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of women. But the official's mission is of a very different kind. It is to inform Durtal that it is the custom in the procession of the Sacrament, which is about to take place, that the men present should take the lead, walking at the head of the women. Startled, not able to escape, the astonished flâneur finds himself with a candle in his hands, which he can ill manage, circling round the little chapel with all the white community behind him! not beautiful nuns of romance but working Sisters of the Poor, with homely weather - beaten faces, and hands rough and red with labour. Nothing could have been easier than to turn such a scene into ridicule.

But though we see the puzzled confusion of the fine gentleman, his fastidious disgust at those homely figures, his horror at his own position, even the difficulty of kneeling, when he is placed, still more to his horror, on the steps

of the altar while the service is brought to a conclusion-il n'avait pas l'habitude de cette posture yet we are by this time too much interested in Durtal's difficulties to be tempted even to a smile. He reviews these difficulties, going on with a continual reverie which, however, never loses its interest through all the impossibilities as they appear to him of reconciling his new-born faith with his life. How, he asks himself, has he become once more a Catholic-how has he reached to that point?

"And Durtal replied to himself. 'I know not; all that I know is that, after having been for years an unbeliever, now I believe.

Let us see, however [he added to himself], the reason of it, if in the obscurity of such a subject good sense may still hold its place.'

"My surprise arises from preconceived ideas on the subject of conversions. People talk of a sudden and

violent convulsion of the soul, a thunder-stroke, or else of the Faith making at the end an explosion in ground already carefully mined. It is very evident that conversions can be brought about either in one or the other of these ways, for God acts according to His pleasure; but there must be a third way, which is no doubt the most ordinary, that which the Saviour has employed with me. There has been no road to Damascus, no events leading to a great crisis; all that has happened is that, waking one fine morning, without knowing how or why, the thing is done."

But this conviction, which has come upon him so suddenly, is as yet of little potency to heal the troubles of his soul.

to himself before his conversion, 'If I once believed that Jesus was God, and that eternal life was not an illusion, I should not hesitate to change all my habits, to follow as much as possible the rules of religion, to make my life at all events chaste.' And he wondered much that people whom he had known, under the same conditions as himself, should not hold an attitude superior to his. He who had for long been so indulgent to himself became singularly intolerant as soon as a believer was in question.

"Like all unbelievers he had said

of his judgments, and began to under"He perceived now the ignorance stand the abyss which lay between belief and action; and though he had no desire to discuss this question with himself, yet it returned upon him and overcame him, notwithstanding his reluctance, obliging him to confess the folly of his arguments and the contemptible nature of his resistance. He was frank enough to say to himself, I am no longer a child; if I believe, if I admit the Catholic faith, I cannot conceive it as lukewarm and floating, continually renewed by the fumes of a false zeal. I desire neither compromises nor truce, alternations of debauch and of holy communion, now libertine and now pious. No, all or nothing: a change from the foundation, or no change at all.'

"But the next moment he drew back terrified, attempting to fly before the decision which it was his duty to make, exhausting himself in efforts to excuse himself, with arguments that lasted for hours, invoking the most miserable reasons for remaining as he was.

"What shall I do? If I obey the command which becomes more and more imperious in me, I am preparing myself a life of remorse and revolts: for I know very well that I ought not to pause for ever on the threshold, but enter into the sanctuary and remain there. And if I decide-ah no, how can I?-for then I should have to bind myself to a mass of observances, submit to a succession of exercises, go to Mass on Sunday, fast on Friday, live like a bigot, look like a fool."

These reflections are embittered by his recollections of people who follow these rules-des gens assidus dans les églises, the pécores pieuses, whom he holds in contempt; and the priests, mediocre and lukewarm, who form the common stock of the servants of the Church. "I see myself telling all this to the priests!" he cried.

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They will tell me that it is not my business to occupy myself with questions of mysticism, and in exchange they will present me with a little religion, une religionette, fit for a sick woman they will endeavour to mix themselves up in my life, to press me concerning my soul, and insinuate their tastes; they will try to convince me that Art is a danger; they will force imbecile books upon me; they will feed me with their veal broth of piety. And I know myself at the end of two interviews I will revolt, and return to my former fare."

While he is thus painfully engaged in discovering what he must do to reach the higher life, Durtal-who had completed in the earlier part of his history the life of a certain Maréchal des Rais, a monster of iniquity, who illustrat

ed the fifteenth century and was an adept in the black mysteries of the worshippers of the Devil-now turns to the opposite extreme, and determines to devote himself to the elucidation of the life and writings of the Blessed Lidwine, a Dutch saint and mystic of still earlier date. In searching for information on this subject he encounters in a bookseller's shop the Abbé Gévresin, with whom he has many walks and talks upon the subject of this saint and others, and finally on the whole mystic world of the cloister, and on the Reparation to which many converts dedicate themselves-"that law of the substitution, that marvel of absolute Charity, that superhuman victory of Mysticism." It is to this priest that Durtal addresses himself when his troubles prove too great to be borne, and in whom he finds the most gentle and tolerant of guides. At one bitter moment, when the penitent is almost overwhelmed by fierce temptations, chiefly of the wellknown ancient kind which drove to frenzy the fathers in the desert, -the dancing nudités and carnal fascinations which not only the French mind, but the Catholic Church in general, reckons as the great and continually repeated ordeal through which the saints have to pass, - the Abbé, when everything else fails, delivers Durtal by transmitting his case to some of the communities of the Reparation, who suffer, do penance, and pray for him, till he is for the time delivered from these terrible obsessions.

Finally, the Abbé sends his penitent to a monastery of La Trappe, whither the Parisian, with all his hesitations and revolts of intelligence, goes unwillingly and with much alarm, lest the stern régime should crush his agitated mind

and body altogether. The picture of the monastery thus placed before us from within is very curious. It is divided into a small band of fathers, in the white robes of their Cistercian order, men of culture and intelligence as well as of the most absorbed devotion, and a larger body of frères converses, who do the hard work of the farm and house hold, silent figures filling the body of the chapel in kneeling lines, half distinguishable in its dimness, through the dark hours of the night from two o'clock in the morning, when these heroic worshippers begin their day of prayer and toil. Nevertheless, though the lay brothers are without privilege or enlightenment, it is among them that the highest examples of devotion, and the most touching pity, are found by the stranger. His first night in his cell is a terrible one, defiled and tortured by the images most foreign to such a house of purity and prayer. Waking from his troubled sleep before the hour (four o'clock) which is granted to the unaccustomed penitents, he makes his way to the chapel in the middle of the wintry night:

"It was quite dark; high up in the wall a round window (oil-de-bœuf) broke through the darkness like a red moon.

"He made a step in advance, then crossed himself and drew back, for his foot had struck a human body. He looked down at his feet; he was entering upon a battlefield. Human forms lay on the floor in the attitude of combatants swept down by artillery, some lying flat, some on their knees, some with their hands on the ground as if struck in the back, others with their fingers crossed on the breast, holding their head in their hands, or stretching out their arms; but from this group of sufferers there arose no groan, no cry.

"Durtal gazed stupefied at this

massacre of monks. A ray of light now fell from a lamp which the sacristan had placed in the choir, and, traversing the building, lighted up a monk on his knees before the altar dedicated to the Virgin.

"He was an old man above eighty, immovable as a statue, his eyes fixed, leaning forward in such a rapture of adoration as eclipsed all the pictured saints of the Old Masters, who near him would have seemed cold and pale. unrefined: close shaven, without even the circle of hair round the tonsure, weatherbeaten by sun and rain, to the colour of brick: the eye veiled by the mist of age: the face wrinkled, furrowed like an old tree, half-buried in an underground of white hairs: the nose broad, completing the insignificance of the features. Yet there issued forth-not from the eyes, not from the lips, yet everywhere, and from no special part-a sort of angelic sentiment which diffused itself upon that head, which enveloped all the The soul in this case lowly form. of reforming and ennobling the phydid not even give itself the trouble siognomy, but contented itself with annihilating the outward part as with a radiance of heaven: it was as if the nimbus of the ancient saints, dwelling no longer round the head, but extending over every line, bathed his whole being in a pale, almost invisible glory."

"Yet the head was common and

This old man turns out to be the swineherd of the house, at the same time the only one among them who, when an instance of Satanic possession (not reckoned extraordinary at La Trappe) occurred, was able to cast out the demon. Durtal, coming suddenly into this atmosphere of prayer from the horrors of his troubled night, falls upon the floor amid all these rapt and noiseless worshippers, and for the first time feels himself capable of opening his heart to God.

The other lay brother who glides through this extraordinary scene, silent, not a word in his mouth,

comes and goes like a spirit in the very skilful, very tender picture. Durtal has strayed out into the woods, still rent and torn with his temptations, and unable to raise his thoughts from the earth.

"He strayed slowly along till he came to the little pond, and then pausing, raised supplicating eyes to the cross. When he withdrew his gaze he suddenly met a look so full of emotion, so full of pity and sweetness, that he stopped short, and the look disappeared with the silent salutation of the lay brother who passed

him by.

"He has read my soul,' said Durtal to himself, and oh, how much reason has the charitable monk to pity me!' He remembered to have remarked in the morning this tall youth praying in the chapel with great fervour."

Later, he perceives again in this chapel

"the young pity had strengthened him. He was about twenty, robust and tall, his face a little worn, but at once masculine and tender, with emaciated features, and a fair beard which descended on his breast."

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The eyes of this gentle young brother console the penitent, his look of pity and interest seem to shine upon us from the dark background. When Durtal is taking his leave at the end of his retreat, departing as unwillingly as he came, he sees at the bottom of the court "two eyes gazing at him, the eyes of Brother Anoclet, which bade him from afar, without a gesture, adieu." We confess that this suggestion of humble and natural liking, full of human feeling, touches us more than the suave and gentlemanly monks, always ready with an answer to every difficulty, never startled by the struggles which convulse their penitent, sure of conquering in one way or other the devil who

assails him. There are a number of them, one more resourceful than the other, ministering to the mind diseased, with the certainty of surgeons performing operations in which they have all the force of experience as well as knowledge. They are all somewhat too great and good for human nature's daily food, of which, by the way, they have so little that it scarcely counts. Durtal too has very little, but yet noble fare beside that of of vegetables cooked à l'huile, the professed-a greasy little mess being their only provisions, and these at certain seasons only once a-day; while Durtal has an egg, a little cheese, a little wine. He is offered milk for his breakfast, but very injudiciously prefers wine, which shows he has not profited much by his friendship with the doctor who appears in the first part of his life. However, the more than frugal menu and the terrible spiritual sufferings to which he has been subjected at La Trappe notwithstanding, he leaves the monastery almost in despair, feeling that there alone can he be sure of maintaining the devotion without which his soul will lose again all the elevation, the peace, the occasional impulses of joy which he had attained to in that abode of prayer.

This is a sufficiently discouraging end to all the struggles of the soul, since if every penitent were to bury himself in a cloister, that would be a sad interruption of all the traditions of Christianity. However, the existence of this book is more remarkable than its conclusions. Here is a lengthy and close - printed volume in the well known form of French romance, in which the sole theme, never dropped for a moment, is, in the terms of an older generation, the saving of a soul and we avow that the saving of Durtal's soul

has held our interest as strongly as any breathless narrative of adventure or story of love. It is a sign of the times which we do not know how to interpret, or whether to consider it accidental, depending merely upon the genius or popularity of the writer who sets it before us. But M. Huysmans is not, so far as we know, more popular or more remarkable than many others, while his book is, so far as we are aware, unique. We know no English writer who would dare to produce a corresponding work. There used to be, forty or fifty years ago, pious biographies which were, perhaps, as completely occupied with the process of religion in the soul; but, as they were authentic lives, they were naturally reticent, and kept the secrets of their heroes or heroines. Nothing in English that we know of since Bunyan has been so open as this. And even in Bunyan there are bursts of story which soften the strain. Perhaps a severe critic would say that the perverse mind might pick out a certain thread of evil suggestion even from the records of Durtal's temptations but this certainly would not tell with any worthy reader, while the unworthy would find the thread much too slender to support their interest.

On the other hand, the curious machinery of penitence in which the sufferer is placed as in a strait-jacket, the prescribed routine through which he has to go,-the Petit Office de la Sainte Vierge which he is recommended to say before her altar when there is nothing else going on; the tormenting question whether it is ten chapelets, or only ten beads of the chapelet, which his confessor

directed him to say (but that was a false debate created by Satan himself to confuse the sinner's soul), are all very strange to us. To do him justice, however, Durtal is more confused than edified by the chapelet: and the occasional bursts of personal address to God and the Redeemer which from his lips are very unconventional, full of that simplicity of appeal from one intelligent being (be it said with reverence) to another infinitely above him, which all the organisations of prayer tend to suppress, but which on the whole seem to indicate the most close rapprochement possible between God and man. On the whole, the book is very remarkable and well worthy of consideration. We hope it may be received at least as an indication that French writers are beginning to discern that there are things in heaven and earth more interesting as well as more important than the records of illicit and filthy amours. use the French word in preference, not to sully the divine name of love with any such suggestions. Durtal's possession, in the midst of the new life struggling in his heart, by the hideous recollections and images of vice which he abhors yet cannot banish from his imagination, conveys a shuddering idea of the weight which a licentious man binds upon his own shoulders, and some conception of the condition of those in whom the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.


M. Anatole France1 may almost be said to abuse the franchise of this new impulse (if there is anything so general as a new impulse) in his last work. It is true that his previous books have contained

1 L'Orme du Mail. Par Anatole France, de l'Académie Française. Calman Levy, éditeur.

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