Imágenes de página

which brought the villagers eventually reached safety, and swarming to the temple. Be

Be- the little boy grew up, and fore their advent the priest after trying several professions had hurried the culprit back which made no call for him, to his mother, and made close finally adopted one that did. prisoner of him. The ringing He was ordained a minister in of the temple bell was explained the Wesleyan denomination, , away, and the fugitives re- and lived and died a mission. mained undiscovered. They ary.


[ocr errors]

Moti turned things over in to gain. The rest were either his mind, and decided that he all of the Outcaste class or might go farther and fare worse children whose parents and than become a Christian. His belongings had been swept away motives were no better and no by plague. Of the former he worse than those which had ac- would say that if Christianity tuated many thousands of Out- didn't make them all good castes. He was a Hindu cast Christians, it at least made out and oppressed by Hindus. them better men and women ; He would try what Christi- and that they brought little anity could do to better his lot. Christians into the world.

Padre Armstrong was not a So Moti was accepted, and difficult man to find. Moti in time baptised. This short had before now stood in the history of him ends here. I crowd and listened to his will not say that he lived happreaching in the Chowk at A. pily ever afterwards, for even The interview was short. The in his new church the stigma padre was under no illusions of outcastry was not wholly whatever regarding the motives absent. And touching those which brought the vast majority early aspirations of his to beof his converts to seek baptism. come an Ascetic or Sadhu or He knew his India too well for Holy Man, there may have that. He used to say that he been something in them after could almost count his genuine all, for in course of years he converts on both hands and became a pillar in the Wesboth feet-men who in em- leyan Mission, and, rising bracing Christianity had some- through the various grades of thing to lose, and, from a its ministry, himself became an worldly point of view, nothing ordained minister.



MESSIEURS, said our racon- XIIIème arrondissement. He teur, René Guizet, permit me was not a very good barber, to warn you in advance that and his clients were few. Neverthis present tale is not an theless, one grants him two amusing story. It becomes a claims to distinction. He was farce, certainly, but only as all a gentleman. He was also, life is farcical. Viewing this without doubt, a descendant mad spectacle of life, one must in direct line from Louis, le become farceur, else lose hold Bien-Aimé, although not with on all philosophy. Why is it, the authority of the Church. one may ask, that those most However, since no other claimunworthy are so often favoured ant has ever been able to preof destiny, while, au contraire, sent so good a title, he had they are abased whom it should sufficient reason for believing be the especial desire of the that, should his blood gods to protect ? Now, by receive rightful recognition, he way of variation, consider the was, in due succession, King of story of a life in which farce France. For the rest, although and tragedy are most strangely the little barber made no secret compounded.

of his pretension, a lenient The usual bock was set down Government ably succeeded in before the little journalist of ignoring him. 'Le Grand Bavard,' and when Believe me, messieurs, he he had refreshed himself be was not, in effect, an unkingly addressed group, again figure, this Figaro, as the stugathered about the third table dents of Montmartre had nickon the right in the Café Pro- named him. He was not tall, vençal.

but, being thin and well-proThis, mes amis, is the life portioned, he had an air of story of Figaro, King of France. distinguished dignity. Old age You will, of course, quite easily crept upon him gently.

His perceive that Figaro is not the high white forehead gentleman's family name, nor crowned with silver hair, was he ever King of France, brushed out as carefully as except in the warped imagina- his proud moustache and neat tions of other men sadly af- impériale. His nose, messieurs, flicted with the same madness was very beautiful. His lips that possessed him. His name, were thin and shapely, given in fact, was M. Henri Mērot. to kindly utterance, which was He was a barber, who kept à his natural manner of expreslittle shop at 22, rue de la Boule, sion. Because the old gentle



man had lived so long with ant. Those who met with the dreams — partly

- partly because at Comtesse d'Angoulême, cling. times he starved himself-his ing proudly to their empty face was marked by a kind of honour, recognised no flight of ascetic purity. Indeed, on more time since the Revolution. than one occasion M. Mêrot They looked forward

forward confi- . refused profitable employment dently to a restoration of the by various artists of the quar- ancient régime. The dream ter. His head would have pleased them. Those to whom made a splendid study for any the dream was most real were refined drawing of a saint. least active in the world of That is not surprising.

For politics. They were content sixty years, childishly idealistic, to exist in a world of their he had formed his character own imagining, and that arisas though he were in verity a tocratic world humbled itself king. Nor were his ideas of before the little barber, who kingliness such as might, with was their king. reason, be ascribed to men more A curious figure, this little practical.

king in his triumphant hour ! And did not M. Mêrot have He came clothed in dingy constant proof of his own

black faded to musty green; his royalty? Yes, mes amis, for boots disreputable, but polished twenty-nine days at least in brightly between innumerable every month he was merely cracks; his high hat of form a barber somewhat unskilful which had already seen thirty at his trade, but each thirtieth years of service, worn as though

, evening for certain hours he it were in truth a crown. The was King of France. That soft light of candles dealt kindly was when he attended the salon with his poor attire. His frayed of the royalists, who enjoyed garments could not hide the the hospitality of the ancient king.

king. He moved easily amid Comtesse d'Angoulême at her such rich surroundings as if magnificent apartments look- no other environment had ever ing down on the Place de been known by him, as indeed l'Etoile. There he accepted he knew no other in his dreams. homage, as was his right, from His white hands were kissed by the haute noblesse, men and withered lips, which, speaking, women mostly somewhat faded, addressed him formally as Your who met as equals because Majesty. only the little barber was their One believes that these meetsuperior, and addressed eachings had no political aspect. other familiarly by the oldest They were social occasions only, and proudest names in France. when the king held his court,

It is true that in our French accepting the loyalty of his Republic titles have no legal noble subjects without conrecognition, but the social value descension. When the soirée of a noble name is still import- was finished, the king de

scended to the pavements of certain bottles containing fluids modern Paris, where, were it of various colours supposed to raining, his worn boots drank be efficient in promoting the thirstily from every gutter be- growth of hair. Painted on tween the Place de l'Etoile and that window in flaking letters the back streets of Montmartre. was the announcement, “H. Why did

they not assist Mêrot, Coiffeur,” sole adverhim ? you will ask. Messieurs, tisement of this business of one occasionally your lack of under- chair. The barber slept in standing is as remarkable as one tiny windowless chamber your patience in listening to on the top floor, where he also my tales. Is it that a king is cooked his meals when possible. a beggar, then ? For the ask- He panted painfully when asing, one may readily believe, cending the four flights of Henri Mêrot might have in- stairs. Naturally the clientèle habited a palace, or at least to be found in such a quarter a comfortable flat. His scis- lacked distinction: certain stusors, which he wielded as a dents and artists dwelling in sceptre, might as readily have the house who, in mere friendbeen put away. At the very liness, were often shaved but least, when he was not pos- did not pay; workmen who sessed of the three sous de demanded M. Mêrot's services manded by the Metro, an auto- at longer intervals, and were mobile would have been at his less pleasing in their manners disposal could he have given when they called. his assent. But no ! Could Messieurs, one considers that he accept in charity what was the infrequent shearing of his by right? His pride was tousled heads and the scraping so much greater than his press- of dirty bearded chins was not ing need, and this attitude, altogether pleasurable for fasonce made the subject of a tidious M. Mêrot. Therefore strict command, was respected he did his work badly and as by those who respected him. seldom as possible if he was So much is idyllic, worthy of a to survive for the sake of his king.

inheritance. He did not love Consider, however, the re- that insulting name, Figaro, verse side of the picture. Num- which the students affectionber 22, rue de la Boule, a street ately fastened on their king. which is little more than a foul But because he was a gentlepassage, as a place of residence man and a dreamer with a is undesirable. One gropes soul above such things, it was through a dark hallway behind yet possible for him to endure. a warped door gaining access Also his degradation was a to a darker flight of stairs. little easier for him because of From the hallway one enters the presence in the house of also the little shop. Displayed La Belle Hélène. behind the dirty window were There, mes amis, was a young


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

person who could make the his poverty, having cooked for darkest day seem bright with herself an appetising stew, she beauty. She inhabited a room would ascend to his squalid on the second floor. She was chamber carrying a steaming tall, fair, crowned with bowl of it, and would then aureole of honey-coloured hair- sometimes stay to chat a while. a deep-bosomed goddess come An angel lost in the foul in. to earth for the delight of men. ferno of rue de la Boule ! Her voice was, in itself, a bene- Yes, messieurs, Henri diction; her smile an enchant- Mêrot regarded her. Mon Roi! ment to haunt the memory. She alone, with the exception For the rest, her mother, con- of his friends, the aristocrats, veniently forgotten, was ever addressed him by his woman of Normandy. Hélène rightful title. She alone, in was a model much in demand all the quarter, seemed to by artists of the quarter. Her believe in the barber's royalty, conduct was ruled only by her yet treated him as a neighbour emotions. On occasion her and a friend. Although he beautiful voice could utter sur- knew nothing whatever about prising things. She was very the girl, it is the truth that kind to M. Mêrot.

he almost worshipped her, How could he have com- having no one else in all the menced each weary day were world whom he could love. it not with expectation of see- Secretly, be it understood, she ing her ? And almost never possessed his heart: a passion was he disappointed. In his the purest and most innocent; little shop the hot-water urn something less than the love would scarcely begin to steam, one gives a woman ; preparation for his morning thing more than the love one coffee, before there would be a gives a child. Knowing nothglint of gold at the dark door ing at all about her life, and in the hallway; a merry face feeling that curiosity would be smiling in on him ; a sweet an offence unjustifiable, neverdeep voice greeting him ami- theless he worried a great deal ably

about the girl. Bonjour, mon Roi !

Should it be raining but the Bonjour, mon enfant !he merest drizzle : would answer her.

imperméable, my child—where Tu vas bien ?'

is it It rains. You must Oui, assez bien."

not fall ill. I cannot spare “Ah! thy coffee, it smells time from my business to care good. It gives me hunger. I for you ! fly to the baker to buy my Then she would laugh, and rolls.”

go out laughing into the rain, Twice the goddess had con- for being of healthy peasant descended to share his muddy stock a little water meant nothcoffee with him. More often, ing to her. Sometimes, how. for she knew the whole tale of ever, his regard for her brought


“But your

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »