The Provincial Letters, by Blaise Pascal

Letter VII

Paris, April 25, 1656


Having succeeded in pacifying the good father, who had been rather disconcerted by the story of John d’Alba, he resumed the conversation, on my assuring him that I would avoid all such interruptions in future, and spoke of the maxims of his casuists with regard to gentlemen, nearly in the following terms:

“You know,” he said, “that the ruling passion of persons in that rank of life is ‘the point of honor,’ which is perpetually driving them into acts of violence apparently quite at variance with Christian piety; so that, in fact, they would be almost all of them excluded from our confessionals, had not our fathers relaxed a little from the strictness of religion, to accommodate themselves to the weakness of humanity. Anxious to keep on good terms both with the Gospel, by doing their duty to God, and with the men of the world, by showing charity to their neighbour, they needed all the wisdom they possessed to devise expedients for so nicely adjusting matters as to permit these gentlemen to adopt the methods usually resorted to for vindicating their honour, without wounding their consciences, and thus reconcile two things apparently so opposite to each other as piety and the point of honour. But, sir, in proportion to the utility of the design, was the difficulty of the execution. You cannot fail, I should think, to realize the magnitude and arduousness of such an enterprise?”

“It astonishes me, certainly,” said I, rather coldly.

“It astonishes you, forsooth!” cried the monk. “I can well believe that; many besides you might be astonished at it. Why, don’t you know that, on the one hand, the Gospel commands us ‘not to render evil for evil, but to leave vengeance to God’; and that, on the other hand, the laws of the world forbid our enduring an affront without demanding satisfaction from the offender, and that often at the expense of his life? You have never, I am sure, met with anything to all appearance more diametrically opposed than these two codes of morals; and yet, when told that our fathers have reconciled them, you have nothing more to say than simply that this astonishes you!”

“I did not sufficiently explain myself, father. I should certainly have considered the thing perfectly impracticable, if I had not known, from what I have seen of your fathers, that they are capable of doing with ease what is impossible to other men. This led me to anticipate that they must have discovered some method for meeting the difficulty — a method which I admire even before knowing it, and which I pray you to explain to me.”

“Since that is your view of the matter,” replied the monk, “I cannot refuse you. Know then, that this marvellous principle is our grand method of directing the intention — the importance of which, in our moral system, is such that I might almost venture to compare it with the doctrine of probability. You have had some glimpses of it in passing, from certain maxims which I mentioned to you. For example, when I was showing you how servants might execute certain troublesome jobs with a safe conscience, did you not remark that it was simply by diverting their intention from the evil to which they were accessary to the profit which they might reap from the transaction? Now that is what we call directing the intention. You saw, too, that, were it not for a similar divergence of the mind, those who give money for benefices might be downright simoniacs. But I will now show you this grand method in all its glory, as it applies to the subject of homicide — a crime which it justifies in a thousand instances; in order that, from this startling result, you may form an idea of all that it is calculated to effect.”

“I foresee already,” said I, “that, according to this mode, everything will be permitted; it win stick at nothing.”

“You always fly from the one extreme to the other,” replied the monk: “prithee avoid that habit. For, just to show you that we are far from permitting everything, let me tell you that we never suffer such a thing as a formal intention to sin, with the sole design of sinning; and if any person whatever should persist in having no other end but evil in the evil that he does, we break with him at once: such conduct is diabolical. This holds true, without exception of age, sex, or rank. But when the person is not of such a wretched disposition as this, we try to put in practice our method of directing the intention, which simply consists in his proposing to himself, as the end of his actions, some allowable object. Not that we do not endeavour, as far as we can, to dissuade men from doing things forbidden; but when we cannot prevent the action, we at least purify the motive, and thus correct the viciousness of the means by the goodness of the end. Such is the way in which our fathers have contrived to permit those acts of violence to which men usually resort in vindication of their honour. They have no more to do than to turn off their intention from the desire of vengeance, which is criminal, and direct it to a desire to defend their honour, which, according to us, is quite warrantable. And in this way our doctors discharge all their duty towards God and towards man. By permitting the action, they gratify the world; and by purifying the intention, they give satisfaction to the Gospel. This is a secret, sir, which was entirely unknown to the ancients; the world is indebted for the discovery entirely to our doctors. You understand it now, I hope?”

“Perfectly well,” was my reply. “To men you grant the outward material effect of the action; and to God you give the inward and spiritual movement of the intention; and by this equitable partition, you form an alliance between the laws of God and the laws of men. But, my dear sir, to be frank with you, I can hardly trust your premisses, and I suspect that your authors will tell another tale.”

“You do me injustice, rejoined the monk; “I advance nothing but what I am ready to prove, and that by such a rich array of passages that altogether their number, their authority, and their reasonings, will fill you with admiration. To show you, for example, the alliance which our fathers have formed between the maxims of the Gospel and those of the world, by thus regulating the intention, let me refer you to Reginald: ‘Private persons are forbidden to avenge themselves; for St. Paul says to the Romans (12), “Recompense to no man evil for evil”; and Ecclesiasticus says (28), “He that taketh vengeance shall draw on himself the vengeance of God, and his sins will not be forgotten.” Besides all that is said in the Gospel about forgiving offences, as in chapters 6 and 18 of St. Matthew.’”

“Well, father, if after that he says anything contrary to the Scripture, it will not be from lack of scriptural knowledge, at any rate. Pray, how does he conclude?”

“You shall hear,” he said. “From all this it appears that a military man may demand satisfaction on the spot from the person who has injured him — not, indeed, with the intention of rendering evil for evil, but with that of preserving his honour —‘non ut malum pro malo reddat, sed ut conservet honorem.’ See you how carefully they guard against the intention of rendering evil for evil, because the Scripture condemns it? This is what they will tolerate on no account. Thus Lessius observes, that ‘if a man has received a blow on the face, he must on no account have an intention to avenge himself; but he may lawfully have an intention to avert infamy, and may, with that view, repel the insult immediately, even at the point of the sword — etiam cum gladio!’ So far are we from permitting any one to cherish the design of taking vengeance on his enemies that our fathers will not allow any even to wish their death — by a movement of hatred. ‘If your enemy is disposed to injure you,’ says Escobar, ‘you have no right to wish his death, by a movement of hatred; though you may, with a view to save yourself from harm.’ So legitimate, indeed, is this wish, with such an intention, that our great Hurtado de Mendoza says that ‘we may pray God to visit with speedy death those who are bent on persecuting us, if there is no other way of escaping from it.’”

“May it please your reverence,” said I, “the Church has forgotten to insert a petition to that effect among her prayers.”

“They have not put in everything into the prayers that one may lawfully ask of God,” answered the monk. “Besides, in the present case, the thing was impossible, for this same opinion is of more recent standing than the Breviary. You are not a good chronologist, friend. But, not to wander from the point, let me request vour attention to the following passage, cited by Diana from Gaspar Hurtado, one of Escobar’s four-and-twenty fathers: ‘An incumbent may, without any mortal sin, desire the decease of a life-renter on his benefice, and a son that of his father, and rejoice when it happens; provided always it is for the sake of the profit that is to accrue from the event, and not from personal aversion.’”

“Good!” cried I. “That is certainly a very happy hit; and I can easily see that the doctrine admits of a wide application. But yet there are certain cases, the solution of which, though of great importance for gentlemen, might present still greater difficulties.”

“Propose them, if you please, that we may see,” said the monk.

“Show me, with all your directing of the intention,” returned I, “that it is allowable to fight a duel.”

“Our great Hurtado de Mendoza,” said the father, “will satisfy you on that point in a twinkling. ‘If a gentleman,’ says he, in a passage cited by Diana, ‘who is challenged to fight a duel, is well known to have no religion, and if the vices to which he is openly and unscrupulously addicted are such as would lead people to conclude, in the event of his refusing to fight, that he is actuated, not by the fear of God, but by cowardice, and induce them to say of him that he was a hen, and not a man, gallina, et non vir; in that case he may, to save his honour, appear at the appointed spot — not, indeed, with the express intention of fighting a duel, but merely with that of defending himself, should the person who challenged him come there unjustly to attack him. His action in this case, viewed by itself, will be perfectly indifferent; for what moral evil is there in one stepping into a field, taking a stroll in expectation of meeting a person, and defending one’s self in the event of being attacked? And thus the gentleman is guilty of no sin whatever; for in fact it cannot be called accepting a challenge at all, his intention being directed to other circumstances, and the acceptance of a challenge consisting in an express intention to fight, which we are supposing the gentleman never had.’”

“You have not kept your word with me, sir,” said I. “This is not, properly speaking, to permit duelling; on the contrary, the casuist is so persuaded that this practice is forbidden that, in licensing the action in question, he carefully avoids calling it a duel.”

“Ah!” cried the monk, “you begin to get knowing on my hand, I am glad to see. I might reply that the author I have quoted grants all that duellists are disposed to ask. But since you must have a categorical answer, I shall allow our Father Layman to give it for me. He permits duelling in so many words, provided that, in accepting the challenge, the person directs his intention solely to the preservation of his honour or his property: ‘If a soldier or a courtier is in such a predicament that he must lose either his honour or his fortune unless he accepts a challenge, I see nothing to hinder him from doing so in self-defence.’ The same thing is said by Peter Hurtado, as quoted by our famous Escobar; his words are: ‘One may fight a duel even to defend one’s property, should that be necessary; because every man has a right to defend his property, though at the expense of his enemy’s life!’”

I was struck, on hearing these passages, with the reflection that, while the piety of the king appears in his exerting all his power to prohibit and abolish the practice of duelling in the State, the piety of the Jesuits is shown in their employing all their ingenuity to tolerate and sanction it in the Church. But the good father was in such an excellent key for talking that it would have been cruel to have interrupted him; so he went on with his discourse.

“In short,” said he, “Sanchez (mark, now, what great names I am quoting to you!) Sanchez, sir, goes a step further; for he shows how, simply by managing the intention rightly, a person may not only receive a challenge, but give one. And our Escobar follows him.”

“Prove that, father,” said I, “and I shall give up the point: but I will not believe that he has written it, unless I see it in print.”

“Read it yourself, then,” he replied: and, to be sure, I read the following extract from the Moral Theology of Sanchez: “It is perfectly reasonable to hold that a man may fight a duel to save his life, his honour, or any considerable portion of his property, when it is apparent that there is a design to deprive him of these unjustly, by law-suits and chicanery, and when there is no other way of preserving them. Navarre justly observes that, in such cases, it is lawful either to accept or to send a challenge — licet acceptare et offerre duellum. The same author adds that there is nothing to prevent one from despatching one’s adversary in a private way. Indeed, in the circumstances referred to, it is advisable to avoid employing the method of the duel, if it is possible to settle the affair by privately killing our enemy; for, by this means, we escape at once from exposing our life in the combat, and from participating in the sin which our opponent would have committed by fighting the duel!”

“A most pious assassination!” said I. “Still, however, pious though it be, it is assassination, if a man is permitted to kill his enemy in a treacherous manner.”

“Did I say that he might kill him treacherously?” cried the monk. “God forbid! I said he might kill him privately, and you conclude that he may kill him treacherously, as if that were the same thing! Attend, sir, to Escobar’s definition before allowing yourself to speak again on this subject: ‘We call it killing in treachery when the person who is slain had no reason to suspect such a fate. He, therefore, that slays his enemy cannot be said to kill him in treachery, even although the blow should be given insidiously and behind his back — licet per insidias aut a tergo percutiat.’ And again: ‘He that kills his enemy, with whom he was reconciled under a promise of never again attempting his life, cannot be absolutely said to kill in treachery, unless there was between them all the stricter friendship — arctior amicitia.’ You see now you do not even understand what the terms signify, and yet you pretend to talk like a doctor.”

“I grant you this is something quite new to me,” I replied; “and I should gather from that definition that few, if any, were ever killed in treachery; for people seldom take it into their heads to assassinate any but their enemies. Be this as it may, however, it seems that, according to Sanchez, a man may freely slay (I do not say treacherously, but only insidiously and behind his back) a calumniator, for example, who prosecutes us at law?”

“Certainly he may,” returned the monk, “always, however, in the way of giving a right direction to the intention: you constantly forget the main point. Molina supports the same doctrine; and what is more, our learned brother Reginald maintains that we may despatch the false witnesses whom he summons against us. And, to crown the whole, according to our great and famous fathers Tanner and Emanuel Sa, it is lawful to kill both the false witnesses and the judge himself, if he has had any collusion with them. Here are Tanner’s very words: ‘Sotus and Lessius think that it is not lawful to kill the false witnesses and the magistrate who conspire together to put an innocent person to death; but Emanuel Sa and other authors with good reason impugn that sentiment, at least so far as the conscience is concerned.’ And he goes on to show that it is quite lawful to kill both the witnesses and the judge.”

“Well, father,” said I, “I think I now understand pretty well your principle regarding the direction of the intention: but I should like to know something of its consequences, and all the cases in which this method of yours arms a man with the power of life and death. Let us go over them again, for fear of mistake, for equivocation here might be attended with dangerous results. Killing is a matter which requires to be well-timed, and to be backed with a good probable opinion. You have assured me, then, that by giving a proper turn to the intention, it is lawful, according to your fathers, for the preservation of one’s honour, or even property, to accept a challenge to a duel, to give one sometimes, to kill in a private way a false accuser, and his witnesses along with him, and even the judge who has been bribed to favour them; and you have also told me that he who has got a blow may, without avenging himself, retaliate with the sword. But you have not told me, father, to what length he may go.”

“He can hardly mistake there,” replied the father, “for he may go all the length of killing his man. This is satisfactorily proved by the learned Henriquez, and others of our fathers quoted by Escobar, as follows: ‘It is perfectly right to kill a person who has given us a box on the ear, although he should run away, provided it is not done through hatred or revenge, and there is no danger of giving occasion thereby to murders of a gross kind and hurtful to society. And the reason is that it is as lawful to pursue the thief that has stolen our honour, as him that has run away with our property. For, although your honour cannot be said to be in the hands of your enemy in the same sense as your goods and chattels are in the hands of the thief, still it may be recovered in the same way — by showing proofs of greatness and authority, and thus acquiring the esteem of men. And, in point of fact, is it not certain that the man who has received a buffet on the ear is held to be under disgrace, until he has wiped off the insult with the blood of his enemy?’”

I was so shocked on hearing this that it was with great difficulty I could contain myself; but, in my anxiety to hear the rest, I allowed him to proceed.

“Nay,” he continued, “it is allowable to prevent a buffet, by killing him that meant to give it, if there be no other way to escape the insult. This opinion is quite common with our fathers. For example, Azor, one of the four-and-twenty elders, proposing the question, ‘Is it lawful for a man of honour to kill another who threatens to give him a slap on the face, or strike him with a stick?’ replies, ‘Some say he may not; alleging that the life of our neighbour is more precious than our honour, and that it would be an act of cruelty to kill a man merely to avoid a blow. Others, however, think that it is allowable; and I certainly consider it probable, when there is no other way of warding off the insult; for, otherwise, the honour of the innocent would be constantly exposed to the malice of the insolent.’ The same opinion is given by our great Filiutius; by Father Hereau, in his Treatise on Homicide, by Hurtado de Mendoza, in his Disputations, by Becan, in his Summary; by our Fathers Flahaut and Lecourt, in those writings which the University, in their third petition, quoted at length, in order to bring them into disgrace (though in this they failed); and by Escobar. In short, this opinion is so general that Lessius lays it down as a point which no casuist has contested; he quotes a great many that uphold, and none that deny it; and particularly Peter Navarre, who, speaking of affronts in general (and there is none more provoking than a box on the ear), declares that ‘by the universal consent of the casuists, it is lawful to kill the calumniator, if there be no other way of averting the affront — ex sententia omnium, licet contumeliosum occidere, si aliter ea injuria arceri nequit.’ Do you wish any more authorities?” asked the monk.

I declared I was much obliged to him; I had heard rather more than enough of them already. But, just to see how far this damnable doctrine would go, I said, “But, father, may not one be allowed to kill for something still less? Might not a person so direct his intention as lawfully to kill another for telling a lie, for example?”

“He may,” returned the monk; “and according to Father Baldelle, quoted by Escobar, ‘you may lawfully take the life of another for saying, “You have told a lie”; if there is no other way of shutting his mouth.’ The same thing may be done in the case of slanders. Our Fathers Lessius and Hereau agree in the following sentiments: ‘If you attempt to ruin my character by telling stories against me in the presence of men of honour, and I have no other way of preventing this than by putting you to death, may I be permitted to do so? According to the modern authors, I may, and that even though I have been really guilty of the crime which you divulge, provided it is a secret one, which you could not establish by legal evidence. And I prove it thus: If you mean to rob me of my honour by giving me a box on the ear, I may prevent it by force of arms; and the same mode of defence is lawful when you would do me the same injury with the tongue. Besides, we may lawfully obviate affronts and, therefore, slanders. In fine, honour is dearer than life; and as it is lawful to kill in defence of life, it must be so to kill in defence of honour.’ There, you see, are arguments in due form; this is demonstration, sir — not mere discussion. And, to conclude, this great man Lessius shows, in the same place, that it is lawful to kill even for a simple gesture, or a sign of contempt. ‘A man’s honour,’ he remarks, ‘may be attacked or filched away in various ways — in all of which vindication appears very reasonable; as, for instance, when one offers to strike us with a stick, or give us a slap on the face, or affront us either by words or signs — sive per signa.’”

“Well, father,” said I, “it must be owned that you have made every possible provision to secure the safety of reputation; but it strikes me that human life is greatly in danger, if any one may be conscientiously put to death simply for a defamatory speech or a saucy gesture.”

“That is true,” he replied; “but, as our fathers are very circumspect, they have thought it proper to forbid putting this doctrine into practice on such trifling occasions. They say, at least, ‘that it ought hardly to be reduced to practice — practice vix probari potest.’ And they have a good reason for that, as you shall see.”

“Oh, I know what it will be,” interrupted I; “because the law of God forbids us to kill, of course.”

“They do not exactly take that ground,” said the father; “as a matter of conscience, and viewing the thing abstractly, they hold it allowable.”

“And why then, do they forbid it?”

“I shall tell you that, sir. It is because, were we to kill all the defamers among us, we should very shortly depopulate the country. ‘Although,’ says Reginald, ‘the opinion that we may kill a man for calumny is not without its probability in theory, the contrary one ought to be followed in practice; for, in our mode of defending ourselves, we should always avoid doing injury to the commonwealth; and it is evident that by killing people in this way there would be too many murders. ‘We should be on our guard,’ says Lessius, ‘lest the practice of this maxim prove hurtful to the State; for in this case it ought not to be permitted — tunc enim non est permittendus.’”

“What, father! is it forbidden only as a point of policy, and not of religion? Few people, I am afraid, will pay any regard to such a prohibition, particularly when in a passion. Very probably they might think they were doing no harm to the State, by ridding it of an unworthy member.”

“And accordingly,” replied the monk, “our Filiutius has fortified that argument with another, which is of no slender importance, namely, ‘that for killing people after this manner, one might be punished in a court of justice.’”

“There now, father; I told you before, that you will never be able to do anything worth the while, unless you get the magistrates to go along with you.”

“The magistrates,” said the father, “as they do not penetrate into the conscience, judge merely of the outside of the action, while we look principally to the intention; and hence it occasionally happens that our maxims are a little different from theirs.”

“Be that as it may, father; from yours, at least, one thing may be fairly inferred — that, by taking care not to injure the commonwealth, we may kill defamers with a safe conscience, provided we can do it with a sound skin. But, sir, after having seen so well to the protection of honour, have you done nothing for property? I am aware it is of inferior importance, but that does not signify; I should think one might direct one’s intention to kill for its preservation also.”

“Yes,” replied the monk; “and I gave you a hint to that effect already, which may have suggested the idea to you. All our casuists agree in that opinion; and they even extend the permission to those cases ‘where no further violence is apprehended from those that steal our property; as, for example, where the thief runs away.’ Azor, one of our Society, proves that point.”

“But, sir, how much must the article be worth, to justify our proceeding to that extremity?”

“According to Reginald and Tanner, ‘the article must be of great value in the estimation of a judicious man.’ And so think Layman and Filiutius.”

“But, father, that is saying nothing to the purpose; where am I to find ‘a judicious man’ (a rare person to meet with at any time), in order to make this estimation? Why do they not settle upon an exact sum at once?”

“Ay, indeed!” retorted the monk; “and was it so easy, think you, to adjust the comparative value between the life of a man, and a Christian man, too, and money? It is here I would have you feel the need of our casuists. Show me any of your ancient fathers who will tell for how much money we may be allowed to kill a man. What will they say, but ‘Non occides — Thou shalt not kill?’”

“And who, then, has ventured to fix that sum?” I inquired.

“Our great and incomparable Molina,” he replied —“the glory of our Society — who has, in his inimitable wisdom, estimated the life of a man ‘at six or seven ducats; for which sum he assures us it is warrantable to kill a thief, even though he should run off’; and he adds, ‘that he would not venture to condemn that man as guilty of any sin who should kill another for taking away an article worth a crown, or even less — unius aurei, vel minoris adhuc valoris’; which has led Escobar to lay it down, as a general rule, ‘that a man may be killed quite regularly, according to Molina, for the value of a crown-piece.’”

“O father,” cried I; “where can Molina have got all this wisdom to enable him to determine a matter of such importance, without any aid from Scripture, the councils, or the fathers? It is quite evident that he has obtained an illumination peculiar to himself, and is far beyond St. Augustine in the matter of homicide, as well as of grace. Well, now, I suppose I may consider myself master of this chapter of morals; and I see perfectly that, with the exception of ecclesiastics, nobody need refrain from killing those who injure them in their property or reputation.”

“What say you?” exclaimed the monk. “Do you, then, suppose that it would be reasonable that those, who ought of all men to be most respected, should alone be exposed to the insolence of the wicked? Our fathers have provided against that disorder; for Tanner declares that ‘Churchmen, and even monks, are permitted to kill, for the purpose of defending not only their lives, but their property, and that of their community.’ Molina, Escobar, Becan, Reginald, Layman, Lessius, and others, hold the same language. Nay, according to our celebrated Father Lamy, priests and monks may lawfully prevent those who would injure them by calumnies from carrying their ill designs into effect, by putting them to death. Care, however, must always be taken to direct the intention properly. His words are: ‘An ecclesiastic or a monk may warrantably kill a defamer who threatens to publish the scandalous crimes of his community, or his own crimes, when there is no other way of stopping him; if, for instance, he is prepared to circulate his defamations unless promptly despatched. For, in these circumstances, as the monk would be allowed to kill one who threatened to take his life, he is also warranted to kill him who would deprive him of his reputation or his property, in the same way as the men of the world.’”

“I was not aware of that,” said I; “in fact, I have been accustomed simply enough to believe the very reverse, without reflecting on the matter, in consequence of having heard that the Church had such an abhorrence of bloodshed as not even to permit ecclesiastical judges to attend in criminal cases.”

“Never mind that,” he replied; “our Father Lamy has completely proved the doctrine I have laid down, although, with a humility which sits uncommonly well on so great a man, he submits it to the judgement of his judicious readers. Caramuel, too, our famous champion, quoting it in his Fundamental Theology, p. 543. thinks it so certain, that he declares the contrary opinion to be destitute of probability, and draws some admirable conclusions from it, such as the following, which he calls ‘the conclusion of conclusions — conclusionum conclusio’: ‘That a priest not only may kill a slanderer, but there are certain circumstances in which it may be his duty to do so — etiam aliquando debet occidere.’ He examines a great many new questions on this principle, such as the following, for instance: ‘May the Jesuits kill the Jansenists?’”

“A curious point of divinity that, father! “ cried I. “I hold the Jansenists to be as good as dead men, according to Father Lamy’s doctrine.”

“There, now, you are in the wrong,” said the monk: “Caramuel infers the very reverse from the same principles.”

“And how so, father?”

“Because,” he replied, “it is not in the power of the Jansenists to injure our reputation. ‘The Jansenists,’ says he, ‘call the Jesuits Pelagians, may they not be killed for that? No; inasmuch as the Jansenists can no more obscure the glory of the Society than an owl can eclipse that of the sun; on the contrary, they have, though against their intention, enhanced it — occidi non possunt, quia nocere non potuerunt.’”

“Ha, father! do the lives of the Jansenists, then, depend on the contingency of their injuring your reputation? If so, I reckon them far from being in a safe position; for supposing it should be thought in the slightest degree probable that they might do you some mischief, why, they are killable at once! You have only to draw up a syllogism in due form, and, with a direction of the intention, you may despatch your man at once with a safe conscience. Thrice happy must those hot spirits be who cannot bear with injuries, to be instructed in this doctrine! But woe to the poor people who have offended them! Indeed, father, it would be better to have to do with persons who have no religion at all than with those who have been taught on this system. For, after all, the intention of the wounder conveys no comfort to the wounded. The poor man sees nothing of that secret direction of which you speak; he is only sensible of the direction of the blow that is dealt him. And I am by no means sure but a person would feel much less sorry to see himself brutally killed by an infuriated villain than to find himself conscientiously stilettoed by a devotee. To be plain with you, father, I am somewhat staggered at all this; and these questions of Father Lamy and Caramuel do not please me at all.”

“How so?” cried the monk. “Are you a Jansenist?”

“I have another reason for it,” I replied. “You must know I am in the habit of writing from time to time, to a friend of mine in the country, all that I can learn of the maxims of your doctors. Now, although I do no more than simply report and faithfully quote their own words, yet I am apprehensive lest my letter should fall into the hands of some stray genius who may take into his head that I have done you injury, and may draw some mischievous conclusion from your premisses.”

“Away!” cried the monk; “no fear of danger from that quarter, I’ll give you my word for it. Know that what our fathers have themselves printed, with the approbation of our superiors, it cannot be wrong to read nor dangerous to publish.”

I write you, therefore, on the faith of this worthy father’s word of honour. But, in the meantime, I must stop for want of paper — not of passages; for I have got as many more in reserve, and good ones too, as would require volumes to contain them. I am, &c.

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