<SPAN name="link2HCH0043" id="link2HCH0043">
<!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN>
<div style="height: 4em;">
<br /><br /><br /><br />
CHAPTER IV—M. MADELEINE IN MOURNING
At the beginning of 1820 the newspapers announced the death of M. Myriel,
Bishop of D——, surnamed "Monseigneur Bienvenu," who had died
in the odor of sanctity at the age of eighty-two.
The Bishop of D—— to supply here a detail which the papers
omitted—had been blind for many years before his death, and content
to be blind, as his sister was beside him.
Let us remark by the way, that to be blind and to be loved, is, in fact,
one of the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness upon this earth,
where nothing is complete. To have continually at one's side a woman, a
daughter, a sister, a charming being, who is there because you need her
and because she cannot do without you; to know that we are indispensable
to a person who is necessary to us; to be able to incessantly measure
one's affection by the amount of her presence which she bestows on us, and
to say to ourselves, "Since she consecrates the whole of her time to me,
it is because I possess the whole of her heart"; to behold her thought in
lieu of her face; to be able to verify the fidelity of one being amid the
eclipse of the world; to regard the rustle of a gown as the sound of
wings; to hear her come and go, retire, speak, return, sing, and to think
that one is the centre of these steps, of this speech; to manifest at each
instant one's personal attraction; to feel one's self all the more
powerful because of one's infirmity; to become in one's obscurity, and
through one's obscurity, the star around which this angel gravitates,—few
felicities equal this. The supreme happiness of life consists in the
conviction that one is loved; loved for one's own sake—let us say
rather, loved in spite of one's self; this conviction the blind man
possesses. To be served in distress is to be caressed. Does he lack
anything? No. One does not lose the sight when one has love. And what
love! A love wholly constituted of virtue! There is no blindness where
there is certainty. Soul seeks soul, gropingly, and finds it. And this
soul, found and tested, is a woman. A hand sustains you; it is hers: a
mouth lightly touches your brow; it is her mouth: you hear a breath very
near you; it is hers. To have everything of her, from her worship to her
pity, never to be left, to have that sweet weakness aiding you, to lean
upon that immovable reed, to touch Providence with one's hands, and to be
able to take it in one's arms,—God made tangible,—what bliss!
The heart, that obscure, celestial flower, undergoes a mysterious
blossoming. One would not exchange that shadow for all brightness! The
angel soul is there, uninterruptedly there; if she departs, it is but to
return again; she vanishes like a dream, and reappears like reality. One
feels warmth approaching, and behold! she is there. One overflows with
serenity, with gayety, with ecstasy; one is a radiance amid the night. And
there are a thousand little cares. Nothings, which are enormous in that
void. The most ineffable accents of the feminine voice employed to lull
you, and supplying the vanished universe to you. One is caressed with the
soul. One sees nothing, but one feels that one is adored. It is a paradise
It was from this paradise that Monseigneur Welcome had passed to the
The announcement of his death was reprinted by the local journal of M. sur
M. On the following day, M. Madeleine appeared clad wholly in black, and
with crape on his hat.
This mourning was noticed in the town, and commented on. It seemed to
throw a light on M. Madeleine's origin. It was concluded that some
relationship existed between him and the venerable Bishop. "He has gone
into mourning for the Bishop of D——" said the drawing-rooms;
this raised M. Madeleine's credit greatly, and procured for him, instantly
and at one blow, a certain consideration in the noble world of M. sur M.
The microscopic Faubourg Saint-Germain of the place meditated raising the
quarantine against M. Madeleine, the probable relative of a bishop. M.
Madeleine perceived the advancement which he had obtained, by the more
numerous courtesies of the old women and the more plentiful smiles of the
young ones. One evening, a ruler in that petty great world, who was
curious by right of seniority, ventured to ask him, "M. le Maire is
doubtless a cousin of the late Bishop of D——?"
He said, "No, Madame."
"But," resumed the dowager, "you are wearing mourning for him."
He replied, "It is because I was a servant in his family in my youth."
Another thing which was remarked, was, that every time that he encountered
in the town a young Savoyard who was roaming about the country and seeking
chimneys to sweep, the mayor had him summoned, inquired his name, and gave
him money. The little Savoyards told each other about it: a great many of
them passed that way.