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Title: Penguin Island

Author: Anatole France

Release Date: October, 1999 [EBook #1930]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This htm version was first posted on March 17, 2003]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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PENGUIN ISLAND

by ANATOLE FRANCE


CONTENTS

BOOK I. THE BEGINNINGS
BOOK II. THE ANCIENT TIMES
BOOK III. THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE
BOOK IV. MODERN TIMES: TRINCO
BOOK V. MODERN TIMES: CHATILLON
BOOK VI. MODERN TIMES
BOOK VII. MODERN TIMES
BOOK VIII. FUTURE TIMES


BOOK I. THE BEGINNINGS

I. LIFE OF SAINT MAEL

Mael, a scion of a royal family of Cambria, was sent in his ninth year to the
Abbey of Yvern so that he might there study both sacred and profane learning.
At the age of fourteen he renounced his patrimony and took a vow to serve the
Lord. His time was divided, according to the rule, between the singing of
hymns, the study of grammar, and the meditation of eternal truths.

A celestial perfume soon disclosed the virtues of the monk throughout the
cloister, and when the blessed Gal, the Abbot of Yvern, departed from this
world into the next, young Mael succeeded him in the government of the
monastery. He established therein a school, an infirmary, a guest-house, a
forge, work-shops of all kinds, and sheds for building ships, and he compelled
the monks to till the lands in the neighbourhood. With his own hands he
cultivated the garden of the Abbey, he worked in metals, he instructed the
novices, and his life was gently gliding along like a stream that reflects the
heaven and fertilizes the fields.


At the close of the day this servant of God was accustomed to seat himself on
the cliff, in the place that is to-day still called St. Mael's chair. At his
feet the rocks bristling with green seaweed and tawny wrack seemed like black
dragons as they faced the foam of the waves with their monstrous breasts. He
watched the sun descending into the ocean like a red Host whose glorious blood
gave a purple tone to the clouds and to the summits of the waves. And the holy
man saw in this the image of the mystery of the Cross, by which the divine
blood has clothed the earth with a royal purple. In the offing a line of dark
blue marked the shores of the island of Gad, where St. Bridget, who had been
given the veil by St. Malo, ruled over a convent of women.

Now Bridget, knowing the merits of the venerable Mael, begged from him some
work of his hands as a rich present. Mael cast a hand-bell of bronze for her
and, when it was finished, he blessed it and threw it into the sea. And the
bell went ringing towards the coast of Gad, where St. Bridget, warned by the
sound of the bell upon the waves, received it piously, and carried it in
solemn procession with singing of psalms into the chapel of the convent.

Thus the holy Mael advanced from virtue to virtue. He had already passed
through two-thirds of the way of life, and he hoped peacefully to reach his
terrestrial end in the midst of his spiritual brethren, when he knew by a
certain sign that the Divine wisdom had decided otherwise, and that the Lord
was calling him to less peaceful but not less meritorious labours.

II. THE APOSTOLICAL VOCATION OF SAINT MAEL

One day as he walked in meditation to the furthest point of a tranquil beach,
for which rocks jutting out into the sea formed a rugged dam, he saw a trough
of stone which floated like a boat upon the waters.

It was in a vessel similar to this that St. Guirec, the great St. Columba, and
so many holy men from Scotland and from Ireland had gone forth to evangelize
Armorica. More recently still, St. Avoye having come from England, ascended
the river Auray in a mortar made of rose-coloured granite into which children
were afterwards placed in order to make them strong; St. Vouga passed from
Hibernia to Cornwall on a rock whose fragments, preserved at Penmarch, will
cure of fever such pilgrims as place these splinters on their heads. St.
Samson entered the Bay of St. Michael's Mount in a granite vessel which will
one day be called St. Samson's basin. It is because of these facts that when
he saw the stone trough the holy Mael understood that the Lord intended him
for the apostolate of the pagans who still peopled the coast and the Breton
islands.


He handed his ashen staff to the holy Budoc, thus investing him with the
government of the monastery. Then, furnished with bread, a barrel of fresh
water, and the book of the Holy Gospels, he entered the stone trough which
carried him gently to the island of Hoedic.

This island is perpetually buffeted by the winds. In it some poor men fished
among the clefts of the rocks and labouriously cultivated vegetables in
gardens full of sand and pebbles that were sheltered from the wind by walls of
barren stone and hedges of tamarisk. A beautiful fig-tree raised itself in a
hollow of the island and thrust forth its branches far and wide. The
inhabitants of the island used to worship it.

And the holy Mael said to them: "You worship this tree because it is
beautiful. Therefore you are capable of feeling beauty. Now I come to reveal
to you the hidden beauty." And he taught them the Gospel. And after having
instructed them, he baptized them with salt and water.

The islands of Morbihan were more numerous in those times than they are
to-day. For since then many have been swallowed up by the sea. St. Mael
evangelized sixty of them. Then in his granite trough he ascended the river
Auray. And after sailing for three hours he landed before a Roman house. A
thin column of smoke went up from the roof. The holy man crossed the threshold
on which there was a mosaic representing a dog with its hind legs outstretched
and its lips drawn back. He was welcomed by an old couple, Marcus Combabus and
Valeria Moerens, who lived there on the products of their lands. There was a
portico round the interior court the columns of which were painted red, half
their height upwards from the base. A fountain made of shells stood against
the wall and under the portico there rose an altar with a niche in which the
master of the house had placed some little idols made of baked earth and
whitened with whitewash. Some represented winged children, others Apollo or
Mercury, and several were in the form of a naked woman twisting her hair. But
the holy Mael, observing those figures, discovered among them the image of a
young mother holding a child upon her knees.

Immediately pointing to that image he said:

"That is the Virgin, the mother of God. The poet Virgil foretold her in
Sibylline verses before she was born and, in angelical tones he sang Jam redit
et virgo. Throughout heathendom prophetic figures of her have been made, like
that which you, O Marcus, have placed upon this altar. And without doubt it is
she who has protected your modest household. Thus it is that those who
faithfully observe the natural law prepare themselves for the knowledge of
revealed truths."

Marcus Combabus and Valeria Moerens, having been instructed by this speech,
were converted to the Christian faith. They received baptism together with
their young freedwoman, Caelia Avitella, who was dearer to them than the light
of their eyes. All their tenants renounced paganism and were baptized on the
same day.

Marcus Combabus, Valeria Moerens, and Caelia Avitella led thenceforth a life
full of merit. They died in the Lord and were admitted into the canon of the
saints.

For thirty-seven years longer the blessed Mael evangelized the pagans of the
inner lands. He built two hundred and eighteen chapels and seventy-four
abbeys.

Now on a certain day in the city of Vannes, when he was preaching the Gospel,
he learned that the monks of Yvern had in his absence declined from the rule
of St. Gal. Immediately, with the zeal of a hen who gathers her brood, he
repaired to his erring children. He was then towards the end of his
ninety-seventh year; his figure was bent, but his arms were still strong, and
his speech was poured forth abundantly like winter snow in the depths of the
valleys.

Abbot Budoc restored the ashen staff to St. Mael and informed him of the
unhappy state into which the Abbey had fallen. The monks were in disagreement
as to the date an which the festival of Easter ought to be celebrated. Some
held for the Roman calendar, others for the Greek calendar, and the horrors of
a chronological schism distracted the monastery.

There also prevailed another cause of disorder. The nuns of the island of Gad,
sadly fallen from their former virtue, continually came in boats to the coast
of Yvern. The monks received them in the guesthouse and from this there arose
scandals which filled pious souls with desolation.

Having finished his faithful report, Abbot Budoc concluded in these terms:

"Since the coming of these nuns the innocence and peace of the monks are at an
end."

"I readily believe it," answered the blessed Mael. "For woman is a cleverly
constructed snare by which we are taken even before we suspect the trap. Alas!
the delightful attraction of these creatures is exerted with even greater
force from a distance than when they are close at hand. The less they satisfy
desire the more they inspire it. This is the reason why a poet wrote this
verse to one of them:

When present I avoid thee, but when away I find thee.

Thus we see, my son, that the blandishments of carnal love have more power
over hermits and monks than over men who live in the world. All through my
life the demon of lust has tempted me in various ways, but his strongest
temptations did not come to me from meeting a woman, however beautiful and
fragrant she was. They came to me from the image of an absent woman. Even now,
though full of days and approaching my ninety-eighth year, I am often led by
the Enemy to sin against chastity, at least in thought. At night when I am
cold in my bed and my frozen old bones rattle together with a dull sound I
hear voices reciting the second verse of the third Book of the Kings:
'Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the
king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish
him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat,' and
the devil shows me a girl in the bloom of youth who says to me: 'I am thy
Abishag; I am thy Shunamite. Make, O my lord, room for me in thy couch.'

"Believe me," added the old man, "it is only by the special aid of Heaven that
a monk can keep his chastity in act and in intention."

Applying himself immediately to restore innocence and peace to the monastery,
he corrected the calendar according to the calculations of chronology and
astronomy and he compelled all the monks to accept his decision; he sent the
women who had declined from St. Bridget's rule back to their convent; but far
from driving them away brutally, he caused them to be led to their boat with
singing of psalms and litanies.

"Let us respect in them," he said, "the daughters of Bridget and the betrothed
of the Lord. Let us beware lest we imitate the Pharisees who affect to despise
sinners. The sin of these women and not their persons should be abased, and
they should be made ashamed of what they have done and not of what they are,
for they are all creatures of God."

And the holy man exhorted his monks to obey faithfully the rule of their
order.

"When it does not yield to the rudder," said he to them, "the ship yields to
the rock."

III. THE TEMPTATION OF SAINT MAEL

The blessed Mael had scarcely restored order in the Abbey of Yvern before he
learned that the inhabitants of the island of Hoedic, his first catechumens
and the dearest of all to his heart, had returned to paganism, and that they
were hanging crowns of flowers and fillets of wool to the branches of the
sacred fig-tree.

The boatman who brought this sad news expressed a fear that soon those
misguided men might violently destroy the chapel that had been built on the
shore of their island.

The holy man resolved forthwith to visit his faithless children, so that he
might lead them back to the faith and prevent them from yielding to such
sacrilege. As he went down to the bay where his stone trough was moored, he
turned his eyes to the sheds, then filled with the noise of saws and of
hammers, which, thirty years before, he had erected on the fringe of that bay
for the purpose of building ships.


At that moment, the Devil, who never tires, went out from the sheds and, under
the appearance of a monk called Samsok, he approached the holy man and tempted
him thus:

"Father, the inhabitants of the island of Hoedic commit sins unceasingly.
Every moment that passes removes them farther from God. They are soon going to
use violence towards the chapel that you have raised with your own venerable
hands on the shore of their island. Time is pressing. Do you not think that
your stone trough would carry you more quickly towards them if it were rigged
like a boat and furnished with a rudder, a mast, and a sail, for then you
would be driven by the wind? Your arms are still strong and able to steer a
small craft. It would be a good thing, too, to put a sharp stem in front of
your apostolic trough. You are much too clear-sighted not to have thought of
it already."

"Truly time is pressing," answered the holy man. "But to do as you say,
Samson, my son, would it not be to make myself like those men of little faith
who do not trust the Lord? Would it not be to despise the gifts of Him who has
sent me this stone vessel without rigging or sail?"

This question, the Devil, who is a great theologian, answered by another.

"Father, is it praiseworthy to wait, with our arms folded, until help comes
from on high, and to ask everything from Him who can do all things, instead of
acting by human prudence and helping ourselves?

"It certainly is not," answered the holy Mael, "and to neglect to act by human
prudence is tempting God."

"Well," urged the Devil, "is it not prudence in this case to rig the vessel?"

"It would be prudence if we could not attain our end in any other way."

"Is your vessel then so very speedy?"

"It is as speedy as God pleases."

"What do you know about it? It goes like Abbot Budoc's mule. It is a regular
old tub. Are you forbidden to make it speedier?"

"My son, clearness adorns your words, but they are unduly over-confident.
Remember that this vessel is miraculous."

"It is, father. A granite trough that floats on the water like a cork is a
miraculous trough. There is not the slightest doubt about it. What conclusion
do you draw from that?"

"I am greatly perplexed. Is it right to perfect so miraculous a machine by
human and natural means?"

"Father, if you lost your right foot and God restored it to you, would not
that foot be miraculous?"

"Without doubt, my son."

"Would you put a shoe on it?"

"Assuredly."

"Well, then, if you believe that one may cover a miraculous foot with a
natural shoe, you should also believe that we can put natural rigging on a
miraculous boat. That is clear. Alas! Why must the holiest persons have their
moments of weakness and despondency? The most illustrious of the apostles of
Brittany could accomplish works worthy of eternal glory . . . But his spirit
is tardy and his hand is slothful. Farewell then, father! Travel by short and
slow stages and when at last you approach the coast of Hoedic you will see the
smoking ruins of the chapel that was built and consecrated by your own hands.
The pagans will have burned it and with it the deacon you left there. He will
be as thoroughly roasted as a black pudding."

"My trouble is extreme," said the servant of God, drying with his sleeve the
sweat that gathered upon his brow. "But tell me, Samson, my son, would not
rigging this stone trough be a difficult piece of work? And if we undertook it
might we not lose time instead of gaining it?"

"Ah! father," exclaimed the Devil, "in one turning of the hour-glass the thing
would be done. We shall find the necessary rigging in this shed that you have
formerly built here on the coast and in those store-houses abundantly stocked
through your care. I will myself regulate all the ship's fittings. Before
being a monk I was a sailor and a carpenter and I have worked at many other
trades as well. Let us to work."

Immediately he drew the holy man into an outhouse filled with all things
needful for fitting out a boat.

"That for you, father!"

And he placed on his shoulders the sail, the mast, the gaff, and the boom.

Then, himself bearing a stem and a rudder with its screw and tiller, and
seizing a carpenter's bag full of tools, he ran to the shore, dragging the
holy man after him by his habit. The latter was bent, sweating, and
breathless, under the burden of canvas and wood.

 

IV. ST. MAEL'S NAVIGATION ON THE OCEAN OF ICE

The Devil, having tucked his clothes up to his arm-pits, dragged the trough on
the sand, and fitted the rigging in less than an hour.

As soon as the holy Mael had embarked, the vessel, with all its sails set,
cleft through the waters with such speed that the coast was almost immediately
out of sight. The old man steered to the south so as to double the Land's End,
but an irresistible current carried him to the south-west. He went along the
southern coast of Ireland and turned sharply towards the north. In the evening
the wind freshened. In vain did Mael attempt to furl the sail. The vessel flew
distractedly towards the fabulous seas.

By the light of the moon the immodest sirens of the North came around him with
their hempen-coloured hair, raising their white throats and their rose-tinted
limbs out of the sea; and beating the water into foam with their emerald
tails, they sang in cadence:


Whither go'st thou, gentle Mael,
In thy trough distracted?
All distended is thy sail
Like the breast of Juno
When from it gushed the Milky Way.

For a moment their harmonious laughter followed him beneath the stars, but the
vessel fled on, a hundred times more swiftly than the red ship of a Viking.
And the petrels, surprised in their flight, clung with their feet to the hair
of the holy man.


Soon a tempest arose full of darkness and groanings, and the trough, driven by
a furious wind, flew like a sea-mew through the mist and the surge.

After a night of three times twenty-four hours the darkness was suddenly rent
and the holy man discovered on the horizon a shore more dazzling than diamond.
The coast rapidly grew larger, and soon by the glacial light of a torpid and
sunken sun, Mael saw, rising above the waves, the silent streets of a white
city, which, vaster than Thebes with its hundred gates, extended as far as the
eye could see the ruins of its forum built of snow, its palaces of frost, its
crystal arches, and its iridescent obelisks.

The ocean was covered with floating ice-bergs around which swam men of the sea
of a wild yet gentle appearance. And Leviathan passed by hurling a column of
water up to the clouds.

Moreover, on a block of ice which floated at the same rate as the stone trough
there was seated a white bear holding her little one in her arms, and Mael
heard her murmuring in a low voice this verse of Virgil, Incipe parve puer.

And full of sadness and trouble, the old man wept.

The fresh water had frozen and burst the barrel that contained it. And Mael
was sucking pieces of ice to quench his thirst, and his food was bread dipped
in dirty water. His beard and his hair were broken like glass. His habit was
covered with a layer of ice and cut into him at every movement of his limbs.
Huge waves rose up and opened their foaming jaws at the old man. Twenty times
the boat was filled by masses of sea. And the ocean swallowed up the book of
the Holy Gospels which the apostle guarded with extreme care in a purple cover
marked with a golden cross.

Now on the thirtieth day the sea calmed. And lo! with a frightful clamour of
sky and waters a mountain of dazzling whiteness advanced towards the stone
vessel. Mael steered to avoid it, but the tiller broke in his hands. To lessen
the speed of his progress towards the rock he attempted to reef the sails, but
when he tried to knot the reef-points the wind pulled them away from him and
the rope seared his hands. He saw three demons with wings of black skin having
hooks at their ends, who, hanging from the rigging, were puffing with their
breath against the sails.

Understanding from this sight that the Enemy had governed him in all these
things, he guarded himself by making the sign of the Cross. Immediately a
furious gust of wind filled with the noise of sobs and howls struck the stone
trough, carried off the mast with all the sails, and tore away the rudder and
the stem.

The trough was drifting on the sea, which had now grown calm. The holy man
knelt and gave thanks to the Lord who had delivered him from the snares of the
demon. Then he recognised, sitting on a block of ice, the mother bear who had
spoken during the storm. She pressed her beloved child to her bosom, and in
her hand she held a purple book marked with a golden cross. Hailing the
granite trough, she saluted the holy man with these words:

"Pax tibi Mael"

And she held out the book to him.

The holy man recognised his evangelistary, and, full of astonishment, he sang
in the tepid air a hymn to the Creator and His creation.

 

V. THE BAPTISM OF THE PENGUINS

After having drifted for an hour the holy man approached a narrow strand, shut
in by steep mountains. He went along the coast for a whole day and a night,
passing around the reef which formed an insuperable barrier. He discovered in
this way that it was a round island in the middle of which rose a mountain
crowned with clouds. He joyfully breathed the fresh breath of the moist air.
Rain fell, and this rain was so pleasant that the holy man said to the Lord:


"Lord, this is the island of tears, the island of contrition."

The strand was deserted. Worn out with fatigue and hunger, he sat down on a
rock in the hollow of which there lay some yellow eggs, marked with black
spots, and about as large as those of a swan. But he did not touch them,
saying:

"Birds are the living praises of God. I should not like a single one of these
praises to be lacking through me."

And he munched the lichens which he tore from the crannies of the rocks.

The holy man had gone almost entirely round the island without meeting any
inhabitants, when he came to a vast amphitheatre formed of black and red rocks
whose summits became tinged with blue as they rose towards the clouds, and
they were filled with sonorous cascades.

The reflection from the polar ice had hurt the old man's eyes, but a feeble
gleam of light still shone through his swollen eyelids. He distinguished
animated forms which filled the rocks, in stages, like a crowd of men on the
tiers of an amphitheatre. And at the same time, his ears, deafened by the
continual noises of the sea, heard a feeble sound of voices. Thinking that
what he saw were men living under the natural law, and that the Lord had sent
him to teach them the Divine law, he preached the gospel to them.

Mounted on a lofty stone in the midst of the wild circus:

"Inhabitants of this island," said he, "although you be of small stature, you
look less like a band of fishermen and mariners than like the senate of a
judicious republic. By your gravity, your silence, your tranquil deportment,
you form on this wild rock an assembly comparable to the Conscript Fathers at
Rome deliberating in the temple of Victory, or rather, to the philosophers of
Athens disputing on the benches of the Areopagus. Doubtless you possess
neither their science nor their genius, but perhaps in the sight of God you
are their superiors. I believe that you are simple and good. As I went round
your island I saw no image of murder, no sign of carnage, no enemies' heads or
scalps hung from a lofty pole or nailed to the doors of your villages. You
appear to me to have no arts and not to work in metals. But your hearts are
pure and your hands are innocent, and the truth will easily enter into your
souls."

Now what he had taken for men of small stature but of grave bearing were
penguins whom the spring had gathered together, and who were ranged in couples
on the natural steps of the rock, erect in the majesty of their large white
bellies. From moment to moment they moved their winglets like arms, and
uttered peaceful cries. They did not fear men, for they did not know them, and
had never received any harm from them; and there was in the monk a certain
gentleness that reassured the most timid animals and that pleased these
penguins extremely. With a friendly curiosity they turned towards him their
little round eyes lengthened in front by a white oval spot that gave something
odd and human to their appearance.

Touched by their attention, the holy man taught them the Gospel.

"Inhabitants of this island, the earthly day that has just risen over your
rocks is the image of the heavenly day that rises in your souls. For I bring
you the inner light; I bring you the light and heat of the soul. Just as the
sun melts the ice of your mountains so Jesus Christ will melt the ice of your
hearts."

Thus the old man spoke. As everywhere throughout nature voice calls to voice,
as all which breathes in the light of day loves alternate strains, these
penguins answered the old man by the sounds of their throats. And their voices
were soft, for it was the season of their loves.

The holy man, persuaded that they belonged to some idolatrous people and that
in their own language they gave adherence to the Christian faith, invited them
to receive baptism.

"I think," said he to them, "that you bathe often, for all the hollows of the
rocks are full of pure water, and as I came to your assembly I saw several of
you plunging into these natural baths. Now purity of body is the image of
spiritual purity."

And he taught them the origin, the nature, and the effects of baptism.

"Baptism," said he to them, "is Adoption, New Birth, Regeneration,
Illumination."

And he explained each of these points to them in succession.

Then, having previously blessed the water that fell from the cascades and
recited the exorcisms, he baptized those whom he had just taught, pouring on
each of their heads a drop of pure water and pronouncing the sacred words.

And thus for three days and three nights he baptized the birds.

 

VI. AN ASSEMBLY IN PARADISE

When the baptism of the penguins was known in Paradise, it caused neither joy
nor sorrow, but an extreme surprise. The Lord himself was embarrassed. He
gathered an assembly of clerics and doctors, and asked them whether they
regarded the baptism as valid.

"It is void," said St. Patrick.

"Why is it void?" asked St. Gal, who had evangelized the people of Cornwall
and had trained the holy Mael for his apostolical labours.


"The sacrament of baptism," answered St. Patrick, "is void when it is given to
birds, just as the sacrament of marriage is void when it is given to a
eunuch."

But St. Gal replied:

"What relation do you claim to establish between the baptism of a bird and the
marriage of a eunuch? There is none at all. Marriage is, if I may say so, a
conditional, a contingent sacrament. The priest blesses an event beforehand;
it is evident that if the act is not consummated the benediction remains
without effect. That is obvious. I have known on earth, in the town of Antrim,
a rich man named Sadoc, who, living in concubinage with a woman, caused her to
be the mother of nine children. In his old age, yielding to my reproofs, he
consented to marry her, and I blessed their union. Unfortunately Sadoc's great
age prevented him from consummating the marriage. A short time afterwards he
lost all his property, and Germaine (that was the name of the woman), not
feeling herself able to endure poverty, asked for the annulment of a marriage
which was no reality. The Pope granted her request, for it was just. So much
for marriage. But baptism is conferred without restrictions or reserves of any
kind. There is no doubt about it, what the penguins have received is a
sacrament."

Called to give his opinion, Pope St. Damascus expressed himself in these
terms:

"In order to know if a baptism is valid and will produce its result, that is
to say, sanctification, it is necessary to consider who gives it and not who
receives it. In truth, the sanctifying virtue of this sacrament results from
the exterior act by which it is conferred, without the baptized person
cooperating in his own sanctification by any personal act; if it were
otherwise it would not be administered to the newly born. And there is no
need, in order to baptize, to fulfil any special condition; it is not
necessary to be in a state of grace; it is sufficient to have the intention of
doing what the Church does, to pronounce the consecrated words and to observe
the prescribed forms. Now we cannot doubt that the venerable Mael has observed
these conditions. Therefore the penguins are baptized."

"Do you think so?" asked St. Guenole. "And what then do you believe that
baptism really is? Baptism is the process of regeneration by which man is born
of water and of the spirit, for having entered the water covered with crimes,
he goes out of it a neophyte, a new creature, abounding in the fruits of
righteousness; baptism is the seed of immortality; baptism is the pledge of
the resurrection; baptism is the burying with Christ in His death and
participation in His departure from the sepulchre. That is not a gift to
bestow upon birds. Reverend Fathers, let us consider. Baptism washes away
original sin; now the penguins were not conceived in sin. It removes the
penalty of sin; now the penguins have not sinned. It produces grace and the
gift of virtues, uniting Christians to Jesus Christ, as the members to the
body, and it is obvious to the senses that penguins cannot acquire the virtues
of confessors, of virgins, and of widows, or receive grace and be united to--"

St. Damascus did not allow him to finish.

"That proves," said he warmly, "that the baptism was useless; it does not
prove that it was not effective."

"But by this reasoning," said St. Guenole, "one might baptize in the name of
the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by aspersion or immersion, not
only a bird or a quadruped, but also an inanimate object, a statue, a table, a
chair, etc. That animal would be Christian, that idol, that table would be
Christian! It is absurd!"

St. Augustine began to speak. There was a great silence.

"I am going," said the ardent bishop of Hippo, "to show you, by an example,
the power of formulas. It deals, it is true, with a diabolical operation. But
if it be established that formulas taught by the Devil have effect upon
unintelligent animals or even on inanimate objects, how can we longer doubt
that the effect of the sacramental formulas extends to the minds of beasts and
even to inert matter?

"This is the example. There was during my lifetime in the town of Madaura, the
birthplace of the philosopher Apuleius, a witch who was able to attract men to
her chamber by burning a few of their hairs along with certain herbs upon her
tripod, pronouncing at the same time certain words. Now one day when she
wished by this means to gain the, love of a young man, she was deceived by her
maid, and instead of the young man's hairs, she burned some hairs pulled from
a leather bottle, made out of a goatskin that hung in a tavern. During the
night the leather bottle, full of wine, capered through the town up to the
witch's door. This fact is undoubted. And in sacraments as in enchantments it
is the form which operates. The effect of a divine formula cannot be less in
power and extent than the effect of an infernal formula."

Having spoken in this fashion the great St. Augustine sat down amidst
applause.

One of the blessed, of an advanced age and having a melancholy appearance,
asked permission to speak. No one knew him. His name was Probus, and he was
not enrolled in the canon of the saints.

"I beg the company's pardon," said he, "I have no halo, and I gained eternal
blessedness without any eminent distinction. But after what the great St.
Augustine has just told you I believe it right to impart a cruel experience,
which I had, relative to the conditions necessary for the validity of a
sacrament. The bishop of Hippo is indeed right in what he said. A sacrament
depends on the form; its virtue is in its form; its vice is in its form.
Listen, confessors and pontiffs, to my woeful story. I was a priest in Rome
under the rule of the Emperor Gordianus. Without desiring to recommend myself
to you for any special merit, I may say that I exercised my priesthood with
piety and zeal. For forty years I served the church of St.
Modestus-beyond-the-Walls. My habits were regular. Every Saturday I went to a
tavern-keeper called Barjas, who dwelt with his wine-jars under the Porta
Capena, and from him I bought the wine that I consecrated daily throughout the
week. During that.long space of time I never failed for a single morning to
consecrate the holy sacrifice of the mass. However, I had no joy, and it was
with a heart oppressed by sorrow that, on the steps of the altar I used to
ask, 'Why art thou so heavy, O my soul, and why art thou so disquieted within
me?' The faithful whom I invited to the holy table gave me cause for
affliction, for having, so to speak, the Host that I administered still upon
their tongues, they fell again into sin just as if the sacrament had been
without power or efficacy. At last I reached the end of my earthly trials, and
failing asleep in the Lord, I awoke in this abode of the elect. I learned then
from the mouth of the angel who brought me here, that Barjas, the
tavern-keeper of the Porta Capena, had sold for wine a decoction of roots and
barks in which there was not a single drop of the juice of the grape. I had
been unable to transmute this vile brew into blood, for it was not wine, and
wine alone is changed into the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore all my
consecrations were invalid, and unknown to us, my faithful and myself had for
forty years been deprived of the sacrament and were in fact in a state of
excommunication. This revelation threw me into a stupor which overwhelms me
even to-day in this abode of bliss. I go all through Paradise without ever
meeting a single one of those Christians whom formerly I admitted to the holy
table in the basilica of the blessed Modestus. Deprived of the bread of
angels, they easily gave way to the most abominable vices, and they have all
gone to hell. It gives me some satisfaction to think that Barjas, the
tavern-keeper, is damned. There is in these things a logic worthy of the
author of all logic. Nevertheless my unhappy example proves that it is
sometimes inconvenient that form should prevail over essence in the
sacraments, and I humbly ask, Could not, eternal wisdom remedy this?"

"No," answered the Lord. "The remedy would be worse than the disease. It would
be the ruin of the priesthood if essence prevailed over form in the laws of
salvation."

"Alas! Lord," sighed the humble Probus. "Be persuaded by my humble experience;
as long as you reduce your sacraments to formulas your justice will meet with
terrible obstacles."

"I know that better than you do," replied the Lord. "I see in a single glance
both the actual problems which are difficult, and the future problems which
will not be less difficult. Thus I can foretell that when the sun will have
turned round the earth two hundred and forty times more.

"Sublime language," exclaimed the angels.

"And worthy of the creator of the world," answered the pontiffs.

"It is," resumed the Lord, "a manner of speaking in accordance with my old
cosmogony and one which I cannot give up without losing my immutability. . . .

"After the sun, then, will have turned another two hundred and forty times
round the earth, there will not be a single cleric left in Rome who knows
Latin. When they sing their litanies in the churches people will invoke
Orichel, Roguel, and Totichel, and, as you know, these are devils and not
angels. Many robbers desiring to make their communions, but fearing that
before obtaining pardon they would be forced to give up the things they had
robbed to the Church, will make their confessions to travelling priests,who,
ignorant of both Italian and Latin, and only speaking the patois of their
village, will go through cities and towns selling the remission of sins for a
base price, often for a bottle of wine. Probably we shall not be
inconvenienced by those absolutions as they will want contrition to make them
valid, but it may be that their baptisms will cause us some embarrassment. The
priests will become so ignorant that they will baptize children in nomine
patria et filia et spirita sancta, as Louis de Potter will take a pleasure in
relating in the third volume of his 'Philosophical, Political, and Critical
History of Christianity.' It will be an arduous question to decide on the
validity of such baptisms; for even if in my sacred writings I tolerate a
Greek less elegant than Plato's and a scarcely Ciceronian Latin, I cannot
possibly admit a piece of pure patois as a liturgical formula. And one
shudders when one thinks that millions of new-born babes will be baptized by
this method. But let us return to our penguins."

"Your divine words, Lord, have already led us back to them," said St. Gal. "In
the signs of religion and the laws of salvation form necessarily prevails over
essence, and the validity of a sacrament solely depends upon its form. The
whole question is whether the penguins have been baptized with the proper
forms. Now there is no doubt about the answer."

The fathers and the doctors agreed, and their perplexity became only the more
cruel.

"The Christian state," said St. Cornelius, "is not without serious
inconveniences for a penguin. In it the birds are obliged to work out their
own salvation. How can they succeed? The habits of birds are, in many points,
contrary to the commandments of the Church, and the penguins have no reason
for changing theirs. I mean that they are not intelligent enough to give up
their present habits and assume better."

"They cannot," said the Lord; "my decrees prevent them."

"Nevertheless," resumed St. Cornelius, "in virtue of their baptism their
actions no longer remain indifferent. Henceforth they will be good or bad,
susceptible of merit or of demerit."

"That is precisely the question we have to deal with," said the Lord.

"I see only one solution," said St. Augustine. "The penguins will go to hell."

"But they have no soul," observed St. Irenaeus.

"It is a pity"" sighed Tertullian.

"It is indeed," resumed St. Gal. "And I admit that my disciple, the holy Mael,
has, in his blind zeal, created great theological difficulties for the Holy
Spirit and introduced disorder into the economy of mysteries."

"He is an old blunderer," cried St. Adjutor of Alsace, shrugging his
shoulders.

But the Lord cast a reproachful look on Adjutor.

"Allow me to speak," said he; "the holy Mael has not intuitive knowledge like
you, my blessed ones. He does not see me. He is an old man burdened by
infirmities; he is half deaf and three parts blind. You are too severe on him.
However, I recognise that the situation is an embarrassing one."

"Luckily it is but a passing disorder," said St. Irenaeus. "The penguins are
baptized, but their eggs are not, and the evil will stop with the present
generation."

"Do not speak thus, Irenaeus my son," said the Lord. "There are exceptions to
the laws that men of science lay down on the earth because they are imperfect
and have not an exact application to nature. But the laws that I establish are
perfect and suffer no exception. We must decide the fate of the baptized
penguins without violating any divine law, and in a manner conformable to the
decalogue as well as to the commandments of my Church."

"Lord," said St. Gregory Nazianzen, "give them an immortal soul."

"Alas! Lord, what would they do with it," sighed Lactantius. "They have not
tuneful voices to sing your praises. They would not be able to celebrate your
mysteries."

"Without doubt," said St. Augustine, "they would not observe the divine law."

"They could not," said the Lord.

"They could not," continued St. Augustine. "And if, Lord, in your wisdom, you
pour an immortal soul into them, they will burn eternally in hell in virtue of
your adorable decrees. Thus will the transcendent order, that this old
Welshman has disturbed, be re-established."

"You propose a correct solution to me, son of Monica," said the Lord, "and one
that accords with my wisdom. But it does not satisfy my mercy. And, although
in my essence I am immutable, the longer I endure, the more I incline to
mildness. This change of character is evident to anyone who reads my two
Testaments."

As the discussion continued without much light being thrown upon the matter
and as the blessed showed a disposition to keep repeating the same thing, it
was decided to consult St. Catherine of Alexandria. This is what was usually
done in such cases. St. Catherine while on earth had confounded fifty very
learned doctors. She knew Plato's philosophy in addition to the Holy
Scriptures, and she also possessed a knowledge of rhetoric.

 

VII. AN ASSEMBLY IN PARADISE (Continuation and End)

St. Catherine entered the assembly, her head encircled by a crown of emeralds,
sapphires, and pearls, and she was clad in a robe of cloth of gold. She
carried at her side a blazing wheel, the image of the one whose fragments had
struck her persecutors.

The Lord having invited her to speak, she expressed herself in these terms:

"Lord, in order to solve the problem you deign to submit to me I shall not
study the habits of animals in general nor those of birds in particular. I
shall only remark to the doctors, confessors, and pontiffs gathered in this
assembly that the separation between man and animal is not complete since
there are monsters who proceed from both. Such are chimeras--half nymphs and
half serpents; such are the three Gorgons and the Capripeds; such are the
Scyllas and the Sirens who sing in the sea. These have a woman's breast and a
fish's tail. Such also are the Centaurs, men down to the waist and the
remainder horses. They are a noble race of monsters. One of them, as you know,
was able, guided by the light of reason alone, to direct his steps towards
eternal blessedness, and you sometimes see his heroic bosom prancing on the
clouds. Chiron, the Centaur, deserved for his works on the earth to share the
abode of the blessed; he it was who gave Achilles his education; and that
young hero, when he left the Centaur's hands, lived for two years, dressed as
a young girl, among the daughters of King Lycomedes. He shared their games and
their bed without allowing any suspicion to arise that he was not a young
virgin like them. Chiron, who taught him such good morals, is, with the
Emperor Trajan, the only righteous man who obtained celestial glory by
following the law of nature. And yet he was but half human.


"I think I have proved by this example that, to reach eternal blessedness, it
is enough to possess some parts of humanity, always on the condition that they
are noble. And what Chiron, the Centaur, could obtain without having been
regenerated by baptism, would not the penguins deserve too, if they became
half penguins and half men? That is why, Lord, I entreat you to give old
Mael's penguins a human head and breast so that they can praise you worthily.
And grant them also an immortal soul--but one of small size."

Thus Catherine spoke, and the fathers, doctors, confessors, and pontiffs heard
her with a murmur of approbation.

But St. Anthony, the Hermit, arose and stretching two red and knotty arms
towards the Most High:

"Do not so, O Lord God," he cried, "in the name of your holy Paraclete, do not
so!"

He spoke with such vehemence that his long white beard shook on his chin like
the empty nose-bag of a hungry horse.

"Lord, do not so. Birds with human heads exist already. St. Catherine has told
us nothing new."

"The imagination groups and compares; it never creates," replied St. Catherine
drily.

"They exist already," continued St. Antony, who would listen to nothing. "They
are called harpies, and they are the most obscene animals in creation. One day
as I was having supper in the desert with the Abbot St. Paul, I placed the
table outside my cabin under an old sycamore tree. The harpies came and sat in
its branches; they deafened us with their shrill cries and cast their
excrement over all our food. The clamour of the monsters prevented me from
listening to the teaching of the Abbot St. Paul, and we ate birds' dung with
our bread and lettuces. Lord, it is impossible to believe that harpies could
give thee worthy praise.

"Truly in my temptations I have seen many hybrid beings, not only
women-serpents and women-fishes, but beings still more confusedly formed such
as men whose bodies were made out of a pot, a bell, a clock, a cupboard full
of food and crockery, or even out of a house with doors and windows through
which people engaged in their domestic tasks could be seen. Eternity would not
suffice were I to describe all the monsters that assailed me in my solitude,
from whales rigged like ships to a shower of red insects which changed the
water of my fountain into blood. But none were as disgusting as the harpies
whose offal polluted the leaves of my sycamore."

"Harpies," observed Lactantius, "are female Monsters with birds' bodies. They
have a woman's head and breast. Their forwardness, their shamelessness, and
their obscenity proceed from their female nature as the poet Virgil
demonstrated in his 'Aeneid.' They share the curse of Eve."

"Let us not speak of the curse of Eve," said the Lord. "The second Eve has
redeemed the first."

Paul Orosius, the author of a universal history that Bossuet was to imitate in
later years, arose and prayed to the Lord:

"Lord, hear my prayer and Anthony's. Do not make any more monsters like the
Centaurs, Sirens, and Fauns, whom the Greeks, those collectors of fables,
loved. You will derive no satisfaction from them. Those species of monsters
have pagan inclinations and their double nature does not dispose them to
purity of morals."

The bland Lactantius replied in these terms:

"He who has just spoken is assuredly the best historian in Paradise, for
Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Velleius Paterculus, Cornelius Nepos,
Suetonius, Manetho, Diodorus Siculus, Dion Cassius, and Lampridius are
deprived of the sight of God, and Tacitus suffers in hell the torments that
are reserved for blasphemers. But Paul Orosius does not know heaven as well as
he knows the earth, for he does not seem to bear in mind that the angels, who
proceed from man and bird, are purity itself."

"We are wandering," said the Eternal. "What have we to do with all those
centaurs, harpies, and angels? We have to deal with penguins."

"You have spoken to the point, Lord," said the chief of the fifty doctors,
who, during their mortal life had been confounded by the Virgin of Alexandria,
"and I dare express the opinion that, in order to put an end to the scandal by
which heaven is now stirred, old Mael's penguins should, as St. Catherine who
confounded us has proposed, be given half of a human body with an eternal soul
proportioned to that half."

At this speech there arose in the assembly a great noise of private
conversations and disputes of the doctors. The Greek fathers argued with the
Latins concerning the substance, nature, and dimensions of the soul that
should be given to the penguins.

"Confessors and pontiffs," exclaimed the Lord, "do not imitate the conclaves
and synods of the earth. And do not bring into the Church Triumphant those
violences that trouble the Church Militant. For it is but too true that in all
the councils held under the inspiration of my spirit, in Europe, in Asia, and
in Africa, fathers have torn the beards and scratched the eyes of other
fathers. Nevertheless they were infallible, for I was with them."

Order being restored, old Hermas arose and slowly uttered these words:

"I will praise you, Lord, for that you caused my mother, Saphira, to be born
amidst your people, in the days when the dew of heaven refreshed the earth
which was in travail with its Saviour. And will praise you, Lord, for having
granted to me to see with my mortal eyes the Apostles of your divine Son. And
I will speak in this illustrious assembly because you have willed that truth
should proceed out of the mouths of the humble, and I will say: 'Change these
penguins to men. It is the only determination conformable to your justice and
your mercy.'"

Several doctors asked permission to speak, others began to do so. No one
listened, and all the confessors were tumultuously shaking their palms and
their crowns.

The Lord, by a gesture of his right hand, appeased the quarrels of his elect.

"Let us not deliberate any longer," said he. "The opinion broached by gentle
old Hermas is the only one conformable to my eternal designs. These birds will
be changed into men. I foresee in this several disadvantages. Many of those
men will commit sins they would not have committed as penguins. Truly their
fate through this change will be far less enviable than if they had been
without this baptism and this incorporation into the family of Abraham. But my
foreknowledge must not encroach upon their free will.

"In order not to impair human liberty, I will be ignorant of what I know, I
will thicken upon my eyes the veils I have pierced, and in my blind
clearsightedness I will let myself be surprised by what I have foreseen."

And immediately calling the archangel Raphael:

"Go and find the holy Mael," said he to him; "inform him of his mistake and
tell him, armed with my Name, to change these penguins into men."

 

VII. METAMORPHOSIS OF THE PENGUINS

The archangel, having gone down into the Island of the Penguins, found the
holy man asleep in the hollow of a rock surrounded by his new disciples. He
laid his hand on his shoulder and, having waked him, said in a gentle voice:

"Mael, fear not!"

The holy man, dazzled by a vivid light, inebriated by a delicious odour,
recognised the angel of the Lord, and prostrated himself with his forehead on
the ground.

The angel continued:

"Mael, know thy error, believing that thou wert baptizing children of Adam
thou hast baptized birds; and it is, through thee that penguins have entered
into the Church of God."


At these words the old man remained stupefied.

And the angel resumed:

"Arise, Mael, arm thyself with the mighty Name of the Lord, and say to these
birds, 'Be ye men!'"

And the holy Mael, having wept and prayed, armed himself with the mighty Name
of the Lord and said to the birds:

"Be ye men!"

Immediately the penguins were transformed. Their foreheads enlarged and their
heads grew round like the dome of St. Maria Rotunda in Rome. Their oval eyes
opened more widely on the universe; a fleshy nose clothed the two clefts of
their nostrils; their beaks were changed into mouths, and from their mouths
went forth speech; their necks grew short and thick; their wings became arms
and their claws legs; a restless soul dwelt within the breast of each of them.

However, there remained with them some traces of their first nature. They were
inclined to look sideways; they balanced themselves on their short thighs;
their bodies were covered with fine down.

And Mael gave thanks to the Lord, because he had incorporated these penguins
into the family of Abraham.

But he grieved at the thought that he would soon leave the island to come back
no more, and that perhaps when he was far away the faith of the penguins would
perish for want of care like a young and tender plant.

And he formed the idea of transporting their island to the coasts of Armorica.

"I know not the designs of eternal Wisdom," said he to himself. "But if God
wills that this island be transported, who could prevent it?"

And the holy man made a very fine cord about forty feet long out of the flax
of his stole. He fastened one end of the cord round a point of rock that
jutted up through the sand of the shore and, holding the other end of the cord
in his hand, he entered the stone trough.

The trough glided over the sea and towed Penguin Island behind it; after nine
days' sailing it approached the Breton coast, bringing the island with it.

 

BOOK II. THE ANCIENT TIMES

I. THE FIRST CLOTHES

One day St. Mael was sitting by the seashore on a warm stone that he found. He
thought it had been warmed by the sun and he gave thanks to God for it, not
knowing that the Devil had been resting on it. The apostle was waiting for the
monks of Yvern who had been commissioned to bring a freight of skins and
fabrics to clothe the inhabitants of the island of Alca.

Soon he saw a monk called Magis coming ashore and carrying a chest upon his
back. This monk enjoyed a great reputation for holiness.


When he had drawn near to the old man he laid the chest on the ground and
wiping his forehead with the back of his sleeve, he said:

"Well, father, you wish then to clothe these penguins?"

"Nothing is more needful, my son," said the old man. "Since they have been
incorporated into the family of Abraham these penguins share the curse of Eve,
and they know that they are naked, a thing of which they were ignorant before.
And it is high time to clothe them, for they are losing the down that remained
on them after their metamorphosis."

"It is true," said Magis as he cast his eyes over the coast where the penguins
were to be seen looking for shrimps, gathering mussels, singing, or sleeping,
"they are naked. But do you not think, father, that it would be better to
leave them naked? Why clothe them? When they wear clothes and are under the
moral law they will assume an immense pride, a vile hypocrisy, and an
excessive cruelty."

"Is it possible, my son," sighed the old man, "that you understand so badly
the effects of the moral law to which even the heathen submit?"

"The moral law," answered Magis, "forces men who are beasts to live otherwise
than beasts, a thine that doubtless puts a constraint upon them, but that also
flatters and reassures them; and as they are proud, cowardly, and covetous of
pleasure, they willingly submit to restraints that tickle their vanity and on
which they found both their present security and the hope of their future
happiness. That is the principle of all morality. . . . But let us not mislead
ourselves. My companions are unloading their cargo of stuffs and skins on the
island. Think, father, while there is still time I To clothe the penguins is a
very serious business. At present when a penguin desires a penguin he knows
precisely what he desires and his lust is limited by an exact knowledge of its
object. At this moment two or three couples of penguins are making love on the
beach. See with what simplicity! No one pays any attention and the actors
themselves do not seem to be greatly preoccupied. But when the female penguins
are clothed, the male penguin will not form so exact a notion of what it is
that attracts him to them. His indeterminate desires will fly out into all
sorts of dreams and illusions; in short, father, he will know love and its mad
torments. And all the time the female penguins will cast down their eyes and
bite their lips, and take on airs as if they kept a treasure under their
clothes! . . . what a pity!

"The evil will be endurable as long as these people remain rude and poor; but
only wait for a thousand years and you will see, father, with what powerful
weapons you have endowed the daughters of Alca. If you will allow me, I can
give you some idea of it beforehand. I have some old clothes in this chest.
Let us take at hazard one of these female penguins to whom the male penguins
give such little thought, and let us dress her as well as we can.

"Here is one coming towards us. She is neither more beautiful nor uglier than
the others; she is young. No one looks at her. She strolls indolently along
the shore, scratching her back and with her finger at her nose as she walks.
You cannot help seeing, father, that she has narrow shoulders, clumsy breasts,
a stout figure, and short legs. Her reddish knees pucker at every step she
takes, and there is, at each of her joints, what looks like a little monkey's
head. Her broad and sinewy feet cling to the rock with their four crooked
toes, while the great toes stick up like the heads of two cunning serpents.
She begins to walk, all her muscles are engaged in the task, and, when we see
them working, we think of her as a machine intended for walking rather than as
a machine intended for making love, although visibly she is both, and contains
within herself several other pieces of machinery, besides. Well, venerable
apostle, you will see what I am going to make of her."

With these words the monk, Magis, reached the female penguin in three bounds,
lifted her up, carried her in his arms with her hair trailing behind her, and
threw her, overcome with fright, at the feet of the holy Mael.

And whilst she wept and begged him to do her no harm, he took a pair of
sandals out of his chest and commanded her to put them on.

"Her feet," observed the old man, "will appear smaller when squeezed in by the
woollen cords. The soles, being two fingers high, will give an elegant length
to her legs and the weight they bear will seem magnified."

As the penguin tied on her sandals she threw a curious look towards the open
coffer, and seeing that it was full of jewels and finery, she smiled through
her tears.

The monk twisted her hair on the back of her head and covered it with a
chaplet of flowers. He encircled her wrist with golden bracelets and making
her stand upright, he passed a large linen band beneath her breasts, alleging
that her bosom would thereby derive a new dignity and that her sides would be
compressed to the greater glory of her hips.

He fixed this band with pins, taking them one by one out of his mouth.

"You can tighten it still more," said the penguin.

When he had, with much care and study, enclosed the soft parts of her bust in
this way, he covered her whole body with a rose-coloured tunic which gently
followed the lines of her figure.

"Does it hang well?" asked the penguin.

And bending forward with her head on one side and her chin on her shoulder,
she kept looking attentively at the appearance of her toilet.

Magis asked her if she did not think the dress a little long, but she answered
with assurance that it was not--she would hold it up.

Immediately, taking the back of her skirt in her left hand, she drew it
obliquely across her hips, taking care to disclose a glimpse of her heels.
Then she went away, walking with short steps and swinging her hips.

She did not turn her head, but as she passed near a stream she glanced out of
the corner of her eye at her own reflection.

A male penguin, who met her by chance, stopped in surprise, and retracing his
steps began to follow her. As she went along the shore, others coming back
from fishing, went up to her, and after looking at her, walked behind her.
Those who were lying on the sand got up and joined the rest.

Unceasingly, as she advanced, fresh penguins, descending from the paths of the
mountain, coming out of clefts of the rocks, and emerging from the water,
added to the size of her retinue.

And all of them, men of ripe age with vigorous shoulders and hairy breasts,
agile youths, old men shaking the multitudinous wrinkles of their rosy, and
white-haired skins, or dragging their legs thinner and drier than the juniper
staff that served them as a third leg, hurried on, panting and emitting an
acrid odour and hoarse gasps. Yet she went on peacefully and seemed to see
nothing.

"Father," cried Magis, "notice how each one advances with his nose pointed
towards the centre of gravity of that young damsel now that the centre is
covered by a garment. The sphere inspires the meditations of geometers by the
number of its properties. When it proceeds from a physical and living nature
it acquires new qualities, and in order that the interest of that figure might
be fully revealed to the penguins it was necessary that, ceasing to see it
distinctly with their eyes, they should be led to represent it to themselves
in their minds. I myself feel at this moment irresistibly attracted towards
that penguin. Whether it be because her skirt gives more importance to her
hips, and that in its simple magnificence it invests them with a synthetic and
general character and allows only the pure idea, the divine principle, of them
to be seen, whether this be the cause I cannot say, but I feel that if I
embraced her I would hold in my hands the heaven of human pleasure. It is
certain that modesty communicates an invincible attraction to women. My
uneasiness is so great that it would be vain for me to try to conceal it."

He spoke, and, gathering up his habit, he rushed among the crowd of penguins,
pushing, jostling, trampling, and crushing, until he reached the daughter of
Alca, whom he seized and suddenly carried in his arms into a cave that had
been hollowed out by the sea.

Then the penguins felt as if the sun had gone out. And the holy Mael knew that
the Devil had taken the features of the monk, Magis, in order that he might
give clothes to the daughter of Alca. He was troubled in spirit, and his soul
was sad. As with slow steps he went towards his hermitage he saw the little
penguins of six and seven years of age tightening their waists with belts made
of sea-weed and walking along the shore to see if anybody would follow them.

II. THE FIRST CLOTHES (Continuation and End)

The holy Mael felt a profound sadness that the first clothes put upon a
daughter of Alca should have betrayed the penguin modesty instead of helping
it. He persisted, none the less, in his design of giving clothes to the
inhabitants of the miraculous island. Assembling them on the shore, he
distributed to them the garments that the monks of Yvern had brought. The male
penguins received short tunics and breeches, the female penguins long robes.
But these robes were far from creating the effect that the former one had
produced. They were not so beautiful, their shape was uncouth and without art,
and no attention was paid to them since every woman bad one. As they prepared
the meals and worked in the fields they soon had nothing but slovenly bodices
and soiled petticoats.


The male penguins loaded their unfortunate consorts with work until they
looked like beasts of burden. They knew nothing of the troubles of the heart
and the disorders of passion. Their habits were innocent. Incest, though
frequent, was a sign of rustic simplicity and if drunkenness led a youth to
commit some such crime he thought nothing more about it the day afterwards.

III. SETTING BOUNDS TO THE FIELDS AND THE ORIGIN OF PROPERTY

The island did not preserve the rugged appearance that it had formerly, when,
in the midst of floating icebergs it sheltered a population of birds within
its rocky amphitheatre. Its snow-clad peak had sunk down into a hill from the
summit of which one could see the coasts of Armorica eternally covered with
mist, and the ocean strewn with sullen reefs like monsters half raised out of
its depths.


Its coasts were now very extensive and clearly defined and its shape reminded
one of a mulberry leaf. It was suddenly covered with coarse grass, pleasing to
the flocks, and with willows, ancient figtrees, and mighty oaks. This fact is
attested by the Venerable Bede and several other authors worthy of credence.

To the north the shore formed a deep bay that in after years became one of the
most famous ports in the universe. To the east, along a rocky coast beaten by
a foaming sea, there stretched a deserted and fragrant heath. It was the Beach
of Shadows, and the inhabitants of the island never ventured on it for fear of
the serpents that lodged in the hollows of the rocks and lest they might
encounter the souls of the dead who resembled livid flames. To the south,
orchards and woods bounded the languid Bay of Divers. On this fortunate shore
old Mael built a wooden church and a monastery. To the west, two streams, the
Clange and the Surelle, watered the fertile valleys of Dalles and Dombes.

Now one autumn morning, as the blessed Mael was walking in the valley of
Clange in company with a monk of Yvern called Bulloch, he saw bands of
fierce-looking men loaded with stones passing along the roads. At the same
time he heard in all directions cries and complaints mounting up from the
valley towards the tranquil sky.

And he said to Bulloch:

"I notice with sadness, my son, that since they became men the inhabitants of
this island act with less wisdom than formerly. When they were birds they only
quarrelled during the season of their love affairs. But now they dispute all
the time; they pick quarrels with each other in summer as well as in winter.
How greatly have they fallen from that peaceful majesty which made the
assembly of the penguins look like the Senate of a wise republic!

"Look towards Surelle, Bulloch, my son. In yonder pleasant valley a dozen men
penguins are busy knocking each other down with the spades and picks that they
might employ better in tilling the ground. The women, still more cruel than
the men, are tearing their opponents' faces with their nails. Alas! Bulloch,
my son, why are they murdering each other in this way?"

"From a spirit of fellowship, father, and through forethought for the future,"
answered Bulloch. "For man is essentially provident and sociable. Such is his
character and it is impossible to imagine it apart from a certain
appropriation of things. Those penguins whom you see are dividing the ground
among themselves."

"Could they not divide it with less violence?" asked the aged man. "As they
fight they exchange invectives and threats. I do not distinguish their words,
but they are angry ones, judging from the tone."

"They are accusing one another of theft and encroachment," answered Bulloch.
"That is the general sense of their speech."

At that moment the holy Mael clasped his hands and sighed deeply.

"Do you see, my son," he exclaimed, "that madman who with his teeth is biting
the nose of the adversary he has overthrown and that other one who is pounding
a woman's head with a huge stone?"

"I see them," said Bulloch. "They are creating law; they are founding
property; they are establishing the principles of civilization, the basis of
society, and the foundations of the State."

"How is that?" asked old Mael.

"By setting bounds to their fields. That is the origin of all government. Your
penguins, O Master, are performing the most august of functions. Throughout
the ages their work will be consecrated by lawyers, and magistrates will
confirm it."

Whilst the monk, Bulloch, was pronouncing these words a big penguin with a
fair skin and red hair went down into the valley carrying a trunk of a tree
upon his shoulder. He went up to a little penguin who was watering his
vegetables in the heat of the sun, and shouted to him:

"Your field is mine!"

And having delivered himself of this stout utterance he brought down his club
on the head of the little penguin, who fell dead upon the field that his own
hands had tilled.

At this sight the holy Mael shuddered through his whole body and poured forth
a flood of tears.

And in a voice stifled by horror and fear he addressed this prayer to heaven:

"O Lord, my God, O thou who didst receive young Abel's sacrifices, thou who
didst curse Cain, avenge, O Lord, this innocent penguin sacrificed upon his
own field and make the murderer feel the weight of thy arm. Is there a more
odious crime, is there a graver offence against thy justice, O Lord, than this
murder and this robbery?"

"Take care, father," said Bulloch gently, "that what you call murder and
robbery may not really be war and conquest, those sacred foundations of
empires, those sources of all human virtues and all human greatness. Reflect,
above all, that in blaming the big penguin you are attacking property in its
origin and in its source. I shall have no trouble in showing you how. To till
the land is one thing, to possess it is another, and these two things must not
be confused; as regards ownership the right of the first occupier is uncertain
and badly founded. The right of conquest, on the other hand, rests on more
solid foundations. It is the only right that receives respect since it is the
only one that makes itself respected. The sole and proud origin of property is
force. It is born and preserved by force. In that it is august and yields only
to a greater force. This is why it is correct to say that he who possesses is
noble. And that big red man, when he knocked down a labourer to get possession
of his field, founded at that moment a very noble house upon this earth. I
congratulate him upon it."

Having thus spoken, Bulloch approached the big penguin, who was leaning upon
his club as he stood in the blood-stained furrow:

"Lord Greatauk, dreaded Prince," said he, bowing to the ground, "I come to pay
you the homage due to the founder of legitimate power and hereditary wealth.
The skull of the vile Penguin you have overthrown will, buried in your field,
attest for ever the sacred rights of your posterity over this soil that you
have ennobled. Blessed be your suns and your sons' sons! They shall be
Greatauks, Dukes of Skull, and they shall rule over this island of Alca."

Then raising his voice and turning towards the holy Mael:

"Bless Greatauk, father, for all power comes from God."

Mael remained silent and motionless, with his eyes raised towards heaven; he
felt a painful uncertainty in judging the monk Bulloch's doctrine. It was,
however, the doctrine destined to prevail in epochs of advanced civilization.
Bulloch can be considered as the creator of civil law in Penguinia.

 

IV. THE FIRST ASSEMBLY OF THE ESTATES OF PENGUINIA

"Bulloch, my son," said old Mael, "we ought to make a census of the Penguins
and inscribe each of their names in a book."

"It is a most urgent matter," answered Bulloch, "there can be no good
government without it."

Forthwith, the apostle, with the help of twelve monks, proceeded to make a
census of the people.

And old Mael then said:

"Now that we keep a register of all the inhabitants, we ought, Bulloch, my
son, to levy a just tax so as to provide for public expenses and the
maintenance of the Abbey. Each ought to contribute according to his means. For
this reason, my son, call together the Elders of Alca, and in agreement with
them we shall establish the tax."


The Elders, being called together, assembled to the number of thirty under the
great sycamore in the courtyard of the wooden monastery. They were the first
Estates of Penguinia. Three-fourths of them were substantial peasants of
Surelle and Clange. Greatauk, as the noblest of the Penguins, sat upon the
highest stone.

The venerable Mael took his place in the midst of his monks and uttered these
words:

"Children, the Lord when he pleases grants riches to men and he takes them
away from them. Now I have called you together to levy contributions from the
people so as to provide for public expenses and the maintenance of the monks.
I consider that these contributions ought to be in proportion to the wealth of
each. Therefore he who has a hundred oxen will give ten; he who has ten will
give one."

When the holy man had spoken, Morio, a, labourer at Anis-on-the-Clange, one of
the richest of the Penguins, rose up and said:

"O Father Mael, I think it right that each should contribute to the public
expenses and to the support of the Church. or my part I am ready to give up
all that I possess in the interest of my brother Penguins, and if it were
necessary I would even cheerfully part with my shirt. All the elders of the
people are ready, like me, to sacrifice their goods, and no one can doubt
their absolute devotion to their country and their creed. We have, then, only
to consider the public interest and to do what it requires. Now, Father, what
it requires, what it demands, is not to ask much from those who possess much,
for then the rich would be less rich and the poor still poorer. The poor live
on the wealth of the rich and that is the reason why that wealth is sacred. Do
not touch it, to do so would be an uncalled for evil. You will get no great
profit by taking from the rich, for they are very few in number; on the
contrary you will strip yourself of all your resources and plunge the country
into misery. Whereas if you ask a little from each inhabitant without regard
to his wealth, you will collect enough for the public necessities and you will
have no need to enquire into each citizen's resources, a thing that would be
regarded by all as a most vexatious measure. By taxing all equally and easily
you will spare the poor, for you Will leave them the wealth of the rich. And
how could you possibly proportion taxes to wealth? Yesterday I had two hundred
oxen, to-day I have sixty, to-morrow I shall have a hundred. Clunic has three
cows, but they are thin; Nicclu has only two, but they are fat. Which is the
richer, Clunic or Nicclu? The signs of opulence are deceitful. What is certain
is that everyone eats and drinks. Tax people according to what they consume.
That would be wisdom and it would be justice."

Thus spoke Morio amid the applause of the Elders.

"I ask that this speech be graven on bronze," cried the monk, Bulloch. "It is
spoken for the future; in fifteen hundred years the best of the Penguins will
not speak otherwise."

The Elders were still applauding when Greatauk, his hand on the pommel of his
sword, made this brief declaration:

"Being noble, I shall not contribute; for to contribute is ignoble. It is for
the rabble to pay."

After this warning the Elders separated in silence.

As in Rome, a new census was taken every five years; and by this means it was
observed that the population increased rapidly. Although children died in
marvellous abundance and plagues and famines came with perfect regularity to
devastate entire villages, new Penguins, in continually greater numbers,
contributed by their private misery to the public prosperity.

 

V. THE MARRIAGE OF KRAKEN AND ORBEROSIA

During these times there lived in the island of Alca a Penguin whose arm was
strong and whose mind was subtle. He was called Kraken, and had his dwelling
on the Beach of Shadows whither the inhabitants never ventured for fear of
serpents that lodged in the hollows of the rocks and lest they might encounter
the souls of Penguins that had died without baptism. These, in appearance like
livid flames, and uttering doleful groans, wandered night and day along the
deserted beach. For it was generally believed, though without proof, that
among the Penguins that had been changed into men at the blessed Mael's
prayer, several had not received baptism and returned after their death to
lament amid the tempests. Kraken dwelt on this savage coast in an inaccessible
cavern. The only way to it was through a natural tunnel a hundred feet long,
the entrance of which was concealed by a thick wood. One evening as Kraken was
walking through this deserted plain he happened to meet a young and charming
woman Penguin. She was the one that the monk Magis had clothed with his own
hands and thus was the first to have worn the garments of chastity. In
remembrance of the day when the astonished crowd of Penguins had seen her
moving gloriously in her robe tinted like the dawn, this maiden had received
the name of Orberosia.*


* "Orb, poetically, a globe when speaking of the heavenly bodies. By extension
any species of globular body."--Littre


At the sight of Kraken she uttered a cry of alarm and darted forward to escape
from him. But the hero seized her by the garments that floated behind, her,
and addressed her in these words:

"Damsel, tell me thy name, thy family and thy country."

But Orberosia kept looking at Kraken with alarm.

"Is it you, I see, sir," she asked him, trembling, "or is it not rather your
troubled spirit?"

She spoke in this way because the inhabitants of Alca, having no news of
Kraken since he went to live on the Beach of Shadows, believed that he had
died and descended among the demons of night.

"Cease to fear, daughter of Alca," answered Kraken. "He who speaks to thee is
not a wandering spirit, but a man full of strength and might. I shall soon
possess great riches."

And young Orberosia asked:

"How dost thou think of acquiring great riches, O Kraken, since thou art a
child of Penguins?"

"By my intelligence," answered Kraken.

"I know," said Orberosia, "that in the time that thou dwelt among us thou wert
renowned for thy skill in hunting and fishing. No one equalled thee in taking
fishes in a net or in piercing with thy arrows the swift-flying birds."

"It was but a vulgar and laborious industry, O maiden. I have found a means of
gaining much wealth for myself without fatigue. But tell me who thou art?"

"I am called Orberosia," answered the young girl.

"Why art thou so far away from thy dwelling and in the night?"

"Kraken, it was not without the will of Heaven."

"What meanest thou, Orberosia?"

"That Heaven, O Kraken, placed me in thy path, for what reason I know not."

Kraken beheld her for a long time in silence.

Then he said with gentleness:

"Orberosia, come into my house; it is that of the bravest and most ingenious
of the sons of the Penguins. If thou art willing to follow me, I will make
thee my companion."

Then casting down her eyes, she murmured:

"I will follow thee, master."

It is thus that the fair Orberosia became the consort of the hero Kraken. This
marriage was not celebrated with songs and torches because Kraken did not
consent to show himself to the people of the Penguins; but hidden in his cave
he planned great designs.

 

VI. THE DRAGON OF ALCA

"We afterwards went to visit the cabinet of natural history. . . . The
care-taker showed us a sort of packet bound in straw that he told us contained
the skeleton of a dragon; a proof, added he, that the dragon is not a fabulous
animal."--Memoirs of Jacques Casanova, Paris, 1843. Vol. IV., pp. 404, 405

In the meantime the inhabitants of Alca practised the labours of peace. Those
of the northern coast went in boats to fish or to search for shell-fish. The
labourers of Dombes cultivated oats, rye, and wheat. The rich Penguins of the
valley of Dalles reared domestic animals, while those of the Bay of Divers
cultivated their orchards. Merchants of Port-Alca carried on a trade in salt
fish with Armorica and the gold of the two Britains, which began to be
introduced into the island, facilitated exchange. The Penguin people were
enjoying the fruit of their labours in perfect tranquillity when suddenly a
sinister rumour ran from village to village. It was said everywhere that
frightful dragon had ravaged two farms in the Bay of Divers.


A few days before, the maiden Orberosia had disappeared. Her absence had at
first caused no uneasiness because on several occasions she had been carried
off by violent men who were consumed with love. And thoughtful people were not
astonished at this, reflecting that the maiden was the most beautiful of the
Penguins. It was even remarked that she sometimes went to meet her ravishers,
for none of us can escape his destiny. But this time, as she did not return,
it was feared that the dragon had devoured her. The more so as the inhabitants
of the valley of Dalles soon knew that the dragon was not a fable told by the
women around the fountains. For one night the monster devoured out of the
village of Anis six hens, a sheep, and a young orphan child called little Elo.
The next morning nothing was to be found either of the animals or of the
child.

Immediately the Elders of the village assembled in the public place and seated
themselves on the stone bench to take counsel concerning what it was expedient
to do in these terrible circumstances.

Having called all those Penguins who had seen the dragon during the disastrous
night, they asked them:

"Have you not noticed his form and his behaviour?"

And each answered in his turn:

"He has the claws of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a
serpent."

"His back bristles with thorny crests."

"His whole body is covered with yellow scales."

"His look fascinates and confounds. He vomits flames."

"He poisons the air with his breath."

"He has the head of a dragon, the claws of a lion, and the tail of a fish."

And a woman of Anis, who was regarded as intelligent and of sound judgment and
from whom the dragon had taken three hens, deposed as follows:

"He is formed like a man. The proof is that I thought he was my husband, and I
said to him, 'Come to bed, you old fool.'"

Others said:

"He is formed like a cloud."

"He looks like a mountain."

And a little child came and said:

"I saw the dragon taking off his head in the barn so that he might give a kiss
to my sister Minnie."

And the Elders also asked the inhabitants:

"How big is the dragon?"

And it was answered:

"As big as an ox."

"Like the big merchant ships of the Bretons."

"He is the height of a man."

"He is higher than the fig-tree under which you are sitting."

"He is as large as a dog."

Questioned finally on his colour, the inhabitants said:

"Red."

"Green."

"Blue."

"Yellow."

"His head is bright green, his wings are brilliant orange tinged with pink,
his limbs are silver grey, his hind-quarters and his tail are striped with
brown and pink bands, his belly bright yellow spotted with black."

"His colour? He has no colour."

"He is the colour of a dragon."

After hearing this evidence the Elders remained uncertain as to what should be
done. Some advised to watch for him, to surprise him and overthrow him by a
multitude of arrows. Others, thinking it vain to oppose so powerful a monster
by force, counselled that he should be appeased by offerings.

"Pay him tribute," said one of them who passed for a wise man. "We can render
him propitious to us by giving him agreeable presents, fruits, wine, lambs, a
young virgin."

Others held for poisoning the fountains where he was accustomed to drink or
for smoking him out of his cavern.

But none of these counsels prevailed. The dispute was lengthy and the Elders
dispersed without coming to any resolution.

 

VII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

During all the month dedicated by the Romans to their false god Mars or
Mavors, the dragon ravaged the farms of Dalles and Dombes. He carried off
fifty sheep, twelve pigs, and three young boys. Every family was in mourning
and the island was full of lamentations. In order to remove the scourge, the
Elders of the unfortunate villages watered by the Clange and the Surelle
resolved to assemble and together go and ask the help of the blessed Mael.

On the fifth day of the month whose name among the Latins signifies opening,
because it opens the year, they went in procession to the wooden monastery
that had been built on the southern coast of the island. When they were
introduced into the cloister they filled it with their sobs and groans. Moved
by their lamentations, old Mael left the room in which he devoted himself to
the study of astronomy and the meditation of the Scriptures, and went down to
them, leaning on his pastoral staff. At his approach, the Elders, prostrating
themselves, held out to him green branches of trees and some of them burnt
aromatic herbs.


And the holy man, seating himself beside the cloistral fountain under an
ancient fig-tree, uttered these words:

"O my sons, offspring of the Penguins, why do you weep and groan? Why do you
hold out those suppliant boughs towards me? Why do you raise towards heaven
the smoke of those herbs? What calamity do you expect that I can avert from
your heads? Why do you beseech me? I am ready to give my life for you. Only
tell your father what it is you hope from him."

To these questions the chief of the Elders answered:

"O Mael, father of the sons of Alca, I will speak for all. A horrible dragon
is laying waste our lands, depopulating our cattle-sheds, and carrying off the
flower of our youth. He has devoured the child Elo and seven young boys; he
has mangled the maiden Orberosia, the fairest of the Penguins with his teeth.
There is not a village in which he does not emit his poisoned breath and which
he has not filled with desolation. A prey to this terrible scourge, we come, O
Mael, to pray thee, as the wisest, to advise us concerning the safety of the
inhabitants of this island lest the ancient race of Penguins be extinguished."

"O chief of the Elders of Alca," replied Mael, "thy words fill me with
profound grief, and I groan at the thought that this island is the prey of a
terrible dragon. But such an occurrence is not unique, for we find in books
several tales of very fierce dragons. The monsters are oftenest found in
caverns, by the brinks of waters, and, in preference, among pagan peoples.
Perhaps there are some among you who, although they have received holy baptism
and been incorporated into the family of Abraham, have yet worshipped idols,
like the ancient Romans, or hung up images, votive tablets, fillets of wool,
and garlands of flowers on the branches of some sacred tree. Or perhaps some
of the women Penguins have danced round a magic stone and drunk water from the
fountains where the nymphs dwell. If it be so, believe, O Penguins, that the
Lord has sent this dragon to punish all for the crimes of some, and to lead
you, O children of the Penguins, to exterminate blasphemy, superstition, and
impiety from amongst you. For this reason I advise, as a remedy against the
great evil from which you suffer, that you carefully search your dwellings for
idolatry, and extirpate it from them. I think it would be also efficacious to
pray and do penance."

Thus spoke the holy Mael. And the Elders of the Penguin people kissed his feet
and returned to their villages with renewed hope.

 

VIII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

Following the counsel of the holy Mael the inhabitants of Alca endeavoured to
uproot the superstitions that had sprung up amongst them. They took care to
prevent the girls from dancing with incantations round the fairy tree. Young
mothers were sternly forbidden to rub their children against the stones that
stood upright in the fields so as to make them strong. An old man of Dombes
who foretold the future by shaking grains of barley on a sieve, was thrown
into a well.

However, each night the monster still raided the poultry-yards and the
cattle-sheds. The frightened peasants barricaded themselves in their houses. A
woman with child who saw the shadow of a dragon on the road through a window
in the moonlight, was so terrified that she was brought to bed before her
time.


In those days of trial, the holy Mael meditated unceasingly on the nature of
dragons and the means of combating them. After six months of study and prayer
he thought he had found what he sought. One evening as he was walking by the
sea with a young monk called Samuel, he to him in these terms:

"I have studied at length the history and habits of dragons, not to satisfy a
vain curiosity, but to discover examples to follow in the present
circumstances. For such, Samuel, my son, is the use of history.

"It is an invariable fact that dragons are extremely vigilant. They never
sleep, and for this reason we often find them employed in guarding treasures.
A dragon guarded at Colchis the golden fleece that Jason conquered from him. A
dragon watched over the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides. He was
killed by Hercules and transformed into a star by Juno. This fact is related
in some books, and if it be true, it was done by magic, for the gods of the
pagans are in reality demons. A dragon prevented barbarous and ignorant men
from drinking at the fountain of Castalia. We must also remember the dragon of
Andromeda, which was slain by Perseus. But let us turn from these pagan
fables, in which error is always mixed with truth. We meet dragons in the
histories of the glorious archangel Michael, of St. George, St. Philip, St.
James the Great, St. Patrick, St. Martha, and St. Margaret. And it is in such
writings, since they are worthy of full credence, that we ought to look for
comfort and counsel.

"The story of the dragon of Silena affords us particularly precious examples.
You must know, my son, that on the banks of a vast pool close to that town
there dwelt a dragon who sometimes approached the walls and poisoned with his
breath all who dwelt in the suburbs. And that they might not be devoured by
the monster, the inhabitants of Silena delivered up to him one of their number
expressed his thought every morning. The victim was chosen by lot, and after a
hundred others, the lot fell upon the king's daughter.

"Now St. George, who was a military tribune, as he passed through the town of
Silena, learned that the king's daughter had just been given to the fierce
beast. He immediately mounted his horse, and, armed with his lance, rushed to
encounter the dragon, whom he reached just as the monster was about to devour
the royal virgin. And when St. George had overthrown the dragon, the king's
daughter fastened her girdle round the beast's neck and he followed her like a
dog led on a leash.

"That is an example for us of the power of virgins over dragons. The history
of St. Martha furnishes us with a still more certain proof. Do you know the
story, Samuel, my son?"

"Yes, father," answered Samuel.

And the blessed Mael went on:

"There was in a forest on the banks of the Rhone, between Arles and Avignon, a
dragon half quadruped and half fish, larger than an ox, with sharp teeth like
horns and huge-wings at his shoulders. He sank the boats and devoured their
passengers. Now St. Martha, at the entreaty of the people, approached this
dragon, whom she found devouring a man. She put her girdle round his neck and
led him easily into the town.

"These two examples lead me to think that we should have recourse to the power
of some virgin so as to conquer the dragon who scatters terror and death
through the island of Alca.

"For this reason, Samuel thy son, gird up thy loins and go, I pray thee, with
two of thy companions, into all the villages of this island, and proclaim
everywhere that a virgin alone shall be able to deliver the island from the
monster that devastates it.

"Thou shalt sing psalms and canticles and thou shalt say:

"'O sons of the Penguins, if there be among you a pure virgin, let her arise
and go, armed with the sign of the cross, to combat the dragon!'"

Thus the old man spake, and Samuel promised to obey him. The next day he
girded up his loins and set out with two of his companions to proclaim to the
inhabitants of Alca that a virgin alone would be able to deliver the Penguins
from the rage of the dragon.

 

X. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

Orberosia loved her husband, but she did not love him alone. At the hour when
Venus lightens in the pale sky, whilst Kraken scattered terror through the
villages, she used to visit in his moving hut, a young shepherd of Dalles
called Marcel, whose pleasing form was invested with inexhaustible vigour. The
fair Orberosia shared the shepherd's aromatic couch with delight, but far from
making herself known to him, she took the name of Bridget, and said that she
was the daughter of a gardener in the Bay of Divers. When regretfully she left
his arms she walked across the smoking fields towards the Coast of Shadows,
and if she happened to meet some belated peasant she immediately spread out
her garments like great wings and cried:

"Passer by, lower your eyes, that you may not have to say, 'Alas! alas! woe is
me, for I have seen the angel of the Lord.'"


The villagers tremblingly knelt with their faces to the round. And several of
them used to say that angels, whom it would be death to see, passed along the
roads of the island in the night time.

Kraken did not know of the loves of Orberosia and Marcel, for he was a hero,
and heroes never discover the secrets of their wives. But though he did not
know of these loves, he reaped the benefit of them. Every night he found his
companion more good-humoured and more beautiful, exhaling pleasure and
perfuming the nuptial bed with a delicious odour of fennel and vervain. She
loved Kraken with a love that never became importunate or anxious, because she
did not rest its whole weight on him alone.

This lucky infidelity of Orberosia was destined soon to save the hero from a
great peril and to assure his fortune and his glory for ever. For it happened
that she saw passing in the twilight a neatherd from Belmont, who was goading
on his oxen, and she fell more deeply in love with him than she had ever been
with the shepherd Marcel. He was hunch-backed; his shoulders were higher than
his ears; his body was supported by legs of different lengths; his rolling
eyes flashed, from beneath his matted hair. From his throat issued a hoarse
voice and strident laughter; he smelt of the cow-shed. However, to her he was
beautiful. "A plant," as Gnatho says, "has been loved by one, a stream by
another, a beast by a third."

Now, one day, as she was sighing within the neatherd's arms in a village barn,
suddenly the blasts of a trumpet, with sounds and footsteps, fell upon her
ears; she looked through the window and saw the inhabitants collected in the
marketplace round a young monk, who, standing upon a rock, uttered these words
in a distinct voice:

"Inhabitants of Belmont, Abbot Mael, our venerable father, informs you through
my mouth that neither by strength nor skill in arms shall you prevail against
the dragon; but the beast shall be overcome by a virgin. If, then, there be
among you a perfectly pure virgin, let her arise and go towards the monster;
and when she meets him let her tie her girdle round his neck and she shall
lead him as easily as if he were a little dog."

And the young monk, replacing his hood upon his head, departed to carry the
proclamation of the blessed Mael to other villages.

Orberosia sat in the amorous straw, resting her head in her hand and
supporting her elbow upon her knee, meditating on what she had just heard.

Although, so far as Kraken was concerned, she feared the power of a virgin
much less than the strength of armed men, she did not feel reassured by the
proclamation of the blessed Mael. A vague but sure instinct ruled her mind and
warned her that Kraken could not henceforth be a dragon with safety.

She said to the neatherd:

"My own heart, what do you think about the dragon?"

The rustic shook his head.

"It is certain that dragons laid waste the earth in ancient times and some
have been seen as large as mountains. But they come no longer, and I believe
that what has been taken for a dragon is not one at all, but pirates or
merchants who have carried off the fair Orberosia and the best of the children
of Alca in their ships. But if one of those brigands attempts to rob me of my
oxen, I will either by force or craft find a way to prevent him from doing me
any harm."

This remark of the neatherd increased Orberosia's apprehensions and added to
her solicitude for the husband whom she loved.

 

X. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

The days passed by and no maiden arose in the island to combat the monster.
And in the wooden monastery old Mael, seated on a bench in the shade of an old
fig-tree, accompanied by a pious monk called Regimental, kept asking himself
anxiously and sadly how it was that there was not in Alca a single virgin fit
to overthrow the monster.

He sighed and brother Regimental sighed too. At that moment old Mael called
young Samuel, who happened to pass through the garden, and said to him:

"I have meditated anew, my son, on the means of destroying the dragon who
devours the flower of our youth, our flocks, and our harvests. In this respect
the story of the dragons of St. Riok and of St. Pol de Leon seems to me
particularly instructive. The dragon of St. Riok was six fathoms long; his
head was derived from the cock and the basilisk, his body from the ox and the
serpent; he ravaged the banks of the Elorn in the time of King Bristocus. St.
Riok, then aged two years, led him by a leash to the sea, in which the monster
drowned himself of his own accord. St. Pol's dragon was sixty feet long and
not less terrible. The blessed apostle of Leon bound him with his stole and
allowed a young noble of great purity of life to lead him. These examples
prove that in the eyes of God a chaste young man is as agreeable as a chaste
girl. Heaven makes no distinction between them. For this reason, my son, if
you believe what I say, we will both go to the Coast of Shadows; when we reach
the dragon's cavern we will call the monster in a loud voice, and when he
comes forth I will tie my stole round his neck and you will lead him to the
sea, where he will not fail to drown himself."


At the old man's words Samuel cast down his head and did not answer.

"You seem to hesitate, my son," said Mael.

Brother Regimental, contrary to his custom, spoke without being addressed.

"There is at least cause for some hesitation," said he. "St. Riok was only two
years old when he overcame the dragon. Who says that nine or ten years later
he could have done as much? Remember, father, that the dragon who is
devastating our island has devoured little Elo and four or five other young
boys. Brother Samuel is not go presumptuous as to believe that at nineteen
years of age he is more innocent than they were at twelve and fourteen.

"Alas!" added the monk, with a groan, "who can boast of being chaste in this
world, where everything gives the example and model of love, where all things
in nature, animals, and plants, show us the caresses of love and advise us to
share them? Animals are eager to unite in their own fashion, but the various
marriages of quadrupeds, birds, fishes, and reptiles are far from equalling in
lust the nuptials of the trees. The greatest extremes of lewdness that the
pagans have imagined in their fables are outstripped by the simple flowers of
the field, and, if you knew the irregularities of lilies and roses you would
take those chalices of impurity, those vases of scandal, away from your
altars."

"Do not speak in this way, Brother Regimental," answered old Mael. "Since they
are subject to the law of nature, animals and plants are always innocent. They
have no souls to save, whilst man--"

"You are right," replied Brother Regimental, "it is quite a different thing.
But do not send young Samuel to the dragon--the dragon might devour him. For
the last five years Samuel is not in a state to show his innocence to
monsters. In the year of the comet, the Devil in order to seduce him, put in
his path a milkmaid, who was lifting up her petticoat to cross a ford. Samuel
was tempted, but he overcame the temptation. The Devil, who never tires, sent
him the image of that young girl in a dream. The shade did what the reality
was unable to accomplish, and Samuel yielded. When he awoke be moistened his
couch with his tears, but alas! repentance did not give him back his
innocence."

As he listened to this story Samuel asked himself how his secret could be
known, for he was ignorant that the Devil had borrowed the appearance of
Brother Regimental, so as to trouble the hearts of the monks of Alca.

And old Mael remained deep in thought and kept asking himself in grief:

"Who will deliver us from the dragon's tooth? Who will preserve us from his
breath? Who will save us from his look?"

However, the inhabitants of Alca began to take courage. The labourers of
Dombes and the neatherds of Belmont swore that they themselves would be of
more avail than a girl against the ferocious beast, and they exclaimed as they
stroked the muscles on their arms, "Let the dragon come!" Many men and women
had seen him. They did not agree about his form and his figure, but all now
united in saying that he was not as big as they had thought, and that his
height was not much greater than a man's. The defence was organised; towards
nightfall watches were stationed at the entrances of the villages ready to
give the alarm; and during the night companies armed with pitchforks and
scythes protected the paddocks in which the animals were shut up. Indeed, once
in the village of Anis some plucky labourers surprised him as he was scaling
Morio's wall, and, as they had flails, scythes, and pitchforks, they fell upon
him and pressed him hard. One of them, a very quick and courageous man,
thought to have run him through with his pitchfork; but he slipped in a pool
and so let him escape. The others would certainly have caught him had they not
waited to pick up the rabbits and fowls that he dropped in his flight.

Those labourers declared to the Elders of the village that the monster's form
and proportions appeased to them human enough except for his head and his
tail, which were, in truth, terrifying.

 

XI. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

On that day Kraken came back to his cavern sooner than usual. He took from his
head his sealskin helmet with its two bull's horns and its visor trimmed with
terrible hooks. He threw on the table his gloves that ended in horrible
claws--they were the beaks of sea-birds. He unhooked his belt from which hung
a long green tail twisted into many folds. Then he ordered his page, Elo, to
help him off with his boots and, as the child did not succeed in doing this
very quickly, he gave him a kick that sent him to the other end of the grotto.

Without looking at the fair Orberosia, who was spinning, he seated himself in
front of the fireplace, on which a sheep was roasting, and he muttered:

"Ignoble Penguins. . . . There is no worse trade than a dragon's."


"What does my master say?" asked the fair Orberosia.

"They fear me no longer," continued Kraken. "Formerly everyone fled at my
approach. I carried away hens and rabbits in my bag; I drove sheep and pigs,
cows, and oxen before me. To-day these clod-hoppers keep a good guard; they
sit up at night. Just now I was pursued in the village of Anis by doughty
labourers armed with flails and scythes and pitchforks. I had to drop the hens
and rabbits, put my tail under my arm, and run as fast as I could. Now I ask
you, is it seemly for a dragon of Cappadocia to run away like a robber with
his tail under his arm? Further, incommoded as I was by crests, horns, hooks,
claws, and scales, I barely escaped a brute who ran half an inch of his
pitchfork into my left thigh."

As he said this he carefully ran his hand over the insulted part, and, after
giving himself up for a few moments to bitter meditation:

"What idiots those Penguins are! I am tired of blowing flames in the faces of
such imbeciles. Orberosia, do you hear me?"

Having thus spoken the hero raised his terrible helmet in his hands and gazed
at it for a long time in gloomy silence. Then he pronounced these rapid words:

"I have made this helmet with my own hands in the shape of a fish's head,
covering it with the skin of a seal. To make it more terrible I have put on it
the horns of a bull and I have given it a boar's jaws; I have hung from it a
horse's tail dyed vermilion. When in the gloomy twilight I threw it over my
shoulders no inhabitant of this island had courage to withstand its sight.
Women and children, young men and old men fled distracted at its approach, and
I carried terror among the whole race of Penguins. By what advice does that
insolent people lose its earlier fears and dare to-day to behold these
horrible jaws and to attack this terrible crest?"

And throwing his helmet on the rocky soil:

"Perish, deceitful helmet!" cried Kraken. "I swear by all the demons of Armor
that I will never bear you upon my head again."

And having uttered this oath he stamped upon his helmet, his gloves, his
boots, and upon his tail with its twisted folds.

"Kraken," said the fair Orberosia, "will you allow your servant to employ
artifice to save your reputation and your goods? Do not despise a woman's
help. You need it, for all men are imbeciles."

"Woman," asked Kraken, "what are your plans?"

And the fair Orberosia informed her husband that the monks were going through
the villages teaching the inhabitants the best way of combating the dragon;
that, according to their instructions, the beast would be overcome by a
virgin, and that if a maid placed her girdle around the dragon's neck she
could lead him as easily as if he were a little dog.

"How do you know that the monks teach this?" asked Kraken.

"My friend," answered Orberosia, "do not interrupt a serious subject by
frivolous questions. . . . 'If, then,' added the monks, 'there be in Alca a
pure virgin, let her arise!' Now, Kraken, I have determined to answer their
call. I will go and find the holy Mael and I will say to him: 'I am the virgin
destined by Heaven to overthrow the dragon.'"

At these words Kraken exclaimed: "How can you be that pure virgin? And why do
you want to overthrow me, Orberosia? Have you lost your reason? Be sure that I
will not allow myself to be conquered by you!"

"Can you not try and understand me before you get angry?" sighed the fair
Orberosia with deep though gentle contempt.

And she explained the cunning designs that she had formed.

As he listened, the hero remained pensive. And when she ceased speaking:

"Orberosia, your cunning, is deep," said he, "And if your plans are carried
out according to your intentions I shall derive great advantages from them.
But how can you be the virgin destined by heaven?"

"Don't bother about that," she replied, "and come to bed."

The next day in the grease-laden atmosphere of the cavern, Kraken plaited a
deformed skeleton out of osier rods and covered it with bristling, scaly, and
filthy skins. To one extremity of the skeleton Orberosia sewed the fierce
crest and the hideous mask that Kraken used to wear in his plundering
expeditions, and to the other end she fastened the tail with twisted folds
which the hero was wont to trail behind him. And when the work was finished
they showed little Elo and the other five children who waited on them how to
get inside this machine, how to make it walk, how to blow horns and burn tow
in it so as to send forth smoke and flames through the dragon's mouth.

 

XII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation)

Orberosia, having clothed herself in a robe made of coarse stuff and girt
herself with a thick cord, went to the monastery and asked to speak to the
blessed Mael. And because women were forbidden to enter the enclosure of the
monastery the old man advanced outside the gates, holding his pastoral cross
in his right hand and resting his left on the shoulder of Brother Samuel, the
youngest of his disciples.

He asked:

"Woman, who art thou?"

"I am the maiden Orberosia."

At this reply Mael raised his trembling arms to heaven.

"Do you speak truth, woman? It is a certain fact that Orberosia was devoured
by the dragon. And yet I see Orberosia and hear her. Did you not, O my
daughter, while within the dragon's bowels arm yourself with the sign of the
cross and come uninjured out of his throat? That is what seems to me the most
credible explanation."


"You are not deceived, father," answered Orberosia. "That is precisely what
happened to me. Immediately I came out of the creature's bowels I took refuge
in a hermitage on the Coast of Shadows. I lived there in solitude, giving
myself up to prayer and meditation, and performing unheard of austerities,
until I learnt by a revelation from heaven that a maid alone could overcome
the dragon, and that I was that maid."

"Show me a sign of your mission," said the old man.

"I myself am the sign," answered Orberosia.

"I am not ignorant of the power of those who have placed a seal upon their
flesh," replied the apostle of the Penguins. But are you indeed such as you
say?"

"You will see by the result," answered Orberosia.

The monk Regimental drew near:

"That will," said he, "be the best proof. King Solomon has said: 'Three things
are hard to understand and a fourth is impossible: they are the way of a
serpent on the earth, the way of a bird in the air, the way of a ship in the
sea, and the way of a man with a maid!' I regard such matrons as nothing less
than presumptuous who claim to compare themselves in these matters with the
wisest of kings. Father, if you are led by me you will not consult them in
regard to the pious Orberosia. When they have given their opinion you will not
be a bit farther on than before. Virginity is not less difficult to prove than
to keep. Pliny tells us in his history that its signs are either imaginary or
very uncertain.* One who bears upon her the fourteen signs of corruption may
yet be pure in the eyes of the angels, and, on the contrary, another who has
been pronounced pure by the matrons who inspected her may know that her good
appearance is due to the artifices of a cunning perversity. As for the purity
of this holy girl here, I would put my hand in the fire in witness of it."

* We have vainly sought for this phrase in Pliny's "Natural History."--Editor.


He spoke thus because he was the Devil. But old Mael did not know it. He asked
the pious Orberosia:

"My daughter, how, would you proceed to conquer so fierce an animal as he who
devoured you?"

The virgin answered:

"To-morrow at sunrise, O Mael, you will summon the people together on the hill
in front of the desolate moor that extends to the Coast of Shadows, and you
will take care that no man of the Penguins remains less than five hundred
paces from those rocks so that he may not be poisoned by the monster's breath.
And the dragon will come out of the rocks and I will put my girdle round his
neck and lead him like an obedient dog."

"Ought you not to be accompanied by a courageous and pious man who will kill
the dragon?" asked Mael.

"It will be as thou sayest, venerable father. I shall deliver the monster to
Kraken, who will stay him with his flashing sword. For I tell thee that the
noble Kraken, who was believed to be dead, will return among the Penguins and
he shall slay the dragon. And from the creature's belly will come forth the
little children whom he has devoured."

"What you declare to me, O virgin," cried the apostle, "seems wonderful and
beyond human power."

"It is," answered the virgin Orberosia. "But learn, O Mael, that I have had a
revelation that as a reward for their deliverance, the Penguin people will pay
to the knight Kraken an annual tribute of three hundred fowls, twelve sheep,
two oxen, three pigs, one thousand eight hundred bushels of corn, and
vegetables according to their season; and that, moreover, the children who
will come out of the dragon's belly will be given and committed to the said
Kraken to serve him and obey him in all things. If the Penguin people fail to
keep their engagements a new dragon will come upon the island more terrible
than the first. I have spoken."

 

XIII. THE DRAGON OF ALCA (Continuation and End)

The people of the Penguins were assembled by Mael and they spent the night on
the Coast of Shadows within the bounds which the holy man had prescribed in
order that none among the Penguins should be poisoned by the monster's breath.

The veil of night still covered the earth when, preceded by a hoarse
bellowing, the dragon showed his indistinct and monstrous form upon the rocky
coast. He crawled like a serpent and his writhing body seemed about fifteen
feet long. At his appearance the crowd drew back in terror. But soon all eyes
were turned towards the Virgin Orberosia, who, in the first light of the dawn,
clothed in white, advanced over the purple heather. With an intrepid though
modest gait she walked towards the beast, who, uttering awful bellowings,
opened his flaming throat. An immense cry of terror and pity arose from the
midst of the Penguins. But the virgin, unloosing her linen girdle, put it
round the dragon's neck and led him on the leash like a faithful dog amid the
acclamations of the spectators.


She had walked over a long stretch of the heath when Kraken appeared armed
with a flashing sword. The people, who believed him dead, uttered cries of joy
and surprise. The hero rushed towards the beast, turned him over on his back,
and with his sword cut open his belly, from whence came forth in their shirts,
with curling hair and folded hands, little Elo and the five other children
whom the monster had devoured.

Immediately they threw themselves on their knees before the virgin Orberosia,
who took them in her arms and whispered into their ears:

"You will go through the villages saying: 'We are the poor little children who
were devoured by the dragon, and we came out of his belly in our shirts.' The
inhabitants will give you abundance of all that you can desire. But if you say
anything else you will get nothing but cuffs and whippings. Go!"

Several Penguins, seeing the dragon disembowelled, rushed forward to cut him
to pieces, some from a feeling of rage and vengeance, others to get the magic
stone called dragonite, that is engendered in his head. The mothers of the
children who had come back to life ran to embrace their little ones. But the
holy Mael kept them back, saying that none of them were holy enough to
approach a dragon without dying.

And soon little Elo, and the five other children came towards the people and
said:

"We are the poor little children who were devoured by the dragon and we came
out of his belly in our shirts."

And all who heard them kissed them and said:

"Blessed children, we will give you abundance of all that you can desire."

And the crowd of people dispersed, full of joy, singing hymns and canticles.

To commemorate this day on which Providence delivered the people from a cruel
scourge, processions were established in which the effigy of a chained dragon
was led about.

Kraken levied the tribute and became the richest and most powerful of the
Penguins. As a sign of his victory and so as to inspire a salutary terror, he
wore a dragon's crest upon his head and he had a habit of saying to the
people:

"Now that the monster is dead I am the dragon."

For many years Orberosia bestowed her favours upon neatherds and shepherds,
whom she thought equal to the gods. But when she was no longer beautiful she
consecrated herself to the Lord.

At her death she became the object of public veneration, and was admitted into
the calendar of the saints and adopted as the patron saint of Penguinia.

Kraken left a son, who, like his father, wore a dragon's crest, and he was for
this reason surnamed Draco. He was the founder of the first royal dynasty of
the Penguins.

 

BOOK III. THE MIDDLE AGES AND THE RENAISSANCE

 

I. BRIAN THE GOOD AND QUEEN GLAMORGAN

The kings of Alca were descended from Draco,the son of Kraken,and they wore on
their heads a terrible dragon's crest, as a sacred badge whose appearance
alone inspired the people with veneration, terror, and love. They were
perpetually in conflict either with their own vassals and subjects or with the
princes of the adjoining islands and continents.


The most ancient of these kings has left but a name. We do not even know how
to pronounce or write it. The first of the Draconides whose history is known
was Brian the Good, renowned for his skill and courage in war and in the
chase.

He was a Christian and loved learning. He also favoured men who had vowed
themselves to the monastic life. In the hall of his palace where, under the
sooty rafters, there hung the heads, pelts, and horns of wild beasts, he held
feasts to which all the harpers of Alca and of the neighbouring islands were
invited, and he himself used to join in singing the praises of the heroes. He
was just and magnanimous, but inflamed by so ardent a love of glory that he
could not restrain himself from putting to death those who had sung better
than himself.

The monks of Yvern having been driven out by the pagans who ravaged Brittany,
King Brian summoned them into his kingdom and built a wooden monastery for
them near his palace. Every day he went with Queen Glamorgan, his wife, into
the monastery chapel and was present at the religious ceremonies and joined in
the hymns.

Now among these monks there was a brother called Oddoul, who, while still in
the flower of his youth, had adorned himself with knowledge and virtue. The
devil entertained a great grudge against him, and attempted several times to
lead him into temptation. He took several shapes and appeared to him in turn
as a war-horse, a young maiden, and a cup of mead. Then he rattled two dice in
a dicebox and said to him:

"Will you play with me for the kingdoms of, the world against one of the hairs
of your head?"

But the man of the Lord, armed with the sign of the Cross, repulsed the enemy.
Perceiving that he could not seduce him, the devil thought of an artful plan
to ruin him. One summer night he approached the queen, who slept upon her
couch, showed her an image of the young monk whom she saw every day in the
wooden monastery, and upon this image he placed a spell. Forthwith, like a
subtle poison, love flowed into Glamorgan's veins, and she burned with an
ardent desire to do as she listed with Oddoul. She found unceasing pretexts to
have him near her. Several times she asked him to teach reading and singing to
her children.

"I entrust them to you," said she to him. "And will follow the lessons you
will give them so that I myself may learn also. You will teach both mother and
sons at the same time."

But the young monk kept making excuses. At times he would say that he was not
a learned enough teacher, and on other occasions that his state forbade him
all intercourse with women. This refusal inflamed Glamorgan's passion. One day
as she lay pining upon her couch, her malady having become intolerable, she
summoned Oddoul to her chamber. He came in obedience to her orders, but
remained with his eyes cast down towards the threshold of the door. With
impatience and grief she resented his not looking at her.

"See," said she to him, "I have no more strength, a shadow is on my eyes. My
body is both burning and freezing."

And as he kept silence and made no movement, she called him in a voice of
entreaty:

"Come to me, come!"

With outstretched arms to which passion gave more length, she endeavoured to
seize him and draw him towards her.

But he fled away, reproaching her for her wantonness.

Then, incensed with rage and fearing that Oddoul might divulge the shame into
which she had fallen, she determined to ruin him so that he might not ruin
her.

In a voice of lamentation that resounded throughout all the palace she called
for help, as if, in truth, she were in some great danger. Her servants rushed
up and saw the young monk fleeing and the queen pulling back the sheets upon
her couch. They all cried out together. And when King Brian, attracted by the
noise, entered the chamber, Glamorgan, showing him her dishevelled hair, her
eyes flooded with tears, and her bosom that in the fury of her love she had
torn with her nails, said:

"My lord and husband, behold the traces of the insults I have undergone.
Driven by an infamous desire Oddoul has approached me and attempted to do me
violence."

When he heard these complaints and saw the blood, the king, transported with
fury, ordered his guards to seize the young monk and burn him alive before the
palace under the queen's eyes.

Being told of the affair, the Abbot of Yvern went to the king and said to him:

"King Brian, know by this example the difference between a Christian woman and
a pagan. Roman Lucretia was the most virtuous of idolatrous princesses, yet
she had not the strength to defend herself against the attacks of an
effeminate youth, and, ashamed of her weakness, she gave way to despair,
whilst Glamorgan has successfully withstood the assaults of a criminal filled
with rage, and possessed by the most terrible of demons." Meanwhile Oddoul, in
the prison of the palace, was waitin for the moment when he should be burned
alive. But God did not suffer an innocent to perish. He sent to him an angel,
who, taking the form of one of the queen's servants called Gudrune, took him
out of his prison and led him into the very room where the woman whose
appearance he had taken dwelt.

And the angel said to young Oddoul:

"I love thee because thou art daring."

And young Oddoul, believing that it was Gudrune herself, answered with
downcast looks:

"It is by the grace of the Lord that I have resisted the violence of the queen
and braved the anger of that powerful woman."

And the angel asked:

"What? Hast thou not done what the queen accuses thee of?"

"In truth no, I have not done it," answered Oddoul, his hand on his heart.

"Thou hast not done it?"

"No, I have not done it. The very thought of such an action fills me with
horror."

"Then," cried the angel, "what art thou doing here, thou impotent creature?" *

* The Penguin chronicler who relates the fact employs the expression, Species
inductilis. I have endeavoured to translate it literally.


And she opened the door to facilitate the young man's escape. Oddoul felt
himself pushed violently out. Scarcely had he gone down into the street than a
chamber-pot was poured over his head; and he thought:

"Mysterious are thy designs, O Lord, and thy ways past finding out."

 

II. DRACO THE GREAT (Translation of the Relics of St. Orberosia)

The direct posterity of Brian the Good was extinguished about the year 900 in
the person of Collic of the Short Nose. A cousin of that prince, Bosco the
Magnanimous, succeeded him, and took care, in order to assure himself of the
throne, to put to death all his relations. There issued from him a long line
of powerful kings.


One of them, Draco the Great, attained great renown as a man of war. He was
defeated more frequently than the others. It is by this constancy in defeat
that great captains are recognized. In twenty years he burned down more than a
hundred thousand hamlets, market towns, unwalled towns, villages, walled
towns, cities, and universities. He set fire impartially to his enemies'
territory and to his own domains. And he used to explain his conduct by
saying:

"War without fire is like tripe without mustard: it is an insipid thing."

His justice was rigorous. When the peasants whom he made prisoners were unable
to raise the money for their ransoms he had them hanged from a tree, and if
any unhappy woman came to plead for her destitute husband he dragged her by
the hair at his horse's tail. He lived like a soldier without effeminacy. It
is satisfactory to relate that his manner of life was pure. Not only did he
not allow his kingdom to decline from its hereditary glory, but, even in his
reverses he valiantly supported the honour of the Penguin people.

Draco the Great caused the relics of St. Orberosia to be transferred to Alca.

The body of the blessed saint had been buried in a grotto on the Coast of
Shadows at the end of a scented heath. The first pilgrims who went to visit it
were the boys and girls from the neighbouring villages. They used to go there
in the evening, by preference in couples, as if their pious desires naturally
sought satisfaction in darkness and solitude. They worshipped the saint with a
fervent and discreet worship whose mystery they seemed jealously to guard, for
they did not like to publish too openly the experiences they felt. But they
were heard to murmur one to another words of love, delight, and rapture with
which they mingled the name of Orberosia. Some would sigh that there they
forgot the world; others would say that they came out of the grotto in peace
and calm; the young girls among them used to recall to each other the joy with
which they had been filled in it.

Such were the marvels that the virgin of Alca performed in the morning of her
glorious eternity; they had the sweetness and indefiniteness of the dawn. Soon
the mystery of the grotto spread like a perfume throughout the land; it was a
ground of joy and edification for pious souls, and corrupt men endeavoured,
though in vain, by falsehood and calumny, to divert the faithful from the
springs of grace that flowed from the saint's tomb. The Church took measures
so that these graces should not remain reserved for a few children, but should
be diffused throughout all Penguin Christianity. Monks took up their quarters
in the grotto, they built a monastery, a chapel, and a hostelry on the coast,
and pilgrims began to flock thither.

As if strengthened by a longer sojourn in heaven, the blessed Orberosia now
performed still greater miracles for those who came to lay their offerings on
her tomb. She gave hopes to women who had been hitherto barren, she sent
dreams to reassure jealous old men concerning the fidelity of the young wives
whom they had suspected without cause, and she protected the country from
plagues, murrains, famines, tempests, and dragons of Cappadocia.

But during the troubles that desolated the kingdom in the time of King Collic
and his successors, the tomb of St. Orberosia was plundered of its wealth, the
monastery burned down, and the monks dispersed. The road that had been so long
trodden by devout pilgrims was overgrown with furze and heather, and the blue
thistles of the sands. For a hundred years the miraculous tomb had been
visited by none save vipers, weasels, and bats, when, one day the saint
appeared to a peasant of the neighbourhood, Momordic by name.

"I am the virgin Orberosia," said she to him; "I have chosen thee to restore
my sanctuary. Warn the inhabitants of the country that if they allow my memory
to be blotted out, and leave my tomb without honour and wealth, a new dragon
will come and devastate Penguinia."

Learned churchmen held an inquiry concerning this apparition, and pronounced
it genuine, and not diabolical but truly heavenly, and in later years it was
remarked that in France, in like circumstances, St. Foy and St. Catherine had
acted in the same way and made use of similar language.

The monastery was restored and pilgrims flocked to it anew. The virgin
Orberosia worked greater and greater miracles. She cured divers hurtful
maladies, particularly club-foot, dropsy, paralysis, and St. Guy's disease.
The monks who kept the tomb were enjoying an enviable opulence, when the
saint, appearing to King Draco the Great, ordered him to recognise her as the
heavenly patron of the kingdom and to transfer her precious remains to the
cathedral of Alca.

In consequence, the odoriferous relics of that virgin were carried with great
pomp to the metropolitan church and placed in the middle of the choir in a
shrine made of gold and enamel and ornamented with precious stones.

The chapter kept a record of the miracles wrought by the blessed Orberosia.

Draco the Great, who had never ceased to defend and exalt the Christian faith,
died fulfilled with the most pious sentiments and bequeathed his great
possessions to the Church.

 

II. QUEEN CRUCHA

Terrible disorders followed the death of Draco the Great. That prince's
successors have often been accused of weakness, and it is true that none of
them followed, even from afar, the example of their valiant ancestor.

His son, Chum, who was lame, failed to increase the territory of the Penguins.
Bolo, the son of Chum, was assassinated by the palace guards at the age of
nine, just as he was ascending the throne. His brother Gun succeeded him. He
was only seven years old and allowed himself to be governed by his mother,
Queen Crucha.


Crucha was beautiful, learned, and intelligent; but she was unable to curb her
own passions.

These are the terms in which the venerable Talpa expresses himself in his
chronicle regarding that illustrious queen:

"In beauty of face and symmetry of figure Queen Crucha yields neither to
Semiramis of Babylon nor to Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons; nor to Salome,
the daughter of Herodias. But she offers in her person certain singularities
that will appear beautiful or uncomely according to the contradictory opinions
of men and the varying judgments of the world. She has on her forehead two
small horns which she conceals in the abundant folds of her golden hair; one
of her eyes is blue and one is black; her neck is bent towards the left side;
and, like Alexander of Macedon, she has six fingers on her right hand, and a
stain like a little monkey's head upon her skin.

"Her gait is majestic and her manner affable. She is magnificent in her
expenses, but she is not always able to rule desire by reason.

"One day, having noticed in the palace stables, a young groom of great beauty,
she immediately fell violently in love with him, and entrusted to him the
command of her armies. What one must praise unreservedly in this great queen
is the abundance of gifts that she makes to the churches, monasteries, and
chapels in her kingdom, and especially to the holy house of Beargarden, where,
by the grace of the Lord, I made my profession in my fourteenth year. She has
founded masses for the repose of her soul in such great numbers that every
priest in the Penguin Church is, so to speak, transformed into a taper lighted
in the sight of heaven to draw down the divine mercy upon the august Crucha."

From these lines and from some others with which have enriched my text the
reader can judge of the historical and literary value of the "Gesta
Penguinorum." Unhappily, that chronicle suddenly comes suddenly to an end at
third year of Draco the Simple, the successor of Gun the Weak. Having reached
that point of my history, I deplore the loss of an agreeable and trustworthy
guide.

During the two centuries that followed, the Penguins remained plunged in
blood-stained disorder. All the arts perished. In the midst of the general
ignorance, the monks in the shadow of their cloister devoted themselves to
study, and copied the Holy Scriptures with indefatigable zeal. As parchment
was scarce,they scraped the writing off old manuscripts in order to transcribe
upon them the divine word. Thus throughout the breadth of Penguinia Bibles
blossomed forth like roses on a bush.

A monk of the order of St. Benedict, Ermold the Penguin, had himself alone
defaced four thousand Greek and Latin manuscripts so as to copy out the Gospel
of St. John four thousand times. Thus the masterpieces of ancient poetry and
eloquence were destroyed in great numbers. Historians are unanimous in
recognising that the Penguin convents were the refuge of learning during the
Middle Ages.

Unending wars between the Penguins and the Porpoises filled the close of this
period. It is extremely difficult to know the truth concerning these wars, not
because accounts are wanting, but because there are so many of them. The
Porpoise Chronicles contradict the Penguin Chronicles at every point. And,
moreover, the Penguins contradict each other as well as the Porpoises. I have
discovered two chronicles that are in agreement, but one has copied from the
other. A single fact is certain, namely, that massacres, rapes,
conflagrations, and plunder succeeded one another without interruption.

Under the unhappy prince Bosco IX. the kingdom was at the verge of ruin. On
the news that the Porpoise fleet, composed of six hundred great ships, was in
sight of Alca, the bishop ordered a solemn procession. The cathedral chapter,
the elected magistrates, the members of Parliament, and the clerics of the
University entered the Cathedral and, taking up St. Orberosia's shrine, led it
in procession through the town, followed by the entire people singing hymns.
The holy patron of Penguinia was not invoked in vain. Nevertheless, the
Porpoises besieged the town both by land and sea, took it by assault, and for
three days and three nights killed, plundered, violated, and burned, with all
the indifference that habit produces.

Our astonishment cannot be too great at the fact that, during those iron ages,
the faith was preserved intact among the Penguins. The splendour of the truth
in those times illumined all souls that had not been corrupted by sophisms.
This is the explanation of the unity of belief. A constant practice of the
Church doubtless contributed also to maintain this happy communion of the
faithful--every Penguin who thought differently from the others was
immediately burned at the stake.

 

IV. LETTERS: JOHANNES TALPA

During the minority of King Gun, Johannes Talpa, in the monastery of
Beargarden, where at the age of fourteen he had made his profession and from
which he never departed for a single day throughout his life, composed his
celebrated Latin chronicle in twelve books called "De Gestis Penguinorum."

The monastery of Beargarden lifts its high walls on the summit of an
inaccessible peak. One sees around it only the blue tops of mountains, divided
by the clouds.

When he began to write his "Gesta Penguinorum," Johannes Talpa was already
old. The good monk has taken care to tell us this in his book: "My head has
long since lost," he says, "its adornment of fair hair, and my scalp resembles
those convex mirrors of metal which the Penguin ladies consult with so much
care and zeal. My stature, naturally small, has with years become diminished
and bent. My white beard gives warmth to my breast."


With a charming simplicity, Talpa informs us of certain circumstances in his
life and some features in his character. "Descended," he tells us, "from a
noble family, and destined from childhood for the ecclesiastical state, I was
taught grammar and music. I learnt to read under the guidance of a master who
was called Amicus, and who would have been better named Inimicus. As I did not
easily attain to a knowledge of my letters, he beat me violently with rods so
that I can say that he printed the alphabet in strokes upon my back."

In another passage Talpa confesses his natural inclination towards pleasure.
These are his expressive words: "In my youth the ardour of my senses was such
that in the shadow of the woods I experienced a sensation of boiling in a pot
rather than of breathing the fresh air. I fled from women, but in vain, for
every object recalled them to me."

While he was writing his chronicle, a terrible war, at once foreign and
domestic, laid waste the Penguin land. The soldiers of Crucha came to defend
the monastery of Beargarden against the Penguin barbarians and established
themselves strongly within its walls. In order to render it impregnable they
pierced loop-holes through the walls and they took the lead off the church
roof to make balls for their slings. At night they lighted huge fires in the
courts and cloisters and on them they roasted whole oxen which they spitted
upon the ancient pine-trees of the mountain. Sitting around the flames, amid
smoke filled with a mingled odour of resin and fat, they broached huge casks
of wine and beer. Their songs, their blasphemies, and the noise of their
quarrels drowned the sound of the morning bells.

At last the Porpoises, having crossed the defiles, laid siege to the
monastery. They were warriors from the North, clad in copper armour. They
fastened ladders a hundred and fifty fathoms long to the sides of the cliffs
and sometimes in the darkness and storm these broke beneath the weight of men
and arms, and bunches of the besiegers were hurled into the ravines and
precipices. A prolonged wail would be heard going down into the darkness, and
the assault would begin again. The Penguins poured streams of burning wax upon
their assailants, which made them blaze like torches. Sixty times the enraged
Porpoises attempted to scale the monastery and sixty times they were repulsed.

For six months they had closely invested the monastery, when, on the day of
the Epiphany, a shepherd of the valley showed them a hidden path by which they
climbed the mountain, penetrated into the vaults of the abbey, ran through the
cloisters, the kitchens, the church, the chapter halls, the library, the
laundry, the cells, the refectories, and the dormitories, and burned the
buildings, killing and violating without distinction of age or sex. The
Penguins, awakened unexpectedly, ran to arms, but in the darkness and alarm
they struck at one another, whilst the Porpoises with blows of their axes
disputed the sacred vessels, the censers, the candlesticks, dalmatics,
reliquaries, golden crosses, and precious stones.

The air was filled with an acrid odour of burnt flesh. Groans and death-cries
arose in the midst of the flames, and on the edges of the crumbling roofs
monks ran in thousands like ants, and fell into the valley. Yet Johannes Talpa
kept on writing his Chronicle. The soldiers of Crucha retreated speedily and
filled up all the issues from the monastery with pieces of rock so as to shut
up the Porpoises in the burning buildings. And to crush the enemy beneath the
ruin they employed the trunks of old oaks as battering-rams. The burning
timbers fell in with a noise like thunder and the lofty arches of the naves
crumbled beneath the shock of these giant trees when moved by six hundred men
together. Soon there was left nothing of the rich and extensive abbey but the
cell of Johannes Talpa, which, by a marvellous chance, hung from the ruin of a
smoking gable. The old chronicler still kept writing.

This admirable intensity of thought may seem excessive in the case of an
annalist who applies himself to relate the events of his own time. However
abstracted and detached we may be from surrounding things, we nevertheless
resent their influence. I have consulted the original manuscript of Johannes
Talpa in the National Library, where it is preserved (Monumenta Peng., K. L6.,
12390 four). It is a parchment manuscript of 628 leaves. The writing is
extremely confused, the letters instead of being in a straight line, stray in
all directions and are mingled together in great disorder, or, more correctly
speaking, in absolute confusion. They are so badly formed that for the most
part it is impossible not merely to say what they are, but even to distinguish
them from the splashes of ink with which they are plentifully interspersed.
Those inestimable pages bear witness in this way to the troubles amid which
they were written. To read them is difficult. On the other hand, the monk of
Beargarden's style shows no trace of emotion. The tone of the "Gesta
Penguinorum" never departs from simplicity. The narration is rapid and of a
conciseness that sometimes approaches dryness. The reflections are rare and,
as a rule, judicious.

 

V. THE ARTS: THE PRIMITIVES OF PENGUIN PAINTING

The Penguin critics vie with one another in affirming that Penguin art has
from its origin been distinguished by a powerful and pleasing originality, and
that we may look elsewhere in vain for the qualities of grace and reason that
characterise its earliest works. But the Porpoises claim that their artists
were undoubtedly the instructors and masters of the Penguins. It is difficult
to form an opinion on the matter, because the Penguins, before they began to
admire their primitive painters, destroyed all their works.

We cannot be too sorry for this loss. For my own part I feel it cruelly, for I
venerate the Penguin antiquities and I adore the primitives. They are
delightful. I do not say the are all alike, for that would be untrue, but they
have common characters that are found in all schools--I mean formulas from
which they never depart--and there is besides something finished in their
work, for what they know they know well. Luckily we can form a notion of the
Penguin primitives from the Italian, Flemish, and Dutch primitives, and from
the French primitives, who are superior to all the rest; as M. Gruyer tells us
they are more logical, logic being a peculiarly French quality. Even if this
is denied it must at least be admitted that to France belongs the credit of
having kept primitives when the other nations knew them no longer. The
Exhibition of French Primitives at the Pavilion Marsan in 1904 contained
several little panels contemporary with the later Valois kings and with Henry
IV.


I have made many journeys to see the pictures of the brothers Van Eyck, of
Memling, of Roger van der Weyden, of the painter of the death of Mary, of
Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and of the old Umbrian masters. It was, however, neither
Bruges, nor Cologne, nor Sienna, nor Perugia, that completed my initiation; it
was in the little town of Arezzo that I became a conscious adept in primitive
painting. That was ten years ago or even longer. At that period of indigence
and simplicity, the municipal museums, though usually kept shut, were always
opened to foreigners. One evening an old woman with a candle showed me, for
half a lira, the sordid museum of Arezzo, and in it I discovered a painting by
Margaritone, a "St. Francis," the pious sadness of which moved me to tears. I
was deeply touched, and Margaritone,of Arezzo became from that day my dearest
primitive.

I picture to myself the Penguin primitives in conformity with the works of
that master. It will not therefore be thought superfluous if in this place I
consider his works with some attention, if not in detail, at least under their
more general and, if I dare say so, most representative aspect.

We possess five or six pictures signed with his hand. His masterpiece,
preserved in the National Gallery of London, represents the Virgin seated on a
throne and holding the infant Jesus in her arms. What strikes one first when
one looks at this figure is the proportion. The body from the neck to the feet
is only twice as long as the head, so that it appears extremely short and
podgy. This work is not less remarkable for its painting than for its drawing.
The great Margaritone had but a limited number of colours in his possession,
and he used them in all their purity without ever modifying the tones. From
this it follows that his colouring has more vivacity than harmony. The cheeks
of the Virgin and those of the Child are of a bright vermilion which the old
master, from a naive preference for clear definitions, has placed on each face
in two circumferences as exact as if they had been traced out by a pair of
compasses.

A learned critic of the eighteenth century, the Abbe Lanzi, has treated
Margaritone's works with profound disdain. "They are," he says. "merely crude
daubs. In those unfortunate times people could neither draw nor paint." Such
was the common opinion of the connoisseurs of the days of powdered wigs. But
the great Margaritone and his contemporaries were soon to be avenged for this
cruel contempt. There was born in the nineteenth century, in the biblical
villages and reformed cottages of pious England, a multitude of little Samuels
and little St. Johns, with hair curling like lambs, who, about 1840, and 1850,
became spectacled professors and founded the cult of the primitives.

That eminent theorist of Pre-Raphaelitism, Sir James Tuckett, does not shrink
from placing the Madonna of the National Gallery on a level with the
masterpieces of Christian art. "By giving to the Virgin's head," says Sir
James Tuckett, "a third of the total height of the figure, the old master
attracts the spectator's attention and keeps it directed towards the more
sublime parts of the human figure, and in particular the eyes, which we
ordinarily describe as the spiritual organs. In this picture, colouring and
design conspire to produce an ideal and mystical impression. The vermilion of
the cheeks does not recall the natural appearance of the skin; it rather seems
as if the old master has applied the roses of Paradise to the faces of the
Mother and the Child."

We see, in such a criticism as this, a shining reflection, so to speak, of the
work which it exalts; yet MacSilly, the seraphic aesthete of Edinburgh, has
expressed in a still more moving and penetrating fashion the impression
produced upon his mind by the sight of this primitive painting. "The Madonna
of Margaritone," says the revered MacSilly, "attains the transcendent end of
art. It inspires its beholders with feelings of innocence and purity; it makes
them like little children. And so true is this, that at the age of sixty-six,
after having had the joy of contemplating it closely for three hours, I felt
myself suddenly transformed into a little child. While my cab was taking me
through Trafalgar Square I kept laughing and prattling and shaking my
spectacle-case as if it were a rattle. And when the maid in my boarding-house
had served my meal I kept pouring spoonfuls of soup into my ear with all the
artlessness of childhood."

"It is by such results," adds MacSilly, "that the excellence of a work of art
is proved."

Margaritone, according to Vasari, died at the age of seventy-seven,
"regretting that he had lived to see a new form of art arising and the new
artists crowned with fame."

These lines, which I translate literally, have inspired Sir James Tuckett with
what are perhaps the finest pages in his work. They form part of his "Breviary
for Aesthetes"; all the Pre-Raphaelites know them by heart. I place them here
as the most precious ornament of this book. You will agree that nothing more
sublime has been written since the days of the Hebrew prophets.

MARGARITONE'S VISION

Margaritone, full of years and labours, went one day to visit the studio of a
young painter who had lately settled in the town. He noticed in the studio a
freshly painted Madonna, which, although severe and rigid, nevertheless, by a
certain exactness in the proportions and a devilish mingling of light and
shade, assumed an appearance of relief and life. At this sight the artless and
sublime worker of Arezzo perceived with horror what the future of painting
would be. With his brow clasped in his hands he exclaimed:


"What things of shame does not this figure show forth! I discern in it the end
of that Christian art which paints the soul and inspires the beholder with an
ardent desire for heaven. Future painters will not restrain themselves as does
this one to portraying on the side of a wall or on a wooden panel the cursed
matter of which our bodies are formed; they will celebrate and glorify it.
They will clothe their figures with dangerous appearances of flesh, and these
figures will seem like real persons. Their bodies will be seen; their forms
will appear through their clothing. St. Magdalen will have a bosom. St. Martha
a belly, St. Barbara hips, St. Agnes buttocks; St. Sebastian will unveil his
youthful beauty, and St. George will display beneath his armour the muscular
wealth of a robust virility; apostles, confessors, doctors, and God the Father
himself will appear as ordinary beings like you and me; the angels will affect
an equivocal, ambiguous, mysterious beauty which will trouble hearts. What
desire for heaven will these representations impart? None; but from them you
will learn to take pleasure in the forms of terrestrial life. Where will
painters stop in their indiscreet inquiries? They will stop nowhere. They will
go so far as to show men and women naked like the idols of the Romans. There
will be a sacred art and a profane art, and the sacred art will not be less
profane than the other."

"Get ye behind me, demons," exclaimed the old master. For in prophetic vision
he saw the righteous and the saints assuming the appearance of melancholy
athletes. He saw Apollos playing the lute on a flowery hill, in the midst of
the Muses wearing light tunics. He saw Venuses lying under shady myrtles and
the Danae exposing their charming sides to the golden rain. He saw pictures of
Jesus under the pillar's of the temple amidst patricians, fair ladies,
musicians, pages, negroes, dogs, and parrots. He saw in an inextricable
confusion of human limbs, outspread wings, and flying draperies, crowds of
tumultuous Nativities, opulent Holy Families, emphatic Crucifixions. He saw
St. Catherines, St. Barbaras, St. Agneses humiliating patricians by the
sumptuousness of their velvets, their brocades, and their pearls, and by the
splendour of their breasts. He saw Auroras scattering roses, and a multitude
of naked Dianas and Nymphs surprised on the banks of retired streams. And the
great Margaritone died, strangled by so horrible a presentiment of the
Renaissance and the Bolognese School.

 

VI. MARBODIUS

We possess a precious monument of the Penguin literature of the fifteenth
century. It is a narrative of a journey to hell undertaken by the monk
Marbodius, of the order of St. Benedict, who professed a fervent admiration
for the poet Virgil. This narrative, written in fairly good Latin, has been
published by M. du Clos des Limes. It is here translated for the first time. I
believe that I am doing a service to my fellow-countrymen in making them
acquainted with these pages, though doubtless they are far from forming a
unique example of this class of mediaeval Latin literature. Among the fictions
that may be compared with them we may mention "The Voyage of St. Brendan,"
"The Vision of Albericus," and "St. Patrick's Purgatory," imaginary
descriptions, like Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy," of the supposed abode of
the dead. The narrative of Marbodius is one of the latest works dealing with
this theme, but it is not the least singular.


THE DESCENT OF MARBODIUS INTO HELL

In the fourteen hundred and fifty-third year of the incarnation of the Son of
God, a few days before the enemies of the Cross entered the city of Helena and
the great Constantine, it was given to me, Brother Marbodius, an unworthy
monk, to see and to hear what none had hitherto seen or heard. I have composed
a faithful narrative of those things so that their memory may not perish with
me, for man's time is short.

On the first day of May in the aforesaid year, at the hour of vespers, I was
seated in the Abbey of Corrigan on a stone in the cloisters and, as my custom
was, I read the verses of the poet whom I love best of all, Virgil, who has
sung of the labours: of the field, of shepherds, and of heroes. Evening was
hanging its purple folds from the arches of the cloisters and in a voice of
emotion I was murmuring the verses which describe how Dido, the Phoenician
queen, wanders with her ever-bleeding wound beneath the myrtles of hell. At
that moment Brother Hilary happened to pass by, followed by Brother Jacinth,
the porter.


Brought up in the barbarous ages before the resurrection of the Muses, Brother
Hilary has not been initiated into the wisdom of the ancients; nevertheless,
the poetry of the Mantuan has, like a subtle torch, shed some gleams of light
into his understanding.

"Brother Marbodius," he asked me, "do those verses that you utter with
swelling breast and sparkling eyes--do they belong to that great 'Aeneid' from
which morning or evening your glances are never withheld?"

I answered that I was reading in Virgil how the son of Anchises perceived Dido
like a moon behind the foliage.*

* The text runs

. . .qualem primo qui syrgere mense
Aut videt aut vidisse putat per nubila lunam.

Brother Marbodius, by a strange misunderstanding, substitutes an entirely
different image for the one created by the poet.


"Brother Marbodius," he replied, "I am certain that on all occasions Virgil
gives expression to wise maxims and profound thoughts. But the songs that he
modulates on his Syracusan flute hold such a lofty meaning and such exalted
doctrine that I am continually puzzled by them."


"Take care, father," cried Brother Jacinth, in an agitated voice. "Virgil was
a magician who wrought marvels by the help of demons. It is thus he pierced
through a mountain near Naples and fashioned a bronze horse that had power to
heal all the diseases of horses. He was a necromancer, and there is still
shown, in a certain town in Italy, the mirror in which he made the dead
appear. And yet a woman deceived this great sorcerer. A Neapolitan courtesan
invited him to hoist himself up to her window in the basket that was used to
bring the provisions, and she left him all night suspended between two
storeys."

Brother Hilary did not appear to hear these observations.

"Virgil is a prophet," he replied, "and a prophet who leaves far behind him
the sibyls with their sacred verses as well as the daughter of King Priam, and
that great diviner of future things, Plato of Athens. You will find in the
fourth of his Syracusan cantos the birth of our Lord foretold in a lancune
that seems of heaven rather than of earth.* In the time of my early studies,
when I read for the first time JAM REDIT ET VIRGO, I felt myself bathed in an
infinite delight, but I immediately experienced intense grief at the thought
that, for ever deprived of the presence of God, the author of this prophetic
verse, the noblest that has come from human lips, was pining among the heathen
in eternal darkness. This cruel thought did not leave me. It pursued me even
in my studies, my prayers, my meditations, and my ascetic labours. Thinkin
that Virgil was deprived of the sight of God and that possibly he might even
be suffering the fate of the reprobate in hell, I could neither enjoy peace
nor rest, and I went so far as to exclaim several times a day with my arms
outstretched to heaven:

" 'Reveal to me, O Lord, the lot thou hast assigned to him who sang on earth
as the angels sing in heaven!'

*Three centuries before the epoch in which our Marbodius lived the words--
Maro, vates gentilium
Da Christo testimonium
Were sung in the churches on Christmas Day.


"After some years my anguish ceased when I read in an old book that the great
apostle St. Paul, who called the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, went to
Naples and sanctified with his tears the tomb of the prince of poets.* This
was some ground for believing that Virgil, like the Emperor Trajan, was
admitted to Paradise because even in error he had a presentiment of the truth.
We are not compelled to believe it, but I can easily persuade myself that it
is true."

*Ad maronis mausoleum
Ductus, fudit super eum
Piae rorem lacrymae.
Quem te, intuit, reddidissem,
Si te vivum invenissem
Poetarum maxime!


Having thus spoken, old Hilary wished me the peace of a holy night and went
away with Brother Jacinth.


I resumed the delightful study of my poet. Book in hand, I meditated upon the
way in which those whom Love destroys with its cruel malady wander through the
secret paths in the depth of the myrtle forest, and, as I meditated, the
quivering reflections of the stars came and mingled with those of the leafless
eglantines in the waters of the cloister fountain. Suddenly the lights and the
perfumes and the stillness of the sky were overwhelmed, a fierce Northwind
charged with storm and darkness burst roaring upon me. It lifted me up and
carried me like a wisp of straw over fields, cities, rivers, and mountains,
and through the midst of thunder-clouds, during a long night composed of a
whole series of nights and days. And when, after this prolonged and cruel
rage, the hurricane was at last stilled, I found myself far from my native
land at the bottom of a valley bordered by cypress trees. Then a woman of wild
beauty, trailing long garments behind her, approached me. She placed her left
hand on my shoulder, and, pointing her right arm to an oak with thick foliage:

"Look!" said she to me.

Immediately I recognised the Sibyl who guards the sacred wood of Avernus, and
I discerned the fair Proserpine's beautiful golden twig amongst the tufted
boughs of the tree to which her finger pointed.

"O prophetic Virgin," I exclaimed, "thou hast comprehended my desire and thou
hast satisfied it in this way. Thou hast revealed to me the tree that bears
the shining twig without which none can enter alive into the dwelling-place of
the dead. And in truth, eagerly did I long to converse with the shade of
Virgil."

Having said this, I snatched the golden branch from its ancient trunk and I
advanced without fear into the smoking gulf that leads to the miry banks of
the Styx, upon which the shades are tossed about like dead leaves. At sight of
the branch dedicated to Proserpine, Charon took me in his bark, which groaned
beneath my weight, and I alighted on the shores of the dead, and was greeted
by the mute baying of the threefold Cerberus. I pretended to throw the shade
of a stone at him, and the vain monster fled into his cave. There, amidst the
rushes, wandered the souls of those children whose eyes had but opened and
shut to the kindly light of day, and there in a gloomy cavern Minos judges
men. I penetrated into the myrtle wood in which the victims of love wander
languishing, Phaedra, Procris, the sad Eriphyle, Evadne, Pasiphae, Laodamia,
and Cenis, and the Phoenician Dido. Then I went through the dusty plains
reserved for famous warriors. Beyond them open two ways. That to the left
leads to Tartarus, the abode of the wicked. I took that to the right, which
leads to Elysium and to the dwellings of Dis. Having hung the sacred branch at
the goddess's door, I reached pleasant fields flooded with purple light. The
shades of philosophers and poets hold grave converse there. The Graces and the
Muses formed sprightly choirs upon the grass. Old Homer sang, accompanying
himself upon his rustic lyre. His eyes were closed, but divine images shone
upon his lips. I saw Solon, Democritus, and Pythagoras watching the games of
the young men in the meadow, and, through the foliage of an ancient laurel, I
perceived also Hesiod, Orpheus, the melancholy Euripides, and the masculine
Sappho. I passed and recognised, as they sat on the bank of a fresh rivulet,
the poet Horace, Varius, Gallus, and Lycoris. A little apart, leaning against
the trunk of a dark holm-oak, Virgil was gazing pensively at the grove. Of
lofty stature, though spare, he still preserved that swarthy complexion, that
rustic air, that negligent bearing, and unpolished appearance which during his
lifetime concealed his genius. I saluted him piously and remained for a long
time without speech.

At last when my halting voice could proceed out of my throat:

"O thou, so dear to the Ausonian Muses, thou honour of the Latin name,
Virgil," cried I, "it is through thee I have known what beauty is, it is
through thee I have known what the tables of the gods and the beds of the
goddesses are like. Suffer the praises of the humblest of thy adorers."

"Arise, stranger," answered the divine poet. "I perceive that thou art a
living being among the shades, and that thy body treads down the grass in this
eternal evening. Thou art not the first man who has descended before his death
into these dwellings, although all intercourse between us and the living is
difficult. But cease from praise; I do not like eulogies and the confused
sounds of glory have always offended my ears. That is why I fled from Rome,
where I was known to the idle and curious, and laboured in the solitude of my
beloved Parthenope. And then I am not so convinced that the men of thy
generation understand my verses that should be gratified by thy praises. Who
art thou?"

"I am called Marbodius of the Kingdom of Alca. I made my profession in the
Abbey of Corrigan. I read thy poems by day and I read them by night. It is
thee whom I have come to see in Hell; I was impatient to know what thy fate
was. On earth the learned often dispute about it. Some hold it probable that,
having lived under the power of demons, thou art now burning in
inextinguishable flames; others, more cautious, pronounce no opinion,
believing that all which is said concerning the dead is uncertain and full of
lies; several, though not in truth the ablest, maintain that, because thou
didst elevate the tone of the Sicilian Muses and foretell that a new progeny
would descend from heaven, thou wert admitted, like the Emperor Trajan, to
enjoy eternal blessedness in the Christian heaven."

"Thou seest that such is not the case," answered the shade, smiling.

"I meet thee in truth, O Virgil, among the heroes and sages in those Elysian
Fields which thou thyself hast described. Thus, contrary to what several on
earth believe, no one has come to seek thee on the part of Him who reigns on
high?

After a rather long silence:

"I will conceal nought from thee. He sent for me; one of his messengers, a
simple man, came to say that I was expected, and that, although I had not been
initiated into their mysteries, in consideration of my prophetic verses, a
place had been reserved for me among those of the new sect. But I refused to
accept that invitation; I had no desire to change my lace. I did so not
because I share the admiration of the Greeks for the Elysian fields, or
because I taste here those joys which caused Proserpine to lose the
remembrance of her mother. I never believed much myself in what I say about
these things in the 'Aeneid.' I was instructed by philosophers and men of
science and I had a correct foreboding of the truth. Life in hell is extremely
attenuated; we feel neither pleasure nor pain; we are as if we were not. The
dead have no existence here except such as the living lend them. Nevertheless
I prefer to remain here."

"But what reason didst thou give, O Virgil, for so strange a refusal?"

"I gave excellent ones. I said to the messenger of the god that I did not
deserve the honour he brought me, and that a meaning had been given to my
verses which they did not bear. In truth I have not in my fourth Eclogue
betrayed the faith of my ancestors. Some ignorant Jews alone have interpreted
in favour of a barbarian god a verse which celebrates the return of the golden
age predicted by the Sibylline oracles. I excused myself then on the ground
that I could not occupy a place which was destined for me in error and to
which I recognised that I had no right. Then I alleged my disposition and my
tastes, which do not accord with the customs of the new heavens.

"'I am not unsociable,' said I to this man. 'I have shown in life a
complaisant and easy disposition, although the extreme simplicity of my habits
caused me to be suspected of avarice. I kept nothing for myself alone. My
library was open to all and I have conformed my conduct to that fine saying of
Euripides, "all ought to be common among friends." Those praises that seemed
obtrusive when I myself received them became agreeable to me when addressed to
Varius or to Macer. But at bottom I am rustic and uncultivated. I take
pleasure in the society of animals; I was so zealous in observing them and
took so much care of them that I was regarded, not altogether wrongly, as a
good veterinary surgeon. I am told that the people of thy sect claim an
immortal soul for themselves, but refuse one to the animals. That is a piece
of nonsense that makes me doubt their judgment. Perhaps I love the flocks and
the shepherds a little too much. That would not seem right amongst you. There
is a maxim to which I endeavour to conform my actions, "Nothing too much."
More even than my feeble health my philosophy teaches me to use things with
measure. I am sober; a lettuce and some olives with a drop of Falernian wine
form all my meals. I have, indeed, to some extent gone with strange women, but
I have not delayed over long in taverns to watch the young Syrians dance to
the sound of the crotalum.* But if I have restrained my desires it was for my
own satisfaction and for the sake of good discipline. To fear pleasure and to
fly from joy appears to me the worst insult that one can offer to nature. I am
assured that during their lives certain of the elect of thy god abstained from
food and avoided women through love of asceticism, and voluntarily exposed
themselves to useless sufferings. I should be afraid of meeting those,
criminals whose frenzy horrifies me. A poet must not be asked to attach
himself too strictly to any scientific or moral doctrine. Moreover, I am a
Roman, and the Romans, unlike the Greeks, are unable to pursue profound
speculations in a subtle manner. If they adopt a philosophy it is above all in
order to derive some practical advantages from it. Siro, who enjoyed great
renown among us, taught me the system of Epicurus and thus freed me from vain
terrors and turned me aside from the cruelties to which religion persuades
ignorant men. I have embraced the views of Pythagoras concerning the souls of
men and animals, both of which are of divine essence; this invites us to look
upon ourselves without pride and without shame. I have learnt from the
Alexandrines how the earth, at first soft and without form, hardened in
proportion as Nereus withdrew himself from it to dig his humid dwellings; I
have learned how things were formed insensibly; in what manner the rains,
falling from the burdened clouds, nourished the silent forests, and by what
progress a few animals at last began to wander over the nameless mountains. I
could not accustom myself to your cosmogony either, for it seems to me fitter
for a camel-driver on the Syrian sands than for a disciple of Aristarchus of
Samos. And what would become of me in the abode of your beatitude if I did not
find there my friends, my ancestors, my masters, and my gods, and if it is not
given to me to see Rhea's noble son, or Venus, mother of Aeneas, with her
winning smile, or Pan, or the young Dryads, or the Sylvans, or old Silenus,
with his face stained by Aegle's purple mulberries.' These are the reasons
which I begged that simple man to plead before the successor of Jupiter."

* This phrase seems to indicate that, if one is to believe Macrobius, the
"Copa" is by Virgil.


"And since then, O great shade, thou hast received no other messages?"

"I have received none."

"To console themselves for thy absence, O Virgil, they have three poets,
Commodianus, Prudentius, and Fortunatus, who were all three born in those dark
plays when neither prosody nor grammar were known. But tell me, O Mantuan,
hast thou never received other intelligence of the God whose company thou
didst so deliberately refuse?"

"Never that I remember."

"Hast thou not told me that I am not the first who descended alive into these
abodes and presented himself before thee?"


"Thou dost remind me of it. A century and a half ago, or so it seems to me (it
is difficult to reckon days and years amid the shades), my profound peace was
intruded upon by a strange visitor. As I was wandering beneath the gloomy
foliage that borders the Styx, I saw rising before me a human form more opaque
and darker than that of the inhabitants of these shores. I recognised a living
person. He was of high stature, thin, with an aquiline nose, sharp chin, and
hollow cheeks. His dark eyes shot forth fire; a red hood girt with a crown of
laurels bound his lean brows. His bones pierced through the tight brown cloak
that descended to his heels. He saluted me with deference, tempered by a sort
of fierce pride, and addressed me in a speech more obscure and incorrect than
that of those Gauls with whom the divine Julius filled both his legions and
the Curia. At last I understood that he had been born near Fiesole, in an
ancient Etruscan colony that Sulla had founded on the banks of the Arno, and
which had prospered; that he had obtained municipal honours, but that he had
thrown himself vehemently into the sanguinary quarrels which arose between the
senate, the knights, and the people, that he had been defeated and banished,
and now he wandered in exile throughout the world. He described Italy to me as
distracted by more wars and discords than in the time of my youth, and as
sighing anew for a second Augustus. I pitied his misfortune, remembering what
I myself had formerly endured.

"An audacious spirit unceasingly disquieted him, and his mind harboured great
thoughts, but alas! his rudeness and ignorance displayed the triumph of
barbarism. He knew neither poetry, nor science, nor even the tongue of the
Greeks, and he was ignorant, too, of the ancient traditions concerning the
origin of the world and the nature of the gods. He bravely repeated fables
which in my time would have brought smiles to the little children who were not
yet old enough to pay for admission at the baths. The vulgar easily believe in
monsters. The Etruscans especially peopled hell with demons, hideous as a sick
man's dreams. That they have not abandoned their childish imaginings after so
many centuries is explained by the continuation and progress of ignorance and
misery, but that one of their magistrates whose mind is raised above the
common level should share these popular illusions and should be frightened by
the hideous demons that the inhabitants of that country painted on the walls
of their tombs in the time of Porsena--that is something which might sadden
even a sage. My Etruscan visitor repeated verses to me which he had composed
in a new dialect, called by him the vulgar tongue, the sense of which I could
not understand. My ears were more surprised than charmed as I heard him repeat
the same sound three or four times at regular intervals in his efforts to mark
the rhythm. That artifice did not seem ingenious to me; but it is not for the
dead to judge of novelties.

"But I do not reproach this colonist of Sulla, born in an unhappy time, for
making inharmonious verses or for being, if it be possible, as bad a poet as
Bavius or Maevius. I have grievances against him which touch me more closely.
The thing is monstrous and scarcely credible, but when this man returned to
earth he disseminated the most odious lies about me. He affirmed in several
passages of his barbarous poems that I had served him as a guide in the modern
Tartarus, a place I know nothing of. He insolently proclaimed that I had
spoken of the gods of Rome as false and lying gods, and that I held as the
true God the present successor of Jupiter. Friend, when thou art restored to
the kindly light of day and beholdest again thy native land, contradict those
abominable falsehoods. Say to thy people that the singer of the pious Aeneas
has never worshipped the god of the Jews. I am assured that his power is
declining and that his approaching fall is manifested by undoubted
indications. This news would give me some pleasure if one could rejoice in
these abodes. where we feel neither fears nor desires."

He spoke, and with a gesture of farewell he went away. I beheld his. shade
gliding over the asphodels without bending their stalks. I saw that it became
fainter and vaguer as it receded farther from me, and it vanished before it
reached the wood of evergreen laurels. Then I understood the meaning of the
words, "The dead have no life, but that which the living lend them," and I
walked slowly through the pale meadow to the gate of horn.

I affirm that all in this writing is true.*

* There is in Marbodius's narrative a passage very worthy of notice, viz.,
that in which the monk of Corrigan describes Dante Alighieri such as we
picture him to ourselves to-day. The miniatures in a very old manuscript of
the "Divine Comedy," the "Codex Venetianus," represent the poet as a little
fat man clad in a short tunic, the skirts of which fall above his knees. As
for Virgil, he still wears the philosophical beard, in the wood-engravings of
the sixteenth century.

One would not have thought either that Marbodius, or even Virgil, could have
known the Etruscan tombs of Chiusi and Corneto, where, in fact, there are
horrible and burlesque devils closely resembling those of Orcagna.
Nevertheless, the authenticity of the "Descent of Marbodius into Hell" is
indisputable. M. du Clos des Lunes has firmly established it. To doubt it
would be to doubt palaeography itself.

 

VII. SIGNS IN THE MOON

At that time, whilst Penguinia was still plunged in ignorance and barbarism,
Giles Bird-catcher, a Franciscan monk, known by his writings under the name
Aegidius Aucupis, devoted himself with indefatigable zeal to the study of
letters and the sciences. He gave his nights to mathematics and music, which
he called the two adorable sisters, the harmonious daughters of Number and
Imagination. He was versed in medicine and astrology. He was suspected of
practising magic, and it seemed true that he wrought metamorphoses and
discovered hidden things.


The monks of his convent, finding in his cell Greek books which they could not
read, imagined them to be conjuring-books, and denounced their too learned
brother as a wizard. Aegidius Aucupis fled, and reached the island of Ireland,
where he lived for thirty studious years. He went from monastery to monastery,
searching for and copying the Greek and Latin manuscripts which they
contained. He also studied physics and alchemy. He acquired a universal
knowledge and discovered notable secrets concerning animals, plants, and
stones. He was found one day in the company of a very beautiful woman who sang
to her own accompaniment on the lute, and who was afterwards discovered to be
a machine which he had himself constructed.

He often crossed the Irish Sea to go into the land of Wales and to visit the
libraries of the monasteries there. During one of these crossings, as he
remained during the night on the bridge of the ship, he saw beneath the waters
two sturgeons swimming side by side. He had very good hearing and he knew the
language of fishes. Now he heard one of the sturgeons say to the other:

"The man in the moon, whom we have often seen carrying fagots on his
shoulders, has fallen into the sea.

And the other sturgeon said in its turn:

"And in the silver disc there will be seen the image of two lovers kissing
each other on the mouth."

Some years later, having returned to his native country, Aegidius Aucupis
found that ancient learning had been restored. Manners had softened. Men no
longer pursued the nymphs of the fountains, of the woods, and of the mountains
with their insults. They placed images of the Muses and of the modest Graces
in their gardens, and they rendered her former honours to the Goddess with
ambrosial lips, the joy of men and gods. They were becoming reconciled to
nature. They trampled vain terrors beneath their feet and raised their eyes to
heaven without fearing, as they formerly did, to read signs of anger and
threats of damnation in the skies.

At this spectacle Aegidius Aucupis remembered what the two sturgeons of the
sea of Erin had foretold.

 

 

BOOK IV. MODERN TIMES: TRINCO

 

I. MOTHER ROUQUIN

Aegidius Aucupis, the Erasmus of the Penguins, was not mistaken; his age was
an age of free inquiry. But that great man mistook the elegances of the
humanists for softness of manners, and he did not foresee the effects that the
awaking of intelligence would have amongst the Penguins. It brought about the
religious Reformation; Catholics massacred Protestants and Protestants
massacred Catholics. Such were the first results of liberty of thought. The
Catholics prevailed in Penguinia. But the spirit of inquiry had penetrated
among them without their knowing it. They joined reason to faith, and claimed
that religion had been divested of the superstitious practices that
dishonoured it, just as in later days the booths that the cobblers, hucksters,
and dealers in old clothes had built against the walls of the cathedrals were
cleared away. The word, legend, which at first indicated what the faithful
ought to read, soon suggested the idea of pious fables and childish tales.

 


The saints had to suffer from this state of mind. An obscure canon called
Princeteau, a very austere and crabbed man, designated so great a number of
them as not worthy of having their days observed, that he was surnamed the
exposer of the saints. He did not think, for instance, that if St. Margaret's
prayer were applied as a poultice to a woman in travail that the pains of
childbirth would be softened.

Even the venerable patron saint of Penguinia did not escape his rigid
criticism. This is what he says of her in his "Antiquities of Alca":

"Nothing is more uncertain than the history, or even the existence, of St.
Orberosia. An ancient anonymous annalist, a monk of Dombes, relates that a
woman called Orberosia was possessed by the devil in a cavern where, even down
to his own days, the little boys and girls of the village used to play at a
sort of game representing the devil and the fair Orberosia. He adds that this
woman became the concubine of a horrible dragon, who ravaged the country. Such
a statement is hardly credible, but the history of Orberosia, as it has since
been related, seems hardly more worthy of belief. The life of that saint by
the Abbot Simplicissimus is three hundred years later than the pretended
events which it relates and that author shows himself excessively credulous
and devoid of all critical faculty."

Suspicion attacked even the supernatural origin of the Penguins. The historian
Ovidius Capito went so far as to deny the miracle of their transformation. He
thus begins his "Annals of Penguinia":

"A dense obscurity envelopes this history, and it would be no exaggeration to
say that it is a tissue of puerile fables and popular tales. The Penguins
claim that they are descended from birds who were baptized by St. Mael and
whom God changed into men at the intercession of that glorious apostle. They
hold that, situated at first in the frozen ocean, their island, floating like
Delos, was brought to anchor in these heaven-favoured seas, of which it is
to-day the queen. I conclude that this myth is a reminiscence of the ancient
migrations of the Penguins."

In the following century, which was that of the philosophers, scepticism
became still more acute. No further evidence of it is needed than the
following celebrated passage from the "Moral Essay":

"Arriving we know not from whence (for indeed their origins are not very
clear), and successively invaded and conquered by four or five peoples from
the north, south, east, and west, miscegenated, interbred, amalgamated, and
commingled, the Penguins boast of the purity of their race, and with justice,
for they have become a pure race. This mixture of all mankind, red, black,
yellow, and white, round-headed and long-headed, as formed in the course of
ages a fairly homogeneous human family, and one which is recognisable by
certain features due to a community of life and customs.

"This idea that they belong to the best race in the world, and that they are
its finest family, inspires them with noble pride, indomitable courage, and a
hatred for the human race.

"The life of a people is but a succession of miseries, crimes, and follies.
This is true of the Penguin nation, as of all other nations. Save for this
exception its history is admirable from beginning to end."

The two classic ages of the Penguins are too well-known for me to lay stress
upon them. But what has not been sufficiently noticed is the way in which the
rationalist theologians such as Canon Princeteau called into existence the
unbelievers of the succeeding age. The former employed their reason to destroy
what did not seem to them, essential to their religion; they only left
untouched the most rigid article of faith. Their intellectual successors,
being taught by them how to make use of science and reason, employed them
against whatever beliefs remained. Thus rational theology engendered natural
philosophy.

That is why (if I may turn from the Penguins of former days to the Sovereign
Pontiff, who, to-day governs the universal Church) we cannot admire too
greatly the wisdom of Pope Pius X. in condemning the study of exegesis as
contrary to revealed truth, fatal to sound theological doctrine, and deadly to
the faith. Those clerics who maintain the rights of science in opposition to
him are pernicious doctors and pestilent teachers, and the faithful who
approve of them are lacking in either mental or moral ballast.

At the end of the age of philosophers, the ancient kingdom of Penguinia was
utterly destroyed, the king put to death, the privileges of the nobles
abolished, and a Republic proclaimed in the midst of public misfortunes and
while a terrible war was raging. The assembly which then governed Penguinia
ordered all the metal articles contained in the churches to be melted down.
The patriots even desecrated the tombs of the kings. It is said that when the
tomb of Draco the Great was opened, that king presented an appearance as black
as ebony and so majestic that those who profaned his corpse fled in terror.
According to other accounts, these churlish men insulted him by putting a pipe
in his mouth and derisively offering him a glass of wine.

On the seventeenth day of the month of Mayflowers, the shrine of St.
Orberosia, which had for five hundred years been exposed to the veneration of
the faithful in the Church of St. Mael, was transported into the town-hall and
submitted to the examination of a jury of experts appointed by the
municipality. It was made of gilded copper in shape like the nave of a church,
entirely covered with enamels and decorated with precious stones, which latter
were perceived to be false. The chapter in its foresight had removed the
rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and great balls of rock-crystal, and had
substituted pieces of glass in their place. It contained only a little dust
and a piece of old linen, which were thrown into a great fire that had been
lighted on the Place de Greve to burn the relics of the saints. The people
danced around it singing patriotic songs.

From the threshold of their booth, which leant against the town-hall, a man
called Rouquin and his wife were watching this group of madmen. Rouquin
clipped dogs and gelded cats; he also frequented the inns. His wife was a
ragpicker and a bawd, but she had plenty of shrewdness.

"You see, Rouquin," said she to her man, "they are committing a sacrilege.
They will repent of it."

"You know nothing about it, wife," answered Rouquin; "they, have become
philosophers, and when one is once a philosopher he is a philosopher for
ever."

"I tell you, Rouquin, that sooner or later they will regret what they are
doing to-day. They ill-treat the saints because they have not helped them
enough, but for all that the quails won't fall ready cooked into their mouths.
They will soon find themselves as badly off as before, and when they have put
out their tongues for enough they will become pious again. Sooner than people
think the day will come when Penguinia will again begin to honour her blessed
patron. Rouquin, it would be a good thing, in readiness for that day, if we
kept a handful of ashes and some rags and bones in an old pot in our lodgings.
We will say that they are the relics of St. Orberosia and that we have saved
them from the flames at the peril of our lives. I am greatly mistaken if we
don't get honour and profit out of them. That good action might be worth a
place from the Cure to sell tapers and hire chairs in the chapel of St.
Orberosia."

On that same day Mother Rouquin took home with her a little ashes and some
bones, and put them in an old jam-pot in her cupboard.

 

II. TRINCO

The sovereign Nation had taken possession of the lands of the nobility and
clergy to sell them at a low price to the middle classes and the peasants. The
middle classes and the peasants thought that the revolution was a good thing
for acquiring lands and a bad one for retaining them.

The legislators of the Republic made terrible laws for the defence of
property, and decreed death to anyone who should propose a division of wealth.
But that did not avail the Republic. The peasants who had become proprietors
bethought themselves that though it had made them rich, the Republic had
nevertheless caused a disturbance to wealth, and they desired a system more
respectful of private property and more capable of assuring the permanence of
the new institutions.


They had not long to wait. The Republic, like Agrippina, bore her destroyer in
her bosom.

Having great wars to carry on, it created military forces, and these were
destined both to save it and to destroy it. Its legislators thought they could
restrain their generals by the fear of punishment, but if they sometimes cut
off the heads of unlucky soldiers they could not do the same to the fortunate
soldiers who obtained over it the advantages of having saved its existence.

In the enthusiasm of victory the renovated Penguins delivered themselves up to
a dragon, more terrible than that of their fables, who, like a stork amongst
frogs, devoured them for fourteen years with his insatiable beak.

Half a century after the reign of the new dragon a young Maharajah of Malay,
called Djambi, desirous, like the Scythian Anacharsis, of instructing himself
by travel, visited Penguinia and wrote an interesting account of his travels.
I transcribe the first page of his account:

ACCOUNT OF THE TRAVELS OF YOUNG DJAMBI IN PENGUINIA

After a voyage of ninety days I landed at the vast and deserted port of the
Penguins and travelled over untilled fields to their ruined capital.
Surrounded by ramparts and full of barracks and arsenals it had a martial
though desolate appearance. Feeble and crippled men wandered proudly through
the streets, wearing old uniforms and carrying rusty weapons.

"What do you want?" I was rudely asked at the gate of the city by a soldier
whose moustaches pointed to the skies.

"Sir," I answered, "I come as an inquirer to visit this island."

"It is not an island," replied the soldier.

"What!" I exclaimed, "Penguin Island is not an island?"

"No, sir, it is an insula. It was formerly called an island, but for a century
it has been decreed that it shall bear the name of insula. It is the only
insula in the whole universe. Have you a passport?"

"Here it is."

"Go and get it signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

A lame guide who conducted me came to a pause in a vast square.

"The insula," said he, "has given birth, as you know, to Trinco, the greatest
genius of the universe, whose statue you see before you. That obelisk standing
to your right commemorates Trinco's birth; the column that rises to your left
has Trinco crowned with a diadem upon its summit. You see here the triumphal
arch dedicated to the glory of Trinco and his family."

"What extraordinary feat has Trinco performed?" I asked.

"War."

"That is nothing extraordinary. We Malayans make war constantly."

"That may be, but Trinco is the greatest warrior of all countries and all
times. There never existed a greater conqueror than he. As you anchored in our
port you saw to the east a volcanic island called Ampelophoria, shaped like a
cone, and of small size, but renowned for its wines. And to the west a larger
island which raises to the sky a long range of sharp teeth; for this reason it
is called the Dog's Jaws. It is rich in copper mines. We possessed both before
Trinco's reign and they were the boundaries of our empire. Trinco extended the
Penguin dominion over the Archipelago of the Turquoises and the Green
Continent, subdued the gloomy Porpoises, and planted his flag amid the
icebergs of the Pole and on the burning sands of the African deserts. He
raised troops in all the countries he conquered, and when his armies marched
past in the wake of our own light infantry, our island grenadiers, our
hussars, our dragoons, our artillery, and our engineers there were to be seen
yellow soldiers looking in their blue armour like crayfish standing on their
tails; red men with parrots' plumes, tattooed with solar and Phallic emblems,
and with quivers of poisoned arrows resounding on their backs; naked blacks
armed only with their teeth and nails; pygmies riding on cranes; gorillas
carrying trunks of trees and led by an old ape who wore upon his hairy breast
the cross of the Legion of Honour. And all those troops, led to Trinco's
banner by the most ardent patriotism, flew on from victory to victory, and in
thirty years of war Trinco conquered half the known world."

"What!" cried I, "you possess half of the world."

"Trinco conquered it for us, and Trinco lost it to us. As great in his defeats
as in his victories he surrendered all that he had conquered. He even allowed
those two islands we possessed before his time, Ampelophoria and the Dog's
Jaws, to be taken from us. He left Penguinia impoverished and depopulated. The
flower of the insula perished in his wars. At the time of his fall there were
left in our country none but the hunchbacks and cripples from whom we are
descended. But he gave us glory."

"He made you pay dearly for it!"

"Glory never costs too much," replied my guide.

 

III. THE JOURNEY OF DOCTOR OBNUBILE

After a succession of amazing vicissitudes, the memory of which is in great
part lost by the wrongs of time and the bad style of historians, the Penguins
established the government of the Penguins by themselves. They elected a diet
or assembly, and invested it with the privilege of naming the Head of the
State. The latter, chosen from among the simple Penguins, wore no formidable
monster's crest upon his head and exercised no absolute authority over the
people. He was himself subject to the laws of the nation. He was not given the
title of king, and no ordinal number followed his name. He bore such names as
Paturle, Janvion, Traffaldin, Coquenhot, and Bredouille. These magistrates did
not make war. They were not suited for that.


The new state received the name of Public Thing or Republic. Its partisans
were called republicanists or republicans. They were also named Thingmongers
and sometimes Scamps, but this latter name was taken in ill part.

The Penguin democracy did not itself govern. It obeyed a financial oligarchy
which formed opinion by means of the newspapers, and held in its hands the
representatives, the ministers, and the president. It controlled the finances
of the republic, and directed the foreign affairs of the country as if it were
possessed of sovereign power.

Empires and kingdoms in those days kept up enormous fleets. Penguinia,
compelled to do as they did, sank under the pressure of her armaments.
Everybody deplored or pretended to deplore so grievous a necessity. However,
the rich, and those engaged in business or affairs, submitted to it with a
good heart through a spirit of patriotism, and because they counted on the
soldiers and sailors to defend their goods at home and to acquire markets and
territories abroad. The great manufacturers encouraged the making of cannons
and ships through a zeal for the national defence and in order to obtain
orders. Among the citizens of middle rank and of the liberal professions some
resigned themselves to this state of affairs without complaining, believing
that it would last for ever; others waited impatiently for its end and thought
they might be able to lead the powers to a simultaneous disarmament.

The illustrious Professor Obnubile belonged to this latter class.

"War," said he, "is a barbarity to which the progress of civilization will put
an end. The great democracies are pacific and will soon impose their will upon
the aristocrats."

Professor Obnubile, who had for sixty years led a solitary and retired life in
his laboratory, whither external noises did not penetrate, resolved to observe
the spirit of the peoples for himself. He began his studies with the greatest
of all democracies and set sail for New Atlantis.

After a voyage of fifteen days his steamer entered, during the night, the
harbour of Titanport, where thousands of ships were anchored. An iron bridge
thrown across the water and shining with lights, stretched between two piers
so far apart that Professor Obnubile imagined he was sailing on the seas of
Saturn and that he saw the marvellous ring which girds the planet of the Old
Man. And this immense conduit bore upon it more than a quarter of the wealth
of the world. The learned Penguin, having disembarked, was waited on by
automatons in a hotel forty-eight stories high. Then he took the great railway
that led to Gigantopolis, the capital of New Atlantis. In the train there were
restaurants, gaming-rooms, athletic arenas, telegraphic, commercial, and
financial offices, a Protestant Church, and the printing-office of a great
newspaper, which latter the doctor was unable to read, as he did not know the
language of the New Atlantans. The train passed along the banks of great
rivers, through manufacturing cities which concealed the sky with the smoke
from their chimneys, towns black in the day, towns red at night, full of noise
by day and full of noise also by night.

"Here," thought the doctor, "is a people far too much engaged in industry and
trade to make war. I am already certain that the New Atlantans pursue a policy
of peace. For it is an axiom admitted by all economists that peace without and
peace within are necessary for the progress of commerce and industry."

As he surveyed Gigantopolis, he was confirmed in this opinion. People went
through the streets so swiftly propelled by hurry that they knocked down all
who were in their way. Obnubile was thrown down several times, but soon
succeeded in learning how to demean himself better; after an hour's walking he
himself knocked down an Atlantan.

Having reached a great square he saw the portico of a palace in the Classic
style, whose Corinthian columns reared their capitals of arborescent acanthus
seventy metres above the stylobate.

As he stood with his head thrown back admiring the building, a man of modest
appearance approached him and said in Penguin:

"I see by your dress that you are from Penguinia. I know your language; I am a
sworn interpreter. This is the Parliament palace. At the present moment the
representatives of the States are in deliberation. Would you like to be
present at the sitting?"

The doctor was brought into the hall and cast his looks upon the crowd of
legislators who were sitting on cane chairs with their feet upon their desks.

The president arose and, in the midst of general inattention, muttered rather
than spoke the following formulas which the interpreter immediately translated
to the doctor.

"The war for the opening of the Mongol markets being ended to the satisfaction
of the States, I propose that the accounts be laid before the finance
committee . . . ."

"Is there any opposition? . . ."

"The proposal is carried."

"The war for the opening of the markets of Third-Zealand being ended to the
satisfaction of the States, I propose that the accounts be laid before the
finance committee. . . ."

"Is there any opposition? . . ."

"The proposal is carried."

"Have I heard aright?" asked Professor Obnubile. "What? you an industrial
people and engaged in all these wars!"

"Certainly," answered the interpreter, "these are industrial wars. Peoples who
have neither commerce nor industry are not obliged to make war, but a business
people is forced to adopt a policy of conquest. The number of wars necessarily
increases with our productive activity. As soon as one of our industries fails
to find a market for its products a war is necessary to open new outlets. It
is in this way we have had a coal war, a copper war, and a cotton war. In
Third-Zealand we have killed two-thirds of the inhabitants in order to compel
the remainder to buy our umbrellas and braces."

At that moment a fat man who was sitting in the middle of the assembly
ascended the tribune.

"I claim," said he, "a war against the Emerald Republic, which insolently
contends with our pigs for the hegemony of hams and sauces in all the markets
of the universe."

"Who is that legislator?" asked Doctor Obnubile.

"He is a pig merchant."

"Is there any opposition?" said the President. "I put the proposition to the
vote."

The war against the Emerald Republic was voted with uplifted hands by a very
large majority.

"What?" said Obnubile to the interpreter; "you have voted a war with that
rapidity and that indifference!"

"Oh! it is an unimportant war which will hardly cost eight million dollars."

"And men . . ."

"The men are included in the eight million dollars."

Then Doctor Obnubile bent his head in bitter reflection.

"Since wealth and civilization admit of as many causes of wars as poverty and
barbarism, since the folly and wickedness of men are incurable, there remains
but one good action to be done. The wise man will collect enough dynamite to
blow up this planet. When its fragments fly through space an imperceptible
amelioration will be accomplished in the universe and a satisfaction will be
given to the universal conscience. Moreover, this universal conscience does
not exist."

 

BOOK V. MODERN TIMES: CHATILLON

 

I. THE REVEREND FATHERS AGARIC AND CORNEMUSE

Every system of government produces people who are dissatisfied. The Republic
or Public Thing produced them at first from among the nobles who had been
despoiled of their ancient privileges. These looked with regret and hope to
Prince Crucho, the last of the Draconides, a prince adorned both with the
grace of youth and the melancholy of exile. It also produced them from among
the smaller traders, who, owing to profound economic causes, no longer gained
a livelihood. They believed that this was the fault of the republic which they
had at first adored and from which each day they were now becoming more
detached. The financiers, both Christians and Jews, became by their insolence
and their cupidity the scourge of the country, which they plundered and
degraded, as well as the scandal of a government which they never troubled
either to destroy or preserve, so confident were they that they could operate
without hindrance under all governments. Nevertheless, their sympathies
inclined to absolute power as the best protection against the socialists,
their puny but ardent adversaries. And just as they imitated the habits of the
aristocrats, so they imitated their political and religious sentiments. Their
women, in particular, loved the Prince and had dreams of appearing one day at
his Court.


However, the Republic retained some partisans and defenders. If it was not in
a position to believe in the fidelity of its own officials it could at least
still count on the devotion of the manual labourers, although it had never
relieved their misery. These came forth in crowds from their quarries and
their factories to defend it, and marched in long processions, gloomy,
emaciated, and sinister. They would have died for it because it had given them
hope.

Now, under the Presidency of Theodore Formose, there lived in a peaceable
suburb of Alca a monk called Agaric, who kept a school and assisted in
arranging marriages. In his school he taught fencing and riding to the sons of
old families, illustrious by their birth, but now as destitute of wealth as of
privilege. And as soon as they were old enough he married them to the
daughters of the opulent and despised caste of financiers.

Tall, thin, and dark, Agaric used to walk in deep thought, with his breviary
in his hand and his brow loaded with care, through the corridors of the school
and the alleys of the garden. His care was not limited to inculcating in his
pupils abstruse doctrines and mechanical precepts and to endowing them
afterwards with legitimate and rich wives. He entertained political designs
and pursued the realisation of a gigantic plan. His thought of thoughts and
labour of labours was to overthrow the Republic. He was not moved to this by
any personal interest. He believed that a democratic state was opposed to the
holy society to which body and soul he belonged. And all the other monks, his
brethren, thought the same. The Republic was perpetually at strife with the
congregation of monks and the assembly of the faithful. True, to plot the
death of the new government was a difficult and perilous enterprise. Still,
Agaric was in a position to carry on a formidable conspiracy. At that epoch,
when the clergy guided the superior classes of the Penguins, this monk
exercised a tremendous influence over the aristocracy of Alca.

All the young men whom he had brought up waited only for a favourable moment
to march against the popular power. The sons of the ancient families did not
practise the arts or engage in business. They were almost all soldiers and
served the Republic. They served it, but they did not love it; they regretted
the dragon's crest. And the fair Jewesses shared in these regrets in order
that they might be taken for Christians.

One July as he was walking in a suburban street which ended in some dusty
fields, Agaric heard groans coming from a moss-grown well that had been
abandoned by the gardeners. And almost immediately he was told by a cobbler of
the neighbourhood that a ragged man who had shouted out "Hurrah for the
Republic!" had been thrown into the well by some cavalry officers who were
passing, and had sunk up to his ears in the mud. Agaric was quite ready to see
a general significance in this particular fact. He inferred a great
fermentation in the whole aristocratic and military caste, and concluded that
it was the moment to act.

The next day he went to the end of the Wood of Conils to visit the good Father
Cornemuse. He found the monk in his laboratory pouring a golden-coloured
liquor into a still. He was a short, fat, little man, with vermilion-tinted
cheeks and an elaborately polished bald head. His eyes had ruby-coloured
pupils like a guinea-pig's. He graciously saluted his visitor and offered him
a glass of the St. Orberosian liqueur, which he manufactured, and from the
sale of which he gained immense wealth.

Agaric made a gesture of refusal. Then, standing on his long feet and pressing
his melancholy hat against his stomach, he remained silent.

"Take a seat," said Cornemuse to him.

Agaric sat down on a rickety stool, but continued mute.

Then the monk of Conils inquired:

"Tell me some news of your young pupils. Have the dear children sound views?"

"I am very satisfied with them," answered the teacher. "It is everything to be
nurtured in sound principles. It is necessary to have sound views before
having any views at all, for afterwards it is too late. . . . Yes, I have
great grounds for comfort. But we live in a sad age."

"Alas!" sighed Cornemuse.

"We are passing through evil days. . . ."

"Times of trial."

"Yet, Cornemuse, the mind of the public is not so entirely corrupted as it
seems."

"Perhaps you are right."

"The people are tired of a government that ruins them and does nothing for
them. Every day fresh scandals spring up. The Republic is sunk in shame. It is
ruined."

"May God grant it!"

"Cornemuse, what do you think of Prince Crucho?"

"He is an amiable young man and, I dare say, a worthy scion of an august
stock. I pity him for having to endure the pains of exile at so early an age.
Spring has no flowers for the exile, and autumn no fruits. Prince Crucho has
sound views; he respects the clergy; he practises our religion; besides, he
consumes a good deal of my little products."

"Cornemuse, in many homes, both rich and poor, his return is hoped for.
Believe me, he will come back."

"May I live to throw my mantle beneath his feet!" sighed Cornemuse.

Seeing that he held these sentiments, Agaric depicted to him the state of
people's minds such as he himself imagined them. He showed him the nobles and
the rich exasperated against the popular government; the army refusing to
endure fresh insults; the officials willing to betray their chiefs; the people
discontented, riot ready to burst forth, and the enemies of the monks, the
agents of the constituted authority, thrown into the wells of Alca. He
concluded that it was the moment to strike a great blow.

"We can," he cried, "save the Penguin people, we can deliver it from its
tyrants, deliver it from itself, restore the Dragon's crest, re-establish the
ancient State, the good State, for the honour of the faith and the exaltation
of the Church. We can do this if we will. We possess great wealth and we exert
secret influences; by our evangelistic and outspoken journals we communicate
with all the ecclesiastics in towns and county alike, and we inspire them with
our own eager enthusiasm and our own burning faith. They will kindle their
penitents and their congregations. I can dispose of the chiefs of the army; I
have an understanding with the men of the people. Unknown to them I sway the
minds of umbrella sellers, publicans, shopmen, gutter merchants, newspaper
boys, women of the streets, and police agents. We have more people on our side
than we need. What are we waiting for? Let us act!"

"What do you think of doing?" asked Cornemuse.

"Of forming a vast conspiracy and overthrowing the Republic, of
re-establishing Crucho on the throne of the Draconides."

Cornemuse moistened his lips with his tongue several times. Then he said with
unction:

"Certainly the restoration of the Draconides is desirable; it is eminently
desirable; and for my part, desire it with all my heart. As for the Republic,
you know what I think of it. . . . But would it not te better to abandon it to
its fate and let it die of the vices of its own constitution? Doubtless,
Agaric, what you propose is noble and generous. It would be a fine thing to
save this great and unhappy country, to re-establish it in its ancient
splendour. But reflect on it, we are Christians before we are Penguins. And we
must take heed not to compromise religion in political enterprises."

Agaric replied eagerly:

"Fear nothing. We shall hold all the threads of the plot, but we ourselves
shall remain in the background. We shall not be seen."

"Like flies in milk," murmured the monk of Conils.

And turning his keen ruby-coloured eyes towards his brother monk:

"Take care. Perhaps the Republic is stronger than it seems. Possibly, too, by
dragging it out of the nerveless inertia in which it now rests we may only
consolidate its forces. Its malice is great; if we attack it, it will defend
itself. It makes bad laws which hardly affect us; if it is frightened it will
make terrible ones against us. Let us not lightly engage in an adventure in
which we may get fleeced. You think the opportunity a good one. I don't, and I
am going to tell you why. The present government is not yet known by
everybody, that is to say, it is known by nobody. It proclaims that it is the
Public Thing, the common thing. The populace believes it and remains
democratic and Republican. But patience! This same people will one day demand
that the public thing be the people's thing. I need not tell you how insolent,
unregulated, and contrary to Scriptural polity such claims seem to me. But the
people will make them, and enforce them, and then there will be an end of the
present government. The moment cannot now be far distant; and it is then that
we ought to act in the interests of our august body. Let us wait. What hurries
us? Our existence is not in peril. It has not been rendered absolutely
intolerable to us. The Republic fails in respect and submission to us; it does
not give the priests the honours it owes them. But it lets us live. And such
is the excellence of our position that with us to live is to prosper. The
Republic is hostile to us, but women revere us. President Formose does not
assist at the celebration of our mysteries, but I have seen his wife and
daughters at my feet. They buy my phials by the gross. I have no better
clients even among the aristocracy. Let us say what there is to be said for
it. There is no country in the world as good for priests and monks as
Penguinia. In what other country would you find our virgin wax, our virile
incense, our rosaries, our scapulars, our holy water, and our St. Orberosian
liqueur sold in such great quantities? What other people would, like the
Penguins, give a hundred golden crowns for a wave of our hands, a sound from
our mouths, a movement of our lips? For my part, I gain a thousand times more,
in this pleasant, faithful, and docile Penguinia, by extracting the essence
from a bundle of thyme, than I could make by tiring my lungs with preaching
the remission of sins in the most populous states of Europe and America.
Honestly, would Penguinia be better off if a police officer came to take me
away from here and put me on a steamboat bound for the Islands of Night?"

Having thus spoken, the monk of Conils got up and led his guest into a huge
shed where hundreds of orphans clothed in blue were packing bottles, nailing
up cases, and gumming tickets. The ear was deafened by the noise of hammers
mingled with the dull rumbling of bales being placed upon the rails.

"It is from here that consignments are forwarded," said Cornemuse. "I have
obtained from the government a railway through the Wood and a station at my
door. Every three days I fill a truck with my own products. You see that the
Republic has not killed all beliefs."

Agaric made a last effort to engage the wise distiller in his enterprise. He
pointed him to a prompt, certain, dazzling success.

"Don't you wish to share in it?" he added. "Don't you wish to bring back your
king from exile?"

"Exile is pleasant to men of good will," answered the monk of Conils. "If you
are guided by me, my dear Brother Agaric, you will give up your project for
the present. For my own part I have no illusions. Whether or not I belong to
your party, if you lose, I shall have to pay like you."

Father Agaric took leave of his friend and went back satisfied to his school.
"Cornemuse," thought he, "not being able to prevent the plot, would like to
make it succeed and he will give money." Agaric was not deceived. Such,
indeed, was the solidarity among priests and monks that the acts of a single
one bound them all. That was at once both their strength and their weakness.

 

V. PRINCE CRUCHO

Agaric resolved to proceed without delay to Prince Crucho, who honoured him
with his familiarity. In the dusk of the evening he went out of his school by
the side door, disguised as a cattle merchant and took passage on board the
St. Mael.

The next day he landed in Porpoisea, for it was at Chitterlings Castle on this
hospitable soil that Crucho ate the bitter bread of exile.


Agaric met the Prince on the road driving in a motor-car with two young ladies
at the rate of a hundred miles an hour. When the monk saw him he shook his red
umbrella and the prince stopped his car.

"Is it you, Agaric? Get in! There are already three of us, but we can make
room for you. You can take one of these young ladies on your knee."

The pious Agaric got in.

"What news, worthy father?" asked the young prince.

"Great news," answered Agaric. "Can I speak?"

"You can. I have nothing secret from these two ladies."

"Sire, Penguinia claims you. You will not be deaf to her call."

Agaric described the state of feeling and outlined a vast plot.

"On my first signal," said he, "all your partisans will rise at once. With
cross in hand and habits girded up, your venerable clergy will lead the armed
crowd into Formose's palace. We shall carry terror and death among your
enemies. For a reward of our efforts we only ask of you, Sire, that you will
not render them useless. We entreat you to come and seat yourself on the
throne that we shall prepare."

The prince returned a simple answer:

"I shall enter Alca on a green horse."

Agaric declared that he accepted this manly response. Although, contrary to
his custom, he had a lady on his knee, he adjured the young prince, with a
sublime loftiness of soul, to be faithful to his royal duties.

"Sire," he cried, with tears in his eyes, "you will live to remember the day
on which you have been restored from exile, given back to your people,
reestablished on the throne of your ancestors by the hands of your monks, and
crowned by them with the august crest of the Dragon. King Crucho, may you
equal the glory of your ancestor Draco the Great!"

The young prince threw himself with emotion on his restorer and attempted to
embrace him, but he was prevented from reaching him by the girth of the two
ladies, so tightly packed were they all in that historic carriage.

"Worthy father," said he, "I would like all Penguinia to witness this
embrace."

"It would be a cheering spectacle," said Agaric.

In the mean time the motor-car rushed like a tornado through hamlets and
villages, crushing hens, geese, turkeys, ducks, guinea-fowls, cats, dogs,
pigs, children, labourers, and women beneath its insatiable tyres. And the
pious Agaric turned over his great designs in his mind. His voice, coming from
behind one of the ladies, expressed this thought:

"We must have money, a great deal of money."

"That is your business," answered the prince.

But already the park gates were opening to the formidable motor-car.

The dinner was sumptuous. They toasted the Dragon's crest. Everybody knows
that a closed goblet is a sign of sovereignty; so Prince Crucho and Princess
Gudrune, his wife, drank out of goblets that were covered-over like ciboriums.
The prince had his filled several times with the wines of Penguinia, both
white and red.

Crucho had received a truly princely education, and he excelled in motoring,
but was not ignorant of history either. He was said to be well versed in the
antiquities and famous deeds of his family; and, indeed, he gave a notable
proof of his knowledge in this respect. As they were speaking of the various
remarkable peculiarities that had been noticed in famous women,

"It is perfectly true," said he, "that Queen Crucha, whose name I bear, had
the mark of a little monkey's head upon her body."

During the evening Agaric had a decisive interview with three of the prince's
oldest councillors. It was decided to ask for funds from Crucho's
father-in-law, as he was anxious to have a king for son-in-law, from several
Jewish ladies, who were impatient to become ennobled, and, finally, from the
Prince Regent of the Porpoises, who had promised his aid to the Draconides,
thinking that by Crucho's restoration he would weaken the Penguins, the
hereditary enemies of his people. The three old councillors divided among
themselves the three chief offices of the Court, those of Chamberlain,
Seneschal, and High Steward, and authorised the monk to distribute the other
places to the prince's best advantage.

"Devotion has to be rewarded," said the three old councillors.

"And treachery also," said Agaric.

"It is but too true," replied one of them, the Marquis of Sevenwounds, who had
experience of revolutions.

There was dancing, and after the ball Princess Gudrune tore up her green robe
to make cockades. With her own hands she sewed a piece of it on the monk's
breast, upon which he shed tears of sensibility and gratitude.

M. de Plume, the prince's equerry, set out the same evening to look for a
green horse.

 

III. THE CABAL

After his return to the capital of Penguinia, the Reverend Father Agaric
disclosed his projects to Prince Adelestan des Boscenos, of whose Draconian
sentiments he was well aware.

The prince belonged to the highest nobility. The Torticol des Boscenos went
back to Brian the Good, and under the Draconides had held the highest offices
in the kingdom. In 1179, Philip Torticol, High Admiral of Penguinia, a brave,
faithful, and generous, but vindictive man, delivered over the port of La
Crique and the Penguin fleet to the enemies of the kingdom, because he
suspected that Queen Crucha, whose lover he was, had been unfaithful to him
and loved a stable-boy. It was that great queen who gave to the Boscenos the
silver warming-pan which they bear in their arms. As for their motto, it only
goes back to the sixteenth century. The story of its origin is as follows: One
gala night, as he mingled with the crowd of courtiers who were watching the
fire-works in the king's garden, Duke John des Boscenos approached the Duchess
of Skull and put his hand under the petticoat of that lady, who made no
complaint at the gesture. The king, happening to pass, surprised them and
contented himself with saying, "And thus I find you." These four words became
the motto of the Boscenos.


Prince Adelestan had not degenerated from his ancestors. He preserved an
unalterable fidelity for the race of the Draconides and desired nothing so
much as the restoration of Prince Crucho, an event which was in his eyes to be
the fore-runner of the restoration of his own fortune. He therefore readily
entered into the Reverend Father Agaric's plans. He joined himself at once to
the monk's projects, and hastened to put him into communication with the most
loyal Royalists of his acquaintance, Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, Viscount
Olive, and M. Bigourd. They met together one night in the Duke of Ampoule's
country house, six miles eastward of Alca, to consider ways and means.

M. de La Trumelle was in favour of legal action.

"We ought to keep within the law," said he in substance. "We are for order. It
is by an untiring propaganda that we shall best pursue the realisation of our
hopes. We must change the feeling of the country. Our cause will conquer
because it is just."

The Prince des Boscenos expressed a contrary opinion. He thought that, in
order to triumph, just causes need force quite as much and even more than
unjust causes require it.

"In the present situation," said he tranquilly, "three methods of action
present themselves: to hire the butcher boys, to corrupt the ministers, and to
kidnap President Formose."

"It would be a mistake to kidnap Formose," objected M. de La Trumelle. "The
President is on our side."

The attitude and sentiments of the President of the Republic are explained by
the fact that one Dracophil proposed to seize Formose while another Dracophil
regarded him as a friend. Formose showed himself favourable to the Royalists,
whose habits he admired and imitated. If he smiled at the mention of the
Dragon's crest it was at the thought of putting it on his own head. He was
envious of sovereign power, not because he felt himself capable of exercising
it, but because he loved to appear so. According to the expression of a
Penguin chronicler, "he was a goose."

Prince des Boscenos maintained his proposal to march against Formose's palace
and the House of Parliament.

Count Clena was even still more energetic.

"Let us begin," said he, "by slaughtering, disembowelling, and braining the
Republicans and all partisans of the government. Afterwards we shall see what
more need be done."

M. de La Trumelle was a moderate, and moderates are always moderately opposed
to violence. He recognised that Count Clena's policy was inspired by a noble
feeling and that it was high-minded, but he timidly objected that perhaps it
was not conformable to principle, and that it presented certain dangers. At
last he consented to discuss it.

"I propose," added he, "to draw up an appeal to the people. Let us show who we
are. For my own part I can assure you that I shall not hide my flag in my
pocket."

M. Bigourd began to speak.

"Gentlemen, the Penguins are dissatisfied with the new order because it
exists, and it is natural for men to complain of their condition. But at the
same time the Penguins are afraid to change their government because new
things alarm them. They have not known the Dragon's crest and, although they
sometimes say that they regret it, we must not believe them. It is easy to see
that they speak in this way either without thought or because they are in an
ill-temper. Let us not have any illusions about their feelings towards
ourselves. They do not like us. They hate the aristocracy both from a base
envy and from a generous love of equality. And these two united feelings are
very strong in a people. Public opinion is not against us, because it knows
nothing about us. But when it knows what we want it will not follow us. If we
let it be seen that we wish to destroy democratic government and restore the
Dragon's crest, who will be our partisans? Only the butcher-boys and the
little shopkeepers of Alca. And could we even count on them to the end? They
are dissatisfied, but at the bottom of their hearts they are Republicans. They
are more anxious to sell their cursed wares than to see Crucho again. If we
act openly we shall only cause alarm.

"To make people sympathise with us and follow us we must make them believe
that we want, not to overthrow the Republic, but, on the contrary, to restore
it, to cleanse, to purify, to embellish, to adorn, to beautify, and to
ornament it, to render it, in a word, glorious and attractive. Therefore, we
ought not to act openly ourselves. It is known that we are not favourable to
the present order. We must have recourse to a friend of the Republic, and, if
we are to do what is best, to a defender of this government. We have plenty to
choose from. It would be well to prefer the most popular and, if I dare say
so, the most republican of them. We shall win him over to us by flattery, by
presents, and above all by promises. Promises cost less than presents, and are
worth more. No one gives as much as he who gives hopes. It is not necessary
for the man we choose to be of brilliant intellect. I would even prefer him to
be of no great ability. Stupid people show an inimitable grace in roguery. Be
guided by me, gentlemen, and overthrow the Republic by the agency of a
Republican. Let us be prudent. But prudence does not exclude energy. If you
need me you will find me at your disposal."

This speech made a great impression upon those who heard it. The mind of the
pious Agaric was particularly impressed. But each of them was anxious to
appoint himself to a position of honour and profit. A secret government was
organised of which all those present were elected active members. The Duke of
Ampoule, who was the great financier of the party, was chosen treasurer and
charged with organising funds for the propaganda.

The meeting was on the point of coming to an end when a rough voice was heard
singing an old air:

Boscenos est un gros cochon;
On en va faire des andouilles
Des saucisses et du jambon
Pour le reveillon des pauv' bougres.

It had, for two hundred years, been a well-known song in the slums of Alca.
Prince Boscenos did not like to hear it. He went down into the street, and,
perceiving that the singer was a workman who was placing some slates on the
roof of a church, he politely asked him to sing something else.


"I will sing what I like," answered the man.

"My friend, to please me. . . ."

"I don't want to please you."

Prince Boscenos was as a rule good-tempered, but he was easily angered and a
man of great strength.

"Fellow, come down or I will go up to you," cried he, in a terrible voice.

As the workman, astride on his coping, showed no sign of budging, the prince
climbed quickly up the staircase of the tower and attacked the singer. He gave
him a blow that broke his jaw-bone and sent him rolling into a water-spout. At
that moment seven or eight carpenters, who were working on the rafters, heard
their companion's cry and looked through the window. Seeing the prince on the
coping they climbed along a ladder that was leaning on the slates and reached
him just as he was slipping into the tower. They sent him, head foremost, down
the one hundred and thirty-seven steps of the spiral staircase.

 

IV. VISCOUNTESS OLIVE

The Penguins had the finest army in the world. So had the Porpoises. And it
was the same with the other nations of Europe. The smallest amount of thought
will prevent any surprise at this. For all armies are the finest in the world.
The second finest army, if one could exist, would be in a notoriously inferior
position; it would be certain to be beaten. It ought to be disbanded at once.
Therefore, all armies are the finest in the world. In France the illustrious
Colonel Marchand understood this when, before the passage of the Yalou, being
questioned by some journalists about the Russo-Japanese war, he did not
hesitate to describe the Russian army as the finest in the world, and also the
Japanese. And it should be noticed that even after suffering the most terrible
reverses an army does not fall from its position of being the finest in the
world. For if nations ascribe their victories to the ability of their generals
and the courage of their soldiers, they always attribute their defeats to an
inexplicable fatality. On the other hand, navies are classed according to the
number of their ships. There is a first, a second, a third, and so on. So that
there exists no doubt as to the result of naval wars.


The Penguins had the finest army and the second navy in the world. This navy
was commanded by the famous Chatillon, who bore the title of Emiralbahr, and
by abbreviation Emiral. It is the same word which, unfortunately in a corrupt
form, is used to-day among several European nations to designate the highest
grade in the naval service. But as there was but one Emiral among the
Penguins, a singular prestige, if I dare say so, was attached to that rank.

The Emiral did not belong to the nobility. A child of the people, he was loved
by the people. They were flattered to see a man who sprang from their own
ranks holding a position of honour. Chatillon was good-looking and fortune
favoured him. He was not over-addicted to thought. No event ever disturbed his
serene outlook.

The Reverend Father Agaric, surrendering to M. Bigourd's reasons and
recognising that the existing government could only be destroyed by one of its
defenders, cast his eyes upon Emiral Chatillon. He asked a large sum of money
from his friend, the Reverend Father Cornemuse, which the latter handed him
with a sigh. And with this sum he hired six hundred butcher boys of Alca to
run behind Chatillon's horse and shout, "Hurrah for the Emiral!" Henceforth
Chatillon could not take a single step without being cheered.

Viscountess Olive asked him for a private interview. He received her at the
Admiralty* in a room decorated with anchors, shells, and grenades.

* Or better, Emiralty.


She was discreetly dressed in greyish blue. A hat trimmed with roses covered
her pretty, fair hair, Behind her veil her eyes shone like sapphires. Although
she came of Jewish origin there was no more fashionable woman in the whole
nobility. She was tall and well shaped; her form was that of the year, her
figure that of the season.

"Emiral," said she, in a delightful voice, "I cannot conceal my emotion from
you. . . . It is very natural . . . before a hero."

"You are too kind. But tell me, Viscountess, what brings me the honour of your
visit."

"For a long time I have been anxious to see you, to speak to you. . . . So I
very willingly undertook to convey a message to you."

"Please take a seat."

"How still it is here."

"Yes, it is quiet enough."

"You can hear the birds singing."

"Sit down, then, dear lady."

And he drew up an arm-chair for her.

She took a seat with her back to the light.

"Emiral, I came to bring you a very important message, a message. . ."

"Explain."

"Emiral, have you ever seen Prince Crucho?"

"Never."

She sighed.

"It is a great pity. He would be so delighted to see you! He esteems and
appreciates you. He has your portrait on his desk beside his mother's. What a
pity it is he is not better known! He is a charming prince and so grateful for
what is done for him! He will be a great king. For he will be king without
doubt. He will come back and sooner than people think. . . . What I have to
tell you, the message with which I am entrusted, refers precisely to. . ."

The Emiral stood up.

"Not a word more, dear lady. I have the esteem, the confidence of the
Republic. I will not betray it. And why should I betray it? I am loaded
honours and dignities."

"Allow me to tell you, my dear Emiral, that your honours and dignities are far
from equalling what you deserve. If your services were properly rewarded, you
would be Emiralissimo and Generalissimo, Commander-in-chief of the troops both
on land and sea. The Republic is very ungrateful to you."

"All governments are more or less ungrateful."

"Yes, but the Republicans are jealous of you. That class of person is always
afraid of his superiors. They cannot endure the Services. Everything that has
to do with the navy and the army is odious to them. They are afraid of you."

"That is possible."

"They are wretches; they are ruining the country. Don't you wish to save
Penguinia?

"In what way?"

"By sweeping away all the rascals of the Republic, all the Republicans."

"What a proposal to make to me, dear lady!"

"It is what will certainly be done, if not by you, then by some one else. The
Generalissimo, to mention him alone, is ready to throw all the ministers,
deputies, and senators into the sea, and to recall Prince Crucho."

"Oh, the rascal, the scoundrel," exclaimed the Emiral.

"Do to him what he would do to you. The prince will know how to recognise your
services, He will give you the Constable's sword and a magnificent grant. I am
commissioned, in the mean time, to hand you a pledge of his royal friendship."

As she said these words she drew a green cockade from her bosom.

"What is that?" asked the Emiral.

"It is his colours which Crucho sends you."

"Be good enough to take them back."

"So that they may be offered to the Generalissimo who will accept them! . . .
No, Emiral, let me place them on your glorious breast."

Chatillon gently repelled the lady. But for some minutes he thought her
extremely pretty, and he felt this impression still more when two bare arms
and the rosy palms of two delicate hands touched him lightly. He yielded
almost immediately. Olive was slow in fastening the ribbon. Then when it was
done she made a low courtesy and saluted Chatillon with the title of
Constable.

"I have been ambitious like my comrades," answered the sailor, "I don't hide
it, and perhaps I am so still; but u on my word of honour, when I look at you,
the only, desire I feel is for a cottage and a heart."

She turned upon him the charming sapphire glances that flashed from under her
eyelids.

"That is to be had also . . . what are you doing, Emiral?"

"I am looking for the heart."

When she left the Admiralty, the Viscountess went immediately to the Reverend
Father Agaric to give an account of her visit.

"You must go to him again, dear lady," said that austere monk.

 

V. THE PRINCE DES BOSCENOS

Morning and evening the newspapers that had been bought by the Dracophils
proclaimed Chatillon's praises and hurled shame and opprobrium upon the
Ministers of the Republic. Chatillon's portrait was sold through the streets
of Alca. Those young descendants of Remus who carry plaster figures on their
heads, offered busts of Chatillon for sale upon the bridges.

Every evening Chatillon rode upon his white horse round the Queen's Meadow, a
place frequented by the people of fashion. The Dracophils posted along the
Emiral's route a crowd of needy Penguins who kept shouting: "It is Chatillon
we want." The middle classes of Alca conceived a profound admiration for the
Emiral. Shopwomen murmured: "He is good-looking." Women of fashion slackened
the speed of their motor-cars and kissed hands to him as they passed, amidst
the hurrahs of an enthusiastic populace.


One day, as he went into a tobacco shop, two Penguins who were putting letters
in the box recognized Chatillon and cried at the top of their voices: "Hurrah
for the Emiral! Down with the Republicans." All those who were passing stopped
in front of the shop. Chatillon lighted his cigar before the eyes of a dense
crowd of frenzied citizens who waved their hats and cheered. The crowd kept
increasing, and the whole town, singing and marching behind its hero, went
back with him to the Admiralty.

The Emiral had an old comrade in arms, Under-Emiral Vulcanmould, who had
served with great distinction, a man as true as gold and as loyal as his
sword. Vulcanmould plumed himself on his thoroughgoing independence and he
went among the partisans of Crucho and the Minister of the Republic telling
both parties what he thought of them. M. Bigourd maliciously declared that he
told each party what the other party thought of it. In truth he had on several
occasions been guilty of regrettable indiscretions, which were overlooked as
being the freedoms of a soldier who knew nothing of intrigue. Every morning he
went to see Chatillon, whom he treated with the cordial roughness of a brother
in arms.

"Well, old buffer, so you are popular," said he to him. "Your phiz is sold on
the heads of pipes and on liqueur bottles and every drunkard in Alca spits out
your name as he rolls in the gutter. . . . Chatillon, the hero of the
Penguins! Chatillon, defender of the Penguin glory! . . . Who would have said
it? Who would have thought it?"

And he laughed with his harsh laugh. Then changing his tone: "But, joking
aside, are you not a bit surprised at what is happening to you?"

"No, indeed," answered Chatillon.

And out went the honest Vulcanmould, banging the door behind him.

In the mean time Chatillon had taken a little flat at number 18 Johannes-Talpa
Street, so that he might receive Viscountess Olive. They met there every day.
He was desperately in love with her. During his martial and neptunian life he
had loved crowds of women, red, black, yellow, and white, and some of them had
been very beautiful. But before he met the Viscountess he did not know what a
woman really was. When the Viscountess Olive called him her darling, her dear
darling, he felt in heaven and it seemed to him that the stars shone in her
hair.

She would come a little late, and, as she put her ba,q on the table, she would
ask pensively:

"Let me sit on your knee."

And then she would talk of subjects suggested by the pious Agaric,
interrupting the conversation with sighs and kisses. She would ask him to
dismiss such and such an officer, to give a command to another, to send the
squadron here or there. And at the right moment she would exclaim:

"How young you are, my dear!"

And he did whatever she wished, for he was simple, he was anxious to wear the
Constable's sword, and to receive a large grant; he did not dislike playing a
double part, he had a vague idea of saving Penguinia, and he was in love.

This delightful woman induced him to remove the troops that were at La Cirque,
the port where Crucho was to land. By this means it was made certain that
there would be no obstacle to prevent the prince from entering Penguinia.

The pious Agaric organised public meetings so as to keep up the agitation. The
Dracophils held one or two every day in some of the thirty-six districts of
Alca, and preferably in the poorer quarters. They desired to win over the
poor, for they are the most numerous. On the fourth of May a particularly fine
meeting was held in an old cattle-market, situated in the centre of a populous
suburb filled with housewives sitting on the doorsteps and children playing in
the gutters. There were present about two thousand people, in the opinion of
the Republicans, and six thousand according to the reckoning of the
Dracophils. In the audience was to be seen the flower of Penguin society,
including Prince and Princess des Boscenos, Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, M.
Bigourd, and several rich Jewish ladies.

The Generalissimo of the national army had come in uniform. He was cheered.

The committee had been carefully formed. A man of the people, a workman, but a
man of sound principles, M. Rauchin, the secretary of the yellow syndicate,
was asked to preside, supported by Count Clena and M. Michaud, a butcher.

The government which Penguinia had freely given itself was called by such
names as cesspool and drain in several eloquent speeches. But President
Formose was spared and no mention was made of Crucho or the priests.

The meeting was not unanimous. A defender of the modern State and of the
Republic, a manual labourer, stood up.

"Gentlemen," said M. Rauchin, the chairman, "we have told you that this
meeting would not be unanimous. We are not like our opponents, we are honest
men. I allow our opponent to speak. Heaven knows what you are going to hear.
Gentlemen, I beg of you to restrain as long as you can the expression of your
contempt, your disgust, and your indignation."

"Gentlemen," said the opponent. . . .

Immediately he was knocked down, trampled beneath the feet of the indignant
crowd, and his unrecognisable remains thrown out of the hall.

The tumult was still resounding when Count Clena ascended the tribune. Cheers
took the place of groans and when silence was restored the orator uttered
these words:

"Comrades, we are going to see whether you have blood in your veins. What we
have got to do is to slaughter, disembowel, and brain all the Republicans."

This speech let loose such a thunder of applause that the old shed rocked with
it, and a cloud of acrid and thick dust fell from its filthy walls and
worm-eaten beams and enveloped the audience.

A resolution was carried vilifying the government and acclaiming Chatillon.
And the audience departed singing the hymn of the liberator: "It is Chatillon
we want."

The only way out of the old market was through a muddy alley shut in by
omnibus stables and coal sheds. There was no moon and a cold drizzle was
coming down. The police, who were assembled in great numbers, blocked the
alley and compelled the Dracophils to disperse in little groups. These were
the instructions they had received from their chief, who was anxious to check
the enthusiasm of the excited crowd.

The Dracophils who were detained in the alley kept marking time and singing,
"It is Chatillon we want." Soon, becoming impatient of the delay, the cause of
which they did not know, they began to push those in front of them. This
movement, propagated along the alley, threw those in front against the broad
chests of the police. The latter had no hatred for the Dracophils. In the
bottom of their hearts they liked Chatillon. But it is natural to resist
aggression and strong men are inclined to make use of their strength. For
these reasons the police kicked the Dracophils with their hob-nailed boots. As
a result there were sudden rushes backwards and forwards. Threats and cries
mingled with the songs.

"Murder! Murder! . . . It is Chatillon we want! Murder! Murder!"

And in the gloomy alley the more prudent kept saying, "Don't push." Among
these latter, in the darkness, his lofty figure rising above the moving crowd,
his broad shoulders and robust body noticeable among the trampled limbs and
crushed sides of the rest, stood the Prince des Boscenos, calm, immovable, and
placid. Serenely and indulgently he waited. In the mean time, as the exit was
opened at regular intervals between the ranks of the police, the pressure of
elbows against the chests of those around the prince diminished and people
began to breathe again.

"You see we shall soon be able to go out," said that kindly giant, with a
pleasant smile. "Time and patience . . ."

He took a cigar from his case, raised it to his lips and struck a match.
Suddenly, in the light of the match, he saw Princess Anne, his wife, clasped
in Count Clena's arms. At this sight he rushed towards them, striking both
them and those around with his cane. He was disarmed, though not without
difficulty, but he could not be separated from his opponent. And whilst the
fainting princess was lifted from arm to arm to her carriage over the excited
and curious crowd, the two men still fought furiously. Prince des Boscenos
lost his hat, his eye-glass, his cigar, his necktie, and his portfolio full of
private letters and political correspondence; he even lost the miraculous
medals that he had received from the good Father Cornemuse. But he gave his
opponent so terrible a kick in the stomach that the unfortunate Count was
knocked through an iron grating and went, head foremost, through a glass door
and into a coal-shed.

Attracted by the struggle and the cries of those around, the police rushed
towards the prince, who furiously resisted them. He stretched three of them
gasping at his feet and put seven others to flight, with, respectively, a
broken jaw, a split lip, a nose pouring blood, a fractured skull, a torn ear,
a dislocated collar-bone, and broken ribs. He fell, however, and was dragged
bleeding and disfigured, with his clothes in rags, to the nearest
police-station, where, jumping about and bellowing, he spent the night.

At daybreak groups of demonstrators went about the town singing, "It is
Chatillon we want," and breaking the windows of the houses in which the
Ministers of the Republic lived.

 

VI. THE EMIRAL'S FALL

That night marked the culmination of the Dracophil movement. The Royalists had
no longer any doubt of its triumph. Their chiefs sent congratulations to
Prince Crucho by wireless telegraphy. Their ladies embroidered scarves and
slippers for him. M. de Plume had found the green horse.

The pious Agaric shared the common hope. But he still worked to win partisans
for the Pretender. They ought, he said, to lay their foundations upon the
bed-rock.

With this design he had an interview with three Trade Union workmen.

In these times the artisans no longer lived, as in the days of the Draconides,
under the government of corporations. They were free, but they had no assured
pay. After having remained isolated from each other for a long time, without
help and without support, they had formed themselves into unions. The coffers
of the unions were empty, as it was not the habit of the unionists to pay
their subscriptions. There were unions numbering thirty thousand members,
others with a thousand, five hundred, two hundred, and so forth. Several
numbered two or three members only, or even a few less. But as the lists of
adherents were not published, it was not easy to distinguish the great unions
from the small ones.


After some dark and indirect steps the pious Agaric was put into communication
in a room in the Moulin de la Galette, with comrades Dagobert, Tronc, and
Balafille, the secretaries of three unions of which the first numbered
fourteen members, the second twenty-four, and the third only one. Agaric
showed extreme cleverness at this interview.

"Gentlemen," said he, "you and I have not, in most respects, the same
political and social views, but there are points in which we may come to an
understanding. We have a common enemy. The government exploits you and
despises us. Help us to overthrow it; we will supply you with the means so far
as we are able, and you can in addition count on our gratitude."

"Fork out the tin," said Dagobert.

The Reverend Father placed on the table a bag which the distiller of Conils
had given him with tears in his eyes.

"Done!" said the three companions.

Thus was the solemn compact sealed.

As soon as the monk had departed, carrying with him the joy of having won over
the masses to his cause, Dagobert, Tronc, and Balafille whistled to their
wives, Amelia, Queenie, and Matilda, who were waiting in the street for the
signal, and all six holding each other's hands, danced around the bag,
singing:

J'ai du bon pognon,
Tu n'l'auras pas Chatillon!
Hou! Hou! la calotte!

And they ordered a salad-bowl full of warm wine.

In the evening all six went through the street from stall to stall singing
their new song. The song became popular, for the detectives reported that
every day showed an increase of the number of workpeople who sang through the
slums:

J'ai du bon pognon;
Tu n'l'auras pas Chatillon!
Hou! Hou! la calotte!

The Dracophil agitation made no progress in the provinces. The pious Agaric
sought to find the cause of this, but was unable to discover it until old
Cornemuse revealed it to him.


"I have proofs," sighed the monk of Conils, "that the Duke of Ampoule, the
treasurer of the Dracophils, has brought property in Porpoisia with the funds
that he received for the propaganda."

The party wanted money. Prince des Boscenos had lost his portfolio in a brawl
and he was reduced to painful expedients which were repugnant to his impetuous
character. The Viscountess Olive was expensive. Cornemuse advised that the
monthly allowance of that lady should be diminished.

"She is very useful to us," objected the pious Agaric.

"Undoubtedly," answered Cornemuse, "but she does us an injury by ruining us."

A schism divided the Dracophils. Misunderstandings reigned in their councils.
Some wished that in accordance with the policy of M. Bigourd and the pious
Agaric, they should carry on the design of reforming the Republic. Others,
wearied by their long constraint, had resolved to proclaim the Dragon's crest
and swore to conquer beneath that sign.

The latter urged the advantage of a clear situation and the impossibility of
making a pretence much longer, and in truth, the public began to see whither
the agitation was tending and that the Emiral's partisans wanted to destroy
the very foundations of the Republic.

A report was spread that the prince was to land at La Cirque and make his
entry into Alca on a green horse.

These rumours excited the fanatical monks, delighted the poor nobles,
satisfied the rich Jewish ladies, and put hope in the hearts of the small
traders. But very few of them were inclined to purchase these benefits at the
price of a social catastrophe and the overthrow of the public credit; and
there were fewer still who would have risked their money, their peace, their
liberty, or a single hour from their pleasures in the business. On the other
hand, the workmen held themselves ready, as ever, to give a day's work to the
Republic, and a strong resistance was being formed in the suburbs.

"The people are with us," the pious Agaric used to say.

However, men, women, and children, when leaving their factories, used to shout
with one voice:

A bas Chatillon!
Hou! Hou! la calotte!

As for the government, it showed the weakness, indecision, flabbiness, and
heedlessness common to all governments, and from which none has ever departed
without falling into arbitrariness and violence. In three words it knew
nothing, wanted nothing, and would do nothing. Formose, shut in his
presidential palace, remained blind, dumb, deaf, huge, invisible, wrapped up
in his pride as in an eider-down.


Count Olive advised the Dracophils to make a last appeal for funds and to
attempt a great stroke while Alca was still in a ferment.

An executive committee, which he himself had chosen, decided to kidnap the
members of the Chamber of Deputies, and considered ways and means.

The affair was fixed for the twenty-eighth of July. On that day the sun rose
radiantly over the city. In front of the legislative palace women passed to
market with their baskets; hawkers cried their peaches, pears, and grapes; cab
horses with their noses in their bags munched their hay. Nobody expected
anything, not because the secret had been kept but because it met with nothing
but unbelievers. Nobody believed in a revolution, and from this fact we may
conclude that nobody desired one. About two o'clock the deputies began to
pass, few and unnoticed, through the side-door of the palace. At three o'clock
a few groups of badly dressed men had formed. At half past three black masses
coming from the adjacent streets spread over Revolution Square. This vast
expanse was soon covered by an ocean of soft hats, and the crowd of
demonstrators, continually increased by sight-seers, having crossed the
bridge, struck its dark wave against the walls of the legislative enclosure.
Cries, murmurs, and songs went up to the impassive sky. "It is Chatillon we
want!" "Down with the Deputies!" "Down with the Republicans!" "Death to the
Republicans!" The devoted band of Dracophils, led by Prince des Boscenos,
struck up the august canticle:

Vive Crucho,
Vaillant et sage,
Plein de courage
Des le berceau!

Behind the wall silence alone replied.

This silence and the absence of guards encouraged and at the same time
frightened the crowd. Suddenly a formidable voice cried out:


"Attack!"

And Prince des Boscenos was seen raising his gigantic form to the top of the
wall, which was covered with barbs and iron spikes. Behind him rushed his
companions, and the people followed. Some hammered against the wall to make
holes in it; others endeavoured to tear down the spikes and to pull out the
barbs. These defences had given way in places and some of the invaders had
stripped the wall and were sitting astride on the top. Prince des Boscenos was
waving an immense green flag. Suddenly the crowd wavered and from it came a
long cry of terror. The police and the Republican carabineers issuing out of
all the entrances of the palace formed themselves into a column beneath the
wall and in a moment it was cleared of its besiegers. After a long moment of
suspense the noise of arms was heard, and the police charged the crowd with
fixed bayonets. An instant afterwards and on the deserted square strewn with
hats and walking-sticks there reigned a sinister silence. Twice again the
Dracophils attempted to form, twice they were repulsed. The rising was
conquered. But Prince des Boscenos, standing on the wall of the hostile
palace, his flag in his hand, still repelled the attack of a whole brigade. He
knocked down all who approached him. At last he, too, was thrown down, and
fell on an iron spike, to which he remained hooked, still clasping the
standard of the Draconides.

On the following day the Ministers of the Republic and the Members of
Parliament determined to take energetic measures. In vain, this time, did
President Formose attempt to evade his responsibilities. The government
discussed the question of depriving Chatillon of his rank and dignities and of
indicting him before the High Court as a conspirator, an enemy of the public
good, a traitor, etc.

At this news the Emiral's old companions in arms, who the very evening before
had beset him with their adulations, made no effort to conceal their joy. But
Chatillon remained popular with the middle classes of Alca and one still heard
the hymn of the liberator sounding in the streets, "It is Chatillon we want."

The Ministers were embarrassed. They intended to indict Chatillon before the
High Court. But they knew nothing; they remained in that total ignorance
reserved for those who govern men. They were incapable of advancing any grave
charges against Chatillon. They could supply the prosecution with nothing but
the ridiculous lies of their spies. Chatillon's share in the plot and his
relations with Prince Crucho remained the secret of the thirty thousand
Dracophils. The Ministers and the Deputies had suspicions and even
certainties, but they had no proofs. The Public Prosecutor said to the
Minister of justice: "Very little is needed for a political prosecution! but I
have nothing at all and that is not enough." The affair made no progress. The
enemies of the Republic were triumphant.

On the eighteenth of September the news ran in Alca that Chatillon had taken
flight. Everywhere there was surprise and astonishment. People doubted, for
they could not understand.

This is what had happened: One day as the brave Under-Emiral Vulcanmould
happened, as if by chance, to go into the office of M. Barbotan, the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, he remarked with his usual frankness:

"M. Barbotan, your colleagues do not seem to me to be up to much; it is
evident that they have never commanded a ship. That fool Chatillon gives them
a deuced bad fit of the shivers."

The Minister, in sign of denial, waved his paper-knife in the air above his
desk.

"Don't deny it," answered Vulcanmould. "You don't know how to get rid of
Chatillon. You do not dare to indict him before the High Court because you are
not sure of being able to bring forward a strong enough charge. Bigourd will
defend him, and Bigourd is a clever advocate. . . . You are right, M.
Barbotan, you are right. It would be a dangerous trial."

"Ah! my friend," said the Minister, in a careless tone, "if you knew how
satisfied we are. . . . I receive the most reassuring news from my prefects.
The good sense of the Penguins will do justice to the intrigues of this
mutinous soldier. Can you suppose for a moment that a great people, an
intelligent, laborious people, devoted to liberal institutions which. . ."

Vulcanmould interrupted with a great sigh:

"Ah! If I had time to do it I would relieve you of your difficulty. I would
juggle away my Chatillon like a nutmeg out of a thimble. I would fillip him
off to Porpoisia."

The Minister paid close attention.

"It would not take long," continued the sailor. "I would rid you in a trice of
the creature. . . . But just now I have other fish to fry. . . . I am in a bad
hole. I must find a pretty big sum. But, deuce take it, honour before
everything."

The Minister and the Under-Emiral looked at each other for a moment in
silence. Then Barbotan said with authority:

"Under-Emiral Vulcanmould, get rid of this seditious soldier. You will render
a great service to Penguinia, and the Minister of Home Affairs will see that
your gambling debts are paid."

The same evening Vulcanmould called on Chatillon and looked at him for some
time with an expression of grief and mystery.

"My do you look like that?" asked the Emiral in an uneasy tone.

Vulcanmould said to him sadly:

"Old brother in arms, all is discovered. For the past half-hour the government
knows everything."

At these words Chatillon sank down overwhelmed.

Vulcanmould continued:

"You may be arrested any moment. I advise you to make off."

And drawing out his watch:

"Not a minute to lose."

"Have I time to call on the Viscountess Olive?"

"It would be mad," said Vulcanmould, handing him a passport and a pair of blue
spectacles, and telling him to have courage.

"I will," said Chatillon.

"Good-bye! old chum."

"Good-bye and thanks! You have saved my life."

"That is the least I could do."

A quarter of an hour later the brave Emiral had left the city of Alca.

He embarked at night on an old cutter at La Cirque and set sail for Porpoisia.
But eight miles from the coast he was captured by a despatch-boat which was
sailing without lights and which was under, the flag of the Queen of the Black
Islands. That Queen had for a long time nourished a fatal passion for
Chatillon.

 

VII. CONCLUSION

Nunc est bibendum. Delivered from its fears and pleased at having escaped from
so great a danger, the government resolved to celebrate the anniversary of the
Penguin regeneration and the establishment of the Republic by holding a
general holiday.


President Formose, the Ministers, and the members of the Chamber and of the
Senate were present at the ceremony.

The Generalissimo of the Penguin army was present in uniform. He was cheered.

Preceded by the black flag of misery and the red flag of revolt, deputations
of workmen walked in the procession, their aspect one of grim protection.

President, Ministers, Deputies, officials, heads of the magistracy and of the
army, each, in their own names and in the name of the sovereign people,
renewed the ancient oath to live in freedom or to die. It was an alternative
upon which they were resolutely determined. But they preferred to live in
freedom. There were games, speeches, and songs.

After the departure of the representatives of the State the crowd of citizens
separated slowly and peaceably, shouting out, "Hurrah for the Republic!"
"Hurrah for liberty!" "Down with the shaven pates!"

The newspapers mentioned only one regrettable incident that happened on that
wonderful day. Prince des Boscenos was quietly smoking a cigar in the Queen's
Meadow when the State procession passed by. The prince approached the
Minister's carriage and said in a loud voice: "Death to the Republicans!" He
was immediately apprehended by the police, to whom he offered a most desperate
resistance. He knocked them down in crowds, but he was conquered by numbers,
and, bruised, scratched, swollen, and unrecognisable even to the eyes of. his
wife, he was dragged through the joyous streets into an obscure prison.

The magistrates carried on the case against Chatillon in a peculiar style.
Letters were found at the Admiralty which revealed the complicity of the
Reverend Father Agaric in the plot. Immediately public opinion was inflamed
against the monks, and Parliament voted, one after the other, a dozen laws
which restrained, diminished, limited, prescribed, suppressed, determined, and
curtailed, their rights, immunities, exemptions, privileges, and benefits, and
created many invalidating disqualifications against them.

The Reverend Father Agaric steadfastly endured the rigour of the laws which
struck himself personally, as well as the terrible fall of the Emiral of which
he was the chief cause. Far from yielding to evil fortune, he regarded it as
but a bird of passage. He was planning new political designs more audacious
than the first.

When his projects were sufficiently ripe he went one day to the Wood of
Conils. A thrush sang in a tree and a little hedgehog crossed the stony path
in front of him with awkward steps. Agaric walked with great strides,
muttering fragments of sentences to himself.

When he reached the door of the laboratory in which, for so many years, the
pious manufacturer bad distilled the golden liqueur of St. Orberosia, he found
the place deserted and the door shut. Having walked around the building he saw
in the backyard the venerable Cornemuse, who, with his habit pinned up, was
climbing a ladder that leant against the wall.

"Is that you, my dear friend?" said he to him. "What are you doing there?"

"You can see for yourself," answered the monk of Conils in a feeble voice,
turning a sorrowful look Upon Agaric. "I am going into my house."

The red pupils of his eyes no longer imitated the triumph and brilliance of
the ruby, they flashed mournful and troubled glances. His countenance had lost
its happy fulness. His shining head was no longer pleasant to the sight;
perspiration and inflamed blotches bad altered its inestimable perfection.

"I don't understand," said Agaric.

"It is easy enough to understand. You see the consequences of your plot.
Although a multitude of laws are directed against me I have managed to elude
the greater number of them. Some, however, have struck me. These vindictive
men have closed my laboratories and my shops, and confiscated my bottles, my
stills, and my retorts. They have put seals on my doors and now I am compelled
to go in through the window. I am barely able to extract in secret and from
time to time the juice of a few plants and that with an apparatus which the
humblest labourer would despise."

"You suffer from the persecution," said Agaric. "It strikes us all."

The monk of Conils passed his hand over his afflicted brow:

"I told you so, Brother Agaric; I told you that your enterprise would turn
against ourselves."

"Our defeat is only momentary," replied Agaric eagerly. "It is due to purely
accidental causes; it results from mere contingencies. Chatillon was a fool;
he has drowned himself in his own ineptitude. Listen to me, Brother Cornemuse.
We have not a moment to lose. We must free the Penguin people, we must deliver
them from their tyrants, save them from themselves, restore the Dragon's
crest, reestablish the ancient State, the good State, for the honour of
religion and the exaltation of the Catholic faith. Chatillon was a bad
instrument; he broke in our hands. Let us take a better instrument to replace
him. I have the man who will destroy this impious democracy. He is a civil
official; his name is Gomoru. The Penguins worship him, He has already
betrayed his party for a plate of rice. There's the man we want!"

At the beginning of this speech the monk of Conils had climbed into his window
and pulled up the ladder.

"I foresee," answered he, with his nose through the sash, "that you will not
stop until you have us all expelled from this pleasant, agreeable, and sweet
land of Penguinia. Good night; God keep you!"

Agaric, standing before the wall, entreated his dearest brother to listen to
him for a moment:

"Understand your own interest better, Cornemuse! Penguinia is ours. What do we
need to conquer it? just one effort more . . . one more little sacrifice of
money and . . ."

But without listening further, the monk of Conils drew in his head and closed
his window.

 

BOOK VI. MODERN TIMES.

 

THE AFFAIR OF THE EIGHTY THOUSAND TRUSSES OF HAY

O Father Zeus, only save thou the sons of the Acheans from the darkness, and
make clear sky and vouchsafe sight to our eyes, and then, so it be but light,
slay us, since such is thy good pleasure. (Iliad, xvii. 645 et seq.)

 


I. GENERAL GREATAUK, DUKE OF SKULL

A short time after the flight of the Emiral, a middle-class Jew called Pyrot,
desirous of associating with the aristocracy and wishing to serve his country,
entered the Penguin army. The Minister of War, who at the time was Greatauk,
Duke of Skull, could not endure him. He blamed him for his zeal, his hooked
nose, his vanity, his fondness for study, his thick lips, and his exemplary
conduct. Every time the author of any misdeed was looked for, Greatauk used to
say:


"It must be Pyrot!"

One morning General Panther, the Chief of the Staff, informed Greatauk of a
serious matter. Eighty thousand trusses of hay intended for the cavalry had
disappeared and not a trace of them was to be found.

Greatauk exclaimed at once:

"It must be Pyrot who has stolen them!"

He remained in thought for some time and said: "The more I think of it the
more I am convinced that Pyrot has stolen those eighty thousand trusses of
hay. And I know it by this: he stole them in order that he might sell them to
our bitter enemies the Porpoises. What an infamous piece of treachery!

"There is no doubt about it," answered Panther; "it only remains to prove it."

The same day, as he passed by a cavalry barracks, Prince des Boscenos heard
the troopers as they were sweeping out the yard, singing:

Boscenos est un gros cochon;
On en va faire des andouilles,
Des saucisses et du jambon
Pour le riveillon des pauy' bougres.

It seemed to him contrary to all discipline that soldiers should sing this
domestic and revolutionary refrain which on days of riot had been uttered by
the lips of jeering workmen. On this occasion he deplored the moral
degeneration of the army, and thought with a bitter smile that his old comrade
Greatauk, the head of this degenerate army, basely exposed him to the malice
of an unpatriotic government. And he promised himself that he would make an
improvement before long.


"That scoundrel Greatauk," said he to himself, "will, not remain long a
Minister."

Prince des Boscenos was the most irreconcilable of the opponents of modem
democracy, free thought, and the government which the Penguins had voluntarily
given themselves. He had a vigorous and undisguised hatred for the Jews, and
he worked in public and in private, night and day, for the restoration of the
line of the Draconides. His ardent royalism was still further excited by the
thought of his private affairs, which were in a bad way and were hourly
growing worse. He had no hope of seeing an end to his pecuniary embarrassments
until the heir of Draco the Great entered the city of Alca.

When he returned to his house, the prince took out of his safe a bundle of old
letters consisting of a private correspondence of the most secret nature,
which he had obtained from a treacherous secretary. They proved that his old
comrade Greatauk, the Duke of Skull, had been guilty of jobbery regarding the
military stores and had received a present of no great value from a
manufacturer called Maloury. The very smallness of this present deprived the
Minister who had accepted it of all excuse.

The prince re-read the letters with a bitter satisfaction, put them carefully
back into his safe, and dashed to the Minister of War. He was a man of
resolute character. On being told that the Minister could see no one he
knocked down the ushers, swept aside the orderlies, trampled under foot the
civil and military clerks, burst through the doors, and entered the room of
the astonished Greatauk.

"I will not say much," said he to him, "but I will speak to the point. You are
a confounded cad. I have asked you to put a flea in the ear of General
Mouchin, the tool of those Republicans, and you would not do it. I have asked
you to give a command to General des Clapiers, who works for the Dracophils,
and who has obliged me personally, and you would not do it. I have asked you
to dismiss General Tandem, the commander of Port Alca, who robbed me of fifty
louis at cards, and who had me handcuffed when I was brought before the High
Court as Emiral Chatillon's accomplice. You would not do it. I asked you for
the hay and bran stores. You would not give them. I asked you to send me on a
secret mission to Porpoisia. You refused. And not satisfied with these
repeated refusals you have designated me to your Government colleagues as a
dangerous person, who ought to be watched, and it is owing to you that I have
been shadowed by the police. You old traitor! I ask nothing more from you and
I have but one word to say to you: Clear out; you have bothered us too long.
Besides, we will force the vile Republic to replace you by one of our own
party. You know that I am a man of my word. If in twenty-four hours you have
not handed in your resignation I will publish the Maloury dossier in the
newspapers."

But Greatauk calmly and serenely replied:

"Be quiet, you fool. I am just having a Jew transported. I am handing over
Pyrot to justice as guilty of having stolen eighty thousand trusses of hay."

Prince Boscenos, whose anger vanished like a dream, smiled.

"Is that true?"

"You will see."

"My congratulations, Greatauk. But as one always needs to take precautions
with you I shall immediately publish the good news. People will read this
evening about Pyrot's arrest in every newspaper in Alca . . . ."

And he went away muttering:

"That Pyrot! I suspected he would come to a bad end."

A moment later General Panther appeared before Greatauk.

"Sir," said he, "I have just examined the business of the eighty thousand
trusses of hay. There is no evidence against Pyrot."

"Let it be found," answered Greatauk. "Justice requires it. Have Pyrot
arrested at once."

 

I. PYROT

All Penguinia heard with horror of Pyrot's crime; at the same time there was a
sort of satisfaction that this embezzlement combined with treachery and even
bordering on sacrilege, had been committed by a Jew. In order to understand
this feeling it is necessary to be acquainted with the state of public opinion
regarding the Jews both great and small. As we have had occasion to say in
this history, the universally detested and all powerful financial caste was
composed of Christians and of Jews. The Jews who formed part of it and on whom
the people poured all their hatred were the upper-class Jews. They possessed
immense riches and, it was said, held more than a fifth part of the total
property of Penguinia. Outside this formidable caste there was a multitude of
Jews of a mediocre condition, who were not more loved than the others and who
were feared much less. In every ordered State, wealth is a sacred thing: in
democracies it is the only sacred thing. Now the Penguin State was democratic.
Three or four financial companies exercised a more extensive, and above all,
more effective and continuous power, than that of the Ministers of the
Republic. The latter were puppets whom the companies ruled in secret, whom
they compelled by intimidation or corruption to favour themselves at the
expense of the State, and whom they ruined by calumnies in the press if they
remained honest. In spite of the secrecy of the Exchequer, enough appeared to
make the country indignant, but the middle-class Penguins had, from the
greatest to the least of them, been brought up to hold money in great
reverence, and as they all had property, either much or little, they were
strongly impressed with the solidarity of capital and understood that a small
fortune is not safe unless a big one is protected. For these reasons they
conceived a religious respect for the Jews' millions, and self-interest being
stronger with them than aversion, they were as much afraid as they were of
death to touch a single hair of one of the rich Jews whom they detested.
Towards the poorer Jews they felt less ceremonious and when they saw any of
them down they trampled on them. That is why the entire nation learnt with
thorough satisfaction that the traitor was a Jew. They could take vengeance on
all Israel in his person without any fear of compromising the public credit.


That Pyrot had stolen the eighty thousand trusses of hay nobody hesitated for
a moment to believe. No one doubted because the general ignorance in which
everybody was concerning the affair did not allow of doubt, for doubt is a
thing that demands motives. People do not doubt without reasons in the same
way that people believe without reasons. The thing was not doubted because it
was repeated everywhere and, with the public, to repeat is to prove. It was
not doubted because people wished to believe Pyrot guilty and one believes
what one wishes to believe. Finally, it was not doubted because the faculty of
doubt is rare amongst men; very few minds carry in them its germs and these
are not developed without cultivation. Doubt is singular, exquisite,
philosophic, immoral, transcendent, monstrous, full of malignity, injurious to
persons and to property, contrary to the good order of governments, and to the
prosperity of empires, fatal to humanity, destructive of the gods, held in
horror by heaven and earth. The mass of the Penguins were ignorant of doubt:
it believed in Pyrot's guilt and this conviction immediately became one of its
chief national beliefs and an essential truth in its patriotic creed.

Pyrot was tried secretly and condemned.

General Panther immediately went to the Minister of War to tell him the
result.

"Luckily," said he, "the judges were certain, for they had no proofs."

"Proofs," muttered Greatauk, "Proofs, what do they prove? There is only one
certain, irrefragable proof--the confession of the guilty person. Has Pyrot
confessed?"

"No, General."

"He will confess, he ought to. Panther, we must induce him; tell him it is to
his interest. Promise him that, if he confesses, he will obtain favours, a
reduction of his sentence, full pardon; promise him that if he confesses his
innocence will be admitted, that he will be decorated. Appeal to his good
feelings. Let him confess from patriotism, for the flag, for the sake of
order, from respect for the hierarchy, at the special command of the Minister
of War militarily. . . . But tell me, Panther, has he not confessed already?
There are tacit confessions; silence is a confession."

"But, General, he is not silent; he keeps on squealing like a pig that he is
innocent."

"Panther, the confessions of a guilty man sometimes result from the vehemence
of his denials. To deny desperately is to confess. Pyrot has confessed; we
must have witnesses of his confessions, justice requires them."

There was in Western Penguinia a seaport called La Cirque, formed of three
small bays and formerly greatly frequented by ships, but now solitary and
deserted. Gloomy lagoons stretched along its low coasts exhaling a pestilent
odour, while fever hovered over its sleepy waters. Here, on the borders of the
sea, there was built a high square tower, like the old Campanile at Venice,
from the side of which, close to the summit hung an open cage which was
fastened by a chain to a transverse beam. In the times of the Draconides the
Inquisitors of Alca used to put heretical clergy into this cage. It had been
empty for three hundred years, but now Pirot was imprisoned in it under the
guard of sixty warders, who lived in the tower and did not lose sight of him
night or day, spying on him for confessions that they might afterwards report
to the Minister of War. For Greatauk, careful and prudent, desired confessions
and still further confessions. Greatauk, who was looked upon as a fool, was in
reality a man of great ability and full of rare foresight.

In the mean time Pyrot, burnt by the sun, eaten by mosquitoes, soaked in the
rain, hail and snow, frozen by the cold, tossed about terribly by the wind,
beset by the sinister croaking of the ravens that perched upon his cage, kept
writing down his innocence on pieces torn off his shirt with a tooth-pick
dipped in blood. These rags were lost in the sea or fell into the hands of the
gaolers. But Pyrot's protests moved nobody because his confessions had been
published.

 

III. COUNT DE MAUBEC DE LA DENTDULYNX

The morals of the Jews were not always pure; in most cases they were averse
from none of the vices of Christian civilization, but they retained from the
Patriarchal age a recognition of family, ties and an attachment to the
interests of the tribe. Pyrot's brothers, half-brothers, uncles, great-uncles,
first, second, and third cousins, nephews and great-nephews, relations by
blood and relations by marriage, and all who were related to him to the number
of about seven hundred, were at first overwhelmed by the blow that had struck
their relative, and they shut themselves up in their houses, covering
themselves with ashes and blessing the hand that had chastised them. For forty
days they kept a strict fast. Then they bathed themselves and resolved to
search, without rest, at the cost of any toil and at the risk of eve danger,
for the demonstration of an innocence which they did not doubt. And how could
they have doubted? Pyrot's innocence had been revealed to them in the same way
that his guilt had been revealed to Christian Penguinia's; for these things,
being hidden, assume a mystic character and take on the authority of religious
truths. The seven hundred Pyrotists set to work with as much zeal as prudence,
and made the most thorough inquiries in secret. They were everywhere; they
were seen nowhere. One would have said that, like the pilot of Ulysses, they
wandered freely over the earth. They penetrated into the War Office and
approached, under different disguises, the judges, the registrars, and the
witnesses of the affair. Then Greatauk's cleverness was seen. The witnesses
knew nothing; the judges and registrars knew nothing. Emissaries reached even
Pyrot and anxiously questioned him in his cage amid the prolonged moanings of
the sea and the hoarse croaks of the ravens. It was in vain; the prisoner knew
nothing. The seven hundred Pyrotists could not subvert the proofs of the
accusation because they could not know what they were, and they could not know
what they were because there were none. Pyrot's guilt was indefeasible through
its very nullity. And it was with a legitimate pride that Greatauk, expressing
himself as a true artist, said one day to General Panther: "This case is a
master-piece: it is made out of nothing." The seven hundred Pyrotists
despaired of ever clearing up this dark business, when suddenly they
discovered, from a stolen letter, that the eighty thousand trusses of hay had
never existed, that a most distinguished nobleman, Count de Maubec, had sold
them to the State, that he had received the price but had never delivered
them. Indeed seeing that he was descended from the richest landed proprietors
of ancient Penguinia, the heir of the Maubecs of Dentdulynx, once the
possessors of four duchies, sixty counties, and six hundred and twelve
marquisates, baronies, and viscounties, he did not possess as much land as he
could cover with his hand, and would not have been able to cut a single day'S
mowing of forage off his own domains. As to his getting a single rush from a
land-owner or a merchant, that would have been quite impossible, for everybody
except the Ministers of State and the Government officials knew that it would
be easier to get blood from a stone than a farthing from a Maubec.


The seven hundred Pyrotists made a minute inquiry concerning the Count Maubec
de la Dentdulynx's financial resources, and they proved that that nobleman was
chiefly supported by a house in which some generous ladies were ready to
furnish all comers with the most lavish hospitality. They publicly proclaimed
that he was guilty of the theft of the eighty thousand trusses of straw for
which an innocent man had been condemned and was now imprisoned in the cage.

Maubec belonged to an illustrious family which was allied to the Draconides.
There is nothing that a democracy esteems more highly than noble birth. Maubec
had also served in the Penguin army, and since the Penguins were all soldiers,
they loved their army to idolatry. Maubec, on the field of battle, had
received the Cross, which is a sign of honour among the Penguins and which
they valued even more highly than the embraces of their wives. All Penguinia
declared for Maubec, and the voice of the people which began to assume a
threatening tone, demanded severe punishments for the seven hundred
calumniating Pyrotists.

Maubec was a nobleman; he challenged the seven hundred Pyrotists to combat
with either sword, sabre, pistols, carabines, or sticks.

"Vile dogs," he wrote to them in a famous letter, "you have crucified my God
and you want my life too; I warn you that I will not be such a duffer as He
was and that I will cut off your fourteen hundred ears. Accept my boot on your
seven hundred behinds."

The Chief of the Government at the time was a peasant called Robin Mielleux, a
man pleasant to the rich and powerful, but hard towards the poor, a man of
small courage and ignorant of his own interests. In a public declaration he
guaranteed Maubec's innocence and honour, and presented the seven hundred
Pyrotists: to the criminal courts where they were condemned, as libellers, to
imprisonment, to enormous fines, and to all the damages that were claimed by
their innocent victim.

It seemed as if Pyrot was destined to remain for ever shut in the cage on
which the ravens perched. But all the Penguins being anxious to know and prove
that this Jew was guilty, all the proofs brought forward were found not to be
good, while some of them were also contradictory. The officers of the Staff
showed zeal but lacked prudence. Whilst Greatauk kept an admirable silence,
General Panther made inexhaustible speeches and every morning demonstrated in
the newspapers that the condemned man was guilty. He would have done better,
perhaps, if he had said nothing. The guilt was evident and what is evident
cannot be demonstrated. So much reasoning disturbed people's minds; their
faith, though still alive, became less serene. The more proofs one gives a
crowd the more they ask for.

Nevertheless the danger of proving too much would not have been great if there
had not been in Penguinia, as there are, indeed, everywhere, minds framed for
free inquiry, capable of studying a difficult question, and inclined to
philosophic doubt. They were few; they were not all inclined to speak, and the
public was by no means inclined to listen to them. Still, they did not always
meet with deaf ears. The great Jews, all the Israelite millionaires of Alca,
when spoken to of Pyrot, said: "We do not know the man"; but they thought of
saving him. They preserved the prudence to which their wealth inclined them
and wished that others would be less timid. Their wish was to be gratified.

 

V. COLOMBAN

Some weeks after the conviction of the seven hundred Pyrotists, a little,
gruff, hairy, short-sighted man left his house one morning with a paste-pot, a
ladder, and a bundle of posters and went about the streets pasting placards to
the walls on which might be read in large letters: Pyrot is innocent, Maubec
is guilty. He was not a bill-poster; his name was Colomban, and as the author
of sixty volumes on Penguin sociology he was numbered among the most laborious
and respected writers in Alca. Having given sufficient thought to the matter
and no longer doubting Pyrot's innocence, he proclaimed it in the manner which
he thought would be most sensational. He met with no hindrance while posting
his bills in the quiet streets, but when he came to the populous quarters,
every time he mounted his ladder, inquisitive people crowded round him and,
dumbfounded with surprise and indignation, threw at him threatening looks
which he received with the calm that comes from courage and short-sightedness.
Whilst caretakers and tradespeople tore down the bills he had posted, he kept
on zealously placarding, carrying his tools and followed by little boys who,
with their baskets under their arms or their satchels on their backs, were in
no hurry to reach school. To the mute indignation against him, protests and
murmurs were now added. But Colomban did not condescend to see or hear
anything. As, at the entrance to the Rue St. Orberosia, he was posting one of
his squares of paper bearing the words: Pyrot is innocent, Maubec is guilty,
the riotous crowd showed signs of the most violent anger. They called after
him, "Traitor, thief, rascal, scoundrel." A woman opened a window and emptied
a vase full of filth over his head, a cabby sent his hat flying from one end
of the street to the other by a blow of his whip amid the cheers of the crowd
who now felt themselves avenged. A butcher's boy knocked Colomban with his
paste-pot, his brush, and his posters, from the top of his ladder into the
gutter, and the proud Penguins then felt the greatness of their country.
Colomban stood up,, covered with filth, lame, and with his elbow injured, but
tranquil and resolute.


"Low brutes," he muttered, shrugging his shoulders.

Then he went down on all-fours in the gutter to look for his glasses which he
had lost in his fall. t was then seen that his coat was split from the collar
to the tails and that his trousers were in rags. The rancour of the crowd grew
stronger.

On the other side of the street stretched the big St. Orberosian Stores. The
patriots seized whatever they could lay their hands on from the shop front,
and hurled at Colomban oranges, lemons, pots of jam, pieces of chocolate,
bottles of liqueurs, boxes of sardines, pots of foie gras, hams, fowls, flasks
of oil, and bags of haricots. Covered with the debris of the food, bruised,
tattered, lame, and blind, he took to flight, followed by the shop-boys,
bakers, loafers, citizens, and hooligans whose number increased each moment
and who kept shouting: "Duck him! Death to the traitor! Duck him!" This
torrent of vulgar humanity swept along the streets and rushed into the Rue St.
Mael. The police did their duty. From all the adjacent streets constables
proceeded and, holding their scabbards with their left hands, they went at
full speed in front of the pursuers. They were on the point of grabbing
Colomban in their huge hands when he suddenly escaped them by falling through
an open man-hole to the bottom of a sewer.

He spent the night there in the darkness, sitting close by the dirty water
amidst the fat and slimy rats. He thought of his task, and his swelling heart
filled with courage and pity. And when the dawn threw a pale ray of light into
the air-hole he got up and said, speaking to himself:

"I see that the fight will be a stiff one."

Forthwith he composed a memorandum in which he clearly showed that Pyrot could
not have stolen from the Ministry of War the eighty thousand trusses of hay
which it had never received, for the reason that Maubec had never delivered
them, though he had received the money. Colomban caused this statement to be
distributed in the streets of Alca. The people refused to read it and tore it
up in anger. The shop-keepers shook their fists at the distributers, who made
off, chased by angry women armed with brooms. Feelings grew warm and the
ferment lasted the whole day. In the evening bands of wild and ragged men went
about the streets yelling: "Death to Colomban!" The patriots snatched whole
bundles of the memorandum from the newsboys and burned them in the public
squares, dancing wildly round these bon-fires with girls whose petticoats were
tied up to their waists.

Some of the more enthusiastic among them went and broke the windows of the
house in which Colomban had lived in perfect tranquillity during his forty
years of work.

Parliament was roused and asked the Chief of the Government what measures he
proposed to take in order to repel the odious attacks made by Colomban upon
the honour of the National Arm and the safety of Penguinia. Robin Mielleux
denounced Colomban's impious audacity and proclaimed amid the cheers of the
legislators that the man would be summoned before the Courts to answer for his
infamous libel.

The Minister of War was called to the tribune and appeared in it transfigured.
He had no longer the air, as in former days, of one of the sacred geese of the
Penguin citadels. Now, bristling, with outstretched neck and hooked beak, he
seemed the symbolical vulture fastened to the livers of his country's enemies.

In the august silence of the assembly he pronounced these words only:

"I swear that Pyrot is a rascal."

This speech of Greatauk was reported all over Penguinia and satisfied the
public conscience.

 

V. THE REVEREND FATHERS AGARIC AND CORNEMUSE

Colomban bore with meekness and surprise the weight of the general
reprobation. He could not go out without being stoned, so he did not go out.
He remained in his study with a superb obstinacy, writing new memoranda in
favour of the encaged innocent. In the mean time among the few readers that he
found, some, about a dozen, were struck by his reasons and began to doubt
Pyrot's guilt. They broached the subject to their friends and endeavoured to
spread the light that had arisen in their minds. One of them was a friend of
Robin Mielleux and confided to him his perplexities, with the result that he
was no longer received by that Minister. Another demanded explanations in an
open letter to the Minister of War. A third published a terrible pamphlet. The
latter, whose name was Kerdanic, was a formidable controversialist. The public
was unmoved. It was said that these defenders of the traitor had been bribed
by the rich Jews; they were stigmatized by the name of Pyrotists and the
patriots swore to exterminate them. There were only a thousand or twelve
hundred Pyrotists in the whole vast Republic, but it was believed that they
were everywhere. People were afraid of finding them in the promenades, at
meetings, at receptions, in fashionable drawing-rooms, at the dinner-table,
even in the conjugal couch. One half of the population was suspected by the
other half. The discord set all Alca on fire.


In the mean time Father Agaric, who managed his big school for young nobles,
followed events with anxious attention. The misfortunes of the Penguin Church
had not disheartened him. He remained faithful to Prince Crucho and preserved
the hope of restoring the heir of the Draconides to the Penguin throne. It
appeared to him that the events that were happening or about to happen in the
country, the state of mind of which they were at once the effect and the
cause, and the troubles that necessarily resulted from them might--if they
were directed, guided, and led by the profound wisdom of a monk--overthrow the
Republic and incline the Penguins to restore Prince Crucho, from whose piety
the faithful hoped for so much solace. Wearing his huge black hat, the brims
of which looked like the wings of Night, he walked through the Wood of Conils
towards the factory where his venerable friend, Father Cornemuse, distilled
the hygienic St. Orberosian liqueur, The good monk's industry, so cruelly
affected in the time of Emiral Chatillon, was being restored from its ruins.
One heard goods trains rumbling through the Wood and one saw in the sheds
hundreds of orphans clothed in blue, packing bottles and nailing up cases.

Agaric found the venerable Cornemuse standing before his stoves and surrounded
by his retorts. The shining pupils of the old man's eyes had again become as
rubies, his skull shone with its former elaborate and careful polish.

Agaric first congratulated the pious distiller on the restored activity of his
laboratories and workshops.

"Business is recovering. I thank God for it," answered the old man of Conils.
"Alas! it had fallen into a bad state, Brother Agaric. You raw the desolation
of this establishment. I need say no more."

Agaric turned away his head.

"The St. Orberosian liqueur," continued Cornemuse, "is making fresh conquests.
But none the less my industry remains uncertain and precarious. The laws of
ruin and desolation that struck it have not been abrogated, they have only
been suspended."

And the monk of Conils lifted his ruby eyes to heaven.

Agaric put his hand on his shoulder.

"What a sight, Cornemuse, does unhappy Penguinia present to us! Everywhere
disobedience, independence, liberty! We seethe proud, the haughty, the men of
revolt rising up. After having braved the Divine laws they now rear themselves
against human laws, so true is it that in order to be a good citizen a man
must be a good Christian. Colomban is trying to imitate Satan. Numerous
criminals are following his fatal example. They want, in their rage, to put
aside all checks, to throw off all yokes, to free themselves from the most
sacred bonds, to escape from the most salutary restraints. They strike their
country to make it obey them. But they will be overcome by the weight of
public animadversion, vituperation, indignation, fury, execration, and
abomination. That is the abyss to which they have been led by atheism, free
thought, and the monstrous claim to judge for themselves and to form their own
opinions."

"Doubtless, doubtless," replied Father Cornemuse, shaking his head, "but I
confess that the care of distilling these simples has prevented me from
following public affairs. I only know that people are talking a great deal
about a man called Pyrot. Some maintain that he is guilty, others affirm that
he is innocent, but I do not clearly understand the motives that drive both
parties to mix themselves up in a business that concerns neither of them."

The pious Agaric asked eagerly:

"You do not doubt Pyrot's guilt?"

"I cannot doubt it, dear Agaric," answered the monk of Conils. "That would be
contrary to the laws of my country which we ought to respect as long as they
are not opposed to the Divine laws. Pyrot is guilty, for he has been
convicted. As to saying more for or against his guilt, that would be to erect
my own authority against that of the judges, a thing which I will take good
care not to do. Besides, it is useless, for Pyrot has been convicted. If he
has not been convicted because he is guilty, he is guilty because he has been
convicted; it comes to the same thing. I believe in his guilt as every good
citizen ought to believe in it; and I will believe in it as long as the
established jurisdiction will order me to believe in it, for it is not for a
private person but for a judge to proclaim the innocence of a convicted
person. Human justice is venerable even in the errors inherent in its fallible
and limited nature. These errors are never irreparable; if the judges do not
repair them on earth, God will repair them in Heaven. Besides I have great
confidence in general Greatauk, who, though he certainly does not look it,
seems to me to be an abler man than all those who are attacking him."

"Dearest Cornemuse," cried the pious Agaric, "the Pyrot affair, if pushed to
the point whither we can lead it by the help of God and the necessary funds,
will produce the greatest benefits. It will lay bare the vices of this
Anti-Christian Republic and will incline the Penguins to restore the throne of
the Draconides and the prerogatives of the Church. But to do that it is
necessary for the people to see the clergy in the front rank of its defenders.
Let us march against the enemies of the army, against those who insult our
heroes, and everybody will follow us."

"Everybody will be too many," murmured the monk of Conils, shaking his head.
"I see that the Penguins want to quarrel. If we mix ourselves up in their
quarrel they will become reconciled at our expense and we shall have to pay
the cost of the war. That is why, if you are guided by me, dear Agaric, you
will not engage the Church in this adventure."

"You know my energy; you know my prudence. I will compromise nothing. . . .
Dear Cornemuse, I only want from you the funds necessary for us to begin the
campaign."

For a long time Cornemuse refused to bear the expenses of what he thought was
a fatal enterprise. Agaric was in turn pathetic and terrible. At last,
yielding to his prayers and threats, Cornemuse, with banging head and swinging
arms, went to the austere cell that concealed his evangelical poverty. In the
whitewashed wall under a branch of blessed box, there was fixed a safe. He
opened it, and with a sigh took out a bundle of bills which, with hesitating
hands, he gave to the pious Agaric.

"Do not doubt it, dear Cornemuse," said the latter, thrusting the papers into
the pocket of his overcoat, "this Pyrot affair has been sent us by God for the
glory and exaltation of the Church of Penguinia."

"I pray that you may be right!" sighed the monk of Conils.

And, left alone in his laboratory, he gazed, through his exquisite eyes, with
an ineffable sadness at his stoves and his retorts.

 

VI. THE SEVEN HUNDRED PYROTISTS

The seven hundred Pyrotists inspired the public with an increasing aversion.
Every day two or three of them were beaten to death in the streets. One of
them was publicly whipped, another thrown into the river, a third tarred and
feathered and led through a laughing crowd, a fourth had his nose cut off by a
captain of dragoons. They did not dare to show themselves at their clubs, at
tennis, or at the races; they put on a disguise when they went to the Stock
Exchange. In these circumstances the Prince des Boscenos thought it urgent to
curb their audacity and repress their insolence. For this purpose he joined
with Count Clena, M. de La Trumelle, Viscount Olive, and M. Bigourd in
founding a great anti-Pyrotist association to which citizens in hundreds of
thousands, soldiers in companies, regiments, brigades, divisions, and army
corps, towns, districts, and provinces, all gave their adhesion.


About this time the Minister of War happening to visit one day his Chief of
Staff, saw with surprise that the large room where General Panther worked,
which was formerly quite bare, had now along each wall from floor to ceiling
in sets of deep pigeon-holes, triple and quadruple rows of paper bundles of
every as form and colour. These sudden and monstrous records had in a few days
reached the dimensions of a pile of archives such as it takes centuries to
accumulate.

"What is this?" asked the astonished minister.

"Proofs against Pyrot," answered General Panther with patriotic satisfaction.
"We had not got them when we convicted him, but we have plenty of them now."

The door was open, and Greatauk saw coming up the stair-case a long file of
porters who were unloading heavy bales of papers in the hall, and he saw the
lift slowly rising heavily loaded with paper packets.

"What are those others?" said he.

"They are fresh proofs against Pyrot that are now reaching us," said Panther.
"I have asked for them in every county of Penguinia, in every Staff Office and
in every Court in Europe. I have ordered them in every town in America and in
Australia, and in every factory in Africa, and I am expecting bales of them
from Bremen and a ship-load from Melbourne." And Panther turned towards the
Minister of War the tranquil and radiant look of a hero. However, Greatauk,
his eye-glass in his eye, was looking at the formidable pile of papers with
less satisfaction than uneasiness.

"Very good," said he, "very good! but I am afraid that this Pyrot business may
lose its beautiful simplicity. It was limpid; like a rock-crystal its value
lay in its transparency. You could have searched it in vain with a
magnifying-glass for a straw, a bend, a blot, for the least fault. When it
left my hands it was as pure as the light. Indeed it was the light. I give you
a pearl and you make a mountain out of it. To tell you the truth I am afraid
that by wishing to do too well you have done less well. Proofs! of course it
is good to have proofs, but perhaps it is better to have none at all. I have
already told you, Panther, there is only one irrefutable proof, the confession
of the guilty person (or if the innocent what matter!). The Pyrot affair, as I
arranged it, left no room for criticism; there was no spot where it could be
touched. It defied assault. t was invulnerable because it was invisible. Now
it gives an enormous handle for discussion. I advise you, Panther, to use your
paper packets with great reserve. I should be particularly grateful if you
would be more sparing of your communications to journalists. You speak well,
but you say too much. Tell me, Panther, are there any forged documents among
these?"

"There are some adapted ones."

"That is what I meant. There are some adapted ones. So much the better. As
proofs, forged documents, in general, are better than genuine ones, first of
all because they have been expressly made to suit the needs of the case, to
order and measure, and therefore they are fitting and exact. They are also
preferable because they carry the mind into an ideal world and turn it aside
from the reality which, alas! in this world is never without some alloy. . . .
Nevertheless, I think I should have preferred, Panther, that we had no proofs
at all."

The first act of the Anti-Pyrotist Association was to ask the Government
immediately to summon the seven hundred Pyrotists and their accomplices before
the High Court of Justice as guilty of high treason. Prince des Boscenos was
charged to speak on behalf of the Association and presented himself before the
Council which had assembled to hear him. He expressed a hope that the
vigilance and firmness of the Government would rise to the height of the
occasion. He shook hands with each of the ministers and as he passed General
Greatauk he whispered in his ear:

"Behave properly, you ruffian, or I will publish the Maloury dossier!"

Some days later by a unanimous vote of both Houses, on a motion proposed by
the Government, the Anti-Pyrotist Association was granted a charter
recognising it as beneficial to the public interest.

The Association immediately sent a deputation to Chitterlings Castle in
Porpoisia, where Crucho was eating the bitter bread of exile, to assure the
prince of the love and devotion of the Anti-Pyrotist members.

However, the Pyrotists grew in numbers, and now counted ten thousand. They had
their regular cafes on the boulevards. The patriots had theirs also, richer
and bigger, and every evening glasses of beer, saucers, match-stands, jugs,
chairs, and tables were hurled from one to the other. Mirrors were smashed to
bits, and the police ended the struggles by impartially trampling the
combatants of both parties under their hob-nailed shoes.

On one of these glorious nights, as Prince des Boscenos was leaving a
fashionable cafe in the company of some patriots, M. de La Trumelle pointed
out to him a little, bearded man with glasses, hatless, and having only one
sleeve to his coat, who was painfully dragging himself along the
rubbish-strewn pavement.

"Look!" said he, "there is Colomban!"

The prince had gentleness as well as strength; he was exceedingly mild; but at
the name of Colomban his blood boiled. He rushed at the little spectacled man,
and knocked him down with one blow of his fist on the nose.

M. de La Trumelle then perceived that, misled by an undeserved resemblance, he
had mistaken for Colomban, M. Bazile, a retired lawyer, the secretary of the
Anti-pyrotist Association, and an ardent and generous patriot. Prince des
Boscenos was one of those antique souls who never bend. However, he knew how
to recognise his faults.

"M. Bazile," said he, raising his hat, "if I have touched your face with my
hand you will excuse me and you will understand me, you will approve of me,
nay, you will compliment me, you will congratulate me and felicitate me, when
you know the cause of that act. I took you for Colomban."

M. Bazile, wiping his bleeding nostrils with his handkerchief and displaying
an elbow laid bare by the absence of his sleeve:

"No, sir," answered he drily, "I shall not felicitate you, I shall not
congratulate you, I shall not compliment you, for your action was, at the very
least, superfluous; it was, I will even say, supererogatory. Already this
evening I have been three times mistaken for Colomban and received a
sufficient amount of the treatment he deserves. The patriots have knocked in
my ribs and broken my back, and, sir, I was of opinion that that was enough."

Scarcely had he finished this speech than a band of Pyrotists appeared, and
misled in their turn by that insidious resemblance, they believed that the
patriots were killing Colomban. They fell on Prince des Boscenos and his
companions with loaded canes and leather thongs, and left them for dead. Then
seizing Bazile they carried him in triumph, and in spite of his protests,
along the boulevards, amid cries of: "Hurrah for Colomban! Hurrah for Pyrot!"
At last the police, who had been sent after them, attacked and defeated them
and dragged them ignominiously to the station, where Bazile, under the name of
Colomban, was trampled on by an innumerable quantity of thick, hob-nailed
shoes.

 

VII. BIDAULT-COQUILLE AND MANIFLORE, THE SOCIALISTS

Whilst the wind of anger and hatred blew in Alca, Eugine Bidault- Coquille,
poorest and happiest of astronomers, installed in an old steam-engine of the
time of the Draconides, was observing the heavens through a bad telescope, and
photographing the paths of the meteors upon some damaged photographic plates.
His genius corrected the errors of his instruments and his love of science
triumphed over the worthlessness of his apparatus. With an inextinguishable
ardour he observed aerolites, meteors, and fire-balls, and all the glowing
ruins and blazing sparks which pass through the terrestrial atmosphere with
prodigious speed, and as a reward for is studious vigils he received the
indifference of the public, the ingratitude of the State and the blame of the
learned societies. Engulfed in the celestial spaces he knew not what occurred
upon the surface of the earth. He never read the newspapers, and when he
walked through the town his mind was occupied with the November asteroids, and
more than once he found himself at the bottom of a pond in one of the public
parks or beneath the wheels of a motor omnibus.


Elevated in stature as in thought he respected himself and others. This was
shown by his cold politeness as well as by a very thin black frock coat and a
tall hat which gave to his person an appearance at once emaciated and sublime.
He took his meals in a little restaurant from which all customers less
intellectual than himself had fled, and thenceforth his napkin bound by its
wooden ring rested alone in the abandoned rack.

In this cook-shop his eyes fell one evening upon Colomban's memorandum in
favour of Pyrot. He read it as he was cracking some bad nuts and suddenly,
exalted with astonishment, admiration, horror, and pity, he forgot all about
falling meteors and shooting stars and saw nothing but the innocent man
hanging in his cage exposed to the winds of heaven and the ravens perching
upon it.

That image did not leave him. For a week he had been obsessed by the innocent
convict, when, as he was leaving his cook-shop, he saw a crowd of citizens
entering a public-house in which a public meeting was going on. He went in.
The meeting was disorderly; they were yelling, abusing one another and
knocking one another down in the smoke-laden hall. The Pyrotists and the
Anti-Pyrotists spoke in turn and were alternately cheered and hissed at. An
obscure and confused enthusiasm moved the audience. With the audacity of a
timid and retired man Bidault-Coquille leaped upon the platform and spoke for
three-quarters of an hour. He spoke very quickly, without order, but with
vehemence, and with all the conviction of a mathematical mystic. He was
cheered. When he got down from the platform a big woman of uncertain age,
dressed in red, and wearing an immense hat trimmed with heroic feathers,
throwing herself into his arms, embraced him, and said to him:

"You are splendid!"

He thought in his simplicity that there was some truth in the statement.

She declared to him that henceforth she would live but for Pyrot's defence and
Colomban's glory. He thought her sublime and beautiful. She was Maniflore, a
poor old courtesan, now forgotten and discarded, who had suddenly become a
vehement politician.

She never left him. They spent glorious hours together in doss-houses and in
lodgings beautified by their love, in newspaper offices, in meeting-halls and
in lecture-halls. As he was an idealist, he persisted in thinking her
beautiful, although she gave him abundant opportunity of seeing that she had
preserved no charm of any kind. From her past beauty she only retained a
confidence in her capacity for pleasing and a lofty assurance in demanding
homage. Still, it must be admitted that this Pyrot affair, so fruitful in
prodigies, invested Maniflore with a sort of civic majesty, and transformed
her, at public meetings, into an august symbol of justice and truth.

Bidault-Coquille and Maniflore did not kindle the least spark of irony or
amusement in a single Anti-Pyrotist, a single defender of Greatauk, or a
single supporter of the army. The gods, in their anger, had refused to those
men the precious gift of humour. They gravely accused the courtesan and the
astronomer of being spies, of treachery, and of plotting against their
country. Bidault-Coquille and Maniflore grew visibly greater beneath insult,
abuse, and calumny.

For long months Penguinia had been divided into two camps and, though at first
sight it may appear strange, hitherto the socialists had taken no part in the
contest. Their groups comprised almost all the manual workers in the country,
necessarily scattered, confused, broken up, and divided, but formidable. The
Pyrot affair threw the group leaders into a singular embarrassment. They did
not wish to place themselves either on the side of the financiers or on the
side of the army. They regarded the Jews, both great and small, as their
uncompromising opponents. Their principles were not at stake, nor were their
interests concerned in the affair. Still the greater number felt how difficult
it was growing for them to remain aloof from struggles in which all Penguinia
was engaged.

Their leaders called a sitting of their federation at the Rue de la
Queue-du-diable-St. Mael, to take into consideration the conduct they ought to
adopt in the present circumstances and in future eventualities.

Comrade Phoenix was the first to speak.

"A crime," said he, "the most odious and cowardly of crimes, a judicial crime,
has been committed. Military judges, coerced or misled by their superior
officers, have condemned an innocent man to an infamous and cruel punishment.
Let us not say that the victim is not one of our own party, that he belongs to
a caste which was, and always will be, our enemy. Our party is the party of
social justice; it can look upon no iniquity with indifference.

"It would be a shame for us if we left it to Kerdanic, a radical, to Colomban,
a member of the middle classes, and to a few moderate Republicans, alone to
proceed against the crimes of the army. If the victim is not one of us, his
executioners are our brothers' executioners, and before Greatauk struck down
this soldier he shot our comrades who were on strike.

"Comrades, by an intellectual, moral and material effort you must rescue Pyrot
from his torment, and in performing this generous act you are not turning
aside from the liberating and revolutionary task you have undertaken, for
Pyrot his become the symbol of the oppressed and of all the social iniquities
that now exist; by destroying one you make all the others tremble."

When Phoenix ended, comrade Sapor spoke in these terms:

"You are advised to abandon your task in order to do something with which you
have no concern. Why throw yourselves into a conflict where, on whatever side
you turn, you will find none but your natural, uncompromising, even necessary
opponents? Are the financiers to be less hated by us than the army? What inept
and criminal generosity is it that hurries you to save those seven hundred
Pyrotists whom you will always find confronting you in the social war?

"It is proposed that you act the part of the police for your enemies, and that
you are to re-establish for them the order which their own crimes have
disturbed. Magnanimity pushed to this degree changes its name.

"Comrades, there is a point at which infamy becomes fatal to a society.
Penguin society is being strangled by its infamy, and you are requested to
save it, to give it air that it can breathe. This is simply turning you into
ridicule.

"Leave is to smother itself and let us gaze at its last convulsions with
joyful contempt, only regretting that it has so entirely corrupted the soil on
which it has been built that we shall find nothing but poisoned mud on which
to lay the foundations of a new society."

When Sapor had ended his speech comrade Lapersonne pronounced these few words:

"Phoenix calls us to Pyrot's help for the reason that Pyrot is innocent. It
seems to me that that is a very bad reason. If Pyrot is innocent he has
behaved like a good soldier and has always conscientiously worked at his
trade, which principally consists in shooting the people. That is not a motive
to make the people brave all dangers in his defence. When it is demonstrated
to me that Pyrot is guilty and that he stole the army hay, I shall be on his
side."

Comrade Larrivee afterwards spoke.

"I am not of my friend, Phoenix's opinion but I am not with my friend Sapor
either. I do not believe that the party is bound to embrace a cause as soon as
we are told that that cause is just. That, I am afraid, is a grievous abuse of
words and a dangerous equivocation. For social justice is not revolutionary
justice. They are both in perpetual antagonism: to serve the one is to oppose
the other. As for me, my choice is made. I am for revolutionary justice as
against social justice. Still, in the present case I am against abstention. I
say that when a lucky chance brings us an affair like this we should be fools
not to profit by it.

"How? We are given an opportunity of striking terrible, perhaps fatal, blows
against militarism. And am I to fold my arms? I tell you, comrades, I am not a
fakir, I have never been a fakir, and if there are fakirs here let them not
count on me. To sit in meditation is a policy without results and one which I
shall never adopt.

"A party like ours ought to be continually asserting itself. It ought to prove
its existence by continual action. We will intervene in the Pyrot affair but
we will intervene in it in a revolutionary manner; we will adopt violent
action. . . . Perhaps you think that violence is old-fashioned and
superannuated, to be scrapped along with diligences, hand-presses and aerial
telegraphy. You are mistaken. To-day as yesterday nothing is obtained except
by violence; it is the one efficient instrument. The only thing necessary is
to know how to use it. You ask what will our action be? I will tell you: it
will be to stir up the governing classes against one another, to put the army
in conflict with the capitalists, the government with the magistracy, the
nobility and clergy with the Jews, and if possible to drive them all to
destroy one another. To do this would be to carry on an agitation which would
weaken government in the same way that fever wears out the sick.

"The Pyrot affair, little as we know how to turn it to advantage, will put
forward by ten years the growth of the Social party and the emancipation of
the proletariat, by disarmament, the general strike, and revolution."

The leaders of the party having each expressed a different opinion, the
discussion was continued, not without vivacity. The orators, as always happens
in such a case, reproduced the arguments they had already brought forward,
though with less order and moderation than before. The dispute was prolonged
and none changed his opinion. These opinions, in the final analysis, were
reduced to two: that of Sapor and Lapersonne who advised abstention, and that
of Phoenix and Larrivee, who wanted intervention. Even these two contrary
opinions were united in a common hatred of the heads of the army and of their
justice, and in a common belief in Pyrot's innocence. So that public opinion
was hardly mistaken in regarding all the Socialist leaders as pernicious
Anti-Pyrotists.

As for the vast masses in whose name they spoke and whom they represented as
far as speech can express the impossible--as for the proletarians whose
thought is difficult to know and who do not know it themselves, it seemed that
the Pyrot affair did not interest them. It was too literary for them, it was
in too classical a style, and had an upper-middle-class and high-finance tone
about it that did not please them much.

 

VIII. THE COLOMBAN TRIAL

When the Colomban trial began, the Pyrotists were not many more than thirty
thousand, but they were every where and might be found even among the priests
and millionaires. What injured them most was the sympathy of the rich Jews. On
the other hand they derived valuable advantages from their feeble number. In
the first place there were among them fewer fools than among their opponents,
who were over-burdened with them. Comprising but a feeble minority, they
co-operated easily, acted with harmony, and had no temptation to divide and
thus counteract one another's efforts. Each of them felt the necessity of
doing the best possible and was the more careful of his conduct as he found
himself more in the public eye. Finally, they had every reason to hope that
they would gain fresh adherents, while their opponents, having had everybody
with them at the beginning, could only decrease.


Summoned before the judges at a public sitting, Colomban immediately perceived
that his judges were not anxious to discover the truth. As soon as he opened
his mouth the President ordered him to be silent in the superior interests of
the State. For the same reason, which is the supreme reason, the witnesses for
the defence were not heard. General Panther, the Chief of the Staff, appeared
in the witness-box, in full uniform and decorated with all his orders. He
deposed as follows:

"The infamous Colomban states that we have no proofs against Pyrot. He lies;
we have them. I have in my archives seven hundred and thirty-two square yards
of them which at five hundred pounds each make three hundred and sixty-six
thousand pounds."

That superior officer afterwards gave, with elegance and ease, a summary of
those proofs.

"They are of all colours and all shades," said he in substance, "they are of
every form--pot, crown, sovereign, grape, dove-cot, grand eagle, etc. The
smallest is less than the hundredth part of a square inch, the largest
measures seventy yards long by ninety yards broad."

At this revelation the audience shuddered with horror.

Greatauk came to give evidence in his turn. Simpler, and perhaps greater, he
wore a grey tunic and held his hands joined behind his back.

"I leave," said he calmly and in a slightly raised voice, "I leave to M.
Colomban the responsibility for an act that has brought our country to the
brink of ruin. The Pyrot affair is secret; it ought to remain secret. If it
were divulged the cruelest ills, wars, pillages, depredations, fires,
massacres, and epidemics would immediately burst upon Penguinia. I should
consider myself guilty of high treason if I uttered another word."

Some persons known for their political experience, among others M. Bigourd,
considered the evidence of the Minister of War as abler and of greater weight
than that of his Chief of Staff.

The evidence of Colonel de Boisjoli made a great impression.

"One evening at the Ministry of War," said that officer, "the attache of a
neighbouring Power told me that while visiting his sovereign's stables he had
once admired some soft and fragrant hay, of a pretty green colour, the finest
hay he had ever seen! 'Where did it come from?' I asked him. He did not
answer, but there seemed to me no doubt about its origin. It was the hay Pyrot
had stolen. Those qualities of verdure, softness, and aroma, are those of our
national hay. The forage of the neighbouring Power is grey and brittle; it
sounds under the fork and smells of dust. One can draw one own conclusions."

Lieutenant-Colonel Hastaing said in the witness-box, amid hisses, that he did
not believe Pyrot guilty. He was immediately seized by the police and thrown
into the bottom of a dungeon where, amid vipers, toads, and broken glass, he
remained insensible both to promises and threats.

The usher called:

"Count Pierre Maubec de la Dentdulynx."

There was deep silence, and a stately but ill-dressed nobleman, whose
moustaches pointed to the skies and whose dark eyes shot forth flashing
glances, was seen advancing toward the witness-box.

He approached Colomban and casting upon him a look of ineffable disdain:

"My evidence," said he, "here it is: you excrement!"

At these words the entire hall burst into enthusiastic applause and jumped up,
moved by one of those transports that stir men's hearts and rouse them to
extraordinary actions. Without another word Count Maubec de la Dentdulynx
withdrew.

All those present left the Court and formed a procession behind him. Prostrate
at his feet, Princess des Boscenos held his legs in a close embrace, but he
went on, stern and impassive, beneath a shower of handkerchiefs and flowers.
Viscountess Olive, clinging to his neck, could not be removed, and the calm
hero bore her along with him, floating on his breast like a light scarf.

When the court resumed its sitting, which it had been compelled to suspend,
the President called the experts.

Vermillard, the famous expert in handwriting, gave the results of his
researches.

"Having carefully studied," said he, "the papers found in Pyrot's house, in
particular his account book and his laundry books, I noticed that, though
apparently not out of the common, they formed an impenetrable cryptogram, the
key to which, however, I discovered. The traitor's infamy is to be seen in
every line. In this system of writing the words 'Three glasses of beer and
twenty francs for Adele' mean 'I have delivered thirty thousand trusses of hay
to a neighbouring Power! From these documents I have even been able to
establish the composition of the hay delivered by this officer. The words
waistcoat, drawers, pocket handkerchief, collars, drink, tobacco, cigars, mean
clover, meadowgrass, lucern, burnet, oats, rye-grass, vernal-grass, and common
cat's tail grass. And these are precisely the constituents of the hay
furnished by Count Maubec to the Penguin cavalry. In this way Pyrot mentioned
his crimes in a language that he believed would always remain indecipherable.
One is confounded by so much astuteness and so great a want of conscience."

Colomban, pronounced guilty without any extenuating circumstances, was
condemned to the severest penalty. The judges immediately signed a warrant
consuming him to solitary confinement.

In the Place du Palais on the sides of a river whose banks had during the
course of twelve centuries seen so great a history, fifty thousand persons
were tumultuously awaiting the result of the trial. Here were the heads of the
Anti-Pyrotist Association, among whom might be seen Prince des Boscenos, Count
Clena, Viscount Olive, and M. de La Trumelle; here crowded the Reverend Father
Agaric and the teachers of St. Mael College with their pupils; here the monk
Douillard and General Caraguel, embracing each other, formed a sublime group.
The market women and laundry women with spits, shovels, tongs, beetles, and
kettles full of water might be seen running across the Pont-Vieux. On the
steps in front of the bronze gates were assembled all the defenders of Pyrot
in Alca, professors, publicists, workmen, some conservatives, others Radicals
or Revolutionaries, and by their negligent dress and fierce aspect could be
recognised comrades Phoenix, Larrivee, Lapersonne, Dagobert, and Varambille.
Squeezed in his funereal frock-coat and wearing his hat of ceremony,
Bidault-Coquille invoked the sentimental mathematics on behalf of Colomban and
Colonel Hastaing. Maniflore shone smiling and resplendent on the topmost step,
anxious, like Leaena, to deserve a glorious monument, or to be given, like
Epicharis, the praises of history.

The seven hundred Pyrotists disguised as lemonade sellers, utter-merchants,
collectors of odds and ends, or anti-Pyrotists, wandered round the vast
building.

When Colomban appeared, so great an uproar burst forth that, struck by the
commotion of air and water, birds fell from the trees and fishes floated on
the surface of the stream.

On all sides there were yells:

"Duck Colomban, duck him, duck him!"

There were some cries of "Justice and truth!" and a voice was even heard
shouting:

"Down with the Army!"

This was the signal for a terrible struggle. The combatants fell in thousands,
and their bodies formed howling and moving mounds on top of which fresh
champions gripped each other by the throats. Women, eager, pale, and
dishevelled, with clenched teeth and frantic nails, rushed on the man, in
transports that, in the brilliant light of the public square, gave to their
faces expressions unsurpassed even in the shade of curtains and in the hollows
of pillows. They were going to seize Colomban, to bite him, to strangle,
dismember and rend him, when Maniflore, tall and dignified in her red tunic,
stood forth, serene and terrible, confronting these furies who recoiled from
before her in terror. Colomban seemed to be saved; his partisans succeeded in
clearing a passage for him through the Place du Palais and in putting him into
a cab stationed at the comer of the Pont-Vieux. The horse was already in full
trot when Prince des Boscenos, Count Clena, and M. de La Trumelle knocked the
driver off his seat. Then, making the animal back and pushing the spokes of
the wheels, they ran the vehicle on to the parapet of the bridge, whence they
overturned it into the river amid the cheers of the delirious crowd. With a
resounding splash a jet of water rose upwards, and then nothing but a slight
eddy was to be seen on the surface of the stream.

Almost immediately comrades Dagobert and Varambille, with the help of the
seven hundred disguised Pyrotists, sent Prince des Boscenos head foremost into
a river-laundry in which he was lamentably swallowed up.

Serene night descended over the Place du Palais and shed silence and peace
upon the frightful ruins with which it was strewed. In the mean time,
Colomban, three thousand yards down the stream, cowering beside a lame old
horse on a bridge, was meditating on the ignorance and injustice of crowds.

"The business," said he to himself, "is even more troublesome than I believed.
I foresee fresh difficulties."

He got up and approached the unhappy animal.

"What have you, poor friend, done to them?" said he. "It is on my account they
have used you so cruelly."

He embraced the unfortunate beast and kissed the white star on his forehead.
Then he took him by the bridle and led him, both of them limping, trough the
sleeping city to his house, where sleep soon allowed them to forget mankind.

 

X. FATHER DOUILLARD

In their infinite gentleness and at the suggestion of the common father of the
faithful, the bishops, canons, vicars, curates, abbots, and friars of
Penguinia resolved to hold a solemn service in the cathedral of Alca, and to
pray that Divine mercy would deign to put an end to the troubles that
distracted one of the noblest countries in Christendom, and grant to repentant
Penguinia pardon for its crimes against God and the ministers of religion.

The ceremony took place on the fifteenth of June. General Caraguel, surrounded
by his staff, occupied the churchwarden's pew. The congregation was numerous
and brilliant. According to M. Bigourd's expression it was both crowded and
select. In the front rank was to be seen M. de la Bertheoseille, Chamberlain
to his Highness Prince Crucho. Near the pulpit, which was to be ascended by
the Reverend Father Douillard, of the Order of St. Francis, were gathered, in
an attitude of attention with their hands crossed upon their wands of office,
the great dignitaries of the Anti-Pyrotist association, Viscount Olive, M. de
La Trumelle, Count Clena, the Duke d'Ampoule, and Prince des Boscenos. Father
Agaric was in the apse with the teachers and pupils of St. Mael College. The
right-hand transept and aisle were reserved for officers and soldiers in
uniform, this side being thought the more honourable, since the Lord leaned
his head to the right when he died on the Cross. The ladies of the
aristocracy, and among them Countess Clena, Viscountess Olive, and Princess
des Boscenos, occupied reserved seats. In the immense building and in the
square outside were gathered twenty thousand clergy of all sorts, as well as
thirty thousand of the laity.


After the expiatory and propitiatory ceremony the Reverend Father Douillard
ascended the pulpit. The sermon had at first been entrusted to the Reverend
Father Agaric, but, in spite of his merits, he was thought unequal to the
occasion in zeal and doctrine, and the eloquent Capuchin friar, who for six
months had gone through the barracks preaching against the enemies of God and
authority, had been chosen in his place.

The Reverend Father Douillard, taking as his text, "He hath put down the
mighty from their seat," established that all temporal power has God as its
principle and its end, and that it is ruined and destroyed when it turns aside
from the path that Providence has traced out for it and from the end to which
He has directed it.

Applying these sacred rules to the government of Penguinia, he drew a terrible
picture of the evils that the country's rulers had been unable either to
prevent or to foresee.

"The first author of all these miseries and degradations, my brethren," said
he, "is only too well known to you. He is a monster whose destiny is
providentially proclaimed by his name, for it is derived from the Greek word,
pyros, which means fire. Eternal wisdom warns us by this etymology that a Jew
was to set ablaze the country that had welcomed him."

He depicted the country, persecuted by the persecutors of the Church, and
crying in its agony:

"O woe! O glory! Those who have crucified my God are crucifying me!"

At these words a prolonged shudder passed through the assembly.

The powerful orator excited still greater indignation when he described the
proud and crime-stained Colomban, plunged into the stream, all the waters of
which could not cleanse him. He gathered up all the humiliations and all the
perils of the Penguins in order to reproach the President of the Republic and
his Prime Minister with them.

"That Minister," said he, "having been guilty of degrading cowardice in not
exterminating the seven hundred Pyrotists with their allies and defenders, as
Saul exterminated the Philistines at Gibeah, has rendered himself unworthy of
exercising the power. that God delegated to him, and every good citizen ought
henceforth to insult his contemptible government. Heaven will look favourably
on those who despise him. 'He hath put down the mighty from their seat.' God
will depose these pusillanimous chiefs and will put in their place strong men
who will call upon Him. I tell you, gentlemen, I tell you officers,
non-commissioned officers, and soldiers who listen to me, I tell you General
of the Penguin armies, the hour has come! If you do not obey God's orders, if
in His name you do not depose those now in authority, if you do not establish
a religious and strong government in Penguinia, God will none the less destroy
what He has condemned, He will none the less save His people. He will save
them, but, if you are wanting, He will do so by means of a humble artisan or a
simple corporal. Hasten! The hour will soon be past."

Excited by this ardent exhortation, the sixty thousand people present rose up
trembling and shouting: "To arms! To arms! Death to the Pyrotists! Hurrah for
Crucho!" and all of them, monks, women, soldiers, noblemen, citizens, and
loafers, who were gathered beneath the superhuman arm uplifted in the pulpit,
struck up the hymn, "Let us save Penguinia! They rushed impetuously from the
basilica and marched along the quays to the Chamber of Deputies.

Left alone in the deserted nave, the wise Cornemuse, lifting his arms to
heaven, murmured in broken accents:

"Agnosco fortunam ecclesiae penguicanae! I see but too well whither this will
lead us."

The attack which the crowd made upon the legislative palace was repulsed.
Vigorously charged by the police and Alcan guards, the assailants were already
fleeing in disorder, when the Socialists, running from the slums and led by
comrades Phoenix, Dagobert, Lapersonne, and Varambille, threw themselves upon
them and completed their discomfiture. MM. de La Trumelle and d'Ampoule were
taken to the police station. Prince des Boscenos, after a valiant struggle,
fell upon the bloody pavement with a fractured skull.

In the enthusiasm of victory, the comrades, mingled with an innumerable crowd
of paper-sellers and gutter-merchants, ran through the boulevards all night,
carrying, Maniflore in triumph, and breaking the mirrors of the cafes and the
glasses of the street lamps amid cries of "Down with Crucho! Hurrah for the
Social Revolution!" The Anti-Pyrotists in their turn upset the newspaper
kiosks and tore down the hoardings.

These were spectacles of which cool reason cannot approve and they were fit
causes for grief to the municipal authorities, who desired to preserve the
good order of the roads and streets. But, what was sadder for a man of heart
was the sight or the canting humbugs, who, from fear of blows, kept at an
equal distance from the two camps, and who, although they allowed their
selfishness and cowardice to be visible, claimed admiration for the generosity
of their sentiments and the nobility of their souls. They rubbed their eyes
with onions, gaped like whitings, blew violently into their handkerchiefs,
and, bringing their voices out of the depths of their stomachs, groaned forth:
"O Penguins, cease these fratricidal struggles; cease to rend your mother's
bosom!" As if men could live in society without disputes and without quarrels,
and as if civil discords were not the necessary conditions of national life
and progress. They showed themselves hypocritical cowards by proposing a
compromise between the just and the unjust, offending the just in his
rectitude and the unjust in his courage. One of these creatures, the rich and
powerful Machimel, a champion coward, rose upon the town like a colossus of
grief; his tears formed poisonous lakes at his feet and his sighs capsized the
boats of the fishermen.

During these stormy nights Bidault-Coquille at the top of his old
steam-engine, under the serene sky, boasted in his heart, while the shooting
stars registered themselves upon his photographic plates. He was fighting for
justice. He loved and was loved with a sublime passion. Insult and calumny
raised him to the clouds. A caricature of him in company with those of
Colomban, Kerdanic, and Colonel Hastaing was to be seen in the newspaper
kiosks. The Anti-Pyrotists proclaimed that he had received fifty thousand
francs from the big Jewish financiers. The reporters of the militarist sheets
held interviews regarding his scientific knowledge with official scholars, who
declared he had no knowledge of the stars, disputed his most solid
observations, denied his most certain discoveries, and condemned his most
ingenious and most fruitful hypotheses. He exulted under these flattering
blows of hatred and envy.

He contemplated the black immensity pierced by a multitude of lights, without
giving a thought to all the heavy slumbers, cruel insomnias, vain dreams,
spoilt pleasures, and infinitely diverse miseries that a great city contains.

"It is in this enormous city," said he to himself, "that the just and the
unjust are joining battle."

And substituting a simple and magnificent poetry for the multiple and vulgar
reality, he represented to himself the Pyrot affair as a struggle between good
and bad angels. He awaited the eternal triumph of the Sons of Light and
congratulated himself on being a Child of the Day confounding the Children of
Night.

 

X. MR. JUSTICE CHAUSSEPIED

Hitherto blinded by fear, incautious and stupid before the bands of Friar
Douillard and the partisans of Prince Crucho, the Republicans at last opened
their eyes and grasped the real meaning of the Pyrot affair. The deputies who
had for two years turned pale at the shouts of the patriotic crowds became,
not indeed more courageous, but altered their cowardice and blamed Robin
Mielleux for disorders which their own compliance had encouraged, and the
instigators of which they had several times slavishly congratulated. They
reproached him for having imperilled the Republic by a weakness which was
really theirs and a timidity which they themselves had imposed upon him. Some
of them began to doubt whether it was not to their interest to believe in
Pyrot's innocence rather than in his guilt, and thenceforward they felt a
bitter anguish at the thought that the unhappy man might have been wrongly
convicted and that in his aerial cage he might be expiating another man's
crimes. "I cannot sleep on account of it!" was what several members of
Minister Guillaumette's majority used to say. But these were ambitious to
replace their chief.


These generous legislators overthrew the cabinet, and the President of the
Republic put in Robin Mielleux's place, a patriarchal Republican with a
flowing beard, La Trinite by name, who, like most of the Penguins, understood
nothing about the affair, but thought that too many monks were mixed up in it.

General Greatauk before leaving the Ministry of War, gave his final advice to
Pariler, the Chief of the Staff.

"I go and you remain," said he, as he shook hands with him. "The Pyrot affair
is my daughter; I confide her to you, she is worthy of your love and your
care; she is beautiful. Do not forget that her beauty loves the shade, is
leased with mystery, and likes to remain veiled. Great her modesty with
gentleness. Too many indiscreet looks have already profaned her charms. . . .
Panther, you desired proofs and you obtained them. You have many, perhaps too
many, in your possession. I see that there will be many tiresome interventions
and much dangerous curiosity. If I were in your place I would tear up all
those documents. Believe me, the best of proofs is none at all. That is the
only one which nobody discusses."

Alas! General Panther did not realise the wisdom of this advice. The future
was only too thoroughly to justify Greatauk's perspicacity. La Trinite
demanded the documents belonging, to the Pyrot affair. Peniche, his Minister
of War, refused them in the superior interests of the national defence,
telling him that the documents under General Panther's care formed the hugest
mass of archives in the world. La Trinite studied the case as well as he
could, and, without penetrating to the bottom of the matter, suspected it of
irregularity. Conformably to his rights and prerogatives he then ordered a
fresh trial to be held. Immediately, Peniche, his Minister of War, accused him
of insulting the army and betraying the country and flung his portfolio at his
head. He was replaced by a second, who did the same. To him succeeded a third,
who imitated these examples, and those after him to the number of seventy
acted like their predecessors, until the venerable La Trinite groaned beneathe
the weight of bellicose portfolios. The seventy-first Minister of War, van
Julep, retained office. Not that he was in disagreement with so many and such
noble colleagues, but he had been commissioned by them generously to betray
his Prime Minister, to cover him with shame and opprobrium, and to convert the
new trial to the glory of Greatauk, the satisfaction of the Anti-Pyrotists,
the profit of the monks, and the restoration of Prince Crucho.

General van Julep, though endowed with high military virtues, was not
intelligent enough to employ the subtle conduct and exquisite methods of
Greatauk. He thought, like General Panther, that tangible proofs against Pyrot
were necessary, that they could never ave too many of them, that they could
never have even enough. He expressed these' sentiments to his Chief of Staff,
who was only too inclined to agree with them.

"Panther," said he, "we are at the moment when we need abundant and
superabundant proofs."

"You have said enough, General," answered Panther, "I will complete my piles
of documents."

Six months later the proofs against Pyrot filled two storeys of the Ministry
of War. The ceiling fell in beneath the weight of the bundles, and the
avalanche of falling documents crushed two head clerks, fourteen second
clerks, and sixty copying clerks, who were at work upon the ground floor
arranging a change in the fashion of the cavalry gaiters. The walls of the
huge edifice had to be propped. Passers-by saw with amazement enormous beams
and monstrous stanchions which reared themselves obliquely against the noble
front of the building, now tottering and disjointed, and blocked up the
streets, stopped the carriages, and presented to the motor-omnibuses an
obstacle against which they dashed with their loads of passengers.

The judges who had condemned Pyrot were not, properly speaking, judges but
soldiers. The judges who had condemned Colomban were real judges, but of
inferior rank, wearing seedy black clothes like church vergers, unlucky
wretches of judges, miserable judgelings. Above them were the superior judges
who wore ermine robes over their black gowns. These, renowned for their
knowledge and doctrine, formed a court whose terrible name expressed power. It
was called the Court of Appeal (Cassation) so as to make it clear that it was
the hammer suspended over the judgments and decrees of all other
jurisdictions.

One of these superior red Judges of the Supreme Court, called Chaussepied, led
a modest and tranquil life in a suburb of Alca. His soul was pure, his heart
honest, his spirit just. When he had finished studying his documents he used
to play the violin and cultivate hyacinths. Every Sunday he dined with his
neighbours the Mesdemoiselles Helbivore. His old age was cheerful and robust
and his friends often praised the amenity of his character.

For some months, however, he had been irritable and touchy, and when he opened
a newspaper his broad and ruddy face would become covered with dolorous
wrinkles and darkened with an angry purple. Pyrot was the cause of it. Justice
Chaussepied could not understand how an officer could have committed so black
a crime as to hand over eighty thousand trusses of military hay to a
neighbouring and hostile Power. And he could still less conceive how a
scoundrel should have found official defenders in Penguinia. The thought that
there existed in his country a Pyrot, a Colonel Hastaing, a Colomban, a
Kerdanic, a Phoenix, spoilt his hyacinths,his violin, his heaven, and his
earth, all nature, and even his dinner with the Mesdemoiselles Helbivore!

In the mean time the Pyrot case, having been presented to the Supreme Court by
the Keeper of Seals, it fell to Chaussepied to examine it and cover its
defects, in case any existed. Although as upright and honest as a man can be,
and trained by long habit to exercise his magistracy without fear or favour,
he expected to find in the documents he submitted to him proofs of certain
guilt and obvious criminality. After lengthened difficulties and repeated
refusals on the part of General Julep, Justice Chaussepied was allowed to
examine the documents. Numbered and initialed they ran to the number of
fourteen millions six hundred and twenty-six thousand three hundred and
twelve. As he studied them the judge was at first surprised, then astonished,
then stupefied, amazed, and, if I dare say so, flabbergasted. He found among
the documents prospectuses of new fancy shops, newspapers, fashion-plates,
paper bags, old business letters, exercise books, brown paper, green paper for
rubbing parquet floors, playing cards, diagrams, six thousand copies of the
"Key to Dreams," but not a single document in which any mention was made of
Pyrot.

 

XI. CONCLUSION

The appeal was allowed, and Pyrot was brought down from his cage. But the
Anti-Pyrotists did not regard themselves as beaten. The military judges
re-tried Pyrot. Greatauk, in this second affair, surpassed himself. He
obtained a second conviction; he obtained it by declaring that the proofs
communicated to the Supreme Court were worth nothing, and that great care had
been taken to keep back the good ones, since they ought to remain secret. In
the opinion of connoisseurs he had never shown so much address. On leaving the
court, as he passed through the vestibule with a tranquil step, and his hands
behind his back, amidst a crowd of sight-seers, a woman dressed in red and
with her face covered by a black veil rushed at him, brandishing a kitchen
knife.


"Die, scoundrel!" she cried. It was Maniflore. Before those present could
understand what was happening, the general seized her by the wrist, and with
apparent gentleness, squeezed it so forcibly that the knife fell from her
aching hand.

Then he picked it up and handed it to Maniflore.

"Madam," said he with a bow, "you have dropped a household utensil."

He could not prevent the heroine from being taken to the police-station; but
he had her immediately released and afterwards he employed all his influence
to stop the prosecution.

The second conviction of Pyrot was Greatauk's last victory.

Justice Chaussepied, who had formerly liked soldiers so much, and esteemed
their justice so highly,, being now enraged with the military judges, quashed
their judgments as a monkey cracks nuts. He rehabilitated Pyrot a second time;
he would, if necessary, have rehabilitated him five hundred times.

Furious at having been cowards and at having allowed themselves to be deceived
and made game of, the Republicans turned against the monks and clergy. The
deputies passed laws of expulsion, separation, and spoliation against them.
What Father Cornemuse had foreseen took place. That good monk was driven from
the Wood of Conils. Treasury officers confiscated his retorts and his stills,
and the liquidators divided amongst them his bottles of St. Oberosian liqueur.
The pious distiller lost the annual income of three million five hundred
thousand francs that his products procured for him. Father Agaric went into
exile, abandoning his school into the hands of laymen, who soon allowed it to
fall into decay. Separated from its foster-mother, the State, the Church of
Penguinia withered like a plucked flower.

The victorious defenders of the innocent man now abused each other and
overwhelmed each other reciprocally with insults and calumnies. The vehement
Kerdanic hurled himself upon Phoenix as if ready to devour him. The wealthy
Jews and the seven hundred Pyrotists turned away with disdain from the
socialist comrades whose aid they had humbly implored in the past.

"We know you no longer," said they. "To the devil with you and your social
justice. Social justice is the defence of property."

Having been elected a Deputy and chosen to be the leader of the new majority,
comrade Larrivee was appointed by the Chamber and public opinion to the
Premiership. He showed himself an energetic defender of the military tribunals
that had condemned Pyrot. When his former socialist comrades claimed a little
more justice and liberty for the employes of the State as well as for manual
workers, he opposed their proposals in an eloquent speech.

"Liberty," said he, "is not licence. Between order and disorder my choice is
made: revolution is impotence. Progress has no more formidable enemy than
violence. Gentlemen, those who, as I am, are anxious for reform, ought to
apply themselves before everything else to cure this agitation which enfeebles
government just as fever exhausts those who are ill. It is time to reassure
honest people."

This speech was received with applause. The government of the Republic
remained in subjection to the great financial companies, the army was
exclusively devoted to the defence of capital, while the fleet was designed
solely to procure fresh orders for the mine-owners. Since the rich refused to
pay their just share of the taxes, the poor, as in the past, paid for them.

In the mean time from the height of his old steamline, beneath the crowded
stars of night, Bidault-Coquille gazed sadly at the sleeping city. Maniflore
had left him. Consumed with a desire for fresh devotions and fresh sacrifices,
she had gone in company with a young Bulgarian to bear justice and vengeance
to Sofia. He did not regret her, having perceived after the Affair, that she
was less beautiful in form and in thought than he had at first imagined. His
impressions had been modified in the same direction concerning many other
forms and many other thoughts. And what was cruelest of all to him, he
regarded himself as not so great, not so splendid, as he had believed.

And he reflected:

"You considered yourself sublime when you had but candour and good-will. Of
what were you proud, Bidault-Coquille? Of having been one of the first to know
that Pyrot was innocent and Greatauk a scoundrel. But three-fourths of those
who defended Greatauk against the attacks of the seven hundred Pyrotists knew
that better than you. Of what then did you show yourself so proud? Of having
dared to say what you thought? That is civic courage, and, like military
courage, it is a mere result of imprudence. You have been imprudent. So far so
good, but that is no reason for praising yourself beyond measure. Your
imprudence was trifling; it exposed you to trifling perils; you did not risk
your head by it. The Penguins have lost that cruel and sanguinary pride which
formerly gave a tragic grandeur to their revolutions; it is the fatal result
of the weakening of beliefs and character. Ought one to look upon oneself as a
superior spirit for having shown a little more clear-sightedness than the
vulgar? I am very much afraid, on the contrary, Bidault-Coquille, that you
have given proof of a gross misunderstanding of the conditions of the moral
and intellectual development of a people. You imagined that social injustices
were threaded together like pearls and that it would be enough to pull off one
in order to unfasten the whole necklace. That is a very ingenuous conception.
You flattered yourself that at one stroke you were establishing justice in
your own country and in the universe. You were a brave man, an honest
idealist, though without much experimental philosophy. But go home to your own
heart and you will recognise that you had in you a spice of malice and that
our ingenuousness was not without cunning. You believed you were performing a
fine moral action. You said to yourself: 'Here am I, just and courageous once
for all. I can henceforth repose in the public esteem and the praise of
historians.' And now that you have lost your illusions, now that you know how
hard it is to redress wrongs, and that the task must ever be begun afresh, you
are going back to your asteroids. You are right; but go back to them with
modesty, Bidault-Coquille!"

 

BOOK VII. MODERN TIMES

 

MADAME CERES

"Only extreme things are tolerable." Count Robert de Montesquiou.

 

I. MADAME CLARENCE'S DRAWING-ROOM

Madame Clarence, the widow of an exalted functionary of the Republic, loved to
entertain. Every Thursday she collected together some friends of modest
condition who took pleasure in conversation. The ladies who went to see her,
very different in age and rank, were all without money, and had all suffered
much. There was a duchess who looked like a fortune-teller and a
fortune-teller who looked like a duchess. Madame Clarence was pretty enough to
maintain some old liaisons, but not to form new ones, and she generally
inspired a quiet esteem. She had a very pretty daughter, who, since she had no
dower, caused some alarm among the male guests; for the Penguins were as much
afraid of portionless girls as they were of the devil himself. Eveline
Clarence, noticing their reserve and perceiving its cause, used to hand them
their tea with an air of disdain. Moreover, she seldom appeared at the parties
and talked only to the ladies or the very young people. Her discreet and
retiring presence put no restraint upon the conversation, since those who took
part in it thought either that as she was a young girl she would not
understand it, or that, being twenty-five years old, she might listen to
everything.


One Thursday therefore, in Madame Clarence's drawing-room, the conversation
turned upon love. The ladies spoke of it with pride, delicacy, and mystery,
the men with discretion and fatuity; everyone took an interest in the
conversation, for each one was interested in what he or she said. A great deal
of wit flowed; brilliant apostrophes were launched forth and keen repartees
were returned. But when Professor Haddi began to speak he overwhelmed
everybody.

"It is the same with our ideas on love as with our ideas on everything else,"
said he, "they rest upon anterior habits whose very memory has been effaced.
In morals, the limitations that have lost their grounds for existing, the most
useless obligations, the cruelest and most injurious restraints, are because
of their profound antiquity and the mystery of their origin, the least
disputed and the least disputable as well as the most respected, and they are
those that cannot be violated without incurring the most severe blame. All
morality relative to the relations of the sexes is founded on this principle:
that a woman once obtained belongs to the man, that she is his property like
his horse or his weapons. And this having ceased to be true, absurdities
result from it, such as the marriage or contract of sale of a woman to a man,
with clauses restricting the right of ownership introduced as a consequence of
the gradual diminution of the claims of the possessor.

"The obligation imposed on a girl that she should bring her virginity to her
husband comes from the times when girls were married immediately they were of
a marriageable age. It is ridiculous that a girl who marries at twenty-five or
thirty should be subject to that obligation. You will, perhaps, say that it is
a present with which her husband, if she gets one at last, will be gratified;
but every moment we see men wooing married women and showing themselves
perfectly satisfied to take them as they find them.

"Still, even in our own day, the duty of girls is determined in religious
morality by the old belief that God, the most powerful of warriors, is
polygamous, that he has reserved all maidens for himself, and that men can
only take those whom he has left. This belief, although traces of it exist in
several metaphors of mysticism, is abandoned to-day, by most civilised
peoples. However, it still dominates the education of girls not only among our
believers, but even among our free-thinkers, who, as a rule, think freely for
the reason that they do not think at all.

"Discretion means ability to separate and discern. We say that a girl is
discreet when she knows nothing at all. We cultivate her ignorance. In spite
of all our care the most discreet know something, for we cannot conceal from
them their own nature and their own sensations. But they know badly, they know
in a wrong way. That is all we obtain by our careful education. . . ."

"Sir," suddenly said Joseph Boutourle, the High Treasurer of Alca, "believe
me, there are innocent girls, perfectly innocent girls, and it is a great
pity. I have known three. They married, and the result was tragical."

"I have noticed," Professor Haddock went on, "that Europeans in general and
Penguins in particular occupy themselves, after sport and motoring, with
nothing so much as with love. It is giving a great deal of importance to a
matter that has very little weight."

"Then, Professor," exclaimed Madame Cremeur in a choking voice, "when a woman
has completely surrendered herself to you, you think it is a matter of no
importance?"

"No, Madame; it can have its importance," answered Professor Haddock, "but it
is necessary to examine if when she surrenders herself to us she offers us a
delicious fruit-garden or a plot of thistles and dandelions. And then, do we
not misuse words? In love, a woman lends herself rather than gives herself.
Look at the pretty Madame Pensee. . . ."

"She is my mother," said a tall, fair young man.

"Sir, I have the greatest respect for her," replied Professor Haddock; "do not
be afraid that I intend to say anything in the least offensive about her. But
allow me to tell you that, as a rule, the opinions of sons about their mothers
are not to be relied on. They do not bear enough in mind that a mother is a
mother only because she loved, and that she can still love. That, however, is
the case, and it would be deplorable were it otherwise. I have noticed, on the
contrary, that daughters do not deceive themselves about their mothers'
faculty for loving or about the use they make of it; they are rivals; they
have their eyes upon them."

The insupportable Professor spoke a great deal longer, adding indecorum to
awkwardness, and impertinence to incivility, accumulating incongruities,
despising what is respectable, respecting what is despicable; but no one
listened to him further.

During this time in a room that was simple without grace, a room sad for the
want of love, a room which, like all young girls' rooms, had something of the
cold atmosphere of a place of waiting about it, Eveline Clarence turned over
the pages of club annuals and prospectuses of charities in order to obtain
from them some acquaintance with society. Being convinced that her mother,
shut up in her own intellectual but poor world, could neither bring her out or
push her into prominence, she decided that she herself would seek the best
means of winning a husband. At once calm and obstinate, without dreams or
illusions, and regarding marriage as but a ticket of admission or a passport,
she kept before her mind a clear notion of the hazards, difficulties, and
chances of her enterprise. She had the art of pleasing and a coldness of
temperament that enabled her to turn it to its fullest advantage. Her weakness
lay in the fact that she was dazzled by anything that had an aristocratic air.

When she was alone with her mother she said:

"Mamma, we will go to-morrow to Father Douillard's retreat."

 

II. THE CHARITY OF ST. ORBEROSIA

Every Friday evening at nine o'clock the choicest of Alcan society assembled
in the aristocratic church of St. Mael for the Reverend Father Douillard's
retreat. Prince and Princess des Boscenos, Viscount and Viscountess Olive, M.
and Madame Bigourd, Monsieur and Madame de La Trumelle were never absent. The
flower of the aristocracy might be seen there, and fair Jewish baronesses also
adorned it by their presence, for the Jewish baronesses of Alca were
Christians.

This retreat, like all religious retreats, had for its object to procure for
those living in the world opportunities for recollection so that they might
think of their eternal salvation. It was also intended to draw down upon so
man noble and illustrious families the benediction of L. Orberosia, who loves
the Penguins. The Reverend Father Douillard strove for the completion of his
task with a truly apostolical zeal. He hoped to restore the prerogatives of
St. Orberosia as the patron saint of Penguinia and to dedicate to her a
monumental church on one of the hills that dominate the city. His efforts had
been crowned with great success, and for the accomplishing of this national
enterprise he had already united more than a hundred thousand adherents and
collected more than twenty millions of francs.


It was in the choir of St. Mael's that St. Orberosia's new shrine, shining
with gold, sparkling with precious stones, and surrounded by tapers and
flowers, had been erected.

The following account may be read in the "History of the Miracles of the
Patron Saint of Alca" by the Abbe Plantain:

"The ancient shrine had been melted down during the Terror and the precious
relics of the saint thrown into a fire that had been lit on the Place de
Greve; but a poor woman of great piety, named Rouquin, went by night at the
peril of her life to gather up the calcined bones and the ashes of the blessed
saint. She preserved them in a jam-pot, and when religion was again restored,
brought them to the venerable Cure of St. Maels. The woman ended her days
piously as a vendor of tapers and custodian of seats in the saint's chapel."

It is certain that in the time of Father Douillard, although faith was
declining, the cult of St. Orberosia, which for three hundred years had fallen
under the criticism of Canon Princeteau and the silence of the Doctors of the
Church, recovered, and was surrounded with more pomp, more splendour, and more
fervour than ever. The theologians did not now subtract a single iota from the
legend. They held as certainly established all the facts related by Abbot
Simplicissimus, and in particular declared, on the testimony of that monk,
that the devil, assuming a monk's form had carried off the saint to a cave and
had there striven with her until she overcame him. Neither places nor dates
caused them any embarrassment. They paid no heed to exegesis and took good
care not to grant as much to science as Canon Princeteau had formerly
conceded. They knew too well whither that would lead.

The church shone with lights and flowers. An operatic tenor sang the famous
canticle of St. Orberosia:

Virgin of Paradise
Come, come in the dusky night
And on us shed
Thy beams of light.

Mademoiselle Clarence sat beside her mother and in front of Viscount Clena.
She remained kneeling during a considerable time, for the attitude of prayer
is natural to discreet virgins and it shows off their figures.

The Reverend Father Douillard ascended the pulpit. He was a powerful orator
and could, at once melt, surprise, and rouse his hearers. Women complained
only that he fulminated against vice with excessive harshness and in crude
terms that made them blush. But they liked him none the less for it.


He treated in his sermon of the seventh trial of St. Orberosia, who was
tempted by the dragon which she went forth to combat. But she did not yield,
and she disarmed the monster. The orator demonstrated without difficulty that
we, also, by the aid of St. Orberosia, and strong in the virtue which she
inspires, can in our turn overthrow the dragons that dart upon us and are
waiting to devour us, the dragon of doubt, the dragon of impiety, the dragon
of forgetfulness of religious duties. He proved that the charity of St.
Orberosia was a work of social regeneration, and he concluded by an ardent
appeal to the faithful "to become instruments of the Divine mercy, eager
upholders and supporters of the charity of St. Orberosia, and to furnish it
with all the means which it required to take its flight and bear its salutary
fruits." *

* Cf. J. Ernest Charles in the "Censeur," May-August, 1907, p. 562, col. 2.


After the ceremony, the Reverend Father Douillard remained in the sacristy at
the disposal of those of the faithful who desired information concerning the
charity, or who wished to bring their contributions. Mademoiselle Clarence
wished to speak to Father Douillard, so did Viscount Clena. The crowd was
large, and a queue was formed. By chance Viscount Clena and Mademoiselle
Clarence were side by side and possibly they were squeezed a little closely to
each other by the crowd. Eveline had noticed this fashionable young man, who
was almost as well known as his father in the world of sport. Clena had
noticed her, and, as he thought her pretty, he bowed to her, then apologised
and pretended to believe that he had been introduced to the ladies, but could
not remember where. They pretended to believe it also.

He presented himself the following week at Madame Clarence's, thinking that
her house was a bit fast--a thing not likely to displease him--and when he saw
Eveline again he felt he had not been mistaken and that she was an extremely
pretty girl.

Viscount Clena had the finest motor-car in Europe. For three months he drove
the Clarences every day over hills and plains, through woods and valleys; they
visited famous sites and went over celebrated castles. He said to Eveline all
that could be said and did all that could be done to overcome her resistance.
She did not conceal from him that she loved him, that she would always love
him, and love no one but him. She remained grave and trembling by his side. To
his devouring passion she opposed the invincible defence of a virtue conscious
of its danger. At the end of three months, after having gone uphill and down
hill, turned sharp corners, and negotiated level crossings, and experienced
innumerable break-downs, he knew her as well as he knew the fly-wheel of his
car, but not much better. He employed surprises, adventures, sudden stoppages
in the depths of forests and before hotels, but he had advanced no farther. He
said to himself that it was absurd; then, taking her again in his car he set
off at fifty miles an hour quite prepared to upset her in a ditch or to smash
himself and her against a tree.

One day, having come to take her on some excursion, he found her more charming
than ever, and more provoking. He darted upon her as a storm falls upon the
reeds that border a lake. She bent with adorable weakness beneath the breath
of the storm, and twenty times was almost carried away by its strength, but
twenty times she arose, supple and, bowing to the wind. After all these shocks
one would have said that a light breeze had barely touched her charming stem;
she smiled as if ready to be plucked by a bold hand. Then her unhappy
aggressor, desperate, enraged, and three parts mad, fled so as not to kill
her, mistook the door, went into the bedroom of Madame Clarence, whom he found
putting on her hat in front of a wardrobe, seized her, flung her on the bed,
and possessed her before she knew what had happened.

The same day Eveline, who had been making inquiries, learned that Viscount
Clena had nothing but debts, lived on money given him by an elderly lady, and
promoted the sale of the latest models of a motor-car manufacturer. They
separated with common accord and Eveline began again disdainfully to serve tea
to her mother's guests.

 

III. HIPPOLYTE CERES

In Madame Clarence's drawing-room the conversation turned upon love, and many
charming things were said about it.

"Love is a sacrifice," sighed Madame Cremeur.

"I agree with you," replied M. Boutourle with animation.

But Professor Haddock soon displayed his fastidious insolence.

"It seems to me," said he, "that the Penguin ladies have made a great fuss
since, through St. Mael's agency, they became viviparous. But there is nothing
to be particularly proud of in that, for it is a state they share in common
with cows and pigs, and even with orange and lemon trees, for the seeds of
these plants germinate in the pericarp."


"The self-importance which the Penguin ladies give themselves does not go so
far back as that," answered M. Boutourle. "It dates from the day when the holy
apostle gave them clothes. But this self-importance was long kept in
restraint, and displayed itself fully only with increased luxury of dress and
in a small section of society. For go only two leagues from Alca into the
country at harvest time, and you will see whether women are over-precise or
self-important."

On that day M. Hippolyte Ceres paid his first call. He was a Deputy of Alca,
and one of the youngest members of the House. His father was said to have kept
a dram shop, but he himself was a lawyer of robust physique, a good though
prolix speaker, with a self-important air and a reputation for ability.

"M. Ceres," said the mistress of the house, "your constituency is one of the
finest in Alca."

"And there are fresh improvements made in it every day, Madame."

"Unfortunately, it is impossible to take a stroll through it any longer," said
M. Boutourle.

"Why?" asked M. Ceres.

"On account of the motors, of course."

"Do not give them a bad name," answered the Deputy. "They are our great
national industry."

"I know. The Penguins of to-day make me think of the ancient Egyptians.
According to Clement of Alexandria, Taine tells us--though he misquotes the
text--the Egyptians worshipped the crocodiles that devoured them. The Penguins
to-day worship the motors that crush them. Without a doubt the future belongs
to the metal beast. We are no more likely to go back to cabs than we are to go
back to the diligence. And the long martyrdom of the horse will come to an
end. The motor, which the frenzied cupidity of manufacturers hurls like a
juggernaut's car upon the bewildered people and of which the idle and
fashionable make a foolish though fatal elegance, will soon begin to perform
its true function, and putting its strength at the service of the entire
people, will behave like a docile, toiling monster. But in order that the
motor may cease to be injurious and become beneficent we must build roads
suited to its speed, roads which it cannot tear up with its ferocious tyres,
and from which it will send no clouds of poisonous dust into human lungs. We
ought not to allow slower vehicles or mere animals to go upon those roads, and
we should establish garages upon them and foot-bridges over them, and so
create order and harmony among the means of communication of the future. That
is the wish of every good citizen."

Madame Clarence led the conversation back to the improvements in M. Ceres'
constituency. M. Ceres showed his enthusiasm for demolitions, tunnelings,
constructions, reconstructions, and all other fruitful operations.

"We build to-day in an admirable style," said he; "everywhere majestic avenues
are being reared. Was ever anything as fine as our arcaded bridges and our
domed hotels!"

"You are forgetting that big palace surmounted an immense melon-shaped dome,"
grumbled by M. Daniset, an old art amateur, in a voice of restrained rage. "I
am amazed at the degree of ugliness which a modern city can attain. Alca is
becoming Americanised. Everywhere we are destroying all that is free,
unexpected, measured, restrained, human, or traditional among the things that
are left us. Everywhere we are destroying that charming object, a piece of an
old wall that bears up the branches of a tree. Everywhere we are suppressing
some fragment of light and air, some fragment of nature, some fragment of the
associations that still remain with us, some fragment of our fathers, some
fragment of ourselves. And we are putting up frightful, enormous, infamous
houses, surmounted in Viennese style by ridiculous domes, or fashioned after
the models of the 'new art' without mouldings, or having profiles with
sinister corbels and burlesque pinnacles, and such monsters as these
shamelessly peer over the surrounding buildings. We see bulbous protuberances
stuck on the fronts of buildings and we are told they are 'new art' motives. I
have seen the 'new art' in other countries, but it is not so ugly as with us;
it has fancy and it has simplicity. It is only in our own country that by a
sad privilege we may behold the newest and most diverse styles of
architectural ugliness. Not an enviable privilege!"

"Are you not afraid," asked M. Ceres severely, "are you not afraid that these
bitter criticisms tend to keep out of our capital the foreigners who flow into
it from all arts of the world and who leave millions behind them?"

"You may set your mind at rest about that," answered M. Daniset. "Foreigners
do not come to admire our buildings; they come to see our courtesans, our
dressmakers, and our dancing saloons."

"We have one bad habit," sighed M. Ceres, "it is that we calumniate
ourselves."

Madame Clarence as an accomplished hostess thought it was time to return to
the subject of love and asked M. Jumel his opinion of M. Leon Blum's recent
book in which the author complained. . . .

". . . That an irrational custom," went on Professor Haddock, "prevents
respectable young ladies from making love, a thing they would enjoy doing,
whilst mercenary girls do it too much and without getting any enjoyment out of
it. It is indeed deplorable. But M. Leon Blum need not fret too much. If the
evil exists, as he says it does, in our middle-class society, I can assure him
that everywhere else he would see a consoling spectacle. Among the people, the
mass of the people through town and country, girls do not deny themselves that
pleasure."

"It is depravity!" said Madame Cremeur.

And she praised the innocence of young girls in terms full of modesty and
grace. It was charming to hear her.

Professor Haddock's views on the same subject were, on the contrary, painful
to listen to.

"Respectable young girls," said he, "are guarded and watched over. Besides,
men do not, as a rule, pursue them much, either through probity, or from a
fear of grave responsibilities, or because the seduction of a young girl would
not be to their credit. Even then we do not know what really takes place, for
the reason that what is hidden is not seen. This is a condition necessary to
the existence of all society. The scruples of respectable young girls could be
more easily overcome than those of married women if the same pressure were
brought to bear on them, and for this there are two reasons: they have more
illusions, and their curiosity has not been satisfied. Women, for the most
part, have been so disappointed by their husbands that they have not courage
enough to begin again with somebody else. I myself have been met by this
obstacle several times in my attempts at seduction."

At the moment when Professor Haddock ended his unpleasant remarks,
Mademoiselle Eveline Clarence entered the drawing-room and listlessly handed
about tea with that expression of boredom which gave an oriental charm to her
beauty.

"For my part," said Hippolyte Ceres, looking at her, "I declare myself the
young ladies' champion."

"He must be a fool," thought the girl.

Hippolyte Ceres, who had never set foot outside of his political world of
electors and elected, thought Madame Clarence's drawing-room most select, its
mistress exquisite, and her daughter amazingly beautiful. His visits became
frequent and he paid court to both of them. Madame Clarence, who now liked
attention, thought him agreeable. Eveline showed no friendliness towards him,
and treated him with a hauteur and disdain that he took for aristocratic
behaviour and fashionable manners, and he thought all the more of her on that
account. This busy man taxed his ingenuity to please them, and he sometimes
succeeded. He got them cards for fashionable functions and boxes at the Opera.
He furnished Mademoiselle Clarence with several opportunities of appearing to
great advantage and in particular at a garden party which, although given by a
Minister, was regarded as really fashionable, and gained its first success in
society circles for the Republic.

At that party Eveline had been much noticed and had attracted the special
attention of a young diplomat called Roger Lambilly who, imagining that she
belonged to a rather fast set, invited her to his bachelor's flat. She thought
him handsome and believed him rich, and she accepted. A little moved, almost
disquieted, she very nearly became the victim of her daring, and only avoided
defeat by an offensive measure audaciously carried out. This was the most
foolish escapade in her unmarried life.

Being now on friendly terms with Ministers and with the President, Eveline
continued to wear her aristocratic and pious affectations, and these won for
her the sympathy of the chief personages in the anti-clerical and democratic
Republic. M. Hippolyte Ceres, seeing that she was succeeding and doing him
credit, liked her still more. He even went so far as to fall madly in love
with her.

Henceforth, in spite of everything, she began to observe him with interest,
being curious to see if his passion would increase. He appeared to her without
elegance or grace, and not well bred, but active, clear-sighted, full of
resource, and not too great a bore. She still made fun of him, but he had now
won her interest.

One day she wished to test him. It was during the elections, when members of
Parliament were, as the phrase runs, requesting a renewal of their mandates.
He had an opponent, who, though not dangerous at first and not much of an
orator, was rich and was reported to be gaining votes every day. Hippolyte
Ceres, banishing both dull security and foolish alarm from his mind, redoubled
his care. His chief method of action was by public meetings at which he spoke
vehemently against the rival candidate. His committee held huge meetings on
Saturday evenings and at three o'clock on Sunday afternoons. One Sunday, as he
called on the Clarences, he found Eveline alone in the drawing-room. He had
been chatting for about twenty or twenty-five minutes, when, taking out his
watch, he saw that it was a quarter to three. The young girl showed herself
amiable, engaging, attractive, and full of promises. Ceres was fascinated, but
he stood up to go.

"Stay a little longer," said she in a pressing and agreeable voice which made
him promptly sit down again.

She was full of interest, of abandon, curiosity, and weakness. He blushed,
turned pale, and again got up.

Then, in order to keep him still longer, she looked at him out of two grey and
melting eyes, and though her bosom was heaving, she did not say another word.
He fell at her feet in distraction,, but once more looking at his watch, he
jumped up with a terrible oath.

"D--! a quarter to four! I must be off."

And immediately he rushed down the stairs.

From that time onwards she had a certain amount of esteem for him.

 

IV. A POLITICIAN'S MARRIAGE

She was not quite in love with him, but she wished him to be in love with her.
She was, moreover, very reserved with him, and that not solely from any want
of inclination to be otherwise, since in affairs of love some things are due
to indifference, to inattention, to woman's instinct, to traditional custom
and feeling, to a desire to try one's power, and to satisfaction at seeing its
results. The reason of her prudence was that she knew him to be very much
infatuated and capable of taking advantage of any familiarities she allowed as
well as of reproaching her coarsely afterwards if she discontinued them.


As he was a professed anti-clerical and free-thinker, she thought it a good
plan to affect an appearance of piety in his presence and to be seen with
prayer-books bound in red morocco, such as Queen Marie Leczinska's or the
Dauphiness Marie Josephine's "The Last Two Weeks of Lent." She lost no
opportunity, either, of showing him the subscriptions that she collected for
the endowment of the national cult of St. Orberosia. Eveline did not act in
this way because she wished to tease him. Nor did it spring from a young
girl's archness, or a spirit of constraint, or even from snobbishness, though
there was more than a suspicion of this latter in her behaviour. It was but
her way of asserting herself, of stamping herself with a definite character,
of increasing her value. To rouse the Deputy's courage she wrapped herself up
in religion, just as Brunhild surrounded herself with flames so as to attract
Sigurd. Her audacity was successful. He thought her still more beautiful thus.
Clericalism was in his eyes a sign of good form.

Ceres was re-elected by an enormous majority and returned to a House which
showed itself more inclined to the Left, more advanced, and, as it seemed,
more eager for reform than its predecessor. Perceiving at once that so much
zeal was but intended to hide a fear of change, and a sincere desire to do
nothing, he determined to adopt a policy that would satisfy these aspirations.
At the beginning of the session he made a great speech, cleverly thought out
and well arranged, dealing with the idea that all reform ought to be put off
for a long time. He showed himself heated, even fervid; holding the principle
that an orator should recommend moderation with extreme vehemence. He was
applauded by the entire assembly. The Clarences listened to him from the
President's box and Eveline trembled in spite of herself at the solemn sound
of the applause. On the same bench the fair Madame Pensee shivered at the
intonations of his virile voice.

As soon as he descended from the tribune, Ceres, even while the audience were
still clapping, went without a moment's delay to salute the Clarences in their
box. Eveline saw in him the beauty of success, and as he leaned towards the
ladies, wiping his neck with his handkerchief and receiving their
congratulations with an air of modesty though not without a tinge of
self-conceit, the young girl glanced towards Madame Pensee and saw her,
palpitating and breathless, drinking in the hero's applause with her head
thrown backwards. It seemed as if she were on the point of fainting. Eveline
immediately smiled tenderly on M. Ceres.

The Alcan deputy's speech had a great vogue. In political "spheres" it was
regarded as extremely able. "We have at last heard an honest pronouncement,"
said the chief Moderate journal. "It is a regular programme!" they said in the
House. It was agreed that he was a man of immense talent.

Hippolyte Ceres had now established himself as leader of the radicals,
socialists, and anti-clericals, and they appointed him President of their
group, which was then the most considerable in the House. He thus found
himself marked out for office in the next ministerial combination.

After a long hesitation Eveline Clarence accepted the idea of marrying M.
Hippolyte Ceres. The great man was a little common for her taste. Nothing had
yet proved that he would one day reach the point where politics bring in large
sums of money. But she was entering her twenty-seventh year and knew enough of
life to see that she must not be too fastidious or show herself too difficult
to please.

Hippolyte Ceres was celebrated; Hippolyte Ceres was happy. He was no longer
recognisable; the elegance of his clothes and deportment had increased
tremendously. He wore an undue number of white gloves. Now that he was too
much of a society man, Eveline began to doubt if it was not worse than being
too little of one. Madame Clarence regarded the engagement with favour. She
was reassured concerning her daughter's future and pleased to have flowers
given her every Thursday for her drawing-room.

The celebration of the marriage raised some difficulties. Eveline was pious
and wished to receive the benediction of the Church. Hippolyte Ceres, tolerant
but a free-thinker, wanted only a civil marriage. There were many discussions
and even some violent scenes upon the subject. The last took place in the
young girl's room at the moment when the invitations were being written.
Eveline declared that if she did not go to church she would not believe
herself married. She spoke of breaking off the engagement, and of going abroad
with her mother, or of retiring into a convent. Then she became tender, weak,
suppliant. She sighed, and everything in her virginal chamber sighed in
chorus, the holy-water font, the palm-branch above her white bed, the books of
devotion on their little shelves, and the blue and white statuette of St.
Orberosia chaining the dragon of Cappadocia, that stood upon the marble
mantelpiece. Hippolyte Ceres was moved, softened, melted.

Beautiful in her grief, her eyes shining with tears, her wrists girt by a
rosary of lapis lazuli and, so to speak, chained by her faith, she suddenly
flung herself at Hippolyte's feet, and dishevelled, almost dying, she embraced
his knees.

He nearly yielded.

"A religious marriage," he muttered, "a marriage in church, I could make my
constituents stand that, but my committee would not swallow the matter so
easily. . . . Still I'll explain it to them . . . toleration, social
necessities . . . . They all send their daughters to Sunday school . . . . But
as for office, my dear I am afraid we are going to drown all hope of that in
your holy water."

At these words she stood up grave, generous, resigned, conquered also in her
turn.

"My dear, I insist no longer."

"Then we won't have a religious marriage. It will be better, much better not."

"Very well, but be guided by me. I am going to try and arrange everything both
to your satisfaction and mine."

She sought the Reverend Father Douillard and explained the situation. He
showed himself even more accommodating and yielding than she had hoped.

"Your husband is an intelligent man, a man of order and reason; he will come
over to us. You will sanctify him. It is not in vain that God has granted him
the blessing of a Christian wife. The Church needs no pomp and ceremonial
display for her benedictions. Now that she is persecuted, the shadow of the
crypts and the recesses of the catacombs are in better accord with her
festivals. Mademoiselle, when you have performed the civil formalities come
here to my private chapel in costume with M. Ceres. I will marry you, a
observe the most absolute discretion. I will obtain the necessary
dispensations from the Archbishop as well as all facilities regarding the
banns, confession-tickets, etc."

Hippolyte, although he thought the combination a little dangerous, agreed to
it, a good deal flattered, at bottom.

"I will go in a short coat," he said.

He went in a frock coat with white gloves and varnished shoes, and he
genuflected.

"Politeness demands. . . ."

 

V. THE VISIRE CABINET

The Ceres household was established with modest decency in a pretty flat
situated in a new building. Ceres loved his wife in a calm and tranquil
fashion. He was often kept late from home by the Commission on the Budget and
he worked more than three nights a week at a report on the postal finances of
which he hoped to make a masterpiece. Eveline thought she could twist him
round her finger, and this did not displease him. The bad side of their
situation was that they had not much money; in truth they had very little. The
servants of the Republic do not grow rich in her service as easily as people
think. Since the sovereign is no longer there to distribute favours, each of
them takes what he can, and his depredations, limited by the depredations of
all the others, are reduced to modest proportions. Hence that austerity of
morals that is noticed in democratic leaders. They can only grow rich during
periods of great business activity and then they find themselves exposed to
the envy of their less favoured colleagues. Hippolyte Ceres had for a long
time foreseen such a period. He was one of those who had made preparations for
its arrival. Whilst waiting for it he endured his poverty with dignity, and
Eveline shared that poverty without suffering as much as one might have
thought. She was in close intimacy with the Reverend Father Douillard and
frequented the chapel of St. Orberosia, where she met with serious society and
people in a position to render her useful services. She knew how to choose
among them and gave her confidence to none but those who deserved it. She had
gained experience since her motor excursions with Viscount Clena, and above
all she had now acquired the value of a married woman.


The deputy was at first uneasy about these pious practices, which were
ridiculed by the demagogic newspapers, but he was soon reassured, for he saw
all around him democratic leaders joyfully becoming reconciled to the
aristocracy and the Church.

They found that they had reached one of those periods (which often recur) when
advance had been carried a little too far. Hippolyte Ceres gave a moderate
support to this view. His policy was not a policy of persecution but a policy
of tolerance. He had laid its foundations in his splendid speech on the
preparations for reform. The Prime Minister was looked upon as too advanced.
He proposed schemes which were admitted to be dangerous to capital, and the
great financial companies were opposed to him. Of course it followed that the
papers of all views supported the companies. Seeing the danger increasing, the
Cabinet abandoned its schemes, its programme, and its opinions, but it was too
late. A new administration was already ready. An insidious question by Paul
Visire which was immediately made the subject of a resolution, and a fine
speech by Hippolyte Ceres, overthrew the Cabinet.

The President of the Republic entrusted the formation of a new Cabinet to this
same Paul Visire, who, though still very young, had been a Minister twice. He
was a charming man, spending much of his time in the green-rooms of theatres,
very artistic, a great society man, of amazing ability and industry. Paul
Visire formed a temporary ministry intended to reassure public feeling which
had taken alarm, and Hippolyte Ceres was invited to hold office in it.

The new ministry, belonging to all the groups in the majority, represented the
most diverse and contrary opinions, but they were all moderate and convinced
conservatives.* The Minister of Foreign Affairs was retained from the former
cabinet. He was a little dark man called Crombile, who worked fourteen hours a
day with the conviction that he dealt with tremendous questions. He refused to
see even his own diplomatic agents, and was terribly uneasy, though he did not
disturb anybody else, for the want of foresight of peoples is infinite and
that of governments is just as great.

* As this ministry exercised considerable influence upon the destinies of the
country and of the world, we think it well to give its composition: Minister
of the Interior and Prime Minister, Paul Visire; Minister of Justice, Pierre
Bouc; Foreign Affairs, Victor Crombile; Finance, Terrasson; Education,
Labillette; Commerce, Posts and Telegraphs, Hippolyte Ceres; Agriculture,
Aulac; Public Works, Lapersonne; War, General Debonnaire; Admiralty, Admiral
Vivier des Murenes.

The office of Public Works was given to a Socialist, Fortune Lapersonne. It
was then a political custom and one of the most solemn, most severe, most
rigorous, and if I may dare say so, the most terrible and cruel of all
political customs, to include a member of the Socialist party in each ministry
intended to oppose Socialism, so that the enemies of wealth and property
should suffer the shame of being attacked by one of their own party, and so
that they could not unite against these forces without turning to some one who
might possibly attack themselves in the future. Nothing but a profound
ignorance of the human heart would permit the belief that it was difficult to
find a Socialist to occupy these functions. Citizen Fortune Lapersonne entered
the Visire cabinet of his own free will and without any constraint; and he
found those who approved of his action even among his former friends, so great
was the fascination that power exercised over the Penguins!

General Debonnaire went to the War Office. He was looked upon as one of the
ablest generals in the army, but he was ruled by a woman, the Baroness
Bildermann, who, though she had reached the age of intrigue, was still
beautiful. She was in the pay of a neighbouring and hostile Power.

The new Minister of Marine, the worthy Admiral Vivier des Murenes, was
generally regarded as an excellent seaman. He displayed a piety that would
have seemed excessive in an anti-clerical minister, if the Republic had not
recognised that religion was of great maritime utility. Acting on the
instruction of his spiritual director, the Reverend Father Douillard, the
worthy Admiral had dedicated his fleet to St. Orberosia and directed canticles
in honour of the Alcan Virgin to be composed by Christian bards. These
replaced the national hymn in the music played by the navy.

Prime Minister Visire declared himself to be distinctly anticlerical but ready
to respect all creeds; he asserted that he was a sober-minded reformer. Paul
Visire and his colleagues desired reforms, and it was in order not to
compromise reform that they proposed none; for they were true politicians and
knew that reforms are compromised the moment they are proposed. The government
was well received, respectable people were reassured, and the funds rose.

The administration announced that four new ironclads would be put into
commission, that prosecutions would be undertaken against the Socialists, and
it formally declared its intention to have nothing to do with any
inquisitorial income-tax. The choice of Terrasson as Minister of Finance was
warmly approved by the press. Terrasson, an old minister famous for his
financial operations, gave warrant to all the hopes of the financiers and
shadowed forth a period of great business activity. Soon those three udders of
modern nations, monopolies, bill discounting, and fraudulent speculation, were
swollen with the milk of wealth. Already whispers were heard of distant
enterprises, and of planting colonies, and the boldest put forward in the
newspapers the project of a military and financial protectorate over Nigritia.

Without having yet shown what he was capable of, Hippolyte Ceres was
considered a man of weight. Business people thought highly of him. He was
congratulated on all sides for having broken with the extreme sections, the
dangerous men, and for having realised the responsibilities of government.

Madame Ceres shone alone amid the Ministers' wives. Crombile withered away in
bachelordom. Paul Visire had married money in the person of Mademoiselle
Blampignon, an accomplished, estimable, and simple lady who was always ill,
and whose feeble health compelled her to stay with her mother in the depths of
a remote province. The other Ministers' wives were not born to charm the
sight, and people smiled when they read that Madame Labillette had appeared at
the Presidency Ball wearing a headdress of birds of paradise. Madame Vivier
des Murenes, a woman of good family, was stout rather than tall, had a face
like a beef-steak and the voice of a newspaper-seller. Madame Debonnaire,
tall, dry, and florid, was devoted to young officers. She ruined herself by
her escapades and crimes and only regained consideration by dint of ugliness
and insolence.

Madame Ceres was the charm of the Ministry and its tide to consideration.
Young, beautiful, and irreproachable, she charmed alike society and the masses
by her combination of elegant costumes and pleasant smiles.

Her receptions were thronged by the great Jewish financiers. She gave the most
fashionable garden parties in the Republic. The newspapers described her
dresses and the milliners did not ask her to pay for them. She went to Mass;
she protected the chapel of St. Orberosia from the ill-will of the people; and
she aroused in aristocratic hearts the hope of a fresh Concordat.

With her golden hair, grey eyes, and supple and slight though rounded figure,
she was indeed pretty. She enjoyed an excellent reputation and she was so
adroit, and calm, so much mistress of herself, that she would have preserved
it intact even if she had been discovered in the very act of ruining it.

The session ended with a victory for the cabinet which, amid the almost
unanimous applause of the House, defeated a proposal for an inquisitorial tax,
and with a triumph for Madame Ceres who gave parties in honour of three kings
who were at the moment passing through Alca.

 

VI. THE SOFA OF THE FAVOURITE

The Prime Minister invited Monsieur and Madame Ceres to spend a couple of
weeks of the holidays in a little villa that he had taken in the mountains,
and in which he lived alone. The deplorable health of Madame Paul Visire did
not allow her to accompany her husband, and she remained with her relatives in
one of the southern provinces.

The villa had belonged to the mistress of one of the last Kings of Alca: the
drawing-room retained its old furniture, and in it was still to be found the
Sofa of the Favourite. The country was charming; a pretty blue stream, the
Aiselle, flowed at the foot of the hill that dominated the villa. Hippolyte
Ceres loved fishing; when engaged at this monotonous occupation he often
formed his best Parliamentary combinations, and his happiest oratorical
inspirations. Trout swarmed in the Aiselle; he fished it from morning till
evening in a boat that the Prime Minister readily placed at is disposal.


In the mean time, Eveline and Paul Visire sometimes took a turn together in
the garden, or had a little chat in the drawing-room. Eveline, although she
recognised the attraction that Visire had for women, had hitherto displayed
towards him only an intermittent and superficial coquetry, without any deep
intentions or settled design. He was a connoisseur and saw that she was
pretty. The House and the Opera had deprived him of all leisure, but, in a
little villa, the grey eyes and rounded figure of Eveline took on a value in
his eyes. One day as Hippolyte Ceres was fishing in the Aiselle, he made her
sit beside him on the Sofa of the Favourite. Long rays of gold struck Eveline
like arrows from a hidden Cupid through the chinks of the curtains which
protected her from the heat and glare of a brilliant day. Beneath her white
muslin dress her rounded yet slender form was outlined in its grace and youth.
Her skin was cool and fresh, and had the fragrance of freshly mown hay. Paul
Visire behaved as the occasion warranted, and for her part, she was opposed
neither to the games of chance or of society. She believed it would be nothing
or a trifle; she was mistaken.

"There was," says the famous German ballad, "on the sunny side of the town
square, beside a wall whereon the creeper grew, a pretty little letter-box, as
blue as the corn-flowers, smiling and tranquil.

"All day long there came to it, in their heavy shoes, small shop-keepers, rich
farmers, citizens, the tax-collector and the policeman, and they put into it
their business letters, their invoices, their summonses their notices to pay
taxes, the judges' returns, and orders for the recruits to assemble. It
remained smiling and tranquil.

"With joy, or in anxiety, there advanced towards it workmen and farm servants,
maids and nursemaids, accountants, clerks, and women carrying their little
children in their arms; they put into it notifications of births. marriages,
and deaths, letters between engaged couples, between husbands and wives, from
mothers to their sons, and from sons to their mothers. It remained smiling and
tranquil.

"At twilight, young lads and young girls slipped furtively to it, and put in
love-letters, some moistened with tears that blotted the ink, others with a
little circle to show the place to kiss, all of them very long. It remained
smiling and tranquil.

"Rich merchants came themselves through excess of carefulness at the hour of
daybreak, and put into it registered letters, and letters with five red seals,
full of bank notes or cheques on the great financial establishments of the
Empire. It remained smiling and tranquil.

"But one day, Gaspar, whom it had never seen, and whom it did not know from
Adam, came to put in a letter, of which nothing is known but that it was
folded like a little hat. Immediately the pretty letter-box fell into a swoon.
Henceforth it remains no longer in its place; it runs through streets, fields,
and woods, girdled with ivy, and crowned with roses. It keeps running up hill
and down dale; the country policeman surprises it sometimes, amidst the corn,
in Gaspar's arms kissing him upon the mouth."

Paul Visire had recovered all his customary nonchalance. Eveline remained
stretched on the Divan of the Favourite in an attitude of delicious
astonishment.

The Reverend Father Douillard, an excellent moral theologian, and a man who in
the decadence of the Church has preserved his principles, was very right to
teach, in conformity with the doctrine of the Fathers, that while a woman
commits a great sin by giving herself for money, she commits a much greater
one by giving herself for nothing. For, in the first case she acts to support
her life, and that is sometimes not merely excusable but pardonable, and even
worthy of the Divine Grace, for God forbids suicide, and is unwilling that his
creatures should destroy themselves. Besides, in giving herself in order to
live, she remains humble, and derives no pleasure from it a thing which
diminishes the sin. But a woman who gives herself for nothing sins with
pleasure and exults in her fault. The pride and delight with which she burdens
her crime increase its load of moral guilt.

Madame Hippolyte Ceres' example shows the profundity of these moral truths.
She perceived that she had senses. A second was enough to bring about this
discovery, to change her soul, to alter her whole life. To have learned to
know herself was at first a delight. The {greek here} of the ancient
philosophy is not a precept the moral fulfilment of which procures any
pleasure, since one enjoys little satisfaction from knowing one's soul. It is
not the same with the flesh, for in it sources of pleasure may be revealed to
us. Eveline immediately felt an obligation to her revealer equal to the
benefit she had received, and she imagined that he who had discovered these
heavenly depths was the sole possessor of the key to them. Was this an error,
and might she not be able to find others who also had the golden key? It is
difficult to decide; and Professor Haddock, when the facts were divulged
(which happened without much delay as we shall see), treated the matter from
an experimental point of view, in a scientific review, and concluded that the
chances Madame C-- would have of finding the exact equivalent of M. V-- were
in the proportion of 305 to 975008. This is as much as to say that she would
never find it. Doubtless her instinct told her the same, for she attached
herself distractedly to him.

I have related these facts with all the circumstances which seemed to me
worthy of attracting the attention of meditative and philosophic minds. The
Sofa of the Favourite is worthy of the majesty of history; on it were decided
the destinies of a great people; nay, on it was accomplished an act whose
renown was to extend over the neighbouring nations both friendly and hostile,
and even over all humanity. Too often events of this nature escape the
superficial minds and shallow spirits who inconsiderately assume the task of
writing history. Thus the secret springs of events remain hidden from us. The
fall of Empires and the transmission of dominions astonish us and remain
incomprehensible to us, because we have not discovered the imperceptible
point, or touched the secret spring which when put in movement has destroyed
and overthrown everything. The author of this great history knows better than
anyone else his faults and his weaknesses, but he can do himself this
justice--that he has always kept the moderation, the seriousness, the
austerity, which an account of affairs of State demands, and that he has never
departed from the gravity which is suitable to a recital of human actions.

 

VII. THE FIRST CONSEQUENCES

When Eveline confided to Paul Visire that she had never experienced anything
similar, he did not believe her. He had had a good deal to do with women and
knew that they readily say these things to men in order to make them more in
love with them. Thus his experience, as sometimes happens, made him disregard
the truth. Incredulous, but gratified all the same, he soon felt love and
something more for her. This state at first seemed favourable to his
intellectual faculties. Visire delivered in the chief town of his constituency
a speech full of grace, brilliant and happy, which was considered to be a
masterpiece.


The re-opening of Parliament was serene. A few isolated jealousies, a few
timid ambitions raised their heads in the House, and that was all. A smile
from the Prime Minister was enough to dissipate these shadows. She and he saw
each other twice a day, and wrote to each other in the interval. He was
accustomed to intimate relationships, was adroit, and knew how to dissimulate;
but Eveline displayed a foolish imprudence: she made herself conspicuous with
him in drawing-rooms, at the theatre, in the House, and at the Embassies; she
wore her love upon her face, upon her whole person, in her moist glances, in
the languishing smile of her lips, in the heaving of her breast, in all her
heightened, agitated, and distracted beauty. Soon the entire country knew of
their intimacy. Foreign Courts were informed of it. The President of the
Republic and Eveline's husband alone remained in ignorance. The President
became acquainted with it in the country, through a misplaced police report
which found its way, it is not known how, into his portmanteau.

Hippolyte Ceres, without being either very subtle, or very perspicacious,
noticed that there was something different in his home. Eveline, who quite
lately had interested herself in his affairs, and shown, if not tenderness, at
least affection, towards him, displayed henceforth nothing but indifference
and repulsion. She had always had periods of absence, and made prolonged
visits to the Charity of St. Orberosia; now, she went out in the morning,
remained out all day, and sat down to dinner at nine o'clock in the evening
with the face of a somnambulist. Her husband thought it absurd; however, he
might perhaps have never known the reason for this; a profound ignorance of
women, a crass confidence in his own merit, and in his own fortune, might
perhaps have always hidden the truth from him, if the two lovers had not, so
to speak, compelled him to discover it.

When Paul Visire went to Eveline's house and found her alone, they used to
say, as they embraced each other; "Not here! not here!" and immediately they
affected an extreme reserve. That was their invariable rule. Now, one day,
Paul Visire went to the house of his colleague Ceres, with whom he had an
engagement. It was Eveline who received him, the Minister of Commerce being
delayed by a commission.

"Not here!" said the lovers, smiling.

They said it, mouth to mouth, embracing, and clasping each other. They were
still saying it, when Hippolyte Ceres entered the drawing-room.

Paul Visire did not lose his presence of mind. He declared to Madame Ceres
that he would give up his attempt to take the dust out of her eye. By this
attitude he did not deceive the husband, but he was able to leave the room
with some dignity.

Hippolyte Ceres was thunderstruck. Eveline's conduct appeared incomprehensible
to him; he asked her what reasons she had for it.

"Why? why?" he kept repeating continually, "why?"

She denied everything, not to convince him, for he had seen them, but from
expediency and good taste, and to avoid painful explanations. Hippolyte Ceres
suffered all the tortures of jealousy. He admitted it to himself, he kept
saying inwardly, "I am a strong man; I am clad in armour; but the wound is
underneath, it is in my heart," and turning towards his wife, who looked
beautiful in her guilt, he would say:

"It ought not to have been with him."

He was right--Eveline ought not to have loved in government circles.

He suffered so much that he took up his revolver, exclaiming: "I will go and
kill him!" But he remembered that a Minister of Commerce cannot kill his own
Prime Minister, and he put his revolver back into his drawer.

The weeks passed without calming his sufferings. Each morning he buckled his
strong man's armour over his wound and sought in work and fame the peace that
fled from him. Every Sunday he inaugurated busts, statues, fountains, artesian
wells, hospitals, dispensaries, railways, canals, public markets, drainage
systems, triumphal arches, and slaughter houses, and delivered moving speeches
on each of these occasions. His fervid activity devoured whole piles of
documents; he changed the colours of the postage stamps fourteen times in one
week. Nevertheless, he gave vent to outbursts of grief and rage that drove him
insane; for whole days his reason abandoned him. If he had been in the
employment of a private administration this would have been noticed
immediately, but it is much more difficult to discover insanity or frenzy in
the conduct of affairs of State. At that moment the government employees were
forming themselves into associations and federations amid a ferment that was
giving alarm both to the Parliament and to public feeling. The postmen were
especially prominent in their enthusiasm for trade unions.

Hippolyte Ceres informed them in a circular that their action was strictly
legal. The following day he sent out a second circular forbidding all
associations of government employees as illegal. He dismissed one hundred and
eighty postmen, reinstated them, reprimanded them--and awarded them
gratuities. At Cabinet councils he was always on the point of bursting forth.
The presence of the Head of the State scarcely restrained him within the
limits of the decencies, and as he did not dare to attack his rival he
consoled himself by heaping invectives upon General Debonnaire, the respected
Minister of War. The General did not hear them. for he was deaf and occupied
himself in composing verses for the Baroness Bildermann. Hippolyte Ceres
offered an indistinct opposition to everything the Prime Minister proposed. In
a word, he was a madman. One faculty alone escaped the ruin of his intellect:
he retained his Parliamentary sense, his consciousness of the temper of
majorities, his thorough knowledge of groups, and his certainty of the
direction in which affairs were moving.

 

VIII. FURTHER CONSEQUENCES

The session ended calmly, and the Ministry saw no dangerous signs upon the
benches where the majority sat. It was visible, however, from certain articles
in the Moderate journals, that the demands of the Jewish and Christian
financiers were increasing daily, that the patriotism of the banks required a
civilizing expedition to Nigritia, and that the steel trusts, eager in the
defence of our coasts and colonies, were crying out for armoured cruisers and
still more armoured cruisers. Rumours of war began to be heard. Such rumours
sprang up every year as regularly as the trade winds; serious people paid no
heed to them and the government usually let them die away from their own
weakness unless they grew stronger and spread. For in that case the country
would be alarmed. The financiers only wanted colonial wars and the people did
not want any wars at all. It loved to see its government proud and even
insolent, but at the least suspicion that a European war was brewing, its
violent emotion would quickly have reached the House. Paul Visire was not
uneasy. The European situation was in his view completely reassuring. He was
only irritated by the maniacal silence of his Minister of Foreign Affairs.
That gnome went to the Cabinet meetings with a portfolio bigger than himself
stuffed full of papers, said nothing, refused to answer all questions, even
those asked him by the respected President of the Republic, and, exhausted by
his obstinate labours, took a few moments' sleep in his arm-chair in which
nothing but the top of his little black head was to be seen above the green
tablecloth.


In the mean time Hippolyte Ceres became a strong man again. In company with
his colleague Lapersonne he formed numerous intimacies with ladies of the
theatre. They were both to be seen at night entering fashionable restaurants
in the company of ladies whom they over-topped by their lofty stature and
their new hats, and they were soon reckoned amongst the most sympathetic
frequenters of the boulevards. Fortune Lapersonne had his own wound beneath
his armour, His wife, a young milliner whom he carried off from a marquis, had
gone to live with a chauffeur. He loved her still, and could not console
himself for her loss, so that very often in the private room of a restaurant,
in the midst of a group of girls who laughed and ate crayfish, the two
ministers exchanged a look full of their common sorrow and wiped away an
unbidden tear.

Hippolyte Ceres, although wounded to the heart, did not allow himself to be
beaten. He swore that he would be avenged.

Madame Paul Visire, whose deplorable health forced her to live with her
relatives in a distant province, received an anonymous letter specifying that
M. Paul Visire, who had not a half-penny when he married her, was spending her
dowry on a married woman, E-- C--, that he gave this woman
thirty-thousand-franc motor-cars, and pearl necklaces costing twenty-five
thousand francs, and that he was going straight to dishonour and ruin. Madame
Paul Visire read the letter, fell into hysterics, and handed it to her father.

"I am going to box your husband's ears," said M. Blampignon; "he is a
blackguard who will land you both in the workhouse unless we look out. He may
be Prime Minister, but he won't frighten me."

When he stepped off the train M. Blampignon presented himself at the Ministry
of the Interior, and was immediately received. He entered the Prime Minister's
room in a fury.

"I have something to say to you, sir!" And he waved the anonymous letter.

Paul Visire welcomed him smiling.

"You are welcome, my dear father. I was going to write to you. . . . Yes, to
tell you of your nomination to the rank of officer of the Legion of Honour. I
signed the patent this morning."

M. Blampignon thanked his son-in-law warmly and threw the anonymous letter
into the fire.

He returned to his provincial house and found his daughter fretting and
agitated.

"Well! I saw your husband. He is a delightful fellow. But then, you don't
understand how to deal with him."

About this time Hippolyte Ceres learned through a little scandalous newspaper
(it is always through the newspapers that ministers are informed of the
affairs of State) that the Prime Minister dined every evening with
Mademoiselle Lysiane of the Folies Dramatiques, whose charm seemed to have
made a great impression on him. Thenceforth Ceres took a gloomy joy in
watching his wife. She came in every evening to dine or dress with an air of
agreeable fatigue and the serenity that comes from enjoyment.

Thinking that she knew nothing, he sent her anonymous communications. She read
them at the table before him and remained still listless and smiling.

He then persuaded himself that she gave no heed to these vague reports, and
that in order to disturb her it would be necessary to enable her to verify her
lover's infidelity and treason for herself. There were at the Ministry a
number of trustworthy agents charged with secret inquiries regarding the
national defence. They were then employed in watching the spies of a
neighbouring and hostile Power who had succeeded in entering the Postal and
Telegraphic service. M. Ceres ordered them to suspend their work for the
present and to inquire where, when, and how, the Minister of the Interior saw
Mademoiselle Lysiane. The agents performed their missions faithfully and told
the minister that they had several times seen the Prime Minister with a woman,
but that she was not Mademoiselle Lysiane. Hippolyte Ceres asked them nothing
further. He was right; the loves of Paul Visire and Lysiane were but an alibi
invented by Paul Visire himself, with Eveline's approval, for his fame was
rather inconvenient to her, and she sighed for secrecy and mystery.

They were not shadowed by the agents of the Ministry of Commerce alone. They
were also followed by those of the Prefect of Police, and even by those of the
Minister of the Interior, who disputed with each other the honour of
protecting their chief. Then there were the emissaries of several royalist,
imperialist, and clerical organisations, those of eight or ten blackmailers,
several amateur detectives, a multitude of reporters, and a crowd of
photographers, who all made their appearance wherever these two took refuge in
their perambulating love affairs, at big hotels, small hotels, town houses,
country houses, private apartments, villas, museums, palaces, hovels. They
kept watch in the streets, from neighbouring houses, trees, walls,
stair-cases, landings, roofs, adjoining rooms, and even chimneys. The Minister
and his friend saw with alarm all round their bed room, gimlets boring through
doors and shutters, and drills making holes in the walls. A photograph of
Madame Ceres in night attire buttoning her boots was the utmost that had been
obtained.

Paul Visire grew impatient and irritable, and often lost his good humour and
agreeableness. He came to the cabinet meetings in a rage and he, too, poured
invectives upon General Debonnaire--a brave man under fire but a lax
disciplinarian--and launched his sarcasms at against the venerable admiral
Vivier des Murenes whose ships went to the bottom without any apparent reason.

Fortune Lapersonne listened open-eyed, and grumbled scoffingly between his
teeth:

"He is not satisfied with robbing Hippolyte Ceres of his wife, but he must go
and rob him of his catchwords too."

These storms were made known by the indiscretion of some ministers and by the
complaints of the two old warriors, who declared their intention of flinging
their portfolios at the beggar's head, but who did nothing of the sort. These
outbursts, far from injuring the lucky Prime Minister, had an excellent effect
on Parliament and public opinion, who looked on them as signs of a keen
solicitude for the welfare of the national army and navy. The Prime Minister
was the recipient of general approbation.

To the congratulations of the various groups and of notable personages, he
replied with simple firmness: "Those are my principles!" and he had seven or
eight Socialists put in prison.

The session ended, and Paul Visire, very exhausted, went to take the waters.
Hippolyte Ceres refused to leave his Ministry, where the trade union of
telephone girls was in tumultuous agitation. He opposed it with an unheard of
violence, for he had now become a woman-hater. On Sundays he went into the
suburbs to fish along with his colleague Lapersonne, wearing the tall hat that
never left him since he had become a Minister. And both of them, forgetting
the fish,, complained of the inconstancy of women and mingled their griefs.

Hippolyte still loved Eveline and he still suffered. However, hope had slipped
into his heart. She was now separated from her ]over, and, thinking to win her
back, he directed all his efforts to that end. He put forth all his skill,
showed himself sincere, adaptable, affectionate, devoted, even discreet; his
heart taught him the delicacies of feeling. He said charming and touching
things to the faithless one, and, to soften her, he told her all that he had
suffered.

Crossing the band of his trousers upon his stomach.

"See," said he, "how thin I have got."

He promised her everything he thought could gratify a woman, country parties,
hats, jewels.

Sometimes he thought she would take pity on him.

She no longer displayed an insolently happy countenance. Being separated from
Paul, her sadness had an air of gentleness. But the moment he made a gesture
to recover her she turned away fiercely and gloomily, girt with her fault as
if with a golden girdle.

He did not give up, making himself humble, suppliant, lamentable.

One day he went to Lapersonne and said to him with tears in his eyes:

"Will you speak to her?"

Lapersonne excused himself, thinking that his intervention would be useless,
but he gave some advice to his friend.

"Make her think that you don't care about her, that you love another, and she
will come back to you."

Hippolyte, adopting this method, inserted in the newspapers that he was always
to be found in the company of Mademoiselle Guinaud of the Opera. He came home
late or did not come home at all, assumed in Eveline's presence an appearance
of inward joy impossible to restrain, took out of his pocket, at dinner, a
letter on scented paper which he pretended to read with delight, and his lips
seemed as in a dream to kiss invisible lips. Nothing happened. Eveline did not
even notice the change. Insensible to all around her, she only came out of her
lethargy to ask for some louis from her husband, and if he did not give them
she threw him a look of contempt, ready to upbraid him with the shame which
she poured upon him in the sight of the whole world. Since she had loved she
spent a great deal on dress. She needed money, and she had only her husband to
secure it for her; she was so far faithful to him.

He lost patience, became furious, and threatened her with his revolver. He
said one day before her to Madame Clarence:

"I congratulate you, Madame; you have brought up your daughter to be a wanton
hussy."

"Take me away, Mamma," exclaimed Eveline. "I will get a divorce!"

He loved her more ardently than ever. In his jealous rage, suspecting her, not
without probability, of sending and receiving letters, he swore that he would
intercept them, re-established a censorship over the post, threw private
correspondence into confusion, delayed stock-exchange quotations, prevented
assignations, brought about bankruptcies, thwarted passions, and caused
suicides. The independent press gave utterance to the complaints of the public
and indignantly supported them. To justify these arbitrary measures, the
ministerial journals spoke darkly of plots and public dangers, and promoted a
belief in a monarchical conspiracy. The less well-informed sheets gave more
precise information, told of the seizure of fifty thousand guns, and the
landing of Prince Crucho. Feeling grew throughout the country, and the
republican organs called for the immediate meeting of Parliament. Paul Visire
returned to Paris, summoned his colleagues, held an important Cabinet Council,
and proclaimed through his agencies that a plot had been actually formed
against the national representation, but that the Prime Minister held the
threads of it in his hand, and that a judicial inquiry was about to be opened.

He immediately ordered the arrest of thirty Socialists, and whilst the entire
country was acclaiming him as its saviour, baffling the watchfulness of his
six hundred detectives, he secretly took Eveline to a little house near the
Northern railway station, where they remained until night. After their
departure, the maid of their hotel, as she was putting their room in order,
saw seven little crosses traced by a hairpin on the wall at the head of the
bed.

That is all that Hippolyte Ceres obtained as a reward of his efforts.

 

IX. THE FINAL CONSEQUENCES

Jealousy is a virtue of democracies which preserves them from tyrants.
Deputies began to envy the Prime Minister his golden key. For a year his
domination over the beauteous Madame Ceres had been known to the whole
universe. The provinces, whither news and fashions only arrive after a
complete revolution of the earth round the sun, were at last informed of the
illegitimate loves of the Cabinet. The provinces preserve an austere morality;
women are more virtuous there than they are in the capital.


Various reasons have been alleged for this: Education, example, simplicity of
life. Professor Haddock asserts that this virtue of provincial ladies is
solely due to the fact that the heels of their shoes are low. "A woman," said
he, in a learned article in the "Anthropological Review", "a woman attracts a
civilized man in proportion as her feet make an angle with the ground. If this
angle is as much as thirty-five degrees, the attraction becomes acute. For the
position of the feet upon the ground determines the whole carriage of the
body, and it results that provincial women, since they wear low heels, are not
very attractive, and preserve their virtue with ease." These conclusions were
not generally accepted. It was objected that under the influence of English
and American fashions, low heels had been introduced generally without
producing the results attributed to them by the learned Professor; moreover,
it was said that the difference he pretended to establish between the morals
of the metropolis and those of the provinces is perhaps illusory, and that if
it exists, it is apparently due to the fact that great cities offer more
advantages and facilities for love than small towns provide. However that may
be, the provinces began to murmur against the Prime Minister, and to raise a
scandal. This was not yet a danger, but there was a possibility that it might
become one.

For the moment the peril was nowhere and yet everywhere. The majority remained
solid; but the leaders became stiff and exacting. Perhaps Hippolyte Ceres
would never have intentionally sacrificed his interests to his vengeance. But
thinking that he could henceforth, without compromising his own fortune,
secretly damage that of Paul Visire, he devoted himself to the skilful and
careful preparation of difficulties and perils for the Head of the Government.
Though far from equalling his rival in talent, knowledge, and authority, he
greatly surpassed him in his skill as a lobbyist. The most acute
parliamentarians attributed the recent misfortunes of the majority to his
refusal to vote. At committees, by a calculated imprudence, he favoured
motions which he knew the Prime Minister could not accept. One day his
intentional awkwardness provoked a sudden and violent conflict between the
Minister of the Interior, and his departmental Treasurer. Then Ceres became
frightened and went no further. It would have been dangerous for him to
overthrow the ministry too soon. His ingenious hatred found an issue by
circuitous paths. Paul Visire had a poor cousin of easy morals who bore his
name. Ceres, remembering this lady, Celine Visire, brought her into
prominence, arranged that she should become intimate with several foreigners,
and procured her engagements in the music-halls. One summer night, on a stage
in the Champs Elysees before a tumultuous crowd, she performed risky dances to
the sounds of wild music which was audible in the gardens where the President
of the Republic was entertaining Royalty. The name of Visire, associated with
these scandals, covered the walls of the town, filled the newspapers, was
repeated in the cafes and at balls, and blazed forth in letters of fire upon
the boulevards.

Nobody regarded the Prime Minister as responsible for the scandal of his
relatives, but a bad idea of his family came into existence, and the influence
of the statesman was diminished.

Almost immediately he was made to feel this in a pretty sharp fashion. One day
in the House, on a simple question, Labillette, the Minister of Religion and
Public Worship, who was suffering from an attack of liver, and beginning to be
exasperated by the intentions and intrigues of the clergy, threatened to close
the Chapel of St. Orberosia, and spoke without respect of the National Virgin.
The entire Right rose up in indignation; the Left appeared to give but a
half-hearted support to the rash Minister. The leaders of the majority did not
care to attack a popular cult which brought thirty millions a year into the
country. The most moderate of the supporters of the Right, M. Bigourd, made
the question the subject of a resolution and endangered the Cabinet. Luckily,
Fortune Lapersonne, the Minister of Public Works, always conscious of the
obligations of power, was able in the Prime Minister's absence to repair the
awkwardness and indecorum of his colleague, the Minister of Public Worship. He
ascended the tribune and bore witness to the respect in which the Government
held the heavenly Patron of the country, the consoler of so many ills which
science admitted its powerlessness to relieve.

When Paul Visire, snatched at last from Eveline's arms, appeared in the House,
the administration was saved; but the Prime Minister saw himself compelled to
grant important concessions to the upper classes. He proposed in Parliament
that six armoured cruisers should be laid down, and thus won the sympathies of
the Steel Trust; he gave new assurances that the income tax would not be
imposed, and he had eighteen Socialists arrested.

He was soon to find himself opposed by more formidable obstacles. The
Chancellor of the neighbouring Empire in an ingenious and profound speech upon
the foreign relations of his sovereign, made a sly allusion to the intrigues
that inspired the policy of a great country. This reference, which was receive
with smiles by the Imperial Parliament, was certain to irritate a punctilious
republic. It aroused the national susceptibility, which directed its wrath
against its amorous Minister. The Deputies seized upon a frivolous pretext to
show their dissatisfaction. A ridiculous incident, the fact that the wife of a
subprefect had danced at the Moulin Rouge, forced the minister to face a vote
of censure, and he was within a few votes of being defeated. According to
general opinion, Paul Visire had never been so weak, so vacillating, or so
spiritless, as on that occasion.

He understood that he could only keep himself in office by a great political
stroke, and he decided on the expedition to Nigritia. This measure was
demanded by the great financial and industrial corporations and was one which
would bring concessions of immense forests to the capitalists, a loan of eight
millions to the banking companies, as well as promotions and decorations to
the naval and military officers. A pretext presented itself; some insult
needed to be avenged, or some debt to be collected. Six battleships, fourteen
cruisers, and eighteen transports sailed up the mouth of the river
Hippopotamus. Six hundred canoes vainly opposed the landing of the troops.
Admiral Vivier des Murenes' cannons produced an appalling effect upon the
blacks, who replied to them with flights of arrows, but in spite of their
fanatical courage they were entirely defeated. Popular enthusiasm was kindled
by the newspapers which the financiers subsidised, and burst into a blaze.
Some Socialists alone protested against this barbarous, doubtful, and
dangerous enterprise. They were at once arrested.

At that moment when the Minister, supported by wealth, and now beloved by the
poor, seemed unconquerable, the light of hate showed Hippolyte Ceres alone the
danger, and looking with a gloomy joy at his rival, he muttered between his
teeth, "He is wrecked, the brigand!"

Whilst the country intoxicated itself with glory, the neighbouring Empire
protested against the occupation of Nigritia by a European power, and these
protests following one another at shorter and shorter intervals became more
and more vehement. The newspapers of the interested Republic concealed all
causes for uneasiness; but Hippolyte Ceres heard the growing menace, and
determined at last to risk everything, even the fate of the ministry, in order
to ruin his enemy. He got men whom he could trust to write and insert articles
in several of the official journals, which, seeming to express Paul Visire's
precise views, attributed warlike intentions to the Head of the Government.

These articles roused a terrible echo abroad, and they alarmed the public
opinion of a nation which, while fond of soldiers, was not fond of war.
Questioned in the House on the foreign policy of his government, Paul Visire
made a re-assuring statement, and promised to maintain a face compatible with
the dignity of a great nation. His Minister of Foreign Affairs, Crombile, read
a declaration which was absolutely unintelligible, for the reason that it was
couched in diplomatic language. The Minister obtained a large majority.

But the rumours of war did not cease, and in order to avoid a new and
dangerous motion, the Prime Minister distributed eighty thousand acres of
forests in Nigritia among the Deputies, and had fourteen Socialists arrested.
Hippolyte Ceres went gloomily about the lobbies, confiding to the Deputies of
his group that he was endeavouring to induce the Cabinet to adopt a pacific
policy, and that he still hoped to succeed. Day by day the sinister rumours
grew in volume, and penetrating amongst the public, spread uneasiness and
disquiet. Paul Visire himself began to take alarm. What disturbed him most
were the silence and absence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Crombile no
longer came to the meetings of the Cabinet. Rising at five o'clock in the
morning, he worked eighteen hours at his desk, and at last fell exhausted into
his waste-paper basket, from whence the registrars removed him, together with
the papers which they were going to sell to the military attaches of the
neighbouring Empire.

General Debonnaire believed that a campaign was imminent, and prepared for it.
Far from fearing war, he prayed for it, and confided his generous hopes to
Baroness Bildermann, who informed the neighbouring nation, which, acting on
her information, proceeded to a rapid mobilization.

The Minister of Finance unintentionally precipitated events. At the moment, he
was speculating for a fall, and in order to bring about a panic on the Stock
Exchange, he spread the rumour that war was now inevitable. The neighbouring
Empire, deceived by this action, and expecting to see its territory invaded,
mobilized its troops in all haste. The terrified Chamber overthrew the Visire
ministry by an enormous majority (814 votes to 7, with 28 abstentions). It was
too late. The very day of this fall the neighbouring and hostile nation
recalled its ambassador and flung eight millions of men into Madame Ceres'
country. War became universal, and the whole world was drowned in a torrent of
blood.

 


THE ZENITH OF PENGUIN CIVILIZATION

Half a century after the events we have just related, Madame Ceres died
surrounded with respect and veneration, in the eighty-ninth year of her age.
She had long been the widow of a statesman whose name she bore with dignity.
Her modest and quiet funeral was followed by the orphans of the parish and the
sisters of the Sacred Compassion.

The deceased left all her property to the Charity of St. Orberosia.

"Alas!" sighed M. Monnoyer, a canon of St. Mael, as he received the pious
legacy, "it was high time for a generous benefactor to come to the relief of
our necessities. Rich and poor, learned and ignorant are turning away from us.
And when we try to lead back these misguided souls, neither threats nor
promises, neither gentleness nor violence, nor anything else is now
successful. The Penguin clergy pine in desolation; our country priests,
reduced to following the humblest of trades, are shoeless, and compelled to
live upon such scraps as they can pick up. In our ruined churches the rain of
heaven falls upon the faithful, and during the holy offices they can hear the
noise of stones falling from the arches. The tower of the cathedral is
tottering and will soon fall. St. Orberosia is forgotten by the Penguins, her
devotion abandoned, and her sanctuary deserted. On her shrine, bereft of its
gold and precious stones, the spider silently weaves her web."


Hearing these lamentations, Pierre Mille, who at the age of ninety-eight years
had lost nothing of his intellectual and moral power, asked, the canon if he
did not think that St. Orberosia would one day rise out of this wrongful
oblivion.

"I hardly dare to hope so," sighed M. Monnoyer.

"It is a pity!" answered Pierre Mille. "Orberosia is a charming figure and her
legend is a beautiful one. I discovered the other day by the merest chance,
one of her most delightful miracles, the miracle of Jean Violle. Would you
like to hear it, M. Monnoyer?"

"I should be very pleased, M. Mille."

"Here it is, then, just as I found it in a fifteenth-century manuscript

"Cecile, the wife of Nicolas Gaubert, a jeweller on the Pont-au-Change, after
having led an honest and chaste life for many years, and being now past her
prime, became infatuated with Jean Violle, the Countess de Maubec's page, who
lived at the Hotel du Paon on the Place de Greve. He was not yet eighteen
years old, and his face and figure were attractive. Not being able to conquer
her passion, Cecile resolved to satisfy it. She attracted the page to her
house, loaded him with caresses, supplied him with sweetmeats and finally did
as she wished with him.

"Now one day, as they were together in the jeweller's bed, Master Nicholas
came home sooner than he was expected. He found the bolt drawn, and heard his
wife on the other side of the door exclaiming, 'My heart! my angel! my love!'
Then suspecting that she was shut up with a gallant, he struck great blows
upon the door and began to shout 'Slut! hussy! wanton! open so that I may cut
off your nose and ears!' In this peril, the jeweller's wife besought St.
Orberosia, and vowed her a large candle if she helped her and the little page,
who was dying of fear beside the bed, out of their difficulty.

"The saint heard the prayer. She immediately changed Jean Violle into a girl.
Seeing this, Cecile was completely reassured, and began to call out to her
husband: 'Oh! you brutal villain, you jealous wretch! Speak gently if you want
the door to be opened.' And scolding in this way, she ran to the wardrobe and
took out of it an old hood, a pair of stays, and a long grey petticoat, in
which she hastily wrapped the transformed page. Then when this was done,
'Catherine, dear Catherine,' said she, loudly, 'open the door for your uncle;
he is more fool than knave, and won't do you any harm." The boy who had become
a girl, obeyed. Master Nicholas entered the room and found in it a young maid
whom he did not know, and his wife in bed. 'Big booby,' said the latter to
him, 'don't stand gaping at what you see. just as I had come to bed because
had a stomach ache, I received a visit from Catherine, the daughter of my
sister Jeanne de Palaiseau, with whom we quarrelled fifteen years ago. Kiss
your niece. She is well worth the trouble.' The jeweller gave Violle a hug,
and from that moment wanted nothing so much as to be alone with her a moment,
so that he might embrace her as much as he liked. For this reason he led her
without any delay down to the kitchen, under the pretext of giving her some
walnuts and wine, and he was no sooner there with her than he began to caress
her very affectionately. He would not have stopped at that if St. Orberosia
had not inspired his good wife with the idea of seeing what he was about. She
found him with the pretended niece sitting on his knee. She called him a
debauched creature, boxed his ears, and forced him to beg her pardon. The next
day Violle resumed his previous form."

Having heard this story the venerable Canon Monnoyer thanked Pierre Mille for
having told it, and, taking up his pen, began to write out a list of horses
that would win at the next race meeting. For he was a book-maker's clerk.

In the mean time Penguinia gloried in its wealth. Those who produced the
things necessary for life, wanted them; those who did not produce them had
more than enough. "But these," as a member of the Institute said, "are
necessary economic fatalities." The great Penguin people had no longer either
traditions, intellectual culture, or arts. The progress of civilisation
manifested itself among them by murderous industry, infamous speculation, and
hideous luxury. Its capital assumed, as did all the great cities of the time,
a cosmopolitan and financial character. An immense and regular ugliness
reigned within it. The country enjoyed perfect tranquillity. It had reached
its zenith.

 


Book VII. FUTURE TIMES

 

THE ENDLESS HISTORY

Alca is becoming Americanised.--M. Daniset.

And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of
the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.--Genesis xix. 25

{greek here](Herodotus, Histories, VII cii.)

Poverty hast ever been familiar to Greece, but virtue has been acquired,
having been accomplished by wisdom and firm laws.-- Henry Cary's Translation.

You have not seen angels then.--Liber Terribilis.

Bqfttfusftpvtuse jufbmmbb b up sjufef tspjtfucftfnqfsfvstbqsftbnpjsqsp
dmbnfuspjtghjttdmjcfsufnbgsbodftftutpbnjtfbeftdpnqb hojtgjobo -- difsftr --
vjejtqpteoueftsjdifttftevqbzt fuqbsmfn Pzfoevofqsf ttfbdifuffejsjhfboumpqjojno
Voufnpjoxfsiejrvf


We are now beginning to study a chemistry which will deal with effects
produced by bodies containing a quantity of concentrated energy the like of
which we have not yet had at our disposal.--Sir William Ramsay.

S. I

The houses were never high enough to satisfy them; they kept on making them
still higher and built them of thirty or forty storeys: with offices, shops,
banks, societies one above another; they dug cellars and tunnels ever deeper
downwards.


Fifteen millions of men laboured in a giant town by the light of beacons which
shed forth their glare both day and night. No light of heaven pierced through
the smoke of the factories with which the town was girt, but sometimes the red
disk of a rayless sun might be seen riding in the black firmament through
which iron bridges ploughed their way, and from which there descended a
continual shower of soot and cinders. It was the most industrial of all the
cities in the world and the richest. Its organisation seemed perfect. None of
the ancient aristocratic or democratic forms remained; everything was
subordinated to the interests of the trusts. This environment gave rise to
what anthropologists called the multi-millionaire type. The men of this type
were at once energetic and frail, capable of great activity in forming mental
combinations and of prolonged labour in offices, but men whose nervous
irritability suffered from hereditary troubles which increased as time went
on.

Like all true aristocrats, like the patricians of republican Rome or the
squires of old England, these powerful men affected a great severity in their
habits and customs. They were the ascetics of wealth. At the meetings of the
trusts an observer would have noticed their smooth and puffy faces, their
lantern cheeks, their sunken eyes and wrinkled brows. With bodies more
withered, complexions yellower, lips drier, and eyes filled with a more
burning fanaticism than those of the old Spanish monks, these
multimillionaires gave themselves up with inextinguishable ardour to the
austerities of banking and industry. Several, denying themselves all
happiness, all pleasure, and all rest, spent their miserable lives in rooms
without light or air, furnished only with electrical apparatus, living on eggs
and milk, and sleeping on camp beds. By doing nothing except pressing nickel
buttons with their fingers, these mystics heaped up riches of which they never
even saw the signs, and acquired the vain possibility of gratifying desires
that they never experienced.

The worship of wealth had its martyrs. One of these multi-millionaires, the
famous Samuel Box, preferred to die rather than surrender the smallest atom of
his property. One of his workmen, the victim of an accident while at work,
being refused any indemnity by his employer, obtained a verdict in the courts,
but repelled by innumerable obstacles of procedure, he fell into the direst
poverty. Being thus reduced to despair, he succeeded by dint of cunning and
audacity in confronting his employer with a loaded revolver in his hand, and
threatened to blow out his brains if he did not give him some assistance.
Samuel Box gave nothing, and let himself be killed for the sake of principle.

Examples that come from high quarters are followed. Those who possessed some
small capital (and they were necessarily the greater number), affected the
ideas and habits of the multi-millionaires, in order that they might be
classed among them. All passions which injured the increase or the
preservation of wealth, were regarded as dishonourable; neither indolence, nor
idleness, nor the taste for disinterested study, nor love of the arts, nor,
above all, extravagance, was ever forgiven; pity was condemned as a dangerous
weakness. Whilst every inclination to licentiousness excited public
reprobation, the violent and brutal satisfaction of an appetite was, on the
contrary, excused; violence, in truth, was regarded as less injurious to
morality, since it manifested a form of social energy. The State was firmly
based on two great public virtues: respect for the rich and contempt for the
poor. Feeble spirits who were still moved by human suffering had no other
resource than to take refuge in a hypocrisy which it was impossible to blame,
since it contributed to the maintenance of order and the solidity of
institutions.

Thus, among the rich, all were devoted to their social order, or seemed to be
so; all gave good examples, if all did not follow them. Some felt the gravity
of their position cruelly; but they endured it either from pride or from duty.
Some attempted, in secret and by subterfuge, to escape from it for a moment.
One of these, Edward Martin, the President, of the Steel Trust, sometimes
dressed himself as a poor man, went: forth to beg his bread, and allowed
himself to be jostled by the passers-by. One day, as he asked alms on a
bridge, he engaged in a quarrel with a real beggar, and filled with a fury of
envy, he strangled him.

As they devoted their whole intelligence to business, they sought no
intellectual pleasures. The theatre, which had formerly been very flourishing
among them, was now reduced to pantomimes and comic dances. Even the pieces in
which women acted were given up; the taste for pretty forms and brilliant
toilettes had been lost; the somersaults of clowns and the music of negroes
were preferred above them, and what roused enthusiasm was the sight of women
upon the stage whose necks were bedizened with diamonds, or processions
carrying golden bars in triumph. Ladies of wealth were as much compelled as
the men to lead a respectable life. According to a tendency common to all
civilizations, public feeling set them up as symbols; they were, by their
austere magnificence, to represent both the splendour of wealth and its
intangible . The old habits of gallantry had been reformed, Tut fashionable
lovers were now secretly replaced by muscular labourers or stray grooms.
Nevertheless, scandals were rare, a foreign journey concealed nearly all of
them, and the Princesses of the Trusts remained objects of universal esteem.

The rich formed only a small minority, but their collaborators, who composed
the entire people, had been completely won over or completely subjugated by
them. They formed two classes, the agents of commerce or banking, and workers
in the factories. The former contributed an immense amount of work and
received large salaries. Some of them succeeded in founding establishments of
their own; for in the constant increase of the public wealth the more
intelligent and audacious could hope for anything. Doubtless it would have
been possible to find a certain number of discontented and rebellious persons
among the immense crowd of engineers and accountants, but this powerful
society had imprinted its firm discipline even on the minds of its opponents.
The very anarchists were laborious and regular.

As for the workmen who toiled in the factories that surrounded the town, their
decadence, both physical and moral, was terrible; they were examples of the
type of poverty as it is set forth by anthropology. Although the development
among them of certain muscles, due to the particular nature of their work,
might give a false idea of their strength, they presented sure signs of morbid
debility. Of low stature, with small heads and narrow chests, they were
further distinguished from the comfortable classes by a multitude of
physiological anomalies, and, in particular, by a common want of symmetry
between the head and the limbs. And they were destined to a gradual and
continuous degeneration, for the State made soldiers of the more robust among
them, and the health of these did not long withstand the brothels and the
drink-shops that sprang up around their barracks. The proletarians became more
and more feeble in mind. The continued weakening of their intellectual
faculties was not entirely due to their manner of life; it resulted also from
a methodical selection carried out by the employers. The latter, fearing that
workmen of too great ability might be inclined to put forward legitimate
demands, took care to eliminate them by every possible means, and preferred to
engage ignorant and stupid labourers, who were incapable of defending their
rights, but were yet intelligent enough to perform their toil, which highly
perfected machines rendered extremely simple. Thus the proletarians were
unable to do anything to improve their lot. With difficulty did they succeed
by means of strikes in maintaining the rate of their wages. Even this means
began to fail them. The alternations of production inherent in the capitalist
system caused such cessations of work that, in several branches of industry,
as soon as a strike was declared, the accumulation of products allowed the
employers to dispense with the strikers. In a word, these miserable employees
were plunged in a gloomy apathy that nothing enlightened and nothing
exasperated. They were necessary instruments for the social order and well
adapted to their purpose.

Upon the whole, this social order seemed the most firmly established that had
yet been seen, at least amon kind, for that of bees and ants is incomparably
more stable. Nothing could foreshadow the ruin of a system founded on what is
strongest in human nature, pride and cupidity. However, keen observers
discovered several grounds for uneasiness. The most certain, although the
least apparent, were of an economic order, and consisted in the continually
increasing amount of over-production, which entailed long and cruel
interruptions of labour, though these were, it is true, utilized by the
manufacturers as a means of breaking the power of the workmen, by facing them
with the prospect of a lock-out. A more obvious peril resulted from the
physiological state of almost the entire population. "The health of the poor
is what it must be," said the experts in hygiene, "but that of the rich leaves
much to be desired." It was not difficult to find the causes of this. The
supply of oxygen necessary for life was insufficient in the city, and men
breathed in an artificial air. The food trusts, by means of the most daring
chemical syntheses, produced artificial wines, meat, milk, fruit, and
vegetables, and the diet thus imposed gave rise to stomach and brain troubles.
The multi-millionaires were bald at the age of eighteen; some showed from time
to time a dangerous weakness of mind. Over-strung and enfeebled, they gave
enormous sums to ignorant charlatans; and it was a common thing for some
bath-attendant or other trumpery who turned healer or prophet, to make a rapid
fortune by the practice of medicine or theology. The number of lunatics
increased continually; suicides multiplied in the world of wealth, and many of
them were accompanied by atrocious and extraordinary circumstances, which bore
witness to an unheard o perversion of intelligence and sensibility.

Another fatal symptom created a strong impression upon average minds. Terrible
accidents, henceforth periodical and regular, entered into people's
calculations, and kept mounting higher and higher in statistical tables. Every
day, machines burst into fragments, houses fell down, trains laden with
merchandise fell on to the streets, demolishing entire buildings and crushing
hundreds of passers-by. Through the ground, honey-combed with tunnels, two or
three storeys of work-shops would often crash, engulfing all those who worked
in them.

S. 2

In the southwestern district of the city, on an eminence which had preserved
its ancient name of Fort Saint-Michel, there stretched a square where some old
trees still spread their exhausted arms above the greensward. Landscape
gardeners had constructed a cascade, grottos, a torrent, a lake, and an
island, on its northern slope. From this side one could see the whole town
with its streets, its boulevards, its squares, the multitude of its roofs and
domes, its air-passages, and its crowds of men, covered with a veil of
silence, and seemingly enchanted by the distance. This square was the
healthiest place in the capital; here no smoke obscured the sky, and children
were brought here to play. In summer some employees from the neighbouring
offices and laboratories used to resort to it for a moment after their
luncheons, but they did not disturb its solitude and peace.


It was owing to this custom that, one day in June, about mid-day, a telegraph
clerk, Caroline Meslier, came and sat down on a bench at the end of a terrace.
In order to refresh her eyes by the sight of a little green, she turned her
back to the town. Dark, with brown eyes, robust and placid, Caroline appeared
to be from twenty-five to twenty-eight years of age. Almost immediately, a
clerk in the Electricity Trust, George Clair, took his place beside her. Fair,
thin, and supple, he had features of a feminine delicacy; he was scarcely
older than she, and looked still younger. As they met almost every day in this
place, a comradeship had sprung up between them, and they enjoyed chatting
together. But their conversation had never been tender, affectionate, or even
intimate. Caroline, although it had happened to her in the past to repent of
her confidence, might perhaps have been less reserved had not George Clair
always shown himself extremely restrained in his expressions and behaviour. He
always gave a purely intellectual character to the conversation, keeping it
within the realm of general ideas, and, moreover, expressing himself on all
subjects with the greatest freedom. He spoke frequently of the organization of
society, and the conditions of labour.

"Wealth," said he, "is one of the means of living happily; but people have
made it the sole end of existence."

And this state of things seemed monstrous to both of them.

They returned continually to various scientific subjects with which they were
both familiar.

On that day they discussed the evolution of chemistry.

"From the moment," said Clair, "that radium was seen to be transformed into
helium, people ceased to affirm the immutability of simple bodies; in this way
all those old laws about simple relations and about the indestructibility of
matter were abolished."

"However," said she, "chemical laws exist."

For, being a woman, she had need of belief.

He resumed carelessly:

"Now that we can procure radium in sufficient quantities, science possesses
incomparable means of analysis; even at present we get glimpses, within what
are called simple bodies, of extremely diversified complex ones, and we
discover energies in matter which seem to increase even by reason of its
tenuity."

As they talked, they threw bits of bread to the birds, and some children
played around them.

Passing from one subject to another:

"This hill, in the quaternary epoch," said Clair, "was inhabited by wild
horses. Last year, as they were tunnelling for the water mains, they found a
layer of the bones of primeval horses."

She was anxious to know whether, at that distant epoch, man had yet appeared.

He told her that man used to hunt the primeval horse long before he tried to
domesticate him.

"Man," he added, "was at first a hunter, then he became a shepherd, a
cultivator, a manufacturer . . . and these diverse civilizations succeeded
each other at intervals of time that the mind cannot conceive."

He took out his watch.

Caroline asked if it was already time to go back to the office.

He said it was not, that it was scarcely half-past twelve.

A little girl was making mud pies at the foot of their bench; a little boy of
seven or eight years was playing in front of them. Whilst his mother was
sewing on an adjoining bench, he played all alone at being a run-away horse,
and with that power of illusion, of which children are capable, he imagined
that he was at the same time the horse, and those who ran after him, and those
who fled in terror before him. He kept struggling with himself and shouting:
"Stop him, Hi! Hi! This is an awful horse, he has got the bit between his
teeth."

Caroline asked the question:

"Do you think that men were happy formerly?"

Her companion answered:

"They suffered less when they were younger. They acted like that little boy:
they played; they played at arts, at virtues, at vices, at heroism, at
beliefs, at pleasures; they had illusions which entertained them; they made a
noise; they amused themselves. But now. . . ."

He interrupted himself, and looked again at his watch.

The child, who was running, struck his foot against the little girl's pail,
and fell his full length on the gravel. He remained a moment stretched out
motionless, then raised himself up on the palms of his hands. His forehead
puckered, his mouth opened, and he burst into tears. His mother ran up, but
Caroline had lifted him from the ground and was wiping his eyes and mouth with
her handkerchief.

The child kept on sobbing and Clair took him in his arms.

"Come, don't cry, my little man! I am going to tell you a story.

"A fisherman once threw his net into the sea and drew out a little, sealed,
copper pot, which he opened with his knife. Smoke came out of it, and as it
mounted up to the clouds the smoke grew thicker and thicker and became a giant
who gave such a terrible yawn that the whole world was blown to dust.

Clair stopped himself, gave a dry laugh, and handed the child back to his
mother. Then he took out his watch again, and kneeling on the bench with his
elbows resting on its back he gazed at the town. As far as the eye could
reach, the multitude of houses stood out in their tiny immensity.

Caroline turned her eyes in the same direction.

"What splendid weather it is!" said she. "The sun's rays change the smoke on
the horizon into gold. The worst thing about civilization is that it deprives
one of the light of day."

We did not answer; his looks remained fixed on a place in the town.

After some seconds of silence they saw about half a mile away, in the richer
district on the other side of the river, a sort of tragic fog rearing itself
upwards. A moment afterwards an explosion was heard even where they were
sitting, and an immense tree of smoke mounted towards the pure sky. Little by
little the air was filled with an imperceptible murmur caused by the shouts of
thousands of men. Cries burst forth quite close to the square.

"What has been blown up?"

The bewilderment was great, for although accidents were common, such a violent
explosion as this one had never been seen, and everybody perceived that
something terribly strange had happened.

Attempts were made to locate the place of the accident; districts, streets,
different buildings, clubs, theatres, and shops were mentioned. Information
gradually became more precise and at last the truth was known.

"The Steel Trust has just been blown up."

Clair put his watch back into his pocket.

Caroline looked at him closely and her eyes filled with astonishment.

At last she whispered in his ear:

"Did you know it? Were you expecting it? Was it you . . .?"

He answered very calmly:

"That town ought to be destroyed."

She replied in a gentle and thoughtful tone:

"I think so too."

And both of them returned quietly to their work.


S. 3

From that day onward, anarchist attempts followed one another every week
without interruption. The victims were numerous, and almost all of them
belonged to the poorer classes. These crimes roused public resentment. It was
among domestic servants, hotel-keepers, and the employees of such small shops
as the Trusts still allowed to exist, that indignation burst forth most
vehemently. In popular districts women might be heard demanding unusual
punishments for the dynamitards. (They were called by this old name, although
it was hardly appropriate to them, since, to these unknown chemists, dynamite
was an innocent material only fit to destroy ant-hills, and they considered it
mere child's play to explode nitro-glycerine with a cartridge made of
fulminate of mercury.) Business ceased suddenly, and those who were least rich
were the first to feel the effects. They spoke of doing justice themselves to
the anarchists. In the mean time the factory workers remained hostile or
indifferent to violent action. They were threatened, as a result of the
decline of business, with a likelihood of losing their work, or even a
lock-out in all the factories. The Federation of Trade Unions proposed a
general strike as the most powerful means of influencing the employers, and
the best aid that could be given to the revolutionists, but all the trades
with the exception of the gliders refused to cease work.


The police made numerous arrests. Troops summoned from all parts of the
National Federation protected the offices of the Trusts, the houses of the
multi-millionaires, the public halls, the banks, and the big shops. A
fortnight passed without a single explosion, and it was concluded that the
dynamitards, in all probability but a handful of persons, perhaps even Still
fewer, had all been killed or captured, or that they were in hiding, or had
taken flight. Confidence returned; it returned at first among the poorer
classes. Two or three hundred thousand soldiers, who bad been lodged in the
most closely populated districts, stimulated trade, and people began to cry
out: "Hurrah for the army!"

The rich, who had not been so quick to take alarm, were reassured more slowly.
But at the Stock Exchange a group of "bulls" spread optimistic rumours and by
a powerful effort put a brake upon the fall in prices. Business improved.
Newspapers with big circulations supported the movement. With patriotic
eloquence they depicted capital as laughing in its impregnable position at the
assaults of a few dastardly criminals, and public wealth maintaining its
serene ascendency in spite of the vain threats made against it. They were
sincere in their attitude, though at the same time they found it benefited
them. Outrages were forgotten or their occurrence denied. On Sundays, at the
race-meetings, the stands were adorned by women covered with pearls and
diamonds. It was observed with joy that the capitalists had not suffered.
Cheers were given for the multi-millionaires in the saddling rooms.

On the following day the Southern Railway Station, the Petroleum Trust, and
the huge church built at the expense of Thomas Morcellet were all blown up.
Thirty houses were in flames, and the beginning of a fire was discovered at
the docks. The firemen showed amazing intrepidity and zeal. They managed their
tall fire-escapes with automatic precision, and climbed as high as thirty
storeys to rescue the luckless inhabitants from the flames. The soldiers
performed their duties with spirit, and were given a double ration of coffee.
But these fresh casualties started a panic. Millions of people, who wanted to
take their money with them and leave the town at once, crowded the great
banking houses. These establishments, after paying out money for three days,
closed their doors amid mutterings of a riot. A crowd of fugitives, laden with
their baggage, besieged the railway stations and took the town by storm. Many
who were anxious to lay in a stock of provisions and take refuge in the
cellars, attacked the grocery stores, although they were guarded by soldiers
with fixed bayonets. The public authorities displayed energy. Numerous arrests
were made and thousands of warrants issued against suspected persons.

During the three weeks that followed no outrage was committed. There was a
rumour that bombs had been found in the Opera House, in the cellars of the
Town Hall, and beside one of the Pillars of the Stock Exchange. But it was
soon known that these were boxes of sweets that had been put in those places
by practical jokers or lunatics. One of the accused, when questioned by a
magistrate, declared that he was the chief author of the explosions, and said
that all his accomplices had lost their lives. These confessions were
published by the newspapers and helped to reassure public opinion. It was only
towards the close of the examination that the magistrates saw they had to deal
with a pretender who was in no way connected with any of the crimes.

The experts chosen by the courts discovered nothing that enabled them to
determine the engine employed in the work of destruction. According to their
conjectures the new explosive emanated from a gas which radium evolves, and it
was supposed that electric waves, produced by a special type of oscillator,
were propagated through space and thus caused the explosion. But even the
ablest chemist could say nothing precise or certain. At last two policemen,
who were passing in front of the Hotel Meyer, found on the pavement, close to
a ventilator, an egg made of white metal and provided with a capsule at each
end. They picked it up carefully, and, on the orders of their chief, carried
it to the municipal laboratory. Scarcely had the experts assembled to examine
it, than the egg burst and blew up the amphitheatre and the dome. All the
experts perished, and with them Collin, the General of Artillery, and the
famous Professor Tigre.

The capitalist society did not allow itself to be daunted by this fresh
disaster. The great banks re-opened their doors, declaring that they would
meet demands partly in bullion and partly in paper money guaranteed by the
State: The Stock Exchange and the Trade Exchange, in spite of the complete
cessation of business, decided not to suspend their sittings.

In the mean time the magisterial investigation into the case of those who had
been first accused had come to an end. Perhaps the evidence brought against
them might have appeared insufficient under other circumstances, but the zeal
both of the magistrates and the public made up for this insufficiency. On the
eve of the day fixed for the trial the Courts of justice were blown up and
eight hundred people were killed, the greater number of them being judges and
lawyers. A furious crowd broke into the prison and lynched the prisoners. The
troops sent to restore order were received with showers of stones and revolver
shots; several soldiers being dragged from their horses and trampled
underfoot. The soldiers fired on the mob and many persons were killed. At last
the public authorities succeeded in establishing tranquillity. Next day the
Bank was blown up.

From that time onwards unheard-of things took place. The factory workers, who
had refused to strike, rushed in crowds into the town and set fire to the
houses. Entire regiments, led by their officers, joined the workmen, went with
them through the town singing revolutionary hymns, and took barrels of
petroleum from the docks with which to feed the fires. Explosions were
continual. One morning a monstrous tree of smoke, like the ghost of a huge
palm tree half a mile in height, rose above the giant Telegraph Hall which
suddenly fell into a complete ruin.

Whilst half the town was in flames, the other half pursued its accustomed
life. In the mornings, milk pails could be heard jingling in the dairy carts.
In a deserted avenue some old navvy might be seen seated against a wall slowly
eating hunks of bread with perhaps a little meat. Almost all the presidents of
the trusts remained at their posts. Some of them performed their duty with
heroic simplicity. Raphael Box, the son of a martyred multi-millionaire, was
blown up as he was presiding at the general meeting of the Sugar Trust. He was
given a magnificent funeral and the procession on its way to the cemetery had
to climb six times over piles of ruins or cross upon planks over the uprooted
roads.

The ordinary helpers of the rich, the clerks, employees, brokers, and agents,
preserved an unshaken fidelity. The surviving clerks of the Bank that had been
blown up, made their way along the ruined streets through the midst of smoking
houses to hand in their bills of exchange, and several were swallowed up in
the flames while endeavouring to present their receipts.

Nevertheless, any illusion concerning the state of affairs was impossible. The
enemy was master of the town. Instead of silence the noise of explosions was
now continuous and produced an insurmountable feeling of horror. The lighting
apparatus having been destroyed, the city was plunged in darkness all through
the night, and appalling crimes were committed. The populous districts alone,
having suffered the least, still preserved measures of protection. The were
paraded by patrols of volunteers who shot the robbers, and at every street
corner one stumbled over a body lying in a pool of blood, the hands bound
behind the back, a handkerchief over the face, and a placard pinned upon the
breast.

It became impossible to clear away the ruins or to bury the dead. Soon the
stench from the corpses became intolerable. Epidemics raged and caused
innumerable deaths, while they also rendered the survivors feeble and
listless. Famine carried off almost all who were left. A hundred and one days
after the first outrage, whilst six army corps with field artillery and siege
artillery were marching, at night, into the poorest quarter of the city,
Caroline and Clair, holding each other's hands, were watching from the roof a
lofty house, the only one still left standing, but now surrounded by smoke and
flame. joyous songs ascended from the street, where the crowd was dancing in
delirium.

"To-morrow it will be ended," said the man, "and it will be better."

The young woman, her hair loosened and her face shining with the reflection of
the flames, gazed with a pious joy at the circle of fire that was growing
closer around them.

"It will be better," said she also.

And throwing herself into the destroyer's arms she pressed a passionate kiss
upon his lips.

S. 4

The other towns of the federation also suffered from disturbances and
outbreaks, and then order was restored. Reforms were introduced into
institutions and great changes took place in habits and customs, but the
country never recovered the loss of its capital, and never regained its former
prosperity. Commerce and industry dwindled away, and civilization abandoned
those countries which for so long it bad preferred to all others. They became
insalubrious and sterile; the territory that had supported so many millions of
men became nothing more than a desert. On the hill of Fort St. Michel wild
horses cropped the coarse grass.


Days flowed by like water from the fountains, and the centuries passed like
drops falling from the ends of stalactites. Hunters came to chase the bears
upon the hills that covered the forgotten city; shepherds led their flocks
upon them; labourers turned up the soil with their ploughs; gardeners
cultivated their lettuces and grafted their pear trees. They were not rich,
and they had no arts. The walls of their cabins were covered with old vines
and roses, A goat-skin clothed their tanned limbs, while their wives dressed
themselves with the wool that they themselves had spun. The goat-herds moulded
little figures of men and animals out of clay, or sang songs about the young
girl who follows her lover through woods or among the browsing goats while the
pine trees whisper together and the water utters its murmuring sound. The
master of the house grew angry with the beetles who devoured his figs; he
planned snares to protect his fowls from the velvet-tailed fox, and he poured
out wine for his neighbours saying:

"Drink! The flies have not spoilt my vintage; the vines were dry before they
came."

Then in the course of ages the wealth of the villages and the corn that filled
the fields were pillaged by barbarian invaders. The country changed its
masters several times. The conquerors built castles upon the hills;
cultivation increased; mills, forges) tanneries, and looms were established;
roads were opened through the woods and over the marshes; the river was
covered with boats. The hamlets became large villages and joining together
formed a town which protected itself by deep trenches and lofty walls. Later,
becoming the capital of a great State, it found itself straitened within its
now useless ramparts and it converted them into grass-covered walks.

It grew very rich and large beyond measure. The houses were never high enough
to satisfy the people; they kept on making them still higher and built them of
thirty or forty storeys, with offices, shops, banks, societies one above
another; they dug cellars and tunnels ever deeper downwards. Fifteen millions
of men laboured in the giant town.





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