town of Verrieres may be regarded as one of the most
attractive in the Franche-Comte. Its white houses
with their high pitched roofs of red tiles are
spread over the slope of a hill, the slightest
contours of which are indicated by clumps of sturdy
chestnuts. The Doubs runs some hundreds of feet
below its fortifications, built in times past by the
Spaniards, and now in ruins.
sheltered on the north by a high mountain, a spur of
The jagged peaks of the Verra put on a mantle
of snow in the first cold days of October. A torrent
which comes tearing down from the mountain passes
through Verrieres before emptying its waters into
the Doubs, and supplies power to a great number of
sawmills; this is an extremely simple industry, and
procures a certain degree of comfort for the
majority of the inhabitants, who are of the peasant
rather than of the burgess class. It is not,
however, the sawmills that have made this little
town rich. It is to the manufacture of printed
calicoes, known as Mulhouse stuffs, that it owes the
general prosperity which, since the fall of
Napoleon, has led to the refacing of almost all the
houses in Verrieres.
No sooner has
one entered the town than one is startled by the din
of a noisy machine of terrifying aspect. A score of
weighty hammers, falling with a clang which makes
the pavement tremble, are raised aloft by a wheel
which the water of the torrent sets in motion. Each
of these hammers turns out, daily, I cannot say how
many thousands of nails. A bevy of fresh, pretty
girls subject to the blows of these enormous
hammers, the little scraps of iron which are rapidly
transformed into nails. This work, so rough to the
outward eye, is one of the industries that most
astonish the traveller who ventures for the first
time among the mountains that divide France from
Switzerland. If, on entering Verrieres, the
traveller inquires to whom belongs that fine nail
factory which deafens everybody who passes up the
main street, he will be told in a drawling accent:
'Eh! It belongs to the Mayor.'
traveller halts for a few moments in this main
street of Verrieres, which runs from the bank of the
Doubs nearly to the summit of the hill, it is a
hundred to one that he will see a tall man appear,
with a busy, important air.
At the sight
of him every hat is quickly raised. His hair is
turning grey, and he is dressed in grey. He is a
Companion of several Orders, has a high forehead, an
aquiline nose, and on the whole his face is not
wanting in a certain regularity: indeed, the first
impression formed of it may be that it combines with
the dignity of a village mayor that sort of charm
which may still be found in a man of forty-eight or
fifty. But soon the visitor from Paris is annoyed by
a certain air of self-satisfaction and
self-sufficiency mingled with a suggestion of
limitations and want of originality. One feels,
finally, that this man's talent is confined to
securing the exact payment of whatever is owed to
him and to postponing payment till the last possible
moment when he is the debtor.
Such is the
Mayor of Verrieres, M. de Renal. Crossing the street
with a solemn step, he enters the town hall and
passes from the visitor's sight.
But, a hundred yards higher up, if the
visitor continues his stroll, he will notice a house
of quite imposing appearance, and, through the gaps
in an iron railing belonging to the house, some
splendid gardens. Beyond, there is a line of horizon
formed by the hills of Burgundy, which seem to have
been created on purpose to delight the eye. This
view makes the visitor forget the pestilential
atmosphere of small financial interests which was
beginning to stifle him.
He is told
that this house belongs to M. de Renal. It is to the
profits that he has made from his great nail factory
that the Mayor of Verrieres is indebted for this
fine freestone house which he has just finished
His family, they say, is Spanish, old, and
was or claims to have been established in the
country long before Louis XIV conquered it.
Since 1815 he
has blushed at his connection with industry: 1815
made him Mayor of Verrieres. The retaining walls
that support the various sections of this splendid
garden, which, in a succession of terraces, runs
down to the Doubs, are also a reward of M. de
Renal's ability as a dealer in iron.
You must not
for a moment expect to find in France those
picturesque gardens which enclose the manufacturing
towns of Germany; Leipsic, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and
the rest. In the Franche-Comte, the more walls a man
builds, the more he makes his property bristle with
stones piled one above another, the greater title he
acquires to the respect of his neighbours. M. de
Renal's gardens, honeycombed with walls, are still
further admired because he bought, for their weight
in gold, certain minute scraps of ground which they
cover. For instance that sawmill whose curious
position on the bank of the Doubs struck you as you
entered Verrieres, and on which you noticed the name
_Sorel_, inscribed in huge letters on a board which
overtops the roof, occupied, six years ago, the
ground on which at this moment they are building the
wall of the fourth terrace of M. de Renal's gardens.
For all his
pride, the Mayor was obliged to make many overtures
to old Sorel, a dour and obstinate peasant; he was
obliged to pay him in fine golden louis before he
would consent to remove his mill elsewhere. As for
the _public_ lade which supplied power to the saw,
M. de Renal, thanks to the influence he wielded in
Paris, obtained leave to divert it. This favour was
conferred upon him after the 182- elections.
He gave Sorel
four acres in exchange for one, five hundred yards
lower down by the bank of the Doubs. And, albeit
this site was a great deal more advantageous for his
trade in planks of firwood, Pere Sorel, as they have
begun to call him now that he is rich, contrived to
screw out of the impatience and _landowning mania_
which animated his neighbour a sum of 6,000 francs.
It is true
that this arrangement was adversely criticised by
the local wiseacres. On one occasion, it was a
Sunday, four years later, M. de Renal, as he walked
home from church in his mayoral attire, saw at a
distance old Sorel, supported by his three sons,
watching him with a smile. That smile cast a
destroying ray of light into the Mayor's soul; ever
since then he has been thinking that he might have
brought about the exchange at less cost to himself.
popular esteem at Verrieres, the essential thing is
not to adopt (while still building plenty of walls)
any plan of construction brought from Italy by those
masons who in spring pass through the gorges of the
Jura on their way to Paris. Such an innovation would
earn the rash builder an undying reputation fot
wrong-headedness, and he would be lost forever among
the sober and moderate folk who create reputations
in the Franche-Comte.
As a matter
of fact, these sober folk wield there the most
irritating form of _despotism_; it is owing to that
vile word that residence in small towns is
intolerable to anyone who has lived in that great
republic which we call Paris. The tyranny of public
opinion (and what an opinion!) is as fatuous in the
small towns of France as it is in the United States
for M. de Renal's reputation as an administrator, a
huge retaining wall was required for the public
avenue which skirts the hillside a hundred feet
above the bed of the Doubs. To this admirable
position it is indebted for one of the most
picturesque views in France. But, every spring,
torrents of rainwater made channels across the
avenue, carved deep gullies in it and left it
impassable. This nuisance, which affected everybody
alike, placed M. de Renal under the fortunate
obligation to immortalise his administration by a
wall twenty feet in height and seventy or eighty
of this wall, to secure which M. de Renal was
obliged to make three journeys to Paris, for the
Minister of the Interior before last had sworn a
deadly enmity to the Verrieres avenue; the parapet
of this wall now rises four feet above the ground.
And, as though to defy all Ministers past and
present, it is being finished off at this moment
with slabs of dressed stone.
How often, my
thoughts straying back to the ball-rooms of Paris,
which I had forsaken overnight, my elbows leaning
upon those great blocks of stone of a fine grey with
a shade of blue in it, have I swept with my gaze the
vale of the Doubs! Over there, on the left bank, are
five or six winding valleys, along the folds of
which the eye can make out quite plainly a number of
little streams. After leaping from rock to rock,
they may be seen falling into the Doubs.
The sun is extremely hot in these mountains;
when it is directly overhead, the traveller's rest
is sheltered on this terrace by a row of magnificent
planes. Their rapid growth, and handsome foliage of
a bluish tint are due to the artificial soil with
which the Mayor has filled in the space behind his
immense retaining wall, for, despite the opposition
of the town council, he has widened the avenue by
more than six feet (although he is an Ultra and I
myself a Liberal, I give him credit for it), that is
why, in his opinion and in that of M. Valenod, the
fortunate governor of the Verrieres poorhouse, this
terrace is worthy to be compared with that of
For my part,
I have only one fault to find with the _Cours de la
Fidelite_; one reads this, its official title, in
fifteen or twenty places, on marble slabs which have
won M. de Renal yet another Cross; what I should be
inclined to condemn in the Cours de la Fidelite is
the barbarous manner in which the authorities keep
these sturdy plane trees trimmed and pollarded.
Instead of suggesting, with their low,
rounded, flattened heads, the commonest of kitchen
garden vegetables, they would like nothing better
than to assume those magnificent forms which one
sees them wear in England. But the Mayor's will is
despotic, and twice a year every tree belonging to
the commune is pitilessly lopped. The Liberals of
the place maintain, but they exaggerate, that the
hand of the official gardener has grown much more
severe since the Reverend Vicar Maslon formed the
habit of appropriating the clippings.
cleric was sent from Besancon, some years ago, to
keep an eye upon the abbe Chelan and certain parish
priests of the district. An old Surgeon-Major of the
Army of Italy, in retirement at Verrieres, who in
his time had been simultaneously, according to the
Mayor, a Jacobin and a Bonapartist, actually
ventured one day to complain to him of the
periodical mutilation of these fine trees.
shade,' replied M. de Renal with the touch of
arrogance appropriate when one is addressing a
surgeon, a Member of the Legion of Honour; 'I like
shade, I have my trees cut so as to give shade, and
I do not consider that a tree is made for any other
purpose, unless, like the useful walnut, it _yields
have the great phrase that decides everything at
Verrieres: YIELD A RETURN; it by itself represents
the habitual thought of more than three fourths of
return_ is the consideration that settles everything
in this little town which seemed to you, just now,
so attractive. The stranger arriving there, beguiled
by the beauty of the cool, deep valleys on every
side, imagines at first that the inhabitants are
influenced by the idea of beauty; they are always
talking about the beauty of their scenery: no one
can deny that they make a great to-do about it; but
this is because it attracts a certain number of
visitors whose money goes to enrich the innkeepers,
and thus, through the channel of the rate-collector,
_yields a return_ to the town.
It was a fine
day in autumn and M. de Renal was strolling along
the Cours de la Fidelite, his lady on his arm. While
she listened to her husband, who was speaking with
an air of gravity, Madame de Renal's eye was
anxiously following the movements of three little
boys. The eldest, who might be about eleven, was
continually running to the parapet as though about
to climb on top. A gentle voice then uttered the
name Adolphe, and the child abandoned his ambitious
project. Madame de Renal looked like a woman of
thirty, but was still extremely pretty.
'He may live
to rue the day, that fine gentleman from Paris,' M.
de Renal was saying in a tone of annoyance, his
cheek paler even than was its wont.
'I myself am not entirely without friends at
But albeit I
mean to speak to you of provincial life for two
hundred pages, I shall not be so barbarous as to
inflict upon you the tedium and all the clever turns
of a provincial dialogue.
gentleman from Paris, so odious to the Mayor of
Verrieres, was none other than M. Appert, [Footnote:
A contemporary philanthropist and prison visitor.]
who, a couple of days earlier, had contrived to make
his way not only into the prison and the poorhouse
of Verrieres, but also into the hospital,
administered gratuitously by the Mayor and the
principal landowners of the neighbourhood.
de Renal put in timidly, 'what harm can this
gentleman from Paris do you, since you provide for
the welfare of the poor with the most scrupulous
'He has only
come to cast blame, and then he'll go back and have
articles put in the Liberal papers.'
read them, my dear.'
tell us about those Jacobin articles; all that
distracts us, and hinders us from doing good.
[Author's footnote: authentic] As for me, I shall
never forgive the cure.'
The Bread of the Poor
It should be
explained that the cure of Verrieres, an old man of
eighty, but blessed by the keen air of his mountains
with an iron character and strength, had the right
to visit at any hour of the day the prison, the
hospital, and even the poorhouse. It was at six
o'clock in the morning precisely that M. Appert, who
was armed with an introduction to the cure from
Paris, had had the good sense to arrive in an
inquisitive little town.
He had gone at once to the presbytery.
As he read
the letter addressed to him by M. le Marquis de La
Mole, a Peer of France, and the wealthiest landowner
in the province, the cure Chelan sat lost in
'I am old and
liked here,' he murmured to himself at length, 'they
would never dare!' Turning at once to the gentleman
from Paris, with eyes in which, despite his great
age, there burned that sacred fire which betokens
the pleasure of performing a fine action which is
me, Sir, and, in the presence of the gaoler and
especially of the superintendents of the poorhouse,
be so good as not to express any opinion of the
things we shall see.' M. Appert realised that he had
to deal with a man of feeling; he accompanied the
venerable cure, visited the prison, the hospital,
the poorhouse, asked many questions and,
notwithstanding strange answers, did not allow
himself to utter the least word of reproach.
lasted for some hours. The cure invited M. Appert to
dine with him, but was told that his guest had some
letters to write: he did not wish to compromise his
kind friend any further. About three o'clock, the
gentlemen went back to complete their inspection of
the poorhouse, after which they returned to the
prison. There they found the gaoler standing in the
doorway; a giant six feet tall, with bandy legs;
terror had made his mean face hideous.
'Ah, Sir,' he
said to the cure, on catching sight of him, 'is not
this gentleman, that I see with you, M. Appert?'
'What if he
is?' said the cure.
yesterday I received the most definite instructions,
which the Prefect sent down by a gendarme who had to
gallop all night long, not to allow M. Appert into
'I declare to
you, M. Noiroud,' said the cure, 'that this visitor,
who is in my company, is M. Appert. Do you admit
that I have the right to enter the prison at any
hour of the day or night, bringing with me whom I
'Yes, M. le
cure,' the gaoler murmured in a subdued tone,
lowering his head like a bulldog brought reluctantly
to obedience by fear of the stick.
'Only, M. le cure, I have a wife and
children, if I am reported I shall be dismissed; I
have only my place here to live on.'
'I too should
be very sorry to lose mine,' replied the worthy
cure, in a voice swayed by ever increasing emotion.
difference!' the gaoler answered promptly; 'why you,
M. le cure, we know that you have an income of 800
livres, a fine place in the sun ...'
Such are the
events which, commented upon, exaggerated in twenty
different ways, had been arousing for the last two
days all the evil passions of the little town of
Verrieres. At that moment they were serving as text
for the little discussion which M. de Renal was
having with his wife. That morning, accompanied by
M. Valenod, the governor of the poorhouse, he had
gone to the cure's house, to inform him of their
extreme displeasure. M. Chelan was under no one's
protection; he felt the full force of their words.
gentlemen, I shall be the third parish priest,
eighty years of age, to be deprived of his living in
this district. I have been here for six and fifty
years; I have christened almost all the inhabitants
of the town, which was no more than a village when I
came. Every day I marry young couples whose
grandparents I married long ago. Verrieres is my
family; but I said to myself, when I saw the
stranger: "This man, who has come from Paris, may
indeed be a Liberal, there are far too many of them;
but what harm can he do to our poor people and our
reproaches of M. de Renal, and above all those of M.
Valenod, the governor of the poorhouse, becoming
more and more bitter:
gentlemen, have me deprived,' the old cure had
cried, in a quavering voice. 'I shall live in the
town all the same. You all know that forty-eight
years ago I inherited a piece of land which brings
me 800 livres; I shall live on that income. I save
nothing out of my stipend, gentlemen, and that may
be why I am less alarmed when people speak of taking
it from me.'
M. de Renal
lived on excellent terms with his wife; but not
knowing what answer to make to the question, which
she timidly repeated: 'What harm can this gentleman
from Paris do to the prisoners?' he was just about
to lose his temper altogether when she uttered a
cry. Her second son had climbed upon the parapet of
the wall of the terrace, and was running along it,
though this wall rose more than twenty feet from the
vineyard beneath. The fear of alarming her son and
so making him fall restrained Madame de Renal from
calling him. Finally the child, who was laughing at
his own prowess, turned to look at his mother,
noticed how pale she was, sprang down upon the
avenue and ran to join her. He was well scolded.
incident changed the course of the conversation.
'I am quite
determined to engage young Sorel, the sawyer's son,'
said M. de Renal; 'he will look after the children,
who are beginning to be too much of a handful for
us. He is a young priest or thereabouts, a good
Latin scholar, and will bring the children on; for
he has a strong character, the cure says. I shall
give him 300 francs and his board. I had some doubts
as to his morals; for he was the Benjamin of that
old surgeon, the Member of the Legion of Honour who
on pretence of being their cousin came to live with
the Sorels. He might quite well have been nothing
better than a secret agent of the Liberals; he said
that our mountain air was good for his asthma; but
that has never been proved. He had served in all
_Buonaparte's_ campaigns in Italy, and they even say
that he voted against the Empire in his day. This
Liberal taught young Sorel Latin, and left him all
the pile of books he brought here with him. Not that
I should ever have dreamed of having the carpenter's
son with my children; but the cure, only the day
before the scene which has made a permanent breach
between us, told me that this Sorel has been
studying theology for the last three years, with the
idea of entering the Seminary; so he is not a
Liberal, and he is a Latin scholar.
arrangement suits me in more ways than one,' M. de
Renal went on, looking at his wife with an air of
diplomacy; 'Valenod is tremendously proud of the two
fine Norman horses he has just bought for his
calash. But he has not got a tutor for his
'He is quite
capable of taking this one from us.'
approve of my plan?' said M. de Renal, thanking his
wife, with a smile, for the excellent idea that had
just occurred to her. 'There, that's settled.'
gracious, my dear, how quickly you make up your
because I have a strong character, as the cure has
had occasion to see. Let us make no pretence about
it, we are surrounded by Liberals here.
All these cloth merchants are jealous of me,
I am certain of it; two or three of them are growing
rich; very well, I wish them to see M. de Renal's
children go by, out walking in the care of their
tutor. It will make an impression. My grandfather
used often to tell us that in his young days he had
had a tutor. It's a hundred crowns he's going to
cost me, but that will have to be reckoned as a
necessary expense to keep up our position.'
decision plunged Madame de Renal deep in thought.
She was a tall, well-made woman, who had been the
beauty of the place, as the saying is in this
mountain district. She had a certain air of
simplicity and bore herself like a girl; in the eyes
of a Parisian, that artless grace, full of innocence
and vivacity, might even have suggested ideas of a
mildly passionate nature. Had she had wind of this
kind of success, Madame de Renal would have been
thoroughly ashamed of it. No trace either of
coquetry or of affectation had ever appeared in her
nature. M. Valenod, the wealthy governor of the
poorhouse, was supposed to have paid his court to
her, but without success, a failure which had given
a marked distinction to her virtue; for this M.
Valenod, a tall young man, strongly built, with a
vivid complexion and bushy black whiskers, was one
of those coarse, brazen, noisy creatures who in the
provinces are called fine men.
Renal, being extremely shy and liable to be swayed
by her moods, was offended chiefly by the restless
movements and loud voice of M. Valenod. The distaste
that she felt for what at Verrieres goes by the name
of gaiety had won her the reputation of being
extremely proud of her birth.
She never gave it a thought, but had been
greatly pleased to see the inhabitants of Verrieres
come less frequently to her house. We shall not
attempt to conceal the fact that she was reckoned a
fool in the eyes of their ladies, because, without
any regard for her husband's interests, she let slip
the most promising opportunities of procuring fine
hats from Paris or Besancon. Provided that she was
left alone to stroll in her fine garden, she never
made any complaint.
She was a
simple soul, who had never risen even to the point
of criticising her husband, and admitting that he
bored her. She supposed, without telling herself so,
that between husband and wife there could be no more
tender relations. She was especially fond of M. de
Renal when he spoke to her of his plans for their
children, one of whom he intended to place in the
army, the second on the bench, and the third in the
church. In short, she found M. de Renal a great deal
less boring than any of the other men of her
opinion was justified. The Mayor of Verrieres owed
his reputation for wit, and better still for good
tone, to half a dozen pleasantries which he had
inherited from an uncle. This old Captain de Renal
had served before the Revolution in the Duke of
Orleans's regiment of infantry, and, when he went to
Paris, had had the right of entry into that Prince's
drawing-rooms. He had there seen Madame de
Montesson, the famous Madame de Genlis, M. Ducrest,
the 'inventor' of the Palais-Royal.
These personages figured all too frequently
in M. de Renal's stories. But by degrees these
memories of things that it required so much delicacy
to relate had become a burden to him, and for some
time now it was only on solemn occasions that he
would repeat his anecdotes of the House of Orleans.
As he was in other respects most refined, except
when the talk ran on money, he was regarded, and
rightly, as the most aristocratic personage in
Father and Son
certainly has a head on her shoulders!' the Mayor of
Verrieres remarked to himself the following morning
at six o'clock, as he made his way down to Pere
Sorel's sawmill. 'Although I said so to her, to
maintain my own superiority, it had never occurred
to me that if I do not take this little priest
Sorel, who, they tell me, knows his Latin like an
angel, the governor of the poorhouse, that restless
spirit, might very well have the same idea, and
snatch him from me, I can hear the tone of conceit
with which he would speak of his children's tutor!
... This tutor, once I've secured him, will he wear
M. de Renal
was absorbed in this question when he saw in the
distance a peasant, a man of nearly six feet in
height, who, by the first dawning light, seemed to
be busily occupied in measuring pieces of timber
lying by the side of the Doubs, upon the towpath.
The peasant did not appear any too well pleased to
see the Mayor coming towards him; for his pieces of
wood were blocking the path, and had been laid there
in contravention of the law.
for it was he, was greatly surprised and even more
pleased by the singular offer which M. de Renal made
him with regard to his son Julien. He listened to it
nevertheless with that air of grudging-melancholy
and lack of interest which the shrewd inhabitants of
those mountains know so well how to assume. Slaves
in the days of Spanish rule, they still retain this
facial characteristic of the Egyptian fellahin.
was at first nothing more than a long-winded recital
of all the formal terms of respect which he knew by
heart. While he was repeating these vain words, with
an awkward smile which enhanced the air of falsehood
and almost of rascality natural to his countenance,
the old peasant's active mind was seeking to
discover what reason could be inducing so important
a personage to take his scapegrace of a son into his
establishment. He was thoroughly dissatisfied with
Julien, and it was for Julien that M. de Renal was
offering him the astounding wage of 300 francs
annually, in addition to his food and even his
clothing. This last condition, which Pere Sorel had
had the intelligence to advance on the spur of the
moment, had been granted with equal readiness by M.
impressed the Mayor. 'Since Sorel is not delighted
and overwhelmed by my proposal, as he ought
naturally to be, it is clear,' he said to himself,
'that overtures have been made to him from another
quarter; and from whom can they have come, except
from Valenod?' It was in vain that M. de Renal urged
Sorel to conclude the bargain there and then: the
astute old peasant met him with an obstinate
refusal; he wished, he said, to consult his son, as
though, in the country, a rich father ever consulted
a penniless son, except for form's sake.
consists of a shed by the side of a stream. The roof
is held up by rafters supported on four stout wooden
pillars. Nine or ten feet from the ground, in the
middle of the shed, one sees a saw which moves up
and down, while an extremely simple mechanism
thrusts forward against this saw a piece of wood.
This is a wheel set in motion by the mill lade which
drives both parts of the machine; that of the saw
which moves up and down, and the other which pushes
the piece of wood gently towards the saw, which
slices it into planks.
approached his mill, Pere Sorel called Julien in his
stentorian voice; there was no answer. He saw only
his two elder sons, young giants who, armed with
heavy axes, were squaring the trunks of fir which
they would afterwards carry to the saw. They were
completely engrossed in keeping exactly to the black
line traced on the piece of wood, from which each
blow of the axe sent huge chips flying. They did not
hear their father's voice. He made his way to the
shed; as he entered it, he looked in vain for Julien
in the place where he ought to have been standing,
beside the saw. He caught sight of him five or six
feet higher up, sitting astride upon one of the
beams of the roof. Instead of paying careful
attention to the action of the machinery, Julien was
reading a book. Nothing could have been less to old
Sorel's liking; he might perhaps have forgiven
Julien his slender build, little adapted to hard
work, and so different from that of his elder
brothers; but this passion for reading he detested:
he himself was unable to read.
It was in
vain that he called Julien two or three times. The
attention the young man was paying to his book, far
more than the noise of the saw, prevented him from
hearing his father's terrifying voice. Finally,
despite his years, the father sprang nimbly upon the
trunk that was being cut by the saw, and from there
on to the cross beam that held up the roof. A
violent blow sent flying into the mill lade the book
that Julien was holding; a second blow no less
violent, aimed at his head, in the form of a box on
the ear, made him lose his balance. He was about to
fall from a height of twelve or fifteen feet, among
the moving machinery, which would have crushed him,
but his father caught him with his left hand as he
So you keep on reading your cursed books, when you
ought to be watching the saw? Read them in the
evening, when you go and waste your time with the
although stunned by the force of the blow, and
bleeding profusely, went to take up his proper
station beside the saw. There were tears in his
eyes, due not so much to his bodily pain as to the
loss of his book, which he adored.
animal, till I speak to you.' The noise of the
machine again prevented Julien from hearing this
order. His father who had stepped down not wishing
to take the trouble to climb up again on to the
machine, went to find a long pole used for knocking
down walnuts, and struck him on the shoulder with
it. No sooner had Julien reached the ground than old
Sorel, thrusting him on brutally from behind, drove
him towards the house. 'Heaven knows what he's going
to do to me!' thought the young man. As he passed
it, he looked sadly at the mill lade into which his
book had fallen; it was the one that he valued most
of all, the _Memorial de Sainte-Helene_.
were flushed, his eyes downcast. He was a slim youth
of eighteen or nineteen, weak in appearance, with
irregular but delicate features and an aquiline
nose. His large dark eyes, which, in moments of
calm, suggested a reflective, fiery spirit, were
animated at this instant with an expression of the
most ferocious hatred. Hair of a dark chestnut,
growing very low, gave him a narrow brow, and in
moments of anger a wicked air. Among the innumerable
varieties of the human countenance, there is perhaps
none that is more strikingly characteristic. A slim
and shapely figure betokened suppleness rather than
strength. In his childhood, his extremely pensive
air and marked pallor had given his father the idea
that he would not live, or would live only to be a
burden upon his family. An object of contempt to the
rest of the household, he hated his brothers and
father; in the games on Sundays, on the public
square, he was invariably beaten.
It was only
during the last year that his good looks had begun
to win him a few supporters among the girls.
Universally despised, as a feeble creature, Julien
had adored that old Surgeon-Major who one day
ventured to speak to the Mayor on the subject of the
used now and then to pay old Sorel a day's wage for
his son, and taught him Latin and history, that is
to say all the history that he knew, that of the
1796 campaign in Italy. On his death, he had
bequeathed to him his Cross of the Legion of Honour,
the arrears of his pension, and thirty or forty
volumes, the most precious of which had just taken a
plunge into the public lade, diverted by the Mayor's
As soon as he
was inside the house, Julien felt his shoulder
gripped by his father's strong hand; he trembled,
expecting to receive a shower of blows.
without lying,' the old peasant's harsh voice
shouted in his ear, while the hand spun him round as
a child's hand spins a lead soldier.
Julien's great dark eyes, filled with tears,
found themselves starting into the little grey eyes
of the old peasant, who looked as though he sought
to penetrate to the depths of his son's heart.
Driving a Bargain
without lying, if you can, you miserable bookworm;
how do you come to know Madame de Renal? When have
you spoken to her?'
'I have never
spoken to her,' replied Julien, 'I have never seen
the lady except in church.'
'But you must
have looked at her, you shameless scoundrel?'
know that in church I see none but God,' Julien
added with a hypocritical air, calculated, to his
mind, to ward off further blows.
something behind this, all the same,' replied the
suspicious peasant, and was silent for a moment;
'but I shall get nothing out of you, you damned
hypocrite. The fact is, I'm going to be rid of you,
and my saw will run all the better without you. You
have made a friend of the parson or someone, and
he's got you a fine post. Go and pack your traps,
and I'll take you to M. de Renal's where you're to
be tutor to the children.'
'What am I to
get for that?'
clothing and three hundred francs in wages.'
'I do not
wish to be a servant,'
ever spoke of your being a servant? Would I allow my
son to be a servant?'
whom shall I have my meals?'
left old Sorel at a loss; he felt that if he spoke
he might be guilty of some imprudence; he flew into
a rage with Julien, upon whom he showered abuse,
accusing him of greed, and left him to go and
consult his other sons.
Julien saw them, each leaning upon his axe and
deliberating together. After watching them for some
time, Julien, seeing that he could make out nothing
of their discussion, went and took his place on the
far side of the saw, so as not to be taken by
surprise. He wanted time to consider this sudden
announcement which was altering his destiny, but
felt himself to be incapable of prudence; his
imagination was wholly taken up with forming
pictures of what he would see in M. de Renal's fine
'I must give
up all that,' he said to himself, 'rather than let
myself be brought down to feeding with the servants.
My father will try to force me; I would sooner die.
I have saved fifteen francs and eight sous, I shall
run away tonight; in two days, by keeping to
side-roads where I need not fear the police, I can
be at Besancon; there I enlist as a soldier, and, if
necessary, cross the border into Switzerland. But
then, good-bye to everything, good-bye to that fine
clerical profession which is a stepping-stone to
of feeding with the servants was not natural to
Julien; he would, in seeking his fortune, have done
other things far more disagreeable. He derived this
repugnance from Rousseau's _Confessions_. It was the
one book that helped his imagination to form any
idea of the world.
The collection of reports of the Grand Army
and the _Memorial de Sainte-Helene_ completed his
Koran. He would have gone to the stake for those
three books. Never did he believe in any other.
Remembering a saying of the old Surgeon-Major, he
regarded all the other books in the world as liars,
written by rogues in order to obtain advancement.
fiery nature Julien had one of those astonishing
memories so often found in foolish people. To win
over the old priest Chelan, upon whom he saw quite
clearly that his own future depended, he had learned
by heart the entire New Testament in Latin; he knew
also M. de Maistre's book _Du Pape_, and had as
little belief in one as in the other.
As though by
a mutual agreement, Sorel and his son avoided
speaking to one another for the rest of the day. At
dusk, Julien went to the cure for his divinity
lesson, but did not think it prudent to say anything
to him of the strange proposal that had been made to
his father. 'It may be a trap,' he told himself; 'I
must pretend to have forgotten about it.'
Early on the
following day, M. de Renal sent for old Sorel, who,
after keeping him waiting for an hour or two,
finally appeared, beginning as he entered the door a
hundred excuses interspersed with as many
reverences. By dint of giving voice to every sort of
objection, Sorel succeeded in gathering that his son
was to take his meals with the master and mistress
of the house, and on days when they had company in a
room by himself with the children. Finding an
increasing desire to raise difficulties the more he
discerned a genuine anxiety on the Mayor's part, and
being moreover filled with distrust and
bewilderment, Sorel asked to see the room in which
his son was to sleep. It was a large chamber very
decently furnished, but the servants were already
engaged in carrying into it the beds of the three
At this the
old peasant began to see daylight; he at once asked
with assurance to see the coat which would be given
to his son. M. de Renal opened his desk and took out
a hundred francs.
money, your son can go to M. Durand, the clothier,
and get himself a suit of black.'
supposing I take him away from you,' said the
peasant, who had completely forgotten the
reverential forms of address. 'Will he take this
black coat with him?'
well!' said Sorel in a drawling tone, 'then there's
only one thing for us still to settle: the money
you're to give him.'
'What!' M. de
Renal indignantly exclaimed, 'we agreed upon that
yesterday: I give three hundred francs; I consider
that plenty, if not too much.'
your offer, I do not deny it,' said old Sorel,
speaking even more slowly; then, by a stroke of
genius which will astonish only those who do not
know the Franc-Comtois peasant, he added, looking M.
de Renal steadily in the face: '_We can do better
words the Mayor was thrown into confusion. He
recovered himself, however, and, after an adroit
conversation lasting fully two hours, in which not a
word was said without a purpose, the peasant's
shrewdness prevailed over that of the rich man, who
was not dependent on his for his living. All the
innumerable conditions which were to determine
Julien's new existence were finally settled; not
only was his salary fixed at four hundred francs,
but it was to be paid in advance, on the first day
of each month.
'Very well! I
shall let him have thirty-five francs,' said M. de
'To make a
round sum, a rich and generous gentleman like our
Mayor,' the peasant insinuated in a coaxing voice,
'will surely go as far as thirty-six.'
said M. de Renal, 'but let us have no more of this.'
anger gave him a tone of resolution. The peasant saw
that he could advance no farther. Thereupon M. de
Renal began in turn to make headway. He utterly
refused to hand over the thirty-six francs for the
first month to old Sorel, who was most eager to
receive the money on his son's behalf. It occurred
to M. de Renal that he would be obliged to describe
to his wife the part he had played throughout this
'Let me have
back the hundred francs I gave you,' he said
angrily. 'M. Durand owes me money. I shall go with
your son to choose the black cloth.'
bold stroke, Sorel prudently retired upon his
expressions of respect; they occupied a good quarter
of an hour. In the end, seeing that there was
certainly nothing more to be gained, he withdrew.
His final reverence ended with the words:
'I shall send
my son up to the chateau.'
It was thus
that the Mayor's subordinates spoke of his house
when they wished to please him.
his mill, Sorel looked in vain for his son. Doubtful
as to what might be in store for him, Julien had
left home in the dead of night.
He had been anxious to find a safe
hiding-place for his books and his Cross of the
Legion of Honour. He had removed the whole of his
treasures to the house of a young timber-merchant, a
friend of his, by the name of Fouque, who lived on
the side of the high mountain overlooking Verrieres.
reappeared: 'Heaven knows, you damned idler,' his
father said to him, 'whether you will ever have
enough honour to pay me for the cost of your keep,
which I have been advancing to you all these years!
Pack up your rubbish, and off with you to the
astonished not to receive a thrashing, made haste to
set off. But no sooner was he out of sight of his
terrible father than he slackened his pace. He
decided that it would serve the ends of his
hypocrisy to pay a visit to the church.
surprises you? Before arriving at this horrible
idea, the soul of the young peasant had had a long
way to go.
When he was
still a child, the sight of certain dragoons of the
6th, in their long, white cloaks, and helmets
adorned with long crests of black horsehair, who
were returning from Italy, and whom Julien saw tying
their horses to the barred window of his father's
house, drove him mad with longing for a military
Later on he
listened with ecstasy to the accounts of the battles
of the Bridge of Lodi, Arcole and Rivoli given him
by the old Surgeon-Major. He noticed the burning
gaze which the old man directed at his Cross.
Julien was fourteen, they began to build a church at
Verrieres, one that might be called magnificent for
so small a town. There were, in particular, four
marble pillars the sight of which impressed Julien;
they became famous throughout the countryside, owing
to the deadly enmity which they aroused between the
Justice of the Peace and the young vicar, sent down
from Besancon, who was understood to be the spy of
the Congregation. The Justice of the Peace came
within an ace of losing his post, such at least was
the common report. Had he not dared to have a
difference of opinion with a priest who, almost
every fortnight, went to Besancon, where he saw,
people said, the Right Reverend Lord Bishop?
In the midst
of all this, the Justice of the Peace, the father of
a large family, passed a number of sentences which
appeared unjust; all of these were directed against
such of the inhabitants as read the
_Constitutionnel_. The right party was triumphant.
The sums involved amounted, it was true, to no more
than four or five francs; but one of these small
fines was levied upon a nailsmith, Julien's
godfather. In his anger, this man exclaimed: 'What a
change! And to think that, for twenty years and
more, the Justice was reckoned such an honest man!'
The Surgeon-Major, Julien's friend, was dead.
All at once
Julien ceased to speak of Napoleon; he announced his
intention of becoming a priest, and was constantly
to be seen, in his father's sawmill, engaged in
learning by heart a Latin Bible which the cure had
lent him. The good old man, amazed at his progress,
devoted whole evenings to instructing him in
divinity. Julien gave utterance in his company to
none but pious sentiments. Who could have supposed
that that girlish face, so pale and gentle, hid the
unshakeable determination to expose himself to the
risk of a thousand deaths rather than fail to make
making a fortune meant in the first place leaving
Verrieres; he loathed his native place. Everything
that he saw there froze his imagination.
earliest boyhood, he had had moments of exaltation.
At such times he dreamed with rapture that one day
he would be introduced to the beautiful ladies of
Paris; he would manage to attract their attention by
some brilliant action. Why should he not be loved by
one of them, as Bonaparte, when still penniless, had
been loved by the brilliant Madame de Beauharnais?
For many years now, perhaps not an hour of Julien's
life had passed without his reminding himself that
Bonaparte, an obscure subaltern with no fortune, had
made himself master of the world with his sword.
This thought consoled him for his misfortunes which
he deemed to be great, and enhanced his joy when joy
came his way.
of the church and the sentences passed by the
Justice brought him sudden enlightenment; an idea
which occurred to him drove him almost out of his
senses for some weeks, and finally took possession
of him with the absolute power of the first idea
which a passionate nature believes itself to have
Bonaparte made a name for himself, France was in
fear of being invaded; military distinction was
necessary and fashionable. Today we see priests at
forty drawing stipends of a hundred thousand francs,
that is to say three times as much as the famous
divisional commanders under Napoleon.
They must have people to support them. Look
at the Justice here, so wise a man, always so honest
until now, sacrificing his honour, at his age, from
fear of offending a young vicar of thirty. I must
become a priest.'
occasion, in the midst of his new-found piety, after
Julien had been studying divinity for two years, he
was betrayed by a sudden blaze of the fire that
devoured his spirit. This was at M. Chelan's; at a
dinner party of priests, to whom the good cure had
introduced him as an educational prodigy, he found
himself uttering frenzied praise of Napoleon. He
bound his right arm across his chest, pretending
that he had put the arm out of joint when shifting a
fir trunk, and kept it for two months in this
awkward position. After this drastic penance, he
forgave himself. Such is the young man of eighteen,
but weak in appearance, whom you would have said to
be, at the most, seventeen, who, carrying a small
parcel under his arm, was entering the magnificent
church of Verrieres.
He found it
dark and deserted. In view of some festival, all the
windows in the building had been covered with
crimson cloth; the effect of this, when the sun
shone, was a dazzling blaze of light, of the most
imposing and most religious character.
Julien shuddered. Being alone in the church,
he took his seat on the bench that had the most
handsome appearance. It bore the arms of M. de
On the desk
in front, Julien observed a scrap of printed paper,
spread out there as though to be read. He looked at
it closely and saw:
the execution and of the last moments of Louis
Jenrel, executed at Besancon, on the ...'
The paper was
torn. On the other side he read the opening words of
a line, which were: 'The first step.'
'Who can have
put this paper here?' said Julien. 'Poor wretch!' he
added with a sigh, 'his name has the same ending as
mine.' And he crumpled up the paper.
On his way
out, Julien thought he saw blood by the holy water
stoup; it was some of the water that had been spilt:
the light from the red curtains which draped the
windows made it appear like blood.
Julien felt ashamed of his secret terror.
prove coward?' he said to himself. '_To arms_!'
so often repeated in the old Surgeon's accounts of
battles, had a heroic sound in Julien's ears. He
rose and walked rapidly to M. de Renal's house.
brave resolutions, as soon as he caught sight of the
house twenty yards away he was overcome by an
unconquerable shyness. The iron gate stood open; it
seemed to him magnificent. He would have now to go
in through it.
not the only person whose heart was troubled by his
arrival in this household. Madame de Renal's extreme
timidity was disconcerted by the idea of this
stranger who, in the performance of his duty, would
be constantly coming between her and her children.
She was accustomed to having her sons sleep in her
own room. That morning, many tears had flowed when
she saw their little beds being carried into the
apartment intended for the tutor. In vain did she
beg her husband to let the bed of Stanislas Xavier,
the youngest boy, be taken back to her room.
delicacy was carried to excess in Madame de Renal.
She formed a mental picture of a coarse, unkempt
creature, employed to scold her children, simply
because he knew Latin, a barbarous tongue for the
sake of which her sons would be whipped.
vivacity and grace which came naturally to her when
she was beyond the reach of male vision, Madame de
Renal was coming out through the glass door which
opened from the drawing-room into the garden, when
she saw, standing by the front door, a young
peasant, almost a boy still, extremely pale and
showing traces of recent tears. He was wearing a
clean white shirt and carried under his arm a neat
jacket of violet ratteen.
peasant's skin was so white, his eyes were so
appealing, that the somewhat romantic mind of Madame
de Renal conceived the idea at first that he might
be a girl in disguise, come to ask some favour of
She felt sorry for the poor creature, who had
come to a standstill by the front door, and
evidently could not summon up courage to ring the
Madame de Renal advanced, oblivious for the moment
of the bitter grief that she felt at the tutor's
coming. Julien, who was facing the door, did not see
her approach. He trembled when a pleasant voice
sounded close to his ear:
you come for, my boy?'
sharply round, and, struck by the charm of Madame de
Renal's expression, forgot part of his shyness. A
moment later, astounded by her beauty, he forgot
everything, even his purpose in coming. Madame de
Renal had repeated her question.
'I have come
to be tutor, Madame,' he at length informed her, put
to shame by his tears which he dried as best he
Renal remained speechless; they were standing close
together, looking at one another. Julien had never
seen a person so well dressed as this, let alone a
woman with so exquisite a complexion, to speak to
him in a gentle tone. Madame de Renal looked at the
large tears which lingered on the cheeks (so pallid
at first and now so rosy) of this young peasant.
Presently she burst out laughing, with all the wild
hilarity of a girl; she was laughing at herself, and
trying in vain to realise the full extent of her
happiness. So this was the tutor whom she had
imagined an unwashed and ill-dressed priest, who was
coming to scold and whip her children.
she said to him at length, 'do you know Latin?'
'Sir' came as such a surprise to Julien that he
thought for a moment before answering.
he said shyly.
Renal felt so happy that she ventured to say to
scold those poor children too severely?'
I?' asked Julien in amazement. 'Why should I?'
Sir,' she went on after a brief silence and in a
voice that grew more emotional every moment, 'you
will be kind to them, you promise me?'
himself addressed again as 'Sir', in all
seriousness, and by a lady so fashionably attired,
was more than Julien had ever dreamed of; in all the
cloud castles of his boyhood, he had told himself
that no fashionable lady would deign to speak to him
until he had a smart uniform. Madame de Renal, for
her part, was completely taken in by the beauty of
Julien's complexion, his great dark eyes and his
becoming hair which was curling more than usual
because, to cool himself, he had just dipped his
head in the basin of the public fountain. To her
great delight, she discovered an air of girlish
shyness in this fatal tutor, whose severity and
savage appearance she had so greatly dreaded for her
children's sake. To Madame de Renal's peace-loving
nature the contrast between her fears and what she
now saw before her was a great event. Finally she
recovered from her surprise. She was astonished to
find herself standing like this at the door of her
house with this young man almost in his shirtsleeves
and so close to her.
'Let us go
indoors, Sir,' she said to him with an air of
Never in her
life had a purely agreeable sensation so profoundly
stirred Madame de Renal; never had so charming an
apparition come in the wake of more disturbing
fears. And so those sweet children, whom she had
tended with such care, were not to fall into the
hands of a dirty, growling priest. As soon as they
were in the hall, she turned to Julien who was
following her shyly. His air of surprise at the
sight of so fine a house was an additional charm in
the eyes of Madame de Renal. She could not believe
her eyes; what she felt most of all was that the
tutor ought to be wearing a black coat.
'But is it
true, Sir,' she said to him, again coming to a halt,
and mortally afraid lest she might be mistaken, so
happy was the belief making her, 'do you really know
hurt Julien's pride and destroyed the enchantment in
which he had been living for the last quarter of an
he informed her, trying to adopt a chilly air; 'I
know Latin as well as M. le cure; indeed, he is
sometimes so kind as to say that I know it better.'
Renal felt that Julien had a very wicked air; he had
stopped within arm's length of her. She went nearer
to him, and murmured:
first few days, you won't take the whip to my
children, even if they don't know their lessons?'
almost beseeching tone coming from so fine a lady at
once made Julien forget what he owed to his
reputation as a Latin scholar. Madame de Renal's
face was close to his own, he could smell the
perfume of a woman's summer attire, so astounding a
thing to a poor peasant. Julien blushed deeply, and
said with a sigh and in a faint voice:
nothing, Ma'am, I shall obey you in every respect.'
It was at
this moment only, when her anxiety for her children
was completely banished, that Madame de Renal was
struck by Julien's extreme good looks. The almost
feminine cast of his features and his air of
embarrassment did not seem in the least absurd to a
woman who was extremely timid herself. The manly air
which is generally considered essential to masculine
beauty would have frightened her.
'How old are
you, Sir?' she asked Julien.
'I shall soon
son is eleven,' went on Madame de Renal, completely
reassured; 'he will be almost a companion for you,
you can talk to him seriously. His father tried to
beat him once, the child was ill for a whole week,
and yet it was quite a gentle blow.'
different from me,' thought Julien. 'Only yesterday
my father was thrashing me. How fortunate these rich
Renal had by this time arrived at the stage of
remarking the most trivial changes in the state of
the tutor's mind; she mistook this envious impulse
for shyness, and tried to give him fresh courage.
'What is your
name, Sir?' she asked him with an accent and a grace
the charm of which Julien could feel without knowing
whence it sprang.
'They call me
Julien Sorel, Ma'am; I am trembling as I enter a
strange house for the first time in my life; I have
need of your protection, and shall require you to
forgive me many things at first. I have never been
to College, I was too poor; I have never talked to
any other men, except my cousin the Surgeon-Major, a
Member of the Legion of Honour, and the Reverend
Father Chelan. He will give you a good account of
me. My brothers have always beaten me, do not listen
to them if they speak evil of me to you; pardon my
faults, Ma'am, I shall never have any evil
plucked up his courage again during this long
speech; he was studying Madame de Renal. Such is the
effect of perfect grace when it is natural to the
character, particularly when she whom it adorns has
no thought of being graceful. Julien, who knew all
that was to be known about feminine beauty, would
have sworn at that moment that she was no more than
twenty. The bold idea at once occurred to him of
kissing her hand. Next, this idea frightened him; a
moment later, he said to himself: 'It would be
cowardly on my part not to carry out an action which
may be of use to me, and diminish the scorn which
this fine lady probably feels for a poor workman,
only just taken from the sawbench.' Perhaps Julien
was somewhat encouraged by the words 'good-looking
boy' which for the last six months he had been used
to hearing on Sundays on the lips of various girls.
While he debated thus with himself, Madame de Renal
offered him a few suggestions as to how he should
begin to handle her children. The violence of
Julien's effort to control himself made him turn
quite pale again; he said, with an air of
Ma'am, will I beat your children; I swear it before
And so saying
he ventured to take Madame de Renal's hand and carry
it to his lips. She was astonished at this action,
and, on thinking it over, shocked. As the weather
was very warm, her arm was completely bare under her
shawl, and Julien's action in raising her hand to
his lips had uncovered it to the shoulder. A minute
later she scolded herself; she felt that she had not
been quickly enough offended.
M. de Renal,
who had heard the sound of voices, came out of his
study; with the same majestic and fatherly air that
he assumed when he was conducting marriages in the
Town Hall, he said to Julien:
essential that I speak to you before the children
Julien into one of the rooms and detained his wife,
who was going to leave them together. Having shut
the door, M. de Renal seated himself with gravity.
'The cure has
told me that you were an honest fellow, everyone in
this house will treat you with respect, and if I am
satisfied I shall help you to set up for yourself
later on. I wish you to cease to see anything of
either your family or your friends, their tone would
not be suited to my children. Here are thirty-six
francs for the first month; but I must have your
word that you will not give a penny of this money to
M. de Renal
was annoyed with the old man, who, in this business,
had proved more subtle than he himself.
_Sir_, for by my orders everyone in this house is to
address you as Sir, and you will be conscious of the
advantage of entering a well-ordered household; now,
Sir, it is not proper that the children should see
you in a jacket. Have the servants seen him?' M. de
Renal asked his wife.
she replied with an air of deep thought.
'Good. Put on
this,' he said to the astonished young man, handing
him one of his own frock coats. 'And now let us go
to M. Durand, the clothier.'
More than an
hour later, when M. de Renal returned with the new
tutor dressed all in black, he found his wife still
seated in the same place. She felt soothed by
Julien's presence; as she studied his appearance she
forgot to feel afraid. Julien was not giving her a
thought; for all his mistrust of destiny and of
mankind, his heart at that moment was just like a
child's; he seemed to have lived whole years since
the moment when, three hours earlier, he stood
trembling in the church. He noticed Madame de
Renal's frigid manner, and gathered that she was
angry because he had ventured to kiss her hand. But
the sense of pride that he derived from the contact
of garments so different from those which he was
accustomed to wear caused him so much excitement,
and he was so anxious to conceal his joy that all
his gestures were more or less abrupt and foolish.
Madame de Renal gazed at him with eyes of
gravity, Sir,' M. de Renal told him, 'if you wish to
be respected by my children and my servants.'
replied Julien, 'I am uncomfortable in these new
clothes; I, a humble peasant, have never worn any
but short jackets; with your permission, I shall
retire to my bedroom.'
you of this new acquisition?' M. de Renal asked his
almost instinctive impulse, of which she herself
certainly was not aware, Madame de Renal concealed
the truth from her husband.
'I am by no
means as enchanted as you are with this little
peasant; your kindness will turn him into an
impertinent rascal whom you will be obliged to send
packing within a month.'
We shall send him packing; he will have cost me a
hundred francs or so, and Verrieres will have grown
used to seeing a tutor with M. de Renal's children.
That point I should not have gained if I had let
Julien remain in the clothes of a working man. When
I dismiss him, I shall of course keep the black suit
which I have just ordered from the clothier.
He shall have nothing but the coat I found
ready made at the tailor's, which he is now
which Julien spent in his room seemed like a second
to Madame de Renal. The children, who had been told
of their new tutor's arrival, overwhelmed their
mother with questions. Finally Julien appeared. He
was another man. It would have been straining the
word to say that he was grave; he was gravity
incarnate. He was introduced to the children, and
spoke to them with an air that surprised M. de Renal
'I am here,
young gentlemen,' he told them at the end of his
address, 'to teach you Latin. You know what is meant
by repeating a lesson. Here is the Holy Bible,' he
said, and showed them a tiny volume in 32mo, bound
in black. 'It is in particular the story of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, that is the part which is called the
New Testament. I shall often make you repeat
lessons; now you must make me repeat mine.'
eldest boy, had taken the book.
where you please,' Julien went on, 'and tell me the
first word of a paragraph. I shall repeat by heart
the sacred text, the rule of conduct for us all,
until you stop me.'
opened the book, read a word, and Julien repeated
the whole page as easily as though he were speaking
French. M. de Renal looked at his wife with an air
of triumph. The children, seeing their parents'
amazement, opened their eyes wide. A servant came to
the door of the drawing-room, Julien went on
speaking in Latin. The servant at first stood
motionless and then vanished. Presently the lady's
maid and the cook appeared in the doorway; by this
time Adolphe had opened the book at eight different
places, and Julien continued to repeat the words
with the same ease.
'Eh, what a
bonny little priest,' the cook, a good and truly
devout girl, said aloud.
M. de Renal's
self-esteem was troubled; so far from having any
thought of examining the tutor, he was engaged in
ransacking his memory for a few words of Latin; at
last, he managed to quote a line of Horace. Julien
knew no Latin apart from the Bible. He replied with
ministry to which I intend to devote myself has
forbidden me to read so profane a poet.'
M. de Renal
repeated a fair number of alleged lines of Horace.
He explained to his children what Horace was; but
the children, overcome with admiration, paid little
attention to what he was saying. They were watching
being still at the door, Julien felt it incumbent
upon him to prolong the test.
'And now,' he
said to the youngest boy, 'Master Stanislas Xavier
too must set me a passage from the Holy Book.'
Stanislas, swelling with pride, read out to the best
of his ability the opening words of a paragraph, and
Julien repeated the whole page. That nothing might
be wanting to complete M. de Renal's triumph, while
Julien was reciting, there entered M. Valenod, the
possessor of fine Norman horses, and M. Charcot de
Maugiron, Sub-Prefect of the district. This scene
earned for Julien the title 'Sir'; the servants
themselves dared not withhold it from him.
the whole of Verrieres flocked to M. de Renal's to
behold the marvel. Julien answered them all with an
air of gloom which kept them at a distance. His fame
spread so rapidly through the town that, shortly
afterwards, M. de Renal, afraid of losing him,
suggested his signing a contract for two years.
Julien replied coldly, 'if you chose to dismiss me I
should be obliged to go. A contract which binds me
without putting you under any obligation is unfair,
I must decline.'
managed so skilfully that, less than a month after
his coming to the house, M. de Renal himself
respected him. The cure having quarrelled with MM.
de Renal and Valenod, there was no one who could
betray Julien's former passion for Napoleon, of whom
he was careful to speak with horror.
adored him, he did not care for them; his thoughts
were elsewhere. Nothing that these urchins could do
ever tried his patience.
Cold, just, impassive, and at the same time
loved, because his coming had in a measure banished
dullness from the house, he was a good tutor. For
his part, he felt only hatred and horror for the
high society in which he was allowed to occupy the
very foot of the table, a position which may perhaps
explain his hatred and horror. There were certain
formal dinners at which he could barely contain his
loathing of everything round about him.
On Saint Louis's day in particular, M.
Valenod was laying down the law at M. de Renal's;
Julien almost gave himself away; he escaped into the
garden, saying that he must look after the children.
'What panegyrics of honesty!' he exclaimed; 'anyone
would say that was the one and only virtue; and yet
what consideration, what a cringing respect for a
man who obviously has doubled and tripled his
fortune since he has been in charge of the relief of
the poor! I would wager that he makes something even
out of the fund set apart for the foundlings, those
wretches whose need is even more sacred than that of
the other paupers. Ah, monsters! Monsters! And I
too, I am a sort of foundling, hated by my father,
my brothers, my whole family.'
earlier, Julien walking by himself and saying his
office in a little wood, known as the Belvedere,
which overlooks the Cours de la Fidelite, had tried
in vain to avoid his two brothers, whom he saw
approaching him by a solitary path. The jealousy of
these rough labourers had been so quickened by the
sight of their brother's handsome black coat, and
air of extreme gentility, as well as by the sincere
contempt which he felt for them, that they had
proceeded to thrash him, leaving him there
unconscious and bleeding freely. Madame de Renal,
who was out walking with M. Valenod and the
Sub-Prefect, happened to turn into the little wood;
she saw Julien lying on the ground and thought him
dead. She was so overcome as to make M. Valenod
His alarm was
premature. Julien admired Madame de Renal's looks,
but hated her for her beauty; it was the first reef
on which his fortune had nearly foundered. He spoke
to her as seldom as possible, in the hope of making
her forget the impulse which, at their first
encounter, had led him to kiss her hand.
de Renal's maid, had not failed to fall in love with
the young tutor; she often spoke of him to her
mistress. Miss Elisa's love had brought upon Julien
the hatred of one of the footmen. One day he heard
this man say to Elisa: 'You won't speak to me any
more, since that greasy tutor has been in the
house.' Julien did not deserve the epithet; but,
with the instinct of a good-looking youth, became
doubly attentive to his person. M. Valenod's hatred
was multiplied accordingly. He said in public that
so much concern with one's appearance was not
becoming in a young cleric. Barring the cassock,
Julien now wore clerical attire.
Renal observed that he was speaking more often than
before to Miss Elisa; she learned that these
conversations were due to the limitations of
Julien's extremely small wardrobe. He had so scanty
a supply of linen that he was obliged to send it out
constantly to be washed, and it was in performing
these little services that Elisa made herself useful
poverty, of which she had had no suspicion, touched
Madame de Renal; she longed to make him presents,
but did not dare; this inward resistance was the
first feeling of regret that Julien caused her.
Until then the name of Julien and the sense of a
pure and wholly intellectual joy had been synonymous
Tormented by the idea of Julien's poverty, Madame de
Renal spoke to her husband about making him a
present of linen:
idiocy!' he replied. 'What! Make presents to a man
with whom we are perfectly satisfied, and who is
serving us well? It is when he neglects his duty
that we should stimulate his zeal.'
Renal felt ashamed of this way of looking at things;
before Julien came she would not have noticed it.
She never saw the young cleric's spotless, though
very simple, toilet without asking herself: 'Poor
boy, how ever does he manage?'
As time went
on she began to feel sorry for Julien's
deficiencies, instead of being shocked by them.
Renal was one of those women to be found in the
provinces whom one may easily take to be fools until
one has known them for a fortnight.
She had no experience of life, and made no
effort at conversation. Endowed with a delicate and
haughty nature, that instinct for happiness natural
to all human beings made her, generally speaking,
pay no attention to the actions of the coarse
creatures into whose midst chance had flung her.
have been remarkable for her naturalness and
quickness of mind, had she received the most scanty
education; but in her capacity as an heiress she had
been brought up by nuns who practised a passionate
devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and were
animated by a violent hatred of the French as being
enemies of the Jesuits. Madame de Renal had
sufficient sense to forget at once, as absurdities,
everything she had learned in the convent; but she
put nothing else in its place, and ended by knowing
nothing. The flatteries of which she had been the
precocious object, as the heiress to a large
fortune, and a marked tendency towards passionate
devotion, had bred in her an attitude towards life
that was wholly inward.
With an outward show of the most perfect
submission, and a self-suppression which the
husbands of Verrieres used to quote as an example to
their wives, and which was a source of pride to M.
de Renal, her inner life was, as a matter of fact,
dictated by the most lofty disdain. Any princess who
is quoted as an illustration of pride pays
infinitely more attention to what her gentlemen are
doing round about her than this meekest of women, so
modest in appearance, gave to anything that her
husband said or did. Until Julien arrived, she had
really paid no attention to anyone but her children.
Their little illnesses, their sorrows, their little
pleasures absorbed the whole sensibility of this
human soul, which had never, in the whole of her
life, adored anyone save God, while she was at the
Sacred Heart in Besancon.
did not condescend to say so to anyone, a feverish
attack coming to one of her sons threw her almost
into the same state as if the child had died. A
burst of coarse laughter, a shrug of the shoulders,
accompanied by some trivial maxim as to the
foolishness of women, had regularly greeted the
confessions of grief of this sort which the need of
an outlet had led her to make to her husband during
the first years of their married life. Witticisms of
this sort, especially when they bore upon the
illnesses of the children, turned the dagger in
Madame de Renal's heart. This was all the substitute
she found for the obsequious, honeyed flatteries of
the Jesuitical convent in which she had passed her
She was educated in the school of suffering.
Too proud to speak of griefs of this sort, even to
her friend Madame Derville, she imagined that all
men resembled her husband, M. Valenod, and the
Sub-Prefect Charcot de Maugiron.
Coarse wit and the most brutal insensibility
to everything that did not promise money, promotion
or a Cross; a blind hatred of every argument that
went against them seemed to her to be things natural
to the male sex, like the wearing of boots and felt
long years, Madame de Renal had not yet grown
accustomed to these money-grubbing creatures among
whom she had to live.
success of the little peasant Julien. She found much
pleasant enjoyment, radiant with the charm of
novelty, in the sympathy of this proud and noble
spirit. Madame de Renal had soon forgiven him his
extreme ignorance, which was an additional charm,
and the roughness of his manners, which she
succeeded in improving. She found that it was worth
her while to listen to him, even when they spoke of
the most ordinary things, even when it was a
question of a poor dog that had been run over, as it
was crossing the street, by a peasant's cart going
by at a trot. The sight of such a tragedy made her
husband utter his coarse laugh, whereas she saw
Julien's fine, beautifully arched black eyebrows
wince. Generosity, nobility of soul, humanity,
seemed to her, after a time, to exist only in this
She felt for him alone all the sympathy and
even admiration which those virtues arouse in
Julien's position with regard to Madame de Renal
would very soon have been simplified; but in Paris
love is the child of the novels. The young tutor and
his timid mistress would have found in three or four
novels, and even in the lyrics of the Gymnase, a
clear statement of their situation. The novels would
have outlined for them the part to be played, shown
them the model to copy; and this model, sooner or
later, albeit without the slightest pleasure, and
perhaps with reluctance, vanity would have compelled
Julien to follow.
In a small
town of the Aveyron or the Pyrenees, the slightest
incident would have been made decisive by the ardour
of the climate. Beneath our more sombre skies, a
penniless young man, who is ambitious only because
the refinement of his nature puts him in need of
some of those pleasures which money provides, is in
daily contact with a woman of thirty who is
sincerely virtuous, occupied with her children, and
never looks to novels for examples of conduct.
Everything goes slowly, everything happens by
degrees in the provinces: life is more natural.
she thought of the young tutor's poverty, Madame de
Renal was moved to tears. Julien came upon her, one
day, actually crying.
you have had some bad news!'
friend,' was her answer: 'Call the children, let us
go for a walk.'
She took his
arm and leaned on it in a manner which Julien
It was the first time that she had called him
end of their walk, Julien observed that she was
blushing deeply. She slackened her pace.
have heard,' she said without looking at him, 'that
I am the sole heiress of a very rich aunt who lives
at Besancon. She loads me with presents. My sons are
making ... such astonishing progress ... that I
should like to ask you to accept a little present,
as a token of my gratitude. It is only a matter of a
few louis to supply you with linen. But--' she
added, blushing even more deeply, and was silent.
Ma'am?' said Julien.
'It would be
unnecessary,' she went on, lowering her head, 'to
speak of this to my husband.'
'I may be
humble, Ma'am, but I am not base,' replied Julien
coming to a standstill, his eyes ablaze with anger,
and drawing himself up to his full height. 'That is
a point which you have not sufficiently considered.
I should be less than a footman if I put myself in
the position of hiding from M. de Renal anything
that had to do with my money.'
Renal was overwhelmed.
Julien went on, 'has given me thirty-six francs five
times since I came to live in his house; I am
prepared to show my account-book to M. de Renal or
to anyone else, including M. Valenod who hates me.'
left Madame de Renal pale and trembling, and the
walk came to an end before either of them could find
an excuse for renewing the conversation. Love for
Madame de Renal became more and more impossible in
the proud heart of Julien: as for her, she
respected, she admired him; she had been scolded by
him. On the pretext of making amends for the
humiliation which she had unintentionally caused
him, she allowed herself to pay him the most
delicate attentions. The novelty of this procedure
kept her happy for a week. Its effect was to some
extent to appease Julien's anger; he was far from
seeing anything in it that could be mistaken for
said to himself, 'is what rich people are like: they
humiliate one, and then think they can put things
right by a few monkey-tricks.'
Renal's heart was too full, and as yet too innocent
for her, notwithstanding the resolutions she had
made, not to tell her husband of the offer she had
made to Julien and the manner in which she had been
'What,' M. de
Renal retorted, with keen annoyance, 'could you
tolerate a refusal from a servant?'
And as Madame
de Renal protested at this word:
Ma'am, as the late Prince de Conde spoke, when
presenting his Chamberlains to his bride: "All these
people," he told her, "are our servants." I read you
the passage from Besenval's _Memoirs_, it is
essential in questions of precedence. Everyone who
is not a gentleman, who lives in your house and
receives a salary, is your servant. I shall say a
few words to this Master Julien, and give him a
dear,' said Madame de Renal trembling, 'please do
not say anything in front of the servants.'
might be jealous, and rightly,' said her husband as
he left the room, thinking of the magnitude of the
Renal sank down on a chair, almost fainting with
grief. 'He is going to humiliate Julien, and it is
my fault!' She felt a horror of her husband, and hid
her face in her hands. She promised herself that she
would never confide anything in him again.
When she next
saw Julien, she was trembling all over, her bosom
was so contracted that she could not manage to utter
a single word. In her embarrassment she took his
hands and wrung them.
friend,' she said to him after a little, 'are you
pleased with my husband?'
'How should I
not be?' Julien answered with a bitter smile; 'he
has given me a hundred francs.'
Renal looked at him as though uncertain what to do.
'Give me your
arm,' she said at length with an accent of courage
which Julien had never yet observed in her.
to enter the shop of the Verrieres bookseller, in
spite of his terrible reputation as a Liberal. There
she chose books to the value of ten louis which she
gave to her sons. But these books were the ones
which she knew that Julien wanted. She insisted that
there, in the bookseller's shop, each of the
children should write his own name in the books that
fell to his share. While Madame de Renal was
rejoicing at the partial reparation which she had
had the courage to make to Julien, he was lost in
amazement at the quantity of books which he saw on
the bookseller's shelves. Never had he dared to set
foot in so profane a place; his heart beat
So far from his having any thought of trying
to guess what was occurring in the heart of Madame
de Renal, he was plunged in meditation as to how it
would be possible for a young student of divinity to
procure some of these books. At length the idea came
to him that it might be possible, by a skilful
approach, to persuade M. de Renal that he ought to
set his sons, as the subject for an essay, the lives
of the celebrated gentlemen who were natives of the
province. After a month of careful preliminaries, he
saw his idea prove successful, so much so that,
shortly afterwards, he ventured, in speaking to M.
de Renal, to mention an action considerably more
offensive to the noble Mayor; it was a matter of
contributing to the prosperity of a Liberal, by
taking out a subscription at the library.
M. de Renal entirely agreed that it was wise
to let his eldest son have a _visual impression_ of
various works which he would hear mentioned in
conversation when he went to the Military School;
but Julien found the Mayor obdurate in refusing to
go any farther. He suspected a secret reason, which
he was unable to guess.
thinking, Sir,' he said to him one day, 'that it
would be highly improper for the name of a
respectable gentleman like a Renal to appear on the
dirty ledger of the librarian.'
M. de Renal's
also be a very bad mark,' Julien went on, in a
humbler tone, 'against a poor divinity student, if
it should one day be discovered that his name had
been on the ledger of a bookseller who keeps a
library. The Liberals might accuse me of having
asked for the most scandalous books; for all one
knows they might even go so far as to write in after
my name the titles of those perverse works.'
was going off the track. He saw the Mayor's features
resume their expression of embarrassment and ill
humour. Julien was silent. 'I have my man hooked,'
he said to himself.
A few days
later, on the eldest boy's questioning Julien as to
a book advertised in the _Quotidienne_, in M. de
all occasion for triumph from the Jacobin Party,'
said the young tutor, 'and at the same time to
enable me to answer Master Adolphe, one might open a
subscription at the bookshop in the name of the
lowest of your servants.'
'That is not
at all a bad idea,' said M. de Renal, obviously
would have to be specified,' said Julien with that
grave and almost sorrowful air which becomes certain
people so well, when they see the success of the
projects which have been longest in their minds, 'it
would have to be specified that the servant shall
not take out any novels.
Once they were in the house, those dangerous
works might corrupt Madame's maids, not to speak of
the servant himself.'
the political pamphlets,' added M. de Renal, in a
He wished to conceal the admiration that he
felt for the clever middle course discovered by his
was thus composed of a series of petty negotiations;
and their success was of far more importance to him
than the evidence of a marked preference for himself
which was only waiting for him to read it in the
heart of Madame de Renal.
environment in which he had been placed all his life
was repeated in the household of the worshipful
Mayor of Verrieres. There, as in his father's
sawmill, he profoundly despised the people with whom
he lived, and was hated by them. He saw every day,
from the remarks made by the Sub-Prefect, by M.
Valenod and by the other friends of the family, with
reference to the things that had just happened under
their eyes, how remote their ideas were from any
semblance of reality. Did an action strike him as
admirable, it was precisely what called forth blame
from the people round about him. His unspoken retort
was always: 'What monsters!' or 'What fools!' The
amusing thing was that, with all his pride,
frequently he understood nothing at all of what was
In his whole
life, he had never spoken with sincerity except to
the old Surgeon-Major; the few ideas that he had
bore reference to Napoleon's campaigns in Italy, or
to surgery. His youthful courage took delight in
detailed accounts of the most painful operations; he
said to himself: 'I should not have flinched.'
time that Madame de Renal attempted a conversation
with him on a subject other than that of the
children's education, he began to talk of surgical
operations; she turned pale, and begged him to stop.
nothing apart from these matters. And so, as he
spent his time with Madame de Renal, the strangest
silence grew up between them as soon as they were
alone together. In her own drawing-room, humble as
his bearing was, she found in his eyes an air of
intellectual superiority over everyone that came to
the house. Were she left alone for a moment with
him, she saw him grow visibly embarrassed. This
troubled her, for her womanly instinct made her
realise that his embarrassment was not in the least
consequence of some idea derived from a description
of good society, as the old Surgeon-Major had beheld
it, as soon as conversation ceased in a place where
he found himself in the company of a woman, Julien
felt abashed, as though he himself were specially to
blame for this silence. This sensation was a hundred
times more painful when they were alone. His
imagination, full of the most extravagant, the most
Spanish notions as to what a man ought to say, when
he is alone with a woman, offered him in his
agitation none but inadmissible ideas. His soul was
in the clouds, and yet he was incapable of breaking
the most humiliating silence. Thus his air of
severity, during his long walks with Madame de Renal
and the children, was intensified by the most cruel
sufferings. He despised himself hideously. If by
mischance he forced himself to speak, he found
himself saying the most ridiculous things. To
increase his misery, he saw and exaggerated his own
absurdity; but what he did not see was the
expression in his eyes, they were so fine and
revealed so burning a soul that, like good actors,
they imparted at times a charming meaning to what
was meaningless. Madame de Renal remarked that, when
alone with her, he never expressed himself well
except when he was distracted by some unforeseen
occurrence, he never thought of turning a
compliment. As the friends of the family did not
spoil her by offering her new and brilliant ideas,
she took a delight in the flashes of Julien's
fall of Napoleon, all semblance of gallantry in
speech has been sternly banished from the code of
provincial behaviour. People are afraid of losing
their posts. The unscrupulous seek support from the
_Congregation_ and hypocrisy has made the most
brilliant advances even among the Liberal classes.
Dulness increases. No pleasure is left, save in
reading and agriculture.
Renal, the wealthy heiress of a religious aunt,
married at sixteen to a worthy gentleman, had never
in her life felt or seen anything that bore the
faintest resemblance to love. Her confessor, the
good cure Chelan, was the only person almost who had
ever spoken to her of love, with reference to the
advances of M. Valenod, and he had drawn so
revolting a picture of it that the word conveyed
nothing to her but the idea of the most abject
immorality. She regarded as an exception, or rather
as something quite apart from nature, love such as
she had found it in the very small number of novels
that chance had brought to her notice. Thanks to
this ignorance, Madame de Renal, entirely happy,
occupied incessantly with the thought of Julien, was
far from reproaching herself in the slightest
sweetness which Madame de Renal derived from her own
character as well as from her present happiness was
interrupted only when she happened to think of her
maid Elisa. This young woman received a legacy, went
to make her confession to the cure Chelan, and
revealed to him her intention to marry Julien. The
cure was genuinely delighted at his friend's good
fortune; but his surprise was great when Julien
informed him with a resolute air that Miss Elisa's
offer could not be accepted.
heed, my son, to what is taking place in your
heart,' said the cure, frowning; 'I congratulate you
on your vocation, if it is to it alone that must be
ascribed your scorn of a more than adequate
provision. For fifty-six years and more have I been
cure at Verrieres, and yet, so far as one can see, I
am going to be deprived. This distresses me, albeit
I have an income of eight hundred livres. I tell you
of this detail in order that you may not be under
any illusion as to what is in store for you in the
priestly calling. If you think of paying court to
the men in power, your eternal ruin is assured. You
may make your fortune, but you will have to injure
the poor and needy, flatter the Sub-Prefect, the
Mayor, the important person, and minister to his
passions: such conduct, which in the world is called
the art of life, may, in a layman, be not wholly
incompatible with salvation; but in our calling, we
have to choose; we must make our fortune either in
this world or in the next, there is no middle way.
Go, my dear friend, reflect, and come back in three
days' time with a definite answer. I am sorry to see
underlying your character, a smouldering ardour
which does not suggest to my mind the moderation and
complete renunciation of earthly advantages
necessary in a priest; I augur well from your
intelligence; but, allow me to tell you,' the good
cure went on, with tears in his eyes, 'in the
calling of a priest, I shall tremble for your
ashamed of his emotion; for the first time in his
life, he saw himself loved; he wept for joy, and
went to hide his tears in the great woods above
'Why am I in
this state?' he asked himself at length; 'I feel
that I would give my life a hundred times over for
that good Father Chelan, and yet he has just proved
to me that I am no better than a fool. It is he
above all that I have to deceive, and he sees
through me. That secret ardour of which he speaks is
my plan for making my fortune. He thinks me unfit to
be a priest, at the very moment when I imagined that
the sacrifice of an income of fifty louis was going
to give him the most exalted idea of my piety and my
future,' Julien continued, 'I shall rely only upon
those elements of my character which I have tested.
Who would ever have said that I should find pleasure
in shedding tears? That I should love the man who
proves to me that I am nothing more than a fool?'
later, Julien had found the pretext with which he
should have armed himself from the first; this
pretext was a calumny, but what of that?
He admitted to the cure, after much
hesitation, that a reason which he could not explain
to him, because to reveal it would injure a third
party, had dissuaded him from the first from the
projected marriage. This was tantamount to an
indictment of Elisa's conduct. M. Chelan detected in
his manner a fire that was wholly mundane, and very
different from that which should have inspired a
he appealed to him again, 'be an honest yeoman,
educated and respected, rather than a priest without
replied to these fresh remonstrances extremely well,
so far as words went; he hit upon the expressions
which a fervent young seminarist would have
employed; but the tone in which he uttered them, the
ill-concealed fire that smouldered in his eyes
alarmed M. Chelan.
We need not
augur ill for Julien's future; he hit upon the
correct form of words of a cunning and prudent
hypocrisy. That is not bad at his age. As for his
tone and gestures, he lived among country folk; he
had been debarred from seeing the great models. In
the sequel, no sooner had he been permitted to mix
with these gentlemen than he became admirable as
well in gesture as in speech.
Renal was surprised that her maid's newly acquired
fortune had not made the girl more happy; she saw
her going incessantly to the cure's, and returning
with tears in her eyes; finally Elisa spoke to her
mistress of her marriage.
Renal believed herself to have fallen ill; a sort of
fever prevented her enjoying any sleep; she was
alive only when she had her maid or Julien before
her eyes. She could think of nothing but them and
the happiness they would find in their married life.
The poverty of the small house in which people would
be obliged to live, with an income of fifty louis,
portrayed itself to her in enchanting colours.
Julien might very well become a lawyer at Bray, the
Sub-Prefecture two leagues from Verrieres; in that
event she would see something of him.
Renal sincerely believed that she was going mad; she
said so to her husband, and finally did fall ill.
That evening, as her maid was waiting upon her, she
noticed that the girl was crying. She loathed Elisa
at that moment, and had spoken sharply to her; she
begged the girl's pardon. Elisa's tears increased;
she said that if her mistress would allow it, she
would tell her the whole tale of her distress.
replied Madame de Renal.
fact is, Ma'am, he won't have me; wicked people must
have spoken evil of me to him, and he believes
have you?' said Madame de Renal, scarcely able to
could it be, Ma'am, but M. Julien?' the maid replied
through her sobs. 'His Reverence has failed to
overcome his resistance; for His Reverence considers
that he ought not to refuse a decent girl, just
because she has been a lady's maid. After all, M.
Julien's own father is no better than a carpenter;
and he himself, how was he earning his living before
he came to Madame's?'
Renal had ceased to listen; surfeit of happiness had
almost deprived her of the use of her reason. She
made the girl repeat to her several times the
assurance that Julien had refused in a positive
manner, which would not permit of his coming to a
more reasonable decision later on.
'I wish to
make a final effort,' she said to her maid. 'I shall
speak to M. Julien.'
after luncheon, Madame de Renal gave herself the
exquisite sensation of pleading her rival's cause,
and of seeing Elisa's hand and fortune persistently
refused for an hour on end.
little Julien abandoned his attitude of studied
reserve, and ended by making spirited answers to the
sound arguments advanced by Madame de Renal. She
could not hold out against the torrent of happiness
which now poured into her heart after all those days
of despair. She found herself really ill. When she
had come to herself, and was comfortably settled in
her own room, she asked to be left alone. She was in
a state of profound astonishment.
'Can I be in
love with Julien?' she asked herself at length.
discovery, which at any other time would have filled
her with remorse and with a profound agitation, was
no more to her than a singular spectacle, but one
that left her indifferent. Her heart, exhausted by
all that she had just undergone, had no sensibility
left to place at the service of her passions.
Renal tried to work, and fell into a deep sleep;
when she awoke, she was less alarmed than she should
have been. She was too happy to be able to take
anything amiss. Artless and innocent as she was,
this honest provincial had never tormented her soul
in an attempt to wring from it some little
sensibility to some novel shade of sentiment or
distress. Entirely absorbed, before Julien came, in
that mass of work which, outside Paris, is the lot
of a good wife and mother, Madame de Renal thought
about the passions, as we think about the lottery: a
certain disappointment and a happiness sought by
bell rang; Madame de Renal blushed deeply when she
heard Julien's voice as he brought in the children.
Having acquired some adroitness since she had fallen
in love, she accounted for her colour by complaining
of a splitting headache.
have women,' put in M. de Renal, with a coarse
laugh. 'There's always something out of order in
she was to this form of wit, the tone of his voice
hurt Madame de Renal. She sought relief in studying
Julien's features; had he been the ugliest man in
the world, he would have charmed her at that moment.
zealous in imitating the habits of the Court, with
the first fine days of spring M. de Renal removed
his household to Vergy; it is the village rendered
famous by the tragic adventure of Gabrielle. A few
hundred yards from the picturesque ruins of the old
gothic church, M. de Renal owned an old castle with
its four towers, and a garden laid out like that of
the Tuileries, with a number of box borders, and
chestnut alleys trimmed twice in the year. An
adjoining field, planted with apple trees, allowed
the family to take the air. Nine or ten splendid
walnuts grew at the end of the orchard; their
massive foliage rose to a height of some eighty
those damned walnuts,' M. de Renal would say when
his wife admired them, 'costs me half an acre of
crop; the corn will not grow in their shade.'
scene appeared to come as a novelty to Madame de
Renal; her admiration knew no bounds. The feeling
that animated her gave her a new spirit and
determination. On the second day after their removal
to Vergy, M. de Renal having returned to town upon
some official business, his wife engaged labourers
at her own expense. Julien had given her the idea of
a little gravelled path, which should run round the
orchard and beneath the big walnuts, and would allow
the children to walk there in the early morning
without wetting their shoes in the dew. This plan
was put into execution within twenty-four hours of
its conception. Madame de Renal spent a long and
happy day with Julieu supervising the labourers.
Mayor of Verrieres returned from the town, he was
greatly surprised to find the path finished. His
coming surprised Madame de Renal also; she had
forgotten that he existed. For the next two months,
he continued to speak with annoyance of their
presumption in having carried out, without
consulting him, so important a repair, but Madame de
Renal had done it at her own expense, and this to
some extent consoled him.
She spent her
days running about the orchard with her children,
and chasing butterflies. They had made a number of
large nets of light-coloured gauze, with which they
caught the unfortunate lepidoptera. This was the
outlandish name which Julien taught Madame de Renal.
For she had sent to Besancon for the handsome work
on the subject by M. Godart; and Julien read to her
the strange habits of these insects.
them, without compunction, with pins upon a large
sheet of pasteboard, also prepared by Julien.
Madame de Renal and Julien had a subject for
conversation; he was no longer exposed to the
frightful torture inflicted on him by intervals of
conversed incessantly, and with extreme interest,
although always of the most innocent things. This
life, active, occupied and cheerful, suited
everyone, except Miss Elisa, who found herself
worked to death. 'Even at carnival-time,' she said,
'when there is a ball at Verrieres, Madame has never
taken so much trouble over her dress; she changes
her clothes two or three times a day.'
As it is our
intention to flatter no one, we shall not conceal
the fact that Madame de Renal, who had a superb
skin, had dresses made for her which exposed her
arms and bosom freely. She was very well made, and
this way of dressing suited her to perfection.
never _been so young_, Ma'am,' her friends from
Verrieres used to tell her when they came to dine at
Vergy. (It is a local form of speech.)
point, which our readers will scarcely believe, was
that Madame de Renal had no deliberate intention in
taking such pains with her appearance. She enjoyed
doing so; and, without giving the matter any
particular thought, whenever she was not chasing
butterflies with the children and Julien, she was
engaged with Elisa making dresses. Her one
expedition to Verrieres was due to a desire to
purchase new summer clothes which had just arrived
there from Mulhouse.
back with her to Vergy a young woman, one of her
cousins. Since her marriage, Madame de Renal had
gradually formed an intimate friendship with Madame
Derville, who in their younger days had been her
school-fellow at the Sacre-Coeur.
Derville laughed heartily at what she called her
cousin's absurd ideas. 'If I were alone, they would
never occur to me,' she used to say.
These sudden ideas, which in Paris would have
been called sallies, made Madame de Renal feel
ashamed, as of something foolish, when she was with
her husband; but Madame Derville's presence gave her
courage. She began by telling her what she was
thinking in a timid voice; when the ladies were by
themselves for any length of time, Madame de Renal
would become animated, and a long, undisturbed
morning passed in a flash and left the friends quite
merry. On this visit, the sensible Madame Derville
found her cousin much less merry and much happier.
meanwhile, had been living the life of a child since
he had come to the country, as happy to be running
after butterflies as were his pupils.
After so much constraint and skilful
diplomacy, alone, unobserved by his fellow-men, and,
instinctively, feeling not in the least afraid of
Madame de Renal, he gave himself up to the pleasure
of being alive, so keen at his age, and in the midst
of the fairest mountains in the world.
As soon as
Madame Derville arrived, Julien felt that she was
his friend; he hastened to show her the view that
was to be seen from the end of the new path; as a
matter of fact it was equal, if not superior to the
most admirable scenery which Switzerland and the
Italian lakes have to offer. By climbing the steep
slope which began a few yards farther on, one came
presently to high precipices fringed with oakwoods,
which projected almost over the bed of the river. It
was to the summits of these sheer rocks that Julien,
happy, free, and indeed something more, lord of the
house, led the two friends, and relished their
admiration of those sublime prospects.
'To me it is
like Mozart's music,' said Madame Derville.
jealousy, the presence of a despotic and
ill-tempered father had spoiled the country round
Verrieres in Julien's eyes. At Vergy, he found no
trace of these unpleasant memories; for the first
time in his life, he could see no one that was his
enemy. When M. de Renal was in town, as frequently
happened, he ventured to read; soon, instead of
reading at night, and then taking care, moreover, to
shade his lamp with an inverted flower-pot, he could
take his full measure of sleep; during the day, in
the interval between the children's lessons, he
climbed up among these rocks with the book that was
his sole rule of conduct, and the sole object of his
transports. He found in it at once happiness,
ecstasy and consolation in moments of depression.
things which Napoleon says of women, various
discussions of the merits of the novels in vogue
during his reign, furnished him now, for the first
time, with several ideas which would long since have
been familiar to any other young man of his age.
weather came. They formed the habit of spending the
evening under a huge lime a few yards from the
house. There the darkness was intense. One evening,
Julien was talking with emphasis, he was revelling
in the pleasure of talking well and to young married
women; as he gesticulated, he touched the hand of
Madame de Renal, who was leaning on the back of one
of those chairs of painted wood that are placed in
The hand was
hurriedly withdrawn; but Julien decided that it was
his _duty_ to secure that the hand should not be
withdrawn when he touched it. The idea of a duty to
be performed, and of making himself ridiculous, or
rather being left with a sense of inferiority if he
did not succeed in performing it, at once took all
the pleasure from his heart.
Evening in the Country
When he saw
Madame de Renal again, the next morning, there was a
strange look in his eyes; he watched her like an
enemy with whom he would presently be engaged. This
expression, so different from his expression
overnight, made Madame de Renal lose her head; she
had been kind to him, and he appeared vexed. She
could not take her eyes from his.
Derville's presence excused Julien from his share of
the conversation, and enabled him to concentrate his
attention upon what he had in mind. His sole
occupation, throughout the day, was that of
fortifying himself by reading the inspired text
which refreshed his soul.
curtailed the children's lessons, and when, later
on, the presence of Madame de Renal recalled him to
the service of his own vanity, decided that it was
absolutely essential that this evening she should
allow her hand to remain in his.
The sun as it
set and so brought nearer the decisive moment made
Julien's heart beat with a strange excitement. Night
fell. He observed, with a joy that lifted a huge
weight from his breast, that it was very dark. A sky
packed with big clouds, kept in motion by a hot
breeze, seemed to forebode a tempest. The two women
continued strolling until a late hour. Everything
that they did this evening seemed strange to Julien.
They were enjoying this weather, which, in
certain delicate natures, seems to enhance the
pleasure of love.
At last they
sat down, Madame de Renal next to Julien, and Madame
Derville on the other side of her friend.
Preoccupied with the attempt he must shortly make,
Julien could think of nothing to say. The
tremble like this and feel as uncomfortable the
first time I have to fight a duel?' Julien wondered;
for he had too little confidence either in himself
or in others not to observe the state he was in.
agonising uncertainty, any danger would have seemed
to him preferable. How often did he long to see
Madame de Renal called by some duty which would
oblige her to return to the house and so leave the
The violence of the effort which Julien had to make
to control himself was such that his voice was
entirely altered; presently Madame de Renal's voice
became tremulous also, but Julien never noticed
this. The ruthless warfare which his sense of duty
was waging with his natural timidity was too
exhausting for him to be in a condition to observe
anything outside himself. The quarter before ten had
sounded from the tower clock, without his having yet
ventured on anything. Julien, ashamed of his
cowardice, told himself: 'At the precise moment when
ten o'clock strikes, I shall carry out the intention
which, all day long, I have been promising myself
that I would fulfil this evening, or I shall go up
to my room and blow my brains out.'
After a final
interval of tension and anxiety, during which the
excess of his emotion carried Julien almost out of
his senses, the strokes of ten sounded from the
clock overhead. Each stroke of that fatal bell
stirred an echo in his bosom, causing him almost a
while the air was still throbbing with the last
stroke of ten, he put out his hand and took that of
Madame de Renal, who at once withdrew it.
Julien, without exactly knowing what he was
doing, grasped her hand again.
Although greatly moved himself, he was struck
by the icy coldness of the hand he was clasping; he
pressed it with convulsive force; a last attempt was
made to remove it from him, but finally the hand was
left in his grasp.
His heart was
flooded with joy, not because he loved Madame de
Renal, but because a fearful torment was now at an
end. So that Madame Derville should not notice
anything, he felt himself obliged to speak; his
voice, now, was loud and ringing. Madame de Renal's,
on the other hand, betrayed such emotion that her
friend thought she must be ill and suggested to her
that they should go indoors. Julien saw the danger:
'If Madame de Renal returns to the drawing-room, I
am going to fall back into the horrible position I
have been in all day. I have not held this hand long
enough to be able to reckon it as a definite
Derville repeated her suggestion that they should go
into the drawing-room, Julien pressed the hand that
lay in his.
Renal, who was preparing to rise, resumed her seat,
saying in a faint tone:
'I do, as a
matter of fact, feel a little unwell, but the fresh
air is doing me good.'
confirmed Julien's happiness, which, at this moment,
was extreme: he talked, forgot to dissimulate,
appeared the most charming of men to his two
hearers. And yet there was still a slight want of
courage in this eloquence which had suddenly come to
him. He was in a deadly fear lest Madame Derville,
exhausted by the wind which was beginning to rise,
and heralded the storm, might decide to go in by
herself to the drawing-room.
Then he would be left alone with Madame de
Renal. He had found almost by accident the blind
courage which was sufficient for action; but he felt
that it lay beyond his power to utter the simplest
of words to Madame de Renal. However mild her
reproaches might be, he was going to be defeated,
and the advantage which he had just gained wiped
for him, this evening, his touching and emphatic
speeches found favour with Madame Derville, who as a
rule found him as awkward as a schoolboy, and by no
means amusing. As for Madame de Renal, her hand
lying clasped in Julien's, she had no thought of
anything; she was allowing herself to live. The
hours they spent beneath this huge lime, which,
local tradition maintained, had been planted by
Charles the Bold, were for her a time of happiness.
She listened with rapture to the moaning of the wind
in the thick foliage of the lime, and the sound of
the first few drops that were beginning to fall upon
its lowest leaves. Julien did not notice a detail
which would have greatly reassured him; Madame de
Renal, who had been obliged to remove her hand from
his, on rising to help her cousin to pick up a pot
of flowers which the wind had overturned at their
feet, had no sooner sat down again than she gave him
back her hand almost without difficulty, and as
though it had been an understood thing between them.
long since struck; at length it was time to leave
the garden: the party broke up. Madame de Renal,
transported by the joy of being in love, was so
ignorant that she hardly reproached herself at all.
Happiness robbed her of sleep. A sleep like lead
carried off Julien, utterly worn out by the battle
that had been raging all day in his heart between
timidity and pride.
he was called at five o'clock; and (what would have
been a cruel blow to Madame de Renal had she known
of it) he barely gave her a thought. He had done
_his duty, and a heroic duty_. Filled with joy by
this sentiment, he turned the key in the door of his
bedroom and gave himself up with an entirely new
pleasure to reading about the exploits of his hero.
luncheon bell sounded, he had forgotten, in reading
the reports of the Grand Army, all the advantages he
had won overnight. He said to himself, in a careless
tone, as he went down to the drawing-room: 'I must
tell this woman that I love her.'
that gaze charged with passion which he expected to
meet, he found the stern face of M. de Renal, who,
having arrived a couple of hours earlier from
Verrieres, did not conceal his displeasure on
finding that Julien was wasting the whole morning
without attending to the children. No sight could
have been so unprepossessing as that of this
self-important man, conscious of a grievance and
confident of his right to let it be seen.
Each of her
husband's harsh words pierced Madame de Renal to the
heart. As for Julien, he was so plunged in ecstasy,
still so absorbed in the great events which for the
last few hours had been happening before his eyes,
that at first he could barely lower the pitch of his
attention to listen to the stern voice of M. de
Renal. At length he answered him, sharply enough:
The tone of
this reply would have stung a man far less
susceptible than the Mayor of Verrieres; it occurred
to him to reply to Julien with an immediate
dismissal. He was restrained only by the maxim which
he had laid down for himself, never to be too hasty
in business matters.
fool,' he soon reminded himself, 'has made himself a
sort of reputation in my house; Valenod may take him
on, or else he will marry Elisa, and, in either
case, he can afford to laugh at me in his heart.'
wisdom of these reflections, M. de Renal's
displeasure found an outlet nevertheless in a
succession of coarse utterances which succeeded in
irritating Julien. Madame de Renal was on the point
of subsiding in tears.
As soon as the meal was ended, she asked
Julien to give her his arm for their walk; she
leaned upon it in a friendly way. To all that Madame
de Renal said to him, Julien could only murmur in
'This is what
rich people are like!'
M. de Renal
kept close beside them; his presence increased
He noticed suddenly that Madame de Renal was
leaning upon his arm in a marked manner; this action
horrified him, he repulsed her violently, freeing
his arm from hers.
M. de Renal saw nothing of this fresh impertinence;
it was noticed only by Madame Derville; her friend
burst into tears. At this moment M. de Renal began
flinging stones at a little peasant girl who was
trespassing by taking a short cut across a corner of
Julien, kindly control yourself, remember that we
are all of us liable to moments of ill temper,'
Madame Derville said hastily.
at her coldly with eyes in which the loftiest
contempt was portrayed.
astonished Madame Derville, and would have surprised
her far more could she have guessed its full
meaning; she would have read in it a vague hope of
the most terrible revenge. It is doubtless to such
moments of humiliation that we owe men like
is very violent, he frightens me,' Madame Derville
murmured to her friend.
'He has every
reason to be angry,' the other replied. 'After the
astonishing progress the children have made with
him, what does it matter if he spends a morning
without speaking to them? You must admit that
gentlemen are very hard.'
For the first
time in her life, Madame de Renal felt a sort of
desire to be avenged on her husband. The intense
hatred that animated Julien against rich people was
about to break forth. Fortunately M. de Renal called
for his gardener, with whom for the rest of the time
he busied himself in stopping up with faggots of
thorn the short cut that had been made across the
orchard. Julien did not utter a single word in reply
to the attentions that were shown him throughout the
remainder of the walk. As soon as M. de Renal had
left them, the two ladies, on the plea that they
were tired, had asked him each for an arm.
As he walked
between these women whose cheeks were flushed with
the embarrassment of an intense discomfort, Julien's
sombre and decided air formed a striking contrast.
He despised these women, and all tender feelings.
said to himself, 'not even an allowance of five
hundred francs to complete my studies! Ah! How I
should send her packing!'
these drastic thoughts, the little that he deigned
to take in of the polite speeches of the two ladies
displeased him as being devoid of meaning, silly,
feeble, in a word _feminine_.
By dint of
talking for talking's sake, and of trying to keep
the conversation alive, Madame de Renal found
herself saying that her husband had come from
Verrieres because he had made a bargain, for the
purchase of maize straw, with one of his farmers.
(In this district maize straw is used to stuff the
palliasses of the beds.)
will not be joining us again,' Madame de Renal went
on: 'he will be busy with the gardener and his valet
changing the straw in all the palliasses in the
house. This morning he put fresh straw on all the
beds on the first floor, now he is at work on the
changed colour; he looked at Madame de Renal in an
odd manner, and presently drew her apart, so to
speak, by increasing his pace. Madame Derville
allowed them to move away from her.
life,' said Julien to Madame de Renal, 'you alone
can do it; for you know that the valet hates me like
poison. I must confess to you, Ma'am, that I have a
portrait; I have hidden it in the palliasse on my
words, Madame de Renal in turn grew pale.
Ma'am, can go into my room at this moment; feel,
without letting yourself be observed, in the corner
of the palliasse nearest to the window; you will
find there a small box of shiny black pasteboard.'
a portrait?' said Madame de Renal, barely able to
Her air of
disappointment was noticed by Julien, who at once
took advantage of it.
'I have a
second favour to ask of you, Ma'am; I beg you not to
look at the portrait, it is my secret.'
'It is a
secret!' repeated Madame de Renal, in faint accents.
she had been reared among people proud of their
wealth, and sensible of pecuniary interests alone,
love had already instilled some generosity into her
heart. Though cruelly wounded, it was with an air of
the simplest devotion that Madame de Renal put to
Julien the questions necessary to enable her to
execute his commission properly.
'And so,' she
said, as she left him, 'it is a little round box, of
black pasteboard, and very shiny.'
replied Julien in that hard tone which danger gives
to the second floor of the house, as pale as though
she were going to her death. To complete her misery
she felt that she was on the point of fainting, but
the necessity of doing Julien a service restored her
'I must have
that box,' she said to herself as she quickened her
hear her husband talking to the valet, actually in
Fortunately they moved into the room in which
the children slept. She lifted the mattress and
plunged her hand into the straw with such force as
to scratch her fingers. But, although extremely
sensitive to slight injuries of this sort, she was
now quite unconscious of the pain, for almost
immediately she felt the polished surface of the
pasteboard box. She seized it and fled.
No sooner was
she rid of the fear of being surprised by her
husband, than the horror inspired in her by this box
made her feel that in another minute she must
'So Julien is
in love, and I have here the portrait of the woman
Seated on a
chair in the sitting-room of this apartment, Madame
de Renal fell a prey to all the horrors of jealousy.
Her extreme ignorance was of service to her again at
this moment; astonishment tempered her grief.
Julien appeared, snatched the box, without
thanking her, without saying a word, and ran into
his bedroom, where he struck a light and immediately
destroyed it. He was pale, speechless; he
exaggerated to himself the risk he had been running.
of Napoleon,' he said to himself with a toss of the
head, 'found hidden in the room of a man who
professes such hatred for the usurper! Found by M.
de Renal, so _ultra_ and so angry! and, to complete
the imprudence, on the white card at the back of the
portrait, lines in my writing! And lines that can
leave no doubt as to the warmth of my admiration!
And each of those transports of love is dated! There
was one only two days ago!
reputation brought down, destroyed in a moment!'
Julien said to himself as he watched the box burn,
'and my reputation is all I have, I live by it alone
... and what a life at that, great God!'
later, his exhaustion and the pity he felt for
himself disposed him to feel affection. He met
Madame de Renal and took her hand which he kissed
with more sincerity than he had ever yet shown. She
coloured with delight, and almost simultaneously
repulsed Julien with the anger of a jealous woman.
Julien's pride, so recently wounded, made a fool of
him at that moment. He saw in Madame de Renal only a
rich woman, he let fall her hand with contempt, and
strode away. He went out and walked pensively in the
garden; presently a bitter smile appeared on his
'Here I am
walking about as calm as a man who is his own
master! I am not looking after the children! I am
exposing myself to the humiliating remarks of M. de
Renal, and he will be justified.' He hastened to the
of the youngest boy, to whom he was greatly
attached, did something to soothe his agonising
does not despise me yet,' thought Julien. But
presently he blamed himself for this relief from
pain, as for a fresh weakness. These children fondle
me as they might fondle the puppy that was bought
Large Heart and a Small Fortune
M. de Renal,
who was visiting every room in the house, reappeared
in the children's room with the servants who brought
back the palliasses refilled.
The sudden entry of this man was the last
straw to Julien.
sombre than usual, he advanced towards him. M. de
Renal stood still and looked at his servants.
began, 'do you suppose that with any other tutor
your children would have made the same progress that
they have made with me? If your answer is no,' he
went on without giving M. de Renal time to speak,
'how dare you presume to reproach me with neglecting
M. de Renal,
who had barely recovered from his alarm, concluded
from the strange tone which he saw this young
peasant adopt that he had in his pocket some more
attractive offer and was going to leave him.
Julien's anger increasing as he spoke:
'I can live
without you, Sir,' he concluded.
extremely sorry to see you so agitated,' replied M.
de Renal, stammering a little. The servants were a
few feet away, and were occupied in making the beds.
'That is not
enough for me, Sir,' Julien went on, beside himself
with rage; 'think of the abominable things you said
to me, and in the presence of ladies, too!'
M. de Renal
was only too well aware of what Julien was asking,
and conflicting passions did battle in his heart. It
so happened that Julien, now really mad with rage,
exclaimed: 'I know where to go, Sir, when I leave
these words, M. de Renal had a vision of Julien
established in M. Valenod's household.
Sir,' he said at length with a sigh, and the air of
a man calling in a surgeon to perform the most
painful operation, 'I agree to your request. From
the day after tomorrow, which is the first of the
month, I shall give you fifty francs monthly.'
to laugh and remained speechless: his anger had
'I did not
despise the animal enough,' he said to himself.
'This, no doubt, is the most ample apology so base a
nature is capable of making.'
who had listened to this scene open-mouthed, ran to
the garden to tell their mother that M. Julien was
in a great rage, but that he was to have fifty
francs a month.
after them from force of habit, without so much as a
glance at M. de Renal, whom he left in a state of
hundred and sixty-eight francs,' the Mayor said to
himself, 'that M. Valenod has cost me. I must really
say a few firm words to him about his contract to
supply the foundlings.'
later, Julien again stood before him.
'I have a
matter of conscience to discuss with M. Chelan. I
have the honour to inform you that I shall be absent
for some hours.'
'Ah, my dear
Julien,' said M. de Renal, laughing in the most
insincere manner, 'the whole day, if you wish, the
whole of tomorrow, my worthy friend. Take the
gardener's horse to go to Verrieres.'
de Renal said to himself, 'he's going with an answer
to Valenod; he's given me no promise, but we must
let the young hothead cool down.'
Julien made a
speedy escape and climbed up among the big woods
through which one can go from Vergy to Verrieres. He
was in no hurry to reach M. Chelan's. So far from
desiring to involve himself in a fresh display of
hypocrisy, he needed time to see clearly into his
own heart, and to give audience to the swarm of
conflicting feelings that disturbed it.
'I have won a
battle,' he said to himself as soon as he found
himself in the shelter of the woods and out of sight
of anyone, 'I have really won a battle!'
The last word
painted his whole position for him in glowing
colours, and restored some degree of tranquillity to
'Here I am
with a salary of fifty francs a month; M. de Renal
must be in a fine fright. But of what?'
meditation as to what could have frightened the
prosperous and powerful man against whom, an hour
earlier, he had been seething with rage completely
restored Julien's serenity. He was almost conscious,
for a moment, of the exquisite beauty of the woods
through which he was walking.
Enormous fragments of bare rock had in times
past fallen into the heart of the forest from the
side of the mountain. Tall beeches rose almost as
high as these rocks whose shadow provided a
delicious coolness within a few yards of places
where the heat of the sun's rays would have made it
impossible to stop.
for a breathing-space in the shadow of these great
rocks, then went on climbing. Presently, by
following a narrow path, barely visible and used
only by goatherds, he found himself standing upon an
immense rock, where he could be certain of his
complete isolation from his fellow-men. This natural
position made him smile, it suggested to him the
position to which he was burning to attain in the
moral sphere. The pure air of these lofty mountains
breathed serenity and even joy into his soul.
The Mayor of Verrieres might still, in his
eyes, be typical of all the rich and insolent
denizens of the earth, but Julien felt that the
hatred which had convulsed him that afternoon
contained, notwithstanding its violence, no element
of personal ill-feeling. Should he cease to see M.
de Renal, within a week he would have forgotten him,
the man himself, his house, his dogs, his children
and all that was his. 'I have forced him, I do not
know how, to make the greatest of sacrifices. What,
more than fifty crowns a year? A moment earlier I
had just escaped from the greatest danger. That
makes two victories in one day; the second contains
no merit, I must try to discover the reason. But we
can leave such arduous research for tomorrow.'
upon his mighty rock, gazed at the sky, kindled to
flame by an August sun. The grasshoppers were
chirping in the patch of meadow beneath the rock;
when they ceased everything around him was silence.
Twenty leagues of country lay at his feet.
From time to time a hawk, risen from the bare cliffs
above his head, caught his eye as it wheeled
silently in its vast circles. Julien's eye followed
mechanically the bird of prey. Its calm, powerful
motion impressed him, he envied such strength, he
envied such isolation.
It was the
destiny of Napoleon, was it one day to be his own?