Book Tenth: Chapter II. Turn Vagabond
On re-entering the cloister, the archdeacon found at the door of his cell his brother Jehan du Moulin, who was waiting for him, and who had beguiled the tedium of waiting by drawing on the wall with a bit of charcoal, a profile of his elder brother, enriched with a monstrous nose.
Dom Claude hardly looked at his brother; his thoughts were elsewhere. That merry scamp's face whose beaming had so often restored serenity to the priest's sombre physiognomy, was now powerless to melt the gloom which grew more dense every day over that corrupted, mephitic, and stagnant soul.
"Brother," said Jehan timidly, "I am come to see you."
The archdeacon did not even raise his eyes.
"Brother," resumed the hypocrite, "you are so good to me, and you give me such wise counsels that I always return to you."
"Alas! brother, you were perfectly right when you said to me,--"Jehan! Jehan! cessat doctorum doctrina, discipulorum disciplina. Jehan, be wise, Jehan, be learned, Jehan, pass not the night outside of the college without lawful occasion and due leave of the master. Cudgel not the Picards: noli, Joannes, verberare Picardos. Rot not like an unlettered ass,
quasi asinus illitteratus, on the straw seats of the school. Jehan, allow yourself to be punished at the discretion of the master. Jehan go every evening to chapel, and sing there an anthem with verse and orison to Madame the glorious Virgin Mary.--Alas! what excellent advice was that!"
"Brother, you behold a culprit, a criminal, a wretch, a libertine, a man of enormities! My dear brother, Jehan hath made of your counsels straw and dung to trample under foot. I have been well chastised for it, and God is extraordinarily just. As long as I had money, I feasted, I lead a mad and joyous life. Oh! how ugly and crabbed behind is debauch which is so charming in front! Now I have no longer a blank; I have sold my napery, my shirt and my towels; no more merry life! The beautiful candle is extinguished and I have henceforth, only a wretched tallow dip which smokes in my nose. The wenches jeer at me. I drink water.--I am overwhelmed with remorse and with creditors.
"The rest?" said the archdeacon.
"Alas! my very dear brother, I should like to settle down to a better life. I come to you full of contrition, I am penitent. I make my confession. I beat my breast violently. You are quite right in wishing that I should some day become a licentiate and sub-monitor in the college of Torchi. At the present moment I feel a magnificent vocation for that profession. But I have no more ink and I must buy some; I have no more paper, I have no more books, and I must buy some. For this purpose, I am greatly in need of a little money, and I come to you, brother, with my heart full of contrition."
"Is that all?"
"Yes," said the scholar. "A little money."
"I have none."
Then the scholar said, with an air which was both grave and resolute: "Well, brother, I am sorry to be obliged to tell you that very fine offers and propositions are being made to me in another quarter. You will not give me any money? No. In that case I shall become a professional vagabond."
As he uttered these monstrous words, he assumed the mien of Ajax, expecting to see the lightnings descend upon his head.
The archdeacon said coldly to him,-
"Become a vagabond."
Jehan made him a deep bow, and descended the cloister stairs, whistling.
At the moment when he was passing through the courtyard of the cloister, beneath his brother's window, he heard that window open, raised his eyes and beheld the archdeacon's severe head emerge.
"Go to the devil!" said Dom Claude; "here is the last money which you will get from me?"
At the same time, the priest flung Jehan a purse, which gave the scholar a big bump on the forehead, and with which Jehan retreated, both vexed and content, like a dog who had been stoned with marrow bones.Next