Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Hic Aliquis de Gente Hircosa
By Louis Veuillot (1813–1883)
From ‘Les Odeurs de Paris’

THE SERGEANT was dominating in the car. Around his hairy countenance, ravaged and arrogant, there were only smooth faces, upon which was not even the vestige of a thought. The abbé entered and took the only vacant place opposite the sergeant.  1
  Once seated, the abbé began to read his breviary. The sergeant twisted his beard. Some vague signs appeared upon one of the smooth faces; by close examination a skilled eye could have recognized the writing of Monsieur Guéroult.  2
  The sergeant looked at the abbé, then at the smooth faces, and said: “What I shall never understand is, how a man can be low enough to kneel to another man as guilty as himself and often more so.”  3
  The inspection of a smooth face indicated that this speech was generally approved. Approbation was evident in the face where certain signs already showed themselves: the writing of Adolphus became quite recognizable there.  4
  The abbé raised his gaze, rested it upon the sergeant for a moment, then carried it back to his breviary.  5
  The sergeant continued: “I think that when a man does his duty he leaves a good reputation behind him. A good reputation is paradise,—there is no other; and a bad reputation is hell, and there is no other.”  6
  This speech again appeared (generally) very wise; and even, in view of the abbé’s presence, very opportune. For what right has an abbé to thrust himself into a car full of honest folk? Nevertheless, the Guéroult writing protested. The sergeant’s eye seemed astonished by this, and became interrogative. The Guéroult writing said: “All the great philosophers have believed in the immortality of the soul.” The sergeant answered, “I tell you, no!”  7
  After a silence he continued: “I will explain what it means to do one’s duty: it is to fight and die for France, and to make France triumph. On the battle-field a man should cry ‘Live France,’ and die. And see!  8
  “I care nothing for king, emperor, or republic. I know only France and liberty. See! And I would just as soon thrust my bayonet through the Pope and all the priests, for they are enemies of France and of liberty. See!”  9
  The sergeant went on in this manner, and more eloquently still. He allowed himself a few jovialities. But as he grew very excited, the smooth faces no longer laughed. They feared he might proceed to acts.  10
  The abbé finished saying his breviary.  11
  At the station all the smooth faces dismounted, and at the signal of departure scattered themselves in other compartments. The sergeant alone, and the abbé resumed their seats. They found themselves tête-à-tête.  12
  The abbé said: “Sergeant, I see that you are a brave soldier. Of the seven men who were here just now, you alone are not afraid to stay in the same compartment with a priest. Honor to French courage!”  13
  The sergeant drew out his pipe, and closed the windows. When the pipe was well lighted, the priest lowered a window, and took his rosary. He showed it to the sergeant: “Sergeant, I hope my rosary does not annoy you?”  14
  The sergeant was no longer so fiery, or so free of voice. He growled, “You neither—you’re not afraid!”  15
  “Afraid of what?” said the abbé. “A soldier loves glory; and you said a great many things just now to astonish those fellows: but at heart you’re not a bad fellow.”  16
  “Nevertheless I would kill you,” answered the sergeant.  17
  “Doubtless,” said the abbé, “but not in this car.”  18
  “Why not in this car?” said the sergeant.  19
  “Because you have no order,” said the abbé; “and your promotion would suffer. Moreover, my dear fellow, I would forgive you all the same. Come, sergeant, light your pipe again, and let me tell my beads.”  20

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