The American. (Omaha, Nebraska) 1891-1899, May 27, 1898, Image 2

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II V M .: M K
Til R lEN.
Rodin's countenance, when lie entered Mother
Arsene' hop, was expretsive of the mot siiupK
candor, lie leaned his hands on the knob of his
umbrella, and said: "I niuch regret, my good
lady, that 1 roused you so early this morning. v
"You do not come often enough, my dear sir,
for ine to find fault with you."
"How can I help it, my good lady? I live in
tho country, and only come hither from time to
time to settle my little affairs."
" Talking of that, sir, the letter you expected
yesterday has arrived this morning. It is large,
and comes from far. Here it is," said the green
grocer, drawing it from her pocket, " it t ost noth
ing for postage."
"Thank you, my good lady ."said Rod in, taking
the letter with apparent indifference, and putting
it into the side-poeket of his great coat, which he
carefully buttoned over,
"Are you going up to you rooms, sir?"
" Yes, my good lady."
"Then I will get ready your little provisions,"
said Mother Arsene; "as usual, I suppose, ifty
dear sir?"
"Just as usual."
"It shall be ready in the twinkling of an eye,
So saying, tho greengrocer took down un old
basket; after throwing into it three or four pieces
of turf, a little bundle of wood, and some char
coal, she covered all this fuel with a cabbage leaf;
then, going to the further end of the shop, she
took from a chest a large round loaf, cut off a
slice, and selecting a magnificent radish with the
eye of a connoiseur, divided it in two, made a
hole in it, which she fillod with grey salt, joined
the two pieces together again, and care
fully by the side of the bread, on the cabbage
leaf which separated the eatables from the com
bustibles. Finally, taking some embers from her
stove, she put them into a little earthen pot, con
taining ashes, which she placed also in the
Then, reascending to her top step, Mother Ar
sene said to Ilodin: "Here is ycur basket,' sir."
"A thousand thanks, my good lady," answered
Rodin, and, plunging his hand into the pocket
of his trousers, he drew forth eight sou's, which
he counted out oueby one to the greengrocer, and
said to her, as he carriei off his store: "Pres
ently, when I come down again, I will return
your basket as usual."
"Quite at your service, my dear sir, quite at
your service," said Mother Arsene.
Rodin tucked his umbrella under his left arm,
took up the greengrocer's basket with his right
hand, entered the dark passage, crossed the little
court, and mounted with light step to the second
storey of a dilapidated building; there, drawing a
key from his pocket, he opened a door, which he
locked carefully after him. The first jf the two
rooms which he occupied was completely unfur
nished; as for the second, it is impossible to im
agine a more gloomy and miserable den. Taper
ing so much worn, torn and faded, that no, one
could recognize its primitive color, bedecked the
walls. A wretched flock-bed, covered with a
moth-fretted blanket; a stool, and a little table of
worm-eaten wood; an earthenware stove, as
cracked as old china; a trunk, with a padlock,
placed under the bed such was the furniture of
this desolate hole. A narrow window, with dirty
panes, hardly gave any light to this room, which
was almost deprived of air by the, height of the
building in front; two old cotton pocket-handkerchiefs,
fastened together with pins, and made to
slide upon a string, stretched across the window,
served for curtains. The plaster of the roof, com
ing through the broken and disjointed tiles,
showed the extreme neglect of the inhabitant of
this abode. After locking his door, Rodin threw
his hat and umbrella on the bed, placed his
basket on the ground, set the radish and bread
on the table, and, kneeling down before his
stove, stuffed it with fuel, and lighted it by blow
ing with vigorous lungs on the embers contained
in his earthen pot.
When, to use the consecrated expression; the
stove began to draw, Rodin spread out the hand
kerchiefs, which served him for curtains; then,
thinking himself quite safe from efvery eye, he
took from the side pocket of his great coat the
letter-that Mother Arsene had given him. In
doing so, he brought out several papers and
different articles; one of these papers, folded into
a thick and rumpled packet, fell upon the table,
and flew open. ' It contained a silver cross of the
Legion of Honor, black with time. The red rib
bon of this cross had almost entirely lost its or
iginal color. At sight of this cross, w hich he re
placed in his pocket with the medal of which
Faringhea had despoiled Ijalma, Rodin shrugged This familiar manner of corresponding w ith
his (shoulders with a contemptuous and sardonic the most powerful dignitary of the Order, the
air; then, producing his large silver watch, he almost patronizing tone of the recommendation
laid it on the table by the side of the letter fromjthat Rodin addressed to the Prince Cardinal,
Rome. He looked at this letter with a singular proved that the s x ins, notwithstanding his ap
mixture of suspicion and hope, of fear and im Iparently subaltern position, was looked upon, at
patient curiosity. After a moment's reflection,' that epoch, us a very important personage, by
he prepared to unseal the envelope; but suddenly J many of the princes of the church, who wrote to
he threw it down again upon the table, as if, by him at Paris under a false name, making use of
a strange caprice, lie had wiolic-i to prolong lor a a cipner iniu omer cusiooiarj pi eiiiuir.ns.
few minutes that agony of uneei tainty, as poig- 8m9 moments passed in contemplation ler.-re
nant and irritating as the emotion of the gam-jthe portrait of Sixtus V., Rodin returned slowly
l,lor to the table, on which lay the letterj which, by a
Look in" at his watch, Rodin resolved not tq.sort of superstitious delay, he had deferred open-
n the letter, until the hand should mark half-
past nine, of which it still wanted seven minutes.
In one of thone whims of puerile fatalism, from
which great minds htve not been exempt, Rodin
said to himself: "I burn with impatience to
-ii. i.. iiTi-..i ..... :i i:n i
open mis leuer. n i uo not open u uu nuu-pasi
nine, the news, will be favorable." to employ
these minutes, Rodin took several turns up and
down the room, and stood in admiring contem
plation before two old prints, stained with damp
and age, and fastened to the wall by rusty nails.
Tho first of these works of art the only orna
ments with which Rodiu had decorated this hole
was one of those coarse pictures, illuminated
with red, yellow, green, and blue, such as are
sold at fairs; an Italian inscription announced
that this print had been manufactured at Rome.
It represented a woman covered with rags, bear
ing a wallet, and having a little child upon her
knees; a horrible hag of a fortune-teller held in
her hands the hand of the little child, and seemed
to read their his fortune fate, for these words in
large blue letters issued from her mouth. " Sara
Papa" (he shall be Tope).
The second of these works of art, which ap
peared to inspire Rodin with deep meditations,
was an excellent etching, whose careful finish and
bold, correct drawing, contrasted singularly with
the coarse coloring of the other picture. This
rare and splendid engraving, which had cost
Rodin six louis (an enormous expense for him),
represented a young boy dressed in rags. The
ugliness of his features was compensated by the
intellectual expression of his strongly marked
countenance. Seated on a stone, surrounded by
a herd of swine, that he seemed employed in
keeping, he was seen in front, with his elbow
resting on his kuee, and his chin in the palm of
his hand. The pensive and reflective attitude of
this young man, dressed as a beggar, the power
expressed in his large forehead, the acuteness of
his penetrating glance, and firm lines of the
mouth, seemed to reveal indomitable resolution,
combined with superior intelligence and ready
craft. Beneath this figure, the emblems of the
papacy encircled a medallion, in the centro of
which was the head of an old man, the lines of
which, strongly marked, recalled in a striking
manner, notwithstanding their look of advanced
age, the features of the young swineherd. This
engraving was entitled Thk Youth ov Sixtus V.;
the colored print was entitled The Prediction.
According to the tradition, it was predicted to
the mother of the Sixtues V. that he would be
pope; and, in his youth, he is said to have kept
In contemplating these prints more and more
nearly, with ardent and inquiring eye, as though
he had asked for hopes or inspirations from
them, Rodin had come so close that, still stand
ing, with his right hand bent behind his head,
he rested, as it were, against the wall, whilst,
hiding his left hand in the pocket of his black
trousers, he thus held back one of the flaps of
his olive great coat. For some minutes, he re
mained in this meditative attitude.
Rodin, as we have said, came seldom to this
loding; according to the rules of his order, he
had till now lived with Father d'Aigrigny, whom
he was especially charged to watch. No member
of the Society, particularly in the subaltern posi
tion which Rodin had hitherto held, could either
shut himself in, or possess an article of furniture
made to lock. By this means nothing interfers
with the mutual spy-system, incessantly carried
on, which forms one of the most powerful re
sources of the Company of Jesus. It was on ac
count of certain combinations, purely personal to
himself, though connected on some points with
the interests of the Order, that Rodin, unknown
to all, had taken these rooms in the Rue Clovis
And it was from the depths of this obscure den
that the socius corresponded directly with the
most eminent and influential personaces of the
sacred college. On one occasion, when Rodin
wrote to Rome, that Father d'Aigrigny, having
received orders to quit France without seeing his
dying mother, had hesitated to set out, the socius
had added, in form of proscriptum, at the bottom
of the letter denouncing to the General of the
Order the hesitation of Father d'Aigrigny:
"Tell the Prince Cardinal that he may . rely
upon me, but I hope for his active aid in return."
ing, notwithstanding his extreme curiosity. As
it still wanted some minutes of half-past nine,
Rodiu, in order uot to lose time, set about mak
ing preparations for his frugal breakfast. He
placed on the table, by the side of an inkstand,'
furnished with pens, the slice of bread and the
radish; then, seatiug himself on his stool, with
the stove, as it were, between his legs, he drew a
horn-handltd knife from his pocket and, cutting
alternately a morsel of bread and a morsel of
radish, with the sharp, well-worn blade, he begun
his temperate repast with a vigorous appetite,
keeping his eye fixed on the hand of his watch.
When it reached the momentous hour, he un
sealed the envelope with a trembling hand.
It contained two letters. The first appeared
to give him little satisfaction; for, after some
minutes, he shrugged his shoulders, struck the
table impatiently with the handle of his knife,
lisdainfully pushed aside the letter with the back
of his dirty hand, and peiused the second epistle,
holding his bread in one hand, and with the
other mechanically dipping a slice of radish into
the grey salt spilt on a corner of the table. Sud
denly, Rodin's hand reman; ed motionless. As
he progressed in his reading, he appeared more
and more interested, surprised and struck. Ris
ing abruptly, he ran to the window, as if to as
sure himself, by a second examination of the ci
pher, that he was not deceived. The news an
nounced to him in the letter seemed to be un
expected. No doubt, Rodin found that he had
deciphered correctly, for, letting fall his arms,
not in dejection, but with the stupor of a satis
faction as unforseen as extraordinary, be re
mained for some time writh his head down, and
his eye fixed the only mark of joy that he gave
being manifested by a loud, frequent, and pro
longed respiration. Men who are as audacious
in their ambition, as they are patient and obstin
ate in their mining and countermining, are sur
prised at their own success, when this latter pre
cedes and surpasses their wise and prudent ex
pectations. Rodin was now in this case. Thanks
to prodigies of craft, address, and dissimulation,
thanks to mighty promises of corruption, thanks
to the singular mixture of admiration, fear and
confidence, with which his genius inspired many
influential persons, Rodin now learned from
members of the pontifical government, that, in
case of a possible and probable occurrence, he
might, within a given time, aspire, with a good
chance of success, to a position which has too
often excited the fear, the hate, or the envy of
many sovereigns, and which has, in turn, been
occupied by great, good men, by abominable
scoundrels, and by persons risen from the lowest
grades of society. But for Rodin to attaia
this end with certainty, it was absolutely neces
sary for him to succeed in that project, which he
had undertaken to accomplish without violence,
and only by the play and rebound of passions
skilfully managed. The project was: To secure
for the Society of Jesus the fortune of the Renne-
pont family.
This possession would thus have double and
immense result; for Rodin, acting in accordance
with his personal views, intended to make of his
Order (whose chief was at his discretion) a step
ping-stone and a means of intimidation. When
his first impression of surprise had passed away
an impression that was only a sort of modesty
of ambition and self-diflidence, not uncommon
with men of really superior powers Rodin
looked more coldly and logically on the matter,
and almost reproached himself for his surprise.
But soon after, by a singular contradiction, yield
ing to one of those puerile and absurd ideas, by
which men are often carried away when they
think themselves alone and unobserved, Rodin
rose abruptly, took the letter which had caused
him such glad surprise, and went to display it,
as ii were, ueiore me eyes oi me young swine
herd in the picture; then, shaking his head
proudly and triumphantly, casting his reptile
glance on the portrait, he muttered between
his teeth, as he placed his dirty finger on the
pontifical emblem: "Eh, brother? and I also
perhaps! "
After this ridiculous interpolation, Rodin re
turned to his seat, and, as if the happy news he
had just received had increased his appetite, he
placed tho letter before him, to read it once more,
J whilst he exercised his teeth, with a sort of joy
ous fury, on his hard bread and radish, chanting
an old Litany.
There was something strange, great, and, above
all, frightful, in the contrast afforded by this im
mense ambition, already almost justified by
events, and contained, as. it were, in so miserable
an abode. Father d'Aigrigny (who, if not a very
superior man, had at least some real value, was a
person of high birth, very haughty, and placed
in the best society) would never have ventured to
aspire to what Rodin thus looked to from the
first. The only aim of Father d'Aigrigny, and
even this he thought presumptuous, was to be
one day elected General of his Order that Order
which embraced the world. The difference of
the ambitious aptitudes of these two personages
is conceivable. When a man of eminent abili
ties, of a healthy and vivacious nature, concen
trates all the strength of his mind and body upon
a single point, remaining, like Rodiu, obstinately
chaste and frugal, aud renouncing every gratifi
cation of the heart and the senses the man, who
revolts against the sacred designs of his Creator,,
does so almost almost always in favor of some
monstrous and devouring passion some infernal
divinity, which, by a sacrilegious pact, asks of
him, in return for the besto al of formidable
power, the destruction of every noble sentiment,
and of all those ineffable attractions and tender
instincts with which the Maker, in His eternal
wisdom and inexhaustible munificence, has so
paternally endowed His creatures.
During the scene that we have just described,
Rodin had not perceived that the curtain of a
window on the third story of the building oppo
site had been partially drawn aside, and had half-
revealed the sprightly face of Rose-Pompon, and
the Silenus-like countenance of Ninny Moulin.
It ensued that Rodin, notwithstanding his barri
cade of cotton haukerchiefs, had not been com
pletely sheltered from the indiscreet and curious
examination of the two dancers of the Storm-
blown Tulip.
Though R)din had experienced much surprise
on reading the second letter from Rome, he
did not choose that his answer should betray any
such amazement. Having finished his frugal
breakfast, he took a sheet of paper and rapidly
wrote in cipher the following note, in the short,
abrupt style that was natural to him when not
obliged to restrain himself:
"The information does not surprise me. I had
forseen it all. Indecision and cowardice always
bear such fruit. This is not enough. Heretical
Qussia murders Catholic Poland. Rome blesses
the murderers, and curses the victims.
On page 110 of Lameunais' Affaires de Rome,
will be seen the following admirable scathing of
Rome by the most truly evangelical spirit of our
age:. "So long as the issue of the conflict be
tween Poland and her oppressor! remained in
the balances, the papal official organ contained
not one word to offend the so long victorious
nation; but hardly had she gone down under the
Czar's atrocious vengance, and the long torture
of a whole land doomed to rack, exile, and servi
tude began, than this same journal found no
language black enough to stain those whom for
tune had fled. Yet it is wrong to charge this
unworthy insult to papal power; it only cringes
to the law which Russia lays down to it, when
it says:
'"If you want to keep your own bone3 un
broken, bide where you are, beside the scaffold,
and, as the victims pass, hoot at them!'"
" Let it pass.
" In return, Russia guarantees to Rome, by
Austria, the bloody suppression of the patriots of
"That, too, is well.
" The cut-throat band of good Cardinal Albani
is not sufficient for the massacre of the impious
liberals. The are weary of the task.
"Not so well. They must go on."
When Rodin had written these last words, his
attention was suddenly attracted by the clear and
sonorous voice of Rose-Pompon, who, knowing
her Beranger by heart, had opened Philemon's
window, and, seated on the sill, sang with much
grace and prettiness this verse of the immortal
"How wronjr you are! Is't you dare say
That heaven ever scowls on earth?
The earth that laughs up ts it j blue,
The earth that owes it joy and birth?
Oh, may the wine from vines it warms,
May holy love thence flattYlng down,
Lend my philosophy their charms,
To drive away care's direful frown!
So, firm let's stand,
Full glass in hand,
And all evoke
The Cod of honest folk ! "
This song, in its divine gentleness, contrasted
so strangely with the cold cruelty of the few linos