<SPAN name="link2HCH0041" id="link2HCH0041">
<!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN>
<div style="height: 4em;">
<br /><br /><br /><br />
He was a man about fifty years of age, who had a preoccupied air, and who
was good. That was all that could be said about him.
Thanks to the rapid progress of the industry which he had so admirably
re-constructed, M. sur M. had become a rather important centre of trade.
Spain, which consumes a good deal of black jet, made enormous purchases
there each year. M. sur M. almost rivalled London and Berlin in this
branch of commerce. Father Madeleine's profits were such, that at the end
of the second year he was able to erect a large factory, in which there
were two vast workrooms, one for the men, and the other for women. Any one
who was hungry could present himself there, and was sure of finding
employment and bread. Father Madeleine required of the men good will, of
the women pure morals, and of all, probity. He had separated the
work-rooms in order to separate the sexes, and so that the women and girls
might remain discreet. On this point he was inflexible. It was the only
thing in which he was in a manner intolerant. He was all the more firmly
set on this severity, since M. sur M., being a garrison town,
opportunities for corruption abounded. However, his coming had been a
boon, and his presence was a godsend. Before Father Madeleine's arrival,
everything had languished in the country; now everything lived with a
healthy life of toil. A strong circulation warmed everything and
penetrated everywhere. Slack seasons and wretchedness were unknown. There
was no pocket so obscure that it had not a little money in it; no dwelling
so lowly that there was not some little joy within it.
Father Madeleine gave employment to every one. He exacted but one thing:
Be an honest man. Be an honest woman.
As we have said, in the midst of this activity of which he was the cause
and the pivot, Father Madeleine made his fortune; but a singular thing in
a simple man of business, it did not seem as though that were his chief
care. He appeared to be thinking much of others, and little of himself. In
1820 he was known to have a sum of six hundred and thirty thousand francs
lodged in his name with Laffitte; but before reserving these six hundred
and thirty thousand francs, he had spent more than a million for the town
and its poor.
The hospital was badly endowed; he founded six beds there. M. sur M. is
divided into the upper and the lower town. The lower town, in which he
lived, had but one school, a miserable hovel, which was falling to ruin:
he constructed two, one for girls, the other for boys. He allotted a
salary from his own funds to the two instructors, a salary twice as large
as their meagre official salary, and one day he said to some one who
expressed surprise, "The two prime functionaries of the state are the
nurse and the schoolmaster." He created at his own expense an infant
school, a thing then almost unknown in France, and a fund for aiding old
and infirm workmen. As his factory was a centre, a new quarter, in which
there were a good many indigent families, rose rapidly around him; he
established there a free dispensary.
At first, when they watched his beginnings, the good souls said, "He's a
jolly fellow who means to get rich." When they saw him enriching the
country before he enriched himself, the good souls said, "He is an
ambitious man." This seemed all the more probable since the man was
religious, and even practised his religion to a certain degree, a thing
which was very favorably viewed at that epoch. He went regularly to low
mass every Sunday. The local deputy, who nosed out all rivalry everywhere,
soon began to grow uneasy over this religion. This deputy had been a
member of the legislative body of the Empire, and shared the religious
ideas of a father of the Oratoire, known under the name of Fouche, Duc
d'Otrante, whose creature and friend he had been. He indulged in gentle
raillery at God with closed doors. But when he beheld the wealthy
manufacturer Madeleine going to low mass at seven o'clock, he perceived in
him a possible candidate, and resolved to outdo him; he took a Jesuit
confessor, and went to high mass and to vespers. Ambition was at that
time, in the direct acceptation of the word, a race to the steeple. The
poor profited by this terror as well as the good God, for the honorable
deputy also founded two beds in the hospital, which made twelve.
Nevertheless, in 1819 a rumor one morning circulated through the town to
the effect that, on the representations of the prefect and in
consideration of the services rendered by him to the country, Father
Madeleine was to be appointed by the King, mayor of M. sur M. Those who
had pronounced this new-comer to be "an ambitious fellow," seized with
delight on this opportunity which all men desire, to exclaim, "There! what
did we say!" All M. sur M. was in an uproar. The rumor was well founded.
Several days later the appointment appeared in the Moniteur. On the
following day Father Madeleine refused.
In this same year of 1819 the products of the new process invented by
Madeleine figured in the industrial exhibition; when the jury made their
report, the King appointed the inventor a chevalier of the Legion of
Honor. A fresh excitement in the little town. Well, so it was the cross
that he wanted! Father Madeleine refused the cross.
Decidedly this man was an enigma. The good souls got out of their
predicament by saying, "After all, he is some sort of an adventurer."
We have seen that the country owed much to him; the poor owed him
everything; he was so useful and he was so gentle that people had been
obliged to honor and respect him. His workmen, in particular, adored him,
and he endured this adoration with a sort of melancholy gravity. When he
was known to be rich, "people in society" bowed to him, and he received
invitations in the town; he was called, in town, Monsieur Madeleine; his
workmen and the children continued to call him Father Madeleine, and that
was what was most adapted to make him smile. In proportion as he mounted,
throve, invitations rained down upon him. "Society" claimed him for its
own. The prim little drawing-rooms on M. sur M., which, of course, had at
first been closed to the artisan, opened both leaves of their
folding-doors to the millionnaire. They made a thousand advances to him.
This time the good gossips had no trouble. "He is an ignorant man, of no
education. No one knows where he came from. He would not know how to
behave in society. It has not been absolutely proved that he knows how to
When they saw him making money, they said, "He is a man of business." When
they saw him scattering his money about, they said, "He is an ambitious
man." When he was seen to decline honors, they said, "He is an
adventurer." When they saw him repulse society, they said, "He is a
In 1820, five years after his arrival in M. sur M., the services which he
had rendered to the district were so dazzling, the opinion of the whole
country round about was so unanimous, that the King again appointed him
mayor of the town. He again declined; but the prefect resisted his
refusal, all the notabilities of the place came to implore him, the people
in the street besought him; the urging was so vigorous that he ended by
accepting. It was noticed that the thing which seemed chiefly to bring him
to a decision was the almost irritated apostrophe addressed to him by an
old woman of the people, who called to him from her threshold, in an angry
way: "A good mayor is a useful thing. Is he drawing back before the good
which he can do?"
This was the third phase of his ascent. Father Madeleine had become
Monsieur Madeleine. Monsieur Madeleine became Monsieur le Maire.