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turns into a rough stone stairway as it equipped, furnished, and complete. nears the village-Laforge receives all Monsieur's soutane is always dreadit ever receives of necessaries and lux fully old and, it may be added, illuries from the world below it. The brushed. At the seminary, Baptiste nearest town, Saint-Manine, is five-and- was a clumsy and untidy boy, with a twenty miles away, and is only a town good deal of ink distributed over his to the dwellers in Laforge, to whom person. There is a suggestion now in the Provençal cities of Aix and Mar- his appearance that there would still seilles are but grand, unapproachable be a good deal of ink about it, if he names, to whom Paris is a remote and had any use for a commodity in which glittering El Dorado, and for whom Iaforge deals rarely. When he is conforeign parts literally have no exist. sulted on some knotty point-the ence.
kootty points, not of spiritual dificulM. le Curé lives in the little presby- ties, Laforge being not much troubled tère, which stands two minutes' walk with those, but of mundane, everyfrom the village. Its ratable value day affairs which are often brought to is exactly five pounds a year. It con- the presbytère-M. le Curé has a habit tains four bare rooms, and has a little of drawing a not too clean forefinger patch of mountain included in its prop- over a chin which never seems to have erty, wherein an English eye would been recently shaved, in honest consee possibilities of a garden and a sideration. His hat is gray and faded French eye has seen subsistence for a with southern dust and sunshine. It goat.
is true he has Annette-an old dame M. le Curé is about five-and-forty of the village, with short petticoats, years old. He has a round, apple face, and her firm face a network of lines with a kind of innocent simplicity and wrinkles—to look after him. But about it which it will keep till his it is Annette's business to keep clean death. But if he has no cleverness, he M. le Cure's house-not M. le Curé; has a practical day-by-day common- and to make soup for the inner man sense much more useful. His father out of nothing and out of everything, was a peasant of Laforge, who made as only a Frenchwoman can, instead a little money-only a very little-out of brushing the outer man into a neatof his olives, and on it sent his son, ness no one would appreciate. Baptiste, to the very small seminary E very morning, before the sun has in the very small town, five-and-twenty climbed over the mountains, and when miles away. His flock do not like Laforge lies fresh and cold in the thin M. le Cure the worse because he air of the dawn, he hurries up the has been brought up among them a stone steps of the dark, passage-like peasant, as they are peasants, and has street to the height where his little known, as they know, the pangs of church of Sainte Marthe de Laforge hunger and the temptations of grind stands sentinel over her children. He ing poverty. The last he may even has seldom time to turn and look at the know now. It is certain that when majestic ranges of mountains with the he had nailed up in his sitting-room a sunrise turning their snows to fire; or rough crucifix, a bénitier, and a rude at the village and the olive groves, bookshelf (to hold the four books which hanging, as it seems, on the rock above are his whole library) and had ar- the black, winding line of the valley. ranged a bed, a table, two chairs, and To appreciate beauty, one must have the sparsest supply of kitchen mate known ugliness; as to deplore ugliness, rials, the presbytère was entirely one must have known beauty. If M. le Curé is a little dull to the stately christenings. But how can he take splendors among which he was born, such fees from people like this? The he is fortunately also a little dull to new soutane will always be a dream, it the artistic imperfections of his seems. The women leave; and then, church, having never seen a better. M. Baptiste having appointed the hour, He goes in. softly. That the altar not because it suits him, for he is still hangings are ragged and the Ma fasting and might well be tired, but bedonna tawdry; that the candles the cause it suits his flock, hears confesfaithful have offered to the saints have sions. always guttered untidily, and that the It is very seldom, outside the cover mountain flowers in the mean vases in of an English novel, that the disclothe side.chapel are always dead, does sures of M. le Curé's confessional are not strike him to-day, or any day. The in the least thrilling or melodramatic. atmosphere is a little stale and thick, It is generally M. Baptiste's fate at with yesterday's incense and humanity, least to listen to the infant peccadilafter the light, clear air without loes of the little girls from the Laforge
Presently, a few of the faithful push pensionnat, and to the spites and jealaside the heavy door and curtain, and ousies of a few old crones. Sometimes, begin their prayers. M. Baptiste-with but more rarely, Jacques Bonhomme a brown-skinned boy server, who looks owns his coarse, plain sins; or the slipas if he had forgotten even to shake ping from the businesslike thriftiness himself since he got out of bed-goes and cunning which is the French peasthrough the Mass, perfunctorily, the ant's pride, to the dishonestly sharp stranger might think-wonderfully lit. practice which is his special temptatle perfunctorily he should think, when tion. M. le Curé's counsels are, it he remembers that M. le Curé says the may be, hardly spiritual; but they are same form of words day after day, at least practicable. For here the week after week, month after month, priest is, literally very often, brother year in and year out. The congrega- to the penitent; living a like life under tion are not strictly attentive. But, like conditions. So that when Jacques with the awakening noises of the steep rises from his knees, there, but for street calling them to the toil by which the grace of God, goes M. le Curé. they can just, and only just, earn the Presently, mincing a little in her bunch of gray bread, the handful of walk, with the feeble, narrow face olives, and the red sour wine, which is which is the result of her petty life all their subsistence, the wonder is (for if heaven makes young faces, old that they are there at all.
people make their own out of their After the service two women wait to habits and character), comes Mademoispeak to M. le Curé. One is only a selle Angele. She is the spinster lady. girl, but her hard life has made her paramount of Laforge; a rentière though look already a middle-aged woman. the rentes are meagre indeed, with a She has to arrange about the baptism bonne-d-tout-faire, and memories of betof her baby. The other, weeping, has ter days and of a tiresome uncle who to tell of the death of her son, who is was a bishop. Poor M. Baptiste's not only the child of her infirm old hand rasps, perplexed, over his chin age, but its breadwinner too. M. le when he sees her. She subscribes to Curó looks down a little ruefully at his his charities. She asks him to déjeuner. ancient soutane. It has been long a But as, in England, good ladies join dream of his to replace it with a new working parties not so much to proone, from the fees for burials and vide the heathen with clothes as themselves with an interest, so Mademoi. and has absolutely no exercise but selle Angèle is everlastingly confessing walking. The game of billiards in the sins, not to be rid of them, but for the café-the simple and frequent recreaexcitement of the confession. It needs tion of other Frenchmen--bis office some sleek, subtle Abbé of a town to forbids him. His newspaper-it is the deal with the artificial difficulties of one newspaper Baptiste, anyhow, ever a soul like this. Good Baptiste is sees--is a halfpenny rag containing the far too straightforward and simple. local lies only. But he has, at least, When Mademoiselle has gone away sunshine, warmth, light, and the loveliwith a flutter of prim skirts, he takes ness of some of the most noble and exa long breath, puts some keys in his quisite scenery in the world. If man pocket, and goes out into the flooding has been meagre to him, God and Nasunshine and light with a sense of dis- ture have dealt him some of their best tasteful duty well through, and some gifts abundantly. Then, too, the peothing false and complicated left be- ple on the Place are nearly all his hind.
friends-and are all his spiritual chilIt is time for his déjeuner--and past dren. The narrow bitterness of the diit. A good authority has said that the vision of sects does not trouble his besetting sin of the French curé is his ministrations. Such religion as the love of good eating. Baptiste's figure people have, is wholly Baptiste's relicertainly inclines to the comfortable. gion. It is as a friend that every one But, in his case, there are not only the greets him now as he comes on to the frequent and faithfully kept fasts of Plave-the patron of the Hôtel de his Church, but the fact of his being France standing in his doorway, the literally "passing richon forty pounds girl leaning on the stone wall watching a year," which prevents much indul- for the diligence, the children skipping. gence of the flesh. His de jeuner is, in the old woman passing through with it fact, so scanty that only the capable great basket of faggots on her stately Annette could make it look like a head, and Jacques leading his donkey, déjeuner at all. But the gray bread is with a barrel of wine on the beast's freshly baked and the thin soup hot. patient back. M. Baptiste would be less well fed if M. le Curé, half-sitting on the wall, he were an Euglish curate, three times reads his breviary-a special office for as well paid, spending half a dozen one of those special days which occur times as much on his feeding, in the so constantly in the Roman calendarland which has been well described as with the sun dancing and dazzling on tbat where one eats, but never dines. the well-thumbed page, for it is the When the meal is over, he feels in the sun of early November and very brilpockets of his sontane for his one liant and hot. He has but just put small cherished luxury-snuff. The away the breviary and begun to enjoy are empty. He remembers that Pierre, himself with the local rag when, every the diligence driver, is to bring him a one else being out of earshot, the girl little packet from Saint-Manine to-day; leaning on the parapet approaches him and goes out into the Place, whither timidly. Mariotte has seen a ghost! The Pierre always climbs to take his glass apparition came that way, and went of red wine at the rough table outside this, and did thus, and meant-it may the meau auberge---superbly named the be, can M. le Curé tell?--something sinHotel de France.
ister and terrible! Baptiste looks down It is to be observed that M. le Cure the valley--where the diligence can be nerer indulges in any kind of sport, espied in the distance--and thinks a moment. He is one of the people not unkindly tolerance. The brownwhom thougbt, as it were, always dis- skinned, bright-eyed children of Latresses. But be learnt conscientiously forge also feel M. le Curé to be, in long ago at Saint-Manine the treatment some sort, one of themselves. They he was to mete out to the supernatural cling on to his hands and soutane. - not to deny, not to explain, only to Having no means of finding out for soothe. Mariotte is to be assured that himself, Baptiste consults Pierre to see under the protection of the saints, the if the bour for his class-preparatory to ghost can do her no harm. Mariotte's confirmation-has really come; and friend goes away-relieved. Baptiste's Pierre, on the irresponsible authority own attitude towards the occult re- of a cheerful Italian watch, with the mains perhaps much like the attitude picture of a décolletée lady in a blue of persons far freer and bolder in satin dress on the back of it, assures thought and belief than he "it may be him that it is two o'clock. Pierre finso, my lord.”
ishes his glass with the patron. The Five-and-twenty minutes later, the schoolmaster lights a very thin cigardiligence having arrived at the auberge ette and reads & Socialist newspaper, on tbe road below, Pierre, blowing and which proposes to destroy all instituapoplectic, and still very fat though he tions and orders in time, but is careful peeled off three coats to make the as- to insist on M. le Curé's caste and procept, reaches the Place. He has the fession being destroyed first. snuff in his pocket. M. le Curé pays Meanwhile, M. Baptiste, with half the him therefor. He brings a little news young idea of Laforge at his heels, has from Saint-Manine; but not much. M. gone back to his church. As a teacher Baptiste is not so very keenly inter- he is admirable. The round face with ested. Lead a parrow and simple life, its kindly good temper, the sympathy and it grows narrower and simpler and understanding with the youth he every day. M. le Cure's heart and will never himself quite outgrow, make ambitions are bound up, contained, ful- all children love him. Then, too, M. filled, in Laforge now. The seminary Baptiste is not confused by seeing and his youth have faded a good deal more than one side of a question, and from his mind. He, with the rest of of the truth of what he teaches has the village, likes the rubicund Pierre never felt a doubt. "The more you because he is a cheerful incident in know, the less you are sure," is a the day of Laforge, not because he sound, if a dismal, axiom. brings news of a place which, after all, 'By the time the class is finished, and is not Laforge, and so really not very M. le Curé has dutifully admonished important.
the offending youth who has been playThe Place is very pleasant and ani- ing on its outskirts, and rewards a mated this afternoon. M. le Curé has sobbing little girl with a sou for havenjoyed it. It is his play-time. The ing a toothache, the autumnal afterapproach of a tall man with thin lips noon is well advanced. Then there and eager eyes reminds him that that are Vespers, and perhaps a sick peasplay-time is over. In the Catholic vil- ant to be visited; or a burried baptism lage, the schoolmaster and the curé to be performed in a stone hut, three stand respectively for Progress and miles away along a path cut round for Retrogression, and are nearly al- the mountain. It is sunset and deways at enmity. But in this case Prog- clining light before Baptiste is back at ress regards Retrogression as a child, the presbytère he first left at six this with a slightly contemptuous and a morning; and the evening may well be his own. In his little living-room, writes out of his own head--and heart. when Annette has served his modest If to-morrow be not Sunday, M. Bapsupper-to-night, because the sick tiste may indulge in a cigarette; and peasant lacked the barest necessaries sometimes in a nap. The light grows of death, it must be so modest as not dim. Monsieur moves the sputtering even to include the sour wine which, logs on the low fire on the hearth (it in this land of vineyards, is incredibly is only at this hour that his frugal Ancheap--M. le Curé spends his short nette allows him a fire at all) with the solitude.
broken toe of his broad shoe. Annette Does he feel it to be solitary? Does puts her head in at the door and says he dream in reality, as he al. "Bon soir, Mo'sieu” with a severity ways dreams in books, of the woman which means "Candles are dear, and his harsh vows forbid him to marry, there is no need to sit up late.” Then of children nearer and dearer than the she apparently bangs all the doors in children he taught this afternoon? the house, and retires, like a respectaVery seldom. If one is to violate a ble tornado, to her own home in the great fundamental law of Nature, one village. cannot begin too soon. It must be M. le Curé sits looking at the faces in considered-it is often forgotten-that the fire for another ten minutes. The Baptiste was trained and disciplined choice between bed and a candle befrom his boyhood for this maimed life; comes pressing. Bed is much cheaper. that he can hardly be said to renounce By half-past nine M. le Curé is enjoythe dear and common joys, for he has ing the “heavy honeydew of slumber," never expected to have them. Com- with a regular, peaceful snore, and pare him with his brother priest of the never a dream. Church of England (on whose poor On Sunday-the cheerful Sunday of stipend Baptiste would find himself the Catholic, when is kept the fête disgracefully rich), with his delicate Dieu and the fête of every one else as wife, his half-dozen hapless children, well-M. le Curé finds his church much and the consequent too engrossing fuller than on week-days. But his family cares, and it may well be congregation has not at all the air of thought-if its strong temptations can "one-long-service-and-get-it-all-done-forbe overcome that Baptiste's position the-rest-of-the-week” which distinis more dignified and contented, and guishes many Protestant worshippers. bis usefulness less hampered.
To-day he preaches his sermon. He Perhaps three times a year he writes has a manner naturally dramatic, a letter, to a sister living forty miles warm, eager, spontaneous. His disaway; nearly as often he takes down courses are both less frequent and less one of his four volumes of the “Lives foolish than his brother's of the Engof the Fathers" (left him by a distant lish Church-it may be, less foolish bepriestly relative), dusts it politely, and cause less frequent. Baptiste, at any puts it back again. The "Lives" would rate does not spend his time in exnot be exhilarating, very likely. But plaining away doubts which have to Baptiste books, of any sort, may oc- never existed in the minds of his hearcasionally be a duty, but are never a ers, nor in gallantly trying to reconcile recreation.
the very latest scientific theory with If to-morrow be Sunday, there is his the most ancient form of the Christian sermon to prepare and learn by rote. religion. If he attempted controversy, But he does not need books even for the thin-lipped schoolmaster, standing that. Knowing his people, he, wisely, in the dark shadows at the back of the
LIVING AGE. VOL. XXXV. 1817