After bidding his sister good night, Monseigneur Bienvenu took
one of the two silver candlesticks from the table, handed the
other to his guest, and said to him,--
"Monsieur, I will conduct you to your room."
The man followed him.
As might have been observed from what has been said above,
the house was so arranged that in order to pass into the oratory
where the alcove was situated, or to get out of it, it was necessary
to traverse the Bishop's bedroom.
At the moment when he was crossing this apartment, Madame Magloire was
putting away the silverware in the cupboard near the head of the bed.
This was her last care every evening before she went to bed.
The Bishop installed his guest in the alcove. A fresh white bed had
been prepared there. The man set the candle down on a small table.
"Well," said the Bishop, "may you pass a good night. To-morrow morning,
before you set out, you shall drink a cup of warm milk from our cows."
"Thanks, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the man.
Hardly had he pronounced these words full of peace, when all
of a sudden, and without transition, he made a strange movement,
which would have frozen the two sainted women with horror,
had they witnessed it. Even at this day it is difficult for us
to explain what inspired him at that moment. Did he intend to
convey a warning or to throw out a menace? Was he simply obeying
a sort of instinctive impulse which was obscure even to himself?
He turned abruptly to the old man, folded his arms, and bending
upon his host a savage gaze, he exclaimed in a hoarse voice:--
"Ah! really! You lodge me in your house, close to yourself like this?"
He broke off, and added with a laugh in which there lurked
"Have you really reflected well? How do you know that I have not
been an assassin?"
The Bishop replied:--
"That is the concern of the good God."
Then gravely, and moving his lips like one who is praying or talking
to himself, he raised two fingers of his right hand and bestowed
his benediction on the man, who did not bow, and without turning
his head or looking behind him, he returned to his bedroom.
When the alcove was in use, a large serge curtain drawn from
wall to wall concealed the altar. The Bishop knelt before this
curtain as he passed and said a brief prayer. A moment later he
was in his garden, walking, meditating, conteplating, his heart
and soul wholly absorbed in those grand and mysterious things
which God shows at night to the eyes which remain open.
As for the man, he was actually so fatigued that he did not even profit
by the nice white sheets. Snuffing out his candle with his nostrils
after the manner of convicts, he dropped, all dressed as he was,
upon the bed, where he immediately fell into a profound sleep.
Midnight struck as the Bishop returned from his garden to his apartment.
A few minutes later all were asleep in the little house.