The Red and the Black, by Stendhal

Chapter 29

The First Step

He knew his times, he knew his departement, and he is rich.

Le Precurseur

Julien had not yet recovered from the profound abstraction in which the incident in the Cathedral had plunged him, when one morning the grim abbe Pirard sent for him.

‘Here is M. l’abbe Chas–Bernard writing to me to commend you. I am quite satisfied with your conduct as a whole. You are extremely imprudent and indeed stupid, without showing it; however, up to the present your heart is sound and even generous; your intellect is above the average. Taking you all in all, I see a spark in you which must not be neglected.

‘After fifteen years of labour, I am on the eve of leaving this establishment: my crime is that of having allowed the seminarists to use their own judgment, and of having neither protected nor unmasked that secret society of which you have spoken to me at the stool of penitence. Before I go, I wish to do something for you; I should have acted two months ago, for you deserve it, but for the accusation based upon the address of Amanda Binet, which was found in your possession. I appoint you tutor in the New and Old Testaments.’

Julien, in a transport of gratitude, quite thought of falling on his knees and thanking God; but he yielded to a more genuine impulse. He went up to the abbe Pirard and took his hand, which he raised to his lips.

‘What is this?’ cried the Director in a tone of annoyance; but Julien’s eyes were even more eloquent than his action.

The abbe Pirard gazed at him in astonishment, like a man who, in the course of long years, has fallen out of the way of meeting with delicate emotions. This attention pierced the Director’s armour; his voice changed.

‘Ah, well! Yes, my child, I am attached to you. Heaven knows that it is entirely against my will. I ought to be just, and to feel neither hatred nor love for anyone. Your career will be difficult. I see in you something that offends the common herd. Jealousy and calumny will pursue you. In whatever place Providence may set you, your companions will never set eyes on you without hating you; and if they pretend to love you, it will be in order to betray you the more surely. For this there is but one remedy: have recourse only to God, who has given you, to punish you for your presumption, this necessity of being hated; let your conduct be pure; that is the sole resource that I can see for you. If you hold fast to the truth with an invincible embrace, sooner or later your enemies will be put to confusion.”

It was so long since Julien had heard a friendly voice, that we must forgive him a weakness: he burst into tears. The abbe Pirard opened his arms to embrace him; the moment was very precious to them both.

Julien was wild with joy; this promotion was the first that he had obtained; the advantages were immense. In order to realise them, one must have been condemned to pass whole months without a moment’s solitude, and in immediate contact with companions at best tiresome, and mostly intolerable. Their shouts alone would have been enough to create disorder in a sensitive organism. The boisterous joy of these peasants well fed and well dressed, could find expression, thought itself complete only when they were shouting with the full force of their lungs.

Now Julien dined by himself, or almost so, an hour later than the rest of the seminarists. He had a key to the garden, and might walk there at the hours when it was empty.

Greatly to his surprise, Julien noticed that they hated him less; he had been expecting, on the contrary, an intensification of their hatred. That secret desire that no one should speak to him, which was all too apparent and had made him so many enemies, was no longer a sign of absurd pride. In the eyes of the coarse beings among whom he lived, it was a proper sense of his own dignity. Their hatred diminished perceptibly, especially among the youngest of his companions, now become his pupils, whom he treated with great courtesy. In course of time he had even supporters; it became bad form to call him Martin Luther.

But why speak of his friends, his enemies? It is all so ugly, and all the more ugly, the more accurately it is drawn from life. These are however the only teachers of ethics that the people have, and without them where should we be? Will the newspaper ever manage to take the place of the parish priest?

Since Julien’s promotion, the Director of the Seminary made a point of never speaking to him except in the presence of witnesses. This was only prudent, in the master’s interest as well as the pupil’s; but more than anything else it was a test. The stern Jansenist Pirard’s invariable principle was: ‘Has a man any merit in your eyes? Place an obstacle in the way of everything that he desires, everything that he undertakes. If his merit be genuine, he will certainly be able to surmount or thrust aside your obstacles.’

It was the hunting season. Fouque took it into his head to send to the Seminary a stag and a boar in the name of Julien’s family. The dead animals were left lying in the passage, between kitchen and refectory. There all the seminarists saw them on their way to dinner. They aroused much interest. The boar, although stone dead, frightened the younger boys; they fingered his tusks. Nothing else was spoken of for a week.

This present, which classified Julien’s family in the section of society that one must respect, dealt a mortal blow to jealousy. It was a form of superiority consecrated by fortune. Chazel and the most distinguished of the seminarists made overtures to him, and almost complained to him that he had not warned them of his parents’ wealth, and had thus betrayed them into showing a want of respect for money.

There was a conscription from which Julien was exempt in his capacity as a seminarist. This incident moved him deeply. ‘And so there has passed now for ever the moment at which, twenty years ago, a heroic life would have begun for me!’

Walking by himself in the Seminary garden, he overheard a conversation between two masons who were at work upon the enclosing wall.

‘Ah, well! One will have to go, here’s another conscription.’

In the other man’s days, well and good! A stone mason became an officer, and became a general, that has been known.’

‘Look what it’s like now! Only the beggars go. A man with the wherewithal stays at home.’

‘The man who is born poor stays poor, and that’s all there is to it.’

‘Tell me, now, is it true what people say, that the other is dead?’ put in a third mason.

‘It’s the big ones who say that, don’t you see? They were afraid of the other.’

‘What a difference, how well everything went in his time! And to think that he was betrayed by his Marshals! There must always be a traitor somewhere!’

This conversation comforted Julien a little. As he walked away he repeated to himself with a sigh:

‘The only King whose memory the people cherish still!’

The examinations came round. Julien answered the questions in a brilliant manner; he saw that Chazel himself was seeking to display the whole extent of his knowledge.

On the first day, the examiners appointed by the famous Vicar–General de Frilair greatly resented having always to place first, or at the very most second on their list this Julien Sorel who had been pointed out to them as the favourite of the abbe Pirard. Wagers were made in the Seminary that in the aggregate list of the examinations, Julien would occupy the first place, a distinction that carried with it the honour of dining with the Bishop. But at the end of one session, in which the subject had been the Fathers of the Church, a skilful examiner, after questioning Julien upon Saint Jerome, and his passion for Cicero, began to speak of Horace, Virgil and other profane authors. Unknown to his companions, Julien had learned by heart a great number of passages from these authors. Carried away by his earlier successes, he forgot where he was and, at the repeated request of the examiner, recited and paraphrased with enthusiasm several odes of Horace. Having let him sink deeper and deeper for twenty minutes, suddenly the examiner’s face changed, and he delivered a stinging rebuke to Julien for having wasted his time in these profane studies, and stuffed his head with useless if not criminal thoughts.

‘I am a fool, Sir, and you are right,’ said Julien with a modest air, as he saw the clever stratagem by which he had been taken in.

This ruse on the examiner’s part was considered a dirty trick, even in the Seminary, though this did not prevent M. l’abbe de Frilair, that clever man, who had so ably organised the framework of the Bisontine Congregation, and whose reports to Paris made judges, prefect, and even the general officers of the garrison tremble, from setting, with his powerful hand, the number 198 against Julien’s name. He was delighted thus to mortify his enemy, the Jansenist Pirard.

For the last ten years his great ambition had been to remove Pirard from control of the Seminary. That cleric, following in his own conduct the principles which he had outlined to Julien, was sincere, devout, innocent of intrigue, devoted to his duty. But heaven, in its wrath, had given him that splenetic temperament, bound to feel deeply insults and hatred. Not one of the affronts that were put upon him was lost upon his ardent spirit. He would have offered his resignation a hundred times, but he believed that he was of use in the post in which Providence had placed him. ‘I prevent the spread of Jesuitry and idolatry,’ he used to say to himself.

At the time of the examinations, it was perhaps two months since he had spoken to Julien, and yet he was ill for a week, when, on receiving the official letter announcing the result of the competition, he saw the number 198 set against the name of that pupil whom he regarded as the glory of his establishment. The only consolation for this stern character was to concentrate upon Julien all the vigilance at his command. He was delighted to find in him neither anger nor thoughts of revenge, nor discouragement.

Some weeks later, Julien shuddered on receiving a letter; it bore the Paris postmark. ‘At last,’ he thought, ‘Madame de Renal has remembered her promises.’ A gentleman who signed himself Paul Sorel, and professed to be related to him, sent him a bill of exchange for five hundred francs. The writer added that if Julien continued to study with success the best Latin authors, a similar sum would be sent to him every year.

‘It is she, it is her bounty!’ Julien said to himself with emotion, ‘she wishes to comfort me; but why is there not one word of affection?’

He was mistaken with regard to the letter; Madame de Renal, under the influence of her friend Madame Derville, was entirely absorbed in her own profound remorse. In spite of herself, she often thought of the strange creature whose coming into her life had so upset it, but she would never have dreamed of writing to him.

If we spoke the language of the Seminary, we might see a miracle in this windfall of five hundred francs, and say that it was M. de Frilair himself that heaven had employed to make this gift to Julien.

Twelve years earlier, M. l’abbe de Frilair had arrived at Besancon with the lightest of portmanteaux, which, the story went, contained his entire fortune. He now found himself one of the wealthiest landowners in the Department. In the course of his growing prosperity he had purchased one half of an estate of which the other half passed by inheritance to M. de La Mole. Hence a great lawsuit between these worthies.

Despite his brilliant existence in Paris, and the posts which he held at court, the Marquis de La Mole felt that it was dangerous to fight down at Besancon against a Vicar–General who was reputed to make and unmake Prefects. Instead of asking for a gratuity of fifty thousand francs, disguised under some head or other that would pass in the budget, and allowing M. de Frilair to win this pettifogging action for fifty thousand francs, the Marquis took offence. He believed that he had a case: a fine reason!

For, if we may be so bold as to say it: what judge is there who has not a son, or at least a cousin to help on in the world?

To enlighten the less clear-sighted, a week after the first judgment that he obtained, M. l’abbe de Frilair took the Bishop’s carriage, and went in person to convey the Cross of the Legion of Honour to his counsel. M. de La Mole, somewhat dismayed by the bold front assumed by the other side, and feeling that his own counsel were weakening, asked the advice of the abbe Chelan, who put him in touch with M. Pirard.

At the date of our story they had been corresponding thus for some years. The abbe Pirard dashed into the business with all the force of his passionate nature. In constant communication with the Marquis’s counsel, he studied his case, and finding him to be in the right, openly declared himself a partisan of the Marquis de La Mole against the all powerful Vicar–General. The latter was furious at such insolence, and coming from a little Jansenist to boot!

‘You see what these court nobles are worth who claim to have such power!’ the abbe de Frilair would say to his intimates; ‘M. de La Mole has not sent so much as a wretched Cross to his agent at Besancon, and is going to allow him to be deprived of his post without a murmur. And yet, my friends write to me, this noble peer never allows a week to pass without going to show off his blue riband in the drawing-room of the Keeper of the Seals, for what that is worth.’

In spite of all M. Pirard’s activity, and albeit M. de La Mole was always on the best of terms with the Minister of Justice and still more with his officials, all that he had been able to achieve, after six years of constant effort, was to avoid actually losing his case.

In ceaseless correspondence with the abbe Pirard, over an affair which they both pursued with passion, the Marquis came in time to appreciate the abbe’s type of mind. Gradually, despite the immense gulf between their social positions, their correspondence took on a tone of friendship. The abbe Pirard told the Marquis that his enemies were seeking to oblige him, by their insults, to offer his resignation. In the anger which he felt at the infamous stratagem (according to him) employed against Julien, he related the latter’s story to the Marquis.

Although extremely rich, this great nobleman was not in the least a miser. He had never once been able to make the abbe Pirard accept so much as the cost of postage occasioned by the lawsuit. He took the opportunity to send five hundred francs to the abbe’s favourite pupil.

M. de La Mole took the trouble to write the covering letter with his own hand. This set him thinking of the abbe.

One day the latter received a short note in which he was requested to call at once, upon urgent business, at an inn on the outskirts of Besancon. There he found M. de La Mole’s steward.

‘M. le Marquis has instructed me to bring you his carriage,’ he was informed. ‘He hopes that after you have read this letter, you will find it convenient to start for Paris, in four or five days from now. I am going to employ the time which you will be so kind as to indicate to me in visiting the estates of M. le Marquis in the Franche–Comte. After which, on whatever day suits you, we shall start for Paris.’

The letter was brief:

‘Rid yourself, my dear Sir, of all these provincial bickerings, come and breathe a calmer air in Paris. I am sending you my carriage, which has orders to await your decision for four days. I shall wait for you myself, in Paris, until Tuesday. It requires only the word yes, from you, Sir, to make me accept in your name one of the best livings in the neighbourhood of Paris. The wealthiest of your future parishioners has never set eyes on you, but is devoted to you more warmly than you can suppose; he is the Marquis de La Mole.’

Without knowing it, the stern abbe Pirard loved this Seminary, peopled with his enemies, to which, for fifteen years, he had devoted all his thoughts. M. de La Mole’s letter was to him like the sudden appearance of a surgeon with the duty of performing a painful but necessary operation. His dismissal was certain. He gave the steward an appointment, in three days’ time.

For the next forty-eight hours, he was in a fever of uncertainty. Finally, he wrote to M. de La Mole and composed, for the Bishop’s benefit, a letter, a masterpiece of ecclesiastical diction, though a trifle long. It would have been difficult to find language more irreproachable, or breathing a more sincere respect. And yet this letter, intended to give M. de Frilair a trying hour with his patron, enumerated all the serious grounds for complaint and descended to the sordid little pinpricks which, after he had borne them, with resignation, for six years, were forcing the abbe Pirard to leave the diocese.

They stole the wood from his shed, they poisoned his dog, etc., etc.

This letter written, he sent to awaken Julien who, at eight o’clock in the evening, was already asleep, as were all the seminarists.

‘You know where the Bishop’s Palace is?’ he said to him in the best Latin; ‘take this letter to Monseigneur. I shall not attempt to conceal from you that I am sending you amongst wolves. Be all eyes and ears. No prevarication in your answers; but remember that the man who is questioning you would perhaps take a real delight in trying to harm you. I am glad, my child, to give you this experience before I leave you, for I do not conceal from you that the letter which you are taking contains my resignation.’

Julien did not move; he was fond of the abbe Pirard. In vain might prudence warn him:

‘After this worthy man’s departure, the Sacred Heart party will degrade and perhaps even expel me.’

He could not think about himself. What embarrassed him was a sentence which he wished to cast in a polite form, but really he was incapable of using his mind.

‘Well, my friend, aren’t you going?’

‘You see, Sir, they say,’ Julien began timidly, ‘that during your long administration here, you have never put anything aside. I have six hundred francs.’

Tears prevented him from continuing.

‘That too will be noticed,’ said the ex-Director of the Seminary coldly. ‘Go to the Palace, it is getting late.’

As luck would have it, that evening M. l’abbe de Frilair was in attendance in the Bishop’s parlour; Monseigneur was dining at the Prefecture. So that it was to M. de Frilair himself that Julien gave the letter, but he did not know who he was.

Julien saw with astonishment that this priest boldly opened the letter addressed to the Bishop. The fine features of the Vicar–General soon revealed a surprise mingled with keen pleasure, and his gravity increased. While he was reading, Julien, struck by his good looks, had time to examine him. It was a face that would have had more gravity but for the extreme subtlety that appeared in certain of its features, and would actually have suggested dishonesty, if the owner of that handsome face had ceased for a moment to control it. The nose, which was extremely prominent, formed an unbroken and perfectly straight line, and gave unfortunately to a profile that otherwise was most distinguished, an irremediable resemblance to the mask of a fox. In addition, this abbe who seemed so greatly interested in M. Pirard’s resignation, was dressed with an elegance that greatly pleased Julien, who had never seen its like on any other priest.

It was only afterwards that Julien learned what was the abbe de Frilair’s special talent. He knew how to amuse his Bishop, a pleasant old man, made to live in Paris, who regarded Besancon as a place of exile. This Bishop was extremely short-sighted, and passionately fond of fish. The abbe de Frilair used to remove the bones from the fish that was set before Monseigneur.

Julien was silently watching the abbe as he read over again the letter of resignation, when suddenly the door burst open. A lackey, richly attired, passed rapidly through the room. Julien had barely time to turn towards the door; he saw a little old man, wearing a pectoral cross. He fell on his knees: the Bishop bestowed a kind smile upon him as he passed through the room. The handsome abbe followed him, and Julien was left alone in this parlour, the pious magnificence of which he could now admire at his leisure.

The Bishop of Besancon, a man of character, tried, but not crushed by the long hardships of the Emigration, was more than seventy-five, and cared infinitely little about what might happen in the next ten years.

‘Who is that clever-looking seminarist, whom I seemed to see as I passed?’ said the Bishop. ‘Ought they not, by my orders, to be in their beds at this hour?’

‘This one is quite wide awake, I assure you, Monseigneur, and he brings great news: the resignation of the only Jansenist left in your diocese. That terrible abbe Pirard understands at last the meaning of a hint.’

‘Well,’ said the Bishop with a laugh, ‘I defy you to fill his place with a man of his quality. And to show you the value of the man, I invite him to dine with me tomorrow.’

The Vicar–General wished to insinuate a few words as to the choice of a successor. The prelate, little disposed to discuss business, said to him:

‘Before we put in the next man, let us try to discover why this one is going. Fetch me in that seminarist, the truth is to be found in the mouths of babes.’

Julien was summoned: ‘I shall find myself trapped between two inquisitors,’ he thought. Never had he felt more courageous.

At the moment of his entering the room, two tall valets, better dressed than M. Valenod himself, were disrobing Monseigneur. The prelate, before coming to the subject of M. Pirard, thought fit to question Julien about his studies. He touched upon dogma, and was amazed. Presently he turned to the Humanities, Virgil, Horace, Cicero. ‘Those names,’ thought Julien, ‘earned me my number 198. I have nothing more to lose, let us try to shine.’ He was successful; the prelate, an excellent humanist himself, was enchanted.

At dinner at the Prefecture, a girl, deservedly famous, had recited the poem of La Madeleine.† He was in the mood for literary conversation, and at once forgot the abbe Pirard and everything else, in discussing with the seminarist the important question, whether Horace had been rich or poor. The prelate quoted a number of odes, but at times his memory began to fail him, and immediately Julien would recite the entire ode, with a modest air; what struck the Bishop was that Julien never departed from the tone of the conversation; he said his twenty or thirty Latin verses as he would have spoken of what was going on in his Seminary. A long discussion followed of Virgil and Cicero. At length the prelate could not refrain from paying the young seminarist a compliment.

† A poem by Delphine Gay]

‘It would be impossible to have studied to better advantage.’

‘Monseigneur,’ said Julien, ‘your Seminary can furnish you with one hundred and ninety-seven subjects far less unworthy of your esteemed approval.’

‘How so?’ said the prelate, astonished at this figure.

‘I can support with official proof what I have the honour to say before Monseigneur.

‘At the annual examination of the Seminary, answering questions upon these very subjects which have earned me, at this moment, Monseigneur’s approval, I received the number 198.’

‘Ah! This is the abbe Pirard’s favourite,’ exclaimed the Bishop, with a laugh, and with a glance at M. de Frilair; ‘we ought to have expected this; but it is all in fair play. Is it not the case, my friend,’ he went on, turning to Julien, ‘that they waked you from your sleep to send you here?’

‘Yes, Monseigneur. I have never left the Seminary alone in my life but once, to go and help M. l’abbe Chas–Bernard to decorate the Cathedral, on the feast of Corpus Christi.’

Optime,’ said the Bishop; ‘what, it was you that showed such great courage, by placing the bunches of plumes on the baldachino? They make me shudder every year; I am always afraid of their costing me a man’s life. My friend, you will go far; but I do not wish to cut short your career, which will be brilliant, by letting you die of hunger.’

And, on an order from the Bishop, the servants brought in biscuits and Malaga wine, to which Julien did honour, and even more so than abbe Frilair, who knew that his Bishop liked to see him eat cheerfully and with a good appetite.

The prelate, growing more and more pleased with the close of his evening, spoke for a moment of ecclesiastical history. He saw that Julien did not understand. He then passed to the moral conditions of the Roman Empire, under the Emperors of the Age of Constantine. The last days of paganism were accompanied by that state of uneasiness and doubt which, in the nineteenth century, is disturbing sad and weary minds. Monseigneur remarked that Julien seemed hardly to know even the name of Tacitus.

Julien replied with candour, to the astonishment of the prelate, that this author was not to be found in the library of the Seminary.

‘I am really delighted to hear it,’ said the Bishop merrily. ‘You relieve me of a difficulty; for the last ten minutes, I have been trying to think of a way of thanking you for the pleasant evening which you have given me, and certainly in a most unexpected manner. Although the gift is scarcely canonical, I should like to give you a set of Tacitus.’

The prelate sent for eight volumes handsomely bound, and insisted upon writing with his own hand, on the title-page of the first, a Latin inscription to Julien Sorel. The Bishop prided himself on his fine Latinity; he ended by saying to him, in a serious tone, completely at variance with his tone throughout the rest of the conversation:

‘Young man, if you are wise, you shall one day have the best living in my diocese, and not a hundred leagues from my episcopal Palace; but you must be wise.’

Julien, burdened with his volumes, left the Palace, in great bewilderment, as midnight was striking.

Monseigneur had not said a word to him about the abbe Pirard. Julien was astonished most of all by the extreme politeness shown him by the Bishop. He had never imagined such an urbanity of form, combined with so natural an air of dignity. He was greatly struck by the contrast when he set eyes once more on the sombre abbe Pirard, who awaited him with growing impatience.

Quid tibi dixerunt? (What did they say to you?)’ he shouted at the top of his voice, the moment Julien came within sight.

Then, as Julien found some difficulty in translating the Bishop’s conversation into Latin:

‘Speak French, and repeat to me Monseigneur’s own words, without adding or omitting anything,’ said the ex-Director of the Seminary, in his harsh tone and profoundly inelegant manner.

‘What a strange present for a Bishop to make to a young seminarist,’ he said as he turned the pages of the sumptuous Tacitus, the gilded edges of which seemed to fill him with horror.

Two o’clock was striking when, after a detailed report of everything, he allowed his favourite pupil to retire to his own room.

‘Leave me the first volume of your Tacitus, which contains the Bishop’s inscription,’ he said to him. ‘That line of Latin will be your lightning conductor in this place, when I have gone.

Erit tibi, fili mi, successor meus tanquam leo quaerens quern devoret. (My successor will be to you, my son, as a lion seeking whom he may devour.)’

On the following morning, Julien detected something strange in the manner in which his companions addressed him. This made him all the more reserved. ‘Here,’ he thought, ‘we have the effect of M. Pirard’s resignation. It is known throughout the place, and I am supposed to be his favourite. There must be an insult behind this attitude’; but he could not discover it. There was, on the contrary, an absence of hatred in the eyes of all whom he encountered in the dormitories. ‘What can this mean? It is doubtless a trap, we are playing a close game.’ At length the young seminarist from Verrieres said to him with a laugh: ‘Cornelii Taciti opera omnia (Complete Works of Tacitus).’

At this speech, which was overheard, all the rest seemed to vie with one another in congratulating Julien, not only upon the magnificent present which he had received from Monseigneur, but also upon the two hours of conversation with which he had been honoured. It was common knowledge, down to the most trifling details. From this moment, there was no more jealousy; everyone paid court to him most humbly; the abbe Castanede who, only yesterday, had treated him with the utmost insolence, came to take him by the arm and invited him to luncheon.

Owing to a weakness in Julien’s character, the insolence of these coarse creatures had greatly distressed him; their servility caused him disgust and no pleasure.

Towards midday, the abbe Pirard took leave of his pupils, not without first delivering a severe allocution. ‘Do you seek the honours of this world,’ he said to them, ‘all social advantages, the pleasure of commanding men, that of defying the laws and of being insolent to all men with impunity? Or indeed do you seek your eternal salvation? The most ignorant among you have only to open their eyes to distinguish between the two paths.’

No sooner had he left than the devotees of the Sacred Heart of Jesus went to chant a Te Deum in the chapel. Nobody in the Seminary took the late Director’s allocution seriously. ‘He is very cross at being dismissed,’ was what might be heard on all sides. Not one seminarist was simple enough to believe in the voluntary resignation of a post which provided so many opportunities for dealing with the big contractors.

The abbe Pirard took up his abode in the best inn in Besancon; and on the pretext of some imaginary private affairs, proposed to spend a couple of days there.

The Bishop invited him to dinner, and, to tease his Vicar–General, de Frilair, endeavoured to make him shine. They had reached the dessert when there arrived from Paris the strange tidings that the abbe Pirard was appointed to the splendid living of N— — within four leagues of the capital. The worthy prelate congratulated him sincerely. He saw in the whole affair a well played game which put him in a good humour and gave him the highest opinion of the abbe’s talents. He bestowed upon him a magnificent certificate in Latin, and silenced the abbe de Frilair, who ventured to make remonstrances.

That evening, Monseigneur carried his admiration to the drawing-room of the Marquise de Rubempre. It was a great piece of news for the select society of Besancon; people were lost in conjectures as to the meaning of this extraordinary favour. They saw the abbe Pirard a Bishop already. The sharper wits supposed M. de La Mole to have become a Minister, and allowed themselves that evening to smile at the imperious airs which M. l’abbe de Frilair assumed in society.

Next morning, the abbe Pirard was almost followed through the streets, and the tradesmen came out to their shop-doors when he went to beg an audience of the Marquis’s judges. For the first time, he was received by them with civility. The stern Jansenist, indignant at everything that he saw around him, spent a long time at work with the counsel whom he had chosen for the Marquis de La Mole, and then left for Paris. He was so foolish as to say to two or three lifelong friends who escorted him to the carriage and stood admiring its heraldic blason, that after governing the Seminary for fifteen years he was leaving Besancon with five hundred and twenty francs in savings. These friends embraced him with tears in their eyes, and then said to one another: The good abbe might have spared himself that lie, it is really too absurd.’

The common herd, blinded by love of money, were not fitted to understand that it was in his sincerity that the abbe Pirard had found the strength to fight single-handed for six years against Marie Alacoque, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Jesuits and his Bishop.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30