. 
Without being told to do so, Aline got out her mis- 
tress's riding-habit and put it in good order for use. 
The next day Madame Sauviat felt unspeakable relief 
when her daughter left her room dressed to ride out. 

Guided hy the forester and Champion, who found 
their way by recollection, for the paths were scarcely 
marked on these unfrequented mountains, Madame 
Graslin started on the first day for the summits, intend- 
ing to explore those onl}', so as to understand the 
watershed and familiarize herself with the la}' of the 
ravines, the natural path of the torrents when they 
tore down the slopes. She wished to measure the task 
before her, — to study the land and the water-ways, and 
find for herself the essential points of the enterprise 
which the rector had suggested to her. She followed 
Colorat, who rode in advance ; Champion was a few 
steps behind her. 

So long as they were making their way through parts 
that were dense with trees, going up and down undula- 
tions of ground lying near to each other and very 
characteristic of the mountains of France, Veronique 
was lost in contemplation of the marvels of the forest. 



186 The Village Rector. 

First came the venerable centennial trees, which amazed 
her till she grew accustomed to them ; next, the full- 
grown 3'ounger trees reaching to their natural height ; 
then, in some more open spot, a solitary pine-tree of 
enormous height ; or — but this was rare — one of those 
flowering shrubs, dwarf elsewhere, but here attaining to 
gigantic development, and often as old as the soil itself. 
She saw, with a sensation quite unspeakable, a cloud 
rolling along the face of the bare rocks. She noticed 
the white furrows made down the mountain sides bj 
the melting snows, which looked at a distance like scars 
and gashes. Passing through a gorge stripped of 
vegetation, she nevertheless admired, in the cleft flanks 
of the rocky slope, aged chestnuts as erect as the 
Alpine fir-trees. 

The rapidity with which she advanced left her no time 
to take in all the varied scene, the vast moving sands, 
the quagmires boasting a few scattered trees, fallen 
granite bowlders, overhanging rocks, shaded valleys, 
broad open spaces with moss and heather still in bloom, 
(though some was dried), utter solitudes overgrown 
with juniper and caper-bushes ; sometimes uplands with 
short grass, small spaces enriched by an oozing spring, 
— in short, much sadness, many splendors, things 
sweet, things strong, and all the singular aspects of 
mountainous Nature in the heart of France. 

As she watched these many pictures, varied in form 
but all inspired with the same thought, the awful sad- 
ness of this Nature, so wild, so ruined, abandoned, 
fruitless, barren, filled her soul and answered to her 
secret feelings. And when, through an opening among 
the trees, she caught a glimpse of the plain below her, 



The Village Rector. 187 

when she crossed some arid ravine over gravel and 
stones, where a few stunted bushes alone could grow, 
the spirit of this austere Nature came to her, suggest- 
ing observations new to her mind, derived from the 
many significations of this varied scene. 

There is no spot in a forest which does not have its 
significance ; not a glade, not a thicket but has its 
analog}^ with the labyrinth of human thought. Who is 
there among those whose minds are cultivated or whose 
hearts are wounded who can walk alone in a forest and 
the forest not speak to him? Insensibly a voice lifts 
itself, consoling or terrible, but oftener consoling than 
terrifying. If we seek the causes of the sensation — 
grave, simple, sweet, mysterious — that grasps us 
there, perhaps we shall find it in the sublime and 
artless spectacle of all these creations obeying their 
destiny and immutably submissive. Sooner or later 
the overwhelming sense of the permanence of Nature 
fills our hearts and stirs them deeply, and we end by 
being conscious of God. So it was with Veronique ; 
in the silence of those summits, from the odor of the 
woods, the serenity of the air, she gathered — as she 
said that evening to Monsieur Bonnet — the certainty 
of God's mercy. She saw the possibility^ of an order 
of deeds higher than any to whicli her aspirations had 
ever reached. She felt a sort of happiness within her; 
it was long, indeed since she had known such a sense 
of peace. Did she owe that feeling to the resemblance 
she found between that barren landscape and the arid, 
exhausted regions of her soul? Had she seen those 
troubles of nature with a sort of joy, thinking that 
Nature was punished though it had not sinned? At 



188 The Village Rector. 

any rate, she was powerfully affected ; Colorat and 
Champion, following her at a little distance, thought 
her transfigured. 

At a certain spot Veronique was struck with the 
stern harsh aspect of the steep and rock}^ beds of the 
diied-up torrents. She found herself longing to hear 
the sound of waters plashing through those scorched 
ravines. 

'' The need to love ! " she murmured. 

Ashamed of the words, which seemed to come to her 
like a voice, she pushed her horse boldl}^ toward the 
first peak of the Correze, where, in spite of the 
forester's advice, she insisted on going. Telling her 
attendants to wait for her she went on alone to the 
summit, which is called the Roche-Vive, and staj'ed 
there for some time, studying the surrounding country. 
After hearing the secret voice of the many creations 
asking to live she now received within her the touch, 
the inspiration, which determined her to put into her 
work that wonderful perseverance displayed b}^ Na- 
ture, of which she had herself already given many 
proofs. 

She fastened her horse to a tree and seated herself 
on a large rock, letting her e3'es rove over the broad 
expanse of barren plain, where Nature seemed a step- 
mother, — feeling in her heart the same stirrings of 
maternal love with which at times she gazed upon her 
infant. Prepared b}' this train of emotion, these half 
involuntar}" meditations (which, to use her own fine 
expression, winnowed her heart), to receive the sublime 
Instruction offered by the scene before her, she awoke 
from her lethargy. 



The Village Rector, 189 

"I understood then," she said afterwards to the 
rector, " that our souls must be ploughed and culti- 
vated like the soil itself." 

The vast expanse before her was lighted by a pale 
November sun. Already a few gray clouds chased by 
a chilly wind were hurrying from the west. It was 
then three o'clock. Veronique had taken four hours to 
reach the summit, but, like all others who are harrowed 
by an inward miser}'', she paid no heed to external 
circumstances. At this moment her being was actuall}- 
growing and magnifying with the sublime impetus of 
Nature itself. 

" Do not stay here any longer, raadame," said a man, 
whose voice made her quiver, " or you will soon be 
unable to return ; you are six miles from an}' dwelling, 
and the forest is impassable at night. But that is not 
3'our greatest danger. Before long the cold on this 
summit will become intense ; the reason of this is 
unknown, but it has caused the death of many 
persons." 

Madame Graslin saw below her a man's face, almost 
black with sunburn, in which shone eyes that were like 
two tongues of flame. On either side of this face hung 
a mass of brown hair, and below it was a fan-shaped 
beard. The man was raising respectfully one of those 
enormous broad-brimmed hats which are worn by the 
peasantry of central France, and in so doing displayed 
a bald but splendid forehead such as we sometimes see 
in wayside beggars. Veronique did not feel the slightest 
fear ; the situation was one in which all the lesser con- 
siderations that make a woman timid had ceased. 

''Why are you here?" she asked. 



190 The Village Rector. 

'* My home is near by," he answered. 

" What can 3-011 do in such a desert? '' she said. 

" I live." 

'^But how? what means of living are there?" 

" I earn a little something by watching that part of 
the forest," he answered, pointing to the other side of 
the summit from the one that overlooked Montegnac. 
Madame Graslin then saw the muzzle of a gun and 
also a game-bag. If she had had any fears this would 
have put an end to them. 

" Then you are a keeper? " she said. 

"No, madame ; in order to be a keeper we must 
take a certain oath ; and to take an oath we must have 
civic rights." 

' ' Who are you, then ? " 

"•I am Farrabesche," he said, with deep humility, 
lowering his eyes to the ground. 

Madame Graslin, to wdiom the name told nothing, 
looked at the man and noticed in his face, the expres- 
sion of which was now very gentle, the signs of under- 
lying ferocity ; irregular teeth gave to the mouth, the 
lips blood-red, an ironical expression full of evil au- 
dacit}' ; the dark and prominent cheek-bones had some- 
thing animal about them. The man was of middle 
height, with strong shoulders, a thick-set neck, and the 
large hairy hands of violent men capable of using their 
strength in a brutal manner. His last words pointed 
to some myster}^ to which his bearing, the expression 
of his countenance, and his whole person, gave a 
sinister meaning. 

"You must be in mj service, then?" said Veronique 
in a gentle voice. 



The Village Rector. 191 

" Have I the honor of speaking to Madame Graslin ? " 
asked Farrabesche. 

" Yes, my friend," she answered. 

Farrabesche instantly- disappeared, with the rapidity 
of a wild animal, after casting a glance at his mistress 
that was full of fear. 



192 The Village Rector, 



XIII. 



FARRABESCHE. 



Veronique hastened to mount her horse and rejoin 
the servants, who were beginning to be uneasy about 
her ; for the strange unhealthiness of the Roche-Vive 
was well known throughout the neighborhood. Colorat 
begged his mistress to go down to the Mttle valley 
which led to the plain. It would be dangerous, he said, 
to return by the hills, or by the tangled paths they had 
followed in the morning, where, even with his knowl- 
edge of the country, they were likely to be lost in the 
dusk. 

Once on the plain Veronique rode slowly. 

"Who is this Farrabesche whom you employ?" 
she asked her forester. 

'' Has madame met him?" cried Colorat. 

'' Yes, but he ran away from me." 

"Poor man! perhaps he does not know how kind 
madame is." 

" But what has he done ? " 

"Ah! madame, Farrabesche is a murderer," replied 
Champion, simply. 

"Then they pardoned him!" said Veronique, in a 
trembling voice. 

" No, madame," replied Colorat, " Farrabesche was 



The Village Rector. 193 

tried and condemned to ten years at the galley's ; he 
served half his time, and then he was released on parole 
and came here in 1827. He owes his life to the rector, 
who persuaded him to give himself up to justice. He 
had been condemned to death by default, and sooner 
or later he must have been taken and executed. Mon- 
sieur Bonnet went to find him in the woods, all alone, 
at the risk of being killed. No one knows what he 
said to Farrabesche. The}' were alone together two 
days ; on the third day the rector brought Farrabesche 
to Tulle, where he gave himself up. Monsieur Bonnet 
went to see a good lawyer and begged him to do his 
best for the man. Farrabesche escaped with ten years 
in irons. The rector went to visit him in prison, and 
that dangerous fellow, who used to be the terror of the 
whole countrj', became as gentle as a girl ; he even let 
them take him to the galleys without a struggle. On 
his return he settled here by the rector's advice ; no 
one sa3's a word against him ; he goes to mass every 
Sunday and all the feast-days. Though his place is 
among us he slips in beside the wall and sits alone. 
He goes to the altar sometimes and prays, but when 
he takes the holy sacrament he always kneels apart." 

'' And 3'ou say that man killed another man? " 

"One!" exclaimed Colorat ; "he killed several! 
But he is a good man all the same." 

"Is that possible?" exclaimed Veronique, letting 
the bridle fall on the neck of her horse. 

" Well, you see, madame," said the forester, who 
asked no better than to tell the tale, "Farrabesche 
may have had good reason for what he did. He was 
the last of the Farrabesches, — an old family of the 

13 



194 The Village Rector. 

Correze, don't you know ! His elder brother, Captain 
Farrabesclie, died ten years earlier in Italy, at Monte- 
notte, a captain when he was only twenty-two years 
old. Wasn't that ill-luck? and such a lad, too! knew 
how to read and write, and bid fair to be a general. 
The family grieved terribly, and good reason, too. As 
for me, I heard all about his death, for I was serving 
at that time under l' Autre. Oh ! he made a fine death, 
did Captain Farrabesche ; he saved the army and the 
Little Corporal. 1 was then in the division of General 
Steingel, a German, — tliat is, an Alsacian, — a famous 
good general but rather short-sighted, and that was 
the reason why he was killed soon after Captain Farra- 
besche. The 5'oungest brother — that's this one — 
was only six years old wlien he heard of his brother's 
death. The second brother served too ; but only as a 
private soldier ; he died a sergeant in the first regi- 
ment of the Guard, at the battle of Austerlitz, where, 
d'ye see, madame, they mancBuvred just as quietly as 
they might in the Carrousel. I was there ! oh ! I had 
the luck of it ! went through it all without a scratch ! 
Now this Farrabesche of ours, though he 's a brave 
fellow, took it into his head he would n't go to the 
wars ; in fact, the army was n't a healthy place for one 
of his family. So when the conscription caught him 
in 1811 he ran awa}^ — a refractory, that's what they 
called them. And then it was he went and joined a 
part}' of chauffeurs, or maybe he was forced to ; at any 
rate he chauffed! Nobody but the rector knows what he 
really did with those brigands — all due respect to them ! 
Many a fight he had with the gendarmes, and the soldiers 
too ; I 'm told he was in seven regular battles — " 



The Village Rector. 195 

'' They say he killed two soldiers and three gen- 
darmes," put in Champion. 

" Who knows how many? — he never told," went on 
Colorat. "At last, madame, they caught nearly all 
his comrades, but they never could catch him ; hang 
him ! he was so young and active, and knew the country 
so well, he always escaped. The chauffeurs he con- 
sorted with kept themselves mostly in the neighbor- 
hood of Brives and Tulle ; sometimes they came down 
this way, because Farrabesche knew such good hiding- 
places about here. In 1814 the conscription took no 
further notice of him, because it was abolished ; but for 
all that, he was obliged to live in the woods in 1815 ; 
because, don't you see? as he hadn't enough to live 
on, he helped to stop a mail-coach over there, down 
that gorge ; and then it was they condemned him. 
But, as I told you just now, the rector persuaded him 
to give himself up. It was n't easy to convict him, for 
nobody dared testify against him ; and his lawyer and 
Monsieur Bonnet worked so hard the}^ got him sen- 
tenced for ten years onl}^ ; which was pretty good luck 
after being a chauffeur — for he did chauffe.^^ 

" Will you tell me what chauffeur means?" 

"If you wish it, madame, I will tell you what they 
did, as far as I know about it from others, for I never 
was chaiffed mj'self. It wasn't a good thing to do, 
but necessity knows no law. Well, this is how it was : 
seven or eight would go to some farmer or land-owner 
who was thought to have money ; the farmer would 
build a good fire and give them a supper, lasting half 
through the night, and then, when the feast was over, 
if the master of the house would n't give them the sum 



196 The Village Rector. 

demanded, they just fastened his feet to the spit, and 
did n't unfasten them till they got it. That 's how it 
was. They always went masked. Among all their 
expeditions they sometimes made unlucky ones. Hang 
it, there'll always be obstinate, miserly old fellows in 
the world ! One of them, a farmer, old Cochegrue, so 
mean he 'd shave an egg, held out ; he let them roast 
his feet. Well, he died of it. The wife of Monsieur 
David, near Brives, died of terror at merely seeing 
those fellows tie her husband's feet. She died saying 
to David: 'Give them all you have.' He wouldn't, 
and so she just pointed out the hiding-place. The 
chauffeurs (that "s why they call them chauff\urs^ — 
warmers) were the terror of the whole country for over 
five years. But you must get it well into your head, — 
oh, excuse me, madame, but you must know that more 
than one 3'oung man of good family belonged to them, 
though somehow they were never the ones to be 
caught.'^ 

Madame Graslin listened without interrupting or 
replying. There was silence for a few moments, and 
then little Champion, jealous of the right to amuse his 
mistress, wanted to tell what he knew of the late galley- 
slave. 

"Madame ought to know more about Farrabesche ; 
he has n't his equal at running, or at riding a horse. He 
can kill an ox with a blow of his fist ; nobody can shoot 
like him ; he can carry seven hundred feet as straight 
as a die, — there ! One day they surprised him with 
three of his comrades ; two were wounded, one was 
killed, — good ! Farrabesche was all but taken. Bah ! 
he just sprang on the horse of one of the gendarmes 



The Village Rector. 197 

behind the man, pricked the horse with his knife, made 
it run with all its might, and so disappeared, holding 
the gendarme tight round the bod3\ But he held him 
so tight that after a time he threw the body on the 
ground and rode awaj alone on the horse and master 
of the horse ; and he had the cheek to go and sell it 
not thirty miles from Limoges ! After that affair he 
hid himself for three months and was never seen. The 
authorities offered a hundred golden louis to whoever 
would deliver him up." 

''Another time," added Colorat, "when the prefect 
of Tulle offered a hundred louis for him, he made one 
of his own cousins, Giriex of Viza}', earn them. His 
cousin denounced him, and appeared to deliver him 
up. Oh, 3'es, he delivered him sure enough ! The 
gendarmes were delighted, and took him to Tulle ; there 
thej' put him in the prison of Lubersac, from which he 
escaped that very night, profiting by a hole already 
begun by one of his accomplices who had been exe- 
cuted. All these adventures gave Farrabesche a fine 
reputation. The chauffeurs had lots of outside friends ; 
people really loved them. They were not skinflints like 
those of to-day ; thej' spent their money royalh', those 
fellows ! Just fancy, madame, one evening Farrabesche 
was chased In' gendarmes ; well, he escaped them by 
staying twent}' minutes under water in the pond of a 
farm-yard. He breathed air through a straw which he 
kept above the surface of the pool, which was half 
muck. But, goodness ! what was that little disagree- 
ableness to a man who spends his nights in the tree- 
tops, where the sparrows can hardly hold themselves, 
watching the soldiers going to and fro in search of him 



198 The Village Rector. 

below ? Farrabesche was one of the half-dozen chauf- 
feurs whom the officers of justice could never lay hands 
on. But as he belonged to the region and was brought 
up with them, and had, as they said, only fled the con- 
scription, all the women were on his side, — and that's 
a great deal, you know." 

"Is it really certain that Farrabesche did kill several 
persons?" asked Madame Graslin. 

''Yes, certain," replied Colorat ; "it is even said 
that it was he who killed the traveller by the mail-coach 
in 1812 ; but the courier and the postilion, the only 
witnesses who could have identified him, were dead 
before he was tried." 

"Tried for the robbery?" asked Madame Graslin. 

" Yes, the}^ took ever3'thing ; amongst it twenty-five 
thousand francs belonging to the government." 

Madame Graslin rode silently after that for two or 
three miles. The sun had now set, the moon was 
lighting the gray plain, which looked like an open 
sea. Champion and Colorat began to wonder at Ma- 
dame Graslin, whose silence seemed strange to them, 
and they were greatly astonished to see the shining 
track of tears upon her cheeks ; her eyes were red and 
full of tears, which were falling drop by drop as she 
rode along. 

" Oh, madame," said Colorat, "don't pity him ! The 
lad has had his day. He had pretty girls in love with 
him ; and now, tliough to be sure he is closely watclied 
by the police, he is protected by the respect and good- 
will of the rector ; for he has really repented. His 
conduct at the galleys was exemplary. Everybody 
knows he is as honest as the most honest man among 



The Village Rector. 199 

us. Only he is proud; he doesn't choose to expose 
himself to rebuff; so he lives quietly b}' himself, and 
does good in his own wa}^ He has made a nurser}' of 
about ten acres for you on the other side of the Roche- 
Vive ; he plants in the forests wherever he thinks 
there 's a chance of making a tree grow ; he trims the 
trees and cuts out the dead wood, and ties it up into 
bundles for the poor. All the poor people know the}^ 
can get their wood from him all cut and ready to burn ; 
so they go and ask him for it, instead of taking it them- 
selves and injuring your forest. He is another kind of 
chauffeur now, and warms his poor neighbors to their 
comfort and not to their harm. Oh, Farrabesche loves 
your forest ! He takes care of it as if it were his own 
property." 

"And he lives — all alone?" exclaimed Madame 
Graslin, adding the two last words hastily. 

*' Excuse me, not quite alone, madame ; he takes 
care of a bo}^ about fifteen years old," said Maurice 
Champion. 

"Yes, that's so," said Colorat ; " La Curieux gave 
birth to the child some little time before Farrabesche 
was condemned." 

'* Is it his child ? " asked Madame Graslin. 

"People think so." 

" Why did n't he marry her?" 

" How could he ? They would certainl}' have arrested 
him. As it was, when La Curieux heard he was 
sentenced to the galleys the poor girl left this part of 
the country." 

"Was she a pretty girl?" 

" Oh ! " said Maurice, " my mother says she was very 



200 The Village Rector. 

like another girl who has also left Montegnac for some- 
tliiiig the same reason, — Denise Tascheron." 

'' She loved him?" said Madame Graslin. 

" Ha, yes ! because he cliauffed; women do like things 
that are out of the wa3\ However, nothing ever did 
surprise the community more than that love affair. 
Catherine Curieux lived as virtuous a life as a holy 
virgin ; she passed for a pearl of purity in her village 
of Vizay, which is really a small town in the Correze 
on the line between the two departments. Her father 
and mother are farmers to the Messieurs Brezac. Cath- 
erine Curieux was about seventeen when Farrabesche 
was sent to the galleys. The Farrabesclies were an 
old family from the same region, who settled in the 
commune of Montegnac ; they hired their farm from 
the village. The father and mother Farrabesche are 
dead, but Catherine's three sisters are married, one in 
Aubusson, another in Limoges and a third in Saint- 
Leonard." 

" Do you think Farrabesche knows where Catherine 
is?" asked Madame Graslin. 

"If he did know he'd break his parole. Oh! he'd 
go to her. As soon as he came back from the galleys 
he got Monsieur Bonnet to ask for the little bo}^ whom 
the grandfather and grandmother were taking care of; 
and Monsieur Bonnet obtained the child." 

" Does no one know what became of the mother? " 

"No one," said Colorat. *'The girl felt she was 
ruined ; she was afraid to stay in her own village. She 
went to Paris. What is she doing there ? Well, that 's 
the question ; but you might as well hunt for a marble 
among the stones on that plain as look for her there." 



The Village Rector. 201 

The}^ were now riding up the ascent to the chateau 
as Colorat pointed to the plain below. Madame Sau- 
viat, evidently uneasy, Aline and the other servants 
were waiting at the gate, not knowing what to think of 
this long absence. 

"My dear," said Madame Sauviat, helping her 
daughter to dismount, ^' you must be ver}' tired." 

^' No, mother," replied Madame Graslin, in so 
changed a voice that Madame Sauviat looked closely 
at her and then saw the mark of tears. 

Madame Graslin went to her own rooms with Aline, 
who took her orders for all that concerned her personal 
life. She now shut herself up and would not even 
admit her mother ; when Madame Sauviat asked to 
enter, Aline stopped her, saying, '' Madame has gone to 
sleep." 

The next day Veronique rode out attended by Mau- 
rice only. In order to reach the Roche- Vive as quickly 
as possible she took the road by which she had returned 
the night before. As the}' rode up the gorge which lies 
between the mountain peak and the last hill of the 
forest (for, seen from the plain, the Roche-Vive looks 
isolated) Veronique requested Maurice to show her the 
house in which Farrabesche lived and then to hold the 
horses and wait for her ; she wished to go alone. Mau- 
rice took her to a path which led down on the other side 
of the Roche-Vive and showed her the thatched roof of 
a dwelling half buried in the mountain, below which la}" 
the nursery grounds. It was then about mid-day. A 
light smoke issued from the chimney. Veronique 
reached the cottage in a few moments, ^but she did not 
make her presence known at once. She stood a few 



202 The Village Rector, 

moments lost in thoughts known onl}^ to herself as she 
gazed on the modest dwelling which stood in the middle 
of a garden inclosed with a hedge of thorns. 

Be3'ond the lower end of the garden lay several acres 
of meadow land surrounded by an evergreen hedge ; the 
eye looked down on the flattened tops of fruit trees, 
apple, pear, and plum trees scattered here and there 
among these fields. Above the house, toward the 
crest of the mountain where the soil became sandy, 
rose the yellow crowns of a splendid grove of chestnuts. 
Opening the railed gate made of half rotten boards 
which inclosed the premises, Madame GrasUn saw a 
stable, a small poultry -yard and all the picturesque and 
living accessories of poor homes, which have so much 
of rural poesy about them. Who could see without 
emotion the linen fluttering on the hedges, the bunches 
of onions hanging from the eaves, the iron saucepans 
drying in the sun, the wooden bench overhung with 
honeysuckle, the stone-crop clinging to the thatch, as it 
does on the roofs of nearh^ all the cottages in France, 
revealing a humble life that is almost vegetative? 

It was impossible for Veronique to come upon her 
keeper witliout his receiving due notice; two fine hunt- 
ing dogs began to bark as soon as the rustling of lier 
habit was heard on the dried leaves. She took the end 
of it over her arm and advanced toward the house. 
Farrabesche and his boy, who were sitting on a wooden 
bench outside the door, rose and uncovered their heads, 
standing in a respectful attitude, but without the least 
appearance of servility. 

'* I have heard," said Veronique, looking attentively 
at the boy, " that you take much care of my interests ; 



The Village Rector. 203 

I wished to see 3'our house and the nurseries, and ask 
yon a few questions relating to the improvements I 
intend to make." 

" I am at madame's orders," replied Farrabesche. 

Veronique admired the bo}", who had a charming face 
of a perfect oval, rather sunburned and brown but very 
regular in features, the forehead finely- modelled, orange- 
colored e3'es of extreme vivacit}', black hair cut straight 
across the brow and allowed to hang down on either 
side of the face. Taller than most boj's of his age, the 
little fellow was nearly five feet high. His trousers, like 
his shirt, were of coarse gra}^ linen, his waistcoat, of 
rough blue cloth with horn buttons much worn and a 
jacket of the cloth so oddly called Maurienne velvet, 
with which the Savoyards like to clothe themselves, 
stout hob-nailed shoes, and no stockings. This costume 
was exactly like that of his father, except that Farra- 
besche had on his head the broad-brimmed felt hat of 
the peasantry, while the boy had onlj^ a brown woollen 
cap. 

Though intelligent and animated, the child's face 
was instinct with the gravity peculiar to all human 
beings of any age who live in solitude ; he seemed to 
put himself in harmony with the life and the silence 
of the woods. Both Farrabesche and his son were 
specially developed on their physical side, possessing 
many of the characteristics of savages, — piercing sight, 
constant observation, absolute self-control, a keen ear, 
wonderful agilit}', and an intelligent manner of speak- 
ing. At the first glance the boy gave his father 
Madame Graslin recognized one of those unbounded 
affections in which instinct blends with thought, and a 



204 The Village Rector. 

most active happiness strengthens both the will of the 
instinct and the reasoning of thought. 

"This must be the child I have heard of," saii 
Veronique, motioning to the bo}'. 

^' Yes, madame." 

^' Have you made no attempt to find his mother ? " 
asked Veronique, making a sign to Farrabesche to 
follow her a little distance. 

" Madame may not be aware that I am not allowed 
to go beyond the district in which I reside." 

" Have you never received any news of her?" 

"At the expiration of my term," he answered, "I 
received from the Commissioner a thousand francs, sent 
to him quarterly for me in little sums which police 
regulations did not allow me to receive till the day I 
left the galleys. I think that Catherine alone would 
have thought of me, as it was not Monsieur Bonnet 
who sent this mone3' ; therefore I have kept it safely 
for Benjamin." 

" And Catherine's parents? " 

"They have never inquired for her since she left. 
Besides they did enough in taking charge of the little 
one." 

" Well, Farrabesche," said Veronique, returning 
toward the house, "I will make it my business to 
know if Catherine still lives ; and if so, what is her 
present mode of life." 

"Oh! madame, whatever that may be," said the 
man gently, " it would be happiness to me if I could 
have her for my wife. It is for her to object, not me. 
Our marriage would legitimatize this poor boy, who as 
yet knows nothing of his position." 



The Village Rector. 205 

The look the father threw upon the lad explained the 
life of these two beings, abandoned, or voluntarily iso- 
lated ; they were all in all to each other, like two 
compatriots adrift upon a desert. 

" Then yow love Catherine? " said Veronique. 

"Even if I did not love her, madame," he replied, 
" she is to me, in my situation, the only woman there 
is in the world." 

Madame Graslin turned hurriedly and walked away 
under the chestnut trees, as if attacked by some sharp 
pain ; the keeper, thinking she was moved hy a sudden 
caprice, did not venture to follow her. 



206 The Village Rector. 



XIV. 

THE TORRENT OP THE GABOU. 

Veronique remained for some minutes under the 
chestnut trees, apparently looking at the landscape. 
Thence she could see that portion of the forest which 
clothes the side of the valley down which flows the 
torrent of the Gabou, now dry, a mass of stones, look- 
ing like a huge ditch cut between the wooded moun- 
tains of Montegnac and another chain of parallel hills 
beyond, — the latter being much steeper and without 
vegetation, except for heath and juniper and a few 
sparse trees toward their summit. 

These hills, desolate of aspect, belong to the neigh- 
boring domain and are in the department of the Cor- 
reze. A country road, following the undulations of 
the valley, serves to mark the line between the arron- 
dissement of Montegnac and the two estates. This 
barren slope supports, like a wall, a fine piece of wood- 
land which stretches away in the distance from its 
rocky summit. Its barrenness forms a complete con- 
trast to the other slope, on which is the cottage of 
Farrabesche. On the one side, harsh, disfigured angu- 
larities, on the other, graceful forms and curving out- 
lines ; there, the cold, dumb stillness of unfruitful earth 
held up by horizontal blocks of stone and naked rock, 
here, trees of various greens, now stripped for the 



The Village Rector. 207 

most part of foliage, but showing their fine straight 
inan3'-colored trunks on ever}- slope and terrace of the 
land ; their interlacing branches swaying to the breeze. 
A few more persistent trees, oaks, elms, beeches, and 
chestnuts, still retained their yellow, bronzed, or crim- 
soned foliage. 

Toward Montegnac, where the valley widened im- 
mensely, the two slopes form a horse-shoe ; and from 
the spot where Veronique now stood leaning against a 
tree she could see the descending valle3's lying like the 
gradations of an amphitheatre, the tree-tops rising 
from each tier like persons in the audience. This fine 
landscape was then on the other side of her park, 
though it afterwards formed part of it. On the side 
toward 'the cottage near which she stood the valley 
narrows more and more until it becomes a gorge, about 
a hundred feet wide. 

The beaut}' of this view, over which Madame Gras- 
lin's eyes now roved mechanicall}', recalled her pres- 
ently to herself. She returned to the cottage where 
the father and son were standing, silently awaiting her 
and not seeking to explain her singular absence. 

She examined the house, which was built with more 
care than its thatched roof seemed to warrant. It had, 
no doubt, been abandoned ever since the Navarreins 
ceased to care for this domain. No more hunts, no 
more game-keepers. Though the house had been built 
for over a hundred j'ears, the walls were still good, not- 
withstanding the iv}^ and other sorts of climbing-plants 
which clung to them. When Farrabesche obtained 
permission to live there he tiled the room on the lower 
floor and put in furniture. Veronique saw, as she en- 



208 The Village Rector. 

.tered, two beds, a large walnut wardrobe, a bread-box, 
dresser, table, three chairs, and on the dresser a few 
brown earthenware dishes and other utensils necessary 
to life. Above the fireplace were two guns and two 
gamebags. A number of little things evidently made 
by the father for the child touched Veronique's heart 
— the model of a man-of-war, of a sloop, a carved 
wooden cup, a wooden box of exquisite workmanship, 
a coffer inlaid in diaper pattern, a crucifix, and a splen- 
did rosary. The chaplet was made of plum-stones, on 
each of which was carved a head of marvellous deli- 
cacy, — of Jesus Christ, of the apostles, the Madonna, 
Saint John the Baptist, Saint Joseph, Saint Anne, the 
two Magdalens, etc. 

" I do that to amuse the little one in the long winter 
evenings," he said, as if excusing himself. 

The front of the house was covered with jessamine 
and roses, trained to the wall and wreathing the win- 
dows of the upper floor, where Farrabesche stored his 
provisions. He bought little except bread, salt, sugar, 
and a few such articles, for he kept chickens, ducks, 
and two pigs. Neither he nor the boy drank wine. 

" All that I have heard of you and all that I now 
see," said Madame Graslin at last, " make me feel an 
interest in yowY welfare which will not, I hope, be a 
barren one." 

*' I recognize Monsieur Bonnet's kindness in what 
you say," cried Farrabesche, in a tone of feeling. 

"You are mistaken; the rector has not yet spoken 
of you to me ; chance — or God — has done it." 

"Yes, madame, God! God alone can do miracles 
for a miserable man like me." 



The Village Rector. 209 

*' If you have been a miserable man," said Madame 
Graslin, lowering her voice that the child miofht not 
hear her (an act of womanly delicac}' which touched 
his heart), "your repentance, 3'our conduct, and the 
rector's esteem have now fitted you to become a happier 
nian. I have given orders to finish the building of the 
large farmhouse which Monsieur Graslin intended to 
establish near the chateau. I shall make you my 
farmer, and 5'ou will have an opportunit}^ to use all 
3'our faculties, and also to employ youv son. The 
procureur- general in Limoges shall be informed about 
you, and the humiliating police-inspection 3'ou are now 
subjected to shall be removed. I promise you." 

At these words Farrabesche fell on his knees, as if 
struck down b}^ the realization of a hope he had long 
considered vain. He kissed the hem of Madame Gras- 
lin's habit, then her feet. Seeing the tears in his father's 
eyes, the boy wept too, without knowing wh3^ 

"Rise, Farrabesche," said Madame Graslin, " 3'ou 
do not know how natural it is that I should do for you 
what I have promised. You planted those fine trees, 
did 3'ou not?" she went on, pointing to the groups of 
Northern pine, firs, and larches at the foot- of the dry 
and rock3^ hill directly opposite. 

"Yes, madame." 

" Is the earth better there?" 

" The water in washing down among the rocks brings 
a certain amount of soil, which it deposits. I have 
profited by this ; for the whole of the level of the valley 
belongs to you, — the road is your boundar3\" 

"Is there much water at the bottom of that long 
valley?" 

14 



210 The Village Rector, 

"Oh, madame," cried Farrabesche, "before long, 
when the rains begin, you will hear the torrent roar 
even at the chateau ; but even that is nothing to what 
happens in spring when the snows melt. The water 
then rushes down from all parts of the forest behind 
Montegnac, from those great slopes which are back of 
the hills on which you have your park. All the water 
of these mountains pours into this valley and makes a 
deluge. Luckily for you, the trees hold the earth ; other- 
wise the land would slide into the valley." 

"Where are the springs?" asked Madame Graslin, 
giving her full attention to what he said. 

Farrabesche pointed to a narrow gorge which seemed 
to end the valley just below his house. "They are 
mostly on a clay plateau lying between the Limousin 
and the Correze ; they are mere green pools during the 
summer, and lose themselves in the soil. No one lives in 
that unhealthy region. The cattle will not eat the grass 
or reeds that grow near the brackish water. That vast 
tract, which has more than three thousand acres in it, 
is an open common for three districts ; but, like the 
plains of Montegnac, no use can be made of it. This 
side on your propert}^ as 1 showed 3'ou, there is a little 
earth among the stones, but over there is nothing but 
sandy rock." 

" Send your boy for the horses ; I will ride over and 
see it for myself." 

Benjamin departed, after Madame Graslin had shown 
him the direction in which he would find Maurice and 
the horses. 

"You who know, so they tell me, every peculiarity 
of the country thoroughh'," continued Madame Graslin, 



The Village Rector. 211 

" explain to me how it is that the streams of my forest 
which are on tiie side of the mountain toward Mon- 
tegnac, and ought therefore to send their waters down 
there, do not do so, neither in regular water-courses 
nor in sudden torrents after rains and the melting of 
the snows." 

"Ah, madame," said Farrabesche, "the rector, who 
thinks all the time about the welfare of Montegnac, 
has guessed the reason, but he can't find any proof 
of it. Since your arrival, he has made me trace 
the path of the water from point to point through 
each ravine and valley. I was returning yesterda}^, 
when I had the honor of meeting 3'ou, from the base of 
the Roche-Vive, where I carefulh^ examined the lay of 
the land. Hearing the horses' feet, I came up to see 
who was there. Monsieur Bonnet is not only a saint, 
madame ; he is a man of great knowledge. ' Farra- 
besche,' he said to me (I was then working on the road 
the village has just built to the chateau, and the rector 
came to me and pointed to that chain of hills from Mon- 
tegnac to Roche-Vive), — ^Farrabesche,' he said, ' there 
must be some reason why that water-shed does not send 
any of its water to the plain ; Nature must have made 
some sluice wa}^ which carries it elsewhere.' Well, 
madame, that idea is so simple you would suppose any 
child might have thought it ; yet no- one since Mon- 
tegnac existed, neither the great lords, nor their bailiffs, 
nor their foresters, nor the poor, nor the rich, none of 
those who saw that plain barren for want of water, ever 
asked themselves why the streams which now feed the 
Gabou do not come there. The three districts above, 
which have constantly been afflicted with fevers in con- 



212 The Village Rector. 

sequence of stagnant water, never looked for the rem- 
edy ; I m3'self, who live in the wilds, never dreamed of 
it ; it needed a man of God." 

The tears filled his ej'es as he said the word. 

"All that men of genius discover," said Madame 
Graslin, " seems so simple that every one thinks they 
might have discovered it themselves. But," she added, 
as if to herself, "genius has this fine thing about it, — 
it resembles all the world, but no one resembles it." 

" I understood Monsieur Bonnet at once," continued 
Farrabesche ; "it did not take him many words to tell 
me what I had to do. Madame, this fact I tell you of 
is all the more singular because there are, toward the 
plain, great rents and fissures in the mountain, gorges 
and ravines down which the water flows ; but, strange 
to say, these clefts and ravines and gorges all send their 
streams into a little valley which is several feet below 
the level of your plain. To-day I have discovered the 
reason of this phenomenon : from the Roche- Vive to 
Montegnac, at the foot of the mountains, runs a shelf 
or barricade of rock, varying in height from twenty to 
thirty feet ; there is not a break in it from end to end ; 
and it is formed of a species of rock which Monsieur 
Bonnet calls schist. The soil above it, which is of course 
softer than the rock, has been hollowed out b}^ the action 
of the water, which is turned at right angles by the bar- 
ricade of rock, and thus flows naturally into the Gabon. 
The trees and underbrush of the forest conceal this for- 
mation and the hollowing out of the soil. But after 
following the course of the water, as I have done by 
the traces left of its passage, it is easy to convince any 
one of the fact. The Gabon thus receives the water- 



The Village Rector. 213 

shed of both mountains, — that which ought to go down 
the mountain face on which 3'our park and garden are 
to the plain, and that which comes down the rocky 
slopes before us. According to Monsieur Bonnet the 
present state of things will cease when the water-shed 
toward the plain gains a natural outlet, and is dammed 
toward the Gabou by the earth and rocks which the 
mountain torrents bring down with them. It will take 
a hundred years to do that, however ; and besides, it 
is n't desirable. If 3'our soil will not take up more water 
than the great common you are now going to see, Mon- 
tegnac would be full of stagnant pools, breeding fever 
in the community." 

" I suppose that the places Monsieur Bonnet showed 
me the other day where the foliage of the trees is still 
green mark the present conduits by which the water 
falls into the Gabou?" 

" Yes, madame. Between Roche-Vive and Mon- 
tegnac there are three distinct mountains with three 
hollows between them, down which the waters, stopped 
by the schist barrier, turn off into the Gabou. The 
belt of trees still green at the foot of the hill above the 
barrier, which looks, at a distance, like a part of the 
plain, is really the water-sluice the rector supposed, very 
justly, that Nature had made for herself." 

" Well, what has been to the injury of Montegnac 
shall soon be its prosperit}*," said Madame Graslin, 
in a tone of deep intention. " And inasmuch as 30U 
have been the first instrument employed on the work, 
you shall share in it ; you shall find me faithful, indus- 
trious workmen ; lack of money can always be made up 
by devotion and good work." 



214 The Village Rector. 

Benjamin and Maurice came up as Veronique ended 
these words ; she mounted her horse and signed to 
Farrabesche to mount the other. 

"Guide me," she said, "to the place where the 
waters spread out in pools over that waste land." 

" There is all the more reason wln^ madame should 
go there," said Farrabesche, " because the late Monsieur 
Graslin, under the rector's advice, bought three hundred 
acres at the opening of that gorge, on which the waters 
have left sediment enough to make good soil over 
quite a piece of ground. Madame will also see the 
opposite side of the Roche-Vive, where there are fine 
woods, among which Monsieur Graslin would no doubt 
have put a farm had he lived ; there 's an excellent 
place for one, where the spring which rises just by 
my house loses itself below." 

Farrabesche rode first to show the wa}^, taking Vero- 
nique through a path which led to the spot where the 
two slopes drew closely together and then flew apart, 
one to the east the other to the west, as if repulsed by a 
shock. This narrow passage, filled with large rocks and 
coarse, tall grasses, was only about sixty feet in width. 

The Roche-Vive, cut perpendicularly on this side 
looked like a wall of granite in which there was no 
foothold ; but above this inflexible wall was a crown of 
trees, the roots of which hung down it, mostly pines 
clinging to the rock with their forked feet like birds on 
a bough. 

The opposite hill, hollowed by time, had a frowning 
front, sand}^, rocky, and yellow ; here were shallow 
caverns, dips without depth ; the soft and pulverizing 
rock had ochre tones. A few plants with prickly leaves 



The Village Rector, 215 

above, and burdocks, reeds, and aquatic growths below, 
were indication enough of the northern exposure and 
the povertj- of the soil. The bed of the torrent was 
of stone, quite hard, but yellow. Evidently the two 
chains, though parallel and ripped asunder by one of 
the great catastrophes which have changed the face of 
the globe, were, either from some inexplicable caprice 
or for some unknown reason, the discovery of which 
awaited genius, composed of elements that were wholly 
dissimilar. The contrast of their two natures showed 
more clearly here than elsewhere. 

Veronique now saw before her an immense dry 
plateau, without any vegetation, chalk}^ (this explained 
the absorption of the water) and strewn with pools of 
stagnant water and rocky places stripped of soil. To 
the right were the mountains of the Correze ; to left 
the Roche-Vive barred the view covered with its noble 
trees ; on its further slope was a meadow of some two 
hundred acres, the verdure of which contrasted with the 
hideous aspect of the desolate plateau. 

" My son and I cut that ditch 3'ou see down there 
marked by the tall grasses," said Farrabesche ; " it joins 
the one which bounds 3'our forest. On this side the 
estate is bounded by a desert, for the nearest village is 
three miles distant." 

Veronique turned rapidly to the dismal plain, followed 
by her guide. She leaped her horse across the ditch 
and rode at full gallop across the drear expanse, seem- 
ing to take a savage pleasure in contemplating that 
vast image of desolation. Farrabesche was right. No 
power, no will could put to any use whatever that soil 
which resounded under the horses' feet as though it 



216 The Village Rector. 

were hollow. This effect was produced by the natural 
porousness of the cla}' ; but there were fissures also 
through which the water flowed away, no doubt to some 
distant sources. 

*' There are many souls like this," thought Veronique, 
stopping her horse after she had ridden at full speed 
for fifteen or twenty minutes. She remained motionless 
and thoughtful in the midst of this desert, where there 
was neither animal nor insect life and where the birds 
never flew. The plain of Montegnac was at least 
pebbl}' or sandy ; on it were places where a few inches 
of soil did give a foothold for the roots of certain 
plants ; but here the ungrateful chalk, neither stone nor 
earth, repelled even the eye, which was forced to turn 
for relief to the blue of the ether. 

After examining the bounds of her forest and the 
meadows purchased b3' her husband, Veronique returned 
toward the outlet of the Gabon, but slowly. She then 
saw Farrabesche gazing into a sort of ditch which 
looked like one a speculator might have dug into this 
desolate corner of the earth expecting Nature to give 
up some hidden treasure. 

" What is the matter? " asked Veronique, noticing on 
that manly face an expression of deep sadness. 

" Madame, I owe my life to that ditch ; or rather, to 
speak more correctly, I owe to it time for repentance, 
time to redeem my sins in the eyes of men." 

This method of explaining life so aff'ected Madame 
Graslin that she stopped her horse on the brink of the 
ditch. 

*'I was hiding there, madame. The ground is so 
resonant that when my ear was against it I could hear 



The Village Rector. 217 

the horses of the gendarmerie, or even the footsteps of 
the soldiers, which are always pecuUar. That gave me 
time to escape up the Gabon to a place where I had a 
horse, and I alwa3's managed to put several miles 
between myself and my pursuers. Catherine used to 
bring me food during the night ; if she did not find me 
I always found the bread and wine in a hole covered 
with a rock." 

This recollection of his wandering and criminal life, 
which might have injured Farrabesche with some per- 
sons, met with the most indulgent pity from Madame 
Graslin. She rode hastily on toward the Gabon, followed 
by her guide. While she measured with her eje this 
opening, through which could be seen the long valle}', 
so smiling on one side, so ruined on the other, and at its 
lower end, a league away, the terraced hill-sides back 
of Montegnac, Farrabesche said : — 

" There '11 be a famous rush of water in a few da3's." 

" And next year, on this day, not a drop shall flow 
there. Both sides belong to me, and I will build a 
dam solid enough and high enough to stop the freshet. 
Instead of a valle}' yielding nothing, I will have a lake 
twenty, thirt}', fort}' feet deep over an extent of three 
or four miles, — an immense reservoir, which shall 
supply the flow of irrigation with which I will fertilize 
the plain of Montegnac." 

"Ah, madame ! the rector was right, when he said 
to us as we finished our road, ' You are working for a 
mother.* May God shed his blessing on such an 
undertaking." 

" Say nothing about it, Farrabesche," said Madame 
Graslin. " The idea was Monsieur Bonnet's." 



218 The Village Rector. 

The}' returned to the cottage, where Veronique picked 
up Maurice, with whom she rode hastily back to the 
chateau. When Madame Sauviat and Aline saw her 
the}' were struck with the change in her countenance ; 
the hope of doing good in the region she now owned 
gave her already an appearance of happiness. She 
wrote at once to Monsieur Grossetete, begging him to 
ask Monsieur de Grandville for the complete release of 
the returned convict, on whose conduct she gave him 
assurances which were confirmed by a certificate from 
the mayor of Montegnac and by a letter from Monsieur 
Bonnet. To this request she added information about 
Catherine Curieux, begging Grossetete to interest the 
procureur general in the good work she wished to do, 
and persuade him to write to the prefecture of 
police in Paris to recover traces of the girl. The cir- 
cumstance of Catherine's having sent money to Farra- 
besche at the galleys ought to be clew enough to furnish 
information. Veronique was determined to know why 
it was that the young woman had not returned to her 
child and to Farrabesche, now that he was free. She 
also told her old friend of her discovery about the 
torrent of the Gabou, and urged him to select an able 
engineer, such as she had already asked him to procure 
for her. 

The next day was Sunday, and for the first time 
since her installation at Montegnac Veronique felt able 
to hear mass in church ; she accordingly went there and 
took possession of the bench that belonged to her in 
the chapel of the Virgin. Seeing how denuded the 
poor church was, she resolved to devote a certain sum 
yearly to the needs of the building and the decoration 



The Village Bector. 219 

of the altars. She listened to the sweet, impressive, 
angelic voice of the rector, whose sermon, though 
couched in simple language suited to the rustic intellects 
before him, was sublime in character. Sublimit3^ comes 
from the heart, intellect has little to do with it ; religion 
is a quenchless source of this sublimity which has no 
dross ; for Catholicism entering and changing all hearts, 
is itself all heart. Monsieur Bonnet took his text from 
the epistle for the day, which signified that, sooner or 
later, God accomplishes all promises, assisting His 
faithful ones, encouraging the righteous. He made 
plain to ever3^ mind the great things which might be 
accomplished by wealth judiciously used for the good 
of others, '— explaining that the duties of the poor to the 
rich were as widely extended as those of the rich to the 
poor, and that the aid and assistance given should be 
mutual 

Farrabesche had made known to a few of those who 
treated him in a friendl}' manner (the result of the 
Christian charit}' which Monsieur Bonnet had put in 
practice among his parishioners) the benevolent acts 
Madame Graslin had done for him. Her conduct in 
this matter had be^n talked over by all tlie little groups 
of persons assembled round the church door before the 
service, as is the custom in country places. Nothing 
could have been better calculated to win the friendship 
and good-will of these eminently susceptible minds ; so 
that when Veronique left the church after service she 
found nearly all the inhabitants of the parish formed in 
two hedges through which she was expected to pass. 
One and all they bowed respectfully in profound silence. 
She was deeply touched by this reception, without 



220 The Village Rector. 

knowing the actual cause of it. Seeing Farrabesche 
humbly stationed among the last, she stopped and said 
to him : — 

''You are a good hunter ; do not forget to supply me 
with game." 

A few days later Veronique went to walk with the 
rector through the part of the forest that was nearest 
the chateau, wishing to descend with him the terraced 
slopes she had seen from the house of Farrabesche. In 
doing this she obtained complete certainty as to the 
nature of the upper affluents of the Gabon. The rector 
saw for himself that the streams which watered certain 
parts of upper Montegnac came from the mountains of 
the Correze. This chain of hills joined the barren 
slopes we have already described, parallel with the 
chain of the Roche- Vive. 

On returning from this walk the rector was J03'ful 
as a child ; he foresaw, with the naivete of a poet, 
the prosperity of his dear village — for a poet is a man, 
is he not? who realizes hopes before they ripen. Mon- 
sieur Bonnet garnered his hay as he stood overlooking 
that barren plain from Madame GrasUn's upper terrace. 



The Village Rector, 221 



XY. 



STORY OF A GALLEY-SLAVE. 



The next day Farrabesche and his son came to the 
chateau with game. The keeper also brought, for Fran- 
cis, a cocoanut cup, elaborately carved, a genuine work 
of art, representing a battle. Madame Graslin was 
walking at the time on the terrace, in the direction 
which overlooked Les Tascherons. She sat down on a 
bench, took the cup in her hand and looked earnesth^ at 
the deft piece of work. A few tears came into her eyes. 

''You must have suffered very much," she said to 
Farrabesche, after a few moments' silence. 

" How could I help it, madame?" he replied; ''for 
I was there without the hope of escape, which supports 
the life of most convicts." 

*' An awful life ! " she said in a tone of horror, invit- 
ing Farrabesche by word and gesture to say more. 

Farrabesche took the convulsive trembling and other 
signs of emotion he saw in Madame Graslin for the 
powerful interest of compassionate curiosity in himself. 

Just then Madame Sauviat appeared, coming down 
a path as if she meant to join them ; but Veronique 
drew out her handkerchief and made a negative sign ; 
saying, with an asperitj' she had never before shown 
to the old woman: — 



222 The Village Rector. 

''Leave me, leave me, mother." 

" Madame," said Farrabesclie, " for ten years I wore 
there (holding out his leg) a chain fastened to a great 
iron ring which bound me to another man. During my 
time I had to live thus with three different convicts. I 
slept on a wooden bench ; I had to work extraordi- 
narily hard to earn a little mattress called a serpentin. 
Each dormitory contains eight hundred men. Each bed, 
called a tolard, holds twenty-four men, chained in 
couples. Every night the chain of each couple is 
passed round another great chain which is called the 
filet de ramas. This chain holds all the couples by the 
feet, and runs along the bottom of the tolard. It took 
me over two years to get accustomed to that iron clank- 
ing, which called out incessantl}^, ' Thou art a galley- 
slave ! ' If I slept an instant some vile companion 
moved or quarrelled, reminding me of where I was. 
There is a terrible apprenticeship to make before a man 
can learn how to sleep. I myself could not sleep until 
I had come to the end of my strength and to utter 
exhaustion. When at last sleep came I had the nights 
in which to forget. Oh ! to forget^ madame, that was 
something ! Once there, a man must learn to satisfy 
his needs, even in the smallest things, according to the 
ways laid down by pitiless regulations. Imagine, 
madame, the effect such a life produced on a lad like 
me, who had lived in the woods with the birds and the 
squirrels ! If I had not already lived for six months 
within prison-walls, I should, in spite of Monsieur 
Bonnet's grand words — for he, I can truly say, is the 
father of my soul — I should, ah! I must have flung 
myself into the sea at the mere sight of my companions. 



The Village Rector. 223 

Out-doors I still could live ; but in the building, whether 
to sleep or to eat, — to eat out of buckets, and each 
bucket filled for three couples, — it was life no longer, 
it was death ; the atrocious faces and language of my 
companions were alwa^'S insufferable to me. Happily, 
from five o'clock in summer, and from half-past seven 
o'clock in winter we went, in spite of heat or cold and 
wind or rain, on ' fatigue,' that is, hard-labor. Thus 
half this Hfe was spent in the open air ; and the air was 
sweet after the close dormitory packed with eight 
hundred convicts. And that air, too, is sea-air ! "We 
could enjoy the breezes, we could be friends with the 
sun, we could watch the clouds as they passed above 
us, we could hope and pra}' for fine weather ! As for 
me, I took an interest in my work — " 

Farrabesche stopped ; two heavy tears were rolling 
down his mistress's face. 

" Oh ! madame, I have only told j^ou the best side of 
that life," he continued, taking the expression of her 
face as meant for him. "The terrible precautions 
taken b}^ the government, the constant spying of the 
keepers, the blacksmith's inspection of the chains 
every daj^, night and morning, the coarse food, the 
hideous garments which humiliate a man at all hours, 
the comfortless sleep, the horrible rattling of eight 
hundred chains in that resounding hall, the prospect of 
being shot or blown to pieces by cannon if ten of those 
villains took a fancy to revolt, all those dreadful 
things are nothing, — nothing, I tell you ; that is the 
bright side only. There 's another side, madame, and a 
decent man, a bourgeois, would die of horror in a week. 
A convict is forced to live with another man ; obhged 



224 The Village Rector. 

to endure the company of five other men at every 
meal, twenty-three in his bed at night, and to hear 
their language ! The great society of galley-slaves, 
madame, has its secret laws ; disobey them and you are 
tortured; obe}' them, and you become a torturer. You 
must be either victim or executioner. If they would 
kill you at once it would at least be the cure of life. 
But no, they are wiser than that in doing evil. It is 
impossible to hold out against the hatred of these men ; 
their power is absolute over any prisoner who dis- 
pleases them, and thpy fan make his hfe a torment far 
worse than death. The man who repents and en- 
deavors to behave well is their common enemy ; above 
all, the}^ suspect him of informing ; and an informer is 
put to death, often on mere suspicion. Every hall and 
community' of eight hundred convicts has its tribunal, in 
which are judged the crimes committed against that 
society. Not to obey the usages is criminal, and a man 
is liable to punishment. For instance, every man must 
co-operate in escapes ; every convict has his time 
assigned him to escape, and all his fellow-convicts 
must protect and aid him. To reveal what a comrade 
is doing with a view to escape is criminal. I will not 
speak to you of the horrible customs and morals of the 
gallej'S. No man belongs to himself ; the government, 
in order to neutralize the attempts at revolt or escape, 
takes pains to chain two contrar}^ natures and interests 
together ; and this makes the torture of the coupling 
unendurable ; men are linked together who hate or 
distrust each other." 

" How was it with 3'ou? " asked Madame Graslin. 

"Ah! there," replied Farrabesche, "1 had luck ; I 



The Village Rector. 225 

never drew a lot to kill a convict ; I never had to vote 
the death of any one of them ; I never was punished ; 
no man took a dislike to me ; and I got on well with 
the three different men I was chained to ; the}^ all 
feared me but liked me. One reason was, my name 
was known and famous at the galleys before I got 
there. A chauffeur! they thought me one of those 
brigands. I have seen chau-ff^ing,^^ continued Farra- 
besche after a pause, in a low voice, '' but I never either 
did it myself, or took any of the money obtained by it. 
I was a refractory, I evaded the conscription, that was 
all. I helped mj' comrades, I kept watch ; I was 
sentinel and brought up the rear guard ; but I never 
shed any man's blood except in self-defence. Ah ! I 
told all to Monsieur Bonnet and my lawyer, and the 
judges knew well enough that I was no murderer. But, 
all the same, I am a great criminal ; nothing that I 
ever did was morally right. However, before I got 
there, as I was saying, two of my comrades told of me 
as a man able to do great things. At the galle3's, 
madame, nothing is so valuable as that reputation, not 
even money. In that republic of misery murder is a 
passport to tranquillity. I did nothing to destroy that 
opinion of me. I was sad, resigned, and they mistook 
the appearance of it. My gloomy manner, my silence, 
passed for ferocitj'. All that world, convicts, keepers, 
young and old, respected me. I was treated as first in 
my hall. No one interfered with my sleep ; I was 
never suspected of informing ; I behaved honorabl}' 
according to their ideas ; I never refused to do service ; 
I never testified the slightest repugnance ; I howled 
with the wolves outside, I prayed to God within. My 

15 



226 The Village Rector. 

last companion in chains was a soldier, twenty-two 
years of age, who had committed a theft and deserted 
in consequence of it. We were chained together for 
four years, and we were friends ; wherever I ma}^ be I 
am certain to meet him when his time is up. This 
poor devil, whose name is Guepin, is not a scoundrel, 
he is merely heedless ; his punishment ma}' reform him. 
If my comrades had discovered that religion led me to 
submit to my trials, — that I meant, when my time was 
up, to live humbly in a corner, letting no one know 
where I was, intending to forget their horrible com- 
munity and never to cross the path of any of them, — 
they would probably have driven me mad." 

*' Then," said Madame Graslin, " if a poor young 
man, a tender soul, carried away by passion, having 
committed a murder, was spared from death and sent 
to the galle3's — " 

"Oh ! madame," said Farrabesche, interrupting her, 
'' there is no sparing in that. The sentence may be 
commuted to twenty years at the galle3's, but for a 
decent 3'oung man, that is awful ! I could not speak to 
you of the life that awaits him there ; a thousand times 
better die. Yes, to die upon the scaffold is happiness 
in comparison." 

" I dared not think it," murmured Madame Graslin. 

She had turned as white as wax. To hide her face 
she laid her forehead on the balustrade, and Itept it 
there several minutes. Farrabesche did not know 
whether he ought to go or remain. 

Madame Graslin raised her head at last, looked at 
Farrabesche with an almost majestic air, and said, to 
his amazement, in a voice that stirred his heart : — 



The Village Rector, 227 

** Thank 3'ou, m}' friend. But," she added, after a 
pause, "where did 3'ou find courage to live and 
suffer ? " 

*' Ah ! madame, Monsieur Bonnet put a treasure 
within m}^ soul ! and for that I love him better than all 
else on earth." 

"Better than Catherine?" said Madame Graslin, 
smiling with a sort of bitterness. 

"Almost as well, madame." 

"How did he do it?" 

" Madame, the words and the voice of that man con- 
quered me. Catherine brought him to that hole in the 
ground I showed 3'ou on the common ; he had come 
fearlessly alone. He was, he said, the new rector of 
Montegnac ; I was his parishioner, he loved me ; he 
knew I was onl_y misguided, not lost ; he did not intend 
to betray me, but to save me ; in short, he said many 
such things that stirred my soul to its depths. That 
man, madame, commands 3'ou to do right with as much 
force as those who tell 3'ou to do wrong. It was he 
who told me, poor dear man, that Catherine was a 
mother, and that I was dooming two beings to shame 
and desertion. 'Well,' I said to him, ^they are like 
me ; I have no future.' He answered that I had a 
future, two bad futures, before me — one in another 
world, one in this world — if I persisted in not changing 
my way of life. In this world, I should die on the 
scaffold. If I were captured my defence would be 
impossible. On the contrary, if I took advantage of 
the leniency of the new government toward all crimes 
traceable to the conscription, if I delivered myself up, 
he believed he could save m}^ life ; he would engage a 



228 The Village Rector. 

good lawj^er, who would get me off with ten years at the 
galleys. Then Monsieur Bonnet talked to me of the 
other life. Catherine wept like the Magdalen — 
See, madame," said Farrabesche, holding out his right 
arm, " her face was in that hand, and I felt it wet with 
tears. She implored me to live. Monsieur Bonnet 
promised to secure me, when I had served my sentence, 
a peaceful life here with my child, and to protect me 
against affront. He catechised me as he would a little 
child. After three such visits at night he made me as 
supple as a glove. AVould you like to know how, 
madame? " 

Farrabesche and Madame Graslin looked at each 
other, not explaining to themselves their mutual 
curiosit}'. 

'' Well," resumed the poor liberated convict, " when 
he left me the first time, and Catherine had gone with 
him to show the way, I was left alone. I then felt 
within my soul a freshness, a calmness, a sweetness, I 
had never known since childhood. It was like the 
happiness my poor Catherine had given me. The love 
of this dear man had come to seek me; that, and his 
thought for me, for mj^ future, stirred my soul to 
its depths ; it changed me. A light broke forth in 
my being. As long as he was there, speaking to me, 
I resisted. That's not surprising; he was a priest, 
and we bandits don't eat of their bread. But when I 
no longer heard his footsteps nor Catherine's, oh ! I 
was — as he told me two days later — enlightened by 
divine grace ; God gave me thenceforth strength to 
bear all, — prison, sentence, irons, parting ; even the 
life of the galleys. I believed in his word as I do in 



The Village Rector. 229 

the Gospel ; I looked upon my sufferings as a debt I 
was bound to pay. When I seemed to suffer too much, 
I looked across ten years and saw my home in the 
woods, my little Benjamin, my Catherine, He kept 
his word, that good Monsieur Bonnet. But one thing 
was lacking. When at last I was released, Catherine 
was not at the gate of the galleys ; she was not on the 
common. No doubt she has died of grief. That is 
why I am always sad. Now, thanks to you, I shall have 
useful work to do ; I can employ both body and soul, — 
and my bo}^ too, for whom 1 live." 

"I begin to understand how it is that the rector has 
changed the character of this whole communitj'," said 
Madame Graslin. 

*' Nothing can resist him," said Farrabesche. 

*'Yes, yes, I know it!" replied Veronique, hastily, 
making a gesture of farewell to her keeper. 

Farrabesche withdrew. Veronique remained alone 
on the terrace for a good part of the day, walking up 
and down in spite of a fine rain which fell till evening. 
When her face was thus convulsed, neither her mother 
nor Aline dared to interrupt her. She did not notice 
in the dusk that her mother was talking in the salon 
to Monsieur Bonnet ; the old woman, anxious to put 
an end to this fresh attack of dreadful depression, sent 
little Francis to fetch her. The child took his mother's 
hand and led her in. When she saw the rector she 
gave a start of surprise in which there seemed to be 
some fear. Monsieur Bonnet took her back to the 
terrace, saying : — 

^^Well, madame, what were 3'ou talking about with 
Farrabesche?" 



230 The Village Rector, 

In order not to speak falsely, V(^ronique evaded a 
reply ; she questioned Monsieur Bonnet. 

''That man was your first victory here, was he 
not?" she said. 

''Yes," he answered; "his conversion would, I 
thought, give me all Montegnac — and I was not 
mistaken." 

Veronique pressed Monsieur Bonnet's hand and said, 
with tears in her voice, " I am your penitent from this 
day forth, monsieur; I shall go to-morrow to the 
confessional." 

Her last words showed a great internal effort, a ter- 
rible victory won over herself. The rector brought her 
back to the house without saying another word. After 
that he remained till dinner-time, talking about the 
proposed improvements at Montegnac. 

"Agriculture is a question of time," he said; "the 
little that I know of it makes me understand what a 
gain it would be to get some good out of the winter. 
The rains are now beginning, and the mountains will 
soon be covered with snow ; your operations cannot 
then be begun. Had you not better hasten Monsieur 
Grossetete?'' 

Insensibly, Monsieur Bonnet, who at first did all the 
talking, led Madame Graslin to join in the conversation 
and so distract her thoughts ; in fact, he left her almost 
recovered from the emotions of the day, Madame 
Sauviat, however, thought her daughter too violently 
agitated to be left alone, and she spent the night in her 
room. 



The Village Rector. 231 



XVI. 

CONCERNS ONE OF THE BLUNDERS OF THE NINETEENTH 
CENTURY. 

The following day an express, sent from Limoges by 
Monsieur Grossetete to Madame Graslin, brought her 
the following letter : — 

To Madame Graslin : 

My dear Child, — It was difficult to find horses, 
but I hope you are satisfied with those I sent you. If 
you want work or draft horses, you must look else- 
where. In any case, however, I advise you to do your 
tilling and transportation with oxen. All the countries 
where agriculture is carried on with horses lose capital 
when the horse is past work ; whefreas cattle always 
return a profit to those who use them. 

I approve in every way of your enterprise, my child ; 
3'ou will thus employ the passionate activity of your 
soul, which was turning against yourself and thus injur- 
ing you. 

Your second request, namelv, for a man capable of 
understanding and seconding 3'our projects, requires 
me to find 3'ou a rara avis such as we seldom raise in 
the provinces, where, if we do raise them, we never 
keep them. The education of that high product is too 
slow and too risky a speculation for country folks. 



232 The Village Rector, 

Besides, men of intellect alarm us ; we call them 
" originals." The men belonging to the scientific cate- 
gory from which you will have to obtain your co-oper- 
ator do not flourish here, and I was on the point of 
writing to you that I despaired of fulfilling your com- 
mission. You want a poet, a man of ideas, — in short, 
what we should here call a fool, and all our fools go to 
Paris. I have spoken of your plans to the young men 
employed in land surveying, to contractors on the 
canals, and makers of the embankments, and none of 
them see anj^ '' advantage " in what you propose. 

But suddenly, as good luck would have it, chance 
has thrown in my way the very man you want ; a young 
man to whom I believe I render a service in naming 
him to you. You will see by his letter, herewith in- 
closed, that deeds of beneficence ought not to be done 
hap-hazard. Nothing needs more reflection than a 
good action. We never know whether that which 
seems best at one moment may not prove an evil later. 
The exercise of beneficence, as I have lived to discover, 
is to usurp the role of Destiny. 

As she read that sentence Madame Graslin let fall 
the letter and was thoughtful for several minutes. 

" M}^ God ! " she said at last, " when wilt thou cease 
to strike me down on all sides? " 

Then she took up the letter and continued reading it : 

Gerard seems to me to have a cool head and an 
ardent heart ; that 's the sort of man you want. Paris 
is just now a hotbed of new doctrines ; I should be 
delighted to have the lad removed from the traps which 
ambitious minds are setting for the generous youth of 



The Village Rector. 233 

France. While I do not altogether approve of the 
narrow and stupef3ing life of the provinces, neither do 
I like the passionate life of Paris, with its ardor of 
reformati<in, which is driving youth into so man}' un- 
known ways. You alone know my opinions ; to my 
mind the moral world revolves upon its own axis, like 
the material world. My poor protege demands (as 
you will see from his letter) things impossible. No 
power can resist ambitions so violent, so imperious, so 
absolute, as those of to-da}'. I am in favor of low 
levels and slowness in political change ; I dishke these 
social overturns to which ambitious minds subject us. 

To 3'ou I confide these principles of a monarchical 
and prejudiced old man, because you are discreet. 
Here I hold mj^ tongue in the midst of worthy people, 
who the more they fail the more the}' believe in prog- 
ress ; but I suffer deepl}' at the irreparable evils already 
inflicted on our dear countr}-. 

I have replied to the inclosed letter, telling my 3'oung 
man that a worth}* task awaits him. He will go to see 
you, and though his letter will enable you to judge of 
him, you had better study him still further before 
committing yourself, — though you women understand 
many things from the mere look of a man. However, all 
the men whom you employ, even the most insignificant, 
ought to be thoroughly satisfactory to you. If you 
don't like him don't take him ; but if he suits you, my 
dear child, I beg you to cure him of his ill-disguised 
ambition. Make him take to a peaceful, happy, rural 
life, where true beneficence is perpetually exercised ; 
where the capacities of great and strong souls find 
continual exercise, and they themselves discover daily 



234 The Village Rector. 

fresh sources of admiration in the works of Nature, 
and in real ameliorations, real progress, an occupation 
worth}^ of any man. 

I am not oblivious of the fact that great ideas give 
birth to great actions ; but as those ideas are necessa- 
ril}' few and far between, I think it may be said that 
usually things are more useful than ideas. He who 
fertilizes a corner of the earth, who brings to perfection 
a fruit-tree, who makes a turf on a thankless soil, is 
far more useful in his generation than he who seeks 
new theories for luimanity. How, I ask you, has 
Newton's science changed the condition of the country 
districts? Oh! my dear, I always loved you; but to- 
day I, who fully understand what you are about to 
attempt, I adore you. 

No one at Limoges forgets you ; we all admire your 
grand resolution to benefit Montegnac. Be a little 
grateful to us for having soul enough to admire a noble 
action, and do not forget that the first of your admirers 

is also your first friend. 

F. Grossetete. 

The inclosed letter was as follows : — 

To Monsieur Grossetete: 

Monsieur, — You have been to me a father when 
you might have been onl}' a mere protector, and there- 
fore I venture to make you a rather sad confidence. 
It is to 3'ou alone, you who have made me what I am, 
that I can tell my troubles. 

i am afflicted with a terrible malad}', a cruel moral 
malad3\ In my soul are feelings and in my mind con- 
victions which make me utterly unfit for what the State 



The Village Rector, 285 

and societ}' demand of me. This ma}' seem to you in- 
gi^atitude ; it is onl}' the statement of a condition. 
When I was twelve 3'ears old you, m}- generous god- 
father, saw in me, the son of a mere workman, an 
aptitude for the exact sciences and a precocious desire 
to rise in life. You favored my impulse toward better 
things wlien m}' natural fate was to sta\' a carpenter 
like my father, who, poor man, did not live long 
enough to enjov my advancement. Indeed, monsieur, 
3'ou did a good thing, and there is never a day that I 
do not bless 3'ou for it. It may be that I am now to 
blame ; but whether I am riglit or wrong it is very 
certain that I suffer. In making my complaint to 
you I feel that I take you as mj- judge like God him- 
self. Will you listen to m}' story and grant me your 
indulgence? 

Between sixteen and eighteen years of age I gave 
myself to the study of the exact sciences with an ardor, 
you remember, that made me ill. My future depended 
on m}' admission to the Ecole Polytechnique. At that 
time my studies overworked my brain, and I came near 
dying ; I studied night and day ; I did more than the 
nature of my organs permitted. I wanted to pass such 
satisfying examinations that m}' place in the Ecole would 
be not only secure, but sufficiently advanced to release 
me from the cost of my support, which I did not want 
you to pay any longer. 

I triumphed ! I tremble to-day as I think of the 
frightful conscription (if I may so call it) of brains 
delivered over yearly to the State b}^ famil}^ ambition. 
By insisting on these severe studies at the moment 
when a youth attains his various forms of growth, the 



236 The Village Rector, 

authorities produce secret evils and kill by midnight 
stud}^ many precious faculties which later would have 
developed both strength and grandeur. The laws of 
nature are relentless ; the}' do not yield in an}^ partic- 
ular to the enterprises or the wishes of society-. In the 
moral order as in the natural order all abuses must be 
paid for ; fruits forced in a hot-house are produced at 
the tree's expense and often at the sacrifice of the good- 
ness of its product. La Quintinie killed the orange- 
trees to give Louis XIV. a bunch of their flowers every 
day at all seasons. So it is with intellects. The strain 
upon adolescent brains discounts their future. 

That which is chiefl}' wanting to our epoch is legisla- 
tive genius. Europe has had no true legislators since 
Jesus Christ, who, not having given to the world a 
political code, left his work incomplete. Before estab- 
lishing great schools of specialists and regulating the 
method of recruiting for them, where were the great 
thinkers who could bear in mind the relation of such 
institutions to human powers, balancing advantages 
and injuries, and studying the past for the laws of the 
future? What inquiry has been made as to the condi- 
tion of exceptional men, who, by some fatal chance, 
knew human sciences before their time? Has the rarity 
of such cases been reckoned — the result examined? 
Has any inquiry been made as to the means by which 
such men were enabled to endure the perpetual strain of 
thought? How man}', like Pascal, died prematurely, 
worn-out by knowledge? Have statistics been gathered 
as to the age at which those men who lived the longest 
began their studies? Who has ever known, does any 
one now know, tlie interior construction of brains which 



The Village Rector. 237 

have been able to sustain a premature burden of human 
knowledge? Who suspects that this question belongs, 
above all, to the physiolog}^ of man ? 

For m}^ part, I now believe the true general law is to 
remain a long time in the vegetative condition of 
adolescence ; and that those exceptions where strength 
of organs is produced during adolescence result usually 
in the shortening of life. Thus the man of genius 
who is able to bear up under the precocious exercise 
of his faculties is an exception to an exception. 

If I am right, if what I say accords with social facts 
and medical observations, then the system practised in 
France in her technical schools is a fatal impairment 
and mutilation (in the style of La Quintinie) practised 
upon the noblest flower of youth in each generation. 

But it is better to continue my history, and add my 
doubts as the facts develop themselves. 

When I entered the Ecole Poljtechnique, I worked 
harder than ever and with even more ardor, in order to 
leave it as triumphantly as I had entered it. From 
nineteen to twenty-one I developed ever}' aptitude and 
strengthened every facultj' by constant practice. Those 
two years were the crown and completion of the first 
three, during which I had only prepared myself to do 
well. Therefore my pride was great when I won the 
right to choose the career that pleased me most, — either 
military or naval engineering, artillerj', or staff duty, or 
the civil engineering of mining, and ponts et c/iaussees. ^ 
By 3'our advice, I chose the latter. 

But where I triumphed how many others fail ! Do 

1 Department of the government including everything connected 
with the making and repairing of roads, bridges, canals, etc. 



238 The Village Rector. 

3'ou know that from 3'ear to 3'ear the State increases 
the' scientific requirements of the Ecole? the studies 
are more severe, more exacting 3'early. The prepara- 
tor3^ studies whicli tried me so much were nothing to the 
intense work of the school itself, which has for its object 
to put the whole of pl\ysical science, mathematics, 
astronomy-, chemistry-, and all their nomenclatures into 
the minds of 3'oung men of nineteen to twent3'-one 
years of age. - The State, which seems in P'rance to 
wish to substitute itself in man3' wa3's for the paternal 
authority, has neither bowels of compassion nor father- 
hood ; it makes its experiments in anima vili. Never 
does it inquire into the horrible statistics of the suffer- 
ing it causes. Does it know the number of brain fevers 
among its pupils during the last thirty-six years ; or 
the despair and the moral destruction which decimate 
its youth? I am pointing out to 3'ou this painful side 
of the State education, for it is one of the anterior 
contingents of the actual result. 

You know that scholars whose conceptions are slow, 
or who are temporarily disabled from excess of mental 
work, are allowed to remain at the Ecole three years in- 
stead of two ; they then become the object of suspicions 
little favorable to their capacity. This often compels 
3^oung men, who might later show superior capacity, to 
leave the school without being employed, simply because 
they could not meet the final examination with the full 
scientific knowledge required. They are called " dried 
fruits ; " Napoleon made sub-lieutenants of them. To- 
da3" the " dried fruits " constitute an enormous loss of 
capital to families and of time to individuals. 

However, as I say, I triumphed. At twenty-one 



The Village Rector. 239 

years of age I knew the mathematical sciences up to 
the point to which so man}- men of genius have brought 
them, and I was impatient to distinguish m3'self by 
carrying tliem further. This desire is so natural that 
almost every pupil leaving the Ecole fixes his e3-es on 
that moral sun called Fame. The first thought of all 
is to become another Newton, or Laplace, or Vauban. 
Such are the efforts that France demands of the young 
men who leave her celebrated school. 

Now let us see the fate of these men culled with so 
much care from each generation. At one-and-twenty 
we dream of life, and expect marvels of it. I entered 
the Ecole des Fonts et Chaussees ; I was a pupil- 
engineer. I studied the science of construction, and 
how ardently ! I am sure 3-ou remember that. I left 
the school in 1827, being then twentj'-four years of age, 
still only a candidate as engineer, and the government 
paid me one hundred and fifty francs a month; the 
commonest book-keeper in Paris earns that by the time 
he is eighteen, giving little more than four hours a day 
to his work." 

By a most unusual piece of luck, perhaps because of 
the distinction mj devoted studies won for me, I was 
made, in 1828, when I was twenty-five years old, 
engineer-in-ordinar\'. I was sent, as you know, to a 
sub-prefecture, with a salary of twenty-five hundred 
francs. The question of money is nothing. Certainly 
m}' fate has been more brilliant than the son of a car- 
penter might expect ; but where will you find a grocer's 
boy, who, if thrown into a shop at sixteen, will not 
in ten years be on the high-road to an independent 
property ? 



240 The Village Rector, 

I learned then to what these terrible efforts of mental 
power, these gigantic exertions demanded by the State 
were to lead. The State now emplo3'ed me to count 
and measure pavements and heaps of stones on the 
roadways ; I had to keep in order, repair, and some- 
times construct culverts, one-arched bridges, regulate 
drift-ways, clean and sometimes open ditches, la}- out 
bounds, and answer questions about tiie planting and 
felling of trees. Such are the principal and sometimes 
the only occupations of ordinary engineers, together 
with a little levelling which the government obliges 
us to do ourselves, though any of our chain-bearers 
with their limited experience can do it better than we 
with all our science. 

There are nearly four hundred engineers-in-ordinary 
and pupil engineers ; and as there are not more than a 
hundred or so of engineers-in-chief, onl}^ a limited 
number of the sub-engineers can hope to rise. Besides, 
above the grade of engineer-in-chief, there is no absorb- 
ent class ; for we cannot count as means of absorption 
the ten or fifteen places of inspector-generals or division- 
aries, — posts that are almost as useless in our corps as 
colonels are in the artillery, where the battery is the 
essential thing. The engineer-in-ordinary, like the 
captain of artillerj^, knows the whole science. He 
ought not to have any one over liim except an admin- 
istrative head to whom no more than eight3'-six 
engineers should report, — for one engineer, with two 
assistants is enough for a department. 

The present hierarchy in tliese bodies results in the 
subordination of active energetic capacities to the worn- 
out capacities of old men, who, thinking they know 



The Village Rector. 241 

best, alter or nullify the plans submitted by tlieir sub- 
ordinates, — perhaps with the sole aim of making their 
existence felt ; for that seems to me the only influence 
exercised over the public works of France by the 
Council-general of the Ponts et Chaussees. 

Suppose, however, that I become, between thirty and 
fort}' 3'ears of age, an engineer of the first-class and an 
engmeer-in -chief before I am fift}'. Alas ! I see my 
future ; it is written before m}' e3'es. Here is a forecast 
of it : — 

My present engineer-in- chief is sixty years old ; he 
issued with honors, as I did, from the famous Ecole ; 
he has turned gray doing in two departments what I 
am doing now, and he has become the most ordinary 
man it is possible to imagine ; he has fallen from the 
height to which he had really risen ; far worse, he is 
no longer on the level of scientific knowledge ; science 
has progressed, he has stayed where he was. The 
man who came forth read}" for life at twenty-two years 
of age, with ever}" sign of superiority, has nothing 
left to-day but the reputation of it. In the beginning, 
with his mind specially turned to the exact sciences 
and mathematics by his education, he neglected every- 
thing that was not his specialty ; and you can hardly 
imagine his present dulness in all other branches of 
human knowledge. I hardly dare confide even to you 
the secrets of his incapacity sheltered by the fact that 
he was educated at the Ecole Polytechnique. With 
that label attached to him and on the faith of that pres- 
tige, no one dreams of doubting his ability. To you 
alone do I dare reveal the fact that the dulling of all 
his talents has led him to spend a million on a single 

16 



242 The Village Rector. 

matter which ought not to have cost the administration 
more than two hundred thousand francs. I wished to 
protest, and was about to inform the prefect ; but an 
engineer I know very well reminded me of one of our 
comrades who was hated by the administration for 
doing that very thing. '' How would you like," he said 
to me, " when you get to be enginecr-in-chief to have 
your errors dragged forth by your subordinate? Before 
long your engineer-in-chief will be made a divisional 
inspector. As soon as any one of us commits a serious 
blunder, as he has done, the administration (which 
can't allow itself to appear in the wrong) will qnietl}' 
retire him from active duty by making liim inspector." 

That 's how the reward of merit devolves on in- 
capacity. All France knew of the disaster whicli hap- 
pened in the heart of Paris to the first suspension bridge 
built b}' an engineer, a member of the Academy of 
Sciences ; a melancholy collapse caused by blunders 
such as none of the ancient engineers — the man who 
cut the canal at Briare in Henri lY.'s time, or the monk 
who built the Pont Royal — would have made ; but our 
administration consoled its engineer for his blunder by 
making him a member of the Council-general. 

Are the technical schools vast manufactories of in- 
capables? That subject requires careful investigation. 
If I am right they need reforming, at any rate in their 
method of proceeding, — for I am not, of course, doubt- 
ing the utility of such schools. Only, when we look 
back into the past we see that France in former days 
never wanted for the great talents necessar}' to the 
State ; but now she prefers to hatch out talent geo- 
metrically, after the theory of Monge. Did Vauban 



The VUlage Rector, 243 

ever go to an}" other l^cole than that great school we 
call Vocation? Who was Riquet's tutor? When great 
geniuses arise above the social mass, impelled b}' voca- 
tion, they are nearly always rounded into completeness ; 
the man is then not merely a specialist, he has the gift 
of universality. Do j'ou think that an engineer from 
the Ecole Polytechnique could ever create one of those 
miracles of architecture such as Leonardo da Vinci 
knew how to build, — mechanician, architect, painter, 
inventor of hydraulics, indefatigable constructor of 
canals that he was? 

Trained from their earliest years to the baldness of 
axiom and formula, the youths who leave the Ecole 
have lost the sense of elegance and ornament ; a column 
seems to them useless ; they return to the point where 
art begins, and cling to the useful. 

But all this is nothing in comparison to the real 
malady which is undermining me. I feel an awful 
transformation going on within me ; I am conscious 
that my powers and my faculties, formerly unnaturall}' 
taxed, are giving way. I am letting the prosaic in- 
fluence of my life get hold of me. I who, by the very 
nature of my efforts, looked to do some great thing, I 
am face to face with none but petty ones ; I measure 
stones, I inspect roads, I have not enough to really 
occupy me for two hours in m}' day. I see my col- 
leagues marry, and fall into a situation contrary to the 
spirit of modern society. I wanted to be useful to my 
countr3^ Is my ambition an unreasonable one? The 
country asked me to put forth all my powers ; it told me 
to become a representative of science ; yet here I am 
with folded arms in the depths of the provinces. I am 



244 The Village Rector. 

not even allowed to leave the locality in which I am 
penned, to exercise my faculties in planning useful enter- 
prises. A hidden but very real disfavor is the certain 
reward of any one of us who yields to an inspiration and 
goes beyond the special service laid down for him. 

No, the favor a superior man has to hope for in 
that case is that his talent and his presumption may 
not be noticed, and that his project may be buried in 
the archives of the administration. What think you 
will be the reward of Vicat, the one among us who has 
brought about the only real progress in the practical 
science of construction? The Council-general of the 
Ponts et C/iaussees^ composed in part of men worn-out 
by long and sometimes honorable service, but whose 
only remaining force is for negation, and who set aside 
everything they no longer comprehend, is the extin- 
guisher used to snuff' out the projects of audacious 
spirits. This Council seems to have been created to 
paralyze the arm of that glorious youth of France, 
■which asks only to work and to be useful to its countrj'. 

Monstrous things are done in Paris. The future of 
a province depends on the mere signature of men who 
(through intrigues I have no time to explain to you) 
often stop the execution of useful and much-needed 
work ; in fact, the best plans are often those which 
off'er most to the cupidity of commercial companies or 
speculators. 

Another five years and I shall no longer be m3'self ; 
my ambition will be quenched, my desire to use the 
faculties my country ordered me to exercise gone for- 
ever ; the faculties themselves are rusting out in the 
miserable corner of the world in which I veofetate. Tak- 



The Village Rector. 245 

ing my chances at their best, the future seems to me a 
poor thing. I have just taken advantage of a furlough 
to come to Paris ; I mean to change my profession and 
find some other way to put m}' energy, my knowledge, 
and my activity to use. I shall send in my resignation 
and go to some other country, where men of m}^ special 
capacity are wanted. 

If I find I cannot do this, then I shall throw myself 
into the struggle of the new doctrines, which certainly 
seem calculated to produce great changes in the present 
social order b}' judiciously guiding the working-classes. 
What are we now but workers without work, tools on 
the shelves of a shop? We are trained and organized 
as if to move the world, and nothing is given us to do. 
I feel within me some great thing, which is decreasing 
daily, and will soon vanish ; I tell you so with mathe- 
matical frankness. Before making the change I want 
your advice ; I look upon myself as your child, and I 
will never take any important step without consulting 
3'ou, for 3'our experience is equal to your kindness. 

I know very well that the State, after obtaining a class 
of trained men, cannot undertake for them alone great 
public works ; there are not three hundred bridges 
needed a year in all France ; the State can no more 
build great buildings for the fame of its engineers than 
it can declare war merely to win battles and bring to 
the front great generals ; but, then, as men of genius 
have never failed to present themselves when the occa- 
sion called for them, springing from the crowd like 
Vauban, can there be any greater proof of the use- 
lessness of the present institution? Can't they see 
that when they have stimulated a man of talent by all 



246 The Village Rector. 

these preparations he will make a fierce struggle before 
he allows himself to become a noneiitit}? Is this good 
polic}^ on the part of the State? On the contrary, is 
not the State lighting the fire of ardent ambitions, 
which must find fuel somewhere. 

Among the six hundred ^oung men whom the}' put 
forth ever}' jear there are exceptions, — men who resist 
what may be called their demonetization. I know some 
myself, and if I could tell you their struggles with men 
and things when armed with useful projects and con- 
ceptions which might bring life and prosperity to the 
half-dead provinces where the State has sent them, you 
would feel that a man of power, a man of talent, a man 
whose nature is a miracle, is a hundredfold more un- 
fortunate and more to be pitied than the man whose 
lower nature lets him submit to the shrinkage of his 
faculties. 

I have made up my mind, therefore, that T would 
rather direct some commercial or industrial enterprise, 
and live on small means while trying to solve some of 
the great problems still unknown to industry and to 
societ}^ than remain at ra}" present post. 

You will tell me, perhaps, that nothing hinders me 
from employing the leisure that I certainly have in 
using my intellectual powers and seeking in the 
stillness of this commonplace life the solution of some 
problem useful to humanity. Ah ! monsieur, don't 
3'ou know the influence of the provinces, — the re- 
laxing effect of a life just bus}^ enough to waste time on 
futile labor, and not enough to use the rich resources 
our education has given us? Don't think me, my dear 
protector, eaten up by the desire to make a fortune, 



The Village Rector. 247 

nor even b}^ an insensate desire for fame. I am too 
much of a calculator not to know the nothingness of 
glory. Neither do I want to marrj^ ; seeing the fate 
now before me, I think m}' existence a melanchol}' gift 
to offer any woman. As for money, though I regard 
it as one of the most powerful means given to social 
man to act with, it is, after all, but a means. 

I place my whole desire and happiness on the hope 
of being useful to my countr3\ My greatest pleasure 
would be to work in some situation suited to my facul- 
ties. If in 3'our region, or in the circle of your ac- 
quaintances, you should hear of any enterprise that 
needed the capacities you know me to possess, think 
of me ; I will wait six months for your answer before 
taking any step. 

What I have written here, dear sir and friend, others 
think. I have seen many of my classmates or older 
graduates caught like me in the toils of some specialt}-, 
— geographical engineers, captain-professors, captains 
of engineers, who will remain captains all their lives, 
and now bitterly regret they did not enter active ser- 
vice with the army. Reflecting on these miserable 
results, I ask myself the following questions, and I 
would like your opinion on them, knowing you to be 
a man capable of maturely meditating on them, assur- 
ing 3'ou that they are the fruit of long meditation, 
clarified in the fires of suffering : — 

What is the real object of the State? Does it truly 
seek to obtain fine capacities? The system now pur- 
sued directly defeats that end ; it has created the m.ost 
thorough mediocrities that an^^ government hostile to 
superiority could desire. Does it wish to give a career 



248 The Village Rector. 

to its cjioice minds? As a matter of fact, it affords 
them tlie meanest opportunities ; there is not a num 
who has issued from the Ecoles wlio does not bitterly 
regret, when he gets to be fift3' or sixtj' 3'ears of age, 
that he ever fell into the trap set for him by the promises 
of the State. Does it seek to obtain men of genius? 
What man of genius, what great talent have the schools 
produced since 1790? If it had not been for Napoleon 
would Cachin, the man of genius to whom France owes 
Cherbourg, have existed? Imperial despotism brought 
him forward; the constitutional regime would have 
smothered him. How man}' men from the Ecoles are 
to be found in the Academy of Sciences? Possibly 
tvvo or three. The man of genius develops always out- 
side of the technical schools. In the sciences which 
those schools teach genius obeys onl}' its own laws ; it 
will not develop except under conditions which man 
cannot control ; neither the State nor the science of 
mankind, anthropology, understands them. Riquet, 
Perronet, Leonardo da Vinci, Cacliin, Palladio, Brunel- 
leschi, Michel- Angelo, Bramante, Vauban, Vicat, derive 
their genius from causes unobserved and preparatory, 
which we call chance, — the pet word of fools. Never, 
with or without schools, are mighty workmen such as 
these wanting to their epoch. 

Now comes the question, Does the State gain through 
these institutions the better doing of its works of public 
utilit}', or the cheaper doing of them? As for that, I 
answer that private enterprises of a hke kind get on 
very well without the help of our engineers ; and next, 
the government works are the most extravagant in the 
world, and the additional cost of the vast administra- 



The Village Rector. 249 

tive staff of the Fonts et Chaussees is immense. In 
all other countries, in German}^, England, Ital}', where 
institutions like ours do not exist, works of this char- 
acter are better done and far less costl}' than in France. 
Those three nations are remarkable for new and useful 
inventions in this line. 1 know it is the fashion to say, 
in speaking of our Ecoles, that all Europe envies them ; 
but for the last fifteen years Europe, which closely ob- 
serves us, has not established others like them. England, 
that clever calculator, has better schools among her 
working population, from which come practical men 
who show their genius the moment they rise from prac- 
tice to theory. Stephenson and MacAdam did not 
come from schools like ours. 

But what is the good of talking? When a few young 
and able engineers, full of ardor, solve, at the outset of 
their career, the problem of maintaining the roads of 
France, which need some hundred millions spent upon 
them ever}' quarter of a century (and which are now in 
a pitiable state), the}' gain nothing b}' making known 
in reports and memoranda their intelligent knowledge ; 
it is immediately engulfed in the archives of the general 
Direction, — that Parisian centre where everything en- 
ters and nothing issues ; where old men are jealous of 
young ones, and all the posts of management are used 
to shelve old officers or men who have blundered. 

This is why, with a bod}' of scientific men spread all 
over the face of France and constituting a part of the 
administration, — a body which ought to enlighten every 
region on the subject of its resources, — this is why we 
are still discussing the practicability of railroads while 
other countries are making theirs. If ever France was 



250 The Village Rector. 

to show the excellence of her institution of technical 
schools, it should have been in this magnificent phase 
of public works, which is destined to change the face 
of States and nations, to double human life, and modify 
the laws of space and time. Belgium, the United States 
of America, England, none of whom have an Ecole 
Poly technique, will be honeycombed with railroads 
when French engineers are still surveying ours, and 
selfish interests, hidden behind all projects, are hinder- 
ing their execution. 

Thus I sa}^ that as for the State, it derives no benefit 
from its technical schools ; as for the individual pupil 
of those schools, his earnings are poor, his ambition 
crushed, and his life a cruel deception. Most assur- 
edl}^ the powers he has displayed between sixteen and 
twenty-six years of age would, if he had been cast upon 
his own resources, have brought him more fame and 
more wealth than the government in whom he trusted 
will ever give him. As a commercial man, a learned 
man, a mihtary man, this choice intellect would have 
worked in a vast centre where his precious faculties 
and his ardent ambition would not be idiotically and 
prematurely repressed. 

Where, then, is progress? Man and State are both 
kept backward by this system. Does not the experi- 
ence of a whole generation demand a reform in the 
practical working of these institutions ? The duty of 
culling from all France during each generation the 
choice minds destined to become the learned and the 
scientific of the nation is a sacred office, the priests of 
which, the arbiters of so many fates, should be trained 
by special study. Mathematical knowledge is perhaps 



The Village Rector. 251 

less necessary to them than physiological knowledge. 
And do you not think that the}' need a little of that 
second-sight which is the witchcraft of great men? As 
it is, the examiners are former professors, honorable 
men grown old in harness, who limit their work to 
selecting the best themes. The}' are unable to do what 
is really demanded of them ; and yet their functions are 
the noblest in the State and demand extraordinary men. 

Do not think, dear sir and friend, that I blame only 
the Ecole itself ; no, I blame the system b}^ which it is 
recruited. This system is the concours, competition, 
— a modern invention, essentiall}^ bad ; bad not onlj' in 
science, but wherever it is employed, in arts, in all 
selections of men, of projects, of things. If it is a 
reproach to our great Ecoles that they have not pro- 
duced men superior to other educational establishments, 
it is still more shameful that the grafid prix of the Insti- 
tute has not as 3'et furnished a single great painter, 
great musician, great architect, great sculptor ; just as 
the suffrage for the last twenty years has not elected 
out of its tide of mediocrities a single great statesman. 
My observation makes me detect, as I think, an error 
which vitiates in France both education and politics. 
It is a cruel error, and it rests on the following prin- 
ciple, which organizers have misconceived : — 

Nothing, either in experience or in the nature of 
things^ can give a certainty that the intellectual qual- 
ities of the adult youth will he those of the mature 
man. 

At this moment I am intimate with a number of dis- 
tinguished men who concern themselves with all the 
moral maladies which are now afflicting France. They 



252 The Village Rector, 

see, as I do, that our highest education is manufactur- 
ing temporarj' capacities, — temporary' because the3^ are 
without exercise and without future ; tliat such educa- 
tion is without profit to the State because it is devoid 
of the vigor of beUef and feeling. Our wliole sj'stem 
of pubhc education needs overhauUng, and the work 
should be presided over b}' some man of great knowl- 
edge, powerful will, and gifted with that legislative 
genius which has never been met with among moderns, 
except perhaps in Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 

Possibly our superfluous numbers might be emplo^'ed 
in giving elementary instruction so much needed by the 
people. The deplorable amount of crime and misde- 
meanors shows a social disease directly arising from 
the half-education given the masses, which tends to the 
destruction of social ties by making the people reflect 
just enough to desert the religious beliefs which are 
favorable to social order, and not enough to lift them to 
the theory of obedience and dut}', which is the highest 
reach of the new transcendental philosophy. But as it 
is impossible to make a whole nation study Kant, there- 
fore I say fixed beliefs and habits are safer for the 
masses than shallow studies and reasoning. 

If I had my life to begin over again, perhaps T would 
enter a seminar}^ and become a simple village priest, or 
the teacher of a country district. But I am too far 
advanced in my profession now to be a mere primary 
instructor ; I can, if 1 leave my present post, act in 
a wider range than that of a school or a country' parish. 
The Saint-Simonians, to whom I have been tempted to 
ally m3'self, want now to take a course in which I 
cannot follow them. Nevertheless, in spite of their 



The Village Rector, 253 

mistakes, they have touched on many of the sore spots 
which are the fruits of our present legislation, and 
which the State will only doctor by insufficient pallia- 
tives, — mereh^ delaying in France the moral and politi- 
cal crisis that must come. 

Adieu, dear Monsieur Grossetete ; accept the assur- 
ance of my respectful attachment, which, notwitlistand- 
ing all these observations, can only increase. 

Gregoire Gerard. 

According to his old habit as a banker, Grossetete had 
jotted down his reply on the back of the letter itself, 
heading it vrith the sacramental word, Atiswered. 

It is useless, my dear Gerard, to discuss the obser- 
vations made in your letter, because by a trick of 
chance (I use the term which is, as 3^ou say, the pet 
word of fools) I have a proposal to make to you which 
ma}^ result in withdrawing 3^ou from the situation 3'ou 
find so bad. Madame Grashn, the owner of the for- 
ests of Montegnac and of a barren plateau extending 
from the base of a chain of mountains on which are the 
forests, wishes to improve this vast domain, to clear 
her timber properlj^, and cultivate the stony plain. 

To put this project into execution she needs a man 
of your scientific knowledge and ardor, and one who 
has also your disinterested devotion and 3'our ideas of 
practical utility. It will be little money and much 
work ! a great result from small means ! a whole region 
to be changed fundamentall3' ! barren places to be 
made to gush with plent3" ! Is n't that precisel3' what 
3'ou want, — 3'ou who are dreaming of constructing a 



254 The Village Rector. 

poem ? From the tone of sincerity which pervades your 
letter, I do not hesitate to bid you come and see me at 
Limoges, Bat, my good friend, don't send in your 
resignation yet ; get leave of absence only, and tell 
your administration that you are going to study ques- 
tions connected with your profession outside of the 
government works. In this way, you will not lose 
your rights, and you will have time to judge for your- 
self whether the project conceived hy the rector of 
Montegnac and approved by Madame Graslin is 
feasible. 

I will explain to you by word of mouth the advan- 
tages 5'ou will find in case this great scheme can be 
carried out. Rely on the friendship of 

Yours, etc., T. Gkossetete. 

Madame Graslin replied to Grossetete in few words : 
" Thank you, my friend ; I shall expect your protege." 
She showed the letter to the rector, saying, — 

" One more wounded man for the hospital." 

The rector read the letter, reread it, made two or 
three turns on the terrace silently ; then he gave it 
back to Madame Graslin, saying, — 

"'•A fine soul, and a superior man. He says the 
schools invented by the genius of the Revolution 
manufacture incapacities. For my part, I say they 
manufacture unbelievers ; for if Monsieur Gerard is 
not an atheist, he is a protestant." 

*' We will ask him," she said, struck by the answer. 



The Village Rector. 255 



XYII. 

THE REVOLUTION OF JULY JUDGED AT MONTEGNAC, 

A FORTNIGHT later, in December, and in spite of the 
cold, Monsieur Grossetete came to the ch^eau de 
Montegnac, to "present his protege,'' whom Veronique 
and Monsieur Bonnet were impatiently awaiting. 

''I must love 3'ou very much, my dear child," said 
the old man, taking Veronique's two hands in his, and 
kissing them with that gallantry of old men which 
never displeases women, "yes, I must love jou well, 
to come from Limoges in such weather. But I wanted 
to present to you myself the gift of Monsieur Gregoire 
Gerard here present. You '11 find him a man after 
5'our own heart. Monsieur Bonnet," added the banker, 
bowing affectionately to the rector. 

Gerard's external appearance was not prepossessing. 
He was of middle height, stocky in shape, the neck 
sunk in the shoulders, as they say vulgarly ; he had 
yellow hair, and the pink eyes of an albino, with lashes 
and e3"ebrows almost white. Though his skin, like that 
of all persons of that description, was dazzlingly white, 
marks of the small pox and other very visible scars had 
destroyed its original brilliancy. Study had probably 
injured his sight, for he wore glasses. 

When he removed the great cloak of a gendarme in 
which he was wrapped, it was seen that his clothing 



256 The Village Rector. 

did not improve his general appearance. The manner 
in which his garments were put on and buttoned, his 
untidy cravat, his rumpled shirt, were signs of the want 
of personal care with which men of science, all more or 
less absent-minded, are charged. As in the case of 
most thinkers, his countenance and his attitude, the 
development of his bust and the thinness of his legs, 
betrayed a sort of bodily debility produced b}^ habits of 
meditation. Nevertheless, the ardor of his heart and 
the vigor of his mind, proofs of which were given 
in his letter, gleamed from his forehead, which was 
white as Carrara marble. Nature seemed to have 
reserved to herself that spot in order to place there vis- 
ible signs of the grandeur, constancy, and goodness of 
the man. The nose, like that of most men of the true 
Gallic race, was flattened. His mouth, firm and straight, 
showed absolute discretion and the instinct of econom3\ 
But the whole mask, worn by study, looked prematurely 
old. 

" We must begin by thanking j-ou, monsieur," said 
Madame Graslin, addressing the engineer, " for being 
willing to direct an enteiprise in a part of the country 
which can offer you no other pleasure than the satis- 
faction of knowing that 3'ou are doing a real good." 

''Madame," he replied, " Monsieur Grossetete has 
told me enough about your enterprise as we came along 
to make me already glad that I can in any way be use- 
ful to you ; the prospect of living in close relations 
with you and Monsieur Bonnet seems to me charming 
Unless I am dismissed from this region, I expect to end 
my days here." 

"We will try not to let you change your mind/ 
replied Madame Graslin, smiling. 



The Village Rector. 257 

" Here," said Grossetete, addressing Veroniqiie, 
whom he took aside, ''are the papers which the ^ro- 
cureur- general gave to me. He was quite surprised 
that 3'ou did not address 3'our inquiry about Catherine 
Curieux to him. All that 3'OU wished has been done 
immediately', with the utmost promptitude and devo- 
tion. Three months hence Catherine Curieux will be 
sent to 3'ou." 

'• Where is she? " asked Veronique. 

" She is now in tlie hospital Saint-Louis," replied 
the old man ; " the3' are awaiting her recover3' before 
sending her from Paris." 

" Ah ! is the poor girl ill? " 

'' You will find all necessary information in these 
papers," said Grossetete, giving Veronique a packet. 

Madame Graslin returned to her guests to conduct 
them into the magnificent dining-room on the ground- 
floor. She sat at table, but did not herself take part in 
the dinner ; since her arrival at Montegnac she had 
made it a rule to take her meals alone, and Aline, who 
knew the reason of this withdrawal, faithfully kept the 
secret of it till her mistress was in danger of death. 

The ma3'or, the juge de paix^ and the doctor of 
Montegnac had been invited. 

The doctor, a 3'oung man twenty-seven years of age, 
named Roubaud, was extremel3' desirous of knowing a 
woman so celebrated in Limoges. The rector was all 
the more pleased to present him at the chateau because 
he wanted to gather a little societ3" around Veronique 
to distract her mind and give it food. Roubaud was 
one of those thoroughly well-trained 3'oung ph3'sicians 
whom the Ecole de Medecine m Paris sends forth to 

17 



258 The Village Rector. 

the profession. He would undoubtedly have shone on 
the vast stage of the capital ; but frightened by the 
clash of ambitions in Paris, and knowing himself more 
capable than pushing, more learned than intriguing, 
his gentle disposition led him to choose the narrow 
career of the provinces, where he hoped to be sooner 
appreciated than in Paris. 

At Limoges, Roubaud came in contact with the settled 
practice of the regular physicians and the habits of the 
people ; he therefore let himself be persuaded b}' Mon- 
sieur Bonnet, who, judging by the gentle and winning 
expression of his face, thought him well-suited to 
co-operate in his own work at Montegnac. Roubaud 
was small and fair ; his general appearance was rather 
insipid, but his gray eyes betrayed the depths of the 
physiologist and the patient tonacit}' of a studious man. 
There was no physician in Montegnac except an old 
armj'-surgeon, more devoted to his cellar than to his 
patients, and too old to continue with any vigor the 
hard life of a country doctor. At the present time 
he was dying. 

Roubaud had been in Montegnac about eighteen 
months, and was much liked there. But this young 
pupil of Desplein and the successors of Cabanis did not 
beheve in Catholicism. He lived in a state of pro- 
found indifference as to religion, and did not desire to 
come out of it. The rector was in despair. Not that 
Roubaud did anj- wrong ; he never spoke against 
religion, and his duties were excuse enough for his 
absence from church ; besides, he was incapable of try- 
ing to undermine the faith of others, and indeed 
behaved outwardly as the best of Catholics ; he simply 



The Village Rector. 259 

prohibited himself from thinking of a problem which he 
considered above the range of human thought. When 
the rector heard him say that pantheism had been the 
religion of all great minds he set him down as inclining 
to the doctrine of Pythagoras on reincarnation. 

Roubaud, who saw Madame Graslin for the first time, 
experienced a violent sensation when he met her. 
Science revealed to him in her expression, her attitude, 
in the ravages on her face, untold sufferings both moral 
and pln'sical, a nature of almost superhuman force, 
great faculties which would support her under the most 
conflicting trials; he detected all, — even the darkest 
corners of that nature so carefully hidden. He felt 
that some evil, some malady, was devouring the heart 
of that fine creature ; for just as the color of a fruit 
shows the presence of a worm within it, so certain 
tints in the human face enable physicians to detect 
a poisoning thought. 

From this moment Monsieur Roubaud attached him- 
self so deeply to Madame Graslin that he became afraid 
of loving her beyond the permitted line of simple friend- 
ship. The brow, the bearing, above all, the glance of 
Veronique's eye had a sort of eloquence that men in- 
variably understand ; it said as plainly that she was 
dead to love as other women say the contrar}' b}' a 
reversal of the same eloquence. The doctor suddenly 
vowed to her, in his heart, a chivalrous worship. 

He exchanged a rapid glance with the rector, who 
thought to himself, " Here 's the thunderbolt which will 
convert my poor unbeliever ; Madame Graslin will have 
more eloquence than I." 

The mayor, an old countr3'man, amazed at the 



260 The Village Rector. 

luxury of this dining-room and surprised to find him- 
self dining with one of the richest men iu the depart- 
ment, had put on his best clothes, which rather 
hampered him, and this increased his mental awkward- 
ness. Moreover, Madame Graslin in her mourning 
garments seemed to him very imposing ; he was there- 
fore mute. After living all his life as a farmer at 
Saint-Leonard, he had bought the only habitable house 
in Montegnac and cultivated with his own hands the 
land belonging to it. Though he knew how to read 
and write, he would have been incapable of fulfilling his 
functions were it not for the help of his clerk and the 
juge de paix^ who prepared his work for him. He was 
very anxious to have a notary established in Montegnac, 
in order that he might shift the burden of his responsi- 
bility on to that officer's shoulders. But the poverty of 
the village and its outlying districts made such a 
functionary almost useless, and the inhabitants had 
recourse when necessary to the notaries of the chief 
town of the arrondissement. 

The juge de paix^ named Clousier, was formerly a 
law3'er in Limoges, where cases had deserted him be- 
cause he insisted on putting into practice that fine 
axiom that the lawyer is the best judge of the client 
and the case. In 1809 he obtained his present post, 
the meagre salar}' of which just enabled him to live. 
He had now reached a stage of honorable but absolute 
poverty. After a residence of twenty-one years in this 
poor village the worthy man, thoroughly countrified, 
looked, top-coat and all, exactly like the farmers about 
him. 

Under this coarse exterior Clousier hid a clear- 



The Village Rector. 261 

sighted mind, given to lofty meditation on public policy^ 
tliough he himself had fallen into a state of complete 
indifference, derived from his intimate knowledge of 
men and their interests. This man, who baffled for a 
long time the rector's perspicacity and who might in a 
higher sphere have proved another I'Hopital, incapable 
of intrigue like all reallj^ profound persons, was hy this 
time living in the contemplative state of an ancient her- 
mit. Independent through privation, no personal con- 
sideration acted on his mind ; he knew the laws and 
judged impartiall}^ His life, reduced to the merest 
necessaries, was pure and regular. The peasants loved 
Monsieur Clousier and respected him for the disin- 
terested fatherly care with which he settled their differ- 
ences and gave them advice in their daily affairs. The 
" goodman Clousier" as all Montegnac called him, had 
a nephew with him as clerk, an intelligent young man, 
who afterwards contributed much to the prosperity of 
the district. 

Old Clousier's personal appearance was remarkable 
for a broad, high forehead and two bushes of white hair 
which stood out from his head on either side of it. His 
highly colored complexion and well-developed corpu- 
lence might have made persons think, in spite of his 
actual sobriety, that he cultivated Bacchus as well as 
Troplong and TouUier. His half-extinct voice was the 
sign of an oppressive asthma. Perhaps the dr}^ air of 
Montegnac had contributed to fix him there. He lived 
in a house arranged for him b}' a well-to-do cobbler to 
whom it belonged. Clousier had already seen Vero- 
nique at church, and he had formed his opinion of her 
without communicating it to any one, not even to Mon^ 



262 The Village Rector. 

sieur Bonnet, with whom he was beginninsj to be inti- 
mate. For the first time in his life the juge de paix 
was to be thrown with persons able to appreciate him. 

When the company were seated round a table hand- 
somely appointed (for Veronique had sent all her house- 
liold belongings from Limoges to Monte'gnac) the six 
guests felt a momentar}' embarrassment. The doctor, 
the mayor and the juge de paix l^new nothing of Grosse- 
tete and Gerard. But during the first course, old 
Grossetste's hearty good-humor broke the ice of a 
first meeting. In addition to this, Madame Graslin's 
cordiality led on Gerard, and encouraged Roubaud. 
Under her touch these souls full of fine qualities recog- 
nized their relation, and felt they had entered a sympa- 
thetic circle. So, b}^ the time the dessert appeared on 
the table, when the glass and china with gilded edges 
sparkled, and the choicer wines were served by Aline 
and Champion and Grossetete's valet, the conversation 
became sufl3ciently confidential to allow these four 
choice minds, thus meeting by chance, to express their 
real thoughts on matters of importance, such as men 
like to discuss when they can do so and be sure of the 
discretion of their companions. 

" Your furlough came just in time to let you witness 
the revolution of July," said Grossetete to Gerard, with 
an air as if he asked an opinion of him. 

" Yes," replied the engineer. ^' I was in Paris dur- 
ing the three famous days. I saw all ; and I came to 
sad conclusions." 

" What were they? " said the rector, eagerl}^ 

" There is no longer any patriotism except under 
dirty shirts," replied Gerard. ' ' In that lies the ruin 



The Village Rector. 263 

of France ! July was the voluntary defeat of all superi- 
orities, — name, fortune, talent. The ardent, devoted 
masses carried , the da}' against the rich and the intelli- 
gent, to whom ardor and devotion are repugnant." 

'^To judge by what has happened during the past 
year," said Monsieur Clousier, '' this change of govern- 
ment is simply a premium given to an evil that is 
sapping us, — individualism. Fifteen years hence all 
questions of a generous nature will be met b}', What 
is that to me f — the great cr}- of Freedom of Will de- 
scending from the religious heights where Luther, Cal- 
vin, Zwinglius, and Knox introduced it, into even 
political econom}'. JEmry one for himself ; Every man 
his own master.^ — those two terrible axioms form, 
with the What is that to me? a trinity of wisdom 
to the burgher and the small land-owner. This egotism 
results from the vices of our present civil legislation 
(too hastily made), to which the revolution of July has 
just given a terrible confirmation." 

^\\Q^juge de paix fell back into his usual silence after 
thus expressing himself; but the topics he suggested 
must have occupied the minds of those present. Em- 
boldened by Clousier's words, and moved by the look 
which Gerard exchanged with Grossetete, Monsieur 
Bonnet ventured to go further. 

"The good King Charles X.," he said, ''has just 
failed in the most far-sighted and salutary enterprise a 
monarch ever planned for the welfare of the people con- 
fided to him ; and the Church ought to feel proud of the 
part she took in his councils. But the upper classes 
deserted him in heart and mind, just as they had already 
deserted him on the great question of the law of primo- 



264 The Village Rector. 

geniture, — the lasting honor of the only bold states- 
man the Restoration has produced, namel}^, the Comte 
de Peyronnet. To reconstitute the nation through the 
family ; to take from the press its venomous action and 
confine it to its real usefulness ; to recall the elective 
Chamber to its true functions ; and to restore to religion 
its power over the people, — such were the four cardinal 
points of the internal polic}' of the house of Bourbon. 
Well, twent}' 3'ears from now all France will have 
recognized the necessity of that grand and sound 
policy. Charles X. was in greater peril in the situation 
he chose to leave than in that in which his paternal 
power has been defeated. The future of our noble 
country — where all things will henceforth be brought 
periodically into question, where our rulers will discuss 
incessantly^ instead of acting, where the press, become 
a sovereign power, will be the instrument of base ambi- 
tions — this future will only prove the wisdom of the 
king who has just carried away with him the true prin- 
ciples of government ; and historv will bear in mind 
the courage with which he resisted his best friends 
after having probed the wound and seen the necessity 
of curative measures, which were not sustained by 
those for whose sake he put himself into the breach." 

"Ah! monsieur," cried Gerard, " 3'ou are frank; 
you go straight to your thought without disguise, and 
I won't contradict 3'ou. Napoleon in his Russian cam- 
paign was fort}^ 3'ears in advance of, the spirit of his 
age ; he was never understood. The Russia and Eng- 
land of 1830 explain the campaign of 1812. Charles 
X. has been misunderstood in the same way. It is 
quite possible that in twent3^-five years from now his 
ordinances ma3' become the laws of the land." 



The Village Rector. 265 

" France, too eloquent not to gabble, too full of 
vanity to bow down before real talent, is, in spite of the 
sublime good sense of its language and the mass of 
its people, the very last nation in which two delibera- 
tive chambers should have been attempted," said the 
juge de paix. " Or, at any rate, the weaknesses of our 
national character should have been guarded against 
by the admirable restrictions which Napoleon's expe- 
rience laid on them. Our present S3'stem may succeed 
in a country whose action is circumscribed b}^ the 
nature of its soil, like England ; but the law of primo- 
geniture applied to the transmission of land is abso- 
lutely necessar}' ; when that law is suppressed the 
system of legislative representation becomes absurd. 
England owes her existence to the quasi-feudal law 
which entails landed propert}^ and family mansions on 
the eldest son. Russia is based on the feudal right of 
autocracy. Consequently those two nations are to-day 
on the high-road of startling progress. Austria could 
only resist our invasions and renew the war against 
Napoleon by virtue of that law of primogeniture which 
preserves in the family the active forces of a nation, 
and supplies the great productions necessar\^ to the 
State. The house of Bourbon, feeling that it was slip- 
ping to the third rank in Europe, b}^ reason of liberal- 
ism, wanted to regain its rightful place and there 
maintain itself, and the nation has thrown it over at 
the very time it was about to save the nation. I am 
sure I don't know how low down the present system 
will drop us." 

^' If we have a war, France will be without horses, 
as Napoleon was in 1813, when, being reduced to those 



266 The Village Rector. 

of France only, he could not profit by his two victories 
of Lutzen and Botzen, and so was crushed at Leipzig," 
cried Grossetete. "If peace continues, the evil. will 
onl}^ increase. Twenty-five years from now the race 
of cattle and horses will have diminished in France 
by one half." 

"Monsieur Grossetete is right," remarked Gerard. 
" So that the work 3'ou are undertaking here, madame," 
he added, addressing Veronique, "is really a service 
done to the country." 

"Yes," said the Jw^e (^e joaiaj, " because Madame 
has but one son, and the inheritance will not be divided 
up ; but how long will that condition last? For a cer- 
tain length of time the magnificent culture which you 
are about to introduce will, let us hope, belong to onW 
one proprietor, who will continue to breed horned 
beasts and horses ; but sooner or later the day must 
come when these forests and fields will be divided up 
and sold in small parcels. Divided and redivided, the 
six thousand acres of that plain will have a thousand 
or twelve hundred owners, and thenceforth — no more 
horses and cattle ! " 

" Oh ! as for those days " — began the mayor. 

"There! don't 3'ou hear the What is that to me? 
Monsieur Clousier talked of ? " cried Monsieur Grosse- 
tete. ''Taken in the act! But, monsieur," resumed 
the banker, gravely addressing the dumfounded mayor, 
"those days have really come. In a radius of thirty 
miles round Paris the land is so divided up into small 
holdings that milch cows are no longer seen. The 
Commune of Argenteuil contains thirt^'-eight thousand 
eight hundred and eighty-five parcels of land, many of 



The Village Rector. 267 

which do not return a farthing of revenue. If it were 
not for the rich refuse of Paris, which produces a fodder 
of strong quality, I don't know how dairymen would 
get along. As it is, this over-stimulating food and 
confinement in close stables produce inflammatorj' dis- 
eases, of which the cows often die. They use cows in 
the neighborhood of Paris as the}^ do horses in the 
street. Crops more profitable than hay — vegetables, 
fruit, apple orchards, vineyards — are taking the place 
of meadow-lands. In a few 3^ears we shall see milk 
sent to Paris b}' the mail-coaches as they now send 
fish. What is going on around Paris is also going on 
round all the large cities of France ; the land will thus 
be used up before many years are gone. Chaptel 
states that in 1800 there were barely two million acres 
of vineyard in France ; a careful estimate would give 
ten million to-da}'. Divided ad infinitum by our pres- 
ent S3'stem of inheritance, Normandy will lose half her 
production of horses and cattle ; but she will have a 
monopoly of milk in Paris, for her climate, happily, 
forbids grape culture. We shall soon see a curious 
phenomenon in the progressive rise in the cost of meat. 
In twenty years from now, in 1850, Paris, which paid 
seven to eleven sous a pound for beef in 1814, will be 
paj'ing twenty — unless there comes a man of genius 
who can carr}^ out the plan of Charles X." 

''You have laid j^our finger on the mortal wound of 
France," said the Juge de paix. '^The root of our 
evils lies in the section relating to inheritance in 
the Civil Code, in which the equal division of property 
among heirs is ordained. That 's the pestle that pounds 
territor3' into crumbs, individualizes fortunes, and takes 



268 The Village Rector, 

from them their needful stabilit}' ; decomposing ever 
and never recomposing, — a state of things which must 
end in the ruin of France. The French Revohition 
emitted a destructive virus to which the July days have 
given fresh activity. This vitiating element is the 
accession of the peasantry to the ownership of land. 
If the section ' On Inheritance' is the principle of the 
evil, the peasant is the means through which it works. 
No sooner does that class get a parcel of land into its 
maw than it begins to subdivide it, till there are scarcely 
three furrows left in each lot. And even then the 
peasant does not stop ! He divides the three furrows 
across their length, as Monsieur Grossetete has just 
shown us at Argenteuil. The unreasonable price which 
the peasant attaches to the smallest scrap of his land 
makes it impossible to repurchase and restore a fine 
estate. Monsieur," he went on, indicating Grossetete, 
" has just mentioned the diminution in the raising of 
horses and cattle ; well, the Code has much to do with 
that. The peasant-proprietor owns cows ; he looks to 
them for his means of living ; he sells the calves, he 
sells his butter ; he never dreams of raising cattle, still 
less of raising horses ; but as he cannot raise enough 
fodder to support his cows through a dry season, he sends 
them to market when he can feed them no longer. If 
by some fatal chance the hay were to fail for two 3* ears 
running, you would see a startling change the third 
3'ear in the price of beef, but especially in that of 
veal." 

" That ma}^ put a stop to ' patriotic banquets,^ " said 
the doctor, laughing. 

" Oh ! " exclaimed Madame Graslin, looking at Rou- 



The Village Rector. 269 

baud, " can't politics get on without the wit of journal- 
ism, even here?" 

" In this lamentable business, the bourgeoisie plays 
the same role as the pioneers of America," continued 
Clousier. " It buys up great estates, which the peas- 
antry could not otherwise acquire. It cuts them up 
and then sells, either at auction or in small lots at pri- 
vate sale, to the peasants. Everything is judged by 
figures in these days, and I know none more eloquent 
than these. France has ninetj'-nine million acres, 
which, subtracting highways, roads, dunes, canals, and 
barren, uncultivated regions deserted by capital, ma}^ 
be reduced to eighty millions. Now out of eighty mil- 
lions of acres to thirt3'-two millions of inhabitants we 
find one hundred and twenty-five millions of small lots 
registered on the tax-list (I don't give fractions). 
Thus, 3'ou will observe, we have gone to the utmost 
limit of agrarian law, and yet we have not seen the 
last of poverty or dissatisfaction. Those who divide 
territor}^ into fragments and lessen production have, 
of course, plenty of organs to cr}^ out that true social 
justice consists in giving every man a life interest, and 
no more, in a parcel of land ; perpetual ownership, 
they say, is robbery. The Saint-Simonians are already 
proclaiming that doctrine." 

" The magistrate has spoken," said Grossetete, " and 
here 's what the banker adds to those bold considera- 
tions. The fact that the peasantry and the lesser 
bourgeoisie can now acquire land does France an in- 
jury which the government seems not even to suspect. 
We may estimate the number of peasant families, 
omitting paupers, at three millions. These famiUes 



270 The Village Rector. 

subsist on wages. Wages are paid in mone}', and not 
in kind — " 

*' Yes, that's another blunder of our laws!" cried 
Clousier, interrupting the banker. " The right to pay 
in kind might have been granted in 1790; now, if we 
attempted to carr}^ such a law, we should risk a 
revolution. " 

' ' Therefore, as I was about to say, the proletary 
draws to himself the money of the country," resumed 
Grossetete. '' Now the peasant has no other passion, 
desire, or will, than to die a land-owner. This desire, 
as Monsieur Clousier has well shown, was born of the 
Revolution, and is the direct result of the sale of the 
National domain. A man must be ignorant indeed of 
what is going on all over France in the country regions 
if he is not aware that these three million families are 
yearly hoarding at least fifty francs, thus subtracting a 
hundred and fifty millions from current use. The sci- 
ence of political econom}' has made it an axiom that a 
five-franc piece, passing through a hundred hands in one 
day, is equivalent to five hundred francs. Now, it is 
perfectly plain to all of us who live in the country and 
observe the state of afi'airs, that everj' peasant has his 
eye on the land he covets ; he is watching and waiting 
for it, and he never invests his savings elsewhere ; he 
buries them. In seven years the savings thus rendered 
inert and unproductive amount to eleven hundred mil- 
lion francs. But since the lesser bourgeoisie bury as 
much more, with the same purpose, France loses every 
seven years the interest of at least two thousand mil- 
lions, — that is to sa}^ about one hundred millions ; 
a loss which in forty-two years amounts to six hundred 



The Village Rector. 271 

million francs. But she not only loses six hundred 
millions, she fails to create with that money manufac- 
turing or agricultural products, which represent a 
loss of twelve hundred millions ; for, if the manufac- 
tured product were not double in value to its cost 
price, commerce could not exist. The proletariat ac- 
tually deprives itself of six hundred millions in wages. 
These six hundred millions of dead loss (representing 
to a stern economist a loss of twelve hundred millions, 
through lack of the benefits of circulation) explain the 
condition of inferiority in which our commerce, our 
merchant service, and our agriculture stand, as com- 
pared with England. In spite of the difference of the 
two territories, which is more than two thirds in our 
favor, England could remount the cavalry of two 
French armies, and she has meat for every man. But 
there, as the system of landed property makes it al- 
most impossible for the lower classes to obtain it, 
mone}- is not hoarded ; it becomes commercial, and is 
turned over. Thus, besides the evil of parcelling the 
land, involving that of the diminution of horses, cattle, 
and sheep, the section of the Code on inheritance 
costs us six hundred millions of interest, lost b}' the 
hoarding of the money of the peasantry and bour- 
geoisie, and twelve hundred millions, at least, of prod- 
ucts ; or, including the loss from non-circulation, three 
thousand millions in half a century ! " 

" The moral effect is worse than the material effect," 
cried the rector. ' ' We are making beggar-proprietors 
among the people and half-taught communities of the 
lesser bourgeoisie ; and the fatal maxim ^ Each for 
himself,' which had its effect upon the upper classes in 



272 The Village Rector. 

July of this year, will soon have gangrened the middle 
classes. A proletariat devoid of sentiment, with no 
other god than envy, no other fanaticism than the 
despair of hunger, without faith, without belief, will 
come forward before long and put its foot on the heart 
of the nation. Foreigners, who have thriven under 
monarchical rule, will find that, having ro3'alty, we 
have no king ; having legalit}^, we have no laws ; hav- 
ing property, no owners ; no government with our 
elections, no force with freedom, no happiness with 
equality. Let us hope that before that day comes God 
may raise up in France a providential man, one of 
those Elect who give a new mind to nations, and like 
Sylla or like Marius, whether he comes from above or 
rises from below, remakes society." 

"He would be sent to the assizes," said Gerard. 
" The sentence pronounced against Socrates and Jesus 
Christ would be rendered against them in 1831. In 
these days as in the old days, envious mediocrit}^ lets 
thinkers die of povert}", and so gets rid of the great 
political physicians who have studied the wounds of 
France, and who oppose the tendencies of their epoch. 
Tf they bear up under poverty, common minds ridicule 
them or call them dreamers. In France, men revolt 
in the moral world against the great man of the future, 
just as they revolt in the political world against a 
sovereign." 

"In the olden time sophists talked to a limited 
number of men ; to-day the periodical press enables 
them to lead astray a nation," cried the juge de paix; 
" and that portion of the press which pleads for right 
ideas finds no echo." 



The Village Rector, 273 

The mayor looked at Monsieur Clousier in amazement. 
Madame Graslm, glad to find in a simple ^'w^e depaix 
a man whose mind was occupied with serious ques- 
tions, said to Monsieur Roubaud, her neighbor, ''Do 
3'ou know Monsieur Clousier? " 

" Not rightly until to-day, madame. You are doing 
miracles," he answered in a whisper. " And 3'et, look 
at his brow, how noble in shape ! Is n't it like the classic 
or traditional brow given by sculptors to Lycurgus and 
the Greek sages ? The revolution of July has an evi- 
dently retrograde tendency," said the doctor (who might 
in his student daj-s have made a barricade himself), 
after carefully considering Grossetete's calculation. 

" These ideas are threefold," continued Clousier. 
" You have talked of law and finance, but how is it with 
the government itself ? The royal power, weakened by 
the doctrine of national sovereignty, in virtue of which 
the election of August 9, 1830, has just been made, will 
endeavor to counteract that rival principle which gives 
to the people the right to saddle the nation with a new 
dynasty every time it does not fully comprehend the 
ideas of its king. You will see that we shall then have 
internal struggles which will arrest for long periods 
together the progress of France." 

" All these reefs have been wisely evaded by Eng- 
land," remarked Gerard. "I have been there; I 
admire that beehive, which sends its swarms over the 
universe and civilizes mankind, — a people among whom 
discussion is a political comed}', which satisfies the 
masses and hides the action of power, which then 
works freely in its upper sphere ; a country where elec- 
tions are not in the hands of a stupid bourgeoisie, as 

18 



274 The Village Rector. 

they are in France. If England were parcelled out 
into small holdings the nation would no longer exist. 
The land-owning class, the lords, guide the social 
mechanism. Their merchant-service, under the nose 
of Europe, takes possession of whole regions of the 
globe to meet the needs of their commerce and to 
get rid of their paupers and malcontents. Instead of 
lighting capacities, as we do, thwarting them, nullify- 
ing them, the English aristocratic class seeks out young 
talent, rewards it, and is constantly assimilating it. 
Ever3'thing which concerns the action of the govern- 
ment, in the choice of men and things, is prompt in 
England, whereas with us all is slow ; and yet the 
English are slow by nature, while we are impatient. 
With them mone}' is bold and actively emploj^ed ; with 
us it is timid and suspicious. What Monsieur Gros- 
setete has said of the industrial losses which the hoard- 
ing peasantrj' inflict on France has its proof in a fact 
I will show to you in two words : English capital, by 
its perpetual turning over, has created ten thousand 
millions of manufacturing and interest-bearing prop- 
erty ; whereas French capital, which is far more abun- 
dant, has not created one tenth of that amount." 

" And that is all the more extraordinary^," said 
Roubaud, '' because they are lymphatic, and we, as a 
general thing, are sanguine and energetic." 

"Ah! monsieur," said Clousier, "there you touch 
a great question, which ought to be studied : How to 
find institutions properly adapted to repress the tem- 
perament of a people ! Assuredly Cromwell was a 
great legislator. He alone made the England of to- 
da}^, by inventing the ' Navigation Act/ which has 



The Village Rector. 275 

made the English enemies of all the world, and infused 
into them a ferocious pride and self-conceit, which is 
their mainstay. But, in spite of their Malta citadel, 
if France and Russia will only comprehend the part 
the Mediterranean and the Black Sea ought to be 
made to- play in the future, the road to Asia through 
Egypt or by the Euphrates, made feasible by recent dis- 
coveries, will kill England, as in former times the 
discovery of the Cape of Good Hope killed Venice." 

'' Not one word of God's providence in all this! " 
cried the rector. " Monsieur Clousier and Monsieur 
Roubaud are oblivious of religion. How is it with 
3'ou, monsieur? " he added, turning to Gerard. 

*' Protestant," put in Grossetete. 

" You guessed it," cried Veronique, looking at the 
rector as she took Clousier's arm to return to the 
salon. 

The prejudice Gerard's appearance excited against 
him had been quickly dispelled, and the three notables 
congratulated themselves on so good an acquisition. 

'' Unfortunatel}'," said Monsieur Bonnet, " there is 
a cause of antagonism between Russia and the Catholic 
countries which border the Mediterranean, in the very 
unimportant schism which separates the Greek religion 
from the Latin religion ; and it is a great misfortune 
for humanity." 

" We all preach our own saint," said Madame Gras- 
lin. " Monsieur Grossetete thinks of the lost millions ; 
Monsieur Clousier, of the overthrow of rights ; the 
doctor here regards legislation as a question of tem- 
peraments ; and the rector sees an obstacle to the good 
understanding of France and Russia in religion." 



276 The Village Rector, 



(i 



Add to that, madame," said Gerard, " that T see, 
in the hoarding of capital by the peasant and the small 
burgher, the postponement of the building of railroads 
in France.'* 

" Then what is it you all want? " she asked, 
"We want the wise State councillors who, under the 
Emperor, reflected on the laws, and a legislative body 
elected by the intelligence of the country as well as 
by the land-owners, whose only function would be to 
oppos*e bad legislation and capricious wars. The 
Chamber, as constituted to-day, will proceed, as you 
will soon see, to govern, and that is the first step to 
legal anarch3^" 

" Good God ! " cried the rector, in a flush of sacred 
patriotism, " how can such enlightened minds as these," 
and he motioned to Clousier, Roubaud, and Gerard, 
*' how can they see evil so clearly and suggest remedies 
without first looking within and applying a remedy to 
themselves? All of 3'ou, who represent the attacked 
classes, recognize the necessity of the passive obedience 
of the masses to the State, like that of soldiers during 
a war ; you want the unity of power, and 3-0U desire 
that it shall never be brought into question. What 
England has obtained by the development of her pride 
and self-interest (a part of her creed) cannot be ob- 
tained in France but through sentiments due to Catholi- 
cism, and none of 3'ou are Catholics ! Here am I, a 
priest, obliged to leave my own ground and argue with 
arguers. How can 3-ou expect the masses to become 
rehgious and obedient when they see irreligion and 
want of discipline above them ? All peoples united by 
any faith whatever will inevitably get the better of 



The Village Rector, 211 

peoples without an}- faith at all. The law of public 
interest, which gives birth to patriotism, is destroyed 
by the law of private interest, which it sanctions, but 
which gives birth to selfishness. There is nothing 
solid and durable but that which is natural ; and the 
natural thing in human policy is the Family. The 
family must be the point of departure for all institu- 
tions. A universal effect proves a universal cause ; 
and what you have just been setting forth as evident 
on all sides comes from the social principle itself; 
which is now without force because it has taken for 
its basis independence of thought and will, and such 
freedom is the parent of individualism. To make 
happiness depend on the stabilit\", intelligence, and 
capacity of all is not as wise as to make happiness 
depend on the stability and intelligence of institutions 
and the capacit}' of a single head. It is easier to find 
wisdom in one man than in a whole nation. Peoples 
have heart and no eyes ; the}' feel, and see not. Gov- 
ernments ought to see, and not determine anything 
through sentiment. There is, therefore, an evident 
contradiction between the impulses of the multitude 
and the action of power whose function it is to direct 
and unify those impulses. To meet with a great 
prince is certainly a rare chance (to use 3'our term), 
but to trust to a whole assembly, even though it be 
composed of honest men onl}^, is folly. France is 
committing that folly at this moment. Alas ! you are 
just as much convinced of it as I am. If all right- 
minded men, like 3'ourselves, would only set an ex- 
ample around them, if all intelligent hands would raise, 
in the great republic pf souls, the altars of the one 



278 The Village Rector. 

Church which has set the interests of humanity before 
her, we might again behold in France the miracles our 
fathers did here." 

"But the difficulty is, monsieur," said Gerard, — 
" if I may speak to you with the freedom of the confes- 
sional, — I look upon faith as a lie we tell to ourselves, 
on hope as a lie we tell about the future, and on char- 
ity as a trick for children to keep them good by the 
promise of sugar-plums." 

'' Still, we sleep better for being rocked by hope, 
monsieur," said Madame Graslin. 

This speech stopped Roubaud, who was about to 
reply ; its effect was strengthened by a look from 
Grossetete and the rector. 

"Is it our fault," said Clousier, " that Jesus Christ 
had not the time to formulate a government in accord- 
ance with his moral teaching, as did Moses and Con- 
fucius, the two greatest human law-givers? — witness 
the existence, as a nation, of the Jews and Chinese, 
the former in spite of their dispersion over the whole 
earth, and the latter in spite of their isolation." 

" Ah ! dear me ! what work 3'ou are cutting out for 
me ! " cried the rector, naively. " But I shall triumph, 
I shall convert you all ! You are much nearer to tlie 
true faith than 3'ou think you are. Truth always lurks 
behind falsehood ; go on a step, turn round, and then 
you'll see it." 

This little outburst of the good rector had the effect 
of changing the conversation. 



The Village Rector, 279 



XVIII. 

CATHERINE CURIEUX. 

Before taking his departure the next day, Monsieur 
Grossetete promised Veronique to associate himself in 
all her plans, as soon as the realization of them was 
a practicable thing. Madame Graslin and Gerard 
accompanied his carriage on horseback, and did not 
leave him till they reached the junction of the high-road 
of Montegnac with that from Bordeaux to Lyon. The 
engineer was so impatient to see the land he was to 
reclaim, and Veronique so impatient to show it to him, 
that they had planned this expedition the evening 
before. 

After bidding adieu to the kind old man, the}^ turned 
off the road across the vast plain, and skirted the 
mountain chain from the foot of the rise which led to 
the chateau to the steep face of the Roche Vive. The 
engineer then saw plainly the shelf or barricade of rock 
mentioned by Farrabesche ; which forms, as it were, 
the lowest foundation of the hills. By so directing the 
water that it should not overflow the indestructible 
canal which Nature had built, and by clearing out the 
accumulation of earth which choked it up, irrigation 
would be helped rather than hindered by this natural 
sluice-way, which was raised, on an average, ten feet 
above the plain. The first important point was to esti- 



280 The Village Rector. 

mate the amount of water flowing through the Gabou, 
and to make sure whether or not the slopes of the 
valley allowed any to escape in other directions. 

Veronique gave Farrabesche a horse, and directed 
him to accompany the engineer and to explain to him 
everything he had himself noticed. After several days' 
careful exploration, Gerard found that the base of the 
two parallel slopes was sufficiently solid, though different 
in composition, to hold the water, allowing none to 
escape. During the month of January-, which was 
rain}', he estimated the quantity of water flowing 
through the Gabou. Tliis quantity, added to that of 
three streams which could easily be led into it, would 
supply water enough to irrigate a tract of land three 
times as extensive as the plain of Montegnac. The 
damming of the Gabou and the works necessary to 
direct the water of the three valle3's to the plain, ought 
not to cost more than sixt}^ thousand francs ; for the 
engineer discovered on the commons a quantity of cal- 
careous soil which would furnish the lime cheaply, the 
forest was close at hand, the wood and stone cost noth- 
ing, and the transportation was trifling. While awaiting 
the season when the Gabou would be dry (the only 
time suitable for the work) all the necessary prepara- 
tions could be made so as to push the enterprise 
through rapidly when it was once begun. 

But the preparation of the plain was another thing ; 
that according to Gerard, would cost not less than two 
hundred thousand francs, without including the sowing 
and planting. The plain was to be divided into square 
compartments of two hundred and fift}' acres each, 
where the ground had to be cleared, not only of its 



The Village Rector. 281 

stunted growths, but of rocks. Laborers would have 
to dig innumerable trenches, and stone them up so as 
to let no water run to waste, also to direct its flow at 
will. This part of the enterprise needed the active 
and faithful arms of conscientious workers. Chance 
provided them with a tract of land without natural 
obstacles, a long even stretch of plain, where the 
waters, having a fall of ten feet, could be distributed 
at will. Nothing hindered the finest agricultural 
results, while at the same time, the e3'e would be grati- 
fied by one of those magnificent sheets of verdure 
which are the pride and the wealth of Lombardy. 
Gerard sent for an old and experienced foreman, who 
had already been employed by him elsewhere in this 
capacity, named Fresquin. 

Madame Graslin wrote to Grossetete, requesting him 
to negotiate for her a loan of two hundred and fifty 
thousand francs, secured on her income from the 
Funds, which, if relinquished for six j'ears, would be 
enough to pay both capital and interest. This loan 
was obtained in March. By this time the prehminar^^ 
preparations carried on by Gerard and his foreman, 
Fresquin, were fully completed ; also, the surveying, 
estimating, levelling, and sounding. The news of this 
great enterprise spreading about the country, stimu- 
lated the labouring population. The indefatigable 
Farrabesche, Colorat, Clousier, the ma3^or of Mon- 
tegnac, Roubaud, and others, interested either in the 
welfare of the neighborhood or in Madame Graslin, 
selected such of these laborers as seemed the poorest, 
or were most deserving of employment. Gerard bought 
for himself and for Monsieur Grossetete a thousand 



282 The Village Rector, 

acres on the other side of the high-road to Monte'gnac. 
Fresquin, the foreman, bought five hundred, and sent 
for his wife and children. 

Early in April, 1832, Monsieur Grossetete came to 
see the land bought for him by Gerard, though his 
journey was chiefly occasioned b}^ the advent of Cath- 
erine Curieux, who had come from Paris to Limoges by 
the diligence. Grossetete now brought her with him to 
Montegnac. He found Madame Grashn just starting 
for church. Monsieur Bonnet was to say a mass to 
implore the blessing of heaven on the works that were 
then beginning. All the laborers with their wives and 
children were present. 

" Here is your prote'gee," said the old gentleman, 
presenting to Veronique a feeble, suffering woman, 
apparently about thirty years of age. 

"Are you Catherine Curieux?" asked Madame 
Graslin. 

" Yes, raadame." 

Veronique looked at Catherine for a moment. She was 
rather tall, well-made, and fair ; her features wore an 
expression of extreme gentleness which the beautiful 
gray tones of the e^-es did not contradict. The outline 
of the face, the shape of the brow had a nobilit}^ both 
simple and august, such as we sometimes meet with in 
country regions among very 3'oung girls, — a sort of 
flower of beauty, which field labors, the constant cares 
of the household, the burning of the sun, and want of 
personal care, remove with terrible rapidity. Her 
movements had that ease of motion characteristic of 
country girls, to which certain habits unconsciously 
contracted in Paris gave additional grace. If Cathe- 



The Village Rector, 283 

rine had remained in the Correze she would by this 
time have looked an old woman, wrinkled and withered ; 
her complexion, once rosy, would have coarsened ; but 
Paris, though it paled her, had preserved her beauty. 
Illness, toil, and grief had endowed her with the m3's- 
terious gifts of melanchol}', the inward vitalizing thought, 
which is lacking to poor countrj'-folk whose lives are 
almost animal. Her dress, full of that Parisian taste 
which all women, even the least coquettish, contract so 
readil}^, distinguished her still further from an ordinary 
peasant-woman. In her ignorance as to what was be- 
fore her, and having no means of judging Madame 
Graslin, she appeared very shy and shame-faced. 

"Do you still love Farrabesche ?" asked Veronique, 
when Grossetete left them for a moment. 

" Yes, madame," she replied coloring. 

" Why then, having sent him a thousand francs during 
his imprisonment, did you not join him after his release ? 
Have 3'ou any repugnance to him? Speak to me as 
though I were 3'our mother. Are you afraid he has 
become altogether corrupt ; or did 3'ou fear he no longer 
wanted 3'ou?" 

" Neither, madame ; but I do not know how to read 
or write, and I was serving a ver3^ exacting old lad3' ; 
she fell ill and I had to nurse her. Though I knew the 
time when Jacques would be released, I could not get 
away from Paris till after the lady's death. She did 
not leave me anything, notwitlistanding m3^ devotion to 
her interests and to her personall3'. After that I 
wanted to be cured of an ailment caused by night- 
watching and hard work, and as I had used up my 
savings, I resolved to go to the hospital of Saint-Louis, 
which I have just left, cured." 



284 The Village Rector. 

"Very good, my cbild,'^ said Madame Graslin, 
touched by this simple explanation. '' But tell me 
now wh}^ you abandoned your parents so abruptly, 
wh}' you left your child behind you, and why you did 
not send any news of yourself, or get some one to write 
for .you." 

For all answer Catherine wept. 

^' Madame," she said at last, reassured by the pres- 
sure of Madame Graslin's hand, "I may have done 
wrong, but I had n't the strength to stay here. I did 
not fear m3'self, but others ; I feared gossip, scandal. 
So long as Jacques was in danger, I was necessary to 
him and I stayed ; but after he had gone I had no 
strength left, — a girl with a child and no husband ! 
The worst of creatures was better than I. I don't 
know what would have become of me had I stayed to 
hear a word against my boy or his father ; I should 
have gone mad ; I might have killed myself. M}^ father 
or ray mother in a moment of anger might have 
reproached me. I am too sensitive to bear a quarrel 
or an insult, gentle as I am. I have had my punish- 
ment in not seeing m}" child, I who have never passed 
a day without thinking of him in all these 3'ears ! I 
wished to be forgotten, and I have been. No one 
thought of me, — they believed me dead ; and yet, 
many a time, I thought of leaving all just to come here 
for a day and see my child." 

'* Your child — see, here he is." 

Catherine then saw Benjamin and began to tremble 
violentl}'. 

"Benjamin," said Madame Graslin, "come and kiss 
your mother." 



The Village Rector. 285 

*' My mother!" cried Benjamin, surprised. He 
jumped into Catherine's arms and she pressed him to 
her breast with almost savage force. But the boy 
escaped her and ran off crying out: ''I'll go and 
fetch himJ" 

Madame Graslin made Catherine, who was almost 
fainting, sit down. At this moment she saw Monsieur 
Bonnet and could not help blushing as she met a 
piercing look from her confessor, which read her heart. 

" I hope," she said, trembling, '' that you will consent 
to marry Farrabesche and Catherine at once. Don't 
3'ou recognize Monsieur Bonnet, my dear? He will 
tell you that Farrabesche, since his liberation has 
behaved as an honest man ; the whole neighborhood 
thinks well of him, and if there is a place in the world 
where you may live happy and respected it is at Mon- 
tegnac. You can make, by God's help, a good 
living as my farmers ; for Farrabesche has recovered 
citizenship." 

" That is all true, my dear child," said the rector. 

Just then Farrabesche appeared, pulled along by his 
son. He w^as pale and speechless in presence of Cathe- 
rine and Madame Graslin. His heart told him how 
actively benevolent the one had been, and how deepty 
the other had suffered in his absence. Veronique led 
away the rector, who, on his side, was anxious to talk 
with her alone. 

As soon as they were far enough awaj' not to be 
overheard. Monsieur Bonnet looked fixedly at Vero- 
nique ; she colored and dropped her ej-es like a guilty 
person. 

" You degrade well-doing," he said, sternly. 



286 The Village Rector. 

*' How? " she asked, raising her head. 

" Well-doing," he replied, " is a passion as superior 
to that of love as humanit}' is superior to the individual 
creature. Now, 30U have not done this thing from the 
sole impulse and simpUcity of virtue. You have fallen 
from the heights of humanit}' to the indulgence of the 
individual creature. Your benevolence to Farrabesche 
and Catherine carries with it so many memories and 
hidden thoughts that it has lost all merit in the eyes of 
God. Tear from your heart the remains of the javelin 
evil planted there. Do not take from your actions 
their true value. Come at last to that saintly ignorance 
of the good you do which is the grace supreme of 
human actions." 

Madame Graslin had turned away to wipe the tears 
that told the rector his words had touched the bleed- 
ing wound that was still unhealed in her heart. 

Farrabesche, Catherine, and Benjamin now came up 
to thank their benefactress, but she made them a sign 
to go away and leave her alone with the rector. 

"See how that grieves them," she said to him as 
they sadly walked away. The rector, whose heart was 
tender, recalled them by a sign. 

'' You shall be completely happy," she then said, 
giving to Farrabesche a paper which she was holding 
in her hand. " Here is the ordinance which gives you 
back your rights of citizenship and exempts you from 
humiliating inspection." 

Farrabesche respectfully kissed the hand held toward 
him and looked at Veronique with an eye both tender 
and submissive, calm and devoted, the expression of a 
devotion which nothing could ever change, the look of 
a dog to his master. 



The Village Rector. 287 

*' If Jacques has suffered, madame," said Catherine, 
her fine eyes lighting with pleasure, " I hope I can 
give him enough happiness to make up for his pain, for, 
no matter what he has done, he is not bad." 

Madame Graslin turned away her head ; she seemed 
overcome by the sight of that happy family. The 
rector now left her to enter the church, whither she 
dragged herself presently on the arm of Monsieur 
Grossetete. 

After breakfast every one, even the aged people of 
the village, assembled to see the beginning of the great 
work. From the slope leading up to the chateau, 
Monsieur Grossetete and Monsieur Bonnet, between 
whom was Veronique, could see the direction of the 
four first cuttings marked out by piles of gathered 
stones. At each cutting five laborers were digging out 
and piling up the good loam along the edges ; clearing 
a space about eighteen feet wide, the width of each 
road. On either side, four other men were digging the 
ditches and also piling up the loam at the sides to make 
a bank. Behind them, as the banks were made, two 
men were digging holes in which others planted trees. 
In each of these divisions, thirty old paupers, a score 
of women, and fort}' or more girls and children were 
picking up stones, which special laborers piled in heaps 
along the roadsides so as to keep a record of the 
quantity gathered by each group. Thus the work 
went on rapidly, with picked workmen full of ardor. 
Grossetete promised Madame Graslin to send her some 
trees and to ask her other friends to do the same ; for 
the nurseries of the chateau would evidently not suffice 
to supply such an extensive plantation. Toward the 



288 The Village Rector. 

close of the day, which was to end in a grand dinner at 
the chateau, Farrabescbe requested Madame Graslin to 
grant him an audience for a few moments. 

" Madame," he said, presenting himself with Cath- 
erine, ^' you were so good as to offer me the farm at tlie 
chateau. By granting me so great a favor I know 
you intended to put me in the wa}' of making ni}- 
fortune. But Catherine has ideas about our future 
which we desire to submit to you. If I were to succeed 
and make money there would certainly be persons 
envious of m}^ good fortune ; a word is soon said ; I 
might have quarrels, — I fear them ; besides, Catherine 
would always be uneasy. In short, too close intercourse 
with the world will not suit us. I have come therefore 
to ask you to give us only the land at the opening of 
the Gabon on the commons, with a small piece of the 
woodland behind the Koche Vive. In Julj' you will 
have a great many workmen here, and it would be very 
easy then to build a farmhouse in a good position on 
the slope of the hill. We should be happy there. I 
will send for Guepin. My poor comrade will work like 
a horse ; perhaps I could marry him here. My son is 
not a do-nothing either. No one would put us out of 
countenance ; we could colonize this corner of the 
estate, and 1 should make it my ambition to turn it into 
a fine farm for you. Moreover, I want to propose as 
farmer of your great farm near the chateau a cousin of 
Catherine, who has money and would therefore be more 
capable than I could be of managing such a large 
affair as that farm. If it please God to bless your 
enterprise, in five years from now 3'ou will have five or 
six thousand horned beasts or horses on that plain 



The Village Rector. 289 

below, and it wants a better head than mine to manage 
them." 

Madame Graslin agreed to his request, doing justice 
to the good sense of it. 

From the time the work on the plain began, 
Veronique's life assumed the regularity of country 
existence. In the morning she heard mass, took care 
of her son, whom she idolized, and went to see her 
laborers. After dinner she received her friends from 
Montegnac in the little salon to right of the clock- 
tower. She taught Roubaud, Clousier, and the rector 
to play whist, which Gerard knew already. The rubbers 
usually ended at nine o'clock, after which the company 
■withdrew. This peaceful life had no other events to 
mark it than the success of the various parts of the 
great enterprise. 

In June the torrent of the Gabon went dr}', and 
Gerard established his headquarters in the keeper's 
house. Farrabesche had already built his farmhouse, 
which he called Le Gabon. Fifty masons, brought 
from Paris, joined the two mountains by a wall twenty 
feet thick, with a foundation twelve feet deep and 
heavily cemented. The wall, or dam, rose nearly sixty 
feet and tapered in until it was not more than ten feet 
thick at the summit. Gerard backed this wall on the 
valley side with a cemented slope, about twelve feet 
wide at its base. On the side toward the commons a 
similar slope, covered with several feet of arable earth, 
still further supported this great work, which no rush of 
water could possibly damage. The engineer provided 
in case of unusual rains an overflow at a proper height. 
The masonry was inserted into the flank of each 

19 



290 The Village Rector, 

mountain until the granite or the hard-pan was reached, 
so that the water had absolute I3' no outlet at the sides. 

This dam was finished by the middle of August. At 
the same time Gerard was preparing three canals in the 
principal valley's, and none of these works came up to 
his estimated costs. The chateau farm could now be 
finished. The irrigation channels through the plain, 
superintended hy Fresquin, started from the canal 
made by nature along the base of the mountains on the 
plain side, through which culverts were cut to the irri- 
gating channels. Water-gates were fitted into those 
channels, the sides of which the abundance of rock had 
enabled them to stone up, so as to keep the flow of 
water at an even height along the plain. 

Ever}^ Sunday after mass, Veronique, the engineer, 
the rector, the doctor, and the mayor walked down 
through the park to see the course of the waters. The 
winter of 1832 and 1833 was extremely xdimj. The 
water of the three streams which had been directed to 
the torrent, swollen by the water of the rains, now formed 
three ponds in the valley of theGabou, carefully placed 
at different levels so as to create a steady reserve in 
case of a severe drought. At certain places where the 
valley widened Gerard had taken advantage of a few 
hillocks to make islands and plant them with trees of 
varied foliage. These vast operations completely 
changed the face of the country" ; but five or six years 
were of course needed to bring out their full character. 
'' The country was naked," said Farrabesche, " and 
madame has clothed it." 

Since these great undertakings were begun, Vero- 
nique had been called "Madame" throughout the 



The Village Rector. 291 

whole neighborhood. When the rains ceased in June, 
1833, the}^ tried the irrigating channels through the 
planted fields, and the 3'oung verdure thus nourished 
soon showed the superior qualities of the marciti of 
Ital3^ and the meadows of Switzerland. The system 
of irrigation, modelled on that of the farms in Lom- 
bardy, watered the earth evenly, and kept the surface 
as smooth as a carpet. The nitre of the snow dis- 
solving in these channels no doubt added much to the 
qualit}^ of the herbage. The engineer hoped to find 
in the products of succeeding years some analogy with 
tiiose of Switzerland, to which this nitrous substance 
is, as we know, a source of perpetual riches. 

The plantations along the roads, sufficiently mois- 
tened by the water allowed to run through the ditches, 
made rapid growth. So that in 1838, six years after 
Madame Graslin had begun her enterprise, the stony 
plain, regarded as hopelessly barren by twenty gene- 
rations, was verdant, productive, and well planted 
throughout. Gerard had built five farmhouses with 
their dependencies upon it, with a thousand acres to 
each. Gerard's own farm and those of Grossetete and 
Fresquiri, which received the overflow from Madame 
Graslin's domains, were built on the same plan and 
managed by the same methods. The engineer also 
built a charming little house for himself on his own 
property. When all was completely finished, the inhab- 
itants of Montegnac, instigated by the present mayor, 
who was anxious to retire, elected Gerard to the ma^or- 
alty of the district. 

In 1840 the departure of the first herd of cattle sent 
from Montegnac to the Paris markets was made the 



292 The Village Rector. 

occasion of a rural fete. The farms of the plain raised 
fine beasts and horses ; for it was found, after the land 
was cleaned up, that there were seven inches of good 
soil which the annual fall of leaves, the manure left by 
the pasturage of animals, and, above all, the melting 
of the snows contained in the valley of the Gabou, 
increased in fertility. 

It was in this year that Madame Graslin felt it neces- 
sary to obtain a tutor for her son, who was now eleven 
years of age. She did not wish to part with him, and 
3'et she was anxious to make him a thoroughly well- 
educated man. Monsieur Bonnet wrote to the Semi- 
nar}'. Madame Graslin, on her side, said a few words 
as to her wishes and the difficulty of obtaining the right 
person to Monseigneur Dutheil, recently appointed arch- 
bishop. The choice of such a man, who would live nine 
years familiarly in the chateau, was a serious matter. 
Gerard had already offered to teach mathematics to his 
friend Francis ; but he could not, of course, take the 
place of a regular tutor. This question agitated Madame 
Graslin's mind, and all the more because she knew that 
her health was beginning to fail. 

The more prosperous grew her dear Montegnac, the 
more she increased the secret austerities of her life. 
Monseigneur Dutheil, with whom she corresponded regu- 
larW, found at last the man she wanted. He sent her 
from his late diocese a young professor, twent^'-five 
3'ears of age, named Ruffin, whose mind had a special 
vocation for the art of teaching. This 3'oung man's 
knowledge was great, and his nature was one of deep 
feeling, which, however, did not preclude the sternness 
necessary in the management of 3'outh. In him religion 



The Village Rector, 293 

did not in any way hamper knowledge ; he was also 
patient, and extremelj' agreeable in appearance and 
manner. '' I make 3'ou a fine present, my dear dangli- 
ter," wrote the prelate ; " this yonng man is fit to edu- 
cate a prince ; therefore I think you will be glad to 
arrange the future with him, for he can undoubtedly 
be a spiritual father to your son." 

Monsieur Ruffin proved so satisfactory to Madame 
Graslin's faithful friends that his arrival made no 
change in the various intimacies that grouped them- 
selves around this beloved idol, whose hours and mo- 
ments were claimed by each with jealous eagerness. 

By the year 1843 the prosperity of Montegnac had 
increased beyond all expectation. The farm of the 
Gabou rivalled the farms of the plain, and that of the 
chMeau set an example of constant improvement to 
all. The five other farms, increasing in value, obtained 
higher rent, reaching the sum of thirty thousand francs 
for each at the end of twelve years. The farmers, who 
were beginning to gather in the fruits of their sacrifices 
and those of Madame Graslin, now began to improve 
the grass of the plains, sowing seed of better qualitj', 
there being no longer any occasion to fear drought. 

During this 3'ear a man from Montegnac started a 
diligence between the chief town of the arrondissement 
and Limoges, leaving both places each day. Monsieur 
Clousier's nephew sold his office and obtained a license 
as notary in Montegnac. The government appointed 
Fresquin collector of the district. The new notary 
built himself a prett}" house in the upper part of Mon- 
tegnac, planted mulberries in the grounds, and became 
after a time assistant-mayor to his friend Gerard. 



294 The Village Rector, 

The engineer, encouraged by so much success, now 
conceived a scheme of a nature to render Madame 
Graslin's fortune colossal, — she herself having by this 
time recovered possession of the income which had 
been mortgaged for the repayment of the loan. Ge- 
rard's new scheme was to make a canal of the little 
river, and turn into it the superabundant waters of the 
Gabou. This canal, which he intended to cany into 
the Vienne, would form a waterway by which to send 
down timber from the twent}^ thousand acres of forest 
land belonging to Madame Graslin in Montegnac, now 
admirably' managed by Colorat, but which, for want of 
transportation, returned no profit. A thousand acres 
could be cut over each year without detriment to the 
forest, and if sent in this waj' to Limoges, would find a 
ready market for building purposes. 

This was the original plan of Monsieur Graslin him- 
self, who had paid very little attention to the rector's 
scheme relating to the plain, being much more attracted 
by that of turning the little river into a canal. 



The Village Rector, 295 



XIX. 

A DEATH BLOW. 

At the beginning of the following 3'ear, in spite of 
Madame Graslin's assumption of strength, her friends 
began to notice s3'mptoms which foreshadowed her 
coming death. To all the doctor's remarks, and to 
the inquiries of the most clear-sighted of her friends, 
Veronique made the invariable answer that she was 
perfectly well. But when the spring opened she went 
round to visit her forests, farms, and beautiful meadows 
with a childlike jo}^ and delight which betra3'ed to those 
who knew her best a sad foreboding. 

Finding himself obliged to build a small cemented 
wall between the dam of the Gabon and the park of 
Montegnac along the base of the hill called especially 
La Correze, Gerard took up the idea of inclosing the 
whole forest and thus uniting it with the park. Madame 
Graslin agreed to this, and appropriated thirty thousand 
francs a year to this work, which would take seven 
years to accomplish and would then withdraw that fine 
forest from the rights exercised by government over the 
non-inclosed forests of private individuals. The three 
ponds of the Gabon would thus become a part of the 
park. These ponds, ambitiously called lakes, had each 
its island. 



296 The Village Rector. 

This 3'ear, Gerard bad prepared, in collusion with 
Grossetete, a surprise for Madame Graslin's birthday. 
He had built a little hermitage on the largest of the 
islands, rustic on the outside and elegantly arranged 
within. The old banker took part in the conspiracy, 
in which Farrabesche, Fresquin, Clousier's nephew, 
and nearly all the well-to-do people in Montegiuic 
co-operated. Grossetete sent down some beautiful fur- 
niture. The clock tower, copied from that at Veva}', 
made a charming effect in the landscape. Six boats, 
two for each pond, were secretly built, painted, and 
rigged during the winter by Farrabesche and Guepin, 
assisted by the carpenter of Montegnac. 

When the day arrived (about the middle of May) 
after a breakfast Madame Graslin gave to her friends, 
she was taken by them across the park — which was 
finely laid out b}' Gerard, wlio, for the last five years, 
had improved it like a landscape architect and natural- 
ist — to the pretty meadow of the valle}^ of the Gabou, 
where, at the shore of the first lake, two of the*boats 
were floating. This meadow, watered by several clear 
streamlets, lay at the foot of the fine amphitheatre 
where the valle}' of the Gabou begins. The woods, 
cleared in a scientific manner, so as to produce noble 
masses and vistas that were charming to the eye, 
inclosed the meadow and gave it a solitude that was 
grateful to the soul. Gerard had reproduced on an 
eminence that chalet in the valley of Sion above the 
road to Brieg which travellers admire so much ; here 
were to be the dairy and the cow-siieds of the chateau. 
From its gallery the eyo, roved over the landscape 
created b}' the engineer which the three lakes made 



The Village Rector. 297 

worthy of comparison with the beauties of Switzer- 
land. 

The da}^ was beautiful. In the blue sky, not a cloud ; 
on earth, all the charming, graceful things the soil 
offers in the month of May. The trees planted ten 
years earlier on the banks — weeping willows, osier, 
alder, ash, the aspen of Holland, the poplars of Italy 
and Virginia, hawthorns and roses, acacias, birches, 
all choice growths arranged as their nature and the la}' 
of the land made suitable — held amid their foliage a 
few fleecy vapors, born of the waters, which rose like 
a slender smoke. The surface of the lakelet, clear as 
a mirror and calm as the sky, reflected the tall green 
masses of the forest, the tops of which, distinctly de- 
fined in the limpid atmosphere, contrasted with the 
groves below wrapped in their pretty veils. The lakes, 
separated b}' broad causeways, were three mirrors show- 
ing difl*erent reflections, the waters of which flowed from 
one to another in melodious cascades. These cause- 
ways were used to go from lake to lake without pass- 
ing round the shores. From the chalet could be seen, 
through a vista among the trees, the thankless waste 
of the chalk commons, resembling an open sea and 
contrasting with the fresh beauty of the lakes and their 
verdure. 

When Veronique saw the jo3"ousness of her friends 
as they held out their hands to help her into the largest 
of the boats, tears came into her e3'es and she kept 
silence till the}^ touched the bank of the first causewaj'. 
As she stepped into the second boat she saw the her- 
mitage with Grossetete sitting on a bench before it with 
all his family. 



298 The Village Rector, 

" Do the}' wish to make me regret dying? " she said 
to the rector. 

"We wish to prevent yoxx from dying," replied 
Clousier. 

" You cannot make the dead live," she answered. 

Monsieur Bonnet gave her a stern look which recalled 
her to herself. 

" Let me take care of 3'our health," said Roubaud, in 
a gentle, persuasive voice. " I am sure I can save to 
this region its living glory, and to all our friends their 
common tie." 

Veronique bowed her head, and Gerard rowed slowly 
toward the island in the middle of the lake, the largest 
of the three, into which the overflowing water of the 
first was rippling with a sound that gave a voice to 
that delightful landscape. 

"You have done well to make me bid farewell to 
this ravishing nature on such a day," she said, looking 
at the beauty of the trees, all so full of foliage that they 
hid the shore. The onlj- disapprobation her friends al- 
lowed themselves to show was a gloom}' silence ; and 
Veronique, receiving another glance from Monsieur 
Bonnet, sprang lightly ashore, assuming a lively air, 
which she did not relinquish. Once more the hostess, 
she was charming, and the Grossetete family felt she was 
again the beautiful Madame Graslin of former days. 

" Indeed, you can still live, if you choose ! " said her 
mother in a whisper. 

At this gay festival, amid these glorious creations 
produced by the resources of nature only, nothing 
seemed likely to wound Veronique, and yet it was here 
and now that she received her death-blow. 



The Village Rector. 299 

Tlie part}^ were to return about nine o'clock b}^ way 
of the meadows, the road through w^hich, as lovely 
as an English or an Italian road, was the pride of its 
engineer. The abundance of small stones, laid aside 
when the plain was cleared, enabled him to keep it in 
good order ; in fact, for the last five years it was, in a 
wa}-, macadamized. Carriages were awaiting the com- 
pany at the opening of the last valley toward the plain, 
almost at the base of the Roche Vive. The horses, 
raised at Montegnac, were among the first that were 
ready for the market. The manager of the stud had 
selected a dozen for the stables of the chateau, and their 
present fine appearance was part of the programme of 
the fete. Madame Graslin's own carriage, a gift from 
Grossetete, was drawn by four of the finest animals, 
plainly harnessed. 

After dinner the happy party went to take coflTee in 
a little wooden kiosk, made like those on the Bosphorus, 
and placed on a point of the island from which the eye 
could reach to the farther lake beyond. From this 
spot Madame Graslin thought she saw her son Francis 
near the nursery-ground formerly planted by Farra- 
besche. She looked again, but did not see him ; and 
Monsieur Ruffln pointed him out to her, playing on 
the bank with Grossetete's grandchildren. Veronique 
became alarmed lest he should meet with some acci- 
dent. Not listenmg to remonstrance, she ran down 
from the kiosk, and jumping into a boat, began to row 
toward her son. This little incident caused a general 
departure. Monsieur Grossetete proposed that they 
should all follow her and walk on the beautiful shore of 
the lake, along the curves of the mountainous bluffs. 



800 The Village Rector, 

On landing there Madame Graslin saw her son in the 
arms of a woman in deep mourning. Judging by the 
shape of her bonnet and the style of her clothes, 
the woman was a foreigner. Veronique was startled, 
and called to her son, who presently came toward 
her. 

"Who is that woman?" she asked the cl>ildren 
round about her; "and why did Francis leave you 
to go to her?" 

" The lady called him by name," said a little girl. 

At that instant Madame Sauviat and Gerard, who 
had outstripped the rest of the company, came up. 

" Who is that woman, my dear child ? " asked 
Madame Graslin as soon as Francis reached her. 

" I don't know," he answered ; " but she kissed me 
as you and grandmamma kiss me — she cried," whis- 
pered Francis in his mother's ear. 

" Shall I go after her? " asked Gerard. 

"No!" said Madame Graslin, with an abruptness 
that was not usual in her. 

With a delicacy for which Veronique was grateful, 
Gerard led awa}- the children and went back to detain 
the rest of the party, leaving Madame Sauviat, Madame 
Graslin, and Francis alone. 

"What did she say to you? " asked Madame Sauviat 
of iier grandson. 

" I don't know ; she did not speak French." 

" Could n't you understand anything she said ? " 
asked Veronique. 

"No; but she kept saying over and over, — and 
that 's why I remember it, — My dear brother ! " 

Veronique took her mother's arm and led her son bj^ 



The Village Rector. 301 

the hand ; but she had scarcel}' gone a dozen steps 
before her strength gave way. 

"What is the matter? what has happened?" said 
the others, who now came up, to Madame Sauviat. 

"Oh! my daugliter is in danger!" said the old 
woman, in guttural tones. 

It was necessarN' to carry Madame Graslin to her 
carriage. She signed to Aline to get into it with 
Francis, and also Gerard. 

" You have been in England," she said to the latter 
as soon as she recovered herself, "and therefore no 
doubt you speak English ; tell me the meaning of the 
words, my dear brother.'' 

On being told, Veronique exchanged a look with 
Aline and her mother which made them shudder ; but 
the}^ restrained their feelings. 

The shouts and joyous cries of those who were 
assisting in the departure of the carriages, the splendor 
of the setting sun as it lay upon the meadows, the 
perfect gait of the beautiful horses, the laughter of her 
friends as the}^ followed her on horseback at a gallop, — 
none of these things roused Madame Graslin from her 
torpor. Her mother ordered the coachman to hasten 
his horses, and their carriage reached the chdteau some 
time before the others. When the company were again 
assembled, they were told that Veronique had gone to 
her rooms and was unable to see any one. 

" I fear," said Gerard to his friends, " that Madame 
Graslin has had some fatal shock." 

" Where? how?" the}' asked. 

" To her heart," he answered. 

The following day Roubaud started for Paris. He 



302 The Village Rector. 

had seen Madame Graslin, and found her so seriously 
ill that he wished for the assistance and advice of the 
ablest physician of the ds^y. But Veronique had only 
received Roubaud to put a stop to her mother and 
Aline's entreaties that she would do something to benefit 
her ; she herself knew that death had stricken her. She 
refused to see Monsieur Bonnet, sending word to him 
that the time had not yet come. Though all her 
friends who had come from Limoges to celebrate her 
birtliday wished to be with her, she begged them to 
excuse her from fulfilling the duties of hospitality, 
saying that she desired to remain in the deepest soli- 
tude. After Roubaud's departure the other guests 
returned to Limoges, less disappointed than distressed ; 
for all those whom Grossetete had brought with him 
adored Veronique. They were lost in conjecture as to 
what might have caused this mysterious disaster. 

One evening, two days after the departure of the com- 
pan}', Aline brought Catherine to Madame GrasUn's 
apartment. La Farrabesche stopped short, horrified 
at the change so suddenly wrought in her mistress, 
whose face seemed to her almost distorted. 

" Good God, madame ! " she cried, " what harm that 
girl has done ! If we had only foreseen it, Farrabesche 
and I, we would never have taken her in. She has just 
heard that madame is ill, and sends me to tell Madame 
Sauviat she wants to speak to her." 

' ' Here ! " cried Veronique. '' Where is she ? " 

^' My husband took her to the chalet." 

''Very good," said Madame Graslin; "tell Farra- 
besche to go elsewhere. Inform that lady that my 
mother will go to her; tell her to expect the visit." 



The Village Rector. 303 

As soon as it was dark Veronique, leaning on her 
mother's arm, walked slowl}^ through the park to the 
clialet. The moon was shining with all its brillianc}^ 
the air was soft, and the two women, visiblj- affected, 
found encouragement, of a sort, in the tilings of nature. 
The mother stopped now and then, to rest her daughter, 
whose sufferings were poignant, so that it was well-nigh 
midnight before the}' reached the path that goes down 
from the woods to the sloping meadow where the sil- 
\QYy roof of the chalet shone. The moonlight gave to 
the surface of the quiet water, the tint of pearls. The 
little noises of the night, echoing in the silence, made 
softest harmon}'. Veronique sat down on the bench of 
the chalet, amid this beauteous scene of the starry 
night. The murmur of two voices and the footfall of 
two persons still at a distance on the sand}' shore were 
brought b}^ the water, which sometimes, when all is 
still, reproduces sounds as faithfulh' as it reflects 
objects on its surface. Veronique recognized at once 
the exquisite voice of the rector, and the rustle of his 
cassock, also the movement of some silken stuff that 
was probably the material of a woman's gown. 

" Let us go in," she said to her mother. 

Madame Sauviat and her daughter sat down on a 
crib in the lower room, which was intended for a stable. 

"My child," thej' heard the rector saying, "I do 
not blame you, — j'ou are quite excusable; but your 
return may be the cause of irreparable evil ; she is the 
soul of this region." 

" Ah ! monsieur, then I had better go away to- 
night," replied the stranger, "though — I must tell 
3'ou — to leave my countr}' once more is death to 



304 The Village Rector. 

me. If I had sta3'ed a day longer in that horrible New 
York, where there is neither hope, nor faith, nor char- 
ity, I should have died without being ill. The air I 
breathed oppressed my chest, food did not nourish me, 
I was dying while full of life and vigor. My sufferings 
ceased the moment I set foot upon the vessel to return ; 
1 seemed to be already in France. Oh ! monsieur, I 
saw my mother and one of m}" sisters-in-law die of 
grief. My grandfather and grandmother Tascheron 
are dead ; dead, my dear Monsieur Bonnet, in spite 
of the prosperity of Tascheronville, — for my father 
founded a village in Ohio and gave it that name. 
That village is now almost a town, and a tliird of all 
the land is cultivated by members of our family, whom 
God has constantly protected. Our tillage succeeded, 
our crops have been enormous, and we are rich. The 
town is Catholic, and we have managed to build a 
Catholic church ; we do not allow an}' other form of 
worship, and we hope to convert b}^ our example the 
man}^ sects which surround us. True religion is in a 
minority in that land of money and selfish interests, 
where the soul is cold. Nevertheless, I will return to 
die there, sooner than do harm or cause distress to the 
mother of our Francis. Only, Monsieur Bonnet, take 
me to-night to the parsonage that I may praj^ upon his 
tomb, the thought of which has brought me here ; the 
nearer I have come to where he is, the more I felt 
myself another being. No, I never expected to feel so 
happy again as I do here." 

"Well, then," said the rector, '^come with me now. 
If there should come a time when you might return 
without doing injury, I will write to you, Denise ; but 



The Village Rector. 305 

perhaps this visit to 3'our birthplace will stop the home- 
sickness, and enable you to live over there without 
suffering — " 

" Oh ! to leave this countr}^, now so beautiful! "What 
wonders Madame Graslin has done for it ! " she 
exclaimed, pointing to the lake as it lay in tlie moon- 
light. " All this fine domain will belong to our dear 
Francis." 

"You shall not go away, Denise," said Madame 
Graslin, who was standing at the stable door. 

Jean-Francois Tascheron's sister clasped her hands 
on seeing the spectre which addressed her. At that 
moment the pale Veronique, standing in the moonlight, 
was like a shade defined upon the darkness of the open 
door-way. Her eyes alone shone like stars. 

" No, m}' child, you shall not leave the country you 
have come so far to see again ; you shall be happy 
here, or God will refuse to help me; it is He, no doubt, 
who has brought you back." 

She took the astonished Denise by the hand, and led 
her awa}" by a path toward the other shore of the lake, 
leaving her mother and the rector, who seated 
themselves on the bench. 

" Let her do as she wishes," said Madame Sauviat. 

A !ew moments later Veronique returned alone, and 
was taken back to the chateau by her mother and 
Monsieur Bonnet. Doubtless she had formed some 
plan which required secrecy, for no one in the neigh- 
borhood either saw Denise or heard ixuy mention of 
her. 

Madame Graslin took to her bed that day and never 
but once left it again ; she went from bad to worse 

20 



306 - The Village Rector. 

dail}^ and seemed annoyed and thwarted that she could 
not rise, — trying to do so on several occasions, and ex- 
pressing a desire to walk out into the park. A few 
days, however, after the scene we have just related, 
about the beginning of June, she made a violent effort, 
rose, dressed as if for a gala day, and begged Gerard 
to give her his arm, declaring that she was resolved to 
take a walk. She gathered up all her strength and 
expended it on this expedition, accomplishing her in- 
tention in a paroxysm of will which had, necessarily, a 
fatal reaction. 

" Take me to the chalet, and alone," she said to 
Gerard in a soft voice, looking at him with a sort of 
coquetry. " This is my last excursion ; I dreamed last 
night the doctors arrived and captured me." 

'' Do 3'ou want to see your woods? " asked Gerard. 

" For the last time, yes," she answered. " But 
what I really want," she added, in a coaxing voice, 
"is to make 3'ou a singular proposition." 

She asked Gerard to embark with her in one of the 
boats on the second lake, to which she went on foot. 
When the 3'oung man, surprised at her intention, began 
to move the oars, she pointed to the hermitage as the 
object of her coming. 

" My friend," she said, after a long pause, during 
which she had been contemplating the sky and water, 
the hills and shores, "I have a strange request to make 
of you ; but I think you are a man who would obe}' 
my wishes — " 

" In all things, sure that 3-ou can wish only what is 
good." 

" I wish to marry you," she answered ; " if you con- 



The Village Rector, 307 

sent you will accomplish the wish of a dying woman, 
which is certain to secure your happiness." 

" I am too ugl}'," said the engineer. 

" The person to whom I refer is prett}' ; she is young, 
and wishes to live at Montegnac. If 3'ou will marry 
her you will help to soften my last hours. I will not 
dwell upon her virtues now ; I only say her nature is a 
rare one ; in the matter of grace and youth and beauty, 
one look will suffice ; you are now about to see her at 
the hermitage. As we return home you must give me 
a serious yes or no.'^ 

Hearing this confidence, Gerard unconscioush^ quick- 
ened his oars, which made Madame Graslin smile. 
Denise, who was living alone, away from all e^es, at 
the hermitage, recognized Madame Graslin and imme- 
diately opened the door. Veronique and Gerard en- 
tered. The poor girl could not help a blush as she met 
the e3'es of the young man, who was greatly surprised 
at her beaut}'. 

" I hope Madame Farrabesche has not let 3'ou want 
for anything? " said Veronique. 

"Oh no! madame, see!" and she pointed to her 
breakfast. 

" This is Monsieur Gerard, of whom I spoke to you," 
went on Veronique. " He is to be my son's guardian, 
and after my death yow shall live together at the cha- 
teau until his majority." 

" Oh ! madame, do not talk in that way ! " 

" My dear child, look at me ! " replied Veronique, 
addressing Denise, in whose e3'es the tears rose in- 
stantly. " She has just arrived from New York,'^ 
she added, by way of introduction to Gerard. 



308 The Village Rector. 

The engineer put several questions about the new 
world to the 3'oung woman, while Veronique, leaving 
them alone, went to look at the third and more distant 
lake of the Gabou. It was six o'clock as Veronique 
and Gerard returned in the boat toward tlie chalet. 

*' Well? " she said, looking at him. 

" You have m}- promise.'' 

"Though 3'ou are, I know, without prejudices," she 
went on, " I must not leave you ignorant of the reason 
why that poor girl, brought back here by homesick- 
ness, left the place originally." 

' ' A false step ? " 

" Oh, no ! " said Veronique. *' Should I offer her to 
you if that were so? She is the sister of a workman 
who died on the scaffold — " 

"Ah! Tascheron," he said, "the murderer of old 
Pingret." 

" Yes, she is the sister of a murderer," said Madame 
Graslin, in a bitter tone; " 3'ou are at liberty to take 
back your promise and — " 

She did not finish, and Gerard was obliged to carry 
her to the bench before the chalet, where she remained 
unconscious for some little time. When she opened 
her eyes Gerard was on his knees before her and he 
said instantly : — 

" I will marry Denise.'^ 

Madame Graslin took his head in both hands and 
kissed him on the foVehead ; then, seeing his surprise 
at so much gratitude, she pressed his hand and said : 

"Before long you will know the secret of all this. 
Let us go back to tlie terrace, for it is late ; I am very 
tired, but I must look my last on that dear plain." 



The Village Rector. 309 

Tliougb the da}' had been insupportably hot, the 
storms wiik'h during this year devastated parts of 
Europe and of France but respected the Limousin, had 
run their course in the basin of the Loire, and the 
atmosphere was singularl}- clear. The sky was so pure 
that the eye could seize the shghtest details on the 
horizon. What language can render the delightful 
concert of busy sounds produced in the village b}' the 
return of the workers from the fields ? Such a scene, to 
be rightly given, needs a great landscape artist and 
also a great painter of the human face. Is there not, 
by the bye, in the lassitude of Nature and that of man 
a curious affinity' which is difficult to grasp? The de- 
pressing heat of a dog-day and the rarification of the 
air give to the least sound made b}- human beings all 
its signification. The women seated on their doorsteps 
and waiting for their husbands (who often bring back 
the children) gossip with each other while still at work. 
The roofs are casting up the lines of smoke which tell 
of the evening meal, the gayest among the peasantrj' ; 
after which, they sleep. All actions express the tran- 
quil cheerful thoughts of those whose da3''s work is 
over. Songs are heard very different in character from 
those of the morning : in this the peasants imitate the 
birds, whose warbling at night is totall}^ unlike their 
notes at dawn. All nature sings a hymn to rest, as it 
sang a h3'mn of joy to the coming sun. The slightest 
movements of living beings seem tinted then with the 
soft, harmonious colors of the sunset cast upon the 
landscape and lending even to the dust}' roadways a 
placid air. If any dared deny the influence of this 
hour, the loveliest of the day, the flowers would protest 



310 The Village Rector. 

and intoxicate liis senses with their penetrating per- 
fumes, which then exliale and mingle with the tender 
hum of insects and the amorous note of birds. 

The brooks which threaded the plain be3'ond the 
village were veiled in fleecy vapor. In the great 
meadows through which the high-road ran, — bordered 
with poplars, acacias, and ailanthus, wisely inter- 
mingled and already giving shade, — enormous and 
justly celebrated herds of cattle were scattered here 
and there, some still grazing, others ruminating. Men, 
women, and children were ending their day's work in 
the hay-field, the most picturesque of all the country 
toils. The night air, freshened by distant storms, 
brought on its wings the satis fjing odors of the newly 
cut grass or the finished ha3^ Every feature of this 
beautiful panorama could be seen perfectl}' ; those who 
feared a coming storm were finishing in haste the hay- 
stacks, while others followed with their pitchforks to 
fill the carts as they were driven along the rows. 
Others in the distance were still mowing, or turning 
the long lines of fallen grass to dry it, or hastening to 
pile it into cocks. The joyous laugh of the merry 
workers mingling with the shouts of the children tum- 
bling each other in the ha}^, rose on the air. The eye 
could distinguish the pink, red, or blue petticoats, the 
kerchiefs, and the bare legs and arms of the women, 
all wearing broad-brimmed hats of a coarse straw, and 
the shirts and trousers of the men, the latter almost 
invariably white. The last rays of the sun were filter- 
ing through the long lines of poplars planted beside 
the trenches which divided the plain into meadows of 
unequal size, and caressing the groups of horses and 



The Village Rector. 811 

carts, men, women, children, and cattle. The cattle- 
men and the shepherd-girls were beginning to collect 
their flocks to the sound of rustic horns. 

The scene was nois}^, 3'et silent, — a paradoxical 
statement, which will surprise only those to whom the 
character of countr}' life is still unknown. From all 
sides came the carts, laden with fragrant fodder. 
There was something, I know not what, of torpor in 
the scene. Veronique walked slowly and silently 
between Gerard and the rector, who had joined her on 
the terrace. 

Through the openings made hy the rural lanes 
running down below the terrace to the main street of 
Montegnac Gerard and Monsieur Bonnet could see the 
faces of men, women, and children turned toward 
them ; watching more particularly, no doubt, for Ma- 
dame Graslin. How m.uch of tenderness and gratitude 
was expressed on those faces ! How man}' bene- 
dictions followed Veronique's footsteps ! With what 
reverent attention were the three benefactors of a 
whole communit}^ regarded ! Man was adding a hymn 
of gratitude to the other chants of evening. 

While Madame Graslin walked on with her eyes 
fastened on the long, magnificent green pastures, her 
most cherished creation, the priest and the ma3'or did 
not take their e3'es from the groups below, whose 
expression it was impossible to misinterpret; pain, 
sadness, and regret, mingled with hope, were plainly 
on all those faces. No one in Montegnac or its neigh- 
borhood was ignorant that Monsieur Roubaud had 
gone to Paris to bring the best physician science 
afforded, or that the benefactress of the whole district 



312 The Village Rector. 

was in tlie last stages of a fatal illness. In all the 
markets through a circumference of thirty miles the 
peasants asked those of Montegnac, — 

" How is your good woman now? " 

Tlie great vision of death hovered over the land, and 
dominated that rural picture. Afar, in the fields, more 
than one reaper sharpening his scythe, more than one 
young girl, her arms resting on her fork, more than 
one farmer stacking his hay, seeing Madame Graslin, 
stood mute and thoughtful, examining that noble 
woman, the blessing of the Correze, seeking some 
favorable sign or merely looking to admire her, im- 
pelled by a feeling that arrested their work. 

" She is out walking ; therefore she must be better." 

These simple words were on every lip. 

Madame Graslin's mother, seated on the iron bench 
which Veronique had formerly placed at the end of the 
terrace, studied every movement of her daughter ; she 
watched her step in walking, and a few tears rolled 
from her eyes. Aware of the secret efforts of that 
superhuman courage, she knew that Veronique at that 
moment was suffering the tortures of a horrible agony, 
and only maintained herself erect by the exercise of 
her heroic will. The tears — they seemed almost red — 
which forced their way from those aged e3^es, and fur- 
rowed that wrinkled face, the parchment of which 
seemed incapable of softening under an}- emotion, ex- 
cited those of young Grashn, whom Monsieur Eufiin 
had between his knees. 

"What is the matter, my boy?" said the tutor, 
anxiously. 

" My grandmother is crying," he answered. 



The Village Rector, 313 

Monsieur RufSn, whose eyes were on Madame Gras- 
lin as she came toward them, now looked at Madame 
Sauviat, and was powerfully struck by the aspect of 
that old head, like that of a Roman matron, petrified 
with grief and moistened with tears. 

*' Madame, why did you not prevent her from coming 
out?" said the tutor to the old mother, august and 
sacred in her silent grief. 

As Veronique advanced majesticallj' with her nat- 
urall}^ fine and graceful step, Madame Sauviat, driven 
by despair at the thought of surviving her daughter, 
allowed the secret of manj^ things that awakened 
curiosity to escape her. 

" How can she walk like that," she cried, " wearing 
a horrible horsehair shirt, which pricks into her skin 
perpetualh' ? " 

The words horrified the 3'oung man, who was not 
insensible to the exquisite grace of Veronique's move- 
ments ; he shuddered as he thought of the constant and 
terrific struggle of the soul to maintain its empire thus 
over the bod}'. 

" She has worn it thirteen years, — ever since she 
ceased to nurse the bo}'," said the old woman. ''She 
has done miracles here, but if her whole life were 
known they ought to canonize her. Since she came to 
Montegnac no one has ever seen her eat, and do you 
know why? Aline serves her three times a day a piece 
of dry bread, and vegetables boiled in water, without salt, 
on a common plate of red earth like those the}' feed the 
dogs on. Yes, that's how the woman lives who has 
given new life to this whole canton. She kneels to sa}^ 
her prayers on the edge of that hair-shirt. She says 



314 The Village Rector. 

she could not have that smiling air you know she al- 
ways has unless she practised these austerities. I tel), 
you this," added the old woman, sinking her voice, "so 
that you may repeat it to the doctor Monsieur Roubaud 
has gone to fetch. If they could prevent my daughter 
from continuing these penances, perhaps they might 
still save her, though death has laid its hand upon her 
head. See for yourself! Ah! I must be strong in- 
deed to have borne so many things these fifteen years." 

The old woman took her grandson's hand and passed 
it over her forehead and cheeks as if the child's touch 
shed a healing balm there ; then she kissed it with an 
affection the secret of which belongs to grandmothers 
as much as it belongs to mothers. 

Veronique was now only a few feet from the bench, 
in company with Clousier, the rector, and Gerard. 
Illuminated by the glow of the setting sun, she shone 
with a dreadful beaut3^ Her yellow. forehead, furrowed 
with long wrinkles massed one above the other like 
layers of clouds, revealed a fixed thought in the midst 
of inward troubles. Her face, devoid of all color, en- 
tirely white with the dead, greenish whiteness of plants 
without light, was thin, though not withered, and bore 
the signs of terrible physical sufferings produced by 
mental anguish. She fought her soul with her body, 
and vice versa. She was so completely destroyed that 
she no more resembled herself than an old woman re- 
sembles her portrait as a girl. The ardent expression 
of her eyes declared the despotic empire exercised by 
a devout will over a body reduced to what religion 
requires it to be. In this woman the soul dragged the 
flesh as the Achilles of profane story dragged Hector ; 



The Village Rector. 315 

for fifteen years she dragged it victorious!}' along the 
ston}' paths of life around the celestial Jerusalem she 
hoped to enter, not by a vile deception, but with accla- 
mation. No solitary that ever lived in the dry and 
arid deserts of Africa was ever more master of his 
senses than was Veronique in her magnificent chateau, 
among the soft, voluptuous scener}' of that opulent 
land, beneath the protecting mantle of that rich forest, 
whence science, the heir of Moses' wand, had called 
forth plent}', prosperit}', and happiness for a whole 
region. She contemplated the results of twelve years' 
patience, a work which might have made the fame of 
many a superior man, with a gentle modesty such as 
Pontorno has painted in the sublime face of his " Chris^ 
tian Chastity caressing the Celestial Unicorn." The 
mistress of the manor, whose silence was respected b}^ 
her companions when the}' saw that her eyes were 
roving over those vast plains, once arid, and now fer- 
tile by her will, walked on, her arms folded, with a 
distant look, as if to some far horizon, on her face. 



316 The Village Rector, 



XX. 

THE LAST STRUGGLE. 

Suddenly she stopped, a few feet from her mother, 
who looked at her as the mother of Christ must have 
looked at her son upon the cross. She raised her hand, 
and pointing to the spot where the road to Montegnac 
branched from the highway, she said, smiling: — 

" See that carriage with four post-horses ; Monsieur 
Roubaud is returning to us. We shall now know how 
many hours I have to live." 

"Hours?" said Gerard. 

' ' Did I not tell you I was taking my last walk ? " 
she replied. "I have come here to see for the last 
time this glorious scene in all its splendor?" She 
pointed first to the village where the whole population 
seemed to be collected in the church square, and then 
to the beautiful meadows glowing in the last raj's of 
the setting sun. "Ah!" she said, "let me see the 
benediction of God in the strange atmospheric condi- 
tion to which we owe the safety of our harvest. Around 
us, on all sides, tempests, hail, lightning, have struck 
incessantly and pitilessly. The common people think 
thus, why not I ? I do so need to see in this a liappy 
augury for what awaits me after death ! " 

The child stood up and took his mother's hand and 
laid it on his head. Veronique, deeply affected by the 



The Village Rector. 317 

action, so full of eloquence, took up her son with super- 
natural strength, seating him on lier left arm as though 
he were still an infant at her breast, saying, as she 
kissed him : — 

"Do 3'ou see that land, my son? When you are a 
man, continue there your mother's work." 

"Madame," said the rector, in a grave voice, "a few 
strong and privileged beings are able to contemplate 
their coming death face to face, to fight, as it were, a 
duel with it, and to display a courage and an ability 
which challenge admiration. You show us this terrible 
spectacle ; but perhaps you have too little pity for us ; 
leave us at least the hope that you may be mistaken, 
and that God will allow you to finish that which you 
have begun " 

"All I have done is through you, my friends," she 
said. " I have been useful, I can be so no longer. All 
is fruitful around us now ; nothing is barren and deso- 
lated here except my heart. You well know, my dear 
rector, that I can on]}- find peace and pardon thereP 

She stretched her hand toward the cemeter}'. Never 
had she said as much since the day of her arrival, when 
she was taken with sudden illness at the same spot. 
The rector looked attentively at his penitent, and the 
habit of penetration he had long acquired made him see 
that in those simple words he had won another triumph. 
Veronique must have made a might}^ effort over herself 
to break her twelve years' silence with a speech that 
said so much. The rector clasped his hands with a 
fervent gesture that was natural to him as he looked 
with deep emotion at the members of this family whose 
secrets had passed into his heart. 



318 The Village Rector. 

Gerard, to whom the words "peace and pardon" must 
have seemed strange, was bewildered. Monsieur Ruffin, 
with his eyes fixed on Veronique, was stupefied. At 
this instant the carriage came rapidly up the avenue. 

' ' Tliere are five of them ! " cried the rector, who 
could see and count the travellers. 

" Five ! " exclaimed Gerard. " Can five know more 
than two?" 

"Ah," cried Madame Graslin suddenl}', grasping 
the rector's arm, " the procureur-ghieral is among 
them! What is he doing here?" 

" And papa Grossetete, too ! " cried Francis, 

"Madame," said the rector, supporting Veronique, 
and leading her apart a few steps, " show courage ; be 
worthy of yourself." 

"But what can he want?" she replied, leaning on 
the balustrade. " Mother ! " (The old woman ran to 
her daughter with an activity that belied her years.) 
" I shall see him again," she said. 

"As he comes with Monsieur Grossetete," said the 
rector, " he can have none but good intentions." 

" Ah ! monsieur, my child will die ! " cried Madame 
Sauviat, seeing the eflfect of the rector's words on her 
daughter's face. " How can her heart survive such 
emotions? Monsieur Grossetete has always hitherto 
prevented that man from seeing Veronique." 

Madame Graslin's face was on fire. 

" Do 3-ou hate him so much?" said the Abbe Bonnet. 

" She left Limoges to escape the sight of him, and 
to escape letting the whole town into her secrets," said 
Madame Sauviat, terrified at the change she saw on 
Madame Graslin's distorted features. 



The Village Rector. 319 

'' Do 3'ou not see that he will poison m}^ few remain- 
ing hours ? When I ought to be thinking of heaven he 
will nail me to earth," cried Veronique. 

The rector took her arm and constrained her to walk 
aside with him. When thej' were alone he stopped 
and gave her one of those angelic looks with which 
he was able to calm the violent convulsions of the soul. 

"If it is really so," he said, " as your confessor, I 
order you to receive him, to be kind and affectionate to 
him, to quit that garment of wrath, and forgive him as 
God will forgive you. Can there still be the remains 
of passion in a soul I believed to be purified. Burn 
this last incense on the altar of 3'our penitence, or else 
3'our repentance is a lie." 

"There was still that effort to make — and it is 
made," she answered, wiping her eyes. "The devil 
lurked in that last fold of my heart, and God, no 
doubt, put into Monsieur de Grandville's mind the 
thought that brings him here. Ah ! how many times 
must God still strike me?" she cried. 

She stopped, as if to say a mental prayer ; then she 
returned to Madame Sauviat and said in a low voice : 

" My dear mother, be kind and gentle to Monsieur 
de Grandville.-' 

The old woman clasped her hands with a feverish 
shudder. 

" There is no longer an}- hope," she said, seizing the 
rector's hand. 

The carriage, announced by the postilion's whip, was 
now coming up the last slope ; the gates were opened, 
it entered the courtyard, and the travellers came at once 
to the terrace. They were the illustrious Archbishop 



320 The Village Rector. 

Dutheil, who was on his way to consecrate Monseigneur 
Gabriel de Rastignac, the procureur-general, Monsieur 
de Grandville, Monsieur Grossetete, Monsieur Roubaud, 
and one of the most celebrated physicians in Paris, 
Horace Bianchon. 

''You are very welcome," said Veronique, advanc- 
ing toward them, — " 3'ou particularly," she added, 
offering her hand to Monsieur de Grandville, who took 
it and pressed it. 

"I counted on the intervention of Monseigneur and 
on that of my friend Monsieur Grossetete to obtain for 
me a favorable reception," said the 2^'^ocuT6ur-general. 
" It would have been a life-long regret to me if 1 did 
not see you again." 

"I thank those who brought 3'ou here," replied 
Veronique, looking at the Corate de Grandville for the 
first time in fifteen years. " I have felt averse to you 
for a A^ery long time, but I now recognize the injustice 
of my feelings ; and you shall know why, if you can 
stay till the day after to-morrow at Montegnac." Then 
turning to Horace Bianchon and bowing to him, she 
added: "Monsieur will no doubt confirm my appre- 
hensions. God must have sent you, Monseigneur," 
she said, turning to the archbishop. '' In memory of 
our old friendship you will not refuse to assist me in 
my last moments. By whose mercy is it that I have 
about me all the beings who have loved and supported 
me in life ? " 

As she said the word loved she turned with a gracious 
look to Monsieur de Grandville, who was touched to 
tears by this mark of feeling. Silence fell for a few 
moments on every one. The doctors wondered by 



The Village Rector. 321 

what occult power this woman could still keep her feet, 
suffering as she must have suffered. The other three 
men were so shocked at the ravages disease had 
suddenly made in her that they communicated their 
thoughts by their eyes only. 

" Allow me," she said, with her accustomed grace, 
*' to leave you now with these gentlemen; the matter 
is urgent." 

She bowed to her guests, gave an arm to each of 
the doctors, and walked toward the chateau feebl}' and 
slowly, with a difficulty which told only too plainly of 
the coming catastrophe. 

^' Monsieur Bonnet/' said the archbishop, looking at 
the rector, "you have accomplished a miracle." 

" Not I, but God, Monseigneur," he replied. 

"They said she was dying," said Monsieur Grosse- 
tete, "but she is dead; there is nothing left of her 
but spirit." 

" A soul," said Gerard. 

" And yet she is still the same," cried i\\Q procureur- 
general. 

"A stoic after the manner of the Porch philoso- 
phers," said the tutor. 

They walked in silence the whole length of the 
balustrade, looking at the landscape still red with the 
declining light. 

" To me who saw this scene thirteen years ago," said 
the archbishop, pointing to the fertile plain, the vallej', 
and the mountains of Montegnac, "this miracle is as 
extraordinar}' as that we have just witnessed. But how 
comes it that 3'ou allow Madame Graslin to walk about? 
She ouglit to be in her bed." 

21 



322 The Village Rector, 

" She was there," said Madame Sauviat ; "For ten 
da3'S she did not leave it ; but to-day she insisted on 
getting lip to take a last look at the landscape." 

" I can understand that she wanted to bid farewell 
to her great creation," said Monsieur de Grand ville ; 
'' but she risked expiring on this terrace." 

" Monsieur Roubaud told us not to thwart her," said 
Madame Sauviat. 

" What a stupendous work ! what a miracle has been 
accomplished ! " said the archbishop, whose ej-es were 
roving over the scene before him. " She has literally 
sown the desert ! But we know, monsieur," he added, 
turning to Gerard, " that 3'our scientific knowledge and 
your labors have a large share in it." 

"They have been only the workmen," replied the 
raa3'or. "Yes, the hands only; she has been the 
thought." 

Madame Sauviat here left the group, to hear, if pos- 
sible, the decision of the doctors. 

" We need some heroism ourselves," said Monsieur 
de Grandville to the rector and the archbishop, " to 
enable us to witness this death." 

" Yes," said Monsieur Grossetete, who overheard him, 
" but we ought to do much for such a friend." 

After several turns up and down the terrace, these 
persons, full of solemn thoughts, saw two farmers 
approaching them, sent as a deputation from the vil- 
lage, where the inhabitants were in a state of painful 
anxiet}^ to know the sentence pronounced by the phj- 
sician from Paris. 

" The}^ are still consulting, and as yet we know 
nothing, my friends," said the archbishop. 



The Village Rector. 323 

As he spoke, Monsieur Roubaud appeared coming 
toward them, and they all hurried to meet him. 

" Well ? " said the mayor. 

"She cannot live forty-eight hours longer," replied 
Monsieur Roubaud. " During my absence the dis- 
ease has fully developed ; Monsieur Bianchon does 
not understand liovv it was possible for her to have 
walked. Such phenomenal exhibitions of strength are 
alwa3'S caused hy great mental exaltation. So, gentle- 
men," said the doctor to the priests, " she belongs 
to 3'ou now ; science is useless, and m}^ illustrious 
fellow-physician thinks you have bareh' time enough 
for your last offices." 

" Let us go now and say the prayers for the forty 
hours," said the rector to his parishioners, turning to 
leave the terrace. " His Grace will doubtless admin- 
ister the last sacraments." 

The archbishop bowed his head ; he could not speak ; 
his eyes were full of tears. Every one sat down, or 
leaned against the balustrade, absorbed in his own 
thought. The church bells presently sent forth a few 
sad calls, and then the whole population were seen 
hurrying toward the porch. The gleam of the lighted 
tapers shone through the trees in Monsieur Bonnet's 
garden ; the chants resounded. No color was left in 
the landscape but the dull red hue of the dusk ; even 
the birds had hushed their songs ; the tree-frog alone 
sent forth its long, clear, melancholy- note. 

" I will go and do my duty," said the archbishop, 
turning away with a slow step like a man overcome 
with emotion. 

The consultation had taken place in the great salon 



324 The Village Rector. 

of the chateau. This vast room communicated with a 
state bedchamber, furnished in red damask, in which 
GrasHn had displaj^ed a certain opulent magnificence. 
Veronique had not entered it six times in fourteen 
years ; the grand apartments were quite useless to her, 
and she never received her friends there. But now the 
effort she had made to accomplish her last obligation, 
and to overcome her last repugnance had exhausted 
her strength, and she was wholly unable to mount the 
stairs to her own rooms. 

When the ilhistrious physician had taken the patient's 
hand and felt her pulse he looked at Monsieur Roubaud 
and made him a sign ; then together they lifted her 
and carried her into the chamber. Aline hastily opened 
the doors. Like all state beds the one in this room had 
no sheets, and the two doctors laid Madame Graslin on 
the damask coverlet. Roubaud opened the windows, 
pushed back the outer blinds, and called. The servants 
and Madame Sauviat went in. The tapers in the 
candelabra were lighted. 

"It is ordained," said the dying woman, smiling, 
"that my death shall be what that of a Christian 
should be — a festival ! " 

During the consultation she said : — 

"The procureiir-general has done his professional 
duty ; I was going, and he has pushed me on." 

The old mother looked at her and laid a finger on 
her lips. 

" Mother, I shall speak," replied Veronique. " See ! 
the hand of God is in all tliis : I am dying in a red 
room — " 

Madame Sauviat went out, unable to bear those words. 



The Village Rector. 325 

"Aline," she said, "she will speak! she will 
speak ! " 

" Ah ! madame is out of her mind," cried the faithful 
maid, who was bringing sheets. "Fetch the rector, 
madame." 

" Your mistress must be undressed," said Bianchon 
to the maid. 

" It will be ver}^ difficult to do it, monsieur ; madame 
is wrapped in a hair-cloth garment." 

"What! in the nineteenth century can such horrors 
be revived?" said the great doctor. 

"Madame Graslin has never allowed me to touch 
her stomach," said Roubaud. " I have been able to 
judge of the progress of the disease only from her face 
and her pulse, and the little information I could get 
from her mother and the maid." 

Veronique was now placed on a sofa while the bed 
was being made. The doctors spoke together in a low 
voice. Madame Sauviat and Aline made the bed. 
The faces of the two women were full of anguish ; their 
hearts were wrung by the thought, " We are making 
her bed for the last time — she will die here ! " 

The consultation was not long. But Bianchon exacted 
at the outset that Aline should, in spite of the patient's 
resistance, cut off the hair shirt and put on a night- 
dress. The doctors returned to the salon while this 
was being done. When Aline passed them carrying 
the instrument of torture wrapped in a napkin, she 
said : — 

" Madame's bod3^ is one great wound." 

The doctors returned to the bedroom. 

"Your will is stronger than that of Napoleon, 



326 The Village Rector. 

madame," said Bianchon, after asking a few questions, 
to which Veronique repUed very clearly. "You keep 
your mind and your faculties in the last stages of a 
disease which robbed the Emperor of his brilliant in- 
tellect. From what I know of you 1 think I ought to 
tell you the truth." 

"' I implore you to do so," she said. " You are able 
to estimate what strength remains to me ; and I have 
need of all my vigor for a few hours." 

"Think only of .your salvation," replied Bianchon. 

" If God has given me grace to die in possession of 
all my faculties," she said with a celestial smile, "be 
sure that this favor will be used to the glory of his 
Church. The possession of my mind and senses is 
necessary to fulfil a command of God, whereas Napoleon 
had accomplished all his destiny." 

The doctors looked at each other in astonishment at 
hearing these words, said with as much ease as though 
Madame Graslin were still presiding in her salon. 

" Ah ! here is the doctor who is to cure me," she said 
presently, when the archbishop, summoned b3^Roubaud, 
entered the room. 

She collected all her strength and rose to a sitting 
posture, in order to bow graciously to Monsieur Bian- 
chon, and beg him to accept something else than mone}^ 
for the good news he gave her. She said a few words 
in her mother's ear, and Madame Sauviat immediately 
led away the doctors ; then Veronique requested the 
archbishop to postpone their interview till the rector 
could come to her, expressing a wish to rest for a while. 
Aline watched beside her. 

At midnight Madame Graslin awoke, and asked for 



The Village Rector. 327 

the archbishop and rector, whom Aline silently showed 
her close at hand, praying for her. She made a sign 
dismissing her mother and the maid, and, at another 
sign, the two priests came to the bedside. 

" Monseigneur, and you, my dear rector," she said, 
" will hear nothing you do not already know. You 
were the first, Monseigneur, to cast your e3'es into my 
inner self; you read there nearl}' all m}' past; and 
what you read sufficed you. My confessor, that guar- 
dian angel whom heaven placed near me, knows more ; 
I have told him all. You, whose minds are enlightened 
by the spirit of the Church, I wisli to consult you as to 
the manner in which I ought as a true Christian to leave 
this life. You, austere and saintly spirits, think 3'ou 
that if God deigns to pardon one whose repentance is 
the deepest, the most absolute, that ever shook a 
human soul, think you that even then I have made m}^ 
full expiation here below? " 

'' Yes," said the archbishop ; " 3'es, my daughter." 
*'No, m}' father, no!" she said rising in her bed, 
the lightning flashing from her eyes. " Not far from 
here there is a grave, where an unhappy man is lying 
beneath the weight of a dreadful crime ; here in this 
sumptuous home is a woman, crowned with the fame 
of benevolence and virtue. This woman is blessed ; 
that poor young man is cursed. The criminal is 
covered with obloquy ; I receive the respect of all. I 
had the largest share in the sin ; he has a share, a 
large share in the good which has won for me such 
glor}^ and such gratitude. Fraud that I am, I have the 
honor ; he, martyr to his loyalty, has the shame. I 
shall die in a few hours, and the canton will mourn me ; 



328 The Village Rector, 

the whole department will ring with my good deeds, my 
piety, my virtue ; but he died covered with insults, in 
sight of a whole population rushing, with hatred to a 
murderer, to see him die. You, my judges, you are 
indulgent to me ; 3'et I hear within myself an imperious 
voice which will not let me rest. Ah ! the hand of 
God, less tender than yours, strikes me from day to 
day, as if to warn me that all is not expiated. My sins 
cannot be redeemed except by a public confession. 
He is happy ! criminal, he gave his life with ignominy 
in face of earth and heaven ; and I, I cheat the world 
as I cheated human justice. The homage I receive 
humiliates me ; praise sears my heart. Do3'ou not see, 
in the very coming of the prociirPAir-geneval^ a com- 
mand from heaven echoing the voice in my own soul 
which cries to me : Confess ! " 

The two priests, the prince of the Church as well as 
the humble rector, these two great lights, each in his 
own way, stood with their eyes lowered and were silent. 
Deepl}^ moved by the grandeur and the resignation of 
the guilty woman, the judges could not pronounce her 
sentence. 

" M}' child," said the archbishop at last, raising his 
noble head, macerated by the customs of his austere 
life, " you are going be3'ond the commandments of the 
Church. The glory of the Church is to make her 
dogma conform to the habits and manners of each age ; 
for the Church goes on from age to age in compan^^ 
with humanity. According to her present decision 
secret confession has taken the place of public con- 
fession. This substitution has made the new law. 
The sufferings 3'ou have endured suffice. Die in peace : 
God has heard 3^ou." 



The Village Rector. 329 

" But is not this desire of a guilty womaa in con- 
formity with the law of the first Church, which has en- 
riched heaven with as many saints and martyrs and 
confessing souls as there are stars in the firmament ? " 
persisted Veronique, vehemently. " Who said : Confess 
yourselves one to another ? Was it not the disciples, who 
lived with the Saviour? Let me confess m}^ shame 
publicly on my knees. It will redeem my sin to the 
world, to that famil}^ exiled and almost extinct through 
me. The world ought to know that my benefactions 
are not an offering, but the payment of a debt. Sup- 
pose that later, after my death, something tore from 
my memory the lying veil which covers me. Ah ! that 
idea is more than I can bear, it is death indeed ! " 

^' I see in this too much of calculation, my child," 
said the archbishop, gravely. " Passions are still too 
strong in you ; the one I thought extinct is — " 

*'0h! 1 swear to you, Monseigneur,'* she said, in- 
terrupting the prelate and fixing her eyes, full of horror, 
upon him, " my heart is as purified as that of a guilty 
and repentant woman can be ; there is nothing now 
within me but the thought of God." 

*' Monseigneur," said the rector in a tender voice, 
" let us leave celestial justice to take its course. It is 
now four years since I have strongly opposed this wish ; 
it is the only difference that has ever come between my 
penitent and myself. I have seen to the depths of that 
soul, and I know this earth has no longer any hold 
there. Though the tears, the remorse, the contrition of 
fifteen j^ears relate to the mutual sin of those two 
persons, believe me there are no remains of earthly 
passion in this long and terrible bewailing. Memory 



330 The Village Rector. 

no longer mingles its flames with those of an ardent 
penitence. Yes, tears have at last extinguished that 
great fire. I guarantee," he said, stretching his hand 
over Madame Graslin's head, and letting his moistened 
ej^es be seen, " I guarantee the purity of that angelic 
soul. And also I see in this desire the thought of 
reparation to an absent family', a member of which 
God has brought back here by one of those events 
which reveal His providence." 

Veronique took the trembling hand of the rector and 
kissed it. 

" You have often been very stern to me, dear pastor, 
but at this moment I see where 3'ou keep your apostolic 
gentleness. You," she said, looking at the archbishop, 
"3'ou, the supreme head of this corner of God's 
kingdom, be to me, in this moment of ignominj-, a 
support. I must bow down as the lowest of women, 
but you will lift me up pardoned and — possibly — the 
equal of those who never sinned." 

The archbishop was silent, weighing no doubt all the 
considerations his practised eye perceived. 

" Monseigneur," said the rector, "religion has had 
some heavy blows. This return to ancient customs, 
brought about by the greatness of the sin and its 
repentance, may it not be a triumph we have no right 
to refuse ? " 

*' But they will say we are fanatics ! They will declare 
we have exacted this cruel scene ! " 

And again the archbishop was silent and thoughtful. 

At this moment Horace Bianchon and Roubaud 
entered the room, after knocking. As the door opened 
Veronique saw her mother, her son, and all the servants 



The Village Rector. 331 

of the household on their knees praying. The rectors 
of the two adjacent parishes had come to assist Mon- 
sieur Bonnet, and also, perhaps, to pa}' their respects to 
the great prelate, for whom the French clergy now 
desired the honors of the cardinalate, hoping that the 
clearness of his intellect, which was thoroughly Galilean, 
would enlighten the Sacred College. 

Horace Bianchon returned to Paris ; before departing, 
he came to bid farewell to the dying woman and thank 
her for her munificence. Slowl}' he approached, per- 
ceiving from the faces of the priests that the wounds 
of the soul had been the determining cause of those of 
the body. He took Madame Graslin's hand, laid it on 
the bed and felt the pulse. The deep silence, that of a 
summer night in a country solitude, gave additional 
solemnity to the scene. The great salon, seen through 
the double doors, was lighted up for the little company 
of persons who were praj'ing there ; all were on their 
knees except the two priests who were seated and read- 
ing their breviaries. On either side of the grand state 
bed were the prelate in his violet robes, the rector, and 
the two physicians. 

"She is agitated almost unto death," said Horace 
Bianchon, who, like all men of great talent, sometimes 
used speech as grand as the occasion that called it 
forth. 

The archbishop rose as if some inward impulse drove 
him ; he called to Monsieur Bonnet, and together they 
crossed the room, passed through the salon, and went 
out upon the terrace, where the}' walked up and down for 
some moments. When they returned, after discussing this 
case of ecclesiastical discipline, Roubaud met them. 



332 The Village Rector. 

*' Monsieur Bianchon sends me to hasten you. 
Madame Graslin is dying of an agitation which has 
nothing to do with her physical condition." 

The archbishop hastened his step, and as he entered 
the bedroom he said to Madame Grashn, who looked at 
him anxioush' : — 

" You shall do as you wish." 

Bianchon was holding the patient's pulse ; an ex- 
clamation of surprise escaped him ; giving a glance to 
Eoubaud and the two priests he said : — 

*'Monseigneur, this body is no longer within our 
domain ; 3'our word has given life where already there 
w^as death. You make me believe in miracles." 

" Madame has long been all soul and only soul," said 
Roubaud. Veronique thanked him with a glance. 

A smile which revealed her happiness at the certainty 
of complete expiation gave back to Veronique's face 
the look of innocence she had worn when a girl. All 
the agitations inscribed there in cruel wrinkles, dis- 
colored shadows, livid marks, all the details which 
had made that head so horribly beautiful when it 
pictured anguish only, in short, all changes that life 
had made there, vanished ; it seemed to her friends 
here present as though she had worn a mask until that 
moment, and now the mask had fallen. For the last 
time that wonderful phenomenon by which the face of 
this woman expressed her life and her hidden emotions 
was seen to take place. All within her grew pure, grew 
bright ; there shone upon her face, as it were the reflec- 
tion of the flaming swords of guardian angels who 
surrounded her. She was once more what she was 
when all Limoges had called her beautiful, but with this 



The Village Rector. 333 

differencej — the love of God was more powerful than 
ever guilty love had been ; the one had brought into 
action the powers of life, the other lifted her above all 
the weaknesses of death. A smothered cry was heard ; 
her mother bounded to the bed. 

*' I see my child again ! " she said. 

The expression of that old woman as she said the 
words my child recalled so vividly the innocence of 
childhood that those around that deathbed turned aside 
to hide their tears. 

The illustrious doctor took Madame Graslin's hand 
and kissed it. Presently the wheels of his carriage 
echoing in the silence told to the whole community that 
there was no hope of still preserving her who was the 
soul and spirit of this corner of the earth. The arch- 
bishop, the rector, the doctor, and all who were wear}', 
went to take some rest after Madame Graslin herself 
had fallen asleep. She slept for several hours, but woke 
at dawn, and asked to have the windows opened. She 
wished, she said, to see the rising of her last sun. 



834 " The Village Rector. 



XXI. 

CONFESSION AT THE GATES OF THE TOMB. 

At ten o'clock in the morning the archbishop, wear- 
ing his pontifical robes, came into Madame Graslin's 
chamber. The prelate, as well as the rector, had such 
confidence in this woman that the}' gave her no advice 
or instructions as to the limits within which she ought 
to make her confession. 

Veronique now saw an assemblage of clergy from all 
the neighboring districts. Monseigneur was assisted 
by four vicars. The magnificent vessels she had 
bestowed upon her dear parish church were brought to 
the house and gave splendor to the ceremony. Eight 
choristers in their white and red surplices stood in two 
rows from the bed to the door of the salon, each holding 
one of the large bronze-gilt candelabra which Veronique 
had ordered from Paris. The cross and the church 
banner were held on either side the bed b}' white-haired 
sacristans. Thanks to the devotion of her servants, a 
wooden altar brought from the sacristy had been erected 
close to the door of the salon, and so prepared and 
decorated that Monseigneur could sa}^ mass upon it. 

Madame Graslin was deepl}^ touched by these atten- 
tions, which the Church, as a general thing, grants only 
to royal personages. The folding doors between the 
salon and the dining-room were open, and she could see 



The Village Rector. 335 

a vista of the ground-floor rooms filled with the village 
population. Her friends had thought of everything ; 
the salon was occupied exclusively by themselves and 
the servants of the household. In the front rank and 
grouped before the door of the bedroom were her 
nearest friends, those on whose discretion reliance could 
be placed. MM. Grossetete, de Granville, Roubaud, 
Gerard, Clousier, Ruffin, took the first places. They 
had arranged among themselves that they should rise 
and stand in a group, thus preventing the words of the 
repentant woman from being heard in the farther rooms ; 
but their tears and sobs would, in any case, have 
drowned her voice. 

At this moment and before all else in that audience, 
two persons presented, to an observer, a powerfully 
affecting sight. One was Denise Tascheron. Her 
foreign garments, of Quaker simplicit}^ made her 
unrecognizable by her former village acquaintance. 
The other was quite another personage, an acquain- 
tance not to be forgotten, and his apparition there was 
like a streak of lurid light. The prociireur- general 
came suddenly to a perception of the truth ; the part 
that he had pla3xd to Madame Graslin unrolled itself 
before him ; he divined it to its fullest extent. Less 
influenced, as a son of the nineteenth century, by the 
religious aspect of the matter. Monsieur de Grandville's 
heart was filled with an awful dread ; for he saw before 
him, he contemplated the drama of that woman's hid- 
den self at the li6tel Graslin during the trial of Jean- 
Fran§ois Tascheron. That tragic period came back 
distinctly to his memor3% — lighted even now b}' the 
mother's eyes, shining with hatred, which fell upon him 



336 The Village Rector. 

where he stood, like drops of molten lead. That old 
woman, standing ten feet from him, forgave nothing. 
That man, representing human justice, trembled. Pale, 
struck to the heart, he dared not cast his eyes upon the 
bed where lay the woman he had loved so well, now 
livid beneath the hand of death, gathering strength to 
conquer agony from the greatness of her sin and its 
repentance. The mere sight of Veronique's thin profile, 
sharply defined in white upon the crimson damask, 
caused him a vertigo. 

At eleven o'clock the mass began. After the epistle 
bad been read by the rector of Vizay the archbishop 
removed his dalmatic and advanced to the threshold of 
the bedroom door. 

" Christians, gathered here to assist in the ceremony 
of extreme unction which we are about to administer to 
the mistress of this house," he said, "you who join 
your prayers to those of the Church and intercede with 
God to obtain from Him her eternal salvation, you are 
now to learn that she does not feel herself worth}^ in 
this, her last hour, to receive the holy viaticum without 
having made, for the edification of her fellows, a pubhc 
confession of the greatest of her sins. We have 
resisted her pious wish, although this act of contrition 
was long in use during the early ages of Christianit3\ 
But, as this poor woman tells us that her confession 
may serve to rehabilitate an unfortunate son of this 
parish, we leave her free to follow the inspirations of 
her repentance." 

After these words, said with pastoral unction and 
dignity, the archbishop turned aside to give place to 
Veronique. The dying woman came forward, sup- 



The Village Rector, 337 

ported by her old mother and the rector, — the mother 
from whom she derived her bod^', the Church, the 
spiritual mother of her soul. She knelt down on a 
cushion, clasped her hands, and seemed to collect her- 
self for a few moments, as if to gather from some 
source descending from heaven the power to speak. 
At this moment the silence was almost terrifying. 
None dared look at their neighbor. All e^'es were 
lowered. And yet the eyes of Veronique, when she 
raised them, encountered those of the procureur- 
general,, and the expression on that blanched face 
brought the color to hers. 

''I could not die in peace," said Veronique, in a 
voice of deep emotion, " if I suffered the false impres- 
sion you all have of me to remain. You see in me a 
guilty woman, who asks your pra3^ers, and who seeks 
to make herself worth}' of pardon by this public confes- 
sion of her sin. That sin was so great, its consequences 
were so fatal, that perhaps no penance can atone for it. 
But the more humiliation I submit to here on earth, 
the less I ma}- have to dread the wrath of God in the 
heavenly kingdom to which I am going. M}^ father, 
who had great confidence in me, commended to my 
care (now twenty years ago) a son of this parish, in 
whom he had seen a great desire to improve himself, 
an aptitude for stud}^ and fine characteristics. I mean 
the unfortunate Jean-Francois Tascheron, who thence- 
forth attached himself to me as his benefactress. How 
did the affection I felt for him become a guilty one ? 
I think myself excused from explaining this. Perhaps 
it could be shown that the purest sentiments by which 
we act in this world were insensibly diverted from 

22 



338 The Village Rector. 

their course by untold sacrifices, bj^ reasons arising 
from our liuman frailt3', by many causes whicli might 
appear to diminish the evil of ni}' sin. But even if 
the noblest atfections moved me, was I less guilty? 
liather let me confess that I, who by education, by 
position in the world, might consider myself superior 
to the youth my father confided to me, and from whom 
I was separated by the natural delicac_y of our sex, — 
I listened, fatally, to the promptings of the devil. I 
soon found myself too much the mother of that young 
man to be insensible to his mute and delicate admira- 
tion. He alone, he first, recognized nn' true value. 
But perhaps a horrible calculation entered my mind. 
I thought how discreet a 3'outh would be who owed his 
all to me, and whom the chances of life had put so far 
awa}^ from me, though we were born equals. I made 
even my reputation for benevolence, my pious occupa- 
tions, a cloak to screen m^' conduct. Alas ! — and 
this is doubtless one of m}' greatest sins — I hid my 
passion under cover of the altar. The most virtuous of 
mj' actions — the love I bore my mother, the acts of 
devotion which were sincere and true in the midst of ray 
wrong-doing— all, all were made to serve the ends of 
a desperate passion, and were links in the chain that 
held me. My poor beloved mother, who hears me now, 
was for a long time, ignorantly, an accomplice in my 
sin. When her eyes were opened, too many dangerous 
facts existed not to give her mother's heart the strength 
to be silent. Silence with her has been the highest 
virtue. Her love for her daughter has gone beyond 
her love to God. Ah ! I here discharge her solemnlj- 
from the heavy burden of secrec}^ which she has borne. 



The Village Rector. 339 

She shall end her days without compelling either eyes 
or brow to lie. Let her motherhood stand clear of 
blame ; let that noble, sacred old age, crowned with 
virtue, shine with its natural lustre, freed of that link 
which bound her indirectly to infamy ! " 

Tears checked the dying woman's voice for an 
instant; Aline gave her salts to inhale. 

"There is no one who has not been better to me 
than I deserve," she went on, — " even the devoted 
servant who does me this last service ; she has feigned 
ignorance of what she knew, but at least she was in the 
secret of the penances by which I have destroyed the 
flesh that sinned. I here beg pardon of the world for 
the long deception to which I have been led by the 
terrible logic of societj^ Jean-Franqois Tascheron was 
not as guilty as he seemed. Ah ! you who hear me, 
I implore you to remember his youth, and the madness 
excited in him partly by the remorse that seized upon 
me, partly by involuntary seductions. More than that ! 
it was a sense of honor, though a mistaken honor, 
which caused the most awful of these evils. Neither 
of us could endure our perpetual deceit. He appealed, 
unhapp}^ man, to my own right feeling ; he sought to 
make our fatal love as little wounding to others as it 
could be. We meant to hide ourselves awa}' forever. 
Thus I was the cause, the sole cause, of his crime. 
Driven by necessity, the unhappy man, guilty of too 
much devotion to an idol, chose from all evil acts 
the one which might be hereafter reparable. I knew 
nothing of it till the moment of execution. At that 
moment the hand of God threw down that scaffolding 
of false contrivances. — I heard the cries ; they echo in 



340 The Village Rector. 

my ears ! I divined the struggle, which I could not 
stop, — I, the cause of it ! Tascheron was maddened ; 
I swear it." 

Here Veronique turned her ej'es on Monsieur de 
Grandville, and a sob was heard to issue from Denise 
Tascheron' s breast. 

" He lost his mind when he saw what he thought 
his happiness destro^'ed by unforeseen circumstances. 
The unhappy man, misled by his love, went headlong 
from a delinquent act to crime — from robbery to a 
double murder. He left my mother's house an inno- 
cent man, he returned a guilty one. I alone knew that 
there was neither premeditation nor any of the aggra- 
vating circumstances on which he was sentenced to 
death. A hundred times I thought of betraying myself 
to save him ; a hundred times a horrible and necessary 
restraint stopped the words upon my lips. Undoubt- 
edl}^, my presence near the scene had contributed to 
give him the odious, infamous, ignoble courage of a 
murderer. Were it not for me, he would have fled. I 
had formed that soul, trained that mind, enlarged that 
heart; I knew it; he was incapable of cowardice or 
meanness. Do justice to that involuntarily guilty arm, 
do justice to him, whom God, in his mere}', has allowed 
to sleep in his quiet grave, where 3'ou have wept for 
him, suspecting, it may be, the extenuating truth. 
Punish, curse the guilty creature before you ! Horri- 
fied by the crime when once committed, I did my best 
to hide my share in it. Trusted b}^ m}' father — I, 
who was childless — to lead a child to God, I led him 
to the scaffold ! Ah ! punish me, curse me, the hour 
has come ! " 



The Village Rector. 341 

Saying these words, her eyes shone with the stoic 
pride of a savage. The archbishop standing behind 
her, and as if protecting her with the pastoral cross, 
abandoned his impassible demeanor and covered his 
eyes with his right hand. A muffled cr}^ was heard, as 
though some one were dying. Two persons, Gerard 
and Roubaud, received and carried awa}' in their arms, 
Denise Tascheron, unconscious. That sight seemed for 
an instant to quench the fire in Veronique's eyes; she 
was evidently uneasy; but soon her self-control and 
serenity of martyrdom resumed their sway. 

'' You now know," she continued, '^that I deserve 
neither praise nor blessing for mj^ conduct here. I 
have led in sight of Heaven, a secret hfe of bitter pen- 
ance which Heaven will estimate. My life before men 
has been an immense reparation for the evils I have 
caused; I have marked ra}' repentance inefFaceably on 
the earth; it will last almost eternall}' here below. It 
is written on those fertile fields, in the prosperous 
village, in the rivulets brought from the mountains to 
water the plain once barren and fruitless, now green 
and fertile. Not a tree will be cut for a hundred years 
to come but the people of this region will know of the 
remorse that made it grow. My repentant soul will 
still live here among you. What 3'ou will owe to its 
efforts, to a fortune honorably acquired, is the heritage 
of its repentance, — the repentance of her who caused 
the crime. All has been repaired so far as societ}- is 
concerned; but I am still responsible for that life, 
crushed in its bud, — a hfe confided to me and for which 
I am now required to render an account." 

The flame of her eyes was veiled in tears. 



342 The Village Rector, 

"There is here, before me, a man," she continued, 
^' who, because he did his duty strictl}', has been to me 
an object of hatred which I thought eternal. He was 
the first inflictor of mj' punishment. My feet were still 
too deep in blood, I was too near the deed, not to hate 
justice. So long as that root of anger la}- in my heart, 
I knew there was still a lingering remnant of condem- 
nable passion. I had nothing to forgive that man, I 
have only had to purify that corner of my heart where 
Evil lurked. However hard it may have been to win 
that victor}', it is won." 

Monsieur de Grandville turned a face to Veronique 
that was bathed in tears. Human justice seemed at 
that moment to feel remorse. When the confessing 
woman raised her head as if to continue, she met the 
agonizing look of the old man Grossetete, who stretched 
his supplicating hands to her as if to say, '^Enough, 
enough ! " At the same instant a sound of tears and 
sobs was heard. Moved by such S3'mpathy, unable to 
bear the balm of this general pardon, she was seized 
with faintness. Seeing that her daughter's vital force 
was gone at last, the old mother summoned the vigor 
of her youth to carry her away. 

"Christians," said the archbishop, "you have heard 
the confession of that penitent woman; it confirms the 
sentence of human justice. You ought to see in this 
fresh reason to join your pra3'ers to those of the Church 
which offers to God the holy sacrifice of the mass, to 
implore his merc}^ in favor of so deep a repentance." 

The services went on. Veronique, lying on the bed, 
followed them with a look of such inward contentment 
that she seemed, to every eye, no longer the same 



The Village Rector. 343 

woman. On her face was the candid and virtuous ex- 
pression of the pure young girl such as she had been 
in her parents' home. The dawn of eternal life was 
already whitening her brow and glorifying her face 
with its celestial tints. Doubtless she heard the mystic 
harmonies, and gathered strength to live from her 
desire to unite herself once more with God in the last 
communion. The rector came beside the bed and gave 
her absolution. The archbishop administered the sacred 
oils with a fatherlj- tenderness that showed to all there 
present how dear the lost but now recovered lamb had 
been to him. Then, with the sacred anointing, he 
closed to the things of earth those eyes which had done 
such evil, and laid the seal of the Church upon the lips 
that were once too eloquent. The ears, by which so 
man}' evil inspirations had penetrated her mind, were 
closed forever. All the senses, deadened by repent- 
ance, were thus sanctified, and the spirit of evil could 
have no further power within liej" soul. 

Never did assistants of this ceremony more fully 
understand the grandeur and profundity of the sacra- 
ment than those who now saw the acts of the Church 
justh' following the confession of that dying woman. 

Thus prepared, Veronique received the bodj^ of 
Jesus Christ with an expression of hope and joy which 
melted the ice of unbehef against which the rector had 
so often bruised himself. Roubaud, confounded in all 
his opinions, became a Catholic on the spot. The 
scene was touching and yet awesome ; the solemnity of 
its ever}^ feature was so great that painters might have 
found there the subject of a masterpiece. 

When this funereal part was over, and the dying 



344 The Village Rector. 

woman heard the priests begin the reading of the 
gospel of Saint John, she signed to her mother to 
bring her son, who had been taken from the room by 
his tutor. When she saw Francis kneeling b}^ the bed- 
side the pardoned mother felt she had the right to la}' 
her hand upon his head and bless him. Doing so, she 
died. 

Old Madame Sauviat was there, at her post, erect as 
she had been for twenty years. This woman, heroic 
after her fashion, closed her daughter's e3'es — those 
eyes that had wept so much — and kissed them. All 
the priests, followed by the choristers, surrounded the 
bed. B}^ the flaming light of the torches they chanted 
the terrible De Profundis^ the echoes of which told 
the population kneeling before the chateau, the friends 
praying in the salon, the servants in the adjoining 
rooms, that the mother of the canton was dead. The 
hymn was accompanied with moans and tears. The 
confession of that grand woman had not been audible 
beyond the threshold of the salon, and none but loving 
ears had heard it. 

When the peasants of the neighborhood, joining with 
those of Montegnac, came, one b}' one, to la}^ upon 
their benefactress the customary palm, together with 
their last farewell mingled with prayers and tears, they 
saw the man of justice, crushed by grief, holding the 
hand of the woman whom, without intending it, he had 
so cruell}' but so justly stricken. 

Two days later the procureur general, Grossetetc, 
the archbishop, and the mayor, holding the corners of 
the black pall, conducted the body of Madame Graslin 
to its last resting-place. It was laid in the grave in 



The Village Rector. 345 

deep silence ; not a word was said ; no one had 
strength to speak ; all eyes ^ere full of tears. " She 
is now a saint ! " was said b}' the peasants as they went 
away along the roads of the canton to which she had 
given prosperity, — saying the words to her creations 
as though the}' were animate beings. 

No one thought it strange that Madame Graslin was 
buried beside the body of Jean-Fran9ois Tascheron. 
She had not asked it ; but the old mother, as the last 
act of her tender pit}', had I'equested the sexton to 
make the grave there, — putting together those whom 
earth had so violently parted, and whose souls were 
now reunited through repentance in purgatory. 

Madame Graslin's will was found to be all that was 
expected of it. She founded scholarships and hospital 
beds at Limoges solely for working-men ; she assigned 
a considerable sum — three hundred thousand francs in 
six years — for the purchase of that part of the village 
called Les Tascherons, where she directed that a hospital 
should be built. This hospital, intended for the indigent 
old persons of the canton, for the sick, for lying-in 
women if paupers, and for foundlings, was to be called 
the Tascheron Hospital. Veronique ordered it to be 
placed in charge of the Gray Sisters, and fixed the 
salaries of the surgeon and the physician at four thou- 
sand francs for each. She requested Roubaud to be 
the first physician of this hospital, placing upon him 
the choice of the surgeon, and requesting him to super- 
intend the erection of the building with reference to 
sanitary arrangements, conjointly with Gerard, who 
was to be the architect. She also gave to the village 
of Montegnac an extent of pasture land suflScient to 



346 The Village Rector. 

pay all its taxes. The church, she endowed with a fund 
to be used for a special purpose, namely' : watch was 
to be kept over young workmen, and cases discovered 
in which some village youth might show a disposition 
for art, or science, or manufactures ; the interest of the 
fund was then to be used in fostering it. The intelli- 
gent benevolence of the testatrix named the sum that 
should be taken for each of these encouragements. 

The news of Madame Graslin's death, received 
throughout the department as a calamity, was not 
accompanied by any rumor injurious to the memory of 
this woman. This discretion was a homage rendered 
to so many virtues by the hard-working Catholic popu- 
lation, which renewed in this remote corner of France 
the miracles of the " Lettres Edifiantes." 

Gerard, appointed guardian of Francis Graslin, and 
obliged, by the terms of the will, to reside at the cha- 
teau, moved there. But he did not marry Denise 
Tascheron until three months after Veronique's death. 
In her, Francis found a second mother. 



THE END.