+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

extremes, could see them both), they would have
been an exceedingly uncomfortable businessif
that could have been anybody's business, at the
house of Monseigneur. Military officers destitute
of military knowledge; naval officers with no
idea of a ship; civil officers without a notion of
affairs; brazen ecclesiastics, of the worst world
worldly, with sensual eyes, loose tongues, and
looser lives; all totally unfit for their several
callings, all lying horribly in pretending to belong
to them, but all nearly or remotely of the order
of Monseigueur, and therefore foisted on all
public employments from which anything was to
be got; these were to be told off by the score
and the score. People not immediately connected
with Monseigneur or the State, yet
equally unconnected with anything that was real,
or with lives passed in travelling by any straight
road to any true earthly end, were no less
abundant. Doctors who made great fortunes
out of dainty remedies for imaginary disorders
that never existed, smiled upon their courtly
patients in the ante-chambers of Monseigneur.
Projectors who had discovered every kind of
remedy for the little evils with which the State
was touched, except the remedy of setting to
work in earnest to root out a single sin, poured
their distracting babble into any ears they could
lay hold of, at the reception of Monseigneur.
Unbelieving Philosophers who were remodelling
the world with words, and making card-towers
of Babel to scale the skies with, talked with
Unbelieving Chemists who had an eye on the
transmutation of metals, at this wonderful
gathering accumulated by Monseigueur. Exquisite
gentlemen of the finest breeding, which
was at that remarkable timeand has been
sinceto be known by its fruits of indifference
to every natural subject of human interest,
were in the most exemplary state of exhaustion,
at the hotel of Monseigneur. Such homes had
these various notabilities left behind them in the
fine world of Paris, that the Spies among the
assembled devotees of Monseigneurforming
a goodly half of the polite companywould
have found it hard to discover among the angels
of that sphere, one solitary wife, who, in her
manners and appearance, owned to being a
Mother. Indeed, except for the mere act of
bringing a troublesome creature into this world
which does not go far towards the realisation
of the name of motherthere was no such thing
known to the fashion. Peasant women kept
the unfashionable babies close, and brought
them up; and charming grandmammas of sixty
dressed and supped as at twenty.

The leprosy of unreality disfigured every human
creature in attendance upon Monseigneur. In the
outermost room were half a dozen exceptional
people who had had, for a few years, some vague
misgiving in them that things in general were
going rather wrong. As a promising way of
setting them right, half of the half-dozen had
become members of a fantastic sect of
Convulsionists, and were even then considering within
themselves whether they should foam, rage, roar,
and turn cataleptic on the spotthereby setting
up a highly intelligible finger-post to the Future,
for Monseigneur's guidance. Beside these
Dervishes, were other three who had rushed into
another sect, which mended matters with a jargon
about "the Centre of truth:" holding that Man
had got out of the centre of truthwhich did
not need much demonstrationbut had not got
out of the Circumference, and that he was
to be kept from flying out of the Circumference,
and was even to be shoved back into the Centre,
by fasting and seeing of spirits. Among these,
accordingly, much discoursing with spirits went
onand it did a world of good which never
became manifest.

But, the comfort was, that all the company
at the grand hotel of Monseigneur were
perfectly dressed. If the Day of Judgment
had only been ascertained to be a dress day,
everybody there would have been eternally
correct. Such frizzling and powdering and
sticking up of hair, such delicate
complexions artificially preserved and mended,
such gallant swords to look at, and such delicate
honour to the sense of smell, would surely
keep anything going, for ever and ever. The
exquisite gentlemen of the finest breeding wore
little pendent trinkets that chinked as they
languidly moved; these golden fetters rang like
precious little bells; and what with that ringing,
and with the rustle of silk and brocade and fine
linen, there was a flutter in the air that fanned
Saint Antoine and his devouring hunger far

Dress was the one unfailing talisman and
charm used for keeping all things in their places.
Everybody was dressed for a Fancy Ball that was
never to leave off. From the Palace of the
Tuileries, through Monseigneur and the whole
Court, through the Chambers, the Tribunals
of Justice, and all society (except the scarecrows),
the Fancy Ball descended to the Common
Executioner: who, in pursuance of the charm,
was required to officiate "frizzled, powdered, in
a gold-laced coat, pumps, and white silk stockings."
At the gallows and the wheelthe axe
was a rarityMonsieur Paris, as it was the
episcopal mode among his brother Professors of
the provinces, Monsieur Orleans, and the rest, to
call him, presided in this dainty dress. And who
among the company at Monseigneur's reception
in that seventeen hundred and eightieth year of
our Lord, could possibly doubt, that a system
rooted in a frizzled hangman, powdered, gold-
laced, pumped, and white-silk stockinged, would
see the very stars out!

Monseigneur having eased his four men of
their burdens and taken his chocolate, caused
the doors of the Holiest of Holiests to be
thrown open, and issued forth. Then, what
submission, what cringing and fawning, what
servility, what abject humiliation! As to bowing
down in body and spirit, nothing in that way
was left for Heavenwhich may have been one
among other reasons why the worshippers of
Monseigneur never troubled it.

Bestowing a word of promise here and a smile
there, a whisper on one happy slave and a wave