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CHAPTER VI—WHO GUARDED HIS HOUSE FOR HIM
The house in which he lived consisted, as we have said, of a ground floor,
and one story above; three rooms on the ground floor, three chambers on
the first, and an attic above. Behind the house was a garden, a quarter of
an acre in extent. The two women occupied the first floor; the Bishop was
lodged below. The first room, opening on the street, served him as
dining-room, the second was his bedroom, and the third his oratory. There
was no exit possible from this oratory, except by passing through the
bedroom, nor from the bedroom, without passing through the dining-room. At
the end of the suite, in the oratory, there was a detached alcove with a
bed, for use in cases of hospitality. The Bishop offered this bed to
country curates whom business or the requirements of their parishes
brought to D——
The pharmacy of the hospital, a small building which had been added to the
house, and abutted on the garden, had been transformed into a kitchen and
cellar. In addition to this, there was in the garden a stable, which had
formerly been the kitchen of the hospital, and in which the Bishop kept
two cows. No matter what the quantity of milk they gave, he invariably
sent half of it every morning to the sick people in the hospital. "I am
paying my tithes," he said.
His bedroom was tolerably large, and rather difficult to warm in bad
weather. As wood is extremely dear at D——, he hit upon the
idea of having a compartment of boards constructed in the cow-shed. Here
he passed his evenings during seasons of severe cold: he called it his
In this winter salon, as in the dining-room, there was no other furniture
than a square table in white wood, and four straw-seated chairs. In
addition to this the dining-room was ornamented with an antique sideboard,
painted pink, in water colors. Out of a similar sideboard, properly draped
with white napery and imitation lace, the Bishop had constructed the altar
which decorated his oratory.
His wealthy penitents and the sainted women of D—— had more
than once assessed themselves to raise the money for a new altar for
Monseigneur's oratory; on each occasion he had taken the money and had
given it to the poor. "The most beautiful of altars," he said, "is the
soul of an unhappy creature consoled and thanking God."
In his oratory there were two straw prie-Dieu, and there was an arm-chair,
also in straw, in his bedroom. When, by chance, he received seven or eight
persons at one time, the prefect, or the general, or the staff of the
regiment in garrison, or several pupils from the little seminary, the
chairs had to be fetched from the winter salon in the stable, the
prie-Dieu from the oratory, and the arm-chair from the bedroom: in this
way as many as eleven chairs could be collected for the visitors. A room
was dismantled for each new guest.
It sometimes happened that there were twelve in the party; the Bishop then
relieved the embarrassment of the situation by standing in front of the
chimney if it was winter, or by strolling in the garden if it was summer.
There was still another chair in the detached alcove, but the straw was
half gone from it, and it had but three legs, so that it was of service
only when propped against the wall. Mademoiselle Baptistine had also in
her own room a very large easy-chair of wood, which had formerly been
gilded, and which was covered with flowered pekin; but they had been
obliged to hoist this bergere up to the first story through the window, as
the staircase was too narrow; it could not, therefore, be reckoned among
the possibilities in the way of furniture.
Mademoiselle Baptistine's ambition had been to be able to purchase a set
of drawing-room furniture in yellow Utrecht velvet, stamped with a rose
pattern, and with mahogany in swan's neck style, with a sofa. But this
would have cost five hundred francs at least, and in view of the fact that
she had only been able to lay by forty-two francs and ten sous for this
purpose in the course of five years, she had ended by renouncing the idea.
However, who is there who has attained his ideal?
Nothing is more easy to present to the imagination than the Bishop's
bedchamber. A glazed door opened on the garden; opposite this was the bed,—a
hospital bed of iron, with a canopy of green serge; in the shadow of the
bed, behind a curtain, were the utensils of the toilet, which still
betrayed the elegant habits of the man of the world: there were two doors,
one near the chimney, opening into the oratory; the other near the
bookcase, opening into the dining-room. The bookcase was a large cupboard
with glass doors filled with books; the chimney was of wood painted to
represent marble, and habitually without fire. In the chimney stood a pair
of firedogs of iron, ornamented above with two garlanded vases, and
flutings which had formerly been silvered with silver leaf, which was a
sort of episcopal luxury; above the chimney-piece hung a crucifix of
copper, with the silver worn off, fixed on a background of threadbare
velvet in a wooden frame from which the gilding had fallen; near the glass
door a large table with an inkstand, loaded with a confusion of papers and
with huge volumes; before the table an arm-chair of straw; in front of the
bed a prie-Dieu, borrowed from the oratory.
Two portraits in oval frames were fastened to the wall on each side of the
bed. Small gilt inscriptions on the plain surface of the cloth at the side
of these figures indicated that the portraits represented, one the Abb� of
Chaliot, bishop of Saint Claude; the other, the Abb� Tourteau,
vicar-general of Agde, abbe of Grand-Champ, order of Citeaux, diocese of
Chartres. When the Bishop succeeded to this apartment, after the hospital
patients, he had found these portraits there, and had left them. They were
priests, and probably donors—two reasons for respecting them. All
that he knew about these two persons was, that they had been appointed by
the king, the one to his bishopric, the other to his benefice, on the same
day, the 27th of April, 1785. Madame Magloire having taken the pictures
down to dust, the Bishop had discovered these particulars written in
whitish ink on a little square of paper, yellowed by time, and attached to
the back of the portrait of the Abb� of Grand-Champ with four wafers.
At his window he had an antique curtain of a coarse woollen stuff, which
finally became so old, that, in order to avoid the expense of a new one,
Madame Magloire was forced to take a large seam in the very middle of it.
This seam took the form of a cross. The Bishop often called attention to
it: "How delightful that is!" he said.
All the rooms in the house, without exception, those on the ground floor
as well as those on the first floor, were white-washed, which is a fashion
in barracks and hospitals.
However, in their latter years, Madame Magloire discovered beneath the
paper which had been washed over, paintings, ornamenting the apartment of
Mademoiselle Baptistine, as we shall see further on. Before becoming a
hospital, this house had been the ancient parliament house of the
Bourgeois. Hence this decoration. The chambers were paved in red bricks,
which were washed every week, with straw mats in front of all the beds.
Altogether, this dwelling, which was attended to by the two women, was
exquisitely clean from top to bottom. This was the sole luxury which the
Bishop permitted. He said, "That takes nothing from the poor."
It must be confessed, however, that he still retained from his former
possessions six silver knives and forks and a soup-ladle, which Madame
Magloire contemplated every day with delight, as they glistened splendidly
upon the coarse linen cloth. And since we are now painting the Bishop of D——
as he was in reality, we must add that he had said more than once, "I find
it difficult to renounce eating from silver dishes."
To this silverware must be added two large candlesticks of massive silver,
which he had inherited from a great-aunt. These candlesticks held two wax
candles, and usually figured on the Bishop's chimney-piece. When he had
any one to dinner, Madame Magloire lighted the two candles and set the
candlesticks on the table.
In the Bishop's own chamber, at the head of his bed, there was a small
cupboard, in which Madame Magloire locked up the six silver knives and
forks and the big spoon every night. But it is necessary to add, that the
key was never removed.
The garden, which had been rather spoiled by the ugly buildings which we
have mentioned, was composed of four alleys in cross-form, radiating from
a tank. Another walk made the circuit of the garden, and skirted the white
wall which enclosed it. These alleys left behind them four square plots
rimmed with box. In three of these, Madame Magloire cultivated vegetables;
in the fourth, the Bishop had planted some flowers; here and there stood a
few fruit-trees. Madame Magloire had once remarked, with a sort of gentle
malice: "Monseigneur, you who turn everything to account, have,
nevertheless, one useless plot. It would be better to grow salads there
than bouquets." "Madame Magloire," retorted the Bishop, "you are mistaken.
The beautiful is as useful as the useful." He added after a pause, "More
This plot, consisting of three or four beds, occupied the Bishop almost as
much as did his books. He liked to pass an hour or two there, trimming,
hoeing, and making holes here and there in the earth, into which he
dropped seeds. He was not as hostile to insects as a gardener could have
wished to see him. Moreover, he made no pretensions to botany; he ignored
groups and consistency; he made not the slightest effort to decide between
Tournefort and the natural method; he took part neither with the buds
against the cotyledons, nor with Jussieu against Linnaeus. He did not
study plants; he loved flowers. He respected learned men greatly; he
respected the ignorant still more; and, without ever failing in these two
respects, he watered his flower-beds every summer evening with a tin
watering-pot painted green.
The house had not a single door which could be locked. The door of the
dining-room, which, as we have said, opened directly on the cathedral
square, had formerly been ornamented with locks and bolts like the door of
a prison. The Bishop had had all this ironwork removed, and this door was
never fastened, either by night or by day, with anything except the latch.
All that the first passerby had to do at any hour, was to give it a push.
At first, the two women had been very much tried by this door, which was
never fastened, but Monsieur de D—— had said to them, "Have
bolts put on your rooms, if that will please you." They had ended by
sharing his confidence, or by at least acting as though they shared it.
Madame Magloire alone had frights from time to time. As for the Bishop,
his thought can be found explained, or at least indicated, in the three
lines which he wrote on the margin of a Bible, "This is the shade of
difference: the door of the physician should never be shut, the door of
the priest should always be open."
On another book, entitled Philosophy of the Medical Science, he had
written this other note: "Am not I a physician like them? I also have my
patients, and then, too, I have some whom I call my unfortunates."
Again he wrote: "Do not inquire the name of him who asks a shelter of you.
The very man who is embarrassed by his name is the one who needs shelter."
It chanced that a worthy cure, I know not whether it was the cure of
Couloubroux or the cure of Pompierry, took it into his head to ask him one
day, probably at the instigation of Madame Magloire, whether Monsieur was
sure that he was not committing an indiscretion, to a certain extent, in
leaving his door unfastened day and night, at the mercy of any one who
should choose to enter, and whether, in short, he did not fear lest some
misfortune might occur in a house so little guarded. The Bishop touched
his shoulder, with gentle gravity, and said to him, "Nisi Dominus
custodierit domum, in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt eam," Unless the Lord
guard the house, in vain do they watch who guard it.
Then he spoke of something else.
He was fond of saying, "There is a bravery of the priest as well as the
bravery of a colonel of dragoons,—only," he added, "ours must be