Page images
[graphic][merged small]



Being distrusted brings out the worst that is in us. Being trusted brings out the best that is in us.

This noble truth is beautifully exemplified in the following story by Victor Hugo, the great French novelist, who was born February 26, 1802, and who died May 22, 1885. The story is taken from his great novel, "Les Miserables" (là mê-za-rä'b'l), which means "The Wretched." It is the story of the awful poverty and wretchedness in France about the year 1815.

The hero of the story is Jean Valjean (zhän vål-zhän′), a poor French peasant. Jean lived with his widowed sister and worked hard to support her and her seven little children. But with all his hard work, he could not earn enough to keep them from starvation. One day, he could not resist their cries of hunger, so he stole a loaf of bread for them. For this act he was arrested, tried, and condemned to the galleys for five years.

The galleys were horrible prisons where the poor convict toiled long hours chained to his fellow convicts.

The thought of the poor children left to starve without his labor induced poor Jean Valjean to attempt to escape. But he was captured, and several years added to his term. Four times he tried to escape, until fourteen years had been added to his sentence.

At the beginning of this story, he had been released after having served nineteen years in the horrible galleys, and he was a man who had lost all hope.

This story will tell you how the Bishop of D., whose people

called him "Bishop Welcome," turned Jean Valjean, the kindly peasant whom the cruel prison life had changed into a brute, back to noble manhood. We shall not take from you the pleasure of finding out for yourselves how the good Bishop did this.

It would be well to run over the pronunciations and meanings of the following new words; else you will not understand all of the story.

Monsieur Myriel (me-syû' mirI-el') Monsieur in French means the same as mister in English. M. stands for Monsieur as Mr. for Mister. Monseigneur (mon-sen'yer): my lord; a title in France of a person of high rank. coronation : the ceremony of crowning a king or emperor. Curé (kü-rā'): a parish priest

of the Roman Catholic church. curacy: the office or place held by a curé. parishioners


the persons under the charge of a parish priest or curé. His Majesty: the title given to an emperor or a king. spinster: an elderly unmarried


Mademoiselle Baptistine (mȧdmwȧ-zěl' bȧ-tĭs-teen'): the sister of the Bishop in this

story. Mademoiselle in French means the same as Miss in English.

domestic: a house servant. Madame Magloire (må dam' må-glwär') : the Bishop's house servant. Madame in French means the same as Mistress or Mrs. in English. drawing-rooms: rooms which are commonly called parlors. arcades: a series of arches supported by columns. director: the superintendent of the hospital.

festival: here a season or time of joy.

accosted: spoke to. frugal: not wasteful or expensive.

repast: a meal, as a dinner. tithes: (tīthz) a certain part of one's income set aside for the church.



In 1804, Monsieur Myriel was a Curé. He was already advanced in years, and lived in a very retired


About the time of the coronation of Napoleon as 5 Emperor of France, some petty affair connected with his curacy took him to Paris. Among other powerful persons to whom he went to solicit aid for his parishioners was Cardinal Fesch. One day, when the Emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy Curé, 10 who was waiting in the anteroom, found himself present when His Majesty passed. Napoleon, on finding himself observed with a certain curiosity by this old man, turned round and said abruptly:


"Who is this good man who is staring at me?"

"Sire," said M. Myriel, "you are looking at a good man, and I at a great man. Each of us can profit by it."

That very evening, the Emperor asked the Cardinal the name of the Curé, and some time afterwards 20 M. Myriel was utterly astonished to learn that he had been appointed Bishop of D.

M. Myriel arrived at D. to take up his work as bishop, accompanied by an elderly spinster, Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister, and ten years 25 younger than the Bishop.

Their only domestic was a female servant of the

same age as Mademoiselle Baptistine, and named Madame Magloire, who, after having been the servant of the Curé, now assumed the double title of maid to Mademoiselle and housekeeper to Monseigneur.


The bishop's palace at D. adjoined the hospital. The palace was a huge and beautiful house, built of stone. Everything about it had a grand air, the apartments of the Bishop, the drawing-rooms, the chambers, the principal courtyard, which was very large, with walks encircling it under arcades, and 10 gardens planted with magnificent trees. In the dining room, a long and superb gallery, which was situated on the ground floor, opened on the gardens.

The hospital was a low and narrow building of a single story, with a small garden.

Three days after his arrival, the Bishop visited the hospital. The visit ended, he requested the director to be so good as to come to his palace.


When the director came, the Bishop said: "Monsieur the director of the hospital, I will tell you some-20 thing. There is evidently a mistake here. There are thirty-six of you, in five or six small rooms. There are three of us here, and we have room for sixty. There is some mistake, I tell you; you have my house, and I have yours. Give me back my house; you are 25

at home here."

On the following day the thirty-six patients were installed in the Bishop's palace, and the Bishop was settled in the hospital.

« PreviousContinue »