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words which were exchanged upon the threshold were heard, as they resounded brutally up the dignified and highly respectable staircase"Dirty blackguard!" cried Auguste, "sending people to the hulks who've done nothing equal to it."
'Théophile came out the last.
He held the door ajar, and gasped in a
voice half choked by passion and cough—
""Thief! thief! thief!-and you, Mrs. Thief! d'you hear? Mrs. Thief!!"
At last, the ruin of Berthe is known. The shame completes the misery of her father, who dies heart-broken, uttering only the name of his younger son, Saturnin. Uncle Bachelard is now forced to promise the fifty-thousand francs, and it is proposed to negotiate on this basis with Auguste, with a view to his taking back his wife. The Abbé Mauduit is requested to be the intermediary. He undergoes the usual struggle; he is the preacher of pardon and of reconciliation, the teacher charged with the command of forgiveness, but is it not a degradation to his sacred office to mix himself up, even for such an end, in the conclusion of a bargain so base? The usual argument of avoiding a public scandal is added; moreover, Berthe's restored position is almost her only chance of a better future. He consents. The quasi-condonement is effected, but with an amount of foul recrimination and shameless cynicism. that gives a far keener point than we dare here convey to the extract with which we conclude.
'The Abbe Mauduit and Dr. Juillerat went slowly down stairs. An absolute peace reigned; the court was empty; the staircase deserted; the doors looked as if they had been walled up, and the flats manifested only a dignified silence.
'When they had entered the porch, the Priest stopped, as if his strength had utterly failed him, and said in a tone of despair, as though to himself— Misery."
'The doctor made a little movement of the head, and answered
'They sometimes exchanged these mutual avowals, when they were coming out side by side from a death or a birth. Contradictory as their respective beliefs were, they sometimes found a common ground in the wretchedness of mankind. They both knew the same secrets, for, the Priest heard these women's confessions, and the doctor looked after their health.
"God is giving them up," said the Priest.
""No," said the doctor, "you needn't count any God in the matter at all. They're unhealthy or badly brought up; that's all.”
And then he proceeded to spoil the point of his own words, by dragging in his political ideas. He declared the Empire guilty; if the government was once a Republic, no doubt things would be much better. But in the midst of these pettinesses, there were some very true observations of an old practitioner who knew his own range of patients thoroughly. He denounced the women-creatures who had been made perverse or idiotic by being brought up like dolls, or were born with inherited physical tendencies which distorted their natural feeling and passion; but he was no gentler for the men-fellows who made a mess of their existence, under a mask of respectability; and then, with his Jacobin vehemence, he proceeded to sound the death-knell of a whole class, the decay and collapse of a professional and mercantile society, whose rotten props were giving way of themselves. Then he got out of his depth again, talked about savages, prophesied the approaching universal happiness of man, and wound up by saying
"I am more religious than you."
'The Priest had the air of listening to him in silence.
But he did not really hear what he said. He was alone with his sorrowful thoughts. There was a silence, and then he said in a low tone
"If they know not what they do, may God forgive them."
'They left the house, and walked slowly down the Rue Neuve-SaintAugustin. They were both silent under the fear of having said too much, for both of them, in their respective positions, had to be very prudent. When they got to the end of the street, they looked up, and saw Mdme. Hedouin smiling at the door of her shop, with Octave, as cheerful as she, standing behind her. That very morning, after a business-like conversation, they had agreed that they had better marry each other. They had decided to wait till the autumn, but they were both in a state of pleasure at having brought the matter to a conclusion.
"“Good morning, sir," said Mdme. Hedouin, gaily, to the Priest, and then to the doctor, "always hard at work, sir?"
'He congratulated her upon how well she was looking.
Oh," she said, "if there was nobody but me, it would never do for
"They stopped to talk a little. He told them of the birth of Marie Pichon's third daughter. They exchanged some pleasantries. The Priest alone remained mute, and looking at the ground. Mdme. Hedouin asked him if he wasn't feeling well? Yes, he said, but he was very tired, and was going to lie down for a little. They exchanged some civil phrases very warmly, and he went down the Rue Saint-Roch. The doctor stil accompanied him, and when they got to the church, said to him sharply"No business doing there-eh?"
"What?" said the Priest, in astonishment.
"The lady who sells the calico-she snaps her fingers at both you and
She does'nt want the Almighty any more than a black-draught. Never mind, when a case goes on so well as that, there's no interest about it."
'He passed on, and the Priest entered the church.
'The great windows of white glass, with borders of yellow and pale blue, filled the interior with clear daylight. There was not a sound. There was perfect stillness in the empty nave, where the marble panelling, the cut-glass chandeliers and the gilded pulpit all stood out in the clear light. It had all the respectability, the luxurious comfort of a middle-class drawing-room, where the covers have been taken off the furniture preparatory to an evening party. The only exception was one woman, in front of the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, who was watching the votive candles as they burnt away upon their stand, emitting the while a faint smell of melted wax.
'The Abbé Mauduit was going up to his room. But a strong perturbation, a strange feeling of need for something, had made him turn in there and kept him there. It was as if God was calling him, but with a voice so faroff and so indistinct that he could not catch the exact commands. He passed slowly through the church, trying to understand what was going on in himself, and to argue away his feeling of fear, when, in an instant, as he was passing round behind the choir, he saw something which is more than man, and his whole being reeled and shook, down to its depths.
'This is what it was. Beyond the chapel of the Virgin, with all its marble and its great white masses of lilies-beyond the chapel of the perpetual adoration of the Sacrament, with all its splendid plate, with its seven golden lamps, with its golden candlesticks, with its golden altar, all lying in the yellow light of its golden-tinted windows-beyond these mysterious shadows, far away beyond even the perspective of the Tabernacle -a terrible apparition, one group perfectly simple-Christ nailed to the cross with Mary and Magdalen weeping beside Him. The light came from an unseen window above, and threw the whole forward on an enlarged scale, against the bare wall behind. The bleeding humanity of that death and of those tears, seemed like the divine emblem of a perpetual
"The Priest sank involuntarily upon his knees. It was he himself who had thought of the white plaster, invented the peculiar light, devised this striking effect, and now as soon as the hoarding was down and the architect and workmen gone, he was himself the first person to be struck. From the naked self-sacrifice of Calvary there seemed to come forth a still small voice, which felled him to the earth. He seemed to himself as if he felt that the Lord was passing before him, he grovelled before the voice, torn by doubt, tortured by the thought that perhaps he was a bad Priest. 'Oh, Lord God! was the hour striking when he ought no more to spread the covering of religion over the wounds of a putrid society? Was he no longer to abet the hypocrisy of his flock, no longer to intervene
like a master of ceremonies, to marshal in a semblance of propriety their folly and their sin? Ought he rather to let the whole thing go, at the risk that the Church herself might suffer in the cataclasm? Yea, this he felt was the Command, for the strength was gone from him to wade any farther through human pollution, he sickened hopelessly under the sense of powerlessness and repulsion. The vileness in which he had been working since the morning seemed to rise and choke him. He stretched out his hands beseechingly, and asked for pardon, pardon for his falsehoods, his cowardly politenesses, his base associations. The fear of God seized full possession of him, the fear of God Who refused to sanction his acts, Who forbade him any longer to abuse His name, the fear of the God of vengeance determined no longer to spare the guilty. All his smiling tolerances as a man of the world disappeared before the scruples of his terrified conscience, and there remained only one feeling-the strong faith of a believing Christian, thrown into alarm, and agonised with the uncertainty of salvation. Oh, Lord God! In what path was it his duty to walk? What was it he was behoven to do in the midst of a society which was rotting away, and whose corruption tainted even its Priests?
And the Abbé Mauduit, gazing upon Calvary, wept bitterly. He wept, like Mary and Magdalen, because the Truth was dead, and heaven a blank. Away beyond the marbles and the goldsmith's work, the great plaster Christ had not a drop of Blood left."
ART. VII.-THREE REPRESENTATIVE POETS:-MR. TENNYSON, MR. SWINBURNE, AND MR. BROWNING.
[ANY of us have recently been reading with considerable interest the latest works of two eminent living poetsMr. Browning's Jocoseria and Mr. Swinburne's Century of Roundels. Though we do not here intend to indulge in a special criticism of these volumes, but reserve our remarks upon them for another page, their appearance among the books of the season seems to provide both an opportunity and apology for a general survey of the nature and scope of the entire mass of their authors' work; and it seems fitting that such a survey should include as well the works of Mr. Tennyson, which, to say the least, are of equal significance and importance. Of poetry even more than of playing it may now be said that it shows the very age and body of the
time, his form and pressure.' There is no really vital tendency of our generation which does not find expression in the verse of one or more of these poets; and therefore an account of their work which is in any degree comprehensive and veracious, must serve in its measure as a record of the thoughts, emotions, and impulses which have uttered themselves in the English song of the Victorian age.
Of late years, criticism-once the most uninspired and uninspiring of all literary products-has won for itself a wider interest and an intenser vitality. It is not difficult to see how this has come to pass. Criticism is an art, but as Professor Tyndall suggested in his speech at the banquet given to Mr. Henry Irving, even art wins its brightest successes when it instinctively adopts some of the methods of science; and critics had availed themselves beforehand of the Professor's hint. We know that a very ordinary looking piece of stone in which the careless observer sees nothing noteworthy, gains significance when it is surveyed in its relation to the life of the world, and is perceived to be a record of its past, a part of its present, a prophecy of its future; and, in like manner, a work of fancy or imagination even if poor and imitative, becomes rich in fertile suggestion the moment it is made to tell the tale of its ancestry and environment. We may, without blame, say that we do not care for it as it is, but if we go on to say that we do not care to know how it came to be what it is, we are really confessing indifference to the life of humanity of which it is a fragment-a life in which every interval between dawn and sunset is charged with the interest of a remembered yesterday and an anticipated to-morrow. The true criticism of a poem, a painting, or a piece of sculpture, which is not merely entertaining for the moment, but permanently instructive and illuminating, is a contribution not to æsthetics alone but to history and psychology-to every study, indeed, which takes for its province the works and ways of men under the sun.
Much of all kinds of criticism, and not a little of this best kind, has been devoted to the work of the three distinguished poets whose names stand at the head of this page; and to say