We had just left Gisors, where I was awakened to hearing the name of the town called out by the guards, and I was dozing off again when a terrific shock threw me forward on top of a large lady who sat opposite me.
One of the wheels of the engine had broken, and the engine itself lay across the track. The tender and the baggage car were also derailed, and lay beside this mutilated engine, which rattled, groaned, hissed, puffed, sputtered, and resembled those horses that fall in the street with their flanks heaving, their breast palpitating, their nostrils steaming and their whole body trembling, but incapable of the slightest effort to rise and start off again.
There were no dead or wounded; only a few with bruises, for the train was not going at full speed. And we looked with sorrow at the great crippled iron creature that could not draw us along any more, and that blocked the track, perhaps for some time, for no doubt they would have to send to Paris for a special train to come to our aid.
It was then ten o’clock in the morning, and I at once decided to go back to Gisors for breakfast.
As I was walking along I said to myself:
“Gisors, Gisors — why, I know someone there!
“Who is it? Gisors? Let me see, I have a friend in this town.” A name suddenly came to my mind, “Albert Marambot.” He was an old school friend whom I had not seen for at least twelve years, and who was practicing medicine in Gisors. He had often written, inviting me to come and see him, and I had always promised to do so, without keeping my word. But at last I would take advantage of this opportunity.
I asked the first passer-by:
“Do you know where Dr. Marambot lives?”
He replied, without hesitation, and with the drawling accent of the Normans:
I presently saw, on the door of the house he pointed out, a large brass plate on which was engraved the name of my old chum. I rang the bell, but the servant, a yellow-haired girl who moved slowly, said with a Stupid air:
“He isn’t here, he isn’t here.”
I heard a sound of forks and of glasses and I cried:
A door opened and a large man, with whiskers and a cross look on his face, appeared, carrying a dinner napkin in his hand.
I certainly should not have recognized him. One would have said he was forty-five at least, and, in a second, all the provincial life which makes one grow heavy, dull and old came before me. In a single flash of thought, quicker than the act of extending my hand to him, I could see his life, his manner of existence, his line of thought and his theories of things in general. I guessed at the prolonged meals that had rounded out his stomach, his after-dinner naps from the torpor of a slow indigestion aided by cognac, and his vague glances cast on the patient while he thought of the chicken that was roasting before the fire. His conversations about cooking, about cider, brandy and wine, the way of preparing certain dishes and of blending certain sauces were revealed to me at sight of his puffy red cheeks, his heavy lips and his lustreless eyes.
“You do not recognize me. I am Raoul Aubertin,” I said.
He opened his arms and gave me such a hug that I thought he would choke me.
“You have not breakfasted, have you?”
“How fortunate! I was just sitting down to table and I have an excellent trout.”
Five minutes later I was sitting opposite him at breakfast. I said:
“Are you a bachelor?”
“And do you like it here?”
“Time does not hang heavy; I am busy. I have patients and friends. I eat well, have good health, enjoy laughing and shooting. I get along.”
“Is not life very monotonous in this little town?”
“No, my dear boy, not when one knows how to fill in the time. A little town, in fact, is like a large one. The incidents and amusements are less varied, but one makes more of them; one has fewer acquaintances, but one meets them more frequently. When you know all the windows in a street, each one of them interests you and puzzles you more than a whole street in Paris.
“A little town is very amusing, you know, very amusing, very amusing. Why, take Gisors. I know it at the tips of my fingers, from its beginning up to the present time. You have no idea what queer history it has.”
“Do you belong to Gisors?”
“I? No. I come from Gournay, its neighbor and rival. Gournay is to Gisors what Lucullus was to Cicero. Here, everything is for glory; they say ‘the proud people of Gisors.’ At Gournay, everything is for the stomach; they say ‘the chewers of Gournay.’ Gisors despises Gournay, but Gournay laughs at Gisors. It is a very comical country, this.”
I perceived that I was eating something very delicious, hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a covering of meat jelly flavored with herbs and put on ice for a few moments. I said as I smacked my lips to compliment Marambot:
“That is good.”
“Two things are necessary, good jelly, which is hard to get, and good eggs. Oh, how rare good eggs are, with the yolks slightly reddish, and with a good flavor! I have two poultry yards, one for eggs and the other for chickens. I feed my laying hens in a special manner. I have my own ideas on the subject. In an egg, as in the meat of a chicken, in beef, or in mutton, in milk, in everything, one perceives, and ought to taste, the juice, the quintessence of all the food on which the animal has fed. How much better food we could have if more attention were paid to this!”
I laughed as I said:
“You are a gourmand?”
“Parbleu. It is only imbeciles who are not. One is a gourmand as one is an artist, as one is learned, as one is a poet. The sense of taste, my friend, is very delicate, capable of perfection, and quite as worthy of respect as the eye and the ear. A person who lacks this sense is deprived of an exquisite faculty, the faculty of discerning the quality of food, just as one may lack the faculty of discerning the beauties of a book or of a work of art; it means to be deprived of an essential organ, of something that belongs to higher humanity; it means to belong to one of those innumerable classes of the infirm, the unfortunate, and the fools of which our race is composed; it means to have the mouth of an animal, in a word, just like the mind of an animal. A man who cannot distinguish one kind of lobster from another; a herring — that admirable fish that has all the flavors, all the odors of the sea — from a mackerel or a whiting; and a Cresane from a Duchess pear, may be compared to a man who should mistake Balzac for Eugene Sue; a symphony of Beethoven for a military march composed by the bandmaster of a regiment; and the Apollo Belvidere for the statue of General de Blaumont.
“Who is General de Blaumont?”
“Oh, that’s true, you do not know. It is easy to tell that you do not belong to Gisors. I told you just now, my dear boy, that they called the inhabitants of this town ‘the proud people of Gisors,’ and never was an epithet better deserved. But let us finish breakfast first, and then I will tell you about our town and take you to see it.”
He stopped talking every now and then while he slowly drank a glass of wine which he gazed at affectionately as he replaced the glass on the table.
It was amusing to see him, with a napkin tied around his neck, his cheeks flushed, his eyes eager, and his whiskers spreading round his mouth as it kept working.
He made me eat until I was almost choking. Then, as I was about to return to the railway station, he seized me by the arm and took me through the streets. The town, of a pretty, provincial type, commanded by its citadel, the most curious monument of military architecture of the seventh century to be found in France, overlooks, in its turn, a long, green valley, where the large Norman cows graze and ruminate in the pastures.
The doctor quoted:
“‘Gisors, a town of 4,000 inhabitants in the department of Eure, mentioned in Caesar’s Commentaries: Caesaris ostium, then Caesartium, Caesortium, Gisortium, Gisors.’ I shall not take you to visit the old Roman encampment, the remains of which are still in existence.”
I laughed and replied:
“My dear friend, it seems to me that you are affected with a special malady that, as a doctor, you ought to study; it is called the spirit of provincialism.”
He stopped abruptly.
“The spirit of provincialism, my friend, is nothing but natural patriotism,” he said. “I love my house, my town and my province because I discover in them the customs of my own village; but if I love my country, if I become angry when a neighbor sets foot in it, it is because I feel that my home is in danger, because the frontier that I do not know is the high road to my province. For instance, I am a Norman, a true Norman; well, in spite of my hatred of the German and my desire for revenge, I do not detest them, I do not hate them by instinct as I hate the English, the real, hereditary natural enemy of the Normans; for the English traversed this soil inhabited by my ancestors, plundered and ravaged it twenty times, and my aversion to this perfidious people was transmitted to me at birth by my father. See, here is the statue of the general.”
“General Blaumont! We had to have a statue. We are not ‘the proud people of Gisors’ for nothing! So we discovered General de Blaumont. Look in this bookseller’s window.”
He drew me towards the bookstore, where about fifteen red, yellow and blue volumes attracted the eye. As I read the titles, I began to laugh idiotically. They read:
Gisors, its origin, its future, by M. X . . . ., member of several learned societies; History of Gisors, by the Abbe A . . . .; Gasors from the time of Caesar to the present day, by M. B . . . ., Landowner; Gisors and its environs, by Doctor C. D . . .; The Glories of Gisors, by a Discoverer.
“My friend,” resumed Marambot, “not a year, not a single year, you understand, passes without a fresh history of Gisors being published here; we now have twenty-three.”
“And the glories of Gisors?” I asked.
“Oh, I will not mention them all, only the principal ones. We had first General de Blaumont, then Baron Davillier, the celebrated ceramist who explored Spain and the Balearic Isles, and brought to the notice of collectors the wonderful Hispano-Arabic china. In literature we have a very clever journalist, now dead, Charles Brainne, and among those who are living, the very eminent editor of the Nouvelliste de Rouen, Charles Lapierre . . . and many others, many others.”
We were traversing along street with a gentle incline, with a June sun beating down on it and driving the residents into their houses.
Suddenly there appeared at the farther end of the street a drunken man who was staggering along, with his head forward his arms and legs limp. He would walk forward rapidly three, six, or ten steps and then stop. When these energetic movements landed him in the middle of the road he stopped short and swayed on his feet, hesitating between falling and a fresh start. Then he would dart off in any direction, sometimes falling against the wall of a house, against which he seemed to be fastened, as though he were trying to get in through the wall. Then he would suddenly turn round and look ahead of him, his mouth open and his eyes blinking in the sunlight, and getting away from the wall by a movement of the hips, he started off once more.
A little yellow dog, a half-starved cur, followed him, barking; stopping when he stopped, and starting off when he started.
“Hallo,” said Marambot, “there is Madame Husson’s ‘Rosier’.
“Madame Husson’s ‘Rosier’,” I exclaimed in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
The doctor began to laugh.
“Oh, that is what we call drunkards round here. The name comes from an old story which has now become a legend, although it is true in all respects.”
“Is it an amusing story?”
“Well, then, tell it to me.”
There lived formerly in this town a very upright old lady who was a great guardian of morals and was called Mme. Husson. You know, I am telling you the real names and not imaginary ones. Mme. Husson took a special interest in good works, in helping the poor and encouraging the deserving. She was a little woman with a quick walk and wore a black wig. She was ceremonious, polite, on very good terms with the Almighty in the person of Abby Malon, and had a profound horror, an inborn horror of vice, and, in particular, of the vice the Church calls lasciviousness. Any irregularity before marriage made her furious, exasperated her till she was beside herself.
Now, this was the period when they presented a prize as a reward of virtue to any girl in the environs of Paris who was found to be chaste. She was called a Rosiere, and Mme. Husson got the idea that she would institute a similar ceremony at Gisors. She spoke about it to Abbe Malon, who at once made out a list of candidates.
However, Mme. Husson had a servant, an old woman called Francoise, as upright as her mistress. As soon as the priest had left, madame called the servant and said:
“Here, Francoise, here are the girls whose names M. le cure has submitted to me for the prize of virtue; try and find out what reputation they bear in the district.”
And Francoise set out. She collected all the scandal, all the stories, all the tattle, all the suspicions. That she might omit nothing, she wrote it all down together with her memoranda in her housekeeping book, and handed it each morning to Mme. Husson, who, after adjusting her spectacles on her thin nose, read as follows:
Bread. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . four sous
Milk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . two sous
Butter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .eight sous
Malvina Levesque got into trouble last year with Mathurin Poilu.
Leg of mutton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . twenty-five sous
Salt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . one sou
Rosalie Vatinel was seen in the Riboudet woods with Cesaire Pienoir, by Mme. Onesime, the ironer, on July the 20th about dusk.
Radishes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . one sou
Vinegar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .two sous
Oxalic acid. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .two sous
Josephine Durdent, who is not believed to have committed a fault, although she corresponds with young Oportun, who is in service in Rouen, and who sent her a present of a cap by diligence.
Not one came out unscathed in this rigorous inquisition. Francoise inquired of everyone, neighbors, drapers, the principal, the teaching sisters at school, and gathered the slightest details.
As there is not a girl in the world about whom gossips have not found something to say, there was not found in all the countryside one young girl whose name was free from some scandal.
But Mme. Husson desired that the “Rosiere” of Gisors, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion, and she was horrified, saddened and in despair at the record in her servant’s housekeeping account-book.
They then extended their circle of inquiries to the neighboring villages; but with no satisfaction.
They consulted the mayor. His candidates failed. Those of Dr. Barbesol were equally unlucky, in spite of the exactness of his scientific vouchers.
But one morning Francoise, on returning from one of her expeditions, said to her mistress:
“You see, madame, that if you wish to give a prize to anyone, there is only Isidore in all the country round.”
Mme. Husson remained thoughtful. She knew him well, this Isidore, the son of Virginie the greengrocer. His proverbial virtue had been the delight of Gisors for several years, and served as an entertaining theme of conversation in the town, and of amusement to the young girls who loved to tease him. He was past twenty-one, was tall, awkward, slow and timid; helped his mother in the business, and spent his days picking over fruit and vegetables, seated on a chair outside the door.
He had an abnormal dread of a petticoat and cast down his eyes whenever a female customer looked at him smilingly, and this well-known timidity made him the butt of all the wags in the country.
Bold words, coarse expressions, indecent allusions, brought the color to his cheeks so quickly that Dr. Barbesol had nicknamed him “the thermometer of modesty.” Was he as innocent as he looked? ill-natured people asked themselves. Was it the mere presentiment of unknown and shameful mysteries or else indignation at the relations ordained as the concomitant of love that so strongly affected the son of Virginie the greengrocer? The urchins of the neighborhood as they ran past the shop would fling disgusting remarks at him just to see him cast down his eyes. The girls amused themselves by walking up and down before him, cracking jokes that made him go into the store. The boldest among them teased him to his face just to have a laugh, to amuse themselves, made appointments with him and proposed all sorts of things.
So Madame Husson had become thoughtful.
Certainly, Isidore was an exceptional case of notorious, unassailable virtue. No one, among the most sceptical, most incredulous, would have been able, would have dared, to suspect Isidore of the slightest infraction of any law of morality. He had never been seen in a cafe, never been seen at night on the street. He went to bed at eight o’clock and rose at four. He was a perfection, a pearl.
But Mme. Husson still hesitated. The idea of substituting a boy for a girl, a “rosier” for a “rosiere,” troubled her, worried her a little, and she resolved to consult Abbe Malon.
The abbe responded:
“What do you desire to reward, madame? It is virtue, is it not, and nothing but virtue? What does it matter to you, therefore, if it is masculine or feminine? Virtue is eternal; it has neither sex nor country; it is ‘Virtue.’”
Thus encouraged, Mme. Husson went to see the mayor.
He approved heartily.
“We will have a fine ceremony,” he said. “And another year if we can find a girl as worthy as Isidore we will give the reward to her. It will even be a good example that we shall set to Nanterre. Let us not be exclusive; let us welcome all merit.”
Isidore, who had been told about this, blushed deeply and seemed happy.
The ceremony was fixed for the 15th of August, the festival of the Virgin Mary and of the Emperor Napoleon. The municipality had decided to make an imposing ceremony and had built the platform on the couronneaux, a delightful extension of the ramparts of the old citadel where I will take you presently.
With the natural revulsion of public feeling, the virtue of Isidore, ridiculed hitherto, had suddenly become respected and envied, as it would bring him in five hundred francs besides a savings bank book, a mountain of consideration, and glory enough and to spare. The girls now regretted their frivolity, their ridicule, their bold manners; and Isidore, although still modest and timid, had now a little contented air that bespoke his internal satisfaction.
The evening before the 15th of August the entire Rue Dauphine was decorated with flags. Oh, I forgot to tell you why this street had been called Rue Dauphine.
It seems that the wife or mother of the dauphin, I do not remember which one, while visiting Gisors had been feted so much by the authorities that during a triumphal procession through the town she stopped before one of the houses in this street, halting the procession, and exclaimed:
“Oh, the pretty house! How I should like to go through it! To whom does it belong?”
They told her the name of the owner, who was sent for and brought, proud and embarrassed, before the princess. She alighted from her carriage, went into the house, wishing to go over it from top to bottom, and even shut herself in one of the rooms alone for a few seconds.
When she came out, the people, flattered at this honor paid to a citizen of Gisors, shouted “Long live the dauphine!” But a rhymester wrote some words to a refrain, and the street retained the title of her royal highness, for
“The princess, in a hurry,
Without bell, priest, or beadle,
But with some water only,
Had baptized it.”
But to come back to Isidore.
They had scattered flowers all along the road as they do for processions at the Fete-Dieu, and the National Guard was present, acting on the orders of their chief, Commandant Desbarres, an old soldier of the Grand Army, who pointed with pride to the beard of a Cossack cut with a single sword stroke from the chin of its owner by the commandant during the retreat in Russia, and which hung beside the frame containing the cross of the Legion of Honor presented to him by the emperor himself.
The regiment that he commanded was, besides, a picked regiment celebrated all through the province, and the company of grenadiers of Gisors was called on to attend all important ceremonies for a distance of fifteen to twenty leagues. The story goes that Louis Philippe, while reviewing the militia of Eure, stopped in astonishment before the company from Gisors, exclaiming:
“Oh, who are those splendid grenadiers?”
“The grenadiers of Gisors,” replied the general.
“I might have known it,” murmured the king.
So Commandant Desbarres came at the head of his men, preceded by the band, to get Isidore in his mother’s store.
After a little air had been played by the band beneath the windows, the “Rosier” himself appeared — on the threshold. He was dressed in white duck from head to foot and wore a straw hat with a little bunch of orange blossoms as a cockade.
The question of his clothes had bothered Mme. Husson a good deal, and she hesitated some time between the black coat of those who make their first communion and an entire white suit. But Francoise, her counsellor, induced her to decide on the white suit, pointing out that the Rosier would look like a swan.
Behind him came his guardian, his godmother, Mme. Husson, in triumph. She took his arm to go out of the store, and the mayor placed himself on the other side of the Rosier. The drums beat. Commandant Desbarres gave the order “Present arms!” The procession resumed its march towards the church amid an immense crowd of people who has gathered from the neighboring districts.
After a short mass and an affecting discourse by Abbe Malon, they continued on their way to the couronneaux, where the banquet was served in a tent.
Before taking their seats at table, the mayor gave an address. This is it, word for word. I learned it by heart:
“Young man, a woman of means, beloved by the poor and respected by the rich, Mme. Husson, whom the whole country is thanking here, through me, had the idea, the happy and benevolent idea, of founding in this town a prize for, virtue, which should serve as a valuable encouragement to the inhabitants of this beautiful country.
“You, young man, are the first to be rewarded in this dynasty of goodness and chastity. Your name will remain at the head of this list of the most deserving, and your life, understand me, your whole life, must correspond to this happy commencement. To-day, in presence of this noble woman, of these soldier-citizens who have taken up their arms in your honor, in presence of this populace, affected, assembled to applaud you, or, rather, to applaud virtue, in your person, you make a solemn contract with the town, with all of us, to continue until your death the excellent example of your youth.
“Do not forget, young man, that you are the first seed cast into this field of hope; give us the fruits that we expect of you.”
The mayor advanced three steps, opened his arms and pressed Isidore to his heart.
The “Rosier” was sobbing without knowing why, from a confused emotion, from pride and a vague and happy feeling of tenderness.
Then the mayor placed in one hand a silk purse in which gold tingled — five hundred francs in gold! — and in his other hand a savings bank book. And he said in a solemn tone:
“Homage, glory and riches to virtue.”
Commandant Desbarres shouted “Bravo!” the grenadiers vociferated, and the crowd applauded.
Mme. Husson wiped her eyes, in her turn. Then they all sat down at the table where the banquet was served.
The repast was magnificent and seemed interminable. One course followed another; yellow cider and red wine in fraternal contact blended in the stomach of the guests. The rattle of plates, the sound of voices, and of music softly played, made an incessant deep hum, and was dispersed abroad in the clear sky where the swallows were flying. Mme. Husson occasionally readjusted her black wig, which would slip over on one side, and chatted with Abbe Malon. The mayor, who was excited, talked politics with Commandant Desbarres, and Isidore ate, drank, as if he had never eaten or drunk before. He helped himself repeatedly to all the dishes, becoming aware for the first time of the pleasure of having one’s belly full of good things which tickle the palate in the first place. He had let out a reef in his belt and, without speaking, and although he was a little uneasy at a wine stain on his white waistcoat, he ceased eating in order to take up his glass and hold it to his mouth as long as possible, to enjoy the taste slowly.
It was time for the toasts. They were many and loudly applauded. Evening was approaching and they had been at the table since noon. Fine, milky vapors were already floating in the air in the valley, the light night-robe of streams and meadows; the sun neared the horizon; the cows were lowing in the distance amid the mists of the pasture. The feast was over. They returned to Gisors. The procession, now disbanded, walked in detachments. Mme. Husson had taken Isidore’s arm and was giving him a quantity of urgent, excellent advice.
They stopped at the door of the fruit store, and the “Rosier” was left at his mother’s house. She had not come home yet. Having been invited by her family to celebrate her son’s triumph, she had taken luncheon with her sister after having followed the procession as far as the banqueting tent.
So Isidore remained alone in the store, which was growing dark. He sat down on a chair, excited by the wine and by pride, and looked about him. Carrots, cabbages, and onions gave out their strong odor of vegetables in the closed room, that coarse smell of the garden blended with the sweet, penetrating odor of strawberries and the delicate, slight, evanescent fragrance of a basket of peaches.
The “Rosier” took one of these and ate it, although he was as full as an egg. Then, all at once, wild with joy, he began to dance about the store, and something rattled in his waistcoat.
He was surprised, and put his hand in his pocket and brought out the purse containing the five hundred francs, which he had forgotten in his agitation. Five hundred francs! What a fortune! He poured the gold pieces out on the counter and spread them out with his big hand with a slow, caressing touch so as to see them all at the same time. There were twenty-five, twenty-five round gold pieces, all gold! They glistened on the wood in the dim light and he counted them over and over, one by one. Then he put them back in the purse, which he replaced in his pocket.
Who will ever know or who can tell what a terrible conflict took place in the soul of the “Rosier” between good and evil, the tumultuous attack of Satan, his artifices, the temptations which he offered to this timid virgin heart? What suggestions, what imaginations, what desires were not invented by the evil one to excite and destroy this chosen one? He seized his hat, Mme. Husson’s saint, his hat, which still bore the little bunch of orange blossoms, and going out through the alley at the back of the house, he disappeared in the darkness.
Virginie, the fruiterer, on learning that her son had returned, went home at once, and found the house empty. She waited, without thinking anything about it at first; but at the end of a quarter of an hour she made inquiries. The neighbors had seen Isidore come home and had not seen him go out again. They began to look for him, but could not find him. His mother, in alarm, went to the mayor. The mayor knew nothing, except that he had left him at the door of his home. Mme. Husson had just retired when they informed her that her protege had disappeared. She immediately put on her wig, dressed herself and went to Virginie’s house. Virginie, whose plebeian soul was readily moved, was weeping copiously amid her cabbages, carrots and onions.
They feared some accident had befallen him. What could it be? Commandant Desbarres notified the police, who made a circuit of the town, and on the high road to Pontoise they found the little bunch of orange blossoms. It was placed on a table around which the authorities were deliberating. The “Rosier” must have been the victim of some stratagem, some trick, some jealousy; but in what way? What means had been employed to kidnap this innocent creature, and with what object?
Weary of looking for him without any result, Virginie, alone, remained watching and weeping.
The following evening, when the coach passed by on its return from Paris, Gisors learned with astonishment that its “Rosier” had stopped the vehicle at a distance of about two hundred metres from the town, had climbed up on it and paid his fare, handing over a gold piece and receiving the change, and that he had quietly alighted in the centre of the great city.
There was great excitement all through the countryside. Letters passed between the mayor and the chief of police in Paris, but brought no result.
The days followed one another, a week passed.
Now, one morning, Dr. Barbesol, who had gone out early, perceived, sitting on a doorstep, a man dressed in a grimy linen suit, who was sleeping with his head leaning against the wall. He approached him and recognized Isidore. He tried to rouse him, but did not succeed in doing so. The ex-“Rosier” was in that profound, invincible sleep that is alarming, and the doctor, in surprise, went to seek assistance to help him in carrying the young man to Boncheval’s drugstore. When they lifted him up they found an empty bottle under him, and when the doctor sniffed at it, he declared that it had contained brandy. That gave a suggestion as to what treatment he would require. They succeeded in rousing him.
Isidore was drunk, drunk and degraded by a week of guzzling, drunk and so disgusting that a ragman would not have touched him. His beautiful white duck suit was a gray rag, greasy, muddy, torn, and destroyed, and he smelt of the gutter and of vice.
He was washed, sermonized, shut up, and did not leave the house for four days. He seemed ashamed and repentant. They could not find on him either his purse, containing the five hundred francs, or the bankbook, or even his silver watch, a sacred heirloom left by his father, the fruiterer.
On the fifth day he ventured into the Rue Dauphine, Curious glances followed him and he walked along with a furtive expression in his eyes and his head bent down. As he got outside the town towards the valley they lost sight of him; but two hours later he returned laughing and rolling against the walls. He was drunk, absolutely drunk.
Nothing could cure him.
Driven from home by his mother, he became a wagon driver, and drove the charcoal wagons for the Pougrisel firm, which is still in existence.
His reputation as a drunkard became so well known and spread so far that even at Evreux they talked of Mme. Husson’s “Rosier,” and the sots of the countryside have been given that nickname.
A good deed is never lost.
Dr. Marambot rubbed his hands as he finished his story. I asked:
“Did you know the ‘Rosier’?”
“Yes. I had the honor of closing his eyes.”
“What did he die of?”
“An attack of delirium tremens, of course.”
We had arrived at the old citadel, a pile of ruined walls dominated by the enormous tower of St. Thomas of Canterbury and the one called the Prisoner’s Tower.
Marambot told me the story of this prisoner, who, with the aid of a nail, covered the walls of his dungeon with sculptures, tracing the reflections of the sun as it glanced through the narrow slit of a loophole.
I also learned that Clothaire II had given the patrimony of Gisors to his cousin, Saint Romain, bishop of Rouen; that Gisors ceased to be the capital of the whole of Vexin after the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte; that the town is the chief strategic centre of all that portion of France, and that in consequence of this advantage she was taken and retaken over and over again. At the command of William the Red, the eminent engineer, Robert de Bellesme, constructed there a powerful fortress that was attacked later by Louis le Gros, then by the Norman barons, was defended by Robert de Candos, was finally ceded to Louis le Gros by Geoffry Plantagenet, was retaken by the English in consequence of the treachery of the Knights-Templars, was contested by Philippe-Augustus and Richard the Lionhearted, was set on fire by Edward III of England, who could not take the castle, was again taken by the English in 1419, restored later to Charles VIII by Richard de Marbury, was taken by the Duke of Calabria occupied by the League, inhabited by Henry IV, etc., etc.
And Marambot, eager and almost eloquent, continued:
“What beggars, those English! And what sots, my boy; they are all ‘Rosiers,’ those hypocrites!”
Then, after a silence, stretching out his arm towards the tiny river that glistened in the meadows, he said:
“Did you know that Henry Monnier was one of the most untiring fishermen on the banks of the Epte?”
“No, I did not know it.”
“And Bouffe, my boy, Bouffe was a painter on glass.”
“You are joking!”
“No, indeed. How is it you do not know these things?”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58